Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Opinions and Observations: Hopkins, Quillin and Brook

Sometimes there isn't a grand narrative; boxing can just be fun. For the thousands of fans who bought tickets in Sheffield, England and Atlantic City, New Jersey, they were treated to entertaining cards and more than got their money's worth. Whether it was Kell Brook dominating the best opponent of his career (Vyacheslav Senchenko), a young Olympian flashing his tools (Anthony Joshua), the awesome knockout power of a heavyweight on the rise (Deontay Wilder), a local favorite (Gabriel Rosado) going toe-to-toe trying to win his first title or an ageless marvel (Bernard Hopkins) giving fans a memorable reminder of his greatness, there was something for everyone. And even conspiracy mongers were thrown a bone with enough questionable scoring and bad reffing to keep social media networks buzzing for days.
Sure, there were things not to like about Saturday: the doctor stopping the Quillin-Rosado fight when Rosado could clearly see, giving Quillin a TKO victory in a seemingly competitive match. The judging in Rose-Maciel, Rosado-Quillin and Hopkins-Murat was poor. Steve Smoger manhandling Murat was beneath him.
But ultimately, Saturday provided a number of indelible memories like Brian Rose fighting through a nasty cut on his nose to win a shot at the junior middleweight title, Brook overcoming some rough moments in the fourth round against Senchenko before ending it with a massive right hand, Wilder facing an opponent who took the fight right to him, Rosado, down big in his match, roaring back to make it competitive and Hopkins standing and trading with a man practically decades younger than he is. Crowds were on their feet throughout the action. Smiles were legion. Good times were had.
But let's get to some nitty-gritty from the weekend. Here's what we know.
1. Peter Quillin took a step back.
A year ago, Quillin generated tons of excitement with his six knockdowns of rugged contender Hassan N'Dam. Earlier this year, he dropped Fernando Guerrero four more times in a stay-busy fight. Against Rosado, things continued in the same vein early as Quillin landed blistering power shots in the first four rounds, including a punishing left hook in the second which led to a knockdown. However, as Rosado started to press the attack, Quillin was reticent to let his hands go. By the seventh round, Rosado was successfully dictating the terms of the fight, landing right hands from distance and doing good work on the inside as Quillin was trying to land a knockout power shot off of the back foot. Before the fight was stopped (because of a Rosado cut caused by a jab), Quillin seemed very tentative in the ring and far removed from the menacing puncher he had been over the past year.
Furthermore, it wasn't as if Rosado flashed intimidating power or exceptional hand speed; Quillin just didn't take too well to his pressure. In some ways, Quillin reminded me of the version of Sergio Martinez who fought Darren Barker and Matthew Macklin. He became overly reliant on knockout punches – meanwhile, he looked uncomfortable in spots and was often outworked.
Quillin has yet to face a top-five middleweight in his brief title reign. In watching his last five fights, I believe that the book is out on him. Pepper him with pressure and volume and he becomes beatable. Forgotten in the N'Dam fight was that the French fighter was able to win many of the rounds in which he remained on his feet. Rosado, once he adjusted to the left hook, figured out the way to better him. I could see Daniel Geale and Darren Barker giving Quillin fits and I would make Gennady Golovkin a significant favorite over him if that fight ever got made. Quillin's sharpshooting might fare better against an aging Sergio Martinez, who has gotten knocked down a ton recently, and Marty Murray, who has heavy hands but problems letting them go.
Moving forward, Quillin will have to improve significantly to be considered an elite talent at 160. Hearing the boos from the pro-Philadelphia crowd after the fight was unceremoniously stopped, Quillin admitted on Twitter that he will have to make some adjustments. In my opinion, he needs to remember to work off of his jab and secure rounds on the cards (ignore the "official" scores from Saturday). The knockouts will come from putting his punches together; one shot most likely won't be enough against the best in the division. In addition, his team should provide him with a steady diet of young pressure fighters during his future sparring sessions. Quillin has tons of tools at the moment – speed, power and punch variety – but right now, they are just tools; he's far from a complete fighter.
2. Gabe Rosado has had one weird year.
Prior to this year, Rosado was a journeyman 154-lb. fighter who finally started to gather momentum by beating some fringe fighters in 2012 like Jesus Soto Karass and Sechew Powell. Moving up to 160 to make some money in an HBO fight against Gennady Golovkin, Rosado was expected to be cannon fodder. That he stayed on his feet until the match was stopped in the seventh, fought bravely through a busted-up face and even had a few good moments on offense was unexpected. Later on in the year, he appeared as a B-side to undefeated Mayweather Promotions fighter J'Leon Love. Rosado scored a knockdown and closed very well in a tight battle. At the time, he lost a split decision with one judge asleep at the switch somehow only giving Gabe two rounds. Love subsequently failed a drug test, changing the official result to a no-contest.
Without a win in 2013, Both HBO and Showtime still offered Rosado a significant opportunity – HBO with Matthew Macklin and Showtime with Quillin.  Rosado chose the title fight and had a wonderful back half of the fight on Saturday until the cut caused the ring doctors to stop it. What was strange was that Rosado could clearly see out of the damaged eye. There have been many significantly worse cuts/abrasions in recent boxing history where the fighter was given a chance to continue (instances with Gatti, Cotto, Wolak and Matthysse come to mind). Furthermore, two of the judges on Saturday had Gabe winning one round or fewer, just an abomination of professionalism.
Rosado is now 0-2-1 in 2013. In each winless fight, he has continued to raise his profile. Instead of making tens of thousands to face mid-level guys at 154, he is now making far more per fight against a better caliber of opponent. In short, Rosado had continued to improve and believe in himself in the ring. He has a fairly high ring I.Q. and knows his strengths and weaknesses as a fighter. Not blessed with a ton of athleticism or power, Rosado competes with smarts and will. He should still get another big fight in 2014, whether it is the rematch with Quillin or a fight against another titleholder like Barker. The networks like him and he comes to fight. He does need a good win though. His current streak has taken him far, but he probably only has one more big shot; he'll need to make the most of it.
3.  Bad judging continues to plague the sport.
In my favorite line of the weekend, Eric Raskin of Grantland tweeted, "Looks like Aaron Davis has a few more judges to suspend." Raskin was referencing the preposterous 90-80 (Kason Cheeks) and 89-81 (Waleska Roldan) scores for Quillin-Rosado before the fight was stopped. Davis, the appointed Director of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board, famously suspended three judges after the Paul Williams-Erislandy Lara fight, whereby Williams won a decision in a bout he clearly had lost. It was a ballsy move by Davis, and it earned him respect in the boxing community, but it's time for more action. New Jersey isn't suffering from a shortage of judges; giving Roldan (who actually lives in New York) and Cheeks some time off will only make the New Jersey corps of judges better.  And while Davis is at it, he should sack Pierre Benoist as well, perhaps one of the worst judges in the sport.
It's one thing when Roldan and Cheeks miss a fight; it's another thing when one of the premier judges in the sport turns in a bad scorecard. Judging royalty Julie Lederman had a bogus 119-108 card for Bernard Hopkins over Karo Murat. Murat had a good case to win five rounds and most on social media had Murat taking three to five frames. That Lederman got the correct fighter is immaterial; she didn't do her job. Lederman gets many of the high-profile assignments on the East Coast. She's usually a fairly good judge, but in my estimation, this is the second turd card she has submitted this year – her draw in Malik Scott-Vyacheslav Glazkov was even worse than Saturday's score. Veteran New Jersey judge Joseph Pasquale also submitted the same 119-108 score as Lederman did. Pasquale doesn't have the same profile that Lederman does, but he gets a lot of decent assignments on the East Coast. Perhaps this card should curtail his activity for the time being. I'm not holding my breath.
But let's not confine our bad judging from the weekend to the United States. The card in Sheffield had its own scoring atrocity. Spanish judge Fernando Laguna's 117-111 scorecard in favor of house fighter Brian Rose over Javier Maciel was laughable. Maciel, from Argentina, landed the harder shots consistently throughout the fight and hurt Rose on a number of occasions with his left uppercut. Rose had some moments with his jab and right hand counters but in my estimation Maciel had a clear win (I scored it 116-112). Giving Maciel only three rounds is a sure sign of incompetence. Here's another telling sign about Laguna. According to, this was only the third fight he judged in 2013; he only had two in 2012. It's quite possible that the powers that be already don't seem to be thrilled with him. I hope that trend continues in 2014.
4. Anthony Joshua will be a fun addition to the heavyweight division.
Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist Anthony Joshua dazzled in his second professional outing by knocking out Paul Butlin in the second round. With an eerie similarity to Lennox Lewis' knockout combination in the second Hasim Rahman fight, Joshua blinded Butlin with a quick left hook and finished him with a pulverizing right hand; Butlin was toast.
Perhaps more telling was Joshua's poise in the ring. Unlike many young heavyweights with power, Joshua didn't rush into the action winging power shots. He boxed, felt out his opponent and stayed patient. It's a good sign for Joshua that at this point he looks very comfortable in the ring, a trait that has often confounded past British Olympian David Price.
5. Deontay Wilder's power is real, but his shots are still really wide.
Shifting to a heavyweight who's further along in his professional career, it's safe to say that Deontay Wilder's apprenticeship in the heavyweight division will soon be over. The 2008 Olympic bronze medal winner was considered raw by his handlers and was developed slowly. Nevertheless, Wilder's right hand is already one of the best in the division. Golden Boy has been searching for people to give him rounds and at least Nicolai Firtha was kind enough to stick around until the fourth and not lay down when things got rough in the first round.
In fact, Firtha blitzed Wilder after the opening bell and landed a few short right hands. Immediately, Wilder was in the unusual position of boxing off of his back foot to stem the tide. By the end of the round, Wilder had dropped Firtha twice. Overall, Wilder sent Firtha down four times before the fight ended, but his performance wasn't 100% peachy.
Concerning for Wilder is his penchant for missing his opponent by two feet. Firtha had enough head movement to slip a number of Wilder's wide punches. Firtha lacked the power to cause any real damage with his counters but you could visualize scenarios where more mobile boxers (think of a Dereck Chisora or a David Haye) would really make Wilder pay for his misses. Wilder loads up on his shots and is very slow in returning his hands to a responsible defensive position. Wilder spent many moments in the second and third rounds swinging at air. Only when he started to shorten up his shots was he able to land his finishing blow. Hopefully that is a lesson learned.
However, there are a number of wrinkles in Wilder's game that are quite promising – in addition to his power, of course. On Saturday, I liked how Wilder used his left hook to keep an advancing Firtha at bay. In addition, Wilder moved very well; he wasn't just another heavyweight lardass with a right hand. He used his lateral movement to put himself in position to land his power shots. Wilder's athleticism is a key component that is often overlooked. Although he can be a little stiff with his upper body, his legs will provide additional dimensions for his opponents to overcome. By using the ring in spots, he will become an even better fighter.
There's much to like about Wilder but there are also more than a few variables that can give pause. He has talked about facing more of the top talents in the division. I would like to see him fight someone with a punch first before putting him in with the best guys at heavyweight. Maybe a limited guy like Mike Mollo would be a good step. Mollo wouldn't be there to win a decision; he'd only try to land bombs. I think that's an avenue worth exploring for Wilder's development.
6. Kell Brook's right hand has finally caught up to his left.
Kell Brook flashed onto my radar screen in 2011. Beating former world-level fighters Lovemore NDou and Rafal Jackiewicz, Brook displayed excellent punch variety and very good athleticism. However, Brook's left hand was far more developed than his right one was. Brook controlled a lot of the action with his jab, left hook and left uppercut and he countered beautifully with his left. But his right was a work in progress; he was far less accurate with his straight right hand and he really didn't sit down on it like he could.
This lack of a strong right hand manifested in last year's match with Carson Jones, where Brook had difficulty thwarting Jones' pressure in the second half of the fight. In the rematch earlier this year, the big difference was Brook's right hand, thrown both as a lead shot and as part of combinations. Jones wasn't able to adjust to the shot and the right led Brook to victory.
Facing Vyacheslav Senchenko, a well-schooled and crafty boxer without a big punch, Brook's right hand immediately paid dividends. Dropping Senchenko in the third round with a nasty right, Senchenko was lucky to beat the count. In the next round, as Senchenko started to rally, Brook ended things with a short right.
Brook is a more well-rounded offensive fighter than he was a year ago. With more weapons at his disposal and very good hand speed, he is now clearly a top-ten fighter at welterweight. The next step is to see how he fares against the best in the division. As of right now, I still have a few questions.
Sharing a bizarre trait with the early version of Amir Khan, Brook often goes into a defensive shell after getting hit with a good shot. Moving back to the ropes, he allows opponents to tee off on him as he recovers. This still happened in the fourth round on Saturday after Senchenko landed a nice right hand. However, Brook was able to respond fairly quickly and shift back to offense.
In addition, Brook has taken rounds off in some of his more high-profile fights. Supposedly, his past conditioning problems are no longer an issue, but he still gets caught in between styles where he's not quite sure how to execute as fights progress into the later rounds. Brook likes to counter with his left hook and jab, but I still think that he's a much better fighter when he leads. His hand speed and accuracy are overall advantages in the division that can help build early leads on the scorecards and immediately make opponents uncomfortable. I wouldn't consider Brook a tactical genius or a master of angles at this point of his career. Yes, he can counter effectively when an opponent is right in front of him, but with issues in how he responds to taking shots and his overall lack of deception, I wouldn't predict that counterpunching will be the way his ticket gets punched to the big time.
7. Hopkins continues to surprise.
After watching dozens of Bernard Hopkins fights, I felt like I had seen everything from the grizzled veteran. Yet, I wasn't prepared for Hopkins standing in the center of the ring in the 11th round, trading potential knockout shots with Karo Murat and engaging in a poor man's Gatti-Ward. Throughout the second half of the match, Hopkins continually pressed for the knockout, sensing he had weakened prey. The fight went the distance, but not without Hopkins trying his best to close the show.
However, let's not pretend that this was a new fighter in the ring on Saturday. There was nothing alien about Hopkins clinching throughout the early rounds, committing an array of fouls, turning Murat and walking him across the ring and using his head to gain an advantage. Murat, was more than game to fight beyond the limits laid out in the Queensberry Rules, greeting Hopkins with head butts, low blows, hits on the break, and punches while Hopkins was down on the canvas after a slip (referee Steve Smoger would have been well within his limits to disqualify Murat for that maneuver). But in the battle of gamesmanship, Hopkins provided the ultimate one-upmanship, trying to convince Murat's corner to stop the fight in the eighth as he slipped shots along the ropes, hitting Murat in the kidney as he was turned around and planting a kiss on his pate during another clinch.
Murat was essentially outclassed, although he landed enough right hands to win some rounds. He certainly hit Hopkins throughout the fight, but most likely, that was Hopkins making the determination that he could withstand Murat's power shots in hopes of initiating his own offense. 
Hopkins was downright offensive in this fight (in a good way), throwing almost 50 punches a round and mixing in his wide arsenal to win a comfortable decision. Noticing that Murat kept his left hand at around his knee, Hopkins started to land his lead right hand. But this wasn't the same, slow-developing lead right of recent Hopkins' vintage, where he would lean back, cock the shot and fall in after throwing. Hopkins' right on Saturday was short, and he maintained his balance and position to follow up with combinations. As the bout continued, Hopkins established his jab, both moving forward and fighting off of his back foot.
In the trenches, Hopkins had success using his free left hand to land hard uppercuts to the body (so few fighters use their free hand when in clinches – it’s a lost art). During the second half of the bout, Hopkins started featuring his left hook and a much bigger right hand. This fight was a strong reminder that Hopkins' arsenal doesn't exist just to neutralize an opponent. On Saturday, he was there to impress upon the boxing world that there was still a lot left in his tank. And for one night, there clearly was.
Finally, for a fighter who has earned a reputation on merit as being tough to watch in the ring, at times in the second half of his career, Hopkins has turned into quite the showman. Whether it was talking to Murat's corner while avoiding punches, doing pushups instead of waiting on Jean Pascal, mugging for the crowd after slipping a shot from Tavoris Cloud or hitting Antonio Tarver with a bolo punch, these were fun moments where the fans really responded to Hopkins. As the New York crowd gave Hopkins a standing ovation after the end of the Cloud fight earlier in the year, the Atlantic City audience was on its feet many times on Saturday. Fight fans left Boardwalk Hall having witnessed a winning performance from a legendary boxer, but just as important, an enjoyable one.
8. Hopkins-Murat will not be played at Steve Smoger's Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Yes, Smoger is one of the best refs in boxing. His ability to gauge when a fighter is capable of continuing is nonpareil in the sport. However, his laissez-faire attitude in the ring can be a detriment during a fight where there is a lot of clinching and fouling. True, he deducted a point (belatedly) from Murat for hitting on the break but Smoger seemed to lose control of the bout. Murat got away with hitting Hopkins on the canvas after a fall. Hopkins landed a kidney shot while Murat had his back turned, which was in plain view of the Smoger.
In addition, Smoger, putting his palm on Murat's head, shoved Murat across the ring on numerous occasions, a maneuver that didn't smack of professionalism. (Smoger didn't try that one on Hopkins.)
Saturday was at least the fifth Hopkins fight that Smoger has officiated. Perhaps more importantly, Smoger is from South Jersey, an area of the country that is essentially an extension of Hopkins' home base. It's unavoidable to be from this part of the U.S. and not fully comprehend Hopkins' accomplishments and ring legacy (I'm also from this part of the world, writing just minutes away from where Hopkins trains). In short, Smoger just seemed a little too chummy in the ring with Hopkins. He was disinclined to issue a serious warning for Hopkins' myriad fouls, let alone deduct a point. Yes, Smoger could have been more aggressive in penalizing Murat's infractions as well, but I don't think that anyone could watch the fight and feel like Murat had a particularly good rapport with Smoger.
I interviewed Smoger earlier in the year and he, quite frankly, provided a treasure trove of wonderful anecdotes, education and undying passion for the sport. There may be no referee in boxing who respects fighters, their sacrifices and the joy that they provide like Smoger does; I was very thankful for the time he gave me and his perspective on the sport.
With that said, Hopkins-Murat illustrated one of his weaknesses in the ring. He lets fighters fight to the nth degree, and if they aren't interested in engaging, he sees no inherent need to instill or impart a flow on the action. A fusspot like Jay Nady – although not licensed in New Jersey, but as an example – might have been better for a fight like Hopkins-Murat (unless he decided to disqualify one of them in the first round, a distinct possibility), or a more athletic ref like Benjy Estevez could have been better at breaking apart the two boxers. Smoger would have been perfect for Quillin-Rosado, but he was overmatched for the main event. And it pains me to say that.

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
Contact Adam at
@snboxing on twitter
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Friday, October 25, 2013

Boxinghead Battle Update 10-25-13

Here are the complete standings for the 2013 second half-season of the Boxinghead Battle, the weekly prediction league featuring boxing media and amateur fight fans. The second half of the season runs through the end of the November. The top eight finishers (and potentially more, if there are ties) qualify for the playoffs. Those who qualify for the playoffs will be included with the eight winners from the first half-season of the contest to determine the ultimate winner of the 2013 Boxinghead Battle.  

All contestants started at "0" as of July 1st. Currently, Joe Santoliquito of Ring Magazine is in the lead at +8. For the complete rules of the Boxinghead Battle, click here. 
To view the final standings from the first half-season of 2013, click here.

The second half-season has 131 players. Media members have their affiliations listed in parenthesis. The complete rankings are below:

Update as of 10-25-13

Abramowitz, Adam (saturday night boxing) +4
Abrams, Mark (15 rounds) -1
Abramson, Mitch (boxing scene) -1
Aldana, Jesus +1
Allan, Tommy (boxing asylum) +1
Alvarez, Luis 0
Andre, Chris +1
Anjuum, Mohammad -1
Barry, Alex +3
Benz, CG -1
Bivins, Ryan (bad left hook) +3
Blanc Jr., Eddie +1
Boxing Advocate +6
Boxing Mouth 0
Braden 2
Brown, Anthony -1
Burton, Ryan (boxing scene) +2
Campbell, Brian (espn) +4
Cervantes, Martin +5
Christ, Scott (bad left hook) -4
Christensen, Cole +3
Coppinger, Mike (ring) -1
Coreschi, Christopher +6
Craze, Tom (bad left hook) -2
Daily Bruise 0
Daniel +2
Donny Baseball (boxing asylum) +1
Dooley, Terrence (boxing scene) 0
Donovan, Jake (boxing scene) +3
Enriquez, Hernan -1
Fake Larry Merchant +1
Ferguson, Billy (fighthype) -2
Fischer, Douglass (ring) -2
Foley, James (bad left hook) 0
Frauenheim, Norm (15 rounds) +2
Freeman, Jeff (KO Digest) +4
Fruman, Andrew (bad left hook) 0
Gaibon, Ernest (boxing scene) 0
Gray, Gary -1
Gray, Tom (ring) 0
Greisman, David (boxing scene) +3
Groves, Lee (ring) +4
Guevera, Ricky -1
Harrison, Joe -1
Hart, Andy 0
Hassan, Sitbul -1
Hegarty, Lucy -1
Hunt, Charlie +2
Hurley, John +4
Hussain, Imran +1
Idec, Keith (Bergen Record) +4
Indica Ali 0
Iole, Kevin (yahoo) +2
Iron Mike Gallego +1
Javan, Navid +2
Jeet Vyas +1
Jessy A 0
Jewish Boxing +5
Jurgen +2
Kang, Jay Caspian (grantland) -1
King, James +3
Kitchen, Kory (bad left hook) +1
Kudgis, Tim (ATG radio) +2
Landa, Hans +2
Lampin, David -3
Lee, David 0
Lewis, Gabe (boxing asylum) +1
Linus 0
Lobach, David (boxing asylum) +1
Lukie Boxing +5
Mannix, Chirs (Sports Illustrated) 0
Maquinana, Ryan (boxing scene) + 4
Marotta, Rich (NBHOF) +2
Marino, Gordon (wall street journal) 0
Massingale, Alan (ring) -1
Matt D (boxing asylum) -2
McCarson, Kelsey (bleacher report) -1
McClintock, Alex (tqbr) -1
Mitchell, Paul +2
Mojica, Matthew +2
Montoya, Gabe (max boxing) 0
Morris, Alex (boxing asylum) +6
Morrison, Anthony -2
MTP for Three -1
Mulvaney, Kieran (espn) -1
Myhre, James +1
Nadjowski, Richard (boxing scene) +1
Nicholls, Scott -2
Oakes, Dave (bad left hook) +2
Oakland, Marioso -1
Obermayer, Jack (fight fax) +2
Olson, Hans +3
Ortega, Mark (ring) -2
Paterson, Andy (boxing asylum) +1
Pawel =4
Pina, Aris (compubox) -2
Poplawski, Ray +4
Pratt, Harry -1
Rafael, Dan (espn) +2
Raspnati, John (doghouse boxing) +1
Rawson, Paul +2
Reeno, Rick (boxing scene) 0
Richardson, Matt (fight news) +5
Robinson, Chris (boxing scene) +1
Rold, Cliff (boxing scene) +2
Rosenthal, Michael (ring) +5
Salazar, Francisco (boxing scene) -2
Salazar, Victor (boxing voice) +4
Sanchez, Eduardo 0
Sandoval, Luis (boxing scene) -1
Santiago, Manuel +1
Santoliquito, Joe (ring) +8
Satterfield, Lem (ring) +1
Smith, Tim (ring) 0
Songalia, Ryan (ring) +3
Soucy, Rob (boxing talk) -2
Spahn, Robert -1
Stapleton, Kieran 0
Starks, Tim (tqbr) +6
S.T.E.E.L. -1
Stretty Ender -1
Sukachev Alexy (boxing scene) +5
Talbott, Steven +2
Thomas, Eddie 0
Two Piece Boxing +3
Velasco, Darren -1
Velin, Bob (USA Today) +5
Wainwright, Anson (ring) +1
Ward, Kurt (boxing asylum) 0
Webb, Sam -1

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
@snboxing on twitter
Follow Saturday Night Boxing on Facebook:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Opinions and Observations: Alvarado-Provodnikov

Falling apart.

I had a sour feeling leaving the 1STBANK Center in Colorado after the junior welterweight showdown between titlist Mike Alvarado and Ruslan Provodnikov. Yes, Provodnikov was magnificent, landing damaging power shots throughout the match and gradually wearing down a tough fighter to earn a 10th-round TKO. There was tons of action, two knockdowns and all sorts of drama. Provodnikov cemented his status as a one of the must-see attractions in the sport, giving an inspiring performance. But I didn't fully enjoy the spectacle. 

For me, what was missing from the night was a battle between two warriors at their best, and for a variety of reasons I believe that Alvarado (with no help from his team) was fighting at a level significantly less than his optimum. I take nothing away from Provodnikov, who certainly deserves his title belt and its accompanying glory. He traveled to a champion's home town in high elevation, a situation that could lead to myriad prefabricated excuses from an athlete made of lesser internal fortitude. But Provodnikov was relentless with his pressure and power attack. Nevertheless, I was underwhelmed by Alvarado's performance.

The first official sign that things were amiss in the Alvarado camp was at the weigh in (there had been rumors of Alvarado undertraining in the lead up to the bout). The fighter stepped on the scale at 141.1 lbs., north of the 140-lb. divisional limit. Well, that's not necessarily a big deal, I thought. Fighters can often lose a pound very quickly under these circumstances. Yet, it took Alvarado practically the entire two-hour period to make weight and not lose his title on the scales.

Flash forward approximately 28 hours later and Alvarado walked into the ring according to the HBO unofficial scale (and disseminated by those on Twitter) at 156 lbs., 16 pounds higher than where he was just over a day ago. Provodnikov rehydrated to a more normal level of 147 lbs. Alvarado's 156 was not a sign of a fighter who comfortably made weight.

Nevertheless, there have been a number of boxers over the past decade who had success with gaining a lot of weight after the weigh in, such as Miguel Cotto, Brandon Rios, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Jermain Taylor and others. To me, Alvarado's weight was concerning, but not necessarily a death knell for his chances to win. 

After the fight, it was immediately leaked to press row that head trainer Shann Vilhauer was unhappy with Alvarado switching to southpaw during stretches of the fight – this was apparently at the suggestion of co-trainer Rudy Hernandez, who was instrumental in helping Alvarado defeat Brandon Rios earlier in the year. In addition, a number of reporters caught wind that Hernandez was disappointed with Alvarado's training and preparation; Team Alvarado's internecine was essentially complete after the fight. 

Even if Alvarado didn't train as effectively as he could have for the fight or perform as expected, a close-knit boxing team supports each other; it doesn't  throw its various members under the bus publicly. Ultimately, I believe that the team's fractiousness, which was on display after the fight, manifested during the match in Alvarado's performance.

Let's walk through some key moments of the fight. After three, Alvarado was up 2-1, winning the second and third rounds often out of the southpaw stance with his jab, movement and timely power punches, specifically with his right hook out of the southpaw stance and his straight right hand when fighting conventionally.

For some reason, Alvarado stopped moving in the fourth. Any combination of the following five factors might explain why: 1. it was a show of machismo, 2. his conditioning was too poor to keep moving, 3. he was instructed to hold his ground 4. Provodnikov's pressure psychologically ground him down and forced him to be more stationary 5. He didn't trust the guidance of his corner. From my vantage point, Alvarado willfully held his ground. He had some early success in the round, but Provodnikov soon landed chopping right hands from mid-range, and his shots had far more power than Alvarado's did. 

Over the next two rounds, the same pattern emerged; they traded at mid-range or on the inside. Although Alvarado landed a number of solid power punches, Provodnikov's offerings were consistently more damaging. As Alvarado remained more and more stationary, Provodnikov started to successfully incorporate body shots in his attack, including a punishing left hook. 

Finally, in the seventh round, Alvarado returned to movement and performed well during the stanza. But during the last five seconds, he attempted to punctuate the round with a right hand from distance and was met with perhaps the most savage punch of the entire fight, a short right counter shot that stopped him dead in his tracks.

The eighth round featured an early exchange with a Provodnikov left hook to the body and a right hand to the head that drove Alvarado back to the ropes. Alvarado soon went down from with a barrage of punches. A Provodnikov right hand sent him down again moments later. Alvarado somehow survived the round, but there was no silver lining. After two more rounds of assault, Alvarado had had enough. He was beaten to a pulp and had nothing left.

Even under ideal circumstances, I don't know if Alvarado would have beaten Provodnikov, but there were a number of tactical and strategic changes that could have keep it a closer fight. I'll give three.  

Alvarado was practically incapable of tying-up Provodnikov throughout the fight. Was it that Provodnikov was so elusive or kept distance so well? No. He was right in front of him, yet Alvarado lacked the wherewithal or technique to hold. Did his team tell him to tie-up during the fight? They should have. Along the same lines, why didn't Alvarado use his size to clinch or lean on Provodnikov in hopes of zapping his power? Instead of strategic clinching, Alvarado leaned forward when tired (but not on Provodnikov), exposing his head and chin for Provodnikov's power punches; he became target practice.

Furthermore, whether Vilhauer was right or wrong about Alvarado switching southpaw, the team (or fighter) wasn't confident enough to let the strategy play out. Alvarado won rounds, (not overwhelmingly, but won them) out of that stance. It seemed like the boxer and corner weren't fully prepared to fight in that style over the course of the match. Perhaps Provodnikov eventually overcomes Alvarado later in the fight out of the southpaw stance. But from my perspective, Provodnikov looked confused trying to land his shots from a distance when Alvarado turned southpaw. Maybe Alvarado didn't inflict enough damage as a southpaw, but he certainly got hit less when he featured that stance.

Provodnikov was damn impressive. He has improved defensively over the last year under Freddie Roach's guidance and did a nice job of slipping many of Alvarado's right hands. In addition, although his shots aren't exactly straight, Roach has shortened them up, enabling them to have more impact. Provodnikov also has incredibly heavy hands, underrated timing and a wonderful dedication to body punching.

I'm sure that these next few days won't be easy for Alvarado. One minute he's a world champion, a hometown hero, making life-changing money. With the blink of an eye, he's sitting in the dressing room, battered, defeated and full of recriminations and regret. In his heart, he knows that he let people down – his wonderful fans in the Denver area, his family, his team and himself.

Through a winding path that included imprisonment, bar fights, occasional promotional neglect and suboptimal training, Alvarado somehow willed himself to becoming a world champion. He has been tough in the ring, but ultimately, the sport isn't called "Tough." At the world level, conditioning, preparation and corner work all have to be top-notch. On Saturday, Mike Alvarado and his team just weren't good enough, and there's more than enough blame to spread around.  


During the eighth round, when the boisterous crowd was on its feet during the two knockouts, I started to hear loud banging from my left. Three sections over in Section 110, I witnessed the worst brawl that I have seen at a public sporting event (and being from Philly, I have a high threshold for unruliness). Dozens of patrons across multiple rows ferociously beat on each other. Waves of people were falling down rows. I saw men punching defenseless people who were lying on the ground. Bystanders were hit. I watched those in the section not involved in the fight scatter with panic. As Alvarado tried to valiantly survive the round to my right, I kept darting glances over my left shoulder towards the brawl, which showed no signs of ceasing. Hoping to see the green shirts of the security guards, instead I saw violence on a harrowing scale. Not until the round ended did security guards belatedly make their way into the melee.

After the fight, section 110 was in ruins. Whole rows of seats had been ripped out and debris scattered throughout that part of the arena. Maybe the remnants of Section 110 was symbolism for the hopes of Alvarado and his faithful following , but fuck the poetry and literary themes, it was scary stuff and I was spooked.

I wandered over to the first aid station where a number of the brawlers were receiving medical attention and more than a few cops were taking statements. A couple of the brawlers were in very bad shape.  I'm not saying that this melee was unique in any historical sense, but it rattled me on fight night, and has stuck with me in the 48 hours afterward. 

Yes, it's probable that the events of the brawl clouded my overall perception of Alvarado-Provodnikov and contributed to the sour taste in my mouth walking out of the arena, as well as my perspective in this column. I thought that this probability was important to disclose, so consider this piece accordingly.

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
@snboxing on twitter
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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pound-for-Pound Update 10-17-13

The elevation of Tim Bradley, fresh off his split decision victory over Juan Manuel Marquez, highlights the numerous changes to the Saturday Night Boxing Top-20 Pound-for-Pound list. Two other fighters rose significantly in the Rankings over the past month. Wladimir Klitschko dominated one of the toughest opponents of his career in Alexander Povetkin, further establishing his case as one of the best boxers in the sport. In addition, Adonis Stevenson continued to add to his solid 2013 by defeating former champion Tavoris Cloud.
For the fighters mentioned below, their new ranking will be included next to their name in bold. Their previous position will be in parenthesis.
Wladimir Klitschko: 4 (6) Klitschko punched and grappled his way to a near-shutout win over Alexander Povetkin. Klitschko has now made 15 defenses of his heavyweight title and you could probably count the number of rounds he lost in those fights on two hands. True, the division isn't historically strong, but Klitschko's complete domination justifies his position in the top echelon of all fighters in boxing.
Tim Bradley: 5 (11) Bradley scored the biggest (legitimate) win of his career by defeating Juan Manuel Marquez in a split decision. After a two-fight stretch where he received a suspect decision against Manny Pacquiao and struggled to beat the unranked Ruslan Provodnikov, Bradley went back to establishing himself as one of the top talents in boxing against Marquez. 
Juan Manuel Marquez: 6 (3) Marquez fell short against Bradley in a fight that featured a number of close rounds. Ultimately, Marquez was outworked and failed to make any significant adjustments to change the tenor of the fight. Although he complained about being robbed by the judges after the match, the loss wasn't controversial in the eyes of the boxing public; Bradley had done enough to win.
Adonis Stevenson: 14 (unranked) Stevenson has had a banner year so far in 2013. He avenged the only loss of his career by knocking out Darnell Boone. He moved up to light heavyweight and destroyed the lineal king of the division, Chad Dawson. Finally, late last month he stopped former champion Tavoris Cloud in seven rounds. To this point, Stevenson has made a strong case for Fighter of the Year.
With the addition of Stevenson to the Rankings, Shinsuke Yamanaka drops out. The complete SNB Top-20 Fighters list is below.
  1. Floyd Mayweather
  2. Andre Ward
  3. Sergio Martinez
  4. Wladimir Klitschko
  5. Tim Bradley
  6. Juan Manuel Marquez
  7. Manny Pacquiao
  8. Guillermo Rigondeaux
  9. Carl Froch
  10. Danny Garcia
  11. Nonito Donaire
  12. Roman Gonzalez
  13. Bernard Hopkins
  14. Adonis Stevenson
  15. Anselmo Moreno
  16. Juan Estrada
  17. Takashi Uchiyama
  18. Adrien Broner
  19. Gennady Golovkin
  20. Leo Santa Cruz
Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
@snboxing on twitter
Follow Saturday Night Boxing on Facebook: 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Opinions and Observations: Bradley-Marquez

A few hours before Saturday's Timothy Bradley-Juan Manuel Marquez fight, an acquaintance of mine, who happens to be a professional gambler (we’ll call him Mikey), was very concerned. Mikey saw value in Bradley being a slight underdog but he was still spooked by the Provodnikov bout, where Bradley just hung on to win. (For the record, I never bet on fights.) Mikey wanted my take on the matchup against Marquez and I told him that it was Bradley's fight to lose. Meaning, if Bradley stuck to his game plan, Marquez most likely wouldn't be able to beat him.
Cliché #1: Styles make fights.
I'd be the first one to tell you that I HATE boxing clichés. Find me an example where one works and I'll point to a counterexample. But let's examine this famous cliché for Bradley-Marquez. Sizing up the matchup, Bradley possessed better hand and foot speed, he had a higher work rate and he could be responsible defensively. In addition, Marquez had often struggled with mobile boxers (Mayweather, John and Norwood). If Bradley boxed and didn't stay in the pocket for too long, making it difficult for Marquez to counter, he would have a great shot to win. This style would help  minimize Marquez's power edge and protect Bradley's chin.
On Saturday, Bradley – fighting in the right style – was too much for Marquez to overcome. Bradley didn't give up his edges throughout the fight. Or to put it another way, Marquez wasn't able to impose himself on the match enough to make Bradley give up these edges. Marquez didn't land more than a handful of really hard shots. He didn't build up an early lead. Thus, Bradley had no reason to change his approach. Give credit to Bradley for sticking to his game plan for 12 rounds against a great fighter.
Cliché #2: Speed Kills.
Begrudgingly, I have to admit that this cliché applied to Saturday's fight as well. Bradley was getting off first throughout much of the fight, piling up points with his jab and activity. Marquez did land some effective counters throughout the fight, but there weren't enough of them. And when Marquez tried to lead, he couldn't find a way to consistently crack Bradley's defense. Bradley's hand and foot speed presented problems all night for Marquez.
Cliché #3: Timing Stops Speed.
This is the cliché that explains Marquez's success against Pacquiao, but it wound up not pertaining to Saturday's fight. Marquez countered, but too often, Bradley was already out of the pocket. At other points, Bradley was already landing his second and third quick punch of a combination before Marquez could effectively time him. Marquez had a lot of success early with his counter left hook to finish up exchanges but Bradley made an adjustment with his right hand and Marquez didn't find a home for that punch often in the second half of the fight. Marquez did land well in some exchanges, but his punches weren't significant enough to counteract Bradley's speed.
Throughout the fight, Bradley presented Marquez with a series of looks. Whether it was drawing counters from Marquez and effectively countering them, controlling the action with the jab, using the ring to his advantage, fighting off of the back foot and making Marquez lead, scoring with short combinations or striking with lead right hands, Bradley won the battle of clean punching, activity, defense and ring generalship. These weren't dominant victories across the board, but Bradley did enough little things to put himself over the top.
Marquez also had his moments, but he wasn't the sharper puncher. In fact, Marquez's anticipated advantage in punching power didn't materialize. Much of that could be attributed to Bradley, who rarely stayed in one place, making it difficult for Marquez to load up on big counters. 
For all the talk about Bradley's feather-fisted offense, this is the second consecutive fight where Bradley hurt his opponent. Earlier in the year, Freddie Roach considered stopping the Provodnikov bout because his fighter was taking too much punishment. On Saturday, Marquez was rocked by a few right hands and took a big left hook at the end of the fight. In addition, Marquez's left eye was in bad shape by the second half of the bout. Yes, there were a few head butts, but Bradley found a home for his right hand at many points throughout the fight, and they caused some damage.  
Overall, it wasn't an overly scintillating affair, and that speaks to how well Bradley was able to neutralize Marquez's power counters. Bradley won by split decision (should have been unanimous) with scores 116-112, 115-113 and 113-115. Harold Lederman of HBO had it 117-111. I had it 118-110, with Bradley's activity rate, defense and ring generalship taking a number of close rounds. Yes, scores could vary for this fight but I think it would be a stretch to say that Marquez won more than five rounds. 
For too much of the fight, Marquez was being outworked. His counters weren't overly sharp, missing often with his left hook and right hand as Bradley successfully ducked, slipped and took punches off of his arms, back and shoulders. Marquez's vaunted left uppercut wasn't a factor as Bradley did a wonderful job of controlling range and staying away from inside fighting. To his credit, I recall only one time in the fight where Bradley's back even touched the ropes, and that was for a split second.
Bradley certainly studied Floyd Mayweather's fight against Marquez, where Mayweather won handily by moving, making Marquez lead and varying the attack and pace of the fight. Bradley didn't beat an older Marquez as definitively as Mayweather did, but he learned the appropriate lessons from that bout. Forsaking the toe-to-toe combat of the Provodnikov match, Bradley stayed under control throughout most of the fight. Ignoring the oohs and aahs of the pro-Marquez crowd, Bradley stuck to his game plan, boxing and moving. However, it needs to be pointed out that whenever Marquez had success, Bradley immediately went right after him, not letting Marquez get an upper hand in the psychological battle of the fight or the round-by-round action on the scorecards.
Bradley boxed, sure, but he didn't stink it out. There were numerous quick exchanges with power shots. He didn't shy away from trading. He just kept it as quick skirmishes instead of all-out battles. More than anything, Bradley's intelligence and athleticism won him the fight. He didn't get drawn into a macho battle of supremacy. 
Joel Diaz, Bradley's trainer, had an excellent night as he prepared Bradley with the correct game plan for victory. Bradley also deserves credit for listening to his corner, as he certainly didn't do during the Provodnikov fight. There was a wonderful moment on Saturday where HBO cut to Bradley's corner during a round. Diaz and Bradley's father were yelling instructions to Tim in the ring. They called for a double jab, and Bradley immediately responded and scored with the combination. That sequence illustrated the seamlessness of Team Bradley during the fight – great advice, exemplary execution.
In the other corner, Nacho Beristain was awful. For some reason, he kept telling Marquez that he was up all night, which was a terrible assessment of the fight. Marquez was consistently being outworked by Bradley and his own punches weren't particularly impressive. In addition, after the second round, Beristain instructed Marquez to go away from the left hook to the straight right hand, even though the hook was the only punch that was consistently scoring for his fighter. Ultimately, the right adjustments weren't made and neither trainer nor fighter could take Bradley out of his game plan.
By my count, this is the third fight that Beristain has helped lose for Marquez – sending Marquez to Indonesia to face Chris John and telling his fighter in the third Pacquiao bout that he was far ahead were the other two. Beristain is one of the best teachers in boxing, but he's had a number of questionable moments in Marquez's corner and he certainly won't be remembered as a manager.
Marquez and Beristain are very prideful fellows; it helps explain their greatness.  But their high self-regard can also provide some understanding as to why they have come up short in close fights. It's easy for Team Marquez to complain about robberies, which they again did on Saturday. That trope excuses them from needed self-examination. Ultimately, their whining act has gotten tiresome.
Marquez should've fought with more urgency on Saturday. It's a fault of both the fighter and trainer for not springing to action. It was a difficult but winnable fight for them; this wasn't the Mayweather experience where Marquez was summarily outclassed.  No, Marquez was just outworked. That may be a bitter pill for Team Marquez to swallow and perhaps they never accept the decision. But the boxing public has, and that suffices.  

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
@snboxing on twitter
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