Saturday, March 30, 2013

Rios-Alvarado II: Preview and Prediction

Tonight marks the eagerly awaited rematch between junior welterweights Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado. Last October, the two engaged in one of the best fights of 2012, where both fighters waged intense combat over seven rounds. Ultimate, Rios' shots proved to be more damaging, and he secured the seventh-round TKO victory. For tonight's match, will the fight be a continuation of last year's memorable brawl, or will we see the bout play out differently? Read below for my preview and prediction.

Quite honestly, Alvarado entered the first fight with overconfidence. In his previous fight before Alvarado, Rios had escaped with a dubious victory over Richar Abril. He had drained himself trying to make weight and this partly explained his lackluster performance. (Alvarado either overlooked this factor or didn't take the threat posed by Rios that seriously.) To face Alvarado, Rios would move up to the junior welterweight limit. Alvarado, who had been used to slugfests at 140, albeit against lesser opposition, believed that his power and volume would be enough to overwhelm Rios. Alvarado had advantages in height and reach but he gave them up to try and impose his will on the inside. He didn't expect Rios to take his shots and keep coming forward. He also was unable to adjust to Rios' lead right hands.

The fight illustrated Alvarado's inability to make adjustments in the ring. It was reasonable to test Rios' chin at 140 and see if the fighter had problems taking shots at the higher weight. Alvarado landed barrages of his best power shots, but Rios wasn't dissuaded. Despite the mounting evidence that Rios wouldn't fold, Alvarado believed that his power would wear Rios down; in fact, the opposite happened. It was a severe miscalculation by Alvarado. He needed to adjust his strategy and thinking in the fight but he just couldn't overcome his initial overconfidence in his own power. There were moments in the fight where Alvarado had success boxing from the outside and using the ring to his advantage. However, as Rios kept advancing, Alvarado was too content to trade in the pocket. Ultimately, his underestimation of Rios' power and will led to his loss.

For Alvarado to have more success tonight, he needs to change his approach. He must pick his spots. The more time he stands in front of Rios, the more vulnerable he becomes. Alvarado needs to jab from the outside, throw lead straight right hands and keep his combinations to no more than three punches.

In fact, I'd like to see Alvarado throw fewer punches per round than he did in the first fight. Instead of throwing 110 punchers per frame, I'd like to see that number come down closer to 70. By using the ring and being more selective when engaging, he will limit Rios' ability to win exchanges in the pocket. Rios wins fights by causing an accumulation of punishment that his opponents can't overcome. By reducing his punch output, Alvarado will take far fewer of Rios' blows in return. Alvarado also has a significant foot speed advantage from the outside. He needs to make Rios expend a lot of energy to get into position to throw punches.

In order for Alvarado to win the fight, he has to go for the decision. With his jab, flashy right hands, quick combinations and ring generalship, he needs to count on the mercy of the judges. The more he trades the better chance he has of losing.

This will be a tall order for Alvarado. The key for him will not be machismo or toughness, but discipline. Alvarado fancies himself as a tough brawler; he is that, but sometimes adjustments are needed to win fights and prolong a career. I'm not sure if Alvarado has the ring awareness and composure to stick with a more limited approach to engagement. If he does, he has a real shot at picking up a close decision, but I wouldn't bet that Alvarado can execute this game plan.

Rios needs to build off of the advances that he made in their first fight. Often a slow starter, Rios moved his hands freely in the opening rounds in October. He may still have been behind on the cards after three rounds or so, but he inflicted a lot of damage that helped lead to the eventual stoppage. In addition, Rios should open with lead right hands. He needs to see if Alvarado made any adjustments to that punch. If Alvarado still can't defend against it, the fight could be shorter than the first one.

Rios can be clumsy getting inside. He applies constant pressure but he doesn't jab his way in or apply angles. He relies on his solid chin and his ability to pick off shots here and there. In a perfect world, I'd like to see Rios come in with a little more polish. He doesn't HAVE to take as many shots as he does. The concern is that one day Rios' chin will get cracked. But is Alvarado the man to do it?

I see the fight playing out a little differently than the first one. I think Alvarado boxes a little more selectively in the early rounds than he did in their last encounter and builds an early lead. (I wouldn't be surprised if he's up 3-0). Ultimately, I see Alvarado getting into bad habits with his lead; the old overconfidence will rear its ugly head. He'll fall into the classic trap against Rios: it's so easy to his him, why not just stand in front of him and hit him some more. Alvarado will get caught standing and trading a little too much. He'll overcommit with his punches. His jab will be left behind.

As is the case with many Rios fights, his pressure and short shots will slowly turn the fight in his favor. I see him absorbing a lot of punishment but slowly grinding down Alvarado as the fight moves towards the later rounds. Eventually, Rios' hooks to the body and pinpoint head shots will be too much for Alvarado to handle. Alvarado goes down multiple times in the later rounds and ultimately referee Tony Weeks stops the fight.

Brandon Rios TKO 9 Mike Alvarado.

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Opinions and Observations: Bradley-Provodnikov

I. Timothy Bradley beat Ruslan Provodnikov by a unanimous decision.

In a thrilling fight where Bradley was staggered in the 1st, 2nd and 6th rounds and knocked down in the 12th, Bradley won enough of the remaining frames to squeak by with a victory. Scores were 115-112, 114-113 and 114-113 (I actually had Provodnikov winning 114-113).  The official scores were fine.  To my eyes, rounds 3, 4, 7, 8 and 9 were clearly Bradley's.  A legitimate case could be made that either fighter won 5, 10 or 11. Assuming no additional 10-8 rounds, this leads to a range of scores from 115-112 for Provodnikov to 115-112 for Bradley. The official tallies were all in this acceptable band of scores.

I thought Bradley was at his best during rounds 3, 7 and 8, where he expertly used movement to confound Provodnikov. Bradley circled in both directions and got in and out effectively against his harder-hitting foe. Bradley opted for quicker combinations in these rounds and didn't give Provodnikov the ability to set his feet before firing.  Rounds 7 and 8 were beautiful examples of selective engagement, where Bradley consistently beat Provodnikov to the punch with his superior athleticism and footwork. 

These rounds reminded me of Bradley's relative success at the end of the Pacquiao fight. However, on Saturday, Bradley still remained active during these frames.  He didn't win these rounds solely on ring generalship, he plastered Provodnikov with quick combinations, featuring a variety of punches (in no particular order: jab, left hook to the body, left hook to the head, straight right hand, looping right hand and right uppercut).

This fight should have been easier for Bradley than he made it. Insisting on going toe-to-toe with Provodnikov (who was moving up from junior welterweight), Bradley tried to dominate from the outset of the fight with his physicality and sharper punching. Against the wishes of his trainer, Joel Diaz, Bradley decided to trade in the center of the ring. By the end of the first round, Provodnikov demonstrated his superior power and badly staggered Bradley. 

In the rounds where Bradley got hurt, he was often the victim of his success.  He won most of the early portions of these rounds and his ability to land at-will gave him confidence to string together longer-sequenced combinations.  In these moments, Bradley decided to disregard movement, providing Provodnikov with consistent opportunities to land his overhand rights and left hooks.  Ultimately, Bradley played into Provodnikov's hands at numerous times throughout the fight.  

II. Pat Russell was bad and then really good.  

Towards the end of the first round, Provodnikov won an exchange with Bradley and wound up hurting him with a right hand followed by a left hook. Bradley moved forward trying to punch but collapsed onto a knee. He got up from the canvas and then fell back to the ropes.  Referee Pat Russell ruled this sequence a slip; however, it was pretty clear that these two falls were the delayed reaction to Provodnikov's power shots.  Bradley was a fighter who had lost his equilibrium, not just his footing.

Russell's decision was a key determinant in the fight's final outcome. If Russell had ruled the slip a knockdown, two of the scores would have been draws; thus, Provodnikov wouldn't have lost the fight.

However, I will keep the flogging of Russell to a minimum.  He missed a knockdown – not the high point of his career, but it happens.  Far more important was his work later on in the fight.  Many referees would have stopped the fight in the 2nd or the 6th after Bradley had absorbed serious punishment. In these frames, Provodnikov's punches drove Bradley back across the ring like it was a movie version of boxing; he literally banged Bradley from pillar to post. During these hellacious frames, Bradley was essentially out on his feet, winging back punches from muscle memory and a refusal to quit. He was seriously hurt and had no semblance of balance or equilibrium. 

Russell would have been well within his professional discretion to stop the fight during these rounds.  To his credit, he gave the champion the opportunity to finish these frames and get his one minute of rest. Fittingly, Bradley emerged from these breaks with freshness and vigor; he won both the 3rd and 7th. 

It's clear that Russell was well aware of Bradley's ability to recuperate. In his fights against Pacquiao and Holt, Bradley withstood vicious assaults and two knockdowns on his way to winning both matches.  That Bradley was able to respond as well as he did after absorbing such punishment from Provodnikov confirms Russell's professional judgment.  Russell's homework clearly paid off for boxing fans and observers. This fight became a special event and Russell deserves his fair share of credit for letting the bout go the full 12 rounds.

III. Both trainers did an excellent job.

Joel Diaz was visibly irate with Tim Bradley after the second round.  Telling his fighter to be smart and stick to boxing, Diaz had a firm sense of how Bradley should best Provodnikov. The game plan was sound.  Unfortunately, Bradley had other ideas. 

In the past I have been critical of trainers when their boxers decide to go rogue.  To me, these instances suggest a lack of communication or trust between trainer and fighter.  However, throughout Bradley's career, he has worked very well with Diaz and has adapted a multifaceted ring identity that makes him a tough fighter to beat in the ring.  I won't look past Bradley's freelancing in the ring on Saturday, but his decisions cannot be attributed to a lack of forceful guidance from Diaz in the corner. For now, I will put a pin in this performance and remark that Diaz's fight plan and verbal instructions in the corner were on point. Perhaps the punishment that Bradley took on Saturday will reiterate the need to rely on his trainer's wisdom.  If Bradley realizes this prior to his next fight, it's a wonderful lesson learned. 

Freddie Roach has definitely received his fair share of criticism in this space over the last 18 months but I thought he did a wonderful job on Saturday.  Before the final round, Roach said to Provodnikov that he needed to hurt Bradley.  That was the correct instruction. With the exception of calling for Provodnikov's non-existent jab, the trainer didn't try to force his banger to be cute (for example, Adam Booth can sometimes outsmart himself in the corner by encouraging his power punchers to be ring technicians). Roach knew how Provodnikov needed to beat Bradley and he instructed his fighter accordingly. 

Ultimately both corners considered stopping the fight; it was that kind of bruising match. However, the trainers gave their fighters the best chance of winning and that is all you can ask for at this level. 

IV. Tim Bradley put his career on the line, and paid the price. 

Bradley made a premeditated decision to take the fight to Provodnikov. Against his corner's wishes, Bradley fought toe-to-toe.  There could have been many contributing factors to the decision: Bradley didn't believe that Provodnikov's heavy hands played up at 147, he had a new-found belief in his own power, he consciously wanted to provide a fan-friendly bout, or he had pent-up anger from his performance in the Pacquiao fight and its negative aftermath. I try not to play armchair psychologist. What is paramount is that he decided to go to war; I will leave it to others to speculate on his reasoning.

Bradley's decision resulted in absorbing gobs of unnecessary punishment. It was the type of fight that cuts careers short.  But give Bradley credit, when the chips were down and he was left with just instinct and will, he showed that he was a real fighter. He didn't spend the last part of the match in retreat mode, merely trying to survive. He was presented with the ultimate fight-or-flight scenario, and Bradley proved that he was 100% fighter.

V. Bradley and Provodnikov both won the event.

For Provodnikov, his performance yielded perhaps the most important result for a boxer: he now matters.  Previously an obscure fighter who had a cultish following on the ESPN 2 circuit, Provodnikov was able to demonstrate that he can compete at the top levels of the sport.  As a fan-friendly action fighter, he created more demand for his services. 

Aligned with the smaller Banner Promotions, Provodnikov makes a tasty opponent for the Top Ranks and Golden Boys of the world; the welterweight division has no shortage of attractive options.  Although it's unlikely that he becomes one of the faces of boxing, there's no shame in ascending to the Marcos Maidana/Josesito Lopez level of compelling B-sides. These fighters help make the boxing world go round.  Provodnikov found himself at the right place at the right time on Saturday.  He seized his opportunity and significantly changed his career trajectory for the better.

Before Saturday, Tim Bradley had title belts and major victories. What he lacked was fan engagement.  More often respected from afar, on Saturday, Bradley did much to alter his perception as a fighter.  He no longer can be dismissed as a tricky neutralizer. His willingness to sacrifice blood and guts was inspiring and one of the most courageous efforts in boxing's recent past. In addition, his vulnerability against punchers will create even more demand for top opponents to fight him.

Bradley will most likely never bring an outsized fan base to the negotiating table.  But he's a compelling figure who's personable, down-to-earth and as tenacious as they come. HBO and Top Rank believe in him, and in the modern boxing landscape that's boxing's real currency. Saturday's performance bought him years of good will and return engagements on premium television, a big win in any context.

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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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Opinions and Observations: Hopkins-Cloud

In the Black Book of Boxing Secrets, there exists an explanation for how confident boxers, filled with machismo and a license to inflict pain, suddenly resort to passive spectators in their own demise. The Book's volumes contain rich treasures in how to neutralize and nullify younger and fresher opposition. The mysteries of optimum hand positioning, foot spacing and feinting are presented as Kabbalistic teachings. The Book focuses on various psychological aspects of the sport. It features bold chapter titles like, "Your Opponent's Strength is his Weakness," "He Fights your Fight," and "Instilling Doubt."

The information contained in the Book provides enlightenment to its adherents. Boxing mythology and mysticism are broken down into their elemental truths. But one cannot find the Book on retail shelves or on Amazon. No, this book is hidden from the general boxing public and the overwhelming majority of active fighters. Only the special ones are granted an opportunity to learn from the Book, and only a few fighters within this exclusive club are able to process its secrets and absorb its mysteries. The Book is passed down from generation to generation, from trainers and fighters to their protégés in out-of-the-way sweatbox gyms in select locations throughout the world. Only those who have the patience, discipline and athletic gifts can begin to incorporate its marvels.

Bernard Hopkins has not only mastered the Book, but he co-authored the last edition, with the hermetic guru of pugilism, Red Basil (what a name!), rumored to be living in a Himalayan monastery. On his most recent book tour, which occurred in mostly obscure boxing outposts throughout North America, Hopkins didn't read from a text; it was all rote. One five-hour lecture on the shoulder feint was particularly well received in Mexico City.

This past Saturday, Hopkins, perhaps the most famous active practitioner of the Black Book of Boxing Secrets along with Floyd Mayweather and Juan Manuel Marquez, demonstrated yet again his mastery of the mysteries of the sport.

Within three minutes, Hopkins transformed titleholder Tavoris Cloud, a physical and aggressive pugilist, into a tentative figure. Instead of throwing his typical 60-70 punches a round, Cloud finished the first frame with just 24 punches recorded. In one respect, the battle was already won; Cloud had given up his two greatest advantages: activity and pressure.

Against Cloud, Guru Hopkins demonstrated a command and richness of boxing dimensions that mere mortals could only admire with disbelief: jabbing off the back foot, pinpoint right-hand counters, shoulder rolling off the ropes, feints, blocking and rolling with punches, stick-and-moving, triple jabs starting a combination, lead left hooks to start exchanges, lead uppercuts to dissuade forward movement.

Perhaps most impressive was his acute understanding of the opponent in front of him. Realizing that Cloud moved in straight lines and was only able to fire with his feet planted, Hopkins moved throughout the night. Featuring subtle side-to-side movement at times and leaving the pocket entirely on other occasions, Hopkins ensured that Cloud felt uncomfortable in the ring. The nasty cut he opened up with a left hook also added to Cloud's unease.

Interestingly, Hopkins left behind his long, looping lead right hand, his best weapon of the last decade. Usually, Hopkins would lunge in with this shot and fire off some hooks on the inside before a clinch. Against Cloud, Hopkins wisely chose to limit his exposure on the inside. Thus, he resorted to movement and quick combinations from mid-range. Certainly, Cloud was expecting that lead right hand. He must have been all the more shocked when Hopkins landed with the lead left hook and jab.

The sagacious one didn't dominate and it wasn't his best performance; it was essentially workmanlike. Per usual, his conditioning was superb. He got crushed with some body shots in the second round and while he was less inclined to trade immediately after that exchange, it didn't stop him from having a solid third round. After Cloud teed off along the ropes in the 8th round and landed a vicious right hand, Hopkins essentially shut him down the rest of the fight by masterfully picking his spots and being first and last in exchanges. His legs still looked fresh in the 12th round and he didn't seem to be working hard as the fight reached its conclusion.

Scores were 116-112, 116-112 and 117-111 (this writer scored it 115-113). There were a number of close rounds, but Hopkins outlanded Cloud and scored with more of the memorable punches.

The 48-year-old did something else very notable on Saturday; he avoided imparting his knowledge of the Appendices of the Black Book of Boxing Secrets, the chapters that highlight the dark arts of the sport. Hopkins instead just fought. There were no elbows, low blows, wrestling maneuvers or melodramatic claims of phantom fouls. No, he left his bag of illicit tricks back in the dressing room. As a result, the fight actually had a flow to it. The crowd was entertained and riveted by the master's ring craft.

As the final bell sounded, the fans stood and applauded. New York may not be known for its sentimental audiences, but on Saturday, they roared with approval and gave the old warrior a fitting sendoff into the night.


I have watched, studied and observed Bernard Hopkins more than any other fighter in my time as a boxing observer. He has been a source of constant enrichment. As familiar as I believe I might be with him, Saturday's performance reinforced my lack of exposure to the Black Book of Boxing Secrets.

In an ex post facto examination of Saturday's performance, surely I could point to his feints, movement or timing as what set him on a path to victory. But that level of analysis barely scratches the surface of Hopkins' performance. Lots of fighters feint. Many boxers use the ring.

What I haven't been able to fully comprehend about Hopkins is how he regularly controls fights psychologically from the moment the opening bell rings. How can someone make a confident champion (whether it is Trinidad, Tarver, Pavlik or Cloud) so tentative so quickly? Saturday wasn't an instance of a Hopkins slowly breaking a guy down with hard shots; as in several other occasions in his career, it was an example of an immediate imposition of his style. Ultimately, I don't know what Hopkins' opponents see or don't see that forces them out of their game plans almost instantaneously.

It's even more than imposing his will. Hopkins forces fighters to make bad decisions, to commit self-nullifying acts. Why wouldn't Tarver let his hands go? The man had no chance to win without activity. Why did Pavlik refuse to throw his jab after the first three rounds? It's not that Hopkins was the hardest puncher he had ever faced. He had absorbed huge shots from Edison Miranda and Jermain Taylor in past fights; yet he would then come on to win them. However, against Hopkins, he suddenly couldn't pull the trigger. Why did Cloud spend so much time staring at Hopkins from the outside, an area of the ring that assured his defeat?

And it's not just Hopkins who has this gift. Why did Ortiz resort to head butting against Mayweather? Why did Pacquiao become a pocket fighter against Marquez in their third fight? Why did Foreman punch himself out against Ali? These are examples of fighters performing in the ring with uncertainty or fear. They are under extreme duress and abandon their game plans.

This subject fascinates me and there aren't easy answers. Again, these are decorated champions, confident in all of their abilities, who lose themselves in the ring. It's Zab Judah swinging wildly in a Las Vegas ring riot while Floyd Mayweather stands peacefully in a corner. There is an added psychological dimension with some fighters that would not be accurate to describe as an intangible. These edges show up repeatedly throughout their careers and expressly help them achieve victory after victory.

Bernard Hopkins has won more big fights as an underdog than any other modern boxer. He's made his career off of this mark. It's a lofty accomplishment and it's no mere footnote. Opponents who are well-trained professionals seem woefully unprepared for him once they enter the ring. Boxing handicappers have downplayed his skills for over a decade. Media members have picked against him in favor of lesser, younger fighters quite often. Yet this pattern of Hopkins overcoming the odds has repeated throughout the last 12 years. Logically, this shouldn't happen.

But Hopkins' career has defied normal patterns or facile categorization. His rarified achievements merit their own chapter in the Black Book of Boxing Secrets. However, these secrets are not for my eyes or ears. I have only picked up some of its content from anonymous second-hand sources. Hopkins is the president of the Club within the Club. Although he has performed his public rituals with exquisite craft in front of tens of thousands, his mastery of the precise technical and psychological aspects of the sport happened far out of the public view.

Bernard Hopkins knows more about boxing than I ever will. He is the gold standard. He is where I aspire to be; I will never get there. This isn't a realization that leads to bitterness. Hopkins's career has been extraordinary and I have been here to witness it. Maybe one day his various dimensions will all coalesce into some unifying principle of his greatness. For now, I will enjoy the ride, admire his achievements, revel in his career's mystery and continue to learn.

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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Friday, March 8, 2013

Keys to the Fight: Hopkins-Cloud

Saturday features a compelling light heavyweight showdown between the legendary Bernard Hopkins (52-6-2, 32 KOs) and undefeated titleholder Tavoris Cloud (24-0, 19 KOs) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Hopkins (48) looks to eclipse his own record by becoming the oldest boxer to win a major title belt while Cloud (31) hopes to reenergize his career after escaping with a highly disputed split decision victory over Gabriel Campillo in his last fight. Read below for the keys to the fight. My prediction will be at the end of the article.

1. Punch output.

This issue is a concern for both fighters. For many years, Hopkins has specialized in slowing down the pace of his fights. What gets him in trouble (think of the Taylor or Calzaghe fights) is when opponents significantly outwork him in terms of punch volume. Although Hopkins may land the better punches in many of these rounds, there just aren't enough of them. When Hopkins gets in offensive ruts, where he throws only 20 punches a round, it's hard to find fault with judges who decide to favor his significantly more active opponents.

Hopkins has expressed regret in not letting his hands go enough in his losses, especially in the Calzaghe fight. A much more energetic Hopkins emerged in his two fights against Jean Pascal. His performance in the second Pascal bout helped reestablish his alpha status in the light heavyweight division. However, against Chad Dawson, Hopkins' offensive hesitancy manifested again. Dawson essentially outworked him to pick up a majority decision victory.

Against Cloud, Hopkins has to be active enough for judges to give him close rounds. If he's throwing even 35 punches a round, that might be enough to hold sway with the judges. If he's at 25 or below, that's a warning sign, and most likely he won't win the fight.

Cloud has his own punch volume concerns. He takes rounds off and even within rounds he sometimes lets up. Although Cloud is a pressure fighter and aggressively stalks his opponents, to this point he doesn't fight three minutes of every round. That doesn't mean that he fades late, but he'll find rounds, and moments within rounds, to take breaks.

Cloud cannot succumb to Hopkins' deliberate pace and he must resist the urge to take his foot off of the gas. Every time that he slows down, he gives Hopkins an opportunity to steal a round.

For Cloud to win the fight, it's more about volume than even effectiveness. Hopkins won't be able to match a 50-60 punch-per-round work rate. Cloud will give himself the best chance to win the fight by constant activity.

2. Stealing early rounds.

Hopkins is one of the most notorious slow starters in boxing. He's not concerned about losing early rounds as he studies, feints and sizes up his opponents. Often he'll look to land one or two big shots in each of the first few rounds (most likely his patented lead right hand), but he's not necessarily trying to win them. In these early frames, he likes to intimidate his opponents by demonstrating how easily he can land on them while taking away their offensive strengths. Strategically, he uses the first three rounds to sow crucial seeds of doubt.

Despite Cloud's success in the first round against Campillo, he more often starts deliberately, which is typical of a pressure fighter who gradually breaks down his opponents (his victory over Yusaf Mack was a textbook illustration of this). Think of Cloud as a younger version of Glen Johnson in terms of the type of pressure that he applies.

In this fight, which will most likely be going to the cards, the first three rounds will be critical. Let's be honest, unless something strange happens, like a Cloud injury or a cut caused by a punch, Hopkins isn't scoring a knockout. And while Hopkins was dropped by Pascal, his sturdy chin and steely determination make it unlikely that he will be stopped early.

Both fighters can be cavalier regarding the need to win early rounds. The boxer who shows more initiative in the first frames will put himself in a much better position in the second half of the match, where both of these fighters typically perform at their best.

3. Signs of Father Time.

Even though Hopkins emerged victorious in the second Pascal fight, he wasn't the fresher fighter down the stretch. In fact, Pascal had one of his best rounds in the 12th. In addition, the familiar second-half Hopkins push never materialized against Dawson. These are troubling signs for a fighter who specialized in breaking down his opponents physically and mentally over the course of a match. He once owned the last six rounds.

If Hopkins no longer has the energy reserves to come on strong, he quite simply is a different fighter. In the past, he found that extra gear and kicked it up a notch as his opponents started to tire. So much of Hopkins' success has been predicated on his second-half rallies. If he can't muster the same type of late-round energetic response that he has been famous for, he won't be able to beat Cloud.

4. Movement and tricks.

Cloud doesn't make quick adjustments in the ring. After Campillo got back into the fight, Cloud needed several rounds to figure out how to overcome Campillo's odd-angled shots, high punch volume and movement. Although no one would confuse Hopkins, an orthodox and deliberate fighter, with Campillo, a sprightly southpaw, Hopkins certainly has all sorts of ways to confuse and flummox Cloud.

Hopkins will tie up, grapple, wrestle, elbow, fake injuries, hit low and rabbit punch: his usual smorgasbord of disengagement tactics. But movement may even be more effective against Cloud, who is a straight-line fighter. By using angles and the ring to his advantage, Hopkins will inhibit Cloud from launching his most potent offense, which is when action is in the pocket and at mid-range or closer. In addition, Hopkins' lead right hand, thrown from all sorts of weird trajectories, will help keep Cloud honest.

Cloud will be expecting the rough stuff on the inside and he's a physical specimen as well. In fact, Cloud's left hook and short right hand may be better punches at close range than anything that Hopkins has at this late point in his career. Hopkins' best chance of winning the psychological game (and most likely the fight) will be from the outside, circling the ring, employing angles and throwing unconventional shots. I believe that a fight waged in the trenches favors Cloud.

5. Body punching.

This will be very important for both boxers. Cloud needs to land early to the body in order to slow Hopkins down later in the fight. Hopkins should go downstairs on the inside to keep Cloud from aggressively charging forward.

Both fighters have been good body punchers in the past but they don't always feature it as frequently as they should. Cloud has a nice left hook to the body and occasionally will throw a straight right hand downstairs. At times, Hopkins can be very effective jabbing to the body and he'll also throw left and right hooks to the body during grappling sessions – he’s an expert at using his free hand.

The boxer who can win the body punching battle will have much better success in dictating the style of the fight. If Cloud can establish his body work, Hopkins will be softened up in the later rounds and less of a threat. Should Hopkins effectively assert his body punching, Cloud will be far more reticent to come inside, giving Hopkins additional opportunities to pick him off from the outside with his more accurate punching.


One basic question will determine who wins this fight: Will Hopkins let his hands go enough to win seven rounds? All of the other factors surrounding the fight pale in comparison to this central premise. For me, the answer is no. Hopkins will frustrate, stymie, disengage, trick, clown and bluster; but he won't be able to let his hands go consistently. Ultimately, one must throw enough punches to win. Because of Cloud's pressure/higher punch volume and Hopkins' flagging energy level, I don't think that Hopkins will be offensive-minded enough to win the balance of the rounds. Look for Cloud to win early, Hopkins to come on in the middle rounds and Cloud to pull away late.

Tavoris Cloud defeats Bernard Hopkins by a competitive unanimous decision, along the lines of 116-112, or eight rounds to four.

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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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Rundown: Mayweather and Showtime

This is the first edition of the monthly Saturday Night Boxing column, "The Rundown," which features news and notes from the world of boxing. It's fairly self-evident, so let's get to the fun stuff.

A Damn Good Month:

Floyd Mayweather: After spending over a decade with HBO, Mayweather left "The Network of Champions" to go across the street at Showtime. Not only did the two parties announce a six-fight deal, but Floyd negotiated a hefty guarantee for each appearance (the dollar specifics weren't announced but Money Mayweather doesn't fight for charity). He faces Robert Guerrero next in May.

Showtime: Under the regime of Stephen Espinoza, Showtime Boxing has attempted to even out the discrepancy between its programming and that of its traditionally better-funded rival HBO. With the Mayweather signing, it can safely be said that the two networks are closer than ever in providing the most compelling fighters competing on American soil. Credit Espinoza for making the winning offer to Mayweather and for helping to line up CBS's assets (Showtime's corporate parent) in landing its big whale.

Robert Guerrero: Eighteen months ago, Guerrero was an interim lightweight titlist who hadn't been able to land a top-tier fight. After two hard-fought wins at welterweight and constant self-promotion, Guerrero finds himself with a career-defining opportunity against Mayweather, not to mention his ascension into a higher tax bracket. He'll be a big underdog, but he's an energetic fighter who won't be awed by the moment.

Juan Manuel Marquez: Why did Marquez's status in the sport rise in February after not even fighting? It's simple. HBO needs big fights to counteract the Mayweather defection, giving Marquez a much better negotiating position for a possible fifth Pacquiao fight or another opportunity that might catch his fancy. Shrewdly, Marquez isn't rushing into an announcement for his next fight. By sitting back, better offers will continue to come his way.

Adrien Broner: He displayed an exhilarating performance in February by dismantling the game Gavin Rees in five rounds. Broner's combination of boxing skills, flash and a willingness to take risks sets him up very nicely as one of the real emerging stars in boxing. Fighting one of the tough guys at 140 would be a great way to build his pedigree.

Gavin Rees: Rees showed a ton of heart and moxie in his lost to Broner. The former junior welterweight champion could be competitive with a lot of guys at lightweight, just not Broner. Expect to see him get a major opportunity in short order.

ESPN: With relatively little fanfare, ESPN has put together a rousing start to its 2013 Friday Night Fights series. Featuring entertaining title fights on consecutive weekends, ESPN had a great month and has rebounded from a poor 2012. The network has also done a nice job of bringing the studio show out to the fight cards for selected events, giving the broadcast more of a big-time feel.

Lamont Peterson: After a layoff of more than a year because of a failed PED test, Peterson returned to action and demolished a game Kendall Holt, knocking him down twice before the fight was stopped in the eighth. Peterson looked sharp and aggressive, putting together one of the best performances of his career. Having recently signed with Golden Boy, he's up for a big fight later in 2013.

Carl Frampton: Earned the best win of his career by knocking out the tough Kiko Martinez in a European title fight. It wasn't Frampton's most complete performance of his career, but the Belfast-native is an emerging star in Ireland and the U.K. It wouldn't be out of the question to see him in a world title fight in early 2014.

Ishe Smith: The journeyman junior middleweight earned his first title by narrowly squeaking past Cornelius Bundrage. It wasn't a pretty fight; in fact, it was downright terrible to watch, but for the long-suffering vet, who had overcome promotional difficulties, injuries and thoughts of suicide, it was a career's validation.

Other Fighters Looking Good:

Evgeny Gradovich, Edner Cherry, Chris Van Heerden, Lee Selby and Demetrius Hopkins

Not the Best Month, Not the Worst:

Saul Alvarez: Alvarez failed to lock Mayweather into a guarantee for a potential September fight so he refused to fight on his undercard in May. Instead, he will face Austin Trout on April 20th. It's one of the most anticipated matchups of the first half of 2013. Although Alvarez will miss the opportunity to perform on the sport's biggest stage, he assumes his rightful main event status against Trout.

Malik Scott: After seemingly boxing rings around house fighter Vyacheslav Glazkov, the Philadelphian was only awarded a draw in a fight where no boxing pundit had Scott losing more than three rounds. Scott showcased his considerable skills in the match, but without firm promotional backing or power in the heavyweight division, it's unclear where he goes next.

Andy Lee: Back in action with new trainer Adam Booth, Lee struggled to assert himself against C-level fighter Anthony Fitzgerald. The new paring between Booth and Lee did not manifest seamlessly. Booth had Lee boxing cute off of the back foot and turning his opponent, even though Lee had excelled in the past by unloading his power shots in the center of the ring. The result was an awkward performance. Lee won comfortably on the scorecards but the jury is out on whether he will ever be among the top fighters of the middleweight division, and if Booth is the right one to get him there.

Felix Sturm: He had a life-and-death struggle with Sam Soliman in which he lost a close decision. On the plus side of the ledger, he knocked down Soliman and landed well with his power shots. However, Soliman clearly outworked him in the second half of the fight and Sturm seems to have slowed down. Later in the month, Soliman tested positive for a performance enhancing drug; the case is still being adjudicated.

Is This Month Over Yet?

HBO: Mayweather's defection to Showtime is a big blow to the network. Although Mayweather only fought once a year and was strictly a pay per view fighter, his departure clearly hurts HBO's boxing brand. HBO had always associated itself with the top boxers in the sport and now number one is gone. This isn't a death blow for HBO, but it's not a flash knockdown either.

Frank Warren: First, George Groves leaves Warren to join rival Matchroom Promotions. Now, it looks like Ricky Burns will be leaving the fold as well. His stable is now a shell of what it once was.

Cornelius Bundrage: For an aging vet who never made much of name for himself, Cornelius Bundrage had a rare opportunity to make a hometown title defense, squaring off against Ishe Smith. Instead of seizing the moment, Bundrage became oddly passive and disengaged for several of the middle rounds. It was a bizarre performance and it might very well be the last great opportunity of his career.

Billy Dib: Always one to talk trash outside of the ring, Dib has far less bravado once the opening bell sounds; he's one of boxing's most notorious runners. Making a title defense against obscure Evgeny Gradovich, Dib got outworked, outslugged and outmaneuvered. For such a supposed defensive stalwart, Dib got hit with alarming regularity.

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.: The Nevada State Athletic Commission suspended him for nine months after testing positive for marijuana (his second failed drug test in Nevada). Perhaps more importantly, he was fined a whopping $900,000 in a pure money grab by the Commission. He'll come back in June (the suspension is retroactive from his initial post-fight drug failure), but with that heavy fine, don't expect an early retirement.

Sam Soliman: Sam, it appears that you were a bad, bad boy.

Bad Judging:

John McKaie (96-94 for Glazkov over Scott), Julie Lederman (95-95 Glazkov-Scott) and Don Ackerman (114-112 for Dib over Gradovich)

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