Thursday, January 30, 2014

Pound-for-Pound Update 1-30-14

With Mikey Garcia's dominant performance over Juan Carlos Burgos last Saturday, Garcia slides up to #18 on the Saturday Night Boxing pound-for-pound list. Garcia's victories over then-champions Orlando Salido and Roman Martinez, as well as Burgos, make up a slightly better body of work than that of Gennady Golovkin, who drops one spot in the Rankings to #19.  The complete Saturday Night Boxing 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. Roman Gonzalez
  12. Bernard Hopkins
  13. Adonis Stevenson
  14. Nonito Donaire
  15. Anselmo Moreno
  16. Juan Estrada
  17. Takashi Uchiyama
  18. Mikey Garcia
  19. Gennady Golovkin
  20. Shinsuke Yamanaka
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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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Pascal-Bute: Keys to the Fight

The first major fight of 2014 takes place at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Saturday when Jean Pascal (28-2-1, 17 KOs) and Lucian Bute (31-1, 24 KOs), the two biggest ticket sellers in Canada, meet in the squared-circle. Pascal-Bute has drawn enormous interest in Montreal (the adopted home town for both fighters) with over 20,000 expected in the arena. For this bout, Bute will be moving up from super middleweight to Pascal's natural weight class of light heavyweight. The winner gets serious bragging rights in Montreal and an opportunity for another big fight in the explosive 175-lb. division. Read below for the keys to the fight. My prediction will be at the end of the article. 

1. Who are Pascal and Bute as fighters in 2014?

This long-gestating fight has been discussed for years. In 2010, Jean Pascal was a light heavyweight champion and Lucian Bute was in the middle of his super middleweight title reign just a division below. Having competing promoters and different agendas, the fighters opted not to face each other during the respective apexes of their careers. They finally agreed to fight in 2013 with the bout originally schedule to take place last May, but it was pushed back because of a Bute hand injury and the subsequent lack of available dates at the Bell Centre. 

Since their halcyon days, both fighters have been knocked down a peg or two. Pascal received a generous draw in a fight against Bernard Hopkins in late 2010 and dropped a close decision in the rematch. Injuries, fight cancellations and time away from the ring have filled in most of the period since Pascal lost his title in 2011. He has only had two lower-level fights (Aleksy Kuziemski and George Blades) in the past 32 months. 

Bute was destroyed in five rounds by Carl Froch in May of 2012. In his only outing since that fight, he prevailed in a shaky performance against Denis Grachev. Saturday will be his first fight since November of 2012. Bute has also had a series of injuries over the last 18 months. 

With both fighters having so little time in the ring over the last two years, it's difficult to know what exactly to expect on Saturday. Are both boxers mentally prepared for a tough fight? Pascal has spent much of his time out of the gym, shuttling between Montreal and Miami, living the good life and attending fights all over North America. He also had two very psychologically grueling bouts with Hopkins. Many fighters have never returned to their old form after facing the elder legend. Will Pascal buck that trend? Bute suffered a vicious psychological defeat at the hands of Froch and he didn't seem confident during most of his outing against Grachev.

Ultimately, both boxers have recently had serious physical and psychological roadblocks in their careers. The fighter who is fresher, the one who is more mentally put together most likely will be the one who prevails. It's anyone's guess as to whom that may be at this point. 

2. Pascal needs to jump on Bute immediately.

There's no sugar-coating it: Bute's chin and confidence were cracked by Froch. Even the unheralded Grachev had several fine rounds applying pressure on Bute. With his ambush-style offense (patterned after Roy Jones), where he rushes in for intense 10- or 15-second flurries, Pascal possesses the skillset and athleticism to test Bute's confidence from the opening bell. 

If Pascal starts the fight at mid-range and/or at a leisurely pace, he will have made a serious strategic error. Bute is a fairly stationary target and is vulnerable to foot speed and untraditional offensive rushes. He had no answer for Froch's forays and slinging shots. Pascal needs to make the fight uncomfortable early and immediately test Bute's confidence and resolve. It may be his best chance for success. 

3. Bute's timing on his counters.

To keep Pascal at bay, Bute must connect with his power counter shots, which for him are his right hook and straight left hand. (Bute's best punch is his left uppercut, but he rarely throws it as a counter.) Pascal is completely vulnerable coming in, where he rushes forward behind wide or looping punches. Hopkins, with his pinpoint accuracy, was able to tag Pascal repeatedly with his counters, making Pascal reticent to engage offensively for large portions of their two fights. 

Bute has enough power in his left hand that he doesn't need to throw knockout bombs; it's far more important for him to connect. Pascal comes in from odd angles and with an array of untraditional punches. Bute must keep his cool and hit what's available. If he's sharp, he will make Pascal recalibrate and retreat; if not, he will be a sitting duck. 

4. Pascal should never be at mid-range.

Bute is most dangerous when there is a nice, comfy pocket. He'll pick an opponent apart with his jab, left cross and enormous left uppercut. Bute often works in combinations and the more opportunities he has to land his third and fourth punch of a sequence, the more devastating he is. 

In theory, Pascal's ring approach should negate much of Bute's effectiveness. Pascal often circles on the outside and waits for moments to rush in with flurries. He's the classic "either in-or-out" fighter. Once on the inside he will cause a lot of damage with his short right hands and left hooks. I don't expect this fight to be a jabbing contest from mid-range. If it is, Pascal is engaged in the wrong battle. 

5. Bute needs to fill in the gaps by coming forward whenever possible. 

Because Pascal fights only in sporadic flurries, Bute can score points by consistently working. Pascal takes large 30-second blocks of rounds off. This leaves ample opportunities for a busy fighter to outpoint him. When Bute is right, he is certainly capable of throwing 60+ punches a round. If he keeps a relatively high work rate, it will be much easier for him to overcome the flashier style of Pascal on the judges' scorecards. 

It's important to emphasize that Bute doesn't need to necessarily be sharp or 100% accurate while Pascal is in one of his lulls; he just has to keep working. Pascal is not really a 12-round fighter. If the match goes the distance, Bute might win a number of rounds on effort alone. During Pascal's breaks, Bute must come forward and apply pressure. Pascal is not a natural counter puncher and the more active Bute is offensively, the less Pascal will want to engage.


Let's assume that both fighters are right mentally and physically. I understand that this is an awfully big assumption to make, but without actually witnessing their respective training camps, I don't have much else of a choice. With that stipulation, I believe that Pascal is completely the wrong style for Bute. Pascal is essentially Froch with more foot speed, athleticism and heavier hands. Now Pascal may not have Froch's heart or work rate in the ring, but stylistically, they can be very similar. 

I see Pascal jumping on Bute early in the fight and connecting with his hard, wide-angled shots. Almost immediately, Bute loses the flow, tempo and momentum of the fight. With four or five serious flurries a round, Pascal starts to do major damage and I'm not sure how much punishment Bute can absorb, or really wants to absorb. During his career, Bute has not responded well after getting hurt – the first Librado Andrade fight and the Froch match come to mind. If and when Pascal causes serious damage, it will be the beginning of the end for Bute.

Bute's best shot is to land something hard as Pascal comes in, but I don't think that his accuracy is good enough for such an elusive target. Ultimately, I don't see Bute really being in the fight. Pascal will dominate him until it is stopped by Bute, his corner or referee Michael Griffin.

Jean Pascal TKO 6 Lucian Bute

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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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Grading the Top Fighters of 2013

How did the best fighters do last year? Using the updated Saturday Night Boxing Top-20 Fighters list, I graded the 2013 performances of each of the pound-for-pound boxers in my Rankings. I have assigned a letter grade to each fighter, and while these grades may not be sacrosanct and are certainly debatable, they function as a useful tool to evaluate the year that was for the best in the business.

1. Floyd Mayweather (A+) Fighting twice in a year for the first time since 2007, Mayweather scored dominant decision victories over Robert Guerrero and Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (ignore the abhorrent draw scorecard turned in by the now-banished judge, C.J. Ross). Returning to his father as lead trainer, Mayweather showed a renewed focus on defense and movement. Guerrero was ineffective after the third round and Alvarez, who was considered by many to be Floyd's toughest opponent in years, could barely pull the trigger. Mayweather confirmed his standing as the sport's best with his wildly successful 2013 campaign.

2. Andre Ward (A) Sitting out most of the year because of shoulder surgery, Ward entered the ring only once in 2013 to face super middleweight contender Edwin Rodriguez. Rodriguez wasn't expected to win the fight, but he couldn't even make the 168-pound limit. It was a rough match, with both fighters docked two points for an array of fouls. Nevertheless, Ward dominated from start to finish and his left hook remains one of the most accurate and potent weapons in the sport.

3 Sergio Martinez (C+) Martinez fought only once in 2013 as well, hosting middleweight contender Marty Murray in Argentina. Going into the fight, rumors abounded that Martinez had still not fully recovered from his 2012 match with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (after which he had hand problems and required knee surgery). As for the fight itself, Murray repeatedly caught Martinez with straight right hands and even dropped him in the eighth. Martinez lacked his usual elusiveness and his punching power didn't seem to have any effect on Murray. Still, Martinez was the busier fighter and he cemented his victory with a strong final two rounds. More than a few boxing observers had Murray pulling out the victory, but however one scored the fight, it was clear that Martinez was far from his best. Martinez needed additional hand and knee surgery after the fight.  

4. Wladimir Klitschko (A-) On one hand, Klitschko had one of his most dominant years as a professional, badgering fellow Olympic gold medalist Alexander Povetkin for 12 rounds and stopping overmatched Francesco Pianeta. However, Klitschko's fight with Povetkin was marred by holding and myriad fouls. Klitschko was in fact deducted a point for throwing Povetkin to the canvas and perhaps two of his four knockdowns of Povetkin could be attributed to pushing instead of clear, landed blows. It's true that Klitschko asserted his physical dominance over Povetkin, but it still would have been a better performance had had not been as safety-oriented.

5. Tim Bradley (A-) Winning two of the higher-profile fights of the year, Bradley eked out a close, unanimous decision over Ruslan Provodnikov in an absolute war and prevailed over Juan Manuel Marquez via a split decision. Bradley-Provodnikov was the Saturday Night Boxing Fight of the Year with Bradley edging Provodnikov despite narrowly escaping a knockout loss in three or four separate occasions; he did take a knee in the 12th round to avoid receiving more punishment. Bradley certainly displayed the heart and courage of an elite fighter during that battle but from my perspective, it's not clear that he actually won the fight (I have gone back and forth with my scoring for the match). His victory over Marquez was far more certain in my opinion. Using his boxing skills, movement and wide arsenal, he outworked Marquez throughout the fight. It was his best victory as a professional.

6. Juan Manuel Marquez (C) Marquez complained about being robbed after losing a split decision to Bradley. However, he was outthrown, outlanded and outworked. In addition, the supposed power advantage for Marquez never materialized as he was the fighter who was hurt at a couple of points during the fight. So, if you're getting outworked and your punches aren't haven't more of an impact, what is your case for winning? Yeah, I don't see it either.

7. Manny Pacquiao (B+) Returning to the ring 11 months after his knockout loss to Marquez, Pacquiao dominated Brandon Rios to win an easy decision victory. Pacquiao still had his speed and power shots, but it's not clear if he has the same killer instinct that he featured earlier in his career. In addition, he let Rios tee off on him in clinches, not a good sign as he hopes to face better fighters in 2014.

8. Guillermo Rigondeaux (A+) Scoring perhaps the best single victory of 2013, Rigondeaux flummoxed and outwitted Nonito Donaire over 12 rounds to become the number-one guy at junior featherweight. Even though he did get knocked down, Rigondeaux displayed his world-class counterpunching, intelligence and footwork against Donaire. In December, Rigondeaux scored a shutout victory over Joseph Agbeko. When an action fighter such as Agbeko refuses to let his hands go, that further speaks to the skills and intimidation that Rigondeaux possesses in the ring.

9. Carl Froch (B) Earning one of the best victories of his career, Froch bested Mikkel Kessler in a rematch of their close fight won by Kessler during the Super Six super middleweight tournament. (Each winner prospered on home soil.) The rematch was terrific; the ultimate difference was Froch's activity level. Later in the year, Froch struggled mightily against untested British boxer George Groves, getting dropped in the opening round and beaten to the punch throughout the first half of the fight. Froch eventually found his way into the match and had Groves in real trouble in the ninth round when Referee Howard Foster decided to end it, giving Froch a TKO victory. However, it was an atrocious call by Foster, entirely too hasty. Froch was down on the cards at the time of the stoppage and it's anyone's guess as to how the final three rounds would have played out with a more competent referee.

10. Danny Garcia (A) Garcia had a huge first nine rounds against Zab Judah, dropping him in the eighth and clearly establishing his dominance in the fight. However, Judah stormed back in the championship rounds and hurt Garcia with a number of hard left hands. But it was too little too late for Judah. For his next fight, Garcia took on the number-one threat in his division, Lucas Matthysse. With the first half of the match fought on even terms, Garcia was able to close Matthysse's right eye in the 7th and he knocked him down in the 11th. Garcia had done just enough to win a tight decision. Garcia continues to impress. His poise, grace under fire, ability to make adjustments and countering ability are amongst the best in the sport. 

11. Roman Gonzalez (B+) Last year was rather ho-hum for Gonzalez. Moving up to flyweight to test the waters, he scored three stoppages against Ronald Barrera, Francisco Rodriguez Jr. and Oscar Blanquet -- all B and C-level talents. Big fights were certainly available for Gonzalez in 2013, especially a rematch against Juan Estrada, but he was content to get his work in against lesser boxers. The flyweight division is loaded and hopefully Gonzalez opts for more meaningful fights in 2014.

12. Bernard Hopkins (A) Turning back the clock once again in 2013, the ageless Hopkins claimed a light heavyweight world title for the second time by outhustling Tavoris Cloud. Like old times, Hopkins forced another champion to refuse to let his hands go. Later in the year, Hopkins, in a spirited offensive performance, bested mandatory challenger Karo Murat to win a wide decision. Perhaps the strangest part of 2013 for Hopkins was seeing both crowds give him a standing ovation, not a familiar occurrence throughout his career.

13. Adonis Stevenson (A+) The 2013 Saturday Night Boxing Fighter of the Year, Stevenson scored four impressive victories. He avenged his only loss as a professional by stopping Darnell Boone. He then moved up to light heavyweight to knock out lineal light heavyweight king Chad Dawson. He flashed his boxing skills and wide offensive arsenal to force Tavoris Cloud's corner to stop the match after the seventh. To cap the year, Stevenson landed pulverizing left hands in the sixth round to end his bout against mandatory contender Tony Bellew. Stevenson's power is one the best in the sport and his underrated athleticism and boxing skills make him a tough matchup for anyone at 175.

14. Nonito Donaire (C-) Donaire was thoroughly outboxed by Guillermo Rigondeaux in his first fight of 2013. He seemed disinclined to let his hands go and his inability to make adjustments was startling for such an accomplished fighter. Even after scoring a knockdown, Donaire seemed incapable of pressing the action. After a long break, Donaire returned to the ring in November to face Vic Darchinyan, a former knockout victim from 2007. But he struggled in the rematch and only a ninth round knockout saved him from perhaps his second loss of the year. Donaire has talked about a loss of passion for boxing and his performances from this year would certainly support this belief.

15. Anselmo Moreno (B) Fighting only once in 2013, Moreno defended his bantamweight title against unheralded William Urina. Moreno cruised to an easy victory with Urina winning a couple of rounds at best. The main threat to Moreno at bantamweight is fellow titlist Shinsuke Yamanaka. It would be wonderful if a unification match happens in 2014, but with the politics of boxing being what it is, I wouldn't count on it.

16. Juan Estrada (A+) Moving up to flyweight in 2013, Estrada put together a great performance in dethroning flyweight king Brian Viloria, winning a split decision (in truth, he took eight or nine rounds). Later in the year, Estrada beat back a spirited early challenge from Milan Melindo to earn a wide decision victory. Estrada has quickly become one of the most versatile talents in boxing. Featuring a huge offensive arsenal, tremendous conditioning and an ability to make great adjustments, Estrada has the tools to ascend to the top echelon of professional fighters. The one blemish on his record is his competitive loss to Roman Gonzalez. I hope that the rematch happens in 2014, which would be a fight-of-the-year caliber matchup.

17. Takashi Uchiyama (B-) Uchiyama fought twice in 2013. He earned a stoppage against Jaider Parra and was winning fairly widely against Daiki Kaneko early in their fight. However, Kaneko's raw punching power caught up to Uchiyama in the 10th round and the champion was dropped. Uchiyama was able to survive the championship rounds but he had some very rough moments; ultimately, he won a wide decision. Although, Uchiyama has some of the best punching power in the sport, his own punch resistance is a concern. He has been dropped twice since the start of 2011.

18. Gennady Golovkin (A+) Golovkin established himself as one of the top attraction of the sport in 2013. He notched four stoppages victories, beating Gabriel Rosado, Nobuhiro Ishida, Matthew Macklin and Curtis Stevens. Golovkin is the rare hybrid who is both a pressure fighter and a power puncher. He has multiple knockout weapons, loves to go to the body and has a great chin. To this point, most of the big names at middleweight have avoided him. However, as Golovkin's stature in the sport rises – and big American TV continues to back him – I’m sure that there will be a number of brave souls who will step up to fight him (and earn a very healthy paycheck).

19. Mikey Garcia (A) Garcia won two titles in 2013. He dropped belt holder Orlando Salido four times early in their fight. However, Salido started to come on later in the bout before an accidental head butt ended things in the eighth, giving Garcia a wide decision on the cards. Garcia failed to make weight for his first title defense, but he had enough left in the tank to destroy the ghost of Juan Manuel Lopez in four rounds. In his final performance of the year, Garcia defeated Roman Martinez, scoring a knockout in the eighth round from a beautiful left hook to the body. However, Garcia did get dropped early in the bout; I'm still waiting for him to put together a dominant 12-round performance against a top fighter.

20. Shinsuke Yamanaka (A) Bantamweight titlist Yamanaka made three more defenses in 2013. He scored a 12th-round knockout in an excellent fight against Malcolm Tunacao, destroyed overmatched Jose Nieves in one round and stopped defensive-minded Alberto Guevara in nine. Yamanaka's left hand is one of the true elite weapons in the sport. But he has more than just his left; he also possesses considerable boxing skills and a high ring IQ. Hopefully, we get to see him against Anselmo Moreno for all the marbles at bantamweight.

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
Follow Saturday Night Boxing on Facebook: