Friday, March 28, 2014

SNB Mailbag

On the Saturday Night Boxing Facebook page, I get asked some great questions from boxing fans from around the world (I also get asked all sorts of silly, but you know how that can be). Many of the questions can be answered with a pithy comment or a brief sentence, but often I get some good ones, those that I would like to explore in more detail. Thus, here is the initial Saturday Night Boxing Mailbag. Below are all questions from real boxing fans. I have included their names and hometowns. 

You'll see a nice variety of questions dealing with the top boxing topics of the day, such as HBO, Stevenson, Mayweather and Haymon, as well as some excellent questions about other goings-on in the sport.    


With the announcement that Adonis Stevenson will be fighting on Showtime instead of HBO, it leads that Stevenson will fight the winner of Hopkins-Shumenov instead of Kovalev. In terms of his career and legacy, does Stevenson's stock drop because of this?
Eddie LaRonin 

Well, avoiding Kovalev doesn't help Stevenson's legacy; that's certain. However, if he keeps winning and beats Hopkins and some other good fighters at light heavyweight, the impact of avoiding Kovalev can be diminished over time. It's true that skipping over a natural rival will be a significant mark against him but time does heal many wounds. Right now, Stevenson's reputation has taken a hit, but more wins against good opposition will help his legacy in the long run. 

Is HBO getting out of the boxing business?
Damaya Gabar

I have been assured by people at HBO that they remain in the boxing business and that they are as committed to it as they have always been (of course, one must be wary of corporate spin). But it's true that HBO's schedule has been subpar in 2014 and the move to push more fights to pay per view isn't welcome news for its subscribers. 

I don't believe that HBO can continue to conduct business as it currently does. By avoiding Al Haymon and Golden Boy fighters, the network is clearly cutting itself off from many potential thrilling matchups for its subscribers. I don't believe that this is a recipe for long-term success. Last month, I wrote a piece about the state of HBO Boxing. Take a look at it here for some additional thoughts on the subject. 


Is there anyone in history that could beat Floyd over 12 rounds?
Alan Butler
Glasgow, Scotland

Sure, lots of fighters would have a real chance of beating him. Over the last 40 years, I'll give you some who could win (not necessarily saying that they would). All fought in his weight classes: Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns, Aaron Pryor, Julio Cesar Chavez, Terry Norris, Mike McCallum, Julian Jackson, Winky Wright, Vernon Forrest, Manny Pacquiao and Sergio Martinez. I'm sure that there are a few others as well. 

Will Mayweather ever lose?
Gerardo Andrades
National City, California

If he sticks around long enough, it's certainly possible. Probable, I would say. 

What do you think about the delusional fans that think Mayweather just runs in his fights?
James Riordan
Dublin, Ireland

They are severely misguided and not watching his fights that closely. Mayweather is a very good inside fighter and although he still moves quite a bit, he spends a lot of his time beating his opponents in the pocket. 

What is the strategy to beat Mayweather?
Steven McManus
Syracuse, New York

In theory, there are many ways to beat Mayweather. No fighter is invincible. Jose Luis Castillo demonstrated that he could be susceptible to pressure. Mosley and Judah showed that his chin could be cracked. De la Hoya had a lot of success with an excellent jab. 

However, to beat Mayweather a fighter needs to adapt and show different dimensions. Floyd will often give up early rounds while he figures a fighter out. But by round three or four, he has already seen his opponents' strategies and how they plan to beat him. He rarely loses rounds in the second halves of his fights. 

Fighters would have to show Floyd different looks over 12 rounds to beat him. Also, it would be helpful to have a large arsenal of punches. Perhaps Leonard's combination of finesse and power or Duran's pressure and heavy hands could do the trick. I'll make a possible exception for Julian Jackson, who had the capability to knock out any fighter in history at 154 pounds. Perhaps with one good connect, he ends it. For those without true one-punch knockout power, to beat Mayweather, a fighter has to make adjustments. 

How do you feel about a Bradley/Mayweather showdown if Timmy beats Manny?
Za-Quan Peterkin
St. Albans, New York

It's obviously a great fight although it looks unlikely now that Bradley has renewed with Top Rank. But putting that aside and just examining the hypothetical aspects of the fight, Bradley is a boxer who brings many dimensions to the table. He can pressure, fight off of his back foot, use lateral movement and lead or counter. 

The issue for Bradley against Mayweather is that his defense, while good, is certainly not impenetrable. He can be hit and he sometimes can get too brave for his own good. I think that Floyd would have success on the inside and his jab and straight right hand would land a lot at mid-range. Bradley would need to outwork Mayweather decisively to win on the judges' scorecards but that's not an easy proposition since Floyd doesn't really allow for high volumes. I think it's a competitive fight and it would go the distance, but I would favor Floyd. 


What's happening in boxing with Al Haymon?
Grant Cartwright
Wilmington, Delaware

You mean it's still called boxing and not Haymon?

Do you believe that Al Haymon is good for the sport of boxing?
Edinburgh, Scotland

All joking aside, I think that Al Haymon, much like boxing titans Bob Arum and Don King, has a very mixed legacy in the sport. On one hand, he certainly gets his fighters paid. He has been very adept at guiding young talent to the championship level of the sport. 

However, I don't believe that he has done a great job in helping develop his fighters to reach their full potential. Not all of this blame should be assigned to Haymon but I think that he plays a role. Look at Jermain Taylor, Andre Berto, Paul Williams and Adrien Broner. I think that all of these boxers were rushed and didn't face enough real challenges during their developmental fights. Haymon tried to fast-track these fighters to greatness and, I believe, short-circuited their ultimate abilities. I think that this is a major mark against him. 

I also don't like the way that certain fighters in his stable become favored over others who may be more deserving. Erislandy Lara and Keith Thurman are two boxers whom I believe have deserved better treatment than they have received from Haymon. 

Since 2013, Haymon has realized that by allowing his fighters to face each other he could expand their options in the ring (as well as his cut of the action). This has helped create opportunities for his fighters but I now feel that he has gone too far in the other direction by keeping as much as he possibly can in-house. This is a limiting factor for his stable. 

As far as his relationships with certain networks and promoters, there have always been very influential managers in boxing. If he's a tough negotiator, then so be it. All he needs is one network to say yes to him. To this point, he has always found that willing suitor. 


What is happening with Andre Dirrell?
Junaid Khalil 
Manchester, England

Not much. Chillin'.

Does timing truly beat speed? I believe it does.
David Byrne
Dublin, Ireland

Ahhh. One of my pet peeves – boxing clichés. There is almost a rock-paper-scissors notion in boxing that speed beats power and timing beats speed, etc. All of these concepts can be true, but none should be taken as some type of immutable fact. There are dozens and dozens of counterexamples every year. Let's take Khan-Molina and Marquez-Bradley as two instances where the "timing beats speed" cliché didn't work. Both Molina and Marquez were able to land with their counters at various points in their fight, yet the faster guys won. Ultimately, timing is great, but if it can't thwart or dissuade the other fighter, than it doesn't guarantee anything. 

Now, speed beats power. Except when it doesn't. Chad Dawson certainly had faster hands than Adonis Stevenson. But that didn't matter when he got cracked in the chin so hard that he couldn't make it out of the first round. Let's stay with Dawson for a second. Everyone would agree that Hopkins is a master of timing, yet Dawson outboxed him fairly easily, another example where timing didn't beat speed. 

So these clichés like "speed kills" and "skills pay the bills," are all cute and everything but they are far from definitive truths. It's like "styles makes fights." Sometimes that's true. But sometimes the more talented fighter beats all styles. Ultimately, I'm a sucker for talent. That's something I continue to believe in, not clichés.  

Who do you feel is the most underappreciated heavyweight champion of all time? I feel like Larry Holmes is often overlooked in that category.
Ryan Uglow
Scottsbluff, Nebraska

Certainly in his time Holmes, just like Lennox Lewis, wasn't fully appreciated by the boxing public. However, both of these fighters have aged well historically and are considered top-ten heavyweights. Thus, I don't believe either is a candidate for being truly underappreciated.

I'll give you Gene Tunney as an answer. With multiple wins over Harry Greb (a much smaller fighter, but one of the best pugilists of all time) and Jack Dempsey (granted an older version), Tunney was certainly an elite talent. While many hardcore boxing fans and historians know about Tunney's skills and accomplishments, I believe that time has forgotten him somewhat. People talk about Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey and Joe Louis during the first half of the 20th century; Tunney isn't brought up that regularly. I'm not saying that Tunney was Joe Louis' equal, but he was an excellent fighter and probably deserves a more elevated spot in heavyweight history as compared to his current standing. 

If Bob Arum's going to just continue to disrespect Rigo and hates his style of fighting, why not sell him to the highest bidder and stop sitting him on the shelf. Real boxing fans wants to see him in action, and often.
Malachi Walker
Hudson, New York

I agree with part of this. Certainly Arum has done a poor job of promoting Rigondeaux by badmouthing him to the press and publicly announcing HBO's purported displeasure with the fighter. However, Rigo hasn't connected with fans. His ratings aren't particularly strong. His style of fighting often lacks action and he hasn't shown an interest in staying busy. Both sides are to blame here and I'm sure that after his next fight, when Rigo is a free agent, Arum will gladly let him walk.

Do you think taking a loss and getting paid millions to do it is worth it?
Andres Olaechea
Ponce, Puerto Rico

This situation in boxing doesn't happen nearly as often as we think it does. Brandon Rios was in such a situation last year against Manny Pacquiao, when he walked into a fight lacking every conceivable advantage. He took quite a beating too. Larry Holmes was fat and out-of-shape when he was offered a fight against Mike Tyson. Holmes was happy to take the money. 

It may depend on where a fighter is in his career. If a boxer is on the rise, a brutalizing loss could stunt his development, shake his confidence and cause serious injury. For other fighters, the money is more important than whatever the result is. I don't have a hard-and-fast answer to your question and I think that each situation should be evaluated individually. 

Do you think boxing is better since the Eastern European fighters have started to compete on the professional level?
Joseph Higgins
Atlantic City

Of course. The sport is always better with more talent. In just two short decades, Eastern Europe, Russia and the former Soviet republics have produced many champions and contenders. In addition, if you add in the Cuban fighters that have made their way to professional boxing in the past 10 years, you have a new era of talent. The Klitschkos will both get into the Hall of Fame (Wlad more deserving than Vitali). Rigondeaux has Hall of Fame talent. Joel Casamayor is probably a borderline candidate who falls just short. 

Ex-Communist countries have also produced long-time champions such as Marco Huck (Serbia, formerly part of Yugoslavia) and Arthur Abraham (Armenia). In addition, consider prime talents such as Gennady Golovkin, Sergey Kovalev, Ruslan Provodnikov, Alexander Povetkin, Vasyl Lomachenko, Yoan Pablo Hernandez, Erislandy Lara, Yuriorkis Gamboa and Mike Perez.

I think in time we will look upon professional fighters from prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall with an internal asterisk, like we do with white baseball players before integration. Professional fighters from the 20th century will be seen as having faced lesser competition than those in the 21st century. I'm sure that not everyone shares this opinion and there are mitigating factors to it, such as America was producing more boxing talent in the 20th century than it is right now. But let's wait on judging that one; we're only 15 years into the new century. America has a chance to right its ship.   

We are still at the end of the first wave of the ex-Communist fighters joining the professional ranks. In another 20 or 30 years, I expect many boxers from ex-Communist or current Communist nations – let’s not forget the influx of Chinese fighters that will be coming to the sport – to dominate. I believe that boxing historians will eventually look at the 20th century as a time when fighters from Western nations reigned supreme, but that they faced a significantly reduced talent pool. As an example, Muhammad Ali will always be remembered as one of the truly great heavyweights, but we really don't know if he was better than the Cuban star Teofilo Stevenson, who never got to fight professionally.

Right now, boxing history is still Western-centric, by that I mean it is controlled and written by Western writers (include Western-style democracies like Japan and Australia into this mix). Ultimately, needed revisionism will take place in boxing history. I believe that the Communist amateur stars of the 20th century will eventually earn their rightful place in boxing history and that the accomplishments of 20th century boxers will be slightly diminished because of the relatively small number of nations that supplied top professional boxers. 

What does Andre Ward need to do to be a mainstream athlete, mainstream like LeBron, Brady, Crosby, or GSP (George St-Pierre)?
Paul Swacha
Calgary, Canada

I'm not sure that Ward will ever get to that lofty status. (Also, I don't know if GSP should be included there. I'm rather ignorant to the MMA's effect on broader popular culture). First off, Ward could certainly fight more. His most recent battles have been against his promoter and not in the ring. It would also help if he had a natural rival. Unfortunately, his fights have been so easy that it has been tough for him to provide compelling action in the ring. Maybe Golovkin or Kovalev are the type of fighters who could really push Ward, but who knows? To become a bigger attraction in the broader sports world, Ward will need suitable dance partners that the public views as having a legitimate chance to beat him. Right now, these candidates are few and far between. 

Will Kell Brook win a world title?
Daniel Blaides
Whitechurch, Ireland

I don't see why not in today's world of four titles per division, especially if he doesn't eat his way out of welterweight. Fighting in an actual title match would also greatly enhance his chances of, you know, winning a title. I think he's been a mandatory since Clinton was President.  

Why do we boxing fans continue to watch matches when typical matches are pretty boring?
Graciano Iracheta
San Antonio

Two answers: 1. We’re masochists. We enjoy subjecting ourselves to awful fights. We watch fights knowing that they will be bad and uncompetitive yet we often do this several times a month. 2. We never know when a Bradley-Provodnikov can happen. We'd hate to miss it. 

Is Broner a hype job?
Phillip Inno

I wouldn't say hype job. He has legitimate wins in my eyes over Antonio DeMarco and Paulie Malignaggi; they are certainly capable fighters. Ultimately, I believe that there were failures all throughout Team Broner. He needed to go to 140 before 147. He should have had more developmental fights before taking on someone like Daniel Ponce de Leon. He needed additional live threats at 130 and 135. In the rush to make Broner a star, the fighter, his promoter and management all jumped the gun.

In addition, he needed to be in the gym more. He went to 147 partly out of a lack of discipline during times when he wasn't in camp. His inside fighting skills weren't nearly as effective at 147 as they were at the smaller weights because he lacked true welterweight power. 

Broner needs to go back down to 140 and string together three good wins. I'd like to see him be fairly active in the ring. He should be facing if not necessarily world beaters then at least live threats – Carlos Molina is a time-waster. He wasn't ready for the power and pressure of Maidana, but he wasn't all that far off either. One day I'd like to see him against Matthysse. But let's not rush him. He still needs some time. 

What's next for Danny Garcia?
Levi Giles
Grimsby, England

It seems that Garcia is ready to move up to 147. I think a natural first opponent would be Robert Guerrero, who has enough strengths and flaws to make for a very competitive and compelling fight. Golden Boy is very deep at 147. Fights against the winner or loser of Porter-Malignaggi could make sense for Garcia as well. 

Will beating Miguel Cotto make Sergio Martinez a Hall of Famer?
Oscar Torres
Victoria, Texas

I believe so. It is a watered-down era but Sergio has provided a lot of thrilling moments in the ring. The media also likes him. A win over Cotto would make seven defenses of his lineal middleweight title. In addition, at his time at the top of the sport, no one has been able to beat him definitively. I don't believe that Martinez is an inner-ring Hall of Fame type, reserved for the truly transcendent in the sport, but I think he gets in. 

Why is the boxing world so corrupt?
Julio Andino
Baker City, Oregon

Is it boxing or the world in which we live? Is boxing just a mirror for the base instincts of humanity? It's not like there isn't corruption in all other forms of sport, industry and politics. Nevertheless, it does seem like boxing fans, as opposed to enthusiasts from other sports, are particularly fixated on the corrupt aspects of their sport.

If you could make one change to the sport what would it be?
Jay Martin

Boxing has many problems; there's no need to sugarcoat it. I think the most damning one is the best not fighting the best. There have always been fighters who have ducked other guys. That's not new. However, the sport is structurally set up today in the U.S., U.K., Germany and Japan in norms where the rival promotional interests (with tacit approval from their sponsoring television networks) rarely match their fighters against those of their competitors. This is a huge problem. Even if a Golden Boy fighter wanted to face a Top Rank boxer, the current boxing landscape makes that reality almost impossible. 

The lack of elite matchups harms the sport and ruins its ability to help create new fans and keep its existing ones. It's very frustrating to sit through an era where the top two fighters in the world have refused to face each other. But I don't think Mayweather-Pacquiao is an aberration. I believe that the failure to make that fight reflects the current norm in the sport. We are seeing this throughout boxing where the best fighters find all sorts of ways to avoid facing their top rivals. If the best fights the best, the sport's problems won't magically disappear, but we'll certainly be much happier, and boxing will be in a far better place.

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, March 19, 2014

How Was Mauricio Herrera So Successful?

Make no mistake; Mauricio Herrera was brought in to lose against junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia. Garcia, fighting for the first time in Puerto Rico, the birthplace of his parents, wanted to shine against a credible opponent and further build his fan base in boxing. Herrera, known for his fights with Ruslan Provodnikov (a close win), Mike Alvarado and Karim Mayfield (both competitive losses), came into the match with a record of 20-3 and only seven KOs (he had never been knocked out in his losses). Herrera was durable and could handle himself in the ring but he had little power. There was no sense that he was some type of elite fighter.  

But all didn't go according to plan for Garcia. From the opening bell, Herrera was able to control much of the action with his jab and movement. He also successfully disrupted the timing of Garcia's counters. As the fight war on, Herrera didn't fade. He won a lot of rounds with his jab (often double and triple jabs), ring generalship and defense, not to mention a few sneaky right hands and left hooks. Despite losing a majority decision (the official scores were 116-112, 116-112 and 114-114), Herrera was seen as the victor by most media members and fans. (On fight night I scored the bout for Garcia, but after reviewing the fight, I believe that Herrera did enough to take a close decision.)

This article will look at how Herrera was successful in neutralizing Garcia's strengths. In addition, I'll talk about the specific factors in the fight that led to success for Herrera. 

Ring geography:

Herrera and trainer Willie Silva had a tremendous understanding of Garcia's strengths and weaknesses. They had observed that Garcia was best at countering from mid-range in the pocket. Think about the counter left hook that sent down Amir Khan as he was slow to bring his hands back. Or the left hook the tore apart Lucas Matthysse's eye. Or the right hands that hurt Zab Judah. Garcia is most comfortable when he has some distance.

For this fight, Herrera vowed to do his work in close quarters. Using head and upper body movement, Herrera made it difficult for Garcia to land with lead shots to the head. By jabbing his way in and staying low and close to Garcia, Herrera was able to make Garcia miss with a lot of his wide counters or take the sting off most of his shots. On the inside, Herrera didn't just jab-and-grab (although he did do some of that); he often worked with a free hand, hitting Garcia with short right hands or left hooks. The end result made Garcia uncomfortable in the ring and the close geography of the fight disadvantaged the champion.

Taking away his best punches:

Garcia's two best punches are his sweeping counter left hook to the head and his straight right hand to the head, which he can throw as a lead, in combination or as a counter. And while Garcia landed some right hands in the fight, most notably in the 1st and 11th rounds, that weapon was inconsistent throughout the match. But at least Garcia had some intermittent success with the right hand; his calling-card counter left hook hit mostly air, gloves, arms and shoulders throughout the fight. 

Garcia's counter hook is a sweeping shot and a very wide punch. It's thrown to a spot where he thinks a fighter will be. This type of punch is often referred to as a "clean-up" left hook. The punch is thrown with maximum intensity and is deadly against fighters who don't bring their hands back fast enough, stand upright or pull straight back after an exchange. However, Garcia had little success with it on Saturday because of Herrera's tactics.

The Straight Right Hand

Examining how Herrera took away Garcia's right, the first thing to notice in the fight is how little Herrera stood tall right in front of Garcia. He was constantly moving his shoulders and head. This made it difficult for Garcia to land lead shots, specifically his lead right hand. 

Here's another reason why Garcia had such difficulty in landing his right. If you extend your left arm out and rest the left side of your cheek on the inside of your left shoulder (do it now, I'll wait), you will see how little of the left side of your face is exposed. That's the position that Herrera was in when he threw his jab, which was his preferred punch on Saturday. Thus, Garcia had a very small target to hit.

Furthermore, Herrera consistently changed Garcia's eye level with his jab, throwing the punch to Garcia's stomach, chest and head. Herrera's lack of predictable patterns disrupted Garcia's timing. As Herrera jabbed downstairs, he got very low with his body. To hit Herrera when he was in that position, Garcia needed to have swung down with his straight right hand, an unusual motion for a fighter who isn't particularly tall and thus doesn't have a lot of experience throwing that punch. Garcia wasn't accurate enough doing this and he lacked the proper leverage to cause damage with the shot. In short, Herrera's upper body movement reduced the frequency of Garcia's lead right hands. His tightly tucked chin left very little of his face exposed and the variety of his jabs thwarted Garcia's ability to time and get leverage on his right hands. 

The counter left hook to the head

Silva and Herrera found a safe haven from Garcia's big left hook. After initiating his offense, Herrera stayed low and shifted his head to his right. This allowed Herrera to duck under Garcia's counter left hook, or he was close enough that the punch hit his shoulders or arms without landing at maximum impact. Although Garcia was able to connect to the body with some shorter counter left hooks and uppercuts, they didn't land with the same thudding authority as his sweeping left hooks do. Garcia needed space for his best punch to hit its target and Herrera didn't provide him with it. 

Make Garcia Make The Adjustment:

A refreshing aspect of Silva's corner work during the fight was that he didn't feel the need to unnecessarily complicate a game plan that was working. How often have we seen trainers and fighters go away from a punch or an approach that was successful in order to "show another look?" (Terence Crawford's abandonment of his left hook to the body against Ricky Burns is a recent example of this.) Herrera and Silva stuck with what was working; they saw no good reason to deviate from their initial plan.

There was one massive adjustment that Garcia needed to make to turn the fight definitively in his favor, and he didn't make it. Herrera was a sitting duck for counter left uppercuts. Bending down low and to his right, he was essentially inviting Garcia to counter with that punch. Although Garcia did throw the left uppercut periodically during the fight, it wasn't a significant point of emphasis from Angel Garcia or from the fighter himself. 

Garcia certainly has the left uppercut – he  showed it at points – but it's not among his best punches. The left uppercut for most boxers is a punch used during inside fighting (Canelo Alvarez and Juan Manuel Marquez are notable exceptions among active fighters). As pointed out earlier, Garcia likes to fight best in the pocket. So it's possible that Garcia has not perfected that punch as well as he has done so with other shots in his arsenal, or that he likes/relies on other punches to win fights. 

During the fight, I kept waiting for Angel Garcia to yell at his son and say "Hit him with left uppercuts every time he jabs" or "the hook isn't working so go to the uppercut." That never happened. Thus, Herrera was able to stick to his game plan and fight on his terms. Had Garcia found sustained success with the left uppercut, which would have provided additional opportunities to open up with his power shots, Herrera and Silva would have then needed to make adjustments to remain competitive.

Garcia-Herrera was a close fight, with almost all observers scoring the bout from 116-112 Herrera to 115-113 Garcia. Herrera didn't dominate but he did enough to win far more rounds than most would have predicted coming into the fight. He made the champion look downright ordinary at times. With a tremendous game plan and an ability to execute it, Herrera was able to exceed expectations. Although he didn't get the win, his excellent performance on Saturday will see a rise in his boxing fortunes. 

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:

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Opinions and Observations: Alvarez-Angulo

In many of the traditional ways that we evaluate a person's character and success, Alfredo Angulo can be considered a clear winner. His father died when he was very young. He grew up very poor and had to fend for himself. After a relatively late start to boxing, he became a Mexican Olympian. Through his perseverance and personal magnetism, he developed a strong following in the sport. He has gone on to make pretty good money and has provided for his family. So let me not crap on Angulo as a person. The man has known more hardship than I, or most likely you, have ever faced. 

Angulo has accomplished more in his career than I have. He has taken more risks. He has put himself in harm's way. And while he was a disappointment in the ring on Saturday, I have also had many Saturdays where I have been a disappointment to myself, or others. I think it's important to keep this perspective. So with that, let me set aside Angulo's out-of-the ring triumphs and get into his fight against Saul "Canelo" Alvarez. 

However warmly one may feel about Alfredo Angulo on a personal level, his harrowing life story, his unjustified detention in an immigration facility, his touching attachment to his daughter, his ferocious demeanor in the ring, certain facts about his ring accomplishments are unavoidable. In the four biggest fights of his career, he has been outboxed by a puncher (Kermit Cintron), outpunched by a boxer (Erislandy Lara), outslugged by a slugger (James Kirkland) and outclassed by an all-around superior talent (Alvarez). In short, Angulo has lost when facing the most lucrative opportunities of his career. Yes he was an underdog against Alvarez, but he was favored against Cintron and Kirkland. At a certain point, the facts are what they are.

Although I had felt coming into the fight that Angulo had turned a corner with trainer Virgil Hunter and had a very good chance of beating Alvarez – I picked Angulo to win – I also must now admit that the fighter has a fairly definitive record of losing on the biggest stages. On Saturday, one fighter was ready for the bright lights of a pay per view event, and it wasn't Alfredo Angulo. 

From the opening bell, Alvarez crushed Angulo with blistering shots. He unloaded his full arsenal in the fight: lead left hooks, uppercuts from a distance, four-punch combinations and wonderfully accurate jabs. Just as importantly, he had the perfect game plan for defanging the fighter known as "El Perro," or "The Dog." Alvarez staked out the center of the ring and held his ground. He was first almost all night. He started with power shots instead of jabs, which made Angulo think twice about rushing in. By the end of the first round, Alvarez was the one coming forward, and, remarkably, he was making Angulo fight off of his back foot. That sequence speaks very well to Alvarez's power and accuracy. 

Although this game plan might seem obvious in hindsight, remember that Alvarez is one of the more gifted counterpunchers in the sport. He initiates his offense off of his opponents’ mistakes. In addition, in his last two fights against Floyd Mayweather and Austin Trout, he looked very uncomfortable leading. But Alvarez was very sharp being first on Saturday.

I had been very critical of Alvarez's trainer, Eddy Reynoso, in his performance during the Mayweather bout, but he did a wonderful job preparing his fighter for Angulo. Alvarez was fresh and energetic throughout most of the match. Although he did tire at points in the fight, he was still throwing hard combinations and beating Angulo in punches thrown in almost every round. 

And Alvarez's punches were wonderful. He probably landed a dozen shots throughout the match that made Angulo's head snap back. It was amazing that Angulo could take all of those massive blows and somehow stay on his feet. Alvarez fought very confidently. He took some good shots later in the fight, especially Angulo's hooks to the body, but he seemed to shrug them off without a problem. Alvarez's concluding lead left uppercut in the 10th round was just another one of his picture-perfect power shots. It was an excellent offensive performance from him. 

In the days and weeks ahead, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that something was amiss with Angulo going into the fight. He clearly didn't look right from the opening bell. He pushed so many of his punches, especially early in the fight, and rarely committed to them fully. His legs looked awful and he didn't attack Alvarez with the type of zeal that had been his calling card throughout his career. Maybe Angulo had an injury, over-trained, was dehydrated, had problems making weight, left it in the gym, etc. 

Ultimately, it doesn't matter. A fighter (and his team) has to put himself in the best chance to succeed. Angulo seemed awed by the big moment. And even if he wasn't 100% in the fight, he lacked the desire to make the match a dogfight; he didn't give it his best. As early as the end of the first round, Hunter had to play psychologist, imploring Angulo to let his hard shots go. It was very strange to see the trainer having to build up Angulo, a gladiator-type of fighter, out of necessity, but that's what Hunter had in front of him on Saturday. Angulo was shockingly passive and uninterested throughout large stretches of the fight. 

The match did provide one sublime round. The eighth was what fight fans had expected going into the bout. Both combatants traded thunderous punches in close quarters. At various points in the round, Alvarez and Angulo signaled to the other to come forward and throw more power shots. The crowd responded with euphoria. It was rousing stuff in an otherwise one-sided fight. 

I'm sure that there will be some detractors who will dismiss or downplay Alvarez's win, claiming that he was fighting a dead man and things of that nature. Although Saturday wasn't the best version of Angulo, let's celebrate Alvarez for what he did do in the ring. He never took his foot off the pedal. He didn't fight down to the level of his competition and he forced referee Tony Weeks to stop the fight (more on that later). These qualities speak very highly of Alvarez, who could have spent much of the fight coasting. Alvarez was there to win and look good – and he succeeded. A loss or a bad performance would have been devastating to his career; he fought like he understood how important the stakes were on Saturday. 

Let's also give some credit to Canelo's team. Regardless of the outcome of the fight, Angulo was a very dangerous opponent who had twice knocked down one of the best fighters in the division (Erislandy Lara). Team Alvarez rolled the dice and won, and won big. Alvarez exhibited no hangover from the Mayweather fight and rejuvenated his career momentum. He now remains viable as a pay per view attraction, where the big money is in the sport.

A final note about the stoppage: Tony Weeks ended the fight after a single uppercut in the beginning of the 10th round. The shot wasn't particularly harder or more damaging than many other Alvarez shots that occurred throughout the fight; Angulo wasn't in imminent danger. The ending seemed arbitrary at first glance. 

However, Weeks got to the point where he had seen enough. Angulo had gotten rocked hard throughout the fight. He had taken scores of crushing shots. If this were another ref I would be more inclined to offer criticism of the stoppage but Weeks has made his reputation in the sport by letting bruising battles continue further than many of his colleagues would. Weeks was the third man in the ring for Castillo-Corrales I and Alvarado-Provodnikov. He has let boxers take a ton of punishment in competitive fights. In short, Weeks deserves the benefit of the doubt for his decision. I don't think this stoppage will go down as the best call of his career, but he was a protecting a fighter who had taken a serious beating, and one who was not particularly competitive. So put down your pitchforks. Alvarez won this fight all by himself. 

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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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Alvarez-Angulo: Keys to the Fight

Saturday marks the beginning of big-fight season as Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (42-1-1, 30 KOs) faces Alfredo "El Perro" Angulo (22-3, 18 KOs) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. This matchup figures to include lots of fireworks as both Mexican junior middleweights have heavy hands and a history of putting their opponents on the canvas. Both fighters are also looking to regroup after a recent loss. Alvarez was thoroughly outboxed by pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather in September while Angulo turned his back to Erislandy Lara after suffering an eye injury, leading to a TKO loss. 

The stakes are high as Alvarez looks to establish himself as pay per view attraction and Angulo attempts to rise towards the top of junior middleweight division, a plateau he has yet to reach in his professional boxing career. Read below for the keys to the fight. My prediction will be at the end of the article. 

1. Will Either Boxer Have A Lingering Effect From His Last Fight?

Angulo was having quite a bit of success against Lara, knocking him down twice, before the fight ended in the 10th round. Prior to that final frame, Angulo was up three points on one card and down by one point on the other two. Overall, he was extremely competitive against one of the toughest style matchups in the division. On paper, Lara had significant hand and foot speed advantages but Angulo fought him very well.

There were lots of encouraging signs for Angulo in that fight. He was able to corral an excellent mover. In addition, long gone were the days of Angulo trying to win with reckless aggression. His shots were purposeful and well placed. His footwork (helped by trainer Virgil Hunter) was much improved. And perhaps most importantly, he found an appropriate pace and punch volume in the fight; he was able to apply effective pressure without punching himself out or flagging in the later rounds. 

However, eye injuries are serious business. Angulo's left eye swelled to almost grotesque proportions immediately after the final shot in the 10th round. You can bet that Alvarez will test the eye throughout the fight. Perhaps some residual scar tissue will open up. Maybe Angulo, not a defensive master by any stretch, won't be able to see shots coming as well as he once did. Angulo's eye could be a significant factor on fight night. 

As for Alvarez, it will be interesting to see if he has regained his confidence in the ring after facing Mayweather. Alvarez spent much of his last fight failing to pull the trigger and falling meekly to a much better boxer. Fortunately for Alvarez, the fight with Angulo doesn't figure to be an overly cerebral affair and Angulo will be there to be hit. Hopefully Alvarez's muscle memory and experience will kick in early in the fight. If he does start out tentatively, he could be in for serious trouble as El Perro will be hounding him from the opening bell. 

2. Chins.

Angulo has proven to have a very sturdy beard. He has fought noted punchers such as Lara, James Kirkland and Kermit Cintron (back when Cintron could still really punch, the version of Cintron that faced Alvarez much later was just a shell of his former self). Although Angulo was knocked down by Kirkland, it was a classic example of a fighter punching himself out. Angulo had Kirkland almost ready to go and threw everything he had in the first round of that fight. Kirkland was able to respond and bludgeoned an exhausted and depleted Angulo later in the frame. Angulo hit the canvas and somehow survived until the sixth round on guts, but he was essentially done by the end of the first. Throughout the rest of Angulo's career, his chin has been outstanding. 

Scrolling through Alvarez's record, one thing you won't notice is a litany of punchers on his resume. In 2010, he was hurt badly in the first round against an undersized opponent, Jose Cotto. Alvarez rallied to win that fight convincingly, but I think that the Cotto bout spooked his handlers. What followed in Canelo's career were matchups against light hitters (Matthew Hatton, Carlos Baldomir and Austin Trout) or undersized guys (Mayweather, Josesito Lopez, Alfonso Gomez and Hatton again). Thus, we really don't know much about Alvarez's chin. He's never faced a real junior middleweight puncher. Make no mistake; Angulo will test Alvarez's beard in the fight. Alvarez will have to limit and withstand Angulo's power punches to win the fight. 

3. Canelo's Combinations Or Angulo's Single Shots?

Canelo is not necessarily a one-punch knockout puncher. Although he does possess the skills to drop opponents with single shots (the Trout fight is an excellent example of this), more frequently he imposes his power by landing three, four and five-punch combinations. Alvarez's power is enhanced by his expert punch placement and untraditional punch sequences. He'll throw lead uppercuts from distance or land with four types of punches during a combination. Unlike Mayweather, Angulo will play to these strengths of Alvarez. He will be right in front of Alvarez and he often has a disdain for defense. 

Angulo has the power to end any fight with one punch. And although Alvarez has the foot speed advantage in this matchup, Alvarez will certainly be able to connect at points throughout the fight. Angulo probably won't have the ability to land many combinations, but he may not need to in order to win. 

4. Can Angulo Get To Alvarez's Body?

As a corollary to Alvarez's lack of experience against punchers, he's really never faced anyone at the top level who consistently went to his body. Angulo has a nasty left hook to the body and going downstairs against Alvarez will be an invaluable strategy to slowing down the better mover. 

Most likely, Alvarez will try to make this a boxing match. Using his superior coordination and ability to box and slug from the outside, Alvarez will want to fight in the center of the ring. Angulo will have to sell out to get to the body, eating a few shots to get there, but the rewards may very well be worth the price he pays. If Angulo can't get to Alvarez's body, then most likely Alvarez will have controlled the distance and range of the fight, an extremely good barometer for a Canelo win. 

5. The Corners.

I keep thinking that if Virgil Hunter can devise a game plan where Angulo can get to Erislandy Lara, a tricky boxer with the best footwork in the division, then he can put his fighter in a position to hurt Alvarez. In addition, Alvarez has displayed some endurance problems throughout his career; I'm sure that Hunter, whose most notable boxer is Andre Ward, can find a way to exploit that deficiency. 

To say I was disappointed in Eddy Reynoso's corner work during the Mayweather bout would be a massive understatement. Reynoso looked befuddled during the fight and was unable to formulate or communicate advice to Alvarez to help turn the tide of the match. It's not just that Mayweather was the better fighter in the ring that night; he also had the far superior corner. 

If Alvarez hits the canvas early in the fight against Angulo, does Reynoso have the ability to settle his charge and find a way back into the fight? If Canelo isn't responding well to Angulo's pace and pressure, what will Reynoso tell him so that he can buy time in the ring?  In short, Angulo has a huge advantage in the corner for this fight and if there is a significant strategic adjustment to make during the match, you can bet that Hunter will be the one to make it. 


I think that this fight will be talked about for a long time. I see potential scenarios where both fighters hit the canvas and/or multiple knockdowns occur during the fight. I expect Alvarez to control many of the rounds with his boxing skills, subtle movement and superior combinations, but it is his job to limit Angulo's flurries. In addition, both fighters have been cut in recent bouts and a stoppage caused by cuts (either via butt or punch) is certainly possible. 

I am banking on Hunter to help find a way for Angulo to win the fight. Angulo might be down on the cards early; he might be sprawled out on the canvas at a given point, but I believe in Angulo's power and Hunter's ability. I also have significant questions about Alvarez's conditioning and chin. Ultimately, I see Angulo coming from behind to knock out a tiring Alvarez in an epic performance. 

Alfredo Angulo TKO 10 Saul Alvarez

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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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Opinions and Observations: Chavez, Salido, Burns and Abraham

Attempting to right the wrongs of his last outing against Bryan Vera, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. came into the Vera rematch a half-pound under the super middleweight limit (in the first fight, an indifferent and out-of-shape Chavez was gifted a decision). That Chavez making weight was cause for a minor celebration in boxing circles is a fine example of how significantly the expectations for his career have diminished. 

This was a make-or-break fight for Chavez. Having burned the good will of many of his fans by giving lackluster efforts, embarrassed his promoters by being out-of-shape and failing drug tests and clashed with trainers who had the fortitude to ask him to get out of bed on a consistent basis, Chavez needed to beat Vera convincingly, or his role as a major figure in boxing was over. In a striking example of dwindling enthusiasm for Chavez, Saturday's attendance at the Alamodome in San Antonio was well off of what the famous Mexican scion drew for his fight at the same location against Marco Antonio Rubio in 2012. 

It was clear from the outset of Saturday's rematch that Chavez had heeded the warnings about his perilous future in big-time boxing. In a major contrast to the first fight, he started out the match by pumping his jab, using his legs and letting his power shots go. Vera, armed with confidence and pluck, stuck with the same formula that had worked so effectively first fight – strafing Chavez with short right hands and attempting to keep Chavez from using his size to his advantage by continually working on the inside. 

But with as many clean blows as Vera landed in the opening half of the rematch, his power shots couldn't compare to those landed by Chavez. One eye-catching right hand by Chavez equaled three or four clean connects by Vera. But the fight wasn't about volume vs. quality. Chavez held his own with Vera throughout the bout in terms of the number of landed punches. With that near equivalence, it was easy to shade the rounds to Chavez's side. 

The second half of the bout featured the type of punishing body work that Chavez had displayed at his best. Digging left and right hooks to the body and mixing in right hands upstairs, Chavez's blows made audible thuds as they landed. Throughout the latter part of the fight, Vera kept working, having success with some solid uppercuts and multi-punch flurries, especially after a hard Chavez shot. But the more effective punches were landed by Chavez, who also had the edge in ring generalship by fighting the battle on his terms. It wasn't a hard bout to score. The final tallies were 117-110 (x 2) and 114-113, which was certainly a curious card, all for Chavez (I had it 116-111 Chavez). 

Although Chavez will always be a flawed fighter – his chin is so good that he often doesn't bother to evade shots, his footwork can get clumsy and he is susceptible to movers – he showed on Saturday why he can be a fun attraction. His power is impressive, he has a true fighter's temperament and he goes to the body unmercifully. In addition, he creates enough antipathy among many segments of boxing fans that they tune in to see if he will receive his proper comeuppance. In short, he can be a damn good heel. With his incessant whining to referees, a healthy sense of entitlement and the degradation of the famous Chavez warrior code, it's easy to see why he's not everyone's favorite fighter.

Irrespective of his various dramas outside the ring, it's clear that Chavez has developed quite a bit over the last few years. Remember that as young fighter Chavez was often nothing more than a great left hook. Watching him pulverize Vera with straight right hands, it occurred to me how far he has come with the punch. In addition, although he takes a ton of shots, he is also quite capable of blocking and parrying blows. And he's not a blob in the ring when in shape; he can move a little. 

In the 12th round, Chavez received criticism for running around the ring and doing some clowning. Yes, he didn't go for the jugular. But looking at it another way, was anyone else impressed with Chavez using movement, head feints and misdirection to evade Vera's constant aggression? I certainly was. Did anyone think that Chavez had the defensive or athletic skill set to actually be a runner if he had to? I gave Chavez the 12th for he had a clear knockdown at the end of the fight with a short right hand. Referee Rafael Ramos missed it so you can't give Chavez a 10-8 round without the knockdown being called, but the punch and result happened, and it was the most significant moment of the round. To sum up, Chavez successfully clowned Vera and knocked him down in the same round. I say he won that. 

Chavez's constant barking to the referee about infractions real or perceived can be grating, but notice how he was able to work the ref to deduct a point from Vera. Before our eyes, Chavez has developed a bevy of veteran tricks.  And it's not as if Chavez is a particularly clean fighter. He certainly leans in with his head, pulls down opponents with his hands on their necks and strays below the belt from time to time. 

Throughout the HBO telecast, the announcing crew bemoaned Vera's lack of a body attack against Chavez. The thought process was that good work downstairs would slow Chavez down in the later rounds. Respectfully, let me disagree with that brand of conventional wisdom and substitute a more pressing one in its place. Here's an important boxing adage: "Don't hook with a hooker." And Chavez certainly has one of the best left hooks in the sport.  If Vera stood in the pocket and traded hooks with Chavez downstairs, he wouldn't have made it out of the fight, and he knew that. Saturday's version of Chavez was in shape and letting his hands go. It would have been a supreme folly for Vera to put himself in position to receive dozens of additional pulverizing body shots. Actually, Vera's game plan on Saturday was the correct one; it's just that Chavez is the better fighter. 

Let's remember who Bryan Vera is. He's a natural middleweight who was brought in originally to make Chavez look good after a long layoff. Vera is a spoiler. Given a fighter who is having an off-night, like Chavez or Andy Lee, Vera is certainly capable of springing an upset. But when better talents are near their best, Vera will lose. This isn't a knock on Vera, who has made a career for himself by being television-friendly and ready to fight. It's just that Saturday was a true reflection of the fighters’ respective talent levels. 

Chavez had size, reach and power advantages, to say nothing of a famous last name that judges seem to like. That Vera should have won their first fight is a wonderful testament to his conditioning, fighting spirit and the guidance of trainer Ronnie Shields. However, at their best, Chavez is a superior talent. Vera was good on Saturday. He fought energetically and wasn't there to lose or collect a paycheck. He landed many of his best punches and he showed an almost superhuman chin (I still have no idea how he remained standing after receiving that hellacious right hand from Chavez in the 11th round), but he was outclassed. 

Vera will be back probably at the ESPN-level for a fight or two, but you can bet that there will soon be a young veteran who needs to be tested, and Vera might be just the guy to add another unexpected upset to a solid career. 

As for Chavez, he has some interesting potential opponents for later in the year, such as Andre Ward, Gennady Golovkin or Carl Froch. Ward may be the biggest money fight of the bunch but I think that Froch is the way to go. Froch certainly has some boxing skills although he can be hit. In addition, he has a fighting spirit that would give Chavez no quarter. That fight could be a bloody, bloody affair. I'm less interested in a possible Golovkin matchup in that I would like to see GGG beat some top middleweights before moving up to 168. 

With his performance on Saturday, Chavez put himself right back in the big-fight picture. Boxing is more enjoyable with an engaged Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in the ring. I want to see more of that fighter in the coming years. 


The Chavez-Vera II undercard featured a fascinating bout between Orlando Salido, a tough veteran featherweight who had just regained a title belt, and Vasyl Lomachenko, a supremely decorated amateur fighter who was attempting to win a world title in just his second pro bout. 

(Lomachenko's number of professional bouts is a point of contention in that he fought in the World Series of Boxing prior to turning pro. His fights under this aegis featured no headgear, professional scoring and payment for his services. However, the gloves used in that series are bigger than professional ones and the World Series of Boxing fights are sanctioned by the international amateur boxing entity that runs Olympic boxing. This issue remains unresolved but for this article I will refer to Saturday's fight as Lomachenko's second pro bout.)

Lomachenko's desire to fight for a belt in his second pro outing seemed to split boxing fans down the middle. On one hand were those who were dismayed by Lomachenko's sense of entitlement without properly paying his dues in the pro ranks. That he was fighting a hard-nosed veteran like Salido, who had to earn everything in his career the hard way, made the contrast more striking. Salido didn't even sniff a title shot until his 34th fight and didn't officially win his first belt until his 47th bout, 14 years into his boxing career! (He did have an earlier title bout win against Robert Guerrero changed to a "no-contest" after he failed a drug test.) To these boxing fans, Lomachenko had done nothing to earn a title shot. (Here's where I say that having to "earn" something in modern boxing is a wonderfully archaic and precious worldview. Scores of fighters have won title belts without "earning" or "deserving" it. But I digress.) 

On the other side of the fence were a large portion of boxing fans who wanted to witness history. Lomachenko, with an amateur record of 396-1, might have been one of the best amateurs in boxing history. The thinking was that after almost 400 amateur fights and an impeccably sterling record, Lomachenko was certainly capable of competing against the best. If Lomachenko were to win, that victory would be of historical import in the sport, an indelible demarcation of greatness in the boxing ring. 

After 12 rounds, I'm not sure that either camp was satisfied. Salido won a split decision, by scores of 116-112, 115-113 and 113-115 (I also had it 115-113 for Salido). After the fight, many media members (especially Chris Mannix from Sports illustrated) seemed to delight in Lomachenko's loss. To them, it demonstrated their belief in the development rituals for young fighters. "This is the way it's supposed to be," and wonderful heuristic comments expressing opinions of that variety. 

To their point, Lomachenko seemed unprepared for Salido's rugged style and committed body attack. In the amateur ranks, which featured the punch-counting system that incentivizes clean, scoring blows, body shots were not rewarded the same way that they can be in the pros. Even in professional fights, body shots are often missed by judges, but there can be no argument about their effectiveness against inflicting damage upon opponents. Furthermore, Salido mixed in numerous extra-legal body punches, going low with dozens of hooks to hip, leg and groin. Welcome to the pros, kid.

Lomachenko didn't deal with Salido's pressure well. He failed to indicate the illegal blows to the ref. He didn't return unfriendly fire below the belt. For the first six rounds, Lomachenko wouldn't let his hands go with enough consistency to win rounds. He also held incessantly. (All around, ref Laurence Cole did an awful job by not taking points away from either fighter. His dreadful performance is certainly not a new phenomenon.)

However, Lomachenko's detractors certainly wouldn't have expected that the one to tire in the second half of the fight would be the more seasoned professional fighter. From the eighth round on, Lomachenko really stepped on the gas. He showed an excellent jab, a stinging straight left hand and the ability to string together very effective combinations. By the 12th round, Salido looked like he was ready to go down. Lomachenko tried everything he could to get Salido to the canvas, but the veteran stayed up on his feet. If the fight had gone on any longer, Lomachenko would have been poised for a knockout, but alas it didn't happen. 

Thus, from my perspective, Lomachenko clearly exhibited that he belonged in the ring with a top guy in the division, but his lack of refinement in the pro ranks probably cost him the fight. His inability to finish Salido, or, at least, put him down on the canvas, clearly hurt him. How to stop an opponent is one of the aspects of boxing that is learned as a fighter develops in the professional ranks. Amateur boxing incentivizes clean connects, not administering hurt. When Lomachenko had Salido ready to go, he lacked the technical ability and experience needed to finish the fight. 

In addition, Lomachenko's team showed that they were not yet ready for prime time. Salido came in two-and-a-half pounds overweight for the fight. Instead of mandating a Saturday morning weigh-in for Salido, Lomachenko's team issued no further conditions on his opponent. Thus Salido came into the fight at a monstrous 147 pounds while Lomachenko only rehydrated to 136; this was an opportunity missed. I think that Team Lomachenko's hubris got the best of them. 

On a similar note, there's a very good chance that had Salido rehydrated to a lower weight that his body shots could have had less sting than they did early in the fight. Perhaps Lomachenko would have let his hands go more freely in the first few rounds if Salido's shots were less forceful. 

From a technical perspective, I was disappointed by Lomachenko's lack of lateral movement. He had a fighter coming right at him and he rarely stepped around, employed angles to initiate offense or used the ring to his advantage. He essentially fought Salido's fight. Lomachenko can clearly move in the ring but his inadequacy in this area was the result of poor guidance from his trainer (who also is his father) or bad preparation coming into the fight. Salido is a meat-and-potatoes type of fighter. Lateral movement certainly should have been part of Lomachenko’s fight plan. 

Nevertheless, Lomachenko's loss wasn't a grand tragedy for his career. He clearly has the skills and endurance to compete at the sport's highest levels. He lost by two points; that's it. Sure, he perhaps lacked the professional polish and experience to close out the fight, but let me reiterate, he was the one with the chance to close out the fight, not the rugged bogeyman Salido, who was holding on for dear life while waiting for the final bell to sound. 

I wouldn't be surprised if Saturday may have been Salido's last stand as a top fighter. Unlikely to make featherweight in the future, Salido will move up to 130 lbs. He has been knocked down in four of his last eight fights and was almost stopped by Lomachenko. I'm not sure his body can still withstand the rigors of a 12-round fight the way it used to. Salido has been a pro for 18 years and has been in a number of wars. It's possible that he can make hay in a fairly weak 130-lb division, but it wouldn't shock me if we start to see a fast deterioration. Salido has provided many entertaining fights in his career, but he's also used some shortcuts outside of the ring. At 33, I'd be surprised if he's still a factor on the world-level at 35; I hope I'm wrong. 


Let's start at the end with the Ricky Burns-Terence Crawford fight. Crawford won a unanimous decision, with scores 116-112 (x2) and 117-111. (I also had it 117-111, and many other boxing observers had Crawford winning by even wider margins.) That result wasn't surprising to me. In my estimation, Crawford had superior athleticism, hand speed and power. Burns' two advantages were experience and the home Scotland crowd. As long as Crawford didn't become intimidated by the hostile environment, I believed that he would win convincingly. 

Crawford certainly showed that he was the better fighter on Saturday, yet I felt like he could have done a lot more. A natural orthodox fighter who often switches to the southpaw stance, Crawford spent probably 60%-70% of the fight as a left-hander. From the southpaw stance, he did an excellent job of neutralizing Burns' offense; it's just that he didn't have much success of his own offensively as a southpaw, minus the right jab and a few straight left hands. When he was orthodox, Crawford let his hands go more freely (a point that Jim Watt also made on the Sky broadcast) and had significant success with a wide array of punches, specifically his left hook to the body. It's true that Crawford ate a few more shots as an orthodox fighter, but Burns' power hardly affected him; Crawford left some opportunities on the table. 

In rounds five, six, seven and eleven, I believe that Crawford had Burns hurt. Burns has been a durable fighter throughout his career, but he hasn't looked to be a top fighter since his victory over Kevin Mitchell in September of 2012. He escaped with a victory over Jose Gonzalez after the younger fighter fell apart and he earned a dubious draw against Ray Beltran, a decision that even his own promoter thought was unwarranted. No, Burns was on borrowed time as a champion. I think that Burns could have been taken out by Crawford, but Crawford let him off the hook.

If I'm critical of Crawford's performance it's because I see a much higher ceiling for him than he has exhibited in the ring to this point. He is a defensively responsible boxer who understands distance extremely well for a young fighter. He has significant athletic gifts, a good amateur pedigree and a high ring IQ. But I do have real questions about his temperament in the ring. 

Let's face facts. Crawford was on the road against a promoter who has pulled out many favorable decisions in recent years. Crawford needed to leave no doubt in the judges’ minds that he was the clear victor in the fight. Instead, Crawford was content to do just enough to pull out many of the rounds. Again, I thought that Crawford won fairly comfortably, but I have seen far worse robberies in boxing. 

In addition, if Crawford hopes to have a lucrative career in the sport, he needs to provide more excitement during his fights (he clearly won't win fans over with his taciturn interviews outside the ring). I'm not asking him to be a Brandon Rios-like hell-or-high-water pressure fighter who makes every fight a war. But I would like to see Crawford use his significant offensive gifts to make more of an impression. There are neutralizes at lightweight such as Richar Abril or Miguel Vazquez (both titlists by the way) who fight in their displeasing styles (grappler and runner, respectively) because they have to, but Crawford has more options. He has enough offensive talent to win with a more crowd-pleasing style. 

I don't know if Crawford is worried about his chin or if he lacks the desire to lay it out during a fight, but he can be more than he is. He possesses the tools to dominate, not just look good enough to win. 

In his current incarnation, Crawford will be a tough man to beat, but you could see a Miguel Vazquez outworking him or a Mikey Garcia having success with counter right hands when Crawford is a southpaw. Crawford is very good, but this version isn't unbeatable by any stretch. 

I'd like to see Crawford commit to a couple of fights purely as an orthodox fighter. I want to see him sit down on his shots and finish a capable fighter. In short, I'm hoping to see some attitude. 

As for Burns, he just isn't what he once was. Earlier in his career, he relied much more on his boxing skills and his ability to navigate the ring to gain an advantage. Now, he is fairly content to be a straight-line fighter – one who possesses good-but-not-great hand speed and only adequate power. I'm not sure he ever would have beaten Crawford, but he certainly could have given a better account of himself than he did on Saturday. The fighter who beat Mitchell, Moses and Katsidis was much more dynamic in the ring than the current version is.

In addition, he and his team seemed woefully unprepared to attack Crawford when the fighter turned southpaw. Burns essentially fired half-hearted jabs to Crawford's gloves and arms; occasionally he'd throw a right hand. It really wasn't an inspired effort. 

Burns is only 30, but he's had 40 fights and has been on the world level for eight years. At this point in his career, I think it will be up to him to decide if he really has the desire and will to continue to fight at the top level. I'm not sure whether he fell in love with his power as a result of the Mitchell knockout or if his athleticism has significantly declined, but if he really wants to make another run at the top of the division, he would benefit from watching the savvy fighter who outmaneuvered Katsidis in the ring, not the one who was there for the taking by Beltran or Crawford. It may be a long road for Burns to regain a world title, but it's attainable. First, he must realize that his current ring style just isn't going to cut it. 


Arthur Abraham's performance in his third fight against Robert Stieglitz on Saturday is why I can't quite count out guys like Burns and Salido from remaining in the top reaches of their respective divisions. At 34 and with 42 professional fights, Abraham, a past beltholder at super middleweight and middleweight, looked close to shot in his recent fights. Last year, he was thoroughly dismantled by Stieglitz in their rematch, getting stopped in four rounds to lose his title. Abraham's most recent two fights were against lesser opposition (Willbeforce Shihepo and Giovanni De Carolis) and he fought without much energy or purpose.  

Yet, despite his recent substandard performances, Abraham won a spirited split decision over Stieglitz in their rubber match on Saturday. Stieglitz used the same strategy that he employed in the second fight, bullrushing Abraham with aggression, but Abraham was ready for him – nimbly stepping aside and around Stieglitz's advances, tying up or unleashing stiff jabs and lead left hooks. 

In recent fights, Abraham basically camped out on the ropes. Covering up when an opponent advanced, he was happy to flash a couple of forays a round, hoping something hard landed that would benefit him later in the fight. His punch volume could be downright awful and his legs just didn't seem all that great anymore. But Abraham showed up in spectacular condition on Saturday; perhaps more importantly, he used that conditioning to win the fight. His jab was a real weapon and his punch volume was high enough to take rounds. His maneuvering around the ring was fantastic, not a skill that has often been associated with him in the past. 

The fight had a terrific ebb and flow where on my card Abraham won the first three rounds with some clever boxing. Stieglitz came charging back in the fourth through six rounds by actually taking the time to land shots instead of merely mauling Abraham. I thought that Abraham started to unleash his power in rounds seven through nine. He had some lovely, textbook lead left hooks and uppercuts to turn back the recklessly charging Stieglitz. But Stieglitz had a good 10 and first half of round 11. However, Abraham landed some bombs in the last half of the round that swung it in his favor. In the 12th, Abraham connected with a punishing right hand that dropped Stieglitz in the center of the ring. There were only a few seconds left on the clock when Stieglitz beat the count, and he was very lucky to make it to the final bell. 

(One quick note on the state of boxing officials in Germany: I think it says something rather telling that in a match in Germany between German-based fighters that the promoters still decided to use international officials. The ref and two judges were from America and the third judge was from England. That one camp didn't feel comfortable enough with German officials in his home country speaks volumes about the legacy of horrible verdicts that have been decided in that jurisdiction.)

The final scores were 114-111, 115-110 and 112-113 (both fighters were docked a point for fouls). I think that the two judges who had Abraham winning got it right – I scored it 115-110 for him. Ultimately, Abraham landed the better punches throughout more rounds of the fight and much of Stieglitz's work was of the ineffectively aggressive variety. Still, I'd love to see a fourth fight, but these two combatants don't particularly like each other and they also have different promoters; I don't think that a fourth fight will happen absent a mandatory situation. 

I expect Arthur Abraham only to fight in Germany throughout the rest of his career. Saturday's match drew five million viewers on German TV and he still can make seven-figure purses holding a title. (Stieglitz made $2.35M. Consider that for a minute. I bet there aren't a dozen fighters in the U.S. who make that per fight.)

In the U.S., nobody will write oversized coffee table books about the Abraham-Stieglitz trilogy, but it has provided excellent value over the three fights, with two hotly contested distance fights and a surprising stoppage. And while neither man will be a threat to defeat the Andre Wards of the world (Abraham had his chance and was soundly beaten), these two fighters demonstrate that at their best they can provide very entertaining prizefighting on a high level. Frankly, that's the name of the game.  

Ultimately, Abraham's performance on Saturday is another fine example of why the cliché "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" is often hogwash in boxing. Ask Bernard Hopkins, Floyd Mayweather, Wladimir Klitschko, Miguel Cotto or Juan Manuel Marquez about that silly piece of language. Top boxers know that they can always improve. In fact, many of them know that they have to get better to remain ahead of the competition. Ricky Burns will now have to discover what Abraham has recently learned, to stay on top demands significant and constant adaptations. 

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