Friday, May 30, 2014

Froch-Groves II: Keys to the Fight

One of the biggest fights in British boxing history takes place on Saturday at Wembley Stadium between super middleweight titlist Carl Froch (32-2, 23 KOs) and George Groves (19-1, 15 KOs). The fight, a rematch of a controversial ninth-round knockout victory by Froch in November, will be contested in front of 80,000 and has garnered significant boxing interest from around the globe. In their first meeting, Groves scored a surprising knockdown in the first round and dominated the early action. Eventually, Froch found his way back into the fight and pounded on Groves in the ninth round when ref Howard Foster decided to halt the action, awarding Froch the win (Foster was way too hasty in ending it). At the time of the stoppage, Froch was down on all three scorecards. 

For the rematch, Froch has vowed to fight more intelligently while Groves has stated that he is looking for the knockout. This fight has all of the elements: former friends turned rivals, a Londoner vs. a Midlander, youth vs. experience and wildly passionate English fight fans, many of whom have turned sour on Froch over the past few years. Read below for the keys to the fight. My prediction will be at the end of the article. 

1. What have they learned from their first fight?

It's a rare combination when a fighter underestimates his opponent's speed and power, but that's exactly what happened to Froch in their first encounter, with Groves dominating the early action with fast and hard counter right hands. Groves clearly targeted Froch's lazy and pawing jabs and punished him with power shots. The first three rounds were a train wreck for Froch, who was just trying to survive. Short of getting knocked out early on Saturday (which Groves has predicted), it's tough for Froch to have a worse start than he did last November. 

As their first bout continued into the middle rounds, Groves started to slip. His conditioning waned and when he was hurt in the ninth, he didn't tie up like he should have. Perhaps the early pace sapped his energy or Froch's body shots eventually paid their dividends, but Groves in rounds eight and nine scarcely resembled the fighter who dominated the fight's opening moments. 

For the rematch, Froch has to be far more purposeful with his punches and movement. He gets into bad habits on occasion by throwing ineffectual jabs, not returning his hands quickly enough to a responsible defensive position and relying on his machismo instead of sound strategy. He is certainly capable of boxing or slugging, using his feet or fighting in the trenches; however, he has to commit to his punches and his game plan. 

Groves needs to understand that boxing can often be a marathon and not necessarily a sprint. He certainly tried to end the fight early last November. But instead of transitioning from brawling to boxing, he doubled down on going for the knockout, eating a lot of shots along the way. Having a viable Plan B for the rematch would serve him well. 

2. Will Groves use his athletic advantages?

Watching the first bout, I felt that Groves was fighting Froch's fight. What I mean is that he decided to slug it out in the ring at close or mid-range instead of using his faster hands and feet to pile up points. Froch was used to 12-round wars but it was clear that Groves lacked some of the key elements needed for that style of combat, such as knowing how to survive and when to take breaks. 

Froch certainly can't match Groves' hand speed or his athletic ability. But will Groves capitalize on this or will he give Froch opportunities by entering into a toe-to-toe battle? It's seems ridiculous that Groves, with his speed, allowed Froch to land so many body shots in the first fight, but that's precisely what happened. I think that it's an easier path to victory for Groves if he boxes and moves, but will he fight intelligently or continue to be knockout-happy? This approach has already resulted in his first loss and it may continue to haunt him on Saturday. By using his athleticism, he limits Froch's opportunities and takes less punishment. That makes sense to me, but we'll see. 

3. Froch must avoid fighting at mid-range.

It's clear that Groves has all sorts of advantages in the pocket. Groves can score with jabs or lead right hands and he can also counter very well with his right hand or left hook. Froch started out their first fight at mid-range and paid a heavy price. 

For the rematch, Froch has to be in or out. He boxed masterfully against Arthur Abraham from the outside and destroyed Lucian Bute by rushing in from the outside and battering him along the ropes. Those strategies could work well for Froch on Saturday. He also could have success in a phone-booth war, where his savage body punching could have a pronounced effect. Again, anywhere but mid-range he has a chance. 

4. Body punching.

This was Froch's secret weapon in the first fight. From the fourth round on, Froch wasn't necessarily trying to win rounds as much as he was hoping to slow Groves down with left hooks and right hands to the body. The strategy was certainly effective and body punching will be a big component of his fight plan for the rematch. It's still unclear if Groves has the stamina to go 12 hard rounds and Froch will certainly test that out. 

Groves also has a fantastic left hook to the body. He didn't really use it in the first fight as he was essentially monomaniacal in his quest for an early knockout. Andre Ward showed that Froch could be vulnerable on the inside by crowding him, grappling and hitting him consistently to the body. Groves would do well to adapt elements of that approach. A consistent body attack will also make him less predictable and keep Froch guessing. Whoever wins the body punching battle might very well take the fight. 

5. Intelligence.

Froch can get sloppy but I have yet to see him beat himself in the ring. His losses to Ward and Kessler could not be attributed to mental lapses or bad decision making. He was beaten by better men; it happens. 

Froch has one of the truly great cornermen in the game with Robert McCracken, who came up with brilliant strategies to beat Abraham, Bute and Kessler in the rematch. Groves' trainer, Paddy Fitzpatrick, had a startling game plan for the first fight. While everyone expected Groves to box, the fighter instead came out slugging and almost scored the early knockout. It was some brilliant stuff from Fitzpatrick. Still, one has the sense that the trainer and boxer let the fight get away from them. 

Groves' previous trainer, Adam Booth, is known for his clever game plans, conditioning and reliance on boxing. The latter two of those elements were clearly missing from Groves' performance in the first fight. Although Booth may not have implemented the audacious game plan that Fitzpatrick did, he most likely would have applied a more risk-adverse strategy that could have given Groves a better way to win. Remember, it was Booth who helped guide Groves past the heavily favored James DeGale.

On Saturday, Groves will no longer have the element of surprise. Froch and McCracken will have another training camp to plan for him; they will have seen lots of film. Groves showed in the first fight that he wasn't great at making adjustments. Has he since matured? Is he now more receptive to his corner? Is he willing to take the less sexy path to victory or will he still fight guns blazing, regardless of its effectiveness? 


I'll be honest with you. I have flipped twice with my pick. Initially when the rematch was announced, I leaned toward Froch because I liked the way he was able to turn the tide of momentum in the first fight. He showed veteran savvy and a refusal to panic under duress. 

However, the more I thought about it...I said to myself it's not as if Froch is going to get any faster or younger. Groves has so many natural advantages in the matchup. If he uses them, surely he could take a decision victory. 

And here's where the problem comes in. To me, Groves hasn't yet shown the discipline or the ability to make adjustments needed to beat Froch without knocking him out. A smarter fighter, one who is more calm under pressure, would have comported himself better in that ninth round last year. It's not that Groves got hurt which was the problem; it's how he reacted to it. 

Sure, it's certainly possible that Groves can knock out Froch in the rematch. But Froch has found ways to survive in the past against big punchers and I'm not sure if Groves will have nearly the same opportunity to end it as he did in the first fight. I have a feeling that Froch and McCracken will put together an excellent game plan for the rematch, limiting Groves' strengths. And I also believe that they will be the ones who make the better adjustments during the fight. Ultimately, I see Froch securing a razor-thin victory. I'm taking the fighter who doesn't beat himself. 

Carl Froch defeats George Groves by split decision. 

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, May 22, 2014

Pound-for-Pound Update 5-22-14

With Juan Manuel Marquez's definitive win over Mike Alvarado, he moves up a slot in the Saturday Night Boxing pound-for-pound rankings, taking the #6 position. Tim Bradley moves down one spot to #7. Even though Bradley beat Marquez last year, Marquez's most recent performance bests Bradley's competitive loss to Manny Pacquiao. With the inconclusive round robin between Pacquiao, Bradley and Marquez, there is no ideal placement for the three fighters. Each boxer has recently beaten one and lost to another. The complete rankings are below:
  1. Floyd Mayweather
  2. Andre Ward
  3. Sergio Martinez
  4. Wladimir Klitschko
  5. Manny Pacquiao
  6. Juan Manuel Marquez
  7. Tim Bradley
  8. Guillermo Rigondeaux
  9. Carl Froch
  10. Roman Gonzalez
  11. Bernard Hopkins
  12. Adonis Stevenson
  13. Danny Garcia
  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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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Opinions and Observations: Marquez-Alvarado

The best counterpunchers walk a fine line. Pinpoint accuracy is needed. They must possess enough power so that opponents can't just walk through their shots. Ultimate confidence in their chin and defense is paramount because they might have to withstand two or three punches to to find their opening. It's a perilous position, as Floyd Mayweather recently found against Marcos Maidana. Occasionally, an opponent just won't be thwarted, incoming fire be damned. 

At 40, and coming off a rather listless performance against Tim Bradley, Juan Manuel Marquez needed to prove that he was still an elite counterpuncher, that his reflexes, timing and legs still permitted him to compete at the top levels of the sport. The loss to Bradley, who had a terrific game plan and didn't overcommit with his punches, was a forgivable sin. A defeat at the hands of Mike Alvarado would indicate that Marquez's reign as a force in boxing was over.

On Saturday, Marquez quickly put any doubt to rest. Throughout the first six rounds of the fight, he forced Alvarado into indecision. Alvarado displayed that confused, hazy look of a fighter who has no answer for a top counterpuncher. A friend of mine calls it the Hopkins Stare. Fighters become paralyzed with the cerebral nature of the bout, forgetting even the most basic rudiments of the sport – such as throwing punches and trying to win rounds. 

Elite counterpunchers like Mayweather, Hopkins and Marquez use a fighter's machismo to their advantage, daring an aggressive opponent to open up so that they can land their money shots. After a couple of pinpoint connects, the opponent shuts down. It is the perfect melding of technical and psychological brinkmanship. That's the type of dominance that Marquez had early in the bout on Saturday.

Alvarado wouldn't let his hands go often in the first half of the fight. When he did throw, the results were dreadful. If Alvarado landed with an odd jab or so, he would miss so wildly with a loaded-up right hand that you would think he was trying to knock out a judge or a timekeeper. Seizing these openings, Marquez would then land three or four hard counterpunches, further disparaging Alvarado. For much of the fight, Alvarado was rendered inoperable. 

Facing the first top-level counterpuncher of his career, Alvarado looked lost. His footwork deteriorated rapidly, taking small shuffle steps as he attempted to get into fighting range. Try to throw a good punch while taking a mini half-step forward – it’s challenging, isn't it? In addition, Alvarado either pawed with his punches or overcommitted to them. Hardly anything was effective. Left hooks hit gloves and elbows. Right hands soared gallantly through the air, way past their target. 

Alvarado engaged in several maneuvers that demonstrated his frustration. He turned southpaw for a few seconds here or there but never to throw a punch, just to buy time. He willingly submitted to clinches even though the fight was at a relatively slow place and that he had been ineffective on the outside. 

Meanwhile, Alvarado was getting tagged. Marquez stayed compact and hit Alvarado at will with right hands, left hooks and uppercuts. In addition, Marquez used these first counterpunches to set up three-and four punch combinations. His flurries were unexpected and devastating. 

Round after round, Alvarado would walk back to his corner dejectedly. His trainer, Shann Vilhauer, kept yelling at him to throw more punches, to take the fight to Marquez, but it mostly fell on deaf ears. Alvarado had seen what an elite talent looked like, and it didn't please him all that much. 

It was clear from Vilhauer's instructions in the corner that the plan was to slug with Marquez. I'm not usually a big fan of Vilhauer, but at least this was a coherent strategy, testing to see if Marquez still had the chin and recovery powers to win a dogfight. However, Alvarado was not a willing participant. 

Through seven rounds, it was a bravura performance from Marquez. In the eighth, he punctuated it with a savage knockdown at the end of the round that sent Alvarado under the ropes. It was the same overhand right that ended Manny Pacquiao’s night in 2012, thrown perhaps from slightly longer range, which may have lessened the impact to a degree. Still, it was a truly devastating shot.

Somehow, Alvarado got up from the blow and beat the count. Between rounds, Vilhauer went to work on his fighter, convincing Alvarado that he could take Marquez's best shot and that he needed to sell out with power shots to win the fight. 

Message received. The ninth was when the action started to open up with both fighters drilling each other at close range with menacing blows. During these exchanges, Marquez would land four or five punches to Alvarado's one or two, but Alvarado was having an impact. As the round continued, Alvarado landed a crushing right hand during an exchange that dropped Marquez onto the canvas. Suddenly there was pandemonium in the crowd. Alvarado was down big on the cards but could he slug his way to a memorable come-from-behind victory?

However, Marquez would not be denied. Demonstrating his otherworldly recuperative powers, Marquez went right at Alvarado throughout the rest of the round and landed some blistering right hands. For as technical as Marquez can be, when hurt he responds with a fury. He has never been intimidated by punchers and Saturday was no exception. 

After having found something in the ninth, did Alvarado go for broke in the championship rounds? Not really. He started the final rounds tactically and found a few opportunities to flurry with his power shots. Again, Marquez was getting the better of the exchanges. (Alvarado missed another knockdown by a few inches in the 11th as a right hand sent Marquez to his knees; however, nothing touched the canvas. Ref Pat Russell, who has had a checkered recent past in big fights, got this one right.) Even in the 12th when Alvarado certainly knew that he needed a knockout to win, he was still switching his stances, pawing at his cuts and slowly working his way into the round. It was clear that he wasn't willing to sell out for the KO victory.  

Once the final bell sounded, Marquez raised his arms with a champion's pride. He won 117-109, 117-109 and 119-108. The fans had gotten their money's worth. They witnessed their favorite son dominate early, overcome some adversity and reassert his elite position in the sport. It was a truly rousing performance.


Marquez famously survived three knockdowns in one round to earn a draw against Manny Pacquiao in their first fight. He's been sent to the canvas almost a dozen times in his career but he has never been knocked out. When behind against Juan Diaz, Michael Katsidis and Pacquiao, he summoned the intestinal fortitude to pull out victories. His powers of recovery are legendary. 

Yet one aspect of Marquez's recuperative abilities remains woefully underreported. Marquez has been the victim of robberies and several close defeats. He was dominated by Floyd Mayweather and ineffectual against Bradley. However, Marquez and trainer Nacho Beristain have always rebounded. They lick their wounds, go back to the gym in Mexico City and reemerge triumphantly as if their past defeats never occurred. 

Losses in this sport can be devastating. One bad night and a fighter can go from making seven figures to five. In addition, the psychological effects can be debilitating (let's also not forget the physical punishment). For many fighters, the anguish of the first three Pacquiao fights would be unbearable, knowing that your effort was good enough to win on each occasion yet glory was denied by unsympathetic judges. I imagine that few boxers would respond to these gut punch moments with as much professionalism as Marquez has. Sure, Marquez complains loudly after these defeats, but he has demonstrated some sort of mythic ability to compartmentalize the suffering, both physical and mental. He returns to his business and vows to recapture his perceived rightful place in the boxing world. He soldiers on, continuing to prosper while ignoring the abyss of doubt and self-recrimination that sucks in so many fighters.

We often see boxers enter tailspins after losses. They stop going to the gym; they lose their love for the sport. A number turn to drink or drugs to dull the pain. Others resort to food. A smaller faction engages in various other forms of criminality. One loss can quickly spiral into two or three. 

Somehow, Marquez has ignored or conquered these demons and temptations. He has never lost consecutive fights, which is an amazing accomplishment when considering the level of his competition and some of the devastating nature of his defeats. He retains his self-belief and confidence despite several occasions where doubt would naturally upend fighters facing similar circumstances. 

To this point in his career, Alvarado doesn't possess these same recuperative powers, and it's possible that he may never gain them. Since his knockout loss to Brandon Rios, he has not demonstrated confidence in his ring performances. Each fight has seen a massive change of his style and various points of indecisiveness. He went from being a straight banger to a boxer-puncher, to a southpaw boxer to...whatever he was on Saturday. He has brought in new assistant trainers, dismissed them and hired new ones. 

He was beaten to a pulp by Rios and Ruslan Provodnikov and in my opinion those losses were still ever-present in the ring against Marquez. Alvarado wasn't willing to fight in the style that gave him the best chance to win. The memory of his two knockout defeats were harsh reminders about what real punishment feels like in boxing. After witnessing Marquez's accuracy and feeling his power, Alvarado was dissuaded from fully selling out. This is a marked change for Alvarado, who prior to Rios exuded confidence and almost gleefully entered into brutal slugfests. 

Alvarado has admitted to getting caught up in drinking and other distractions out of the ring (he was also imprisoned earlier in his career). He's had weight problems, repeated philosophical differences with his team and hasn't always trained appropriately. These are not the actions of an elite fighter and even if his training camp was solid for Marquez, the demons have yet to be conquered.

On Saturday, Alvarado was a fighter who doubted his own abilities and talents. He didn't revel in combat; he often shied away from it. And unfortunately, Alvarado lacks the technical skills and athleticism to win important fights without engaging in big exchanges. 

Make no mistake; Marquez was the more talented fighter on Saturday. But he was also the more confident one. Marquez shook off his loss to Bradley and fought at a high level, seizing the big stage. Alvarado still saw the ghosts of Rios and Provodnikov in the ring to say nothing of Marquez's punishing right hands and left hooks. 

Alvarado is in need of some serious recuperation. I'm not sure if he has the fortitude to stay on the straight and narrow, but the ring is not the place for him right now; he is close to a broken fighter. The old Alvarado would have jumped on a wounded enemy with reckless abandon; this one hoped that his shots were enough for the bully to stay away for a while. Alvarado was spooked. And the ghosts aren't going away any time soon. 

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, May 15, 2014

Marquez-Alvarado: Keys to the Fight

A quintessential crossroads fight takes place on Saturday night in Southern California between Juan Manuel Marquez (55-7-1, 40 KOs) and Mike Alvarado (34-2, 23 KOs). Both fighters are coming off of a loss and need a victory to keep themselves in the upper echelon of the sport. Top Rank boss Bob Arum has floated a Manny Pacquiao fight for the winner of Saturday's match, so there are certainly big stakes for both combatants. 

This fight (contested at a catchweight of 144 lbs., Alvarado is moving up from junior welterweight) features an appealing style matchup between a cerebral, hard-hitting counterpuncher and a more youthful boxer-puncher. Although both boxers have looked vulnerable in recent fights, they each possess a variety of tools that can propel them to victory on Saturday. Read below for the keys to the fight.  

1. Alvarado's camp.

Veteran fight people will tell you that a boxer can certainly lose a fight in training camp. And while Ruslan Provodnikov certainly deserves credit for his emphatic victory over Alvarado last year, Alvarado and his team contributed to the defeat. Alvarado admitted that he had significant lapses in camp, spending time away from the gym and enjoying the hometown spoils as a newly crowned world champion. He missed weight initially at the weigh in and ballooned all the way up to 156 lbs. by fight night. 

Strategically, the camp was a mess too, with lead trainer Shann Vilhauer and assistant trainer Rudy Hernandez disagreeing on the fight plan. Hernandez wanted Alvarado to box as a southpaw. Vilhauer favored a more traditional Alvarado mode of box-and-slug. This indecision played out in the ring with Alvarado having success early in the fight as a southpaw but later abandoning the strategy for more power shots in the center of the ring. 

Hernandez is no longer with Alvarado and the team wisely returned to Southern California for training camp (after a one-fight hiatus), leaving the distractions of the Mile High City behind. Alvarado claims that he has a renewed hunger and focus – of course, a lot of fighters say this; however, the proof will be on the scales on Friday and in the ring on the following day. Is Alvarado in fighting shape? Was his camp harmonious? Did they focus enough on the fight plan or just burning pounds? Alvarado needs to be prepared for Marquez's cerebral style. If he's not fully confident in how he needs to win on Saturday, that indecision will play into Marquez's hands. 

2. Was it an age problem or a Bradley problem?

Let's be honest. Marquez really didn't look good in his last fight against Tim Bradley. He was consistently beaten to the punch and he had problems pulling the trigger. Now, Bradley can be really crafty and he stayed very disciplined against Marquez, but Marquez certainly didn't appear fresh in that bout. Going back to his previous fight, Marquez was losing to Manny Pacquiao before he pulled out that wonderful counter right hand to ice it. In fact, Marquez didn't seem far away from being knocked out himself. 

Marquez's last two fights beg the question of how much he has left. Were his last two outings a function of facing top, pound-for-pound fighters or can he no longer win without a knockout? At 40, Marquez doesn't have too many big fights left. He's been in a number of vicious ring wars and it would be understandable if his reflexes have eroded. However, before jumping to that conclusion, not too many fighters look good against Pacquiao or Bradley. Saturday will tell us how much Marquez still has left in his career. Right now it is up for debate. 

3. Can Alvarado stay disciplined for 12 rounds?

Alvarado has talked about his need to box Marquez and avoid a war. On the surface, that's clearly the right approach for this fight but Alvarado sometimes is too macho for his own good. He ignored his height and reach advantages to fight a phone booth war against Brandon Rios in their first matchup. He also thought that it was a good idea to stand and trade with Provodnikov. Both instances illustrated a lack of respect for his opponents and his issues with falling in love with his power. 

To win this fight, Alvarado will have to use the ring. He needs to work the jab and significantly out-throw Marquez. He has marked advantages in the fight with his legs, reach, height and age; but he must use them. If Alvarado tires of a tactical battle and decides to fight mano-a-mano, it will be to his own peril. In addition, if he hurts Marquez, Alvarado can't rush in for the kill. Marquez is very dangerous when wounded. Alvarado must be content to win rounds and not feel the need to look spectacular or make a statement. Winning is the ultimate goal, not putting up a scalp on the mantelpiece. 

4. Chin and legs. 

Both fighters have significant vulnerabilities to power shots. Marquez has hit the canvas frequently in his career but he has always made it back on his feet. However, there are only so many times a fighter – especially an older one – can go to that well. In recent years, Marquez has even been hurt by moderate punchers such as Juan Diaz and Tim Bradley. Alvarado features a variety of power shots than can cause damage, such as his right hand (both straight and looping), left hook to the body and left uppercut. Alvarado definitely has the tools to hurt Marquez and potentially knock him out. Furthermore, if Marquez is at a point in his career where he has problems matching his opponents' volume, a 10-8 round would be catastrophic for his hopes of winning the fight on the cards. He has to avoid the big shot as much as possible. 

Marquez doesn't like to move much anymore. He's happiest planting himself in the center of the ring and landing power counters. Against an opponent who uses the ring, Marquez can seem slow. If Alvarado stays on the run in the fight, Marquez will have a lot of problems. 

Rios and Provodnikov have certainly shown that Alvarado's chin is dentable as well. Alvarado often struggles to tie up appropriately and he needs a considerable amount of time to recover after being hurt. He isn't a fighter who is very dangerous when he is wounded prey. If he's hurt on Saturday, Marquez should pounce on him. 

When Alvarado stops moving, he becomes much more vulnerable to big shots. In these situations, Marquez can capitalize with counter right hands, his patented vicious left uppercuts and left hooks. Alvarado's conditioning and ring IQ will determine how many lengthy exchanges we will see in the fight. 

5. Marquez and Nacho Beristain in the late rounds.

Marquez's performances in the late rounds are a mixed bag. He had wonderful showings against Juan Diaz, Michael Katsidis and Joel Casamayor in the second halves of those fights, but he has also let a few get away, most notably in his third fight against Pacquiao. Although his trainer, Nacho Beristain, is one of the best in the sport in terms of teaching technique, he has made some baffling decisions in the corner, notably telling Marquez that he was well ahead against Pacquiao (in the third fight) and Bradley. This overconfidence, shared between fighter and trainer, has produced some unfortunate results over the years. 

More than likely, Marquez may find himself down in the fight on Saturday. Will Beristain be cognizant of this reality? Will he formulate the right strategy to help Marquez win? If the fight features an active Alvarado, will Marquez have enough in the tank to mount a charge in the late rounds? Can Marquez win the championship rounds without a knockout? These answers will help determine who wins on Saturday. 


For the first time in over a year (Alvarez-Trout), I will not be making a prediction for a preview article. Frankly, the possibilities for this fight are almost limitless. I could see either fighter winning by decision or stoppage. I think that cuts could be a factor. I don't know how much Marquez has left in his career or if Alvarado is in a good psychological place coming into the fight, especially after such a devastating loss. There are too many significant unknowns for me to make an educated guess. So, I'm just going to sit back and enjoy this one on Saturday. I hope you do as well. 

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, May 6, 2014

Opinions and Observations: Mayweather-Maidana

Prior to Saturday's matchup against Marcos Maidana, Floyd Mayweather's last truly close call in the ring was in April of 2002 against Jose Luis Castillo (their first fight). Seventeen boxers over 12 years have had opportunities to beat him since that night; all but two of them put forth an effort far below their best – the notable exceptions are Castillo in their second meeting in 2002 and Miguel Cotto in 2012. Sure, there were other brief moments of doubt over that time period. Zab Judah had a solid first four rounds before a lack of maturity led to his implosion. Oscar de la Hoya fought well during the first half of his bout before abandoning his jab and with it whatever momentum he had built up. Shane Mosley landed two massive right hands and then spent the rest of his fight looking for the same shot, which never materialized. In short, most of Floyd's opponents have helped to beat themselves. 

The psychological pressure of facing Mayweather in the ring repeatedly manifests in his opponents. Many fighters blindly follow him without throwing shots. Others stare at him in the center of the ring refusing to let their hands go. Punchers try to win with boxing; boxers hope to suddenly become punchers. Others break down in non-traditional ways. There is that familiar look in many of Floyd's opponents who act as if they have been defeated before the fight even enters the second half. There are very few fighters who have retained their wits for 12 rounds against Mayweather. Marcos Maidana stepped into this caldron on Saturday.

When the name of the promotion, The Moment, was first announced, boxing fans derisively mocked its vague and nonsensical meaning. But after witnessing Saturday's performance by Maidana, the moniker now seems more than apt. Unlike so many others fighters, Maidana didn't wilt under the bright lights or cower under the pressure and scrutiny. Through the ups and downs of a colorful boxing career, Maidana fully embraced his Moment, and he helped to produce a wonderful fight. 

From the jump, it was damn refreshing to see a Mayweather opponent go for the jugular. There were no pleasantries. No bowing down before Floyd's ring. No kisses. No silent agreements to let the fight go 12. Maidana was there to kick ass.  

For a while, everything was going to plan. Maidana bumrushed Mayweather in the first four rounds, pounding him along the ropes with overhand rights, left hooks to the body and any other punch that he could manage when he had a free hand. And although the majority of his shots weren't landing cleanly, Maidana's attack forced Mayweather to spend an inordinate amount of time on defense. 

But a number of truly big shots got through and I have never seen Floyd get hit before with such ferocious power punches. Sure, Castillo neutralized Mayweather with a lot of volume and pressure, but he didn't land the same types of bombs that Maidana did. 

Throughout the first six rounds, Maidana followed the perfect fight plan: drive Mayweather back with power, swarm him along the ropes, beat him with volume, vary the attack and be ferocious; make it a street fight. As the first half of the match ended, I had him up 4 rounds to 2 on my card. 

But then Mayweather made significant adjustments. He spent far less time on the ropes and when he did he was able to avoid that high, over-the-top right hand. In addition, he insisted on being first, landing blistering, pinpoint lead left hooks and right hands. He went to the body a ton. Mayweather also refused to give ground. He held his position in the center of the ring and let his power shots go. This wasn't Mayweather gliding around the ring to earn his victory. No, he engaged Maidana in a vicious dogfight and got the better of it in the second half to take five out of the last six rounds on my card. 

Although Mayweather won most of the late rounds, he didn't dominate Maidana; there were a number of potential swing rounds. In my estimation, he won many of his frames 60-40 or 65-35. Maidana had his moments throughout the fight but there were fewer of them as the fight progressed. 

After the final bell sounded, there was genuine suspense. The official cards, so often a formality in a Mayweather fight, now took on supreme importance. Surely Maidana had won a number of rounds. Would the judges be swayed more by Maidana's volume and pressure or Mayweather's accuracy and ring generalship? 

The final scores were announced and Mayweather would again raise his hands in victory – the scores were 114-114, 116-112 and 117-111, giving him a majority decision victory (I scored it 115-113 Mayweather). Although I didn't have a major problem with the judges' tallies (perhaps 117-111 was a bit wide), I believe that the fight could certainly have been a draw or a two-point Maidana victory; it really was that close. 

For Mayweather, Saturday's fight was gut check time. He really hadn't experienced a fighter pressing him in that manner since Castillo. At 37, he had to engage in an all-out brawl in order to keep his status in the sport, the type of fight that hastens the end of a career. He did enough to win. It wasn't pretty, but it was deserved. 

Unlike Mayweather's last outing against Saul Alvarez, the Maidana fight won't be remembered as one of Floyd's technical masterpieces. He made some mistakes, both strategic and tactical. He was slow to make key adjustments and he ate a lot of leather. 

I'm positive that Mayweather was compliant in going to the ropes early in the fight – it wasn't all Maidana. In my estimation, the plan was to catch Maidana with something big early in the fight. Don't forget that Maidana had been down on the canvas numerous times as a pro. In addition, Mayweather wanted to tire Maidana, count on his own conditioning to prevail and try to get Maidana to punch himself out. Although there had never been questions about Maidana's heart or determination in the ring, his conditioning had been subpar during many points of his career. He had certainly taken rounds off during fights. 

Even though Maidana was very successful early in the match in cutting off the ring, I noticed several occasions where Floyd could have spun off the ropes to reset the action or walk Maidana forward in a clinch. Floyd chose not to do these things. He wanted to get some work done.

I believe that Floyd underestimated Maidana's ability to get off effective shots in close quarters. Even when Floyd locked an arm or used his body to grapple, Maidana still found a way to launch the right to the head or a left hook to the body. In the second half of the fight, Floyd mostly avoided these situations and except for a brief flurry in the 11th, he wasn't hit by that high right hand shot again. 

Perhaps more troubling for Mayweather was how successful Maidana was with his jab at points in the fight. Throwing the stick to the head, chest and stomach, Maidana used his jab very well to initiate offense. And although Floyd will sometimes give an opponent the jab, his upper body movement wasn't nearly as good as it had been in past fights. In addition, Floyd's supposed advantages in lateral movement and foot speed were not factors. Or to put it another way, he did not use these advantages to help him win the fight.

However, I'm not ready to say that Mayweather has significantly declined. Just eight months ago, he looked sensational in dispatching Alvarez. Although Floyd's legs may not be as fresh as they were when he was 25, he still possesses an enormous punch arsenal, first-rate intelligence, wonderful accuracy and an ability to make excellent adjustments. I believe that Maidana's success was a combination of the fabulous teachings of Robert Garcia, improved conditioning under Alex Ariza (not a favorite of mine), his own internal fortitude and his unorthodox attack. 

A great attribute of Robert Garcia is his ability to maximize the talents of his fighters to make them their best selves in the ring. He is not the type of trainer who tries to create clones. From working with the power counterpunching of Nonito Donaire to the cerebral, patient style of his brother Mikey to the hell-or-high-water pressure of Brandon Rios, Garcia is comfortable keeping a fighter's style intact while making notable enhancements. 

With Maidana, Garcia has not tried to create a new entity in the ring. He has supplemented Maidana's approach with better footwork, a purposeful jab and improved conditioning. However, Garcia also knows enough not to change the attributes of Maidana's that led to his initial success – high work rates, a willingness to engage in wars, awkward-angled shots and massive left hooks to the body. 

Furthermore, he understood that Maidana's rawness and unconventional attack would be an asset against Mayweather, who is masterful in countering familiar punch sequences. So when Maidana threw a lead left hook to the body off of the wrong foot and followed it up with a straight right hand to the chest and then another left hook to the body which drove Mayweather back to the ropes, it was not a cringe-worthy moment for Garcia. He realized that these forays were pivotal in keeping Mayweather guessing. 

In addition, Garcia knew that volume is a key to beating Mayweather. A fighter can never go punch-for-punch with Mayweather and expect to win. Garcia wanted Maidana to get to 100 punches a round, with a full understanding that two-thirds of them might not land. Garcia wasn't looking for beautiful combinations or accuracy; he needed to get Mayweather out of his comfort zone. He wanted Maidana to make the fight more visceral and less cerebral. And when Maidana was hitting everything that was in sight against the ropes – arms, elbows, shoulders, air and often Mayweather's head – you can bet that Garcia was happy with the results. 

In Mayweather's corner, Floyd Sr. repeated the same lone instruction throughout the match: keep going underneath. To Senior, the fight was all about taking some of the steam out of Maidana, reducing his output and will just a little bit. And while Junior and the team made some excellent adjustments regarding the geography of the fight, those body shots were successful in helping to reduce Maidana's output. In the first six rounds of the fight, Maidana averaged 78.5 punches; in the final six, 64.5 punches. Power punches told a similar story with Maidana throwing 54 per round in the first six frames and 45.3 in the last six rounds. These reductions are not insignificant numbers.

Ultimately, Floyd did enough to deserve the victory; however, both fighters truly distinguished themselves. Maidana earned a rematch or at least another lucrative opportunity for later in the year. Mayweather demonstrated that he still has the fortitude and skill to pull out a win against a relentless foe who refused to beat himself. Mayweather didn't squeak by against an 11-1 underdog. He bashed his way to victory over a psychologically unbreakable fighter who was having a great night. And you know who else had a great night? Boxing fans. 

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
Contact Adam at 
@snboxing on twitter
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Friday, May 2, 2014

Previews: Mayweather-Maidana, Khan-Collazo

Pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather (45-0, 26 KOs) returns to the ring on Saturday to take on rugged Argentine welterweight titlist Marcos Maidana (35-3, 31 KOs) at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas. As is often customary during a Mayweather fight week, non-boxing items have dominated much of the lead-up to the fight. Mayweather has talked about another retirement, expressed interest in buying the Los Angeles Clippers and provided details about his breakup with his ex-girlfriend. But come Saturday, an actual fight will take place. Or at least two men will be in the ring. Boxing fans hope that a fight does indeed occur.
Mayweather is a significant favorite over Maidana, who according to conventional wisdom lacks the finesse, foot speed or ring savvy to cause much of a problem in this matchup. But Maidana does have a punch and he's a relentless fighter. Maidana received his opportunity to face Mayweather by defeating Adrien Broner in December, and Broner is a boxer who possesses some similar characteristics to Mayweather. Maidana sent Broner to the canvas twice and won a comfortable decision victory. But is what worked for Maidana against Broner applicable to Mayweather? Will Maidana be able to land with the same kind of effectiveness?

In the ring there are three major separators between Mayweather and Broner. Most distinctively, Mayweather uses his legs a lot more to fend off aggression. Many boxing observers see the Philly shell defense and immediately point out the similarities between the two fighters. However, Broner is essentially a pocket fighter; Mayweather uses the whole ring to his advantage. He is a master at resetting action, tying up on the inside, dictating pace and flow and picking spots to potshot or initiate combinations. 

Another important distinction is Mayweather's refusal to engage in toe-to-toe battles. It's a question of temperament. Staying in the pocket, Broner believed that his accuracy and power would grind down Maidana. Instead, it was his own chin that betrayed him. Mayweather does a much better job of using angles, spacing, clinching and movement to reduce action. He gets personally offended when hit with a good shot and he tries to shut down those instances. Broner is much more of a give-and-take fighter.

Finally, Mayweather's defense is just much better than Broner's is. He's wonderful at using his arms and elbows to pick off shots, rolling with punches to minimize their impact, turning his body away from incoming power and spinning out from trouble. In short, they are very different fighters. 

Let's not sugarcoat this. Maidana is up against it on Saturday. Mayweather's accuracy, conditioning and intelligence will put him in an excellent position to win, and win comfortably. But Maidana is not without hope; however, he must create opportunities for himself. Here are three things he needs to do to have a chance of winning:

1.     Sell out with big shots early 
2.     Target the body
3.     Use both hands to initiate offense.

Mayweather will often give opponents the first few rounds. He takes time to study his foes, see what they have and get a feel for their timing, punch sequences, power and speed. Usually by the third or fourth round he has seen enough and starts to open up offensively. From that point on his opponents often run out of luck. 

Against Broner, Maidana faced a fighter who employed a similar strategy. However, Maidana was able to knock down Broner with a left hook in the second round that changed the complexion of the fight. Broner was clearly rattled and wasn't able to get into his usual comfort zone. 

Maidana needs the same kind of impact in this fight. He does hit very hard. If he lands a big hook or right hand, he could certainly hurt Mayweather or even get him down to the canvas. Immediately, Maidana would have an early advantage in the fight. 

Too many boxers have this silly notion that they are going to outbox Mayweather from mid-range. They give Mayweather undue respect and within a short time they get carved up and psychologically demoralized. Maidana can't get caught up in that trap. He has to realize that he can't win by boxing. Power will be his only salvation. If he misses a few shots, gets tagged on counters or finds himself out of position, he must not lose faith in his game plan. He only needs to land one huge shot to change the fight. 

However, landing that big punch is easier said than done against Mayweather. Maidana will have to set it up. His straight right hand upstairs is his best weapon but he often telegraphs it. A fighter as alert as Mayweather is will see that right hand coming before it is even released. Maidana's best bet is to work downstairs as often as possible. Single jabs or right hands to the body will change Mayweather's eye level and make him conscious of a different approach. If Maidana can land a few shots to the body, opportunities for headshots will open up, specifically his left hook and his overhand and/or looping right hand. Now, it won't be easy to land much on Mayweather's body but Maidana must stay with it. 

Trainer Robert Garcia has done an excellent job of improving Maidana's jab and incorporating feints and disguises into his attack (the first knockdown of Broner was actually Maidana feinting a left jab to the body but instead coming upstairs with a left hook). Maidana will need to use these weapons on Saturday. 

Ultimately, for Maidana to have success he will have to make Mayweather respect both of his hands. If he just loads up on power rights, he will be a sitting duck for Mayweather's counters and potshots. Maidana must work his jab and left hook and mix in rights to the body, looping shots and straight right hands. The more punches that he can feature, the better shot that something hard lands. 

So, this is the blueprint. But is it likely? Honestly, I don't think so. Maidana has improved in the last two years but his hand and foot speed significantly lag behind those of Mayweather. If Mayweather wanted to make the fight a track meet, I don't see how Maidana could do well in that context. Similarly, Mayweather can feast on Maidana by using angles, turning him and getting in and out with quick shots and combinations. Maidana's relentless but he can be predictable. He also lacks the creativity that could really trouble Mayweather. 

I don't think that fans will be entertained by the fight. Mayweather will use Maidana's aggression and straight-line movements against him to coast to a fairly easy victory. I'm sure that Mayweather will be hit hard once or twice but I don't think that it will be enough to change the tenor of the fight. 

Floyd Mayweather defeats Marcos Maidana 118-110, or 10 rounds to 2.


On paper, the most interesting matchup of the night is the welterweight clash between Amir Khan (28-3, 19 KOs) and Luis Collazo (35-5, 18 KOs). Khan missed out on this round of the Mayweather sweepstakes but he has a chance to lock up that fight with an excellent performance against Collazo. Boxing had essentially left Collazo for dead at the end of 2011 after he lost to journeyman Freddy Hernandez. In that fight, Collazo was knocked down and looked like his best days were far behind him. But after some time off, Collazo rebounded and scored his best win in years earlier in 2014 by knocking out Victor Ortiz with a huge right hook in the second round.  

There are some interesting parallels between Khan and Collazo. Both have had opportunities on the big stage before and have come up short. Collazo dropped close decisions to Ricky Hatton and Andre Berto (many observers believe that Collazo won at least one of those fights) and was soundly defeated by Shane Mosley. Khan lost two of the biggest fights of his career, by fouling his way to defeat against Lamont Peterson (a fight many believe that Khan won) and by getting starched against Danny Garcia. For both Khan and Collazo, they were one or two wins away from much bigger things in the sport. 

Sizing up the matchup, Khan has a number of advantages over Collazo. His hand and foot speed are superior. He has a better work rate. He throws flashy combinations that appeal to judges. He's wonderful at building up early leads. 

However, he has some well-known drawbacks. Khan's chin is shaky. He's been down a half-dozen times in his career and there were other bouts (such as his matchup against Maidana) were he was almost as good as down. He also fades during fights. Khan can be one of the best frontrunners in the sport, but many of his bouts (such as Maidana, Peterson and Julio Diaz) find him holding on for dear life in the final rounds. He also has several technical flaws that can be exploited by intelligent opponents. He admires his work in the pocket after combinations, leaving himself vulnerable to counters. Khan also takes too long to return his hands to a defensively responsible position. In addition, he has no idea how to fight off of the ropes. 

Collazo can start slowly and, at times, waits too long before letting his hands go. He can be outworked. And although he is a sharp, accurate counterpuncher, it isn't as if his power is so special that judges feel compelled to give him rounds where he has been outlanded. 

Collazo is very proficient at using angles and footwork to land flush shots. He's a tricky guy in the ring. He employs a lot of quick lateral movement but he doesn't run. Despite not being a big welterweight, he is very adept at inside fighting and goes to the body well in close.  

Khan-Collazo is pretty close to a toss-up fight. Khan is fresher and will score with his jab and quick combinations. The essential question is whether or not his chin will hold up. If it does, he stands an excellent chance of winning. On the other side of the equation, can Collazo finish a hurt Khan? Before Ortiz (who, let's face it, didn't try his hardest to get up from that knockdown), you'd have to go a long way back to find an impressive stoppage win on Collazo's resume. He's not feather-fisted but the Ortiz knockout was an anomaly. Does Collazo have the killer instinct to finish Khan off? Will he sell out for the knockout if it's there?

Ultimately, a win for either fighter wouldn't be surprising. When all factors are considered, I just don't trust Khan's chin or his decision making. He was lucky to survive against Diaz and that fight was below the 147-lb. limit. I don't like how Khan refuses to tie-up when hurt. He exerts too much energy in these situations and falls prey to needlessly macho behavior. I think that Collazo comes from behind, steadily breaks Khan down and gets rid of him late for the biggest win of his career. But I could just as easily be wrong about this fight. We'll see. I'm definitely intrigued. 

Luis Collazo TKO 11 Amir Khan. 

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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