Sunday, June 29, 2014

Opinions and Observations: Crawford-Gamboa

Let's jump to the eighth round. There was a sequence during the frame that demonstrated just how special a fighter Terence Crawford is. After having so much success turning southpaw (including scoring a knockdown in the fifth), it seemed strange for Crawford to switch back to a conventional stance. After all, his opponent, Yuriorkis Gamboa, had been most successful when Crawford fought right-handed. Yet within moments of switching, Crawford backed up to the ropes and landed a blistering left hook that damaged Gamboa. He immediately followed up with a right hook and then another left hook; Gamboa hit the canvas again. It was a classic trap, and Crawford executed it masterfully.

If there was ever an example of one guy playing chess while the other one was playing checkers, this was it. Crawford anticipated that Gamboa would rush in like a bull seeing red the instant Crawford reverted back to conventional. Gamboa had been completely stymied in the previous three rounds and this was his chance to turn the fight. And like clockwork, Crawford landed his lead hook over a low right hand. Crawford got the best of this exchange, not just technically or physically, but intellectually. 

The constant throughout Saturday's enthralling fight was Crawford's intelligence, versatility and ability to make adjustments. His poise was exceptional, especially when considering that he was fighting for the first time in front of his rabid hometown crowd. He didn't let Gamboa's early success dishearten him. He just went to Plan B. 

In the ninth and final round, Crawford displayed everything that one would want to see in a world-class prizefighter. After getting tagged by a short right hand, Crawford went on the defensive for a good minute. He tied up and used his legs and lateral movement to buy time. As Gamboa came in recklessly, Crawford landed another right hook (out of the southpaw stance), leading to a third knockdown. Gamboa fell to the canvas tilting sideways almost in slow motion (it's to his credit that he got up from the shot). Now Crawford went for the kill. The final blow was a vicious lead right uppercut (from a conventional stance) that ended the fight. The ninth showcased Crawford's chin, recuperative powers, ability to think clearly while hurt, creativity, versatility, power and aggression. Not a bad three minutes if you ask me. 

Crawford put together a star-making performance on Saturday. Until this point, he had flashed considerable boxing skills, athleticism and intelligence. However, there were questions about his passivity, willingness to take risks and offensive fire power. These doubts need not be expressed any longer. 

Facing the most offensively gifted fighter of his career, Crawford didn't transform into a safety-first boxer, play four-corners or shrink into a defensive shell. He used his physical advantages and boxing tools to assert his dominance. He didn't shy away from trading and he was always searching for ways to exploit Gamboa's weaknesses – his low hands and his predictability in initiating exchanges. 

During the broadcast, the HBO commenting team was initially surprised at Crawford turning and remaining southpaw. Gamboa's best punch had been his straight right hand and in theory that shot would be easier to land against a southpaw instead of a conventional fighter. And for a round-and-a-half, the broadcasting team was 100% correct as Gamboa continued to have a lot of success with the lead right. However, the purpose for Crawford to go lefty was to take away Gamboa's jab, which had been very successful early in the fight. Now Gamboa was down to just two punches. Crawford needed a few minutes to time Gamboa's lunges and lead right hands, but once he familiarized himself with Gamboa's rhythms and punching patterns Crawford became the dominant fighter. 

Crawford's versatility is stunning. He scored knockdowns out of both stances and with three different punches: left hook, right hook and right uppercut. His height, long reach and athleticism will make him difficult to beat for any fighter at 135-140 lbs. But the "X-Factor" that he displayed on Saturday was his desire to be great. Not content just to win rounds, he was there to punish Gamboa, galvanize the crowd and impress his Top Rank and HBO sponsors. Saturday was his resounding trumpet that signaled his arrival to the boxing world. Crawford now matters.

But let's not use Crawford's victory as a way to diminish Gamboa's effort. Coming in after a long period of inactivity, Gamboa had again switched trainers and had numerous out-of-the-ring problems, including an assault charge and an implication in the Biogenesis PED scandal. Yet he displayed no ring rust in the fight. He was in great shape and didn't show any lack-of-focus in the ring, which had marred his recent performances. 

Make no mistake; Gamboa was the better fighter in the first four rounds. Early on, he used his jab well to set up shots and he remained defensively responsible. There was none of that incessant bouncing that wastes energy. He was very good on Saturday. 

Gamboa forced Crawford to dig down. Crawford had to feature two or three different looks in order to secure the victory. Gamboa didn't hand him anything; Crawford took it. In the final analysis, the smarter fighter (and the bigger one) prevailed, but Crawford really had to earn it. And as boxing fans, that's all we can ask for.  

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, June 12, 2014

Pound-for-Pound Update 6-12-14

With Miguel Cotto's impressive dismantling of Sergio Martinez on Saturday, significant changes have been made to the Saturday Night Boxing pound-for-pound list. Cotto looked terrific in the fight; however, there was some difficulty in finding the best place to rank him in that he has still lost recent fights to Floyd Mayweather and Austin Trout. I settled on the #12 position for him. 

After Sergio Martinez's performance on Saturday, he no longer warrants a place on the SNB Top-20 Fighters list. Previously, the number-three fighter in the Rankings, Martinez was not competitive whatsoever against Cotto. He was ruled down four times in the fight and on my card he didn't even win a round. At 39, it's safe to say that his days of being an elite fighter have come to an end.  The updated Saturday Night Boxing pound-for-pound list follows: 
  1. Floyd Mayweather
  2. Andre Ward
  3. Wladimir Klitschko
  4. Manny Pacquiao
  5. Juan Manuel Marquez
  6. Tim Bradley
  7. Guillermo Rigondeaux
  8. Carl Froch
  9. Roman Gonzalez
  10. Bernard Hopkins
  11. Adonis Stevenson
  12. Miguel Cotto
  13. Danny Garcia
  14. Anselmo Moreno
  15. Nonito Donaire
  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, June 10, 2014

Opinions and Observations: Cotto-Martinez

During the Roman Empire, a bestiarius was a man who went into combat against a wild animal. This contest would occur in an amphitheater in front of thousands of spectators. There were two types of bestiarii. A venatio was a volunteer bestiarius, one who fought for glory or money. But more common was the bestiarius who was damnatio ad bestias, condemned to death. This second type of bestiarius would be thrown into the ring without any form of armor, weaponry or protection; death was a certainty. 

Sergio Martinez entered the lion's den of Madison Square Garden on Saturday against Miguel Cotto believing that he was a venatio (apologies if you're offended by the mixing of ancient metaphors). He had trained for combat. He was allowed weapons to defend himself and given compensation. But he was incorrect in his assumptions. Within minutes, he realized that he was the second type of bestiariusdamnatio ad bestias by Miguel Cotto's ferocious left hooks and feral aggression. 

Down Martinez went within the opening moments of the first round from a left hook to the temple. His weapons and forms of protection failed to materialize. He was naked in the ring, just like those damnatio ad bestias from ancient times. He hit the canvas twice more in the round from Cotto's relentless follow up attack. Only by referee Michael Griffin's beneficence did Martinez survive the first round; he was so close to being tiger meat. 

He never got into the fight. Cotto's footwork and hand speed were as good as they had ever been. Moving wonderfully to his right, Cotto was able to cut off the ring effectively and fire left hooks to the head and body, jabs and straight right hands. Perhaps more important was his attitude. Like any quality beast, he was there to rip flesh from bone. Much has been mentioned about his improvement under trainer Freddie Roach, and while his punches have been sharper and his movements more fluid, his temperament of going for the kill under Roach has been most refreshing. 

Martinez found opportunities to fire back with a jab or a straight left hand but it seemed as if every Cotto shot hurt him. Martinez couldn't establish any rhythm or change the tenor of the fight with a big shot. He was knocked down again in the ninth (perhaps a dubious call) and his trainer Pablo Sarmiento called the fight after the round. All that remained of Sergio Martinez after the ninth was his soul. His corporeal being was ravaged by Cotto's hard shots, past injuries and old age. Sarmiento's stoppage showed grace and compassion, a model of how a trainer should protect his fighter. 

Flash forward a few minutes and the HBO crew caught Cotto walking in the tunnels of the arena with tears streaming down his eyes. Cotto's emotional display was a rare glimpse of the fighter in an unguarded state. Stoic almost to a fault, Cotto has been averse to histrionics or theatrics in his career. His significant offensive skills and no-bullshit approach have led to tremendous popularity around the boxing globe. 

Cotto has received criticism from some over the years for not displaying enough personality, a characteristic that is almost anathema to the boisterous and prideful Puerto Rican boxing culture. It's a running game within boxing circles to detect instances of a Cotto smile or laugh, a sense of humanity. However, in the bowels of Madison Square Garden, his stoicism vaporized under the enormity of the moment. Not only was he the middleweight champion of the world, he was the first Puerto Rican to have won titles in four weight classes – now he would forever be associated with the greats of the island: Ortiz, Gomez and Trinidad. 

Despite an illustrious career, Cotto lacked a signature win prior to Martinez. Now that criticism can be buried along with Saturday's bestiarius. 

It gives me no pleasure to have witnessed Sergio Martinez's demise. Clearly fighting as a shell of himself, Martinez scarcely resembled one of the top boxers in the world, a rarefied status that he had maintained throughout his middleweight title run. After multiple surgeries on his knees and hands, he lacked the athleticism to dart in and out. His right plant knee didn't have the proper structural integrity for him to throw hard shots. He couldn't defend himself well and he was down to one shot at a time. It wasn't a pretty sight watching him slowly drag around his unwilling right knee while circling. Here's a scouting report of his performance: the power, gone; the speed, lost; the body, uncooperative; the confidence, shot.

In 2009, I had the pleasure of seeing Martinez live in one of his finest moments against Paul Williams at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. It was a wonderful give-and-take battle between two fighters who were at their best. Both boxers exchanged knockdowns in the first round and went toe-to-toe throughout the fight in a beautiful display of athleticism, determination, skill and power. Martinez was the tough-luck loser of a majority decision but many thought that he had won.

Martinez's style was as singular as that of Joe Calzaghe; you would never teach it to an aspiring fighter but it worked for him. A swashbuckler, a daredevil, he was an athletically gifted, high-volume southpaw power puncher with enough defensive flaws to give opponents a shot. How many of those do we see in the sport? He had unconventional footwork, refused to keep his hands up on defense but had a wonderful ability to escape danger by mere inches. In addition, he didn't mind taking a shot. He was both a gentlemen and a destroyer. He had American flash, European etiquette and the perseverance of poor kid trying to escape the barrio.  

In 2010, I attended the Williams rematch and to this day I have never seen a faster knockout punch than that devastating left hand he delivered in the second round. Everyone in my section missed it. The way that Williams toppled over, we had thought that it was a body shot. Only by replay did we realize how fast, quick and perfect that left hand to the chin was; I was hooked. 

As a boxing enthusiast, I tend to be most interested in the happenings within the squared circle and the preparations made for big fights. Although not immune to aspects of personality, upbringing and comportment, those attributes play subsidiary considerations in my overall love affair with the sport. However, it's impossible to cover boxing and not become moved by some of the harrowing and astonishing life stories and backgrounds of the fighters. 

Martinez, like Hopkins and Pacquiao, was one of those guys for me. His story is almost too unlikely to be true. Growing up poor in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Martinez didn't even take to boxing until he was 20, a very advanced age for a novice. Now what would the odds be for a 20-year-old with no experience to become one of the top-five boxers in the world?  1,000-1? 1,000,000-1? 

But the odds get even longer. Martinez failed to establish himself in Argentina. An early knockout loss to Antonio Margarito ruined whatever early momentum he had. With barely any money, he left for Madrid in hopes of getting better training. For years he toiled and toiled. At age 32, he was still fighting four-rounders in Spain. Think about that. What are the odds of a 32-year-old, four-round fighter becoming a world champion? But he kept winning. Eventually two people of worth noticed: Sampson Lewkowicz and Lou DiBella.  

Ten years into his career, Martinez was finally starting to get TV recognition. After 13 years and a third continent as a base for his fights, he got a title shot (again, think about how few fighters would tread this path before giving up). At the age of 35, he won a belt, and not just a paper title, but the lineal middleweight championship of the world. 

Martinez became easy to root for. Without any of the grand designs from the major boxing powers, he forced himself into the discussion as one of the top fighters in the sport, and he did it at an age when most fighters start fading away. He had flash and panache but he never lost the humility of a man who had worked hard for everything that he had earned. 

And he provided many wonderful moments in the ring. I'm not sure that he was ever better than that night in 2011 when he destroyed the undefeated Serhiy Dzinziruk, knocking him down five times with every punch in the book. Who could forget that left cross which was so fast that both Kermit Cintron and ref Frank Santore believed that it had been a head butt? Or what about his first 10 rounds of masterful boxing against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.? 

But there should have been more. Much more. I've always had a sense of regret when thinking about Martinez. Slaving away in the clubs of Madrid in his early 30s making nothing, he should have been here earlier. Top promoters passed on him. Big TV showed little interest. Boxing fans were deprived of many of Sergio's peak years because of bad luck and the failure of imagination. Fortunately, Lewkowicz and DiBella rescued an enormous talent from anonymity, but boxing failed Martinez for many years. 

Thus, it is with great sadness that I reflect upon the professional demise of one of the great talents of this era. He still may have had a Hall of Fame career but had boxing done its job, he should have been in against greats like Hopkins and Wright, and maybe he would have won.  

Cotto did his job on Saturday and did it magnificently. He forced Martinez into helplessness and made it abundantly clear that this once great fighter was finished as a major factor in the sport.

But I'll always remember Martinez's cheesy Burger King-style crown that he proudly wore after victories, Lou DiBella running around the ring like an ecstatic little boy after the Williams knockout and those blindingly fast left hands. Sergio Martinez was a great and improbable champ, a star who sadly spent most of his career star-crossed. 

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, June 6, 2014

Cotto-Martinez: Keys to the Fight

One of the truly intriguing fights of 2014 unfolds on Saturday between Miguel Cotto (38-4, 31 KOs) and Sergio Martinez (51-2-2, 28 KOs) at Madison Square Garden, New York City. Cotto seeks a title belt in his fourth weight class while Martinez (off over a year because of injuries) wants to reestablish himself as the dominant middleweight of his era. The buildup to the fight has featured all sorts of gamesmanship, from the maximum weight limit (159-lbs.) to the boxers' placement on the marketing materials to who walks in first to whether Martinez can wear a knee brace in the ring. Although both fighters have represented the sport with class and dignity, there is certainly no love lost between them. 

Martinez is the betting favorite in the fight but Cotto will certainly have the crowd in his favor and he has a history of winning close decision at the arena. Read below for the keys to the fight. My prediction will be at the end of the article. 

1. Martinez's health. 

This key overrides all other factors for the fight. Since his victory over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in September of 2012, Martinez has had multiple knee and hand surgeries. During his last fight in April of 2013 against Marty Murray, Martinez's mobility and punching power showed marked signs of decline. After the fight, which he won via a competitive decision, Martinez went under the knife again. 

Martinez's health is the mystery that surrounds Saturday's fight. Should he be close to 100%, he theoretically has advantages in power, size, speed, height and reach. However, his full recovery is anything but certain. Prior to the Murray fight, Martinez was barely able to spar. For this fight, it's unclear how much roadwork or sparring Martinez has actually done during training camp. 

Pablo Sarmiento, Martinez's trainer, has eschewed lengthy sparring sessions for Martinez in the past, believing that gym wars could very well diminish his fighter, who is now 39. However, have they adequately tested the knee? Is the punching power still there? What about his reflexes? If Martinez isn't the same fighter as he was in his prime, Cotto could have many opportunities to impose himself in the ring. 

2. Cotto must pressure Martinez early. 

I think that Freddie Roach, Cotto's trainer, has the right idea here. He has repeatedly talked about an early-round knockout as his prediction for the fight. And although this outcome many not occur, the opening rounds may be Cotto's best opportunity to cause damage. Roach wants Cotto to test Martinez's knee, resolve and confidence immediately. Perhaps Martinez's knee can't take the stress of the fight and gives out. If Martinez hasn't sparred a lot, it's possible that he might need a number of rounds to get into the match. Maybe after such a long time out of the ring, the fire isn't there for him any longer. Also, his reflexes could have significantly deteriorated. Ultimately, it's up to Cotto to find out these answers by using pressure to force Martinez into uncomfortable situations. 

Although Cotto isn't fleet-a-foot, he certainly has the tools for this game plan. He's excellent at cutting off the ring. He can use his jab, short right hand or left hook to get inside against an opponent. At close range, he can be deadly with body punching. 

However, in recent fights Cotto hasn't always displayed the same killer instinct that he did when he was at his best. He looked terrific in his last fight in blitzing an overmatched Delvin Rodriguez but will he show the same type of aggression against an accurate and hard puncher like Martinez? If he doesn't, he may be in for a long night.

3. Martinez needs to be first. 

Martinez can fight in a number of different styles but waiting to counter or sharpshoot Cotto may not be the best idea. Opponents seem to underrate Cotto's jab and right hand. Given the opportunity to land these punches, he certainly will. He even scored with a number of them against Floyd Mayweather, probably the best defensive fighter in boxing today. In Martinez's fights against Darren Barker and Matthew Macklin, he stayed in the pocket firing single, knockout-type counterpunches. The stoppages eventually happened but he lost a number of rounds in the process. Martinez can't wait for the knockout against Cotto; one big shot isn't the way to be beat him. 

Cotto has excellent recuperative powers and a solid chin. He has lost to the pressure of Margarito, the hand speed and athleticism of Manny Pacquiao and Austin Trout and the intelligence of Floyd Mayweather. If Martinez gets off first, he will limit Cotto's opportunities, but if he waits for a big shot, he will put himself in harm's way far more often. 

4. Cotto has to stick with the jab throughout the fight. 

With the exception of outgunned opponents like Rodriguez or Carlos Quintana, where he was able to destroy them with left hooks, Cotto has been at his best when he works off of his jab. His jabs were critical in helping to secure victories against Joshua Clottey and Shane Mosley. Even against a southpaw, like Zab Judah, his jab was able to set up his power punches. 

In his 2012 fight against Trout, who, like Martinez, is a southpaw, Cotto never established his jab with any type of regularity. The only punch that he stuck with consistently was the straight right hand. After Cotto had some success early in the fight, Trout moved wonderfully to his right and essentially nullified that shot for the rest of the bout. Martinez is also cagey and very intelligent in the ring. If there is nothing coming from distance from Cotto's left side, Martinez will move to his right all night. In addition, even if Cotto can't land the jab consistently against Martinez, the stick will help establish other shots. The jab will help keep Martinez honest. 

5. The more movement for Martinez the better. 

Cotto is not exactly a lumbering fighter but he can't match Martinez's foot speed in the center of the ring. In addition, Cotto needs time to plant his feet to throw his power punches. For Martinez's best chance of winning rounds, he should fire off quick jabs and combinations and then step out, turning Cotto with footwork and angles to make him continually reset his feet. 

Martinez has enough natural power (or at least had) that he should be able to cause damage even by keeping his punches and punch sequences short. This strategy will also minimize damage. If Martinez decides to remain in the pocket for long stretches of rounds, Cotto could seize those opportunities to land his best shots. However, if Cotto is constantly turning and unable to get into his power punches, he will be far less effective. 


I'm going to assume that Martinez is close to healthy. He's had over a year to heal. (However, if he's far from his best physically, then all bets are off). With the stipulation that Martinez is close to 100%, in my estimation this fight is his to lose. He could beat Cotto with just his reach and speed alone. 

However, Martinez can get cocky and overconfident in the ring, trying daredevil escape routes or pulling back with his hands by his waist. There is a showboat inside Martinez that can be exploited by a disciplined fighter. Furthermore, Martinez isn't as difficult to hit as he used to be. As his age has crept up, his speed and reflexes have decreased from their peak powers. If Martinez sticks to basic boxing without getting greedy for a knockout, he could win the fight in the walk – but I'm not sure that he will. Facing Chavez's menacing size and power, Martinez remained disciplined for a good 11 rounds. However, he still got caught in the final round being careless. Martinez underestimated Chavez's reach and got crushed by a right hand, leading to all sorts of problems. 

Cotto will certainly have opportunities to land, but I think that he is in a bind with this matchup. I don't believe that he has the ability to win the fight legitimately on points and I'm not sure that he has the power to knock Martinez out. It's a conundrum that I don't think he will be able to solve. 

Sergio Martinez defeats Miguel Cotto 116-112 (eight rounds to four)

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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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Opinions and Observations: Froch-Groves II

Oh to land that perfect punch! We've practiced it in the mirror. We visualize knocking someone down, rendering an opponent incapacitated with just one shot. What it must feel like! It's the transcendent melding of technique, timing, power and torque. I'll admit, I've never landed it. I know the feeling of crushing a baseball or hitting a golf ball 275 yards dead center down the fairway (happens infrequently) but I've never experienced the sensation that Carl Froch felt on Saturday against George Groves in the eighth round. And I probably never will. After the fight, Froch admitted that it was the best punch he had ever thrown or landed. It must have felt like a million bucks. But to be honest, that would be minimizing things. That punch was worth far more than $1M to Froch. 

Until that point, the rematch between the grizzled veteran Froch and the upstart Groves was neck-and-neck. The opening rounds were oddly tentative, with both fighters seeming tight to me, as if they were chastened by their initial encounter in November when Froch was knocked down in the first round but rallied to score a stoppage in the ninth. On Saturday, Groves tried to conserve energy while Froch didn't want to expose himself to Groves' right hand. 

When he let his hands go, Groves still beat Froch to the punch; however, it was only one shot at a time – just a jab or a right hand. Froch stuck with his jab and waited for opportunities to flurry and roughhouse Groves against the ropes. Many of the rounds were close, Groves' clean, single shots vs. Froch's intermittent combinations where a number of shots were blocked. 

In Froch's corner, there was one piece of crucial information that I picked up from his trainer, Rob McCracken. He kept saying, "Close the gap." And when the final sequence of the bout is replayed, it's easy now to see how Froch won the battle of geography. With Groves' back to the ropes, Froch feinted the right hand, then followed through with a rather pedestrian left hook and finished with the smashing right hand. The left hook was thrown only with the intention of landing the right hand behind it. 

This begs the question: why was Groves spending so much time along the ropes in the rematch? With the faster hands and feet, Groves had advantages in the center of the ring and yet there he was letting Froch tee off on him from close range. 

The slow motion replay of the knockout told the story. Although Groves picked off Froch's left hook, his face was 100% exposed to the follow up right hand. His left hand was down by his waist and he belatedly tried to counter the shot but it was too late. 

The sequence also illustrated Groves' physical state at that moment of the fight. There were two reasons why Groves' left hand was so low, and neither was a good one: 1. His technique started to fall apart because he had stamina issues. 2. He was protecting against another flurry to the body. 

Regardless of which reason explained the low left hand, Groves' bad hand placement highlighted Froch's success in the fight. Throughout the bout, Groves reacted very poorly to Froch's body work. (This also occurred in their first match.) During his flurries, Froch unloaded with left and right hooks to the body unmercifully. As the fight progressed, Groves used his legs much more sparingly and the bout became a stationary battle. Again, Groves won a number of rounds, but, like the first match, he resorted to fighting Froch's fight. Groves' stamina was a real issue in both bouts, and he lacked the wherewithal or conditioning to stick with his game plan. By the time the final blow was struck on Saturday, Froch's body work had done its job. Groves was either gassed or forced under duress into a technical mistake. And that was the fight. 

In the lead-up to the rematch, I switched my prediction a number of times. In the end, I believed that Froch would find a way to win. Essentially, I was siding with who I felt was the smarter fighter. In my experience following boxing, when the talent spread is fairly equal between the combatants, the smarter one usually prevails (there are some notable exceptions). I hadn't liked the way that Groves had conducted himself during the final few rounds of the first fight and I felt like his Ring IQ was not quite up to Froch's level. 

Ultimately, Froch was willing to give up a few rounds to make the fight go his way (prior to the knockout he was up one round on two cards and down one on the other). In his estimation (and I agree with him), once the fight was a battle at close range, it was only a matter of time until he was victorious. Groves did a lot of things well on Saturday, but ring generalship wasn't one of them. 

Finally, one must remark on the character and heart of Groves. After getting blown to smithereens by the final shot, Groves still tried like hell to get up. Even with his left leg bent completely under his body, he somehow found a way to make it to his feet. It was an admirable showing of guts and determination. Thankfully, ref Charlie Fitch saved Groves, who was in terrible shape, from sustaining further damage. Nevertheless, that moment illustrates Groves' desire to be a champion. Now, he must learn how to condition his body and mind to make it so. 

Groves needs some easier fights, perhaps a sagacious assistant trainer and a lot of film study, but the tools are there for him to be a major factor in the super middleweight division. Hopefully he understands that at age 26, time is on his side. If he takes three fights to build himself back up, that world title crown could be his. However, if he insists on immediately going after big game, his development could be forever stunted. There are a lot of experienced, tough cats at 168 (Ward, Abraham, Kessler, Stieglitz and Bika). Groves needs to gain some more experience in the ring before he is ready for those challenges. 

As for Froch, there probably won't be a better moment in his career than Saturday's finale. With the roar of the London crowd after the knockout, Froch finally received universal praise and respect from English fight fans. Having come of age at the tail end of Calzaghe's reign with little fanfare and a lesser promoter, Froch was deemed an unworthy heir to a British-dominated division with legendary names like Eubank, Benn and Calzaghe. He was dismissed as crude and slow, however unfairly. 

At the world-level, Froch has revealed himself to be much more than a barroom brawler, but old stereotypes often die hard. On Saturday, those demons were put to rest for good. That final sequence demonstrated how clever he can be in the ring. Sure, he likes to mix it up, but his willingness to trade often masks his substantial ring intelligence.  

Quieting his detractors and quashing the surrounding negativity (some of which was his own doing), Froch experienced only glory on Saturday. He will always have that perfect punch in front of 80,000 screaming fight fans. May 31, 2014 will forever be his night in British boxing lore. 

Wrapping up some other action throughout the weekend, there were some shady, shady happenings during the featherweight title bout between Nonito Donaire and Simpiwe Vetyeka in Macau, China. Donaire won a fifth-round technical decision, as the fight was stopped on cuts. However, the match was full of controversy, incompetence and questionable decision making. 

Donaire was the challenger, but he was clearly the Top Rank house fighter and crowd favorite. He sustained a nasty cut over his left eyelid early in the fight (it was unclear if ref Luis Pabon ruled the cut as a result of a punch or a clash of heads, more on him in a bit). Donaire proceeded to paw at the cut throughout the third and fourth round, even ceasing to fight at points resulting in Pabon compliantly leading him to the ringside physician for an examination. In boxing protocol, only the ref or the doctor can decide when to suspend action for a physician examination, yet Pabon responded to Donaire's unwillingness to fight with several trips to the neutral corner.  

In the fourth round, Donaire scored a knockdown with a left hook. After the bell ended in the fourth, the fight was technically official. Pabon then proceeded to call off the match immediately after the start of the fifth – Donaire was awarded the decision victory on the judges' scorecards. 

Now, Pabon could have stopped the fight in the fourth, leading to a no-contest. He chose a moment to end it where the house fighter would almost certainly be given the win. Pabon also displayed indecisiveness about ending the fight and a farcical amount of favoritism to Donaire by allowing him to take breaks from the oncoming pressure fighter. At least Donaire was gracious enough to offer Vetyeka a rematch after the fight, which was very competitive. It was a dreadful way for Donaire to win another title belt and his performance did not scream "champion."

Luis Pabon has caused havoc on the international boxing scene for many years. I refer to him as the Puerto Rican Laurence Cole, for wherever he goes, bad decision making follows. Who could forget his failure to police Klitschko-Povetkin, his arbitrary point deductions in Allakhverdiev-M'Baye and his refusal to let Marco Huck work on the inside against Povetkin? Mark Ortega, of Behind the Gloves, brilliantly referred to Saturday's action as Vetyeka getting "Paboned." And there's a lot of truth there. Perhaps there isn't a more incompetent big-time referee in the sport. 

As for Donaire, for this fight he reenlisted his father as head trainer and promised a better performance than his last two outings against Guillermo Rigondeaux and Vic Darchinyan. On Saturday, I saw many of the same signs of the sluggish, late-period Donaire, the one who waits for one-punch knockouts and loads up with left hooks. He put a nice combination together in the fourth which led to the knockdown, but he was also beaten to the punch by Vetyeka throughout the fight and was hit pretty cleanly. 

At one point in time, Donaire was considered a top-five fighter in the sport. But his years of dominance have led to several bad habits in the ring. In addition, his insistence in looking for a way out of Saturday's fight speaks to a lack of mental toughness, which was also in evidence against Rigondeaux.

There are some real talents at featherweight. I wouldn't necessarily count Donaire out against any of them, but I also don't feel particularly confident in that statement. He rarely puts punches together these days and if his desire isn't there, more bad fortune might befall him in the ring, and soon. 

On the Donaire-Vetyeka undercard, one of the rising stars of the featherweight division, Nicholas Walters of Jamaica, made his second title defense against Vic Darchinyan, scoring a brutal knockout in the fifth round with a vicious, compact left hook. Unknown to most in the boxing world a year ago, Walters in now 24-0 with 20 knockouts, and the power is real – not merely a function of weak opposition. Against Darchinyan, he scored three knockdowns, one with his right uppercut and two with his left hook. He didn't even land his best punch that cleanly in the fight, his straight right hand. 

With three knockout weapons, a 73-inch reach and a lot of athleticism, Walters may soon become the class of the featherweight division (however, there are a number of intriguing candidates for that position). He still can be a little raw when delivering his punches and I have yet to see him think his way through a tough fight, but he is certainly one to watch. Top Rank has found a real diamond in the rough here. Expect to see him on HBO soon. 

And on the Froch-Groves II undercard, James DeGale finally put together a great performance, dispatching Brandon Gonzales in four rounds. Although DeGale always had excellent hand and foot speed, an awkward style and a solid jab, he frequently displayed two glaring deficiencies in his pro career: he could become passive and he didn't often sit down on his shots. 

Fighting with something to prove on Saturday, DeGale stormed out of the gates in the first round with power shots. Switch-hitting and using his athletic advantages, he flummoxed Gonzales in the opening frame. After a close second, DeGale took over in the third, crushing Gonzales with hard left hands and fast combinations. He eventually sent Gonzales down twice before the match was stopped in the fourth (too early probably, but hey, it was a British ref, it happens).

If things had broken differently for DeGale, the former Olympic gold medalist, it could have been him fighting in the main event. He lost a razor-thin decision to Groves in 2011. Since that defeat, he had numerous promotional issues, injuries and uneven performances. Now aligned with promotional powerhouse Matchroom Sport, DeGale has spoken about his renewed commitment to the sport. 

After the knockout, he called out Froch. Quite honestly, I don't think that DeGale is ready for that type of battle yet. Gonzales was certainly a capable challenger but he is still a few levels below Froch. If DeGale is gung-ho in shooting for a title, I think that Sakio Bika is his best bet. Although Bika can be rough and packs a punch, he's essentially a straight-line fighter. DeGale would have a good chance to box and outmaneuver him. But let's leave matchmaking for another day. At least DeGale has made the boxing world care about him again; that's an excellent start.

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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