Friday, August 22, 2014

SNB Mailbag

It's time for another edition of the Saturday Night Boxing Mailbag. All questions were submitted to the Saturday Night Boxing Facebook Forum. There’s lots of great stuff here, so let's get to it. 

Al Haymon

Is Al Haymon's position in the sport a danger to boxing?
Kram Sanoraa

There have always been kingmakers in boxing who have tried to control the sport (and not just King, Don). As much as they attempt to obtain a stranglehold over certain divisions and television networks, the sport marches on. Haymon is just "that guy" right now. Although I disagree with a number of Haymon's tactics, he has done a very good job of getting his best guys on TV. 

Frankly, there are too many talented fighters in the sport for boxing to be in serious danger. Remember, Haymon only has a foothold in the North American market. Boxing thrives throughout the world. I would argue that the sport is currently healthiest outside America, far removed from Haymon's machinations. Even with that said, there is still adequate competition in the U.S. market. I don't see Al Haymon's current status as a long-term threat to boxing in America. Boxing has had a number of self-inflicted wounds in the U.S. and I don't see Haymon as chief among them. 

In a perfect world, I'd like to see Haymon challenge his boxers more and make better fights. In addition, he could certainly surround himself with higher caliber boxing people who could help enhance the development of his fighters. 

On another note, Haymon doesn't become the force that he is without docile TV networks executives bending to his will. With a less permissive atmosphere at Showtime, suddenly Haymon's fighters would be matched tougher. HBO had a similar problem with Haymon before the network jettisoned him from its airwaves in 2013. 

Do you think fighters are being developed right today?
Kirk Brown
Montego Bay, Jamaica

That's a tough question to answer because there are certainly good and bad examples in contemporary boxing. I'll just say this: with four title belts per division these days, it's a much easier path to become a "champion" than it was generations ago. Thus, the top 15-guys in a division are really only a fight or two away from a belt. This reality produces a lot of incentives (for boxers, promoters and managers) to protect a fighter's ranking and can certainly hinder a boxer's development.

Some promoters, such as Top Rank, do an excellent job of developing fighters. But there are other companies and management teams who like to take shortcuts to the top. I believe that a number of fighters who are managed/advised by Al Haymon have fallen into this category. Talents such as Jermain Taylor, Andre Berto, Danny Jacobs, Adrien Broner, Gary Russell Jr. and others have fallen short of their ultimate potential because they weren't put in very tough during their development. However, there are Haymon fighters, such as Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia, who I believe have been developed well, but I think that they are more of the exception than the rule. 

Belts, weight classes and sanctioning bodies

Are all of the weight classes necessary, for example, 112, 115, 118, 122, 126 and 130?
Armando Torres Ruiz
San Juan

I don't have a real problem with it. I think that the four belts per division water down the sport more than the various weight classes do. And frankly, there are excellent fighters at each of the weights that you have mentioned. The main problem is that not enough of them face each other. 

Why aren't people attracted to lighter weights (minimum weight, light flyweight, etc.) considering there is often more action in those fights?
Anto Connolly

In certain countries, such as Japan and Mexico, boxers from smaller weight classes have become huge stars. In other parts of the world – for example, America – fighters from the lighter weights have struggled to catch on with boxing fans, let alone casual sports fans at-large. There are notable exceptions both ways but historically it's been a cultural difference. 

However, your essential point is right; there's no reason why smaller-weight fighters can't attract more attention. A lot of television networks are risk-averse. Their programmers believe that boxing fans don't want to see smaller fighters so then these boxers are never put on-air. It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. Luckily, the internet makes it easier for boxing fans around the world to watch smaller fighters. 

Two very attractive lower-weight fights take place in September: Akira Yaegashi-Roman Gonzalez and Juan Estrada-Giovani Segura. Sadly, the major U.S. networks won't be televising either fight, but boxing fans can now see these matches live on their computers; at least we have that option now. I keep waiting for the U.S. networks to come around to the flyweight division, which may be the best weight class in boxing, but it hasn't happened yet.  

Which sanctioning body has the most credibility?
Brandon Pierce
Council, North Carolina

I'm assuming that you want something other than "none" as your answer. Currently, I believe that the IBF does the best job of following its rules and being transparent in its administration. Historically, the IBF has been plagued by corruption but it has recovered well under President Daryl Peoples. I don't agree with everything that the IBF does; for instance, I still can't understand how the organization let Lamont Peterson keep his belt after testing positive for enhanced levels of testosterone, but the IBF has distinguished itself over the other bodies in the past five years. Granted, that's faint praise at best. 

In your opinion, which is THE main championship belt today? Is it the IBF, WBC, WBA, WBO or The Ring title?
Deepak Ramesh
Chennai, India

Of the ones you listed, I believe that fighters who attain The Ring belt have the most legitimacy. As far as the other sanctioning organizations, the boxer makes the belt and not the other way around. I don't care if Klitschko has an "official" title or not – he’s number-one in the division.  

In terms of the best rankings in boxing, permit me to make a shameless plug for the Transnational Boxing Rankings (I am a member of its board). The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board is a collection of boxing writers from around the world who rank the top-10 fighters in each division. And trust me; we take this task seriously – probably way too seriously! All joking aside, I think that our rankings are as fair and just as you will find in the sport. Check it out at

Do you think there should be one champion per division or are you fine with the four that there are now?
Sean Charleston

Obviously, I would prefer one champion in each division over the current scenario. It would create more meaning within boxing, which would provide clarification for fans and make the sport easier to understand for those who are less familiar with it. One champion would be a great way to help grow the sport. 

However, there are some important historical reasons why multiple sanctioning bodies exist. First of all, with only one champion, it becomes easy to avoid a particular challenger or freeze him out of the division. Second, with just one belt, the incentives for corruption would be astronomical. If you think that sanctioning body politics are crazy now, just wait until there is one champion per division – lots of cash in manila envelopes.

Honestly, I don't think that either scenario is ideal.  For a number of decades, Japan only recognized the WBC and the WBA (they have since recognized a third organization) and I believe that two champions is probably the best model for the current state of boxing. With two belts, fighters could still get a crack at the top but the divisions wouldn't get so watered down. Let's go with two organizations. 

What is the reason/meaning of a WBC silver belt (besides a sanctioning fee)?
Ricardo Guevara
Mountain View, California

There is only one instance where it makes sense. In many jurisdictions, in order to have a 12-round fight, one of the major sanctioning bodies has to support it. Thus, if Andre Ward wanted to fight a 12-round tune-up bout, he would need the approval of one of the sanctioning organizations for that to occur. Essentially, without a title or a title eliminator on the line, boxing has migrated to 10-round fights. The silver belt, in theory, permits boxers to take a 12-round fight against a lesser opponent. But you're right; in practice, the silver belt functions merely as a cash grab for the WBC. 


Will Wladimir Klitschko man up and fight Deontay Wilder before he retires?
Todd Metcalfe
Mount Dora, Florida

I have two answers to that: 1. With the exception of his brother, Wlad has fought practically every big name out there during his title reign. 2. What exactly has Wilder accomplished to this point that Wlad needs to "man-up" about? 

Will the heavyweight division ever be the money division again?
Louis Phillips
Leigh-on-Sea, England

In terms of money, the top heavyweights still make a very good living and Wladimir Klitschko is probably the third highest-paid fighter in the sport after Mayweather and Pacquiao. But you probably mean "money" like glamour. I'll respond by saying that the sport is cyclical. Some divisions go through ruts but frankly, the heavyweight division is a lot more interesting now than it was five years ago. There are a number of heavyweights who could make excellent fights, including Stiverne, Fury, Wilder, Haye, Chisora, Jennings, Povetkin and Pulev. British prospect Anthony Joshua could be right there in another two years. I don't know how many of these guys beat Klitschko, but they could make some great fights in the meantime. 

But will the heavyweight division every capture the imagination of the sports fan the way that it did in previous generations? In parts of the world where Klitschko is popular, I'm sure that it's happening right now. Klitschko's TV ratings are astronomical in Germany and he sells out huge arenas wherever he fights. 

For those not in Central and Eastern Europe, we're still waiting for that perfect mix of talent, power and charisma to emerge. I'm not sure when that fighter will arrive or if that person is currently boxing, but I wouldn't bet against it happening soon. As I said earlier, the sport is cyclical. Keep hope alive!


Do you think a Mayweather loss will hurt his PPV numbers in the future?
Manny Dominguez
Lake Grove, New York

Well, a loss doesn't help. Pacquiao is a great example. His numbers have yet to recovery from his drubbing against Marquez. It also would depend on what kind of loss. If Mayweather gets robbed or loses in a controversial fashion, I wouldn't think that his numbers would necessarily plummet. 

Who would win in a trash talk between Mayorga and Mayweather?
Victor Hernandez
Lebanon, Pennsylvania

Mayorga. Easily. He would win in dos rounds. 


With the Golden Boy vs. Top Rank war, do you think we will ever see the best from one company face the best of the other?
Robert Salinas
Laredo, Texas

Both Bob Arum (Top Rank) and Oscar de la Hoya (Golden Boy) have spoken about doing business together in the near future. However, with the exception of a purse bid (where one company essentially wins the services of another boxer for one fight), a joint Golden Boy-Top Rank promotion has yet to materialize. But with the shifting landscape in boxing and HBO's new-found willingness to bring back Golden Boy fighters on its airwaves, I do think it will happen – maybe not often, but if the opportunity is right, every once in a while.

How good is GGG?
Cam Beaton
Calgary, Canada

Very good. He clearly is one of the most gifted offensive fighters in the sport. He has tremendous knockout power, excellent footwork, a large arsenal of punches, good training habits and a desire to become the best. 

The top test for him right now is Andre Ward at 168 lbs. Ward's athleticism, punch variety and inside fighting skills would be a significant challenge for Golovkin. But let's be honest; neither fighter has really tried to make that fight happen. Until it does, Golovkin will continue to wow audiences and win fans with his knockouts of B-level opponents. 

Hopefully by 2015, we will have a more complete understanding of just how good Golovkin is in the ring. Is he a top-10 pound-for-pound guy? A top-5 guy? Right now, we just don't know. But I really want to find out!

What could Nathan Cleverly do to revive his career?
Jason Davies

1. Cleverly needs to better understand his strengths and weaknesses. He has excellent hand speed and movement yet he likes to stand and trade in the middle of the ring, giving bangers who lack his athletic skills a chance to beat him. He has already brought in a new head trainer, which is a good thing, but I don't think that we'll really see him progress until he realizes that his future is as a boxer. His stubbornness has held him back in my opinion. 

2. Beat Tony Bellew in their rematch. 

Who would you say is the best ever British boxer?
Craig Hart
Tayport, Scotland

I'd have to go with Bob Fitzsimmons (1863-1917). He won titles at middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight back when there was only one true champion per division. Although Fitzsimmons accomplished his greatest professional triumphs in Australia and America, he was born in the U.K. and did spend his formative years there before moving to New Zealand.  

Where would Roy Jones Jr. rank if he quit after the John Ruiz fight?
Joseph Gwilt, 
Bangkok, Thailand

In my mind, not much differently. I don't hold losses against a fighter after his peak. I'm sure that the "aura" of Jones would be greater if he had retired undefeated, but in ranking him among the greats, he doesn't necessarily suffer because of his losses. Along the same lines, I wouldn't have given him extra credit for retiring undefeated. It's always a question of "who you beat and when did you beat them." Rocky Marciano retired as an undefeated fighter but his final record was comparatively weaker than those of other great heavyweights. Very few would consider an unbeaten Marciano as the best heavyweight of all time. Jones probably ranks in the Top 30-50 fighters historically, but I haven't produced an all-time pound-for-pound list and I won't be doing so any time soon. 

Why do you think it's becoming a lot more common for people who started boxing late to have successful careers in the sport?
Nathan Metivier
Saskatoon, Canada

I'm not sure that I buy your premise. Although there are examples of fighters who started late becoming elite (Sergio Martinez is a recent one), late bloomers are still very much the exception to the rule. If you look at the top-10 fighters in the sport (Floyd, Ward, Pacquiao, Marquez, Bradley, Wlad, Froch, Roman Gonzalez, Rigondeaux, Hopkins), only Hopkins came late to boxing. Levels down, yes, there are some fighters who have gotten a late start in boxing who go on to have successful careers. But I don't necessarily see a trend where that is becoming more frequent. The best fighters almost always have an extensive amateur career or turn pro at a very young age. 

Roberto Duran vs. Pernell Whitaker at 135, who wins?
Richie Urnaitis
Poughkeepsie, New York

Ah!!!! A spectacular mythical fight! The consummate brawler vs. the master boxer. You know what; I'd actually take Duran in the fight. His activity level and aggression would naturally appeal to judges. I think that some of Whitaker's subtle work, ring generalship and defense might get missed. In a 12-round fight, I think that Duran is more of a favorite. In a 15-rounder, maybe Whitaker figures Duran out and has a big second half. Either way, I think that Duran might get the victory on the scorecards and not actually win the fight. 

What do you think is the attraction to boxing and why don't you think the UFC will ever surpass it?
David Redpath
Fife, Scotland

That's actually two questions so let may break them down individually. Boxing's attractions are manifold. It's sport, or competition, at its most primal. These athletes are modern-day warriors and they put their lives at risk every time they go into the ring. We marvel at their bravery, courage and resiliency. For most of us, we couldn't conceive of subjecting ourselves to that kind of brutality and yet we stare at amazement at those who do. There's certainly a vicarious element to it. 

But it's not just about blood and guts. The Queensberry Rules helped to regulate the sport. There's a structure to boxing that lends itself to variety. It's not a fight-to-the-death but rather a contest. There are various limitations on acceptable methods of attack. Thus, the sport has become an art form. There are many styles that can lead to a championship: knockout artists, brawlers, boxers, runners, jab-and-grabbers, pressure fighters and boxer-punchers. There is a beauty to the sport at its highest level and there's also a purity to it. Sure, you have to be tough to become a boxing champion but you better be smart too. 

As far as the MMA/UFC, I certainly have a bias in that I'm not a fan of that sport. In some ways, MMA has done very well for itself, growing significantly and gaining a substantial international following. In just a few decades, the sport has captivated millions of fans and in many parts of the U.S. and other countries, amateur MMA fighters clearly outnumber novice boxers. In another generation or two, it will be interesting to see if boxing can maintain its talent pool. MMA has certainly produced a number of wonderful athletes, many of whom might have gone into boxing.

However, boxing has numerous structural advantages over MMA that will enable its success in future decades and generations. Most importantly, boxing is an Olympic sport and nations will continue to spend money to foster and cultivate its amateur program. A second factor is boxing's sense of history, which has created wonderful regional, geographic and ethnic rivalries over the years. A young Puerto Rican or Mexican fighter would be far more drawn to the cultural push of boxing than he would be to the MMA. 

A third reason for boxing's continued success over MMA, and specifically the UFC, is money. Boxers get paid much more than those in the UFC do. Although Dana White has done a great job of growing the UFC, the best fighters in that sport make a pittance of what world-level boxers do. He essentially runs a monopoly in the U.S. and can control costs accordingly. Boxing, the sparsely-regulated mess that it is, still has its capitalist appeal. If you're among the best in the sport, you'll make millions. If you're a top UFC fighter, the financial benefits pale in comparison to boxing. Until the dollars start to even out, boxing will have a significant advantage.   

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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Monday, August 18, 2014

Opinions and Observations: Porter-Brook

Shawn Porter had the right game plan against Kell Brook on Saturday. Going into the fight, Team Porter probably saw the following:
  • Brook was hurt against Carson Jones (in their first match) and Vyacheslav Senchenko, two moderate punchers.
  • Brook's conditioning and composure deteriorated during the first Jones fight and he barely escaped with a win.
  • Brook had weight issues for the Jones rematch and had recently appeared in bouts well above 147 – thus, it was very possible that Brook had been cutting corners in training camp and/or he had outgrown the division.
From reviewing these factors above, the sensible game plan for Porter was to apply pressure from the jump, with the belief that Brook would eventually get hurt and lose his poise in the ring. Once that occurred, Brook, with perhaps subpar conditioning, would be susceptible to a knockout. 

And Porter followed the game plan as instructed. He attacked Brook with reckless abandon (more on the reckless later). Throwing gigantic right hands from the outside and wide left hooks while jumping in, Porter tried to end the fight early. Unfortunately for him, most of his shots didn't land cleanly, as Brook either slipped a lot of the shots, took a half-step back to avoid them or let them glance off of a non-scoring part of his body. (Porter did have some success early with good body punches – another great tactic against a fighter who might have conditioning problems.) 

Porter's problem on Saturday was that Brook didn't follow the script, and there was no Plan B. Brook didn't wilt under pressure. His chin held up fine and he was in great physical condition. Brook helped to protect his chin with lead and counter jabs and did a masterful job of smothering Porter's shots and tying him up. Nevertheless, Porter stuck with his opening strategy, even as Brook developed more confidence as the fight progressed.

Here's a sequence from the 11th round that illustrated Brook's success in the fight, specifically his accuracy, intelligence and ring generalship. In the center of the ring, Porter rushed forward and launched a right hand. Brook took a step back and hit him with a jab. Porter lunged in again and Brook retreated, landing another jab. Porter then jumped in a third time in the sequence and Brook connected with yet another jab. Next, Porter fired off a looping right hand that Brook ducked under; the shot glanced off the back of Brook's neck (not a scoring blow). Then, Brook tied him up. That sequence was a textbook example of ineffective aggression by Porter; Brook was the one who did the better work. That pattern manifested throughout the match. 

It's not that Brook dominated Porter in the fight. He racked up several small advantages in rounds that led to his victory. He scored with cleaner shots but he wasn't particularly active with his punch output. His footwork and athleticism helped neutralize much of Porter's offensive attack. His defense was better throughout the fight. Porter did score with some jabs and body shots but the better punches were consistently Brook's. 

As I stated earlier, Porter's game plan was sound, but when the initial approach failed to yield success, noticeable adjustments were lacking. Porter's father/trainer, Kenny, who often does a marvelous job coaching his son (he was my trainer of the year for 2013), didn't come up with another viable plan for his fighter. Porter halfheartedly tried to work on the outside in the seventh and eighth rounds but it was ineffectual. He wound up just eating jabs and he abandoned that tactic pretty quickly. 

I would have liked to have seen Porter jab to the body more. He needed to try to work his way in behind shorter shots. Porter's bombs were telegraphed and fairly easy to prepare for. He also smothered himself too much on the inside, eliminating the possibility of having an effective uppercut. Porter didn't employ his entire arsenal and he failed to use his considerable boxing skills. 

Again, Porter wasn't dominated, but he was beaten. The final scores were 117-111, 116-112 and 114-114 (all scores were acceptable). I had it for Brook 115-113. 

Saturday was easily Brook's best performance as a pro. With essentially his jab, straight right hand and a few left hooks, he did enough offensively to take the fight. And Brook rarely unloaded his left uppercut; it's one of his best punches. 

A lot of credit has to be given to Brook and his corner for making improvements from their previous fights. After the first Jones bout, neither fighter nor trainer (Dominic Ingle) was pleased by the performance. Brook admitted that he had taken training lightly at times and decided to bring in a nutritionist. He also talked about rededicating himself to fight preparation. (Lots of boxers say this but it appears to be true in Brook's case.) 

Ingle, who seemed befuddled in the late rounds of the first Jones fight, had Brook well prepared for Porter and was a guiding force on Saturday. During the early rounds when Porter had some success, Ingle remained even-keeled, stressing the importance of clean punching and focus. There was no chaos in the corner and Ingle's instructions were precise and correct. Furthermore, Ingle's teachings in the gym really paid off during the fight. Brook did a wonderful job of tying up and neutralizing an athletic opponent. Wisely, he relied on accuracy instead of power.   

Even though there were many technical things that Brook did well on Saturday, his composure and intelligence ultimately won him the fight. He didn't try to be too brave; he refused to exchange big shots with Porter. He wasn't intimidated physically or mentally by Porter's grappling on the inside. Brook stuck to his strengths on offense, landing with accurate jabs and short power shots. And his defensive maneuverings were fluid and natural. He didn't let Porter's roughhouse tactics get to him and he rejected brawling in favor of cleaner boxing.

Brook has come a long way in the ring. I saw him live in Atlantic City in December of 2011 against Luis Galarza, a fighter who was dreadfully overmatched. At that point in his career, Brook's left hand was leaps and bounds ahead of his right one. His lead jab was excellent and his counter jab was already among the best in the sport. He pasted Galarza with multi-punch combinations, almost all with his left hand. However, Brook's right hand was negligible in that fight; it was essentially a "show" punch. In addition, Brook had a bad habit of admiring his work after landing a combination. Even Galarza was able to hit him with some good right hands. 

By the time of the second Carson Jones fight in July of 2013, Brook's right hand had finally become a weapon. It was a new wrinkle that helped control Jones in that match. The punch was accurate and very solid. 

On Saturday, Brook landed a number of excellent straight rights that thwarted Porter's forward advancement and helped to rack up points. Although Brook's left continues to be his breadwinner, his right hand has become a very important part of his arsenal. 

Brook's defense has also significantly improved. On Saturday, he did an excellent job of protecting his chin and he remained defensibly responsible all fight. He didn't fall prey to any periods of overconfidence, which had hurt him against Jones. In addition, he didn't suddenly change tactics for his own entertainment, which was disastrous in the first Jones bout. He stuck with what worked, and during dead moments, he would pump out a jab, a great way to disincentivize a pressure fighter.

My read on Porter is less certain. In fact, I've flipped-flopped on him so many times that I've lost track. I remember watching him struggle with a shopworn Julio Diaz in their first fight in December of 2012. Porter was caught in between styles, not knowing whether to box or rush in aggressively. I was amazed at how easily Diaz timed him with left hooks. At points in the fight, Porter seemed to have run out of ideas. The knock on Porter coming up in the ranks was that he had a sparring-partner mentality (he had sparred with both Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather). His periods of inactivity and indecisiveness in the first Diaz fight certainly demonstrated the appropriateness of that reputation. 

I was live for Porter's next fight against Phil Lo Greco, where Porter easily dominated an overmatched opponent; yet I felt a lack of urgency in his performance. He was winning every round but he carried Lo Greco in the second half. Porter should have taken him out midway through the fight. 

Something finally clicked for Porter in the Diaz rematch and he put together a consistent performance, winning a decision. Still, I didn't think that he was experienced enough for Devon Alexander; I was certainly wrong. Porter executed a terrific game plan by rushing Alexander with pressure and using his foot speed to prevent Alexander from escaping. I felt that Porter faded in rounds 7-10 but he closed strongly to take a deserved victory. 

Still not fully sold on Porter, I picked Paulie Malignaggi to beat him, believing that if Paulie got to the second half of the fight, his consistent offensive output, jab and footwork would earn a close victory. However, Porter never let the fight get that far. He pasted Malignaggi with odd-angled right hands and blistering left hooks. Watching that fight live in Washington, D.C., Porter seemed to really come into his own. He fought with incredible confidence and had a perfect understanding of how to beat that style of opponent. 

Finally, I sided with Porter in the lead-up to the Brook fight, thinking that Porter's pressure and power would lead to a late stoppage. It wasn't that I didn't rate Brook as a good talent but I believed that his specific problems in past fights could be perfectly exploited by a fighter like Porter. 

Needless to say, I've been 0 for 3 in my predictions for Porter's last fights. I still don't know what to make of him. He has very good foot speed, uses his physicality well, is extremely coachable and has some strong inside fighting skills. However, his struggles on Saturday reminded me of that performance in the first Diaz fight. Porter looked very flustered and he had a lot of difficulty adjusting to a fighter with very good accuracy and timing. 

I think that Porter will still beat a number of guys on the world level but it's time for him and his corner to emphasize some additional aspects of his repertoire. Porter's jab should be featured. He should find opportunities to box in addition to brawling. He needs to realize that swinging for the fences will often result in strikeouts. Keeping things a little shorter will help him in the long run. I wouldn't mind seeing Porter get a rematch with Brook down the line after a few fights. With a more varied attack, he could certainly win. But he had his opportunity on Saturday, and he was beaten by a better fighter. 


Let me give a few thoughts on the officials for Saturday's fight. Yet again, referee Pat Russell proved that his days as a top boxing official have passed him by. Russell was far too permissive in the ring and was consistently late in breaking up clinches. He could have easily taken a point from both fighters: Porter for shots behind the head and Brook for excessive holding. But Russell did nothing, and the fight was very ugly to watch.

Russell misses too much in the ring, whether it was the deliberate foul from Chad Dawson that led to Bernard Hopkins' injury or a blown Ruslan Provodnikov knockdown of Tim Bradley that would have swung the fight to a draw. Let's face it: Russell's old and slow and doesn't make quick decisions. He's not the guy I want reffing a big-time fight. It's time to give him his gold watch.
But praise should be given to judges Max DeLuca and Adalaide Byrd for correctly scoring the fight for Brook. Far too often in boxing (especially in the U.S.), fighters are given credit for ineffective aggression. Byrd's home jurisdiction of Nevada is notorious for this misguided preference. 

Porter-Brook demanded intense concentration. Although Porter was lunging in and "making the fight," most of his work failed to land cleanly. He was consistently stymied by Brook at close quarters. In addition, Brook landed a number of excellent, short counter jabs and left hooks. These shots didn't necessarily hurt Porter, but they were effective in thwarting his attack. I won't tell you that Byrd is an elite judge (she's certainly not) but she did an excellent job on Saturday. De Luca is often regarded as one as California's best judges. I don't necessarily agree (I think that he's serviceable) but he sided with the right guy on Saturday. 

Ultimately, it's good for the sport when a foreign underdog gets a fair shake against a house fighter. It incentivizes more boxers and promoters to leave their comfort zones and take risks. Too often we see how bad judging can wreck boxing's integrity. Porter-Brook was an example of the sport working as designed; I like to highlight that when I can. 

 Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
Contact Adam at 
@snboxing on twitter
Follow Saturday Night Boxing on Facebook:

Monday, August 11, 2014

Pound-for-Pound Update 8-11-14

The major change to the Saturday Night Boxing pound-for-pound list is the continued ascension of middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin, who recently scored one of the most impressive wins of his career by knocking out former unified titleholder Daniel Geale in three rounds. Golovkin moves up from #20 to #14 on the SNB Top Fighters list. Right above Golovkin is Danny Garcia, who remains at the #13 spot after his second-round stoppage of Rod Salka. Although Garcia's KO victory was dominant, Salka was an undistinguished opponent; thus, Garcia's win doesn't warrant consideration for higher placement in the Rankings at this time. The complete Top-20 pound-for-pound list is below: 
  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. Gennady Golovkin
  15. Anselmo Moreno
  16. Nonito Donaire
  17. Juan Estrada
  18. Saul Alvarez
  19. Takashi Uchiyama
  20. Mikey Garcia
 Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
Contact Adam at
@snboxing on twitter
Follow Saturday Night Boxing on Facebook:

Monday, August 4, 2014

On Bad Referees

We know who they are: Laurence Cole, Luis Pabon, Russell Mora, Ian John-Lewis and Vic Drakulich. These are the bad boxing referees. There are other elderly officials, like Lou Moret and Stanley Christodoulou, who lack the athleticism and sharp decision making to referee fights but are still capable judges. All of these officials continue to harm the sport with impunity. Their poor performances are not a secret within the industry yet they still get plum assignments – and boxing continues to suffer as a result. 

Not all of these officials transgress in the same way. Mora plays favorites. John-Lewis and Drakulich lose control of fights. Moret seems to make things up as he goes. Cole also plays favorites and lets fighters take unhealthy punishment. A guy like Jay Nady believes that fight fans come to watch him. Pabon is the definition of arbitrary in his enforcement of rules. Seemingly 80% of British refs will stop a fight if the "B-Side" (especially an international one) looks at them funny. 

Even the best referees have their faults in the ring. Steve Smoger can be laissez-faire in breaking up clinches. Kenny Bayless may miss a knockdown every now and then. Tony Weeks can be a little slow in stopping fights. Robert Byrd rarely catches the rough stuff in clinches. Jack Reiss can be a tad officious. But time after time these refs are in the ring when wonderful fights occur; it's not a coincidence. They establish a rapport with fighters and their teams. They make strong commands in the ring and their judgment is respected. In addition, they aren't looking for reasons to deduct points. That doesn't mean that they always have an easy day at the office but they rarely let a fight spin out of control. Their records speak for themselves. 

Vic Drakulich will never be in the exalted group of the best referees in the sport. Saturday, where he helped ruin a perfectly good fight between Brandon Rios and Diego Chaves, was another illustration as to why he is considered a weak official. One bad judgment begat several additional ones, creating a chain of poor decision making. Drakulich wound up disqualifying Chaves and it was all perfectly avoidable. 

In the third round, Drakulich needlessly deducted a point from Chaves for holding. Sure, there were clinches in the fight, but not an uncommon amount. And it's not as if there wasn't action in the match. Chaves was throwing bombs from the outside and Rios did some great work in close quarters. Just two rounds later, Drakulich deducted a point from Rios when he tackled Chaves to the ground during a clinch. Again, these things happen in fights and it wasn't as if tackling was occurring throughout the bout. That point deduction sure felt like a makeup call. Ask yourself, if Drakulich hadn't deducted the first point from Chaves, would he have then taken the point away from Rios? I think the answer is obvious. 

Then things really started to devolve in the ring, with both fighters fouling with increased frequency and then working the ref to try and get more points deducted from their opponent. Rios kept butting and going low. Chaves butted and thumbed Rios in the eyes on a few occasions. Drakulich deducted another point from Chaves in the seventh. By the ninth, he had seen enough and stopped the bout. Rios, the house fighter, was awarded the victory.  

The grand irony of Saturday's debacle is that Bayless, one of the best in the business, was reffing on the undercard of Rios-Chaves, working the Jessie-Vargas-Anton Novikov fight. Were the Nevada State Athletic Commission sharp, it would have put the better official in the main event, especially since Rios' bouts often involve rough, inside fighting and cuts. Vargas-Novikov wound up resembling a high-level amateur fight where both boxers were busy trying to score points with single shots. Any competent official could have reffed that one. 

Drakulich's performance on Saturday epitomizes the root cause of bad refereeing: weak/obtuse commissions and sanctioning organizations. Very few referees are disciplined for poor performances. I can't remember a high-level referee in modern boxing who has been fired.  Even when refs are punished, they, in time, will resume their previous positions. Russell Mora was formally disciplined for refusing to call low blows during the first Abner Mares-Joseph Agbeko fight. Laurence Cole was suspended for telling Juan Manuel Marquez that he was ahead during a fight. Yet they both continue to work. Cole still gets some of the biggest fights in Texas as well as many international assignments from the sanctioning bodies and Mora continues to officiate plenty of fights in Nevada. Again, these are repeat offenders. 

These refs routinely make poor decisions in their fights but the refusal of boxing's bureaucracies to mete out sufficient discipline ensures that bad officials continue to spoil good fights. With the right ref, Rios-Chaves could have been a fight of the year candidate. Instead, boxing was left with a result that dissatisfied all parties. Now, there are certainly fights that warrant a disqualification. Rios' bout against Anthony Peterson was a good example (and one where Russell Mora acted appropriately in disqualifying Peterson for myriad low blows). But Saturday was not such a fight. It spiraled out of control because Drakulich decided to take points away for minor infractions and then when more serious ones occurred, he was left without recourse. He failed to effectively communicate with the corners between rounds about stopping the rough stuff and he didn't garner the respect of the combatants. 

Drakulich will be called into the Nevada State Athletic Commission on Monday to review his performance in the fight. He might even get a slap on the wrist. But I doubt that there will be a suspension or meaningful discipline; I'd love to be wrong.

It’s worth noting that the last example of proactive discipline from the Nevada State Athletic Commission was the removal of C.J. Ross as a judge. But remember, the former executive director of the commission, Keith Kizer, initially defended Ross' horrid scorecard for Mayweather-Alvarez. It was only when political pressure was exerted upon Kizer from parties above him that definitive action was taken place. Officially, Ross was put on "indefinite leave" but that was just a face-saving measure. She hasn't judged in Nevada again.

Nevada acted forcefully after that debacle only because it was embarrassed in the highest-profile fight of the year. Rios-Chaves does not come close to meeting that standard. Here's hoping that the commission's new executive director, Robert Bennett, imposes strong discipline on Drakulich, but I wouldn't bet on it. 

In the next 12 months, we will continue to see fights ruined by Cole, Pabon, Mora, et al., but the sport will keep humming along. The WBA and WBO love Pabon and send him around the world. Christodoulou is one of the WBA's favored refs for international assignments. The WBC still brings Cole to Japan every so often. Drakulich was somehow the 2010 WBC ref of the year.

Unless some major fiasco occurs that threatens the sanctity of the sport (and run-of-the-mill poor decision making by referees does not count here), these bad officials will continue to harm boxing without any serious consequences. Commissions and sanctioning body organizations are loath to rock the boat. They have created and upheld a rigid and entrenched tenure system that would make even public sector unions blush. Once a referee is part of the club, he never leaves until it is his decision to do so. Because the commissions and sanctioning bodies refuse to impose discipline, we all lose. The result of these actions, or inactions, to put it more accurately, degrades the sport. 

And Vic Drakulich will be back on your TV soon enough. 

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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