Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Weekend Recap: Whose Stock Went Up?

After a huge boxing weekend that featured pay per views in both America and the U.K., it's time to assess how the principals performed and what may be next for them. For the fighters listed, I'll recap how they fared and how their respective statuses in the sport have changed after their performances.

Manny Pacquiao: Rising

Pacquiao scored six knockdowns over Chris Algieri (although not all of them were legitimate) and dominated from start to finish. Winning by 16 points on two cards and 18 (yes, 18!!!!) on the other one, Pacquiao still looked like a dominant fighter in the sport. Although he faced some criticism for not putting Algieri away, Pacquiao showed excellent power and if the bout featured a competent ref or opposing corner, the fight surely would have been stopped. It was also nice to see him feature his right hook and some body punches; it was an overall well-rounded performance. After the fight, the obligatory Floyd Mayweather trumpet was sounded. Who knows were Manny goes next but he's certainly still in business as a world-class fighter and top box office attraction.

Chris Algieri: Falling

Not lacking confidence outside of the ring, Algieri transformed into an altogether different, timid creature once the opening bell sounded. Spending most of the fight on his bike, Algieri didn't perform like a boxer who was there to win. Refusing to plant his feet or engage for prolonged stretches, Algieri's offense consisted of flicking jabs and the occasional right hand. He was never in the fight for one second and he looked overmatched throughout the bout's entirety. Although he does have a lot of options in the 140-lb. division, he's going to have make some real changes to his approach. Algieri's current form doesn't allow for enough offense to beat the elite in the sport and he needs to expand his punch arsenal. I'd also suggest getting a real trainer.

Tony Bellew: Slightly Rising

Bellew beat his archrival Nathan Cleverly via a split decision. The bout was a rematch of a close fight that Bellew dropped in 2011. With Saturday's win, I'm sure that Bellew gained immense personal satisfaction from finally taking down his nemesis. However, for boxing fans, the bout was torture. Bellew wound up winning on account of his superior effort, not necessarily because he was all that effective. Bellew did have the heavier hands throughout the fight but only when he landed, which wasn't nearly often enough. He was able to break through during the last four rounds, where he teed off on a gassed Cleverly, who parked himself on the ropes. Bellew is now in line to face cruiserweight champion Marco Huck. There was nothing in Bellew's performance on Saturday that would cause even a moment's pause among the current cruiserweight titlists.

Nathan Cleverly: Falling

Alarmingly, if Cleverly decided to muster his reserves and go all out in the 12th round, he could've earned a draw, which in my opinion wouldn't have been a just verdict. Cleverly did so little in the last half of the fight, and even in the early rounds he didn't seem right to me. Sure, he won some rounds with his jab and defensive technique but his legs weren't there at all. He looked to be fighting at half-speed. Throughout most of the bout, he refused to throw his right hand and it was clear that he wasn't fighting to the best of his abilities. His performance could have a number of explanations: he was hiding an injury from training camp, he over-trained, he was scared to throw his right because of a counter, he lacked confidence, or any combination of the four. Ultimately, it was a listless performance, devoid of the passion and energy of his best efforts. Cleverly needs to evaluate whether he wants to continue boxing because he will soon turn into roadkill if he doesn't reconnect with his love of the sport.

Roman Gonzalez: Rising

Gonzalez continued his path of destruction by stopping Rocky Fuentes in the sixth round (he has a ridiculous 85% knockout rate). Gonzalez featured his entire arsenal in the fight and his relentless pressure and savage body attack wore down the usually durable Fuentes. The top dog at flyweight, Gonzalez has several attractive options for 2015, perhaps the best one being a rematch against titleholder Juan Estrada, whom Gonzalez beat in a thrilling match in 2012 at junior flyweight. Estrada has improved significantly since that bout while Gonzalez has continued to beat down all comers. Here's hoping that fight happens next year.

Vasyl Lomachenko: Rising

Featherweight titlist Lomachenko dominated mandatory contender Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo, winning by 13 points and scoring a knockdown in the fourth round. But that recap doesn't even begin to tell the story. Lomachenko's breathless footwork, punch variety, athleticism and combination punching were absolutely thrilling to watch and his fourth round was the best three minutes that I've seen from a boxer all year. Lomachenko hurt his left wrist in the beginning of the seventh round but he still won the remaining frames with a stunning display of intelligence, angles and creativity. Watching Lomachenko maneuver himself around his opponent and land lead uppercuts and hooks, I felt like I was observing the epitome of the sweet science. In only four professional fights, Lomachenko already possesses pound-for-pound level skills. He wants a fight against fellow titlist Nicholas Walters in 2015, one of the best matchups that can be made in boxing. If Lomachenko can defeat Walters, he will quickly ascend to the upper reaches of the sport.

Anthony Joshua: Rising

Joshua blew through British trial horse Michael Sprott in one round, pulverizing him with vicious right hands. As usual, Joshua mixed in patience with his ferocity. His knockouts continue to come during the flow of action, not on account of wildness or being out of control. Now 10-0 with 10 knockouts, Joshua will next fight American Kevin Johnson, a boxer who should be able to give him some needed rounds.

James DeGale: Rising

Facing former title challenger Marco Antonio Periban, DeGale unleashed a sweet combination in the third round that ended the fight. (Perhaps it was stopped early, but hey, it's Britain. These things happen.) He started the damage with a lightning-quick left hand, followed up with a few more shots and concluded matters with another hard left. No fighter had ever dominated Periban to that degree. DeGale has really turned a corner in his career and his improvement can be attributed to his belief in his own offense. As he has become more comfortable in the pocket, his right hook and straight left hand have become powerful weapons. DeGale is currently in a holding pattern until Carl Froch decides on whom he will next fight (DeGale is Froch's mandatory challenger for one of his title belts). Irrespective of Froch's decision, DeGale looks to be on target for his first world title shot in 2015.

Marco Antonio Periban: Falling

Periban is going backwards in his career. Last year he had a hard-fought draw against then-titlist Sakio Bika. Now, he has lost to J'Leon Love and DeGale in consecutive fights. Periban missed weight badly for Saturday's fight and didn't seem to be in good shape for the match. Periban looks more and more like a gatekeeper than an actual contender in the super middleweight division.

George Groves: Unchanged

After an uncomfortable first three rounds against Denis Douglin, a southpaw who had spent most of his career at 154 and 160 pounds, Groves went back to basics and eventually bested him, scoring a stoppage in the seventh round. Groves fought recklessly early in the bout, reaching with knockout-type shots that mostly hit air or shoulder. Once he realized that he had a fight on his hands, he started putting punches together, stopped overcommitting with his shots and did an excellent job of hammering the body. Quickly, Douglin lost his friskiness. Groves possesses a lot of quality attributes in the ring – athleticism, fast hands and good offensive technique. However, it takes him a while to make adjustments and he makes his fair share of strategic and tactical mistakes. Next, he could be in line to face titlist Anthony Dirrell, which would set up a fascinating contest between two flawed but explosive super middleweights.

Jessie Vargas: Rising

Vargas turned in one of the best performances of his career by defeating Antonio DeMarco by a unanimous decision (116-112 x 3). Working with Roy Jones as his trainer for the first time, DeMarco did a much better job of sitting down on his shots than he has in recent fights. In addition, he showed a very solid beard. Vargas may never have the power or elite athleticism to be the top guy at 140 or 147 but he's certainly able to defeat B-fighters and perhaps pick off an elite talent who's having an off night. His name has been floated as a Pacquiao opponent for 2015 but I don't think that he has the profile for such a high-powered event. (However, nobody last year would've picked Algieri as a future Pacquiao opponent – strange things happen in this sport.) It's more likely that we see Vargas next against a tough guy like Postol or Provodnikov. Either of those fights could be fantastic.

Antonio DeMarco: Unchanged

DeMarco is a heavy-handed guy who can look extremely vulnerable against athletic boxers. Even though he dropped Saturday's decision to Vargas, he still had several moments in the fight and showed that his power can play up at 140. And make no mistake; Vargas had to be very good to beat him. DeMarco still doesn't have much of a right hand but his left cross and uppercut remain serious weapons. He'll always be a live underdog because of his power but I wouldn't favor him over anyone in the top-15 of the division. With that being said, guys with power are only one punch away.

Scott Quigg: Unchanged

Junior featherweight titlist Quigg easily dispatched Hidenori Otake, winning at least 10 rounds on each scorecard. It was a very workmanlike performance, with Quigg going hard to the body and showcasing his inside fighting skills. A lot of British fans enjoy ragging on Quigg because his title reign has been littered with weak opposition and he lacks the flash and sizzle of fellow titlist Carl Frampton. And although those criticisms may be correct to a degree, Quigg has turned himself into an excellent technician in the ring and a fighter who truly enjoys mixing it up in close quarters. All that he needs now are suitable opponents. Paging Eddie Hearn. Paging Eddie Hearn.

Jamie McDonnell: Unchanged

Bantamweight titlist McDonnell struggled early against late-replacement Javier Chacon and the fight was very close through six rounds. As the match progressed, McDonnell started to have more success, landing his jab and power shots with increased frequency and authority. In the 10th, Chacon stopped the fight after injuring his shoulder, giving McDonnell a TKO win. Ultimately, McDonnell wasn't particularly sharp and he'll need to be a lot better in his next outing, a unification match against fellow titlist Tomoki Kameda.

Zou Shiming: Rising

In just six professional fights, Zou has already shed many of the amateur habits that don't translate well into pro success. Under trainer Freddie Roach, the decorated amateur has become much better at harnessing his power and sitting down on his shots. He also seems much more comfortable fighting in the pocket. On Saturday, Zou showed a menacing right hand and in another encouraging sign, he took several hard punches yet he maintained his aggressiveness throughout the bout. He dropped Kwanpichit OnesongchaiGym four times, picking up a wide decision win in his first 12-round fight. Already 33, Zou will be looking for a title shot in 2015. I wouldn't make him a favorite against any of the current flyweight titlists but he's certainly progressing into a viable challenger.
Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of saturdaynightboxing.com.
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
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