Sunday, March 8, 2015

Opinions and Observations: Thurman-Guerrero

Robert Guerrero didn't give himself a very good chance to beat Keith Thurman on Saturday. Fighting the first three quarters of the bout from distance, he couldn't get the better of the stronger and faster Thurman from that range. Thurman picked him off throughout most of the fight with hard right hands, body shots and uppercuts. By staying in the pocket, Guerrero was unable to corral Thurman's movement, which essentially let Thurman dictate the terms of the bout. Guerrero did find some intermittent success in landing counters but without a real welterweight punch, he couldn't do enough damage to dissuade Thurman from his game plan. 

In the early moments of the opening round, Thurman landed some crushing right hands. I don't know if these shots were the reason why Guerrero was reluctant to come forward or if the plan all along was to try and beat Thurman in the pocket, but by remaining at distance, Guerrero hastened his defeat. At mid-range, he couldn't win. Thurman won the ring geography battle and for Saturday's fight this meant everything. 

When watching Thurman, the first attribute of his that catches the eye is concussive power. Landing thudding blow after thudding blow, Thurman galvanized the audience with pulverizing shots. 

However, what really impressed me about Thurman on Saturday was his athleticism, specifically his lateral movement. On numerous occasions, Thurman would start the process of throwing his right hand and then Guerrero would step back to try and get out of range. In a fluid motion, Thurman would step with Guerrero and continue the shot from a different angle. In at least three instances, Guerrero stepped back one way and then moved immediately in another direction, and each time Thurman was there and landed a right hand. Thurman wound up having to reset himself three times to land one punch in these sequences and yet he succeeded. I don't know of too many other fighters in boxing who could accomplish this. The effect of Thurman's athleticism was that even when Guerrero thought that he was at a safe distance, he was rarely out of range. 

Thurman has a number of tendencies that would not be taught to a fledgling boxer. After landing a quick right hand, he often violently bursts out of the pocket (usually to the left side) to avoid getting countered. In these instances, he isn't protecting himself with his gloves or even facing his opponent. For now, in his athletic prime, he can get away with these types of moves. But we have seen what happens when athletic marvels such as Roy Jones, Sergio Martinez or Jean Pascal lose a step – suddenly, they become far less elusive. 

In addition, when Thurman throws a lead right hand, more often than not, he lunges with his body to land the shot. During these lunges, his chin is completely exposed to be countered, especially by an uppercut or hook. 

But these idiosyncrasies help to create the enticing package that is Keith Thurman. He's an offensive force with size, power and speed yet he displays enough vulnerabilities to make for excellent swings of action.

However, against Guerrero, Thurman had things well under control. Thurman won a minimum of ten rounds and scored a scintillating knockdown in the ninth with a right uppercut. Guerrero finally became aggressive in the fight's final third but to my eyes, Thurman still got the better of the action in the closing frames; however, the championship rounds were certainly more competitive than the rest of the fight. 

Guerrero turned in a strange performance. On one hand, he deserves credit for taking all the shots that he did and refusing to lie down. Sitting on the canvas in the ninth, I don't think that anyone would've questioned his effort if he didn't get up or even if he had the fight stopped after the round; he had absorbed a hell of a beating. But Guerrero actually was most active after the knockdown. That type of perseverance commands respect.  

However, he didn't really sell out early in the fight to try and get the win. He's not a knockout puncher at 147 and had little realistic chance of outboxing Thurman. Even if his game plan was to best Thurman in the pocket, it was obvious by the third round that the strategy wasn't working. Yet, Guerrero refused to go inside, the one place in the ring that could've given him his best chance for success. 

It was almost as if Guerrero was bargaining with himself throughout the fight. OK, I will show my guts by taking all of these huge shots but I'm not willing to eat punches to get inside. Does that still make me macho?

In the 10th, he finally went for broke and battled Thurman along the ropes. I also think that there was an element of defense to this adjustment. The uppercut that sent him down opened up a huge cut over his left eye. By getting in close and grappling, it may have been a way to protect the eye (I understand that this might be speculative). It's possible that he couldn't see the shots well from distance anymore. (Against Andre Berto, Guerrero also was cut and fought in that scenario along the ropes.)

Guerrero's last three rounds were at least evidence that he still has some offensive moxie but his performance in the first nine rounds was disconcerting. Was his poor showing a strategic miscalculation or was it evidence that he no longer has the desire to go to war for 12 rounds? Perhaps more simply, did Thurman just have his number?

As for Thurman, it will take a very special fighter to beat him. In thinking about next opponents, I keep coming back to a potential matchup with titleholder Kell Brook, who's a very patient pocket fighter and a hell of a counterpuncher. Certainly, that matchup will be difficult to make but there aren't many other compelling options out there for Thurman. I doubt that he'll get Mayweather this year. Perhaps it will be Shawn Porter. Whoever it may be, I hope that Thurman remains active and continues to grow. He brings excitement to the sport and whether he knows it or not, he may be the most important young American fighter at the moment.

On the undercard, Adrien Broner boxed to a unanimous decision over John Molina and I'm not sure that he even broke a sweat. Let me start by praising Broner for what he didn't do: There was no clowning and he didn't lose focus or give away rounds. He stayed intelligent all night. 

Broner understood what he had in front of him on Saturday, a limited fighter with a big right hand. Broner tasted two or three huge rights in the third round and they were probably enough to keep him disciplined for the rest of the fight. Broner might not have wowed audiences but he fought with focus and passion; he didn't bullshit his way to a victory or take an unnecessary loss. His jab was fantastic. He mixed in his power punches well, never succumbing to obvious patterns. In addition, he kept his combinations short. He didn't stand in front of Molina unloading four- and five-punch combinations – those eventually could be timed and countered. Instead, it was mostly twos and threes. 

Broner's class was evident from the fight's outset. Molina needed to land something wild or have Broner get careless. When those two things didn't happen, he was left swinging at a lot of air and eating punches. However, I won't necessarily write off Molina in future fights. Broner was two levels above him on Saturday and when Molina meets fighters closer to his true talent range, he'll continue to make for exciting action – but the less technical opponents the better.

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of saturdaynightboxing.com.
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
@snboxing on twitter, SN Boxing on Facebook

1 comment:

  1. Any commentary on the Mares - Reyes fight

    ReplyDelete