Sunday, May 31, 2015

Khan and Linares: Is Good, Good Enough?

Amir Khan and Jorge Linares – these are two fighters who were supposed to represent the future of the sport. Khan had been a decorated amateur and earned a silver medal for Britain in the 2004 Olympics. Backed by the nonpareil British boxing hype machine and his own sense of grandeur and destiny, he was on the fast track to greatness. As an early pro, he had some of the fastest hands in the sport. Linares, a Venezuelan based in Japan, resembled a master boxer-puncher. He glided around the ring majestically and seemed to have the whole package. Linares was trumpeted by many West Coast boxing writers in such magical tones that he could have appeared on the cover of "The Ring" OR "Downbeat." Linares as boxing's Dizzy Gillespie? 

All of that was long ago. Evaluating them in the present, it's certainly clear that both fighters have fallen short of those once-lofty expectations. They have suffered demoralizing defeats and have lost many of their initial proponents within the sport. However, despite arriving at professional nadirs, they have both arisen and continue to fight at a high level. Yes, Khan and Linares have failed to live up to initial expectations, but in my opinion, it would be incorrect to label their careers as disappointments. 

The professional ledgers of Khan and Linares share several characteristics. They each have three losses, getting knocked out multiple times. Born just 18 months apart, their records, 31-3 (Khan) and 39-3 (Linares), are very similar. Khan's KO percentage is 56% while Linares' is at 62% (Linares turned pro at 17 and was developed more deliberately than Khan was, facing more ham-and-eggers, which can goose a knockout percentage). Both are 6-2 in world title fights. Each has been blitzed early (Salgado and Prescott) and has lost a title fight after being comfortably ahead (DeMarco and Peterson). They also have been defeated by lesser talents (DeMarco and Prescott). Both have reputations as being "chinny." 

But Khan and Linares are not cautionary tales or punchlines (they aren't Ricardo Williams or Audley Harrison). They have won world titles and have provided many memorable moments in the ring – both in their wins and losses. Although the luster of their initial promise has worn off, they have settled into respectable professional fighters. 

Over the weekend, Khan and Linares achieved victories that symbolized their respective careers – competent, just not as good as expected. Both provided glimpses of elite skills and reminders of their respective flaws. Linares was knocked down against Kevin Mitchell and was trailing on two cards before scoring a 10th-round TKO. Khan had a surprisingly competitive fight against Chris Algieri and displayed some of the tentativeness and hesitancy that has plagued him throughout his career. 

To my eyes, both Linares and Khan are the wrong opponent away from a career-ending defeat. Linares looked slow and, frankly, listless on Saturday. He seemed to be a fighter much closer to the end than the beginning. I could envision Khan spending an eternity on the canvas after facing Keith Thurman. 

Yet, there were still pleasure to be found on Saturday. Linares finished Mitchell in spectacular fashion. He trapped Mitchell along the ropes and unloaded his entire arsenal in a thrilling display of combination punching. Showing his veteran moxie, Linares wisely took brief breathers to step out, recollect himself and ensure that he wouldn't smother his work or give Mitchell any opportunities to clinch. Khan still flashed those dazzling one-twos. At points, his combinations flowed effortlessly. 

At 29 and 28 respectively, Linares and Khan may still find their way to greatness but the odds are stacked against them. Linares fights in a wasteland of a lightweight division, where wins over even the best at 135 wouldn't do much to further his legacy. Khan would be a significant underdog against the top fighters at 147 and has been steered carefully away from punchers. In my estimation, he hasn't even faced an adequate hitter since Danny Garcia in 2012. In addition, his affiliation with Al Haymon takes certain elite talents like Manny Pacquiao and Tim Bradley off the table as future opponents. Khan may very well get the Mayweather fight in September but only his friends and family would pick him over the pound-for-pound champ. 

But both persevere. We are left with the more-than-serviceable remnants of two hyped talents. They have done their best to carry on despite the types of major pratfalls that have felled many careers. No one would have been surprised if Linares and/or Khan collapsed after demoralizing back-to-back defeats but both have returned from those low periods with significant winning streaks (Linares – 8, Khan – 5). 

Khan and Linares should be applauded for their professionalism and resiliency. Not every fighter can be the best and not every prospect lives up to expectations. But not every boxer has such recuperative powers outside the ring either. Khan and Linares both faced the abyss and resurrected their careers. When they do finally retire, both fighters will have impressive trophy rooms. They also will have the satisfaction of knowing that they gave their best to the sport. 

If their careers ended today, neither Linares nor Khan would likely be Canastota-bound, but such distinctions trivialize their efforts. They beat talented fighters. They overcame significant hindrances and issues of confidence. Sure, Khan wishes he had a better chin and Linares would want skin that wouldn't unravel but they never let those deficiencies stop them on their quest to reach the top of the sport. Yes, they lost a few that they shouldn't have. There have been real failures but neither has let himself been defined by them. For that, they deserve real praise.  

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

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Pound-for-Pound Update 5-27-15

The one notable change in the Saturday Night Boxing pound-for-pound list is the removal of Juan Manuel Marquez from the rankings on account of inactivity. Over a year since his last fight and with nothing scheduled, Marquez exits the Rankings. All other fighters on the list who were below him move up one spot (I had Marquez at six) and Jamaican featherweight Nicholas Walters enters the Rankings at #20. Walters has made three defenses of his featherweight title including a knockout win over Nonito Donaire, who was in the SNB pound-for-pound list prior to his defeat.
I'd also like to make a quick note about Gennady Golovkin, whom I have ranked at #12. Most outlets have him ranked significantly higher than I do, which is certainly their prerogative. Perhaps I place more emphasis on the quality of opposition than others do. To my eyes, Golovkin still hasn't defeated a fighter at the top of the division. Now, I understand that Golovkin is not necessarily to blame for this reality – fighters such as Sturm, Martinez (when they mattered), Cotto and Quillin have all avoided fighting him (or failed to get in the ring with him, whichever euphemism you choose). However, I can't jump him over fighters who have better wins. I have placed Golovkin over Cotto, the lineal champ at middleweight, and I'm sure that there are convincing arguments as to why Golovkin, at his present form, deserves to be higher than guys like Stevenson, Froch or Rigondeaux. But on resume, I believe that the others have better wins. Rigondeaux only has Donaire for a notable victory but I had Donaire ranked as number-three at the time of Rigondeaux's win.
Using the resume argument, I also could make the claim that I have Takashi Uchiyama (16) too low and that he should rank higher than Golovkin does. Uchiyama has made 10 defenses of his junior lightweight belt and has stopped two fighters – Juan Carlos Salgado, Takashi Miura – who  subsequently went on to win titles at 130 and another, Bryan Vasquez, who has gained an interim title. Golovkin has made 14 defenses of his middleweight title belt but hasn't faced the quality of opposition that Uchiyama has. Choosing between Golovkin and Uchiyama fosters a good debate, as all these lists do. I'm not expecting you to agree with every decision made on my list but hopefully you will understand my thought process a little more clearly.
We all have our biases and although I was an early advocate of Uchiyama as a pound-for-pound level fighter it still may be the case that a pro-Western bias has kept him too low in my Rankings. But as a rule, I will use recent resume as much as present form when evaluating where to rank fighters accordingly.
The complete Saturday Night Boxing pound-for-pound list is below:
  1. Floyd Mayweather
  2. Roman Gonzalez
  3. Wladimir Klitschko
  4. Manny Pacquiao
  5. Tim Bradley
  6. Sergey Kovalev
  7. Guillermo Rigondeaux
  8. Carl Froch
  9. Juan Estrada
  10. Naoya Inoue
  11. Adonis Stevenson
  12. Gennady Golovkin
  13. Miguel Cotto
  14. Danny Garcia
  15. Saul Alvarez
  16. Takashi Uchiyama
  17. Shinsuke Yamanaka
  18. Terence Crawford
  19. Donnie Nietes
  20. Nicholas Walters
Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
@snboxing on twitter, SN Boxing on Facebook
Contact Adam at

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Opinions and Observations: Dirrell-DeGale

For as much as boxing fans love knockouts, speed, skills, gladiatorial displays and fearlessness, the element of surprise may be the most important factor in maintaining interest in the sport. How much fun would boxing be if we could accurately predict title bouts 98% of the time? Why bother if we always know how fights will play out? (Eventually, Golovkin knocking out third-tier opponents will get boring, trust me.) Without surprise, there is less drama and fewer reasons to watch boxing, especially when scores of other entertainment possibilities may be just a click or button away.

James DeGale defeating Andre Dirrell is not a notable upset. As title fights go, the matchup was pretty close to 50/50. However, how both boxers went at each other – with power punches, massive counters and little running – was genuinely shocking. The fight was 20 times more entertaining than I thought it would be and these are the types of surprises that keep me emotionally invested in the sport. Usually, the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend is not an anticipated slot for boxing programming but Dirrell-DeGale certainly delivered quality action.  

In viewing the matchup, I saw two fighters who often chose to engage in technical affairs, sometimes, needlessly. As a prospect, Dirrell too frequently had resorted to running, especially in times of duress. He would rely on his speed (foot and hand) and wasn't against trying to stink out a fight to win. In evaluating DeGale, his issues involved ones of effort and confidence. Often, he had fought with little urgency, doing just enough to win rounds. At other moments in his career, he had seemed unwilling to let his hands go consistently.  

In Degale's last two fights, against Brandon Gonzales and Marco Antonio Periban, he deviated from his standard operating procedure; he attacked his opponents relentlessly and went for the kill. The tentativeness of his past performances didn't manifest. After years of sleepwalking, coasting, and bullshitting his way through fights, he finally had arrived as an offensive fighter.

Building off of that momentum, on Saturday he surprised Dirrell (and boxing fans) in the second round, dropping him with a perfectly timed overhand left during an exchange. And, instead of being satisfied with scoring a knockdown, he went right at Dirrell after the count, trying to finish the job. He trapped Dirrell along the ropes and fired off a fusillade of punches, leading to a second knockdown. DeGale was now demonstrating that he could be a killer against top guys, not just the B-team. 

During rounds three, four and five, DeGale continued to pepper Dirrell with big punches and eye-catching combinations. DeGale unleashed his entire offensive arsenal and also took some huge shots in return; but he kept coming. In these moments, DeGale had finally crossed his last barrier to becoming a top super middleweight: the acceptance of risk. In the past, after getting hit with a good shot, DeGale would often resort to moving around the ring and retreating. On Saturday, DeGale didn't let Dirrell's power shots thwart him from being offensive-minded. He pressed the action throughout the majority of the fight. 

Similarly, Dirrell seemed to grow up right before our eyes against DeGale. Instead of disengaging, running or out-cuting his way through a tough bout, Dirrell held his ground and decided to fight his way back into it. Even though he had been dropped twice and bloodied by huge shots, Dirrell remained in the pocket and asserted himself in the second-half of the match, especially with hard counter left hands and right uppercuts. He also stalked DeGale, firing off double jabs to the head and body to set up his power punches. Here, Dirrell was no longer a mere prospect or a talent with skills; he was an actual top contender fighting for a championship belt. Psychologically, he refused to cower or fold; he wanted that title. 

In the final rounds, DeGale regained his offensive temperament and finished strongly, clinching the victory. The scorecards were 114-112, 114-112 and 117-109 (ignore that one). I had it 115-111 and in my estimation it was a fight where neither guy truly lost. Yes, both still have things to work on, as all fighters do, but Dirrell and DeGale demonstrated that they belong at the top level of the super middleweight division. 

As odd as it sounds, Dirrell, at 31, was still somewhat of an unknown commodity coming into Saturday's fight. In 2009, he had lost a close decision to Carl Froch in England (certainly no crime) but in his next fight he was up big against Arthur Abraham before being hit with an illegal punch, which sidetracked his career. During what should have been his athletic peak, he fought only once in 35 months and his subsequent comeback fights provided no further illumination about his true abilities as a fighter; his opponents were all of poor-to-middling quality.

Dirrell was beaten by the better fighter on Saturday but he gave an honest account of himself; there is no shame in that. He displayed several positive qualities, including resiliency, strong recuperative powers, punch accuracy and variety and strong ring generalship. It wasn't his legs or an unpleasing style that led to his undoing but an inability to adjust to DeGale's long left hands. Dirrell had never faced a top southpaw before and it was clear that he was unfamiliar with the types of overhand lefts and rear-hand left hooks that DeGale was throwing. The best defensive fighters (such as Mayweather and Hopkins) can shut down an opponent's best weapon during a fight but that skill is exceedingly rare in modern boxing. Dirrell got hit with something new; it happens. Hopefully, he learns from this experience and can perform better the next time that he faces a top southpaw.

Technically, Dirrell's hand positioning still leaves a lot to be desired. He was tagged so often by DeGale's overhand left because his hands were too low. In addition, Dirrell misjudged range on a number of occasions, throwing long power shots when DeGale was in position to counter with something quicker and shorter. DeGale also exploited a flaw in Dirrell's defense during exchanges. The more punches that DeGale threw in a combination the worse that Dirrell's defense got. By the third or fourth punch of a combo, Dirrell was wide open for a left hand or a right uppercut. DeGale often punctuated these combinations with a clean power shot and then wisely got out of range, which were wonderful displays of boxing at a high level. In these moments, Dirrell was looking for his own perfect counter shot and he was too willing to be hit with three or four punches to land one good one. He needs to be more active during exchanges, tie-up or disengage. This is an area where Dirrell must improve. 

Not all was perfect for DeGale either. He reverted to some of his bad habits in the second half of the fight. Starting from round six, he lost at least four of next five by simply being outworked. He did land big lefts on occasion but he was no longer throwing in combination. It's possible that he was starting to fatigue or maybe he was coasting on a large lead but nevertheless, his lack of urgency in these rounds helped provide openings for Dirrell to come back in the fight. Again, a consistent effort throughout 12 rounds will be imperative in remaining at the top level of the division. I'm sure that he and his team will continue to work on this. 

On a like note, I want to make one final point about DeGale's trainer, Jim McDonnell. Sure, DeGale wasn't flawless against Dirrell, but what I saw on Saturday was a fighter who was truly prepared for the task at hand. Going on the road, in a hostile environment, DeGale acted like a seasoned professional and had a definitive plan on how to win the fight. Facing an opponent who had a tremendous amount of hand and foot speed as well as the ability to switch stances at a whim, DeGale executed his game plan without caution, frustration or hesitancy. It was clear from the opening round that McDonnell and DeGale worked on that overhand left in the gym and that the punch would be a go-to weapon in the fight. That punch enables a boxer to land a shot higher on the head and with more force than a normal straight punch or cross – an ideal offering against an opponent who keeps his hands too low. In addition, whenever Dirrell turned to the orthodox stance, DeGale wisely tied him up, smothering Dirrell's ability to do damage, or disengaged, making Dirrell's switching irrelevant. 

Too often we see fighters and trainers not perform to the best of their abilities in big moments; however, DeGale and McDonnell worked beautifully together on Saturday. McDonnell, who had faced severe criticism after DeGale's loss to George Groves, showed that he could create a fantastic game plan. In addition, DeGale revealed that he can be teachable and is willing to put the time in the gym to fulfill his potential. 

After Saturday's fight, there is no more need to talk about potential regarding DeGale or Dirrell. One is a world champ and the other very well could be. Both had rocky moments in their ascension toward the top of the super middleweight division but as their thrilling fight revealed, the summit is where they belong. 

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

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Opinions and Observations: Canelo, PBC and ESPN

Skill versus Will fought to a draw this weekend. The accuracy of Saul "Canelo" Alvarez's power punches flattened James Kirkland's relentlessness while Jamie McDonnell's activity level and perseverance bested Tomoki Kameda's more-polished technique. To reframe this weekend's action using one of the more irrepressible boxing clichés of our time, "skills paid the bills," but only if one let his hands go. It really didn't matter if Alvarez was the more accurate puncher or if he had the more dynamic offensive arsenal; if he didn't throw his shots, he would've eventually gotten eaten alive by Kirkland. Kameda had the better technique, footwork and punch variety but that only mattered on a theoretical level. He let his opponent outwork him in the last half of their fight and coughed up a sure victory.

McDonnell was a big underdog coming into the fight, which was understandable based on his recent performances, where he had looked less-than-sterling against several lower-level fighters. At best, McDonnell is a grinder in the ring. Meaning, he's not particularly flashy, he doesn't have real knockout power but he's well-conditioned and tends to improve during the course of a fight. He's a very basic 1-2-3 type of boxer; however, he uses his height, jab and high volume to trouble his opponents. 

Against Kameda, his positive intangibles manifested throughout the bout, especially in the concluding rounds. Kameda leveled him with a right hand in the third round and hit him with some menacing power shots throughout the first half of the fight. However, McDonnell withstood the early storm and fought through it. He kept his composure when others might have crumbled. He maintained a high activity level as the fight progressed and really went to work in the later rounds.

Kameda's punch volume plummeted in the bout's final third. Fighting as if he was up huge on the cards (and I'm sure at one point, he was), Kameda didn't believe that any urgency was needed in the championship rounds. However, McDonnell kept working and wound up winning 114-113 on all three cards; Kameda was in disbelief after the fight.

If nothing else, Kameda now has learned that his famous name means far less in America than it does in his native Japan. When fighting on home soil, his brother, Koki, had received a number of gifts and blessings from the judges. However, that previous reality is now gone. The Kamedas have been kicked out of fighting in Japan and have chosen to continue their careers in North America. Hopefully, the Kamedas now understand that they can't expect the same type of favorable treatment from judges and referees that they received in Japan, to say nothing of the fan support that could help sway close fights in their favor. On Saturday, Tomoki Kameda ended his match like an entitled fighter, and he paid a large price for his arrogance. At only 23, he still has a bright future in the sport but this loss was unnecessary and a significant indictment of his ring IQ and his team's corner work.


After facing slick fighters like Floyd Mayweather, Erislandy Lara and Austin Trout, Canelo Alvarez must have been licking his lips to take on a ring opponent who would come right at him. Sure, James Kirkland would bring pressure but he wouldn't be hard to find. In Alvarez's mind, this matchup would finally be a proper fight!

Yes, Kirkland ran at him like a freight train but by the final moments of the first round, Canelo had already scored a massive knockdown and almost ended things with some blistering combination punches. Kirkland was an ideal opponent for Alvarez's pulverizing lead right uppercut. Canelo scored a beautiful knockdown with that punch in the third round and a few moments later he ended things with a Knockout of the Year-type right hand. He bent at the knees, which brought Kirkland's hands down, and then unloaded an overhand right that settled the matter. 

Saturday's fantastic offensive display reminded the boxing world as to why Alvarez has become such a hot property in the sport. Yes, he only eked out wins against tricky opponents like Trout and Lara but when the right guy is in front of him, he can look truly electrifying.

Canelo's not necessarily a cerebral boxer; however, it was refreshing to see him incorporate some feints and deception into his attack. These new wrinkles will benefit him in his career and it's a positive sign in his development that he continues to add to his repertoire.

Alvarez was rushed to a title shot at the age of 20. Despite winning a championship belt at that precocious age, he was far from a finished product and needed several more fights to improve and prepare himself for top competition. He was protected in his early title defenses but his last five fights – Trout, Mayweather, Angulo, Lara and Kirkland – were all against serious opponents. Canelo went a respectable 4-1 in this stretch (his fights against Lara and Trout were close on the scorecards but I had him winning both of them).

The 154-pound division is full of tricky guys who lack big name recognition. Alvarez has already fought two of them (Lara and Trout) and three more are out there (the Charlo brothers and Demetrius Andrade). Desiring to become a bona fide pay per view star, Alvarez most certainly will look in a different direction as he hopes to add to his star power and bank account. Already big for a junior middleweight, Canelo will soon look to the 160-lb. division to try to accomplish these goals. Miguel Cotto and Gennady Golovkin will provide two opportunities for him to add to his legacy. A Cotto-Canelo fight almost happened earlier this year and may still be on the table for November or December. Golovkin may be further away but that matchup could surely enhance the profile of both boxers. Until those bigger fights are made, expect Alvarez to remain busy against opponents who will make him look good. But make no mistake; he has shown a willingness to face all comers to this point in his career.


Ricky Burns was dead.

Over the last two years, Burns was outclassed by Ray Beltran (which somehow turned into a draw) dominated by Terrence Crawford and outhustled by Dejean Zlaticanin. In his last fight, Burns, the former junior lightweight and lightweight champion, could do no more than take an eight-rounder against an overmatched foe.

But things got worse. Burns also owed some serious money to his former promoter, Frank Warren. With his viability as a headliner in Scotland gone and needing to make a decent payday, Burns accepted a fight at 140 against Omar Figueroa, one of the rising stars of the Haymon boxing universe. Just to pile on, the fight was just minutes from Figueroa's hometown. 

Ricky Burns was dead.

And yet...Burns certainly seemed among the living as the fight started. Mixing in jabs, straight right hands, hooks and some crazy-angled overhand rights, Burns suddenly was reanimated. 

However, a death sentence is not easy to overcome. Like a tragic myth, no matter how often Burns tried to crawl out of the gates of hell, he was automatically returned to that destination for the damned. Referee Laurence Cole, a Texas good ol' boy, frequently held one of Burns' arms during clinches, giving Figueroa free shots. Cole would later deduct two points from Burns for holding while refusing to penalize Figueroa for his constant illegal shots behind Burns' head. 

The fight itself was competitive, with both boxers having periods of sustained success in a fierce inside battle. Figueroa landed some beautiful right uppercuts and left hooks to the body while Burns had the flashier combinations. At the end of the fight, even with the two point deductions, it seemed as if the decision could go either way...but

Ricky Burns was dead.

The three judges scored it 116-110, 116-110 and 117-109 for Figueroa (I had it 113-113, but a Burns win without the point deductions). Not one judge gave Burns more than four rounds, which was a laughable verdict in such a close match. As for Burns, he fought valiantly and showed that he still has something left to offer. However, the loss sets him back significantly. Most likely, in his next fight he will get a smaller payday than he would have received had he beaten Figueroa. This will further hinder his ability to repay Warren. He also is one fight further away from reestablishing himself in the divisional rankings of the sanctioning bodies. Burns' climb back continues to face numerous obstacles and he has yet to make it out of purgatory. Unfortunately, his status remains the same:

Ricky Burns is dead.


Speaking of boxing and death, on Friday in South Philadelphia, I attended one of the final cards of ESPN's Friday Night Fights. Next month, the long-running series will conclude and will be replaced by monthly PBC cards, which have been time-bought by Al Haymon and his representatives. 

Friday's main event featured a heavyweight clash between two local guys, Amir Mansour and Joey Dawejko. The spirited, sold-out crowd of 1,300 strong was ready for action and the arena (although, arena is really too strong of a word here, shelter is more appropriate) was rocking. The audience was a mixture of races: white, black and Hispanic; it was quite the festive atmosphere.

The bout itself was interesting for five-or-so rounds as both fighters bled profusely from cuts and landed enormous power shots. Eventually, Dawejko's conditioning deserted him and Mansour pulled away for a clear victory. The main event never really caught fire but the crowd got its money's worth. 

As I looked around the arena during the fight, my mind started to drift. I wondered how the absence of smaller televised cards would affect the sport. Would a card like this still exist in a year? What about two years? Instead of five or six bouts a year at this level, would Peltz Boxing now be forced to do only two or three? If so, what effect would that have on local fighters and boxing fans? (As I said, Mansour-Dawejko really wasn't interesting in the last few rounds, giving me quite a few moments to contemplate these matters.)

In my estimation, there will be a serious void in the sport once ESPN concludes Friday Night Fights. For good or for bad, the series brought boxing to fans around the country and also parked itself in areas of the U.S. (and Canada) that have rich boxing traditions and others that are trying to establish ones. As often as Friday Night Fights broadcasted from New York, Las Vegas, Texas or Southern California, the series also went out of its way to air shows from more obscure boxing outposts, like New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Minnesota and an army base from North Carolina, to cite a few examples. 

In addition, the series was an invaluable opportunity for smaller promoters to gain a foothold in the sport and develop their fighters. Ruslan Provodnikov, Mauricio Herrera and Chris Algieri all recently graduated from the Friday Night Fights-level and showed that they could compete with the best junior welterweights in the world. These were not blue-chip prospects but they illustrated their mettle in front of a national boxing audience. Likewise, entities such as Star Boxing, Banner Promotions and Thompson Boxing helped build a portfolio of fighters with the exposure of Friday Night Fights and series of its ilk.

The combination of the PBC ramp-up and the finality of Friday Night Fights has not been a positive development for smaller promoters. Over the last few months, I have talked with representatives from Main Events, Banner Promotions, Peltz Boxing and other entities to gauge the effect of the new boxing landscape on their operations. The answers that I received were mixed, hearing everything from "We'll be fine," "This will kill us," "We're working on it" and "We'll have an announcement shortly." 

Certainly, most promoters are trying to put on a good face and soldier on but I keep thinking about that Philly crowd on Friday night. Most were there to support the local fighter that they knew from their neighborhood, from the gym or through friends and family. The tickets were affordably priced. Fans experienced an enjoyable night of boxing without having to fly somewhere or buy hotel rooms. A show like Friday's helps to build the sport at its most fundamental level. 

Hopefully, some network entity or entities will come along to fill the void. But for as much national attention and exposure as the PBC has generated for the sport, boxing needs local shows to thrive. Live boxing creates new fans. They need to see the blood and sweat flying in the air, feel the buzz in the room after a knockdown and get that rush when their fighter leaves it all in the ring during the final round. They get hooked. 
And finally, not all great boxers originate from well-heeled promoters or managers. Without smaller promoters, there is no Bryant Jennings or Sergey Kovalev or Timothy Bradley or Sergio Mora, all of whom started without a big-time promoter. Overall, the dearth of television revenues at the grass roots level will stunt the development of the sport in the U.S. These revenue streams helped promoters take chances on fighters and develop them properly. Friday Night Fights provided several unheralded boxers with the opportunity to make something of themselves. The absence of TV at this level of the sport will force smaller promoters to retrench, consolidate and possibly leave boxing.  

It's wonderful to see the PBC raise boxing's consciousness in the U.S. sporting landscape. Having boxing on major networks will certainly create a healthier environment for the sport to grow. However, for boxing to remain viable, the grass roots level needs to be strong. Without robust support for smaller fight cards, talent will be lost, local boxing promoters and entrepreneurs will look for opportunities in other parts of the economy and the sport will miss out on chances to create new fans. This loss cannot be overstated. 

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

Monday, May 4, 2015

Opinions and Observations: Mayweather-Pacquiao

Jim Lampley called it right in the first round. He noted that Manny Pacquiao’s deliberate start against Floyd Mayweather resembled Saul Alvarez's effort against the same fighter in 2013. Lampley also wondered if Pacquiao’s tentativeness would lead to a similar type of futility. Roy Jones commented on a related theme throughout the match. He wanted to know why Pacquiao persisted in fighting from a distance in the middle of the ring. He didn't think that Pacquiao could outbox Mayweather from range. Toward the end of the fight, Lampley asked if Pacquiao needed to sell out for a knockout since his performance to that point had put him in a big hole (Pacquiao did not). 

Everyone had seen this type of performance against Floyd before, and Pacquiao wound up suffering the same fate as other like-minded opponents: a comprehensive defeat. 

In following Mayweather's career, I thought that he was in serious danger of losing twice: his first fights against Jose Luis Castillo and Marcos Maidana. Yes, there were other bouts that were competitive in the early rounds (against Zab Judah and Oscar de la Hoya) and fighters who had hit him with big shots (Judah and Shane Mosley) but in my estimation, Floyd had those contests in hand (if not on the scorecards) by the second half of the match. However, Castillo, who might have beaten Floyd with different judges, and Maidana put Floyd in real jeopardy. Both of them fought Mayweather similarly – they, and pardon my French here, didn’t give a fuck. 

Restating it in more proper terms, they didn't let the pressure of facing a boxer with Mayweather's reputation or the enormity of the moment intimidate or change them. They charged after Mayweather with abandon, hitting him with anything and everything they could muster – and they weren't concerned with technique, landing clean blows or getting countered; they made it a firefight. Maidana and Castillo embraced their inner crudeness and didn't fall victim to being in awe of one of the best in the sport. 

Why haven't more boxers fought Mayweather this way? Some may have lacked the temperament (Judah, for instance, was never a swarmer) but for many others, they were unwilling to play the role of "Goon" on the big stage. Robert Guerrero and Victor Ortiz both earned their shots at Mayweather by engaging in epic slugfests against Andre Berto. These were not contests of great skill. Yet, against Mayweather, they fought meekly and rarely pressed him. Cotto had been a seek-and-destroy fighter at his best and yet he couldn't summon a consistent effort in attacking Mayweather. I could go on and on. 

Floyd embarrasses people. He makes great boxers look pedestrian. Mentally, fighters have to overcome the reality of what it means to rush Floyd. They're probably going to get hit on the way in and countered with something that they can't respond to. In addition, they often will run headlong toward a fighter who has already left, vanishing like a magic act. And let's not forget about Floyd's variety of fouling veteran techniques on the inside that can hinder an opponent both physically and mentally. It takes fortitude, conditioning and psychological strength to engage in this type of fight with Mayweather. And few are willing to accept this risk. For many, they make an agreement with themselves: they'd rather lose a decision on the outside than look foolish. Thus, their egos as professionals have already contributed to their defeat. Instead of fighting in a way that gives them the best chance to win, they stay put. 

At the lower weights, Pacquiao possessed whirlwind energy and he was insouciant toward an opponent's return fire; he was a Maidana, but with more power and skill. He believed that his offense could beat his foe's defense. If he had to take some heavy thunder to get the job done, so be it. Watching him on Saturday, that past fighter seemed like a distant figure, a subject of folklore. 

The absence of the old Pacquiao can't solely be attributed to advancing age. As he continued to campaign against bigger fighters in the welterweight division, his punch output dropped. After facing his own ring mortality against Juan Manuel Marquez, he no longer charged in as recklessly as he once did. Although he still possessed quite a bit of offensive firepower, he had abandoned his past mentality of the hunter gleefully stalking his prey. 

By all accounts, Pacquiao has been a reformed man out of the ring. Perhaps his past self-destructive streak and devil-may-care attitude outside of boxing helped forge his prior ring identity, the one that electrified audiences and battered fighters. Now, that claim might be speculative – and if you are offended by such things, I apologize – but it was strikingly clear after watching Saturday's fight that Manny's issues in the ring far exceeded a Father Time problem; at heart, it was a question of temperament. Manny didn't fight Floyd in the swashbuckling style of his past. Instead, he exercised caution and was hesitant with his offense. These characterizations had never been associated with Pacquiao at his most ferocious. 

Everyone knew what Pacquiao’s game plan for Mayweather was supposed to be: start fast, keep a high punch volume, use angles and outwork him, especially along the ropes. Yet Pacquiao couldn't even execute that game plan in the first three rounds – again, this isn't a question of age or fatigue. Pacquiao wasn't willing to "sell out" – to use Lampley's phrase – even in the first round.  

Throughout the fight, Pacquiao had some moments here and there, specifically when he could flurry with Mayweather on the ropes. But ultimately, he couldn't sustain a pace, or even an effort, that could lead to him winning the fight. The final scores were 118-110, 116-112 and 116-112 (I also scored it for Mayweather 116-112).

What I will remember about the fight is how Mayweather made Pacquiao look so ordinary. You could argue that even a limited fighter like Guerrero had just as much success against Mayweather than The Great Pacquiao did. Mayweather never needed to go past second gear. Whenever he would drop a round, he would immediately impose himself on Pacquiao and quash any notion of a rally or comeback. 

Mayweather didn't even utilize his bag of tricks. There was no emergency, no need to break glass to locate his 10th- or 11th-best punch. His offense was rather simple – jab, lead right hands to the body, pull-counter right hands and left hook potshots, mostly from along the ropes. He threw very few big shots and, frankly, he didn't need them. The garden variety version of Mayweather's offensive arsenal was more than enough to defeat Pacquiao comfortably. 

To be clear, this is not a denigration of Mayweather's performance. I'm just noting that Pacquiao didn't push him. He didn't force Mayweather into a late-round shootout like Maidana did. Floyd wasn't holding on for dear life like he did briefly in the second round against Mosley. Floyd didn't need to use his grappling skills to wear down an opponent on the inside. Saturday was Floyd fighting at his comfort level. 

Physically, Mayweather exhibited only a slight decline from his peak. He gave up a few rounds when laying back on the ropes for long stretches. It appeared that he was just tired of moving his 38-year-old legs. He took some shots during these moments but they weren't particularly damaging. However, let's not lose perspective about his rate of decline. Floyd was facing the past Fighter of the Decade, his biggest rival and one of the top-five fighters in the sport, AND he had enough of a working margin to coast at various points. That's how good he was on Saturday. 

I was also particularly impressed with the work of Floyd Mayweather Sr. in the corner. Senior is often blasé between rounds, operating without concern or urgency. However, Senior was fully engaged against Pacquiao and understood the enormity of the moment. Recognizing that Pacquiao had some intermittent success against the ropes and that the crowd was fully against his son, he implored Junior to fight aggressively and not give judges a reason to side against him. His sense of urgency was transferred to his fighter. Whenever Mayweather dropped a round or fought a close one, he immediately seized the initiative in the battle, which quieted the crowd and reestablished his dominance. 

In fact, Team Mayweather's game plan was close to flawless. They tried to minimize Floyd's time on the ropes, keep the fight in the center of the ring and concentrate on lateral movement to nullify Pacquiao's attack. With an exception of the fourth round, where Pacquiao landed a series of hard punches, most of the times where Pacquiao had some success occurred only because Floyd took breathers along the ropes. Essentially, in three of the rounds that I had Pacquiao winning, those victories only occurred in my estimation because Floyd decided to rest. 

After the fight, Team Pacquiao claimed that Manny had suffered a right shoulder injury in camp and that the fighter didn't have his full mobility during the match. Freddie Roach said that the injury affected Pacquiao's right hook but not his jab or uppercut. Ultimately, all of this may be true, but with the way that Pacquiao fought on Saturday, it didn't matter if he had had four hands. [Note, on Monday after the fight, it was announced tha Pacquiao would undergo shoulder surgery for a torn rotator cuff.]

Pacquiao wasn't aggressive enough. He wasn't willing to take the chances needed to put Mayweather in trouble. Whatever physical problems that he might have had in the fight, they significantly paled in relation to his psychological hindrances in the ring. Not throwing punches lost Pacquiao the fight, as opposed to the absence of a handful of additional right hooks. And let's keep it on the level here; it's not as if Pacquiao’s right hook has been a real weapon for him as a welterweight. In most of his fights, he rarely unleashes it. Mayweather was the better fighter by every measure and that might an unpleasant reality for some but the facts are undeniable. 

For boxing fans, the night provided healthy doses of bittersweet. We now have an undisputed top fighter in the sport and no one who could potentially make a claim of superiority. These moments help define boxing history. However, the lack of a true rival for Mayweather deflates the sport, which is never a positive development.

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
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