Monday, June 29, 2015

Pound-For-Pound 6-29-15

When Andre Ward was removed from the Saturday Night Boxing Pound-for-Pound list at the end of 2014, I had him rated as the second-best boxer in the world. In the ring, he was a spectacular talent and had essentially wiped out a generation of fighters in the super middleweight division. However, his inactivity grew as his contract status went through various legal proceedings. Meanwhile, other elite prizefighters were actually...fighting. After a year of inactivity and with nothing scheduled for the immediate future, it was time for Ward to be dropped from the Rankings. 
Ward finally returned to the ring earlier this month, his first fight since November of 2013. His opponent was Paul Smith, a former title challenger but a fighter not considered to be a threat for Ward. Dominating the action throughout the match, Ward scored a ninth-round stoppage. He still seemed to be in top form.
Now, several questions present themselves regarding Ward and the pound-for-pound list: Does Ward deserve to re-enter the Rankings just off of beating a super middleweight gatekeeper, and one who was wildly out-of-shape? If Ward were to be reinserted, does he still warrant his previous placement? Should there be a deduction for his inactivity? If so, how severe?
There are no easy answers here. I certainly believe that Ward's accomplishments from 2009-2013 should continue to be recognized. However, I also realize that other top fighters have faced and beaten worthy opponents while Ward was on the sidelines. Wladimir Klitschko added to his memorable reign as heavyweight champ by defeating contenders Kubrat Pulev and Bryant Jennings. In total, he has made 18 defenses of the title that he won from Chris Byrd in 2006. Roman Gonzalez picked up a belt in his third division, defeating number-one flyweight Akira Yaegashi. The undefeated Gonzalez also made notable defenses against ex-champ Edgar Sosa and contender Rocky Fuentes.
In the last Saturday Night Boxing Pound-for-Pound update, Gonzalez and Klitschko were my second- and third-ranked boxers, respectively. I think that their ring accomplishments and recent form warrant that they remain in those positions. For me, Ward slips in below those two and above Manny Pacquiao, who won a few rounds against Floyd Mayweather but wasn't particularly competitive in the fight. Pacquiao now drops to number five in the Rankings and Bradley, Kovalev and Rigondeaux all move down a spot.
Finally, Carl Froch has been removed from the pound-for-pound list because of inactivity. (He was previously ranked eighth.) Froch's last fight, a rematch win over George Groves, was over a year ago and nothing presently is scheduled for him. It's possible that retirement is his next move. The complete Saturday Night Boxing Pound-for-Pound list follows:
  1. Floyd Mayweather
  2. Roman Gonzalez
  3. Wladimir Klitschko
  4. Andre Ward
  5. Manny Pacquiao
  6. Tim Bradley
  7. Sergey Kovalev
  8. Guillermo Rigondeaux
  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

Friday, June 26, 2015

Boxing City Podcast

I co-hosted this week's Boxing City podcast with Arvin Nundloll, where we talked about Broner-Porter, Andre Ward and this weekend's Bradley-Vargas fight. Also included is a conversation with RocNation Sports COO David Itskowitch about the company's future plans for Ward and Miguel Cotto. Click on the link to listen.

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

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Broner-Porter: Keys to the Fight

Adrien Broner (30-1, 22 KOs) and Shawn Porter (25-1-1, 16 KOs) clash on Saturday night in an intriguing battle at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Featuring two former champions, the fight will take place at a 144-lb. catchweight, a source of controversy in the build-up to the match. As recently at 2013, Broner held a welterweight title and once weighed in at 146.5 lbs. against Paulie Malignaggi. Porter started out his career fighting mostly in the 150s before moving to the welterweight division. The 144 lbs. will his lightest weight since 2011. 

Weight aside, this matchup features two boxer-punchers who can do a variety of things in the ring. In terms of style, Porter has been chameleon-like throughout his career but he has most recently opted to be a pressure fighter. Using his athleticism, especially foot speed, and physicality, he found the right formula to win a title. However, last year he was bettered by the sharpshooter Kell Brook and lost his belt. Broner has bullied people on the inside and also has fought as counterpuncher. His lone loss was a decision to Marcos Maidana in 2013. With his unique combination of pressure, high punch volume and odd-angled shots, Maidana was able to knock Broner down twice.  

On paper, both fighters have the style to give the other one significant difficulties but how will that play out in the ring? Which one will make key adjustments? Who has learned from past missteps? It's a fascinating matchup and one where a strong case could be made for either boxer to prevail. Below will be the keys to the fight. My prediction will be at the end of the article. 

1. The catchweight.

The 144-lb. catchweight for this fight was instituted on Broner's behalf. Since his loss to Maidana, he has campaigned closer to the junior welterweight limit. From Broner's perspective, the hope is that Porter would struggle to take off the last three pounds, leading to lesser effectiveness in the ring. On Friday, Porter made weight on his first attempt. Although that doesn't answer the question of how Porter will look on Saturday, at least we know that he didn't have to burn off three pounds in a sauna after his first attempt to weigh in. He didn't appear gaunt at the weigh in or show any outward signs of struggling to make the catchweight limit.

For all we know, Porter could still have had difficulty making weight. Or, perhaps Porter was fine with 144. He started his pro career fighting at 165.5 lbs. and it's been remarkable that a boxer in his athletic prime can keep coming down in weight. Ultimately, we just don't know how much of a factor Porter's weight will play in the fight but it's certainly a key variable that could help determine its outcome.

There's another reason why the catchweight may have been put into place. Broner has only faced one puncher at welterweight, and he was floored twice. Immediately after the Maidana fight, he dropped down a division. Perhaps his team decided that he was just too small for 147 and/or his chin couldn't take shots from a real welterweight. Brush aside Porter's ability to make weight for a moment, maybe the hopeful negation of his power was the real reason why Broner wanted the catchweight. 

2. Who wins on the inside?

Both Broner and Porter have achieved some of their biggest wins by fighting on the inside. However, they have massively different styles at close range. In the trenches, Broner can incorporate his entire offensive arsenal, including a blistering right uppercut. Here, his combinations often flow seamlessly and he's particularly skilled at parrying shots or using his arms and elbows to negate his opponents' attack. He's also more than willing to take a shot to open up his own opportunities. He'll give his opponent his body while he goes to work on offense. If the action gets too intense, he is very adept at clinching and holding.

Porter likes to bullrush his opponents, using pressure to create angles for his punches. Relying on his fast footwork and physicality, he tries to drive opponents back to the ropes. There, he'll use quick lateral movement to go side-to-side on his opponent, working the left hook to the body and then moving over to throw overhand rights and short right hands to the head. Porter mugs and mauls on the inside but he also does considerable damage with clean blows.

Many have compared Porter's aggression to that of Maidana's. There are some notable similarities. They both can be relentless on attack and use pressure to back their opponents to the ropes. Porter is the faster of the two in closing the distance on the inside but Maidana throws more unconventional punches. It's this last distinction where the comparison breaks down. Maidana shoots some right hands from the other end of the arena as well as uppercuts from the floor. Opponents often don't anticipate these shots. Porter's movements and attack are more traditional. He's quick but he doesn't have Maidana's improvisational gifts. Broner will have plenty of opportunities to counter and trade on the inside. 

Both fighters could find glory or dismay on the inside. Porter could certainly outwork Broner and wear him down. However, Porter's sometimes reckless aggression will leave him open for whichever clean punches that Broner wants to land. It's a toss-up as to which one will prevail in close quarters but the winner on the inside will most likely hear his name called at the end of the fight. 

3. Broner's sharpshooting.

In Porter's only loss as a pro, he was stymied by Kell Brook's clean counterpunching. With counter jabs, left hooks and right hands, Brook maintained his poise at close range and landed enough big shots to win on the scorecards. Although Broner doesn't have Brook's reach, he certainly has his array of offensive weapons. Much will depend on how accurate Broner is in the ring. If he's on, he can frustrate Porter with well-timed counters and hit him with flashy shots.

If Broner can't consistently time Porter of if he loses his cool in response to Porter's pressure, he will have a much harder time in pulling out the win. Broner possesses the talent and skills to land cleanly on Porter on the inside but the question is one of execution. We've seen Broner sleepwalk through portions of fights before and if he's not sharp with his counterattack, he will find himself in an uphill battle to victory. 

4. Porter's motor. 

One way to beat Broner is to outwork him. Broner has never fought three minutes a round and likes to engage at his own leisurely pace. Maidana's high work rate and pressure made Broner fight at a much faster clip than he was used to, which led to mistakes. But it's not just Maidana; Broner has been outworked by a number of opponents during parts of his fights. 

At his best, Porter beats down opponents with aggression and pressure. However, he has fallen into mid-round lulls against Devon Alexander and Brook. He likes to start off with a flurry and can close strong but there are gaps in his work rate. In addition, he'll often get too wild and spend more time grappling and mauling instead of landing clean blows. Porter must keep his work rate up and maintain pressure throughout the fight; however, he needs to control his aggression somewhat to ensure that he actually wins rounds. In short, he needs to make sure that his aggression is effective. Porter's physicality will only work on Saturday if it leads to clean punching. If not, much of his effort will be wasted. 

5. Power. 

Let's ignore the statistics here. Broner has a 69% KO rate and Porter is at 59%, both good numbers. However, Porter has knocked out only one world-level opponent (Malignaggi) and Broner has yet to score a KO at 140 or above. I'm not dismissing either fighter's power but I don't think of either as a true knockout artist. 

However, they both can land sharp, damaging punches. Porter can be merciless to the body and really digs in with his left hook and straight right hand. Broner features very creative combinations. Often, his third or fourth punch in a combination will be the most destructive one of a sequence. He can hurt fighters with his right uppercut, left hook or short right hand. 

For this fight, the question most likely won't be who will score the knockout but whose power will dictate the action of the fight. Will Broner's combinations on the inside be enough to stop Porter from rushing in? Will Porter's body work force Broner to try to win by boxing on the outside? And, how long will it take to make these adjustments? Saturday's power battle will determine how the fight plays out in the ring. If neither can be hurt by the other guy's best shots, we might be in for a fun phone booth war. 


I think that the outcome of the fight will be determined by which boxer can consistently land the cleaner punches on the inside. I see this bout as very evenly-matched but I side with Broner here. I believe that he has the necessary tools and the type of wide offensive arsenal to squeak out a decision over Porter. 

If the fight gets choppy in the inside, Broner's more than comfortable grappling and holding. But Broner must be careful in close quarters; he will have to tie up if he gets stuck on the ropes, the one area of the ring where Porter has a clear advantage.

As they did in the Porter-Brook fight, the judges will have to watch the action closely to determine which punches actually land and which ones are legitimate, scoring shots. Porter will maul away on Broner's arms and shoulders but I think that the cleaner punches will come from Broner's counterpunching. I expect this to be a close bout with several potential swing rounds. Ultimately, the more eye-catching shots will come from Broner in a seven-rounds-to-five type of fight. 

Adrien Broner defeats Shawn Porter by split decision. 

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, June 15, 2015

The Verdejo Train

Felix Verdejo, the young Puerto Rican power puncher, has received considerable hype since beginning his professional career. A 2012 Olympian, Verdejo was awarded with a significant signing bonus from Top Rank upon turning pro. The company proclaimed him a phenom. Although many young prospects receive buzz from their promoters (much of it eventually to be unfounded), that Bob Arum, the grizzled promotional head of Top Rank, was responsible for such hosannas is quite notable; his company has a well-deserved reputation as being the best talent evaluators in North American boxing. 

Top Rank wasted little time in displaying its new talent to the boxing masses. In Verdejo's first 10 fights, he was given featured sports on the undercards of some of the company's biggest promotions, fighting in Madison Garden twice, Radio City Music Hall, in Macau and also on a Miguel Cotto card (Cotto is the current dean of Puerto Rican boxing). Clearly, the company had big plans for Verdejo. 

I've never been one to fall in love with prospects and while I immediately noticed several outstanding traits in Verdejo's early fights, I had enough questions about his overall package of skills to retain a bit of skepticism. On the plus side of the ledger, Verdejo clearly displayed an aggressive temperament in the ring that was fan-friendly. Possessing top-rate power, he was looking to knock opponents out in spectacular fashion, which can be both a blessing and a curse. Yes, there were highlight-reel stoppages but there were also the standard issues that young power punches face. He wanted to knock guys out with every punch and his shots would often get bigger and wider if the knockout didn't come quickly: he was doubling down on some technical mistakes. 

One of the other crown jewels of Top Rank's 2012 Olympic class was Oscar Valdez, a Mexican fighter who also possessed heavy hands and a television-friendly style. As both Verdejo and Valdez started to progress in their careers, it became a fun parlor game among boxing observers to compare the two fighters and project which one would ultimately become more successful. Valdez was more clinical with his shots than Verdejo was. His left hook was sensational and he had the better balance and footwork. However, Verdejo possessed a larger offensive arsenal, true one-punch knockout power and better hand speed. 

Of the two, I was initially higher on Valdez, believing that he had a better boxing foundation, stronger defensive fundamentals and a higher ring I.Q. And until this past week, I maintained that opinion. However, in preparing to write a preview article for Verdejo's fight on Saturday against Ivan Najera, I started to reconsider (full disclosure: the preview article never happened as life got in that way). I wound up watching probably 10 or 11 of Verdejo's bouts and the more that I saw the more excited I became. I witnessed his devastating counter uppercut knockout of Sergio Villanueva, where Verdejo, normally an orthodox fighter, landed a pulverizing left uppercut out of the southpaw stance. Verdejo also really impressed me with his patient work against Oscar Bravo; the knockout wasn't going to come but he stuck to winning rounds and didn't get discouraged. In addition, in his more recent fights I started to see a progression in his ring IQ. He was now setting up shots and opponents; there was a plan, not just raw power. 

Verdejo is still only 22 (and almost two-and-a-half years younger than Valdez) but he is already developing some quality offensive moves to go along with his destructive power. He doubles up the left hook beautifully, going to the body and the head. He has become much more comfortable countering than he was when he started his career. He seems to relish the back-and-forth of exchanges and doesn't get spooked after getting hit cleanly. These are the types of advancements that are imperative for young prospects. After my video session, I was even more eager to see Verdejo in person on Saturday; I needed to witness his growth with my own eyes. Was he the real deal?

Najera, his opponent this weekend, was a Texas-based undefeated prospect, although not a blue chipper pre-destined for greatness like Verdejo or Valdez. However, Najera could handle himself in the ring, had decent boxing skills and a high work rate. He was easily Verdejo's best foe of his career. 

I won't bury the lede: Verdejo was sensational. He knocked Najera down twice with the same punch, a hybrid left hook/uppercut. The first knockdown was just a sublime counter shot, the type of punch that can only land if a fighter is truly locked into his target. If Verdejo, overthrows that shot, he misses it wildly but his execution on the first knockdown was flawless. 

Najera was the perfect opponent for Verdejo at this stage of his career. He had a pretty tight defense and worked behind his jab. He kept throwing punches but did so responsibly. He used fairly good footwork to cut off the ring and he unloaded some carefully placed power shots when he could (most notably a left hook). If Verdejo wasn't on, or if he was just the product of hype, he certainly could have lost to a fighter of Najera's caliber. 

However, Verdejo had an answer for everything that came his way. When Najera's offense became too predictable, Verdejo pounded him with counter left hooks and lead right hands. He set traps for Najera along the ropes, playing a little possum waiting for Najera to unload power shots. After these moments, Verdejo fired back with even more ferocious thunder, hurting Najera two or three times when using this tactic. As Verdejo started to break down Najera throughout the fight, he continued to flash additional aspects of his offense. He had several impressive counter right uppercuts in the second half of the fight. In the final round, he switched to southpaw and had huge success with lead left hands. 

Najera was able to make it to the final bell but that speaks more to his intestinal fortitude (and an unsympathetic ref) than any deficiency in Verdejo's performance. Yes, Verdejo took some good shots (which, in fact, can be interpreted as a positive in that his response was excellent) but he was consistently the better fighter. Overall, Verdejo commanded the ring, displaying maturity while not doing anything to tarnish his star wattage. 

And during the fight, The Theater at Madison Square Garden morphed into quite the festive atmosphere. Puerto Rican flags were waving throughout the match; cheers were offered in multiple languages. The crowd celebrated Verdejo's display of firepower and exhorted him during lulls. Although the arena wasn't filled to capacity, those who were in attendance – the majority was pro-Verdejo – witnessed a crucial early step in Verdejo's rise to stardom. With performances like Saturday's, Verdejo's following will start to grow exponentially.  

There will still be tests ahead for Verdejo and, clearly, nothing is ordained in this sport. Najera had only average power and it still remains to be seen how good Verdejo's chin is against top power punchers. Fortunately for him, the lightweight division as it stands now has few of those but eventually that challenge will manifest. In addition, Verdejo still needs some room to throw his best punches. I'd be interested to see how he deals with a phone booth war from a true pressure fighter. But these aren't knocks on the fighter – just questions that one day will need to be answered. 

After the fight, it was reported that Verdejo had hurt his left hand and will be out of action for several months. This period will be an early test for the fighter. Will he be able to maintain his conditioning during the long layoff? Verdejo only needs to look to his native island to see the perils of blowing up in weight between fights. Juan Manuel Lopez was once as sure-fire of a prospect as there was in the sport. He had a fantastic amateur pedigree and he was more polished than Verdejo is. However, after becoming a champ, Lopez would balloon from the 120s to untold numbers. Some have claimed the 160s or even the 180s. It was ultimately Lopez's lack of dedication outside the ring that did him in as much as anything that Orlando Salido threw at him during their battles. For Verdejo, Lopez's story is a cautionary tale and it will be fascinating to see what Verdejo looks like when he returns to the ring. 

The Felix Verdejo vs. Oscar Valdez debate will continue and it won't be decided today or anytime soon. I'm certainly not in any way disparaging Valdez's skills or future prospects in the sport. I'll just say that I've been impressed in how quickly Verdejo has added to his raw tools. He's no longer just a knockout artist. He has developed poise and several crafty moves. His development in the ring coupled with a full-on adoption by the rabid Puerto Rican fanbase could lead to superstardom. For now, the Verdejo Train continues to gather steam and I encourage all of you to hop along for the ride. The normal disclaimers about young fighters should of course be applied but, for one night, I saw what might be The Future, and it was glorious. 

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