Monday, August 17, 2015

SNB Nuggets: PBC, Porter, Huck

We're just past five months of the PBC boxing era and the early returns have been a mixed bag. It's clear that PBC mastermind Al Haymon, also an advisor or manager of almost all of its boxers, has specific fighters that he's treating with kid gloves. Deontay Wilder, Keith Thurman and Amir Khan (to name three) have yet to be matched against a truly tough opponent, despite all of them having a rocky moment or two in their last respective PBC fights. In addition, a number of perceived mismatches loom on the horizon (Quillin-Zerafa really jumps out). Much of this has been well documented by others; however, some intriguing storylines have emerged in this initial run of the PBC.

Take this past weekend, for instance. PBC broadcasted two high-quality fights that most likely wouldn't have been televised on a major U.S. outlet in the pre-PBC era; the cruiserweight matchup between Marco Huck (Germany, although born in Serbia) against Krzysztof Glowacki (Poland) and Eleider Alvarez (Canada, originally from Colombia) against Isidro Prieto (Paraguay, but now lives in Argentina). Both of these fights were excellent – the Huck bout is my frontrunner for fight of the year – and it's clear to me that someone from Team Haymon is doing his/her boxing homework.

Two knocks on Haymon's tenure in boxing are insufficient development for his fighters and poor matchmaking. The flameouts of many of his supposed stars, like Jermain Taylor, Andre Berto and Adrien Broner are just three examples of fighters who were rushed to title shots without being developed properly. For examples of non-competitive matchmaking, look no further than Garcia-Salka, Quillin-Konecny or Peterson-Santana (Lucian Bute's opponent this weekend was laughably bad as well).

However, Huck-Glowacki and Alvarez-Prieto demonstrate that Team Haymon is more than capable of discovering fresh talent to put on its broadcasts and that PBC fighters can be appropriately challenged. These are important steps forward for Haymon because if one wants to corner the North American boxing television market (which he does), one must produce fighters who are good enough and prepared enough to dominate action at the top of the sport. In addition, quality matchups for these fighters will help stoke interest in them and the PBC brand as a whole. None of this is rocket science but Haymon et al. have often resisted some of the basic tenets of matchmaking and fighter development. Nevertheless, this weekend shows that Team Haymon is able to perform these vital functions. Of course, the irony is that both of these matchups were undercard fights for lackluster or perfunctory main events. But, for steps.


Mistakes. All fighters make them, whether they are strategic, technical, physical or mental. Even the best boxer in the world, Floyd Mayweather, is guilty of making errors in the ring. How many rounds did he have to get hammered on the ropes by Marcos Maidana in their first match until he realized that it was a bad idea? Similarly, he repeated the same mistake against Manny Pacquiao. Whenever he stayed on the ropes for a prolonged period, he got nailed. Floyd was obviously good enough to overcome these errors but many fighters are not. Let's add Marco Huck to this list.

Huck was sitting in the driver's seat in the 11th round of a tough fight against Glowacki on Friday. Scoring a knockdown in sixth round, Huck started to build his lead as the fight progressed into the championship rounds. After unloading a combination in the 11th round, he moved straight back with his hands down. Glowacki then fired off a winging left hand and a short right uppercut that changed the complexion of the fight. Huck, who had never been down before as a pro, hit the canvas. Although he did make the count, Glowacki charged forward and pounded him along the ropes, forcing ref David Fields to stop the fight.

Again, just a brief mistake and it was all over. It's not as if Huck is a flawless defensive fighter who had a brief slip up. He's always been easy to hit and has often displayed a disregard for defense; part of this attitude is what has led to his appeal as a fighter. However, this moment illustrates the fine line between winning and losing. 

Even the best defensive fighters get tagged hard. Think about Shane Mosley's right hand in the second round against Mayweather or Hopkins hitting the canvas twice in the first Jean Pascal fight. (Incidentally, Pascal was able to drop Hopkins because Bernard kept trying to escape to his right whenever Pascal flurried. Pascal eventually timed this pattern; Hopkins' predictability was a mistake.) The best fighters minimize their mistakes while trying to exploit those of their opponents. Even boxers beneath the top level try to follow a similar code. Glowacki found his perfect, opportunistic moment and capitalized. That one mistake by Huck has now made Glowacki's career. One moment. One silly little pull back. Boxing history changes.


Referee David Fields deserves substantial credit for his performance during the Huck-Glowacki fight. Glowacki was sent down from a wicked left hook in the sixth round and he was in bad shape. Spike commentator Jimmy Smith didn't think that Glowacki was getting up and frankly it was amazing to see Glowacki rise to his feet by the count of "eight." At that moment, Fields could've easily stopped the fight without facing any criticism. However, he took a firm look at Glowacki and let the fight continue. Lo and behold, by the end of the round, Glowacki landed some impressive shots and on my card he even took the next round.

I don't profess to be a master of the art of refereeing but clearly, there was something that Fields saw or knew about the fighter that indicated Glowacki was able to continue. Spitballing here, I guess that maybe 8 out of 10 refs would've stopped the bout and it's to Fields' credit that he let the fight progress. In addition to how he handled the knockdown, Fields did an admirable job of being in position at the bell to quickly contain some extracurricular punches after a few of the rounds. Warnings were issues and a tough fight didn't devolve into a contest marred by fouls.

It's far too coincidental that in my four-plus years of writing the Saturday Night Boxing blog, three of the four best referee jobs that I've seen were from New Jersey- or New York-based referees. (The others from NY/NJ were Steve Smoger in Cunningham-Mansour and Eddie Claudio in Quillin-N'Dam; Tony Weeks, not from that part of the country, gets the fourth slot for his work during Garcia-Matthysse.) Each boxing jurisdiction has its own character and the New Jersey-based Fields (who also often refs in New York) belongs in a grouping with several other New York/New Jersey referees who let fighters fight. I'd include Smoger, Claudio, Harvey Dock, Earl Brown, Benjy Esteves and the recently-retired Eddie Cotton into this fraternity.

I'm not saying that these are necessarily the absolute best at all phases of refereeing. However, each of them gives fighters a chance to recover in the ring. Their style of refereeing helps to create memorable outcomes. However, this approach can run the risk of being too laissez-faire. Consider Smoger's slow reaction time during the end of Roy Jones-Denis Lebedev or Esteves' handling of the infamous Magomed fight. (To be fair to Esteves, there were many contributing factors to what happened to Magomed.) By and large, this group performs ably. With them, boxers know that they will have a fair chance when under duress. I think that all fighters would appreciate that opportunity.  


Shawn Porter perplexes me. Over the years, I've struggled with evaluating his skills and prospects for the future. Why did he suddenly become a pressure fighter? What style would give him the best chance to win? Why does he neglect his boxing skills? These questions have confounded me. As a result, I've had a notoriously hard time picking winners to his fights; I've predicted his last four significant bouts incorrectly.

During his most recent fight against Adrien Broner, I believe that he turned a corner. To illustrate this point, let me use a tennis analogy. Against Kell Brook, Porter was a do-or-die serve-and-volleyer. Meaning, he was rushing in no matter the circumstance. In that fight, Brook was successful enough with his counters, whether they were straight right hands, left hooks, uppercuts or jabs, to thwart a lot of Porter's aggression. Porter was like John McEnroe (a diehard serve-and-volleyer) facing the ace return game of Andre Agassi. Lots of winners were expertly placed. Porter finally met a fighter whose shots were too good for his attack-only style.

Against Broner, Porter picked his opportunities for pressure more prudently. He boxed from mid-range and once he landed something of substance, then he rushed forward. In that fight, Porter reminded me more of Roger Federer's style. After Federer hits a great shot that puts his opponent at a disadvantage, then he charges the net. Porter came forward after Broner was already in an unfavorable position. Thus, his inside work was far more effective than it was against Brook, who had enough answers for Porter's undisciplined aggression. 

Yes, Brook may be a more versatile fighter than Broner is but Porter wasn't too far behind Brook in his only loss as a professional. I think that Porter's approach to Broner will ultimately be his best way forward at the top level of the sport. I have no way of knowing if Porter will successfully incorporate the experiences of these two fights into his next performance, but by being a little more patient, he gives himself a much better chance to beat quality fighters. 

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

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