Friday, January 22, 2016

Q&A: Frank Espinoza, Jr.

It’s an auspicious time for Espinoza Boxing. The management company, based in Southern California, has a number of emerging fighters who are poised to break out in 2016. With a stable of boxers that includes Oscar Valdez, Antonio Orozco, Jessie Magdaleno and Ronnie Rios, the company has successfully placed several of its fighters on HBO platforms over the past year, and all prevailed. Valdez, in particular, is a fighter who has generated considerable buzz within the industry. His next bout is a significant opportunity for him: a slot on the Manny Pacquiao-Tim Bradley III undercard against former featherweight titlist Evgeny Gradovich.

I recently spoke with Frank Espinoza, Jr., who runs the company with his father, Frank Sr., about the plans for his key boxers in 2016. We also talked about several fights from last year that changed the career trajectories of boxers from his stable, including Ronny Rios-Jayson Velez, Terry Flanagan-Diego Magdaleno and Antonio Orozco-Humberto Soto. In addition, Frank identified several young prospects, such as Joet Gonzalez and Emilio Sanchez, whom he believes will make up the next wave of top fighters under the Espinoza banner. Finally, we discussed some of the finer points of boxing management: When is the right time to step up a prospect and what type of fighter is Espinoza Boxing looking to sign?

Interview by Adam Abramowitz
The interview has been edited.

The biggest news coming out of your stable is that Oscar Valdez is going to fight Evgeny Gradovich. As a manager, how do you know when it’s time for a promising young fighter to take a big step up?

You know it depends on each fighter. Some fighters do develop a little quicker. Some are a little bit slower. As far as Valdez, his last two fights he’s been looking exceptional. I think he’s really getting adjusted to the professional [ranks]. I think Gradovich is a great opportunity. I know that Oscar has mentioned him in the past. When the name came up, just seeing how he’s been progressing, it was a no-brainer. It was a good decision, we felt.

What does it mean for Valdez to be on the platform of the Pacquiao-Bradley fight in terms of increasing his visibility in the sport?

Yeah, this is a huge opportunity for him. This is a big moment to shine with Gradovich being a former world champion. If he can perform well, not just win, but win impressively, it can really bring him to the next level, which we feel he is more than capable of doing. It would do wonders. Pacquiao-Bradley...a lot of viewers will be watching and it’s a good opportunity to show what he has.

Valdez looked very impressive against Chris Avalos last year. He also won a unanimous decision against Ruben Tamayo earlier in 2015 but that fight was memorable in that Valdez was knocked down for the first time. Was there any concern on your end from that fight or was it more of “these things happen” over the course of a fighter’s development?

As far as that, in Valdez’s defense, his HBO debut was really a list-minute thing.  He went through probably six or seven opponents. He didn’t know if he was fighting a right-hander or a southpaw and then at the end of it, maybe a week-and-a-half into it, he found out he was fighting a southpaw. It was an opportunity that we thought would be great. But Tamayo came out there and fought a hell of a fight.

As far as the knockdown, I don’t think it was a real knockdown. If you look at the replay, they tripped. It showed that pretty clearly. But listen, that’s boxing. Sometimes you have to adjust to adversity and he did that. He had to compose himself, not to get too panicked. He was nice and calm and just went back to the game plan, which was to box him.

Valdez is a decorated amateur. He represented Mexico in the Olympics two different times. How did he become a member of Espinoza Boxing?

You know it’s a funny story. My father, Frank Sr., and Oscar Sr., Oscar Valdez’s father, have known each other for a while. It was actually before even Oscar was going into the Olympics. You know it’s kind of funny how things just worked out. Oscar turned out to be a guy to look out for and we already had a good relationship with his father. And that’s pretty much how it got done. He gave us the opportunity and we’ve worked very well together as a team.

Another young prospect in your stable that people are excited about is Jessie Magdaleno. He's another guy that is young and has a lot of power. Magdaleno has fought 22 fights. Valdez has fought 18 but it seems that Valdez is moving a little quicker. From your perspective, what is Jessie’s timetable in terms of taking that next step? What are you looking for from him in 2016?

We’ve had Jessie for a few years already. We haven’t had him from the beginning, like we did with Valdez. Our goal for 2016 is to get a world title shot. Specifically, we really want Nonito Donaire. Jessie, I think, is very hungry, very motivated and in fact we’re meeting with Top Rank on Tuesday [this would have occurred last Tuesday] to discuss his plans for the year. Listen, we’re making no secret. We want Nonito. It’s time that Jessie at least gets an opportunity. But he fights February 20th and you know, we got to take it one fight at a time. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. Things are going to be exciting for him this year I would say.

His brother, Diego, fought for a title last year against Terry Flanagan. He got knocked out very early in a fight that many thought would be competitive. What happened in that fight?

I got to admit I was surprised too in how that panned out. I didn’t expect that at all. With that said, I know that Diego didn’t feel comfortable at all. In the ring, he said it was slippery and he couldn’t plant his foot. But nonetheless, listen, I’m not going to make excuses. I’ll take the “L.” We lost. All props go to Terry Flanagan and his team. And we’re just going to have to see what’s the next move for him.

One fighter of yours who was a real surprise in 2015, at least from my perspective, was Ronny Rios. I had watched Rios against Robinson Castellanos, where Castellanos really worked him over. Rios wound up facing Jayson Velez last year. On paper, it seemed that Velez had some advantages in that he was more athletic and much taller. Yet, Ronny came forward and really put forth a spirited effort in that fight to get the win. What was your opinion on taking that fight originally and what were your thoughts as you were watching it?

To be honest, it played out just as I thought it would. We knew it was going to be competitive but I truly felt that Ronny was more than ready for a fight like that. I know that he wanted to redeem himself from the Castellanos loss. And it was a good opportunity. It was on the undercard of a Canelo fight.

It panned out exactly as I thought. I thought it was competitive but I knew that Ronny would edge out the second half of the fight, which he did. The plan was to just be aggressive and go to the body. And we came out victorious. Hopefully, we can get a rematch down the line with Castellanos, hopefully for a world title. But we’ll see. We have to see how things pan out with that.

What are the next steps for Rios’ career?

We don’t have a fight date as of yet. We just met up with Golden Boy. They’re going to be getting back to us on a date. Right now, we’re just keeping busy. But this year, we’d like to have him fight for a title. So that's the plan.

Another fighter of yours who made his HBO debut last year was Antonio Orozco. He faced a very seasoned opponent in Humberto Soto. In a very competitive fight, Orozco wound up winning a unanimous decision. What can you tell us about that fight and what are your thoughts about where he stands in the junior welterweight division?

I thought that fight was a great learning experience. Humberto Soto…when he fought Lucas Matthysse and Matthysse kind of went through him, people forget that Soto was going through some drama with his family – I think regarding a kidnapping. Listen, Soto was a guy who fought over 70 fights. Orozco wasn’t going to show him anything different that he hadn’t seen before. So what we had to do was be smart. And we did have to switch up the game plan during the fight. The plan was to be aggressive and then we realized that it would be smarter for him to box. I was really impressed to see that Orozco in a big situation was willing to make an adjustment during the fight. He edged it out. I thought it was a close fight but I definitely thought he won. I thought it was a great learning experience for a guy that’s up-and-coming.

There are a lot of opportunities for him this year. I think we’re going to come back in March, maybe Fantasy Springs or something like that. And then hopefully the game plan is to fight Mauricio Herrera. That’s a fight that we really want.

What was the feedback you received from HBO regarding Orozco’s performance against Soto?

They had seen him before. They had been following him. They did know how he looked when he fought on TruTv against Emmanuel Taylor, which was a great fight. I think they were impressed with him. But absolutely, they told us and they told Golden Boy that they’d love to have him back on the network; so that would be the plan.

Since Oscar de la Hoya has taken back control of the reins at Golden Boy, he’s made it known that he wants his fighters matched tough. And I know that from your career in terms of managing fighters that you’ve never been afraid to match your fighters competitively. How would you describe your relationship with Oscar in terms of plotting a path for your fighters that are promoted by him?

It does depend where a fighter’s at in his career. For example, we have Joet Gonzalez making his way up. He’s a prospect. For a guy like that, the goal is just to keep him busy. But for a guy like Ronny Rios or Antonio Orozco, these are guys now where they are on a path. You got to step them up. With that, there’s risk but at the same time comes reward. So I’m on the same page with Oscar. I think what he’s doing is great. He’s doing what fans want to see. They want to see competitive fights and that’s what he’s bringing to the table. As a fight fan myself, I appreciate that. Listen, if you’re going to fork out money to watch a fight, you want to get your money’s worth.

I know that Espinoza Boxing has a lot of young prospects coming up. Is there anyone in particular that you are high on or you think is going to make a name for himself in the next 12-18 months?

We just signed Emilio Sanchez. He’s an up-and-comer, a good prospect. Also, I’m really, really high on Joet Gonzalez. This kid is kind of a diamond-in-the-rough. I think he’ll be really making a splash. I think you’ll be hearing about him more by the end of the year, where he’ll probably be headlining Estrella TV shows. I think he has a lot of potential. He’s sparred with everybody. He sparred Valdez, Gradovich, Lomachenko. He gives everybody fits. He’s a really talented kid and I think his time will come. 

There are a lot of very talented boxers in Southern California. When you and your father are looking at a fighter, evaluating him, what specifically are you looking for that makes you want to sign him?

First, you ask questions. How many amateur fights did he have? That does play an important role in my opinion. You want to see guys that are talented but at the same time, they got to be entertaining. In other words, I want a guy who has balls. I want to invest in a guy that as a fight fan I would pay to watch. I don’t want to see a guy just run around and box, which is great, but I want to be entertained as a fight fan. If you notice, a lot of our fighters all have that entertaining type of style. They all have balls. They all are entertaining. They are fun to watch but they also fight smart – not to be foolish out there. They are aggressive but intelligent. So that’s what we look for. We like guys who are entertaining and have a lot of intelligence. They are not afraid to fight and can box and brawl when they need to. 

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, January 19, 2016

The SNB Interview -- Peter Fury

Peter Fury helped engineer one of the most notable upsets in recent boxing history when his nephew, Tyson Fury, defeated long-reigning heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko last November in Germany. Peter’s game plan and corner work were masterful. Peter devised an inventive strategy that took away Klitschko's best weapons: his jab and right hand. Tyson used movement, angles, feints and his reach to create doubt and uncertainty in the champion. Because of Tyson's tactics, Klitschko was unable to establish a consistent offensive rhythm until the fight's final round. In the corner, Peter emphasized the necessity of Tyson staying within himself and sticking to the script. Ultimately, Tyson executed Peter's blueprint adroitly and boxed his way to a definitive, unanimous decision in hostile territory. 

Overall, it was a wonderful performance by Team Fury. From my perspective, Peter did the best corner job of the year and earned the 2015 Saturday Night Boxing Trainer of the Year award. I also selected Tyson as my pick for 2015's best upset victory.

In addition, Peter also trains his son, Hughie, an emerging, undefeated heavyweight. Currently 18-0, Hughie is looking to break into the ranks of world-class heavyweights in 2016.

I spoke with Peter Fury recently in a wide-ranging interview. He reflected on a number of aspects from that history-making night in Germany. Another highlight of the interview included the drastic changes that Peter made with Tyson in 2012 (the year Peter took over as his nephew's head trainer). Fury also revealed his plans for Hughie over the next 18 months.

Interestingly, everything hasn’t been all wine and roses for Peter since guiding Tyson to the title. Although he's derived tremendous satisfaction from his nephew's victory, he's been dismayed by several negative press articles that he and Tyson have received following the fight. 

However, Peter is certainly enjoying his family's prominent position in boxing's landscape. Training camp starts soon for Tyson's rematch with Klitschko and Peter is ready for the challenge. 

Interview by Adam Abramowitz
The interview has been edited and condensed.

First of all, congratulations. I’m sure these last six-to-eight weeks have probably been fantastic. I want to start off with your impressions from the Klitschko fight. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about that night in Germany?

When I think about that night in Germany, I think it was a fantastic achievement to prove everybody wrong…to be the underdog and for Tyson to come through and win it, and win it with ease.

I know there were a lot of shenanigans before the fight started with the gloves, the padding and the ring. Let’s talk about the padding incident. What did you notice when you initially inspected the ring?

It was a tactic of theirs. It was a trick. They tried it and they failed. For me, it was cheating. I got to be honest. You don’t have rings like that. They’re not normal. Now we found out after the event that Klitschko trained in that ring purposefully, for god knows how many weeks. For Tyson to just come in there and try and box on a trampoline is ridiculous.

What’s your standard procedure on fight night when you’re inspecting the ring?

The process is the ring always gets arranged in the day so I always go down there with Tyson. I have a look at the ring. I put the fighter in the ring and let him move around to make sure everything is OK with it. We got down there at 11 A.M. on fight day and the ring was a mess. You know this is why we go down and check all these things. Anything that’s going to affect the fighter has to be checked. That’s my job.

The fight was originally scheduled for October and then was postponed. What was your initial reaction after the fight was pushed off?

I think you have to accept every eventuality in boxing on a higher level. Nothing goes to plan. You have to ride with the tide. It was one of those things that was beyond our control. It was surprising that the very next day after the press conference that he pulled a ligament. We don’t know what the reason was for it or what was behind it. We can only take it at face value. And he pulled a hamstring, or actually a calf muscle is what was reported. That’s as much as we knew. All we did know is that the fight got put back another six weeks and we just carried on training.

With such a long training camp, how did you make sure that Tyson didn’t peak too soon?

Well it’s very difficult because you have to back him off. You can’t back him off altogether and it is a work of science. You have to really know the fighter’s genetics, how he operates. You have to know that inside and out. To be honest, in these types of situations, to get it right on the world level, you need to be a trainer, a doctor, a psychiatrist. You need to be everything all molded into one.

There’s no error for failure. There’s no error for over-training someone. The worst nightmare for any trainer or for any fighter is when he gets back to the corner and he says I’m tired. My legs feel like lead. I got no snap and this and that, complaining. The last thing you need is somebody being over-trained.

Was there anything in the fight that surprised you?

No. I’ve always said to Tyson, and also in previous interviews, “This is a fight where you’re either going to win it easy or it’s going to be a very difficult night. If you’re going to make it a hard fight then you’re going to have to favor Klitschko in it.” I said, “Because to make a hard fight of it, you’re doing stuff wrong, what you’re not doing in the gym. You have to keep your head right, do exactly what we worked on in the gym and you’ll have an easy night.”

And the fight went 100% to plan. It just went absolutely correct. It’s what we worked for and what we predicted what would happen. It went to plan.

As a follow up, Klitschko had been dominant in the division for so long and yet in the lead up to the fight you said that it would be an easy fight for Tyson. What did you see when looking at Klitschko that you thought would make it easy for your fighter?

I’ve watched all the previous opponents. I’m not taking anything away from him. They’re all looking for the knockout. They’re all looking to get on top of him. Wladimir is a serious guy. He’s very cautious. He’s very good defensively. He’s a worthy world champion. You go on to Wladimir and you try to take him out, it’s a big, big risk. With Tyson being 6’9”, his agility, the way he moves, he doesn’t have to go looking for you. He didn’t have to go looking for Klitschko. All he had to do was box because the speed of his hands, the combination punching…it was amazing. This is what we’re dealing with.

We only saw I think 60% of Tyson and the reason for that is because of how good Klitschko is. They were negating each other’s moves. This always was going to be a fight like this in case one of them walked into a big shot. It was always going to pan out like this.

From your perspective, what would you like to see him do more of in the rematch?

Not giving too much away, but I told Tyson to do certain things and he said, “I don’t feel comfortable doing that.” I said, just box and do your thing. So obviously, because Tyson couldn’t do what he was told to do, what he practiced, because, like I said, of how good Klitschko is, that stopped Tyson from getting the knockout. This time he will be practicing it and he will be getting it off properly. He will be looking to do that. That’s why I said he only done about 60% because he could have done a lot more. Because of Klitschko, how he is, because of the occasion, Klitschko was the best man he ever fought, you got to take all these things into the equation and start deducting off of 100%.

Next time, the confidence is there. Everything’s there. I think Tyson Fury now has silenced all of the doubters and he’s now coming into his own. He had a lot of self-belief anyway but now that belief has been cemented so we will see a phenomenal Tyson Fury in the next match.

What was your reaction in the 12th round once Klitschko finally started to land some hard right hands?

Everybody goes on about Tyson’s chin but Tyson’s only been susceptible early on, like he’s been caught cold by doing stupid things, walking into stupid shots. He’s learned the hard way, by being on his back and having to get up from taking stupid shots. But, he’s developed a hell of a lot since then. He’s got a boxing brain. And I think the shots he was taking...he didn’t really value Klitschko’s power. In the corner, he was saying to me, “I can’t believe it. This man’s weak. He has no power.”

And I said, “It’s not because he’s got no power. The adrenaline’s up. Do not take this guy for granted. He can punch. So do what I tell you, stay alert and stay switched on.” So I think in the 12th round, Tyson couldn’t really care what was happening and I didn’t really see any danger for him at all.

I wanted to go back to when you became Tyson’s lead trainer. I believe that was before the Martin Rogan fight. At that point, he had been knocked down by a lesser guy [Neven Pajkic] in his previous fight. When you came onboard as his head trainer, what did you see from Tyson and what were you looking to improve?

I said to Tyson when he came with me, “You got to 17-0 and you’ve got no jab. You’ve got no footwork. You just got natural ability. So to get to 17-0 and win the British title and get to where you are is a very good achievement for what you’re working with. But when you are about to step up, if guys on this level are putting you on the floor – you’re so wide open, you’re so vulnerable – unless you’re going to take this job absolutely deadly serious, I’d rather see you pack it in.

“You’ve been a British champion. Unless you can take it serious, unless you can focus and change all these flaws, you won’t make it in boxing. So if you want to put your life into boxing and be a world-class fighter, let’s do it. I’m happy to do whatever I can.”

And he was a bit messed up. He’d been to a lot of trainers all over the world. He’s been here he’d been there. And he said that he had never been really comfortable. I know he had been with my brother, Hughie, from the start of his career. He got him to 17-0 which was amazing. And nothing to do with my brother’s training but Tyson and my brother… they clashed. Tyson would not listen to my brother Hughie that much about the diet and stuff like this.

When he came and trained with me, I never had a problem with him. He said I’ll do what I’m told. And we just worked on various things. He was very open to taking a lot of shots. He had no footwork whatsoever. When he threw a jab, he leaned over his front foot. And when he threw a backhand, he’d bring his back foot round so he was square. He’d turn his whole body with his back foot with it. You only got to look at his fights.

Yes, he left himself very open to be countered.

Yes. This is why the likes of Neven Pajkic and Nicolai Firtha were catching him, hurting him, because he was so wide open. As he was starting to step up, he was getting caught. Now, we worked on these things. We worked on the footwork tirelessly – week in, week out. We worked on the jab and this is what made me switch him to southpaw. We had four months from January to April – we were fighting Rogan – and I was not happy with the jab. Three weeks before the fight, maybe four weeks maximum, I said, “Look, you still haven’t got the jab right. You’re getting caught right hand after right hand.”

So then, I spun him around to southpaw and so we had a look at that. And I was working on the pads and he was moving very unusual in the southpaw [stance]. Instead of moving to my right as I’m looking at him, he was on the southpaw and moving to my left. He was left handed and still moving away from the right. So I thought: normal southpaws, they go the other way. They go into the right hand. So I’m looking at it and I said you seem to have natural ability. He wasn’t that good but it was starting to flow and he was much better than the orthodox, defense-wise. So that was the reason why I turned him to a southpaw, because he was still catching right hands over-the-top. That’s why he stayed southpaw all the way through for Rogan.

One of the fights where I noticed how effective he was as a southpaw was the Dereck Chisora rematch, where he neutralized that right hand over-the-top. The southpaw stance basically took that punch away. Was that deliberate or was that something instinctual from Tyson?

Every fight he’s had with me he’s been programmed. We practice what we’re doing beforehand. When I’m in the corner, you see when we speak, it’s just clear instruction. He knows what he’s doing. He’s not stepping out of that instruction. He’s just boxing to orders and he does his thing. He practices it. And he implements it in the ring.

When you’re talking about high-level boxing, instincts come in where he’s gotten very good at switching up. He’s got it to a fine art now with the switching. He switches up effortlessly. He’s got very good at it and he’s compounded it. He’s got better and better at it. He’s just as effective in the southpaw as he is in the orthodox.

I noticed that Hughie [Fury] also switches to southpaw from time-to-time. With Hughie, what do you see when you move him to southpaw?

He’s nowhere near yet as effective as Tyson in southpaw. When he moves into it, he’s not confident. He’ll move into the southpaw and he’ll move straight back to orthodox. He’ll use the southpaw as a feint. He’ll slip into it and slip straight back into orthodox. That’s as much as he doing. But, over the past few months – you can’t really judge his last couple of fights because he got the opponents out of there in one or two rounds and never really switched – but he has been switching a lot better. He’s getting better at it. But this is something which is in progress with Hughie. He’s not comfortable. He’s not there yet in southpaw. But, he’s getting it.

I wanted to ask you another question about Tyson before I get to Hughie. From when you got Tyson to where he is now, how would you assess his improvement and what types of things are you still working on.

I see Tyson as a totally reformed boxer. I think his maturity, the way he developed, his mental attitude towards boxing…I think he’s come on 99% since his early days. He’s just a different animal altogether. When he fought [Steve] Cunningham, although he was super fit and he had the right training camp… no one was there with him and let’s not forget how old he was when he fought Cunningham, 24 or 25, still very young. He wanted to impress the crowd. Chances were taken. He put himself in a hard fight when he didn’t need to. These are things where he’s picked up on. He’s learned that this is why you need people in your corner. This is what you got trainers for because you can’t go out there just flying everywhere, thinking you can just dismantle people. When you’re fighting world-class fighters, you don’t need to give much away to get hit. So it’s a game of chess.

Hughie had his first 10-round fights last year. Two of them went the distance. How would you describe his performances in those fights?

I describe them as being excellent learning for Hughie because he’s not fighting what you see so often today – fat guys that are no good that are getting in for a payday. He was getting in there with two guys that were very, very tough and dangerous. Because if they land, they can hurt you. He got the 10 rounds out and knows what it’s like for guys to keep coming, keep coming, keep coming, and having to stay composed for the 10 rounds. So it was good experience for him, good learning.

And [Andriy] Rudenko was definitely there to win that fight. He wasn’t there as an opponent. He was trying to fight the whole 10 rounds. 

Yeah, it was very good for him. Rudenko had a very controversial decision against [Lucas] Browne, which I believe that had it not been in England, Browne would have lost it. So Rudenko was certainly coming to win that fight. Highly confident.

What are your goals for Hughie in 2016?

Although Hughie is young, I think he’s ready. I think he’s ready for almost any heavyweight in the world. He’s stepping up. We’re looking for him to fight a top-10 ranked opponent in March. And then he will fight all around these levels. All these types of opponents Hughie is up for. So we just got to wait and see. I know [with] world titles a lot of it is political and a lot of crap comes with it but his time is going to come. By the end of the year, certainly within the next 18 months, he’ll be fighting for a world title.

Can you compare and contrast Tyson and Hughie in the ring?

I think they are two totally different human beings. They’re different fighters altogether. The only thing that’s the same is that they have the same drive. They got the same determination. They got the same work ethic. They’ll be the first two in the gym and the last out of the gym. They’ll spar. Even when they have the flu and half-dying, I’ve got to find out myself because they won’t say a word. They’ll get in, put the gloves on and away they go. They have that mentality. They do live and breathe boxing. And all the crap the Tyson says from time-to-time, the reality is if boxing was out of Tyson’s life, Tyson would probably be in a nuthouse. [Laughing] He definitely needs boxing. And Hughie’s the same but that’s where it ends.

Hughie’s very technical. He’s very good defensively. He’s got very good footwork and he’s learning his job very well. And he’s developing quite a lot of power recently as well. He’s starting to sit on his shots. We’ve been working on quite a few things. Obviously, with Hughie being young, we’ve always looked for Hughie to fight defensively, because he never had his man-strength. Don’t forget we got a guy 6’6”, 18 years of age, turn professional. So, always for Hughie, within the last few years, box clever, box safe. Now he’s 21. He’s developed. He’s about 16 stone or 106 kilograms [234 lbs.], something like that. Where for [George] Arias, I think he was behind 100 kilos. I think he was 98 [216 lbs.]. So he has developed quite a lot. He’s looking now to sit on his shots. He’s hitting with power. Anybody that tries to come into him will get a shock. So that’s why he’s stepping up.

There are a lot of exciting younger fighters in the heavyweight division right now. When you look around at the division, what do you see out there? And what are your plans for Tyson in the division during the next 12-18 months?

Hughie and Tyson went over there [New York] to attend the fights [Wilder-Szpilka and Glazkov-Martin]. Tyson told me that Hughie wants to fight the winner of Glazkov and Martin and Tyson is going to have some harsh words for Wilder. [Laughing] So I look forward to seeing it on the TV. As far as the young heavyweights, there’s a lot of talent out there. You’re absolutely right. For Tyson, he’s looking at the Klitschko fight. We can’t really say what’s going to happen in that fight. Klitschko’s a very formidable opponent. But if we do get past that, we’re looking at Wilder. We’re looking at unifying the division for Tyson. And then whoever’s next in line.

Tyson’s been an attractive commodity for a number of years. In addition to his trainer, you're also his manager. He's stayed with [promoter] Mick Hennessy when I’m sure there've been bigger offers or other attractive parties involved. How would you describe the relationship between the Fury family and Mick Hennessy?

It’s very close. He’s like family to us. Tyson started with him from the beginning. When my son turned professional, we didn’t go around everywhere. He was a gold medalist [Hughie won a gold medal at the AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships in 2012]. We had various parties interested in Hughie. We never spoke to them. We went straight to Mick Hennessy. So, the loyalty’s there. He’s done very well for Tyson and he does very well for my son. We can’t speak highly enough of him. Mick is like a family member.

You know, we are an open book. Anybody can come. They can offer us big deals, this or that. We’re interested. We’ll sit down with any promoter but Mick is with us. That’s it. We’re a unit. We’re not leaving Mick Hennessy to go here or go there. We’ll go everywhere, but Mick comes with us. As we’ve seen in the past, we’ve done things with Frank Warren and BoxNation – Mick came with us. It’s just what it is. Keep that loyalty. Keep that respect. Never forget what people do for you along the way.

Since Tyson’s win over Wladimir, how have you been received by your peers?

To be honest, I’ve not been received at all.


I’ve had some bad press recently over here, digging up my past, putting bad things on it. All this, which is not the person I am anyway...putting me next to sports cars – what’s not even mine, trying to paint a very poor picture. I find it very disappointing, because one should never hide his past and my past has always been open. In 2012, I did an article with Terry Dooley, Boxing Monthly, and I talked about being in prison, my visa problems in the states. It’s what it is. You can’t hide your past. So, it’s been open.

But to come in and put very distasteful slants on it after we’ve won the world title…first they attacked Tyson in the papers for one thing or another and then they came onto his uncle. I find it distasteful to be honest. The only credit that I’ve received is from the general boxing fans themselves.

On a personal note, from where you were 10 years ago to where you are now, training the heavyweight champion of the world, what’s that feeling like from then to now?

I think it’s amazing. I dedicate my life to boxing. I wake up in the morning and I think about boxing. When I’m in training camps, that’s all we do. We’re dedicated to that. It’s a fabulous thing to be able to put your life into something, disregard everything else and be able to get somebody to a world title. You know my son, god willing, he’ll be behind him. So to do these kind of things, it is amazing and I’m very, very delighted with it.

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, January 3, 2016

The 2015 Saturday Night Boxing Awards

As 2015 has drawn to a close, it's time to recognize the year's best boxing performances. Per usual, I'll be handing out the annual hardware in the following categories: fighter, fight, knockout, round, upset, trainer, promoter, network and referee. There was one award not given this year but I'll get into that with more specificity later in the article. Without further ado, here are the 2015 Saturday Night Boxing Awards!

Fighter of the Year: Floyd Mayweather

Mayweather won a definitive unanimous decision over archrival Manny Pacquiao. Yes, the fight was the biggest boxing event in decades but that's not why Mayweather is recognized here. His award is earned based on performance. As in many of Mayweather's bouts, the action itself didn't necessarily captivate audiences. However, let's not mistake entertainment value with achievement. He rendered inoperable one of the top fighters in the sport and left no doubt as to which boxer was the best of this era.

As further icing on the cake, Mayweather dominated Andre Berto in September. Berto failed to pose a challenge and at no point was the fight competitive. By the end of the match, Mayweather was actually gunning for the knockout, not a frequent occurrence and a reality that reflected the one-sided nature of the match. Ultimately, he earned a wide decision. Perhaps 2015 will be the last time that Mayweather laces up the gloves and if so, he leaves the sport on the highest of highs.  

Previous SNB Fighters of the Year:
2014: Naoya Inoue
2013: Adonis Stevenson
2012: Nonito Donaire
2011: Andre Ward


Fight of the Year: Takashi Miura-Francisco Vargas:

Sometimes fight fans have an inkling that something special might happen. In the lead-up to Cotto-Canelo, a number of hardcore boxing fans were convinced that the co-feature on the undercard, the junior lightweight title match between champion Takashi Miura, of Japan, and Francisco Vargas, of Mexico, would steal the show. On paper, their styles meshed well. Miura was a southpaw banger with decent hand speed and an aggressive ring demeanor while Vargas was a heavy-handed brawler with multiple knockout weapons. 

Once the fight started, the action immediately confirmed the sentiments of the boxing cognoscenti. In the opening round, Vargas buckled Miura's legs with a huge shot. Miura was already in survival mode just moments into the match. However, Miura made it out of the round and gradually worked his way into the fight with laser-like left hands and punishing body shots. As the rounds progressed, both fighters had success during fierce exchanges. Miura had the higher punch volume but Vargas featured some impressive, punishing single shots.

In the fourth round, Miura dropped Vargas with a vicious left hand. Vargas beat the count but the fight had clearly turned in Miura's favor. Francisco was still landing hard shots here and there but Miura's pressure, power and accuracy were getting the better of the action. In the eighth, it looked like Vargas might be ready to go.  

However, Vargas changed his fortunes early in the ninth round. With an enormous right hand, he sent Miura to the canvas. Miura got up but was on shaky legs. Vargas immediately rushed in for the kill and, within seconds, ref Tony Weeks stepped in to stop the action. 

Similar to Pacquiao-Marquez IV (a former Saturday Night Boxing Fight of the Year), Vargas was close to being stopped but he somehow found a dramatic punch to reverse the outcome of the fight. Overall, both boxers displayed guts and courage in a fantastic bout. There were several wonderful fights in 2015 but for me, nothing compared to the rush of Miura-Vargas. 

Previous SNB Fights of the Year:
2014: Coyle-Brizuela
2013: Bradley-Provodnikov
2012: Pacquiao-Marquez IV
2011: Rios-Acosta


Knockout of the Year: Yenifel Vicente KO 3 Juan Dominguez

If I were to select an ideal knockout of the year, Yenifel Vicente's KO of Juan Dominguez has all of the elements that I'd require. I'm a sucker for one-punch KOs that materialize out of thin air. Knockouts that are set up by combinations or occur after opponents have already been loosened up are less impressive to me. From my perspective, the best fight-ending shots are the ones where the opponent is performing well and then gets hits by something so massive that he goes to sleep. In my hypothetical knockout of the year, the fighter who is hit can't even attempt to get to his feet. Vicente's KO of Dominguez in December checks off all of these boxes.

The first two rounds of the bout featured great action. Dominguez, the fighter with the fancy record, the one getting all of the hype coming into the match, flashed excellent hand speed and power. However, Vicente landed hard, single shots from the outside. There were some thrilling back-and-forth exchanges and I was already alerting the boxingheads via social media that Dominguez-Vicente was a fight they needed to turn on immediately. 

In the third, Vicente turned up the aggression and connected with a thudding body shot early in the round. He then stepped out of the pocket and unloaded an enormous overhand right from distance that hit Dominguez high on the temple. Dominguez immediately crashed to the canvas. He remained supine for several minutes. It was the type of punch where the post-knockout celebration had to be muted because of the grave condition of the opponent; Dominguez left the ring on a stretcher. 

Vicente, a Dominican based in Miami who had previously lost to Chris Avalos and Eric Hunter, created an indelible moment for boxing fans. He iced a fellow Dominican in emphatic fashion and restored momentum to an up-and-down professional career. 

Previous SNB Knockouts of the Year:
2014: Andy Lee KO 5 John Jackson
2013: Stephen Smith KO 5 Gary Buckland
2012: Juan Manuel Marquez KO 6 Manny Pacquiao
2011: Takashi Uchiyama TKO 11 Jorge Solis 


Round of the Year: Edwin Rodriguez-Michael Seals Round 1

To say that few had heard of light heavyweight Michael Seals prior to his bout with Edwin Rodriguez would be an understatement. He had fought mostly in Kentucky and Georgia and far off television. Although, he had amassed a record of 19-0 with 14 knockouts, he was already 33 and hadn't had a fight scheduled for longer than eight rounds. In short, he was no one's definition of a prospect. Before the Rodriguez bout, Seals had one fight earlier in 2015 and one in 2014. Seals was essentially an unknown's unknown. However, those who had been familiar with him (I was not one of them) swore that he had a powerful right hand; his moniker was, after all, "Cannonhandz." 

Nevertheless, Rodriguez, a former title challenger at super middleweight, was supposed to dominate Seals. Clearly, Rodriguez bought into the conventional wisdom as he jumped on Seals from the opening bell, rushing him into a corner and landing big overhand rights. Soon, Rodriguez mixed in a sharp left hook and Seals went down 30 seconds into the fight. So far, the fight was following the script. 

Wasting no time, Rodriguez continued his onslaught, again attacking Seals with overhand rights. However, Seals expertly placed a short counter right hand on an out-of-position Rodriguez and now Rodriguez was down! It may have been more of a flash knockdown but it was a powerful shot that Rodriguez never saw coming. Both knockdowns occurred in the first minute of the fight.

Rodriguez took the eight-count and rose to his feet. But that punch completely changed his demeanor in the ring. Now, he decided to box from a distance. For the remainder of the round, the fight was more technical. Rodriguez landed his jab and a few right hands while Seals returned with a couple of right hands of his own. The action was settling down. 

However, with 15 seconds left, both simultaneously threw big right hands. Seals' shot got there first and Rodriguez went crashing down to the mat; now, he was really hurt. With glassy eyes and wobbly legs, he beat the count but had to hold on for dear life until the bell sounded. The referee literally tore Rodriguez off of Seals after the round ended and then Rodriguez dropped to the canvas again. The ref helped walk Rodriguez back to his corner. 

Subsequently, Rodriguez gathered himself and went on to stop Seals in the third round. It was a truly magnificent performance in a wonderful fight. However, the stunning reversal in the opening round is what I will remember most about this match. The favorite started off the fight granting not one iota of respect to his opponent and wound up hanging on by a fingernail just moments later. Thrilling stuff. 

Previous SNB Rounds of the Year:
2014: Thomas Williams Jr.-Cornelius White Round 1
2013: Tim Bradley-Ruslan Provodnikov Round 12 
2012: Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Round 12
2011: Hernan Marquez-Luis Concepcion I Round 1


Upset of the Year: Tyson Fury UD Wladimir Klitschko

According to the oddsmakers, Tyson Fury's victory over Wladimir Klitschko wasn't the biggest upset of the year, but no need to dwell on such technicalities; 2015 will always be remembered as the year when Fury dethroned the heavyweight king. During that strange night in Germany, Klitschko seemed entirely flummoxed by Fury's size, movement and feints. He barely let his hands go. Executing a masterful game plan by trainer and uncle, Peter Fury (more on him later in the article), Tyson successfully neutralized Klitschko's jab by staying out of the pocket. Using his long reach to keep Klitschko at bay and moving just enough where Klitschko constantly had to reset himself, Fury dominated the ring generalship in the fight. 

On offense, Fury's output was pretty vanilla but it was effective. Featuring jabs, a few right hands, left hooks and some body shots, he landed the better punches throughout the fight. His work rate was also at a reasonable level for a heavyweight bout; Klitschko's volume was so low in many of the rounds that the judges couldn't even conceivably score them in his favor. As the fight progressed, Fury taunted Klitschko in the ring, daring him to let his hands go. However, Klitschko wouldn't offer any meaningful aggression until the final round, where he finally connected with some powerful fight hands that hurt Fury. But it was too little too late. Fury won a deserved decision and the heavyweight division forever changed. 

Previous SNB Upsets of the Year
2014: (tie) James de la Rosa UD Alfredo Angulo and Tommy Karpency SD Chad Dawson
2013: Jhonny Gonzalez KO 1 Abner Mares
2012: Sonny Boy Jaro TKO 6 Pongsaklek Wongjongkam


Trainer of the Year: Peter Fury

On paper, Wladimir Klitschko had several advantages over Tyson Fury: jab, right hand, power, experience, the fight location and a supportive crowd. However, Peter Fury devised a fantastic game plan that neutralized Klitschko's considerable strengths. Realizing that Klitschko set everything up off his jab, Fury made sure that his nephew stayed far out of range from that punch. In addition, Fury noticed that Klitschko needed to have his feet planted to land anything of substance. Thus, Tyson has to offer enough movement to take away Klitschko's power shots. 

The end result was stunning. Not only was Klitschko soundly beaten, but he rarely threw punches. Peter Fury's game plan and Tyson's execution of it demoralized the heavyweight champ, who couldn't find a way into the fight, or wouldn't take the necessary risks to change the flow of the bout. Although much of Team Fury's success should be attributed to Tyson's size, countering ability and sneaky power, Peter laid out a winning blueprint. 

Tyson won by solid margins on the cards but the fight wasn't easy for him. He needed to remain disciplined and focused because a big shot could conceivably come at any time. Tyson fought as if he completely understood the enormity of the task in front of him. His concentration, focus and execution were a direct reflection on Peter's preparation for the fight. There wasn't a better corner job all year. 

Previous SNB Trainers of the Year:
2014: Freddie Roach
2013: Kenny Porter
2012: Robert McCracken
2011: Robert Garcia


Promoter of the Year: Golden Boy Promotions

Entering 2015, it still wasn't clear which fighters Golden Boy actually promoted. Continuing to entangle itself from a lengthy lawsuit against former CEO Richard Schaefer, the company saw its roster of fighters decimated after the final settlement was realized. The reconstituted Golden Boy Promotions reemerged as a much smaller outfit. Assuming day-to-day control of the company, President Oscar de la Hoya announced that he wanted his remaining Golden Boy boxers to fight more in his image; meaning, they would be matched against high-caliber foes. The new Golden Boy Promotions would not baby its star fighters. And looking back on the final nine months of 2015, Oscar remained true to his word.

All of Golden Boy's world-level fighters faced tough opponents. Matthysse fought Provodnikov and Postol. Lemieux faced N'Dam and Golovkin. Canelo took on Cotto. Herrera squared off against Lundy. Luis Ortiz had his biggest test as a pro against Bryant Jennings. Note that all of Golden Boy's fighters didn't win these matches. However, in almost all cases, they performed ably and represented themselves and their company with distinction. Lemieux and Matthysse ended the year with devastating losses but in all likelihood, both will find themselves back on major US boxing networks in 2016; they won't be punished for taking risks. 

Golden Boy's most attractive asset remains Saul "Canelo" Alvarez. Already a major box office draw and pay per view star, he notched the biggest win of his career in November by defeating Miguel Cotto. In 2016, there will be a big push for Alvarez to take on the recognized top fighter in the division, Gennady Golovkin. Although many in the boxing community are skeptical that this fight will happen, I'll bet on Oscar continuing to roll the dice; I think we'll see it in September. 

Finally, Golden Boy has a fresh slate of younger fighters coming up the ranks, highlighted by former Olympian Joseph (Jo Jo) Diaz. T
o establish a local fan base for this next generation of talent, the company has promoted numerous fight cards in the boxing hotbed of Southern California. One welcome innovation that the company made this year was broadcasting many of these smaller bouts on its Ring TV website (Golden Boy owns Ring Magazine). 

Overall, the company ended 2015 on much firmer footing than it did starting off the year. It set a great example in the sport: top fighters should be expected to perform against the best. Most importantly, the company has established that it’s not business-as-usual on the American boxing scene. If you want to get on HBO, fight someone good. 

On a quick note, K2 Promotions had an excellent year and almost won the award. However, the company's international meal ticket lost (Klitschko) and it's tough to say that K2 is in a better position ending the year than it was when it began. K2 has some very attractive assets with Golovkin and Roman Gonzalez. However, the fading luster of its one, true superstar isn't easy to replace. 

Previous SNB Promoters of the Year:
2014: Matchroom Sport
2013: (tie) Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank Promotions
2012: Golden Boy Promotions
2011: Top Rank Promotions


Network of the Year: No Award Given

No major boxing network consistently distinguished itself throughout 2015. HBO had a year of mostly entertaining one-sided fights – too many showcase bouts disguised as competitive affairs. Showtime spent large chunks of the year not broadcasting boxing. In England, far too many mismatches appeared on Sky and BoxNation didn't have the quality or quantity of live cards that it had aired in past years. BeIn Sports broadcasted a number of interesting smaller-scale fights but off the top of my head I would struggle to name more than three. 

Perhaps the most prominent addition to the 2015 televised boxing schedule was Al Haymon's Premier Boxing Champions (PBC), which aired fights on a host of networks, including NBC, CBS, ESPN, Spike, FS1, Bounce TV and NBC Sports Network. PBC had an up-and-down year with its matchups. Of all of the networks broadcasting its product, Spike and FS1 had the most consistently-pleasing cards. With that said, I don't know if there was a grand design regarding how PBC fights were assigned to certain networks. Does Spike have its own boxing people clamoring for specific matchups or were they just lucky that a number of its cards entertained? Perhaps all of this will become clearer in 2016. Hopefully there will be distinct branding for the PBC networks instead of a hodgepodge of cards seemingly assigned at random. 

Previous SNB Networks of the Year:
2014: ESPN
2013: Showtime
2012: BoxNation


Referee of the Year: David Fields

David Fields is a New York/New Jersey-based referee who toils away in anonymity. A professional since 2000, he's not a particularly high-profile ref in his respective circuits or is he one who necessarily gets big-fight assignments. Tied into the IBF (which is based in New Jersey), he does receive the occasional international assignment. But overall, he doesn’t work a ton (only six fight cards in 2015) and up until this year, he hadn't necessarily distinguished himself as good or bad during his professional tenure. 

However, Fields had the best moment of his professional career in August when he officiated the Marco Huck-Krzysztof Glowacki fight. In a fierce battle between power punchers, Fields played a prominent and positive role in one of the finest fights of the year. Early in the match, both boxers hit each other after the bell in a few rounds. These shots had the ability to change the tenor of the fight. However, after stern warnings, Fields was able to clean up the extracurriculars and the fight didn't devolve into a foulfest. 

In the sixth round, Huck landed a punishing left hook that send Glowacki to the canvas. It looked like Glowacki was finished. Staggering to his feet at the count of "eight," the fighter was still in terrible condition. Whereas many refs would've stopped the fight at that moment, Fields saw something in Glowacki that suggested the fighter was capable of continuing. Almost immediately after that fateful decision, Fields' judgement was rewarded. Glowacki ended the sixth in fine fashion, holding off Huck with power shots and he won the subsequent round as well. 

As the fight moved to the championship rounds, Huck was gradually pulling away. However, in the 11th, Glowacki landed a chopping left/right hook combination that sent Huck down. Fields let Huck continue and Glowacki piled on with Huck against the ropes, eventually dropping him once more. At that point, Fields waved the fight off. 

Huck-Glowacki featured a number of big momentum swings. That 
Glowacki was able to muster a final comeback is a credit to Fields' judgment. It was his professional determination that enabled the fight to even reach the second half. While many other referees would've stopped the bout in the sixth, Fields had the courage to let a wounded fighter continue to battle in fierce combat. His decision was a significant reason why Huck-Glowacki was one of the best fights of the year. 

Previous SNB Referees of the Year:
2014: Steve Smoger
2013: Tony Weeks
2012: Eddie Claudio

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