Monday, February 29, 2016

Opinions and Observations: Frampton, Crawford and Santa Cruz.

5, 11, 14, 17, 17 and 18. Those are the punch totals (according to CompuBox) for Scott Quigg in his first six rounds against Carl Frampton, abysmal numbers for any fighter, let alone a world titleholder. As I opined following Klitschko-Fury, absent a knockdown or an opponent getting seriously hurt, there is a minimum punch threshold for a fighter to reach (I place that number at 20) to have even a chance at winning a round; in the first half of Saturday's fight, Quigg consistently fell below any reasonable standard. It didn't matter how well he neutralized Frampton nor was it a factor that Frampton didn't seem to land cleanly throughout most of the match (with the exception of an uppercut that broke Quigg's jaw in the fourth round). Quigg just didn't do enough on offense to justify winning rounds in the first half of the bout. 

After the seventh, Quigg's trainer, Joe Gallagher, told his fighter that the TV broadcasters had him down big. At that point, Quigg started to let his hands go and he won the next four rounds with relative ease. However, after the fight, both Gallagher and Quigg believed that the early rounds were even. This was a major miscalculation on their part and a clear failure to grasp modern boxing judging (I know that sounds harsh but it's true). A fighter or a corner can't expect to win a round throwing 11 punches if the other guy is throwing 40. With that paltry output, there just isn't enough for the judges to look at. That Quigg and Gallagher were satisfied by their performances in the first half of the fight is an indictment of their game plan and symptomatic of a team whose self-regard is too high. You have to earn rounds; they aren't given to you by not getting hit hard. You must be offensive-minded. 

Now, let me throw out some percentages: 10.0%, 6.3%, 5.6%, 7.5%, 2.2%, 12.7% and 13.9%. Those are the connect rates in seven rounds of the fight for Frampton. In a sport where champions are expected to land a minimum of 25% of their shots (often they attain a much larger percentage), this showing was just as abysmal as Quigg's punches-thrown numbers. 

Essentially, the majority of Frampton-Quigg boiled down to the ineffective aggressor against the fighter who refused to engage. It was a battle of bad vs. awful and the bad boxer did enough to secure eight or so rounds on the scorecards. 

Yes, Quigg came on strong in the back half of the fight and did real damage in the 11th, but he had already dug such an enormous hole. The final few rounds of the bout made Quigg's inexplicable showing from rounds 1-7 all the stranger. Clearly, once the fighters started exchanging, he was the sharper puncher and threw the heavier blows. However, he was unwilling to take risks early in the fight or open up. And it wasn't like Frampton did that much early in the bout to dissuade Quigg. Frampton pawed with his jab and threw an occasional right hand. Quigg could've done more; he just chose not to. 

In truth, neither fighter distinguished himself on Saturday. Frampton was also overly cautious in the fight and displayed very little of his electrifying arsenal. He was winning by doing the bare minimum early in the match. He wasn't trying to impose himself on Quigg or attempt to stop him. Where was Frampton's desire to be great? Why did he refuse to seize the moment? He did have a good 12th, where he fought aggressively and stymied Quigg's momentum. That round was the only glimpse of Frampton's complete package as a fighter: his punch selection, athleticism, recuperative powers and creativity. The rest of his performance was lackluster. 

The judges awarded Frampton a split decision victory with scores of 116-112, 116-112 and 113-115 (I had it 116-113 for Frampton) but it's safe to say that neither fighter truly "won" on Saturday. If anything, both showed that they weren't ready for the big stage. 

What made, for instance, Froch-Groves I so much fun is that both fighters rose to the occasion. Groves charged at Froch from the opening bell and dropped him in the first round. After taking massive amounts of punishment in the first three rounds, Froch staged an impressive rally and scored a stoppage later in the fight (it was a controversial knockout but it still counts). Both boxers took risks and desired to be great. Groves seized his moment and Froch wouldn't succumb to Groves' power and superior athleticism when many others would've done so. 

Perhaps not all is lost for either Frampton or Quigg. Remember, in Groves' first big opportunity as a professional, he escaped with a majority decision victory over James DeGale in a dreadful fight.  Instead of throwing meaningful punches, both boxers tried to out-cute each other. By the time of Groves' fight with Froch two-and-a-half years later, he was finally ready for the big stage. Hopefully Frampton and Quigg make similar progressions in their careers. 

Both Frampton and Quigg have ability but there is a big difference between having a title belt and being elite. What blocks them from reaching the next level is more mental than physical. As of now, they both lack the desire to be great. An elite fighter wants to dominate an opponent, put his stamp on a match and announce to the world that he is a force to be reckoned with in the ring. Neither Frampton nor Quigg did that on Saturday. They still have a lot to learn about prizefighting. Unfortunately, youth isn't on their side (Frampton is 29, Quigg is 27), so if either one has grand designs on making a lasting name for himself in the sport, he better start soon. 

***

A pair of headliners had impressive fifth-round stoppages on Saturday as Terence Crawford and Leo Santa Cruz demonstrated their considerable talents against lesser foes. Crawford's knockout of Hank Lundy was a perfect example of what the Nebraskan native does so well in the ring. The fight was competitive during the first four rounds but in the fifth Crawford noticed a Lundy flaw. Crawford then exploited it and ended things quickly. In the fifth, Lundy fought exclusively out of the southpaw stance after starting the early rounds in the orthodox position. As a southpaw, Lundy kept his lead right hand dangerously low. He was a sitting duck for Crawford's straight left hand. As the round progressed, Crawford seized the opening and landed a blistering left that that staggered Lundy and pushed him back to the ropes. Crawford followed up with a few additional shots that sent Lundy to the canvas. Lundy beat the count but he was still in bad shape. Crawford then jumped on his opponent, attacking him with power punches. In short order, ref Steve Willis waved off the fight. 

Santa Cruz scored two knockdowns in the first round against hard-charging Kiko Martinez. Throwing 140 punches in the opening frame, Santa Cruz unloaded his entire offensive arsenal but he couldn't quite finish Martinez, who was also landing his own bombs on the inside. Then the dynamics of the bout changed as Santa Cruz decided to fight Martinez off the back foot, often switching up to the southpaw position. Martinez had moments in the next few rounds but he was getting outboxed and beaten on the inside. In the fifth, Santa Cruz rocked Martinez, a former titleholder at 122 lbs., with a three-punch combination. Santa Cruz then drove Martinez back to the ropes and unloaded more than 50 punches to earn the stoppage. 

Santa Cruz was once thought of as a smaller-version of Antonio Margarito, a consummate pressure fighter who wore down opponents over the course of a fight. However, on Saturday and in his previous fight against Abner Mares, Santa Cruz demonstrated some excellent boxing skills to go along with his aggressive, brawling attack. Santa Cruz can fight going forward or backward. He does an excellent job mixing up the velocity and angles of his punches. In addition, Santa Cruz is a wonderful combination puncher. 

For me, his money punch on Saturday was the right uppercut but he also threw quality jabs, hooks and straight right hands. And when Santa Cruz turned southpaw, he actually had a lot of success. The maneuver wasn't just for show; he scored with a number of excellent right jabs and straight left hands from that stance. Santa Cruz's finish was special stuff; it also demonstrated his high ring IQ. Throwing a variety of punches in blistering combinations, keeping his distance so he wouldn't smother his attack and protecting himself to avoid any serious return fire, Santa Cruz ended the fight like a seasoned pro. 

In short, Santa Cruz has exhibited additional dimensions over the last year. He has done what all great fighters aspire to do: continue to get better.

Crawford and Santa Cruz are excellent boxers who would be even more popular if they had the right opponents. Crawford currently resides in a relatively weak junior welterweight division. He's had trouble getting quality opposition. His most compelling foe in the division is Viktor Postol, who, like Crawford, is promoted by Top Rank. That potential fight has already been offered to and turned down by Postol but it's still possible that it could occur later in 2016. For now, Crawford must continue to ply his trade and hope that a suitable, big-time opponent agrees to fight him. Unfortunately, he's become a victim of his own success. Very few fighters want to take on a tall, rangy, switch-hitting, intelligent, powerful boxer. So he must wait a little longer. 

Santa Cruz doesn't lack potential top opponents but he needs his manager, Al Haymon, to match him against them. The featherweight division is loaded with Haymon fighters, from Gary Russell Jr. to Jesus Cuellar to Lee Selby. All would make for very compelling fights against Santa Cruz. In addition, it's very possible that Carl Frampton (another Haymon fighter) moves up to 126 by the end of the year. Opportunities abound.

Santa Cruz has been a headliner on various Haymon-affiliated networks for years but he's been matched relatively softly. Now, Haymon has all of the fighters needed to make a number of scintillating matchups for Santa Cruz; here's hoping that they happen. 

***

Also on Saturday, Marco Huck stopped longtime cruiserweight rival Ola Afolabi, who failed to answer the bell to start the 11th. It was a nice rebound win for Huck after being knocked out in his previous fight by Krzysztof Glowacki. Although the first three Huck-Afolabi bouts were crowd-pleasing and close affairs (two razor-thin Huck victories and a draw), their fourth meeting wasn't competitive whatsoever. On Saturday, Afolabi looked to be an old 35. He barely let his hands go and seemed cautious throughout most of the fight. In part, his hesitancy could be attributed to the condition of his left eye, which by the fourth round was partially closed from several Huck right hands. However, Afolabi's corner was disappointed with his performance throughout the match, especially his effort level and punch selection. 

Mark this fight down in the "You Never Know" category. Huck had fired his new trainer just two weeks before Saturday's bout. From a distance, the move wasn't a sign of a fighter who was in a good place with his career. Huck had already parted ways with trainer Don House after his loss to Glowacki and now he had fired his replacement. On paper, this series of events didn't augur a positive result for Huck on Saturday. 

However, Huck performed at a high level throughout the fight, as if none of these incidents over the past year had occurred. He maintained a relatively high work rate and landed his power shots consistently (specifically his right hand and left hook). Also, he didn't receive much punishment. Defense hadn't previously been a strong suit for him throughout his career but he was very responsible on Saturday; I imagine that getting beaten to a pulp by Glowacki might have had something to do with this adjustment. On Saturday, he relied far less on machismo. He kept his hands high and used hit feet more to evade shots. In the past, he would stand in front of an opponent and let his chin take the brunt of the damage, defense be damned, but his emphasis on avoiding punches made Saturday his cleanest victory in years.

Huck now needs to make some crucial decisions about the next phase of his career. In 2012, he had a great showing at heavyweight against Alexander Povetkin. (He dropped a close decision but many felt that he had done enough to win.) After that fight, he dropped back down to cruiserweight where he could only muster a draw against Afolabi – certainly not a recipe for building career momentum. Huck and his former promoter, Sauerland Event, had frequent disagreements about the best course of action for his future. Huck had talked about going to America and staying at heavyweight while Sauerland wanted to keep him in Germany as a cruiserweight, a division where the company had several top fighters under contract. Huck eventually parted ways with Sauerland in early 2015 and with that he lost his longtime trainer Ulli Wegner, who worked exclusively with Sauerland fighters. 

Huck is only 31 and remains a star in Germany. He now has a level a freedom that he didn't have when he was with Sauerland but he also has the added responsibility of capitalizing on the remaining years of his career. He needs to answer several questions: In what division does he want to fight? How can he maximize his moneymaking opportunities? Where does he want to fight? And finally, who will train him? Stay tuned. 

***

Puerto Rican lightweight prospect Felix Verdejo opened up the Crawford-Lundy card on Saturday against  Willian Silva, an unknown, undefeated prospect from Brazil. In truth, Silva didn't offer that much but he had two virtues: he knew how to handle himself in the ring and he wasn't intimidated. On offense, Silva settled for little more than landing a few crafty overhand rights. As the fight progressed, it became clear that Verdejo was several levels above his opponent. However, as Verdejo cruised to a lopsided decision victory, his performance was far from captivating.

Verdejo, like many young prospects, is a work in progress. On Saturday, his punches were mostly ones and twos instead of his usual assortment of free-flowing combinations. He had trouble setting up his shots. After realizing that Silva would stick around, he seemed to run out of ideas. Yes, he was throwing punches and winning rounds (occasionally he would slip in a punishing right hand) but he didn't impress.  

Verdejo has a plethora of raw skills that could, and I repeat, could make him an outstanding professional, but he's still far from that level. I wonder if he's a real student of the sport. He doesn't seem to understand angles or feints. For as many types of punches that he throws, he doesn't always know when to throw them or how to set them up.

At 22, Verdejo still has plenty of time to progress in the sport. There's no question that he's an exceptional athlete and possesses solid hand speed and power. But questions still remain about his aptitude for the sport: Is he actually improving from fight-to-fight? Can he think his way through a match? Is he receiving the right instruction and can he incorporate that instruction in the ring?

In the past, I've been sanguine on Verdejo's prospects but I think that Saturday was a small step back. It's time for Verdejo to go to school and learn. But will he be the star pupil or the gifted student who fails to reach his potential?

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

Friday, February 26, 2016

Frampton-Quigg: Keys to the Fight

The first big fight of 2016 takes place in Manchester, England on Saturday as unbeaten titleholders Carl Frampton (21-0, 14 KOs) and Scott Quigg (31-0-2, 23 KOs) meet to determine who is the best junior featherweight in the British Isles. The winner of the contest will be recognized as the consensus number-two fighter in the division behind Guillermo Rigondeaux. Frampton-Quigg has had a long gestation process. After years of bluster, posturing and false starts, both sides finally agreed to make one of the premier matchups in boxing. Each fighter gave up a significant concession for the fight to be finalized: Frampton, of Northern Ireland, agreed to face Quigg in his backyard and Quigg had to settle for being the "B-side" of the matchup in the promotional build-up to the bout. 

This fight features a fascinating style clash between the boxer-puncher (Frampton) and the brawler (Quigg). The oddsmakers have installed Frampton as a slight favorite but either boxer has a clear path to victory. Frampton possesses the better speed and boxing skills; Quigg is a vicious inside fighter and wears down opponents with body shots. In addition, both have exhibited enough vulnerability in the ring to plant the seeds of doubt, even among their supporters.  

The stage is set for a memorable night of boxing but which fighter will emerge victorious? Below will be the keys to the fight. At the end of the article, I'll post my prediction.  

1. Quigg can't dig himself a hole early in the fight. 

Each boxer had an atypical result early in his last ring appearance. Frampton, usually a frontrunner, got knocked down twice in the opening moments against Alejandro Gonzalez while Quigg, who can be a slow starter, scored a second-round stoppage over former titlist Kiko Martinez. 

Quigg has been knocked down twice in his career, both times in the first half of a fight. In addition, he needed to come on late to earn a draw against Yoandris Salinas (for the record, I thought that Quigg won the bout). Quigg can start off dry and everything in his repertoire, including his defense, seems to improve as a fight progresses. He likes close combat and it can often take him a few rounds to get to his preferred distance in the ring. He's not blessed with a long reach or great foot speed so often he will have to grind down opponents until he can make the fight into an inside battle. 

Frampton has flashy hand speed and good power. He also possesses the boxing skills and ring IQ to dictate the terms of a fight, particularly in the opening rounds. Quigg must cut the ring off and close the distance early in the match or he will find himself behind handily. Again, Frampton's a very smart fighter. He's won't remain in front of Quigg to get pummeled to the body, especially early; Quigg's going to have to create his own luck. To win a decision, Quigg must take chances in the opening rounds. Instead of gradually raising his punch volume as the fight progresses, he may need to send an early message to Frampton (and the judges). Yes, this approach increases his risk of being out of position and receiving return fire but he can't let Frampton dazzle the judges with clean punching and ring generalship. Without forcing the pace, the rounds could slip away in a hurry.  

2. Ring geography.

It actually might be a wise strategy for Frampton to slug it out in close quarters on occasion; Quigg can be chinny early in a fight and doesn't mind taking shots, sometimes to his own detriment. However, Frampton can win the fight on the outside while Quigg lacks the tools to prevail at distance. Using his legs, boxing skills and the ability to score off the front or back foot, Frampton faces less danger at range. He also features a crushing right hand from the outside. 

Quigg wants a phone booth war. He goes to the body with such menace that opponents start to drop their hands, which opens up opportunities for clean headshots. Although not thought of as a one-punch knockout guy, Quigg has a variety of weapons that can end a fight, including his left hook to the body, his right uppercut and his short right hand. On the outside, Quigg can be tentative and at times will refuse to let his hands go. His main task in this fight will be to use footwork and angles to get into range. If he can corral Frampton, he will have a great chance of winning but if he spends most of the match chasing Frampton around the ring, he will taste defeat. 

3. So how are Frampton's legs? 

It was very disturbing to see Frampton getting dropped twice in the first round of the Gonzalez fight. One of the knockdowns seemed to be from a jab. Yes, Frampton rebounded and won the fight comfortably but he didn't resemble the best version of himself in the ring. His legs looked like jelly throughout much of the bout. He resorted to winning as a pocket fighter and he lacked the agility to move around the ring, which is typically one of his best attributes as a boxer. 

Frampton had trouble making the junior featherweight limit last fight and he has already talked about moving up to 126 lbs. It's quite possible that Frampton has outgrown the division. If this is the case, then it's much tougher to dismiss Frampton's performance against Gonzalez as just an "off-night." Difficulty in making weight can zap energy, agility and stamina. 

The opening rounds of Saturday's fight will reveal if Frampton still has his legs at junior featherweight. If he's in peak condition, then he will have an easier time neutralizing Quigg. However, if Frampton is struggling physically, he'll have to slug it out with Quigg, which is a much more dangerous proposition. Yes, he could still win that fight. Frampton has excellent accuracy and a large arsenal of punches. But a less-mobile Frampton provides Quigg with openings and opportunities that tilt the bout in his favor. 

4. Quigg's body punching. 

This key is quite simple: Frampton must limit the number of body shots that he takes from Quigg. Whether it's using the ring, pumping out his jab or tying up liberally on the inside, Frampton should avoid close combat. Quigg throws a variety of shots to the body, including left hooks, left and right uppercuts and straight right hands. In addition, when Quigg is performing at his best, he throws blistering combinations that feature multiple body shots. 

Quigg might decide to gradually work his way into the fight, trying to force Frampton to burn up energy evading him. However, even in this scenario, Quigg still needs to land body shots during the first few rounds. Going downstairs will test Frampton's legs early. It's certainly possible that Frampton had trouble making weight again and these shots could make the fight much easier for Quigg. Perhaps Frampton might fold quickly because of his difficulties in getting down to 122 lbs. comfortably. However, even if Frampton is at 100% for the fight, Quigg's body shots will make Frampton far less mobile as the bout progresses. Going to the body consistently is his best chance of winning the match. 

5. Home-field advantage.

This will be Quigg's sixth fight at the Manchester Arena. His record at the venue is 5-0 with five KOs. Not one of those bouts made it to the seventh round. It's safe to say that Quigg feels very comfortable fighting at that arena, where he has turned in some of his best performances as a professional. Frampton is no stranger to boxing in England. He has fought there eight times. And although Frampton has performed well on the road (with the exception of the scare in his last fight, which was in America), he will be facing a difficult atmosphere on Saturday. 

Remember that promoter Eddie Hearn won the negotiations to stage the bout in friendly territory for Quigg. Not only will the hometown atmosphere buoy Quigg throughout the fight but the crowd (which should be mixed) could certainly affect the judging of the match. Yes, professional judges should ignore the background noise but it isn't always easy. In close rounds, Quigg's fans will be howling in support of their fighter. Judges are human beings; they can be swayed. Frampton will have to be mentally strong to prevail in this atmosphere. He needs to let his hands fly in the last 15 seconds of close rounds to help remove doubt from the judges and quiet the crowd. Stealing rounds will help his chances of winning the fight.  

Prediction: 

Any scenario could be likely for this fight. Either guy could win by knockout or decision. A draw also wouldn't be surprising. I've changed my mind several times in the lead up to the fight. Ultimately, there are two things that push me towards Quigg's side: Frampton's potential weight issues and Quigg's body punching. How Frampton's body looked in his last fight has spooked me. It isn't so much that he got knocked down as much as he lacked his customary speed and agility. I believe that he must feature those attributes to win a decision on Saturday. As far as Quigg's body punching, I have no doubt that if he survives the early rounds that he will eventually make the fight into an inside battle for large portions of the match. At that geography, he should get the best of the action. 

The essential question is how early Quigg will impose his will on the fight. If he can start winning rounds by the fourth, then he'll be in good shape to win a decision. However, if he can't find the range or distance until the sixth or seventh round, he faces danger on the scorecards. Ultimately, I think that he'll pick up a couple of close rounds in the first half of the fight and then come on much stronger as the match progresses. The fight could very well come down to how the close 50/50 rounds will be scored in the first half of the fight. I bet that at least two judges will be sympathetic to Quigg's performance. 

Scott Quigg defeats Carl Frampton by split decision. 

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

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Sins of Danny Garcia

In the world of boxing social media (which represents only a subset of boxing fans as a whole, but an important subset), Danny Garcia is not a popular fellow. Actually, that understates the level of antipathy that he faces on the internet. Garcia is, in fact, one of the most reviled figures in the boxing twitterverse. A two-weight world champion (at welterweight and junior welterweight, but his title at 147 is of the paper variety) with an undefeated 32-0 record, Garcia is subjected to a level of vitriol that doesn't seem to correlate with his performances in the ring or his conduct outside of it.

Throughout his career, Garcia has helped to make several entertaining fights, most notably against Zab Judah, Amir Khan, Lucas Matthysse and Robert Guerrero. He has avoided the police blotter and has rarely been guilty of saying anything particularly incendiary, which in the modern world of non-stop media scrutiny deserves a special meritorious citation. Garcia has won as an underdog and as a favorite. He also seems to resonate with the ticket-buying public on a certain level, drawing good crowds for his headlining fights against Lamont Peterson, Paulie Malignaggi and Guerrero.  

Yet, the online hatred for the Philadelphian shows no signs of abating. So what in particular about Garcia angers this subset of boxing fans? Why are they so strident in their opposition to him? Do these gripes from the keyboard warriors have any merit? Can this enmity be overcome or will Garcia always have a large number of detractors who will root against him? (By the way, this dynamic didn't necessarily hurt Floyd Mayweather's status in the sport.) The following article will examine the roots of this vitriol, analyze the particular claims made by his online adversaries and assess the legitimacy of their grievances.

*** 

In Judaism, there is a prayer called al chet (pronounced as "al het"), which loosely translates to "on account of this sin." It's also referred to as "The Long Confession" and is recited on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. The prayer is a list of 44 sins that people commit throughout the year. A portion of the prayer is as follows:

  "For the sin that we have sinned before You under duress and willingly;
   And for the sin that we have sinned before You through hardness of heart.
   For the sin that we have sinned before You without knowledge;
   And for the sin that we have sinned before You with the utterance of our lips.
   For the sin that we have sinned before You in public or in private;
   And for the sin that we have sinned before You through immorality. 
   For the sin that we have sinned before You through harsh speech;
   And for the sin that we have sinned before You with knowledge and deceit.
   For the sin that we have sinned before You through inner thoughts;
   And for the sin that we have sinned before You through wronging a neighbor.
   For the sin that we have sinned before You through insincere confession;
   And for the sin that we have sinned against You in a session of vice." 

With no intention of denigrating or marginalizing a particular religious prayer (it's some powerful stuff), I thought that the al chet structure was a unique way of examining the bases of antipathy for Danny Garcia. Below, I have listed 14 critiques of Garcia (I could have included quite a few more of them). After each "sin" listed, I'll examine the legitimacy of the claim. 

For the sin of winning a decision he didn't earn.

No, Danny Garcia didn't beat Mauricio Herrera. It was a close fight. He probably won five rounds but he didn't quite get there. However, in the annals of boxing, getting an undeserved victory or a draw wouldn't even register as a blip on the radar it's so common. Did Muhammad Ali really beat Ken Norton twice? Did Oscar de la Hoya deserve a decision over Felix Sturm? Did Felix Trinidad really defeat Oscar? How about Julio Cesar Chavez's draw with Pernell Whitaker? Or Holyfield's draw with Lennox Lewis? These are all legendary fighters and hall of famers, yet, receiving an undeserved decision didn't lead to permanent condemnation of their merits as a fighter. So yes, Danny Garcia got one he didn't deserve. It's not really a big deal historically and shouldn't be held against him. 

Legitimacy: 1/10

For the sin of not granting rematches.

Here's one that has some teeth. Garcia could've offered rematches to Ashley Theophane, Lucas Matthysse, Mauricio Herrera and Lamont Peterson. All were close fights. To my eyes, Garcia won three out of four of them but one could plausibly make the argument that the reverse was true. It's sporting for disputed winners to offer rematches. It certainly doesn't happen all of the time but boxing is better off when a fighter takes care of unfinished business. Garcia had opportunities to grant rematches and refused to do so. Naturally, these decisions could turn off fans. 

Legitimacy: 10/10

For the sin of being lucky.

Garcia's detractors will tell you how he's had a charmed life in boxing. Protected by his advisor, Al Haymon, Garcia has had the opportunity to make very good money often in bouts that weren't particularly competitive on paper or in the ring. He gets headlining gigs on networks while other talented boxers struggle to obtain his level of visibility; this scenario fosters ire. 

And Garcia's good fortune goes beyond his representation. He's had the benefit of generous scorecards from judges. Some aggrieved boxing fans will claim that a freak punch (or elbow) closed Lucas Matthysse's eye in their fight, which was the turning point in the match. In addition, they observed Garcia getting manhandled by Amir Khan until a wide left hook – that Danny threw with his eyes closed – changed the outcome of that fight. 

Forgotten in this narrative is how often Garcia creates his own luck. He was only protected by Haymon after he had knocked out Khan. Remember, Garcia was a huge underdog against Khan and was expected to lose. Garcia forced his way into Haymon's inner circle by winning. And certainly facing a supposed killer like Matthysse was not a sign of a protected boxer, at least not at that point. Garcia, again the underdog in that match, threw the punches that turned the fight. In addition, with clever footwork he knocked down an off-balance Matthysse in the 11th round, which essentially clinched the fight on the scorecards.

Furthermore, Garcia has steely composure in the ring. He remains in the pocket waiting for opportunities to counter and doesn't mind getting hit if he can land something big. Yes, his eyes were shut with that shot against Khan. But he dug in against an opponent hitting him with everything and delivered. He had practiced that left hook so often in the gym that he could land it with his eyes closed – and he did. 

Legitimacy: 5/10

For the sin of being aligned with Al Haymon.

It's no secret how much ill will Haymon has generated in certain corners of boxing. Many media members openly root against him and even reasonable boxing enthusiasts look at his dealings in the sport with some degree of suspicion. Haymon doesn't communicate with the pubic and his lack of transparency harms his fighters. 

Garcia has been steered by Haymon in recent years to a number of showcase fights. Haymon has also allowed Garcia to fight at catchweights and hold onto title belts even when Danny had no intention of remaining at 140 lbs. As a welterweight, Garcia was able to win a title belt without facing a top contender. 

All of these things are true. They happened. Have they also happened to other fighters? Yes. Adrien Broner immediately fought for a title belt at 140 after dropping down to that division. He beat a guy named Khabib Allakhverdiev, a decent fighter but no one's idea of a killer in the division. Did Floyd Mayweather hold his junior middleweight belts hostage despite rarely making defenses in the division? Yes, he did. Did Keith Thurman fight anyone of note at 147 before getting a title belt? Have there been all sorts of useless catchweight fights in boxing recently? Of course. So yes, Danny Garcia has benefited from his relationship with Al Haymon. But that doesn't necessarily distinguish him from other fighters. 

In addition, the hoarding of title belts and fighting at catchweights have become fairly widespread throughout the sport. Cotto certainly fights at catchweights a lot. He isn't hated. Canelo seems to have tons of fans. And yes, these phenomena are remarked upon on social media but the fanbases for these particular fighters haven't seemed to thin out.

Legitimacy: 4/10

For the sin of fighting Rod Salka.

Yes, this happened. Danny Garcia fought above the junior welterweight limit against a mediocre lightweight in a non-title bout. The fight wasn't competitive whatsoever. You know what, this occurs frequently in boxing. Roman Gonzalez faced a 38-29-3 guy last year at junior bantamweight in a non-title fight. Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. was a junior lightweight champion and yet he fought at 136 pounds against Robert Collins Lindo, who was 1-15! Roy Jones was the IBF middleweight titlist and fought another Danny Garcia at 166 lbs. That Garcia was 25-12. As a super middleweight champion, he also took a bout at 171 pounds against Merqui Sosa in a non-title fight. James Toney was a middleweight champion and faced the 24-13-1 Ricky Stackhouse at 168.

All of these comparisons aren't apples-to-apples. Fighters get in the ring less frequently than they used to do. In past generations, boxers were more inclined to stay active as they waited for bigger opportunities. In addition, many of these in-between fights were off TV and were lower-profile affairs than a headlining date on U.S. premium cable. But, wait a minute. I think we're on to something.

Is the real issue that Garcia fought Salka or is it that Showtime aired it as a main event? If Garcia faced Salka off TV would anyone really care? I doubt that he'd face the same level of vitriol. In this instance, I think that the anger directed towards Garcia should also be spread around to some other people/entities.

It's not as if Danny Garcia knew who Rod Salka was. It wasn't like he marched into Al Haymon's office and exclaimed, "I must fight Rod Salka!" The irony here is that fans pillory Garcia for not controlling his career but yet they assign him responsibility for Salka. Well, which one is it? If Garcia doesn't call the shots regarding his opponents, then why should he be blamed for Salka?

The timing of the Salka fight was bad. Very bad. (I'll touch on this issue later on in the article.) It's true that there were better opponents available. (However, let's not forget that Haymon was in the process of setting up the PBC and Garcia-Peterson was among the first signature fights announced. It's certainly possible that Haymon was saving that matchup for the new PBC platform, which delayed Garcia's ability to take on that foe.) In it of itself, fighting a mediocrity in a non-title belt above a given weight class is fairly common in the sport.

Legitimacy: 3/10

For the sin of ducking Viktor Postol.

After his fight with Selcuk Aydin, Postol was elevated to Danny Garcia's mandatory challenger by the WBC. Very few thought that the fight would get made since Garcia was aligned with Haymon and Postol had a U.S. promotional contract with Top Rank. But then, a series of bizarre incidents occurred. Instead of relinquishing the belt, Team Garcia offered Postol step-aside money and a spot on the Garcia-Peterson undercard. Interestingly, Garcia fought Peterson at 143 lbs., well above the junior welterweight limit. In fact, Garcia would never fight at 140 lbs. again. 

Postol presents myriad matchup problems for junior welterweights. He's tall, features a good work rate, has disarming power and displays a very good jab. As good as Danny had looked at various points at 140, a fight against Postol, the ultimate high-risk, low-reward bout, would have been difficult for him. 

The match never materialized. After Garcia defeated Peterson, he gave up his junior welterweight belts. Postol would go on to win the title by knocking out Matthysse. Ultimately, fight fans were deprived of a solid matchup and Garcia and/or his team wanted nothing to do with it.  

Legitimacy: 7/10

For the sin of Angel Garcia.

Garcia's father, Angel, might be an exceptional trainer but he certainly hasn't won Danny any additional fan support with his inflammatory rhetoric. Angel has insulted a slew of different minority groups and has suggested that Danny would be better off fighting lesser talents instead of taking on the best in the ring. Unlike Danny, Angel loves the spotlight and while he creates headlines and generates publicity for Danny's career, so many of his statements have been cringe-worthy. He's a real antagonist and pushes potential fans away from his son.

Legitimacy: 8/10

For the sin of not being in control of his career.

Danny doesn't call his own shots. He'll often utter the familiar refrain, "I'll talk to Al."  Garcia seems to be at the mercy of whomever Haymon decides to put in front of him. But let's be honest for a second: How many fighters really get to pick their opponents? 10? 12? Is that number too high? Do you think that pound-for-pound talent Tim Bradley said to Bob Arum that he must fight Jessie Vargas? Did Manny Pacquiao demand Chris Algieri? How many guys affiliated with Haymon actually choose their opponents? Keith Thurman said that Luis Collazo was the only fighter presented to him for his July fight. Amir Khan couldn't get the fights that he wanted. And these are two of Haymon's higher-profile boxers.

Perhaps this criticism of Danny is a tacit acknowledgement of his success. Meaning, Danny has had several quality wins. He clearly is skilled and is easily among the top 25-or-so guys in boxing. Why doesn't he exert more influence on his career? Why doesn't he use whatever leverage he has to seize this opportunity?

In fairness to Garcia, it isn't like he's been completely passive. He wanted to fight in Puerto Rico and got a bout there. He insisted on facing Lamont Peterson above the junior welterweight limit and did. However, he hasn't graduated to the point where he is really dictating the terms of his career. Maybe he can do more of that in the future. But ultimately, being at the mercy of one's handlers is often the standard operating procedure for a boxer.

Legitimacy: 4/10

For the sin of being inarticulate.

Let's face it: Danny isn't a talker. He doesn't express himself particularly clearly. He rarely communicates anything that could be considered insightful. Not blessed with elements of self-promotion, Garcia fails to connect with fans or the media when he speaks. He's a boring interview and when he's providing boxing commentary, he relies on shopworn clich├ęs.

However, being inarticulate as a boxer isn't a disqualifying event or necessarily a reason for hatred. Lots of fighters let their fists do their talking, popular ones too. Joe Frazier wasn't a talker. Holyfield couldn't express himself well. Miguel Cotto's interviews have always been painful affairs. Yet all developed significant followings. Yes, the gift of gab is something that could translate into building a stronger fanbase but it's not a prerequisite to becoming a star, or even just a success.

Legitimacy: 2/10

For the sin of squandering his goodwill.

After defeating Matthysse, the world was Danny's oyster. With an excellent showing on a huge international platform (the fight was on the Mayweather-Alvarez undercard), Garcia was in a position to see his status in the sport skyrocket. Six months later, Garcia finally re-entered the ring against Mauricio Herrera, a tough and cagey fighter but not a guy who was considered to be a real threat. Nevertheless, Garcia struggled in that fight and was flummoxed by Herrera's awkward movements and in-and-out style.

Garcia escaped with an unpopular majority decision and instead of righting a potential wrong, he waited five more months to take on Salka. Again, fighting Salka in it of itself isn't a grave sin. But context matters. Instead of offering Herrera a rematch or taking on another challenging foe (Peterson was on the undercard for the Salka fight), he faced a much lesser talent.

These actions created real resentment among many hardcore boxing fans. What fighter has the biggest opportunity of his career and then decides to squander it? (Actually, this happens more often than we care to admit. Andre Ward and Mikey Garcia are two contemporaries of Garcia who have taken similarly perplexing steps in their respective careers.) After ascending to the top spot of the junior welterweight division, Garcia didn't seek out additional challenges. He was content to fight lower-profile guys. This damaged his reputation in the sport. Boxing enthusiasts want to see the best take on the best and Garcia failed to follow this path.

Legitimacy: 9/10

For the sin of beating Lucas Matthysse.

Prior to facing Garcia, Matthysse was emerging as one of the true bogeymen of the sport. He became an internet darling on boxing social media. His utter destruction of Lamont Peterson was impressive. He also notched notable stoppages of Humberto Soto and Mike Dallas Jr. on U.S. premium cable. He was one of the most powerful punchers in boxing and was poised to break out as a big star. In his post-fight interview after Peterson, he called out Garcia, who was in the arena. Many within boxing thought that Garcia would relinquish his belt instead of taking on Matthysse.

But Garcia agreed to the fight and went on to win a competitive decision. It was a classic Garcia win. He exploited openings, made important adjustments as the fight progressed and landed great counters. 

Remember, Garcia was an interloper in the top rungs of the sport. He was a guy who sometimes seemed like an afterthought in the Haymon/Golden Boy stable at the time. He wasn't expected to beat Khan. Many thought that he had lost to Theophane. He was supposed to be just a beltholder until someone better arrived. Garcia's upset win over Matthysse angered a lot of people that September night. When a popular warrior is beaten, the victor doesn't always get the spoils. And that's fine. Everyone has favorites in the sport. However, many internet warriors never got over themselves and were reluctant to give Danny the credit that he deserved. The better man won that night. It's not Garcia's fault that he was the more versatile talent and had the better corner.

Legitimacy: 2/10

For the sin of dressing badly:

Danny Garcia doesn't dress the part of a world champion boxer. He's tacky. He looks awful when he's out-and-about. He lacks any sense of style. He comes off as low-class. In this context, he's easy to ridicule. 

Now, most boxers don't come from privileged backgrounds. Many enter boxing because of financial pressures and limited economic opportunity. But Danny has money now and there's certainly a middle ground that can be found here. It wouldn't hurt him to take a little more pride in his appearance. Although one might dismiss this charge as foolish or petty, so much of our society is based on appearances and impressions. There's a reason why people wear suits to interviews. The term "dress for success" didn't come out of thin air. There have been myriad psychological studies that address how appearances affect the way that someone is received. So while this shouldn't be the main bone of contention for Garcia's detractors, there probably is something to this.

Legitimacy: 4/10

For the sin of not being great in any aspect of boxing.

People watch Danny Garcia in the ring and wonder how he wins. He's not particular fast. His athleticism is middling. He wouldn't be classified as a huge puncher. He's not tall or rangy. On the inside, he doesn't necessarily excel. He's a crisp counterpuncher but it's not as if people are afraid to fight him. He doesn't intimidate opponents. So how does he do it?

Danny has a variety of skills, many of which are subtle. He throws four or five different types of right hands: straight, looping, slinging, overhand and hook. This variety was especially displayed against Judah and Guerrero. Overall, he has a spectacular punch variety, featuring jabs, hooks, uppercuts and straight shots. He's very comfortable going to the body or head with numerous types of punches. None of these shots would be classified as a deadly weapon but they are all accurate. He also has a very solid chin. He took the best from Khan, Judah, Matthysse and Peterson and kept his focus and poise. Yes, he's been stunned by punches before but he reacts pretty well to getting hit.  

But Danny's intangibles are what really separate him from other fighters. His timing can be impeccable. Although not blessed with great foot speed, he has very solid footwork. He remains poised in the ring and rarely makes mistakes. He doesn't beat himself. In addition, he takes instruction very well in the corner and does a great job of implementing his father's game plans.

The summation of these attributes adds up to a winning fighter. A boxer who does practically everything right puts himself in a great position to excel in the sport. With that said, I won't claim that Danny will retire undefeated. He's susceptible to faster, more-athletic and bigger fighters. His defense isn't impenetrable. He can be predictable at times on offense. However, to beat Danny definitively, it will take an excellent fighter having a very good night.

Legitimacy: 3/10

For the sin of incomplete performances.

Here's my biggest gripe with Garcia. In his decision victories against top opponents, he's yet to put together a consistent 12 rounds. And there's no clear pattern in his fights. Sometimes he has faded late (Judah, Peterson) and on other occasions he has started slowly (Matthysse, Guerrero). What's consistent is the failure to impose his will over the duration of a fight. Perhaps he underestimates opponents. Maybe he over- or under-trains. Could it be conditioning? Does he coast at times? These are all possible explanations. I don't have a definitive answer but he can certainly underwhelm at points in his fights. Judah was there to be finished but Garcia let him back into the match. Danny seemed unwilling to let his hands go in the early rounds against Guerrero.

It's a perplexing dilemma that one of the top fighters in the sport rarely dominates. His resume is solid but the performances themselves can leave something to be desired

Legitimacy: 10/10

***

Danny Garcia has been a target of derision and hatred among certain subsets of boxing fans. A number of reasons for this animosity are overstated, unfounded, arbitrary, unfair or ridiculous. It's true; boxing fans can lack perspective. Somehow, Danny seems to be a lightning rod for how fighters are managed and moved in contemporary boxing. Is he the only Haymon fighter who has been angled into better opportunities than the average boxer gets? Is he the only one who has been the beneficiary of a debatable decision? Is he the only one that was enabled by a network that didn't exhibit good quality control? Of course not. Yet, Danny takes a lot of heat while others are spared a similar level of vitriol.

However, there are certain criticisms of Garcia that are perfectly legitimate. He didn't fight rematches of disputed decisions. He felt no point of pride or personal imperative to set the record straight by meeting these tough opponents again. Additional wins over Theophane, Matthysse, Herrera and Peterson would've removed doubts from the skeptical boxing fan. Certainly, Garcia wouldn't have been able to turn all of his detractors into fans but he lost an opportunity to create goodwill. 

Moreover, his father remains a barrier. Angel's incendiary rhetoric had damaged Garcia's standing in the sport. People root against Angel; thus, they feel similarly towards Danny.

Finally, Danny has yet to put it together for 12 rounds in a big fight. On one hand, he has certainly talked about wanting to be great but he hasn't always displayed those characteristics in the ring. Despite winning all of his fights, he hasn't dominated at the top level of the sport. Great fighters take out or discourage beaten opponents; they don't instill confidence in lesser talents.

Garcia is now far removed from when he was the plucky underdog from Philadelphia. He's become a target, an "A-side" that makes very good money. Lots of boxers would love to get in the ring with him. There's a psychological edge that Danny has yet to acquire. He has to learn to batter opponents, to embarrass them in the ring. Fighters are too comfortable against him. Letting guys stick around can lead to very bad consequences.

However, all is not lost. A rabbi once told me a great line, "The future affects the past," and this certainly applies to Danny. By facing and beating the best at 147, Garcia can do a lot to erase the past ill will. Should he encounter a close fight, he could extend the opportunity for a rematch. These are the lessons that he needs to learn if he wants his standing in the sport to improve. The sins that he has committed aren't permanent but they will continue to be held against him until he changes these aspects of his career narrative.

But let's also consider the possibility that Garcia is unlike other fighters in the sport. He may not care about negativity from fans or the media. Garcia makes good money and sells tickets without having to change his modus operandi. To this point in his career, he has seemed impervious to these attacks. He has heard the boos before and they don't appear to affect him. It's certainly possible that he could continue in his present vein, retire as a multi-division champ and engender neither love nor, in some cases, respect from sizable portions of the boxing community. Yet, this scenario doesn't seem to bother him.

Almost every fighter wants the public's love and adulation. Thus, when the fans or the media criticize, it hurts even the toughest of characters. Rare is the fighter who is unaffected by negativity. And here, Danny seems aloof to all the vitriol that is directed towards him. Even if he's aware of the animosity, he hasn't demonstrated any outward signs that it upsets him.  

Danny appears to be very content. He makes his $1M+ per fight. He's not one who rocks the boat or seems particularly anxious about the state of his career or his future prospects. This self-satisfaction is rare among top athletes. At some point, the drive to be great at boxing fueled Danny to become one of the best in the sport, and he continues to perform ably. The factors that motivate him (whatever they may be) remain present and manifest in his preparation and execution, but yet the source of his drive stays completely hidden from the boxing public. On the surface, he seems placid. He reveals little. I can't think of any examples of consternation, worry, regret or doubt. This would be the source of a great interview if there was some way to elicit the information from him. But Danny is not one who likes to share. He doesn't seem to be in this for the media attention and doesn't need much from them. He remains enigmatic. Perhaps his greatest sin is his quiet contempt for the public.

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

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Five Years of Saturday Night Boxing

Saturday Night Boxing turned five years old today and this is a milestone that even surprised me. When I started writing about boxing in February of 2011, I had no master plan or grand design; it was filling a need. Yearning for an additional creative outlet and feeling dissatisfied with aspects of my professional life, I needed to start writing again. The decision to focus my efforts on boxing was an easy one. Although I had always been a fan of the sport growing up, as I got older, boxing became more of a consuming passion. But it wasn't just fandom that compelled me to start writing about the sweet science: I felt that I had something to contribute.

In following boxing, I observed that strategy and technique, the two aspects of the sport that intrigued me the most, were lacking sufficient media coverage. Although I absorbed whatever I could from the widely read boxing press, a large part of the sport remained a mysterious black box to me. In the media, most attention was given to the "who," "what," or "where" of the sport and very little time was spent on the "how" or "why." In short, there was a dearth of informative analysis about boxing. 

How do you take away a jab? When is a prospect ready to step up? Is Freddie Roach actually a good trainer? What does a "high ring IQ" really mean? Why have Eastern Europeans started to break through at the sport's highest levels? Which referees are beneficial for particular fighters? Which judges should we worry about? All of these questions have been opportunities to delve deeper into the sport. And often I found out that there aren't too many easy answers. 

For instance, I could define having a high ring IQ as a boxer who puts himself in the best possible position to win a fight. Of course, that answer is cursory and unsatisfactory. What is the best position? How does one evaluate that as an outsider? What are the fighter's strengths and weaknesses? What about those of a particular opponent? On a basic level, many aspects of the sport can be understood and appreciated but the learning never stops. And the chasm between what I knew about boxing five years ago compared to now could still be just as great as my current knowledge base and what I might understand five years from now. 

In writing about boxing, my primary goal has been to provide a level of analysis for the major fights, boxers and figures within the sport that was often lacking in widely read media outlets. I eschewed the rote preview pieces, conference call/press conference happenings or fight recaps in favor of highlighting a few key aspects that helped shape my opinion on a particular fight or a perspective on the sport. I won't claim that everything published on this page was innovative or groundbreaking but I also can read my past work and know that original thought was given. I never wrote for click-bait purposes or parroted others in the industry. I might not have been first with a fight review or a viewpoint but I feel very comfortable knowing that my articles were true expressions of my thoughts on the sport; no punches were pulled.  

When writing about fighters, I've always been drawn to inflection points in a boxer's career. How a fighter responds to failure or success, how he handles duress in the ring, the decisions he makes regarding his team – promoter, manager and trainer, the opportunities rejected or accepted, the manifestation of his intangibles; these have been the topics that excite me.

I've learned that there are very few truisms in boxing. Speed beats power, except when it doesn't. Skills pay the bills, but what if a fighter has a bad chin or is known for giving an inconsistent effort? I can cite many examples in the last five years where the boxer with the better skills lost.  Perhaps the only standard that I cling to when evaluating fights is when two relatively even boxers are matched, the more intelligent one seems to win. But I am open to persuasion on that one. Much of boxing is unlearning too. What is accepted as conventional wisdom may often be the wrong path to victory.

Over the past five years, I've had the pleasure of conducting a number of interviews with boxing industry figures that have greatly enhanced my understanding of the sport. I'll always have a soft spot for Tim Bradley, who gave me my first interview. Sick as a dog with a high fever and strep throat, I remember transcribing the interview in a Santa Monica hotel room with glee, knowing that he had provided me with a number of poignant insights regarding his amateur background, his difficulty in attracting attention in his nascent years as a professional and his dogged determination to become one of the best in the sport. 

Another highlight was talking to referee Steve Smoger. Even though Smoger had been a professional for over 30 years when I conducted the interview, his admiration for boxers and his gratitude for being able to play just a small role in the sport remained palpable. His passion for boxing and the art of refereeing was revelatory.

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Peter Fury, who went from prison to training the heavyweight champion of the world. Fury's frank assessment of the development of Tyson Fury was a breath of fresh air in an industry filled with hype, platitudes and canned responses.

I've also had an opportunity to interact with many in the boxing industry on an off-the-record basis. Speaking with promoters, managers, network executives, reporters, trainers and fighters, I've been enriched by these conversations; and not all of them were rainbows and waterfalls. Even though I'm no big cheese, I've learned that when people want to get a hold of you, they miraculously find you. I remember sitting in the Atlanta airport one Friday night listening to a boxing executive explain the difficulty his network was having regarding the consistency of its boxing programming. Over the next 35 minutes, he provided background on why certain fights weren't getting made. I remember watching everyone board the plane as we talked about the changing boxing landscape. I hated having to cut that conversation short. Or, there was that Saturday afternoon the day after I wrote a caustic piece about a network. I spent 45 minutes engaged in a spirited call with a PR honcho while pacing the aisles of a CVS pharmacy. I realized from all of these experiences that most in boxing really want to get it right and leave their mark in bettering the sport. 

Boxing writing has brought me tremendous fulfillment over the past five years. From covering live fights to meeting those within the industry to interacting with fans, friends and foils on social media, it's been a great ride. Of everyone I've met in the sport, I'd say that 95% have been fantastic. There have certainly been those who have disappointed me as well. I've learned that boxing people are fiercely protective of their opinions on the sport. Although most enjoy the respectful give-and-take of debate and seek out additional viewpoints, others are didactic and/or intolerable. Unfortunately, some members of this second category have risen to positions of prominence or semi-prominence in the industry. To them, ruling over their fiefdoms remains far more important than considering new ideas or different perspectives.

By and large, boxing creates connections. The sport doesn't lend itself to isolation. The best fight atmospheres have boisterous crowds. Big events lead to passionate followings on social media. It's practically impossible to watch a good fight and sit in silence during the experience. As boxing remains a niche sport in many locales, enthusiasts seek out interaction to satisfy their fight cravings and yearnings. And although one might not have many friends that love the sport, boxing fans around the world are legion and are always interested in having a conversation. Over time, fans strike up new acquaintances and friendships and they build networks and communities. 

This sense of community has always been important to me throughout Saturday Night Boxing's tenure. It wasn't enough for me to have a forum in which to write; I wanted to form new connections within the sport. As a point of pride, at its height, I had built the former Saturday Night Boxing Facebook page to over 75,000 people. To my knowledge, it was the largest boxing fan forum on that medium. 

Talking about the sport with people from all over the world, I love the insight, the humor and the debates. Sure, there are some idiots, fanboys and the occasional racist who needs to be expunged (it isn't a perfect world we live in) but that type of interaction continues to be an enriching experience.

When the original SNB Facebook page was inexplicable removed at the end of 2014, I was crestfallen. I knew that I would never amass that type of audience through Facebook again. The site had changed over the years and people now use it differently than they did in 2011. After a few months of licking my wounds, I decided to give it another go. I was certainly encouraged by the supportive messages from a number of people from the old forum. This time I wouldn't advertise the group and I would restart with only a skeleton crew of acquaintances and friends that I had met over the years; version 2.0 was more about fun instead of brand-building. The new group, SN Boxing, will never reach the heights of the old Saturday Night Boxing page but the format is more democratic and fulfilling. Yes, the SN Boxing Facebook group continues to provide entertaining and informative boxing discussion but by now it's become something else to me. So many people in the group have become friends; it's not something I would want to stop.

Over the past five years, there have been so many memorable boxing moments that I've had the opportunity to experience live: the standing ovation at the Stub Hub Center after just the first round of Rios-Alvarado I, the Kovalev after party following his win over Hopkins, the section-wide brawl in the crowd during Alvarado-Provodnikov, partying at the Toga Bar in Atlantic City on fight weekends, the euphoria in the Alamodome after Marcos Maidana defeated Adrien Broner. I've had the opportunity to see a Mayweather and a Pacquiao fight. I've gone to eight states to see live boxing – soon to be nine in March as I venture to Connecticut for Thurman-Porter.  

Like many of you, boxing has helped me get through some tough times. Perhaps my favorite thing I ever wrote for Saturday Night Boxing was Don't Rob Me, a piece about an unnamed veteran fighter who was hoping for one more shot at the top. I wrote that article in a hotel room over two nights in New York as my dad was undergoing cancer surgery. During those moments, writing about boxing was especially cathartic.

Over the years, there have been articles that I've written which I love and others that, years later, are cringe-worthy. Five years is enough to understand the cycles and seasons of boxing. Networks and promoters rise and fall. Interest levels among the fans wax and wane. New opportunities within the sport continue to emerge while others collapse. Certain fighters surprised me (Canelo Alvarez) while others have been disappointments (I had high hopes for Adrien Broner). I nailed some predictions (Bradley beating Marquez by split decision) and there are those that still bother me years later. (Donaire didn't actually knock out Rigondeaux in the 4th, did he?) I can take pride in that I know my work is read by people whom I respect a great deal. Yet, I also realize that I'm unknown in many circles.  

For today, I'll stop being hard on myself and celebrate this accomplishment. It's a good feeling to keep something going when it would've been easy to stop. (Lord knows I don't do it for the money!) I've met some great people. I've had the privilege of learning about the sport in a way that far surpassed my expectations five years ago. I've written some articles that I'm proud of. I've made some new friends.
  
So what's next on the horizon? That's tough to tell. Over the years, I've been approached by a number of websites and media outlets that wanted me to write for them. To this point, I've turned down those offers. I always have and will continue to listen to what's out there and I'm grateful to those who appreciated my opinions and perspectives enough to want me to work with them. Those particular opportunities weren't the right scenarios for me at that given time but I'd certainly jump at the right fit, whether it involves writing, broadcasting or being involved in a network capacity. If there is a move to be made, I'd like it to help transition me to a career in boxing. Yes, so few of those opportunities actually exist. I'm aware of this and I'm not exactly holding my breath. I also realize that I haven't always been the best at "playing the game" over the years. I can be an acquired taste. Perhaps I went after the wrong person on Twitter or maybe a particular criticism I levied would disqualify me from a certain job. So be it. I believe in being truthful first and let the chips fall where they may. I haven't spent the last five years angling for this gig or that one. If it happens, great and if it doesn't I'm at peace with that too. 

One thing I'd like to have is a more consistent podcast presence. I've enjoyed being a guest on various podcasts over the years, whether it has been Boxing Asylum, Tha Boxing Voice, LukieBoxing or others. I hope to do something on at least a semi-regular basis in the coming months. My work schedule isn't always fun but this is definitely a goal. I'd love to partner up with the right person or media outlet for a podcast. 

I certainly will keep writing. I realize that I don't publish as frequently as I used to do. The challenge isn't writing per se; it's writing something interesting. If I can't meet that standard, then I try not to waste your time or mine. I also prefer to do longer pieces rather than quick hits. These types of articles don't always lend themselves to a lot of volume. Perhaps the right fights just haven't been there and the inspiration ebbs and flows with the current events of the sport. And also, life gets in the way. But I know I'll be writing when so moved. 

Of course, I'll still be watching as many fights as I possibly can. Who knows when the next Bradley-Provodnikov or Rios-Acosta will occur? The beauty of boxing is that we just don't know. I'll also continue to be a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, an organization that has done a great job in helping to overcome the bias and silliness inherent in world boxing rankings.

As usual, this article has gone on too long. Let me end with some thank yous to people who have encouraged my writing, helped continue my education in the sport, provided a steady source of entertainment or just were there for me when I needed them. So, thank you to Tim Starks, Kelsey McCarson, Jake Donovan, Douglass Fischer, Brian Campbell, Matthew Swain, Kurt Ward, Lucas Katelle, Ryan Bivins, Cliff Rold, Stephen Edwards, Ron Katz, Melissa Bollinger, Amanda Kelley, Lee Wylie, Scott Christ, Stephen Talbott, Glen Warren, Juan Burleson, Agustin Juarez, Chito Muniz, Richie and Theresa Urnaitis, Chris Lukach, Larry Rasmussen, Alex Morris, John Patrick Monaghan, Victor Rosales, Victor Salazar, Patrick Connor, Aris Pina, Joel Stern, Matt Weiler, Diana Heres, Dave Dambrisi, Rafe Bartholomew, Jay Caspian Kang, Scott Christensen, Daniel Roberts, Hans Olson, Daniel Reed, Shaun Hall, Andy Brook, Billy Ferguson, David Hammer, Nic Mimmack, James Grills, Itch, Ivan Ocampo, Brandon Stubbs, Jim Whittam, Jamie Dodsworth, Danny Finnegan, Jenna Anzaldua, Tim Vigon, Rebecca Pitt, Mark Ortega, Cam Beaton, Waleed Albarakati, Alan Conceicao, Brian King, Matt DiGiallonardo, Alex Barry, Alex McClintock, Gary Graham, Emily Pandelakis, Ian Morton, Matthew Mojica, Michael Gluckstadt, Richard Closs, Steve Laird, Christopher Coreschi, Gabriel Gonzalez, Scott Hale, Brittany Rogers and Greg Bishop. There were many others that I could have included as well.  

Finally, I wanted to thank four people in particular. David Greisman is not only an excellent columnist for BoxingScene but he's also a wonderfully warm and funny human being. He's one of the most talented writers in the sport and he's an even better person. David was nice enough to bring me into his orbit many years ago and I'll always be appreciative of his generosity. We've spent many fantastic fight weekends in various places throughout the country and I'm looking forward to more good times ahead.  

Michelle Rosado has been the most supportive person I've encountered in my five years of Saturday Night Boxing. With a heart of gold, she's blazing her own way in the sport. Always there to provide a laugh, a boxing connection or an unvarnished opinion, Michelle is this wonderful, delightful energy force in the world of boxing. There's no one I'd rather have in my corner than Ms. Raging Babe herself.  

Over the past five years, David Byrne and Arran McLachlan have become two of my closest friends. Somehow, through a bizarre algorithm of Facebook, they've been with me since the beginning and I treasure their friendship and humor. Often they are my co-pilots and I got really lucky with them. One of these years we'll all meet up, and it will be an absolutely epic undertaking. 

And to all my readers, thank you for your comments, feedback and support. May the next five years be even better.  

Adam Abramowitz
February 8, 2016
Philadelphia, USA


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