Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Eulogy for Andre Ward 1.0

We gather here today to remember a loved one who has left this earth and gone on to the kingdom of heaven. Although this occasion is marked with tears and sadness, the death of our brother is not a senseless one. You will not turn on the news tonight to see reports of wasted potential of failed promise. No, Andre Ward, Version 1.0 died as an agent of the Lord. At the height of Version 1.0's ability, the Lord called to him and told him that he was needed. And Version 1.0 heard the call and became the Lord's messenger. And that, for all those who are here today, is what we must take from the life and death of Version 1.0.  

Could we make the same decisions? Would we sacrifice like Version 1.0 did? The Lord makes demands on all of us. Will we let him in? Will we follow the path of righteousness? Could we forsake our ego, our vanity and the trappings of the material world to fulfill our ultimate purpose? My brothers and sisters, yes, today is a sad day but one that is also filled with joy. Version 1.0, an absolute transcendent talent, is no longer with us but his spirit remains in all of us. You can feel his righteousness in the room today. His good deeds and the way he treated others with respect, dignity and kindness help provide light even in the darkest of times.  

Version 1.0 leaves us with so many wonderful memories. Let us take to a minute to remember what he accomplished in the ring: an Olympic gold medalist, an undefeated super middleweight champion, the number-one fighter in the sport. The breadth of his accomplishments was undeniable. He was America's last great boxer. 

Version 1.0 was spiritual, god-fearing, one who was respected by his community, an example for our youth. Version 1.0 walked the earth with humility, class and dignity. He always remembered the Lord's providence.  

As we look at Version 1.0 lying there, surrounded by flowers, his amateur trophies, triumphant pictures...and sorry, I get a little choked up by this...we can only think of this as God's work. As God's plan.  

It is not for us to ask why the Lord sent Version 1.0 on a quest away from boxing. Fighting in courtrooms instead of the ring, Version 1.0 followed the Lord's path. God has plans for all of us. He had a plan for Abraham, for Jonah, for Job, all of whom were asked by the Lord to make sacrifices, to carry out his decisions, however difficult they might be for mortals to understand. These instances test faith and Version 1.0, who referred to himself as Son of God in the ring, became the Lord's humble servant. When it was time for his calling, he left behind money and glory and fought instead for universal truths. Version 1.0 stood up for loyalty, fair treatment under the law, equality and, let us not forget, honesty. These ideals are central throughout our holy scriptures.  

These courtroom battles took a toll on Version 1.0 far heavier than he had ever faced in the boxing ring. After years in the wilderness, Version 1.0 returned to the sport he had loved since childhood. Yet something had changed. His legs weren't the same. He couldn't float around the ring anymore. His reflexes had suffered. His defense, once impenetrable, now betrayed him. His right hand no longer caused waves of destruction. It became a mere appendage attached to his shoulder. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away!  

Matthew 16:25, "For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world yet forfeit their soul?" 

Version 1.0 realized that his life was no longer his; he was now an agent of the Lord. In materialistic ways, he had already gained the whole world: money, riches, fame. But in his soul – IN HIS SOUL – that wasn't enough! That wasn't his path to righteousness! That wasn't the Lord's calling! Even if he lost the physical attributes that gave him the whole world, Version 1.0 wanted to save his soul. He sacrificed himself for a greater purpose. Let that be a lesson. The world is not about physical vanity or materialistic gain. It's about having a pure spirit, ready to be delivered by the Lord. 

Looking around the room at everyone seated here, I know that Version 1.0 affected all of us. There was a beauty to his boxing, an expertise that we all hoped we could attain in our chosen professions. He was the best. He was OUR best – a beacon of hope in a city far more familiar with the sirens of defeat.  

We'll remember what Version 1.0 accomplished, knocking out Chad Dawson with those menacing left hooks, dominating Mikkel Kessler, beating Carl Froch with one hand, making Arthur Abraham look like an amateur, winning the Super Six, standing on the podium in Athens clasping the gold medal as our national anthem played. 

Version 1.0 was special. And the Lord, who had given him those gifts, had grand designs for him that superseded the boxing ring. Yes, we know that there's Version 2.0 and he may one day rise to the heights of Version 1.0, but that is not the purpose of today's gathering.   

Lord, we pray for the friends, family and loved ones of Version 1.0. May you give them strength and bless them in their time of mourning. May you bless this congregation and may we all remember the wisdom and righteousness of Version 1.0. He has left us to serve you. Give us the strength to follow his path so at the time of Judgment we may also enter the kingdom of heaven. 

From 1 John 3: 1-2,

"Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." 

Version 1.0, the Son of God, and as the scripture says, we are all children of God. Let the memory of Version 1.0, let his sacrifices, his smile, his character help guide us when we face our calling. There will be a time for all of us to stand up, like Version 1.0 stood up. But will we make the right decisions like Version 1.0 did? Lord, give us the strength to do as Version 1.0 did. May we all be on the path of the righteous. And may we all receive salvation.

I'd like to end with Psalm 106. For those who also know it, please join in:  

"O give thanks unto the Lord for he is gracious,
and his mercy endureth forever.

Who can express the noble acts of the Lord,
or show forth all his praise?
Blessed are they that always keep judgment,
and do righteousness. 

Remember me, O Lord, according to the favor that thou bearest unto thy people;
O visit me with thy salvation. 

That I may see the felicity of the chosen,
and rejoice in the gladness of thy people,
and give thanks with thine inheritance."
And let us say, amen.

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 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Top Rank's Trampler on Hart and Reed

Bruce Trampler, a vice president and matchmaker at Top Rank, Inc., has assisted in the development of numerous prospects since joining the company in 1981. Helping to shape the careers of Johnny Tapia, Michael Carbajal, Oscar de la Hoya, Erik Morales, Floyd Mayweather, Miguel Cotto, Kelly Pavlik and countless others, Trampler is a major reason why Top Rank has the deserved reputation as being the best at developing and moving young talent. Elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2010, Trampler continues to help guide Top Rank's stable of fighters.

On Friday, two of the company's prospects, super middleweight Jesse Hart (19-0, 16 KOs) and junior welterweight Mike Reed (17-0, 10 KOs), will be fighting at the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia. Trampler, who will be in attendance at the fight card, will be evaluating their progress. 

I reached out to Trampler last week for his thoughts on Hart and Reed and what the company projects for the two over the next 12 months. Trampler responded to my questions via an email exchange. After the interview was conducted, a new opponent was announced for Reed, who will now be fighting Samuel Amoako (21-8, 15 KOs).

Jesse Hart appeared in high-profile fights against Aaron Pryor Jr. and Mike Jimenez in 2015. How did you and/or Top Rank assess his performances in those fights?

Along with Julian Rodriguez and Toka Kahn-Clary, Jesse Hart and Mike Reed are two of our more solid Northeast prospects. Each is an undefeated ticket seller from an important market (Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., respectively). [Fellow Top Rank matchmaker] Brad Goodman and I view each of their fights coming up as learning experiences. Experience is something you can't teach, but it manifests itself in future bouts. 

Hart next faces Dashon Johnson (19-18-3, 6 KOs), a vet who goes rounds and is on a winning streak. What specifically are you looking for from Hart in this fight?

Nothing specifically. Johnson is a solid veteran from whom Jesse figures to learn a good deal. We're trying to get an overall sense of where Hart is in his career, because he could be in line for a title fight before too long. Developing a fighter is a marathon, not a sprint. No one particular fight really defines where a prospect is, but we'll find out more against a very capable professional in Johnson. 

What is one thing that you'd like to see Hart do more of in the ring?

Nothing in particular. We're just trying to get an overall feeling in assessing progress or development. He’s a good fighter who is going to get better. 

At age 26 and at 19-0, Jesse Hart conceivably should be entering his prime. In a perfect world, where would Top Rank like to see him by the end of the year?

There are no "shoulds" in our world. By the end of the year, it's conceivable that Hart could be ready to challenge for, and win, a world title. 

How would you compare and contrast Hart to another Top Rank super middleweight, Gilberto Ramirez?

Ramirez at this point is a tad more developed than Hart, a little further along. But don't be surprised if their careers intersect around this time next year. 

Top Rank signed Mike Reed in 2014. What would be a quick scouting report on him?

He's an athletic southpaw. He’s a very good kid from a solid family. Reed was an excellent amateur and seems to be coming along as a pro. 

How has Reed progressed as a fighter over the last 18 months?

He's ready to step up. He's been taking small steps and finding his way in the pro ranks. He always goes on the road since we don't do shows in D.C. We're happy with his development. He was a very good amateur and he's becoming a good pro. 

How would you rate Reed's power?

He can get your attention. He's technically sound. Reed knows how to hit and hit hard. He's building a strong resume. 

If things break right for Reed this year, how far is he away from becoming a contender in the junior welterweight division?

He's probably a year away. Sometimes a guy shortens his path to stardom, as Terence Crawford did when he accepted a late-notice opportunity against Breidis Prescott. Good fighters make their own breaks and Reed has that capability. We'll see how he does when his first big chance presents itself. 

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, March 15, 2016

Lukie Boxing's Podcast

I joined LukieBoxing's podcast this week where we talked about a number of the big fights coming up in the next few months, including Thurman-Porter, Lomachenko-Walters, Wilder-Povetkin, Ward-Barrera and Canelo-Khan. We also opined on Jessie Vargas, Julian Williams and Antoine Douglas. 

Click here to listen

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 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Burn Podcast

This week I appeared on the first installment of Brandon Stubbs' podcast, "The Burn," where we talked about Terence Crawford, Guillermo Rigondeaux, Adrien Broner, Antonio Margarito, the heavyweight division and the PBC. 

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