Thursday, June 30, 2016

Pound-for-Pound Update 6-30-16

The results of June's fight action have brought a number of changes to the Saturday Night Boxing Pound-for-Pound List. Earlier in the month, Vasyl Lomachenko scored an impressive knockout over Roman Martinez. Lomachenko has now won titles in two divisions and has defeated quality opponents such as Gary Russell Jr. and Martinez. He debuts in the Rankings at #18. By current form, he could be ranked much higher but his overall resume still trails several fighters who place above him on the list. 

Last weekend, Keith Thurman won a close decision over Shawn Porter, which was the most notable victory of his career. The undefeated Thurman has been building a solid resume at welterweight, with wins over Porter, Diego Chaves, Robert Guerrero and Luis Collazo. He enters the Rankings at #19. Falling out of the pound-for-pound list are Nicholas Walters and Leo Santa Cruz. With a win over Carl Frampton next month, Santa Cruz should find his way back into the Rankings in short order. 

Here is the complete Saturday Night Boxing Pound-for-Pound List:
  1. Roman Gonzalez
  2. Manny Pacquiao
  3. Andre Ward
  4. Sergey Kovalev
  5. Juan Estrada
  6. Gennady Golovkin
  7. Saul Alvarez
  8. Tim Bradley
  9. Guillermo Rigondeaux
  10. Naoya Inoue
  11. Adonis Stevenson
  12. Tyson Fury 
  13. Wladimir Klitschko
  14. Miguel Cotto
  15. Danny Garcia
  16. Terence Crawford
  17. Donnie Nietes
  18. Vasyl Lomachenko
  19. Keith Thurman
  20. Shinsuke Yamanaka
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

Friday, June 24, 2016

Thurman-Porter: Keys to the Fight

One of the best potential fights in the welterweight division takes place on Saturday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn as undefeated titlist Keith Thurman (26-0, 22 KOs) faces former champion Shawn Porter (26-1-1, 16 KOs). The match was originally scheduled for earlier in the year but was pushed back because Thurman was involved in a minor car accident. Thurman and Porter have known one another since their amateur days and they sparred together earlier in their careers. Each should be familiar with what the other brings to the table. Both enter the ring coming off of long layoffs; Porter last fought in June, Thurman in July. The winner of Saturday's bout becomes a top-three fighter in the division and is certainly poised to graduate to even bigger potential opponents in the near future. Below are the keys to the fight. My prediction will be at the end of the article.

1. Thurman's training camp

As a result of his car accident, Thurman didn't start sparring until mid-May (at least, that's what has been reported). It's anyone's guess as to what type of shape he was in when he returned to camp following the accident. Thurman's camp has been kept under wraps so it's difficult to know about his conditioning or his current state of mind.

With Dan Birmingham, Thurman has one of the best trainers in the business. Birmingham gets his fighters in shape and doesn't accept excuses. But it's a legitimate question to ask if Thurman's heart is truly into this fight. The bout took longer than expected to be finalized and Porter was the one who seemed more eager for it to happen. Will Thurman be at his best physically and mentally? Will he have the stamina and desire to go 12 hard rounds? Porter's known for being a gym rat and if Thurman isn't in top shape or supremely focused on the task at hand, Porter will have a huge edge in the fight. 

2. Effective aggression from Porter, not just aggression

Over the last three years, Porter has become one of the premier pressure fighters in the sport. He digs to the body mercilessly and has the athleticism to cut off the ring against athletic opponents. However, his transition to an inside fighter hasn't always been seamless. In his only loss as a professional, to Kell Brook, Porter exhibited some flaws that could be exploited by Thurman. Too often, Porter smothered his work on the inside, lessening the impact of his punches and allowing Brook to tie him up with ease. In addition, Brook capitalized on Porter's overzealousness coming in; he pasted Porter with a number of big shots throughout the match, specifically, straight right hands. Although Porter was competitive in the fight, these deficiencies, and Brook's ability to exploit them, allowed for Brook to win the decision. 

Against Adrien Broner last year, Porter had corrected some of these flaws. He came in behind punches more often and was more successful in determining when to apply pressure. Using his jab regularly and giving himself enough room to work on the inside, he was a better fighter than the one who had lost to Brook. Still, Broner was able to time Porter with some big shots and landed a hard knockdown in the bout's final round. 

Porter certainly wants to work on the inside against Thurman, who has significant height and reach advantages in the fight. Thurman was hurt to the body in his last bout against Luis Collazo and may be vulnerable at close range. But Porter needs to come in behind punches and use his footwork to contain the athletically gifted Thurman. Cutting off the ring will be an imperative. 

In addition, Thurman has the power to significantly harm Porter. Thurman can hurt him from the outside with straight right hands and he also possesses a devastating right uppercut that can be used in tighter quarters. Porter must work in close range but he has to remain attentive and intelligent. 

Also, Porter has to stay active during clinches, using his free hand to deliver shots and/or refusing to get completely tied up. He needn't be dirty but he has to keep working until the ref officially halts action. He should never be the one who initiates a clinch. 

3. Thurman's (lack of) accuracy

Thurman has three knockout weapons: his straight right hand, left hook and right uppercut. However, all of these shots are long and take time to develop. Once he unfurls these punches, he exhibits plenty of hand speed, but mechanically, his shots have a lot of moving parts. Thurman can also be a wild swinger, finding himself out of position after missing, which gives his opponents opportunities to counter. 

Thurman's accuracy will be essential on Saturday. If his jab and straight right hand continue to hit their mark, he will be far more successful at keeping Porter on the outside. There, Thurman can score with eye-catching shots and neutralize Porter's inside game. However, if Thurman gets knockout-happy or is off with his timing, Porter will have a much easier time coming in. In addition, if Thurman swings wildly and misses, Porter can strike with two or three quick shots before Thurman returns to a defensively responsible position. Perhaps Thurman's best play in the fight will be to ensure that he connects from the outside. Sacrificing a little power for some accuracy should behoove him during the bout. He still has enough natural thump to hurt any opponent at welterweight but the increased accuracy will keep him out of harm's way more regularly. 

4. Consistency

Against higher-level opposition, neither fighter has put together a truly complete performance. Thurman has had fights where he's gotten tagged early (Diego Chaves, Jesus Soto Karass and Collazo) and another where he faded late (Robert Guerrero). Porter takes break during fights, letting Devon Alexander back into their bout after dominating him early and featuring a paltry work rate at various points against Broner. 

Both fighters have lacked focus during fights, whether it has been momentary defensive lapses that lead to harm (Thurman) or bewildering periods of low activity (Porter). Can either fighter break his bad habits? Which one can put together 12 consistent rounds? The answers to these questions will most likely tell us who will be raising his hand at the end of the evening. 

5. "Plan B"

Thurman and Porter have exhibited a range of styles as professionals. Thurman started his career as a knockout artist and has morphed into a boxer-puncher while Porter has transformed from a boxer-puncher into a pressure fighter. It will be fascinating to see the adjustments from each side during the fight. Thurman is the more intuitive and improvisatory boxer in the ring and can better make his own changes while Porter is more disciplined and better equipped to take instruction. 

Both fighters have top cornermen, with Thurman employing the aforementioned Birmingham and Porter working with his father, Kenny. Birmingham is more seasoned at the top levels of the sport but the elder Porter has displayed an impressive boxing acumen.

I awarded Porter my 2013 Trainer of the Year award for his brilliant corner work during the Julio Diaz rematch and the Devon Alexander fight. In the Alexander bout, Shawn's bull rush attack was the major difference in the fight. (Previously, Porter had rarely exhibited the characteristics of a pressure fighter.) However, I believe that Kenny Porter was wildly out-coached in the Brook match. The needed adjustments didn't come and Porter might not have sensed that his son was behind in the bout, which is a cardinal sin for a trainer. 

Thurman will present Kenny Porter with a host of issues and he'll have to think on the fly and clearly communicate those adjustments to his son. In addition, Birmingham will have his hands full if Porter can consistently get on the inside. The battle of the corners will be one of the more intriguing aspects of the fight. 


I believe that Thurman is the better talent. He has superior athleticism, significant physical advantages and a big edge in punching power. If there is a knockout blow in the fight, he would be the more likely candidate to have landed it. However, boxing is often about intangibles. In recent fights, Porter has had the superior work rate. He continues to improve as a fighter and he's always in the gym. Might he be the hungrier one as well? 

I think that Thurman-Porter will be a highly competitive fight. Both boxers will take turns imposing themselves on the other but they will also take breaks, which will provide opportunities for the opponent. Although I do think that Porter's aggression (whether it is actually effective is another story) and work rate will keep him in the fight, ultimately I believe that Thurman's clean power punching will be enough to carry the day. Finally, it's worth noting that two of the judges, Waleska Roldan (who really likes house fighters) and Steve Weisfeld (who appreciates defense and clean punching), may be more inclined to shade competitive rounds to Thurman. In a close fight, that could be a huge factor in determining the winner.

Keith Thurman defeats Shawn Porter by split decision.

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

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Errol Spence Dilemma

Jermain Taylor. Andre Berto. Paul Williams. Adrien Broner. These fighters have a number of commonalities. All were managed and/or advised by influential power broker Al Haymon. They received a big push by premium cable prior to winning their first titles. Initially, all four had relatively inexperienced head trainers in pro boxing (Pat Burns, Tony Morgan, George Peterson and Mike Stafford, respectively). And all didn't fully live up to their respective hype. This isn't to say that they were failures in boxing. All had their moments, but, to be candid, more was expected from them. None met their initial expectations.

Williams lost in his first defense to unheralded Carlos Quintana. Berto couldn't overcome Victor Ortiz's power punching. Broner bit off more than he could chew at welterweight against Marcos Maidana and from my vantage point Taylor shouldn't have even won his title (I had him losing both fights to Bernard Hopkins and dropping a decision in his next fight to Winky Wright.) He would soon lose to Kelly Pavlik. 

This recent history is instructive because Haymon now represents another fighter, Errol Spence, who is on the cusp of stardom in the sport. And important questions need to be asked, especially when considering the shortcomings of the fighters listed above: Has Spence been developed enough? Is he ready to win a belt and even if so, is he prepared to have a dominant title run? 

Spence, 26, is 20-0 and has 17 knockouts in the welterweight division. In his last outing, he thoroughly dominated former 140-lb. titleholder Chris Algieri in the first big headlining slot of his career. He is next scheduled to fight in an IBF eliminator, likely against light-hitting Leonard Bundu, a 41-year-old who didn't win a single second against Keith Thurman in 2014. Should Spence beat Bundu, he's in line to fight for Kell Brook's title. 

There's a lot to like about Spence. A southpaw, he has a devastating right hook to the body and is an impressive power puncher. He works off his jab beautifully. His poise in the ring far belies his professional experience. A 2012 Olympian for the United States, he was viewed as having the best pro style from that team and to this point he has passed his initial tests with flying colors. 

However, all of the fighters above looked like elite talents prior to their first title runs. Taylor had one of the best jabs in the sport and a punishing right hand. Berto was an imposing boxer-puncher. Williams had a unique combination of size, reach and punch volume. Broner's mixture of punch placement, athleticism and defense drew comparisons to Floyd Mayweather. Yet, once they become titleholders, many of these plusses faded away in the ring. Taylor proved to be gun shy in the late rounds and had endurance issues. Berto stopped boxing and loaded up on big shots. Williams never seemed to have a Plan B in the ring and was perplexed by movement. Broner's punch volume dropped significantly against better opposition and his defense proved to be far more porous than previously thought. 

At this point, it's instructive to remember that Haymon has a manager's background in boxing and not that of a promoter. His job is to get his fighters title shots and seven-figure paydays. Whereas, good promoters look at their boxers just a little differently. Their goal is to maximize assets. They want their signed fighters to be as good as possible for as long as possible. Often paying their boxers significant minimum fees, they want to see returns on their investments. In order to create the most eyeballs for their product, they need their top fighters to keep winning against a high level of opposition, and to look good in the process. 

There's always a push-pull between promoters and managers. A respected manager, like Cameron Dunkin, understands the long game of boxing development. He has the experience to know that there's nothing more important than carefully cultivating his fighters' development. Working with experienced outfits such as Top Rank, Dunkin appreciates the often laborious process of growing his fighters to the point where they can get the best out of their abilities. That doesn't mean that a Dunkin will always agree with a Bob Arum per se, but they've had a very productive working relationship. 

Haymon has cut out the role of the promoter. He has a band of promoters that he uses for specific fights (Lou DiBella, Leon Margules, etc.) but very few of his top fighters have long-term promotional agreements. And while I'm sure that DiBella and many others with strong industry knowledge are consulted on the development of Haymon's fighters, the lack of a strong, experienced promoter who has veto power over a manager can harm a fighter's career path. No promoter has final say over Haymon. No one other than Haymon can put the brakes on a prospect that isn't quite ready for the bright lights. Even a step down, there are no Bruce Tramplers, Brad Goodmans (both from Top Rank) or Robert Diazes (from Golden Boy), all expert matchmakers, working with Haymon. These matchmakers are responsible at their respective companies for ensuring that their fighters see a mixture of styles during their development. 

Spence could very well fight Brook without ever having faced even a moderate puncher in the ring. Shouldn't Haymon want to know if his young gun can take a shot? Wouldn't that information be very important in steering Spence's subsequent career? 

This isn't to say that Haymon has failed to develop any of his fighters. Keith Thurman certainly surpassed expectations on his way to becoming a titleholder. More than a few influential boxing writers laughed at Haymon when he initially put Thurman on HBO yet Thurman to this point has thrived in his career and demonstrated significant star power. Danny Garcia faced a number of credible fighters before his first title shot. Sammy Vasquez has been moved very well as he climbs the ladder in the welterweight division. Robert Easter Jr. is moving up the lightweight ranks pretty quickly but is taking on good opposition. 

However, the developmental track records of others in the Haymon stable have been spottier. Gary Russell Jr. was thrown into a title shot against Vasyl Lomachenko without having any tough opponents earlier in his career. Deontay Wilder and Rau'shee Warren have the same story. 

Developing fighters is an art not a science. One really never knows when a fighter is prepared to face the best in the sport. Andre Ward fought a very weak slate of opposition prior to taking on Mikkel Kessler. However, Ward dominated that fight and has proved to be one of the best in the sport. Kell Brook's development was poor and yet he successfully dispatched Shawn Porter to win a title (it's still unclear if Brook will be hurt by his poor opposition). Kelly Pavlik wasn't a heralded prospect but when the time came to fight hard-hitting Edison Miranda, he prevailed and had a decent run at middleweight. 

There are often intangible factors that separate good fighters from great ones. It could be work-ethic, self-belief, intelligence or ring IQ. These attributes might not manifest until they are needed in the ring against good opposition. In addition, a fighter's team can help a young fighter pull out a victory over a tough foe. I'm sure that having Dan Birmingham in his corner has helped Thurman's poise and confidence in the ring. 

Derrick James, Spence's trainer, is another relatively inexperienced professional coach at the top levels of the sport. That is not necessarily a negative for Spence. Virgil Hunter didn't have a professional pedigree prior to Andre Ward. Angel Garcia has proven to be a very adept cornerman. And all trainers have to start somewhere. However, are they the exceptions? What else has Morgan, Burns and Peterson done as professional trainers? Mike Stafford seems to have a budding stable of impressive fighters but he hasn't yet gotten any of them to the truly elite level. Even going back to Pavlik, Jack Loew seemed completely outclassed by Bernard Hopkins and his team and had a woefully underprepared corner against Sergio Martinez (their cutman may have lost them the fight). We haven't heard much from Loew recently, have we?

Who knows if Spence (and his team) possesses the intangibles to rise to the top level? But even more fundamentally, do we even know enough about Spence's defense or recuperative powers?  Spence may yet become one of the top talents in the sport. He could be a truly special. However, from my vantage point, not enough has been done in his development to start answering some of these questions. Perhaps he's the next Ward and his greatness will fully manifest against other top foes. But there's a weigh station full of fighters in Spence's stable that failed to make a similar leap. Were they fully prepared to win and defend a title? Had they faced enough duress in their development? Were their teams professional enough to run strong training camps and make incisive decisions in the corner? 

Most likely, Haymon will get Spence his title shot within the year. He wants his fighter to start making real money. And all boxers want the title and its accompanying remunerations. But with over a decade in the sport, Haymon has yet to develop a strong record at building elite fighters. He's great at getting title shots, working the sanctioning bodies and putting his best on TV but that next step has more often than not eluded him in the sport. Perhaps this isn't his main concern. When Spence gets his million dollar check, he won't be too concerned with whether he faced the right opponents on his way up. 

Spence's scenario is a real dilemma in the sport. His prime is now. 26-year-olds win titles all the time. He isn't too raw for world-level fighters. I'm sure that many boxing enthusiasts would like to see him pushed to the top rungs of the welterweight division. However, for those most interested in greatness in the ring, will Spence's weak opposition hurt him as he starts to face better fighters? Would he be better off getting two or three more bouts before his title shot? Does he still need to mature in the ring? 

Unfortunately, there's no right answer. Great fighters come from all backgrounds and levels of experience. Some had shiny amateur careers. Many had shaky outings early in their development. Others needed to lose before they learned what it took to become elite. A few had a straight line to greatness once they laced up their gloves. There's no one resume for greatness. Nobody knows with 100% certainly when to pull the trigger on a prized young prospect. But in this instance, it would be more comforting to know that the people holding the gun were noted marksmen.

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

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Morning Punch-in Show

I joined this week's Morning Punch-in Show with RB & Jae to recap Saturday's fights. We talked about Lomachenko's dominance, Verdejo's development, Molina-Provodnikov, Andrade and more. We also looked ahead to a potential Lomachenko-Salido rematch. One additional note, Hall of Fame promoter J. Russell Peltz also joined the broadcast to talk about this year's IBHOF induction ceremony.  Click here to listen to the show:  

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

Monday, June 6, 2016

Opinions and Observations: Vargas-Salido

"There are many, many professional prizefighters who never want to be in a fight like this, even once in their career."

– HBO commentator Jim Lampley while watching Vargas-Salido

Saturday's ferocious war between Francisco Vargas and Orlando Salido exemplified the type of thrilling close combat that has become a lost art in boxing. Featuring a tremendous display of power punching and significant swings in action, the fight was breathtaking stuff. Both junior lightweights demonstrated impressive inside fighting skills, creative offense, heart, perseverance and unbreakable will. The match was ruled a majority draw (which was appropriate) and both boxers saw their statuses elevated in the sport. Vargas, who won my Fight of the Year last year against Takashi Miura, retained his title and Salido, at 35, continues to be one of the best action fighters in the sport. Both are must-see attractions in a wildly entertaining 130-lb. division.

Instead of recounting the oohs and aahs of Saturday's battle, which surely will be up for Fight and Round of the Year awards at the conclusion of 2016 (rounds 6, 10 and 12 are worthy candidates), I'd like to address a specific conception held by an obnoxious minority of fight fans. After the bout, the following belief was expressed by a few on social media: It was two cans just winging punches with no skill. Now, I'm not making a straw man argument here; there are real boxing fans who dismissed the skills and dimensions of Vargas and Salido, because they committed the sin of waging a battle of attrition. These critics actually exist and I'm sure you've yelled at interacted with them. To the detractors, Saturday's match was somehow less pure, less aesthetically pleasing than a fight between two boxers or boxer-punchers. 

Let's get this out of the way quickly: of course there are prejudices in boxing. People have their favorite styles, ethnicities and nationalities in the sport. Some boxing fans like counterpunchers, others like one-shot knockout artists and another faction may prefer athletic marvels. I'm not here to rid people of their predilections or make all boxing fans get along; hopefully, the sport is a big enough tent to draw many types of enthusiasts. However, to dismiss the skills of inside fighters like Vargas and Salido is just rank silliness, and this bullshit needs to stop.  

Yes, there are fights that resemble bar room brawls and become tedious to watch. Lacking quality punches, power, strategy, and any concept of range, these matches often fail to captivate. But Vargas-Salido was not that. Both fighters had an acute understanding of what they were trying to accomplish in the ring. They landed thunderous bombs throughout the fight. Both used angles and subtle defensive techniques to evade shots and connect with their own. Vargas and Salido displayed offensive creativity, throwing all sorts of hooks, uppercuts, overhand rights, straight punches and even a few jabs. 

Let me highlight some specific sequences that demonstrate the skills of these two fighters. In the second round, Vargas pushes off Salido, who was trying to clinch. Vargas now creates the needed space to initiate offense (understanding range, a skill). He then throws a five-punch combination: right uppercut to the body/left hook to the body/straight right to the shoulder/left hook to the chin/left hook to the body. At least four of the punches land flush and the sequence demonstrates the offensive variety of the titleholder. 

First, not many boxers are confident throwing uppercuts as the lead punch in a combination. It's a shot that can be easily countered if thrown from an improper range. But Vargas connects with it to the solar plexus. And again, this isn't just a case of landing one punch, scoring and getting out of the pocket; it's all part of a sequence to inflict significant damage. The uppercut is just the opening salvo. 

Further analyzing the sequence, Vargas throws one punch to the head, one to the shoulder and three to the body. Working up and down is an important skill for a fighter. It makes opponents less confident about defending shots. There are a number of world-level fighters who don't know how to go to the body effectively at all, or refuse to do so out of caution (put Wlad and Khan in this category). Others work the body with single jabs or power punches, but they don't go downstairs as part of elongated sequences (Floyd is in this group). Certain left-hook artists are actually more effective to the body than the head. Some become too reliant on the hook to the body, neglecting the head and becoming predictable (Chavez Jr. is a perfect example of this). But Vargas doesn't just work upstairs and downstairs in Saturday's fight, he does it in this one fluid sequence, and repeats it many other times throughout the match!  

Finally, Vargas doubles up the left hook to end the combination, going first to the chin and then the body. Again, the variety of the hooks makes it much harder for opponents to anticipate how to defend against incoming fire. 

And remember, this sequence manifested at close range. Many fighters wouldn't even dream of throwing three punches in a row at this distance, let alone five. In addition to the technical mastery of this combination, Vargas also demonstrated fearlessness, confidence and a belief in his chin. Although these particular attributes might not be added to the "skills" bucket, they speak to the underlying intangibles of the fighter. Without possessing these "soft" skills, the hooks and uppercuts wouldn't be able flow as fluidly as they do for Vargas. And Vargas' shots in this sequence are all purposeful punches. They are practiced and thrown with excellent technique. 

Later in the second round, Salido moves back to the ropes. He avoids a sweeping left hook and slips a right uppercut. He then counters with a big overhand right, misses with a straight left and then finished the combination with a straight right. His first shot lands hard and his third shot grazes Vargas. Again, this sequence exhibits a number of skills. 

Even though Vargas and Salido got hit with a large number of power punches in the fight, they also evaded some huge blows; they weren't mere punching bags. With Salido's first counter, he picked the perfect punch and exhibited the precise execution needed to land the shot. "Make him miss and make him pay" is a cornerstone of boxing fundamentals and that's exactly what Salido did in this sequence. 

But let's take it a step further. How many fighters are even passably adept at fighting off the ropes? How many can consistently get the best of an exchange at that geography? I'd submit that the majority of fighters, even including those at the top levels of the sport, are at a severe disadvantage once their back touches the ropes. Yet Salido prospered during this exchange, as he did during several other points in the fight. 

Here's another skill of Salido's: Watch how he throws a left uppercut. He puts his chin on his opponent and keeps his right hand held high by his right ear to thwart the possibility of a counter left hook. In this position, he leaves such a small target area to be hit by an opponent. There's enough room for him to throw his left hand but hardly anything an opponent can do to him except for a lead right hook to the body (which very few conventional fighters throw). As Salido transitions from the left uppercut to the right uppercut, watch how he subtlety manipulates his body to reduce the target area on the other side. These moves are done seamlessly. And it's not as if Vargas is a willing participant who says, "Orlando, it's OK, you can rest your chin here." These techniques have been practiced over years and years to become significant skills of Salido's in the ring. So while the crowd delights at the back-and-forth power punching sequence at close range, it's not just Salido winging shots without any regard of defense; there's a method to his madness.

Do you know why Vargas didn't jab a lot during the fight? He had the physical advantages to jab. He was taller and had the better reach. It isn't that he lacks a good jab. The reason Vargas kept his jab holstered throughout much of the fight can be attributed to how well Salido slipped the punch (often to the inside) and then made Vargas pay for missing. 

The sequence of Salido evading the jab, immediately closing the distance and landing a hard counter demonstrates a variety of skills. Physically, he has to have the reflexes to avoid the jab; that's an athletic skill. Next, he has to know how to slip the jab in a way where he can immediately launch his own offense. He's not taking steps back to avoid the punch or leaving the pocket. No, Salido stands right in front of his opponent to slip the shot. Then, he needs to move to the perfect space in order to close distance against the rangier fighter who is temporarily out of position. Again, this movement is a practiced skill. Finally, he has to execute on his counters. On Saturday, after he slipped the jab, he mostly countered with left hooks (to the head or body) or right hooks that sailed around the gloves and hit the target. 

How many orthodox fighters throw lead right hooks? In many gyms, that punch is a no-no. A fighter opens himself up to an array of counters if he isn't successful with it (such as a straight right to the head or body or a counter left hook). Yet, Salido didn't just throw it; the punch was a major weapon in the fight. 

Here are some other skills: Salido and Vargas took turns initiating and fighting off the back foot. Again, how many boxers are really adept at both styles? They had punches in their arsenals to land at six inches as well as those from long range. Vargas connected with two blistering overhand rights from range (one each in the 6th and 12th) that would've knocked out many fighters. In addition, both boxers know how to take shots. Again, this is a skill. Vargas wasn't spooked by the unconventional punches and combinations that Salido put together. He didn't cower at the sight of his own blood; no, he just went back to work. Vargas was able to stagger Salido at a few points in the fight yet Salido didn't collapse physically or psychologically. No, he clinched when needed (also a skill) and bought time by holding, defending or throwing shots aimed at reducing Vargas' effectiveness. 

Skills were all over the ring on Saturday but many of them were subtle. It wasn't about hand or foot speed, working off the jab, feats of athletic marvel or brute knockout strength. Saturday was a fiercely contested battle of close combat. And to make the fight as good as it was, both boxers needed to have a mastery of assorted techniques, movements, angles and strategy.

Perhaps you might be one of the few who didn't think much of Saturday's match. As Lampley said on Saturday, many boxers don't want to fight like that. And certainly some fans prefer a different style of fighting. Maybe that type of combat isn't your cup of tea. And that's your right to feel that way. But the knowledgeable fight enthusiast should at least be able to appreciate the talents of these two boxers. I can't force you to like a fight but please, do me a favor, don't tell me that Vargas and Salido lack skills. That just screams ignorance.

There's a certain beauty to inside fighting and Vargas and Salido painted a Monet this weekend. Perhaps impressionism isn’t your thing. That’s cool. But denying its legitimacy isn’t an avenue to be taken seriously.   

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

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

DiBella's Next Wave

Since starting his own promotional company in 2000, Lou DiBella has developed champions such as Jermain Taylor, Andre Berto and Sergio Martinez. DiBella is now closely associated with boxing manager/advisor Al Haymon as he promotes many of Haymon’s PBC cards on the East Coast. And while the boxing media and a subset of the sport’s fans focus on all things Haymon-related, DiBella has been quietly restocking his pipeline with fighters from the former Soviet republics. Partnering with Max Alperovich and Alex Khanas of Fight Promotions, Inc., DiBella has unearthed a new generation of young talent that is poised to make his company strong over the next several years.

I ran into DiBella last month at a media event in New York and after talking about many of the high-profile aspects of boxing in which he’s involved, Lou took exception with how the boxing press has been covering his stable of fighters. Specifically, he believed that very little media attention was being given to some of his up-and-coming boxers, many of whom were international amateur stars and significant signings. And Lou had a fair point. Although many boxing fans have become familiar with his prospect Ievgen Khytrov and Avtandil Khurtsidze, who just upset rising middleweight Antoine Douglas earlier this year, very few are aware of this next generation under the DiBella banner.

Recently, Lou and I discussed five of his young fighters that he believes have a chance to become elite-level talents. Alperovich, who scouts the World Series of Boxing (WSB) for most of his professional signings, joined us on the call to give some background information about the fighters and what in particular about them grabbed his attention. The boxers are: Sergiy Derevyanchenko, Ivan Golub, Ivan Baranchyk, Radzhab Butaev and Sergey Lipinets. All except Lipinets have settled in Brooklyn, train under Andre Rozier and Gary Stark Sr., and are co-promoted by DiBella and Fight Promotions, Inc. Lipinets now fights out of California, is trained by Rodrigo Mosquera and is solely promoted by DiBella.

Overall, Lou is impressed by the quintet’s power but there’s more to the story than just heavy hands: “You can always beat a guy with one-dimensional power,” he said. “Boxing pedigree is really important too. All of these fighters are well-rounded in the ring but they all have punching power. In boxing and MMA today, this is the instant gratification generation. Punching power is what people want to see.”

DiBella and Alperovich also speak highly of the training that their Brooklyn fighters are receiving under Rozier’s and Stark’s tutelage. Sparring with the likes of Daniel Jacobs, Curtis Stevens, Marcus Browne, Khytrov, Khurtsidze and others, the gym competition is helping develop the four’s respective pro styles very quickly. And the transition from Eastern Europe to Brooklyn, which has very sizable populations of Russian and Ukrainian immigrants, has gone very smoothly for the young fighters. “If you’re from Russia or Ukraine,” said DiBella, “home away from home is Coney Island, Brighton Beach and Brooklyn.” 

Below, I have scouting reports for each of the five fighters. I’ve included clips for each boxer as well as some biographical information. I’ll also share some specific opinions from Lou and Max about them.

Fighter: Sergiy Derevyanchenko
Nickname: The Technician
Division: Middleweight
Country: Ukraine
Age: 30
Record: 8-0, 6 KOs
Stance: Orthodox

Profile: Derevyanchenko is the most advanced of DiBella’s five prospects. A 2008 Olympian from the Ukraine and a 2007 bronze medal winner at the World Amateur Championships, he also had over 300 amateur fights and a record of 23-1 in the World Series of Boxing. “The Technician” has been moved very fast as a pro, taking on trial horses such as Jessie Nicklow, Vladine Biosse and Elvin Ayala. He’s provided sparring for David Lemieux and is currently in camp with Joe Smith, Jr. (who fights Andrzej Fonfara later in June).

Strengths: Derevyanchenko has been compared to Gennady Golovkin and there are obvious similarities. Like GGG, Derevyanchenko cuts off the ring very well, has multiple knockout weapons and works the head and body with equal amounts of zeal. Derevyanchenko doesn’t have the same one-punch power that Golovkin does (DiBella says that he has A-minus punching power but A-plus boxing ability); however, his power is very good. He’s poised in the ring, puts punches together well and his movement is excellent.

Weaknesses: Also like GGG, Derevyanchenko isn’t an amazing pure athlete but he compensates with superior movement. One flaw of his is that he stays in the pocket too long after he throws combinations, “admiring his work.” He can be easily countered in these spots.  

Promoter’s Take: Alperovich believes that Derevyanchenko was one of the most “technically perfect” amateur fighters that he’s ever seen. DiBella thinks that Derevyanchenko has the best pro style of the group. Even though Derevyanchenko has had only eight pro fights, DiBella is trying to arrange an IBF eliminator for his next fight. The bout would be for the organization's number-two position.

Fighter: Sergey Lipinets
Nickname: N/A
Division: Junior Welterweight
Country: Russia, but born in Kazakhstan
Age: 27
Record: 9-0, 7 KOs
Stance: Orthodox

Profile: Unlike the other fighters in the group, Lipinets didn’t have an extensive amateur background. In fact, he was a kickboxing champion and only transitioned to boxing later in life. However, he’s been a quick study. DiBella has moved him very fast and Lipinets has jumped at opportunities for 50/50 bouts. Brought in as a “B-side” against Lydell Rhodes, Lipinets impressed in a mild upset victory. He’s also already headlined a smaller PBC card where he knocked out Levan Ghvamichava (also known as “The Wolf”).

Strengths: Heavy-handed, Lipinets is always looking for the knockout. He throws a variety of hard right hands (looping, overhand, hook and straight) and can be very creative with how he initiates offense. He has a constant motor and stalks opponents in the ring with intelligent pressure. Lipinets makes good adjustments as fights progress. He also doesn’t beat himself.

Weaknesses: He’s not a fluid combination puncher and he will rarely throw more than two shots in a sequence. His jab and left hook are both solid punches but he uses them inconsistently. He also overcommits with his shots, leaving himself frequently out-of-position. Lipinets could improve his accuracy.

Promoter’s Take: DiBella praises Lipinets’ natural instincts and ability. He also likes that Lipinets demands to face the best challenges. He is scheduled to return to FS1 in July.  

Fighter: Ivan Baranchyk
Nickname: The Beast
Division: Junior Welterweight
Country: Belarus, but born in Russia
Age: 23
Record: 10-0, 9 KOs
Stance: Orthodox

Profile: A former police officer and member of the S.W.A.T. team in his native Belarus (DiBella quipped that Baranchyk was “literally a sharpshooter”), he was a former junior world champion. Baranchyk has the best natural power of any fighter in this group. He had an impressive first-round KO of Nicholas Givhan earlier in the year on ShoBox and also KO’ed former unbeaten prospect Shadi Shawareb in late 2015.

Strengths: His left hook and straight right hand are devastating punches. He also is a fluid combination puncher. A fairly good athlete, Baranchyk does an excellent job cutting the distance against an opponent.

Weaknesses: Still raw, Baranchyk sometimes rushes his work. He’s a wild swinger and can be overeager to go for the knockout.

Promoter’s Take: According to Alperovich, Baranchyk was tested at the gym for his punching power and the force of his punches equated to a heavyweight level. (Remember, Baranchyk fights at 140 lbs.) Right now, they are focusing on getting Baranchyk rounds; he’s never gone past four. DiBella has revealed that he’s had difficulty getting potential opponents to fight Baranchyk. One other factoid: the Oklahoma casino where Baranchyk scored his last knockout was so impressed with his performance that they want him back immediately for his next bout. 

Fighter: Ivan Golub
Nickname: The Volk
Division: Welterweight
Country: Ukraine
Age: 27
Record: 11-0, 9 KOs
Stance: Southpaw

Profile: Another strong amateur boxer who was third at the world championships in 2009 and went 6-0 in the World Series of Boxing, Golub started his professional career at middleweight and has gradually come down to welterweight, where he will remain for the foreseeable future. Golub was knocked down in his last fight against Marlon Aguas but did score a stoppage in that bout.

Strengths: Golub might have the best jab of this group. He’s very patient in the ring and does a great job setting up shots and throwing combinations. He’s an accurate puncher who uses his jab to poke and probe for holes in an opponent’s defense.

Weakness: Golub isn’t exactly a plodder in the ring but he’s not a great athlete. Everything seems to be at one speed. He can be very predictable on offense, which gives an opponent the ability to time him or trade with him. His power may not play up at more advanced levels. To this point, his knockouts are more a function of superior punch placement and accuracy instead of sheer power.

Promoter’s Take: Alperovich admits that Golub wasn’t as advanced as some of the other prospects in the WSB but he’s been impressed with his learning curve. Finding the ideal weight for Golub was essential for his professional development. Neither Golub nor DiBella is concerned about Golub’s knockdown last fight, believing it was more of a momentary balance issue than a chin problem. He is scheduled to return in August. 

Fighter: Radzhab Butaev
Nickname: The Python
Division: Welterweight
Country: Russia
Age: 22
Record: 2-0, 2 KOs
Stance: Orthodox

Profile: According to Alperovich, Butaev was caught up in boxing politics and wound up missing out on the Olympics in 2016. As a result, the fighter decided to turn pro. Butaev had over 300 amateur fights and was raised in the same village in Russia as light heavyweight contender Artur Beterbiev. Butaev comes from four generations of mercenaries and Special Forces. Relatives of his were Special Forces for the Czar.

Strengths: Butaev features wonderful punch placement and works the head and body like a seasoned professional. He’s a very fluid fighter and a good athlete. Already, he’s an excellent combination puncher.

Weaknesses: Too soon to tell.

Promoter’s Take: DiBella said that “his matchmakers are in love with Butaev” and that he “looks like a guy who has been a pro for five years.” He likes how Butaev takes control of the ring and mixes in feints. The goal is to get Butaev eight-rounders by the end of the year.  His next fight should be in September. 

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
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