Thursday, January 31, 2019

Punch 2 the Face Podcast

What to make of Keith Thurman's return? On this week's Punch 2 the Face Radio, Brandon and I look back at the good and bad of his performance. How would Thurman do against Manny Pacquiao? Brandon and I also talked about the riveting Munguia-Inoue fight. In addition, we previewed this upcoming weekend's massive Top Rank card headlined by the Eleider Alvarez-Sergey Kovalev rematch. Brandon and I also talked about the Top-5 U.S. boxing prospects. Finally, we paid our respects to former super middleweight champion George Groves, who announced his retirement this week. To listen to the podcast, click on the links below:

Blog Talk Radio link:

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 

snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

SNB Stock Report 1-27-19

It's time for another edition of the SNB Stock Report. After a fun-filled fight weekend, whose stock has gone up (+), whose has gone down (-) and whose remains unchanged (NC)?

Keith Thurman (+) Thurman returned to boxing after a 22-month layoff on Saturday and defeated the good version of Josesito Lopez by a majority decision. On the plus side of the ledger, Thurman looked to be in excellent shape. His athleticism remained stellar, he landed his fair share of hard shots and his chin held up nicely even after he was pounded from pillar-to-post in the seventh round. He scored a knockdown in the second round with a beautiful short counter left hook. 

Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Trapp/PBC

However, there were some troubling signs in the fight. No, it's not that big of a deal that Thurman got hit or even hurt; those things happen in boxing. But what was of genuine concern occurred in that seventh round. Instead of holding or slowing the pace of the fight after he got hurt, Thurman continued to run around the ring like a chicken with his head cut off. Or, to use a boxing comparison, he looked like Amir Khan. Instead of relying on his brains, he burned off a lot of energy, invited more trouble and assumed that his athleticism would enable him to survive. Yes, Thurman was able to regroup, but can those tactics work against bigger punchers and better fighters? I have my doubts. 

Overall, Thurman successfully shook off some cobwebs and fought very well at points in the match, but his questionable ring instincts could get him into a lot of trouble against the elite at welterweight.

Josesito Lopez (+) By all accounts Lopez had a successful training camp for his fight with Thurman and it showed in the ring on Saturday. He went 12 tough rounds with one of the best welterweights in the world, displaying solid conditioning, desire and self-belief. Lopez was perhaps just seconds away from ending the fight in the seventh, but couldn't come up with the finishing blow. Nevertheless, it was an encouraging performance. Despite the loss, he was able to impose his will on one of trickiest opponents in the division, one who had far more athleticism and punching power than he did. Furthermore, Lopez may not have even won a round in the first half of the fight, yet he persevered. Lopez's lively performance and his positive intangibles should help him secure another meaningful fight later in the year. 

Jaime Munguia (NC) Ignore the scorecards for this one, which officially show a wide unanimous decision victory for Munguia. Yes, Munguia won the fight and retained his junior middleweight title, but he had to engage in a brutal war to do so. Munguia landed sparkling power punches throughout the fight; however, Inoue, the much smaller guy, kept coming forward and tried to bully the bully. There were many rounds in the fight where Munguia landed the types of blows that would put away less-determined foes, but Inoue was no ordinary opponent. 

Despite a number of positives in his performance, Munguia still has several areas that he needs to improve. His defense remains a concern. He made no adjustments to Inoue's looping right hands and he doesn't seem to be making a concerted effort to improve his defensive technique. In addition, perhaps if Munguia was in better conditioning, he wouldn't have spent so much time along the ropes, where he was often target practice. 

To my eyes, Munguia looks like a middleweight trying to shrink down to 154 lbs. He might be able to get away with it for another fight or two, but this approach usually ends in one of two ways: he loses his title belt on the scales or he comes into the fight dead at the weight and gets knocked out. Yes, the 160 lb. division has some elite talents in the division, but it's better to lose to Canelo than to the 12th-ranked contender in the WBO at 154 lbs. Jaime, the choice is yours.

Takeshi Inoue (+) Inoue entered Saturday's fight as a relatively obscure opponent without much of a pedigree – 13-0 with 7 KOs, facing no one that would be confused with a contender. But no one told Inoue that he was the "opponent." Despite absorbing thunderous blows throughout the fight, he relentlessly charged forward and had periods of sustained success with looping and overhand rights. The final scores were essentially academic; Inoue wasn't going to win that type of fight on the cards, nor did he deserve to. But Inoue placed himself squarely on the boxing map on Saturday. He'll now be deemed as an acceptable opponent for any of the top guys at 154 and stands to make more money for his efforts going forward. Altogether, that's a successful outing. 

Adam Kownacki (+) Kownacki blitzed through former title contender Gerald Washington in two rounds and further demonstrated that looks can be deceiving in boxing. Kownacki has a terrible boxing body. He's overweight and has no mobility, but he can really punch! In a magnanimous gesture, Washington decided to stand and trade with Kownacki in the first round and Adam was the winner of that shootout. Shortly into the second round, Kownacki scored with a punishing right hand and Washington was on the canvas. Although he beat the count, Washington was done and the referee called the fight off after Kownacki continued his onslaught. 

Of course Kownacki has some flaws that could stop him from beating the truly best at heavyweight, but he entertains in the ring, packs a punch and fights with a lot of self-belief. Boxing would be a lot more enjoyable if there was a Kownacki in every division.  

Gerald Washington (-) In early 2017 Washington had some good moments against heavyweight champ Deontay Wilder. Washington demonstrated in the first four rounds of that fight that he could box and had athleticism. Ultimately, he didn't survive against Wilder, or against Jarrell Miller, and that was again the case on Saturday against Kownacki. Perhaps most perplexing is that Washington didn't try to use any of his superior attributes on Saturday. Instead of boxing or using his legs, he engaged in a slugfest. It was perhaps the worst game plan in boxing since Jose Pedraza decided to charge at Gervonta Davis with reckless abandon. Sometimes fighters make baffling decisions. 

Tugstsogt Nyambayar (NC) King Tug faced the hardest challenge of his career on Saturday against the capable southpaw Claudio Marrero. In an excellent fight with numerous ebbs and flows, Nyambayar won a competitive unanimous decision. Although Nyambayar entered the fight with nine knockouts in his ten fights, it doesn't appear that his power is elite. Furthermore, Tug demonstrated that he doesn't yet have the conditioning to impose himself over 12 rounds. (In his defense he hadn't needed to reach for those reserves prior to Saturday.) Nevertheless, he is still a work in progress. Supposedly with his win he will be in line for a title opportunity against Gary Russell Jr. To be blunt, he isn't ready for that fight and hopefully his team pulls back the reins a little bit. Tug has power and good boxing skills, but he needs more professional seasoning.  

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.    

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Opinions and Observations: Pacquiao-Broner

Watching Manny Pacquiao consistently get the better of Adrien Broner on Saturday (I scored the fight 118-110 for Pacquiao), I realized that I had forgotten aspects of Manny at his best. My memories of his explosive 2006-2011 prime had faded. I still recalled a dynamic fighter with a rare combination of power, speed and frenetic energy, but, in hindsight, he had encapsulated so much more. His movements were so unconventional. His punches originated from unusual angles. And he wasn't just a happy warrior. He wanted to hurt; he had a bloodlust. To a degree I had also forgotten Pacquiao's high Ring IQ and how he was a real student of the sport, a fighter whose boxing brain at least equaled his elite physical and technical gifts. 

Almost a decade removed from his peak, Pacquiao still maintains an agile boxing mind and an improvisational genius that is a rarity in the sport. Wasting a jab or a double jab to land a left hand, moving around Broner's back to shoot a left and not get hit in return, throwing a four-punch combination where the first two shots were throwaways so he could connect with the third and the fourth, making constant adjustments with angles and foot positioning, Pacquiao reminded the boxing community that his accumulated ring wisdom is matched by few active fighters. 

Photo Courtesy of Esther Lin/Showtime

Despite possessing considerable hand speed and countering skills, Broner failed to impose himself on Pacquiao because of the same problem that has plagued him throughout his career: he had no plan. Characteristic of a number of modern American fighters, Broner is essentially a read-and-react boxer in the ring, relying exclusively on his athletic dimensions and technical skills without any notion of tactics or strategy. From moment to moment, he can score with an impressive punch. Perhaps it's his counter left hook or a lead right, but he has never thought his way through a fight against a top-level opponent. 

There's no sense of what Broner wants to accomplish each round. He doesn't set anything up; there are no traps set. He just sees a brief opening and shoots a punch. Maybe it lands or maybe it doesn't, but there isn't a coherent idea of what happens next. Sure, if he hurts an opponent or feels a sense of desperation, he will go on the offensive. But more likely than not he will wait at mid-range for another opportunity to connect – with the operative word being "wait."

The best counterpunchers (Mayweather, Marquez and Hopkins would suffice from recent times) look to punish opponents with a coherent plan. They observe a strength in an opponent and attempt to take that away, to neutralize it. They dissuade fighters from throwing punches and erode confidence. Because Broner has lacked a systematic plan in the ring, he has failed to corral his best opponents. He'll score with two solid counter left hooks and then forget about that punch for four rounds. He'll connect with a solid jab, but won't follow it up with anything significant. He thinks a singular, solid connect should be enough, but it rarely is. Often Broner doesn't appear to be in the hurt business; his time in the ring more closely resembles "it's just business."

Even the 40-year-old version of Pacquiao was light years beyond Broner in terms of putting forth the effort to win a high-level fight. Pacquiao worked more consistently and with a greater sense of purpose. In a number of rounds, Broner didn't even throw 30 punches. Pacquiao hurt Broner with punishing lead left hands and combinations against the ropes in the seventh and ninth rounds. Following up on these moments, he attempted to end the fight. At the very least, Pacquiao wanted to disabuse Broner of adventurism. And he certainly succeeded.

During the championship rounds of Saturday's fight, Broner went into survival mode. Tasting Pacquiao’s best power, Broner didn't want any more; as a result, he got on his bike. Suddenly Broner, who had always been a pocket fighter, used his legs to run around the ring. He looked as sprightly on his feet as I could remember. Whereas in past fights he could have used his legs more to help win (consider his loss to Shawn Porter), now he relied on movement to make it to the final bell – not dissimilar to Shane Mosley's performance against Pacquiao in 2011. 

Manny Pacquiao will never again be at his absolute peak in the ring, but even this version has too much skill, savvy and desire for B-level fighters. From his tutelage under Freddie Roach, he has by now forgotten more about offensive fighting than most will ever know. And it will still take a deadly serious fighter to beat him; one who has a definitive plan and the physical and mental tools to execute it. 

To my eyes, only Marquez and Mayweather have beaten Pacquiao since 2005. Those are without question two of the best fighters of the last 20 years. And although it may not take an inner-ring Hall of Famer to beat him at this stage of his career, it will certainly necessitate more than a handful of singular counterpunches to do the trick. Pacquiao needs to be out-thought. With the exception of the punch from hell from Marquez in their fourth fight, Pacquiao's chin has been outstanding. It will take cunning, daring and, most importantly, commitment to oust him.  

And even then it may not be enough. It took a genius like Marquez a couple of fights to get the better of Pacquiao. Despite the generosity of the scorecards in their first fight, Tim Bradley, a cerebral fighter gifted both physically and technically, couldn't consistently impose himself on Pacquiao. 

Even at 40 Pacquiao can still compete with the likes of Mikey Garcia, Shawn Porter, Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia. Despite his advanced age, Pacquiao would still represent the best win for any of those potential opponents. And while it would be prudent to favor the younger, fresher pugilists in those matchups, consider that none of them has faced an opponent with the dimensions that Pacquiao possesses.

As for Broner, his relationship with Al Haymon and his relative level of fame in the sport will ensure that he will get additional opportunities in the ring. Against top fighters at 140 lbs. and above, he has been nothing more than a high-level gatekeeper. Yes, the sport needs those types of fighters, but that was never the plan for Broner. However, in a cruel sense of irony, that seems appropriate. Plans were never really Broner's thing. Just cute sayings. Or a solid counterpunch here or there.

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Inside Boxing Live

I joined this week's "Inside Boxing Live," hosted by Dan Canobbio, to preview Pacquiao-Broner and talk about Gennady Golovkin's next move in his career. Freddie Roach and Keith Thurman also appeared on the show. To watch (YouTube) or listen (iTunes) to the show, click on the links below.

iTunes link:
YouTube link:

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Devin Haney: His Way to the Top

Tijuana, Mexico isn't the typical locale for a top American amateur to make his pro debut. But so little about Devin Haney (20-0, 13 KOs) passes for ordinary. A seven-time national junior champion and the youngest member of the USA Junior National Boxing Team, Haney took the unusual step of turning pro at 16. U.S. boxing jurisdictions wouldn't license Haney at that precocious age so he went to Mexico for his first four fights. At 17, the Nevada State Athletic Commission granted him a special waiver so he could fight on a Manny Pacquiao undercard. 

But Haney was just getting started. Rejecting advances from the big-moneyed promoters in the sport, Haney decided to hang his own shingle: he started Devin Haney Promotions and is now the youngest boxing promoter in America. And his company isn't merely set up for tax purposes; he's signing fighters and planning out his next steps as a promoter. 

Photo Courtesy of Rosie Cohe/Showtime

Haney provided an interesting perspective on why he decided to go at it alone: "I feel like a lot of fighters promote themselves already using social media and word of mouth," he said. "But the people who they're signed to, their promoters, are taking credit for it. I was built in the amateurs and I didn't go to the Olympics. I went on You Tube and social media. I always felt like I promoted myself, so why not take it all the way? I want to inspire people – that you can be your own promoter."

And while most 20-year-old prospects are still plying their trade deep on undercards or on small club shows, Haney will be headlining his third ShoBox card on Friday, where he faces undefeated South African Xolisani Ndongeni (25-0, 13 KOs).

So where does Haney's moxie come from? That answer can be found in the gyms of Las Vegas and Oakland, where he's been mentored by boxing royalty over the past 12 years and has sparred with many of the best fighters in the sport. Floyd Mayweather Sr. was a former trainer of his. So was Roy Jones. When he returns to his boyhood home of Oakland, he trains at Andre Ward's gym.

"I've sparred world champions," he said, "Floyd Mayweather, Shawn Porter, Zab Judah, Jessie Vargas, and the list goes on. That's why I feel like I'm seasoned. On paper, it doesn't show that, but being in the ring, I have the experience. That's why I feel like I'm on a whole different level."

He's also sparred with some of the top young American prospects on the scene, including Shakur Stevenson, Teofimo Lopez and Gervonta Davis. Although Haney didn't want to go into details regarding those sessions, he did mention that he fought Ryan Garcia six times in the amateurs, where they each won three bouts. Haney finished his amateur career with a sterling 130-8 record. 

Last year was a pivotal one for Haney. He appeared on Showtime twice and looked impressive in a stoppage win over Mason Menard and a wide decision victory against Juan Carlos Burgos. Both of those opponents were experienced pros with notable names on their resumes. Yet neither was a match for Haney. 

"Those fights just brought more confidence to me, knowing that I could compete with top guys," he said. "When I fought Mason Menard, a lot of people were telling me that it was a huge step up, that they didn't know if I was ready. You know, he was a knockout artist...this and that. But I showed myself and I showed the world who Devin Haney is." 

Haney has a lot of respect for Friday's opponent, Ndongeni, 28, who was a highly regarded prospect in South Africa and has also been ranked in the Top-15 by sanctioning organizations. Ndongeni can be slick and cagey; Haney is ready for the challenge. 

After 12 years in boxing, Haney is close to a title shot. He feels it and it motivates him. He understands that without being affiliated with a big promoter, he's going to have to play the rankings game with the sanctioning bodies to get a title shot. He also knows that he will have to beat talented fighters to win a belt. 

"It feels great being close to that goal. All the work that you put in is paying off. It's making me even hungrier to be where I want to be...I'm ranked in the Top 10 and eventually I'm going to be the mandatory to fight the top guys. And if they don't fight me, they're going to have to vacate. I'm not worried."

And Devin's not worried. He posts many of his sparring sessions online, something that very few fighters do. He isn't concerned that potential opponents could spot flaws. He's more interested in building his following and bringing the sport closer to the fans. 

In the ring Haney is a hybrid-style fighter. Comfortable on the inside or at range, Haney has fast hands and throws pinpoint combinations, but what separates him from many other top prospects is his attention to detail on the defensive end. Although he doesn't shy away from contact, he's certainly not the type to take a shot to land one. He certainly believes in the principle of "hit and not get hit in return."  

Perhaps his experiences in Mexico helped to crystalize the importance of defense. "When I was fighting in Tijuana, fights were tough because when you go there, you're on enemy territory. If a guy barely misses you with a punch, the crowd goes wild...You never know if they're going to stop the fight because of cuts, or for whatever reason. So you have to be on your "A" game every time."  

Like all fighters, Haney understands that there is room for improvement. His father Bill, his head trainer, has been working with him to emphasize more body punching and also to make quicker adjustments in the ring. Devin believes that while he may be gifted, he also knows that his mentors, Mayweather and Ward, for example, always kept working to improve. 

Similar to those two, Devin wants to be considered as one of the best in boxing. But he's in no rush to follow well-worn paths to get there. He wants to fight the big names and to receive the glory that comes from being on top, but on his terms. He's calling his shots.  

And Haney's unique career path begs several questions: Is Haney right in that top promoters are extraneous? Is he being naive? Will business demands divert his attention from reaching his apex as a fighter? 

Should Haney keep on winning, he could create a new paradigm for young fighters. But if he fails to reach his potential, he has already provided fodder for potential second-guessing. It's a fascinating series of decisions that he has undertaken.

Haney's precocious talent will be on display on Friday. Although he's still young and there is ample time for improvement, his skills and pedigree have moved him beyond showcase fights. At this stage of his career, every opponent will be expecting to win. And this is what Haney signed up for; this is why he demanded to start his pro career early. He wanted to test himself against the best. Haney's trial by fire is about to begin. And one gets the feeling that he wouldn't want it any other way. He believes his time is now. 

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Punch 2 the Face Podcast

On this week's Punch 2 the Face Podcast, Brandon and I handed out the awards for 2018, honoring the best performances of the year and throwing shade on those who had a 2018 to forget. We also made our bold predictions for 2019. Which champions will lose? Who will unify titles? What big fights will we see? Who will emerge as a top fighter? To listen to the podcast click on the links below:

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.