Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Frampton's Final Push

Carl Frampton was a retired fighter. For two weeks after last year's grueling unanimous decision loss to Josh Warrington, Frampton, a former two-division titlist, thought he was done with boxing. But sitting at home with his family, that gnawing feeling started to take over. "I didn't want to end like that," he said. "I want to know what it feels like to be a champion again." So Carl readied himself for another push to the top. Aligned with a powerhouse team that includes MTK Global, Frank Warren and Bob Arum, Frampton wanted one more shot at the title. 

Frampton (26-2, 15 KOs) next fights on August 10th against Emmanuel Dominguez (26-8-2, 18 KOs) in Philadelphia (televised in the U.S. via ESPN+) and he has already been in town for two weeks as he finalizes his training camp. He met with local media this week at the Irish Center. Three bagpipers played prior to the start of the event, a nice welcoming touch for the boxer from Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Photo by Adam Abramowitz/Saturday Night Boxing

With a win against Dominguez, Frampton will be in pole position for another shot at the featherweight title, but his potential future opponent is unclear at this time. The current WBO titleholder, Oscar Valdez, has signaled his desire to move up in weight. If that were to happen, Frampton could wind up facing uber-prospect Shakur Stevenson for the vacant title. And if the WBO route doesn't work out, there are other possibilities, including a rematch with Warrington, or perhaps a trilogy fight with Leo Santa Cruz.

But first thing's first. Frampton has a fight to win next week and he's been putting the finishing touches on a spirited camp at the Grays Ferry Boxing and Fitness Club with trainer Jamie Moore and chief sparring partners Aqib Fiaz, a Manchester-area boxer from Moore's stable, and Stephen Fulton, an impressive junior featherweight prospect from Philly (Fulton also sparred with Frampton in a previous camp).

At 32 and a veteran of the boxing scene, Carl understands the importance of the Dominguez fight. "At this stage of my career, if I lose my career is over." Frampton knows that he represents an enormous opportunity for Dominguez. And he's also aware that Dominguez has been in the ring with several notable fighters, such as current junior featherweight champ Emanuel Navarrete. 

For this camp, there have been no cutting corners. No cheat days. He was asked if he had a steak sandwich yet while in Philly and Carl responded with a laugh saying not yet, but that's the first thing on the menu Sunday morning after the fight. He asked the crowd if the famous "Pat's Steaks" was a good choice, of which the Philly Phaithful in attendance gave him a good-natured boo.

Frampton spoke with the assembled media for over 30 minutes and he's a natural talker. He has excelled when doing punditry work in England and he co-hosts a successful podcast with Chris Lloyd (TKO with Carl Frampton). During his remarks, he confirmed his desire to get into broadcasting after his career is over. 

During the free-ranging dialogue, Carl analyzed some of the best matchups in boxing, revealed his career highlights and opined on potential future opponents. He handled all of the questions, especially some pointed ones, with ease. He wouldn't take the bait and respond to Stevenson's recent trash talk about him, and he was respectful of past opponents such as Leo Santa Cruz, Kiko Martinez and Nonito Donaire (Donaire and Frampton have become friends and Donaire will be coming to Philly to support Frampton on fight night).

Frampton acknowledged the talent in the featherweight division, stopping to give credit to Santa Cruz, Valdez, Russell (although he wondered why he didn't fight more), Warrington and Stevenson. He knows that he'll have to be at his best to get another belt.  

For trainer Moore, this camp has been an opportunity to address some of the problems that occurred during the Warrington fight, a match so brutal that Frampton's wife vowed that she would never watch him fight live again. "The main problem was Carl's decision making in the first three rounds of the fight," said Moore (who was also on-hand at the media event). "Would Carl have stood and traded with Nonito Donaire in the center of the ring? Of course he wouldn't. He would’ve been a fool to do that with his power. He didn't respect Warrington's power enough. And that was a problem."

Frampton admitted that he was hurt several times in the Warrington fight. For this camp Frampton and Moore are emphasizing fundamental boxing, angles and footwork, the types of skills that could come in handy against Dominguez, or an aggressive pressure fighter, such as Valdez. Frampton illustrated in his title-winning effort against Santa Cruz and in a 122-lb. title defense against Scott Quigg that he certainly has the requisite skills to defeat top-level pressure fighters. But in his two losses (against Warrington and the rematch with Santa Cruz) he also showed that he could be lured into ill-advised firefights. 

Although everyone was all smiles at the media event, the underlying seriousness from the fighter and trainer was definitely present. They weren't in Philadelphia for the sightseeing; they want a title fight by the end of the year.  

Win or lose against Dominguez, Frampton's had a notable career. Along with Steve Collins, he's the only two-division belt holder from Ireland, and the only two-belt titlist from Northern Ireland. According to Frampton, his two most memorable moments were defeating Santa Cruz in New York, where over 2,500 fans crossed the Atlantic to support him (I was there, they were loud), and fighting at home to a sold out Windsor Park in Belfast. 

Frampton was asked about his legacy and his answer was perfect, "I want to be remembered as a legend in Irish sports. But I also want to be known as a decent guy, not an arsehole...or a dickhead." The room broke up in laughter.

Ultimately, the vibes were good. The positivity was abundant, but the reality of where Frampton is in his career was evident. He's now in the lose-or-go-home phase of his career. And as much as he loves his wife and kids, he's not ready to go home for good. Not just yet. 

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, July 29, 2019

Five While I Was Away

Two boxers died last week, Maxim Dadashev and Hugo Santillan. These incidents remind us how unforgiving boxing can be, that tragedy cannot always be neatly separated from the thrill of combat. Sure, there will be time for inquests, finger-pointing and a civil servant or two to offer a resignation, but these losses take precedence. 

This will not be the last boxing match to end in tragedy, but it is our responsibility as fans, consumers, participants and protectors of boxing to advocate solutions that will lead to a safer sport. Everything should be on the table: first responder procedures and equipment, the emergent care quality of affiliated hospitals, referee quality, the existing protocols for sharing fighter medicals between commissions, the standardization of medical suspensions after knockouts. Perhaps meaningful change can occur in these (and other) areas, reducing the likelihood of future ring tragedies. Although change won't bring Maxim or Hugo back, it may save the next fighter. 

The uncomfortable realities of boxing have reappeared and we should bear some responsibility toward helping improve the sport. I bet if each of us thinks long and hard, we all know someone involved in boxing – manager, lawyer, ring official, bureaucrat, ticket broker, arena manager, promoter, fighter, sponsor, broadcaster, television executive. These are the stakeholders in the sport. They, with our backing, can help initiate and lead change. We should engage our contacts in the boxing community about fighter safety. Lobby them. Let them know that these are issues of concern. Through consistent attention we can work to implement meaningful reforms. Maxim and Hugo deserve this much. 

There are gofundme accounts to help the Dadashev and Santillan families in their time of need. Donate. Talk to your boxing contacts about fighter safety. Most importantly, this is not a time to be passive. We all love boxing dearly. We want it to continue. We all know that there are numerous ways to improve fighter safety without changing the fundamental nature of the sport. We all have a role to play in making boxing safer for the next generation of fighters. It's time to do our part. 


According to a BoxingScene report by Thomas Hauser, and subsequently confirmed by various parties in the industry, Dillian Whyte, one of the top heavyweights in the world, failed a drug test leading up to his fight with Oscar Rivas. More importantly, he was allowed by the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC) to fight even after the positive test, and Rivas wasn't informed of these events until days after the bout (Whyte, despite being knocked down, won by unanimous decision).

Obviously this is a clusterfuck of epic proportions. Hiding behind legalese and other obfuscating language, the BBBofC acknowledged that an official proceeding is underway (Whyte has appealed the positive test) and that further news would be forthcoming in due time. Ultimately, any solution that allows a PED cheat to fight on because he has appealed is an awful one. 

Clearly the BBBofC's protocols need to be changed. This is a fighter safety issue, even outstripping the relevant ethical and moral concerns. In most of the major jurisdictions in the world, the fight would have been cancelled once the positive drug test occurred (although we all know of an exception or two). But the BBBofC remains intransigent. Unlike the issue of avoiding ring tragedies mentioned earlier, this needed change is far simpler to enact. Everyone knows what has to be done.  

The BBBofC needs to do some housecleaning and allow for additional transparency (here's hoping that the stakeholders in boxing apply pressure for needed changes). The Board often doesn't publicly release information about suspended fighters until far after the fact. They can deliberate for an inordinate amount of time before issuing a decision. They have bizarre and byzantine rules (often with UKAD, their drug-testing arm) for determining appropriate actions for failed tests. The BBBofC knows what they need to do. The issue of fighter safety is too important to hide behind outdated notions of due process and secrecy. Whyte could have always appealed a guilty test. But Rivas was never given a chance to make a decision for his best interest. And if real adults were in the room, Rivas would never have had to make that decision: Failed test, no fight. It really is that simple. Don't hide behind legal gymnastics; do the right thing.   


Manny Pacquiao delivered a thrilling victory over Keith Thurman two Saturdays ago, winning a split decision victory by the scores of 115-112, 115-112 and 113-114. First, it must be stated that Thurman came oh so close to winning; a Pacquiao knockdown in the first round and a straight left to the body in the 10th were enough to put Pacquiao over the top. It's clear that Thurman won at least four rounds, but during a number of brief and telling exchanges Pacquiao's flurries of success were enough to shade several close rounds in his direction. 

At 40, Pacquiao isn't supposed to be beating top welterweights, but he has looked rejuvenated in 2019, soundly defeating Adrien Broner in January and winning another title belt against Thurman. Unlike his vintage days, Pacquiao now only fights in spurts. He no longer throws 90 punches a round, but he has morphed into a clever and cagey fighter. The Manny of 2004 wasn't picking off opponents with counter hooks and disguised single body shots; however, his performance against Thurman illustrated how encompassing his Ring IQ and repertoire are. 

The success of Pacquiao's afterglow years is predicated on a number of attributes that were ignored during his prime. He became a force of nature in boxing with his singular combination of speed, power and punch volume; however, even years after his best, he still wins even though his foot speed isn't spectacular, his punch output is pedestrian and his one-punch knockout power has been long gone. During his magical run to the top, the boxing commentariat rarely referenced his intelligence, ring cunning, or the development of his craft, but these are the reasons why he remains a force in the sport. 

Throughout most of the fight Thurman sacrificed power in order to shorten up his shots, hoping to land more regularly (according to CompuBox, he out-landed Pacquiao). When he did try to throw his knockout punches, they were often telegraphed. He did land a few of his best straight right hands though, the types of punches that stopped lesser opponents, but Pacquiao was never discouraged. 

Thurman is one of those rare fighters with better foot speed than hand speed. His best power punches can often be long and ponderous. They involve some wasted motion and perhaps that is a reason why he hasn't scored many knockouts as he's fought better opposition. He still packs a punch, but opponents see his shots coming, which can be all the difference between absorbing a blow and getting KO'ed.

Perhaps most distressingly for Thurman was that after the knockdown it took him several rounds to get into the fight. He looked befuddled in the ring in the early rounds, going through the motions without much confidence, unsure of how to attack or how to respond to Pacquiao's offense. Eventually he worked his way into the bout, but it was concerning that he didn't seem to regain his sea legs until the fifth round. 

Thurman contains myriad offensive gifts, but his recuperative powers will always be a concern against quality punchers. Perhaps if he employed more of his hit-and-run style he would have had more success against Pacquiao. But he was there to prove himself in the center of the ring, mano-a-mano. This was supposed to be his moment. Unfortunately for him, the older warrior had a few more arrows in his quiver.


Jose Ramirez stopped Maurice Hooker in the sixth round of a wildly entertaining junior welterweight title unification match on Saturday. Featuring thrilling action, momentum shifts and a number of wonderful exchanges, Ramirez scored the most impressive win of his career. Facing a significant reach disadvantage, Ramirez was still able to fight on the inside using lateral movement, angles and a variety of punches. When Ramirez was able to push Hooker to the ropes, he went to town with chopping left hooks and thudding body shots. Hooker in turn responded throughout the fight with menacing left hooks and straight right hands. 

In the end, Ramirez was able to make Hooker miss with a shot, and then Ramirez returned with a pulverizing left hook that Hooker never saw. Following up on the blow, Ramirez drove hooker to the ropes with ferocious power punches, forcing referee Mark Nelson to stop the fight.  

Although a U.S. Olympian, Ramirez was never considered one of the best American boxing prospects. However, in working with Freddie Roach and now Robert Garcia, he has incorporated the teachings of two master trainers into his ring identity. Garcia's influence could certainly be seen with Ramirez's footwork. Instead of fighting as a face-first aggressor, he was now applying pressure behind punches and using angles to attack. And once Ramirez had Hooker hurt, his selling out for the finish is directly from the Roach playbook. Ramirez seized the moment and forced the ending of the fight. Less-seasoned boxers would have smothered their work or somehow allowed Hooker to survive. Ramirez was vicious but surgical in his final blows. He made them all count. 

Ramirez now has a potential huge fight in 2020 against the winner of this year's World Boxing Super Series tournament between Regis Prograis and Josh Taylor. Within a calendar year, there's a very good chance that we'll see another undisputed champion in boxing. And in this time of tragedy in the sport, let's take the positive news where we can. 

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. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Pacquiao-Thurman: Keys to the Fight

One of the most exciting matchups in the welterweight division takes place on Saturday between boxing legend Manny Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KOs) and undefeated titleholder Keith Thurman (29-0, 22 KOs) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Thurman has spent half-a-decade looking forward to his first mega-fight. And although he was out of the ring for 22 months before returning in January, he now has the signature opportunity of his career. Pacquiao at 40 continues to soldier on. While he no longer has the electrifying movement of his halcyon days, his dominant victory over Adrien Broner earlier this year indicated that he still is one of the best welterweights in the world.  

Thurman's status has suffered over the past few years. Once one of boxing's ascendant young stars; injuries, inactivity and questions about his commitment to the sport have dulled some of his earlier shine. In addition, Thurman's ring identity has changed, transforming from a fan-friendly seek-and-destroy fighter to now one who relies on boxing skills and movement. His victories over Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia attest to his talent, but perhaps his fighting style didn't curry favor with a portion of boxing fans. Nevertheless, Thurman has drawn solid TV ratings wherever he has boxed and has sold a fair amount of tickets when matched competitively. 

Photo Courtesy of Premier Boxing Champions

Pacquiao, a senator in the Philippines, remains a national hero, but has also seen his reputation wax and wane among boxing fans over the last half-dozen years. The lofty heights of his prime were long ago and his listless performance against Floyd Mayweather in 2015 and a loss (although certainly debatable) to the unheralded Jeff Horn in 2017 confirmed the end of his best years. Like Thurman, many corners of the boxing world have at times questioned his commitment to the sport.

Regardless of past criticisms, boxing fans have embraced Pacquiao-Thurman.  Both are coming off of wins and stylistically this fight presents an almost even matchup on paper (Thurman started off as a slight favorite with the bookies, but now he's the small betting underdog.) So what will it be? Will Pacquiao’s big-fight experience and punch accuracy be enough to put him over the top? Will Thurman's edges in athleticism and punch volume lead to victory? Below will be the keys to the fight. My prediction will be at the end of the article. 

1. Will the Pacquiao and Thurman from earlier this year be the Pacquiao and Thurman in the ring on Saturday? 

It's no secret that Keith Thurman was in significant trouble against Josesito Lopez in January. After building a big lead early in the fight, which included an impressive knockdown, Thurman had to survive some harrowing moments in the second half of the fight. At multiple points, especially in the ninth, he seemed a shot or two away from getting knocked out. In the end he won via a majority decision. 

There's a glass half-full and a glass half-empty way to interpret his performance. On the positive side, he remained on his feet and even rallied to have a decent 12th round. His resilience demonstrated tremendous character and intestinal fortitude. However, Lopez, as rugged as he is, would never be described as an A-list talent in the sport. If Thurman can't avoid Lopez's big shots, how will he do against an opponent with even better power and more accuracy? After the Lopez bout, Thurman admitted that he had ring rust and vowed that he would be better in his next fight. But will Thurman improve from his January performance or, after a long time out of the ring, has he forever lost the reflexes and sharpness of his youth? 

As for Pacquiao, he looked fantastic in defeating Broner earlier this year, hurting him a number of times and pulling away with a wide unanimous decision. Pacquiao still employed a number of clever angles to land his power punches and utilized his sometimes-forgotten right hook as a weapon. But let's also not tell tall tales. Broner barely let his hands go and refused to engage throughout large portions of the fight. In the end, he tried to survive and he proved to be a compliant "opponent." But against a determined foe who is there to win, will Pacquiao have the same level of dominance? It's unlikely, but he only needs to get the better of seven rounds to win the fight. 

2. Pacquiao can't fall behind early. 

Keith Thurman is a rhythm and confidence fighter. When in "boxer" mode, he can comfortably win rounds with quick shots and a lot of movement. Although he doesn't sit down on his punches like he did earlier in his career, he still features enough sizzle with his straight right hand, left hook and right uppercut to impress judges. In addition, his jab has become a real weapon. 

As Pacquiao has aged, he no longer fights with the frenetic pace of his youth. His offense is now more measured. But he needs to match Thurman's intensity in the early rounds because there's another thing that Pacquiao has seemingly lost in his advancing years: knockout power. If Pacquiao is down significantly at the half-way point of the fight, the rest of the bout could wind up being academic; he's only had one knockout in his last 15 fights. Now of course this is boxing and anything can happen, but Pacquiao can't assume that the knockout will come. He must contest the early rounds. He needs to disrupt Thurman's confidence and ensure that the fight remains close going into the back half of the match, where his composure, pacing and experience should come in handy. 

3. Thurman needs to limit prolonged exchanges.

Although Thurman has considerable hand speed and power, he has gotten himself into trouble throughout his career during prolonged exchanges. Fighters as diverse as Jesus Soto Karass, Diego Chaves, Robert Guerrero, Danny Garcia and Josesito Lopez have hurt him during these exchanges. Whether it's Thurman's lack of respect for his opponents, falling in love with his power, or a combination of both, he provides opportunities for his opponents to land their best shots. 

Thurman must respect Pacquiao’s ability to counter, specifically his straight left hand and right hook. Hitting-and-running will be his best way forward to avoiding big shots and piling up points. The less he engages in a war, or even prolonged skirmishes, the safer he will be and the likelier that he will win the fight.  

4. What happens when Thurman gets hurt? 

Thurman displayed some troubling signs in his last fight against Lopez. It's not just that he got tagged, but it's how he reacted after getting hurt. He didn't tie up and instead often backed straight up, allowing Lopez to follow him with additional big shots. He spent too much time languishing on the ropes. Yet there were other points where he literally ran around the ring burning off tons of energy. That Thurman was able to survive is beside the point. What happens if he gets hurt in the third round? He can't run around the ring for nine rounds and expect to win the fight. 

Some of these, frankly, amateurish habits were concerning from a veteran fighter like Thurman. When hurt he layered bad choices on top of bad choices. He needed to tie up, to break Lopez's momentum, but in the moment of truth, he exacerbated a bad situation.

Photo Courtesy of Premier Boxing Champions

As noted earlier, Pacquiao is no longer the wrecking machine of yesteryear, but he certainly possesses enough power to hurt opponents. In the latter stages of his career he's been content to cause damage, and then let the rest of the fight play out, but I'm not sure if he has that luxury against Thurman. Yes, wounded prey can be dangerous, and chasing after a hurt Thurman does involve risk, but there are no guarantees that Pacquiao will have multiple bites at the apples against a weakened foe. It's certainly possible that Thurman can catch a second wind and continue to box-and-move his way to a win. Pacquiao has to attack a wounded Thurman with urgency.

5. Fresh legs vs. veteran savvy. 

Thurman has a nine-year age advantage over Pacquiao and is the fighter with the superior foot speed. Even after he was out of the ring for nearly two years, he displayed a great motor. And if Thurman is determined to stink out a win via running, I'm not sure that there's much Manny can do about it at this stage of his career. Fortunately for Pacquiao, Thurman remains a fighter caught in between styles. Part of Thurman wants to entertain, while the other realizes what he needs to do to win. 

Pacquiao’s main advantage in this fight will be his big-fight experience. He understands the grueling nature of a 12-round clash against top opposition. He has significant advantages in poise and pacing. There will be points where Thurman will stop running around the ring. Thurman will allow Pacquiao into the fight during a mano-a-mano fight sequence. And Pacquiao has the experience to take advantage of these opportunities. 40-year-olds shouldn't be able to compete with among the best in a division, especially at welterweight, but Pacquiao is a historic exception. Although his athleticism might have atrophied to a degree, his exceptional boxing craft and Ring IQ remain. He probably has forgotten more about boxing than Thurman will ever know. Of course, knowledge and the physical application of that knowledge are two different notions entirely. 


As I said on my recent podcast, I think that the fight will be Thurman's to lose, but he very well could lose it. Thurman's athleticism and willingness to box in an unpleasing style will be big assets. With that said, he will deviate from his game plan at some point. Either due to machismo or overconfidence, he will stand in the pocket a little too long and Manny will hit him with a counter shot that will rock his world. At that point all bets are off. 

I think that the fight will ultimately be decided by when (not if) Pacquiao hurts Thurman. If it's early in the bout, Pacquiao can step on the gas and continue to do damage. But if it's in the back half, it may be too late for Pacquiao to take it on the cards. It will be essential for Thurman to stay with the game plan and limit exchanges – the less that he freelances the better off he will be. When the final scores are tabulated, I think that Thurman will have garnered just enough rounds on the cards to win a decision, but I expect Pacquiao to have the better moments in the fight. On a round-by-round basis, Thurman will squeak by, but Pacquiao will be what we remember after the weekend. 

Keith Thurman defeats Manny Pacquiao by unanimous decision...and the crowd boos. 

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, July 14, 2019

SNB Stock Report 7-14-19

After a compelling weekend of boxing around the globe, it's time for another edition of the SNB Stock Report. See which fighters stock rose (+), dropped (-) or remained unchanged (NC). 

Ryota Murata (+) When Murata last stepped into the ring, he was comprehensibly beaten by Rob Brant in one of the major upsets of 2018. On Friday he rematched Brant, this time in his home country of Japan. The results couldn't have been more different. Landing an enormous right hand in the second, Murata dropped Brant and unlike the first fight, he kept his foot on the pedal. After Brant beat the count, Murata followed up with a series of pulverizing power shots, forcing referee Luis Pabon to wave the fight off. It was a stunning reversal for Murata and puts him back into the middleweight mix. 

Rob Brant (-) Brant started Friday's fight with the same type of high-volume approach that allowed him to beat Murata in last year's contest. However, instead of using his legs and angles like he did in 2018, he stood and traded more. Murata got the best of a particular exchange with a hard right hand in the second and Brant subsequently hit the canvas. After the action resumed, Brant failed to tie up Murata and he was unable to recover. It's now back to the drawing board for the American middleweight.  

Ken Shiro (+) Junior flyweight Ken Shiro demonstrated further proof on Friday why he is one of the best fighters in boxing. Dismantling the capable Jonathan Taconing in four rounds, Shiro displayed a master class in how to defeat a pressure fighter. Throwing cracking lead right uppercuts, using quick lateral movement, scoring with short counters, Shiro ended the fight by beautifully evading Taconing's pressure, creating an angle where Taconing was out of position and then landing a pulverizing straight right hand. It was expert stuff. Japan's Shiro fights in a fantastic division that deserves more fanfare. Make sure to keep him, and the 108-lb. division as a whole, on your radar. 

Photo Courtesy of Golden Boy Promotions

Rey Vargas (+) It wasn't necessarily pleasing to the eye, but Vargas boxed his way to a points victory over former bantamweight champion Tomoki Kameda. Vargas outworked Kameda throughout the fight, doubling up on his punch volume, and he used excellent footwork to evade trouble through most of the bout. Although Kameda landed the occasional flashy shot, Vargas did a good job of limiting Kameda's output. The California crowd wasn't enthralled with Vargas's work off the back foot, but it was effective. After the fight, Vargas called out fellow 122-lb. titleholder Daniel Roman for a unification match. 

Tomoki Kameda (NC) Kameda was a trendy upset pick prior to Saturday's fight. But the same issue that plagued him against Jamie McDonnell resurfaced against Vargas: he just doesn't let his hands go enough. On a punch-for-punch basis, perhaps Kameda was as good as Vargas on Saturday, maybe even better. However, as the B-side that gets out-worked two-to-one, Kameda didn't give the judges enough to consider. He remains a tough, capable contender, but until he lets his hands go more freely, expect more frustrating nights against top opposition. 

Diego de la Hoya (-) It was sink or swim time for de la Hoya, who was facing one of the toughest tests of his career in the rugged Ronny Rios. De la Hoya matched Rios's intensity during the first five rounds, but it was clear that Rios's punches were having more of an effect. In the sixth, Rios landed a beautiful right uppercut that sent Diego to the canvas. After making it to his feet de la Hoya wasn't able to continue. On paper this seemed to be a notable upset, but it really wasn't. De la Hoya had plateaued over the last 18 months. In addition, he had had weight issues outside of the ring. It wouldn't be surprising if Diego takes a lengthy break from the ring and moves up to featherweight upon his return. 

Ronny Rios (+) Rios has had a Jekyll and Hyde career. He's been stopped by Robinson Castellanos and Azat Hovhannisyan. His commitment to the sport has wavered over the years. He's had management problems. But he's also had impressive performances in beating Andrew Cancio, who's now a 130-lb. champion, former title contender Jayson Velez and Roy Tapia. On Saturday Rios was in great shape and there to win. He matched Diego de la Hoya punch-for-punch in the first five rounds, displaying considerable inside fighting skills. In the sixth he landed a blistering right uppercut, and that was all she wrote. It was a career-best performance from Rios. Here's hoping that he remains dedicated to the sport; when motivated he can be a formidable spoiler.  

Photo Courtesy of Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Shakur Stevenson (NC) Stevenson did what was expected on Saturday, knocking out late-replacement Alberto Guevara in the third round. Guevara, who was a capable contender two divisions south at 118 pounds, didn't possess the physical dimensions or, in truth, the desire to compete on Saturday. As for Stevenson, his next-level athleticism and technical skills are among the best in boxing. What he still needs are rounds and credible opponents. At just 22 and with 12 pro fights, he's already talking about a title shot. Perhaps it wouldn't hurt him to face another determined opponent before he competes for a belt. With that said, sometimes for the very best prospects normal rules don't and maybe shouldn't apply. 

Jamal James (NC) James had a tougher-than-expected fight against former lightweight champion Antonio DeMarco on Saturday. They went to war in the early rounds. As the fight progressed, James clearly was getting the better of the action. He won a wide decision (perhaps a little too wide), but DeMarco pushed him throughout the fight. James is clearly talented enough to defeat the trial horses and gatekeepers at 147, but it's hard to see him defeating any of the current titleholders. Eventually he will get a shot at a belt, but without a huge punch and with significant defensive deficiencies, it's hard to see him becoming a champion. 

Antonio DeMarco (NC) It's always enjoyable to see an old warhorse make one more run. DeMarco was one of the best lightweights in the world back in 2012. In the interim, he lost a bunch of fights, announced his retirement and even sprung an upset in 2017 against undefeated prospect Eddie Ramirez. On Saturday nobody told DeMarco that he was supposed to lose against Jamal James. He wound up giving James all he could handle in the early part of the fight, with fierce power shots and a frenetic pace. Over time DeMarco took too many big shots; he lost by decision. Despite the defeat, he gave a great account of himself. Maybe this will finally be the end of the line for him, but there's always a place in boxing for a durable vet who comes to fight. 

Daniel Dubois (+) In a highly anticipated matchup of undefeated British heavyweight prospects, DuBois knocked out Nathan Gorman in the fifth round with a fantastic double jab/straight right hand combination. It was a spectacular performance for Dubois, who showed not just impressive physical and technical dimensions, but also the ability to make adjustments and think his way through a fight. At first Gorman was countering every right hand with a left hook. But Dubois eventually neutralized that shot, by feinting the right and landing the left hook to the body, or by incorporating a double jab before throwing the right. At just 21 Dubois (12-0, 11 KOs) is already one of the top heavyweight prospects in the sport and Saturday's victory was a significant step in his development. 

Nathan Gorman (-) Gorman entered Saturday's fight against Daniel Dubois with a Plan A: Counter every straight right with a left hook. In the first few rounds he had intermittent success with this approach, but as Dubois started to make adjustments, Gorman was stuck doing the same thing time after time. Gorman can handle himself in the ring, but for now, he's going to have to add more dimensions to his offensive attack. It's fine to be a counterpuncher; however, the best counterpunchers can land with a variety of punches. That's Gorman's challenge. 

Joe Joyce (NC) On one hand Joyce outpointed Bryant Jennings to notch the most notable win of his career. But he didn't look all that impressive in doing so. Joyce essentially won the fight on punch volume and applying effective pressure. Although he's now working with the capable trainer Adam Booth, Joyce's problems remain: he has poor hand speed and he telegraphs his punches. At 33 there's not much time for Joyce to develop further. He does have power and knows how to fight, but his weaknesses in the ring are the types of physical attributes that aren't correctable. He's not suddenly going to get faster or become more of an athlete. In short, he is what he is. Joyce is somewhat of a draw at the box office and has an Olympic pedigree. His team might as well push him as fast as they can and hope that they can catch lightning in a bottle with a big right hand. 

Bryant Jennings (-) Jennings dropped a competitive fight against Joyce on Saturday. (Ignore two of the scorecards; there's a good case for Jennings winning five or so rounds in the bout.) But as the away fighter he didn't show the type of urgency needed to get the victory. Although he landed decent left hooks throughout the bout and mixed in combinations on occasion, there wasn't enough offense from him. There was a little too much safety-first in his performance. Now 24-4, coming off consecutive losses and at age 34, it's unclear where Jennings goes from here. He lost a winnable fight on Saturday and didn't display the type of consistent offensive effort needed to defeat top heavyweights. 

Sunny Edwards (+) Junior bantamweight Edwards easily defeated Hiram Gallardo on Saturday. Perhaps that was expected, but Edwards, in just his 12th professional fight, looked world-class in doing so. Expertly switch-hitting and fighting off the back foot, Edwards's movement, defense and punch variety consistently flummoxed Gallardo. Edwards fights in a division of killers, but expect him to challenge for a title belt in the next 12-15 months. Although he may lack pop, his considerable boxing skills and movement make him an interesting addition to the 115-lb. division.

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. 
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