Saturday, December 28, 2019

The Decade Awards

As the 2010's come to an end it's time to hand out the hardware for an eventful ten years of boxing. Below you will see the decade-best for fighter, fight, knockout, round, upset, trainer, promoter and network. Here are the Saturday Night Boxing Decade Awards: 

Fighter of the Decade: Floyd Mayweather

Floyd Mayweather had the most consequential wins of the decade. He defeated his chief rival, Manny Pacquiao, with relative ease in 2015. In addition, he notched impressive victories over Canelo Alvarez and Miguel Cotto, who both continued to have vibrant careers after their losses to Floyd. Mayweather also survived a tough second round against Shane Mosely, who was coming off one of the best wins of his career against Antonio Margarito, and went on to dominate the rest of the bout. The fighter who troubled Mayweather the most in the decade wasn't a future Hall of Famer, but the rugged Marcos Maidana. Floyd beat Maidana in a shootout in May of 2014 and was victorious in a more-comfortable rematch later in the year (although he did take a few huge shots in that fight). 

Photo Courtesy of Floyd Mayweather

Floyd was of course the money man of boxing throughout the decade, but it was more than that; he never had an off night physically (although I think that he got his tactics wrong for the first Maidana fight). Floyd was the prize. Everyone was gunning for him, but maybe only one fighter was truly competitive with him, a remarkable accomplishment. Andre Ward was a close runner-up for this award.

Fight of the Decade: Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez IV, 2012

Seven years later and perhaps few will remember that many expressed fatigue with the fourth matchup between these Hall of Fame rivals. Their third fight in 2011 was the most technical of the series and resulted in yet another controversial decision, with Pacquiao winning by a majority decision; many thought that Marquez should have been the clear victor. 

The remarkable aspect of this series has been that each fight has played out much differently, both strategically and what happened in the ring. In their third fight, Manny wanted to limit Marquez's countering opportunities and he was far more controlled in his offensive output. In the fourth part, a year later in 2012, Marquez, tired of getting unsympathetic scorecards, was aiming for the knockout, and Pacquiao dispensed with any notion of caution. They were both out to end things.  

Photo Courtesy of You Tube

In the third round Marquez announced to the boxing world that whatever narrative had existing in the previous fights should be thrown out the window. He scored a knockdown, the first time in four fights that he was able to drop Pacquiao. But Pacquiao came back with even more ferocity. He blitzed Marquez in the fifth round, dropped him and had him badly hurt. Going into the sixth, Marquez looked the worse for wear. His face was a mess and his energy seemed to flag. But as the round progressed, he seized an opportunity and landed the singular shot of his career – a counter right hand that turned out Pacquiao's lights. 

Pacquiao-Marquez IV had every possible winning element imaginable. The fight featured two all-time greats who were both "on" that night. Furthermore, they were both going for the knockout. All of their respect for one another (not that their relationship was necessary cordial) was left in their respective dressing rooms. This lead to world-class boxing at its most thrilling. In my estimation, no other fight of the '10s comes close to rivaling this match. Pacquiao-Marquez IV is one of the sport's showcase fights of the past 50 years. 

Knockout of the Decade: Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez IV, 2012

"He's not getting up, Jim. He's not getting up." Those words from HBO Boxing commentator Roy Jones have already become part of boxing lore. I could have just stopped after the quote and everyone would know which fight I was referring to. 

Photo Courtesy of You Tube

The final sequence was the product of Pacquiao repeating a mistake that he had made throughout their series of fights, with Marquez finally being able to land the home run shot. Pacquiao likes to double jab his way into range and occasionally he will wind up too close to his intended target, which makes him susceptible to short counter shots. Once Pacquiao started this double jab sequence, Marquez must have licked his lips; he had been trying to land this specific counter all fight. And as the great counterpunches do, Marquez held his ground an immediately fired off his best short right hand. Pacquiao was so out of position that Marquez's punch may not have even traveled six inches. 

In the aftermath of the knockout, Pacquiao needed several minutes to get back to his feet. Not only was it a picture-perfect knockout punch by Marquez, but it forever changed two Hall of Fame careers. (By the way, Pacquiao never fully addressed this flaw. He was still making the same mistake against Keith Thurman this year, but seeing it and reacting to it with a perfect shot are two different propositions.)

Round of the Decade: Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury Round 12, 2018

With apologies to the 12th rounds in Tim Bradley-Ruslan Provodnikov and Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, Wilder-Fury was the round I will remember most from this decade. Among the clear-headed individuals watching Wilder-Fury unfold, Fury had boxed his way to large lead in the fight. And even a ninth-round knockdown by Wilder wasn't enough to change the trajectory of the bout.

Photo Courtesy of Esther Lin/Showtime

But in the 12th, Wilder finally detonated his thunder. Landing his best right hand and following up with a left hook, Wilder dropped Fury like a ton of bricks and almost all watching assumed that the fight was over. However, as referee Jack Reiss's count got to five, Fury started moving around on the canvas, and somehow he made it to his feet. It was an astonishing display of intestinal fortitude. Reiss assessed Fury and allowed the fight to continue. And in a crazy turn of events, it was Fury who got the better of the action. Fury had taken perhaps the biggest punch in contemporary boxing, and yet wouldn't be denied. Ultimately, the fight was ruled as a draw (most thought that Fury was the deserved winner), but even the fishy final result does nothing to take the sting out of what was truly an unforgettable moment in the sport. 

Upset of the Decade: Andy Ruiz TKO 7 Anthony Joshua, 2019

Andy Ruiz wasn't even supposed to be the opponent to face Joshua, the reigning heavyweight champ from the U.K., who was making his American debut at Madison Square Garden. Jarrell Miller was the original foe, but he fell out after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. As for Ruiz, he had a solid showing in his previous title shot in 2016 against Joseph Parker, a close loss. But Ruiz's career, on account of indifference, inactivity and a lack of professionalism had lost all of its momentum. His weight continued to be a problem. He switched trainers. Top Rank even granted him a release from their contract. Before facing Joshua, he had only fought 3 times in 30 months. 

All went according to plan early in the fight for Joshua as he landed a blistering left hook in the third round that dropped Ruiz for the first time in his professional career. However, he got greedy in the aftermath and started to trade with Ruiz on the inside, a range where Andy could assert himself. Ruiz soon landed his own left hook that knocked down Joshua. And of the two fighters, it was Joshua who was the one that was more damaged. Ruiz soon scored a second knockdown later in the round.

Photo Courtesy of Ed Mullholland

Ruiz spent the next few rounds wisely investing to the body, attempting to take more starch out of Joshua. And in the seventh, Ruiz again won a battle of left hooks and sent Joshua to the canvas for the third time in the fight. Ruiz was now ready to go for the stoppage and he trapped Joshua against the corner, pounding away at him with his best power shots. Joshua went down again. To his credit, he beat the count, but he was in no condition to continue. 

In the aftermath, boxing fans will remember Ruiz jumping up and down in the center of the ring, one of the most unlikely heavyweight champions that the sport has seen. Eventually, he would go on to lose December's rematch, but with his stunning upset he forever etched his name into boxing history. 

Trainer of the Decade: Robert Garcia

The aspect of Robert Garcia I like the best is his ability to work with and improve fighters of all different stripes. Consider the sublime counterpunching of Mikey Garcia, the patient stalking of Nonito Donaire, the pressure fighting of Marcos Maidana and Brandon Rios, and the inside fighting skills of Jose Ramirez. Garcia has played a huge role in all of these fighters' successes. In short, there's no such thing as a "Robert Garcia Fighter," and I think that's a wonderful thing. He has taken fighters from scratch to the top and also helped to rejuvenate veterans who started with other trainers. In this decade I don't think there's another trainer with a comparable record of success with such diverse talent. 

Photo Courtesy of
 Robert Garcia Boxing Academy

In addition to his skills as a trainer, he also has been the architect of some huge wins in the sport. Marcos Maidana’s win over Adrien Broner was a result that few saw coming. Of course Maidana could be relentless, but notice the feinting that Maidana did with his left hook to the body. It led to Broner lowering his hands and allowed for Maidana to land his best hook to the head. It was world-level stuff from a boxer who had previously lacked refinement. In 2019 Garcia had another impressive win (and he had many this decade) with Jose Ramirez's unification victory over Maurice Hooker. Although the fight featured its fair share of bombs, it was Ramirez's shorter shots on the inside and clever boxing that led to his victory. It was a far cry from some of Ramirez's cruder attempts at pressure fighting earlier in his career. 

With Ramirez and top prospect Vergil Ortiz, Garcia is well positioned heading into the next decade. His Robert Garcia Boxing Academy, first in Oxnard and now in Riverside, Calif., is world-renown for its sparring. Garcia will have his pick of the litter in terms of top talents moving forward. 

Promoter of the Decade: Matchroom Sport

It isn't just that Matchroom Sport has become the leading boxing promoter in the U.K., but under Managing Director Eddie Hearn, the company has transformed itself into one of the global players in the sport. Over the last decade Matchroom secured an exclusive deal with Sky TV for boxing content, creating a rock-solid foundation to help promote its stable of fighters. And Hearn was just getting started. The streaming startup DAZN invested over $1 Billion into boxing with Hearn as its lead promoter, providing Matchroom with a platform to sign American and international talent. 

Matchroom Sport Managing Director Eddie Hearn
Photo Courtesy of Mark Robinson

Even more than the business, Hearn has staged many of the biggest events of the decade: Froch-Groves 2 and Joshua-Klitschko at Wembley (80,000 strong for each) and Ruiz-Joshua 2 in Saudi Arabia. He also had stadium fights for Kell Brook and Tony Bellew. He dreams big and understands that spectacle and ritual are important parts of a boxing event. Witness the pyrotechnics for many of his events and of course the sing-alongs to "Sweet Caroline." Boxing fans seem to have a blast at his shows. (I was in Sheffield for Brook-Spence, and it was a fantastic experience.) Matchroom will have many challenges in the new decade as they work to build DAZN in several markets, but for the 2010's, no promoter had a better decade. 

Network of the Decade: Showtime 

It should be remembered that Showtime entered the 2010's as HBO Boxing's kid brother. HBO had almost all of the biggest names in North American boxing and had a pay per view infrastructure that may have been the best in any sport. But Showtime kept plugging away. 

Stephen Espinoza, President of Showtime Sports
Photo Courtesy of Boxing Scene

Starting with the hiring of Stephen Espinoza in 2011, the network continued to punch well above its weight class. Espinoza cemented strong alliances with talent procurer Al Haymon and CBS head Les Moonves. Espinoza was able to convince Floyd Mayweather to leave his long-time home at HBO and come to Showtime. Throughout the decade, he also was successful at attracting Manny Pacquiao and Canelo Alvarez to fight on Showtime as well. Haymon would eventually take his entire stable away from HBO (helping to hasten the demise of that network's boxing program) and Showtime helped grow the careers of stars such as Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, Adrien Broner, Errol Spence, Danny Garcia, Leo Santa Cruz, Deontay Wilder, and many others. 

From the scrappy underdog to participating in two of the most lucrative fights in the history of boxing (Mayweather-Pacquiao and Mayweather-McGregor, Showtime has had quite the ride. As the 2010's conclude, the broadcast pieces on the boxing chessboard have once again changed; Showtime and Espinoza will need to fight hard to keep their plush seat at the table, but as far as success goes, Showtime was the standard-bearer for the decade.

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

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Opinions and Observations: Harrison-Charlo 2

When Tony Harrison and Jermell Charlo fought last December, they essentially battled to a stalemate. Harrison won the bout on the cards taking Charlo's junior middleweight title, but it was one of those occasions where neither man was fully successful in asserting his game plan. Charlo threw more punches and landed many of the better shots; however, Harrison, with his slick boxing and movement, had the superior ring generalship, and he clearly had the better defense. The scoring of that fight depended on what happened to impress the judges. Three competent judges could certainly have watched Charlo-Harrison I and arrived at Charlo as the legitimate winner. 

They were supposed to have fought the rematch this June, but Harrison tore ligaments in his ankle and the bout was postponed. Saturday was Harrison's first fight since his meeting with Charlo last year while Charlo knocked out Jorge Cota in the interim.

Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Trapp/Fox Sports

In a number of ways the two Harrison-Charlo fights resembled the bouts between Gennadiy Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez. In Canelo-GGG I, Golovkin was the busier fighter and the aggressor while Canelo did some solid work with his back to the ropes and countered well. Although most observers thought that Golovkin won that fight, the match (with a fishy scorecard) was declared a draw. 

Prior to their second fight, Canelo had surgery on his knee. For the rematch Canelo employed a radically different strategy, perhaps out of necessity due to his physical recovery from surgery. He didn't take a step back and slugged it out with Golovkin in the center of the ring. It was a close fight and Canelo was awarded the victory; in my opinion the manner in which Canelo fought the rematch was instructive to how Harrison-Charlo 2 unfolded. 

Tony Harrison, along with Erislandy Lara, has the best pure boxing ability at 154 lbs. When he's physically right, he confounds opponents with his movement, accuracy and jab. He's almost a textbook pure boxer in an era where there aren't many of those fighters still around. 

Yet in Saturday's rematch, Harrison featured none of the movement that gave Charlo fits in their first bout. Instead, he inched forward and tried to walk Charlo down the whole fight, engaging in a battle of power shots. His lateral movement was sparse. He spent little if any time on his back foot. With his time away from boxing and questions about his fitness after his ankle injury, perhaps he fought that style against Charlo on Saturday, similar to how Canelo did in the GGG rematch, out of necessity.  

But maybe his health wasn't the only factor. Fighting in California in front of a judging pool that may not have been as sympathetic to his pure boxing style as the New York judges in their first fight, it's possible that Harrison didn't think his cute boxing would be enough to win it on the scorecards. Furthermore, Harrison may have believed that he had the element of surprise in his favor. Surely Charlo didn't think that Harrison would try to outslug him. 

Despite having been knocked out in his two losses (both in the second half of those fights), Harrison was determined to go to war with Charlo. Harrison and his team correctly noted that Charlo didn't like to fight going backwards and he was much more successful at mid-range with a comfortable pocket. They thought there could be safe ground on the inside.

The early results were encouraging. And despite being dropped from a solid left hook in the second round, Harrison kept pressing forward and peppering Charlo with power. His quicker shots on the inside often got the better of the exchanges. Although his power punches weren't of the lights-out variety, he certainly got Charlo's attention with clever combination punching and a number of solid right hands. 

Charlo did compete throughout the fight though and a number of rounds were close. His most successful punch was a left hook, either a lead or counter, but many of his straight shots were getting picked off. 

Through ten rounds it was an excellent match, but one ingredient was missing: a sense of urgency. Both fighters were landing big shots and there were a number of thrilling exchanges, but neither was really pressing the pace. The action, while compelling, was measured, and it wouldn't have surprised me if both fighters thought that they were ahead. The judges’ scores reflected that as well. Two judges had Charlo up by three points; the third had Harrison up by one (I also had Harrison up by a point). 

Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Trapp/Fox Sports

In the 11th round Charlo started with more intensity. He blistered Harrison with power shots and they were serious blows. Harrison mocked Charlo after the early foray, trying to play it off, but Charlo became emboldened. 

A few seconds later they both traded left hooks. Harrison's actually got there first and he landed a peach of a shot, but then Charlo's detonated and the fight forever changed. Charlo's hook sent Harrison sprawling toward the ropes. Charlo went on the attack and within seconds Harrison was on the canvas. He beat the count, but was severely damaged. Charlo kept pressing with power punches. He hurt Harrison with another huge left hook and then followed up with three fantastic left uppercuts and a straight right hand. Harrison’s fall to the canvas and ref Jack Reiss's immediate entrance into the action gave off the impression that the fight was over. It wasn't, but that became a timekeeping formality. When action resumed Charlo jumped on Harrison and Reiss stopped the fight. With the win Charlo regained his junior middleweight title and had the signature victory of his career. 

After the fight Harrison gave Charlo credit for the victory and admonished himself for being too lax in the ring during the 11th round. All of that is notable, but it's not the complete story. 

Harrison walked a tightrope the entire fight and he wasn't able to make it across to safety. Yes, the end was in sight, but being close to the finish line isn't the same as making it there. As far as strategy and tactics go, he made a bold play in the ring, but ultimately the slugger had too many opportunities to land his thunder. 

Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Trapp/Fox Sports

Jermell Charlo can box and bang, but some flaws in his game have been exposed during his time at the world-level. He can be out-jabbed, movement can confound him, and he clearly doesn't like to be backed up. In addition, he can let his emotions get the better of him in the ring. In the past when things haven't gone right for him, he has tried to double down on knocking out opponents, forgetting to put points on the board. During these periods of frustration, he has let fighters like Austin Trout and Harrison outwork him and assert their authority on the fight. 

However, Charlo's performance on Saturday exorcised many of these demons. No, it wasn't a clean sweep on the cards, but he had to overcome his previous flaws to win the fight, which is no insubstantial feat. Unlike the first Harrison bout, Charlo wasn't going for the knockout with every shot. Even after scoring the early knockdown, he didn't run in recklessly trying to close the show. In addition, he avoided the trap that many fighters do after they have early success. He wasn't waiting to land the same punch that led to the knockdown, in this case the left hook; instead, he used his entire offensive arsenal throughout the match. And as the fight progressed, with many rounds going to Harrison, Charlo didn't run out of ideas or appear frustrated in the ring. He continued to put punches together trying to scrape out a win. 

Overall, Charlo exhibited maturity and discipline, two attributes that had been lacking in his performances against top competition. Jermell, similar to his brother, Jermall (a current middleweight champ), has so much natural talent and power that he doesn't need to force things to get the stoppage. It's a lesson that he seemed to learn on Saturday. Once he hurt Harrison he finished in style, but there was nothing reckless or irresponsible about it. His ultimate success came from the natural flow of the fight. The left hook that was the beginning of the end for Harrison wasn't even Charlo's hardest shot, but it didn't need to be – it was the perfect punch at the perfect opportunity, and that's really what boxing is about at the world-class level. As the golf teacher advises that less is more regarding the swing, by taking a little mustard off his shots, Charlo was able to achieve better results. I'm not sure that he would have made the same choice two years ago.

Top opponents will always have opportunities to win rounds against Charlo. He's by no means a perfect fighter and he seems less than his best when he's not controlling the pocket. However, what Saturday highlighted is that he can and will compete even if the fight doesn't play out in his favor. He should now have confidence that if he stays within himself, he has more than enough natural ability to turn a fight around. If he remembers the lessons from this fight, he will become much tougher to defeat. And if he stays within himself and simply boxes to his ability, few fighters will enjoy 12 rounds of the Jermell Charlo experience. It's possible that on Saturday he finally put it all together. 

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, December 19, 2019

Punch 2 the Face Radio

In this week's Punch 2 the Face Radio, Brandon and I talked about Teofimo Lopez's star making performance in his knockout over Richard Commey. We debated if Lopez has a real chance against Lomachenko. We assessed Terence Crawford's victory over Mean Machine. We also previewed Saturday's intriguing Harrison-Charlo rematch. And, what to make of Jacobs-Chavez?  We covered all the angles.
Click on the links below to listen:
Blog Talk Radio link:
iTunes link:
Stitcher link:
Also, find us on Spotify: Punch 2 the Face Radio, Episode 155.

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.