Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Ring Walk Podcast

I appeared on Jonathan Leir's Ring Walk Podcast to talk about a number of hot topics in boxing, including Top Rank's summer series on ESPN, Big Baby Miller's performance enhancing drug issues, the Golden Boy/Ryan Garcia drama and the negotiations for the Katie Taylor-Amanda Serrano fight. To listen to the podcast, click on this 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. 
Email: saturdaynightboxing@hotmail.com.
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

SNB Stock Report 6-28-20

With the completion of the first three weeks of ESPN's summer boxing series, it's time for another edition of the Saturday Night Boxing Stock Report. The Stock Report shows which fighters' stock went up (+), down (-) or remained unchanged (NC) based on their most recent performance. Let's get started!  

Shakur Stevenson (+) 

Photo Courtesy of Mikey Williams

Stevenson did what was expected of him against the overmatched Felix Caraballo, scoring two knockdowns and winning via a sixth-round stoppage. However, his performance highlighted some impressive new dimensions. He stayed in the pocket and sat down on his shots much better than he has throughout most of his pro career. In addition, Stevenson's combination punching and body work demonstrated a new-found ferocity. He wasn't throwing shots to score points; he was trying to administer hurt. Refreshingly, Stevenson didn't play with his food or fight down to the level of his opposition. He exhibited no signs of ring rust, which might have been expected during his lengthy layoff. Overall, he looked sharp. At 14-0 and still just 23, Stevenson should have more room for growth. It will be interesting to see if he remains at 130 lbs. or drops back to 126 to defend his featherweight title. 

Jason Moloney (+) 

Moloney exhibited fantastic inside fighting skills to grind down late-replacement opponent Leonardo Baez over seven rounds. With a keen understanding of his preferred range, Moloney stayed inside Baez's long reach. In the trenches he cracked Baez with power shots throughout the match. Ultimately, Baez didn't answer the bell for round eight. Moloney has displayed excellent intestinal fortitude in his high-profile bouts. In the bantamweight World Boxing Super Series, he was down big to Emmanuel Rodriguez before making a spirited push in the second half. It wasn't enough to get the win, but he showed tremendous poise, self-belief and craft to get back into the bout. Against Baez, Moloney had to fight just two days after his brother received a hellacious beating in the ring. But there was no psychological let down against Baez, which speaks to Jason's strong intangibles. Still, he does require some work on his defense. He's lucky that Baez didn't possess more power. Moloney got caught with a number of clean left hooks when pulling out.  


Joshua Franco (+) 

In this month's best fight, Joshua Franco pulled away in the second half of the bout to defeat Andrew Moloney in a battle of grueling trench warfare. Franco was down early in the fight, with Moloney's volume and footwork troubling him. However, Franco landed a number of fantastic counter left hooks to get back into the match. As the fight progressed, Franco went on the march, attacking Moloney to the head and body and pressing the action. Ultimately, the fight came down to power and punch resistance, and Franco was superior in both aspects. He scored a knockdown in the 11th round and went on to win a competitive unanimous decision. Franco's record of 17-1-2 might not dazzle, but make no mistake; he's an excellent fighter. His performances against Moloney and Oscar Negrete have provided him with the seasoning to compete at the highest level of the 115-lb. division. 


Andrew Moloney (-) 

Considering Andrew's spirited effort in defeat against Franco, the minus symbol next to his name might be harsh. But he took such a beating, with damage to both ear drums and a cracked rib among other injuries, that he won't be back in the ring any time soon, a significant setback for his career. Moloney fought too overconfidently early in the match. He was landing at will and he tried to impose his will on the inside. But he was met with a lot of return fire, and by the time he tried to fight Franco on the outside, it was already too late. Overall, he was too eager to trade and was seemingly over-impressed with his power. Moloney possesses top-ten talent at 118 lbs., but he needs to gain a better understanding of his strengths and weaknesses in the ring.   


Emanuel Navarrete (NC) 

Photo Courtesy of Mikey Williams

The junior featherweight champion stayed active with a non-title fight against the overmatched Uriel Lopez and scored a sixth-round knockout. After a sluggish start, Navarrete displayed his characteristic frenetic attack, with powerful body work, odd-angled shots and multi-punch combinations. After winning his title, he has now fought five time in ten months, but not one of these opponents will be remembered. It's time for him to get another real challenge. It remains to be seen whether he will stay at 122 lbs. or move up to featherweight. But enough of these stay-busy fights! 

Miguel Berchelt (NC) 

Similar to his Mexican countryman Navarrete, Berchelt, who has a belt at 130 lbs., took a non-title fight against a poor opponent. The unlucky but brave victim in this case was Eleazar Valenzuela.  Berchelt fired off scores of menacing left hooks and won by a sixth-round stoppage. Berchelt wants to face former featherweight champion Oscar Valdez next, and that's a fight which should generate fantastic action for boxing fans.  

Gabriel Flores (NC) 

In the early rounds of his fight against Josec Ruiz, Flores seemed to have turned a corner. Instead of over-moving, he planted himself in the pocket, fired off a number of impressive power shots and even scored a knockdown. However, as the fight progressed, he reverted to form, and used his legs and long-range boxing skills to pull away for an easy unanimous decision. Throughout the fight, his trainer (his father, Gabriel Sr.) repeatedly admonished Gabriel to hold his ground against the hard-charging Ruiz, but it's clear that Flores isn't yet comfortable with taking more chances on the inside. Flores (20 years old and now 18-0) has great legs and stellar hand speed, but he needs to become more proficient fighting at mid-range and on the inside. Until that time, he will remain a tantalizing prospect, and not a fully-formed top fighter. 


Jessie Magdaleno (NC) 

Magdaleno won by disqualification in the 10th round. His opponent, Yenifel Vicente, had already lost three points for various infractions, and referee Robert Byrd had seen enough. Magdaleno scored two knockdowns in the fight from quick counter right hooks and had built a lead on the cards. However, there were also large portions of the fight where he was passive in the ring, barely letting his hands go. In addition, Vicente fired low blows at Magdaleno throughout much of the fight and it's concerning that Magdaleno didn't try to take manners into his own hands at any point. Magdaleno once had a title at 122 lbs., and his skills are apparent, but he doesn't seem to be fighting with a lot of confidence. His passivity in the ring is a recent phenomenon, and one that needs to be expunged if he entertains notions of being a world titlist again.

Mike Plania (+) 

Photo Courtesy of Mikey Williams

Chalk this one up to the Top Rank matchmakers. The relatively unknown Plania was brought over from the Philippines to give bantamweight contender Joshua Greer a stern test. When the fight was announced, oddsmakers were unimpressed, with Greer initially installed as an over 10-1 favorite. But as more people started to research the fight, they said to themselves, hey, this kid can fight, and the odds started to close in a hurry. And Plania rewarded those who jumped on the initial betting lines. Scoring two knockdowns with wide left hooks, Plania took control of the fight. He displayed impressive poise for a young fighter and featured a variety of offensive weapons. Greer did come on a little in the second half, but Plania had done enough to win the fight on the scorecards. Almost everything Plania throws is hard and he doesn't light up the punch counting stats, but his power is real. At just 23 years old, he looks to be another significant player in the fascinating bantamweight division.  

Joshua Greer (-) 

This had been coming for some time. Greer had difficulty in his last three bouts. For this fight, he trained back in Chicago and returned to a former coach. But, in the first round against Plania, he was in trouble once again. He couldn't adjust to the trajectory of Plania's wide hook and was dropped; the same punch also led to his knockdown in the sixth. Eventually Greer realized that he was much safer on the inside and he had good moments on his front foot. However, he had already lost too many rounds to win the bout on the cards. Greer is a type of fighter who has superior athletic talent that sometimes can mask defensive deficiencies. He has flashy speed, but gets hit far too often at this point in his career. With Top Rank as his promoter and J. Prince as his management, he will get additional opportunities, but he has lots of work to do in the gym to succeed at the next level.  

Christopher Diaz (+) 

Diaz turned in a strong performance against Jason Sanchez, winning a wide unanimous decision. He controlled the pocket, threw a strong right hand and featured a variety of boxing skills that haven't always been part of his offensive attack. Diaz has yo-yoed between 126 and 130 lbs. throughout his career and believes that the lower weight may serve him best. He remains a capable fighter as long as an opponent engages him in the pocket. To me, he has the makings of a top gatekeeper at featherweight and junior lightweight, and I don't mean that as an insult. He's going to beat the fighters that he should beat, and will most likely lose to the most talented guys in these divisions. But if he can avoid taking too many clean shots, he will have a lengthy career as a B-side to the stars and up-and-coming prospects.  

Abraham Nova (NC) 

Facing a spoiler in Avery Sparrow, Nova's high-profile opportunity on ESPN was almost...well, spoiled. Although Sparrow landed very little in the fight, his jab and movement prohibited Nova from opening up with combinations, especially in the early rounds. In addition, Nova fought as if he had too much confidence in his power, seemingly surprised that after he landed a shot, Sparrow would continue unaffected. Once Nova realized that more effort was required to win, he did connect with some impressive power punches and overall, he had a stronger second half. He won the fight by a unanimous decision, but his performance didn't answer many questions about his future prospects in the sport. Nova features an impressive record (19-0, 14 KOs), but against unimpressive opposition. Although he possesses power and physicality, he doesn't yet understand the finer points of how to apply his skills in the ring. Top Rank has talked about matching him next against former 130-lb. champ Masayuki Ito, and that fight would present a stern test for Nova.  

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, June 18, 2020

Interview with ESBR

I spoke with Eliot Stott of ESBR recently on a number of topics, including boxing post-Covid, Eddie Hearn's prospects for cracking the American market, analyzing Gennadiy Golovkin's career and my favorite current British fighters. To read the interview, click on the link 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. 
Email: saturdaynightboxing@hotmail.com.
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Four of My Favorites

Have you ever been asked a perfectly legitimate question and didn't have a good answer? Let's say if someone asked you what your dream job would be, or what's the first thing you would do if you won the lottery. Those are basic questions that all of us have been asked over the years. But do we always know how to answer them? Personally, I have no idea what I'd do first if I won the lottery. Maybe I need to get working on that one. 

Now let's make it a more specific, boxing-related question. I was giving an interview recently to a British publication and was asked who my favorite active fighters were. And I didn't have an answer at my fingertips. I'm sure that I've been asked this question scores of times over the years, but not recently. And it got me thinking...

Instead of blurting out an immediate answer, I tried to go through a few systematic exercises. I went division by division. I thought about fighters whom I would never miss their bouts. I considered those who were the most exciting, the most skilled and those who showed the most promise. Ultimately, I arrived at four, and I'll give you who they are and my reasons why I respond so passionately to them below. 

This by nature is purely subjective, as is practically everything I write. It's a fun exercise, nothing more. All of the fighters I mention below can certainly be beaten and two of whom wouldn't appear anywhere near my current pound-for-pound list. Ultimately, these are four guys whom I find compelling to watch. When they fight, I clear out my schedule. And with apologies to Keith Thurman and Nonito Donaire, who were past favorites and are still active, my current favorite four are as follows: 

Errol Spence Jr.

Photo courtesy of Amanda Westcott/Showtime

Errol Spence has fought professionally 26 times and by my calculations only twice did his opponents provide him with a bona fide challenge. Prior to going the distance in both of his outings last year, his last fight that made it to the final bell was all the way back in 2014. Yet, Spence isn't a one-punch knockout artist, but the KOs (21 in 26 fights) are there; he is a wrecking ball of combination punching, power, versatility and accuracy.

Perhaps what I love most about Spence is how he never seems to break a sweat. Everything is in his deliberate, slightly languid rhythm. Whether he's boxing, trading in the pocket or initiating his own offense, he seems at peace in the ring, fully confident in his abilities and game plan. I also love that Spence almost always remembers to finish his combinations with his hook. Spence, unlike many fighters of today, realizes the value of three- and four-punch combinations. It's often the third or fourth shot that does the most damage. 

In Spence's signature fight, his title-winning effort against Kell Brook in 2017, he had significant disadvantages in hand speed, foot speed and experience. Brook built an early lead and had several flashes of brilliance. But Spence completely understood the opponent in front of him and what he needed to do to turn the tide. With a hellacious body assault and repeated power shot combinations, Spence would eventually make his opponent yield. It was a special performance that announced the arrival of an elite fighter. 

Spence did in fact have to break a sweat against Shawn Porter in last year's excellent unification bout. It was perhaps the one fight of his career where I believe that he and his trainer, Derrick James, got their tactics wrong to a degree. Porter wanted close combat and Spence was a little too quick to acquiesce. Errol could have used his feet more frequently or found more moments to clinch. Watching the fight, it was as if he was trying to prove a point: Shawn, I will beat you at your own game. That he did, winning a tough 12-round split decision and also scoring a knockdown in the 11th, but it was not a comfortable victory. 

It's been a fun parlor game to predict who might win a matchup between Spence and fellow welterweight titlist Terence Crawford; that's one of the best fights that can be made in the sport. Both boxers have points in their favor and specific warning signs. But this analysis can wait for another day. 

To even be speaking about Spence as a top fighter at the present moment is a stroke of good fortune; he survived a harrowing car wreck at the end of 2019, and appears to have sustained only minor injuries. In recent interviews he has spoken about rededicating himself to the sport, how he let his weight go between fights and didn't train as best as he could. I would also hope that Spence and James use this moment to inject a little bit more humility into their game plans. Top guys will be coming for them every fight. These opponents have skills and ways of beating Spence. Spence and James need to respect their opponents a little more. Everyone can be mortal, not just out of the ring, but in the squared circle as well. 

Naoya Inoue

Photo courtesy of Naoki Fukuda

Inoue first appeared on my radar in a real way in 2014 when he faced long-time 115-lb. titlist Omar Narvaez. Narvaez was a capable fighter who had made 11 defenses of his title. He wasn't necessarily an elite talent, but certainly a quality operator. Meanwhile, Inoue was coming up two divisions from 108 lbs., and had only seven professional fights (among them was a title-winning effort against Adrian Hernandez, who many had as the top guy at light flywieght). Nevertheless, Inoue ran through Narvaez like he was nothing, stopping him in the second round and showing an enormous gulf in class. Even the great Nonito Donaire at the peak of his powers couldn't stop Narvaez in 2011. From that moment, Inoue became one to watch for me. 

Nicknamed the Monster, Inoue has essentially run roughshod over his 19 opponents. Only three have made it to the distance. Only two fights of his were legitimately competitive. And it's not as if he's faced weak opposition; he's defeated several reigning champs, past titlists and solid contenders. 

As Inoue's reign of terror has continued, the Japanese fighter has attracted significant international attention. He destroyed former champion Juan Carlos Payano in the first round of the most recent bantamweight World Boxing Super Series and then blitzed the talented Emmanuel Rodriguez in the second round. In the finals, he faced an excellent, two-handed version of Donaire and won a competitive decision. Inoue not only demonstrated his offensive firepower in that bout, he also displayed considerable intestinal fortitude, coming back from getting hurt multiple times in the fight. That he would go on to sweep the championship rounds illustrated his champion's mentality and elite conditioning. 

Inoue has risen all the way to #1 on some pound-for-pound lists (mine would be one example), but wherever he ranks for you (or perhaps you don't rank him, because you are too cool for rankings), he's must-see TV. He's one of the true killers in the sport, with his straight right and left hook containing significant lethality. Signed to a new deal with Top Rank, he was supposed to fight fellow 118-lb. titlist John Riel Casimero prior to the coronavirus outbreak. Hopefully, we'll see him back on our screens real soon, taking on all comers and applying his special brand of hurt. 

Emanuel Navarrete

Photo courtesy of Mikey Williams

Every generation seems to have a fighter like this, with Ricardo Mayorga and Marcos Maidana being recent examples. Sometimes, a crude, hard-punching fighter comes along who does so many things "wrong" technically that he becomes terrifying in the ring. Do you like guys who throw and land wide hooks from seemingly eight feet away? What about guys who consistently connect with punches off of the wrong foot. How about a fighter whose only defense seems to be more offense? Navarrete isn't just a wildly entertaining fighter to watch; he possesses such unique dimensions that it's going to take a truly skilled ring technician to beat him. 

In 2018 I was doing research for the first Dogboe-Navarrete fight. Navarrete was the mandatory challenger for Dogboe's title. Navarrete featured a glossy record, but had never fought outside of his home country (Mexico). Now we've seen these types of opponents often over the years, and 8/10 times they are exposed as obligatory challengers who pose little risk. However, every now and then the sanctioning bodies get something right and identify an under-the-radar talent who would otherwise toil in obscurity. When watching Navarrete online, I was immediately impressed. I said to myself, Zanfer (his Mexican promoter) might really have something here. Navarrete, a 122 lb.-er, had an enormous reach (72 inches, one less than 154-lb. champ Jermell Charlo) never stopped throwing punches and could crack from the inside or outside. The punches came from all angles and trajectories. In addition to his unusual style, he packed a ton of power into his lanky frame. 

Over two victories against Dogboe, Navarrete proved that he was world-class material. This Saturday will be Navarrete's fifth fight in 13 months, all of them since defeating Dogboe. Unfortunately, his opponents since winning the title haven't been stellar. Although he has remained active, it's very easy to fall into bad habits against poor opposition. At the moment, Top Rank doesn't have a lot for him at 122 lbs., and they are going to have to pay another promoter some decent money for a unification fight. Or maybe Navarrete will move up to 126 lbs., where more makeable big fights can happen. Either way, I'll definitely be watching. 

Devin Haney

Photo courtesy of Ed Mulholland

I'm not much of a prospect person. If anything, I'm one to downplay top young fighters. However, I'm not some heartless keyboard warrior made of stone! Occasionally a young one penetrates my prospect defenses. And in watching Devin Haney's rise from prospect to contender to, I don't know what he is, but something affiliated with the WBC, Haney has checked off all of my boxes. He commands the ring with excellent foot speed and purposeful movement. He has every punch in his arsenal. In addition, his Ring IQ is off the charts for a 21-year-old fighter. He already knows how to set traps, make opponents pay for their mistakes and utilize his entire repertoire fluidly. 

Haney spent a lot of his teenage years at the Mayweather gym, soaking up wisdom from his elders and sparring with some of the best professional and amateur talent in the sport. Not only was he an athletic prodigy, but he was wise beyond his years in terms of how to apply his boxing skills in the ring. 

To this point Haney has not faced particularly tough competition in his professional development, but expect that to change soon. The 135- and 140-lb. divisions are teeming with young talent and to win and defend a belt will necessitate fighting top opponents. 

In the coming years, Haney will face challenges against a wave of young fighters whom he has fought, sparred and competed against for many years, among them are Gervonta Davis, Ryan Garcia and Teofimo Lopez. They are all essentially at the same weight and around the same age. This quartet could make for explosive fights throughout the entire decade, which would be great for the sport, its fans and these fighters' bank accounts.

I don't know if Haney will emerge as the best fighter of this quartet, or even if he will become an elite level talent, but I know that in 2020, as I write this, he is the best American young fighter I have seen in a number of years. I'm expecting big things for him. The talent is certainly there for greatness and I'm looking forward to enjoying the ride.

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. 
Email: saturdaynightboxing@hotmail.com.
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Punch 2 the Face Radio

In this week's Punch 2 the Face Radio, Brandon and I talked about boxing's return. We highlighted the key fights over the next six weeks from Top Rank's/ESPN's series, with many of the best matchups flying below-the radar. We also talked about when and how the other major promoters in the sport will return to boxing. To listen to the podcast, click on the links below: 

Also, find us on Spotify: Punch 2 the Face Radio #176

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. 
Email: saturdaynightboxing@hotmail.com.
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.