Thursday, July 30, 2020

SNB Stock Report 7-30-20

It's time for another edition of the SNB Stock Report. July featured a number of prominent fighters in the ring and it's time to assess their performances. The (+) indicates fighters whose stock rose. The (-) denotes fighters whose stock fell and the (NC) is for fighters whose stock has remained unchanged after their most recent performance.  

Vergil Ortiz (+) 

Photo Courtesy of Stacey Verbeek

Ortiz returned to the ring with a fantastic power-punching display against Samuel Vargas, earning a seventh-round stoppage. Vargas put forth a game effort, but he was outgunned by Ortiz's blistering combination punching. Ortiz is now ready for contenders in the welterweight division. With his high Ring IQ and myriad offensive gifts, he's going to be a handful. At only 22, it's scary to think that he may have even more room for improvement.

Alex Saucedo (+) 

Saucedo performed solidly in his victory against Sonny Fredrickson, winning by a wide unanimous decision. He had Fredrickson hurt a couple of times early in the fight, but he didn't fully sell out for the knockout. Saucedo remains a tough and rugged customer at 140; however, his defense is still a problem. Even a trainer switch hasn't cleaned up that aspect of his game. But as long as his chin holds up, he'll be fun to watch.

Jose Pedraza (+) 

Pedraza has always run a little hot-and-cold. It was a pleasant surprise to see him dialed in and focused against the Mikkel LesPierre. Pedraza scored two knockdowns in the fight and was close to getting a stoppage; he won by a wide decision. However, there was a debatable call in the fifth round where he went down and it was subsequently ruled as a slip by the Nevada instant replay official. Still, it was an overall solid and confident performance.  

Albert Bell (NC) 

The Ohioan remains a frustrating figure in the ring. With tremendous boxing skills and fast feet, Bell boxed to a shutout points victory over Mark Bernaldez. However, it was disappointing to see Bell not attempt to inflict more damage. Bell will eventually become a top spoiler in the junior lightweight division. He possesses championship-level talent. But he's going to have to go through the sanctioning body game to get his chance. His style in the ring doesn't create much demand for his services. 

Jose Zepeda (+) 

Zepeda boxed his way to a comfortable victory over late replacement Kendo Castaneda. Zepeda has 25 KOs in his 32 victories, but it's clear that he's become much more comfortable as a boxer than a slugger. He still possesses excellent punch placement and a wide arsenal of punches, but his emphasis on defense in recent fights has led to less risk taking. He's one of the top fighters at 140 lbs. His well-rounded skill set should give him a good chance to win a title over the next 12-18 months.  

Joe Joyce (+) 

Photo Courtesy of Queensberry Promotions

"The Juggernaut" faced Michael Wallisch this month in a marking-time bout. He was supposed to face Daniel Dubois earlier this year before COVID scrapped those plans. Joyce wasted little time with Wallisch, scoring three knockdowns and earning a third-round stoppage. He still gets hit a lot, his punches can be timed with a sun dial, but he has heavy, heavy hands when he connects. Expect Joyce to face Dubois later this year. 

Carlos Takam (NC) 

Takam was in camp for another fight when he received the call to face Jerry Forrest on short notice. And he started off the fight excellently, displaying fine footwork and boxing skills to go along with his usual assortment of solid power punches. He did fade a bit as the fight progressed. Perhaps he wasn't in the best shape with a shortened camp. It's also worth considering that he's 39 and maybe he no longer has a full gas tank. He did win a decision, but didn't exactly put the division on notice. He remains a contender in the thin heavyweight division, but most likely his best days are behind him.  

Andy Vences (-) 

First things first, Vences deserved the decision against Luis Lopez. Lopez was effectively awkward at times and certainly landed his share of odd-angled punches, but over the course of the bout, Vences did the better work. Nevertheless, Lopez was awarded a split decision victory. Despite being hard done by the officials, it was not a strong performance by Vences. He displayed far too much caution at points in the fight and didn't seem to have a solid game plan as the match progressed. He was also badly hurt in the second half of the fight and a punch or two away from being knocked out. He's now lost two of his last three fights and any momentum that he once had in his career is now long gone.  

Felix Verdejo (+) 

Photo Courtesy of Mikey Williams

Verdejo made quick work of the capable Will Madera, stopping him in the first round with an impressive volley of power punches. Verdejo, once a prized prospect for Top Rank, had seen his shine diminish over the past few years. However, in teaming with noted trainer Ismael Salas, Verdejo seems to have regained his confidence. Still only 27, he remains an intriguing name in the deep lightweight division.  

Carlos Castro (+)

Castro made a strong statement by stopping former title contender Cesar Juarez after four rounds. Castro, at 26-0 and already 26 years of age, has yet to sniff a title shot, but it certainly looks as though he has the skills to compete at the top level of the junior featherweight division. Developed mostly around the Phoenix area, he's only been with Top Rank a couple of years. They might have found a diamond in the rough here.   

Oscar Valdez (NC) 

On the plus side, Valdez became the first fighter to stop Jayson Velez, a serviceable opponent who has given a number of solid boxers tough nights at the office. However, Valdez went through long periods of the fight where he seemed stuck between styles. He once had been an aggressive boxer-puncher, but under the tutelage of Eddy Reynoso, he has attempted to become more of a classic boxer. After a number of fights together, Valdez still doesn't look comfortable in the new style. Nevertheless, his left hook remains a real weapon. He scored two knockdowns in the fight and stopped Velez in the final round. 

Isaac Dogboe (+) 

After taking over a year off after his second defeat to Emanuel Navarrete, Dogboe returned to the ring with new trainer Barry Hunter. Immediately, one could observe the difference, as Dogboe was trying to fight with more defensive responsibility against Chris Avalos. Dogboe wasn't flying open with wide power shots as much and overall his performance was more contained. Avalos, a former title contender who has definitely seen better days in the ring, was in good shape and put forward a good effort, but Dogboe's power shots were the difference. That Dogboe stopped Avalos in the eighth round isn't particularly noteworthy, but the fact that he's listening to his new coach and trying to learn from his past mistakes certainly is. He wants to make another run at 122-lbs. He remains a fun TV fighter, but the junior featherweight division is filled with excellent talents. He will need the right type of opponents (shorter, not huge punchers) in order to win another belt. 

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 26, 2020

Musings on the Bubble

Boxing's return on June 9th brought me a tremendous amount of joy. After months of that strange combination of external COVID-related chaos and the monotony of home confinement, it was comforting to have an old friend back. Actually, it was better than that. Sitting on my couch, watching the fights, I was happy – and there hadn't been a whole lot of happiness in recent months. And was that card, headlined by Shakur Stevenson, particularly good? No, it was not. But you know what? It didn't matter to me. Boxing was back.    

Working with the Nevada Athletic Commission, Top Rank helped create protocols for testing and safety to be used in boxing's return. I can only imagine the myriad variables that came into play regarding the creation of "The Bubble": isolation areas, staging, lodging, etc. Brad Jacobs is a Top Rank executive that doesn't always have his name in bold print, but he was the point person for Top Rank in helping create these protocols, and he deserves a lot of credit.  

Shakur Stevenson, the First Bubble Headliner 
Photo Courtesy of Mikey Williams

Although boxing has returned, the high-end fights have not. Most of Top Rank's broadcasts since June have been good club-level cards – something you would see when Friday Night Fights was at its best 15-20 years ago. These cards have featured many types of fights not often seen on U.S. networks, including fighters with fewer than five bouts, and battles featuring lower-level journeymen. Star appearances have been few. With the exception of Stevenson, not one of Top Rank's current champions have appeared on the series (130-lb. champ Jamel Herring was scheduled to headline two different cards, but he tested positive for COVID). 

The budgets for these Top Rank shows haven't been large. Perhaps the main event A-side was making six figures, but the rest of the fighters on the card earned far less. And as the series progressed, it became a cause for celebration if the main event actually transpired. Positive COVID tests and a slew of injuries played havoc with the schedule. By the end of the series, the viewer knew that the fights would be airing on Tuesdays and Thursdays on ESPN, but that was essentially all that was guaranteed.  


I won't pretend that all of the cards were outstanding, that they were loaded with memorable fights, but I will say that I found something interesting on almost every show. Whether it was young undefeated prospects such as Elvis Rodriguez and Jared Anderson making great impressions, or seeing a journeyman such as Clay Collard build momentum in his career. How about the four-round slugfest between undefeated prospects Eric Mondragon and Mike Sanchez, where both boxers went down in the first round and battled to a hard-fought draw? Of course, there was Mike Plania's upset over Joshua Greer. Those wide left hooks were something else. The best fight of the summer series was Joshua Franco against Andrew Moloney, which featured ferocious close-range combat. With that performance, Franco demonstrated that he's ready for the top names at 115 lbs.  

How about some more? What about unsigned heavyweight Kingsley Ibeh? Sure, he's crude, but he has some power. He notched two wins in the Bubble and was scheduled to fight a third bout against a legit Top Rank prospect before he failed a COVID test. What about the other repeaters on the series, such as Isiah Jones and Donte Stubbs? Both lost their first match in the Bubble, but came back within two weeks to win in their next outing against solid opposition. We saw a lot of good things. 

Brad Goodman did the matchmaking for these shows, which featured dozens of fighters appearing on short notice. And far more often than not, the bouts were worthwhile. For fights that featured Top Rank veterans, one could understand why the opponent was selected. And a few Top Rank fighters lost during the series – Greer, Andrew Moloney, David Kaminsky and Andy Vences to name four. 

But even in the bouts where Top Rank didn't promote either fighter, you could see the wheels turning, why certain opponents were being matched. Could they be useful as Top Rank opponents later on? Was there a prospect worth signing, or at the very least should be brought back to see more? There was purpose behind the fights, and to Goodman's credit, there was very little slop thrown against the wall. Yes, there were walkovers here and there, but most of the bouts, even with anonymous journeymen or untested young fighters, were competitive or at least held some degree of intrigue. This was no easy feat under such unusual circumstances. 


Top Rank has over 100 signed fighters on their website. Less than half of them have fought since boxing's resumption in June. For a number of them, it came down to logistics. International restrictions have made traveling to the U.S. from certain countries very difficult. In addition, for the superstars, more time will be needed to figure out how big fights can get made in this new, fan-less environment. As late as this week, Bob Arum was quoted as saying that he still doesn't know how much money ESPN would be making available for Lomachenko-Lopez.  

If you look through that list of Top Rank fighters, you'll see a number of young boxers who didn't appear in the Bubble. For some of these fighters, the phone definitely rang, but no one was there to pick it up. It's clear that some boxers weren’t in fighting shape, or didn't like the prospect of fighting on short notice.

Oscar Valdez stopped Jayson Velez in the Bubble
Photo Courtesy of Mikey Williams

There's always an interesting dilemma in boxing between making your own luck and making a stupid mistake. The Bubble fighters picked up the phone from Top Rank. A number of them seized the opportunity, performed well, and breathed fresh life into their respective careers. How about Gabriel Muratalla, Felix Verdejo and Carlos Castro? But I'm also sure there were more than a few who said yes, but were far from their best, whether it was Giovani Santillan, Orlando Gonzalez or Andy Vences. Maybe they shouldn't have picked up the phone? It's always a tough decision to make.   

I'm sure that there were some fighters who turned down opportunities during the summer series, potentially leading to ill will with the company. The door swings both ways of course, and if Top Rank has 107 fighters under contract right now (just throwing out a number), it wouldn't be surprising or particularly harmful for the company if soon they went down to, say, 95 signed fighters. It's a tough economy. Those who turned down fights may have had their reasons, but come contract renewal time, those decisions may have significant ramifications, especially for the non-stars and non-champions in Top Rank's stable.  


After a couple of rocky weeks (much of which was understandable), ESPN hit its stride in televising the Bubble fights. Streamlining the broadcast to usually five live fights in a three-hour window, the network found an excellent flow and its commentators shined.  

I had been critical of ESPN's broadcast in a recent piece and despite the challenges of having all of their broadcasters in different locations for this series, they produced some fine work. The attributes that often had detracted from ESPN's broadcast in the recent past – endlessly hyping future fights, ignoring a lower-level bout to focus on the main event, talking about topics far removed from the action at hand – did not manifest during the Bubble series. Each of their broadcasters gave the fights and the boxers the respect that they deserved, whether it was a main event or a match between two journeymen.  

In particular, something clicked for Joe Tessitore. Instead of playing grabass with Andre Ward and Tim Bradley or trying too hard to display his erudition on topics unrelated to boxing, he kept his attention on the fights, and he called them with aplomb. When Tessitore is at his worst, he can give off a vibe that he's a little too cool for school, that lower-level fights are beneath him. But during the Bubble fights he was engaged throughout the series, and was able to highlight his considerable abilities as a boxing broadcaster. He knows the sport intimately and it was great to see him dialed-in.  

Furthermore, with Tim Bradley and Andre Ward, ESPN now has the best tandem of analysts among U.S. boxing broadcasters. They make for great television. They're critical when they need to be, but it's not just about cheap shots (although there were a couple of amusing ones during the series). To them, if they see a flaw, they want a fighter to correct that and the audience to understand why it's imperative that the fighter does so. And Bradley has turned out to be pretty damn funny. Whether it's eating a sandwich on air to gently mock Jerry Forrest's late meal before his fight, or sprinkling in a zany analogy or one-liner, he's really found his groove. 

It took ESPN a long time to figure out how to best use its assets to make for an entertaining and quality boxing broadcast, but their production team deserves a lot of credit. They have found a formula that works. A little of Mark Kriegel goes a long way, but that little can help place boxers and their struggles in a meaningful context, which raises the stakes for the viewer. In addition, Bernardo Osuna has demonstrated that he's a wonderful jack-of-all-trades for a boxing broadcast. Whether it's reporting, calling play-by-play, interviewing or translating, Osuna knows the sport inside and out and he's a real asset.  


For many years I have wanted American boxing broadcasters and promoters to televise more fights on each card. I thought that the British broadcasters, who routinely televised five and six fights a card, did it right. Now, not every boxing consumer wants that much content, but there are many who do, and the upside in providing additional exposure for young prospects and fighters on the rise can be considerable.  

It used to be that fighters wouldn't sniff major U.S. broadcasts until they had 15 or so fights (yes, there were some exceptions). Much of this followed the HBO model, and before that the U.S. network paradigm. These broadcasters believed that only the most important fights or fighters needed to be televised. And quite frankly, they were the major game in town. They were the ones paying the big bucks, so they got to make those decisions.  

But as the U.S. boxing broadcasting map has changed over the last few years, it's been a pleasure to see Top Rank, PBC, Golden Boy and Matchroom take a new approach. All of them now show nearly their entire cards, even if they are streaming on a company website. Now we don't have to wait 15 fights to see Jared Anderson or Diego Pacheco or Vito Mielnicki. As a result, we can form attachments and emotional connections sooner. We become more invested in them. I hope this trend continues. It's good business and it plants valuable seeds for future success. 

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, July 9, 2020

Punch 2 the Face Radio

In this week's Punch 2 the Face Podcast, Brandon and I gave our winners and losers for the first month of the ESPN/Top Rank Summer Series. We also talked about what's next for Canelo and delved into the Ryan Garcia drama. To listen to the show, click on the links below: 

Also, find us on Spotify: Punch 2 the Face Radio #181

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.