Sunday, September 27, 2020

Opinions and Observations: The Charlos Arrive

In a thrilling shootout, Jermell Charlo stopped Jeison Rosario in the eighth round on Saturday to win a third belt at 154 lbs. Despite being dropped three times in the fight, Rosario cut an imposing figure whenever he was marching forward. Featuring heavy hands and a relentless body attack, he forced Charlo into tying up a number of times throughout the bout. 

In my opinion, the fight turned in the sixth round when Charlo connected with a left hook/right hand combination for his second knockdown of the match. That sequence badly hurt Rosario, who spent the seventh round going through the motions with ineffectual pressure. At the beginning of the eighth, Charlo landed a simple jab to the head and jab to the body, with the last punch being partially blocked. However, that punch to the gut sent Rosario to the canvas, where he briefly convulsed and never got close to beating referee Harvey Dock's count.

Photo Courtesy of Amanda Westcott

Perhaps Charlo's last punch hit the perfect spot, but more likely it was that Rosario was a spent bullet; the grueling nature of the fight, not to mention his significant weight cut, had depleted all of his energy reserves. The ending looked similar to last year's Kovalev-Yarde fight, where Kovalev stopped the proceedings with a jab. After both of these knockouts, the losing fighter stayed on the canvas for several minutes. Although Charlo and Kovalev do have excellent jabs, it was not the punch itself that led to such devastating consequences, but what came before it, both the fights themselves and the losing boxers' fight preparation. 

Jermell's win was not a certainly or a formality. He had to earn it. Employing a risky strategy against a big puncher who knew how to impose his size on a smaller fighter, Jermell had little margin for error. He counted on two factors for the victory: his belief in his power punching and the sturdiness of his chin. 

As mentioned earlier, Charlo had to tie up on a number of occasions. Some of that could be attributed to simply resetting the action, but there were a few occasions, specifically after body barrages, where Charlo looked like he had truly felt Rosario's power, and that had made him uncomfortable. But unlike many fighters who fall apart against punchers, Charlo acted like a seasoned veteran. He stopped the action and bought time. He didn't hold or clinch excessively, but he did it strategically, and he wasn't too proud or too macho to use those tactics. They helped win him the fight. 

From the opening seconds of the fight, Charlo made it clear what his game plan would be. He was winging hooks with full force and trying to knock out Rosario with almost every shot. He wasn't going for a points victory or doing the things necessary to put rounds in the bank. He and trainer Derrick James believed that the knockout would be their best way to win the fight. In a battle of chins, they thought that Jermell's would prevail.  

Charlo lost a number of rounds in the fight, as his employed strategy would normally dictate. Most rounds he threw less than 40 punches, a meager total in the 154-lb. division. But perhaps even more telling was the geography of the fight. Charlo invited pressure from Rosario. He backed up slowly toward the ropes, looking for opportunities to land counter left hooks and right hands. He absorbed a ton of big shots while waiting for openings. That style only works if the fighter's knockout power is real and he has the chin, conditioning and ring smarts to withstand heavy fire.  

Despite stopping seven of his last nine opponents, Jermell’s knockout percentage is only right above 50%. (And keep in mind that his recent stoppages have been against world-class opposition. Usually when a fighter faces better opponents, his knockout rate drops.) Yet, our eyes do not deceive us. His power is legitimate, threatening and devastating. His recent string of stoppages has coincided with his switch to Derrick James as his trainer. Jermell's style with James differs markedly from how he was developed as a pro under Ronnie Shields. With Shields, Jermell was known for his legs and jab. He was a classic boxer-puncher who won fights more with his athletic and technical skills than his power. But with James, Charlo has focused on holding his ground, sitting down on his shots and inflicting damage.  

Derrick James also trains Errol Spence, one of the most dynamic power punchers in the sport. For whatever reason, there are few trainers who make punching their forte. Some trainers favor aggression, defensive responsibility, tactical brilliance or overall well-roundedness. But James is one of the few notable American trainers who believes in punching more than any other factor in a fight. It's not that he ignores issues of defense or strategy, but he believes at the end of the day that the guy with the more devastating offensive arsenal is the one who wins fights. It leads to high-risk game plans like Spence against Kell Brook and Shawn Porter, and Charlo against Tony Harrison in the rematch and Rosario. 

And James's philosophy is more than just "hit hard." His fighters stay calm under duress. They expect incoming fire. They don't run out of the pocket in a frenzy of panic. James's fighters understand that the moments when opponents engage in battle is where damage can be inflicted. That's when a fight can be decided. He's not a proponent of the "hit and not be hit" style of boxing. He believes in "hit harder and hit better." It takes a special kind of boxer and individual to thrive in James's preferred style. Most don't have the whiskers or the desire to try it. But it creates thrilling, entertaining fights and to this point James's success speaks for itself; he now has two of the top fighters in the sport. 

Jermell Charlo has quietly put together one of the better resumes in the sport. With wins over Rosario, Harrison, Trout, Lubin and Martirosyan, he has tested himself against many of the best in a deep division. The one mark against him on his record, a debatable loss to Harrison, was avenged with a memorable knockout last year. Yes, there will be opponents he won't be able to knock out and he will struggle to win enough rounds in those fights; however, he has ridden his new style to the top echelon of the sport. He's must-see television and has genuine star power. 

And unlike many in boxing, he's had to make his own luck. He believed he needed to make a trainer switch, and that he would be more successful as a puncher. He adapted his style mid-career. These are hard changes to make, and he deserves full credit for envisioning his career in a way that few others did. 


While watching Jermall Charlo's impressive victory over middleweight contender Sergiy Derevyanchenko on Saturday, I thought to myself a couple of times, I'm watching one of the most complete fighters in boxing. Jermall flashed almost every conceivable offensive weapon: a sturdy left jab, lead left hooks, hard right hands, uppercuts to the head and body, hooking off the jab, left jab/left uppercut combinations. He offered all the goods. 

And it was more than just his punching. Why Jermall performed better against Derevyanchenko than Gennadiy Golovkin and Daniel Jacobs did is that he is also a better athlete. At numerous points in the fight, Derevyanchenko attacked Charlo behind an overhand right, and Charlo was able to take a brief step back and counter with blistering uppercuts to the body, the perfect shot to thwart that particular foray. It was his ability to move just enough where he could hurt Derevyanchenko without getting hit in return that may have won him the fight. Golovkin and Jacobs couldn't feature the same type of clever movement in close quarters.  

Photo Courtesy of Amanda Westcott

Now it wasn't as if Derevyanchenko was shut out in the fight, far from it. He knew exactly what he needed to do to win and from about the fourth round on he executed his game plan ably. Charlo was just a little sharper and a little more versatile with his attack. Charlo ultimately won the fight with scorecards that didn't necessarily reflect the competitiveness of the bout (116-112, 117-111 and 118-110), but he deserved the victory. He had to be exceptional to defeat that version of Derevyanchenko, and mostly, he was. 

Despite his third defeat, Derevyanchenko remains a tough opponent. His limitations from the outside are of course an issue, but he has wonderful inside fighting skills and more importantly he knows that once he's at close range, he won't stop firing. That's where he makes his money, and he fully understands his strengths and weaknesses. The only knock on his performance from Saturday is that he overcompensated from his poor starts in recent fights. He had been knocked down in the first round against both Jacobs and Golovkin. On Saturday he seemed wary about engaging too early in the fight and was a little too cautious as a result. He was already down three or four points by the time he committed to his attack. Once he did, he was essentially even with Charlo; however, a fight is 12 rounds, and Derevyanchenko still hasn't found a way to win enough of them to beat a top opponent. 

For Charlo, there are still minor quibbles one can make.  To my eyes, the only thing strategically he could have done better was to tie up every so often, like his brother did against Rosario. As a puncher, he was looking for opportunities to land hard counters. But there were certain exchanges where he took a few more shots than needed. Tying up would have reduced the potency of Derevyanchenko's attack to a degree. 

Charlo also overshot his left hook in close quarters. The punch was much better when Derevyanchenko was at range. Now, some credit needs to be given to Sergiy's ability to fight low and avoid the hook, but Charlo was never able to use the punch as a weapon on the inside. But ultimately, it's tough to be perfect against such quality opposition and Charlo, in my opinion, put together the best performance of his career. 


The Charlo brothers headlined their first pay per view event on Saturday and they shined. Both had been displeased with their treatment earlier in their respective careers, believing that they had star power, but for some reason were being neglected in favor of other fighters. At this point, it's clear that they were correct with their self-belief.  However, one must note that they came up in a division teeming with young talent and that their management and representation had numerous accomplished fighters at around the same age group. 

Essentially, they have earned their status in the sport. Perhaps they were right in believing that other fighters were being handed opportunities at a younger age than were deserved, but the Charlos have now backed up their frustration with excellent ring performances. 

Less than two years ago, the Charlos headlined their first major show. It was supposed to be their coming out party, but both disappointed on the night. Jermell was defeated by Tony Harrison and Jermall certainly could have lost in a challenging, technical fight against Matvey Korobov. Twenty-one months later, the Charlos were now finally ready for their big moment. They thrived in wonderfully entertaining fights. 

That experience from 2018 has led to both fighters further dedicating themselves to the sport. Jermell didn't believe that his loss to Harrison was legitimate. He now fully understood that scorecards won't always be friendly, and it's much more advantageous to settle things in the ring without relying on the judges. As for Jermell, he knew how challenging that Korobov fight was. He wasn't technically sharp that night and it was one of the few times in his career (with the Trout fight being the other) where he seemed the lesser fighter during significant portions of the action. He had to get sharper. 

Jermell and Jermall were both very good prospects coming up. I would rate them around the A-minus level. They were talented, but they weren't necessarily sure things to become elite fighters. Every generation has a lot of A-minus prospects, but most of them don't make it as far as the Charlos have. The brothers are great examples of how motivation, desire and self-belief can help get to the next level. Their lack of self-satisfaction is evident: they want more for themselves, and they know that the level they are at is still far beneath what they can achieve in the sport. 

These intangible factors often are what separate the great from the very good. Both are highly skilled talents, but there's a lot of talent in the sport, and talent is not enough at the top level of boxing. It's Jermell's willingness to soak up punishment to land shots. It's Jermall's ring awareness to neutralize a hard charging opponent. It's their desire to understand the sport and an opponent on a fundamental level. It's having 100% belief in a trainer and the game plan. Lots of guys have hand speed and flashy skills. But to get to where the Charlos are, it takes much more than that. Perhaps the Charlos’ greatest quality is their lack of self-satisfaction. It fuels them. And I wish more fighters possessed that trait; then we'd see a better sport.

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. 

Friday, September 25, 2020

Soul City Rising

Every now and then in boxing a new gym emerges from an area outside of the sport's traditional centers of power. Far removed from bright lights or celebrity fighters, the owners and trainers of these gyms succeed through finding and cultivating talent (often young kids), paying their dues on the amateur scene and believing that boxing can be a means to salvation – that the sport can rescue those from the streets and provide purpose, discipline and a safe haven.  

Soul City Boxing and Wrestling Gym in Toledo, Ohio is one such place. It's a family owned and operated affair, with the principals being Otha Jones Jr. and his son, Roshawn Jones. They are lead and co-trainer, respectively. The gym opened in 2008 and after years of incremental progress, the Joneses are now poised to become much bigger names in the sport. Four fighters with world-class potential call Soul City their home, and fittingly, they are all part of the extended Jones family. 

Otha Jones III (left) with brother Roshawn Jones
Photo Courtesy of Roshawn Jones

Perhaps the most advanced professional fighter in their gym is Charles Conwell, the hard-hitting junior middleweight and U.S. Olympian who is 12-0 with nine knockouts. Conwell will headline a ShoBox card on Oct. 7 against Wendy Toussaint. Conwell, a cousin of the Joneses, is not the only member of the extended family to appear on the card. His half-brother, Isaiah Steen (14-0, 11 KOs), faces Kalvin Henderson in a middleweight bout that night. 

In talking to Roshawn Jones, he provided his scouting report on both fighters. "Conwell is boxing's best kept secret," he said. "People don't know about him that much. But when they find out, they say this dude is a hard hitter, very strategic and has great defense...He's compact. He's going to work his way on the inside." Jones is looking forward to the Toussaint fight because he knows that Conwell is going to have to beat fighters with a stick-and-move style. 

As for Steen, Jones calls him his gym's Tommy Hearns to Conwell's Marvin Hagler. Steen is long and rangy, and also growing into his power. Jones believes that Henderson's come-forward style and power punching will present a real test for Steen.  

According to Jones, what has separated his top fighters from others in the sport has been their desire to show up to the gym every day, no matter what. They are always ready to work, looking to get better. And both Conwell and Steen, according to Jones, have always been coachable, a trait vital for young fighters looking to advance.

The family connection in Soul City doesn't stop with Conwell and Steen. Otha Jones III, Roshawn's brother and Otha Jr.'s son, is a fast-rising prospect who is signed with Matchroom Boxing USA. Jones III won numerous national tournaments as an amateur and is already 5-0 as a pro. If Conwell and Steen are known more for their power, albeit in different ways, Jones III has an abundance of speed, with ultra-fast hands and feet. Although Jones III has not dazzled in every one of his pro outings to this point, the family has insisted that he gets matched tough. And at least three of his opponents have been much better than what most 19- and 20-year-old prospects face in their initial pro fights. 

Roshawn's sister, Oshae Jones, is one of the top female amateurs in the United States and at the age of 22 has already represented the U.S. around the world in tournaments in India, Bulgaria, Russia, Peru and Spain among other countries. She was set to go to the 2020 Olympics before the pandemic hit.   

"Our motto is 'We are a Family,'" said Roshawn Jones. "Even if you're not a biological family member or relative, you coming in here to the gym, having a positive mindset, that makes you family. We're all coming together, no matter your race, no matter your nationality, no matter your religion, no matter your sexual preference. We are all family. We stick together."

And it's more than just trophies and titles for Jones family. When the Toledo public school system cut a number of high school sports, Soul City provided free youth classes. During the Coronavirus pandemic, Soul City was the first gym in Toledo to re-open its doors. For them, it was imperative to be there for the community, to continue to provide an outlet. 

Despite their overall positivity, the Jones family has had to overcome their share of adversity. As recently as 2017, money was tight and the boxing gym was struggling to make ends meet. Roshawn Jones decided to step up for the family. Despite a serious neck injury from his high school wrestling days, Roshawn fought professionally three times, with his purses plowed back into Soul City to keep the gym afloat. (And he did win all three of his fights by knockout.) 

"The only reason I turned professional is that the gym needed money to stay open," said Roshawn. "I had to use the money to invest in our amateur fighters for their tournaments. It was a sacrifice, but if a situation comes up where I got to look out for our family or our company, then I got to do what I got to do."

The gym is on solid footing now. With their professional fighters aligned with David McWater's Split-T Management and signed with promoters such as Eddie Hearn and Lou DiBella, the Jones family believes that their boxers are in a position to ascend rapidly. Their dreams are close to being realized, but there's little time for self-satisfaction in Soul City.

"We're here to break records," said Jones. "We had that conversation 14 years ago and we still have that conversation now. We're breaking records with the amateur fighters that we have, with my sister going to the Olympics, with Charles Conwell going to the Olympics and Otha Jones III going to the Youth Olympics. People never did that stuff from around here. And we keep going."

For Roshawn, Soul City and boxing is 24-7. Although he's only 31, he's been working corners for years. He scouts opponents, watches fight clips, trains the next generation of amateurs in the gym and works every day to harness the principles of Soul City – family, positivity and cohesion – to create a lasting legacy, and help scores of kids along the way. 

Although their accomplishments have been impressive to this point, the Jones family knows that much work remains. Their goals didn't stop with amateur success. They want to get to the top, and by doing it the right way, following the principles they espouse with Soul City. And the big time is now within reach. 

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.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The Development Trap

The development trap is one of the true conundrums in the sport. Take the quick money, the early title shot, or pull back the reins and let talent develop. The right answer often isn’t obvious. This decision keeps matchmakers, managers and trainers up at night, and it’s one of beguiling and enduring mysteries in the sport. When is a fighter truly ready? It's impossible to know with 100% certainly. Sure, everyone will get it wrong at some point, but the question is how often, and what can be done to reduce a faulty process so that better decisions are made in the future?

The impetus behind this article is my belief that too many fighters are falling short of their potential due to a bad combination of not enough seasoning for top prospects and overly aggressive teams. There are not enough A-fighters in boxing right now, which is a concern. And the development trap issue isn't just a Top Rank problem or a PBC problem, it's categorical within the sport. 


In a weekend that featured Erickson Lubin, Jaron "Boots" Ennis and Tugstsogt "King Tug" Nyambayar, I started thinking about the development trap. On Saturday, Lubin was fighting Terrell Gausha, with the winner getting another shot at a world title. Three years ago, after just turning 22, Lubin had his first title opportunity against Jermell Charlo. Lubin had been a hyped prospect and his team had been pushing for him to be moved very quickly. Unfortunately for him, he didn't make it to the second round of that fight as Charlo destroyed him with a three-punch combination. Lubin's defense fell apart completely because of a double jab. This resulted in Lubin leaving his left side completely unguarded for Charlo's right hand. There was nothing fancy in Charlo's combination, but it was concerning to see Lubin react so poorly to a basic boxing move. 

It's not that a 22-year old can't become a boxing champ. Certainly many have and many more will achieve the feat. But the proposition becomes far more difficult when the 22-year-old has faced such a weak slate of development opponents. In Lubin's 18 fights prior to Charlo, there was no former champ or tough contender on his resume. Although he fought numerous lower-level gatekeepers and trial horses, no opponent in his development would have been a threat at the top of the junior middleweight division. 

After the Charlo loss, Lubin regrouped and fought among others a faded champ in Ishe Smith and a rugged contender in Nathaniel Gallimore, precisely the type of opponents that Lubin should have fought before his title shot (And those were the exact two opponents that Julian Williams faced after also getting knocked out in his first title shot. Williams was another boxer who fought a relatively weak collection of developmental opponents.) 

Lubin (left) curls his left around Gausha
Photo Courtesy of Amanda Westcott

On Saturday, Lubin scarcely resembled the young gun who entered the ring full of confidence a few years back. He boxed cautiously. He pumped out his right jab and opened up sporadically. He would box his way to unanimous decision and he was able to hurt Gausha in the 12th round with a sharp right hook. But Lubin was hurt badly in the 10th round by an overhand right by Gausha, who is not a big puncher or an adept finisher. Lubin's leg gave out after absorbing the shot and if Gausha had more power or guile in putting his shots together, he certainly could have ended the fight. Lubin deserves credit for eventually recovering, but he had to survive some rocky moments. 

Lubin is still young and can improve, but his defensive shortcomings are still present. His left glove positioning is a mess. He will put it in all sorts of places during a fight. At points he tucked his left glove under his chin, which would make it impossible to protect himself from a temple shot or a shot high on the head (and would you believe that's the punch that Gausha hurt him with?) But let's say Jermell Charlo wins his fight this weekend (which isn't a given) and faces Lubin for a second time. Who would be confident that Lubin wins the rematch?

And all of this leads back to Lubin's development. Shouldn't his management and backers have been aware of these issues before throwing him in his initial title fight? If he was stepped up more gradually, wouldn't Lubin have been in a better position to learn from his mistakes and correct them in future bouts? It turns out that Gausha was a great opponent for Lubin. He landed a couple of hard shots, but didn't really possess the next-level talent to beat him. And Saturday's experience would have been even better had it happened before the title shot. Maybe his team would have then realized that Lubin still needed a few more fights to correct some defensive issues, to learn how to deal with duress better.  


King Tug Nyambayar won a split decision against late replacement Cobia Breedy in the co-feature to Lubin-Gausha. Earlier in the year Tug lost a spirited fight to featherweight champion Gary Russell. That fight, like Saturday's one against Breedy, featured a concerning performance from Tug. During the first-half of the Russell bout, Tug seemed completely overwhelmed in the ring. He had no answers for Russell’s hand or foot speed, and didn't have the confidence to put punches together. Eventually he came on and won some rounds in the back half of the fight. But still, he wasn't fully prepared for the Russell bout. But why would he have been? It was only his 12th professional fight. Defeating slow-handed fighters like Claudio Marrero and Oscar Escandon wouldn't have prepared Tug for Russell's speed. But Tug's team was more interested in positioning its fighter for a title shot than actually preparing him for one. 

Tugstsogt "King Tug" Nyambayar (left) with a left hook
Photo Courtesy of Amanda Westcott

On Saturday, despite dropping Breedy twice (once in the first, once in the second), Tug had to sweat it out on the cards. You know why? Because he still isn't a 12-round fighter. Despite having a significant power advantage and an opponent who could be hurt, Nyambayar just didn't want to work a whole fight. Again, these are the types of traits that should be known about a fighter before he reaches the top. 

Lubin and Tug still have significant flaws, even after their title losses, which begs the question of why their teams were throwing them into title shots far before they were ready. It's one thing to roll the dice with a limited fighter and put him in a title shot. It's another thing to shortchange a legit prospect's development. I mean, it's sad to see Lubin fighting gun shy at 24. Here was one of America's top amateurs and in just a few short years he doesn't feel comfortable opening up against a non-puncher. Clearly that wasn't the plan. 

Of course, another part of the development trap is rushing a guy into a title shot, and he wins. Consider Shakur Stevenson for a moment. He's a young kid with all the promise in the world. After just 12 pro fights he was sent into a title shot and he won, convincingly might I add, against Joet Gonzalez. But here's the rub: Stevenson is only 23 and because he makes good money, he will now only be fighting most likely twice a year. He's still at a crucial development time in his career and it would be an absolute sin for his talent to be sitting on the shelf for six months at a time. Think about how much he could improve with more camps and legit opponents. To date he's only faced two fighters, Christopher Diaz and Gonzalez, whom I would refer to as even "B-level." And it's a strange, messed up sport when Stevenson's last opponent, Felix Caraballo, who lost every second of his fight against Shakur, gets brought back to fight this past weekend by the same promotional company while there's not even a peep about Stevenson's next bout. 

On one hand Stevenson is now in a position where he is making mid-six figures a fight. That's very good money. However, what if he doesn't become as great as he could have been? Even after winning a belt he still doesn't have a ton of professional seasoning. What if he never develops the fan base that he should because he's not in the ring often enough? Although I'm sure Stevenson and his team may be quite happy with many of their choices, an argument can be made that their current path may reduce their chances of seeing the big money down the road. Stevenson should be back in the ring as soon as possible. He was barely touched in his last fight. Yet...crickets. This scenario is another manifestation of the development trap. 


Let's take a look at three uber-talented young American fighters: Vergil Ortiz (22 years old, 16-0), Devin Haney (21 years old, 24-0) and Boots Ennis (23 years old, 26-0). All three of these fighters could be on the short list of the top fighters in the sport in five years. However, only one of them currently is a "champion," which is Haney, who has a version of the WBC lightweight belt. Haney and his team initially wanted a shot as Lomachenko, which is their right (even though Haney hadn't fought anyone of note on his way up). However, Lomachenko's team and the WBC concocted a scheme whereby Haney would not get a Lomachenko fight but would receive some piece of silverware from the organization. Meanwhile, Ennis and Ortiz have both fought twice since Haney last laced them up (to be fair, Haney did have a minor shoulder surgery).  

Needless to say, a 21-year-old should not be out of the ring for a year. And perhaps if Haney wasn't a "champion" right now, he could have already made his way back on a smaller card. Ennis and Ortiz are continuing to develop while Haney has done all of his fighting in 2020 through press releases and interviews. 

On the flip side, it's easy to see the talent of Ennis and Ortiz and say that they're ready for a title shot now. I mean, we don't see a lot of five-star prospects these days. And maybe these two fighters, not fully polished yet, could win a title. But to this point their respective teams aren't forcing that direction. Perhaps we must give credit to Errol Spence and Terence Crawford for that as well. Ennis and Ortiz are both welterweights, and there isn't a path to grab a belt against a less-than-elite fighter. Maybe if the Carlos Baldomirs of the world still held a welterweight title, the teams of Ortiz and Ennis would be friskier. 

Jaron "Boots" Ennis (right) splits the guard of Abreu
Photo Courtesy of Amanda Westcott

For now, they are playing it smart. The repetitions of additional training camps and pro fights, and the steady raising of opposition quality still have a role to play. Ennis, despite an abundance of talent, has yet to face even a B-fighter, and although Ortiz has, you won't find a true contender on his resume. Both also still have things to work on. Ennis didn't look particularly comfortable in the clinch against Luis Carlos Abreu on Saturday, constantly looking to the ref for help and exhibiting bad body language. You can bet that other fighters and trainers saw that as well. If I'm Ennis's team, I put him in with a mauler or a grappler next to have him more comfortable with that style. As for Ortiz, he has made steady strides with his defense, especially with seeing opposing right hands. But he still leaves himself a little too open during exchanges. Both fighters need to make additional refinements before fully reaching their best in the ring. 

Yet Haney, because he is "champion," because at 21 he insists he is in the big-money phase of his career, will play around hoping that Gary Russell will fight him. If the Russell fight doesn't materialize next, Haney will then fight the ghost of Yuriorkis Gamboa, who when last we saw him had only one Achilles tendon and the ability to take hard shots. Isn't this version of Gamboa the guy Haney should have been fighting three, four fights ago? How is a past-it Gamboa going to make Haney a better fighter? Haney fighting a "name" is more important to his team right now then actually having him improve as a fighter, which is a classic development trap.


Let's end this on a positive note. Matching and developing fighters is more of an art than a science. A team can do everything right and a fighter can still come up short. A boxer can have poor development bouts and yet still have a Hall of Fame career (take a look at Andre Ward's poor development slate). But what upsets me the most is when teams make poor decisions because they didn't have the right information, because they ignored it, or because they weren't interested in finding out about their fighter. Far too many in the sport pride themselves on maneuvering or positioning their fighters into title opportunities instead of developing top talents. Of course, once you have the connections, it's far easier to maneuver than to develop. 

This brings us to Jermell Charlo, who fights Jeison Rosario on Saturday for a chance to unify three belts in the 154-lb. division. Jermell Charlo was once thought of as the lesser talent to his brother Jermall. Big brother Jermall was the puncher and little brother Jermell was the jabber. If you look at Jermell's slate of development fights, you can tell that nothing was gift wrapped for him. Prior to fighting for a belt, he faced Vanes Martirosyan, a U.S. Olympian who could box, had power and liked it rough on the inside. He fought Gabe Rosado, perhaps one of the sport's pre-eminent B-fighters, a guy who keeps coming despite whatever return fire comes his way. Charlo defeated Joachim Alcine, a former champ and tricky mover. In addition, he fought Demetrius Hopkins, a rugged and skilled B-fighter. He also took on tough gatekeepers such as Dashon Johnson, Denis Douglin and Francisco Santana. 

In short, Charlo was as ready as he was going to be for his first title shot, which he won in a challenging fight against John Jackson. Jermell's team didn't fall for the development trap. He was given the appropriate opponents and time to develop. Perhaps because he was never among the absolute best prospects coming up, he was afforded more patience. And that patience has been rewarded. Should he win on Saturday, he will have three belts and a seat at the table with the other elite fighters in boxing. Jermell Charlo is proof that sometimes matchmakers, managers, advisors, promoters and the fighters themselves get it right, allowing a talent to flourish to his full potential. I wish that would happen more. When it works, the results can be magical. 

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.

Friday, September 4, 2020

SI Boxing Podcast

I joined Chris Mannix's SI Boxing podcast this week, which also featured journalist Michael Woods. We discussed the Canelo/DAZN drama, the Charlo brothers and their upcoming fights, and what should be next for Tim Tszyu. To listen to the podcast, click here or here. The podcast can also be viewed on DAZN starting Sunday, September 6th. 

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, September 3, 2020

Punch 2 the Face Radio

Boxing is back in force and this week's Punch 2 the Face podcast embraces its return. We recapped Ramirez-Postol. Should we be concerned by Ramirez's performance? Is Erislandy Lara still one of the best at 154? We looked ahead to this week's fight action. We also talked about the latest shenanigans from the WBA and discussed the most recent Canelo/DAZN drama. 

To listen to the podcast, click on the links below: 

Also, find us on Spotify: Punch 2 the Face Radio #189.

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.