Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Pound-for-Pound Update 12-28-21

After a busy autumn where many of the top fighters in the sport were in action, it's time to update the Saturday Night Boxing Pound-for-Pound List. This update will hit the highlights for the major moves in the Rankings, as well as point out the fighters who have entered the top-20 and those who have been removed. 

At the top, the most notable change has been Oleksandr Usyk, who jumps to #2 after his win over Anthony Joshua. Usyk, the former undisputed cruiserweight champ, now holds three major belts at heavyweight. Also at heavyweight, Tyson Fury moves up to #8 after his thrilling victory over Deontay Wilder in their third fight. 

Oleksandr Usyk continues to ascend the Rankings
Photo courtesy of Mark Robinson

Josh Taylor ascends to #5 after becoming undisputed junior welterweight champion, defeating fellow titleholder Jose Ramirez by unanimous decision. He also scored two knockdowns in the fight. 

The highest debutant in the Rankings is junior featherweight Stephen Fulton, who has won two belts in 2021, beating undefeated titlists Angelo Leo and Brandon Figueroa. Fulton enters the Rankings at #15. Gervonta Davis also makes his debut on the pound-for-pound list. Davis has demonstrated that he can compete on the world-level in three divisions (130, 135, 140), which is the essence of pound-for-pound. Additional top-level opponents could see him further ascend in the Rankings. He debuts at #16. 

Spots 18, 19 and 20 are all new fighters as well. John Riel Casimero enters the list after a less-than-impressive split decision victory over Guillermo Rigondeaux. Still, Casimero has won world titles in three divisions and has proven that on his best night he is an elite fighter. Cruiserweight champion Mairis Briedis enters the Rankings at #19. He's amassed impressive victories over Yuniel Dorticos, Krzysztof Glowacki and Marco Huck in the division, while also giving Usyk his toughest fight to date. And coming in at #20 is Knockout CP Freshmart, the longtime strawweight champion from Thailand. Although his opponents haven't all been terrific (but many have been capable), he's defended his title ten times, an impressive achievement in any context.  

The biggest name to drop out of the Rankings is Teofimo Lopez, who lost a split decision to George Kambosos. Lopez didn't look good in that fight and while he did win some rounds, he didn't have a legitimate case for winning. Without a fight scheduled at the moment, Gennadiy Golovkin drops from the Rankings on account of inactivity. He was supposed to fight Ryota Murata in December, but the bout was cancelled due to COVID-related travel issues. Nevertheless, Golovkin has not faced a top opponent in over two years. 

Manny Pacquiao drops out of the Rankings after his unanimous decision loss to Yordenis Ugas. After the fight, Pacquiao announced his retirement.

Two more notable departures include Mikey Garcia and Kenshiro Teraji. Garcia lost a majority decision to Sandor Martin in a fight where he looked uncomfortable pulling the trigger. Teraji was upset by the relatively unknown Masamichi Yabuki, losing via a tenth-round stoppage. 

Here is the complete Saturday Night Boxing Pound-for-Pound List: 

  1. Saul Alvarez
  2. Oleksandr Usyk
  3. Naoya Inoue
  4. Terence Crawford
  5. Josh Taylor
  6. Juan Estrada
  7. Errol Spence
  8. Tyson Fury
  9. Artur Beterbiev
  10. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai
  11. Roman Gonzalez
  12. Kazuto Ioka
  13. Vasiliy Lomachenko
  14. Stephen Fulton
  15. Jermell Charlo
  16. Gervonta Davis
  17. Jermall Charlo
  18. John Riel Casimero
  19. Mairis Briedis
  20. Knockout CP Freshmart
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 23, 2021

Punch 2 the Face Radio

In this week's Punch 2 the Face podcast, Brandon and I recapped a jam-packed boxing weekend including Beterbiev-Browne and Parker-Chisora II. We looked ahead to the Christmas boxing action. We also discussed our favorite moments and key boxing themes from 2021. To listen to the podcast, click on the links below:

Apple podcast link:

Spotify link:

I heart radio link:

Stitcher 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. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook. 

Monday, December 13, 2021

Catching My Eye: Loma, Benn, Donaire, Edwards

Height and reach are often used in boxing as proxies for size. These measures can help explain specific advantages or disadvantages that a fighter may have in a given matchup. But let's remember that these tangible measurements are just "proxies," which of course comes from the same word family as "approximate" – an estimate, not exact. Height and reach are only rough guides; they are not the final word for determining or in some cases even adequately describing size. 

For example, let's take a look at Saturday's matchup between Vasiliy Lomachenko and Richard Commey. Commey had a one-inch height and five-inch reach advantage over Lomachenko. On paper, Commey's reach advantage seemed significant. But watching the fight play out, it became obvious that Commey's reach wasn't going to be a factor at all. Not a committed jabber, Commey has made his living with power shots. And even if that were not the case, I can't think of any opponent who has controlled Lomachenko with a jab. He's just not in one place long enough for that punch to be a factor. 

Loma (left) getting work done on the inside
Photo courtesy of Mikey Williams

Much of Lomachenko-Commey took place at mid-range or closer. And when there was clinching on the inside, it was Loma, the "featherweight" or the "junior lightweight," who was manhandling the supposedly bigger fighter. Lomachenko scored the fight's only knockdown in the seventh when he maneuvered himself in the clinch to create an opening and landed a huge, short left hand. 

Later on in the round, Lomachenko had Commey trapped in a corner. Commey tried his best to get out of that position, but Lomachenko's punching, use of distance and physical strength wouldn't allow Commey to get to safety. Commey just barely survived the seventh, but that round illustrated the folly of using size proxies as gospel. Loma's core strength and how he applied it made it clear who was the more imposing physical fighter – and it wasn't the guy who has been a big lightweight throughout most of his career. 

In a strong performance, Lomachenko won via a wide unanimous decision. This fight should be a reminder that he's far more than just hand speed and clever angles. He was causing damage with his fists, sure, but he also used his body to dominate his opponent. Hopefully, this will help end the lazy narrative that Lomachenko isn't a real lightweight. He was a physical force in the ring on Saturday, beating up a former lightweight champion. To me it doesn't matter what division he started his professional career; what I saw was a fighter who was beating up a strong lightweight with his body. At no point did Lomachenko look overmatched physically in the fight. If anything, Commey had never experienced that type of physical depletion in the ring. 


Conor Benn was not viewed as a serious threat to the top of the welterweight division 18 months ago. The son of a famous fighter, he had a strong surname and some rudimentary power. He helped sell tickets and generated some casual interest on Matchroom cards. 

But a funny thing has happened over his last four fights, he has improved significantly. Under trainer Tony Sims' guidance, Benn has added numerous facets to his game. He's now much more than a crude knockout artist. He puts punches together well. He invests in body shots. His footwork has become more functional and less ponderous. He has learned to pace himself better. 

Benn (left) knocking out Algieri in the 4th round
Photo courtesy of Mark Robinson

Benn knocked out former junior welterweight champ Chris Algieri on Saturday with a perfect one-two. The final right hand landed like a missile and Algieri, who is usually a durable fighter, was left motionless on the canvas for a few brief moments. He wasn't in any type of position to beat the count. 

As Benn has been moved steadily up the welterweight division, the next test for him is to see if his chin can hold up. To this point, you won't find a real puncher on his resume, and I have to believe that's not coincidental. If he can take a punch, he will have a chance at the top of the division. His offense can be explosive and he has fight-ending power. But if his beard isn't up to snuff, much of that won't matter. It's time to see what the kid has. There is no easy way to get a belt at welterweight, and the handbrakes need to come off. Let's see if Conor can take a punch. We know he can throw one. 


Boxing presents infinite opportunities for those inclined to be angry to express themselves: subpar matchups; sanctioning body shenanigans, poor judging, the best not fighting the best, etc. And there will always be time to return to those areas of discontent. However, let's also not lose the forest through the trees; boxing continues to offer sublime pleasures. On Saturday, we had another opportunity to witness one of boxing's best treats – Nonito Donaire's left hook. 

Donaire, still a titlist at 39, ended yet another opponent on Saturday with his signature shot. Reymart Gaballo fought with determination and steel in the first three rounds of their fight. It was clear that he wanted to defeat his Filipino countryman and announce himself on the world stage. But the problem that so many fighters encounter with Donaire is that when they throw their right hand often, there will be an opportunity for Donaire to land his left hook.  

Donaire (right) landing his signature left hook
Photo courtesy of Esther Lin

Donaire connected with the left to the body in the fourth. He actually left his feet to land the shot, which connected with a sickening thud. Gaballo dropped to the canvas. He tried getting up at "8," but the pain was too much and went right back down. 

In my opinion Donaire's left hook and Deontay Wilder's right hand are the best two punches in boxing today. Both fighters have losses on their resume; they have and can be beaten. But they have the potential to knock out any single opponent in front of them with their best shot. Donaire doesn't have the speed that he once did. His defense is now just adequate. But he still has that crushing left hook. It's a special punch. And it was my pleasure to watch him display his prodigious gift one more time. 


Flyweight champ Sunny Edwards has great feet, among the very best in boxing. And in addition to his considerable athleticism, he understands range very well. Without a huge punch he knows that his best chance of winning any given fight will be on the outside. His opponent on Saturday, Jayson Mama, understood this as well. Mama spent the first four rounds of their fight doing exactly what he needed to do against a much faster foe: going to the body, making the fight rough and rugged, and using the dark arts to gain an advantage. 

The opening third of the fight was a huge gut check for Edwards. Mama rabbit punched him a lot, went low with shots and wasn't shy about leading with his head. By the third round Edwards had a huge cut on his hairline from a headbutt. Mama made these rounds competitive. In addition to the fouls and grappling, he landed some eye-catching chopping right hands. 

But then it was almost as if a switch turned on for Edwards and he said to himself: I don't need to be in this type of fight. He spent the last seven rounds or so of the bout in cruise control, dominating the action from the outside. By the end of the match, Mama looked demoralized. It was even hard to remember that Mama had success in the early-going; it had been that long ago. Edwards wound up winning a wide unanimous decision and he demonstrated his class in being able to make in-fight adjustments. 

To beat Edwards, an opponent is going to have to have great legs AND a big punch. Flyweight currently isn't a deep division, but the titleholders are very good. Fights against fellow titlists such as Junto Nakatani and Julio Cesar Martinez would be terrific matchups. 

Although Edwards will never have the physicality to beat the best in an inside fight, few in the entire sport have the combination of his foot speed and boxing ability from the outside. For fans of that outside pure-boxing style (which isn't everyone's cup of tea), Edwards should be a must-watch. And even if you don't like watching a boxer who moves so much, it's still impressive to observe a fighter who has mastered a particular style so comprehensively.

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, November 28, 2021

Opinions and Observations: Lopez-Kambosos, Fulton-Figueroa

In his first fight since his upset victory over Vasiliy Lomachenko, lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez looked far removed from a pound-for-pound talent. Whereas Lopez had a detailed game plan for negating Lomachenko with angles, body shots and footwork, against George Kambosos on Saturday Lopez's only approach seemed to be winging big shots to get a knockout. Lopez wasn't greedy against Lomachenko. He took what was available and didn't get caught overcommitting. Against Kambosos, Lopez got dropped in the first round while he was in a defenseless position.  

I was tough on Lomachenko's performance against Lopez and I'll be tough on Lopez now. Teofimo Lopez was not physically or mentally prepared for his fight against Kambosos. There was a lack of respect for his opponent. He and his father (also his trainer) expected Kambosos to fall over without much resistance. There was no Plan B. And even when Lopez rallied later in the fight and scored a knockdown in the tenth, he not only didn't show enough urgency going for the stoppage, but he could barely put punches together in the next round. His conditioning was poor and he helped to beat himself. 

Kambosos (right) connecting with a left hand
Photo courtesy of Ed Mulholland

But the victory was not handed to Kambosos; he had to take it. He had spent the last year preparing for Lopez, and he did not permit the myriad delays and postponements for the fight to get the better of him physically or psychologically. Kambosos was sharp throughout the fight and displayed a number strong aspects in the ring. His counter right hand, which knocked down Lopez in the first, caused problems all night. He hooked off the jab with precision and often caught Lopez by surprise with the effectiveness of his left hand. 

Perhaps most impressively, Kambosos was able to persevere through some rough moments in the fight. He was dropped hard in the tenth round by a chopping right hand. He had taken pulverizing head and body shots at various points in the fight. However poor Lopez may have been on the night, he was still landing bombs throughout the bout. But Kambosos would not succumb. Even in the round after he was knocked down, he pressed Lopez and had one of his most dominant rounds of the fight. He checked off the "skill" and "will" boxes.  

Make no mistake; this was a rough, brutal match with both fighters absorbing enormous blows. Kambosos was more consistent, more active and competed better in every round. He won via a split decision, and it's always nice to see that the visiting fighter gets the decision in the opponent's backyard. 

After the fight Lopez was in disbelief that he had lost and the local New York crowd voiced its displeasure with Lopez's post-fight comments. New York boxing fans can be incredibly loyal, but they are also not stupid. They know their boxing. And even if Lopez did make the fight competitive, he had no case for being a clear winner.  

Lopez-Kambosos is an illustration of what can happen when a fighter isn't at his best. But it's also a story about making your own luck. It's not just that Lopez was sub-optimal; Kambosos also needed to capitalize on the opportunity. He punished Lopez throughout the fight with hard counters. He was in excellent shape and he wouldn't yield when the going got tough. Kambosos earned his victory. And if few believed in him prior to the fight, he had enough self-belief for all. But it wasn't irrational confidence or hubris, which as Lopez demonstrated can lead to a downfall. Kambosos' confidence was sky-high because he had put in the work, because he knew he could exploit Lopez's defensive holes and spotty work rate. 

The best that one can say about Lopez on Saturday is that he still hits hard and he didn't quit, but the rest...changes must be made and responsibility needs to be taken. No one on his team should be absolved from their share of the blame. But let's remember to start with the fighter himself first. It's his career that hangs in the balance. 


Junior featherweight champions Stephen Fulton and Brandon Figueroa waged a thrilling war on Saturday that featured ferocious inside combat. Figueroa, the bigger fighter, used his size and inside skills to keep Fulton at close range, yet Fulton was not flummoxed by the phone booth battle. He had many periods of the fight where he flashed his considerable arsenal, landing authoritative power shots, even with his back against the ropes. 

Fulton won the fight by a majority decision, but I believe that both fighters had a case for victory. Fulton impressed with clean punching in many rounds. I think that Figueroa was far more successful in the fight as the ring general. The fight was where he wanted it, and he was effective in coming forward. He landed his fair share of hooks from both sides and straight left hands throughout the fight. In particular, I was impressed with how he used his shoulders and hands to keep Fulton in position right in front of him. Although Figueroa does have some crudeness with his punching technique, he showed an expert's ability at how to fight on the inside.

Figueroa (left) and Fulton in a night of inside combat
Photo courtesy of Esther Lin

What I'd like to focus on regarding this fight is how wrong I have been about Figueroa. It's no secret that I was not a fan of his during many of his development fights. I thought that he was a product of fantastic matchmaking, where his lack of speed, power and refined technique was cloaked by his mediocre opposition. Prior to his last fight, against Luis Nery, he had been kept away from real punchers or athletes at 122-lbs. I just wasn't a believer in him. 

But as I was watching Saturday's fight, I was continuously impressed with how adept Figueroa was at imposing his style. There were periods of the fight where Fulton was trapped along the ropes, where Figueroa did magnificently in blocking escape routes. In addition, Figueroa repeatedly landed shots from unconventional angles against a fighter with supposedly better defense. 

I didn't expect Figueroa to beat Nery and I certainly didn't think that he had the athleticism to compete with Fulton, but I believe that he matched Fulton punch for punch. In the end, the fight to me was inconclusive. I have no argument with Fulton winning the fight on two judges' scorecards, but I don't think that his victory was an emphatic performance. At best one can say that he had done enough. But that's not faint praise. Figueroa showed that he is a fighter to be reckoned with and it speaks to Fulton's considerable skill set that he was able to land so frequently and with such menace in that type of fight. 

Fulton beat another pressure fighter, Angelo Leo, in his last bout, but to me that was a clear and decisive victory, where Leo couldn't match Fulton's volume, arsenal or punch accuracy. But I think that Fulton fought Figueroa to a standstill. He shined at moments throughout the fight, but he also got sucked into Figueroa's style. Fulton could have circled more. He could have clinched more strategically. He could have had used his legs more consistently Yes, sometimes you have to bite down and fight a guy who keeps coming, but I also believe that Fulton could have focused on the "sometimes" part a little more often. He didn't HAVE to fight in that style most of the 12 rounds. He was fortunate that two judges preferred his work on the inside.  

Figueroa has had trouble making weight at 122 lbs. and it's possible that he will need to move up to 126 instead of sticking around for a rematch. Nevertheless, he has proven himself as a world-class fighter. And Fulton, as talented and skilled as he is, has to remember that scorecards and judges can be funny things. He won a coin-flip fight on Saturday and he needs to do all he can in future bouts to fight to his strengths and not give judges a reason to prefer his opponent. 

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, November 21, 2021

Opinions and Observations: Crawford-Porter

Terence Crawford possesses a gift of improvisation that few in boxing can match. When Plan A doesn't succeed, he shifts seamlessly to the next approach. And if that doesn't work, he'll keep poking and prodding until he finds something that does. Crawford had a difficult fight against former welterweight titlist on Shawn Porter on Saturday. He was caught off guard by Porter's speed, especially with how fast his feet were. And yet as competitive as the fight was, it was Crawford raising his hands at the end of the night, with another opponent unable to make it to the final bell.  

Crawford has now fought six times at welterweight and has scored a stoppage in each bout. Let's put aside for a moment how unusual it is for a fighter to increase his knockout percentage in his third weight division and against world-level opposition to focus on another aspect. I don't even think that Crawford has had a spectacular performance in the division since his first welterweight fight against Jeff Horn in 2018. Yet even if he has lost some rounds, looked flat at times, didn't have a strong Plan A, he has still finished the job and left no doubt of his supremacy in each fight. 

And that's the secret to Crawford: He understands the nature of a 12-round fight, even if he doesn't need all 36 minutes. There's little panic in him if his first plan of attack doesn't work. He knows that he has time to play with, that his multiplicity of skills allows for patience. And it's the combination of his considerable boxing skills with his ability to make adjustments that makes him so tough to beat in the ring. Eventually he will find something that will best his opponent. 

Porter (left) landing a jab
Photo courtesy of Mikey Williams

I thought that Crawford's first two plans for Saturday's fight weren't successful. He boxed orthodox in the first round and got very little accomplished. And that was the last we saw him as a righthander in the fight. He then shifted to a different approach where he tried to use his legs more and catch Porter in exchanges. But in my estimation he underestimated Porter's foot speed. When Crawford would leave the pocket, Porter could follow him. Porter also had the athleticism to score with second and third efforts even when his initial foray forward was unsuccessful. 

In exchanges, both fighters had good moments. But it wasn't as if Crawford had a noticeable hand speed or power advantage. Porter landed his share of impressive power shots and in addition he was the one usually pressing forward. If not everything was landing cleanly for him, and it wasn't, he was still the one putting in more work. 

Rounds two through seven featured a number of close frames where a couple of punches could have swung things either way. I responded to Porter's work a little better in most of these rounds. They were competitive, but I think that Porter's work rate and ring generalship impressed me a little more. Many of these rounds were what Porter wanted, with Crawford not in control of the action or able to impose himself on the fight.  

Crawford went to a Plan C in the eighth round and this is where he started to take control of the fight. Instead of moving as much or hoping to catch Porter with something big during an exchange, he stayed in the pocket more. Whereas earlier in the fight he would use movement to try to evade an advancing Porter, he now decided to hold his ground more frequently. It was the classic "make him miss and make him pay" where Crawford would avoid Porter's first onrushing punch (usually a right hand) and follow up with a left hand to the body, either a straight left or an uppercut. 

Increasingly that same sequence played out over the next three rounds. As some small signs of fatigue and sloppiness started to enter Porter's work – he was lunging more from out of position, he had lost half a step – it became easier and easier for Crawford to land his counter left hands. 

In the tenth round Crawford's counter lefts were harder and sharper; he had found what he was looking for and this would be his ticket home. He landed a thudding left uppercut during the round that dropped Porter. And moments later he connected with a crushing right hook during a combination that knocked down Porter for a second time. Porter banged the canvas after this shot, realizing that the fight was slipping away from him. He made it to his feet, but his father Kenny, who is his trainer, stopped the fight. Porter certainly looked like he could continue; however, Kenny had seen enough. 

Crawford dropping Porter in the 10th
Photo courtesy of Mikey Williams

Crawford-Porter will be remembered for a number of reasons: It was Crawford's best victory in his career. Porter fought valiantly against one of the top fighters of his era. And a third point will be Kenny Porter's stoppage. After the fight Shawn announced his retirement, that he already had decided to retire prior to stepping into the ring with Crawford. Now, it doesn't take brain surgery to connect the nature of the stoppage to the wish for retirement. Shawn has already transitioned to a successful television broadcasting career. He has a path for the next phase of his life and Kenny probably didn't want to see that ruined. But Kenny also undressed his son in the ring after the fight, upset with Shawn's preparation in camp. 

The way that Kenny Porter aired out some dirty laundry after the fight didn't sit well with many, but I wouldn't profess to understand the dynamics of their relationship. I think that Kenny Porter has been a great trainer. He has taken a short welterweight without punching power to two world titles. And even when Shawn lost, he gave all of his opponents tough work in the ring. I have no doubt that Kenny saw what was happening from rounds eight through ten. Shawn repeatedly made the same mistakes, and was caught with bigger and bigger shots as a result. These were mistakes of fatigue, of Shawn not able to see another way. He just doubled down on an approach that was no longer working. 

Crawford stayed patient. He adapted. He found the shot. He prevailed. 

Saturday won't be remembered as Crawford's most dominant performance, but it was representative of his greatness. He can be hit, he can lose rounds, but he won't be discouraged. His toolbox is absurdly large, but it's more than that. Few fighters can hope to match his adaptability over 12 rounds. He's not afraid to make changes on the fly. At some point, he will find something that works, regardless of the caliber of opposition. 

The longer a fight goes, the worse it gets for Crawford's opponents. Perhaps the scariest part of fighting Crawford is that he only needs to be great for a few rounds. In the end it didn't matter that Porter was fighting wonderfully through seven rounds; he just didn't have enough. Outboxing Terence Crawford over 12 rounds is a Herculean task. It will take a genuine great, Father Time or a true knockout artist to beat Crawford. Absent those factors, mere mortals will continue to be second best in the ring. 

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, November 18, 2021

Crawford-Porter: Preview and Prediction

Two of the top welterweights in the world will battle on Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas as Terence Crawford (37-0, 28 KOs) defends his title against former two-time welterweight champion Shawn Porter (31-3-1, 17 KOs). Most in the sport regard Crawford, a three-division champion, as one of boxing's best fighters, but there is no doubt that Porter will be the best opponent he's faced in his career. Crawford and Porter have known each other since their amateur days and they are intimately familiar with what the other can bring into the ring. 

Through three divisions and 15 world title bouts, Crawford has yet to have a truly close fight. He's been stunned on a couple of occasions and has lost some early rounds here and there, but of his three bouts that have gone the distance in his title fights, no opponent has won more than four rounds on a judge's scorecard. Crawford IS a master boxer, but don't forget his 12 knockouts in 15 title fights. Even at the top level of the sport, few of his opponents have made it to the final bell. 

Crawford and Porter ready for battle
Photo courtesy of Mikey Williams

The conventional wisdom for Crawford-Porter would suggest that Crawford is just too skilled a fighter to get outboxed by Porter. And I think that's right. Crawford has every punch in his tool kit. He can win fights going forward or backward, in the pocket, or using lateral movement. He can dominate opponents out of either stance. It's hard to see Porter winning seven rounds against him to pick up a victory on the scorecards. 

But let's take a look at that conventional wisdom a little more closely. Although Porter might not be able to outbox Crawford, is there still a path for him to winning the fight? I believe that there is. 

Although Crawford scored knockouts in his last two bouts against Mean Machine Kavaliauskas and Kell Brook, I didn't like the way that his face was marking up and swelling in either fight. Keep in mind that the Brook fight only lasted four rounds. Now there are various ways of winning a fight, and it's certainly possible that if Crawford has issues with his skin, or scar tissue, and if Porter lands the right shots, that there could be a Porter by TKO scenario in play – whether by a cut from a punch, or a closed eye – the types of facial injuries where a referee would stop a fight. 

But, can Porter land those shots on Crawford? Yes, I believe that he can. There are two issues to consider here. One, Porter has landed his best punches on every top fighter that he's faced, in his wins AND his losses. He got his sneaky right hand home against an elite fighter like Errol Spence. He was able to hit a defensively solid Yordenis Ugas enough to walk away with a close win. Porter landed on a supreme athlete like Keith Thurman. He has connected on southpaws such as Spence and Devon Alexander (and this is important since Crawford often spends large portions of his fights in the southpaw stance). And if Porter can land on that group of top fighters, I see no reason why he couldn't have success with Crawford.  

Porter was a solid amateur boxer and retains those foundational skills. But he has also developed into a top pressure fighter. As a result, he has a variety of offensive weapons at mid-range and in tight quarters. He can jab, but he also throws a surprise looping left hook that can land on an unsuspecting fighter. He has underrated hand speed too. He can connect with a straight right hand or catch an opponent with an overhand or looping right hand. Because of the variety in his offensive attack, the untraditional trajectories of many of his shots and his surprising hand and foot speed, he can catch even defensively sound fighters off guard. 

And this brings us to issue #2: Terence Crawford's defense. At one point in his career, I think that Crawford had one of the best defenses in the sport, especially when he was in the southpaw position. To me, he fought in the orthodox stance when he wanted to dominate an opponent and went to southpaw when he decided to box and be more defensively responsible. There has always been a separation in the quality of his defense in the two stances, but over the years I think that his defense has slipped in both stances. Maybe it's age, or bad habits, or Crawford not respecting his opponents. And it's possible that he reverts to his older form and has his defense on point for Porter. But I still have some degree of skepticism. Crawford can be hit, but it's up to Porter to do the work. 

Although I think that Porter does has a path to beating Crawford, I'm not going to predict that he will get there. One of Porter's strengths can also be a weakness. Porter often fights like a house on fire. His frantic ring style and boundless energy make opponents uncomfortable and work faster than they would like. However, this fight may require a more surgical Shawn Porter, and that is not one of his better qualities.

If Crawford can be opened up, then it will take discipline and calm for Porter to keep working at a cut or a section of the face that is swelling. And I don't think that Porter has the ability to operate at his best in such a singular undertaking. He's a guy who likes to throw the kitchen sink at an opponent, not fix one problem with just a wrench. 

Crawford is one of the smartest fighters in the sport and one who makes great adjustments in the ring. Even if he is hurt and even if Porter can get to him early in the fight, I'm not sure if Crawford is going to let Porter have too many bites at that apple. If he's hit hard in the orthodox stance, he'll switch to southpaw. If he's struggling with Porter's aggression, he'll tie him up, or take a trip around the ring, or use horizontal movement to counter Porter. 

And that to me is what this fight will come down to. Ultimately, Crawford can do more things in the ring. I have no doubt that Porter will land on him and have good moments in the fight. But Crawford isn't a guy who will make the same mistakes over and over. If Porter had true knockout power, perhaps he would have an even greater path to win. Those surprise right hands then wouldn't just stun Crawford, but drop him, and possibly knock him out. But Porter's not that fighter. His power is adequate, not exceptional. 

In addition, Porter will make mistakes that Crawford can exploit. He'll get himself out of position on the inside. He'll wing wide shots that miss. On his way in, he'll leave his body open for counter shots to the body (something that Spence did very well in their fight). Porter has also been dropped twice by shots at range. Perhaps a straight left from Crawford could get Porter on the canvas. 

Crawford can win this fight using a fairly conservative game plan: Don't overcommit with big shots. Keep Porter busy with punch variety. Switch stances. Keep things unpredictable. Go to the body when Porter's on the inside. Mix up the geography of the fight. And when Porter makes his mistakes, punish him. It's also not out of the question that Crawford lands a big hook or uppercut on the inside that Porter doesn't see. 

I believe that Saturday's fight will be difficult for both boxers. Crawford doesn't have many predictable patterns, which will make it hard for Porter to establish a consistent rhythm. But Porter will land his best power punches at points in the fight and Crawford will need to make precise decisions in those periods of duress. 

The pick here is Crawford to win a decision, but I don't rule out the scenario of Porter winning by a TKO, or even Crawford catching Porter with something on the inside and getting his own stoppage. However, I think that Crawford by UD is most likely. Crawford will be able to minimize Porter's periods of success, and Porter will have enough ring savvy to keep his wits when Crawford is ascendant. 

Terence Crawford defeats Shawn Porter, wins a competitive fight by decision.

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
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