Monday, March 29, 2021

Pound-for-Pound Update 3-29-21

It's been many months since the last Saturday Night Boxing Pound-for-Pound Update and in the interim much has changed throughout the Rankings. To start at the top, there's a new sheriff in town as Saul Alvarez moves up to #1 after his note-perfect domination of 168-lb. titlist Callum Smith in December. He also stopped mandatory challenger Anvi Yildirim after three rounds in their fight in February. Canelo slides up one spot from #2 to #1.  

Elsewhere in the upper end of the Rankings, Juan Estrada defeated Roman Gonzalez by split decision to avenge his 2012 loss. Although many thought that Gonzalez had done enough to earn the victory, the fight was close and Estrada winning the fight was by no means a robbery, despite a poor scorecard from one of the judges. With the win, Estrada moves up from #6 to #4. In addition, Gonzalez, even at his advanced age, showed that he still has enough to compete with the elite in the sport. He rises to #14 from #18. 

Canelo, the New Saturday Night Boxing #1 Fighter
Photo Courtesy of Ed Mulholland

Staying in the junior bantamweight division, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai moves up one spot from #11 to #10 after stopping Kwanthai Sithmorseng, who was a former strawweight champion many years ago. Sor Rungvisai stopped his foe and fellow countryman in three rounds. 

And in another display of the fantastic talent at junior bantamweight, Kazuto Ioka knocked out three-division titlist Kosei Tanaka in the eighth round. Ioka, now a four-weight world titleholder, achieved the signature win of his career with that stoppage. He re-enters the Rankings at #15. With the loss, Tanaka, who had been #16, exits the list. 

In another change, Errol Spence moves up one spot in the Rankings after his unanimous decision victory over Danny Garcia. He ascends to #7.

The final change in this update sees Miguel Berchelt exit the Rankings after his tenth-round knockout loss to Oscar Valdez. Berchelt had been ranked at #19. It was a coin flip to me as to whether Valdez or Jermall Charlo should enter the Rankings. I picked Charlo, but both are deserving of praise. Charlo enters the list at #20. 

One final note, due to the COVID pandemic and the related difficulty around the world in putting fights together, I have not removed any boxers from the list who have been inactive for over a year. For the next update, that rule will be reintroduced and any applicable fighters who have been inactive and have nothing scheduled will be removed.

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

  1. Saul Alvarez
  2. Naoya Inoue
  3. Terence Crawford
  4. Juan Estrada
  5. Oleksandr Usyk
  6. Teofimo Lopez
  7. Errol Spence
  8. Gennadiy Golovkin
  9. Jermell Charlo
  10. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai
  11. Artur Beterbiev
  12. Manny Pacquiao
  13. Tyson Fury
  14. Roman Gonzalez
  15. Kazuto Ioka
  16. Vasiliy Lomachenko
  17. Mikey Garcia
  18. Josh Taylor
  19. Kenshiro Teraji
  20. Jermall Charlo
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.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Ring City Newsletter

My latest piece for the Ring City newsletter is out now. The article features the tough-luck career of former 108-lb. champ Angel "Tito" Acosta, who went from budding star to fighting deep on this week's Ring City undercard on Thursday, in part because of a controversial stoppage loss. To subscribe to the newsletter, click here

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, March 14, 2021

Opinions and Observations: Estrada-Gonzalez II

The first seven rounds of Saturday's Juan Francisco Estrada-Roman Gonzalez rematch were terrific, with both world-class, 115-lb. boxers engaging in fierce combat and dazzling with memorable offensive sequences and fantastic power-punching displays. Estrada started the fight brightly with left hooks to the head and body, subtle (and brilliant) lateral movement and numerous crunching uppercuts underneath. Estrada did his best work of the fight in rounds six and seven where it looked like Gonzalez couldn't match the ferocity of his counters.

Gonzalez found his way into the fight with lead right hands from mid-range. He also showcased his considerable inside fighting skills, using his forearms and shoulders to protect himself, and create angles to throw power punches. It's his ability to fire on all cylinders in the trenches while finding a way to take steam off his opponents' best shots that is rarely found among his contemporaries in the sport. 

Gonzalez (right) landing an uppercut
Photo courtesy of Ed Mulholland

In my opinion the fight changed for good in the eighth with Gonzalez deploying the first of two significant tactical adjustments. Uncharacteristically, Gonzalez boxed off the back foot and had a great round. Estrada looked uncomfortable leading and Roman, who is known as one of the best front-foot fighters of his generation, was having a lot of success picking him off with pot-shots, lateral movement and quick combinations. 

During the next round, Gonzalez made another adjustment to his offense. Instead of initiating attacks from mid-range and moving into the trenches, Gonzalez took a couple of steps back and started his offensive forays from the outside. This gave him an extra bit of steam as he came forward and also disrupted Estrada's timing for his counters. 

In the back third of the match, I thought that Gonzalez was consistently the better fighter. Estrada was still getting work done and connecting with solid shots here and there, but his punches lacked the sting of his earlier work. He started off the fight menacingly, but I would characterize the last part of his performance as workmanlike. He still was throwing lots of punches, but that little bit extra, that majesty, was missing. 

Estrada did have some spirited moments in the 11th and 12th, but Gonzalez's overall eye-catching shots most appealed to me. In the end I had Gonzalez winning the fight 115-113, sweeping the last third of the fight. There were several close rounds in the fight (I split the swing rounds) and I thought that two of the judges turned in scores (115-113 for Gonzalez and 115-113 for Estrada) that could have accurately reflected the action of the bout. But Carlos Sucre's 117-111 scorecard for Estrada was well off the mark. That he gave Estrada the last four rounds of the fight could not be more damning of his ability to be a professional boxing judge – that was Gonzalez's best sustained period of the fight. 

Estrada would win the fight by a split decision, which isn't a tragedy. It WAS a close fight. And if you have enough 7-5 type of fights, eventually you are going to win some and lose some – Estrada lost such a fight against Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in their first matchup. The problem with Sucre's card is that it lacked competency, and ultimately damaged the legitimacy of the contest. If two judges had Estrada winning 115-113, that would have been a bitter pill to swallow for Gonzalez's supporters, but they would have swallowed it. 117-111 just wasn't conceivable with a neutral and competent judge. (Rumors are going around as I write this the day after the fight that Sucre has been suspended for his card, and I would welcome that decision.)

Estrada lands his own uppercut
Photo courtesy of Ed Mulholland

Estrada and Gonzalez first met in 2012 back when Gonzalez was already among the best fighters in the sport and Estrada was a little-known fighter out of Mexico. That fight was contested at 108-lbs. Estrada performed ably in a competitive loss and that fight essentially announced him on the world stage. He subsequently defeated pound-for-pound fighters such as Brian Viloria and Sor Rungvisai, as well as tough hombres like Milan Melindo, Giovani Segura, Hernan Marquez and Carlos Cuadras (twice). 

Going into Saturday's title unification match, Estrada was a slight betting favorite. He had a three-year age advantage, looked more natural at the weight and had more consistent recent performances. 

Saturday's fight turned out to be better and more competitive than their first bout. Estrada, who often will take breaks in the action, only had one small stretch in the eighth where it looked like he needed a blow. He also was far more consistent offensively than he was in their first matchup. 

And while Gonzalez performed wonderfully on Saturday, it's not harsh to say that he's past his absolute peak. However, it's worth noting that even in a diminished physical state, he perhaps should have beaten one of the top fighters in the sport. That may be the best way to praise Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez. Even five or six years removed from his best, he still has enough to get it done against the elite. 

Now Gonzalez must wait for his next opportunity, but it will come. Entering Saturday's fight, the winner was mandated to fight Sor Rungvisai, who won his stay-busy match earlier in the day on Saturday in Thailand. But this is "Hashtag Boxing"; who knows exactly what will happen? A third Estrada-Gonzalez fight would still be the biggest money fight in the division. Maybe the powers that be will find a way for that to happen next. And either way, Gonzalez should have a meaningful fight with Estrada, Sor Rungvisai, or even titlist Kazuto Ioka in the near future. 

Estrada celebrates his victory
Photo courtesy of Ed Mulholland

This era of super flyweights, with Estrada, Gonzalez, Sor Rungvisai, Cuadras and Ioka, has been the best grouping of talent in the weight class during my lifetime. There are two obvious Hall of Famers in the group with Gonzalez and Estrada and two others with Sor Rungvisai and Ioka who could be one big win away from getting there (Ioka has won titles in four divisions, as has Gonzalez, but without Roman's same strength of competition). 

Fortunately for fans of the sport, the boxing world is now hip to the little guys. Whereas fights such as Gonzalez-Estrada I and Sor Rungvisai-Cuadras were nowhere to be found among major U.S. broadcasters, now it would be inconceivable for fighters among this group not to have their major bouts televised. So, for as often as older boxing fans talk about how much better the sport was in the past (and in some ways they are right), we must also remember that the present holds many advantages. 

Gonzalez and Estrada have become staples of boxing programming. They have helped to illuminate a class of fighters that has been sensational and have provided many memorable nights of boxing. They have helped grow the sport. Nine years ago, no major network would touch their first fight, now the rematch was one of the signature events of a major boxing platform. 

In the end, I don't care as much that Gonzalez may have deserved to win against Sor Rungvisai in their first fight or against Estrada in the rematch, that Cuadras perhaps deserved more love from the judges against Gonzalez than he received, or that a judge had a bad scorecard in both Estrada-Gonzalez fights. What I will remember about this era is ferocious combat, exceptional competitors and the growing acknowledgement within the wider boxing community that these smaller-weight fighters are not just among the best in the sport but can be major entrees in the overall professional boxing menu. 

And they have done more than just grow the sport; they have changed it. They have shifted thinking. They have made boxing executives and many fans discard their prejudices against smaller fighters. Gonzalez and Estrada have expanded the possibilities for smaller-weight fighters and allowed a handful of top fighters at 115 lbs. and below a chance at making a solid living in the sport. It's not just that Roman Gonzalez and Juan Estrada are stars or elite fighters. Now networks will look for the next Gonzalez or Estrada. And that is a change that deserves to be acknowledged and celebrated. 

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, March 11, 2021

Punch 2 the Face Podcast

In this week's podcast, Brandon and I delved into the big rematch between Juan Estrada and Roman Gonzalez and looked at the fight from all angles. We also previewed a big fight weekend, which includes Benavidez, Sor Rungvisai, Kyoguchi and more. 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.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Manager Frank Espinoza on Valdez's Victory over Berchelt

Frank Espinoza Jr. has been one of the guiding lights of Oscar Valdez's professional boxing career. Espinoza, along with his father, Frank Sr., has been with Valdez from the beginning. The Espinozas have watched their fighter, a Mexican Olympian, align with Top Rank, win a world title at featherweight and become a fixture on the American boxing scene. 

Yet something wasn't working. A pivotal fight against Scott Quigg in 2018 led to a different trajectory for Valdez's career. Although Valdez won the bout, he suffered  a broken jaw, which led to him being out of the ring for almost a year. The Espinozas along with Oscar's father, Oscar Valdez Sr., knew that something needed to change. 

Oscar's brain trust decided that their best move would be to enlist Eddy Reynoso, Canelo Alvarez's trainer, as their new coach. From the outside, it seemed to be an unusual pairing. Valdez was known as a come-forward slugger while Reynoso often focused on more foundational boxing elements. 

Oscar Valdez, with much to celebrate in his career.
Photo Courtesy of Mikey Williams/Top Rank

The early results of the Valdez/Reynoso partnership didn't win many over. Valdez was dropped by light-hitting Adam Lopez, who was a late replacement and thought to be overmatched in the fight. Oscar also looked caught in between styles against Jayson Velez. Although he won those fights, both performances left a lot to be desired. Nevertheless, Valdez pursued a matchup with junior lightweight champion Miguel Berchelt, a knockout artist who was among the top punchers in the sport. 

Valdez entered last month's fight against Berchelt as a significant underdog, but from the opening bell he established himself as the superior boxer and athlete. Scoring three knockdowns in the fight, including a pulverizing left hook to end it in the tenth, Valdez put forward the performance of his career. 

This week I reached out to Frank Jr. for his thoughts on the victory, Valdez's past struggles, his switch to Reynoso and other topics. The interview is below. 

This interview has been edited for clarity.  

Frank, thank you for your time today and congratulations on the victory. I know it must have been a great moment for you and your family. 

Thank you very much. It definitely was an amazing experience. Everything really came together. 

I wanted to start by asking you about Oscar's decision making process after moving up to 130 lbs. Why did Oscar choose to go after Berchelt instead of Jamel Herring, or other fighters who had titles at junior lightweight. 

Well, we certainly had that conversation with Oscar where we presented Herring and Berchelt as possible options. Oscar made it very clear that he wanted to fight Berchelt because Berchelt was considered the best in the division. He wanted to fight someone where if he were to win, he would get that respect, and that’s what he was gunning for. He was 100% sold on it. He felt like he knew that style and how to beat him. After having that conversation, it was pretty much set in stone what direction we would follow. 

What were the feelings of Oscar and the team heading into fight week? 

During fight week we actually were very confident going into it. I’m not going to lie. Miguel Berchelt is a big puncher. He’s a well-respected world champion. He already had six title defenses. We knew what was at stake and that there was a lot of risk. But I will say that seeing Oscar during training camp, looking at him in the gym, seeing how everything was coming together, honestly, we felt really good. Surprisingly, me and my father didn’t feel quite as nervous as we did in previous fights. I don’t know if we were just confident. But we were pretty much calm. 

Prior to his fight with Berchelt, some of Oscar's performances had been lacking sharpness. There was a concern that he was starting to plateau, that he wasn't achieving all he could in the ring. What had been going on with Oscar during the last few years and how was he able to turn it up another level against Berchelt? 

To be quite honest with you, we had that conversation – myself, Frank Sr. and Oscar Valdez Sr. – after the Scott Quigg fight. We noticed that when Oscar was with Manny Robles he was starting to brawl a little too much for our liking. He was fighting off heart and a tremendous amount of balls, but that style comes at a cost. After the Scott Quigg fight, we knew we had to have a discussion about what was next for him. We knew that Oscar put on great fights, but at the end of the day his health and career could be short-lived if he continued in that direction.

It was certainly a critical time and a critical decision in Oscar’s career to make a change in trainers. And we also knew it was going to take a couple of fights for it to work. I feel the switch to Eddy Reynoso is one of the best decisions that we made. People are now seeing what we envisioned Oscar could do under Eddy Reynoso. 

Why did you think that Oscar and Eddy would be a good match? 

Eddy, at that time, wasn’t really training anyone but Canelo. My father has a good relationship with him. After talking with Oscar Sr. and Oscar about him, we all liked the idea of that move. One thing I really liked about Eddy was that he was going to add more wrinkles to Oscar in the ring. 

One of the first things he told Oscar was that some fighters hit the mitts with ten-punch combinations, but that wasn't going to happen under him. It may look great on video, but when’s the last time you saw a fighter do that in the ring. He said, "I’m going to take you back to basics and teach you combinations that you are actually going to use." 

Eddie is such a student of the game. I'm not sure if people know this about him but he has a huge library of boxing videos. And he's always studying films of past fighters. He wants to be considered one of the best. We felt that the chemistry between him and Oscar would gel, and it did. 

Oscar had a lot of success against Berchelt fighting in the southpaw stance, which wasn't something we saw too much of earlier in his career. Had he always been able to fight as a southpaw or was this something he had developed with Eddy Reynoso?

Oscar’s been switching to southpaw in sparring for the longest time, but I can honestly say that he’s never felt confident enough to do it that much in a fight. In previous training camps, there are videos of Oscar fighting southpaw. Eddy, knowing that Oscar could fight southpaw, wanted to use it against Berchelt. He said, at some point we’re going to switch to southpaw. 

Certainly, we felt that it was going to confuse Berchelt, and it did. One of the first things that Oscar said in the locker room after the fight was that turning southpaw was one of the keys. He said, "Man, he looked so confused. I knew I had him." 

What has the last week been like for you after the victory? 

This is what you are here for, winning world championships. With Oscar’s experience with that broken jaw [after the Quigg fight], I literally saw his struggles. He wasn’t able to eat the things he wanted to eat. It was a long road to recovery. And then the switch of trainers... 

For me, I was extremely happy for him because it was a such a tough, long road back. It showed so much character from Oscar. Thank god he trusted the process because it all paid off in the end.  

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.