Sunday, June 27, 2021

Opinions and Observations: Davis-Barrios

Between the ninth and tenth rounds of Gervonta "Tank" Davis' fight with Mario Barrios, Floyd Mayweather, Tank's promoter and mentor, came over to the corner and told Davis that Showtime's unofficial scorer had him behind in the fight. Davis at first was incredulous, believing that he was ahead. But Floyd was insistent. Mixing in tough love with genuine affection, Floyd cajoled his fighter and told him how he needed to assert himself throughout the rest of the fight. 

Tank left the corner determined and engaged in a vicious back-and-forth with Barrios in the tenth. In a fantastic exchange, Barrios landed a left hook to the body and a left uppercut. Tank then followed with a blistering straight left hand. Both were landing thudding power shots. And even though Tank had dropped Barrios twice in the eighth round, Barrios was still giving everything he had offensively. The tenth was one of the better rounds of boxing I've seen this year; it was gripping stuff to watch. 

After the tenth, Mayweather again came to Davis' corner. Floyd told him that he had a good round, but he had to press Barrios. And boy did Davis respond. Although Davis has always been economical with his punches in his career, in the eleventh he went after Barrios like a house on fire. He cracked him with a beautiful left uppercut to the body for his third knockdown in the fight. Barrios beat the count, but then Davis connected with a menacing straight left hand that forced Barrios to stumble awkwardly into the ropes, causing referee Thomas Taylor to wave the fight off. Overall, it was one of Davis' more dramatic victories in his career. 

Davis (left) after scoring his third knockdown
Photo courtesy of Amanda Westcott

In the post-fight interview Davis stated his belief that he had made the fight harder for himself than it needed to be. When pressed for an explanation, he admitted that he was concerned about Barrios' power at 140 lbs. and if he could take Barrios' best shots. All of that was refreshingly candid. 

However, it wasn't just Barrios’ power that caused Davis to be reluctant to throw in the early rounds. Overall, Barrios fought intelligently, specifically by limiting Davis' countering opportunities. Barrios had been well prepared by his trainer Virgil Hunter. Almost to a fault, Barrios kept his distance whenever possible, utilizing his reach advantage to cut down the number of exchanges. He didn't get greedy. He only threw one or two punches at a time. When Davis did hang along the ropes, Barrios was keen not to fall for any traps. He kept his distance and composure and refused to be overexuberant or rush in with punches that could be easily countered. 

Davis can be a fantastic counterpuncher, but Barrios' game plan forced Tank to create his own openings. Tank hit pay dirt in the eighth when he connected with a beautiful lead right hook that dropped Barrios. It isn't just that he landed the shot on the button, but he sold a feint before throwing. Barrios believed that Davis' left hand was coming, but instead Davis whipped his right hand around the guard and caught Barrios perfectly flush. 

Later in the round Davis landed an overhand left that knocked down Barrios for a second time. The shot had a little loop to it and it illustrated another one of Davis' considerable talents: he's a fantastic improvisor. He saw the opening and landed a shot that he hadn't thrown to that point in the fight. 

The Barrios fight answered several questions about Davis in the ring. Davis has had problems with his gas tank and conditioning at points in his career, but watching the tenth and eleventh rounds, those were among him most impressive showings in the fight. He had more than enough to give in the championship rounds. 

In addition, he showed he could take a real punch at 140 pounds. Barrios certainly didn't unload on Davis throughout the fight, but he landed his fair share of power shots to the head and body; Davis was unmoved. And while Barrios connected with a number of impressive punches, his success was sporadic, in part because Davis' defense was much sharper than advertised. 

Davis and Mayweather after the victory
Photo courtesy of Amanda Westcott

I was also impressed with Davis' hand speed. It's not just that Davis has impressive power, but he gets his shots home fast. It's his combination of power, speed and accuracy that really troubles opponents. Yes, his power is among the best in the sport, but he can routinely beat opponents to the punch.

Finally, one has to credit Davis for being coachable. His trainer, Calvin Ford, kept telling him to go to Barrios' jab side (his left) and Davis' first knockout came directly from that piece of instruction. And when Mayweather came to Davis late in the fight, Tank listened to what his mentor had to say and took his words to heart. Perhaps even more importantly, he responded affirmatively. 

The Mayweather-Davis dynamic has been an interesting one. Filled with love and momentary periods of frustration over the years, the Barrios fight showed the level of respect and trust between them. It hasn't always been smooth sailing for the pair, but on Saturday in their own way each of them performed to the best of his abilities. 

Perhaps Saturday's fight wasn't Tank's cleanest performance. It wasn't one-way traffic. But honestly, we've seen enough of those fights. In Barrios he was facing a solid fighter in a higher weight class. Tank was presented with a series of challenges that he had never faced before: a much bigger man, and an opponent who had a winning game plan. Tank solved these problems and solved them with aplomb. From my perspective it was his most well-rounded performance of his career. He was in a real fight and his opponent wasn't making it easy for him. Tank had to make his own luck: and he did just that.  

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, June 25, 2021

Previews: Davis-Barrios, Lubin-Rosario

Gervonta "Tank" Davis and Mario Barrios headline an intriguing boxing pay per view card on Saturday in Atlanta. The card also features an excellent junior middleweight clash between Erickson Lubin and Jeison Rosario. In both of these matchups the favorites (Davis, Lubin) and the underdogs (Barrios, Rosario) have considerable advantages; these fights could play out in a number of different ways. 

Davis (24-0, 23 KOs) will be moving up to junior welterweight to face Barrios (26-0, 17 KOs). Tank most recently had a knockout of the year contender in defeating Leo Santa Cruz, which took place at 130 lbs. Barrios also appeared on that card and stopped Ryan Karl in the sixth round. 

Davis (left) and Barrios at the pre-fight press conference
Photo courtesy of Amanda Westcott

Before breaking anything down technically for this matchup, Barrios will have four-inch advantages in height and reach and he also has been a junior welterweight for over four years. Davis has been a destructive puncher throughout his career, but all of his fights have taken place at lightweight and below. 

As a prospect, Barrios was a tough fighter for me to get a handle on. He was one of those young fighters who seemed to do a lot of things well, but didn't have any exceptional attributes. He had good power, but nothing spectacular. He had a solid boxing foundation, but he could be hit. He had athleticism, but didn't feature blazing hand or foot speed. 

The toughest test of his professional career was his 2019 fight against Batyr Akhmedov (who fights on Saturday's undercard). Despite scoring two knockdowns in that fight, I think that Barrios was fortunate to win the decision. Through large stretches of the fight Akhmedov outboxed Barrios, beat him to the punch and flummoxed him in the ring. 

The Akhmedov fight demonstrated that Barrios had a couple of defensive holes. Akhmedov punched with Barrios and had a lot of success. Barrios' punches can be long and he doesn't return his hands to a defensibly responsible position quickly enough. In addition, there was a significant gap in his hand positioning, leaving ample space to connect with shots between his guard. 

Barrios took some big punches in that fight, but a point in his favor is how he rallied in the 12th round to score a knockdown. That showed a ton of character and self-belief. It was a messy and brutal fight, but Barrios never stopped trying and was able to handle a level of duress to turn the tide at the end of the match. 

Gervonta Davis has only had to go the distance once in his career and that was a six-round fight back in 2014. Only four of his bouts have even made it to the seventh round. He's tremendously poised on the inside and positions himself expertly to land his power punches from the southpaw position. In my estimation he has four excellent knockout weapons: his left uppercut, his right hook to the body, his right hook to the head and his straight left to the body. He's a brutal body puncher and places his shots surgically. Almost every punch of his is hard and thrown with knockout intentions. 

Davis, like all fighters, has some flaws. He's not a high-volume guy. His gas tank can ebb and flow and he can't do a ton from the outside. In terms of the geography of a fight, Davis is well aware of his strengths and weaknesses and he knows that he has to get to mid-range and closer to win. Many fighters have tried to move away from him, but he can cut the ring off pretty well and doesn't need to burn a lot of energy to find opponents, even when they don't want to be found. 

My main concern for Barrios in this matchup is his ring discipline. Despite having an excellent trainer in Virgil Hunter, who preaches defense and responsibility in the ring, Barrios can freelance during fights in ways that aren't always advantageous to him. He can get dragged into exchanges and he can stick around in the pocket for a little too long. Make no mistake; Barrios can't run from Davis all fight. He's going to need to land hard shots and make Davis respect his power, but he has to accomplish this strategically. One or two shots at a time must be the order of the day and anything longer in an exchange will favor Davis. 

Davis needs to worry about not giving up too many early rounds. Barrios could potentially start well, using his reach and length to limit exchanges. It could take a few rounds for Davis to get into his preferred range. But Davis can't count on the knockout here. Although he has excellent power, it's not a given that his power will resonate at 140 lbs. the same way that it has at lower weights. I have no doubt that he can land on Barrios and probably hurt him, but that's not the same thing as getting a stoppage. Davis needs to compete every round. He has to give himself a chance on the cards. 

I'm not making a pick for this fight. For me, there are too many unknowns. Barrios has only had one world-class opponent in my opinion and his performance in that fight was a mixed bag. But it's certainly possible that he's learned a lot from that experience and has improved in the ring. We may not see the same fighter on Saturday who was in the ring against Akhmedov. I also don't know if Davis' power will have the same effect at junior welterweight. Barrios has never been in with a big puncher and I don't know enough about his chin. If he can withstand Davis' power, then this becomes a fascinating fight where Davis will need to find a Plan B. Ultimately, it's an intriguing matchup and one, in my estimation, filled with uncertainty. 


Erickson Lubin (23-1, 16 KOs) and Jeison Rosario (20-2-1, 14 KOs) have both been knocked out by Jermell Charlo, but their matchup on Saturday isn't a losers' bracket consolation fight. Both are top-ten boxers at junior middleweight and Saturday's fight will help determine which one will get another crack at winning a title. 

Lubin lost to Charlo in 2017 by first-round knockout in what was his first real step-up fight. Charlo discovered some weaknesses in Lubin's defense and the result was a short night at the office. Subsequently, Lubin would change trainers, switching to Kevin Cunningham, a veteran cornerman who has had success with southpaws such as Cory Spinks and Devon Alexander. In Lubin's comeback fights, he dominated Ishe Smith and turned in a solid performance against Nathaniel Gallimore. In those fights he displayed the type of hand speed and boxing ability that led to him being fast-tracked as a young prospect. 

Lubin (left) and Rosario sizing each other up
Photo courtesy of Amanda Westcott

Lubin's boxing comeback was going swimmingly until his last fight, where he was cracked in the final rounds against Terrell Gausha. Lubin wound up winning a decision, but there were some troubling signs. Gausha has less than a 50% knockout percentage and isn't a noted puncher, but yet he landed a number of overhand and straight rights that damaged Lubin. Lubin needed several rounds to regain his bearings.

In Rosario's last fight, he was dropped three times by Charlo, with a body shot jab in the eighth round ending the bout. That fight was a war and fascinating to watch. Although Charlo scored knockdowns in the first, sixth and eighth rounds, Rosario seemed to win almost every round where he stayed on his feet. He landed enormous power punches, but Charlo had the chin and poise to withstand the incoming fire. Rosario perhaps was the bigger puncher in the fight, but he couldn't take Charlo's shots as well as Charlo took his, and that was the difference. 

Perhaps my biggest concern with Rosario is his overconfidence in his power. Rosario hits hard, make no mistake about it, but he'll stay right in front of an opponent and is often amazed when a counter shot is thrown in return. If a fighter can take Rosario's punch, Rosario is there to be hit.  

Lubin has multiple paths to beat Rosario. Perhaps the first thing he should do is to check to see if Rosario is all there at the outset of the fight. Rosario's loss to Charlo was brutal and it's possible that he still feels the physical effects from that fight. Lubin would be wise to land something hard in the first round, test Rosario's body, and put some real mustard on his shots. And maybe that will be enough. If Rosario gets hurt, press him, and go for the finish. I don't think it would be wise to let Rosario get comfortable in the ring and gain confidence. A quick strike is necessary. 

If Rosario still looks sturdy after the first round or two, Lubin could then transition to his classic boxing skills, where he can let his speed and athleticism take over. That should give him a significant advantage throughout the first half of the fight. 

For Rosario, pacing will be important. He won't be able to outbox Lubin for 12 rounds, and he knows it. Lubin's chin issues are still there and it will really come down to whether Rosario can land the right punch or sequences of punches to get the stoppage. Rosario needs to invest in the body early and focus on making each shot count. In each round he has to take a little something out of Lubin, which will hopefully result in him moving less and taking some of the sting out of his punches. Rosario would also be wise to throw his wide hook and looping right hand, shots that Lubin doesn't see often and may catch him on the way out. 

I don't think this fight goes the distance. Lubin has a real opportunity to blitz Rosario early and it's possible that he could win in the first two or three rounds. However, my pick will be the underdog, Rosario. I don't believe that Lubin's chin is going to hold up against Rosario. He will get cracked with something hard and unlike Gausha, Rosario has the power and the finishing instincts to get the stoppage. If Rosario can survive the first few rounds, I think he can take Lubin out in the second half of the fight. I'll take him by eighth-round knockout. 

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

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Punch 2 the Face Podcast

In this week's Punch 2 the Fight Podcast, Brandon and I previewed the big fight  weekend, including Davis-Barrios, Lubin-Rosario and Lomachenko-Nakatani. We looked back at a wildly entertaining boxing weekend, highlighted by Inoue, Charlo and Rosado. We also talked about the strong summer boxing schedule. To listen 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.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Catching My Eye: Inoue, Charlo, Rosado

Naoya Inoue destroying an overmatched Michael Dasmarinas in three rounds isn't  newsworthy. Throughout Inoue's career, he has amassed a high percentage of quick knockouts; 14 of his 21 victories have occurred in the first half of his fights. 

But what struck me about Inoue on Saturday was his clinical effectiveness. Like a master surgeon dropping by the ED for a quick case before his afternoon tee time, Inoue performed his duties with minimal fuss or time wasted. A left hook to the body dropped Dasmarinas in the second round and with that Inoue found exactly what he needed to solve this particular opponent. Additional left hooks to the body resulted in two more knockdowns in the third round, and that was that. After the knockout, there was no bravado, no dead-eyed stare, no chest-pounding. Inoue left it to others to supply the hype. 

Photo courtesy of Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Inoue didn't put a foot wrong on Saturday night. There was no carrying an opponent, no playing with his food, no getting in rounds – just destruction. He doesn't get paid for overtime and he fights like it. 

What separates Inoue from other top knockout artists is that he doesn't need to overexert himself. He's not loading up on punches or flailing wildly. He has the hand speed, power, accuracy and confidence to know that his opponents won't be able to withstand his best. His first gear is so devastating that there's often no need for anything extra.    


Before I get into my opinions of Jermall Charlo's performance against Juan Montiel, let's dispatch with the official particulars. Charlo won by a wide unanimous decision and he battered Montiel throughout large portions of the fight. Ultimately, Montiel, crude and tough, refused to go down, and after absorbing a beating, he slung wild power punches that seemed to surprise Charlo and all those watching at home. The fight was an entertaining watch. And even though Charlo did not win by the expected stoppage, he dominated his overmatched foe. 

But there is a "however" here. During Friday's weigh-in, Charlo initially missed weight by 0.4 lbs., which was unusual for him. And watching his performance on Saturday, it was clear that he was far from his best physically. In his previous fight, Charlo was masterful on his feet against capable contender Sergiy Derevyanchenko. Taking subtle steps back to counter, making quick pivots, creating space to throw, Charlo epitomized a top boxer-puncher that night. 

Photo Courtesy of Esther Lin/Showtime

Against Montiel, Charlo was not that fighter. There were few of his quick pivots and turns. Instead of creating angles to throw, he was winging power shots without setting the table. His jab, which can be dominant, played no more than a supporting role. He was all upper body and no legs. Charlo can be a cerebral fighter, but on Saturday he looked as if he was in a tough man contest, throwing each shot harder than the previous one. When it became apparent that the knockout wouldn't occur, he didn't settle back into boxing or try subterfuge or deception to unlock his opponent, he just continued with more of the same.

In the back third of the fight, Charlo looked gassed at multiple points. He fought Derevyanchenko, a tougher and better opponent, ably through all 12 rounds, but against Montiel at times he resembled a spent bullet. It's clear that he planned for the early stoppage against Montiel and not much else.

Saturday was an off-night for Charlo and as off-nights go, this wasn't a particularly bad one. He won probably 10 or 11 rounds and he provided his hometown fans with a lot of excitement. But I'm sure that he and trainer Ronnie Shields know that his performance was far from his sharpest. 

Charlo possesses the talent level to be among the elite in the sport. But Saturday's performance wasn't an example of that. He took an opponent lightly, abandoned his considerable boxing abilities, got hit with some shots that he probably shouldn't have and tired down the stretch. Hopefully this will be a lesson learned because he can be much better than he showed on Saturday. 


It's no secret that Gabe Rosado was brought into lose against hard-slugging Bektemir "Bek the Bully" Melikuziev. After all, that's Rosado's role in the sport. He's the "opponent" who gives good rounds and if the fight is close, most likely he won't get the decision. 

In the first round Bek peppered Rosado with power shots, especially straight lefts to the body and right hooks. A Bek onslaught at the end of the round forced Rosado to take a knee. Rosado has been known for durability throughout his career. In his 13 losses (a number of them dubious) he had only been knocked out once in the first half of a fight, and that was 12 years ago. Yet early on Saturday he looked in trouble. Perhaps at 35 Father Time was starting to catch up with him. 

Bek had a strong second as well, landing what seemed like dozens of straight left hands to the body. But Rosado, whose ring craft has always been underrated, started to notice something. Bek's straight left to the body involved a hitch. He would pull his left hand back slowly and pause for a brief moment before throwing it. During this motion, the left side of his body was completely unguarded. 

In the third, Rosado again recognized the pattern. And this time, when Bek cocked his left hand back, Rosado immediately threw an overhand right, catching Bek flush. Bek splattered on the canvas and Rosado high-stepped it to the other side of the ring; he knew what he had just done. Bek tried to beat the count, but his effort was in vain. And in an instant, the old vet dusted the prized prospect. 

Photo courtesy of Stacey Snyder

The term "exposed" isn't one I use often. It's a loaded word that means different things to different people. But in this case, let's use it in a limited context. Rosado exposed a flaw in Bek's offensive delivery. It's possible that Bek would have ironed out the problem in subsequent fights, but maybe he wouldn't have. Rosado has never been known for his power, but his eyes, scar tissue all around them, won that fight. He saw the opening and pounced on it. 

In a career of ups and downs, Saturday was one of the highlights of Rosado's career. He landed the type of shot he can tell his family about for generations. And it was a firm reminder that there's more to the Gabe Rosado story than hard-luck losses.  


Let's end with an appreciation of two excellent prizefights that took place on Saturday: Angelo Leo-Aaron Alameda and Isaac Dogboe-Adam Lopez. Both fights ended in majority decision victories (for Leo and Dogboe), with a scorecard that was too wide for the winner. But this isn't about the officials; it's about four fighters who performed to the best of their abilities and treated fans to two memorable battles. 

Leo, a former junior featherweight champion, was back in the ring for the first time since losing his title to Stephen Fulton, and he had his hands full with the boxing prowess of Alameda. Leo and Alameda in fact took turns as the aggressor and the skillful boxer. Leo, known as a pressure fighter, displayed impressive boxing skills while Alameda, more of a technician, walked Leo down effectively through portions of the fight. In the end I had no argument with Leo winning the fight. Overall, it was the type of well-contested battle where both boxers left the ring elevated in stature.

Dogboe-Lopez was a tale of two halves with Dogboe starting out strong, seeming to have the edge in power and hand speed. But as the rounds progressed, Lopez weathered the storm and started taking it to Dogboe on the inside with every punch in his arsenal. I think that Dogboe was fortunate to come away the victory. And if you haven't seen the fight, check out the 10th round; both gave it all they had in the final three minutes. Yes, both are missing key ingredients at featherweight's top level (Dogboe, punch resistance; Lopez, punching power), but as that final round showed, they don't lack heart. It was a wonderful fight and I'd love to see a rematch. 

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.