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. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook. 

Punch 2 the Face Radio

In this week's Punch 2 the Face Radio, Brandon and I previewed the big Crawford-Porter fight. What does each fighter need to do to win? We also highlighted some excellent performances from this past weekend, including Jaime Munguia, David Benavidez and Kiko Martinez. We also looked ahead to Canelo's next opponent and the rest of the 2021 boxing calendar. To listen to the show, 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, November 7, 2021

Opinions and Observations: Canelo-Plant

Saul "Canelo" Alvarez threw a leaping left hook in the 11th round on Saturday night that landed high on Caleb Plant's head. The shot hurt Plant and he bent over in obvious pain. Canelo followed up with a short right uppercut and then a left uppercut, dropping Plant to the canvas. After Plant beat the count, Canelo went for the finish. He landed a strafing left hook and then cornered Plant along the ropes and attacked him with a series of power shots at close range that put Plant through the ropes, ending the fight. 

With the victory, Canelo has now become the undisputed champion at super middleweight. The end of the fight was a thrilling display of power punching and finishing, but it was Canelo's actions earlier in the bout that led to the success of that memorable leaping left hook.

A large portion of Canelo-Plant was fought along the ropes, with Canelo pressing forward and Plant defending using the shoulder roll or "Philly Shell" style of defense. The Philly Shell, when employed correctly by an orthodox-stance fighter, creates distance between the defender and the opponent's straight right hand to the head. 

Canelo (right) about to dig in with his left hook
Photo courtesy of Amanda Westcott

Earlier in his career Canelo was befuddled by Floyd Mayweather, who used a similar type of defensive framework. Yet while he was ineffectual against Mayweather in 2013, Canelo was ultimately able to punch his way to a victory on Saturday against Plant. Let's dig into why this occurred in a little more detail. 

In my estimation there were three main differences between the Mayweather and Plant fights for Canelo. One difference was an improvement from Canelo and the other two were aspects where Plant was deficient (one strategic, one technical). 

Against Mayweather, Canelo fell into the trap of looking for a perfect, clean shot. Finding no obvious targets, Canelo mostly kept his hands at bay, waiting, and getting popped while he waited. 

Whereas on Saturday, Canelo hit everything that was available, even if he didn't always land fully flush. He peppered Plant with solid left hooks to the gut and chest. He attacked Plant's left flank with straight right hands. If Plant ducked down, Canelo threw chopping right hands to the top of the head. Canelo was causing damage and landing authoritative blows even if the first shot couldn't find its way home. And more importantly, he blasted Plant's arms and shoulders with shots, not necessarily scoring blows, but punches that can have a significant effect in reducing an opponent's agility. 

Plant made the mistake of spending too much time on the ropes. And even though many fighters can be capable of fighting off the ropes for a period of time or even a couple of rounds, eventually a capable opponent will be able to land his best shots against an immobile target. Although Plant did feature movement during parts of the fight, and successful movement, there were too many portions of the bout where he languished on the ropes, basically inviting Canelo to tee off on him. Mayweather could be great against the ropes, but he utilized the ring far more to his advantage, understanding that the real estate that the ring provided him was an inherent advantage for his athleticism. 

Caleb could have used the center of the ring more in Saturday's fight, and I'm not sure why he didn't. It's an area where he had success during parts of the bout. But perhaps Canelo's pressure and Plant's relative lack of experience was a bad combination. Plant has been hard-wired as a back-foot fighter. It's how he emerged as a prospect in the sport and that style has been paramount in his rise to the championship level. However, the best fighters need to learn multiples ways to win a fight, and on Saturday, Plant was unwilling to press forward, or even to hold his ground in the center of the ring. He ceded far too much ground to the slower-footed Canelo, which was a mistake. 

One other key difference between Plant and Mayweather was that Plant just didn't have Mayweather's right hand. Canelo couldn't throw his left hook with abandon against Mayweather because Floyd had that sharp, stinging counter right; it was one of the best shots in his arsenal. Plant doesn't have a lot of confidence with his right and even when he would throw and land the punch (which didn't really start happening until later in the fight), there wasn't enough mustard on it to dissuade Canelo. 

Canelo with his hardware
Photo courtesy of Amanda Westcott

The following may sound like a back-handed compliment, but I do mean it as a positive: For a one-handed fighter with little power and not enough championship experience, Plant fought as well as could be expected. He won a number of rounds with just his jab and movement alone. He didn't make it easy for Canelo. His defense forced Canelo to really work for the victory. He was a tricky opponent who fought close to the best of his abilities at this point of his career. 

Of course, if Plant had experienced more challenging development fights he would have been in a better position against Canelo. Perhaps he would have acquired the proficiency of how to impose himself on the front foot. Maybe he would have learned that sitting on the ropes round after round could be a detriment against a real puncher. But with that said, Plant, even with his limitations, rose to become a champion and gave Canelo a real fight. 

But let's take this back to the top to provide another example of Canelo's greatness in the ring. As Canelo cornered Plant on the ropes, he moved directly to Plant's left shoulder. This action helped Canelo in two ways. First, because he was so close to Plant, he took away Plant's left hook, which is his best power punch. There just wasn't enough room to land it in close quarters. Second, it allowed Canelo the opportunity to dig to Plant's body with his own left hook. 

Canelo's left hook to the body was his signature punch throughout the fight. And in the 11th when Canelo started to unfurl his left hand, Plant assumed that the shot was going to come to his body. Instead, Canelo went upstairs with the punch and caught Plant by surprise. It was the repeated body attack by Canelo that led to the opening to the head later in the fight. 

Ultimately, the knockout was well-earned by Canelo. Punishing Plant to the body with left hooks, he created the opportunity to go upstairs, and he executed that final deception flawlessly. In the past Canelo could have lost to a fighter with Plant's style. But on Saturday he took what was available, capitalized on a few mistakes, exploited the weaknesses of an under-experienced opponent and won the fight with a perfect combination of intelligence and technical ability. It may not have been Canelo's cleanest performance, but Saturday's victory did reveal numerous aspects of his mastery in the ring. Shorter, smaller, and slower, in the end it didn't matter; Canelo left no questions as to who was better. 

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 4, 2021

Canelo-Plant: Preview and Prediction

The battle for super middleweight supremacy takes place on Saturday as Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (56-1-2, 38 KOs) faces Caleb Plant (21-0, 12 KOs) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. All of the 168-lb. belts will be on the line and Saturday's winner will become the undisputed champion in the division. 

Although Plant has faced few top opponents in his career, his skills are easy to see. Among all active boxers who fight in the orthodox stance, he has one of the best left hands in the sport. His jab and left hook are significant weapons. He possesses considerable hand and foot speed and his punch placement and accuracy (especially with his left) are impressive. 

Canelo (left) and Plant at the final presser
Photo courtesy of Amanda Westcott

The main issue with Plant is that his left hand is significantly more developed than his right. There isn't a whole lot that Plant does with his back hand other than keep opponents honest from time to time, and often he doesn't do that, even against foes who are far beneath him in skill level. He just doesn't throw his right hand with frequency or confidence.

This is the central conundrum that Plant and his trainer, Justin Gamber, face for Saturday's fight. I'm sure that Canelo realizes the significant difference in effectiveness of Plant's left vs. his right. So naturally Canelo would want to take away Plant's left hand in the fight as much as possible. 

So, what does Plant do if Canelo stands all the way to Plant's right side, well out of the range of Plant's left hand? What if Canelo angles himself as such to make it a battle of the right hands? Canelo has hurt, dropped and stopped opponents with his right, but what can Plant do in this scenario? 

To force Canelo out of his Plan A, Plant has to throw his right hand and needs to do enough with it to gain Canelo's respect. If he can't, it seems hard to envision a scenario where Plant can win. Yes, Plant will have faster hands and feet, but none of that will matter if Plant is unable to land effective punches. 

I expect to see Canelo fight large portions of the match on Plant's right side. It's up to Plant and his team to make Canelo change his strategy. And I'm just not a big enough believer in Plant's right hand to see how he can overcome this predicament. Canelo can shoot right hands to the body. He can throw straight rights from range. He can mix in right hooks when he's in close quarters. Plant doesn't have the same effectiveness with his right. 

If Canelo-Plant becomes a battle of right hands, expect a low punch-volume affair. With both fighters unable to land jabs from this set-up, the fight will be determined by whose single right hands will cause more damage. And in this scenario, I believe that Canelo's right will rule the day.  

To win the fight, Plant will have to show some new tricks, and let's not discount that possibility. He's an intelligent boxer and is very coachable. In addition, he's a fighter who can stick with a game plan very effectively. This will be an enormous hurdle for Plant and Gamber to overcome, but this is their chance to prove themselves on boxing's highest level. If they can get Canelo to move to a Plan B, then the fight could open up much more to their liking. 

I think that there will be a lot of slow rounds early in the fight, with neither fighter able to get off combinations. The early rounds will feature several small tactical battles in terms of movement and positioning, with Canelo trying to get to Plant's right side and Plant attempting to deny that movement. I expect only a few punches of significance in the first few rounds of the match.

As the fight progresses, I think that Canelo's rights to the head and body will start to have their desired effect. Ultimately, I think that he will be able to stop Plant late in the fight from sustained damaged caused by his right. I don't think that Saturday's fight will be Canelo's most dominant performance, but I believe that if he employs the appropriate strategy of staying to Plant's right side, that he will minimize Plant's skill set and will become the undisputed champion at super middleweight. 

Saul Canelo Alvarez stops Caleb Plant in the 11th round.  

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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