Wednesday, April 26, 2023

DAZN and DiBella: Testing the Waters

The last few years in boxing have been challenging for promoter Lou DiBella. With dozens of fighters in his stable, but without a high-profile TV or streaming platform contract, he's had to fight and claw to create opportunities for his boxers. In some instances, this meant making deals with a co-promoter who had a dedicated platform (Tevin Farmer with Matchroom and Richard Commey with Top Rank). In other scenarios he's had to accept B-fighter or "opponent" offers from larger organizations. He's utilized platforms such as ShoBox and the now-defunct Ring City for his developing fighters. But there have been frustrations. Talented fighters such as O'Shaquie Foster, who now has a title at junior lightweight, left DiBella Entertainment. 

Despite these business challenges, DiBella has continued to sign talent: established fighters, young professionals, and those who recently turned pro. He struck lightning in a bottle a few years ago when George Kambosos defeated Teofimo Lopez, which eventually led to a co-promotional deal with Top Rank for Devin Haney. He also promotes one of the more exciting heavyweight prospects in Olympic gold medal winner Bakhodir Jalolov. 

But now the promoter without a distribution home has found temporary housing, or maybe an Airbnb. He recently made a deal with DAZN to provide two club-level shows for the platform. The first event will be in conjunction with promoter Larry Goldberg of Boxing Insider for Thursday, April 27th at Sony Hall in New York City.

Promoter Lou DiBella
Photo courtesy of DiBella Entertainment

The show is headlined by one-time top prospect Brian Ceballo (13-1, 7 KOs) against Luis Alberto Veron (20-6-2, 9 KOs). Ceballo, suffered his first loss in his last fight against Nicklaus Flaz. Brian is from New York, but hasn't fought there since 2019. This is a big opportunity for him to get his career back on track. 

Interestingly, Ceballo isn't promoted by either DiBella or Goldberg, but by veteran boxing promoter Tom Loeffler. Ceballo made sense for Goldberg and DiBella because they understand how important local fighters are for generating buzz (and ticket sales) at the club level. On another fight on the card, Sydney Maccow (8-8) against Christian Otero (5-3), two boxers from rival New York City gyms will be squaring off. While neither fighter is above the club level, DiBella thinks that the fight is well matched, and that the local rivalry will help at the box office. 

DiBella is most excited about two of his undefeated prospects on the card. Tsendbaatar Erdenebat, a 5-0 Mongolian Olympian who fights in the junior lightweight division, and David Lopez, a 2-0 fighter who used to be with Mayweather Promotions. Lopez has fought at junior welterweight and welterweight and will be in the ring with Nelson Morales (3-5). In addition, the broadcast will highlight a female fight that DiBella believes could be fantastic, Miyo Yoshida (15-3) against Indeya Smith (6-6-2). DiBella thinks that Smith is a far better fighter than her record indicates. 

Erdenebat, who recently made waves when he admitted to dropping Ryan Garcia in sparring in the lead up to Garcia's fight with Gervonta Davis, will face Edy Valencia Mercado (20-9-6), who has gone the distance with high-profile fighters such as Jessie Magdaleno and Jose Vivas. DiBella has kept tabs on Erdenebat since the amateurs and is excited about promoting him.

"I had seen Erdenebat when he faced Shakur [Stevenson] and other top guys in the amateurs," said DiBella. "He's like a bull. He's a physically imposing little guy who fights like a monsoon. He's also an intelligent boxer. I've always kind of had my eye on him...He thinks he's ready to fight anyone in the world right now. He's that type of kid." 

The structure of the deal between DAZN and DiBella is interesting. Goldberg will be the official promoter of record for their first show, which will contain DiBella's "Broadway Boxing" branding. Eric Bottjer, who works with DiBella, has assisted with the matchmaking on the card and DiBella's staff will also help with the promotion. But a lot of the nuts-and-bolts for the event itself will be handled by Goldberg, and that's fine with DiBella. 

"Larry Goldberg is trying to do the types of shows in New York that I did for years," said DiBella. "To the extent that I can help him out, lend my staff, put some of my talent on his cards, and make the cards make sense, I want to do that. He has a vision similar to mine – that you need to do quality cards in New York City. For New York to stay as a capital of boxing in the larger sense, you need to have a presence on the grassroots level and Larry understands that."

DiBella has talked with DAZN over the years about making a content deal. This agreement will be a trial for both sides. On one hand, the rights fees for these fight cards will be far lower than those paid by DAZN for a typical Matchroom event in the United States. However, DAZN Executive Vice President Joe Markowski has wanted to open up the platform to additional promoters, and this is an example of him putting his money where his mouth is. 

"The fact that DAZN is looking to add more programming for their subscribers is a good thing," said DiBella. "Over the last six to eight months, Markowski has made clear, both publicly and privately, that DAZN wanted to experiment with different levels of boxing, with grassroots boxing, looking at boxing at a regional level – developmental boxing. I think developmental boxing is key. Broadway Boxing has been doing developmental boxing for 20 years."

Hopefully, the move works out for both sides. The health of New York City boxing is very important to DiBella, who lives in Long Island and has been a key figure in the New York boxing scene for decades, first as an HBO programming executive and then as a promoter. 

The insurance requirements to stage shows in New York has reduced the number of club shows in the state and especially the city. Some promoters have left New York entirely. Others have drastically cut down their number of New York cards. Having a broadcaster to help subsidize costs in New York will definitely be helpful to the New York boxing scene. 

As for DAZN, this is an opportunity to provide more programming for their subscribers. These shows will feature a lot of talent that hasn't been widely seen, an opportunity for these fighters to build additional momentum for their career. And if the deal succeeds, DAZN will be able to plant a flag in New York City, which could become an important plank in their overall strategy for U.S. boxing. 

For now, the deal is an important first step in cultivating a working relationship between DAZN and DiBella. DiBella has always had a keen eye for talent and DAZN has the platform and the bandwidth to expand its boxing offerings. Hopefully, it's a good match for both parties, and for boxing fans. 

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, 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, April 23, 2023

Opinions and Observations: Davis-Garcia

Even though Gervonta "Tank" Davis and Ryan Garcia entered Saturday's matchup with a similar number of fights – 28 for Tank and 23 for Garcia – it became obvious that there was a master-student dynamic in the ring. In the two most pivotal moments of the fight, Tank's knockdown in the second round and his KO in the seventh, Tank, like a wise old sage, exploited Garcia's reckless aggression in short order, sending the pupil to the canvas twice. 

Both instances followed periods of success for Garcia. And as Ryan landed more shots, he pressed what he perceived as an advantage, but ultimately, the master punished his student for overconfidence. 

Davis landing a straight left
Photo courtesy of Esther Lin

In the second round Garcia landed a series of cuffing right hands in close range. He continued to go on attack and overshot a wild left hook. The shot left him wildly out of position. Tank adeptly pivoted and countered with a blistering short left to the head that dropped Garcia.

That knockdown spooked Garcia. He was chastened. He was unwilling to take chances or let his hands go in a meaningful way during the third, fourth and fifth.  

But by the sixth round, Garcia had regathered himself and felt comfortable going on the offensive again. He landed several hard right hands to the head. As the seventh started, Garcia continued his aggressive forays, attacking Tank with power shots. And as he lunged forward with a combination, Tank snuck in a perfectly placed left to the body as Garcia's arms were extended and his body unprotected. Garcia actually landed his right hand as the final punch of the exchange, but the pain from Tank's left started to circulate throughout his body. He took a step back. He dropped to a knee. He couldn't beat Thomas Taylor's ten-count.  

Tank-Garcia will not be remembered for its round-by-round entertainment value. Although the fight was intriguing on strategic and technical levels, the punch volume from both was meager. There were prolonged periods of inaction, where both fighters were unwilling to throw punches. But the fight did provide a vital, conclusive ending. It also crystalized important points about two of the most significant American boxing attractions. 

First, Tank confirmed his status as a master counterpuncher. He exploited split-second opportunities that demonstrated superior technical skills, self-confidence and clear mental processing. Many fighters would have immediately retreated into a defensive shell when Garcia unfurled his menacing left hook, but Tank stood his ground, slipped the punch, and executed his counter left with ruthless proficiency.  

Similarly, when Garcia charged forward in the seventh after having sustained success in the previous round, many fighters would have gone into self-protection mode to take the steam off Ryan's combination. But Tank instinctively recognized an opportunity; he fired the perfect short counter in a tight window. The punch was so precise and sneaky that a replay was needed to grasp its perfection. These were masterful boxing moves.  

As for Garcia, he admitted after the fight that he had tried to force the action too much. Even though his trainer Joe Goossen had wanted Ryan to fight more responsibly, Ryan ignored that advice and went after Tank, to his own detriment. Garcia lacked the emotional maturity to understand the risks involved in the fight. He was too overeager to impress, to put his signature stamp on the fight, to be the alpha dog.  

In theory Saturday's result could be a great learning opportunity for Garcia. He should now realize that his technical flaws can jeopardize his career. He paid massively for overcommitting, for falling out of position and for running into traps.  

However, until he understands that he must be more adaptable in his fighting style, it's very likely that we will see similar outcomes against top opponents. He has to be able to win fights in different ways. Who's to say what would have happened if Garcia decided to box Davis at range all fight? Yes, the bout might have been boring and maybe Tank would have eventually gotten to him, but Ryan wouldn't have been hitting the canvas in the second round and rendered ineffective until the sixth. Goossen thought that Ryan needed to be more contained to have success, but Ryan had other ideas. 

Garcia has to learn that momentary mistakes can have massive consequences. And not all of these mistakes are technical in nature. Some of them involve his decision-making process: when to engage and when to bide time. 

Photo courtesy of Ryan Hafey

Meanwhile, Tank's knockout show marches on. With an almost inconceivable 27 knockouts in 29 fights, Davis is one of the true killers in the sport. I do look at his punch stat numbers with some concern though. As he faces better competition, it's likely that more of his fights will go the distance. And in 12-round fights, Tank's punch volume can be problematic for winning rounds. Judges just aren't going to give a guy a lot of credit when he throws under ten punches a round. Ten punches a round is a punch every 18 seconds. That's a long time! 

Tank's lack of activity explains why none of the judges awarded him a 10-8 round in the second even though he scored a knockdown. He only threw six punches the entire round. That's one punch every 30 seconds! He just wasn’t doing enough.  

At boxing's highest level, it's fine margins that can make the difference. Garcia found out the hard way what happens when he lunges in with shots and ignores the advice of a seasoned trainer. And perhaps Davis will realize one day that every point matters. Imagine if a fight goes to the scorecards and he loses or draws because he didn't get a 10-8 round where he scores a knockdown. Winning rounds matters and Tank must find a way to be busier, to make it harder for judges to give rounds to his opponents. 

But all of that is for another day. 

In facing one of the toughest tests of his career, Tank passed with flying colors and demonstrated that he belongs at the graduate level; Garcia still needs to repeat his current grade. Ultimately, if a fighter makes a mistake, Tank will punish him. That's his calling card. He exploits weaknesses. He takes out lesser talents and exposes their flaws. Davis only needs a couple moments, a brief, fleeting opportunity to cause maximum damage.  

It's going to take a special talent to beat Tank: one who can stay within himself, fight intelligently, not get too caught up in the moment, offer punch volume while minimizing return risk. There aren't many of those boxers in the sport. And that's the central problem when facing Davis. A fighter will have to be close to perfect to beat him, and perfection is seldom seen in the ring. 

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, 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, April 19, 2023

Davis-Garcia: Preview and Prediction

In an electrifying matchup on Saturday between two of boxing's rising stars, Gervonta Davis (28-0, 26 KOs) faces Ryan Garcia (23-0, 19 KOs) at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Although no major belts will be on the line, the winner of Saturday's fight will be rightfully viewed as one of the faces of U.S. and international boxing moving forward. 

Davis at 28 and Garcia at 24 are both in their athletic primes and feature knockout ratios above 80%. The fight will be contested at a catchweight of 136 lbs., one of two deal points that on paper could help Davis (the other being a punitive 10-lb. maximum rehydration clause, which in theory could hurt Garcia, who is perceived as being the bigger boxer in terms of his best fighting weight). 

In analyzing this matchup, the most important aspect to me is power. Both possess it. Both haven't faced much of it. Who can utilize it better? Who can take it better? Although Davis has faced taller orthodox fighters such as Mario Barrios and Leo Santa Cruz and Garcia has fought several southpaws, including Javier Fortuna and Luke Campbell, neither has fought a guy with the power profile that his opponent will be bringing into the ring. To this point we've yet to see Davis seriously hurt in a fight while Garcia has been dropped by a Luke Campbell straight left. But let's dive deeper.  

Ryan Garcia has one of the best left hooks in boxing. It may be one of the few A-plus punches in the sport. The trick to it is the tremendous amount of torque he gets on the shot. He literally whips the punch to his desired location. It's lightning quick, powerful and he can place it beautifully. Despite the number of technical errors that Garcia can make in the ring (more on this later), he does a tremendous job of disguising his hook. He can look right at an opponent's eyes and go down to the body with it. He can take a step back and throw it as a counter. He can lead with it from distance. 

"Tank" Davis has never faced such a punch in his professional career. And like another blessed left hooker, Nonito Donaire, Garcia has the power to end any fight with his best hook.  

Davis (left) and Garcia at the introductory presser
Photo courtesy of Ryan Hafey

Davis is a far more well-rounded puncher. He features several knockout weapons, including his straight left, an overhand left, uppercuts with either hand and his right hook. He's also a gifted combination puncher and often catches opponents with shots that they don't see.  

Both fighters believe in their power and probably have fallen in love with it a little too much. Garcia can get frustrated if he's not landing his left hook. Although he does have a jab and a serviceable right hand, he can get flustered when the knockout doesn't come quickly.  

Davis is not a guy who goes into fights trying to win rounds (one day this really could become a major issue). Especially when he perceives a threat, Davis will reduce his punch volume at the beginning of a fight as he acclimates to his opponent and attempts to identify potential weaknesses. 

But while he can fall behind in the punch volume game, he does have an improvisational genius in figuring out what can work in the ring against a given opponent. He will often use his opponents' strengths against them. More than once he has folded an overly aggressive opponent with a perfectly placed counter.  

The two main issues for the fight that I see are Ryan Garcia's defense and what happens if Tank can't land the home run punch. These two things are related, of course. Ryan's chin is a major issue. Yes, he's been down before, but in this context I'm not referring to his ability to take a punch. I'm talking literally; his chin is easy to find. He only features sporadic head movement and often stands far too upright leaving his chin exposed. Additionally, when he shoots his punches he will often lunge in with his body before throwing the shot, making his chin even more vulnerable to incoming fire. An unprotected chin is not a recipe for long-term success in boxing. 

However, let's also consider that Ryan has one of the best trainers in the business in Joe Goossen and I'm sure that Joe is well aware of Garcia's chin placement issues. I have no doubt that he’s worked with Ryan to address these flaws. This doesn't mean that Ryan will suddenly become impenetrable, but perhaps he won't lunge in as much. And maybe his body won't be over his front foot as it has been in the past. If Ryan is able to fix these issues, then he can be much more difficult to hit cleanly.

And this is what leads to the central conundrum for Tank in the fight: What happens if the knockout doesn't come?

I expect him to be cautious in the early going as he tries to adjust to Garcia's hand speed and defend the left hook. But what happens if he can't crack Garcia's chin with his best shot? What if the fight gets to the second half and Tank is down significantly on the scorecards? I have no doubt that Garcia will be attempting to put rounds in the bank. What happens if he builds up an early lead and tries to play keep away in the second half?  

In the Barrios fight Tank showed an impressive ability to turn on the gas when needed, and he might be in a similar predicament during Saturday's fight. But let's face it: Garcia is far more of a threat than Barrios. Tank may not be able to just simply turn on a switch. The other guy is bringing a lot of thunder to the dance as well.    


I'm not expecting Davis-Garcia to be a wall-to-wall action fight. I think it will be a cagey affair between two young fighters who have a tremendous amount of respect for the other. But I believe that the more versatile one, the one who has the higher Ring IQ will be the one with his hand raised in victory. 

After some rough early moments, I think that Davis will work his way into the fight and gradually unfurl his arsenal. Davis' creative punch selection will keep Garcia guessing. And Garcia's inability to recognize punch sequences or take away weapons will lead to his undoing.  

I think that the fight will turn on Tank's superior ring craft. His ability to feint and set up shots will benefit him the longer the fight goes. Garcia will be respecting Tank's power and that will allow Tank to create openings with feints, traps and misdirection. I think that Tank's overhand left will be a key weapon. And he can throw it as a lead, at the end of a combination or after feinting with the jab to the body. 

I don't think this will be an easy fight for Tank, but eventually I believe that he will get the job done. I have no doubt that he will have some choppy moments and will be forced to think his way through the fight to get to Garcia. But the longer the fight goes the more success I see him having. In the second half of the fight I think that he will start to open up Garcia with a variety of power punches and combinations. Ultimately, I see an overhand left finishing the job around the eighth round.    

Gervonta Davis KO 8 Ryan Garcia.

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, 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, April 10, 2023

Brian Mendoza and the Dream Factory

Despite boxing's struggles to remain relevant in the greater sports landscape, Hollywood continues to love pugilism. The latest Creed movie was a smashing success. Later this year a new George Foreman movie will hit theaters nationwide. The stories inside and outside the squared circle resonate for an audience that far exceeds weekly boxing ratings or streaming numbers.  

Hollywood continues to harvest the sport for its stories because boxing is drama incarnate. The universal themes of struggle are easily expressed and understood in the boxing ring. It's man vs. himself, man vs. man, or man vs. his environment. These themes are a major part of the sport's allure and present a natural vehicle for storytelling. One fighter, one opponent, and the ability to endure physically and mentally for greater glory. 

Hollywood has often been referred to as the Dream Factory and boxing is nothing if not for dreams. Fighters often come from abject circumstances and boxing is their vehicle for a better life. From the best fighter in the world to the boxer toiling on a small club card on a Wednesday night, dreams keep them plying their trade. They all got into the sport for a better tomorrow and are prepared to suffer for a wished-upon future. 

Brian Mendoza understands dreams. Not long ago he appeared in a walk-out bout after the main card had finished. As the paying customers left the arena and the TV lights dimmed and the media members shut off their computers or put away their cameras, there Mendoza was, fighting in obscurity hoping to one day see a better tomorrow. 

Mendoza (right) celebrates his stoppage win over Fundora
Photo courtesy of Esther Lin

Mendoza earned his stripes as a professional boxer on the backwater circuit, fighting in places such as Green Bay, Wisconsin and Dodge City, Kansas, locales far removed from boxing's bright lights. Although Mendoza lacked top-level craft, he was tough, knew how to handle himself in the ring and he had a punch. In 2021, he faced top prospect Jesus Ramos. And although he didn't embarrass himself, he won no more than two rounds in the fight. But perhaps there's another way to look at that. He was only the third fighter ever to go the distance with Ramos and he provided quality rounds. 

In 2022 he again was brought in as the B-side, to face former unified 154-lb. champion Jeison Rosario. Rosario was trying to rebuild himself in the middleweight division and Mendoza had fought almost his entire career at junior middleweight and welterweight. I doubt that Rosario's handlers viewed Mendoza as a significant threat. But Mendoza didn't believe that he was the "opponent." He demolished Rosario in the fifth round with a vicious right uppercut/left hook combination.

Enter Sebastian Fundora, the hard-punching 6'5" 154-lb. unicorn who wanted to stay busy in the ring while awaiting his title shot against undisputed champion Jermell Charlo. Fundora had beaten eight undefeated fighters in his rise to the top end of the division and also won one of the best fights of 2022 when he stopped Erickson Lubin. Fundora was already a Showtime headliner and had become a must-watch attraction in the sport. And here again Mendoza was selected as the "opponent." He was there to give the burgeoning star credible rounds. 

But through the first six rounds of their fight on Saturday, Mendoza didn't even accomplish that task. Fundora was dominating the action, landing straight lefts from distance and his signature uppercuts from close range. Hardly anything Mendoza did worked. He remained in the fight only because of his toughness and his willingness to endure. Through six, it hadn't been competitive. 

Photo courtesy of Esther Lin

Yet boxing is unlike other sports; there doesn't have to be a score to overcome. In an instant, one punch can erase whatever previously occurred in a bout, or even in a career. The past can become irrelevant.

Brian Mendoza forever changed his future in three seconds. 

In the seventh, Fundora attempted a left uppercut from too far away and Mendoza countered with a quick left hook that detonated on Fundora's chin. Fundora stood motionless, the effects of the blow short-circuiting his body. Mendoza seized the moment, rushed in, and unfurled the nastiest right hand of his career and followed with a picture-perfect left hook. Fundora fell backwards almost in slow motion, completely defenseless, hitting the canvas with a thud. He sat up, but had none of his faculties. Referee Ray Corona counted to 10, and even if he had counted to 100, the result would have been the same. Fundora was finished. In three seconds, Brian Mendoza earned a world title shot. 

It's the stuff of dreams, of Hollywood, of everyone who enters the sport. One punch can change everything: a life, a future, a reality. Brian Mendoza manifested in three seconds the life that he had envisioned. The obscurity, the self-doubts, the rejections, the slights: three seconds banished them to a long, unfortunate prologue in Brian Mendoza's story. It was drama at its finest and a reminder of the Dream Factory. It could be you who changes your life in one instant. It could be me. Brian Mendoza did it. Roll credits. 

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, 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.