Posts Tagged With: David Lemieux

Easy Pickins

HBO presented a series of some of the year’s most exciting fights this past weekend, and certainly the most satisfying card in recent months.  The first of the trilogy featured Cletus Seldin and Yves Ulysse Jr., two fighters trying to break into the same level of their division, but with vastly disparate skill sets.  Ulysse had an extensive amateur career and relied on his impressive speed and accuracy.  Seldin hoped to either land a big punch right away, or wear his opponent down, and land a big punch later.  Neither scenario came to pass.  Seldin was put in his place and fans got an exciting new talent to watch at 140.  Ulysse was facing a tailor-made opponent, to be sure, but he moved around Seldin with such playful agility and pinpoint accuracy that any fighter would have had trouble with him that night.

The second and third fights showcased aspiring middleweights, all of whom were at or around the gatekeeper level before their respective fights.  Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan, of Ireland, faced the up-and-coming Antoine Douglas.  While Douglas had only lost a single fight, he came into the bout as the less experienced fighter, his previous two opponents having a combined record of 52 wins and 22 losses.  O’Sullivan had lost two fights where his opponent had only lost one, but against much stronger opposition.  Most recently, O’Sullivan lost to American Chris Eubank Jr., and before taking fights in the U.S., he played stepping-stone for one of the night’s main event fighters, Billy Joe Saunders.  Both Saunders and Eubank are high-level competitors, so it should have come as no surprise that O’Sullivan handled the heat better than Douglas.  Douglas was sharper and smarter with his output than O’Sullivan, but no more competent in his defense.  Hailing from a town just minutes from where I went for undergrad, I had hoped he would perform better.  He landed some early combinations and evaded the worst of O’Sullivan’s offense, but was unable to cope with his opponent’s output.  As the rounds progressed, he took increasingly took big shots and failed to land his own.  O’Sullivan’s power won’t win him any belts, but his volume of punches was enough for a stoppage.

The main event was meant to be a set-up for a fight with one of the two men currently running the middleweight division (Golovkin or Alvarez).  In a classic style matchup, Billy Joe Saunders, a lanky but powerful boxer, took on David Lemieux, an extremely dangerous and energetic puncher.

Like most boxing fans, I love watching Lemieux in the ring (and think his hair is stupid).  At any moment, he could unleash a punch or two capable of changing the fight, if not rendering his opponent unconscious.  His defense is adequate, his conditioning is very impressive, and his movement is effective.  His reach isn’t great, but it’s not bad, however, you wouldn’t know it to watch him.  Lemieux is one of those guys with the physique and the talent to stay right below the top of his division for the rest of his career, like an Arturo Gatti or a Micky Ward.

His first loss came after steamrolling more than two dozen opponents, most of whom had little experience.  His ambitions then brought him to the biggest fight of his career, against Marco Antonio Rubio.  Having lost 5 fights, Rubio presented an appealing opportunity.  After all, Lemieux had just defeated Hector Comacho Jr., whose similar record and superior reputation made him seem a bigger threat than Rubio.  While most of Rubio’s first five losses were to relative unknowns, his fifth was a decision loss to Kelly Pavlik.  The fact that he survived ten rounds with Pavlik should have meant something to Team Lemieux.  Specifically, that a one-dimensional power puncher would have trouble with Rubio.  And trouble Lemieux had.  Like Seldin against Ulysse, Lemieux threw to the head almost exclusively in desperate pursuit of a knockdown, and was himself knocked down in the 7th round.  He just couldn’t handle the complexities of a competent boxer with a chin.

Billy Joe Saunders was Rubio but worse.  He could take a punch, if not as well as Rubio, then at least adequately.  He could box, and he was faster than Rubio ever had been.  He could move, which Rubio rarely did, and he had the reach.  Lemieux made an effort to go to the body, but still ended up whiffing big haymakers to the head fairly frequently, leaving him exhausted in the late rounds.  The CompuBox scores may have made it look as if the fight was your average loss for the puncher, but I would bet that on closer inspection you would find Lemieux’s accuracy relative to head shots unsually low.  It became more apparent as the fight wore on, but even by round 5, Lemieux (never a big fan of straight punches) was missing almost every shot he threw to the head.  He needed to commit to maximizing his range to have any hope of landing a big shot, and against Billy Joe Saunders, a big shot was his only chance.

Many fans, including me, thought Lemieux would’ve made good competition against Golovkin.  That loss wasn’t so surprising, and I guess this one isn’t either, but it gives us a new perspective on his potential in the division.  Having been exposed as a one-dimensional+ fighter, he’ll likely assume the role of opponent for the elites and up-and-comers who are looking to pad their records.  Just based on his deficiency in understanding range, he should be a target for lanky fighters with half his talent.  Saunders, on the other hand, will be offered up to Alvarez and Golovkin.  Whoever wants the fight will get a safe opponent, who will bring name recognition (and therefore money) as well as worthy competition.  I don’t think there’s any chance Saunders gives either man much of a challenge.  Golovkin has proven his athleticism and ring IQ more than make up for any lack of boxing ability, and Alvarez has shown recently that the only part of his game that isn’t polished is his ability to capitalize at critical moments.  There won’t be many of those against Saunders.  For either of the middleweight kings, much like the most probable result of the match itself, choosing Saunders for their next opponent is an easy decision.


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I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing

I’ll never be so happy to be so wrong in my all life.  This joke of a fight turned out to be harmless for Canelo’s career.  In fact, it should provide a good boost for his popularity, given that his opponent had a functional 10 to 15 pound weight advantage.  One bit of trivia I was unaware of until after the fight was the fact that the Alvarez-Chavez showdown actually has been in the works for years.  At least six years, from the looks of it.

That means two things.  First, it means there was a reason for the fight to happen.  They had been planning to fight each other since a time when Alvarez wasn’t the undisputed king of the junior welters, and when Chavez was lighter.  Had this fight taken place 6 years ago, it all would’ve made a lot more sense!  And I think the result would’ve been the same.  Second, it means that the thought process behind choosing Canelo’s opponents might not be so flawed.  Alvarez so thoroughly dominated the fight that when it came time for the announcement of the score cards,  and he treated it like the Coming Attractions screen at the movies, it didn’t even seem that unnatural.

He transitioned abruptly to a very staged delivery of his announcement of his next opponent.  For once, it’s both a fight that makes sense and the fight that everyone wants.  I’m not even sure that Golovkin is such a bad opponent for Alvarez anymore.  Clearly, stronger and rangier fighters don’t bother him much, and Golovkin’s willingness to square-up and trade could work to Canelo’s advantage.  This will mean good things for boxing and the middleweight division in particular.  There are so many good fights to be seen with Alvarez at 160, even if he can’t handle Golovkin.  I’d most like to see him tested against Lemieux, Quillin, or Jacobs, but for now, triple G will do just fine.

For his part, Chavez Jr. should stay away from everyone at middleweight and above.  He’s always looked undisciplined and untalented, but this past Saturday he looked absolutely helpless.  Could be the effects of cutting weight explain his performance, but he looked unfocused and unmotivated from the first round, so it doesn’t seem like fatigue could explain his behavior.  It wasn’t because of immobility or injury, and it wasn’t out of fear of his opponent’s power, he just seemed beaten before the bell ever rang.  He’s more irrelevant now than ever and it doesn’t really matter why he fought the way he did.

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Squandered Skill

Our 2017 Cinco de Mayo fight is here, but there isn’t much to say about this classically flawed matchup.  On paper, it sounded like an important fight–two famous Mexican fighters, one at the top of his division, fighting for status as their nation’s warrior–but after last week’s spectacular display between Klitschko and Joshua, the reality of the fight is looking somewhat more bleak.  There isn’t much heated debate between fans on either side about who will win or why.  That’s because there isn’t that much at stake unless you’re an old-school Mexican fight fan.  Not that there aren’t enough of those out there to generate some impressive ratings for the pay-per-view, but will the result of this fight be significant to any boxing fans who aren’t Mexican?  Chavez is clearly the one with more invested in the idea of being known as the genuine Mexican warrior, but will his machismo draw Alvarez into a career-altering mistake?

Breaking down what each athlete is trying to achieve gives us a clearer idea of what’s at stake.  Chavez is trying to prove he really is great by beating a smaller, better fighter, after years of wallowing in apathy and mediocrity.  Alvarez, by all accounts, is trying to show that he can take detours on his predestined route to greatness.  If Alvarez lost by knockout, we might think that middleweight was just too big for him.  But we would’ve known that after his first fight at 160 anyway.  If he won but got beaten up, or lost but came close to a win, then the ultimate result is the same but his ability and skill-level are called into question.  In the most extreme scenario, if Alvarez dominates the fight completely, all we get is an indication that he’s ready for middle, which again would’ve been evident in his first fight at that weight.  None of these scenarios tell us anything about the middleweight division as it currently stands (where Alvarez claims to be headed).  We still won’t know if Alvarez will be able to handle a top 160-pound fighter and we still won’t know if a fight with Gennady Golovkin will be made.  Most of all, we still won’t give a shit about what Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. does with himself, because he hasn’t been a middleweight in years and has never held an elite position in any division.

Those scenarios aside, we’re left with the purely negative possibilities for the result of the fight.  By contrast, these consequences could significantly affect the middleweight and/or junior middleweight divisions.  If by some calamity Chavez were to dominate the fight against Alvarez, the rankings for junior middleweight would be entirely upset, and the showdown between the top junior middleweight and the top middleweight would be summarily neutered.  Lastly and least desirably, we must accept the possibility of a draw.  If some cosmic aberration causes the fight to be declared a draw, the reputations of both fighters will suffer, and their fans’ devotion will be diminished, as will the revenue involving either fighter in the future.  This result would lock one of the sport’s top attractions into a messy negotiation for a rematch that very few outside of Mexico would be likely to watch.  Even if negotiations were uncharacteristically efficient and brief, Alvarez would spend at least months, and possibly years, at the peak of his career, negotiating, promoting, training for and recovering from the rematch.  Chavez would soak up all the money he could and proceed with an uneventful denouement to his career.

That brings me to a point I’ve made before, and I’ll try to make it my last lambast about this.  Alvarez has developed a pattern of struggling to make smooth transitions from one stage of his career to another.  Suddenly shifting from junior middleweight opponents to a light heavyweight opponent for this fight shows an unsettling lack of perspective from his camp.  It’s eerily reminiscent of the decision to jump from opponents like Alfonso Gomez, Kermit Cintron, Josesito Lopez and Austin Trout, to Floyd Mayweather.  He’s jumping two weight classes ostensibly to test his abilities for a fight against Golovkin, but the opponent he chooses isn’t a popular middleweight, a highly skilled middleweight, or even a middleweight at all.  Instead, he chose for his opponent a lazy, unrefined non-entity, who typically comes in 10-15 pounds heavier than Golovkin does.  Yes, these fights make Alvarez more money and afford him more recognition than almost any other could, but in terms of his reputation, they’re risks without reward.  Mayweather is still looking for number 50, and had Canelo stayed undefeated through Mayweather’s retirement, a return for the reigning junior middleweight champion would be very attractive.

Alvarez has already racked up more wins at age 26 (two more wins to surpass Mayweather) than most fighters do in a career.  He could’ve made his legacy secure simply by staying active and fighting legitimate opponents, but he wasn’t content.  It would be great if that discontent translated into big fights against gatekeeper middleweights or stay-busy fights against everyone of importance at junior middle, but instead we get this third option.

In an interview with ESPN, Alvarez said making history in his career was important to him, but what kind of history is he writing?  The dominant junior middleweight who never passed up an opportunity to overreach?  The tiny middleweight who refused to take fights at 160?  Or does he expect us to see him as the Mexican warrior who took on all challengers?  The majority of fans won’t see him that way, I can tell you, regardless of the result of this fight.  For one thing, Alvarez has clearly been strategically avoiding Golovkin, and for another, fight fans who haven’t spent a lot of time on the Mexican history of the sport don’t care who beats Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at welter, middle or any other weight.

Names with the resonance of “Chavez” are few and far between.  Chavez senior set standards for the whole sport with the level of competition he faced, his longevity, and the excitement of his fights.  Alvarez, on the other hand, is building his history on names that won’t stand the test of time, and for reasons that are less and less compelling.  The fight against Amir Khan made sense because it was hard to imagine Alvarez losing, even on points, and because it’s satisfying to watch loudmouth pretenders like Khan put in their place.  Of course, it would’ve made just as much or more sense before the fight with Mayweather.  Liam Smith was undefeated and large for junior middleweight, so that made some sense, but because no one had ever heard of him, the result was just more padding on Canelo’s record.

These factors have conspired to constrict the potential of one of the greatest fighters of our time.  In this context, when you start to look at the names and numbers on his record, the biggest accomplishments for Alvarez start to look thin.  While he already had a lot of experience at that age, he was very young when he handled Kermit Cintron so easily.  Pretty good.  In his very next fight, he handled an aging Shane Mosley impressively.  Very good.  Then, he dismantled two oversized welterweights and lost every moment of every round to Mayweather.  Not so good.  Three more upper-level guys crossed off the list after that.  Not bad.  Then, in possibly his greatest performance, Alvarez showed us new levels of talent in an impeccable fight against the shopworn Miguel Cotto.   Truly great–except that it was probably the last fight of Cotto’s career.  It was probably the most beaten up, worn down version of Cotto (who is probably one of the most beaten up fighters of all time) ever to enter the ring, and that’s the version Saul Alvarez built his middleweight reputation on.  It was no more legitimate that Cotto’s coup of the middleweight title from the all-but-absent Sergio Martinez.

So Canelo’s greatest professional achievement is asterisked.  His second greatest accomplishment, also necessary to qualify.  The more general accomplishments of gaining experience and compiling an impressive record, now compromised by puzzling decisions and an utter defeat.  If Alvarez wins tonight, will he finally feel secure in his status as a Mexican legend?  Will that release him from his obligation to take fights that don’t further his career?  Maybe then he could sign a fight against a real middleweight, or more appropriately, a large junior middleweight with real talent, like Kell Brook.  Or will the prospect of fighting David Lemieux, Martin Murray, and Daniel Jacobs scare his team into signing more set-up fights?  If so, what will his team do when fans and analysts are clamoring for the fight with Golovkin and questioning Canelo’s courage even more than before?

I guess the best possible scenario is that Canelo will win convincingly and immediately take the fight with Golovkin.  At least then, his reputation will be restored and rankings will remain intact until he faces the guy who will likely be his beginning of the end.  Maybe.

Or maybe not.  I haven’t been able to bring myself to write up a prediction for this fight yet because I just can’t shake the feeling that it’s going to be the culmination of too many bad decisions.  There’s some metaphor there about trying to be the cock of the walk and chickens coming home to roost, but I don’t know what it is.  The only way I can think to put this in writing is to painstakingly (and it will be painful) go through individual elements of each fighter’s style and compare.  I know it won’t be fun to read, but since I’m the only one paying attention…Hopefully, I’ll feel differently at the end than I do now.

Speed:  Alvarez has the edge in speed though he’s not known for slick defense or fast combinations. Chavez can be sluggish but puts massive, fluid combos together when his opponent opens his defense.

Diagnosis: Non-factor.  Chavez is sturdy enough to handle sustained counter punching, Alvarez is smart enough to avoid 12-punch combinations if he’s not already badly hurt.

Size:  Chavez has the advantage in height, reach and weight.  If Alvarez can’t fight an active, powerful, precisely measured match, he loses either by points or by KO.

Diagnosis: Could be the deciding factor for Chavez.

Stamina:  Alvarez doesn’t seem to take rounds off toward the end of a fight, but doesn’t often reassert himself late either.  Chavez takes rounds off, but tends to hit a rhythm with high output that is rarely matched.

Diagnosis: Chavez has a bigger gas tank and a diesel engine, but if he needs much maneuverability he’ll end up in a fiery wreck.

Output and Activity:  Chavez has always had a high punch output in later rounds, but Alvarez is good at controlling distance and forward momentum throughout the fight.  Chavez leaves big openings when he’s being lethargic, but both fighters start slow.

Diagnosis: Whoever asserts this skill has a distinct advantage, whoever fails to prevent his opponent from applying this skill is vulnerable.  If someone starts faster than usual, his opponent will lose the early rounds and take some punishment.

Power:  Alvarez has the ability to apply enough power at the right time and in the right place for junior middleweights, but his record belies a more musclebound and less accomplished knockout artist.  Chavez has no sense of how to use the power he does have, and he hasn’t worked very hard at being powerful.  That said, he’s bigger and stronger and relies on volume and power in the later rounds for his wins.

Diagnosis: Chavez will demonstrate superior power even as he displays a superior chin.  In combination with volume, power could be Canelo’s undoing.

Chin:  Chavez takes a punch as well as anyone in boxing, and he’s larger than his opponent but doesn’t have a lot of power, and Alvarez is no slouch himself.

Diagnosis: Non-factor.  If Alvarez is getting hit enough for his chin to matter, the fight is already over.

Heart:  Alvarez has pushed through some tough moments in ways that we haven’t seen Chavez attempt, but neither one of them has had so little to gain in a fight against an opponent with such a size advantage.

Diagnosis: Chavez won’t have the fortitude (cojones) that Alvarez has, but he may not need it.

Footwork and Angles:  Alvarez can be impressive with his footwork and use of angles in both offense and defense, but he’s so much smaller he’ll have to use every bit of skill just to keep pace.  Chavez doesn’t do much with angles but he can move when he needs to, especially to cut off the ring, and he’s no more flat-footed than his opponent.

Diagnosis: If Alvarez isn’t at his best, all his tools will be negated by size.

Resistance to Damage:  Neither fighter has a history of stoppages for cuts or swelling, but Alvarez might have it a little better with his youth and resilience.

Diagnosis: Chavez could lose the fight on cuts or swelling.

Accuracy:  Precision punching and slipping is the only area where Chavez is helpless.  If Alvarez can build on what we’ve seen in the past and be in top form against someone this big, he could book himself for an extended stay in the elite ranks.

Diagnosis: Alvarez will probably outshine Chavez in every exchange, but if he doesn’t, there may be no chance.

Ring IQ:  Alvarez will be the smarter puncher all night long, but if he doesn’t hit the gas at the right moment he could easily lose a decision.  Chavez Jr. has Senior in his corner to pick up the slack.

Diagnosis: Chavez won’t evolve any brilliant strategies, but with a little luck and the help of Chavez senior he could adjust at the right moments and keep Alvarez from taking crucial rounds.


Okay.  I do feel a bit better.  Chavez could lose on cuts, swelling, sheer stupidity or inability to adapt.  Even so, and as much as it pains me to do this, I have to post my prediction now, and I have to guess that the larger guy, the one with deeper fan loyalty who’s more likely to get a close decision,  will take the win.  With any luck, tomorrow I’ll repenting for my lack of faith.  I’d be more than happy to admit my error.

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Dan Rafael: Fans are Fools

The sagacious Mr. Rafael has followed up his twitter tirade with an equally contemptuous article, as eloquent as it is.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure glad there aren’t any low-level bloggers with enough free time to read my crappy posts and pick apart my grammar and style and expose logical fallacies that only they care about, but this is too much for me.

Let’s start with the first two lines: “Once again, boxing fans are being played for fools. It happens all the time, and we’re suckers for putting up with it.”  Speak for yourself, Dan.  I don’t deny that you know boxing.  I’m not going to go Mayweather-Merchant here, but as an informed and faithful boxing fan for several years, I totally disagree with almost everything you go on to say here.

“Six years ago the masses wanted Floyd Mayweather against Manny Pacquiao…When they finally did meet after negotiations that were absolutely ridiculous to watch unfold, everything about it stunk…the promotion, the greed…And, of course, the fight.”  Hey, Mayweather personifies greed, no argument here.  But who can blame someone who’s in a position to get paid hundreds of millions of dollars for a 47 minute performance for making sure he gets every cent?  As for the promotion, I don’t even know what that means.  It was boring?  Over the top?  Unrepresentative?  Whatever the case, I probably agree, but it’s a moot point.  And his last point, about the fight, how ’bout of course NOT Dan.  Of course it wasn’t a bad fight!  It was the two best fighters in boxing fighting at their best (give or take a couple dozen punches) and delivering twelve rounds of hard work.  There was no stoppage for an accidental headbutt, nobody pulled a Golota and started throwing uppercuts to the groin, nobody bit anybody’s ear repeatedly.  That’s a good fight to a boxing fan (we’ll get to casual sports spectators later).

A fair and accurate way to finish the sentence would have been “of course the fight…was what it was.”  You can put Guillermo Rigondeaux in there and pay him as many millions as you want, get as many viewers as you want, and tell him it’s the most historic event in sports, but he’s still gonna fight a safe, reserved fight.  Mayweather hadn’t had a real knockout in five years (Sharmba Mitchell), even when the fight hype was just beginning.  Hatton basically ran into his punches until he couldn’t take it anymore, Ortiz just kind of gave up the way he does, and I can’t think of any others.  As for Pacquiao, anybody who watches boxing can tell you there was no way he would get the KO because there was no way Floyd would let him land a flush shot.  Those facts together mean we were never going to see an incarnation of Bowe-Holyfield.

Rafael goes on to bemoan the missed opportunity for the sport, as if that was what either Mayweather or Pacquiao were fighting for, from the perspective of people who don’t watch boxing: “…millions of casual sports fans who tuned in hoping to see a legendary fight flipped off their TVs in disgust.”  Well, that’s to be expected.  I’m sure if I were a casual sports fan who walked in on the Canelo-Khan broadcast, I would have opted for Words with Friends on my phone rather than giving the fight my full attention, even though it ended in the only way a casual sports fan would find interesting.  Dan, of all people, should know that.

In perhaps the most puzzling of his statements, Rafael suggests that he’s unsure whether we can undo past history: “It sure doesn’t look as if we will get it when we want it, which was really earlier this month.”  No, it really doesn’t look like that fight will have happened earlier this month in some alternate reality.  It doesn’t look that way at all, Dan.  You’re spot on, now.

Oh, and by the way, what we want “when we want it?”  When does that ever happen to anybody?  Grow up, Dan, this is life.

Apparently a favorite from his previous entries, Rafael included a line we’ve seen before, “So GGG crushed Dominic Wade on April 23, and two weeks later Alvarez blasted Amir Khan,” but again, the statement is misleading to the point of not making sense.  Yes, Alvarez “blasted” Khan, and Golovkin decimated Wade.  But wait, Khan is an internationally recognized welterweight with a solid record who once courted both Mayweather AND Pacquiao for potential matches that fans would have wanted to see.  Who the fuck is Dominic Wade?  I’ll tell you who: he’s an 18-1 nobody who’s best win was over Sam Soliman.  If anybody should be criticized for their competition, it’s sure not Alvarez, who I’m sure would have been happy to beat Cotto at 154, but when given the chance to take a belt, why not?

But that’s the whole controversy: Canelo has a belt so he has to defend it against whoever we say!  Not exactly.

Further on in the madness: “Once again boxing breaks our hearts because nobody can seem to do the right thing.”  Talk about a drama queen.  Rafael is the only one in the discussion whose job it is to fairly describe the state of boxing, so if anyone’s not doing the right thing, it’s him.  Since when is negotiating a fight a moral issue anyway?

He concludes by referencing what he sees as the inevitable alternative to the fight he feels the sport owes him.  Alvarez against possibly the second best middleweight, and a hell of a puncher who would make a fantastic action-packed match, Lemieux.  I hope he’s right.

His advice to fans is to “teach them all a lesson,” and “just say no,” as if it were a protest against pharmaceutical companies.  You’re asking boxing fans to avoid watching one of the best possible matches that could be made?  Get some perspective for christ’s sake.  Real fans watch for the duds, they watch for the blowouts, they watch for the wars, and they also watch for the chess matches.  I feel sorry for those who can’t appreciate them all, in the sense that they’re missing out on something I enjoy, but don’t ask me to miss out just because you’ve lost interest in anything other than knockout highlight reels.

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