Posts Tagged With: Wladimir Klitschko

A Full Card


It’s hard not to speculate wildly when there are so many great fights just around the corner.  Two reasons these fights are even more interesting now: Alvarez-Chavez is out of the way, and Joshua-Klitschko surpassed all our expectations.  It’s hard to see past such momentous fights before the dust settles, but now that we’ve gotten a satisfying conclusion to the Klitschko reign, and a stamp of approval for Canelo’s run at middleweight, we can sit back and appreciate this year’s bountiful spring and summer offerings.

Tomorrow, Delvin Rodriguez will be working to regain his place in the junior middleweight division after taking a series of unwinnable fights against division mainstays like Cotto, Lara and Trout.  He was the warm-up for these three superior fighters, all on their way to lucrative losses to Canelo.  The soft-touch contest against Courtney Pennington (10-4-1) in Connecticut won’t be televised, but we can guess how it’ll end.

This coming Saturday, May 13th, AWE will broadcast a WBA junior bantamweight title fight.  It’ll likely be as thrilling as most junior bantamweight fights, so nothing to set your DVR for.  Also that night, in Michigan, James Toney will be fighting.  Fortunately, it won’t be televised.

While not a thrilling prospect, it’s always interesting to see Diego de la Hoya in the ring, and he’ll be headlining the ESPN card on Thursday May 18th, building his record against relative unknown Erik Ruiz.  The following Saturday begins a big weekend for boxing with a heaping helping of interesting fights, some not so interesting.  The most tantalizing prospect coming from HBO, we’ll be treated to Terence Crawford-Felix Diaz for Crawford’s WBO and WBC titles.

I watched Diaz, the 2008 gold medal winner from Dominican Republic, lose his last major match in October 2015 when he took on hometown favorite Lamont Peterson.  This was the main event of the same card as the tragic final bout of Prichard Colon’s career.  The whole crowd in attendance was puzzled by Lamont’s inactive offense and ineffective defense, at times booing his performance.  Those who stayed for the end the fight were even more shocked when the scores were announced in favor of Peterson.  May 20th will be the night for Diaz to redeem himself in dramatic fashion, but going up against a force like Terence Crawford, it’s unlikely he’ll get the victory needs.

The same night (May 20th) on Showtime, we’ll get three Gary Russells including the famous Jr., plus Rances Barthelemy and Andre Dirrell all taking on unknowns for transitional fights, and top top it all off, Gervonta Davis and Liam Walsh in the main event.  It’s unlikely anyone will do well against Davis at this stage of his career, but Liam Walsh will be a legitimate test.  If we’re still hungry for more, FS1 will be serving up a few tomato cans to clang around the ring too.

May 27th we get Kell Brook and Errol Spence Jr. just a week removed from Terence Crawford’s next stepping stone fight.  Hopefully, the winner of the more highly celebrated Brook-Spence contest will be facing Crawford soon.  All three are names with enough longevity to take boxing fans into the next era, but two in particular, Crawford and Spence, seem to have the most potential.

June 3rd we get Adonis Stevenson-Andrzej Fonfara.  This should be an exciting fight with a lot of good exchanges, settling any unanswered questions from their first close fight.  Fonfara is talented and his style matches up well against Stevenson, but it’s likely Stevenson will adapt better the second time around and close up any gaps.  Also that night, Fres Oquendo, whose last fight was a loss to Chagaev in 2014, will “fight” Shannon Briggs.  Appropriately, the fight will take place in Hollywood.  Briggs has fought steadily but met his last significant opponent, Vitali Klitschko, seven years ago.

June 16 Claressa Shields will be in the ring again, but of course, it won’t be televised.  To be fair, most of Shields’ fights are painfully one-sided.  Still, there are other exciting female boxers and these fights can’t draw any viewers if they aren’t accessible.

The following night on June 17 we’re already set for the rematch between Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward, with the undercard featuring Guillermo Rigondeaux.  While no one is likely to disturb Rigondeaux’s reign, his opponent is undefeated and could provide some resistance.  Fans are hard set on their picks for the Kovalev-Ward rematch, as they were for the first fight.  It’s a rational argument either way, and I would still make the case that Kovalev could easily have taken the cards in that match.  If past evidence is any indicator (think Cotto-Margarito II, Mayweather-Maidana II, Rios-Alvarado II), the fighter who relies more on mental agility, ring IQ and technique will refine his strategy and come away with the win.  Ward has been so smart in all his fights in the past that he’s not only undefeated, he even managed to win landslide decisions against fighters who specialized in making slick fighters look clumsy.  Kovalev is a force, to be sure, but he doesn’t seem to have many dimensions to his style.  If something isn’t working, he works harder at what he does well and usually something gives.  In this case, that won’t cut it.  He’ll have to find a weakness in Ward’s game, or he’ll have to sure up one of his own, so that he can keep the offensive points from going to his opponent.  We know Ward will best him in defensive technique, but if Kovalev can hurt Ward or keep him from working actively, we could see a trilogy in the making.  Ward will likely take the win by decision, but Kovalev will make it very interesting.

The crown jewel in the summer lineup will be the epic clash between Saul Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin.  There’s enough to speculate about with that fight to fill a book, so for this post we’ll just acknowledge that the biggest treat of all still awaits us, ready to offer solace for the bittersweet arrival of fall.

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Giants of the Times


Image result for nikolai valuev

A lot has been made in the past week of Tyson Fury’s return to Trump-style communication, that is, harassing people on Twitter without using factual statements.  He used this strategy before with Klitschko, and it worked.  He got his shot at the title, and the big lazy manic-depressive actually pulled it off somehow.  He won.

Hey, it shocked me too–but now people who claim to know boxing are making a big deal about Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder avoiding Fury.  They treat a potential rematch between Klitschko and Fury as a foregone conclusion, that Klitschko will lose.  I’m pretty puzzled as to why anyone would feel that way.  Have you not been following heavyweights for the last 11-14 years?  Because that’s how long the Klitschko name has adorned the top of the division.  Sure, it was a lackluster era for the heavies, but the same was said about Floyd Mayweather before he started fighting Cottos and Pacquiaos.  While the first fight between Fury and Klitschko was one-sided, the sheer absurdity of the circumstances (Fury sang “Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” after his victory) made it clear that a rematch would be worth seeing.  Joshua-Klitschko will undoubtedly be less exciting to watch than that fever dream was, but it brings gravity and competition back to the division.

We have to keep in mind that Wladimir Klitschko turned 41 a few weeks ago while Tyson Fury is still only 28.  The older Klitschko gets, the less he’ll be able to compete with any young, large, skilled opponent, and the more likely it becomes that his successor will be just another pudgy Russian or technical Slavic fighter whose name will fade as quickly as it appeared (we’re looking at you, Ibragimov).  Remember Nikolay Valuev?  Do you remember how big he was?  A 7-foot tall 330-pound monster with enough chest hair to weave a bathroom mat.   He lost to David Haye (a man with a 100 pound weight disadvantage) 8 years ago.  Haye went on to fight Klistchko just 6 years ago, and was humiliated, unable to compete on any level.  In other words: just because you’re the biggest, or have the biggest mouth, doesn’t mean you’re competitive.

Fury is slightly less bound by his lumbering physique than Valuev, but no more talented.  It should come as a shock to everyone if he manages another win over Klitschko, and an even greater shock if he gets a match and can even compete with the other two, younger, more talented, more physically impressive champions.  Joshua probably isn’t as skilled as Wilder, but both are so far beyond Fury physically that skill won’t be as much of a factor, if they ever meet him in the ring.  It’s certainly impressive that Fury managed a win over a Klitschko, at any age, and he did it while suffering from mental illness.  I’m not saying Fury got lucky, but there’s a reason no one expected the fight to go the way it did.  Just as it was for Lennox Lewis-Oliver McCall II, the rematch is a clean slate for the more talented, and more physically and mentally fit fighter.

That being said, Joshua and Wilder are no small potatoes themselves.  I would expect either of them to handle everyone in the heavyweight division easily, except each other and Klitschko.  There are others on the periphery; Luis Ortiz comes to mind, but then so do the allegations of doping and use of banned substances.  As far as I’m concerned, however well it was concealed, there’s as much likelihood that Fury was using PEDs leading up to Klitschko as there is that Marquez did leading up to the last fight with Pacquiao.  As far as Helenius and Price, the behemoths seemed to have a better shelf life than Fury, but have faded out of the picture so completely that it’s not worth speculating about the reasons why.

When Klitschko and Joshua meet this Saturday, expect a real test of Klistchko’s viability and his skill.  If he can get past Joshua or even put up a convincing fight, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him solidly defeat Fury in a rematch at some point in the future.  If not, and they never meet, it’s very likely that Wilder and Joshua, in that order, will lead the division head and shoulders (no pun intended) above everyone else.

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Fury Fight Off Again


Still in recovery from the disappointment of the first canceled rematch between Tyson Fury and Wladimir Klitschko, fans are now enduring yet another delay, as Fury has presented a letter from his doctor stating that due to mental health issues, the fighter will be “unavailable for the foreseeable future.”

Now, beyond the obvious possibility that the out-of-shape behemoth only managed a victory over Klitschko by some stroke of luck, this delay is perplexing for many reasons.  For one thing, this will be the second time Fury has canceled the fight for health issues in about three months.  The first injury was probably legitimate.  After all, an overweight man who brags about not training wouldn’t be anyone’s top choice to survive a heavyweight-title-fight training camp.  But come on, who among us was familiar with Tyson Fury and thought he did not have mental health issues?  Wladimir has said that himself in interviews and at press conferences.  Dressing up in a five dollar batman outfit and knocking over a display table in front of the press doesn’t exactly speak to a person’s mature, stable demeanor.

Are we really expected to believe that this diagnosis by Fury’s doctor is some kind of revelation?  Even if it were, could it possibly be a coincidence that Fury has just now reached the absolute pinnacle of his career, or, more to the point, that not calling off the fight would mean putting his reputation on the line?  Fury’s accomplishments, up to the Klitschko fight, were minor and unimpressive, for a 7-foot-tall man, at least.  Now, he could lose all the respect and admiration in 36 minutes or less, if he can’t perform the way he did in the first fight.  He’s even been accused, along with his brother Hughie, of using PEDs.  So maybe the success against Wladimir was a direct result of doping, or maybe he needed the drugs to sustain his oversize frame and (probably) enlarged heart.  But all of a sudden, he has health problems that prevent him from fighting for the foreseeable future?

And how about that for phrasing?  “Foreseeable future” implies that the condition is serious enough that Fury may never fight again, much less return in time to fight the aging juggernaut who challenges his place at the top of the division.  At this point, Wladimir could hold on for a couple more years, with great success, but to give any meaning to that time, he would have to fight the biggest guy (physically) in the division.  If Fury did come back, and finally made the fight, and kept the date, he’d win or lose to man who had passed his prime a decade earlier.

Based on the tests of character, displays of talent, and the statements made by Fury in the past, it’s hard to believe that these delays are pure coincidence.  It’s not very plausible that his mental health issues were unknown up until this diagnosis, either.  We were all very impressed by the performance Fury put on during and after the match against Klitschko, but now we all have to face reality.  Turning one fight into a circus of novelty is one thing, but to associate the heavyweight championship with a farce is another thing entirely, one boxing fans won’t tolerate.  We won’t cater to his ego or his warrior mentality; we won’t acknowledge his accomplishments to soften the blow of this exposure.  Fury is a phony.  We suspected before, and now we know.

It’s not that there aren’t other interesting fights to be made at heavyweight, there are, but protected prospects will likely never meet a close-to-prime Klitschko.  We’ll have to wait for another cycle to run through before we get an active heavyweight scene again, and by then, we may have already said farewell to Klitschko’s glimmer of greatness.

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And then He Sang


This past weekend Tyson Fury dethroned an aging Wladimir Klitschko in a one-sided decision win.  Klitschko was number two in history for his title reign right behind Joe Louis, but he threw fewer than ten punches per round for most of the fight.  Klitschko hadn’t lost a fight in eleven years, but he looked like he didn’t remember the part of boxing where you keep your hands by your chin.  Klitschko was in impeccable condition, as he has been for all of the major matches in his 68-fight career, but he looked rattled when a lazy, looping hook from Fury grazed him occasionally.

Fury somehow managed to look almost impressive, with undeniably quick movement for such a huge frame.  He came in almost thirty pounds lighter than just three fights earlier, against Joey Abell.  It must have helped, because he seemed more ready to go the distance that I’d ever seen.  His punches weren’t voluminous, powerful, or accurate, but they were often well-timed.  He caught his opponent unprotected once when Klitschko spun around and expected the referee to stop the action.  After the fight, Fury, shockingly, was polite and almost humble.  His words in the post-fight interview were uncharacteristically cogent and logical, and he even claimed that all his antics leading up to the fight were nothing more than that.  He had won a fight against a superior athlete and, impossibly, he did it so convincingly that many people don’t expect Klitschko to win the rematch.  Klitschko has since exercised his contractual right to that rematch, and Fury has accepted for a date yet to be determined.

Fury had done all this in Germany and managed to even maintain a level of decorum, and then he sang.  One of the most outrageous and questionable claims of Fury’s maniacal pre-fight campaign was that he would sing a song after taking Klitschko’s championship.  After all that had happened, he kept his word, and sang “Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” to his wife, and it was even romantic (on some level).  I don’t know what else to say.  Unexpected.

Tonight a much-anticipated fight between Daniel Jacobs and Peter Quillin will determine who moves ahead and who becomes a gatekeeper in the middleweight division.  While Quillin has faced marginally better opposition in his career, Jacobs is always a solid bet for an action-packed fight, and his heart and determination are evident every time.  I expect Quillin’s superior technique to make the difference early in the fight, with Jacobs struggling to get into a rhythm.  Quillin better have a good lead by the middle rounds, though, because if he gets too intimate with Jacobs after his own defense has loosened a bit, Jacobs’ expertise in achieving knockouts could be on display.

Manny Pacquiao is rumored to have set his final opponent.  Speculation is that he’ll choose either Amir Khan or Terence Crawford.  The former would be a good send-off, while the latter would be a challenge worthy of Pacquiao’s incalculable reputation.  Here’s hoping.

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Humble(d)


There have been a lot of exciting developments in boxing in the last few months, but in this holiday season there’s one fighter who should be more grateful than anybody else.  Tyson Fury will get his chance to fight Wladimir Klitschko tomorrow, despite the fact that he hasn’t really overcome any impressive competition (the same could be said for most of Klitschko’s previous opponents).  In one night he’ll get a huge paycheck and more exposure than he ever could have hoped for otherwise, and all of it will come to pass because he managed to be one of the most obnoxious athletes on the planet for several years in a row.  Even topping David Haye for belligerent British blabber, Tyson Fury has spent as much time in the past few years saying something outrageous and provably untrue in front of a camera as he has training and fighting as a “professional” boxer.  The most professional thing about Fury is his size, actually standing three inches above Klitschko, and being the primary reason for his past success.  His technique is atrocious and his regard for the sport is similarly lacking.  People have so long been incredulous of Klitschko’s ability to take a punch, that a huge behemoth, no matter how obnoxious and undeserving, seems like a good opponent.  Many Klitschko opponents have seemed like they ought to provide good competition, but almost all of them failed.  In this case, fans are wondering if an aging legend might miss a step and get hit with the wrong shot from an enormous man who could stagger any normal heavyweight.  Unfortunately, being huge only marginally increases Fury’s chances of outperforming past Klitschko victims like Alexander Povetkin and Sam Peter.  Even if he were as skilled as these other fighters (which he’s not), Fury would have to get very lucky, and Klitschko would have to make a big mistake, similar to his fights with Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster.  At this level of the sport, technique and talent always withstand what the fervor and drama cannot.  Klitschko will walk Fury down and have little trouble landing, as Fury’s not known for head movement or defense, and Fury will run after he’s tried flailing at Klitschko’s head a few times.  Maybe after getting his payday, an undeserved spotlight, and a chance at a real title, Fury will be humble for the first time in his career and accept the superiority of the better man.  Klitschko can retire, satisfied that he silenced even the largest and most absurd critics, and Fury can fade into the melodramatic obscurity that his name implies.

Check out my Fight Predictions page to see my thoughts on the result.

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Things to be Grateful for


The long wait is finally over for Saul Alvarez, who this past weekend defeated Miguel Cotto and won a middleweight championship.  While Cotto, at 35, must reassess his career and reconsider his next move, there won’t be much change in his immediate future.  Having already reached his peak in the sport and enjoyed multiple high-level showdowns, Cotto’s only option was to strategically pick fights that would enhance his legacy until he met opposition he couldn’t handle.  Alvarez, as many fans expected, turned out to be that opposition.  Cotto fought well and, as famed trainer Freddie Roach promised, his legs were a great asset.  Alvarez was more accurate, powerful and had faster hands and head movement than Cotto.  Using his slick style, (only evident against certain opponents) Alvarez was able to execute Mayweather-esque moves, landing shots while almost simultaneously slipping one from his opponent.
If Cotto had won, on the other hand, Alvarez is the only person who would have been significantly affected.  With abundant criticism of his unbelievably one-sided loss to Mayweather, and even of his wins over top, but not elite-level opponents, Alvarez needed to prove that he wasn’t just a gatekeeper at 154 pounds.  Given his size (he routinely rehydrates to the size of a super middleweight), Alvarez needed to make a big statement in the division before time ran out and making weight cost him his ability in the ring.  Cotto, being a key name in the sport, presented the perfect opportunity.  Alvarez is now recognized as one of the top fighters in the sport both for skill and entertainment value, and with Mayweather’s transition to retirement, the new star is right on time.

This weekend we can look forward to seeing Wladimir Klitschko face an opponent of similar size, if not similar talent, in Tyson Fury, whose most famed accomplishment in boxing so far has been punching himself in the face.  His shameful ranting and immature antics (dressing up as Batman at a press conference) have made this the most interesting Klitschko fight I can remember since Vitali fought Lennox Lewis.  Let’s be honest, we all wanted to see David Haye knocked out, but it wouldn’t have been quite as satisfying as seeing an enormous man, actually larger than Klitschko this time and even with some distinguishable talent, shut up for once and all.  We have all that to look forward to, AND a big meal.  Happy Thanksgiving.

I also want to highlight the success of my former trainer Mike Tata, whose Friday Night Fights Gym in New Orleans has been featured in Sports Illustrated and is enjoying considerable success after a humble beginning.

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Klitschko Kitsch


https://i.guim.co.uk/img/static/sys-images/Sport/Pix/pictures/2015/9/23/1443026784435/Tyson-Fury-emerges-as-the-009.jpg?w=620&q=85&auto=format&sharp=10&s=ef539c838ef781698f580eb378d8e1ac

This week Tyson Fury and Wladimir Klitschko held a press conference to promote their upcoming fight on October 24th.  In boxing, heavyweights are the glamor division, even when the talent all seems to be gravitating toward the middle divisions, so it’s no surprise that promoters will from time to time resort to vaudeville-style tactics to draw interest.  WWE has made an industry out of this strategy, and as I pointed out in a recent post, the debate about Floyd Mayweather fighting Rhonda Rousey is similarly undignified in its appeal to fans’ primitive instincts.  Tyson Fury may have taken the game up a notch in the recent press conference, however, with a low-budget attempt at buffoonery seemingly meant to demonstrate some unapparent sense of humor.  Dressed as Batman, he perpetrated a battle between himself and his cousin, cleverly disguised as the joker, contriving a struggle to knock over the display of Klitschko’s championship belts.  Fury is always less than elegant in his interviews and in his general behavior, but this was a new low in sophistication even for him.  He proceeded to rant about his reign as a “Gypsy king” and how Wladimir had fought weak competition.  It goes without saying, but just so we’re all on the same page: Fury has 24 wins while Klitschko has 64; Fury has had arguably three or four notable opponents, Klitschko is within two fights of the record for most heavyweight title defenses in history.  These histrionics from Fury are no different from the transparent, vulgar bravado put on by David Haye, which quickly dissolved once they were actually in the ring together.

On the other hand, doesn’t this cartoonish melodrama surrounding Klitschko’s next opponent seem eerily familiar?  It wasn’t long ago that Dereck Chisora and Shannon Briggs were staging water-throwing fights with Wladimir in promotional altercations before their respective fights.  Throwing water was an odd enough choice for Klitschko’s previous opponents, but if Fury was going to do a little Batman sketch, couldn’t he have invested more than $20 in materials?  They looked like the costumes you end up with when you go Halloween shopping on October 30th.  Then again, maybe that was the intention.  It makes you wonder, maybe this is Dr. Steelhammer’s cure for a boring division and waning ticket sales.  It would certainly make sense if the well-learned champion took a page from the world of professional wrestling in order to boost interest in his fights, which have often been criticized for his technical style.  The formula sure seemed to work with David Haye, who no one really believed could beat Klitschko, but everyone thought would be satisfying to watch get knocked out after incessantly running his mouth.

Either way, the upcoming fight is sure to interesting.  In terms of physical contrast, Klitschko will be lean and solid, brimming with technical ability, while his gargantuan opponent, at 6’9″, will be flabby and sloppy.  It’s not often we see Klitschko fight a larger man, and while Deontay Wilder is only 6’7″, the Fury match could be a good model to predict how that fight would turn out.  It could also be one of Wladimir’s last performances, with his brother having already retired, and little desirable opposition left in the division.  The Klitschko legacy is totally secure, but it’ll be fun to watch the aging champion show what his years of experience and dedication have produced, and whatever theatrics might ensue, I’m looking forward to tuning in for The Klitschko Show.

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Hop’ping on the Bandwagon


History at the Capitol

Tomorrow night I’ll be watching Bernard Hopkins, at age 49, take on Beibut Shumenov of Kazakhstan at the DC Armory.  The light heavyweight title fight is part of Hopkins’ crusade to unify the championship and become the oldest fighter in history to do so.  As much of a critic as I was back in the days he was feigning injury in every other fight and taking credit from better fighters like Joe Calzaghe, I can’t help but be truly excited to see this historical fight.  Shumenov is a worthy opponent, if not an intimidating champion, and Hopkins’ recent performances have been more than impressive, especially at his age.  I have to admit, I think the title unification is somewhat of a pipe dream, but who can root against him?  Like Big George’s one-punch knockout of Michael Moorer, a win over Shumenov would change the way fans think about age in boxing and in athletics in general, not to mention how they feel about Hopkins as a fighter.  I think he deserves all the credit he’s gotten for his accomplishments, except maybe some he’s given himself in attempts to mitigate his defeats.  The stats for the fighters are as follows (courtesy of boxrec.com):

Beibut Shumenov

14(9)-1(0), 101 pro rounds

Orthodox

6’2″

74″ reach

 

Bernard Hopkins

54(32)-6(0)

Orthodox

6’1″

75″ reach

 

 

While Hopkins began his pro career at light heavy, Shumenov began at crusierweight and is naturally larger.  Similar in height and reach, both have scored knockouts, and neither has been knocked out themselves.  Shumenov is considered the more dangerous puncher even though he’s only fought 15 fights against modest competition.  Hopkins, on the other hand, has fought some of the best in the business from middleweight to light heavy, managing knockouts in almost %60 of as many fights, and lost only 6 times.  While Shumenov has avenged his only loss, it was a loss to Gabriel Campillo, a gatekeeper in the division at best.

Losing to the legendary Roy Jones Jr. in his prime is no embarrassment, but when Hopkins comprehensively defeated him in their rematch so many years later, it was a real achievement.  Going from “The Executioner” to “The Alien,” in reference to his new role as father time in the sport of boxing, Hopkins has established himself a legitimate athletic phenomenon and dismissed suspicions that his primary advantage is luck.

More good fights are on the horizon, with heavyweight stars populating basic cable time slots.  The next Wladimir Klitschko fight will be aired on ESPN next weekend, followed closely by Stiverne-Arreola II on May 10.

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Another Robbery Reprieve


Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. was credited with a unanimous decision victory over Brian Vera.  I don’t dispute the fact that the fight was close, I might even be concede the point that Chavez should have won, but the scores those judges turned in were shameful.  Boxing is progressively becoming more a popularity contest and less of a legitimate sport.  Even when I was desperate for Alvarez to distinguish himself against Mayweather, I was under no delusion that the judges had awarded him undeserved acclaim.  How far will this go before fans start to see boxing as having a theatrical, unreliably subjective component similar to that of professional wrestling?

This weekend will offer two noteworthy fights, as Miguel Cotto takes on Delvin Rodriguez and Wladimir Klitschko demolishes Alexander Povetkin.  Cotto will be attempting to redeem himself after two comprehensive defeats, and Klitschko will be tying up a loose end he’s been pursuing for some time.  Povetkin has been waiting for this chance to prove his inferiority also, and this Saturday will bring a conclusion to the charade.

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Mounting Matchups


Three big-name fights, aside from the obvious Mega-Mayweather bout, have taken over boxing headlines in recent months. First announced was the much anticipated return of Manny Pacquiao against a crowd-pleasing opponent. Pacquiao’s consecutive losses to Tim Bradley Jr. and Juan Manuel Marquez affected his career prospects dramatically. For his return fight, he needed a fighter popular enough to be called relevant, while not risking too much against a master technician (Bradley) or an unorthodox counterpuncher (Marquez). In Brandon Rios, Pacquiao found the best of both worlds. Rios thrilled audiences in his back-to-back slugfests with Mike Alvarado. In the rematch, Rios suffered his first loss, making him both vulnerable and hungry for Pacquiao. Pacquiao’s recent decline has been just another entry in the limitless volumes of boxing’s revisionist history. Fans simultaneously claim the losses were flukes and that they anticipated Pacquiao’s loss of stature. If Pacquiao has indeed started his slow denouement to becoming “old” in the ring, he will certainly show it against the younger, hungrier Rios. If, on the other hand, Pacquiao’s talent is and was as prodigious as his fans would have us believe, that will be painfully apparent as well, as he takes on an opponent whose technical abilities are far less refined than any of Pacquiao’s recent opponents. One thing is for sure, it will be a hell of a fight.

The second fight to be announced was somewhat less exciting. Alexander Povetkin once again claims to be set to fight the king of the heavyweight division, Wladimir Klitschko. The fight has been cancelled before for various reasons, but this time, we’re told, the fight is on for sure. Time will tell, but in this case, there are no question marks on the conclusion to the fight. Klitschko greatly outshines Povetkin in every important category: size, skill, power, even speed. Povetkin’s success in the ring has been admirable, at least, but he’s also struggled against opponents who have never been considered elite. Klitschko, while he has certainly aged some, hasn’t shown any signs of diminishing skill in his recent reign of dominance. Rivaling the most celebrated heavyweight reigns of all time, Klitschko is truly the most dominant fighter at any weight. At least Povetkin will finally begin fading into the background after this fight. A much more competitive fight that has been discussed hypothetically for months would be Povetkin-Adamek. After his loss to Klitschko, Povetkin might be more interested in getting a name opponent who isn’t a foot taller than he is.

Finally, another fight was just recently made involving the key players who contributed to the signing of the Pacquiao-Rios fight. Ruslan Provodnikov will take on relentless brawler Mike Alvarado. Both fighters most recent bouts have been career-shortening wars. Provodnikov took on Tim Bradley Jr. who, though criticized for his approach to the Pacquiao fight, had risen to the top of the welterweight ranks with his win. For Bradley, it was the compulsion to prove his warrior spirit to his fans that led to the fireworks. For 12 rounds, Bradley embodied his moniker, Desert Storm, rushing headlong into Provodnikov’s offensive fury. Provodnikov was determined to outwork Bradley, and almost knocked him out several times, but came up short against Bradley’s indomitable spirit and bottomless reserve of endurance. Alvarado, on the other hand, knew what he was in for in his rematch with Brandon Rios. Both fighters giving an impressive performance, Alvarado managed to outbox Rios for enough of the fight to avoid taking major damage as he did in the first fight. Rios was close to another knockout, but wasn’t able to overwhelm Alvarado with his offense the way he had previously. Provodnikov-Alvarado will feature two fighters who have almost perfect offense and granite jaws. As surely as Klitschko-Povetkin will be a snoozefest, Provodnikov-Alvarado won’t be dull for a moment. Of all three, this is the fight, stylistically, that will prove most difficult to predict. Physically we know that Alvarado is much more agile than Provodnikov and probably conserves his energy better, but definitely doesn’t hit as hard. Alvarado is the purer boxer, but boxers are often stymied by an unorthodox style and relentless offense, both of which Provodnikov will bring in abundance. We saw something truly impressive, even in defeat, in his fight against Bradley, but will Provodnikov maintain that determination? I think we’ll know in the first few rounds whether Provodnikov can measure his offense, and whether Alvarado can mount an attack while avoiding his opponent’s.

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