A night of surprises in Central New York. Ali vs. Munguia

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Munguia hoisted up as WBO Junior Middleweight Champion (c) Jose Cuevas 2018

Story and Photos by Jose Cuevas

Verona, N.Y. – The Turning Stone has a long history putting on boxing fights. It has showcased fights like Lucas Matthysse vs. Ruslan Provodnikov and David Lemiuex vs. Curtis Stevens. This Saturday Sadam Ali took on last minute replacement Jaime Munguia. Munguia stepped in after Liam Smith had to pull out due to a last minute illness.

There was a myriad of local boys also putting on a great showing representing Syracuse and Central New York. With two Syracuse Locals taking a victory. The HBO televised card also had a great co-main event that surprised everyone in more ways than one.

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Hovhannisyan lands a vicious body punch (c) Jose Cuevas 2018

Rey Vargas vs Azat Hovhannisyan faced off for the WBC Super Bantamweight World Championship. In the 1st round Rey Vargas started strong landing punches that wobbled Hovhannisyan. Hovhannisyan came back with Authority.

 

The pressure fighting from both fighters led to Hovhannisyan developing a mouse on this left eye into the fifth round. However It was all Hovhannisyan from there on out which led to Vargas getting visibly frustrated. Vargas span Hovhannisyan and hit him behind the head during the break in the 7th round. But we could begin to see the damage that his opponent caused with his vicious pressure fighting.

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Vargas develops a nasty cut (c) Jose Cuevas 2018

Hovhannisyan massive left hook in the 7th and begins toying with him, smirking and walking casually around the ring. The cut on Vargas only got worse and worse heading into the championship rounds.

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Hovhannisyan lands a straight right (c) Jose Cuevas 2018

Many believed the fight was Hovannisyan’s to take. He was pressuring effectively and even wobbled Vargas on multiple occasions. However, to the suprise of many, including Hovannisyan’s supporters Vargas was awarded the victory via unanimous decision.

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Vargas raises his hands in victory (c) Jose Cuevas 2018

Ali vs. Munguia was supposed to be a fairly easy fight for Ali. But Munguia came in with a mindset to shock the world and capture his first world title.

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Sadam Ali prepares for battle (c) Jose Cuevas 2018

That mindset materialized in a brutal encounter that saw Ali visit the canvas multiple times. Ali was overwhelmed by the Mexican phenom’s power…which was quite frankly incredibly scary to hear and watch from press row.

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Munguia knocks down Ali for the second time (c) Jose Cuevas 2018

Munguia was able to knock down Ali twice in the first round. Ali was shell-shocked, he had no response to the pummeling blows he was receiving.

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Ali recovering from his third knockdown (c) Jose Cuevas 2018

Ali looked dazed and confused by the opponent who many said did not belong in the ring with him. However, he seemed to gain his footing back in the second round landing some good combinations and pushing Munguia back.

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Ali pushing Munguia back (c) Jose Cuevas 2018

However in the fourth round it was over after a masterful left hook called it a night for Ali and a moment to remember for Munguia who ran to his corner in ecstasy.

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Munguia celebrates his KO win (c) Jose Cuevas 2018

After the fight Munguia said he is ready for everyone and will not shy away from any challenge. He also thanked NSAC for revoking his opportunity to fight GGG because now he’s world champion. Who do you want Munguia to fight next?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canelo, Clenbuterol, and Mexico’s problem with Contaminated meat

Story by Jose Cuevas

Photos by AP Images

Cotto Canelo Boxing

Canelo in his fight against Cotto (c) 2015 The Associated Press

It was recently reported that Canelo Alvarez tested positive for the substance known as Clenbuterol. Many cried foul as they believed that Canelo was trying to gain an advantage against GGG ahead of their clash this Cinco de Mayo weekend by using a performance enhancing drug. Clenbuterol however has been at the center of controversy for Mexican athletes not only in the sport of boxing, but in other sports, soccer in particular.

Gerardo Torrado, Guillermo Ochoa

Guillermo Ochoa (c) 2011 The Associated Press

Back in 2011 five Mexican soccer players including Goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa tested positive for Clenbuterol and were removed from the Gold Cup tournament as a result. The players said that contaminated meat was the culprit. Sound familiar? It should as this is the same rationalization Canelo gave when his tests came back positive. This is not the first time Clenbuterol has stymied a Mexican Athlete.

Let’s again go back to 2011 when the Mexican government called for a moratorium on slaughtering cows at a beef processing plant in Central Mexico. The Associated Press reported the reason for this halt was due to many of the cows testing positive for Clenbuterol. Ex-Mexican President Felipe Calderon acknowledged that the substance was used by many farmers in hopes of the cows producing leaner meat. During that incident the Mexican authorities seized nearly 10 tons of contaminated meat.

The NFL even warned their players of the issue in Mexico, given that there were some upcoming NFL games taking place in Mexico.

 

Erik Morales, Pablo Cesar Cano

Erik Morales (c) 2011 The Associated Press

Back to boxing…Erik Morales suffered a similar fate as he tested positive for the banned substance back when he was set to face off against Danny Garcia. He offered the same excuse…tainted meat. Given the high frequency of Clenbuterol being used to strengthen cows in Mexico it is a very plausible defense.

Since it is so commonplace, Canelo may be the latest victim of a very unfortunate circumstance. This is the first time Canelo has tested positive for the elusive substance and I believe the benefit of the doubt should be granted to him. The good news for fight fans is that his clash with GGG is still on, tainted meat or not…

 

 

Bellator 194: Revenge or Repeat

Story and Photos by Jose Cuevas

Uncasville, Conn – Bellator 194 was held at the Mohegan Sun Arena and it was electric from start to finish. The main story lines going into the card were could Heather Hardy rebound from her devastating defeat at Bellator 185. Would Tywan Claxton continue demolishing competition as he climbs the ladder in Bellator? And would Matt Mitrione avenge his loss to Big Country, Roy Nelson en route to advancing in the Heavyweight Grand Prix.

Results

Here is the fight card with the result of each bout.

Preliminary Bouts:
Pat Casey defeated Tyler Hamilton via Unanimous Decision

Khastriot Xhema defeated Peter Nascimento via TKO (Severe Strikes) in round 1, time 3:52

Marcus Surin defeated Dean Hancock via Submission (Triangle Choke) in Round 2, time 4:50

Jarod Trice defeated Walter Howard via Majority Decision

Regivaldo Carvahlo defeated Tom English via TKO (Severe Strikes) Round 1, time: 0:17

Mike Kimbel defeated Geoffrey Then via TKO (Severe Strikes) Round 1, time: 1:03

Ross Richardson defeated Ronie Arana Leon via TKO (Severe Strikes) Round 2, time: 1:41

Main Card Bouts:

Tywan Claxton defeated Jose Antonio Perez via TKO (Severe Strikes) Round 2, time: 3:39

Vadim Nemkov defeated Liam McGeary via TKO (Severe Strikes) Round 3, time: 4:02

Heather Hardy defeated Ana Julaton via Unanimous Decision

Patricky Pitbull defeated Derrick Campos via TKO (Severe Strikes) Round 1, time: 2:23

Matt Mitrione defeated Roy Nelson via Majority Decision

Tywan Claxton continues to Dominate

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Claxton closing in on the finish (c) 2018 Jose Cuevas

Claxton continues to dominate in Bellator. After his phenomenal flying knee that would make Sagat from Street Fighter jealous.

He has more eyes on him than ever before as he is now Tywan” Air” Claxton. Below is video of the Flying Knee that put Claxton on the map.

Bellator MMA (c) 2017

Claxton landed strong and solid punches and once again tried his flying knee but had no success. Takedowns were critical in this fight as that’s were Claxton got the job done. He later told Chael Sonnen after the stoppage that he was dissapointed, but why?

Below is Claxton’s full post fight interview

Nemkov destroys his foot to destroy McGeary

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Nemkov has to ice his foot after chopping away at McGeary’s legs (c) 2018 Jose Cuevas

McGeary is a former world champion and a venerated fighter, however he seemed a little gun shy this fight.

Those Snapping kicks were the reason why as Nemkov was relentless in attacking McGeary’s leg.

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Nemkov landing one of his chopping leg kicks (c) 2018 Jose Cuevas

Those kicks would leave McGeary noticibly limping back into his corner going into the third round.

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McGeary limps back to his corner (c) 2018 Jose Cuevas

Late in the third one more kick would prove to be too much for McGeary. Below you can see him wince in pain and fall over after his leg was chopped out from underneath him.

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Hardy’s Return

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Hardy in a Pre-fight interview (c) 2018 Jose Cuevas

Hardy would return to Mohegan Sun where she suffered her crushing defeat to Kristina Williams at Bellator 185. In a pre-fight interview she said she learned alot from her last fight and promised to bring the heat to Julaton. Hardy showed that she matured as a Mixed Martial Artist showing patience, however the fight was not as entertaining as we expected.

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Hardy sinks in a Rear Naked Choke (c) 2018 Jose Cuevas

Julaton would be able to survive despite Hardy cranking the choke. Hardy would be taken down later in the second round with 3 minutes to go and exchanged some hooks from the bottom position and got on top immediately, pretty neat stuff.

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The third round was mostly inactive as Hardy seemed to know that she had victory in the bag. She would go on to win the bout.

Hardy was ecstatic after the fight and came to watch the rest of the card cageside.

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Hardy celebrates (c) 2018 Jose Cuevas

Patricky Pitbull has a mean bite

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Pitbull faces off with Campos (c) 2018 Jose Cuevas

Patricky Freire demolished Derek Campos. His striking was vicious and sharp. In press row you could hear the blows as if they were like a whip snapping. A short but very emphatic victory.

All you need to see is below to see how hard the pitbull’s bit was

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Pitbull had some choice words for current Lightweight champ Brent Primus

Below is Pitbull’s post fight interview

Mitrione’s Revenge

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Mitrione makes his entrance (c) 2018 Jose Cuevas

Mitrione’s boxing was the key to victory here. He used his jab to perfection and landed some good one two punches to keep Nelson off of him. He even cut Nelson’s ear in the first round.

However, Nelson was not to be denied as he would change swing things in his favor securing a takedown late in the round. He would then go on to do some vicious ground and pound but it was too late with the round concluding.

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Nelson with some ground and pound (c) 2018 Jose Cuevas

In round 2 Mitrione again controlling the distance, but whenever Nelson committed to take him down he was successful. He would gain side control and do some more ground and pound.

 

In round three many believed Nelson was down on the cards as Mitrione started strong with a vicious head kick. But Nelson again would land a takedown and then lock in a crucifix to try and ground and pound his way to victory.

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Mitrione lands a head kick (c) 2018 Jose Cuevas

The crowd was raucous as they were thoroughly behind Big Country. However, Mitrione was able to survive as the fight went to cards.

Nelson was disappointed as he felt he won the fight. The arena erupted in boos as he gave his post-fight interview with potential opponent in the Heavyweight Grand Prix Chael Sonnen.

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Nelson upset after the loss (c) 2018 Jose Cuevas

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Mitrione celebrates (c) 2018 Jose Cuevas

Below is Matt Mitrione’s full post fight interview.

Below is Bellator Owner Scott Coker’s Post Fight interview

The five toughest opponents for Canelo Alvarez

Cotto Canelo Boxing

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (c) The Associated Press 2015

Canelo is arguably the biggest star in boxing. After Floyd Mayweather’s retirement and Manny Pacquiao‘s “semi-retirement” he has become the man. Everyone near the middleweight division would love to land a fight with him. However, being the top draw in boxing doesn’t mean that he is perfect. As he has risen in popularity and taken more high profile fights some cracks in his game have become more and more apparent, which is normal when you fight world class opposition. Below I rank the five fighters that would give him the most problems.

5. Floyd Mayweather

Floyd Mayweather Jr

Mayweather training (c) The Associated Press 2012

Mayweather being at the bottom doesn’t represent him being the easiest out of these five fighters. I ranked him at number five because the chances of him facing off against Canelo are very slim. If Floyd were not retired I would rank him higher as I believe he would still give Canelo a lot of problems in the ring. Mayweather thoroughly schooled Canelo when they met in 2013.

Floyd Mayweather Jr., Canelo Alvarez

Canelo versus Mayweather (c) The Associated Press 2013

Canelo was very young and unable to hang in the ring with the masterful Mayweather when they fough in 2013. His superb counter-punching ability, movement, and otherworldly defense frustrated Canelo from the opening bell. Mayweather’s defense was what flustered Canelo the most and I believe it still would. Canelo struggles with complete boxers, but he particularly struggles with defensive oriented slick fighters. If Mayweather and Canelo face off again expect Canelo to still struggle against him. Don’t let Mayweather’s age fool you, there’s a strong chance he would take Canelo back to the classroom.

4. Erislandy Lara

Erislandy Lara

Erislandy Lara training (c) The Associated Press 2014

Lara and Canelo fought a closely contested fight in 2014 where Canelo won via Split Decision. The fight was not an easy one for Canelo as he struggled to corner the elusive Lara while getting pot-shotted in the process. Lara is the type of fighter that is a nightmare for Canelo, an elusive, slick, defense-oriented fighter that can rack points while reducing confrontation.

Canelo Alvarez, Erislandy Lara

Canelo versus Lara (c) The Associated Press 2014

Canelo was visibly frustrated throughout the fight as Lara did laps around the ring while tagging Canelo as he pursued him. Lara is a product of the Cuban amateur system that emphasizes scoring points while minimizing any sort of engagement. This style is not only challenging for Canelo, but for any fighter out there, which is a testament to how good Lara is.

Canelo was able to work the body enough and solidify his role as the aggressor in the fight that two of the judges awarded him a split decision. However, if he fought Lara again expect a difficult fight. Canelo has been improving at an exponential rate every fight since clashing with Floyd Mayweather. However, he still struggles with fighters like Lara. His inability to properly cut the ring off and issues with conditioning would still make this fight a difficult one for Canelo.

3. Jermall Charlo

While he doesn’t have the name recognition of other fighters on this list Charlo is a big threat to Canelo. He is trained by Ronnie Shields who also trains Lara…you can guarantee that Shields has collected some important data on how to fight Canelo and even ink out a victory. Don’t let Charlo’s low profile fool you, he can fight. He has power in both hands, he’s slick, he has good movement, effective at cutting off the ring, and he is not afraid to engage. Charlo is a very complete fighter and that will give not just Canelo but any fighter in or around the Middleweight division problems. His counter-punching and ability to catch fighters coming in would give Canelo huge problems. I don’t think he has the power to knock out Canelo but he can stun him and frustrate him with his slick style.

2. Danny Jacobs

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Danny Jacobs (c) The Associated Press 2017

I don’t know why this fight hasn’t been proposed or why fans are not clamoring for it. Danny Jacobs would not only make for an entertaining fight given his aggressive style, but he may even beat Canelo. Jacobs put on a scintillating performance versus Gennady Golovkin in 2017 and was the one to snap his vaunted KO streak (23 KOs in a row) by going the distance with GGG. He narrowly lost on the cards to GGG and it was a knockdown that made the difference in the bout.

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Jacobs versus Golovkin (c) The Associated Press 2017

Jacobs has very heavy hands and even seemed to hurt GGG in their bout. He is also very good with his combinations as he varies his attack between the body and head. His most dangerous attribute is the fact that he is fearless. Jacobs is called the “Miracle Man” as he was able to beat cancer and immediately began training despite doctors telling him he may not be able to fight again. I believe conquering something as life threatening as cancer made him fear no man, what else could he be afraid of? He illustrated this in his fight with GGG as he kept imploring GGG to engage and fight despite being knocked down once. This would be a very exciting fight to watch as Canelo loves fighters that come forward, but Jacobs can fight…if this fight goes down Jacobs could hurt Canelo in an exchange and even pull off a victory.

1. Gennady Golovkin

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Gennady Golovkin (c) The Associated Press 2017

Golovkin and Canelo fought back in September in an great fight that ended in controversy. Many believe GGG won the bout due to his aggressive style, jabs landed, and ability to keep Canelo on his back foot. Canelo was very good at counter-punching and landing combinations in spots, but he was often derailed by GGG’s pressure who forced Canelo to retreat far too often. As Teddy Atlas said in his scathing analysis of the fight, Canelo was a log in the ocean and GGG was the ocean.

Alvarez Golovkin Boxing

GGG versus Canelo (c) The Associated Press 2017

When Canelo was able to connect GGG just walked through his punches as if he was the Terminator. Despite his efforts, the fight was scored a draw which angered many fans who believe he was robbed. GGG is aging and appears to be slowing down a bit, but he is still a very formidable opponent. Canelo seems to have conditioning issues as he only fights in spurts. GGG also has a granite chin that can take hay-makers that would KO anyone else in the division. Combine this with a masterful jab, massive power, a superb ability to cut off the ring, and the ability to walk through fire like the Terminator and you have GGG. If they rematch on Cinco de Mayo expect another firefight that would further test Canelo.

Can Spence beat Thurman?

Keith Thurman, Carlos Quintana

Thurman delivering a lethal blow versus Quintana (c) The Associated Press 2012

This past Saturday Errol Spence Jr. put on a masterclass against Lamont Peterson. Spence’s constant pressure, use of his jab, and blistering combinations forced Peterson’s corner to throw in the towel heading into the 8th round. After the smoke settled, one name in particular was thrown around as Spence’s next opponent…Keith “One-Time” Thurman, or as Spence called him “Sometime” Thurman. Much to the delight of fans Thurman replied to Spence on twitter.

It’s no longer if Thurman and Spence will clash, but when. Boxers call out each other all the time, however Thurman is a fighter who has iron in his words and I do believe this bout will happen soon. They are also under the Al Haymon banner and therefore don’t have to worry about the messy matchmaking politics that plague the sweet science.

Now comes the fun part, what would happen if these two met in the ring in say the latter part of 2018. Well it’s a fight that would yield fireworks given both fighters styles. Thurman is as aggressive as they come yet has superb boxing skills. Spence is…special, he has the skills Thurman has, but has some intangible qualities that just make him stand out. Let’s look at both fighters strengths, weaknesses, and how they would match up.

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Keith Thurman Versus Shawn Porter (c) The Associated Press 2016

Keith Thurman

Keith is a rare hybrid between a boxer and a brawler, a boxer-puncher if you will. He has the raw power to knock out opponents, I mean look at his record of 28-0 with 22 KOs. He also has the boxing skills to engage in chess matches with more complicated fighters.

Power

Thurman isn’t called “One Time” for nothing, he can crack. Thurman has knocked out Diego Chaves, Robert Guerrero, Jesus Soto Karass, and Julio Diaz to name a few. It’s not all about his one time power, but he knows how to maximize his power by throwing incredible amounts of leverage into his punches.

Effectiveness in Exchanges

When a fight devolves into a slugfest Thurman is incredibly dangerous, not just because of his power, but his ability to catch his opponent in the chaos. In rewatching his fight against Shawn Porter I noticed this unique trait. Porter continued to rush him and Thurman swung for the fences while maintaining his head and chin tucked to avoid getting caught. He also timed Porter’s wild swings so that his counterpunches would land while minimizing the chance of him getting clipped. It was like a controlled chaos.

Counterpunching and Killer Instinct

Thurman is aggressive, but he also likes to lure an opponent in and catch them with his lethal hooks. He is particularly dangerous when he appears to be “boxing.” I put boxing in quotation marks as Thurman has an explosiveness that can turn a scientific boxing match into a brawl in an instant. Once he clips an opponent with an effective counterpunch he will immediately go for the kill. It’s what makes him so difficult to deal with, you never know when that “one time” power will show up.

Errol Spence Jr.

Errol Spence training (c) The Associated Press 2018

Errol Spence

Combination Punching

This is what makes him so special. Spence is able to connect so many different of permutations of punches that an opponent will not know what to defend. One instant it’s a jab to the head, right cross, left hook to the head, right hook to the body…then he’ll invert it or add a small jab just because he can. While most boxers will systemically target one part of the body, Spence attacks it all, making him incredibly difficult to read. It’s scary how good he is at this, he’s like a surgeon in the ring, he picks his opponents apart while consistently changing his combinations. He reminds me of a young Floyd Mayweather, not “Money” May, but “Pretty Boy” Floyd Mayweather.

Body Work

His body punches are like gunshots. I was present in the nosebleeds of the MGM Grand Arena when Spence fought Phil Lo Greco and I remember hearing the body punches from all the way up in the rafters. I also noticed how Lo Greco’s right side of his body began to tighten after Spence’s vicious body assault. It looked like he was walking with a stump in his leg. His commitment to attacking the body opens up the opportunity to lower his opponents guard and go for the KO.

Patience

This is probably his greatest virtue. Spence doesn’t seem to fight in a rush, he fights at a methodical pace. He slowly breaks down an opponent. Despite his young age he really does live the mantra of “don’t look for the KO, it will come.” This is what makes him so scary as an opponent.

How they would match up

Thurman tends to throw punches so hard that he ends up off balance at times. He also has shown susceptibility to body punches. If you rewatch the fight against Luis Collazo, Thurman was badly hurt by a body shot in the 7th round by Collazo.

Spence was in trouble a couple of times against Kell Brook. Particularly whenever Kell came forward and forced Spence on his back foot. In a rare moment Spence looked befuddled and confused. That may be the key to defeating Spence, but it is a huge task.

Predicition

It’s tough to call given how good they both are. Thurman has the skills to put Spence on his backfoot and land some blistering combinations on him. Spence has superb body punching skills that could rattle Thurman and hurt him far worse that Collazo ever did. The fight would be an instant classic. Spence would work with surgical precision while Thurman would land counterpunches initiating a controlled chaos. But I think Spence’s body work would be the difference. He wouldn’t be able to knock out Thurman as he is incredibly tough, but he would slow him down and edge a slight victory on the cards.

Spence wins via Split Decision in a close bout

The fight would be so good and contentious that a rematch would be in order.

Peterson versus Spence, Keys to Victory, Prediction, and What a Victory Would Mean for Both Fighters

Lamont Peterson

Lamont Peterson training (c) The Associated Press 2018

Lamont Peterson will face the IBF World Welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr in a tough fight this Saturday. Both fighters are fairly complete fighters with excellent punching technique, movement, combinations, defense, and pace. Spence has great power, excellent body punching, and an ability to cut off the ring a la Golovkin. Peterson always maintains a good enough distance from his opponent to ensure he can defend and land combinations when an opening presents itself. Below are the keys to victory for each fighter.

Errol Spence Jr.

Errol Spence Training (c) The Associated Press 2018

Errol Spence

Spence is a fighter to watch in the coming years, in short he is a phenom and an anomaly. For being a 147 pounder he has the frame of a 160 pounder. When he punches it sounds like gunshots going off. He has the confidence of a veteran in the ring despite his very young age. The key to this fight comes down to three things:

Start Fast and Pump the Jab

Lamont Peterson has a tendency to start slow as he wants to figure out his opponent in the early rounds then step on the gas. This holds true with more complete fighters like Danny Garcia in which he lost the bout. Spence can take advantage of this quirk and and come out guns blazing. He can pump his jab to push Peterson back and execute the next key to victory.

Work the Body

Spence has prodigious punching power and he knows how to put punches together. If he can land solid body punches early in the fight while keeping Peterson on his back-foot he can set up a knockout in the middle or late rounds. Spence definitely has the power to knock out any welterweight with a well placed body punch. The reason body punching is so important for Spence is that it will confuse Peterson while also wearing him down in the later rounds. If Spence attacks the body enough Peterson will start to wonder whether to drop his hands to protect his body or raise them to protect his head. Spence can throw any number of combinations that will take advantage of this confusion and set him up for the next key to victory.

Get in the Phonebooth and Finish

Spence is incredibly dangerous in close quarters. He can cut off the ring well and throw any number of permutations of punches with great power. Spence can seal a TKO or KO victory if he gets in close quarters and lets his hands go. Peterson is not particularly good in the Phonebooth and he has shown that he can be a little chinny. He was knocked out by Lucas Matthysse which illustrates that he can definitely be knocked out particularly against fast starters who are also aggressive. If Spence can cut off the ring after vicious body attacks anticipate a KO or TKO victory this Saturday.

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Peterson training (c) The Associated Press 2018

Lamont Peterson

Control Distance

Peterson has a tendency to frustrate fighters with his control of the distance between his opponent and himself. He is always in a position to either defend or counter-punch. Peterson can control the pace of the fight and limit Spence from connecting punches while collecting data on how to solve the elusive Spence Puzzle. If Peterson limits Spence from connecting and remains in control of the fight he can frustrate Spence and shift the fight in his favor. Also stay off the ropes!

Effective Counter-Punching 

Peterson has to be effective at pot-shotting Spence. Combined with his control of distance this could be the magic formula to defeating Spence. Spence is not used to being outclassed which is why he looked a bit befuddled when Brook drove him back and he was even able to stun him. An effective accumulation of counter-punches would set the stage for history to repeat itself in this fight with Peterson delivering the punishment.

Weather the Storm and Be in Control

In Spence’s fight against Kell Brook, Spence seemed to be a little lost in the rounds leading up the championship rounds (7th, 8th, 9th…). I firmly believe this is a result of him knocking everyone out prior to stopping Brook in the 11th. Spence wasn’t used to fighting elite competition in the late rounds prior to that. You can train all you want in the gym but there’s nothing like actually being in the championship rounds in a live fight against top opposition. Peterson can take advantage of this inexperience and ink out a victory on the cards or like Brook did force Spence back and unload on him on the ropes. Patience is key here.

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Errol Spence at a Presser (c) The Associated Press 2018

What a Victory would mean for both

Spence defeating Peterson would mean a continuation to his legacy. A fight against Keith Thurman could be next. This is an opportunity for Spence to show that he can consistently fight the best and be able to outclass them. He’s beyond fighting substandard competition at this point.

Peterson Defeating Spence would mean a career revival. Peterson would be added to the list of top dogs of the welterweight division and would be the new IBF Welterweight Champion of the World.

Prediction

Spence is a prodigy that has all the tools to carry Floyd Mayweather’s legacy and even surpass it as the top welterweight in this era. I believe he may be too much for Peterson and I see him stopping him in the later rounds due to an accumulation of punishment.

Prediction: Spence wins via TKO in the 8th or 9th round

I must also add that Peterson pulling off the upset is not as far-fetched as you may think he’s a wily veteran that can be a scientist in the ring. if he controls the pace and fights the perfect fight he may also pull off the upset.

Why Pacquiao versus Lomachenko would be a big deal

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Lomachenko versus Rigondeaux (c) The Associated Press 2017

“To be the man, you got to beat the man”

-Ric Flair

You may be wondering why am I mentioning Professional Wrestling legend Ric Flair in an article about why Pacquiao versus Lomachenko would be a big deal. Well there’s one line he’s famous for that transcends professional wrestling and applies to virtually every combat sport and sports in general. In order to be the man you got to beat the man. Essentially to be next big draw you have to beat the current draw.

Ric Flair

Ric Flair (c) The Associated Press 2007

It’s a formula that has worked in professional wrestling with Flair ultimately passing that torch to Sting in WCW, or Hulk Hogan passing the torch (kind of) to Bret Hart who then passed it to Stone Cold Steve Austin and so on… There came a time when the top guy would face the young lion and gave him the opportunity to be the man.

Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather Jr.

De La Hoya faces off against Floyd Mayweather (c) The Associated Press 2007

Remember “Pretty Boy” Floyd Mayweather? That fighter that was rampaging boxing’s lower weight divisions defeating fighters like Jose Luis Castillo, Genaro Hernandez, and demolishing Diego Coralles? Mayweather was definitely on the radar of boxing fans, but he could not cross over to the mainstream… he needed to fight someone on a grand stage that would give him the exposure to cross over. He would also have to beat him. The man during that era was Oscar De La Hoya.

With the victory over De La Hoya, Mayweather became a star…he beat the man. De La Hoya was recognizable outside of boxing circles and the PPV fight itself gave Mayweather the much needed publicity outside of boxing, and the victory cemented him as a must see attraction, or the A-side if you will…

Manny Pacquiao, Oscar De La Hoya

Pacquiao versus De La Hoya (c) The Associated Press 2008

The same happened with a familiar fighter who terrorized boxing’s lower weight divisions, Manny Pacquiao. He defeated Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barerra, and Juan Manuel Marquez…and did so in spectacular fashion with his aggressive fan-friendly style. Despite all of the top level performances and memorable fights, Pacquiao did not achieve mainstream recognition…he needed that push or better yet an opportunity to shine on a big stage. That’s where De La Hoya comes in…

The fight with De La Hoya gave Pacquiao the opportunity to gain mainstream recognition as more eyeballs would be watching that fight due to De La Hoya’s celebrity status. Whether De La Hoya was “the man” in 2008 was questionable, however his drawing power was still formidable. The fight with De La Hoya saw your casual fans take notice of the Filipino Phenomenon…you know the fans who will host a fight and have a Carne Asada or BBQ if you will. These are the fans that you want to take notice of you, after the fight with De La Hoya, Pacquiao was the reason to have a BBQ.

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Pacquiao after his TKO victory over De La Hoya (c) The Associated Press 2008

Pacquiao along with Mayweather, and some would add Canelo into the mix although to a smaller degree, are the last big draws in boxing. They are the only “active” fighters that are recognizable outside of boxing circles. I must add that Mayweather has retired, however he is still the most recognizable in outside circles. You can literally go to a random person on the street and ask them what they know about boxing, and they will probably mention names like Ali, Tyson, Mayweather, and Pacquiao. Mayweather seems to have ridden off into the sunset while Pacquiao still seems to still have an itch to get back into the ring. That reality makes a potential fight with Lomachenko a very exciting prospect.

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Lomachenko training (c) The Associated Press 2017

Lomachenko’s career draws a very similar parallel to what Pacquaio and Mayweather experienced. They demolished and dominated their respective weight classes but needed a marquee fight to become “the man.” He has put on sensational performances against Gary Russell Jr., Nicholas Walters, and Guillermo Rigondeaux. Not only did he beat all these top level fighters, he destroyed them and looked amazing doing it.

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Lomachenko versus Rigondeaux (c) The Associated Press 2017

Despite his otherworldly skills he needs a fight on the big stage in order to solidify himself as a star. When Mayweather fought Canelo, it gave the rub to Canelo that made him a star. He was thoroughly outclassed, however Canelo has grown exponentially since then and has become a top draw in boxing despite losing to Mayweather. A fight with Pacquiao would give Lomachenko the opportunity to not only fight one of the best, but put on a great fight and get casual fans to witness how great he is…and most fans think he can win.

Some would argue that Pacquiao is past his prime and that the fight is not worth making. When De La Hoya fought Pacquiao was definitely past his prime, however it was the stage itself and the show Pacquiao put on that catapulted him into the stratosphere of mainstream exposure. Lomachenko fighting Pacquiao would be a similar situation.

Vasyl Lomachenko

Lomachenko after defeating Sosa (c) The Associated Press 2017

Boxing is not where it once was in terms of popularity. It needs top draws that can take Boxing into the next era, it needs new household names that the average person on the street can recognize and tell their friends about. A fight with old guard, in Pacquiao, would give Lomachenko the opportunity to shine on a big stage. Pacquiao is also aging and the clock is ticking on his drawing power, why not use it as an opportunity to give the young lion an opportunity to carry the sport into the next era. To be the man you got to beat the man…

Is this Brandon Rios’ last stand?

Mike Alvarado, Brandon Rios

Brandon Rios (c) The Associated Press 2013

Brandon Rios has always been a blood and guts warrior. It’s the reason so many fans love him. He always delivers great fights and gives it his all in the ring despite what it may mean for his health and career longevity.

Mike Alvarado, Brandon Rios

Rios versus Alvarado (c) The Associated Press 2013

Rios was thrust into the spotlight after his brilliant performance against fellow brawler Mike Alvarado in 2013. He won the bout via TKO. The bout was so good that a rematch took place immediately after and produced another thrilling fight, however this time he lost via unanimous decision.

Despite losing his first professional fight he earned a fight against the returning Manny Pacquiao. Many fans wondered whether he simply a sacrificial lamb for the returning Pacman or if he could step up to the plate and ruin the comeback of one of the best fighters in the world.

Manny Pacquiao Brandon Rios

Pacquiao versus Rios (c) The Associated Press 2013

Shortly into the fight fans got their answer, this was a showcase fight for the returning Pacquiao. Rios showed a lot of heart and withstood the barrage of punches from the Pacman who was eager to show the boxing world he still had it. Despite a few landed punches against Pacquiao he could not muster any serious offense and lost a clear unanimous decision. Rios was also badly beaten with his face noticeably swollen.

Manny Pacquiao, Brandon Rios

Pacquiao lands a right hand on Rios (c) The Associated Press 2013

This fight won Rios respect in the ring as a tough guy, but it also pinned him into a corner. Tough guys in boxing win the respect of the fans and of their peers, but they are often seen as one-dimensional. They are matched up with superior boxers in order to make the “star” look good, or with elite fighters that need to bounce back from a tough loss. Rios went on to fight another tough brawler in Diego Chaves.

The fight was a toss up, and Rios further illustrated how tough he was by weathering a fight filled with dirty tactics and fouls. It even included Chaves executing a DDT on Rios in the ninth round when the referee disqualified Chaves and awarded Rios the fight.

Rios would then fight Alvarado once again to cap off their trilogy. Rios would easily win the fight against an out of shape Mike Alvarado, however he would soon face his biggest test outside of Manny Pacquiao. His next fight was against the skilled Timothy Bradley.

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Bradley and Rios at their presser (c) The Associated Press 2015

Rios would again face an elite fighter that can not only brawl but box with the best of them. Rios was coming off two straight victories and looked confident heading into the fight. Bradley began training with famed trainer Teddy Atlas and seemed poised to give a great fight. The question heading into the bout was would he be able to shine against an elite fighter or would he serve as a stepping stone for Bradley.

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Bradley lands a left hook on Rios (c) The Associated Press 2015

Bradley seemed like a different fighter under the tutelage of Atlas, he was incredibly aggressive yet swift and slick. Bradley fought so well that he was able to do something incredibly rare given his style and limited punching power, he got the KO. It was genuinely shocking to see Rios on the canvas, however was this a result of Bradley being that good? Rios not being able to rise to the level of skill? or was it poor preparation from Rios?

Rios Bradley Boxing

Bradley delivers a lethal body blow (c) The Associated Press 2015

Rios in the post fight interview said he was going to retire as his body couldn’t take it anymore. After a two year hiatus he returned to the ring against Aaron Herrera and defeated him via KO. Herrera was scrappy, but overmatched in the bout against a hungry and vicious Rios.

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Garcia and Rios face off at their press conference (c) Jose Cuevas 2018

He will face Danny Garcia on the 17th of February. Danny Garcia is another elite boxer in the same vein as Bradley and Pacquiao who could give Rios a ton of problems. Everyone knows that Rios will give an excellent fight, when has he not? The question is can he defeat an elite boxer? Or are boxers his kryptonite?

The reason this may be Rios’ last stand is if he loses he may very well be relegated to be a perennial brawler that will make the prospects look good or give a “star” a chance to get a W and bounce back. If Rios wants to bounce back he will have to be more than a blood and guts warrior, because it may very well be that his greatest asset may pigeonhole him into a corner he can’t get out of.

 

WrestleKingdom 12 and the changing landscape of Pro Wrestling

During a time that Professional Wrestling has been said to be on a downward slope, a PPV like New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestlekingdom 12 comes along and reminds us of what is so special about Pro Wrestling. It also serves as a reminder that the landscape is changing and it is doing so rapidly.

The main draw of the Pay Per View was Chris Jericho versus Kenny Omega. A dream match that many never thought was a possibility. For many Kenny Omega is considered the best Pro Wrestler in the world today and for him to wrestle one of the greatest of all time in Chris Jericho meant an instant classic that was can’t miss. The event for many eclipsed any other wrestling event(s). NJPW even called it the world’s premier pro wrestling event.

Now one might say what about WWE? The global leader in sports entertainment has been hit and miss when it comes to pro wrestling. WWE hasn’t been shy about saying that it’s all about sports entertainment while companies like New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) and Ring of Honor (ROH) define themselves as Pro Wrestling companies.

JOHNNY KNOXVILLE, THE GREAT KHALI

Johnny Knoxville at WWE Raw (c) The Associated Press 2008

WWE has tried to satiate too many masters by bringing in celebrities, making movies, remaining family friendly, and aiming tirelessly to cross over into the mainstream. That endless pursuit has alienated an audience of fans that clamor for Pro Wrestling.

ROH and NJPW have filled that void by being Pro Wrestling companies first and foremost, they are not looking for celebrity guest hosts, nor do they choose their top wrestler based on his crossover appeal…but on his wrestling abilities.

Roman Reigns

Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania 32 (c) The Associated Press 2016

A big complaint of wrestling fans has been WWE force feeding the same types of performers as the next star. The prototypical big muscular guy with Hollywood good looks is always what cuts it to be the top guy in WWE. The next guy is Roman Reigns, he has everything that WWE wants in their top guy.

I remember being at Wrestlemania 32 in Dallas Cowboys Stadium and hearing deafening boos that filled the stadium as Reigns wrestled. When he defeated HHH for the championship the boos intensified to such a degree that you could not talk over the boos. This rejection of the “top guy” and WWE’s endless pursuit of mainstream crossover has created a vacuum where NJPW and ROH have given fans what they want…Pro wrestling.

Wrestlekingdom 12 was not all about Jericho versus Omega, but Tetsuya Naito, Kazuchika Okada, Kota Ibushi, Cody Rhodes, The Young Bucks and many other notable pro wrestlers. Wrestlers like Rhodes and the Young Bucks are not exclusively signed to NJPW but they are able to appear on their shows producing great matches with opponents all across the world.

This is an advantage that NJPW and other outside organizations have over WWE. They are able to put on great matches by bringing in outside talent. For a long time pro wrestlers viewed WWE as the promised land, the place that you want to go to if you wish to be successful. WrestleKingdom 12 showed that the landscape is changing and that wrestlers can make their name outside of WWE and be better off to a certain degree.

In these other companies, yes, looks matter, but not so much to the degree that they do in WWE. The Young Bucks are not the biggest guys but the quality of their matches is top notch. Cody Rhodes has reinvented himself after being given the Stardust gimmick that left him in limbo. Okada the IWGP Heavyweight Champion has consistently put on top tier matches in NJPW. Many people forget that he was in TNA and was horribly misused and given a gimmick inspired from the Green Hornet.

It’s a breath of fresh air for many pro wrestling fans to see great pro wrestling as the main selling point of a PPV. Many fans complain about how WWE programming seems aimed towards getting Roman Reigns over, the wrestling is a vehicle to achieve that…the wrestling will only be good if it serves the purpose of getting him over. It is as if the wrestling has taken a backseat in a wrestling company.

WWE has incredible depth in their roster with Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Balor, Bobby Roode, Kevin Owens, Samoa Joe, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, the list can go on and on…Yes, I include Reigns because his work is really good and has drastically improved, the issue has been how all of the show revolves around him and the other talents are booked haphazardly. If those other wrestlers were booked with the depth that Reigns was booked the WWE could put on amazing shows.

WrestleKingdom 12 illustrates a sort of pro wrestling meritocracy. Everyone booked on the show could wrestle a great match and was placed on the card due to how well they resonated with the crowd. This meritocracy makes it makes wrestlers re-think going to WWE where they risk being misused due to WWE’s pursuit of getting Reigns over at all cost and gaining mainstream exposure. Fans even bicker on online forums and among themselves that they fear wrestlers like Omega and Okada going to WWE. They worry over them being misused, underutilized, and the commentators saying “he has wrestled all over the world, but he’s never faced the big dog.”

All of these factors led to a new Phoenix rising, similar to how ECW was in the old days. NJPW, ROH, and other notable pro wrestling companies are filling the pro wrestling void and are producing great shows like WrestleKingdom 12. The landscape is changing and Pro Wrestling fans are loving it.

 

Canelo vs. Golovkin, Bad Judges, Bogus Decisions, and How it Affects Boxing

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NSAC Executive Director Bob Bennett speaking at the Canelo vs. Golovkin Post fight Press Conference (c) The Associated Press 2017

“there’s not one person sitting in this audience that…whatever their profession, haven’t had a bad night. She was off her mark tonight.”

-Bob Bennett at the Canelo versus Golovkin Post-fight Press Conference.

This year boxing got the fight it wanted, clamored for, and needed. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin would finally meet in a ring on September 16th 2017. The timing was great after the “Money Fight” between Mayweather and Conor McGregor.

Canelo Alvarez

Canelo at a public workout (c) The Associated Press 2017

The fight was everything a fan could ask for. It was an entertaining fight between two top tier fighters that was a toss up. GGG was favored but there were many pulling for Canelo believing that he was reaching his peak and would be able to even deliver a knockout against Golovkin.

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Canelo vs. Golovkin (c) The Associated Press 2017

Canelo outworked Golovkin in the early rounds and easily won the first two rounds. Utilizing his counter punching ability to catch Golovkin coming in.

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Golovkin delivering a left hook (c) The Associated Press 2017

 

As Golovkin got used to the bright lights and Canelo’s counter-punching style he began to take over. He used his jab to perfection keeping Canelo on his backfoot while landing power punches up stairs.

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Canelo delivering an uppercut (c) The Associated Press 2017

Canelo ultimately came out strong in the championship rounds which left most people wondering who could win the hotly contested fight. Many people scored the fight in the 115-113 and 116-112 range for either fighter. More people had the fight leaning towards GGG as he dictated the pace of the fight.

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The final bell rings (c) The Associated Press 2017

The result was a far different one that only few saw coming given what they saw transpire over 12 rounds. A draw, it was scored 115-113 (Golovkin), 114-114 (Draw), 118-110 (Canelo). The arena was immediately booing. The fight party I hosted was outraged too, “how? what were they seeing?” said one viewer.

Canelo Golovkin Boxing

Golovkin at the Post fight conference (c) The Associated Press 2017

And therein lies the million dollar question…What fight were they watching? Fans are fans, many have never stepped into a boxing ring at a competitive level, however the 118-110 score was insulting the intelligence of fans that have been loyal to the sport and know a robbery when they see it.

Manny Pacquiao, Timothy Bradley

Pacquiao vs. Bradley (c) The Associated Press 2012

Back in 2012 Manny Pacquiao lost a bogus decision against Timothy Bradley where many people had him winning the fight.

Manny Pacquiao, Timothy Bradley

Bradley Celebrates his Split Decision victory over Pacquiao (c) The Associated Press 2012

The judges scored the fight, 115-113 (Pacquiao), 115-113 (Bradley), and 115-113 (Bradley). HBO Boxing expert Jim Lampley weighed in “That is a terrible, bogus decision…Tim Bradley has scored an upset split decision victory over Manny Pacquiao. God only knows how,” said Lampley. Bradley suffered tremendous backlash from the boxing community and fans, it felt like he didn’t even win. 

 

Floyd Mayweather Jr., Canelo Alvarez, Cynthia C.J. Ross

CJ Ross judging the Canelo vs. Mayweather fight (c) The Associated Press 2013

In 2013, Floyd Mayweather was dumbfounded after his technical wipeout of Canelo was ruled a majority decision as judge CJ Ross had it scored 114-114. Even Chepo Reynoso, Canelo’s Manager, said “no…no… that was not a draw.” Imagine what the fan backlash would have been against Canelo if the judges gave him a draw or victory he did not deserve over Mayweather?

There are many other gross boxing decisions like: Paul Williams versus Erislandy Lara, Mayeather versus Castillo 1, and Maligniaggi vs Diaz. The problem is this is not new. This inept judging rears its head ever so often and can ruin big fights.

In a sport that is always being labeled as “dying” this ineptitude does nothing but hurt the legitimacy of the sport. It is an asinine and downright stupid notion that you have to knock out the champion if you’re an underdog to win. But many times it seems like that’s the only way to avoid a bogus result. Or to take power away from the judges as they say.

What if you’re a technical fighter that doesn’t have knockout power? You can still be screwed. Mayweather completely dismantled Canelo and he was nearly robbed. What if the two fighters are so evenly matched that a Knockout is not likely to happen or both fighter have strong chins? At the highest level fights can be a beautiful chess match where a knockout is not likely to happen due to the high level of skill in the ring.

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Canelo vs. GGG (c) The Associated Press 2017

Canelo and Golovkin were so evenly matched that they created a great fight, the finish was the issue, it made it feel as if the fight was tarnished. It is not fair given the fact that both of these fighters put their lives on the line every time they step in the ring.

Judges are actors in the fight game, they are there to help decide who won given their efforts in the ring. But now every time a big fight comes around and it goes the distance fans are thinking…I hope the judges don’t mess this up. It’s become about the judging more than the action and the athletes that put their lives on the line in that ring.