Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin – How It Can Go Down

It is fight week.

For the past two years, the boxing world has been waiting for the showdown between Mexican superstar Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Kazakhstan’s own Gennady “Triple G” Golovkin.  It is a true pick’em superfight that should be one of a few crossover events that the casual sports fan should check out.  But unlike the previous spectacles with Canelo vs Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor; this one is a true 50/50 fight that promises action.

While the Mayweather-McGregor spectacle swallowed up a lot of oxygen in the sports world, this fight has still garnered a lot of hype.  It is not quite on that level in terms of mainstream appeal but it is not a match reserved for just boxing enthusiasts.  You can find plenty of amazing previews that really analyzes both athletes but that’s not what what I want to do.

Let’s take a look at how the fight could break down.

Gennady Golovkin by TKO 

Most observers are of the belief that if Golovkin is going to win, its likely to come by a technical knockout in the later rounds.

Golovkin is the definition of a come-forward boxer.  When I think of Golovkin’s pressure, I often think of this knockdown against the defensive-orientated Willie Monroe Jr.  Now, Monroe Jr. is not a hard-hitter nor is he anywhere near the level that Canelo is on but it offers a fairly clear indicator on what to expect with Golovkin.

Notice how he essentially throws a couple jabs but is forcing Monroe into the corner.  Cutting off the ring is one of Golovkin’s main strengths, a trait picked up through his lengthy and successful amateur career that includes an Olympic Silver medal, and you can see it perfectly there.  He lets Monroe essentially punch HIMSELF into the corner while Golovkin patiently waits to strike, then lands a flush left hook on Monroe’s chin.

It should be noted that Golovkin has great power but its not usually seen as the one-punch variety but as a thudding beatdown.  With respect to Nobuhiru Ishida and Matthew Macklin, you don’t tend to see one punch end a Golovkin fight.

Golovkin operates behind a ramrod jab that can be described as one of the best in the fight game.  No better example exists than Golovkin’s maiden pay-per-view match against David Lemieux in a unification battle.  Lemieux is a powerful, but limited, brawler who was essentially force-fed a diet of jabs before Golovkin unloaded the heavy artillery.  When Golovkin lands his jab, and he is more likely to do so than not, it makes an impact.

If Golovkin is going to end Canelo’s night early, it should be assumed that he will do a blend of both strengths.  He will look to trap Canelo, utilize his jab, and dictate the tempo of the exchanges.

Canelo By Decision

While Golovkin has strength, his resume is really not that strong.  Yes, he was ducked and that should be stated.  However, it is hard to say he is one of the best of all-time when his best wins are a close decision against the capable Danny Jacobs, a blown-up Kell Brook (a welterweight who moved up to 160 to face GGG) and Lemieux.

Canelo has faced some of the best of his generation’s best.  While he did lose to Floyd Mayweather Jr., he did defeat the elusive Erislandy Lara and the rugged Miguel Cotto.

The Cotto fight in particular is one I want to highlight in why Canelo can win this by decision.  The Freddie Roach trained Cotto might be a few years past his prime, but it is hard to envision many 154 pounders who would have defeated him on that December 2015 night.

Take a look at Canelo’s defense.  Yes, this is a highlight reel that is designed to show the best of Canelo but Cotto was just never able to land much clean on Canelo.  While there appeared to be a size difference, Cotto’s handspeed was no much for Canelo’s elite upper body movement.  Canelo’s anticipation was on display and it almost looked like the Mayweather-Canelo fight but with Canelo as the matador.

Another huge weapon in Canelo’s weaponry is his body work.  If you need a refresher on how good it can look, let’s go back to his fight against Liam Smith.  Much like Monroe, we do need a small disclaimer on Smith.  Liam Smith is a perfectly fine boxer who is probably just above domestic level but far below the elites.

This exchange can be a bit of a preview on what to expect from Canelo.  Canelo eats a solid punch by Smith and then proceeds to walk him down with an array of uppercuts and body work.  The next round, another combination puts Smith down and the fight is eventually ended on a brutal shot on the liver.

Again Liam Smith is not Gennady Golovkin but he’s a perfect portrait for Canelo to paint his brutality on.  When Smith tried to go inside, he had nominal success but he would eat heavy fire in return.

A Canelo win by decision would mean that he landed those shots while avoiding the blows that have ended numerous Golovkin foes.

Canelo by TKO/KO

Golovkin has never been knocked down nor seriously wounded.  While Curtis Stevens and Jacobs both caught Golovkin clean with some flush shots, Golovkin merely nodded and walked right through.

But let us not forget the Andre Ward-Sergey Kovalev rematch that took place in June.  Ward, a strong but not necessarily powerful fighter, was able to land a beautiful shot on Kovalev’s chin after focusing on the body.

Golovkin has faced power before, but a lot of those fighters lacked the dedication to the body and precision that Canelo has shown.  Golovkin can shell into a high guard and that could be a recipe for a beautiful uppercut.  Now imagine that after some shots above the beltline?

Golovkin by Decision

Golovkin, in nearly the past ten years, has gone to the scorecards once and that was in his last fight against Danny Jacobs.  Golovkin has shown the ability to dominate a fight but we have yet to see it from Rounds 1 through 12 because frankly, he’s never needed that until March 2017.

If Golovkin wins by decision, it would likely look similar to the Lemieux fight without the power punches.  Golovkin by jabfest likely wins any scorecard.

Draw

Guaranteed rematch which would be fun right?

Prediction

Disclaimer: I am a huge fan of Gennady Golovkin.  So I will always pick him.  But I am more than willing to accept that Canelo is still improving and has somehow elevated his game even more since he won the Cotto fight.

It is not impossible to see a similar, if not comparative, performance of that between Terence Crawford and Viktor Postol.  Postol won the first round or two as Crawford sized him up and essentially took control of the fight from Rounds 3 onward.  Canelo isn’t always the fastest starter so is it possible that could occur again?

Whatever it is, please watch this fight.  This is something that could be a legendary sports moment and you would be remiss the avoid this.
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Terence Crawford & Witnessing History

One of the best things about being a fan of a particular sport is looking back at the historical moments you have seen.  The ones that you know you will see replays and hear discussions about for the years to come.

As a boxing fan, given the health of the sport, it takes a while to find those really big events as they need to “marinate”.  There’s promotional feuds, channel disputes and pay disagreements that can hold the biggest fights from occurring and that doesn’t include the fact that some fighters are advised not to take a risk to maximize the profits down the road.  The fight game is more than just the fight itself but how to get the most money out of fighters themselves.

Owning a belt does not mean the same as it once did.  There’s four major belts and then there’s a multitude of “lesser” belts that mostly signify “not the champion but the next guy”.  So when you hear of title unification fights, you aren’t necessarily always seeing the “best vs. the best” but rather the “best” getting another belt or someone auctioning off their collateral for a cash out.

In a sport that prides itself on concussive blows that lead to potential despair, I don’t blame anyone.  As someone who has never been in a ring before it seems pretty hilarious that I will call a person willing to put their life on the line, for entertainment purposes, “a coward”.  Even those who postpone fights, do not earn that distinction.

Still, it does get tiring.

This past Saturday, however, we got to witness history.  We got to see a true unification fight, for all the belts, on ESPN.  Terence Crawford has owned the 140 pound division for quite a while.  That should’ve never been in doubt, but the fact that Julius Indongo owned two other belts added at least some intrigue in a division with a King.

Indongo, who in the run-up to the fight has only displayed likable and hard-working tendencies, deserved this shot.  He knocked out Eduard Troyanovsky (who, admittedly, I thought could at least possess some challenge to “Bud” Crawford) on his home turf and catapulted from “title contender” to owner.  A mostly one-sided domination of the limited but tough Ricky Burns in his backyard added to the rapid rise of Indongo.

Yet, it just felt inevitable didn’t it?  Maybe I didn’t think it would happen so quick, and I surely didn’t, but I almost had no doubt that Crawford would knock out Indongo in a similar way that he did against lesser heralded opponents in John Molina Jr. and Hank Lundy.

The main takeaways should be that Crawford is a historically brilliant fighter, and certainly at least in recent history.  The second takeaway should be, that we cannot process Crawford’s domination at 140.  Yes I know that Viktor Postol, Felix Diaz, Indongo, Burns and Ray Beltran have various flaws in their game.  But never did all those flaws seem obvious until after the fight.

Diaz turned from Olympic medalist to looking like Ruslan Provodnikov without arms.  Postol went from battering a wounded Lucas Matthyse to a tentative and sterile challenger.  Indongo, whose wide shots always leaves room to be dissected, has legitimate power but it was nowhere to be seen.  Let’s not forget the night Crawford might’ve ruined Yuriorkis Gamboa for good.

Owning all the belts, even in a watered-down world, is still a sign of greatness.  It is easy to demean the opponents but when a fighter doesn’t even make worthy challengers look like they belong on the same planet….well, we have something better than great.

There is a fight with Mikey Garcia that could be fascinating but even though Garcia is a great fighter, it just doesn’t seem worth it.  Let’s not forget the intrigue that would be Terence Crawford moving to welterweight, which should only add another wrinkle to one of the best divisions in the sport.

But let the future be the future.  Let’s enjoy the fact that our present will soon become an incredible moment in our sport’s past.

What To Make Of Manny Pacquiao?

Well, boxing fans should know by now that we aren’t allowed fun headlines.  The hype and excitement of Manny Pacquiao fighting on free TV (and on ESPN nonetheless) was one that got attention in the world of a casual sports fan.

Australian Jeff Horn, a probably just above domestic-level opponent but far below a likely contender, was set to be a perfect showcase opponent for Pacquiao.  He’s legitimate enough to be sanctioned (don’t listen to Stephen A. Smith, Horn’s defeats over Ali Funeka and Randall Bailey, while not Keith Thurman or Errol Spence Jr. level, aren’t some guys you’ll find in a local gym) and he had a come-forward approach that would guarantee fireworks.  In a stadium of up to 55,000 person capacity and on a worldwide television audience, the time was ripe to showcase boxing to a new level.

Well, we know that the judges saw things differently and gave Horn a laughable unanimous decision.  While Horn was active, and did some decent things in the ring (aka he threw punches and survived when not throwing), mostly everyone knew that Pacquiao was the winner.

So let’s get that out of the way.  Pacquiao should’ve won the fight and Horn was better than the bum he was seemingly portrayed as by ESPN.  Those are the only two takeaways that really should matter.

But let’s talk about Pacquiao shall we?  Since his loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the “Fight of the Century”, Pacman has been on a bit of a journey.  He had the rotator cuff injury heard ’round the world, an impressive win against Timothy Bradley Jr. in an unneeded trilogy, a brief retirement, was elected a Senator in his native Philippines, a come back to beat beltholder Jesse Vargas, and a robbery at the hands of the judges against Jeff Horn.

Before the loss to Horn, I was actually a believer in ranking Pacquiao as a top-10 pound-for-pound fighter.  His legacy and resume are of course elite, but I also thought that comfortably beating top-10 welterweights in back-to-back fights more than warranted an argument.  Was he the “whirling dervish” or the “tornado of fists” that we once saw?  No, but he was a more controlled fighter who fought in bursts.

However, during the “Battle of Brisbane” as it was called; Pacquiao just didn’t look right.  Sure, Horn had an awkward style that took a few minutes to get situated against but minus a thunderous 9th round; Pacquiao just didn’t look the same.  The handspeed was still there, but the tenacity and the angles seemed….less than extraordinary.  Horn used his size and some headlocks to disrupt Pacquiao, but nonetheless he should’ve been vanquished.

I know that styles make fights.  But during this particular bout, I did not see one of the top-10 fighters in the world.  I did not see the best welterweight.  Does that mean Pacquiao is completely done and just a shell of a man that should retire?

No.  But after seeing Keith Thurman handle Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia and Errol Spence Jr. blasting out Kell Brook, it is hard to not heavily favor them in hypothetical matchups against Pacquiao.  It is hard to envision the counter-happy Garcia not landing on Pacquiao and neutralizing his offense.  That much discussed “passing of the Top Rank torch” match between Terrance Crawford and Pacquiao?  No way that’s happening or even as fascinating.

Pacquiao will get his shot at Horn again and if he does win, god will we be forced with a trilogy in Pacquiao’s home country?  At this point, I still rate Pacquiao as a very good fighter, but it seems his status as the elite of his weight class are officially in the past.

Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev: Levels of Greatness

Boxing fans might ask for a lot on occasion, but there’s some basic requests we always want to be heard.  We want the best fighting the best, excitement and a decisive end.  We do not want to see inconsistencies and questionable decisions by judges, refs, or even corners that could hamper a job well done.  We don’t want to see a fighter go unrewarded or ripped off.

In last November’s matchup between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev, there was a belief that we witnessed a violation of our hopes.  We saw the best fight the best and we were given excitement.  But in light of Ward’s unanimous decision against Kovalev, there was enough outcry where a rematch was not just required…but also needed.  Fans deserve either closure, or if a trilogy to occur, a chance at it.

Andre Ward isn’t necessarily a defensive mastermind or a brilliant tactician.  He’s not a brute brawler nor is he a pillow-fisted light heavyweight.  He’s not big nor is he small.  But what he is?  A tremendous fighter who swept out the 168-pound division and took on perhaps one of the scariest fighters on the planet….and knocked him out.

I understand the controversy over the “low blows” and the idea that the stoppage might have been too early.  Maybe Tony Weeks could’ve warned Ward, but its kind of hard to hit someone who is literally in the fetal position and eating precise body shots.  Kovalev was gassed, rocked and on the verge of eating more punches in a very precarious situation.

The point of this blog is that while there isn’t a gap that’s as wide as a country mile between the two, the point still remains that Andre Ward is an all-time great fighter while Sergey Kovalev is a great one.  That is not a slight on Kovalev, who potentially was up on the scorecards and might’ve deserved to win the first bout, but what the crowd got to witness was why there are levels to greatness.

Andre Ward seems to be able to thrive off a sixth sense.  He doesn’t manage to slip all the punches at all, but he’s often able to be able to change the angle of a punch before it is landed.  He has a brilliant short right that rocked Kovalev’s world and was the beginning of the end.  Ward was tearing up Kovalev’s body in a manner that made me think that he saw little bullseyes tattooed on Krusher’s obliques.

Kovalev, to his credit, was showcasing a dangerous and fast jab that was able to significantly mark Ward’s face and had shots of his own.  But the stamina was gone and Kovalev still didn’t develop much of an inside game that wasn’t based on trying to put Ward into guillotines.  Kovalev’s power alone could’ve stymied most light heavyweights (and hell some cruiserweights) but, when that was gone….you saw a great fighter who just did not have the arsenal of an all-time great.

As a fight fan, I feel like I found my closure.  Andre Ward would not win 100/100 matches against Kovalev, but he might find a way to win 80/20 against a legitimately strong, heavy-handed puncher who could beat anyone on the planet near his weight class.  It is time to recognize Andre Ward as what he is: the best current boxer on the planet.

Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev II: Preview and Prediction

The boxing world was rocked again this week, with some bullshit fight between a professional boxer who is considered his generation’s best and an amateur.  Riveting.

However, lost in the hubbub of that announcement and just by the general lack of promotion (while also being previously mentioned by me) and seeming apathy is the rematch between light heavyweights Andre Ward (UC’s #1 pound-for-pound) against Sergey Kovalev (#3)  is set to go off.

Now, I decided to re-score the first match in which Ward won by close, controversial and unanimous decision.  In the spirit of transparency, I had the fight scored 115-112 for Kovalev when I watched it live.  Then again, I was in a bar and not 100% of sound mind when going through round by round.  I have reviewed the fight a few more times, and I was pretty confident that Kovalev won, due to the strength of his opening rounds which included a blistering knockdown of Ward in Round 2.

But upon rescoring, I did have Kovalev winning by a 114-113 margin.  The difference being, I gave Round 3 to Ward when I originally had it for Kovalev.  I could also Round 12 going either way in addition to Round 9.  Ward winning was a bit shocking but it is far from the “robbery” some close to the sport seemingly have suggested.

I am captivated by this rematch because, at the risk of sounding like every cliche person who has ever talked about a rivalry, there is really no love lost between the two.  The pre-fight antics of fighters can be amplified, but there seems to be genuine animosity from Kovalev and genuine apathy from Ward.  Kovalev does not like Ward and I don’t think Ward cares.

That does not really ever matter though because this is a boxing match which is dictated by skill, athleticism and some luck not emotion.  Ward wants to prove that his performance from Round 5-to-12 is proof that “he figured Kovalev out” and Kovalev wants to show that it was fatigue that saw his slight fall-off.

To keep things quick, how do I see this fight going?  Kovalev still has thunderous power and it clearly did make an impact on Ward throughout their first bout.  Kovalev isn’t some relentless brute of a brawler, but a menacing boxer that can become impatient.  He’s got a sadistic streak that was seen in his battering of Jean Pascal in their unneeded rematch.

But I think Ward should take this, again by a close decision, but maybe with a bit less controversy.  Ward found that Kovalev was a bit of a head hunter and while, it is not aesthetically pleasing, he was able to slip and connect with a quick jab.  I can see Kovalev being better conditioned, but habits are harder to improve than stamina.

Kovalev has the power to change the game and finish anyone in his weight division.  He’s also long-limbed and can do damage from the outside.

That being said, we are in for a good night of boxing.

 

Where Is The Hype For Andre Ward – Sergey Kovalev II?

To put it bluntly, the first half of 2017 has been absolutely brilliant for boxing.  We have had massive fights (Joshua-Klitschko), fights with huge implications (Brook-Spence, Thurman-Garcia), entertaining rematches (Frampton-Santa Cruz) and a whole host of fights that seemed to truly embody the notion of the “best fighting the best”.  Hell, we even got the confirmation of perhaps the biggest fight post-Mayweather and Pacquaio announced (Canelo-Golovkin).

So there is nothing to blame if you forgot about a few.  James DeGale vs. Badou Jack was one of the best fights of the year but its hard to believe that was in 2017.  Same goes for Takashi Miura vs. Miguel Roman.  Even the embarrassing bouts were still big enough spectacles that ate up a lot of attention (Canelo-Chavez Jr., and this ongoing Mayweather-McGregor bullshit) and wonder.

Yet, perhaps the most important fight of them all might be taking place this upcoming weekend.  It even checks all the boxes off in terms of massive fights, implications, and entertaining rematch that signifies the best fighting the best.  Hell it could lead to one of the most entertaining trilogies of the new millennia.

Where is the hype for the light heavyweight showdown between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev?  If you forgot or just aren’t that pumped up, I guess I could see that.  HBO has had a 24/7 for it but the Face/Off with Max Kellerman was cancelled.  Ward isn’t the most charismatic fighter and Kovalev does/says enough racist shit to be ignored.  An elite American boxer versus a degrading Russian should particularly sell well due to today’s political climate.

Yet, that hasn’t been there.  The first fight has pretty much been debated since the close but controversial unanimous decision for Andre Ward was announced back in November.  There is a very large and prominent portion of the boxing community who thinks Kovalev’s early round dominance (including knocking Ward down in round 2) was just enough to clinch the fight.  Kovalev immediately exercised his rematch clause and while Ward floated retirement, negotiations did not take too long to finalize.

The peculiarity that is the mainstream ignorance of this fight has struck a chord with myself.  Where is Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman bloviating on First Take?  Where’s the commercials touting and demanding you buy this can’t miss pay-per-view special?  Is HBO’s noted drifting from the sport that pronounced where they aren’t even bothering, sans a 24/7, to really push for this?  Did Canelo-Golovkin basically take all the juice out of the promotion for this?

Throughout the week I hope to cover this fight a bit more because well, I have been thinking about this fight for a couple months now.  The undercard features the dominant but inactive Guillermo Rigondeaux, who can often toe the line between boxing brilliance and sleep-inducing, against a game and undefeated Moises Flores.  A potential showcase fight for future LHW contender Dmitry Bivol should also entertain.

At first blush, I lean Ward to take the rematch.  While I believe Kovalev is a top ten pound-for-pound contender, I do think he has shown definite problems with his stamina and issues with fighting on the inside.  Ward easily exploited that once he figured out Krusher’s timing and while it was ugly, Ward took advantage of clinching and using a quick jab.

But while Kovalev is no brawling brute, he still has the big equalizer and that’s the power in both his hands.  Kovalev has made mincemeat out of enough contenders, and while his two batterings of Jean Pascal haven’t aged well (thanks to Pascal’s slide); they still were absolutely dominating a genuine contender.  Ward’s power isn’t anywhere near Paulie Malignaggi levels but he hasn’t shown the ability to pulverize opponents in a way Kovalev has had.

But hey, let’s kick up this hype machine a bit shall we?

I don’t always tweet about boxing, in fact its usually just stupid bullshit, jokes and the Phillies but feel free to follow @TheJoekes

Errol Spence Jr. Has Arrived

In boxing, at times, your record is probably the best and worst way to argue your current legacy.  Those in support will point out the gaudy stats to prove a boxer’s dominance while a detractor can find the flaw in every single opponent faced.

Gennady Golovkin has beaten everyone placed in front of him, but some say he has beaten nobody.  Floyd Mayweather Jr. basically picked apart every single person who mattered in or around his weight class, but maybe not all at their respective peaks.  Darnell Boone has given tough fights to nearly everyone he has faced, including TKO’ing Adonis Stevenson and knocking down Andre Ward, but has also lost over twenty times.

So every time you hear someone hype up a knockout streak or an undefeated record, you must look at it with a side-eye.  Errol Spence Jr., the new IBF welterweight champion of the world, was someone who previously could be looked at with slight suspicion.  Sure, he passed the eye test and the talent was clearly there.  But when your marquee win is a shot Chris Algieri, you can understand why some were skeptical to anoint Spence Jr.

I’m as big of a believer in Kell Brook, and even though he has suffered two separate broken orbitals in less than ten months, I still hold truth to that.  Brook has power, technical ability, skill, a chin and a prominent size advantage over most in the 147 pound ranks.  All of those were on display in last weekend’s showdown between the two.

Brook landed some of the most significant shots Spence Jr. has ever faced, including a mini rally in the halfway point of penultimate 10th round that seemed more of a last stand than substantial flurry.  Brook was able to impose his size at times, trying to drown Spence Jr. on the inside (who smartly kept attacking the body).  He made Spence Jr. miss.

But dammit, did Brook take some shots.  He did the same when he went up two weight divisions against Golovkin.  The man behind those blows though, was a younger man who has evolved from future potential star to the big time.

Errol Spence Jr. is here to stay.  Maybe that 0 won’t be forever, very few things are, but how do you know a fighter is special?  When you immediately think of all the other fights that can be made and you almost wait to circle the dates.

A Keith Thurman unification fight needs to happen and it seems like the seeds are being planted to start chasing down that path.  However, Thurman is recovering from a recent elbow surgery and will be out for the short-term.  Manny Pacquiao is fun to think about, but at this point the money is not there with Errol Spence Jr. to make that fight possible.  Same goes for Miguel Cotto.  Timothy Bradley’s next step hasn’t been announced yet, but it certainly won’t be facing a terror after a year-plus layoff.

So then you start thinking of the fantasies.  A future showdown against Terence Crawford could be one of the best fights in recent boxing history….and that includes about four huge ones we’ve seen in the past few months (and two coming on HBO PPV soon).  Could Spence Jr. go up to 154 and beyond?  Will Canelo Alvarez be waiting?  Hell, could Mikey Garcia rise up to 147?  Dare we even suggest Vasyl Lomachenko?

At this point, no one knows really.  We might have to see some boring mandatory battles, which the IBF is known to be more than ready to order.  Errol Spence Jr. may not be a mainstream name now, but you sure as hell be ready to tune in to what is next.

I know I will.