Author: joed5k

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.

Kell Brook vs. Errol Spence Jr. Preview

In terms of the current boxing landscape, you will be hard pressed to find a more exciting and important match than tonight’s welterweight showdown between IBF champion Kell Brook and challenger Errol Spence Jr.

Brook, who memorably neutralized Shawn Porter in 2014, has been considered one of the better talents in the division.  However, besides Porter, Brook’s resume is lacking with his second best performance being a tough, but ultimately unsuccessful TKO loss against Gennady Golovkin.  Brook, who had been linked to Jesse Vargas and a lucrative domestic duel against Amir Khan, is taking on his best challenger to date in Spence.

For Errol Spence Jr., this fight is a true chance to break out as a champion and to make the next leap forward in the quest for superstardom.  Spence Jr., a successful amateur who has been heavily pushed by Premier Boxing Champions, is facing by far his greatest opponent yet.

What has made Spence seemingly so special is everything about him.  He passes the eye tests, as his battering of veterans Chris Algieri and Leonard Bundu show off his power and incredible stalking skills.  Spence has also been rumored to have caused severe issues to Floyd Mayweather and Adrien Broner in sparring sessions and the gym stories have only grown since then.

Brook on the other hand, has some solid scalps on his resume but again…a lot of his name is based on the eye test.  An impressively sized welterweight, Brook has a great jab and has a habit of throwing good and precise combinations.  Brook’s power has been seen and his value has only exploded after his performance against Golovkin that saw Brook add thirteen pounds in weight to face GGG.  While Brook was done in by a broken orbital bone and was seemingly tiring out, his ability to hold off the pressure of Golovkin for a few rounds helped earn high praise for his bravery.

Now, I have been going back and forth in regards to this fight.  Both fighters are great at range and Spence has shown the ability to go inside as well.  Spence has been a menacing stalker while Brook has been able to successfully impose his size on smaller welterweights.  Both men are in impressive shape and have great power.  Both are elite talents at their weight class.

Brook needs to jab and pivot and see if he can take Spence into the deep end.  While Brook tired out and nearly was TKO’d against journeyman Carson Jones, his stamina has appeared to improve mightily.  Spence Jr., for all of his praise has never been tested and Brook needs to establish his presence early or it could be a disastrous night for him.

Spence Jr. on the other hand needs to stalk and test Brook’s eye socket to see if it can take a punch.  He needs to keep the fight at mid range, where he excels best and not let Brook try to tie up.

Prediction:  Spence by UD

What Is Next For Terence Crawford?

In another edition of the quickly diminishing “World Championship Boxing” series from HBO came a bout between 140-pound king Terence Crawford against 2008 Olympic gold medalist Felix Diaz of the Dominican Republic.  While Crawford was the overwhelming favorite, there was some hope that Diaz could cause some trouble for the son of Omaha.  Diaz, who last notably defeated Sammy Vazquez Jr. had only one loss; a controversial one against the tough Lamont Peterson.

However quickly, those thoughts faded as Diaz basically looked like if Shawn Porter decided to fight without arms.  Crawford was openly toying and mocking Diaz, who valiantly tried to fight back, and really the corner stopping the fight after the 10th round was probably a round or two too late.  Diaz, for what its worth, did find Crawford’s chin a couple of times which is a lot more than what could’ve been said by previous contenders John Molina Jr. and Viktor Postol.

Regardless of who is fighting whom, part of me is always convinced that there is a chance an upset can occur.  It is a lottery ticket thought, more often unrealized than anything, but boxing has taught us before that anything can be possible.  However, usually there comes a point where you realize that the other person in that ring is just too better than the other one.

A prime example was before this month’s sacrifice of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at the hands of Canelo Alvarez, I thought that the upset was possible until the camera zoomed in on Jr.’s face after the third or fourth round.  There you saw an overmatched boxer against just an a fighter who is not only better than them but on a whole different level.

In the case of “Bud” Crawford versus Felix Diaz, that moment almost felt like it came instantly.  Much like David Lemieux’s defeat against Gennady Golovkin, Diaz had no answer for just the jab of Crawford.  Diaz would sometimes swing wildly and find a target but otherwise it was just wide punches met with crisp, accurate and powerful responses from Crawford.

Terence Crawford has been great for a while, pretty much you can point to his outclassing of Yuriorkis Gamboa in 2014.  But this was the first time, I felt that a star was quickly approaching.  Crawford is not even one of the bigger names in boxing yet but you started to feel the energy, even watching on TV, that he might be on the cusp of breaking through a bit more.

Since his 2016 knockout of Hammerin’ Hank Lundy, Crawford has maybe lost two of his last 35 rounds.  While he hasn’t exactly faced a murderer’s row, do not fall for what hindsight tells you.  Viktor Postol was the consensus #2 fighter at the time, after his dismantling of Lucas Matthyse, in the 140 pound weight class.  Crawford battered him across the ring.  John Molina Jr. was basically a fill-in for Diaz, but did beat the rugged Ruslan Provodnikov beforehand.  They might not be pound-for-pound threats, but they have all been in the ring and held their own against good fighters.

At this point you have to wonder what is next for Bud?  A showdown with Manny Pacquiao would be better now than it will ever be but will Pacquiao be up for the challenge or will this barnstorming tour just be a cash out with Pac going to the highest bidder?  A move up to welterweight to face the likes of Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia or the winner of Kell Brook and Errol Spence Jr. could be appealing.  The possibility of being the full unified champion at 140 pounds would be fascinating, and Julius Indongo of Nambia has really earned a shot.  Hell, I would even love to see Mikey Garcia though he seems to be groomed for an Adrien Broner bout and the marinating of a showdown with Vasyl Lomachenko seems to have begun.

The thing is, Crawford is very close to being the best boxer on the planet.  It is not his fault if no one will fight him, and he shouldn’t be having to chase opponents.  We all know that dollars run boxing and its just as possible Crawford faces Amir Imam on a TopRank PPV rather than a big name on HBO.  With Bob Arum’s diehard belief that he wants Crawford fighting more than twice a year (something we can all agree on), and that his next fight might not even be on HBO…that Imam fight possibility should be prepared for.

Regardless, Crawford is a star even if he has not crossed over yet.  This is a fighter who has the power, accumulation, speed, defense, athleticism, mean streak and brash competitiveness that separates the elite from the all-time greats.  Maybe I am getting ahead of myself, but while Canelo Alvarez and Anthony Joshua might be the top of the food chain financially; Crawford is soon to be the alpha of the pound-for-pound ratings.