Last night, the biggest fight in boxing took place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV. The match-up, one that many anticipated, provided fans with the opportunity to see arguably the best two pound-for-pound fighters in the sport square off to determine a unified middleweight champion. Undoubtedly, Gennady Golovkin vs. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez was the latest addition to a banner year for boxing, a year that proved that the once stagnant sport can generate a buzz among the main stream public when bouts are made that fans want to watch.
In fact, this year might be the first in past decade that boxing is definitively ahead of mixed martial arts with the amount of anticipated bout delivered. Not surprisingly, the surge in popularity of mixed martial arts, and more specifically when the UFC took a considerable piece of the pay-per-view pie with names like Chuck Liddell, Georges St. Pierre, Anderson Silva, and others, was what prompted boxing promoters to make an organized effort to rejuvenate the sport. As is always the case, when money was left on the table, suddenly management was able to get fights signed. Along with that, the Premier Boxing Championship series, an experiment that yielded mixed results thus far, was at least an attempt to give some names more main stream exposure. Perhaps the most direct exposure to the general public was the recent trio of fights that aired on ESPN, including the dramatic Manny Pacquiao/Jeff Horn fight, a contest that generated an average of 3.1 million viewers for the network. With an increase in sports coverage from nearly every media outlet, ESPN had a well-documented dip in viewership, and a much-criticized mass layoff of many employees. The network needed the ratings and boxing needed the exposure so it was a win-win for everyone.
The pair of thrilling Kovalev-Ward bouts, the heavyweight slug fest of Jousha/Kiltchkso, and another Deontay Wilder KO all made headlines within the genre. So, why did boxing repeat the same mistake that hindered its progress for decades?
Canelo, the 27-year-old protegé, is arguably the most popular fighter in the sport, bringing with him the dedicated Latino fan base. Ironically, his opponent Saturday night, is also extremely popular with the Hispanic fans because of his Mexican-influenced style by trainer Abel Sanchez. While Alvarez might be the most technically skilled in boxing, many consider Triple G the most dangerous fighter in the sport today. The two athletes went back and forth over the course of twelve solid rounds, a path that saw the narrative of the bout shift on more than one occasion. Quite simply, this was an entertaining prize-fight that is a prime example of the display in the ring when the top two competitors sign for a contest.
Golovkin used his trademark jab often while Alvarez landed counter punches. As the bout progressed, Triple G displayed his iron chin, walking through Canelo’s punches and pressuring the younger athlete. The native of Kazakhstan won the majority of the rounds in the middle of the contest with a constant series of combinations. In the latter stages, Alvarez’s corner wisely told him that he needed the last three rounds to keep it close on the score cards. The Mexican superstar surged toward the conclusion of the bout, fighting with a sense of purpose in the final rounds. Clearly, he acknowledged that he might’ve been behind on the cards. The dramatic final bell saw the fighters embrace in a show of respect, and viewers anticipated the decision.
So, how exactly did this contest become so tainted?
In truth, I had the fight scored a draw because of Alvarez’s ability to probably secure the last three rounds. Still, it’s very logical to see a two or three round difference depending on prospective. Official judge Don Trella scored it 114-114, a total that I obviously agree with because I calculated the same score as I watched the live fight. Dave Moretti had it 115-113 for Golovkin. Again, as I said, that is a completely possible score, especially depending on the view of effective punching, effective aggression, etc. Somehow, Adalaide Byrd saw it 118-110 for Alvarez, which translates to awarding Golovkin just two rounds.
HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?! WHAT FIGHT DID ADALAIDE BYRD ACTUALLY WATCH?!
If she had awarded the contest to Canelo by anywhere close to a logical margin then this draw doesn’t affect the conversation about a great fight. However, instead of discussing the classic prize-fight that Triple G and Alvarez had on Saturday night, the narrative is strictly about the corrupt judging in boxing. In many ways, Adalaide Byrd ruined the perception of this fight and took the focus away from the tremendous effort that both competitors showed in the ring. Once again, just as in many years in the past, the discussion of boxing is around the same corruption that plagued the sport for decades. Despite the great fights this year, the biggest spotlight on the sport will focus on one judge’s illogical score card.
Adaladie Byrd should never judge a professional fight of any importance ever again, but it wouldn’t be too surprising if she’s sitting ringside to total the score cards for the rematch next year because those are the politics of boxing. Six-division world champion Oscar De La Hoya founded Golden Boy Promotions in 2002 and he is the promoter for Saul Alvarez. Canelo is the promotional organization’s top star, earning the company major cash on his way to become the most popular Mexican fighter in boxing, a spot previously held by De La Hoya himself. Make no mistake, Golden Boy Promotions wants to protect the golden goose. Oscar promoted the Canelo/Triple G fight, which would appear to be a conflict since he has a literal vested interest in one of the competitors, but it’s business as usual for boxing.
— Gazarín (@agaz996) September 17, 2017
It’s ironic that De La Hoya, a gold medalist in the 1992 Olympics, called the Mayweather/McGregor spectacle last month a disgrace to boxing, because you can bet that he will gleefully promote the Canelo/Triple G rematch and justify the corrupt score card to sell another pay-per-view card. Let’s be honest here, De La Hoya’s complaints had nothing to do with the integrity of boxing, but rather his concern that the UFC star’s boxing debut just a few weeks before a Golden Boy card would take a piece of the pay-per-view pie. If Oscar had a chance to make some cash from Mayweather vs. McGregor, his opinion would be very different. The reality is, Triple G/Canelo was going to sell to boxing fans because it was the bout with substance, not just sizzle. At the same time, Mayweather and McGregor made the right business decision and put an entertainment spectacle on pay-per-view that made money for everyone involved.
Perhaps Oscar should make sure his own cards are legitimate before he criticizes someone’s venture. You can’t blame Alvarez for this either, he fought a very dangerous opponent, and he didn’t score the fight. The bottom line is, during a year when it looked as though boxing was going to rebuild itself, the corruption that has always played a role made headlines again. It’s very disappointing that instead of the discussion of Canleo and Triple G’s action packed fight, the headlines are about Adalaide Byrd’s corrupt score card.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
E mail firstname.lastname@example.org | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta
Wilder v Fury II: Can ‘heart and determination’ conquer raw power?
It’s long been one of the great debates in sport – the relationship between technical aptitude and self-belief. Are the greatest sportspeople blessed with an inherent talent that guarantees success, or is it the determination and will-to-win that drives them that extra mile? Can sheer resolve and strength of character get the better of mechanical, tried-and-tested excellence?
This is one of the main topics of conversation ahead of the highly-anticipated rematch between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury. The English fighter is the slight favourite in the latest Wilder vs Fury odds, and has been vocal recently in saying that his self-will has the power to overcome an opponent whose record of 42 wins and 41 knockouts is frightening.
“Statistics don’t lie, he is a much bigger puncher than me, a one-punch knockout artist,” Fury said. “The thing is, I don’t believe anybody can match my heart and determination. I will put my iron will on Deontay Wilder and we will see.”
While even the most uninformed boxing fan recognises Wilder’s superior punching power over Fury, it seemed strange for the Gypsy King, normally so brash and headstrong, to make such a concession – that his opponent is a better puncher. But this is the new Fury – the considered, mature Fury, if such a thing exists. There have been no Batman costumes or karaoke performances in his news conferences ahead of this fight, instead it has been all business with the repeated assertion that he will knock Wilder out in round two.
Perhaps Wilder’s victory over Luis Ortíz in December will have given Fury more cause for concern than he may have felt initially. While the Cuban dominated Wilder for most of the fight, the WBC heavyweight champion showed exactly why he boasts such a formidable record. After almost seven rounds of tough boxing from Ortíz, one swift right hand from the knockout king left the Cuban sprawled on the canvas. For Fury, his intention will be to dominate proceedings, to use his footwork to get Wilder moving and losing energy. But that threat of a sudden light-extinguishing blow means the Gypsy King will have no margin for losing focus.
Wilder vs Fury is the ultimate showcase of technical excellence against spirited mentality. Wilder has honed a gift for punching, the like of which boxing has never seen. There is no answer to the irresistible brutality of Wilder’s swing and hit – a crunching cannonball of a right hand that shatters all before it.
Fury’s hope lies in his belief in his personal journey rather than the physical prowess he embodies. He believes that defeating Wilder is the inevitable next step on his voyage from the depths of depression and self-loathing to a glorious return to boxing’s title-winners. The determination that has driven his recovery continues to give him the belief that he will beat every opponent before him, and Wilder is simply the next man in the way.
On its own you would say that such determination would not be enough against an opponent of Wilder’s class, but such a conclusion would be ignoring the exemplary technical qualities Fury himself possesses. He is as nimble a heavyweight boxer as any in history, light on his feet, able to switch between stances at the drop of the hat, and while his punching power might not be on the same level as Wilder, it has been enough to land him 20 career knockouts.
On February 22nd we will find out if Wilder is simply a step too far for Fury’s remarkable recovery to his former champion status. Will raw power overcome the singular focus and graft that have defined the Englishman’s return to contention? For those who have risen as Fury has, it takes a lot to knock them down again.
Andrade Coasts, Paul Shines, and Titles change hands in Miami
DAZN hosted a rare Thursday Night card in a makeshift arena at the Gardens in Miami Beach, as the gang at Matchroom Sports hoped to capitalize on thousands of people coming into town for this Sunday’s Super Bowl LIV between the Chiefs and the 49ers.
Most of the hype surrounded the “battle” between YouTubers Jake Paul of the United States and England’s AnEsonGib, and it turned out to be a showcase for the bigger and longer Paul, who painted Gib with repeated left jabs which set up the big right hands that dropped Gib three times in the first round and led referee Chris Young to stop the fight just 2:18 into the first round. It was the pro debut for both rivals, and whatever you want to say about it, the Sugar Shane Mosely trained Paul looked good.
The “main event” saw Demetrious Andrade drop Irishman Luke Keeler twice in the first two rounds and then coast for six rounds before finally stepping on the gas and blasting Keeler with repeated big shots in the ninth, forcing veteran referee Telis Assimenios to stop the fight at 2:59 of Round 9. It was Andrade’s third defense of his title and just another blowout of a fighter that it was below his talent level. It should have lasted three rounds. Instead, the game Irishman hit Andrade quite a bit and allowed to survive till the late rounds. Andrade called out the almost equally frustrating Billie Joe Saunders, the WBO 168 titleholder. They deserve each other.
But before the fluff at the end, boxing fans were treated two quality title fights. The main card of the show opened with an excellent technical battle that saw 2016 Olympic Bronze Medalist Murodjon Akhmadaliev lift the WBA/IBF junior featherweight (122 pounds) from reigning champion Danny Roman by twelve round split decision in just his eighth professional fight.
The fight was very close from round one, as Akhmadaliev came out swinging with big left hands from the southpaw positions. The super technical Roman (27-3-1,10 KOs), fighting out of Los Angeles, attacked the body from Round One and looked to time the young Uzbek with good counter punches. The early rounds were good for Roman, who was more accurate and faster with his punches. Akhmadaliev came back in rounds five and six, only for Roman to crank up his pace in rounds seven and eight.
Many thought the late rounds would belong to the more experienced pro Roman, but Akhmadaliev (8-0, 7 KOs) turned that theory on his head, digging down in the late rounds, continuing throwing hard lefts to the head and body. Throughout the fight, the Uzbek commonly referred to as MJ closed rounds strong, and this was especially in the case in these late rounds. Roman did his best to come back with a strong Round 12 and both men let their hands go in the last twenty-seconds, landing some of their best punches of the fight.
In the end, one judge had it 115-113 for Roman, but the other two had it 115-113 for Akhmadaliev, giving the Uzbek the title in a fight that could have gone either way. Fightbooth actually had it a draw, 114-114. With so many close rounds, a rematch makes sense for both, especially in California, where both men are based. Much was made of how Danny Roman did not have to take this fight against such a ballyhooed prospect, but chose to be a great champion. The result was an excellent fight and a rivalry that we can hope is not over.
The second main card bout saw Joseph Diaz Jr, a 2012 Olympian from the United States, notch a dominant performance to lift the IBF junior lightweight (130 pound) title from Philadelphia’s Tevin Farmer in the culmination of a bitter rivalry between the two men that goes back to last May, when the two had a confrontation at the Canelo Alvarez-Daniel Jacobs fight in Las Vegas.
Diaz was aggressive from Round One, pushing Farmer on the inside and unloading with loads of punches. The second round saw the fighters clash heads, leaving Diaz with a GNARLY cut over his left eyelid, which look to put the fight in jeopardy. Yet Diaz stuck to his task, staying on Farmer and being the busier and more accurate fighter.
Farmer is normally one of the most defensively elusive fighters you will ever see, but in this fight, he chose to languish on the inside, allowing Diaz to have his way on the inside and hit him pretty much as he choose. Farmer claimed to hurt his right hand in the first round, and many believe the same clash of heads that opened the big cut on Diaz’ eye compromised Farmer. The announce team, especially Sergio Mora, made all the excuses for Farmer, but whatever the reason, Farmer fought the wrong fight against Diaz.
Diaz built a big lead with his accurate flurries of punches and somehow, his cut-man managed to keep that eye closed. Farmer may have stolen some late rounds but at the end of the result was clear. The scorecards were 117-111 and 115-113, twice, all of Joseph Diaz Jr. Those last two were wayyy too close.
The win is the culmination of a long journey for Diaz (31-1, 15 KOs), who has been built throughout his career by Golden Boy Promotions for this moment. He was thoroughly outclassed in his first title fight two years ago by Gary Russell Jr and couldn’t make weight for his second title opportunity a few months later. But after a mental health break and some changes, Diaz is finally a world champion. It was a sad end of a title reign for Farmer (30-5-1, 6 KOs), who defended his belt four times in fourteen months and saw an eight year unbeaten streak come to an end.
Rosario shocks Williams, Seizes titles in Philly
On a night where the UFC and Conor McGregor took center stage in the combat sports world, Jeison Rosario pulled off an absolute shocker in Philadelphia.
The twenty-four-year-old junior middleweight from the Dominican Republican was seen as a pretty good prospect turned fringe contender and was on a modest six fight winning streak against fairly good opposition. But he was supposed to be simply an opponent for WBA/IBF junior middleweight champion Julian “J-Rock” Williams, who seized the titles from previously undefeated champ Jarrett Hurd last year and was making his first title defense in his hometown of Philadelphia. Williams supposed to beat Rosario and move onto a big fight later this year, either a rematch against Hurd or a unification fight with WBC 154 pound champ Jermell Charlo.
But Rosario upset that apple card last night at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, knocking out Williams in the fifth round of their title fight on a Premier Boxing Champions show broadcasted on big Fox. The +800 underdog, who looked considerably bigger than the reigning champion, showed himself to be an excellent puncher, throwing to both the head and body, and turned one of boxing’s deepest divisions on its head.
Williams came out strong in the first, boxing behind his jab and looking to land his trademark right hand. Rosario responded by upping the pressure in the second and started to get to Williams body. Then with twenty-five seconds left in the round, Rosario changed the fight with a right hand that stopped Williams in his tracks, and seconds later, the champion pawed his eye, revealing the blood that the punch had drawn, and Rosario jumped on him, landing several combinations before the bell.
The Philadelphia fighter did his best to right the ship in the third round, including landing several crunching right hands in the last minute, but Rosario was making it his fight in the fourth round, forcing power punching exchanges and taking away Williams’ excellent jab. Even though Williams was landing slightly more punches, it was clear Rosario had seized the tone of the fight.
The Dominican seized much more in the fifth as a minute into the round, he hurt Williams with a series of monster left hooks. Williams backed into the ropes and Rosario unleashed a two fisted attack that had Williams holding for dear life and seemingly looking for a double leg, sending him slipping to the canvas. Williams rose from his feet, and Rosario was right on him, and a killer right uppercut followed by a big left hook led referee Benji Estevez to stop the fight at 1:37 of Round 5.
The Philly crowd responded with anger, throwing trash into the ring and a riot seemed to be brewing for a moment before order was restored. Philly may be the town of upsets, but they do not like to see their guys lose.
Williams stated after the fight that he had a rematch clause and given how exciting this fight was there is no reason not to have it. As for Rosario, who moved to 20-1-1 and scored his fourteenth knockout, he is now The Man in one of boxing’s better divisions right now, and with size and power, he is a real forced to be reckoned with.
Philadelphia be damned.
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