Dougie’s Monday mailbag
BERMANE STIVERNE VS. DEONTAY WILDER
I’m getting excited for the Wilder/Stiverne fight in January and was hoping to get your thoughts on how that match up will play out. I think Stiverne is far more skilled and has a much better jab, as well as almost equal punching power to Wilder. He’s also obviously the more battle tested of the two, but still, what’s nagging at me is the fact that Stiverne often carries his jab hand dangerously low, which would play perfectly into Wilder’s hammer of a right hand. Stiverne also loves fighting off the ropes and I felt like Chris Arreola buzzed him good a few times in their last fight before Stiverne took him out with the right hook. Is it possible Wilder blitzes Stiverne as soon as his back touches the ropes?
The other thing is that Wilder does have extensive amateur experience and has sparred a lot with Klitschko; this seems to get overlooked when people talk about him facing nothing but bums at the pro level. Also, he has Emanuel Steward’s blessing and if that great man saw something in him, maybe the rest of us are missing something. To me it’s a genuine pick’m fight, which is why I am looking forward to it so much! Also on a side note, did you ever have the opportunity to meet or talk to Emanuel Steward? – Jack
I first met Steward as a fan in the mid-1990s at a club show in the valley and had a nice chat with him about the glory years of Kronk Gym. I met him again, as a new media boxing writer in the summer of 1999, when the hall of famer was working with Shannon Briggs in Big Bear, California. Briggs, who was preparing to face Frans Botha in Atlantic City, was so impressed with the HouseofBoxing.com operation I had going with my business partner Gary Randall that he let his manager, Marc Roberts, know about the website. Roberts, an impulsive sort, immediately wanted to buy HOB, so he flew Gary and I out to AC, where we met with the wily sports agent, hung around Briggs’ and his crazy entourage, and best of all, got a lot of quality time with the great Manny Steward. From day one, Emanuel was generous with his time, advice and encouragement, and he continued to be a friend and supporter when HOB evolved into MaxBoxing.com. When MaxBoxing partner Steve Kim and I made regular trips to Las Vegas during the 2000s, it sort of became a ritual to meet Steward for dinner a few days before the big fight. There, often in the company of Larry Merchant, or one of Steward’s young fighters, like Andy Lee (and sometimes with the help of a few glasses of wine) we were treated to the uncensored versions of Steward and his boxing tales. Good times and good memories. I miss him.
It’s great to know that Wilder has Steward’s “blessing,” but that doesn’t mean the American puncher is going to realize his potential with his first crack at a world title. Steward always said that Lee, who he actually trained, was going to win a world title but it didn’t happen when the Irish southpaw faced Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. I was so thrilled when Lee axed Matt Korobov for the WBO belt a few weeks ago, in part because of the memory of Steward; but my point is that everything happens in its own time.
I could be wrong, because I believe Wilder can KO any heavyweight he nails with a clean shot, but I don’t think he’s ready for a talented veteran like Stiverne. I do not view their Jan. 17 showdown as an even fight. I think the defending WBC titleholder should be considered a clear favorite. I’m not saying he should be a 7-to-1 fave or anything like that, but the Haitian Canadian is the higher ranked heavyweight and, as you noted, the more battle tested of the two. He should get credit for that going into this fight.
You made the argument that Wilder isn’t as green as folks make him out to be by pointing out his “extensive amateur experience” and sparring sessions with Wladimir Klitschko. Well, you’re half right with those points. Yes, he’s a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, but he made the U.S. Olympic squad with 21 amateur bouts. So he was an accomplished amateur, but not very experienced. I’m sure his sharing a training camp with Klitschko and sparring with the champ was invaluable pro experience, however, I’m not sure that gym work is going to prepare him for what Stiverne can do in the ring.
Stiverne does have some “holes” or “flaws” in his game – such as keeping his left low and going to the ropes – that can be exploited (as you astutely noted), but he’s also got a lot of strengths, such as his mobility, hand speed and his ability to explode with power punches from either hand at odd angles and unpredictable moments. He’s also got a very good (though underrated) trainer in his corner with Don House.
I favor Stiverne, who is the heavier fighter (a solid 240 compared to a very lean 225), by KO but I’m looking forward to this heavyweight match because it’s going to be intense and explosive for however long it lasts.
2015: YEAR OF THE KRUSHER?
This is my first time writing to you and I just wanted to get your opinion on the light heavyweight division, which in my opinion has some potential for excitement in the coming months.
I think 2015 has the potential to be a great year for Sergey Kovalev. If he beats Jean Pascal (which I think he will) he could go on to fight Adonis Stevenson and in my opinion beat him as well. If he does this he would surely be in the mix for fighter of the year unless someone in one of the other divisions does something amazing. What’s your view on Sergey Kovalev vs Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev vs Jean Pascal? How do you think those fights would go? On a side note were you impressed by Arthur Beterbiev at the weekend because I thought he was less impressive than when he dominated Tavoris Cloud back in September. He seemed to be a bit frustrated by the movement of Jeff Page for a round before destroying him in Round 2.
I hope you and your family had a great Christmas and thank you for taking the time to read my email. – Tom
Thanks for taking the time to email me, Tom, and thanks for the Christmas wishes. My family and I had a wonderful time during the holidays.
I think Beterbiev is a work in progress. I wasn’t as enthused as others were about his stoppage of Cloud because I viewed the former IBF titleholder as severely damaged goods (both physically and mentally) going into that fight. The knockdown against Page was probably a good thing. It taught him not to read his press clippings or to underestimate his opponent or to lose focus during a fight. Beterbiev just tried to walk down Page without respect and he got clipped for his sloppy mentality. I hope the former Russian amateur standout isn’t rushed to a title shot in 2015 because I think he needs another full year of development.
Regarding The Krusher in 2015, if he beats Pascal and actually gets a showdown with Stevenson, he would definitely be a front-runner for Fighter of the Year if he bested THE RING champ. My view on those matchups is that the Haitian-Canadian boxers bring different strengths to the ring. They are both exceptional athletes, but Pascal has a better chin, more heart and an unorthodox style. Stevenson is a pretty basic southpaw boxer-puncher, who hits harder than Pascal and is probably a little faster than the former champ.
I think Kovalev will beat Pascal by decision or late stoppage. If he ever gets a chance to fight Stevenson, I think he’ll unify all the major belts with a mid-rounds TKO.
Hey Doug Fischer,
Been reading you since I was a subscriber in the early MaxBoxing days, said hi to you at a Nokia show a few years back, usually agree with your viewpoints and always enjoy and respect your insight.
I’ve been following Abner Mares for years. To me the guy is the epitome of a boxer both inside and out of the ring. I don’t think Jhonny Gonzalez got in a lucky punch. He is a cagey, experienced champion who knew he could find the hole. I would love to see a second round because Abner would work his ass off plugging those holes and it would be a really fun fight. Any talk of rematch?
Thanks. – Sam
Thanks for writing Sam, and thanks for reading all these years.
Yes, there has been talk of a Gonzalez-Mares rematch since the Mexico City veteran iced the three-division titleholder last August. Originally, Mares said he would go for an immediate rematch before the end of 2013. That didn’t happen, obviously, but they were briefly scheduled to meet in February (at L.A.’s Staples Center). However, Mares reportedly suffered a rib injury while training in Mexico, which cancelled that entire card. After that Mares made some changes, dropping manager Frank Espinoza for Al Haymon, and leaving trainer Clemente Medina for Virgil Hunter. Mares didn’t fight until July – when he won a pedestrian 10-rounder against Jonathan Oquendo – while in the meantime, Gonzalez called him out (and a coward) every time he was interviewed by Spanish language sports media.
It was probably a good thing that Mares didn’t fight “J-Gon” right away. For starters, I agree with you, that first-round knockout was not a fluke. He was ready for Mares and he struck like f___ing cobra as soon as he was able to. Mares is indeed the epitome of a boxer both in and out of the ring, as you stated, but he’s also a human being. That KO loss messed with his confidence. He didn’t sound like himself in the months leading into that bout with Oquendo and he didn’t fight like himself on fight night. But he got through the 10 rounds and knocked some rust off. He reunited with Medina before his last bout, a fifth-round stoppage of rugged-but-limited Jose Ramirez on Dec. 13, and he looked like his old aggressive-but-versatile self. The first name Mares called out when he was interviewed was Gonzalez’s, and he continued to beat the drums for the rematch during the post-fight press conference and in recent interviews. I don’t think Mares meant it last year, but I think he’s got his mojo back and he means it this time.
I think we’re going to see Gonzalez-Mares II at some point during 2015. Mares’ alliance with Haymon might help to push the return bout since the other notable featherweights (Lomachenko, Nichols, Donaire and Gradovich) are promoted by Top Rank (and, as I’m sure you’re aware, Al and Bob Arum weren’t exchanging Kwanza and Chanukah cards this holiday season).
PAULIE MALIGNAGGI’S PACQUIAO RANT
Hey Doug, first time writer here.
What are your thoughts on the Magic Man talking reckless about Pacquiao? I tend to be cynical when it comes to athletes and PED use but I try to give the benefit of the doubt unless there’s enough smoke, a la Lance Armstrong.
I did some research and Pac rehydrated to 144 in 2007 vs Marco Antonio Barrera (their rematch). Since then he just kept moving up in divisions but never weighs in at 147 even against Margacheato he weighed in at 146.5 if memory serves me right. That fight took place at junior middle. Is Paulie on to something? Or can guys not move up and fight at their natural weights? – P-Stamp
Boxers move up in weight all the time. Few remain at one weight their entire professional careers. Some can retain speed, power and reflexes as they increase their weight, but most can’t. So in the PED-era of sports, there’s always going to be suspicion aimed at boxers who go up in weight, time and time again, while obliterating opposition, as Pacquiao has done for much of the past 15 years.
What are my thoughts on Malignaggi’s “reckless” talk about Pacquiao? Well, I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think much about his comments about the Filipino hero. I know he has some very strong opinions about Pacquiao, but I don’t read every article written on his comments or watch every video interview he does on the subject of the PacMan. I just figure Malignaggi either doesn’t like Pacquiao very much, or he’s so amazed by what the eight-division titleholder has accomplished that he simply can’t believe that it was done without the aid of performance-enhancing drugs. My guess it’s some of both, but more of the latter, which in a way is a massive compliment to Pacquiao.
I know Pacquiao’s faithful followers – and more than a few hardcore fans – get pissed off every time Malignaggi casts aspersions on the little dynamo’s character and legacy by suggesting PED use, but this is just the way it is this era of sports. If Tony Canzoneri or Henry Armstrong or Thomas Hearns were fighting today, they would be suspected of PED use.
For the record, I don’t agree with Malignaggi at all. And although Pacquiao has climbed more boxing divisions than anyone in modern history, I don’t view his increases in weight as amazing or unbelievable as others do.
I think what set Malignaggi off on his latest Pac/PED rant was the subject of Johnny Tapia. I guess Malignaggi watched the Tapia documentary and was reminded of what special little boxer the New Mexico native was. He noted that Tapia’s prime weight was junior bantamweight (115 pounds), but the boxing master never competed higher than junior lightweight or 130 pounds (and never heavier than featherweight, 126 pounds, at the world-class level). So Malignaggi’s logic, which he tweeted on Dec. 21, went like this:
As great of a fighter Tapia was, it would have been “ridiculous” to suggest that he could have ever competed at welterweight, as Pacquiao – who also began his career in the sub-bantamweight divisions – is doing now. Malignaggi tweeted: “Wouldn’t seem natural, right?”
It does seem unnatural at first glance, but apart from the fact that nature sometimes gives us “freaks” like Armstrong or Hearns, there are other factors such as age and talent, which separate two future hall of famers like Tapia and Pacquiao. Tapia turned pro at bantamweight at age 21 and dropped down to 115 pounds during his prime years. Pacquiao turned pro at junior flyweight when he was 16, but was fighting as heavy as bantamweight when he was 17 and 18. Tapia was a full-grown man when he was fighting at junior bantamweight. Pacquiao was still a teen when he won his first world title at flyweight (112 pounds). He had to practically kill himself to make that weight. He didn’t lose his WBC flyweight belt in the ring, he lost it on the scales (and he put himself in very bad shape boiling down to 113 pounds – some even feared for his life when he decided to go through with the fight against Medgoen Singsurat, who stopped him with a body shot).
Even though he was probably malnourished by First-World standards, Pacquiao outgrew flyweight, and had to leapfrog the 115- and 118-pound divisions as he moved into his early 20s. Now, this stuff I’ve told you about Pacquiao’s early weight struggle is just from reading old RING and Boxing Illustrated reports and from talking to Singsurat’s people when I did a Latin Fury PPV that featured the Thai veteran (against Jorge Arce in late 2007).
What I’m going to tell you now is from personal observations, and I’m pointing this out because there really aren’t a lot of boxing writers or pundits around who covered Pacquiao’s career when he first came to the U.S. (in 2001). I did. I knew who he was when he arrived, and I wrote about him and watched him train prior to his IBF junior featherweight title-winning victory over Lehlo Ledwaba, and for his first defense against the late Agapito Sanchez. Here’s what everyone should know: Pacquiao had to starve himself to make 122 pounds. He often came down a pound or two below the junior featherweight limit but that’s because he really didn’t have any nutritional specialists working with him back then. He just didn’t eat much the weeks going into his title bouts. I recall an Australian boxing writer named Fiona Manning, who worked for MaxBoxing.com during the website’s early years, was shocked to learn that Pacquiao was only eating one small bowl of soup each day the week of the Sanchez fight, which took place in San Francisco in November of 2001. It really disturbed her, so much so that she wanted to write a story about it. I told her “That’s what combat athletes do to make weight sometimes, and little guys from dirt-poor parts of Asia don’t complain about it.”
Fiona and I covered that show in San Francisco, which was headlined by Floyd Mayweather Jr., who was making his last appearance at junior lightweight against Jesus Chavez. Pacquiao weighed in at 120¾ pounds for Sanchez. Mayweather weighed nine pounds heavier for Chavez, but I’m telling you right now that Manny could have easily fought at 126 or 130 pounds that night. And he would have felt and fought great with the extra weight but it would have been NATURAL. It was UNNATURAL for Pacquiao to fight below featherweight and junior lightweight for as long as he did. If Pacquiao had been eating as much as Mayweather was in the days leading into their co-featured bouts, he would have at least been a rock-solid featherweight. But I think he could have fought comfortably at 129 or 130 pounds in late 2001.
I think both Pacquiao and Mayweather were both big featherweights in their early 20s, and I think both naturally grew into the junior welterweight division. They compete at welterweight, and occasionally at junior middleweight, because they are exceptional athletes and once-in-a-lifetime talents. (Pacquiao only weighed 144¾ pounds when he fought Margarito.)
Mayweather’s talent is more technique and ring generalship than athletic, while Pacquiao’s has been more about his explosive speed and power (though it has become more about his skill and savvy in recent years). Tapia’s talent was more about his skill. He was fast and fluid but he wasn’t a puncher, and he certainly wasn’t the dynamic athlete that the prime Pacquiao was. If Tapia was explosive like Pacquiao, or could punch as hard as the Filipino icon, he would have definitely competed at weights higher than featherweight. If he had been able to stay away from drugs and alcohol and had taken care of himself between fights, as Mayweather has, he probably would have been able to carry his considerable skillset to higher weight classes.
Anyway, this is just another man’s opinion. I understand that Malignaggi can pull rank on me anytime because he’s actually fought as a national-class amateur and a world-class, title-winning professional. I generally respect his opinions on the sport because there’s a lot about boxing that he knows that I will never know. However, I have my own experiences as someone who has covered the sport for many years. I’ve learned from great trainers (some world renown, others completely unknown) and gained a little insight from being around some of these superstars, like Pacquiao, back when they were nobodies.
Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer