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Dougie’s Monday mailbag

09
Mar

 

Photo by Naoki Fukuda

Photo by Naoki Fukuda

THURMO ON CRUISE CONTROL

Hey Doug-E,

What can I say dude. NBC boxing just kicked off with a bang. Props to Keith Thurman for his skill and power and Robert Guerrero for his granite-hard chin and never-say-die attitude. Yup, I was a little hard on Guerrero in my last email to this column and now he’s off my s__t-list. But more on that in a minute.

Let’s start with Thurman. That guy was on a mission and once that bell rang there he was going all Thurmo-nuclear on Guerrero’s ass. Not even that grapefruit-sized lump on Thurman’s head due to a head-clash was going to slow the guy down. He was already on total cruise control. And let me tell you something, homie, after Thurmo pounded Guerrero into the mat and had him all busted-up and groggy I thought that was the moment I really waited for. One more round and Ghosty here was going get his block knocked into orbit and bouncing off the space shuttle.

So you can imagine my surprise when Guerrero suddenly bulled Thurman into the ropes and really unloaded on him despite inhaling more of Thurmo’s thunder. The dude’s much tougher than I credited him for. It’s one thing to walk through Andre Berto’s best shots but this was friggin’ insane. And where was this version of Guerrero during the Mayweather fight?

But in the end homie, Thurmo’s superior size, speed, and power was just too much for the guy. Keith didn’t knock out Ghosty like he promised but man he came so close. Again my full credit to the Ghost for his toughness but I still hardly regard him as a top welter. Too much of a sucker for right-hands and let’s face it, he’s hardly the next JC Chavez when it comes to cutting the ring off. He belongs at 140.

And Thurmo? Well I think Mr. “One-Time” is ready to hit the big-time. Let’s bring on Thurmo-Maidana and hopefully on NBC. Oh, and speaking of which, what’s your thought on the upcoming Danny Garcia-Lamont Peterson fight? And what’s with Peterson’s new freaky bush-man look?

Several thoughts on Sergey Kovalev-Jean Pascal. I didn’t think that Kovalev did quite enough to be named Fighter Of The Year. He was most definitely a top-5 runner up but I had the Lord of the Flies, Roman Gonzalez, winning the top honour. Got to give Kovalev credit though for following up on his banner year and going straight after the guy ranked at number two. Some of these previous fighters of the year followed up their momentum by doing next to nothing. Ward and Stevenson come to mind.

And don’t worry dude I’m not going to count Pascal out completely. He actually has more big-fight experience than Kovalev, fighting 24 rounds with a somewhat fresher version of B-Hop on top of going 12 tough rounds with Carl Froch and beating a Chad Dawson that was on top of his game. I’m still going with the heavy-handed Russian to take it. Later dude! – Captain Ron

Ya gotta favor Kovalev this Saturday, regardless if you believe the Russian was Fighter of the Year for 2014. Activity and momentum are on Krusher’s side. However, Pascal brings enough to the table to make this light heavyweight matchup interesting. I like Pascal’s heart, rock-solid chin and experience, but what I’ll be watching is how Kovalev deals with the Haitian-Canadian’s awkward style.

I think Kovalev has definitely proven himself against pure boxers (Campillo, Cleverly, Sillakh) and master technicians (Hopkins), but we haven’t seen him against other styles. One of the reasons so many of us wanted to see Kovalev-Stevenson was to see how the Russian fared against a fellow puncher. Well, with Pascal we get a little bit of a puncher (the former champ isn’t a KO artist, but he’s very strong and he can crack), plus his athletic-but-unorthodox style (which has basically become a poor-man’s version of what the prime Roy Jones Jr. used to do in the ring).

I like Kovalev in this matchup because of his better fundamentals, technique, higher punch output, power (duh) combinations, body attack, and ring-cutting ability, but I think Pascal will make it a competitive fight for as long as he can.

Is One Time ready for the big time? Yeah, I think so. The 24 rounds he went with Leonard Bundu in December and Guerrero this past Saturday have fast-forwarded his development, in my opinion. He knows what it’s like to go the distance, and thanks to The Ghost, he knows what it’s like to dig down against a determined opponent. Thurman-Maidana is a fight that needs to be made. If it takes place on NBC, the ratings will kick ass, and if Thurman wins in impressive/entertaining fashion, I think he can be the breakout star of the PBC series.

I’m glad Guerrero’s heart won you over a bit. I’m a Thurman believer but I knew Guerrero would be too damn tough and stubborn to get knocked out. (I also knew he could keep Thurman in a dog fight because of his inability to cut the ring off.) I don’t know how many more hard 12-round bouts Guerrero’s got in him, but I’m sure a lot fans will tune into his next fight. Dropping down to 140 pounds would probably serve him well (I thought he was at his best during his brief stop at lightweight back in 2010). I just wonder if he could give up seven pounds without draining himself at this stage of his career.

 

THE GHOST VS. THE PROBLEM?

Doug –

Could Guerrero handle Broner at 140? – Kevin Key, Duluth, MN

If Guerrero can safely make junior welterweight, I think this is a doable and viable matchup for PBC and both fighters. Broner needs a name at 140 pounds and Guerrero’s got that, plus more talent, technique and better experience than poor John Molina had to offer on Saturday.

If these two were matched up a couple years ago (when Broner was still undefeated and at lightweight) I would have favored Guerrero to expose the brash Ohioan via punishing decision victory (kind of like the Maidana fight expect without the knockdowns). However, I think Broner’s settled into the 140-pound division after his welterweight foray and more inclined to stick to a gameplan (as he did vs. Molina). Plus, I think Guerrero’s grueling back-to-back fights with Kamegai and Thurman have to have taken something off his fast ball. I’d favor The Problem on points if they were to fight now.

 

MEDIOCRE DEBUT FOR PBC ON NBC

Hi Dougie,

I wasn’t impressed with the show. Two mismatches and two showcases for Broner and Thurman. Molina is a B fighter and Guerrero a B+. Molina v Guerrero is a good matchup, but further up the line they become target practice for the elites.

Marv Albert is a B-, has-been announcer. Al Michael’s has nothing to do with boxing, nor should he. Sugar Ray Leonard’s comeback was a split decision in his favor. I’ll give them all “A” for effort in trying to make a weak card look good, but of course, no one could have. The other flunkies making comments from time to time added nothing. Rather than this team I’d suffer through that insufferable loud mouth, Mauro Renallo on Showtime. Or even Larry Merchant’s verbose, illegitimate son, Max Kellerman, on HBO.

When you have fights that are one-sided the announcers fall back on the loser’s toughness. When Leonard was a serious announcer/fighter he threw cold water on the “what a great chin” and “he’s a real warrior” school of commentating. Ray, in the past, argued for avoidance of punches. He felt, and I agree, that a punching bag who keeps coming forward and doesn’t fall down is not somehow a landmark of courage. B/t/w, Guerrero was on the canvas, but the hype team of NBC turned it into a theme that he rose from the ashes. No he didn’t. He did what any journeyman fighter does. He got up and continued to fight and continued to get pounded.

The fact that both fights went the distance does not make a dull card into a classic. Molina and Guerrero both lost almost every round. A good workout for the winners. And yet, to my surprise, many fans thought otherwise. Reading the comments under Michael Rosenthal’s report and that of Andreas Hale the people who watched the fight were thrilled. This could mean, and I believe it does, that a new, inexperienced fan base is developing. This might be a positive development. In time, if they stick with the sport, they might be better able to distinguish between good and bad fights. Whether they become hardcore or not, the point is they watched. Good for boxing, but it doesn’t make the NBC card much more than a stiff. – Mike

I think there were a lot of novice boxing fans that tuned into the PBC on NBC debut and those who decided to stick with the broadcast after the Broner-Molina stinker were probably entertained by the Thurman-Guerrero bout. And I believe many of those newbie fans will tune into next month’s PBC on NBC show (or at the very least, the next televised card that features Thurman or Guerrero). Like you said, that’s a good thing. As they learn more about the sport they may look back on Thurman-Guerrero and realize that it wasn’t a “fight of the year” candidate or even very competitive, but for during the bout those fans were entertained and that’s the name of the game.

I thought the matchups and the broadcast had their pros and cons, but I think you’re being a little hard on the commentators and the “B-side” fighters, especially Guerrero.

Yes, Molina is, at best, a fringe contender. He’s a puncher. Period. Everybody knew coming in that his only shot at beating Broner was the proverbial “Puncher’s Chance” (in other words he had to get lucky, or create his own luck as he did against Mickey Bey and hank Lundy). Did he have that shot against Broner? Most folks (myself included) didn’t think so, but more than few fans (even some hardcore heads) thought he did. As talented as Broner is, the Cincinnati native did not have the look of a “world-beater” coming into this fight. He was beat up by Maidana, he allowed the much smaller, light-punching Carlos Molina put hands on him, and then fought tooth-and-nail with fringe contender Emanuel Taylor. Matching Broner with a guy who put No. 1-rated Lucas Matthysse down twice in the 2014 Fight of the Year wasn’t a complete “set-up” matchup on paper.

But the sad fact of the matter is that Molina is terribly limited, in terms of ring IQ and athleticism, and that brutal war with Matthysse (which needed to be stopped at least two rounds earlier than it was) “de-fanged” the once dangerous puncher-stalker. Molina just isn’t willing to let those heavy hands go with abandon anymore, and Broner took full advantage of that fact on Saturday. It did not make for a competitive or entertaining fight, and there was nothing NBC’s large commentary team could say or do to make it interesting.

Keith-Thurman-EyeThe Thurman-Guerrero bout was almost as one-sided as Broner-Molina, but Guerrero wasn’t as hapless as Molina and whether or not you care to recognize it, his toughness/heart/determination made for a more compelling matchup. It’s silly to dismiss this fight as a “good workout” for Thurman. Does this face look like a dude who just got back from some brisk sparring and bag work at the gym?

No, Mike. It looks like he was in a hard, 12-round prize fight.

I didn’t have a problem with Leonard or Albert lauding Guerrero’s mettle. In fact, I thought they waved the poms-poms a little too much for Thurman. But I totally expected them to be rusty, and I’m going to give them time to catch up with the sport and gel as co-commentators before I totally pooh-pooh them (or the other “flunkies,” as you put it, who I thought did OK given their limited roles in the crowded broadcast).

 

THURMAN-GUERRERO

Holy Crap Dougie!

Although I was pulling for a Ghost win Saturday night, am I the only one that was super impressed with both fighters as the fight wore on? I for sure thought The Ghost was done after the knockdown but he showed the true heart of a champion by hanging on and also coming back to make it an all out war in the last few rounds. If Thurman had not turned on his wheels in the last couple rounds, there’s a good chance The Ghost could have gotten him out of there.

Fights like this do wonders for boxing, especially after the snoozer of a fight that came on before it. I think having the fight on national free TV was a great move and I am looking forward to boxing being back on prime time in a few weeks. Imagine if Floyd fought like these two did? Take care. – Breno, NC, US

If Mayweather fought like that he’d probably have a loss or two on his resume but he’d be more popular and his fans would be able to make those comparisons to Sugar Ray Leonard without getting cursed out as much as they do now.

I’m glad to hear the Thurman-Guerrero bout saved the broadcast for you and wet your appetite for more boxing. I wasn’t surprised at all that Guerrero got up from that knockdown or that he took it to Thurman in the following round. He’s a grinder with mad heart. Still, it was hard to watch him take those accurate and powerful straight rights from Thurman after he got up off the canvas in Round 9.

Having said that, I agree that if Thurman hadn’t done more moving than sticking in the final rounds, the fight wouldn’t have been closer on the scorecards. (I don’t think Guerrero would have scored a stoppage. He could have potentially outworked Thurman in their exchanges because the undefeated young gun was clearly arm wary, but The Ghost was also tired and I don’t think the vet has the power to score late KOs at welterweight.)

FUTURE 147-POUND BOSS

Hi Doug,

There seems to be an ever-growing queue of welterweights looking to fill the shoes of the top two after they retire. Who do you fancy bossing the division? Cheers. – Ryan, Devon, England

That’s a good question. Who will take the top spot once Mayweather and Pacquiao retire (which I hope happens soon)? As you know, I’m very high on Thurman, but I also recognize that he’s still a work in progress. I think he’s another year or two from realizing his potential (if he stays active and faces the right challenges).

The top-five welterweight in his physical prime that appears to have the perfect mix of natural ability, world-class skill and athleticism, technique, durability and poise that one needs to become “the man” at 147 pounds in my not-so-humble opinion is undefeated IBF titleholder Kell Brook.

However, I have no idea what how much that awful leg wound Brook sustained in that machete attack in Tenerife last summer will affect his mobility and power. Hopefully, he’s able to recover 100 percent. But we won’t know for sure until we see how he moves around against Jo Jo Dan later this month, and then against a legit top-10 contender.

 

THOUGHTS ON BOXING’S PRIME-TIME RETURN

Hey Doug…. hope things are well with you. I don’t get to write in as often these days, but was moved to share a few thoughts I would love to get your perspective on!

First – Keith Thurman is a beast! When he first came up I figured him for a one dimensional KO artist. Then, was disappointed with his boxing-only performance in his last bout. But last night, he put it all together in such impressive fashion! To see the power punching mixed with the pure boxing was a thing of beauty. I can’t seem to come up with any good comparisons for his style with former world-class boxers. Any thoughts? Having said that….

I didn’t like to see how open Thurman was for a lot of shots. For sure Guerrero is world class, but if “One Time” wants to get to the pinnacle of the sport, he’ll need to lock down his defence. Speaking of Guerrero….

Robert Guerrero reminded me why he is one of my favorite fighters from the past decade – in spades this time! After he was knocked down, I was yelling for the ref to stop it cause I didn’t want to see him get hurt. But damn, the heart he showed coming back was great, and it was fantastic to hear the MGM Grand cheering for him. Do you think he can parlay this NBC prime time performance into more high profile fights despite the lopsided scorecards? Speaking of NBC…..

I was thrilled to see the sport back on a big network during prime time. And I was so happy that the second fight delivered such excitement value! To have a FOTY candidate on regular TV should, I hope, be a boon for the sport and building a new fan base. Agree?

But…. speaking of the broadcast itself. I was disappointed with how “flat” it seemed overall. I thought they were trying to do the right things, and I liked the focus on the fighters. But it just seemed to lack some pizzazz. Perhaps what I missed was top notch commentating. I like and respect Marv Albert and Sugar Ray, but the calls of the fights just weren’t up to the standards we’ve come to expect. I thought Laila Ali and B.J. Flores did fine, but the overall show seemed a bit weak. I hope that doesn’t turn off potential boxing fans.

Oh, and the Broner display didn’t do much to win fans, but can’t say I was surprised. Anyway, would love to hear your thoughts. Peace. – Corban

Broner needed to do a little more given Molina’s low punch output. Anyone who was watching him for the first time had to be wondering “What’s the big deal about this guy?”

I didn’t think the broadcast lacked “pizzazz” (as you put it), I thought it lacked personality. Having the fighters walk-in alone (without their trainers, cornermen or entourage members), and having them enter the arena to that grand classical composition instead of the music of their choice detracted from the personalities of the individual combatants.

Broner’s wayward personality is probably better suited for pay-cable than free network. It was obvious he was under strict orders not to “be himself” during or after the fight, because I know he wanted hump Molina at least three times during the fight and he probably wanted to curse a little bit and have his dad comb his hair during the post-fight interview.

I think part of what makes a guy like Broner an attraction is his polarizing personality, which includes the walk-in entourage of awful rappers, lewd dancing, vulgar antics (during the fight) and corny antics after it.

It’s going to take awhile for Marv and Ray to get up to speed. As a hardcore fan, you’re used to broadcast teams that have worked together for many years. New fans, however, don’t have anyone to compare Albert and Leonard to, so they may have been just fine with the commentary.

Do I think Guerrero can parlay this NBC prime time performance into more high profile fights despite the lopsided scorecards of the Thurman fight? Yeah. For the record, I don’t think Thurman-Guerrero is a Fight of the Year candidate, but The Ghost showed enough moxie to earn new fans and regain some of the career momentum he lost with the loss to Mayweather and inactivity. People want to see him fight again, and Haymon has notable dance partners for him, such as Broner, the Berto-Lopez winner and maybe even the winner of Gacria-Peterson. (Even if Peterson or Lopez lose their next fights, a lot of folks would see want to see them take on Guerrero because the style matchup would ensure action.)

I agree that Thurman was impressive (and I’m proud to say that I was high on him back when he wasn’t fighting on TV) and I also agree that he needs to tighten up his defense. Guerrero repeatedly caught him with right hooks early in the fight. And while Thurman’s power is world class, I’m not sure his chin is. However, he won’t have to have a Guerrero-esque chin if he perfects that power-punch-on-the-fly style of his. Only notable guy who comes to mind that fought kind of how Thurman fights now is Acelino Freitas (shortly after the athletic Brazilian puncher gave up going for the knockout but before he became too sensitive/compassionate for his own good).

 

SWEET FIGHT NIGHT

D.,

This Saturday saw Sugar Ray back on the mic and your boy didn’t show much rust. Nice job by NBC all around I thought.

I wanted to write in just to say I admit, I like Adrien Broner. He might be a complete ass hat outside the ring but I like when he fights. He’s great stylistically even if he never lives up to his potential.

I like how Steve Smoger pointed out in the Molina-Broner fight that there was too much reffin. I hope they give him May-Pac (no chance but I’d take Kenny B.).

I was a bit disappointed that One Time couldn’t finish Guerrero. He did fine but it felt anticlimactic. Where does “Keef” go from here to get some respect?

If they could make any fight this year, mine would be Provodnikov vs Matthysse. So I’m getting my wish, what’s yours? Take care and keep up the great work! – WS

Thanks. The fight I wanted to see most in 2015 was Canelo-Cotto. We ain’t getting’ that fight, but Matthysse-Provodnikov and Canelo-Kirkland are nice consolation prizes and I’m gonna enjoy watching both.

I think Maidana or the winner of Garcia-Peterson is the perfect next opponent for Thurman.

Smoger was correct. Referee Robert Byrd was over-officious in the Broner-Molina bout. You’re right that Smoger would never be cleared to ref May-Pac, but I don’t wanna see Bayless get that assignment, not after the way he handled the Mayweather-Maidana rematch.

I’m not a Broner fan but I admit that he can be fun given the right opponent. I’d still love to see him face Chris Algieri given the clash in personalities. In a perfect world, we see if he could hang with Terence Crawford. But unfortunately, I think Broner’s going to be limited to PBC players for the next few years.

I’m glad someone enjoyed SRL’s call of the fights. I thought he did well given his recent inactivity.

 

PBC’S CORNER TO CORNER

And you thought 24/7 was trite. LOL. – Dan, NYC

Yes, most of Corner to Corner was indeed trite, but on the positive side it was a boxing pre-show that I could watch with my 10-year-old daughter. (That’s something I generally can’t do with 24/7 and All Access, especially when Floyd “Mother F___ing” Mayweather is the main subject.)

I watched Corner for Corner with Josephine the day before the PBC on NBC debut and I enjoyed answering her questions about each fighter and listening to her thoughts on the co-main event players (she took an instant liking to Molina because he seemed like, in her words, “a goofy regular everyday dude,” and she said she was going to root for Guerrero because he’s got a family and lots of chickens to take care of and because she met him a few years ago).

Josie didn’t watch the fights live but she asked me what happened on Sunday morning, which is something she usually does after Mayweather or Pacquiao fights. The only reason she cared about Thurman-Guerrero and Broner-Guerrero was because of what she saw and learned on Corner to Corner, so take that for whatever it means.

 

 

Fischer can be emailed at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @dougiefischer

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