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The Travelin’ Man returns to Cincinnati – part two

14
Oct
Adrien Broner (left) sets up a right hand against Khabib Allakhverdiev on Oct. 3, 2015 at US Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo credit: Dylan Buell/Getty Images North America

Adrien Broner (left) sets up a right hand against Khabib Allakhverdiev on Oct. 3, 2015 at US Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo credit: Dylan Buell/Getty Images North America

 

Please click here for part one

 

Saturday, Oct. 3 (continued): If there’s one thing I’ve learned about human nature, it’s that we all have habits, good and bad. We emphasize our strengths, downplay our weaknesses and seldom venture outside our individual boundaries. Once most of us reach a certain age, what is will probably remain so for the rest of our lives.



This phenomenon extends to athletes. It’s why players and coaches spend so much time analyzing video because, over time, every one of us reveals what makes us tick and what ticks us off. In short, we are a species that thrives on patterns and for athletes – especially boxers – identifying and exploiting those patterns can mean the difference between victory and defeat.

Even before I joined CompuBox full-time in March 2007, I knew the company’s data, if interpreted correctly, could reliably paint a boxer’s numerical portrait. For example, Chris Arreola’s weight often determines his ability to generate and sustain a high punch output. When he scaled below 240, he was capable of wreaking high-volume, high-accuracy havoc on his opponents. But when his weight crept upward, his output and his effectiveness plummeted because of his eroded cardiovascular capacity. Of all the profiles I’ve assembled, this correlation has been among the most consistent.

Another reliable indicator involves Adrien Broner, whose 12th round TKO over Khabib Allakhverdiev this night earned him his fourth divisional crown. Like Mikey Garcia, John Molina Jr., James Kirkland and Gabriel Campillo, Broner is among boxing’s most deliberate starters. But once Broner and his mates got past the opening stanzas, they were devastating.

For Broner, this pattern was strongest when he competed at 130 and 135. When he defended his WBC lightweight title against Gavin Rees, Broner threw 34 punches in round one, 53 in the second and was out-landed 37-32 overall and 28-26 in power shots. Rees even landed 52% of his power shots in the second. But starting in round three, Broner shifted into overdrive and kept the pedal to the metal for the duration. He fired 64, 83 and 75 punches in rounds three through five, out-landed Rees 117-51 overall and 105-44 power and connected on 54% of his total punches as well as a sky-high 65% of his hooks, crosses and uppercuts. No wonder the rugged Welshman crumbled.

In the first three rounds against Antonio DeMarco, from whom Broner won the WBC lightweight title, Broner threw 24, 28 and 32 punches in the first three rounds only to zoom up to 70, 87, 86 and 74 in rounds three through seven. During that latter four-round span, Broner out-landed DeMarco 168-62 overall and 160-55 power and connected on 53% of his total punches in addition to 55% of his power punches. The coup de grace came in round eight, which saw Broner land 76% of his total punches (38 of 50) and an ungodly 82% of his power punches (37 of 45).

As he moved up in weight, however, another pattern emerged. The slow starts were still there but the turbo drive didn’t have the same kick. Against Paul Malignaggi, at welterweight, Broner averaged 29.5 per round over the first four and a modest but not overwhelming 50.8 over the final eight rounds. What helped him greatly was his accuracy, which saw him surge from 35% overall and 42% power in the first two rounds to 48% overall and 52% power the rest of the way. That allowed him to earn a 246-214 overall connect advantage despite throwing 319 fewer punches. Against Marcos Maidana, however, Broner’s engine stalled and stayed stalled as he averaged just 33.3 punches per round to Maidana’s 80.3, with his highest output being 50 in round six while Maidana’s lowest was 57 in round three.

The junior welterweight version of Broner that battered Allakhverdiev may not have had the mid-fight pyrotechnics of his lighter self but it was more than enough to ground “The Hawk” and turn his face into hamburger. Once again, Broner produced a deliberate start as he averaged 37.3 punches and was out-landed 37-28 overall and 31-16 power during the first three rounds. But once the gong sounded for round four, it was as if an alarm clock went off in Broner’s head, after which he proceeded to clock Allakhverdiev. In round four, Broner went 17 of 57 overall, including 10 of 18 power shots (56%). That set the stage for what transpired in rounds five through eight. There Broner averaged 65.5 punches per round to Allakhverdiev’s 51.5, out-landed the Russian 96-56 overall and 69-51 power and led 56%-30%, 59%-33%, 58%-41% and 42%-21% in power percentage. That surge allowed Broner to take command of the fight.

In round nine, however, Broner did something he had never done during the midst of his other explosions: He took a breather. He went just 6 of 29 overall and 3 of 8 in power shots, which allowed Allakhverdiev (14 of 53 overall and 14 of 47 power) to regain a bit of his footing. But any thoughts of a Broner slump in the homestretch evaporated in the final three rounds as he zoomed up to 75 punches per round and led 83-40 overall and 65-37 power. The 11th was particularly impressive as he achieved fight-high totals of 37 connects and 88 punches overall as well as 33 power connects and 66 power punch attempts.

The final numbers saw Broner lead 230-161 overall, 67-18 jabs and 163-143 power, including a 50%-31% gap in power accuracy. The new WBA titlist declared after the fight that he was “m***********g tired” and, given the numbers he produced, could you blame him?

While his statistical performance was terrific, one must also put it in proper context. As stated in part one, Allakhverdiev was coming off a nearly 18-month layoff as well as his first pro defeat against Jessie Vargas in a fight that saw the Russian’s face covered in crimson. Broner called out Ashley Theophane during his post-fight interview and, if that fight comes off, he will be heavily favored to dominate the “Treasure” in similar fashion. But will he be able to bring the pain against the likes of newly crowned WBC titlist Viktor Postol, who scored a stunning 10th round TKO of Lucas Matthysse just minutes earlier in Carson, Calif.? Could he shine against IBF counterpart Cesar Cuenca, a tricky Argentine southpaw who sports one of the most unique records in the sport – 48-0 with two no-contests and two knockouts? Then, of course, is WBO champion Terence Crawford, a pound-for-pound-level talent who would boast advantages in height, reach and versatility. In my mind, Broner would lose to Postol and Crawford while Cuenca’s mobility and intelligence could be a stylistic nightmare for “The Problem.”

At 26, Broner is nearing his chronological zenith but it remains to be seen if the Allakhverdiev outing marks a true turning point in terms of incorporating a higher level of maturity to his already neon-bright ability or if it represents a temporary blip. As for me, I hope it’s the former.

*

Edner Cherry had every reason to lash out in anger moments after his split decision loss to IBF junior lightweight titlist Jose Pedraza. I believe he fulfilled three of the four criteria judges usually use to assess each round; clean punching (he out-landed Pedraza 243-187 overall, 76-56 jabs and 167-131 power), effective aggressiveness (he out-threw Pedraza 918-554 in total punches and 570-328 in power shots in addition to the previously stated connect advantages) and ring generalship (he often forced the lanky Pedraza to swap punches at close range and managed to out-land him overall in nine of the 12 rounds). The only category in which Pedraza prevailed was defense as he led 34%-26% overall, 25%-22% jabs and 40%-29% power while also prevailing 82-33 in landed body shots. The power accuracy gap is particularly noteworthy and it could be used to justify a close card in Pedraza’s favor. But I didn’t see it that way.

In this writer’s eyes – and the eyes of many others, given the boos the official verdict received – Larry Hazzard Jr.’s 116-112 card in favor of Cherry most accurately reflected what transpired inside the ring. As for the 117-111 scores submitted by Scott Maddox and George Hill, Al Bernstein – who is hesitant to criticize officials – declared, “You can make the case, maybe, for giving that fight to Pedraza. There is no way on God’s Earth you can score it 117 to 111. That’s nine rounds for Jose Pedraza. That is, in a word, an outrage.” Allow me to do Al one better; in my opinion, that margin of victory is nothing short of asinine.

And yet, in the face of this acidic result, Cherry stood tall and showed a level of class and composure worthy not just of a true champion but of a top-tier Hall-of-Famer.

“You know what? I want to give all glory to God,” he began. “I want to brag of what God has done. Not myself, but I want to give thanks to God that God has spared our lives in this ring. It was a good fight. I just left it to the judges’ hands. If I didn’t knock him out, it was up to the judges. It’s them. That’s the judges. That’s what happens when you leave it to the judges’ hands. If I knocked him out, I know I would have won that fight. It went 12 rounds, so it was up to the judges. It was a good fight; I’m not taking nothing away from Jose Pedraza. He fought a good fight. I did the best I can do and I’m happy with my performance. I would love a rematch.”

Cherry said all this with a calm, even voice and he showed the genuineness of his faith by expressing thanks even in the midst of a most disappointing moment. The intensity of that disappointment can best be appreciated by recounting his story. At age 33, Cherry is a 14-year ring veteran, who began his career by going just 3-2-2 in his first seven fights. After winning his next 14, he earned an IBF lightweight title eliminator against Ricky Quiles, who, like Pedraza, was a slick southpaw. He lost a wrenching split decision because of a point deduction for holding and hitting in round six, a penalty that thwarted a draw.

The next three years saw Cherry see-saw through wins and losses; he beat former champs Juan Polo Perez and Stevie Johnston while losing to Jose Armando Santa Cruz and Paul Malignaggi. The Johnston victory earned Cherry his first crack at a major title against then-WBO junior welterweight champion Timothy Bradley. Their bout was elevated to main event status after Joan Guzman missed weight so horribly that his match against three-belt lightweight king Nate Campbell was canceled but, while Bradley shined, Cherry struggled. The final margins were 119-109, 118-109 and 117-110; unlike the Pedraza fight, those scores properly captured Bradley’s dominance.

It would be seven long years before Cherry earned another chance at the brass ring. Although he went 9-0 (with one no-contest) leading up to the Pedraza fight, he endured layoffs of 15 months, eight months, 10 months, 14 months and nine months at different points. While his powerful right hand boasted the colorful nickname “The Cherry Bomb,” his quiet, businesslike demeanor hurt his ability to draw the necessary money for titlists to justify the risk of defending against him. Pedraza did.

In my opinion, Cherry fought the best fight he possibly could against Pedraza. His spirited, energetic attack troubled “The Sniper” and he landed often enough to raise bruises around both eyes while Cherry picked up a cut above the left eye in the fight’s waning moments. And in the end, his work was all for naught, thanks to a pair of scorecards whose margins stretched the bounds of credulity.

Pedraza dismissed the possibility of an immediate rematch and, given Cherry’s persona, one has to wonder if he’ll get another title opportunity unless he’s the mandatory. That’s a shame. It would have been great to see Cherry’s long odyssey toward a second title chance end in triumph because he is one of those guys who has had to earn everything he has received. His effort against Pedraza should have resulted in a championship but, since that didn’t happen, I hope his hard work within that Cincinnati ring will get him a third shot – and soon.

*

The Showtime Extreme telecast began with Jamel Herring’s step-up win over Ghanaian Yakubu Amidu, Herring’s first fight beyond eight rounds. In one respect, Herring demonstrated excellent stamina as he finished stronger than he started (17 of 68 overall, 15 of 34 power in the 10th; 13 of 58 overall, 11 of 29 power in the first). However, Herring was able to set his own pace throughout the match because Amidu couldn’t pull the trigger (42.2 per round). It is encouraging to note that when Herring was left to his own devices, he still chose to work hard (69.9 punches per round) and the final results saw Herring with solid statistical leads (145-83 overall, 27-24 jabs and 118-59 power). Herring’s body attack also was excellent as 72 to Amidu’s 29.

The best performance of the night belonged to lightweight Robert Easter Jr., who destroyed veteran Juan Solis in three rounds. Solis, a late sub for the 25-2 (13) Oscar Cortes, had no answer for Easter’s blend of height, reach, power, aggression and robust body punching. The round-by-round margins illustrated Easter’s command: 22-3 in round one, 39-6 in round two and 7-0 in round three before Solis’ corner threw in the towel. Easter also was accurate (38% overall, 46% power) and defensively responsible (20% overall, 24% power), especially given his assertiveness. At 5-foot-11 and owning a 76-inch reach, Easter is an extraordinarily tall and lanky lightweight and some have equated him to a young Thomas Hearns. I’m not ready to make that leap but I certainly like what I have seen so far.

Undefeated welterweight Jamontay Clark bridged the two telecasts with a two-round demolition of Hartford’s Joe Wilson Jr. “The Quiet Assassin” lived up to his moniker as he scored two knockdowns in round one and added a third to end the bout at the 28-second mark. The most illustrative stats from this bout were those produced by Clark’s power punching, which created a 16-6 margin and a 44%-19% gap. But as powerful as the Cincinnati southpaw looked, he should address one bad habit that could haunt him later. Following the first knockdown of round one, he threw (and missed) three shots after Wilson was on the floor while, on the final knockdown, he landed a blow to the ribs just before Wilson fell on his face. Nevertheless, Clark looked good and he certainly is ready for a step up in competition.

*

Although Andy and I had been working for more than four hours, the time flew by for me. After getting a slice of pizza in the production office, we headed out into the night, whose conditions were far more pleasant than the drizzle we faced more than 10 hours earlier. Although I am an avid walker, I still struggled to keep up with Andy’s lightning pace. Thanks to that pace, however, we made excellent time and we arrived at the hotel a little after 1 a.m. Once we said our goodbyes, I spent some time talking boxing with the employee manning the registration desk, who said he knew Broner and his younger twin brother Andre. He said that the men inside the gym thought Adrien’s brother was the more talented of the two, yet he never turned pro.

Despite the late hour, it still took nearly two more hours before I wound down enough to turn out the lights.

Sunday, Oct. 4: Though my slumber lasted only four-and-a-half hours, my desire to catch up on my writing helped give me the jolt of energy I needed to begin my day without feeling bleary. After finishing my morning routines, I turned my attention to recapturing the events of the previous night. Thankfully the words flowed freely and, by 10:20 a.m., I had reached a good stopping point. Good thing because my check-out time was 11 a.m. and I needed time to have my car retrieved from the valet parking lot. Once I paid the bill, I was out the door.

The area in front of the hotel was saturated with cars, rental and otherwise, and my vehicle was made available within 10 minutes. Once I put my luggage in the front seat and settled behind the wheel, I plugged my phone into the car charger, buckled my seat belt and broke out the GPS. I thought I was executing these deeds quickly but apparently not quick enough for one particularly grouchy, old man.

“Hey, get your a** moving!” he shouted. At first, I wasn’t sure he was yelling at me but his fiery eyes and snarling expression told me all I needed to know. My insides burned to reply in kind but instead I chose to refrain. His wife, with whom I was chatting just a few moments earlier, looked embarrassed for him. I simply shrugged my shoulders and drove away.

The last time I drove home, I took the route that took me through Kentucky but the GPS suggested I leave Cincinnati the way I came, through I-71. There was one major shift in the route in that I mostly followed U.S. Route 50 to gain access to Ohio 7 North in Marietta. Once I had returned to my “sphere of familiarity,” I turned off the device and let my mind’s eye guide me the rest of the way home.

I pulled into the driveway at 3:40 p.m., 20 minutes sooner than anticipated. In all I drove 532 miles and the Subaru, though more than a decade old, ran like a dream.

The next trip on the schedule is set to begin the morning of Oct. 23 with the final destination being Omaha, Neb., where Broner’s WBO counterpart Terence Crawford will defend his belt against Canadian-based Haitian Dierry Jean.

Until then, happy trails!


Lee Groves is a boxing writer and historian based in Friendly, W.Va. He is a full member of the BWAA, from which he has won 13 writing awards, including 10 in the last five years and two first-place awards since 2011. He has been an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame since 2001 and is also a writer, researcher and punch-counter for CompuBox, Inc. He is the author of “Tales from the Vault: A Celebration of 100 Boxing Closet Classics. To order, please visit Amazon.com or email the author at
[email protected] to arrange for autographed copies.

 

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