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Dougie’s Monday mailbag

14
Dec

 

STILL A BIG ‘AJ’ BOOSTER

Man, what a terrific fight and a heavyweight fight no less!

I was and still am very high on Anthony Joshua, but I always had this nagging question in me on whether he will turn out to be the next Frank Bruno (you will recall his career started in similar fashion) or the next Lennox Lewis.

Well, in the second round Dillian Whyte had me thinking that AJ might end up as the next David Price. He wobbled, was stiff and appeared to be gassing and I thought if Whyte could just keep his jab going and stay out of trouble we were on our way to shocking knockout upset.

To his credit, Joshua sucked it up, composed himself, picked his punches and wonder upon wonder found a second wind. The way he got Whyte out of there was clinical and devastating.

Some questions were answered. Yes, he can overcome adversity and take a decent shot. Yes, he can adjust and go a few rounds. However, I do think that he will have stamina issues if an opponent stronger than Whyte pushes him hard over the distance, much like Bruno did and as so often happens to these muscular types. Do you think there is anything that can be done conditioning wise to address the issue? After all, you can’t really change a guy’s physique that much. Or is it rather a question of him learning to pace himself better, which he seemed to do during the fight?

But I think the answer to the question on whether he is ready for the top 5 of the division or even David Haye, if he is healthy and looks good in his comeback, is a clear “no.” What do you think? I think he needs at least another year.

But that’s ok. I look forward to the ride. Along with Joseph Parker, he is the top heavyweight prospect out there. I know there is no chance of it happening, but how do you see a fight between those two playing out?

Regards. – Droeks Malan, South Africa

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Joshua and his seventh-round KO of Dillian Whyte. I thought it was the most entertaining boxing match of a busy weekend that featured a lot of good scraps.

Despite the wobbly moment in Round 2 and his sluggish recovery period in Round 3, I still view Anthony Joshua as the sport’s best heavyweight prospect. (In fact, THE RING magazine already ranks him No. 10.) If “AJ” were to take on Joseph Parker in his very next fight, I’d pick the British sensation to win. However, I think it would be another tough outing. Parker’s hand speed and high workrate makes him very dangerous, but he’s got to get inside to do any damage and that might very difficult for him to accomplish against Joshua at this stage of his development (he’s only 23).

Joshua’s development received a nice boost on Saturday. Before taking on Whyte, the 26-year-old Olympic gold medalist was unbeaten in 14 professional bouts but he’d never been in a “fight.” That changed against Whyte, who took his best shots for six and half rounds, hit him back with bad intentions, and actually tried to win.

I will classify Joshua’s 15th pro bout as his first “gut check.” He passed. There will be more to come, and like you, I look forward to the ride.

However, I do think that he will have stamina issues if an opponent stronger than Whyte pushes him hard over the distance, much like Bruno did and as so often happens to these muscular types. Do you think there is anything that can be done conditioning wise to address the issue? I don’t think Joshua needs to do anything that he isn’t already doing in his training. I believe that professional stamina is acquired through tough extended fights (as he had with Whyte) and bouts that go the distance (10-12 rounds). The best thing for Joshua is to go the 10-round distance a couple times before he faces a legit top-5 contender or goes for a title shot. Fans and insiders used to point to Mike Tyson’s muscular physique (and penchant for ending bouts in one or two rounds) and question his stamina, but when the time came for Iron Mike to fight the 12-round distance in championship bouts he was ready. Part of the reason he was able to do so (vs. Bonecrusher Smith and Tony Tucker in 1987) was because he’d fought two bouts that went the 10-round distance in 1986 (and he fought them in the SAME MONTH): his decisions over James “Quick” Tillis and Mitch “Blood” Green. The Tillis bout was also a bit of a gut check because the Oklahoma veteran came to win and gave “Kid Dynamite” a fight. Riddick Bowe needed a difficult 10-round bout vs. savvy former titleholder Tony Tubbs under his belt before he faced a man who could take him a hard 12 (Evander Holyfield). (By the way, I thought Tubbs held Bowe to a draw in that 1991 bout.) Big Daddy got a gut check from Tyrell Biggs (who he stopped in eight rounds) before he faced Tubbs. The Biggs fight and the tough bout he had with gritty Pierre Coetzer (who was stopped in seven) helped give him the experience he needed to go to war with Holyfield in his title-winning effort.

But I think the answer to the question on whether he is ready for the top 5 of the division or even David Haye, if he is healthy and looks good in his comeback, is a clear “no.” What do you think? I think he needs at least another year. I agree.

 

WHEN WILL ROY JONES JR. STOP?

What’s up Doug,

I hope the holiday season is treating you well. I just saw the final 10-15 seconds of the “fight” between Enzo Maccarinelli and Roy Jones Jr. After witnessing Roy drop like he’d been shot dead, when is he going to realize that the game is over? Sure beating Egyptian tour guides and late night taxi drivers is fine, but if Enzo (another fighter who should keep the gloves hung up in the closet) is knocking you out, it’s time to stop.

And if he’s not going to stop himself, can’t the officials sanctioning these bouts just deny him? I wonder if his Russian citizenship is a way to continue on this Bizarro quest to become a cruiserweight champion (which I pray has come to an end). I don’t know, Doug, but for myself the last thing I want to see is an aging great die in the ring knowing that he had absolutely no business being there in the first place and that no one had the fortitude to tell him no. – D.W. from Boston, Ma.

I think a lot of people have been telling Jones to quit boxing for many years. He’s been hearing it for 10 years, since his back-to-back KO losses to Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson.

I’m pretty sure the people close to him told him to stop fighting after he was blasted in one round by Danny Green in 2009 and then frighteningly knocked out in Round 10 by Denis Lebedev in 2011.

I don’t think fans, media, HBO colleagues, and most importantly Jones’ family, are lacking “the fortitude to tell him no” – especially after the Maccarinelli stoppage. I think Jones hears it all the time, which part of the reason he’s remained in the combat side of the sport (along with the money, adulation and genuine love for boxing). He’s a stubborn southern S.O.B. (not unlike Evander Holyfield).

However, that same pride that makes him want to continue boxing just to spite naysayers, know-it-alls and alarmists was probably bruised (along with his brain) by being knocked silly by a dude who wouldn’t have been able to spar with him 15 years ago.

Losing to Enzo “Macaroni” might be embarrassing enough to convince Jones to leave the prize ring behind and to focus on his commentating and training careers.

 

DONAIRE, VERDEJO & FIGUEROA

Sup Dougie Fresh! Been a while since I’ve written in, I hope this finds you well. I’ll get right to it. A lot of great fights this weekend. I was unable to see the fights across the Pond, so I wanted to get your thoughts on the 3 aforementioned fighters.

I’ll start with Nonito Donaire. Great fight and possibly a candidate for FOY. My only concern is that Cesar Juarez is not a world-class fighter and he took the Filipino Flash to the darkside and back. I think he’s too old to be receiving that much punishment. Where do you see him going from here? He has a belt so there will be fights out there for him.

It’s time for Felix Verdejo to step up. He fought a hair dresser from Brazil??? I know he’s Top Ranks young golden egg but how long are they gonna give him soft touches. Do you see him fighting a ranked lightweight by next summer? What chance would you give him against a lower top 10 guy like Miguel Vasquez or Kevin Mitchell?

Finally, Omar Figueroa. Where is this kid’s career going? He looked good at 135, fought once at 140 and now the kid is weighing in at 151 for this fight against Demarco. His stamina was good throwing over a thousand punches but he looked soft around the midsection and uncomfortable fighting at that weight. Where do you see him settling at and going from here? I can’t see him being competitive right now in the JMW or the WW divisions. Thoughts?

Keep up the great work, brother. Hope you and your family have a safe holiday and New Year’s. Cheers. – Maintain from Queens

Thanks for the holiday wishes and for sharing your thoughts, Maintain.

I’ll start with your comments on Donaire. His tough 12 rounder with Juarez was a hell of a fight. Was it a fight of the year candidate? Well, the second half of it was. Regardless of where it ranks among the other top fights of 2015, I enjoyed watching it live and witnessing both junior featherweights dig very deep.

I agree that Juarez is not world class (apart from his freakish resiliency). Donaire is definitely a faded veteran. He’s still a ranked fighter because of his accomplishments and still-considerable talent. The dude can pot-shot on the fly with the best of ’em, but he has a hard time putting his flashy shots together and he really can’t defend himself if he can’t outmaneuver his foe (an ability that was severely hampered against Juarez when he hurt his ankle). Where do I see him going from Saturday? I think he’s earned one more big fight/big payday. If Scott Quigg beats UK rival Carl Frampton in February, I can see the unbeaten Manchester fighter seeking to further unify 122-pound belts by taking on Donaire. (If The Filipino Flash can win a fight like that, I think he punches his ticket to Canastota.)

Regarding Verdejo, I don’t see any reason to rush him at this point of his career. Some fighters are ready for the world at 22, or even before that age (as hall of famers Floyd Patterson, Wilfredo Benitez, Salvador Sanchez, Thomas Hearns, Pipino Cuevas, Mike Tyson, and other soon-to-be HOFers were); but most aren’t.

Do you see him fighting a ranked lightweight by next summer? Yes. I’d like to see him in with a solid, young fringe contender like Mexico’s Dante Jardon first, though.

What chance would you give him against a lower top 10 guy like Miguel Vasquez or Kevin Mitchell? An excellent chance, but I wouldn’t put him in with Vazquez. It’s impossible to look good against that guy.

Finally, Figueroa. Last and least of your trio.

Where is this kid’s career going? Nowhere.

Where do you see him settling at and going from here? I see him making a half-assed effort to make junior welterweight, settling for welterweight, and being served up to Errol Spence Jr. as a stepping stone or Devon Alexander as a comeback opponent.

I can’t see him being competitive right now in the JMW or the WW divisions. Thoughts? I can’t either, and I can’t see him being competitive at junior welterweight unless he sharpens up his defense and technique and learns to let his hands go from a proper range so that he doesn’t smother his punches.

 

UK VS. U.S. FIGHT CARDS

Dear Dougie,

I want to quickly echo the sentiments of Brinsley from Monday’s bag. For those of us who weren’t watching fights before the late 90’s, your recollections and history lessons are fascinating. The fighter that got me hooked on boxing was the legendary Roy Jones Jr. It was a damn shame to see him nuzzling the canvas on Saturday, but I’ll never forget those skills he had in his prime.

Anyway, I want to hear your thoughts on the card from the UK this past weekend. I’m sure others will seek your assessments of the fights and fighters, so my thoughts/questions pertain to the event as a whole.

Two things stood out as being different to big US cards. The first and obvious one is the crowd. The Brits seem incredibly loyal to their own and the crowd was big, parochial, and the atmosphere seemed electric. Hearing the packed O2 Arena singing as one between fights (the ‘Sweet Caroline’ rendition was kind of awesome) provided a great energy imo. It seemed like a fun place to be.

Another thing I noticed was the administering of oxygen to fighters immediately after being stopped. I haven’t seen much of this before, on US cards, or any others for that matter, but I thought it was cool. Is that common practice in the states or have I just not seen it? It’s quite a heavy image to see on TV and serves as a reminder of how dangerous this sport is, but it demonstrates a strong focus on fighter welfare and I’m all for it, even if it’s just a ‘precaution’.

Take your American hat off for a moment, and give us your opinion on the way big cards have been promoted and delivered to fans comparatively on both sides of the Atlantic in 2015 if you’d be so kind.

I’m a neutral in this argument but I’ve loved the big British cards I’ve seen this year and I think British boxing is killing it right now.

Thanks as always and have a great Xmas and New Year. Until next time… – Riley, Australia

Thanks for the holiday wishes and thanks for sharing your thoughts and questions, Riley.

It’s easy to answer your question about comparing big fight cards in the UK and the U.S. (no need for me to take my American hat off) – there is no comparison. Major UK cards are off the hook in terms of atmosphere and it’s because of the fans.

UK fans are the most passionate and loyal boxing fans in the world, along with Mexican and Puerto Rican fans. (Fans from Quebec/Montreal get an honorable mention.)

In the U.S., a lot of the major fight cards take place in Las Vegas, which usually kills the vibe regardless of how much the promoters or networks put into the in-arena production. The best fight card atmospheres that I witnessed in 2015 took place outside of the casinos of Vegas or Atlantic City. Canelo-Kirkland at Minute Maid Park in Houston and Golovkin-Lemieux at Madison Square Garden are the top two that I attended and the only ones that come close equaling what I’ve saw of Saturday’s big show in London. That’s because that ballpark and that storied arena were packed with real, hardcore boxing fans.

But as electric as 30,000-plus inside Minute Maid Park and a sold-out MSG was, the British fans still have us beat thanks to those songs they sing in unison.

 

TOUCHED

Hey Dougie,

I was unsurprisingly again impressed with your last mailbag, in which your audience posed interesting questions and you took the time to really parse them in a way that helps keep the cult educated.

I, and virtually everyone else, I’m sure, have always been a RJJ fan, regardless of whether you think he had mediocre opposition in his prime and even if you think he ducked one or two legit threats (Collins comes to mind). I’ve been probably an even bigger fan of Roy’s in his HBO work and his other attempts to be a boxing Renaissance man. I find his analysis, at least his live analysis, to be almost always on point and not infrequently clairvoyant.

BTW I read an interesting story a couple of years ago about how he prefers to eschew fighter meetings because he’s there not for the personal narratives, but essentially only for the mechanics, body and mind, in the ring.

Of late, his still-incisive analysis and his symbiotic rapport with Lamps and Kellerman on the big broadcasts have been clouded by the why-don’t-you-quit-already elephant in the room. Despite how good he is behind the HBO mic, it’s harder to trust his views of other fighters and fights when he apparently can’t really see his own late career as clearly.

I literally gasped, out of concern, not shock, at the latest humbling by Enzo.

Do you think, if he fights on,

1. He will actually be less credible as an analyst; and

2. Regardless of the answer to 1, HBO will try to shuffle him off the big fights or maybe all the broadcasts because his ring career taints his credibility?

Finally, a nightmare matchup: Toney (now) v Jones (now) at their (such as they are) current fighting weights. Still a fan if I don’t make the bag. Yours truly. – Justin from Canada Thanks for the kind words, Justin.

I’m also a big fan of Jones’ boxing commentary on HBO. It’s good to know that there are others. I was a big fans of Jones when he was a dynamic uber-prospect in the early ’90s and when he was an untouchable middleweight/super middleweight titleholder in the mid-’90s.

I became less and less of a fan as the ’90s drew to a close without him attempting to unify major 160- and/or 168-pound belts, and his move to the light heavyweight division (which I didn’t think was necessary). When his ego became too big for the universe to contain (and his fans became ALMOST as irritating as Mayweather fans are now) in the early 2000s, I was definitely not a fan. (His dorky fans considered me a “hater,” but I never hated Roy.)

He’s a likable man outside of the ring. I’ve seen him around fans for many years and he’s always been down to earth. But, in his mind, when it comes to what takes place in the ring, he’s still “Super Roy.” Well, maybe that delusional self-opinion has finally been grounded with Saturday’s fourth-round stoppage. We’ll see. I think he’s going to be alright. He might fight one more time, perhaps some kind of Farewell Bout in his native Pensacola, Fla., but he’s got to be close to hanging up the gloves for good. I’d put money on it.

Do you think, if he fights on,

1. He will actually be less credible as an analyst. No, I think he remains the same ole Roy behind the mic, and he’ll still be a future first-ballot hall of famer. However, if he keeps getting tagged hard upside his noggin, he’s going to have a harder time articulating his thoughts. All he needs to do is listen to the slurred speech of former rival James Toney to know that the human brain has its limits. (Heck, I don’t know if Mayweather’s faithful Money Teamsters can hear his struggles with putting words together, but I hear it.)

2. Regardless of the answer to 1, HBO will try to shuffle him off the big fights or maybe all the broadcasts because his ring career taints his credibility? I don’t know the answer to this question. HBO has always been in love with Jones, so my guess is that the network will remain loyal, but there are other great boxers out there who want his job, including former rival Bernard Hopkins. So ya never knowÔǪ nobody is irreplaceableÔǪ except for Larry Merchant.

Finally, a nightmare matchup: Toney (now) v Jones (now) at their (such as they are) current fighting weights. Aw man, you’re sick! But as sick as you are for bringing this up, there are probably corners of the world that would sanction this mess, so those bastards are even sicker. I’ll go with Toney by decision (because he’s heavier and has a better chin) but it would be so awkward and sloppy that it would probably make Hopkins-Jones II look like a real fight.

 

WHAT A TIME TO BE A BOXING FAN

Hi Dougie, Been reading your mailbags since about 2008 but last night compelled me to write in for the first time. What an exciting card with some great surprises and some action. Joshua looked wobbly at times but what an uppercut, same goes with Eubank Jnr who couldn’t seem to miss with an uppercut, the British boxing scene is mad at the moment Who would you match next with Joshua and Eubank Jnr and which beltholder would you tell Tony Bellew to go after? His profile will be at his highest when Creed comes out in the UK. Mythical matchup: Earnie Shavers vs David Tua. – Danny, Birmingham

Oooh, good one, Danny. I’ll go with the prime Tua by mid-to-late round KO. I know Shavers is one of the best heavyweight punchers ever, but Tua had the better set of whiskers as well as the superior hand speed and stamina.

Who would you match next with Joshua and Eubank Jnr and which beltholder would you tell Tony Bellew to go after? I would match Joshua with a reliable gatekeeper like Tony Thompson or a grizzled veteran like Tomasz Adamek – tough, ring savvy old guys who won’t be intimidated and can give him quality rounds. I’d put Eubank Jr. in with a measuring-stick middleweight, former beltholder Hassan N’Dam or fringe contender Willie Monroe Jr. N’Dam will set a fast pace and won’t give up if he gets tagged hard. Monroe can give Eubank a different look (an athletic stick-and-move style) from what he’s been feasting on lately. I’d have Bellew go after Krzysztof Glowacki because the newly crowned WBO beltholder is least experienced (and the most impetuous) of the current titleholders.

Thanks for reading the mailbag for the past seven years.

 

JOSHUA-PARKER, JONES & MCCLELLAN

Hey Doug,

Your mailbag columns get better and better each week. You may have to eventually extend your columns to three times/week.

Anthony Joshua looks imposing as an up and coming heavyweight contender but I am not certain he will be anything near what the Klitschkos or Lennox Lewis accomplished especially with how much I thought he may have looked exposed in his fight with Dillian Whyte last night. As usual he was dominant but to me it appeared that at any time Whyte could take control of the fight if Whyte was able to really land on him.

It appears that eventually Joshua and Joe Parker will be colliding in what could be an exiting fight. I know exiting fights are the result of match ups and I see this one being that way. Judging by the little you probably have seen on these two guys, who do you feel as having the upper hand at this point. From what I have seen so far from Joshua I see more of a Frank Bruno comparison instead of a Lennox Lewis.

Doug, why in the world is Roy Jones still fighting? What has to concern so many boxing enthusiasts isn’t so much that he’s fighting way longer than he should but more the way he looks when he gets knocked out. It really looks frightening and something at this point has to be done by the commissions to keep this guy intact. He is such a good commentator for HBO. He spoke at length years ago about his good friend Gerald McClellan and made it a point at that time that he would know when to stop fighting. Jones is a gem on the HBO scene and it would be horrible if he suffers any long term issues that would keep him from doing the great job he does for Jim Lampley and company.

Speaking of McClellan, he seems to be a forgotten man in this whole saga. Is he around the boxing community at all or does his physical condition still prohibit him from being around it? He had an incredible run at the end of his career and I always make it a point of including him in the conversation of those who provided us fans with the type of fights we enjoyed to watch over the years. He was a true definition of a fighter, pure and simple.

Sensational work as always on the mailbags and have a nice holiday season. – Armand from Philly

Thanks Armand.

Tragically, McClellan’s physical condition prohibits him from leaving the house on his own and from clearly communicating with those around him.

The “G-Man” was indeed a fighter (and from what I’ve been told, he could be a mean mother f__ker outside of the ring).

I agree that Jones is a gem on HBO’s broadcasts. I’m glad fans are finally coming around on his commentary.

Regarding his 20-year-old comments about knowing when to step away from boxing (or not being in love with the brutal sport) because of what happened to his buddy McClellan, I hate to sound like a cynical a__hole but I never believed Jones when he said that. I always thought he used McClellan’s injuries from the Nigel Benn fight as an excuse not to take too many risks during the prime of his career.

The sadly ironic thing about Jones’ career is that when he was at his physical peak and damn near untouchable he was overly concerned about his safety and he refused to travel outside of the U.S., but now that he’s old and WAY past his prime, he has no problem fighting overseas and he doesn’t seem to give a f__k about his health.

I give Joshua the edge in a matchup with Parker, even if he is Frank Bruno 2.0.

Joshua looks imposing as an up and coming heavyweight contender but I am not certain he will be anything near what the Klitschkos or Lennox Lewis accomplished especially with how much I thought he may have looked exposed in his fight with Dillian Whyte last night. Only time will tell if Joshua can come anywhere close to achieving what Lewis and Klitschko (either brother) accomplished. The man only has 15 pro bouts. Fans on both sides of the fence need to shelve their strong opinions about AJ until we see more. But I’ll say this: I wasn’t able to see the fight live, so I followed the action via my Twitter timeline. Based on the Tweets I read I expected to see Joshua knocked silly and out on his feet in Round 2. I expected him to look sloppy and sluggish in Rounds 3, 4 and 5. I expected to see Whyte slapping him around until Joshua landed a Hail Mary uppercut that saved his unbeaten record. That’s not what I saw when I actually watched the fight an hour later. I saw Joshua start fast and pummel the very resilient (to his credit) Whyte for the first round. I think AJ was overconfident at first, but then a little unnerved when Whyte taunted him after taking his best shots. Whyte’s antics after the first bell may have enabled him to get further into Joshua’s head. AJ was definitely stunned by that big hook that Whyte landed in Round 2. His legs stiffened but wasn’t so out of it that he couldn’t defend himself. (And if he was seriously hurt, let’s give him credit for being able to fight through it, unlike the more experienced Peter Quillin recently.) I thought Joshua was a bit robotic in Round 3, and a relaxed Whyte did well just by letting his hands go, but I thought AJ took firm command of the fight once he loosened up and regained his legs/form in Round 4. (I admired the body work from both heavyweights during this part of the fight.) Joshua put a beating on Whyte in Round 6 and confidently closed the show in Round 7. I didn’t view the wobbly moment or the fight as a negative. I think it was just what Joshua needed in order to step his game up for 2016.

 

 

Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer

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