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Dougie’s Monday mailbag

20
Jun

JOE SMITH JR., THURMAN VS. PORTER

Hey Doug,

Hope you enjoyed this weekend’s fights. That Joe Smith Jr. outcome was a shocker. I predicted a mid-rounds stoppage by Andrzej Fonfara based on Smith’s weaker competition and KO loss earlier in his career. And I think that scenario may very well have played out had he done what most major underdogs do and fought cautiously. Fonfara was thinking “here’s my walkover, my showcase, and I’m going to get an impressive KO.” So his mind probably wasn’t right heading into that opening round. Smith didn’t make the mistake of letting him acclimate. He rushed in and fought fearlessly and it paid off. Kudos to him. Do you think the cautiousness has grown over time? Were fighters more fearless fifty years ago, regardless of favorites and underdogs?

Anyway, moving on to the big topic – Keith Thurman versus Shawn Porter. I’d really like to get your full analysis on this one. I generally consider that in a close fight if one guy is both faster and a better boxer, he will win. Here I think that would be Thurman. However, it’s rarely that simple in a perceived even matchup. It’s not as though Thurman is light years ahead of Porter in boxing skill. So then I look at experience, motivation, work rate, style, and defense. I would give Shawn a solid edge in experience (Brook, Broner, and Alexander are better than Chaves, Guerrero, and Collazo in my opinion). I’d also lean Porter on motivation, but I would be happy to call this category even. Work rate and style go to Porter. He simply is more active and his ability to pressure means even less clean punching for Thurman. I think defense is a tough one to assess. I think Porter’s aggression, volume, and awkward positioning generally make him tough to hit. But I would say Thurman technically has better defensive skills.

So coming out of that assessment, it is hard for me to pick against Porter. I think it comes down to the fact that he has considerably better experience, work rate, and style. He’s a little behind Thurman on skills and pretty even on motivation and defense. I imagine this fight plays out with Porter mixing up his offensive strategy to alternate between boxing Thurman and pressuring him – not allowing him to get in a comfortable groove. I expect Porter to win most of the close rounds on volume and aggression. I think Keith will land cleaner punches here and there but I would be surprised if they were very clean. I don’t take much from the Broner fight where Shawn got knocked down because I think he got too comfortable and overlooked Broner having a trick up his sleeve. He won’t do that here. Also, Keith hasn’t translated his power at a higher level. I think mostly because he fights pretty squared up so he can really alternate his punches and take advantage of openings with his speed. Against lesser guys he can start grooving and then load up. But against better fighters he has to worry too much about return fire.

Anyway, Doug. Love to hear your full take on how this fight will play out and why. Can’t wait for the solo shining star in the PBC schedule. – Vincent, Winston-Salem

I’m also looking forward to Thurman-Porter, although I’m not expecting a Fight of the Year candidate. I’m not sure how their styles will mesh in the ring (which is one of the reasons I view it as a toss-up fight) and I think it’s possible that the bout could be Porter-Thurman_New York Media Tour_Presser_Amanda Westcott_Showtime(1)awkward and/or uneventful in spots. Porter is a very physical aggressive boxer who can be dynamite against certain styles/talents and a mere “mauler” against others. Same deal with Thurman. As you noted he’s the “Thurmanator” against second-tier fighters, but against higher caliber boxers the “One Time” power doesn’t appear to exist. Sometimes he moves his feet more than his hands. That could happen against Porter, and if it does, we might not be in for an entertaining fight. (By the way, I’m not saying the fight won’t or can’t be exciting. That’s possible, especially if they’re able to rock each other with their head shots.)

However, I’m still interested in how it plays out and which welterweight contender prevails in imposing his style on the other. I hope to see the winner against a top-five 147 pounder before the end of the year.

I’ve slightly favored Thurman since this matchup was first rumored and I’ll stick with it. Like you predict, I think he will land the cleaner punches throughout, but I think his lateral movement will neutralize Porter’s pressure/aggression. If he keeps the fight on the outside (or mid-range) I think he can outpoint the iron-willed Ohioan (who must be pretty stoked about the Cleveland Cavaliers winning their first NBA title).

So coming out of that assessment, it is hard for me to pick against Porter. I think it comes down to the fact that he has considerably better experience, work rate, and style. I think his experience is better than Thurman’s, but not by much. He’s more active but I can’t say for sure whose “style” is superior. We’ll find that out on Saturday.

He’s a little behind Thurman on skills and pretty even on motivation and defense. I think they’re even in terms of skills, they just have different methods (based on their talents/physical gifts) of imposing their wills on their opponents.

I imagine this fight plays out with Porter mixing up his offensive strategy to alternate between boxing Thurman and pressuring him – not allowing him to get in a comfortable groove. Sounds like a plan. Don’t be shocked if Thurman tries to do the same thing.

I expect Porter to win most of the close rounds on volume and aggression. Maybe, but volume punching and aggression can also play right into Thurman’s heavy and accurate shots.

Joe SmithÔǪ rushed in and fought fearlessly and it paid off. Kudos to him. Indeed. I watched this fight with my sports-oriented members of my family in Tucson, Arizona. They’re fans of baseball, basketball and soccer who rarely tune-in to boxing. They

Photo: Premier Boxing Champions

Photo: Premier Boxing Champions

casually observed Payano-Warren and the Erickson Lubin showcase bout, but Fonfara-Smith grabbed their attention from the opening bell (in part because I told them it would be “fun while it lasted”) and the surprising turn of events thrilled everyone so much that more family members congregated in the living room to watch the replays of the stoppage and many sat around and watched the Centeno-Sulecki fight after. (I walked out on that one after Round 3.)

Do you think the cautiousness has grown over time? Yeah, at least a little bit. I think the “cautious approach” in the ring is appreciated a little more (on average) by boxing observers of this generation than by fans from previous eras.

Were fighters more fearless fifty years ago, regardless of favorites and underdogs? Hey man, I’m not that old! How should I know? From what I’ve read and seen of fighters of that era, my guess is that on average contenders and solid 10-round pros of the mid-to-late 1960s gave a sincere effort in the ring and that underdogs or no-hopers tried to make the most of the kind of opportunity that Smith received against Fonfara on Saturday.

NOT YOUR AVERAGE JOE, THURMAN-PORTER

Hey Doug,

I tuned in Saturday night to see what PBS was serving up (because you never know) and was pleasantly surprised (by the main event).

I’ll grant you the first fight, Rau’shee Warren vs Juan Carlos Payano didn’t excite me very much and the second fight, Erickson Lubin vs Daniel Sandoval just seemed like easy target practice for Lubin.

The main event Andrzej Fonfara vs Joe Smith Jr. looked intriguing on paper considering Smith’s record although those things can be deceiving.

I had seen Fonfara two or three times and knew what he brought to the table but Smith had a tough guy no nonsense look about him so I thought, “Let’s see what he’s got.” Fonfara looked good for a moment and I thought buzzed Smith just before that bolt from the blue right hand from Smith had me shouting out loud. That’s the beauty of our sport, it can turn in a flash. Fonfara’s attempt to regain his feet reminded me of that clip of Zora Foley after Ali zapped him with that snappy right as he stumbled to clear his head. Smith’s follow up brought the curtain down and a new name was written on the light heavyweight roster.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to paint Joe Smith Jr. as the next Bob Foster but it was good to see a new name emerge and it will surely

mean some bigger fights and paydays for a hard working blue collar guy. I also acknowledge that this was a big step up for Joe and the best he has faced so far, but as has been said before, sometimes a belt makes you better (a minor belt I know) but I will be watching to see what is next for him. I just hope they don’t move him up too quickly.

On a final note, I am looking forward to this week’s scrap between Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter. This looks great on paper. Two young strong welters trying to stake their claim to a top spot in the division. But I am leery that Porter’s rough house crowding style might make for a stinker of a fight. Your thoughts. – David / Nashville

I think an ugly fight is possible. If it’s really ugly, in a physical way with a lot of grappling on the inside, my guess it that Porter will be man in control. I also think it can be an uneventful, cat-and-mouse type match. If that happens, I expect Thurman to be play the role of Jerry to Porter’s Tom, and I my guess is that he’ll be the welterweight in control. But my hope is that the confident and athletic nature of both fighters combines to make for a competitive and entertaining scrap with heated exchanges highlighting every round. We’ll see what happens.

Fonfara looked good for a moment and I thought buzzed Smith just before that bolt from the blue right hand from Smith had me shouting out loud. Fonfara did have Smith reeling (slightly) for a moment, but Smith kept his composure and made sure to fire back while his tormentor was letting his hands go. That’s best time to clip someone who’s on the attack. I hate it when fighters just cover up when they get buzzed and wait for the other guy to stop punching before they punch back. The first knockdown was exciting but not shocking. Smith’s follow-up assault shocked and impressed the hell out of me. I don’t know what his ceiling is in this sport but he’s a real fighter, and he’s worth watching.

That’s the beauty of our sport, it can turn in a flash. That’s the truth, and isn’t it great? You don’t these kinds of upsets in other dual/one-on-one sports (such as tennis) when the odds are as steep as they were for Fonfara-Smith. But they ain’t swatting a ball over a net, they’re swatting each other’s heads. It’s a fist fight and anything can happen once the bell rings.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to paint Joe Smith Jr. as the next Bob Foster but it was good to see a new name emerge and it will surely mean some bigger fights and paydays for a hard working blue collar guy. It will be interesting to see how Smith’s promoter/management builds on the career boost the New Yorker received from Saturday’s upset. I think activity and the right platform (to build on his momentum and recognition) is crucial.

I just hope they don’t move him up too quickly. Smith’s trainer doesn’t seem interested in taking the slow road to the top. He told RingTV.com’s Mitch Abramson that he wouldn’t mind pitting Smith against WBC titleholder Adonis Stevenson.

STRONG ISLAND HERO

Yo Dougie,

Looks like Strong Island has a new hero. Huge performance by Joe Smith Jr, coming in as a total unknown and wiping Fonfara out like that. You think it was a lucky shot or is Smith just better than anyone expected?

This is also a cautionary tale of how the “A side vs D side” theory of matchmaking can backfire. Fonfara was coming off the best stretch of his career after beating Chavez and Cleverly. Now this happens and, rather than losing to another name fighter and still being in the picture for the big fights, Fonfara’s almost right back where we started. I think the best thing he can do now is an immediate rematch, try to rewrite the book as it were.

One thing he can’t rewrite though, is another chapter in the massive epic that is, “DON’T MESS WITH STRONG ISLAND.” Best. – Sean

Hey, any area that spawns a boxer as good as Buddy McGirt ain’t no joke.

You think it was a lucky shot or is Smith just better than anyone expected? I think Smith is better than most fans and members of the media (myself included) expected.

This is also a cautionary tale of how the “A side vs D side” theory of matchmaking can backfire. Fonfara was coming off the best stretch of his career after beating Chavez and Cleverly. Good point. Maybe Fonfara’s management should have pushed for a top-10 or top-15 ranked opponent on June 18 (that certainly made sense given the NBC exposure). But maybe Fonfara’s “stretch” – especially the competitive but punishing loss to Stevenson, the 10 tough rounds with DouDou Ngumbu and the 12-round punch-fest with Cleverly – took something out of the Polish fighter. Maybe his management thought they were sparring him more wear and tear (by putting him in with a guy they viewed as a club fighter) when the truth is that it doesn’t matter who he fights at this stage of his career. Only time will tell.

Now this happens and, rather than losing to another name fighter and still being in the picture for the big fights, Fonfara’s almost right back where we started. Sad but true.

I think the best thing he can do now is an immediate rematch, try to rewrite the book as it were. I agree, but the risk is high. If he loses to Smith again (especially by KO) most will close the book on his career. It might make more sense for Team Fonfara to cash in on his name recognition and roll the dice against the biggest name they can get in the 175-pound division.

 

GROVES AND THE OBVIOUS CROSSROADS FIGHT

What’s up Doug!

I hope everything is well your side of the pond. I emailed you a couple of years ago after watching George Groves comeback against Christopher Rabrasse. Back then I pointed out how effective George Groves jab was and asked you to nominate your top 10 jabbers in the game today for which you included Groves. What is your top 10 today?

Next weekend Groves takes on Martin Murray in one of the most obvious crossroad fights of the year. I think Groves wins it in a tough fight. How do you see the fight going? Where does the loser go from here? And will you be watching the Matchroom card? Finally, as you always seem to give British boxers a fair shake, who are you current favourite top 5 British boxers?

Take care Doug!

Mythical match ups:

James Degale vs Carl Froch
George Groves vs Mikkel Kessler

Callum from Kent

Froch (at his best) outworks DeGale to a close but unanimous decision or a late TKO in a very good/entertaining and competitive fight.

Kessler (at his best) out-jabs Groves to a competitive by clear unanimous decision in a mainly tactical (but intense) fight.

What is your top 10 (jabbers) today?

Well, Groves is no longer on the list. His jabbing game dropped off after the back-to-back losses to Froch. He’s going to need to pick it back up to defeat Murray on Saturday.

Here’s my current top 10 jabbers: Gennady Golovkin, Andre Ward, Vasyl Lomachenko, Sergey Kovalev, Terence Crawford, Erislandy Lara, Viktor Postol, Wladimir Klitschko, Anselmo Moreno and Kell Brook.

How do you see the (Groves-Murray) fight going? I have no idea who wins that fight. Next to Thurman-Porter, I think it’s the most even high-profile/world-class matchup on June 25 (and I’m

Groves (l) and Murray. Photo: Lawrence Lustig

Groves (l) and Murray. Photo: Lawrence Lustig

looking forward to it). Groves is the younger, fresher boxer but he does tend to fade in the late rounds against top competition and he is 3-3 in his last six bouts. Murray’s a rugged and experienced veteran/perennial contender with underrated boxing ability but he’s come up short in FOUR world title shots, which has to take a psychological toll. I think whoever has their act together mentally will prevail. If I have to make a pick, I’ll go with Groves on the hunch that his recent pairing with Shane McGuigan is enough to get him over the hump.

Where does the loser go from here? He loses top 10 contender status in the eyes of most fans and perhaps begins to be viewed as a gatekeeper within the industry.

And will you be watching the Matchroom card? Of course!

Finally, as you always seem to give British boxers a fair shake, who are you current favourite top 5 British boxers? Anthony Joshua, Kell Brook, Tony Bellew, Anthony Crolla and Carl Frampton.

 

ALL HYPOTHETICALS

Dear Mr Fischer,

In a world you ran, who would you pencil in as Canelo’s opponent on 17 September? I still have my doubts that it will be GGG (and don’t really care, but I hope the fight is eventually made), but am curious as to who could provide a meaningful bout at 154 or 160. It will likely be a matchup designed to generate el dinero, considering the 8.5 mil judgement Canelo just lost. (If GGG does get the nod, I expect Golden Boy to send the fight to NYC. You?)

Would you worry about Salido if he stepped into the ring with Loma for their next fight(s)? The timing seems great, except for the war Salido just had with Vargas. If anyone can handle another pressure fight, it’s likely Siri, but I doubt it would be as competitive or intriguing as their first tilt (in that I think Loma would K him TFO).

Of the current champions, who do you think unifies the belts in their division earliest? I include The Ring strap in this hypothetical. I’d have to give an edge to GGG (I think he fights both Canelo and Saunders in the next calendar year), but Loma has declared his intention to unify and Chocolatito certainly has the stuff to make quick work of it (if he stays at flyweight).

(Regarding that last hypothetical: How great would it be if Roc Nation managed to schedule Ward against Stephenson, prior to his (suddenly unification!) bout with Kovalev in November?)

That’s it for me this time Doug, I hope this finds you well. I completely understand if you’d rather not waste your mailbag space writing about what might be. As ever, I send all the very best. Thanks for writing. Peace. – John

Thanks for sharing, John. Like I’ve stated before in the mailbag column, Marvel’s “What If?” series was one of my favorite comic book titles in the early 1980s, and you know I love mythical matchups, so I don’t have a problem with hypotheticals. (I just hate it when fans take it too seriously or react to hypothetical opinions and potential situations as though they’re real or they’ve actually happened. I’m tired of that silly s__t and I have no problem telling those fans that they have lost their minds.)

In a world you ran, who would you pencil in as Canelo’s opponent on 17 September? I still have my doubts that it will be GGG, but am curious as to who could provide a meaningful bout at 154 or 160. If he wants to fight at 154 pounds, I’d like to see him take on Demetrius Andrade. If he wanted to test the waters at 160 (not 155) against a legit middleweight threat, I’d like to see a matchup with Curtis Stevens. (If he’s able to handle Stevens, that victory would only build momentum to a GGG showdown.) Another option at 154 pounds would be Kell Brook. I know it would be another welterweight stepping up a division, but at 154 (without any middleweight title on the line), I think fans might be OK with it, and if it took place in the UK, I think it could be built into a pretty big event.

It will likely be a matchup designed to generate el dinero, considering the 8.5 mil judgement Canelo just lost. Well, he hasn’t “lost” that money just yet. Canelo may appeal that ruling, but regardless, I’m sure he and Golden Boy Promotions want all of his fights to generate as much “dinero” as possible. Outside of the GGG showdown, I think the Brook matchup I suggested would net them the most money (if it took place in England).

(If GGG does get the nod, I expect Golden Boy to send the fight to NYC. You?) No. I know MSG is supposed to be in the running for Canelo’s next fight, but if they made the Golovkin fight I think they would do it in Texas (AT&T Stadium) or Las Vegas (T-Mobile Arena).

Would you worry about Salido if he stepped into the ring with Loma for their next fight(s)? Yes.

The timing seems great, except for the war Salido just had with Vargas. If anyone can handle another pressure fight, it’s likely Siri, but I doubt it would be as competitive or intriguing as their first tilt (in that I think Loma would K him TFO). I agree. I don’t want to see Salido in with Loma again, and I don’t want to see Salido and Vargas fight each other until next year.

Of the current champions, who do you think unifies the belts in their division earliest? Golovkin is on track to get it done before anyone else. The winner of a Gonzalez-Juan Estrada rematch would be one major belt away from doing it. The winner of the Crawford-Postol 140-pound WBO/IBF title unification bout will earn THE RING title and will be two major belts away from undisputed champ status. Same deal with James DeGale and Badou Jack if they their proposed unification bout happens.

Kovalev is so close, but boxing business/politics continue to separate him from Stevenson and that WBC strap.

Regarding that last hypothetical: How great would it be if Roc Nation managed to schedule Ward against Stephenson, prior to his (suddenly unification!) bout with Kovalev in November? That would be awesome, but it ain’t gonna happen. Maybe Stevenson and his people would be willing to challenge the winner of Kovalev-Ward (under the right circumstances). Or maybe somebody will unseat Stevenson as WBC titleholder and seek out the unification match.

SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS

Hi Doug,

I pray you and your family are doing well. I read in the mailbag today you lost your grandmother. I pray she is at peace. She must have been very proud of you. I never have met you personally but the way you come across in your writing you appear to be an outstanding person. I’m sure she played some part in your development. Stay strong and keep up the great work.

God bless and take care. – Blood and guts from Philly

Thank you for the very kind words and well wishes (and to the other readers that offered their condolences). My grandma lived a long and full life (she was 90 and she traveled the world with my grandpa, who she was married to for 70 years) but it’s still hard for the family to let her go even though we know she’s at peace.

She was proud of all of her grandchildren and great grandchildren and she was very special to everyone in the family (as well as several others who became extended family through her teaching, mentoring, volunteer work, friendship and love).

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