Dougie’s Monday mailbag
RUSSIAN CRUISERWEIGHT CARD
Avid reader of the bag for a couple of years, first time writer. I watched the Russian card Saturday afternoon/evening and as usual it delivered. There was one last year where Kudryashov and Chakhkiev both got KO’d and it was a mental night of great fights and upsets.
I think cruiserweight is the deepest division in boxing that produces the most exciting fights and generally the best fighting the best. What division do you think is deepest at the moment?
And who do you think is the best cruiser in the world? Eddie Hearn would tell you it’s Tony Bellew which I think is a joke but there you go. Thanks. – Conrad, Sheffield
Thanks for finally writing into the mailbag, Conrad.
Hey, laugh all you want at Bellew, but the Bomber has done quite well from himself financially speaking and career-wise. And while I believe there are better 200 pounders out there I don’t think anyone would have their way with him in a fight.
With Grigory Drozd out of the picture due to injuries and inactivity, I think I have to do with Oleksandr Usyk as the top cruiserweight at the moment (which is saying something given the fact that the Ukrainian southpaw only has 10 pro bouts under his belt).
However, as you noted, cruiserweight is a deep weight class that produces exciting fights and that’s because there is no clear dominant No. 1 in the division (and because the top dogs are usually willing to fight each other).
Is it THE deepest division in boxing? Yeah, I think you can make that argument. Even without Drozd, we’ve got newly crowned IBF titleholder Murat Gassiev, Denis Lebedev (who still holds the WBA title), Usyk (the WBO beltholder), Bellew (the WBC king), Glowacki, Huck, Makabu, Dorticos, and hardnosed/hard-punching fringe contenders such as Mairis Breidis, Dmitry Kudrayashov and Ola Duradola (the dude who upset Kudrayashov last year).
Some of these guys have already fought, producing a lot of thrills along the way, but the potential exists for an extended quality round robin. Glowacki-Huck took place in the U.S. (and on U.S. TV) last year and I’m hoping more world-class cruiserweights find their way to U.S. TV because there’s no reason why American fans shouldn’t be crazy about the 200-pound division (apart from xenophobia). Usyk, who makes his U.S. and HBO debut in two weeks, is training in Southern California, as Lebedev has for his last few fights. Kudrayashov was training here (at The Rock gym in Carson) earlier this year. So some are already in the U.S. We just need to get them to fight each other over here.
Anyway, other deep divisions that have the potential for numerous entertaining showdowns include featherweight (Frampton, Santa Cruz, Russell Jr., Selby, Cuellar, Mares, Valdez, Vetyeka, Diaz Jr.), lightweight (Linares, Zlaticanin, Easter, Crolla, Flanagan, Garcia, Shafikov, Commey) and junior bantamweight (Gonzalez, Inoue, Cuadras, Estrada, Concepcion, Yafai).
I watched the Russian card Saturday afternoon/evening and as usual it delivered. There was one last year where Kudryashov and Chakhkiev both got KO’d and it was a mental night of great fights and upsets. This year’s show from Moscow featured its share of badass fights and upsets.
There was an Upset/KO of the Year candidate with Julius Indongo’s first-round one-hitter-quitter of defending IBF 140-pound beltholder Eduard Troyanovsky. (Kudryashov’s opening round blasting of Santander Silgado, courtesy of a couple very short and well-timed left hooks, was also chilling.)
But let’s get to the main event, Lebedev-Gassiev, which was an excellent 12 rounder. The majority of boxing writers and hardcore fans that I know favored Gassiev to dethrone Lebedev (and they were right) but I viewed the 23-year-old Russian as the underdog going into Saturday’s fight. Sure, Gassiev can crack as he proved by icing poor Jordan Shimmell in May, but there was a big leap in quality from Shimmell, Isiah Thomas and Felix Cora Jr. to a battle-tested veteran titleholder like Lebedev.
However, Gassiev proved that he could not only hang with the card-carrying tough guy (with underrated boxing skills) for 12 rounds, but get the better of him. I thought it was a close, hotly contested battle where one fighter was just able edge the other for one or two rounds before having the tables turned on him for one or two rounds, but the harder shots throughout were landed by Gassiev (who scored the one knockdown with a beautiful left to the Lebedev’s ribcage in Round 5). I had Gassiev winning by two points. He’s still got a lot to learn – such as the art of cutting off the ring (which he could get some pointers from gym mate Gennady Golovkin) and working a strong, steady jab while stalking – but nobody’s going to have an easy time with this young man. He seems to have a world-class chin and he doesn’t have to expend much energy while he walks his opponents down because his hands are so heavy and he’s strong enough to pick of the best shots with his high guard.
FIVE QUALITIES OF WORLD-CLASS FIGHTER
As it’s a slow weekend, I thought I’d hit you with something I’ve wanted to ask you for ages, I’d like your take and your readers’ take on it.
What would you say are the 5 main qualities that the very best fighters possess? Power, speed, grit…?
I think it’s an interesting question 🙂 Cheers. – Alastair
That’s a good one, Alastair.
Obviously natural talent (in terms of one’s ability to apply boxing principles to his or her skillset and in terms of athletic gifts, such as speed, power, reflexes, etc.) is very important, but I believe intangibles (such as “grit”/tenacity) are ultimately more important than the tangibles.
My five qualities are: Determination (the will or desire to succeed against all odds), dedication (to learning one’s craft, to the sport, and to conditioning), technique, durability and athleticism.
ANDY RUIZ, THE DESTROYER
Andy Ruiz will be taking on Joseph Parker for the WBO heavyweight title this Saturday. If Ruiz wins, would this in your opinion make him the greatest Mexican heavyweight of all time?
I recently read Lou Duva’s book, A Fighting Life. Much of it, in addition to being filled with colorful stories and personal experiences, was focused on his goal to manage and promote a heavyweight champion – which he eventually did with Evander Holyfield. For all of his accomplishments within the realm of boxing, do you think Bob Arum has a similar goal with Andy Ruiz in that he wants to be the first to promote a Mexican heavyweight champion?
What’s your prediction for this Saturday?
M.M. Andy Ruiz vs. Chris Arreola
M.M. Andy Ruiz vs. Tommy Morrison
I think Ruiz is very good heavyweight up-and-comer. I don’t judge him on his body type. The 27 year old has quick hands and nice combinations. I think we’re in for a good fight this Saturday.
Ruiz would probably walk right through Arreola now, but I believe that Chris at his best (between 2007-2009) would survive an early knockdown or wobbly moment (or two) and break Ruiz down to a late stoppage in a war. I think the best version of the late Morrison would do the same thing (and perhaps stop Ruiz sooner).
For all of his accomplishments within the realm of boxing, do you think Bob Arum has a similar goal with Andy Ruiz in that he wants to be the first to promote a Mexican heavyweight champion? Of course! Come on, bro. Are you seriously wondering about that? (You fans are funny.) It doesn’t even have anything to do with accomplishments or being the first to do so. Bob wants to make money! Arum is a businessman. Any boxing promoter worth his salt knows that representing a Mexican-born heavyweight titleholder (who can speak English, has a nice personality and makes for good fights) can potentially bring in crazy revenue.
If Ruiz wins, would this in your opinion make him the greatest Mexican heavyweight of all time? Nah. It would just make him the first Mexican-born heavyweight titleholder. A few decades ago, Ruiz and Parker wouldn’t be top-10 contenders. They’d be prospects. Still, it’s not like Mexico has much of a tradition with the heavyweight division, so a win on Saturday would make Ruiz one of the best Mexican big men ever.
Right now I’d go with Manuel Ramos, a contender during the 1960s (one of the deepest and competitive decades for the heavyweight division), as Mexico’s top big man. The tall (almost 6-foot-4) and rangy scrapper could bang and box. Ramos beat veteran contenders Eddie Machen (who the first man to beat Jerry Quarry and the only man to go the 12-round distance with hall of famer Sonny Liston) and Ernie Terrell (the former WBA titleholder who challenged Muhammad Ali and beat such contenders as Zora Folley, Big Cat Williams, George Chuvalo, Doug Jones and Machen) in the late ‘60s. Those victories earned him a shot at Joe Frazier (20-0 at the time and recognized as the champ in some states) at Madison Square Garden in 1968. It was a brutally glorious two-round shootout (won by Smokin’ Joe, of course). Ramos rocked Frazier badly early in the opening round and the two went toe-to-toe like featherweights until the future undisputed king of the division broke the proud Mexican down before the end of Round 2.
Ramos was never the same after that beating. He became a journeyman/opponent, going 4-23-1, after Frazier.
What’s your prediction for this Saturday? I haven’t really thought about this matchup (it kind of snuck up on me). I think it’s even-money but I have to favor Parker a little bit because the New Zealander is fighting at home, but also because of his 12-round gut check against Carlos Takam earlier this year. Ruiz has fought the 10-round distance against solid guys a few times but he’s never gone the distance against a legit threat that was trying hard to kick his ass. Parker faced that with Takam and prevailed (though narrowly). I think this experience will serve him well. I like Parker by decision in a good fight.
FAVORITE HOPKINS PERFORMANCE
My favorite B-Hop performance was Pavlik. Let’s revisit that one asap. Cover the before, after, then years later. – Ceylon
RingTV.com will revisit much of Bernard Hopkins’ legendary career this week and next week, Ceylon. I’m sure his 2008 dominant upset decision over Kelly Pavlik (at age 43) will be included. Until then check out this In The Ring segment on B-Hop’s three proudest boxing moments. He spends a lot of time talking about the Pavlik fight (starting a little bit after the one minute mark) and you can tell that he’s still proud and passionate about that performance and victory.
In the Ring Bernard Hopkins Top 3 Fights from Golden Boy Digital on Vimeo.
Also, here’s a blast from the past: two Southern California notebooks on Hopkins (courtesy of Boxing Forum 24) – the first one was written before his fight with Winky Wright (observations of the late, great Don Familton while B-Hop worked out with Freddie Roach at Wild Card Boxing Club) and the second was right after the Pavlik fight (against with Familton’s analysis).
BOXING VS. MMA/UFC (AND ALL THAT NONSENSE)
Long time since writing in, hope I make it.
Felt compelled to write in because I’ve seen a lot of talk recently about how UFC and MMA has been doing huge numbers, taking over New York and has got you saying ‘I wouldn’t blame people if they chose to watch MMA’ because you thought Kovalev won the other day!! 🙂 As well as, of course, the Moneyman thinking it’s ‘disrespectful to compare him to McGregor’.
I’ve been speaking to mates who like UFC/MMA and they’re all saying ‘it’s the toughest sport around’. That’s a conversation for another day; and to be honest, I don’t agree.
Having said that, I feel like our sport is doing some things fundamentally wrong; such as:
-Introducing massive promotion machines (like PBC and Box Nation) which leads to….
-Smaller organisations like FNF being discontinued
-huge mismatches that don’t improve the sport
-the best not fighting the best
-too many championship belts etc.
So it opened up other questions that I’d like your take on:
Could you see a day where boxing actually ceases to exist?
How serious IS the competition from these other contact sports?
Is boxing in decline?
P.S. Asked my boxing mates the other day, would like your point of view….which fighter would you choose to forcibly eject Trump from the White House? I know who I would choose 🙂 Cheers!! – Alastair
Oh, that’s easy to answer, but I’d have to insist on two fighters (both hall of famers): Michael Spinks and Mike Tyson. And I’d want them to say “Thank you Mr. Trump” as they toss him out.
Could you see a day where boxing actually ceases to exist? No. It will probably never be considered a major professional sport in the U.S. again, but it ain’t goin’ nowhere. As Larry Merchant once said: “Nothing can kill boxing and nothing can save it.”
How serious IS the competition from these other contact sports? About as serious as the competition from the NFL, NBA and f__kin’ comic-book movies, man. Boxing has to compete for people’s attention, passion and money with all kinds of entertainment; not just the UFC. It’s not like the 1920s and ‘30s, when the three major sports in America were boxing, baseball and horse racing. Things change. The sport has its work cut out for it. Those other pro sports and forms of entertainment are more organized than boxing.
Is boxing in decline? I think so. At least for the moment, here in the U.S. It’s still on TV but general interest is down. The Mayweather/Pacquiao era did big pay-per-view business from 2007-2015, but despite having large, dedicated fans bases, those two stars/future hall of famers gradually drove away a lot of casual fans before they took a big greasy dump on the boxing world with last year’s “Mega-Dud.” My wife used to casually follow boxing and would routinely go to PPV parties during the De La Hoya/Tyson era from the mid-90s to early 2000s. She was into the welterweight/junior middleweight round robin that De La Hoya had with Ike Quartey, Felix Trinidad and Fernand Vargas (she even attended the Vargas-Quartey fight in Las Vegas in 2000). She and her co-workers (all doctors, researchers and academics) were buzzing about De La Hoya-Vargas for days after “Bad Blood.” I heard less and less “buzz” from my wife and other casual fans with each year after 2002.
However, while I doubt my wife or her peers (or middle-aged middle-to-upper-class white-collar professionals like them) will ever come back to boxing, I do believe there’s a chance for a new generation of younger casual fans to be introduced to the sport and I think some of them will become diehards. Why? Because there are major regions/markets of the country where boxing is still strong and the youth of these areas are still taking part in amateur programs (including more girls than ever). Notable female amateur standouts are turning pro with major promotional backing and the promise of TV coverage, which could attract more women to the sport. There are a lot of young-but-experienced trainers (especially here in Southern California) teaching the craft to large stables that include top young talent from around the world. And promotional companies with proven track records of guiding talent from prospects to world titleholders are still signing young amateur standouts and developing them in their regions/communities (as Golden Boy has done with its “LA Fight Club” and Fantasy Springs series; and Top Rank has done with Jose Ramirez, who drew close to 14,000 on Friday, in Fresno, and other fighters). I think there’s a new generation of quality boxers coming up that could usher in new age of interest in the sport, but we need the current world-class/elite fighters to face each other and put on good fights in the meantime.
Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer