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Dougie’s Friday mailbag

Photo by Tom Hogan/Hoganphotos-Golden Boy Promotions.
23
Dec

THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME

Sup Dougie,

Sad to see the legendary Bernard Hopkins lose in that fashion. It happens though when a fighter, no matter how talented, tough, smart, or defensively stout, sticks around for one fight too many.

One of my boys had an awesome but saddening quote:

“B Hop went out like Joe Louis”

Guess the game really doesn’t love anybody…

Later brother. – Reggie Woodard

I think the game has a lot of love for transcendent fighters like Hopkins. The sport isn’t kind to boxers that stick around too long, in fact it can be downright brutal when they become long in the tooth, but boxing’s fans and media don’t hold ignoble career-enders against great fighters. Louis was a beloved figure before his KO loss to Rocky Marciano and he was revered in the boxing world and by the American public (but not necessarily the U.S. government and certainly not the IRS) after it.

How many times has Roy Jones Jr. been KTFO? I’ve honestly lost count (and I’m not trying to be funny or disrespectful to Jones, who I like). Yet, whenever I see him ringside at a fight as one of HBO commentators he’s absolutely mobbed by adoring fans. I think it’s going to be the same deal with Hopkins.

(By the way, your subject line for this email is the name of a Led Zeppelin song but I can’t help but think that you meant for it to be the last line from Simon & Garfunkle’s The Boxer: “But the fighter still remains”… here’s the final verse:

In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of ev’ry glove that laid him down
Or cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
“I am leaving, I am leaving”
But the fighter still remains, mmm mmm…
)

 

JOE SMITH JR.’S BIG YEAR

Hi Doug,

Just a quick question regarding Joe Smith. Can you think of anyone who had such a big year after being in relative obscurity? He essentially went from club shows to knocking out two of the top 175-lb. contenders who had respectively gone the distance with Sergey Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson. Interested to hear your thoughts if you have the time.

Thanks. – Mohammed, Toronto

Good question, Mohammed. It’s rare for unproven or under-the-radar fighters to burst onto the world-class scene over the course of one calendar year, but two that immediately come to mind are James Toney and Glen Johnson.

In 1991, Toney fought six times and four of those bouts transformed him from nobody to somebody in the boxing world. In January of that year he narrowly edged fellow unbeaten prospect Merqui Sosa over 12 rounds via split decision. In May, as a 17-1 underdog, he unseated IBF middleweight titleholder Michael Nunn with a come-from-behind 11th-round TKO. In June, he made his first title defense with a hotly contested split decision over talented contender Reggie Johnson. In December, Toney held former WBA champ Mike McCallum to a draw in an excellent showdown between two hardnosed master technicians. Toney was THE RING’s Fighter of the Year in ’91.

In 2004, Glen Johnson, a well-traveled gatekeeper with nine losses and two draws attached to his record, outpointed Clinton Woods to earn the IBF light heavyweight title in the UK, then brutally knocked out former undisputed champ Roy Jones Jr. in nine rounds, before capping his breakout year with a split decision over Antonio Tarver to capture THE RING’s 175-pound championship. Johnson was THE RING’s Fighter of the Year for ’04.

Toney went from suspect prospect to respected champion in one year. Johnson went from tough journeyman to lineal champ in one year.

Smith has done very well for himself by going from club fighter to legitimate contender in one year.

He essentially went from club shows to knocking out two of the top 175-lb. contenders who had respectively gone the distance with Sergey Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson. This statement is a little bit misleading. Yes, Fonfara was a contender but I wouldn’t call him a “top contender.” He was rated No. 8 by THE RING going into the Smith fight. Hopkins wasn’t rated at all because he had been out of the ring for two years.

 

CHRISTMAS WISH LIST

Hi Dougie,

Wishing you and the family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the other side of the pond.

Just a quick one from me – What fights would you want to be delivered next year if promoters and TV companies weren’t in charge and ‘Santa’ was the only promoter in the world who made next year’s main events based on the number of letters he’d received?

P.S – I told you beer bikes are high ?

Cheers pal. – Randall

Are you sure there were no residual neurological effects from your beer-bike fall, Randall?

Anyway, my Christmas wish list for “Santa the Promoter” would be: 

Golovkin vs. Canelo (or the winner of GGG-Jacobs vs. Canelo – I don’t want to totally count out the Miracle Man) 

The Joshua-Klitschko winner vs. Deontay Wilder (and the winner of that fight vs. a fully rehabbed Tyson Fury) 

Terence Crawford vs. the Thurman-Garcia winner at 147 pounds 

Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Jorge Linares at 135 pounds (provided the talented Venezuelan beats Anthony Crolla again) and the winner vs. the Dejan Zlaticanin-Mikey Garcia winner

Guillermo Rigondeaux vs. Shinsuke Yamanaka at 122 pounds  

Roman Gonzalez vs. Juan Estrada II and the winner vs. Nayoa Inoue Oscar Valdez vs. Abner Mares and the winner vs. the Frampton-Santa Cruz II winner (or Mares vs. Frampy-LSC 2 and the winner vs. Valdez) 

Oleksandr Usyk vs. Murat Gassiev and the winner vs. the winner of Bellew-Haye at 200 or 215 pounds I guess that’s enough. I don’t want to be too greedy.

 

JOE SMITH JR. – FIGHTER OF THE YEAR

Merry Christmas Doug,

I want to give you my pick for fighter of the year, and that is Joe Smith Jr. He began the year as a local prospect fighting journeymen. He was brought into a fight against a highly ranked contender in Andrzej Fonfara, who had fought elite opposition over the last few years in impressive fashion. Joe was brought in as an opponent to be a highlight reel knockout only to score what I believe is the upset of the year in the first round. Then he was brought in as a 2-1 underdog against a faded (let’s face it, old as s__t) legend. And he became the only man to ever stop the great Hopkins (yes, I’m aware he’s 51) and knocked him out of the goddamn ring.

This man is the real life Rocky. I know he’s flawed. I know he’s raw, but Doug, this underdog owned this year and (que the 8-mile sound track) he took his opportunity and defied all odds again and again. This kid might lose out to elite fighters like Frampton and Loma but in my eyes he is fighter of the year.

Best wishes to you and your family Doug. – Sean from Seattle

Thanks for the holiday wishes, Sean.

I think Smith is a worthy Fighter of the Year candidate. In fact, I’d place him in the company of Terence Crawford and Vasyl Lomachenko in terms of his accomplishments in 2016. Bud fought three times and earned THE RING’s recognition as junior welterweight champ by outclassing Viktor Postol and unifying the WBO and WBC titles, but he was a strong odds favorite (as much as -600 in some places) to beat the Ukrainian and he stank out the joint. Crawford was the considerable favorite against Hank Lundy and John Molina and did what he was supposed to against the two fringe contenders. Loma fought twice and looked absolutely sensational in his first two fights at 130 pounds, but he was also strongly favored to beat the shopworn Rocky Martinez and the inactive headcase Nicholas Walters.

As you pointed out, Smith doesn’t operate on the level of Bud and Loma but I factor in the fact that the Long Islander was an underdog against Fonfara and Hopkins as well as the manner in which he blasted the two odds (and media) favorites.

However, I still think the history that Roman Gonzalez made by winning his fourth major title in a fourth weight class against previously unbeaten and highly rated Carlos Cuadras (in an excellent fight and Chocolatito’s first at 115 pounds), and the briliant boxing performances Carl Frampton put forth against the previously unbeaten Scott Quigg and Leo Santa Cruz trumped Smith’s inspirational upset KOs.

My front-runner for Fighter of the Year remains the Irish Jackal.

 

BERNARD’S LEGACY

Hi Doug.

Well, it has happened finally. I’ve been a longtime Bernard fan and have seen many of his fights. I have to say those legendary fighters always end their careers in a bit of a sad way due to being in the game too long. I think Bernard has become one of them. He looked every bit of 51 years tonight and his punches had absolutely no effects on Smith. He got touched up more than ever tonight and his footwork was not there.

This fight doesn’t do anything to his legacy but like Ali’s Berbick, Leonard’s Camacho, Tyson’s McBride, Bernard didn’t need Smith’s name in his last fight, I feel.

He couldn’t react like he did in the Echols fight (2nd one, I believe) when he fought with an injury. He couldn’t throw combos off the ropes and move away like he did against Tito. He couldn’t show any of the meanness like he did against Joppy. He was just a 51-year-old guy who was shell of himself tonight.

It’s totally remarkable that he left the sport with so many accomplishments as a fighter who lost his first pro fight. He has definitely proved so many people wrong over so many years. (Yes, I was one of those who thought Tito would decapitate him). I still think his fight against Tito was THE TEXT BOOK for boxing. I watched the fight so many times when I was an amateur fighter. Great career.

I just wanna say thanks Bernard. – Naoki, Las Vegas NV

Well written, Naoki. If you happen to see Hopkins at a fight in the near future, don’t be a stranger. Go up and tell the “old man” how much his career meant to you. (And if you’re not quite at your fighting weight anymore, ask him what you have to do to shed those civilian-life pounds. ‘Nard knows.)

I don’t know if covering boxing for two decades has hardened my emotions, or if I was just relieved that Hopkins wasn’t seriously hurt by his young rival or that scary fall from the ring, but I wasn’t terribly saddened by the manner in which Bernard lost on Dec. 17. I just viewed it as a sure sign that his fighting days are finally behind him.

He looked every bit of 51 years tonight and his punches had absolutely no effects on Smith. He got touched up more than ever tonight and his footwork was not there. I thought his footwork, reflexes and punch accuracy/power was pretty good – for a 51-year-old man! But not so much for a boxer sharing the ring with a determined young power-punching light heavyweight contender.

This fight doesn’t do anything to his legacy but like Ali’s Berbick, Leonard’s Camacho, Tyson’s McBride, Bernard didn’t need Smith’s name in his last fight, I feel. Maybe not, but each fighter needed to lose to a guy they know they never would have lost to when they anywhere near their primes in order to understand that it was time to retire.

He couldn’t react like he did in the Echols fight (2nd one, I believe) when he fought with an injury. He couldn’t throw combos off the ropes and move away like he did against Tito. He couldn’t show any of the meanness like he did against Joppy. He was just a 51-year-old guy who was shell of himself tonight. That was OK. Hopkins outran Father Time while in his late 30s and throughout most of his 40s. He was overdue a crash-n-burn. Echols, Trinidad and Joppy all suffered humiliating beatings at the hands of the Executioner. It was Hopkins’ turn against Smith. Father Time finally caught him.

 

SMOKIN’ JOE SMITH JR.

How you doing Doug,

Joe Smith certainly had pounded his way out of nowhere and is no doubt the current hottest contender of the light-heavyweight division. But is he The Fighter Of The Year? Close but not quite. That distinction should go to Smith’s fellow fighting Irishman Carl Frampton due to his big wins over Scott Quigg and Leo Santa Cruz. But I will give Smitty the Upset Of The Year (over Fonfara) and the KO Of The Year (over Hopkins) And come to think of it Smith’s KO over Fonfara also has to rank as a serious KO of The Year candidate.

But what about Joe’s chances against the rest of the best? Particularly against Andre Ward, Sergei Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson? I’ll actually pick him to KO Stevenson right now. Superman is getting pretty old and rusted up himself. But I should just rule that fight out since Stevenson has just been too busy belly-rubbing his beloved Al Haymon.

Against Kovalev I have to at least give Smith a puncher’s chance. Kov took some flush shots from Ward and Pascal without backing off but none of those guys can crack like Smith. Can Smith in turn stand up to Kov’s power? I have no idea but that’s all part of the fun as they say.

And Ward. He probably should be able to neutralize Smith but the thing with Ward is that his defense isn’t as airtight as it was back in his Super 6 days. Nor is he quite as quick. And that right-cross from Kovalev that dropped Ward pretty hard would be a pretty encouraging sign for Smith. Also, take away Dre’s bogus win over Kovalev and his record at light-heavyweight is nothing to drool over.

I guess the bottom line is that Smith may well be a big underdog against the top dogs but he’s a very live dog with a lot of fight in him. And he already went right through two fighters known for their tungsten chins. Well that does it for me. Merry Christmas. – Triple T

Merry Christmas, Trip.

I’d give Smith a little more than a puncher’s chance against Stevenson, but I also think the WBC titleholder has the power and ability to KO boxing’s latest Cinderella Man. That matchup would definitely be a shootout – Stevenson’s left vs. Smith’s right – but both have other tools to add enough boxing to keep the purists happy.

I would strongly favor Ward and Kovalev to beat Smith at this point in his career and development. I’m not saying he wouldn’t be a threat or that either could afford to overlook him or have an off night, but I think the top two light heavies have the boxing ability and physical strength to contain “the Irish Bomber.”

I know Smith would be paid well against any of the big three, but I think there are other fights out there for him against lower top-10 contenders that would be competitive and entertaining. Sullivan Barrera and Nathan Cleverly come to mind.

But is he The Fighter Of The Year? Close but not quite. That distinction should go to Smith’s fellow fighting Irishman Carl Frampton due to his big wins over Scott Quigg and Leo Santa Cruz. I agree. Frampy took the “O”s from two rugged boxer-pressure fighters that were bigger and rangier, and he did it on the road (knowing that hometown judging could have robbed him of rightful victories – and one judge in each bout tried to do just that).

But I will give Smitty the Upset Of The Year (over Fonfara) and the KO Of The Year (over Hopkins). And come to think of it Smith’s KO over Fonfara also has to rank as a serious KO of The Year candidate. Yep. All three are legitimate candidates for those two categories.

Kov took some flush shots from Ward and Pascal without backing off but none of those guys can crack like Smith. I think Smith can hurt Kovalev if were to land flush.

Can Smith in turn stand up to Kov’s power? Smith appears to have solid whiskers but Hopkins didn’t carry much pop on his shots at his age and Fonfara never got started against the New Yorker. Thing is, I don’t think Kovalev needs to bomb out Smith to beat him. I think the Russian would give Smith fits with his jab.

(Ward) probably should be able to neutralize Smith but the thing with Ward is that his defense isn’t as airtight as it was back in his Super 6 days. True.

Nor is he quite as quick. Agreed.

And that right-cross from Kovalev that dropped Ward pretty hard would be a pretty encouraging sign for Smith. Yeah. I think Smith can hurt and/or drop Ward if he lands the money punch. But can he keep Dre down? Easier said than done.

Also, take away Dre’s bogus win over Kovalev and his record at light-heavyweight is nothing to drool over. Well, he’s got a decision over Barrera, who just beatdown Vyacheslav Shabranskyy. Not too shabby.

 

USYK’S HEAVYWEIGHT FUTURE

Oleksandr Usyk looks like a cruiserweight version of Micheal Spinks. Both tall fighters with movement but power, and both had stellar amateur careers. Spinks beat Larry Holmes because of Spinks pedigree. I am not predicting Usyk will someday win the heavyweight title but then again Fury won it. – Eugene

Good point. But I’m not in any rush to see Usyk challenge any heavyweight titleholders. I think he’s got some formidable challenges in the 200-pound division, including Gassiev, Tony Bellew, Marco Huck, Denis Lebedev, Mairis Briedis, Yunier Dorticos and Grigory Drozd (if he ever comes back from the injuries that put him on ice).

Usyk is only 11-0. Although he’s currently THE RING’s No. 1-rated cruiserweight, he hasn’t come close to cleaning out that division or clearly establishing himself as “the man.” Until he’s done that I don’t think fans should clamor for him to move up to heavyweight.

Interesting comparison with Usyk and Spinks. I hadn’t thought of the similarities but I think you’re right, they are a lot alike. I think Usyk moves a little better and I think The Jinx could crack a little harder but they were both “awkwardly nimble” (if that makes any sense) for their size/divisions.

 

BEST CURRENT RESUME IN BOXING

Dougie, if I may,

Been reading the mailbag for two years now and really enjoy it. As a fellow worshipper at the altar of James Toney, even when I disagree with your take on things, I enjoy hearing your thoughts. I’m hoping this compliment puts me deep enough in your good graces to get a letter published.

Who do you reckon has the best current resume in boxing?

Is Pacquaio’s badass collection of Barerra, Marquez, Morales, De La Hoya, Hatton, Cotto, Margarito, Mosely, Bradley and Killer Chris Algieri leaps and bounds above anyone else? I think so.

Today’s stars are going to find it hard to actually become ‘stars’ either though the various stand-offs between promotional companies or the seeming lack of ‘f__k it’ desire to lace up and prove they are the best.

I read recently that SRR had 25 fights in his first two years as a pro. James Toney wasn’t that far behind in his early days either. True good old bastards! Do you see any fighters today with that kind of fire in them? I think Spence may have it. And Crawford. Would love to see them fight 5 times a year.

Some MMs for you:

Crawford v Spence in December 2017

Ward v David Haye at cruiser

Nigel Benn v GGG

Kovalev v Jirov at catchweight

White Men Can’t Jump v Field of Dreams

And the obligatory Toney one from me:

James Toney v Usyk at heavyweight

Keep it sweet and Merry Christmas to you and yours. – Giuseppe (aka “Lights On”)

Thanks Giuseppe.

Now that Bernard Hopkins and Floyd Mayweather Jr. are officially retired (at least for the time being), I don’t see any world-class boxers that can match Pacquiao’s resume. Roy Jones is still at it, and he obviously has a ledger than can hold up to the PacMan’s, but he isn’t considered world class any longer (and hasn’t been for quite some time).

Today’s stars are going to find it hard to actually become ‘stars’ either though the various stand-offs between promotional companies or the seeming lack of ‘f__k it’ desire to lace up and prove they are the best. This is true. Pacquiao is somewhat fortunate that he made his U.S. debut when he did (15 years ago – before promotional beefs got too ridiculous) and campaigned in the lighter-weight divisions where the best usually had to fight each other in order to make a decent pay day. As for the “f__k it” desire to take on the best, Pacquiao was the epitome of that as a featherweight. He took on and beat Marco Antonio Barrera in late 2003 and then took on the featherweight version of Juan Manuel Marquez in his very next fight (in May 2004). That’s insane. Naseem Hamed, Erik Morales and Barrera wanted no part of JMM at 126 pounds. Pacquiao challenged Marquez right after crashing the pound-for-pound rankings by beating down MAB. That’s like an unknown junior middleweight beating Roberto Duran in late 1983 and then taking on Mike McCallum immediately after sometime in 1984.

I read recently that SRR had 25 fights in his first two years as a pro. James Toney wasn’t that far behind in his early days either. True good old bastards! Robinson fought 26 times from October 1940 (the month he made his pro debut) to the end of 1941. He fought 37 times in the first 24 months of his pro career. Toney fought 14 times from October 1988 (when he made his pro debut) to the end of 1989. He fought 23 times in the first 24 months of his pro career.

Robinson fought 20 times in 1941. That’s a Golden Age fighter for you. I don’t know if Toney would’ve been able to fight that many times in one year, but I think he would have been more than willing to fight as much as 10 times a year.

Do you see any fighters today with that kind of fire in them? Not really. I can see some workhorses like Gennady Golovkin fight as much as six times a year the way Toney and Julio Cesar Chavez used to do routinely, but not more than six bouts.

I think Spence may have it. Too early to tell. Get back to me after he fights for his first world title.

And Crawford. Yes, I think he’s got that old-timer’s fire in his belly.

Would love to see them fight 5 times a year. I don’t think either would fight more than four times a year.

 

Your mythical matchups:

Crawford v Spence in December 2017 – Spence might be too big for Bud, but even a year from now I think Crawford will remain the more experienced and versatile boxer. Crawford on points.

Ward v David Haye at cruiser – Hayemaker by mid-rounds KO. Ward’s got no business fighting above 175 pounds.

Nigel Benn v GGG – Golovkin by late-rounds TKO at 160 pounds. Benn was a front-runner with stamina issues at middleweight. At 168 pounds, it was a different story. He had matured by then and didn’t rely so much on his power and early rounds attack. I’d go with Benn at super middleweight (probably on points) for now.

Kovalev v Jirov at catchweight – Kovalev on points. Jirov would have to cut a leg off to get under 188 pounds.

White Men Can’t Jump v Field of Dreams – FOD by close decision but WMCJ would remain the People’s Champ.

James Toney v Usyk at heavyweight – Gotta go with Usyk on points. His style is all wrong for toney, especially when he was over 200 pounds.

 

Happy holidays everyone! The mailbag will return next Friday.

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