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Dougie’s Monday mailbag

Sadam Ali is flanked by promoter Oscar De La Hoya after his ninth-round stoppage of Luis Carlos Abregu in 2014. Photo by Naoki Fukuda
06
Feb

THE BOXING GODS ARE SMILING DOWN

Dougie,

I was worried that the amazing run we boxing fans have enjoyed in 2017 was coming to a sudden end when Miguel Cotto ridiculously planned to fight James Kirkland on PPV. Man, was I wrong! The boxing gods are smiling down on us by causing that waste of time to be cancelled.

Now all we need is for Manny Pacquiao to stay busy in the Senate and Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs Conor MMAcGregor to not materialize and this year will be one for the record books! I can dream can’t I?

On a side note, how do you see GGG vs Daniel Jacobs playing out? I’m going to the fight and know it will be a great event regardless of how competitive Jacobs is but I’m curious to hear if you think he poses a legit threat. – Hayden, New Jersey

I think Jacobs arguably poses more of a threat to Golovkin’s reign than any of the unified middleweight titleholder’s previous challengers. The just-turned 30-year-old New Yorker is the consensus No. 2-rated middleweight (according to THE RING, ESPN.com, the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board and BoxRec.com) behind GGG for a reason. 

Photo by Tom Hogan – Hoganphotos/K2 Promotions

Jacobs, who has stopped his last 12 opponents, has more size and reach than Kell Brook, Curtis Stevens, Matthew Macklin and Willie Monroe Jr. He’s got more punching power than Daniel Geale and Martin Murray. And the Brooklyn native has sharper technique and better mobility than David Lemieux and Marco Antonio Rubio. 

The main reason anyone in boxing is pooh-poohing Jacobs’ chances against Golovkin is because his sole pro loss was a one-punch KO – even though that setback took place SIX AND A HALF YEARS AGO. I understand some of the skepticism, but you’d think longtime observers would’ve have learned by now that we can’t write boxers off when they suffer knockouts. Miguel Berchelt is the latest example of a talented boxer-puncher being rebuilt after a KO loss and rising to the occasion in the biggest fight of his career. Knockouts happen in boxing. So do upsets.

The boxing gods are smiling down on us by causing that waste of time (Cotto vs. Kirkland) to be cancelled. I didn’t quite view it as divine intervention but I wasn’t sad to see that bout scratched from the boxing calendar. I do feel bad for the undercard fighters, such as Diego De La Hoya and even Guillermo Rigondeaux (who needs all the activity and exposure he can get), who were suddenly left without fights when the entire event was scrapped.

And to be honest, I wasn’t totally against Cotto-Kirkland as a matchup. I think it had the potential to be an interesting fight, maybe a shootout, perhaps even a battle of attrition. Had Kirkland been able to get out of the early rounds without getting clipped (big “IF,” I admit) I figured he’d be able to dish out his share of punishment to the past-prime future hall of famer (who may not have been willing to take it at this stage of his career). The fight wasn’t worthy of an HBO PPV main event, but I bet you the event would have attracted 15,000 in Texas (may the boxing gods you spoke of bless that state).

Now all we need is for Manny Pacquiao to stay busy in the Senate and Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs Conor MMAcGregor to not materialize and this year will be one for the record books! I can dream can’t I? Yeah, but you can also choose to ignore the Pacquiao Traveling Circus and May-Mac Freak Show.

 

LUIS COLLAZO

Hi Doug,

Just saw Luis Collazo’s great KO of Sammy Vasquez. Is he now in the bracket of Boxing’s best gatekeeper or can he still challenge for world titles again? Kind regards. – Anish Parekh

That short-right one-hitter-quitter Collazo landed on Vasquez is an early KO of the Year candidate along with Mikey Garcia’s bombing of Dejan Zlaticanin. At age 35, it’s evident that Collazo still has something to offer the boxing world. (Ironically, Shane Mosley was 35 when he outhustled Collazo to a unanimous decision 10 years ago.)

In truth, Collazo is a high-level gatekeeper. If he’s properly conditioned and motivated, he’s the kind of gutsy-but-savvy veteran/former titleholder that will upset rising prospects and quality fringe contenders. However, because he’s part of the PBC league, there’s a solid chance that he will get a crack at one of Al Haymon’s welterweight standouts, including the Thurman-Garcia winner (especially if Garcia pulls it out) or Errol Spence Jr. (if the 2012 U.S. Olympian is able to lift the IBF belt from Kell Brook). So Collazo is both gatekeeper and a potential world title challenger.

 

FELIX VERDEJO

Dougie:

Just came back from the Felix Verdejo fight in San Juan, and unfortunately his performance was really rusty. He looks like a flashy boxer with great style, but seems to be lacking in offense down the stretch. Not sure if it is stamina or need for better coaching, but the last couple of performances have left fans wanting more.

Labeling him as the next Tito Trinidad or Miguel Cotto is a big ask at this stage. In my opinion, he needs 1 or 2 more fights before the championship fight and he needs to let his hands go. He’s too timid in the championship rounds. The Pitufo fight was great! – Christian F.

Christopher “Pitufo” Diaz is a fun and talented prospect who will be a welcome addition to the loaded 130-pound division (or the featherweight top 10 if he can sweat out the extra pounds) in a year or two, if he continues to progress at his current pace. The fight against Efrain Esquivias was very good matchmaking by Top Rank because it made for an entertaining bout that showcased Diaz’s strengths (his speed, careful aggression and long-rage effectiveness) and shortcomings (his tendency to cover up when crowded). Esquivias is in the gatekeeper phase of his career but it was clear that he was well prepared and motivated against Diaz. I thought the 33-year-old Southern Californian had his moments when he was able to get close and get off with uppercuts and body-head combinations. Esquivias was crafty enough to make Diaz miss a few wild shots and tough enough to rally back when he was caught and hurt. Diaz, to his credit, passed the gut check by dropping the more experienced fighter in Rounds 3 and 4 (more of a slip) and overwhelming (a still game Double E) in Round 7.

Regarding Verdejo, I don’t really know what to say. I don’t think stamina or his coaching is his problem. My hunch is that it’s his motivation.  Whatever it is, I’ve never been crazy about him. The Puerto Rican up-and-comer has the amateur background, the look, the personality and obvious boxing talent to be something special, but he hasn’t put all the facets of his boxing ability together enough in the ring for me to get really excited about him. However, Verdejo was too young and green for me to heavily criticize in 2014, 2015 or even last year. I was content to allow Top Rank to do what they do best, which is develop young talent into real contenders while making them attractions (if that potential is there – and it is there with Verdejo).

But now that he’s 23 and going into the fifth year of his pro career, I’m getting a little impatient. Maybe his pedestrian performance against Oliver Flores was due to rust (due to the recuperation period following last year’s motor cycle accident), maybe he’ll look sharper in June, when he’s scheduled to return at Madison Square Garden, but I’d like to see him in with a real threat. His handlers should give him a reason to train AND fight hard. On paper, Flores was there to be knocked out. The Nicaraguan southpaw suffered early stoppages to future WBC 130-pound beltholder Miguel Berchelt in 2012 and to then-WBA titleholder Takashi Uchiyama (who blasted him with a single left to the body) in his last bout (in December 2015). Verdejo’s a big, athletic lightweight gifted with speed and power. He could have imposed himself more on Flores than he did.

 

QUEBEC BOXING SCENE QUESTIONS

Bonjour Dougie!

I hope you’ve been doing well and have been enjoying the great fights Stateside so far in 2017. I haven’t written in a bit, so I wanted to chat and ask your opinion on some of the news items in the Quebec boxing scene as of late. Let’s start off with Steven Butler, whom you have covered a bit. How far back do you think his loss to Brandon Cook sets him? It was an excellent fight, and it’s too bad it didn’t get much attention south of the border. Although overshadowed by the post-fight insanity as I’m sure you know, it was still a terrific way to kick off the year.

That said, there are a lot of parallels between David Lemieux’s Marco Antonio Rubio loss as a young rising star in the province and with Butler here in this fight. How long is the rebuilding process for the 21 year old? What does Butler need to do in order to get to the next level and avoid another setback like this?

Congrats to Cook though. It was a great win. What do you make of the Ontario native? How far can he go in your opinion?

Finally, what do you think the Quebec commission will (or should do) to all parties involved in the post-fight melee? For any fans unfamiliar with this, check out Dave Spencer’s great coverage: http://www.fightnews.com/Boxing/call-suspension-butler-incredible-video-montreal-aftermath-392190

In less than three weeks Quebec City plays host to an interesting contest between Eleider Alvarez and Lucian Bute. How do you see that one playing out? The winner will be in position to challenge Adonis Stevenson in a long-overdue mandatory.

Speaking of Stevenson…still a lot of chatter about him against Joe Smith. Thoughts on that, or a potential fight between Superman and Badou Jack? Do you think Stevenson fighting a combination of those guys this year helps his “image” amongst “hardcore fans?” Hope all is well, and continue your great work! – Hans

It’s all good, Hans. Thanks for the kind words and thanks for checking in from Quebec, a province of Canada that I hope to visit again this year.  

Stevenson vs. Smith? Stevenson vs. Jack? Yes, please. Those are good fights. Bring it on! These are the kind of matchups that will make me give a damn about the WBC light heavyweight titleholder (and former RING champ). I figure most hardcore fans feel the same. 

I forgot Stevenson, who was THE RING’s 2013 Fighter of the Year, existed. (Seriously, since joining the PBC it’s been like this particular “Superman” has been trapped in the freakin’ Phantom Zone.)

In less than three weeks Quebec City plays host to an interesting contest between Eleider Alvarez and Lucian Bute. How do you see that one playing out? I favor Alvarez (probably by decision) but not by much. I’ve never been impressed by the Quebec-based Colombian and I thought he got a gift with the Isaac Chilemba decision. However, Bute is on the downslide and he’s unproven at light heavyweight (even though he began his career fighting around 175 pounds). Having said that, the Romanian southpaw is by far the most experienced and ring savvy boxer that Alvarez has ever faced. It should be a competitive match.

Let’s start off with Steven Butler, whom you have covered a bit. I think I’ve done commentary for three of Butler’s fights, including a ringside call of his eight-round draw against Jaime Herrera (on the David Lemieux-Hassan Ndam undercard in June 2015), so I wasn’t totally shocked when he lost to Cook. Butler’s got talent but he’s got his share of flaws to go with it.

How far back do you think his loss to Brandon Cook sets him? Not too far. He’s only 21, so time is on his side. He got caught by a perfect right hand, was dropped, got up (on wobbly legs) and the fight was waved off without him getting the opportunity to make it out of the round (which ended right when the ref stopped it). He didn’t take a beating and he didn’t lose to a chump. He can bounce back from this.

(T)here are a lot of parallels between David Lemieux’s Marco Antonio Rubio loss as a young rising star in the province and with Butler here in this fight. Agreed. Only time will tell if Butler can reset and climb all the way to top-10 contender status, let alone win a world title as Lemieux did, but it should be noted that David was able to do it despite dropping a decision to Joachim Alcine right after the Rubio loss.

How long is the rebuilding process for the 21 year old? That’s up to Butler, his trainers and Eye of the Tiger Management. I don’t think they need to be in a rush but they don’t need to treat Butler like he’s starting from scratch.

What does Butler need to do in order to get to the next level and avoid another setback like this? I think he should work on his defense (including punch blocking and parrying), shore up his offensive technique and learn to settle down a bit. He doesn’t need to rush himself or load up as much as he tends to do in the early rounds of his fights. I know the post-fight controversy will encourage both camps to push for an anticipated rematch, but I think Butler should be brought back against a tough journeyman that will give him quality rounds and the opportunity to work on correcting some of his flaws. It would probably be best if his management enticed a faded but experienced lighter-weight badass into the ring, someone brave and capable but not a physical threat – I’m thinking about someone like Silverio Ortiz or Jorge Silva. Ortiz is a 17-year-old veteran who has no business fighting at 154 pounds but the 34-year-old Yucatan native upset Mian Hussian last October in Montreal, so fans in your neck of the woods know he’s not a bum.

Congrats to Cook though. It was a great win. What do you make of the Ontario native? How far can he go in your opinion? He’s 30 and he just notched his 18th pro victory, which came against a talented but still-wet-behind-the-ears prospect. Cook may be at his ceiling, and there’s nothing wrong with that if that’s the case. I wouldn’t mind seeing him serve as a comeback opponent for Julian Williams or as a live B-side against Sadam Ali or Yoshihiro Kamegai on Golden Boy’s new ESPN series.

Finally, what do you think the Quebec commission will (or should do) to all parties involved in the post-fight melee? Any member of either fighter’s team that is proven to have thrown debris into the ring or to have been involved in any of the fights that took place outside of the ring should be fined and suspended. That’s a no-brainer. Whoever tossed the ice bucket into the ring that struck Cook shortly after Butler shoved him (and it looks like it was Butler’s brother-in-law, who is already on parole for manslaughter, according to the FightNews report) should be brought up on criminal charges. Cook could have been seriously injured by that bucket.

I’m not sure if Butler should be fined or suspended. He did shove Cook shortly after the stoppage, and Cook did fall to the canvas (just as he was getting struck in the head by the bucket), but it was more of a slip. I don’t think Butler intended to hurt Cook with the shove. He was just upset (probably still buzzed from that right hand) and wanted Cook out of his way. Fighters are emotional right after a fight, especially in the wake of a knockout, so I give them some leeway in these hairy situations. 

The promoters of future events might want to think about better security for certain events and consider banning metal ice buckets (for wine, I presume; I know ringside dinner tables are popular at Quebec boxing shows), glass bottles and even big ice cubes in drinks. It’s sad that those kinds of measures much be taken but if fans are gonna act like wild animals, promoters are going to have to act like zoo keepers.  

Also, the commission is going to have to act faster when it comes to ring control following a knockout or controversial fight. I think officials needed to get into the ring and separate the fighters and their corners before all hell broke loose. It’s very important to give the fighters their space to cool off emotionally, to allow the ringside doctor time to check on the fighter who was knocked out, and to settle down the celebration of the winning corner (which can sometimes get out of hand). The commission and promoters also need to do a better job of keeping the family and teammates (as well as nutty fans) out of the ring after fights end.

 

NO LOVE FOR SADAM ALI?

Hey Doug!

I haven’t seen or heard a peep whatsoever about Sadam Ali’s performance on the undercard of the Vargas/Berchelt fight in So Cali. I thought he took care of business obliterating Jorge Silva in a very entertaining, surgical performance. I’m not saying Silva is a top contender, but Ali looked sharp and efficient to me and this had to be a confidence builder for him after he got steamrolled by Jesse Vargas about a year ago.

I enjoy Ali’s style, which reminds me of Vernon Forest, may he RIP.

What are your thoughts on Ali and where does he go from here? Can he be competitive with the Thurmans, Garcias and Porters of the world? Keep up the good writing Dougie! – Andy, Chula Vista, CA

Thanks Andy. I’ll try my best.

Can Ali be competitive with “the Thurmans, Garcias and Porters of the world”? I really don’t know. I wouldn’t put him in the ring with those guys right now. He’s got the natural talent, amateur background, athleticism and boxing ability to hang with anyone, but the jury is still out on his durability/chin as well as his focus/defense. Ali can’t afford to get clipped clean against Thurman, Garcia or Porter, and that top-10 ranked trio can do more than just crack, they know how to box and set up their power. 

I think Ali is solid fringe contender right now. To get into the top 10 and back into title contention, he’ll need to prove himself against a legit contender, and I’m not sure he’d ready do to do that, but I think he’s getting close.

I like the form and the mentality that Ali exhibited against Silva, a young prospect-turned-gatekeeper-turned-journeyman fighter. He was fast, fluid and aggressive. He made it a point to stun Silva as soon as possible and set the tone of the fight, and his punch selection was brilliant as he hunted down the game-but-outclassed Tijuana native. The finishing combo (a guard-splitting, head-snapping lead right followed by a short hook) was a thing a beauty. Ali is fun to watch when he’s on point. I think he needs to remain active this year against a higher quality of opponent, but not a top-15 rated welterweight just yet. I’d like to see him fight an experienced former titleholder like Kermit Cintron or even a young veteran like Pablo Cesar Cano (who is also promoted by Golden Boy) with the same form and confidence he had against Silva first. If can do that then he I think he’s ready for the next step.

 

ROBERT EASTER JR.

I have been reading “The Ring” since 1963. I’m a fan and not a complainer. But I’d like to ask you why Mr. Robert Easter seems to have fallen off the map at The Ring? He has a title fight here in Toledo (yes I’m a homer) next Friday, probably the first prize fight since Archie Moore or Jimmie Bivins fought here in the 50’s.

Are the people promoting Easter doing something wrong or is The Ring consciously ignoring him? I am looking forward to your professional opinion. Respectfully. – John Bibish

I don’t think the people promoting Easter are doing anything wrong – in fact, I think it’s great that he’s making the first defense of the IBF lightweight title in his hometown – and I don’t think THE RING is ignoring him. We were very much impressed with Easter’s hard-fought split decision over Richard Commey (to earn the IBF belt) last September and have a very high opinion of the 26 year old. Easter is THE RING’s No. 3-rated lightweight, behind only RING champ Jorge Linares (a veteran of 44 pro bouts), WBC titleholder Mikey Garcia (currently 36-0) and WBO beltholder Terry Flanagan (currently 31-0). That’s saying something. 

I already know that you’re super high on the young man being a longtime boxing fan and a Toledo resident, but please keep in mind that Easter JUST arrived on the world-class scene. He only has 18 bouts under his belt and he hadn’t beaten anyone of note prior to 2016.  

Also keep in mind that Friday’s title defense is kind of under-the-radar, even by hardcore fan standards. Easter’s fighting an unworthy title challenger on BounceTV. Luis Cruz was a prospect eight or nine years ago but he never advanced to contender status and he’s 3-4-1 in his last eight bouts dating back to November of 2011. The Puerto Rican’s only wins in that time have been against journeymen (and one of his losses was to a journeyman, Joaquin Chavez, who was 7-13-3 at the time).  

Be patient. Easter’s next opponent will be more worthy (especially if it’s IBF mandatory Denis Shafikov) and that fight will command more attention from fans and the media. His time will come. And I’m sure at least one advance feature on Easter will be posted on RingTV.com this week. If not, get back to me.

I have been reading “The Ring” since 1963. Thank you for your loyalty and patronage.

I’m a fan and not a complainer. That’s amazing if it’s true because I’m not sure it’s possible with this crazy sport.

But I’d like to ask you why Mr. Robert Easter seems to have fallen off the map at The Ring? He hasn’t. We were aware of Easter before he beat Commey for the title and we’ve featured articles and news items about him since then. Here’s a New Faces on Easter (back when he was just 10-0 – the byline reads Yours Truly but Anson Wainwright penned this prospect scouting report), the fight report on the Easter-Commey/Jacobs-Mora II doubleheader, news on his possible IBF mandatory challenger, a fun item on the shout-out he got from Hilary Clinton when she was campaigning in Toledo, news from Easter’s trainer Mike Stafford about a possibly sharing a December card with stablemate Adrien Broner (which obviously didn’t happen), and the announcement of his first title defense being in Toledo. Enjoy.

He has a title fight here in Toledo (yes I’m a homer) next Friday, probably the first prize fight since Archie Moore or Jimmie Bivins fought here in the 50’s. That’s big news – in Toledo.

 

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

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