The Travelin’ Man returns to Cincinnati…again: Part two
Please click here for Part One.
Saturday, Feb. 18 (continued): The main event between Adrien Broner and Adrian Granados – which Broner won by split decision – was the latest example of a never-ending judging debate. Which fighter merits victory: The miserly but accurate power-hitter or the go-getter who floods the zone with punches but connects at a lower rate?
Such was the dynamic here, as Broner threw less (40.3 per round to Granados’ 68.3) but connected more precisely in all categories (41%-21% overall, 25%-15% jabs, 46%-23% power). That resulted in Broner forging slight leads overall (166-146) and in landed power shots (143-123) while tying at 23 jab connects. The round-by-round breakdowns, however, revealed one possible reason Broner walked away with the victory: He out-landed Granados in seven rounds overall (including the last three), while also prevailing 6-3-1 in power connects and tying 3-3-4 in jabs. Another justification was his surge in the final nine minutes of action (55-37 overall, 51-36 power). This was achieved, despite an injured left hand that Broner said prevented him from jabbing more often or more effectively.
To listen to Granados, however, another viable explanation was in play: Favoritism fueled by geography.
“Adrien, I mean, y’all already know; there was all types of controversy. They (the local commission) were playing with me (before the fight). We had to change the weight, we had to change the scale, they were just playing all types of f***ing games. That was some bulls**t man; give me a fair go,” the understandably bitter Granados said. “Look, I understand. I ain’t got the perfect record. Y’all can talk about whatever losses but you all know I can beat any of these guys. You all seen the scorecards. Split decision? Give me another one. Let’s do it again. Come to my house (in Chicago).”
Granados’ complaints weren’t without merit. The original contract called for a 142-pound weight limit but was raised to 147 at Broner’s request. Granados wanted a 12-round fight while Broner preferred a 10-rounder. He also entered the ring with a thick beard that other commissions, at least in past years, would have correctly red-lighted. Broner’s chronic holding and assortment of infighting tactics were tolerated to a much higher degree than would have been the case elsewhere. Would all these pro-Broner things have happened in Chicago – or anywhere else?
While it is true that virtually every aspect of the event was tilted in the hometown fighter’s favor, it’s also a dynamic that is as old as the sport itself. Granados knew the equation the instant the fight was presented to him and, like most competitors, he strongly believed his talent was sufficient to overcome those obstacles. Coming into the fight, he was perceived to be a live underdog because of his ability to give heavy favorites a hard night at the office and, from time to time, springing the monster upset. Just ask the previously undefeated blue-chipper Amir Imam, who Granados stopped in round eight in November 2015. Imam has fought just once since, a get-well KO 3 over the 16-19 Wilfredo Acuna last July.
Now that he has gotten past Granados, where does Broner go from here? The numbers show that, at 147, he no longer has the overwhelming finishing surge he had when he fought at 130 and 135. At his age -27 – 140 seems the only physiologically viable option but can he work himself down to that weight anymore? If not, perhaps a match with new WBA “world” titlist Lamont Peterson (whose belt is not recognized by THE RING magazine) could be made. After that, who knows? As far as “The Problem” handling the elite welterweights, his chances are, to say the least, problematic.
Against Broner, Granados lived up to his nickname of “El Tigre” and looked much more than the sparring partner he once was for Broner. While he won’t get Broner to agree to a rematch in Chicago (something Broner dismissed during the post-fight interview), Granados is an exciting and versatile fighter who deserves another opportunity to raise his standing in the game and to make as much money as possible doing so.
Broner alternated between his two worlds in the post-fight interview. While he made an off-color joke that drew groans and boos (“I don’t know about your first time but I didn’t back out my first time either”) and absurdly stated that “This was an easy (fight),” he did offer thanks to God. He did allow Granados to complain without interruption. He did compliment Granados’ fighting ability and he did something he had not done often – if at all – inside the ring: Offer an apology.
“All jokes aside, I’m taking my career more serious,” he said. “I’m trying to be more positive. I want to give a public apology to not only my fans but the parents out there that got the kids looking up to me, (for) all the foolish things I’ve done in the past. I can promise you that, going on from here, I’ll be a better role model, a better father figure and a better star for you all.”
For Broner, those words represented another small step toward his ultimate goal of changing the way he is perceived by the public and rewiring the way he reacts to the world around him. Reversing years of established behavior is a formidable challenge and that fight will surely be many times more difficult than the one he had just experienced against Granados. I, for one, wish him success in his quest.
Like Broner, 2012 U.S. Olympian Marcus Browne knew he had much to prove entering his crossroads fight against recent light heavyweight title challenger Thomas Williams Jr., his first since winning a hotly disputed split decision over then-fellow undefeated Radivoje Kalajdzic 10 months ago in Brooklyn. The numbers suggested an extremely close contest that could have gone either way (105-101 Browne overall, 52-20 Browne jabs but 81-53 Kalajdzic and leads of 37%-30% in all three categories) but the fact that Browne was credited with a first round knockdown that shouldn’t have been and Kalajdzic was denied a legitimate knockdown in the sixth only added to the post-fight firestorm.
While the round-by-round breakdowns showed Browne had out-landed Kalajdzic in six of the eight rounds overall and out-jabbed him in all eight rounds, Kalajdzic prevailed 5-3 in power connects and amassed a decisive 31-7 lead in landed power punches in the final two rounds. The decision, even though it favored the hometown fighter, was still booed by the fans and eviscerated by the media.
One of the most endearing aspects of boxing is a fighter can reverse negative momentum with a single fight or, in many cases, a single punch. Browne did just that against Williams with his aggression, power and decisiveness. He scored knockdowns with a shotgun jab in round two, a right hook in round four and a final right hook in the sixth that not only produced a 10-count knockout but also reportedly broke Williams’ jaw.
The final numbers reflected Browne’s dominance as he led 71-32 overall, 19-8 jabs and 52-24 power and was the more accurate hitter in all phases (29%-20% overall, 14%-13% jabs, 46%-24% power). In rounds 2-5, the only completed rounds of the bout, Browne achieved double-digit connects overall and in power shots, while a seemingly shopworn Williams could only muster maximums of nine overall connects in the fifth and eight landed power shots in round four. Fittingly, all three judges had Browne a 49-43 winner.
As impressive as Browne’s effort was, he flirted with disqualification immediately after scoring the second round knockdown when he reared back and fired a left to the side of the head while Williams was still on the floor. Browne did the same thing, following the first-round “knockdown” of Kalajdzic, so this should qualify as a genuine problem that needs to be addressed and rectified. Referee Ken Miliner could have opted to deduct two points for the intentional foul but chose to deduct one point (something Tony Chiarantano failed to do in the Kalajdzic fight) and grant Williams five minutes to recover. After taking a little more than three minutes, the fight resumed.
From that point forward, Browne looked like the high-grade prospect he was thought to be while Williams – a volatile “I’ll get you or you’ll get me” type – operated on legs that looked a decade older than its owner’s age of 29. With three KO losses in his last six fights and the broken jaw he suffered against Browne, his boxing future is very much in doubt. The injury will give “Top Dog” a lot of time to ponder his next move.
The second fight of the broadcast, unlike last week’s Ivan Baranchyk-Abel Ramos slate, did not suffer by comparison. Lamont Peterson’s close but unanimous decision victory over WBA “world” welterweight titlist David Avanesyan took time to warm up but, once it did, it became a stirring back-and-forth affair that was waged at a quick pace and featured robust body punching on both sides.
After Peterson won a cautious first round, Avanesyan appeared to take the early lead by out-landing the former two-belt titlist at 140 in the next four rounds, upping his pace from 36 punches in round one to 73, 71, 76 and 52 in rounds two through five, and out-landing the American 50-40 overall and 37-26 power during that 12-minute stretch.
The sixth marked the fight’s defining turning point as Peterson dramatically upped his work rate from 53 punches in round five to 76 in the sixth while also cranking up his trademark body attack. In recent years, Peterson had strayed from the high-volume offense that defined his rise to prominence, nearly a decade ago – in his last 10 CompuBox-tracked fights, he averaged just 51.7 punches per round – but from round six onward, the 33-year-old appeared to turn the clock back as he averaged 72.6 punches per round, including a fight-high 96 (and 38 total connects) in the final round.
Avanesyan also upped his work rate in rounds 6-12 (from 52 punches in round five to 65.3 the rest of the way) but, because he couldn’t match Peterson’s precision (31%-24% overall, 15%-12% jabs, 39%-29% power for the fight), he ended up trailing 181-131 overall and 162-118 power in the final seven rounds, as well as 116-112 (twice) and 115-113 on the judges’ scorecards. That surge enabled Peterson to rack up connect leads of 228-182 overall, 40-26 jabs and 188-156 power, while also putting himself in position for more lucrative fights in the talent-rich welterweight division.
As someone who witnessed Peterson’s buzz-saw attack first-hand a decade ago, while working ESPN cards, I was happy to see its revival. Yes, it took a while for Peterson to get his motor warmed up – a career-long 16-month layoff combined with Avanesyan’s fast-twitch style could do that to a man – but, once it did, it was something to behold. The body assault was particularly impressive as it accounted for 101 of his 228 total connects and 98 of his 188 landed power shots.
If Peterson can sustain this level of performance, he will be a handful for anyone who steps between the ropes to face him. Punch-counting colleague Dennis Allen had the pleasure of tracking him here but I hope that next time I’ll be the one who will chronicle his work.
Dennis and I began the packing process the moment the final credits began to roll and, after going upstairs to grab a diet soda and a few mini-snack bags, we headed out to his rental car. By now, a logjam of vehicles were slowly streaming toward the exits of the campus parking lot and it took several minutes for us to secure our escape. But once we hit I-71 South, we rolled toward our destination with dispatch.
After saying our goodbyes, I returned to my 12th floor room to complete the final task of the workday: Inputting the final stats for all the TV fights into the master database. Once that was done, I consumed my modest bounty, polished off some writing and headed to bed. The time: 3 a.m.
Sunday, Feb. 19: As usual, I experienced fitful rest for the next four hours and, after getting ready for the day, I spent the next two-and-a-half hours writing many of the words that preceded this paragraph. Like last week in Miami, Oklahoma, I had the luxury of time to finish most of my work before heading home, which left me in a pleasant state of mind, once I checked out and retrieved my car from the valet parking attendants.
I needed every bit of that good mood to complete the most critical part of the drive home – finding Interstate 71 North. That objective was achieved but only after first crossing the bridge into Kentucky and spotting a series of detour signs that led me to my intended target.
As the five-hour drive proceeded, I couldn’t help but reflect on what happened to me on this day exactly 10 years ago: Bob Canobbio offering me a full-time gig as a writer, researcher and punch-counter for CompuBox.
At the time, I was working full-time as a member of the copy desk at The Parkersburg News in Parkersburg, West Virginia, a position I had held since January 1990. My goal coming out of college was to become a full-time sportswriter but my long-term dream was to make a career in boxing, specifically as a writer for THE RING magazine. Dreams, however, often fall by the wayside, due to life circumstances, and because I needed a full-time job and the benefits that come with it, I accepted the News’ offer to work on their copy desk because a sports job wasn’t available. So, for 17 years, I was a word person working a graphics job. The square peg-round hole dynamic – as well as the long hours, daily stresses and intense accountability for any mistakes that were made – left me profoundly unhappy.
Beginning in 2002, I began reassembling my long-term dream. In 2003, I started writing for MaxBoxing.com and, by 2005, I was a paid columnist. In 2002, I met Canobbio, thanks to a recommendation from HBO’s Harold Lederman. That recommendation came from a post I had made in the private boxing chat room, of which we were both members. In it, I stated that, following a happenstance review of the 1974 fight between Danny Lopez and Genzo Kurosawa (a fight I had just gotten in the mail on VHS), Lopez had thrown 1,781 punches in 10 rounds, which, had CompuBox existed in 1974, would have shattered all known records.
Harold emailed me Bob’s phone number and, in our first conversation, Bob asked me to do punch-counts of 12 classic fights off video. Unbeknownst to me, he already had his own numbers for one of those fights (Ali-Frazier III), so when he saw that my numbers were close to his he realized that I had an aptitude for punch-counting. All I needed was proper training.
I took vacation time off from work to attend an HBO card and, once Bob showed me where the keys were located, I worked some untelevised undercard fights, after which I watched the rest of the show from ringside. Once I got home, I practiced what I had learned to the point that I showed considerable progress at the next training session. From there, I also became his part-time research man in 2004. By 2007, I was juggling three jobs: Full-time copy editor at the News, part-time columnist for Maxboxing.com and part-time researcher, punch-counter and writer for CompuBox.
While I loved the latter two jobs, I wanted out of the first one in the worst way. Once Bob let me know that my full-time hiring was on his radar, I brought up the subject with him at every opportunity. In fact, I bugged him about it so often that we developed a short-hand phrase for it – “pull the trigger,” as in “Are you going to pull the trigger?” or “No, I’m not pulling the trigger yet.” This went on for three years because Bob wanted to make sure that he would be able to make up whatever income I would lose by quitting the paper, if not exceed it. While I was disappointed at the time, it was the right thing to do.
At 12:52 p.m. on Feb. 19, 2007, I received an email from Canobbio that was written at 12:40 p.m., moments after I put the finishing touches on a “Closet Classics” story for MaxBoxing.com. The subject line was nondescript and bore no hint as to its contents. But what contents they turned out to be.
“Lee,” it began. “I’ve got you penciled in for the March 16 ESPN show in Pompano Beach, Fla. Also, I could use you for the March 23 ESPN show in Foxwoods and March 30 in Detroit.
“Let’s just cut to the chase and pull the dang trigger.” The boldface was his.
It took me a few seconds to process what I had just read. In his inimitable way, Bob had just offered me what I considered – and still consider – the job of a lifetime.
My eyes burned and my head tingled as the realization set in. Then, if there were any doubts, I read the final line of the email: “Call me when you can and we’ll discuss the particulars of our deal. Congratulations. Bob.”
I read the email a second time to make sure I had fully understood what had happened. After telling my loved ones the good news, I called Bob.
We talked for the better part of 45 minutes and I couldn’t believe how composed I was verbally because my innards were doing backflips that would have made Olympic gold medalist (and West Virginia native) Mary Lou Retton proud.
Just like that, my ultimate professional dream had become a wondrous reality.
As soon as I hung up, I felt a need to accompany this “mountaintop moment” with a sufficient physical act to commemorate it. What is the closest thing to a summit that’s within easy reach of most people? My answer: The roof of the house.
The rusty metal surface of the TV antenna ladder dug into my palms as I slowly ascended each of the seven steps required to reach the roof. The final push strained my right shoulder muscle but my pure joy allowed me to sufficiently compartmentalize the pain.
After reaching the highest point of the roof, I took a long look at my surroundings and rotated a full 360 degrees to take everything in. It was a bright sunny day and the temperature was 42 degrees, a good deal warmer than it had been in recent days. The sun felt warm on my face, as I closed my eyes, bowed my head and offered my thanks. When I finished, I snapped my right arm skyward, pumped my fist and yelled “Yes!”
The trip down was taken with extreme care because the last thing I wanted to do was to maim myself in my moment of triumph.
The next order of business was to write my resignation letter to the newspaper. I had no idea how to do it because I had never resigned from a job before. I was fired from my first position as a part-time sportswriter for the weekly Tyler Star-News, only because management had found someone willing to write stories on all three high schools in the coverage area, a task that had previously been done by three separate people (I later learned our replacement quit after a few weeks from exhaustion, by the way). I had worked at The News for 17 years and, until this moment, I had no reason to think I would ever leave it. While I hated the job, I liked the people with whom I worked and loved the area where I lived (and still live).
It took me 10 minutes to write the letter and, when I was satisfied, I printed it and folded it inside an envelope. I decided to drive down to the paper immediately because it would enable me to make my final day fall on a Sunday, the last day of my regular workweek. I wanted to give the paper my full two weeks’ notice because my bosses had graciously allowed me to take all the time off I needed to pursue my boxing-related activities. It was the right thing to do because I certainly didn’t want to leave my soon-to-be former colleagues in the lurch. I owed them that much.
Because this fell on a Monday – one of my regular days off – and because I lived an hour away from the office, I knew my appearance in the newsroom would draw attention. Thus, my plan was to walk directly into the editor’s office, present the letter and leave as quickly and as unobtrusively as possible. Instead, the editor’s office was occupied, which forced me to wait in the middle of the newsroom.
While I waited, one of our city editors, Jess Mancini (who still works in that capacity now) asked me why I was in the newsroom on my day off.
“I’m here to see (then-editor) Jim (Smith),” I replied.
“You aren’t quitting; are you?” he asked. One of the reasons why Jess is such a good editor is he knows the right question to ask.
The jig was up.
“As a matter of fact, I am,” I admitted. “My dream came true today.”
Jess was genuinely happy for me and I received the same reception from Jim once I explained the reason for my departure. He knew boxing was my passion and he could relate because he was a boxer when he served in the military years earlier.
“I’m happy for you but I’m unhappy for me because now I have to find a new copy editor,” he said with a smile. He briefed me on what I needed to do before my final day and, as he filled out my pink slip, he made sure to check the “Yes” box on the portion that read “Recommend for rehiring.” After all, Bob told me, at the time, that this new gig could last two years or 20.
I have now reached the halfway point of that prediction and, as of this writing, it looks like it will continue for years to come. The last 10 years have been the best of my life, for I’ve seen places I wouldn’t have otherwise seen, witnessed historic events that I never would have witnessed from ringside and – best of all – worked with people I had previously seen only on TV.
In the years leading up to Feb. 19, 2007, I had prayed nightly for a positive change in my life. More than once I promised that, if it came true, I would offer my thanks not just the day it happened but every day thereafter. I have yet to miss.
I am having so much fun doing what I’m doing with CompuBox, RingTV.com (where I was hired in 2010 after a brief stint with BoxingScene.com) and other occasional side gigs that I have no plans to ever retire. I hope to be here until my various bosses have had enough of me or when the appointed “time” for all of us arrives. Until then, I will thoroughly drink in the days that have been – and will be – given to me.
The remainder of the long drive was executed flawlessly and I pulled into the driveway at 3:01 p.m., one minute later than anticipated. As usual, I’ll be happily grinding away at my “to do” list until the final leg of my “traveler’s tripleheader” begins on Thursday. The destination: Temecula, California.
Until then, happy trails!
Lee Groves is a boxing writer and historian based in Friendly, West Virginia. He is a full member of the BWAA, from which he has won 15 writing awards, including 12 in the last six years and two first-place awards since 2011. He has been an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame since 2001 and is also a writer, researcher and punch-counter for CompuBox, Inc. He is the author of “Tales from the Vault: A Celebration of 100 Boxing Closet Classics.” To order, please visit Amazon.com. To contact Groves, use the email [email protected].
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