THE WEEKEND’S FIGHTS
Dear Mr. Fischer,
I sent a reply to your mailbag earlier in the week, but I also wanted to briefly ask you about your thoughts on Avtandil Khurtsidze’s fight this weekend against Tommy Langford. The Anvil is a favorite of mine (I’ve been bothered by the way the WBO has handled his rise), and I think he’s a tough test for any up and comer. How do you see this fight?
In the interest of being concise, in case you’d like to combine my questions about the fights for this Saturday, I’d also be very interested in your opinion of the test that Miguel Marriaga will offer Oscar Valdez (I think this is one of the best fights on offer this weekend and am upset that HBO didn’t pick it up). Valdez has great power for one of the lighter guys and always seems to put on a show.
Also, do you think Charles Hatley can take Jermell Charlo’s belt? If Jermell has kept pace with his brother’s gains in size, this seems like a ridiculously tall order given the speed and athleticism he already possessed.
Finally, is Andre Berto (after a year-long layoff and four losses in his last eight fights) a worthy test for Shawn Porter? If this is just to keep Showtime active and to get him more exposure, it seems like they should have scheduled it months ago. I recognize that it will be good for his brand (Berto remains very much a name in the sport), but I really don’t know if it’s good for his development (and I certainly don’t see it as a stiff test). Very Respectfully. – John
At this stage of Berto’s career I wouldn’t categorize him as a “worthy test” for Porter (who is far beyond developmental fights, by the way). However, Porter can’t afford to overlook Berto who has the edge in experience and punching power. This is not a tune-up fight for Porter and I hope the Ohioan isn’t thinking too much about a rematch with Keith Thurman or a shot at the Brook-Spence winner when he steps into the ring tomorrow night. Berto’s legs, reflexes and punch resistance have diminished in recent years, but he can still hurt anyone he nails clean.
Fortunately for Porter, he’s got reliable whiskers. If he’s focused, busy and attacks Berto’s midsection (as he told RingTV’s Andreas Hale he would), he should wear the always gutsy veteran down to a late TKO or a clear UD.
If this is just to keep Showtime active and to get him more exposure, it seems like they should have scheduled it months ago. I’m pretty sure the Porters (Shawn and his father/trainer Ken) agree with you. Berto isn’t going to be the only one shaking off ring rust tomorrow night. (Read Steve Kim’s excellent interview with Ken Porter that ran on UCNLive.com this week if you haven’t already done so.)
Do you think Charles Hatley can take Jermell Charlo’s belt? No, I don’t.
If Jermell has kept pace with his brother’s gains in size, this seems like a ridiculously tall order given the speed and athleticism he already possessed. I don’t think Jermell’s edge in this fight has anything to do with size. Charlo should keep his WBC 154-pound title because he’s the better boxer with the more polished technique and the superior experience. I’m not trying to s__t on Hatley, and I’m happy the Dallas native is getting a shot at a major belt (after hounding Canelo and the Charlos all last year), but his technique is too wild and his chin is too suspect for me to give him much of a shot at pulling the upset. He is dangerous, though. He’s got speed, power and guts, and he’s a switch hitter, so he could clip Charlo early, but given his ring rust (he didn’t fight at all in 2016) and his penchant for swinging wildly when he’s got his opponent hurt (or thinks he does), my guess is that he’s the one who will get zapped in the first third of the fight. It should be fun while it lasts, though.
I’d also be very interested in your opinion of the test that Miguel Marriaga will offer Oscar Valdez (I think this is one of the best fights on offer this weekend and am upset that HBO didn’t pick it up). I think Marriaga represents the biggest step up in competition, thus far, for the young WBO featherweight beltholder. It’s a legit test and the Colombian banger is a worthy challenger. Marriaga, who had a strong amateur background, possesses good speed and power, as well as a solid chin and technique. I agree that Valdez-Marriaga is one of the best matchups scheduled this weekend.
Valdez has great power for one of the lighter guys and always seems to put on a show. I think he’s got good power for a featherweight. He’s not Naseem Hamed. He’s doesn’t possess the “one-hitter-quitter.” Valdez has to break his opponents down before stopping them, and I believe he should take the same approach against Marriaga, but he should refrain from loading up with every punch as he did with his last opponent (Hiroshige Osawa). I think his key to victory is to beat Marriaga to the jab, work his way inside, punch in combination and work the body. The Colombian has a habit of covering up behind his gloves when he’s under fire and that leaves his lower ribs and liver area susceptible to a body attack.
I also wanted to briefly ask you about your thoughts on Avtandil Khurtsidze’s fight this weekend against Tommy Langford. In a nutshell, I think Langford will be in a world of s__t once Khurtsidze gets warmed up and into his brutal rhythm.
The Anvil is a favorite of mine (I’ve been bothered by the way the WBO has handled his rise), and I think he’s a tough test for any up and comer. Khurtzy is a f__kin’ beast. I think he’s a test for top-10 middleweights, never mind up-and-comers. The squat 37-year-old veteran upholds the rare tradition of middleweight badasses who stand shorter than 5-foot-6: he’s a tough-as-nails scrapper with a relentless style/mindset and underrated inside craft to go with it. He’s cut from the same cloth as early ‘80s middleweight contender James Green (are you boys and girls familiar with “Hard Rock”?) and hall of famers Carmen Basilio and Lou Brouillard. (I know most of you know who Basilio is, but look up Brouillard if you have some time, he was a Quebec-born 1930s badass who notched 109 wins, including Mickey Walker and Jimmy McLarnin.)
How do you see this fight? No disrespect to Langford, who is an honest, solid pro, but he’s not on Khurtzy’s level. Langford is a British-level middleweight who should be fighting the domestic likes of Jack Arnfield and Tom Doran. Khurtsidze is a world-level middleweight who should be fighting Billy Joe Saunders or a rematch with Hassan Ndam. Langford’s only edge against The Anvil is his activity, but I don’t think he’s got the power, skill or physical strength to keep the Brooklyn-based Georgia native off of him. I favor Khurtzy by late stoppage or clear-cut UD.
BIG-FIGHT LETDOWNS/’THE MAYWEATHER EFFECT’
Hope you get a chance to read this because I really, really want to get your opinion on this.
Why do all big fights in the past decade up to now end up being such a let down? (Mayweather-Pacquiao, Frampton-Quigg, Klitschko-Haye, Canelo-Cotto, Ward-Kovalev, Thurman-Garcia to name a few.) It seems to be a recurring thing. Gone are the days that when you say big fight it really means the BIG FIGHT. (Leonard-Hearns, Hearns-Haglar, Pacquiao-Morales, Barrera-Morales, etc.) For me I think one of the main reasons for this is due to the growing trend of boxer’s safety first mentality. Another is the misguided perception that staying undefeated but having just an OK resume means you are more bankable compared to taking big risks but suffering a few defeats along the way. I think Mayweather is partially if not fully responsible for this growing trend because let’s face it, he is the blueprint for success in boxing today and I can argue that if you are a boxer today why not learn from the best, right? Let’s call it the Mayweather Effect. Keep up the good work. – Jayson
Thanks Jayson. We can’t blame it all on Mayweather. After all, he learned from Roy Jones Jr., who was a major control freak (enabled by HBO and much of the U.S. boxing media) and was very careful during the prime years of his career. In fact, I used to call Floyd “Roy Jones III” when he began taking the easiest path presented to him (once again by HBO) shortly after his close call with Jose Luis Castillo.
The major factors, in my view, that make most of the mega-fights of this era duds are: inactivity, being overpaid and a having more business sense than fighter pride.
The superstars of the 1980s who usually delivered when matched against each other – Leonard, Hearns, Duran and Hagler – fought more often per year than today’s elite boxers and had EARNED their status atop the sport as well as their healthy pay days, so they took extra pride in defending their considerable legacies when they battled each other. In other words, they had worked too damn hard and had battled past too many badasses to “half-ass” it or “mail it in” once they stepped into the ring for the mega-fights of their careers. Plus, the sport was more popular/mainstream back then (Gee, I wonder why?), so there was more pressure to give 100% effort in that ring.
I think Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez brought that kind of effort and intensity to the ring for their classic fourth encounter, and that took place in December 2012, so you can’t say that ALL big fights/PPV events are let downs. That main event delivered. But you can also say that Pac and JMM merely carried the kind of common hunger we see in lighter-weight fighters from third-world countries up to one of sport’s glamor divisions (welterweight). Who was the last elite/PPV-level American fighter in a glamor division to put it down on a regular basis like those two?
Maybe it was Evander Holyfield during the ‘90s. Despite the money and fame The Real Deal had, he always dug deep. You can’t say that his big fights were boring. But Holyfield had a big-ass chip on his shoulder. He wasn’t given anything and he didn’t like taking the easy road.
Oscar De La Hoya wasn’t afraid to challenge himself, either. He did have his share of big-fight duds (the Trinidad blockbuster being “Exhibit A”), but he also engaged in some memorable welterweight and junior middleweight PPV events (vs. Ike Quartey, Shane Mosley and Fernando Vargas).
I think De La Hoya and Mosley are last elite U.S. boxers to have the kind of activity that the Four Kings had. The Southern Californians sometime fought four and five times a year in the late ‘90s – so it’s no surprise that when they first faced each other as pros in the summer of 2000, they put on a hell of a show for intense 12 rounds. I think if Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia had been as active (against solid opposition) as Oscar and Shane had been going into their first PPV showdown, the PBC standouts could have put on a fight that was equally entertaining. (Same could be said for Thurman and Porter.) You can’t be sharp, busy and confident when you only fight once a year. But then again, when you get paid high six-figure purses to beat up on the likes of Rod Salka and $2 million to face a fellow contender, where’s the motivation to fight often or to seriously challenge yourself on a regular basis?
GGG VS. SAUNDERS
What’s up, Doug. Wishing you and your family all the best.
First off, I’ll state that Gennady Golovkin is my favorite current fighter. I also think that Tom Loeffler genuinely seems like a good guy. That being said, the powers that be who are guiding GGG’s career are seriously doing the man a disservice. Not taking the Billy Joe Saunders fight is really bad management. The man could be getting needed rounds, a huge paycheck, and become the undisputed middleweight champion and they turn down the fight. I don’t believe for a second that GGG is injured. Sore maybe, but who the hell isn’t sore after a fight. Golden Boy is playing GGG for a fool. Oscar says that if GGG fights Saunders, he’ll probably lose the Canelo fight. Bulls__t. If Canelo p__sies out again, he’ll never live that one down.
Anyway, that’s my 2 cents for all it’s worth. Thanks for the mailbag, it’s sincerely appreciated. Your show with Steve Kim is outstanding. Keep up the good fight. – Jeff from Tampa
I’ll try, Jeff. Thanks for the well wishes and the kind words. Kim and I will be shooting a third episode of Between The Ropes next week.
All I can say about the Golovkin-Saunders situation is that Tom Loeffler is being very quiet and when the K2 Promotions boss drops out of sight goes “radio silent” it usually means he’s in serious negotiations. I know that he’s had somewhat casual on-going discussions with Golden Boy Promotions president Eric Gomez since last year, but my hunch is that a real offer has been made from the GBP/Canelo side and that it’s fair and realistic enough for Team GGG to bypass the summer opportunity to unify all four major sanctioning organization belts against Saunders.
This decision seems to have irked a lot of hardcore fans (many of whom had loudly demanded the GGG-Canelo showdown and ripped the Mexican fighter for putting it off). I guess, like you, they suspect that Canelo won’t face GGG if he handles Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in a few weeks. But you guys are living too much in the future. I say let Golovkin rest up if that’s what he wants to do and enjoy Canelo-Chavez Jr. If Canelo kicks ass, let’s all beat the drums for the Golovkin showdown. And if Canelo doesn’t want to fight GGG next, let’s all dump on him and boycott him and whatever else gets Twitter-heads off. If Canelo struggles badly against Chavez Jr., let’s move on and beat the drums for Golovkin-Jacobs II. If Junior kicks Canelo’s ass, let’s beat the drums for GGG-Chavez Jr. (Or, hell, let’s beat the drums for Chavez Jr.-Gilberto Ramirez and GGG vs. BJS. Whatever! Let’s stop obsessing about Canelo vs. GGG if Canelo isn’t good enough to clearly beat Chavez Jr. or if he clearly isn’t willing to challenge Golovkin.)
That being said, the powers that be who are guiding GGG’s career are seriously doing the man a disservice. Dude, what they’ve done with Golovkin’s career is nothing short of a freakin’ miracle. There’s never been anything like the GGG phenomenon in the U.S. He’s not American, not Latino, doesn’t have the tightest grip on English, didn’t make his U.S. debut until late 2012 (when he was already 30), but he’s become one of the biggest attractions in the sport (and deemed worthy enough by corporate America to be sponsored by Jordan Brand and Apple Watch).
Not taking the Billy Joe Saunders fight is really bad management. Only if they don’t get the Canelo showdown, and you have no idea if they will or not.
The man could be getting needed rounds, a huge paycheck, and become the undisputed middleweight champion and they turn down the fight. Bro, he fought 12 rounds in his last fight, he was supposed to make a huge pay day in Kazakhstan against BJS but it wouldn’t have been as much as he’ll make vs. Canelo, and the WBO belt will still be around for him to nab after partaking in the biggest boxing event of 2017.
WHO CAN BE THE NEW ‘SUGAR’
I hope to catch you and your family good with this one.
Just came across the RingTV Instagram post of your cover back in ‘99 and suddenly I wondered: Who could be the Sugar of the post-Mayweather generation?
Of course, I mean an American fighter who can mix pure boxing, educated skills and a puncher’s aggression with effortless versatility, all with a style as sweet as sugar.
Who could he be? Who?
Happy Easter. – Gio, Milano
Well, Gio, if you didn’t stipulate that the new Sugar be an American boxer the answer to your question would be easy: Vasyl Lomachenko.
I don’t think there is an American boxer currently fighting who has the perfect “Sugar” blend of natural talent, athleticism, boxing ability and warrior spirit. Terence Crawford is a surly, stalking switch-hitting technician in a Marvelous Marvin Hagler mold. Andre Ward reminds me more of Bernard Hopkins (the post-40 version) than any of the Sugars.
Keith Thurman and Daniel Jacobs are smart, talented and charismatic in their own ways, but there’s something missing from their fighter identities that keeps me from comparing them to a prime Shane Mosley or Ray Leonard (I wouldn’t dream of comparing any modern fighter with SRR). Maybe they don’t take enough risks in big fights.
Maybe if Errol Spence Jr. shines against Kell Brook, he can go on to be viewed the way the Sugars once were. We’ll see.
I think Jermall Charlo has the talent and spirit and Demetirus Andrade has the skill and versatility to perhaps be “Sugaresque,” but both standouts need to be busier and have the right dance partners to blossom.
Who knows? Maybe a current prospect, such as 23-year-old welterweight Rashidi Ellis – who received a stern gut check from John Karl Sosa last night, will become sweet enough to be called sugar as he develops over the next year or two. Let’s see how the early career of Olympic silver medalist Shakur Stevenson, who makes his pro debut on tomorrow night’s Top Rank PPV show, pans out.
LIGHT-HEAVY GOLDEN AGE
I look forward to your mailbags every Monday and Friday. I respect both your boxing knowledge and your commitment to calling it like you see it.
Quick question…do you think we could be entering a light heavyweight “golden age”? Gvozdyk looks like the real deal, and we’ve already got Ward, Kovalev, Stevenson (altho he won’t fight the big fights), Beterbiev, Barrera, Joe Smith, Alvarez and Badou Jack among others. It seems to me that this might be the most exciting group of light heavies since the late ‘70s when Saad Muhammad, Yaqui Lopez, Mike Rossman, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Victor Galindez, Marvin Johnson and Dwight Qawi staged incredible battles in the ring. In my opinion light heavyweight is shaping up as the most exciting division in boxing. Take care, and thanks for your excellent work. – Karl
Thanks for the very kind words, Karl.
I don’t know if the top fighters of the current 175-pound division can match the unbelievable action that the light heavyweights of the late ‘70/early ‘80s produced, but I agree that the division is as deep as it’s been in a very long time.
How deep is it? Consider this. Dmitry Bivol, the excellent 10-0 holder of the WBA’s interim title, has yet to crack THE RING’s light heavyweight rankings. But make no mistake, he’s as much as a player as Beterbiev, Gvodsyk, Alvarez or Barrera. And so are other fringe contenders, such as Erik Skoglund, Seanie Monaghan, Dominic Boesell and Vyachaslev Shabransky.
The division has enough players (even without Stevenson’s participation) to start up a new Golden Age but it won’t happen until these guys fight each other. We’re off to a good start with the Ward-Kovalev rematch, the top two 175 pounders will battle it out once again with three major belts on the line plus THE RING championship.
QUICK MYTHICAL MATCHUP
Just re-watched Vargas vs Quartey and I was reminded of just how fun Vargas was to watch in his prime. So quick question, who wins between this version of Vargas vs Canelo of today? Best. – Alan N., NYC
Man, that would be a very entertaining 154-pound showdown, but I gotta go with Commando Nando by close decision. Canelo’s counter-punching prowess, defensive skills, body punching and ability to fight off the ropes would have made him a real threat and a difficult adversary for the 1996 U.S. Olympian but I think Vargas’ stiff, educated jab, lighter footwork, greater activity and smart aggression would enable him to edge the Mexican star on points.
DRE NEEDS PR?
So Mannix is keeping it real? That comment immediately brought to mind a poignant reality: Mayweather and Ward share one undeniable truth, neither gives a s__t what you, Mannix, Kim, Rafael, Lampley, et al, think about them and I applaud that. Not one of you can move an audience needle a single tick, and collectively you can’t move it two ticks.
And don’t get twisted, of course they know and reference they don’t get credit for their accomplishments, it seems they’re just stating fact, not a request for change.
You’ve all made a habit of tearing them down, but they both seem comfortable with doing things their way and where they are in their careers. And you guys are promoting Kazakhs, Ukrainians and Russians, aka, white guys, as the new boxing stars to American sports fans who could care less (170k PPV buys). Maybe you think that’ll bring back the 18-35 white male ‘demographic’ that the UFC has attracted, since we, the ‘other demographic’, are dumb undesirables, right?
As always, good luck. – Tony
Thanks. Didn’t you tell me you were going to stop emailing me?
Anyway, YES, Chris Mannix kept it real with this excellent Yahoo! Sports column on Ward (thanks for giving me a reason to post the link in this mailbag), and YES, I think Ward could use a good public/media relations agent.
I also believe that you are in need of a really good therapist.
(Now that I think about it, Ward could use a good therapist. Mannix, Kim, Rafael and Lampley probably need a good therapist because they’ve had to deal with hyper-sensitive control freaks like Ward. I’ve GOT a good therapist because I have to deal with racist nutcakes like you.)
Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer
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