Thursday, August 11, 2022  |

News

Dougie’s Monday mailbag

(Photo: Amanda Kwok)
05
Jun

STEVENSON’S LEFT-HAND THUNDER

Dougie,

I hope this email finds you and your family well.

I think you might be inclined to disagree with me given that Fonfara looked like damaged goods but Adonis Stevenson is the real deal. There is serious thunder in that left hand, I don’t care if your name is Andre Ward or Sergey Kovalev if you get hit with that it is lights out. Yeah Stevenson’s resume as of late is not fantastic but he knocks out everyone convincingly.

I favor him to beat everyone in the division except Ward. With this world series of boxing going on at cruiser, I would kill for a similar round-robin (at light heavy) with Kovalev, Ward, Stevenson, Bertebiev, Smith Jr. and Gvodzyk.

How do you rank the light heavy division? Given the various promoters conflicts involved that have impeded more big fights at 175 how would you see things playing out over the next 2 years?

Finally, did you see Sam Watson talking in Stevenson’s hear telling him not to say who he wanted to fight while Jim Grey was interviewing him. Bad optics to say the least.

BTW, I will be buying Ward-Kovalev (terrible promotion so far) and will be happy to see Rigo in action, finally. All the best to you. – Aaron in Miami

So, YOU’RE the guy who’s looking forward to Guillermo Rigondeaux’s triumphant return to HBO PPV. Nice to meet you. I’m guessing you’re still buzzing over that scintillating performance against Drian Francisco on the Cotto-Canelo undercard.

Seriously, I’m glad to hear that you’ll be purchasing the June 17 pay-per-view event despite its lack of promotion, and I think the main event will deliver. You’ll also get to see yet another potential light heavyweight standout, Dmitry Bivol, perform against a solid opponent (Cedric Agnew) on the PPV undercard.

I think you might be inclined to disagree with me given that Fonfara looked like damaged goods but Adonis Stevenson is the real deal. If by “real deal” you mean the world’s third best light heavyweight behind Kovalev and Ward, I agree with you 100%.

There is serious thunder in that left hand, I don’t care if your name is Andre Ward or Sergey Kovalev if you get hit with that it is lights out. There’s no debating that. Like Deontay Wilder at heavyweight, Stevenson is a bona-fide puncher and a threat to anyone in the 175-pound division. And he’s more poised and polished than The Bronze Bomber.

Yeah Stevenson’s resume as of late is not fantastic but he knocks out everyone convincingly. True, but how many of those opponents possessed the power to knock him out? Stevenson is a bona-fide puncher, but how many bona-fide punchers has he faced? I don’t see any on his record.

I favor him to beat everyone in the division except Ward. Really? I think Stevenson will have his hands full with Eleider Alvarez. I would consider matchups against Joe Smith Jr. and/or Sullivan Barrera to be even-money (with their right hands posing the same threat to Stevenson that his vaunted left would pose to them), and I view Oleksandr Gvozdyk and Artur Beterbiev as very ‘live dogs’ against Stevenson despite their pro inexperience (in fact, I’d probably pick “The Nail” to upset the Haitian-Canadian). Obviously, I favor Ward and Kovalev to beat Stevenson. I think Ward neutralizes him pretty quickly en route to a decision victory and Krusher methodically breaks him down to a late TKO.

With this world series of boxing going on at cruiser, I would kill for a similar round-robin (at light heavy) with Kovalev, Ward, Stevenson, Bertebiev, Smith Jr. and Gvodzyk. That would be must-see TV (and Gvozdyk, I believe, would be the dark horse of that tourney).

How do you rank the light heavy division? It’s one of boxing’s top-five divisions in terms of its depth and potential entertaining matchups. If an excellent boxer-puncher like Bivol isn’t even in THE RING top 10, and a badass like Gvozdyk isn’t yet top five, you know there’s stiff competition in the division.

Given the various promoters conflicts involved that have impeded more big fights at 175 how would you see things playing out over the next 2 years? I have no idea. I wish I could say that promoters are going to start working together but I know that industry greed/animosity, plus network affiliations, will likely get in the way of some of the marquee matchups we want to see. But some of the division’s immediate future will be worked out with Ward-Kovalev II, Smith-Barrera and even Bivol-Agnew on the June 17 undercard.

Finally, did you see Sam Watson talking in Stevenson’s hear telling him not to say who he wanted to fight while Jim Grey was interviewing him. Stevenson doesn’t seem to have a problem with that situation, which is too bad for him and his legacy.

 

ADONIS DREAMENSON

What is the point of Adonis Stevenson?

Really? – S.R.

Are you presenting an existential question to a boxing mailbag column?

I can’t really answer that question. A) I didn’t take any philosophy classes in college, B) I believe it has to be answered by the fighter and by the fans.

It seems as though, to Stevenson, the point of his career is to make a good living. That’s what he’s been doing since the start of 2014. Since winning THE RING title and earning the magazine’s Fighter of the Year award in 2013, Stevenson has not faced a single opponent that was RING-rated (at the time he fought him) or a perceived threat.

He’s had the opportunity to prove that he’s the real champion of the 175-pound division but he appears more than happy just to be another beltholder. (And there’s nothing wrong with just holding on to one major belt for years and making a butt-load of title defenses… the No. 9-rated fighter in THE RING’s pound-for-pound rankings, Shinsuke Yamanaka, has done that; however, the Japanese veteran challenges himself against the best of his division (bantamweight), which is why he currently holds THE RING 118-pound championship, unlike Stevenson, who was stripped for his weak competition).

If Stevenson just wants to make solid paydays against guys that he knows he can knockout (and hopefully putting enough of that money away to support himself in retirement), that’s his right. (And I seriously doubt Stevenson will ever have an “existential crises” in regard to his boxing career and legacy.)

It’s also the right of the fans to completely dismiss him, and it’s quickly getting to that point. There was very little fan buzz or media coverage connected to the Stevenson-Fonfara rematch. There might be some interest (at least in the Montreal area) for a mandatory title defense against Alvarez, but beyond that fight, if Stevenson doesn’t fight a legit threat my guess is that most boxing fans will either ignore or forget about him.

 

STEVENSON, WORLD BOXING SUPER SERIES

Hey Doug, hope this reaches you well.

I suppose it was more a way to avoid studying than anything else that had me tuning into the completely unnecessary Stevenson-Fonfara rematch on Saturday night, but I came away feeling the same as I

(Photo by Stephanie Trapp/Showtime)

usually did after recent Stevenson fights – simultaneously impressed and frustrated. He completely destroyed Fonfara just like he destroyed Thomas Williams, Karpency, Sukhotskiy, Bellew and many others before and in style too. I think it’s possible that he could be the best light heavyweight in the world. But as long as he keeps on avoiding genuine contenders, then it’s unlikely we’ll ever find out. I don’t even know why he bothers keeping up with the “real champion” charade and I found his royal outfit immediately post-fight more amusing than anything else. And it’s all a huge shame given his obvious ability; it’s not like he fluked his way to a title and is desperately hanging onto it by any means necessary, in my opinion, the guy has pound-for-pound talent! I mentioned before that I believe he would have put Ward away and I stand by that as well as my assertion that he beats almost all others at 175 and is certainly a live dog against Kovalev. But, at 39, he’ll probably continue wasting that talent and making the money he makes beating up overmatched and undeserving challengers for the rest of his career and I’ll probably continue watching it as well but more fool me.

I was also excited to hear the first trio of fighters announced for the upcoming world boxing super series. The cynic in me was probably dubious about Richard Schaefer and Team Sauerland would be able to

The Muhammad Ali Trophy for the World Boxing Super Series

overcome boxing politics but signing Gassiev, Briedis and Wlodarczyk is an excellent start to a competition I’m getting increasingly excited for. Who else would you like to see in the cruiserweight competition? I’ve heard that Dmitry Kudryashov, Briedis’ mandatory might be in as well and he’d be another quality addition. He still looked a bit questionable defensively while getting his revenge over Olanrewaju Durodola on Saturday but he has that wince inducing power that will always give him a chance (though someone like Olexandr Usyk is probably a bit too savvy for him). I’d like to see Usyk and Denis Lebedev included as well to get all the belts up for grabs though Lebedev, at 37, is probably approaching or at the downward slope of his career based on his last outing. Ilunga Makabu and Krzystof Glowacki are both coming off of losses in title fights but are both still dangerous and would be a match for anyone at 200 pounds. Youri Kalenga has slipped off the radar a bit but is a hard puncher himself and gave Lebedev hell in their war while Steve Cunningham is a contender as well even if he suffers a bit from what I call ‘N’dam Syndrome’. Damn, writing this is making me realise how good the cruiserweight division is right now and I’ve probably missed a few others out who’d make for a fun, action-filled tournament (side note all of the above have fan friendly styles as well! How many dull cruisers are there right now?). Either way, it’s so refreshing to see the best fighting the best again, Adonis should take note!

Sorry again that I couldn’t keep this brief, I’ll just finish off with a couple of MMs:

Adonis Stevenson vs Andre Ward

Terence Crawford vs Aaron Pryor

Riddick Bowe vs Lennox Lewis

Mayweather vs Lomachenko at 130

Chris Eubank vs Chris Eubank Jr

Paul Williams vs Avtandil Khurstidze

All the best! – Hatau in Sheffield

Well, you certainly had a lot to say about Stevenson and the cruiserweight division, Hatau. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad you shared your thoughts but I hope you didn’t put off your studies to pen this 600-word email to the mailbag. Get that college degree, homie, boxing will always be here!)

Anyway, I might as well begin with these interesting mythical matchups (and how sad is it that Ward-Stevenson, a fight that could be made, fits right in?):

Adonis Stevenson vs Andre Ward – Ward encounters a few scary moments during the first half but assumes firm control by the middle rounds and dominates down the stretch to earn a unanimous decision after an intense boxing match.

Terence Crawford vs Aaron Pryor – Pryor’s athleticism, speed, power, underrated skills (jab, footwork, angles, counters, upper-body movement, etc.), unorthodox style and indefatigable swarming attack enables him to take command early and outwork a game and competent (but outgunned) Crawford en route to a competitive but clear unanimous decision.

Riddick Bowe vs Lennox Lewis – Lewis establishes his jab before Bowe, clips the Brooklyn standout with a right-hand bomb early that gives the 1988 Olympic super heavyweight runner up flashbacks to Seoul and allows for the English-Canadian-Jamaican to seize momentum and score a thrilling middle-rounds TKO.

Mayweather vs Lomachenko at 130 – Mayweather struggles with Lomachenko’s speed, activity and footwork over the first half of the bout but lands his share of hard counters early on and applies steady pressure behind a higher-than-usual-volume attack to sweep the late rounds and earn a close decision.

Chris Eubank vs Chris Eubank Jr. – Eubank Sr. completely psyches his son out before the bout even begins and wins a shutout decision by landing fewer than five punches per round in a bizarre encounter that plays out more like avant-garde dance theater than a prize fight.

Paul Williams vs Avtandil Khurstidze – Despite the freakish disparity in height (Kurtzie’s 5-foot-4 fire-hydrant build against P-Will’s rangy 6-foot-2ish praying mantis frame), the hardnosed Brooklyn-based Georgian pushes the gutsy American southpaw to the limit in an entertaining distance scrap. Williams, who gets hit with the harder punches but outworks his squat antagonist, wins a somewhat controversial decision.

(Stevenson) completely destroyed Fonfara just like he destroyed Thomas Williams, Karpency, Sukhotskiy, Bellew and many others before and in style too. Geez, not exactly Murderers’ Row, is it? It’s unreal how much Stevenson has devalued his status as a “lineal champ” and the WBC light heavyweight belt. Compare Stevenson’s eight title defenses with the eight times that Matthew Saad Muhammad retained the WBC 175-pound belt from 1979-’81. There really is no comparison. Saad Muhammad fought six RING-rated contenders during his brief title reign, including John Conteh and Yaqui Lopez (in THE RING’s Fight of the Year for 1980). Stevenson’s reign is almost twice as long but it’s almost meaningless.

I think it’s possible that he could be the best light heavyweight in the world. It’s possible, but unlikely at this juncture of his career.

But as long as he keeps on avoiding genuine contenders, then it’s unlikely we’ll ever find out. That’s correct. This ain’t rocket science.

I don’t even know why he bothers keeping up with the “real champion” charade and I found his royal outfit immediately post-fight more amusing than anything else. I thought it made him like a fool.

And it’s all a huge shame given his obvious ability; it’s not like he fluked his way to a title and is desperately hanging onto it by any means necessary, in my opinion, the guy has pound-for-pound talent! I don’t know I’d go that far (maybe he’s pound-for-pound one of the hardest hitters in boxing), but he was “the man” in the division for a short period – and deservedly so – but he pissed it away over the years, trading “the man” moniker for “businessman” status.

I mentioned before that I believe he would have put Ward away and I stand by that as well as my assertion that he beats almost all others at 175 and is certainly a live dog against Kovalev. We’ll have to agree to disagree on this opinion, but I do believe that Stevenson is a worthy opponent for the two best light heavyweights in the game.

But, at 39, he’ll probably continue wasting that talent and making the money he makes beating up overmatched and undeserving challengers for the rest of his career and I’ll probably continue watching it as well but more fool me. Hey, it’s your time. You can spend it however you want. But in all honesty, if I wasn’t the editor of THE RING’s website I wouldn’t have bothered to watch the Fonfara rematch or his last three or four fights.

I was also excited to hear the first trio of fighters announced for the upcoming world boxing super series. I agree that signing up Gassiev, Briedis and Wlodarczyk is an excellent start to the cruiserweight portion of this series. I wasn’t sold on Gassiev until his bold 12 rounds against Denis Lebedev, but as Anthony Joshua and Errol Spence Jr. have done this year against battle-tested veterans, the 23-year-old Russian proved to be the real deal. So, I’m looking forward to seeing how he fares against more top-notch competition.

Who else would you like to see in the cruiserweight competition? Ideally, I’d like the other five cruiserweights to include Oleksandr Usyk (the WBO titleholder) and Lebedev (the WBA beltholder) – because then we’d wind up with a unified champ – and Krzysztof Glowacki and Ilunga Makubu (because the southpaw sluggers are still top contenders as you noted and they have entertaining styles), and then for the final spot, I’d like someone unexpected, a real wild card, so I’m thinking maybe former heavyweight contender Mike Perez could be that guy if he has a successful cruiserweight debut on June 10. (And I admit that Perez is a long shot. Who knows if he’ll feel strong or sharp after weighing in at 200 pounds? He generally carried 235 pounds and fought as heavy as 247½.)

I like Cunningham and Kudryashov, but I think it’s pretty clear that the American veteran is a spent bullet at this point of his career and although the Russian puncher is fun to watch I think he’s pretty raw in terms of skill/talent when compared to the other cruiserweights mentioned.

 

WARD-KOVALEV II QUESTIONS

Hey Doug,

What’s good? Hope you and yours are well. It’s been awhile since I’ve written to the mailbag but wanted to get your take on all the hoopla surrounding Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward as their June 17 rematch quickly draws near. I’m sure by now you’ve heard and read the stories that came out last week (first, that Kovalev’s head trainer, John David Jackson, had reached out to Andre Ward’s team about leaving Kovalev and coming on board to work with them – apparently because he’s unhappy working with Kovalev; and then only afterwards, the response from Jackson himself and Team Kovalev that it was actually the folks from Ward’s camp who initiated contact, reaching out to Jackson to try and lure him away), what do you make of all of that?

From my vantage point, it seems that Ward’s camp is simply trying to play agitator in hopes they can throw Kovalev and company off track before the rematch. I state that based on last week’s stories and others from weeks ago wherein Ward’s promotional outfit tried to kick up dust about Kovalev being racist (I don’t think he is).

I’m not privy to the things going on behind the scenes the way guys like Steve Kim and you probably are (especially as it pertains to the Southern California boxing scene), so was wondering if you’d heard or believe any of the rumblings that Kovalev and his trainer are indeed having issues or at the very least aren’t on the same page? I’ve heard comments before (most notably from Abel Sanchez) to the effect saying that Sergey Kovalev is hard to coach because he doesn’t listen to his corner and does what he wants to do.

Like a lot of folks, I thought Kovalev clearly won the first fight and was robbed by the judges’ scoring. I’ve been keenly looking forward to the rematch to see if Kovalev can right the wrong he suffered from poor judging the first time around, and actually beat Ward officially.

That being said, I feel that if Ward is able to get away with holding and grabbing and ultimately turning the fight into an ugly wrestling match wherein it goes to the scorecards, Kovalev is vulnerable to getting screwed again. So on that tactical note, do you think Kovalev and his team are working on a game plan to try and counter or mitigate Ward’s punch and grab tactics? That reminds me – it was recently announced that Tony Weeks will be the third man in charge of the bout after the bell rings, I know he’s overseen a lot of big fights, but can’t recall if he’s the type of referee to tolerate a lot of grabbing and clinching – a preference that I think could have a critical outcome on the fight (I honestly think Ward should have been penalized at least a point, if not two, for all the holding he did last fight).

Kovalev and his team have been claiming he was overtrained for his last two fights, both of which he worked with a now departed strength coach whom they’ve since replaced. I don’t think it’s a stretch to believe, but I can’t help but wonder and worry a bit if they think that all they have to is “train less” and then show up; what are your thoughts here?

I know most people are picking Ward to learn from the first fight and win the rematch decisively, but I’m not so sure. I thought Ward lost 8 rounds to 4 last time out, and the rounds he did win down the stretch coincided with Kovalev’s jab all but disappearing. I’m of the opinion that it wasn’t because of anything Ward did to take it away, but rather because Kovalev, perhaps tired, made the mistake to stop using it.

How do you see the rematch playing out? Can Kovalev get a fair shake if it goes to the scorecards?

Thanks for keeping the mailbag alive all these years (it’s the first thing I read every Monday and Friday) and for keeping it real as a journalist in an age where so many others don’t. – Michel in Alexandria, VA

Thank you for the very high praise, Michel.

I see another competitive fight between Kovalev and Ward but, once again, I believe that the Russian will be the effective aggressor and land the more telling blows in the majority of rounds. I think the fight will go the distance once again and I have no idea if Kovalev will get credit from the official judges for the work he does during those 12 rounds. He’s just going to have to make every round, and every punch, count.

I’m sure by now you’ve heard and read the stories that came out last week (first, that Kovalev’s head trainer, John David Jackson, had reached out to Andre Ward’s team about leaving Kovalev and coming on board to work with them – apparently because he’s unhappy working with Kovalev; and then only afterwards, the response from Jackson himself and Team Kovalev that it was actually the folks from Ward’s camp who initiated contact, reaching out to Jackson to try and lure him away), what do you make of all of that? I think it’s a desperate move by Team Ward. If they’ve got Kovalev “figured out” as they’ve claimed since last November, why do they need Jackson’s help? And if they’re just trying to get into Jackson’s and Kovalev’s heads, why do they feel that they need this mental edge? I thought (according to Ward) that Kovalev is drinker and partier with stamina issues. Toss in the supposed rift he has with Jackson and we have to wonder why Team Ward is so worried that they have to try to cause more dissension within Team Krusher.

From my vantage point, it seems that Ward’s camp is simply trying to play agitator in hopes they can throw Kovalev and company off track before the rematch. Yeah, I agree, and I’ll say it again, it smacks of desperation. I know mind games is part of the sport, but this bulls__t is just overkill. Too bad they (and Roc Nation) didn’t spend as much energy promoting the damn fight.

I state that based on last week’s stories and others from weeks ago wherein Ward’s promotional outfit tried to kick up dust about Kovalev being racist (I don’t think he is). Well, maybe he is maybe he isn’t, but he’s definitely not the poster boy for Political Correctness. Kovalev reminds me of James Toney and Erik Morales when it comes to cultural sensitivity. But being European and having white skin is going to cause that attitude to rub a lot of people the wrong the way in the U.S., especially given this country’s history. It is what it is.

I’m not privy to the things going on behind the scenes the way guys like Steve Kim and you probably are (especially as it pertains to the Southern California boxing scene), so was wondering if you’d heard or believe any of the rumblings that Kovalev and his trainer are indeed having issues or at the very least aren’t on the same page? I’ve heard that Kovalev can be hard headed at times when it comes to following Jackson’s instructions or advice, but that’s not uncommon in boxing, especially when the fighter is card-carrying badass with a surly disposition. I’m sure there are some days during training camp when Kovalev is rather unpleasant to be around. It was no different for Eduardo and Robert Garcia during Fernando Vargas’ heyday. El Feroz was loyal to the Garcia but he was also hyper-emotional drama king. I’m sure Robert Garcia could give you more training camp horror stories than Jackson can share about Kovalev. Toney used to drive the late, great Bill Miller (his first trainer) up the wall with his crazy stubbornness. Joe Hernandez had his hands full with the late Edwin Valero (and I’m pretty Ken Adams can tell you stories of how difficult the Venezuelan demon could be in the gym). These guys were all mean mother f__kers in the ring and they could be that way out of it, too, even toward their own teammates.

I’ve heard comments before (most notably from Abel Sanchez) to the effect saying that Sergey Kovalev is hard to coach because he doesn’t listen to his corner and does what he wants to do. Yup, I’ve heard that too, and it doesn’t surprise me, but I think part of that “I’m-gonna-do-it-my-way” attitude is what makes him special – and dangerous – in the ring.

I feel that if Ward is able to get away with holding and grabbing and ultimately turning the fight into an ugly wrestling match wherein it goes to the scorecards, Kovalev is vulnerable to getting screwed again. Of course Kovalev could get screwed again, this is boxing! There more f__king going on here than in the porn industry (just ask Ryota Murata and Kiryl Relikh). It’s Kovalev’s job not to allow Ward to slow down the pace, limit exchanges or employ grappling tactics. If he can’t do that, he’s going to have to deal with the judges, which is not a good thing to do during this era of “stinker worship.”

So on that tactical note, do you think Kovalev and his team are working on a game plan to try and counter or mitigate Ward’s punch and grab tactics? Yes, I do. We’ll see if it works in a couple of weeks.

That reminds me – it was recently announced that Tony Weeks will be the third man in charge of the bout after the bell rings, I know he’s overseen a lot of big fights, but can’t recall if he’s the type of referee to tolerate a lot of grabbing and clinching – a preference that I think could have a critical outcome on the fight (I honestly think Ward should have been penalized at least a point, if not two, for all the holding he did last fight). I like Weeks. I think he’s a good veteran referee and he generally allows fighters to fight on the inside without too much tolerance toward clinching and holding.

Kovalev and his team have been claiming he was overtrained for his last two fights, both of which he worked with a now departed strength coach whom they’ve since replaced. I don’t think it’s a stretch to believe, but I can’t help but wonder and worry a bit if they think that all they have to is “train less” and then show up; what are your thoughts here? If Kovalev thinks he overtrained then it’s probably a good idea for him to pull back on whatever it was that he was overdoing (he and Jackson have pointed to too much road work last year). If he thinks he’s put in the right amount of work in training camp, mentally, he should feel stronger and more confident during the actual fight.

I know most people are picking Ward to learn from the first fight and win the rematch decisively, but I’m not so sure. Me neither.

I thought Ward lost 8 rounds to 4 last time out, and the rounds he did win down the stretch coincided with Kovalev’s jab all but disappearing. I agree.

I’m of the opinion that it wasn’t because of anything Ward did to take it away, but rather because Kovalev, perhaps tired, made the mistake to stop using it. I’m not sure I agree with that. I think the drop in Kovalev’s jab-connect rate had something to do with what Ward was doing, but I still think the Russian landed his jab enough to win rounds over the competitive second half of the fight.

 

 

Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer, and on Periscope, where every Sunday he and Coach Schwartz and Master Gambler JP talk all things boxing at SMC’s track (with the occasional guest appearance of K2 Promotions’ Tom Loeffler):

close

SIGN UP TO GET RING NEWS ALERTS