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The Travelin’ Man goes back to Miami, Okla. … again: Part II

Photo by: Stephanie Trapp/Showtime
26
Jul

Please click here to read Part I.

 

Friday, July 14 (continued): At the end of Part One, I asked whether this “ShoBox” quadrupleheader could live up to the promise it portrayed on paper. My answer: An unqualified yes.

As usual, the boxing ring clarified questions, posed new ones, exposed previously unseen weaknesses, enhanced reputations and clouded others. Best yet, each fight produced a distinct story, whose effects will define the tale that shapes their next ring assignment.

The first story was told by bantamweights Joshua Greer Jr. and Leroy Davila, fighters who were meeting at different places in their careers. Smith, already a confident character, had scored a crushing one-punch knockout of James Gordon-Smith in his most recent ShoBox appearance in March and was fresh off a six-round decision over Pablo Cupul, while Davila’s most recent fight was an exciting eight-round decision defeat to Glenn Dezurn Jr., also aired on ShoBox. In retrospect, their fight plans were a direct result of those bouts. Despite his modest knockout percentage (six in 16 fights), the tightly-coiled Greer actively hunted the knockout, while Davila fulfilled his pre-fight promise by fighting far more defensively than was the case against Dezurn. Davila’s movement and angles successfully slowed the pace in the first two rounds, according to CompuBox. Greer averaged 36.5 punches to Davila’s 27 in those rounds but Greer may have won both because he forged slight numerical leads (22-17 overall, 20-13 power).

The start of round three produced an interesting verbal byplay that, in retrospect, may have changed the course of the fight. Someone in Davila’s corner told his fighter to walk Greer down, which prompted Greer to ask, “Walk who down?” before throwing a jab-uppercut, ask it again before taking a left cross to the chin that made him say, “Uh-uh,” then a third time before unleashing another combination. The adrenaline burst continued for the remainder of the round and the proof is he increased his work rate to 71 punches, out-landed Davila 18-11 overall and increased his body attack (nine of 15 power connects).

Greer’s momentum continued in the fourth and the effects were not only seen in the numbers (23-8 overall, 19-8 power) but also in the blood trickling from Davila’s nose and mouth. Emboldened by that damage, Greer shifted into high gear in the fifth as he whipped in uppercuts and cracked body shots with both hands. The movement that was so prevalent in the first two rounds was no longer there and he didn’t have the energy or power to stay with Greer in the trenches. Davila’s fighting spirit allowed him to last out the round but his corner knew its charge had reached his limit and stopped the fight between rounds.

In the final two rounds, Greer out-landed Davila 54-20 overall and 48-18 power, extending his leads to 94-48 overall and 83-41 power as well as 45-13 in landed body shots. Although Greer didn’t score a 10-count knockout, he felt it was good enough to bring out the pillow and hold it aloft as he stood on the rope supports. Although four of his last six victories have been inside the distance, attrition, not raw power, will be the mostly likely route for future pillow hoists.

The tale told by super bantamweights Glenn Dezurn Jr. and Adam Lopez paired ambition with desperation as Dezurn looked to make a significant leap up the ladder at the expense of Lopez, who has gone 1-1-1 after staring his career at 15-0. In his early appearances on ShoBox, Lopez demonstrated nimble movement and ring smarts but, in recent fights, he opted to plant his feet and slug it out. The conventional wisdom, however, would be that Lopez’s experience against better opponents over longer distances would serve him well, while Dezurn, with only one fight beyond round four, might struggle with the eight-round distance against his best foe to date.

Dezurn tried to render that argument moot in the first round, as he immediately burrowed inside and drew Lopez into point-blank bombing. Dezurn’s compact combinations allowed him to pile up punches – 80 to Lopez’s 36 – as well as connects (36-16 overall, 34-16 power) that landed with impressive accuracy. (He led 45 percent-30 percent overall, 50 percent-35 percent power.)

Lopez tried to put more space between him and Dezurn in round two and the result was a closer round (22 of 58 for Dezurn overall to 17 of 56 for Lopez) but in rounds three through six, Lopez’s experience and intelligence came to the fore. He dictated distance, initiated exchanges and landed the cleaner punches. Dezurn also hurt his cause by throttling down in the third round (from 58 punches to a fight-low 40), which allowed Lopez to believe a corner had been turned.

Indeed it had been. After Lopez prevailed 16-8 in total connects in the third, he steadily chipped away at Dezurn’s 20-connect first-round lead in each of the next three rounds (29-24, 21-16 and 21-18), while picking up his work rate considerably (from 36 punches in the third to 66 per round in the next three). While Dezurn also increased his volume in rounds four-through-six (from 40 in the third to 60 per round), he projected the image of a tiring fighter. His dilemma was obvious: To win, he had to increase his energy but, to do so, he had to perform in rounds he had seen only once in an official professional fight.

As soon as he plopped down on his stool, he told trainer Barry Hunter, “I’m trying.”

“I don’t want to hear that ‘I’m trying,’” Hunter replied. “I want you to ‘do.’ You got me? You got to bite down. You got to mash on the gas these last two rounds. You got me? You got to have them.”

Dezurn wasn’t sure he had it in him. Again, he said, “I’m trying.”

Hunter wasn’t having any of it.

“No, no, no, no, no,” he admonished. “We don’t try; we do! You understand me? Don’t ever show me that weakness, man. Bite down and go get it. Find it!”

Thanks to Hunter’s urging and his uncompromising stance, Dezurn was confronted with a career-defining decision that all prospects must face. Would he yield to his physical duress and the emotional pressure or would he heed his trainer’s advice, fight through his exhaustion and drive toward victory?

Dezurn’s answer: He found it. He bit down. And he didn’t lose.

In round seven, he out-threw Lopez 65-46 and out-landed him 18-13, while, in the eighth, he fired 73 punches to Lopez’s 59, while tying Lopez with 15 connects.

Thanks to his first-round outburst, Dezurn retained a nine-punch lead overall (157-148) and a 14-connect margin in power shots (145-131), while the percentages were razor-close (33%-32% Lopez overall, 24%-14% Lopez in jabs, 36%-35% power Dezurn in power shots). The round-by-round breakdowns showed Lopez up 4-3-1 in total connects, tied 3-3-2 in landed jabs and tied 4-4 in power shots. Lopez’s surge in the middle rounds put him in a position to win but Dezurn’s stand in the final two rounds kept the prospect from suffering his first loss.

While Dezurn did the work in the ring, Hunter deserves his fair share of the credit for that work. Hunter knew Dezurn was in good enough shape to produce that second wind but, not only that, he knew the right words to say in order to draw out that crucial finishing kick. This is one of the lines of demarcation for trainers and Hunter clearly showed why many knowledgeable boxing people have such high regard for him.

The stories kept coming in the third fight between junior welterweights Kenneth Sims Jr. and Rolando Chinea, the bout I believed would produce the most two-way action based on past statistics. Sims was perceived to be the A-side only because he came into the fight with a 12-0 record to Chinea’s 14-1-1 ledger but Chinea had fought the better opposition (his last three opponents, all of whom he defeated, were a combined 26-1-1 while Sims’ last four were 28-13-2).

Statistically speaking, Sims’ fights were marked by extremely fast starts, dramatic mid-round lulls and strong late-round rallies, while Chinea was a steady, high-volume worker. Sure enough, Sims sprinted out to a massive 40-13 lead in the first, thanks to his 94 punches to Chinea’s 56, while, in the second, he was 33 of 66 to Chinea’s 15 of 63. The tide began to turn in the third, as Chinea upped his output to 99 punches to Sims’ 71 and narrowed the connect gap to 28-27. Chinea then took charge in the fourth (26-19 overall, 83 to 64 punches), then turned the tide into a tidal wave in rounds five, six and seven, as he averaged 120 punches per round to Sims’ 64.7 and out-landed him 144-68 overall and 120-63 power.

The eighth round nearly defied description, as they exchanged 291 punches — 154 for Sims, 137 for Chinea — 85 total connects (48-37 Chinea) and 79 landed power punches (42-37 Chinea). Sims’ 143 power attempts in that round was the ninth most ever recorded by CompuBox at 140 and, for me, the round sparked memories of the all-time, all-divisions record set by Vince Phillips and Ray Oliveira in the 12th round of their classic December 2000 punch-a-thon: 222 power punches by Phillips, 203 for Oliveira, as well as 237 total punches thrown for Phillips and 226 for Oliveira.

Chinea’s mid-fight rally propelled him to leads of 273-225 overall, 50-36 jabs and 223-189 power but, while Sims was more accurate overall (35 percent-34 percent) and in jabs (26 percent-20 percent), Chinea’s power success (40 percent-37 percent) and consistent energy carried the day with judges Don Griffin and Brett Miller, whose 77-75 scorecards trumped that of David Sutherland, who saw the bout a 76-76 draw.

The final story of the night was told by 140-pounders Ivan Baranchyk and Keenan Smith but, while Baranchyk won a commanding decision (80-71, 79-72, 78-73), the route getting there wasn’t pretty to watch and even tougher to fight. Baranchyk’s recklessly looping punches and headlong lunges, combined with Smith’s southpaw angles and mixed martial arts-ready grappling tactics produced a grueling spectacle that did little to enhance their individual reputations but resulted in Smith’s first loss and Baranchyk’s 17th consecutive victory. Smith’s excessive holding resulted in a point deduction in the fifth round but all that did was widen the Russian’s margin of victory.

“(Smith) was very physical and strong, holding all the time,” Baranchyk was quoted by the Miami News-Record. “I couldn’t get out of it.”

“I took some shots and he took some shots,” Smith replied. “I was tying him up but that is boxing. He was clinching too.”

According to our stats, Baranchyk landed 102 shots to Smith’s 73, including leads of 16-11 in jabs and 86-62 in power punches. The good news for Baranchyk was he took less punishment than in his last three fights — Smith landed 30 percent of his power shots, as opposed to 39 percent for Baranchyk’s previous foes — but Smith’s tactics limited Baranchyk to 31 percent power accuracy, well below the 46 percent he produced in his other distance fights against Zhimin Wang, Wilberth Lopez and Abel Ramos.

Worse yet for Baranchyk, the prevailing post-fight wisdom was that his technique has regressed and that he is closing in on his ceiling as a fighter. Baranchyk, for his part, blamed his wildness on a desire to please the fans.

“I was trying too hard,” he told the Miami News-Record. “I was trying to knock him out in the first round. I didn’t box at all. I was disappointed.”

It’s likely that Baranchyk will become the third fighter ever to make a sixth appearance on ShoBox, while Lopez may become the first to make a seventh. If one chooses to think positively, it’s an indicator that Baranchyk and Lopez are TV-friendly fighters worthy of the repeated attention but, for “the nattering nabobs of negativity,” it signals that neither has advanced his career enough to warrant a jump to the “Showtime Championship Boxing” brand, at least not as an A-side.

*

Andy and I grabbed some post-fight pizza at the production truck, after which he drove us back to the hotel. Once we said our goodbyes and exchanged wishes for safe passage home, I returned to my room to input the night’s numbers into the master database – a process that took about an hour – then caught up on the news and sports I missed before turning out the lights a little past 2 a.m.

Saturday, July 15: While this slumber was far shorter (four hours) and shallower than that of the previous night, I still awakened feeling as if I had gotten what I needed. Once I finished the morning routines, I did my best to catch up on the writing. I made some modest progress but nowhere near as much as I wanted.

In past years, I did a lot of my postcard writing while in transit but the tighter quarters on today’s planes have taken that option away. These days, I either jump on it inside the hotel room, at the gate before my opening flight of the day or at the Home Office after returning home.

The good news is that, upon checking into my flights, I was upgraded to First Class on the 12:29 p.m. Tulsa-to-Dallas/Fort Worth leg. Yes, it’s the shorter of the two flights but First Class is First Class.

I met stage manager JT Townsend – our day’s driver – and duet operator Tom Senk in the lobby and we were off soon after. We arrived at the airport a little more than an hour later but we couldn’t say the same for our aircraft. Like two days ago, my connection window was narrow under perfect circumstances and this delay shrunk it dangerously. My First Class upgrade, however, guaranteed that I would be one of the first to leave the aircraft.

The flight to Dallas Fort-Worth was perfect but the taxi toward the gate was unexpectedly lengthy – or it seemed to be because of the time pressure I felt. Once I deplaned, I looked at the flight monitor and I received mixed news: While the Pittsburgh gate was within the same terminal, it was not inside the same subsection. Thanks to the airport’s Skylink tram, I arrived at the gate four minutes before the scheduled boarding time.

The plane landed several minutes early and, better yet for me, as far as the long walk to the car, Thursday’s rain was replaced by Saturday’s sun. I pulled into the driveway shortly after 9 p.m. and spent much of the evening watching the HBO tripleheader topped by Miguel Berchelt’s commanding points win over former titlist Takashi Miura. Because of the late hour, the rest of the day’s shows – the Fox Network/FS1 card and shows on BeIN Sports and Argentina’s Torneos y Competencias will have to be viewed at a future time.

My next journey will see me travel to the MGM Grand Detroit, for the second time since March, and the main event fighter will be the same – two-time Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields. This time, she’ll take her biggest step yet, as she challenges Nikki Adler for her WBC female super middleweight title, as well as fight for the newly-created IBF strap. Despite her limited time as a pro in comparison to Adler’s, the home ring advantage favoring Shields will be enormous and will probably propel her to victory. Boxing being boxing, though, one can’t be sure of anything. I’m just glad that, God willing, I’ll be at ringside to experience the scene.

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 seven 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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