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Dougie’s Monday mailbag

Photo / @TRboxing




07
Aug

MAN-CRUSH TIME

Hello Doug,

Well, I had the opportunity to see Vasyl Lomachenko fight in person Saturday night and he looks even better live than on TV!

Now, I know he was not in there against world-class opposition (no offense to Miguel Marriaga), but Lomachenko did exactly what he was supposed to do – systematically apply physical (and massive mental) pressure and use his unsurpassed skills to efficiently break down his opponent, while at the same time showcasing his abilities and entertaining the crowd.

Loma is the only fighter I have ever seen who is thrilling to watch even when he is not throwing punches. His movement and fluidity are things of beauty. He is like a chess grandmaster who is several moves ahead of his opponent. Pure poetry in motion.

Now you may be thinking “man crush” here, but am I wrong Doug?

As much as I admire Mikey Garcia, I don’t think he can hang with Vasyl at 135 pounds. Perhaps Garcia has a power advantage, but would Garica be able to withstand the mental pressure that Loma brings? And if even if he could, could Garcia land more than one hard shot at a time? And if he can do that, can he hurt Lomachenko?

That’s a lot of “ifs” and I have to say “no”. And I see Guillermo Rigondeaux as even less of a threat to Lomachenko (at 130 lbs.), mostly due to the Cuban being, I think, the significantly smaller guy.

What are your thoughts on this and Loma’s overall future? Regards. – Andy, Chula Vista, CA

With only 10 pro bouts under his belt, Lomachenko is already a celebrated two-division titleholder who has been showcased in the U.S. on HBO, Showtime and ESPN. The Ukrainian amateur boxing legend has an entertaining pro style, an engaging personality, and he’s beginning to speak English during his interviews (including post-fight spots), so I’d say his future is bright.

However, he’s 29 years old, and likely at his athletic peak. He began his pro career less than four years ago but mature featherweights/junior lightweights generally “age” faster than fighters of the heavier weight classes (so we can’t expect him to prolong his prime into his mid-30s like Gennady Golovkin or countryman Wladimir Klitschko). In other words, he and his team (manager Egis Klimas and promoter Bob Arum) need to strike while the iron is hot (and everyone from Max Kellerman to Teddy Atlas to you has a nice gushy “man-crush” on him).

This means he’s got to face opponents that the boxing public deem “worthy” of sharing the ring with him, which means Arum’s gotta work with other promoters to bring in 130-pound beltholders (such as Zanfer-promoted Miguel Berchelt, Golden Boy Promotions’ Jezreel Corrales, and even Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s still-developing protégé Gervonta Davis), Team Loma needs to plan an eventual jump to lightweight, and yes, Guillermo Rigondeaux needs to be considered (perhaps even for Loma’s December ESPN return).

I agree that the Cuban counter puncher is undersized, along with being long in the tooth, but the Cult of Rigo (which includes RingTV.com writer Mike Coppinger) has faith in their idol, plus there are good story lines for this matchup because of the storied amateur accomplishments of the combatants and the Twitter beefing between Guillermo (or whoever runs his account) and Klimas, as well as the non-stop comment-section/social-media pissing contests between the boxers’ diehard fans. The modern boxing fan and pundit is absolutely obsessed with the pound-for-pound list, and both two-time Olympic gold medalists are in everybody’s elite/mythical rankings, so this is matchup that would carry a lot of “nerd-cred.”

Photo / Top Rank

Loma is the only fighter I have ever seen who is thrilling to watch even when he is not throwing punches. His movement and fluidity are things of beauty. He is like a chess grandmaster who is several moves ahead of his opponent. Pure poetry in motion. So, what are you saying? That this guy is special or something? Tell me how you REALLY feel?

Now you may be thinking “man crush” here, but am I wrong Doug? Well, you are definitely “man-crushing” on the Ukrainian, but that’s OK. He’s worthy of your adulation. I was impressed and entertained by his domination of Marriaga but not nearly as much as you were. I guess I needed to be there.

As much as I admire Mikey Garcia, I don’t think he can hang with Vasyl at 135 pounds. I know a lot of fans, boxers and writers that beg to differ.

Perhaps Garcia has a power advantage, but would Garica be able to withstand the mental pressure that Loma brings? Mikey seems like a very strong individual, mentally speaking. And I think he brings more to this potential matchup than power; he brings that steely resolve, textbook offensive/defensive technique and timing to the dance.

And if even if he could, could Garcia land more than one hard shot at a time? I don’t know, but maybe one hard shot is all he needs to turn the fight.

And if he can do that, can he hurt Lomachenko? That’s the $4 million question, Andy, because that’s probably the amount of money it’s going to take to make this fight happen.

 

LOMA WINS WITH HIS FEET – AGAIN

Doug, you’re among the best in boxing journalism and my preferred source for depth info and opinions on the sweet science. Thanks man!

Hi Tech Lomachenko wins with his feet, again. He steps too close, or too far away, left or right, doesn’t matter because when his opponents finally try to punch him, he is gone like the wind. He owns every angle, while he throws multiple combinations at varied speeds and mixed power, the space around his victim is full of punches and half of them are landing. He dances around them like Baryshnikov in the Nutcracker (pun intended). There is no air, no safe spot to land and catch a breath.

All the while Loma teases and taunts them, steps on their feet. He plays with them and bullies them all without mercy. He convinces them to give up, because he shames them into wishing for their own TKO. They start to think, why let this S.O.B Loma toy with you round after round?

This is what made Duran say “No Mas!” to Ray Leonard. This is what Walters, Sosa, and now Marriaga have suffered. Who can fight this guy? Who has a chance to make it a fight, at all? Rigo, Mikey, Linares, Crawford? Peace. – Jab Hook in Munich

I think all four of the elite boxers that you mentioned bring things to the table that would challenge Lomachenko (and for the record I would firmly favor Bud if that particular match were ever made).

Rigo brings a masterful, extensive amateur background that equals Loma’s accomplishments, plus deft defense and impeccable timing and counterpunching prowess.

Mikey brings expert fundamentals, textbook technique, pin-point offensive accuracy and greater power.

Linares brings height and reach advantages, hand and foot speed, mobility and fluid combinations.

Crawford brings a considerable size advantage, plus switch-hitting punching power and versatile ring generalship.

All four boxers have a lot of experience and high boxing IQs.

Nice description of Lomachenko’s ring prowess. I don’t think any other active boxer brings out the “inner-writer” in fans the way the marvelously talented, skilled and athletic junior lightweight does.

And thanks for the kind words at the start of your email.

 

IN DEFENSE OF MARRIAGA

Dougie,

Hope all is well with you and yours and I’m loving the Sunday morning Periscope party with you, Coach Dave and JP (welcome back)… hell Tom Loeffler is gettin’ to be a regular.

I absolutely love Lomachenko and feel he’s the best pure boxer in the sport. His balance, foot work and combination punching is mad fun to watch. He knows when to punch, where to punch and how to punch.

Having said that, I might be in the minority but I did not see a virtuoso performance last night (not that every fight out, has to be one.)

Marriaga is a very good fighter and not some bum but you’d never know it from the ESPN crew. Folks need to see his fight against Oscar Valdez. He unfortunately got clipped in the 10th but, prior to that, it was a great even war against one of the best prospects out there.

He got in some good clean shots in the early part of the fight against Loma and his upper body movement made Loma stop and think. Lomachenko was waving Marriaga in to fight during the mid-rounds because he had just taken some good shots… the equivalent of a fighter shaking his head “no” when his opponent lands on him.

I thought Lomachenko was hit more than I have seen in the past (which was still not a lot by any means) and perhaps took more chances because of who he had in front of him. Don’t get me wrong, he won every minute of every round but the patting on the head, hip wriggling and quasi-clowning does not belong in his repertoire. But who the hell am I to judge?

I’m just nit-picking, I know. It was a good performance and he made another good fighter quit… but can the commentators not tell us how Loma is perfection personified and would beat Armstrong, Ali and SRR all in the same night??? Damn, Teddy Atlas was on Loma’s jock like a pit bull…it’s just irritating. OK, jumping off my soapbox.

Lastly, Coach Dave and I have absolutely, positively no interest in McGregor vs The Fighter Who Thinks He’s The Best All Time Ever and Wears a Hat to Prove It. Peace. – Carlos in Sacramento

You and Coach Schwartz are too smart and honest to be fooled by fools, but you two are in the vast minority of our entertainment-addicted society.

You don’t have to apologize about nit-picking in this forum, Carlos. We can have “man-crushes” and we can keep it real in the mailbag. Lomachenko was impressive against Marriaga. As you noted, he made a solid featherweight contender look like an average fighter, and he eventually took the proud Colombian’s will to win. However, he wasn’t the perfect-boxing force of nature that the commentators gushed about. Marriaga did nail him a few times, as the swelling and bruising around Loma’s eyes attest to.

And you’re not the only observer who picked up on Loma’s showboating as a way to hide the fact that he had been countered a few times from the fans in attendance, as well as a means of goading Marriaga out of a gameplan that was working (to an extent) – THE RING’s managing editor Brian Harty also picked up on this and shared his astute opinions with the RingTV/magazine editorial board while we were IMing after the ESPN broadcast. It seems that we all saw a different fight. Michael Rosenthal, who was on press row, thought Lomachenko easily toyed with an ordinary fighter. I thought Loma’s defense lapsed a little bit (mostly because he was going for the stoppage) but was impressed with the manner in which he imposed his will on an experienced boxer that I view as a lower-top 10 contender at 126 pounds. Brian thought Marriaga took Loma out of his rhythm a little in the early rounds and exposed some flaws in the 130-pound beltholder’s game (fundamental flaws he believes the Ukrainian needs to correct asap). Mike Coppinger thought Loma looked like a guy that will lose to Rigondeaux.

Hopefully, if Lomachenko gets the kind of fights he says he wants, time will tell how great, special, good or overrated he truly is.

I absolutely love Lomachenko and feel he’s the best pure boxer in the sport. Just out of curiosity, what do you mean by “pure boxer”? I’ve heard that term before, mainly from Floyd Mayweather Jr. fans, but they either refuse or are unable to provide a clear definition. I always thought it was kind of a weird label to give one boxer because it kind of suggests that all the other pugilists out there are “impure.”

His balance, foot work and combination punching is mad fun to watch. Agreed. He’s agile, nimble and BUSY, and I like that about him.

He knows when to punch, where to punch and how to punch. Did you know that this is what 1950s light heavyweight/heavyweight contender Paul Andrews told me when I asked him what made Joe Louis special? (The Brown Bomber managed and briefly trained Andrews.)

Having said that, I might be in the minority but I did not see a virtuoso performance last night (not that every fight out, has to be one.) I didn’t either, and I’m OK with that. I’m not a big fan of virtuoso performances in the ring.

He got in some good clean shots in the early part of the fight against Loma and his upper body movement made Loma stop and think. He did indeed. Marriaga is no pushover. Again, I’m OK with Loma not being untouchable. His defense is usually very good, but if he gets hit a few times while in pursuit of a stoppage, I understand why and I’m in full support of this decision. I want to see knockouts if it’s possible.

Lomachenko was waving Marriaga in to fight during the mid-rounds because he had just taken some good shots… the equivalent of a fighter shaking his head “no” when his opponent lands on him. I’m OK with this, too, as long as the fighter exhibiting the theatrics after being hit makes the necessary adjustments to avoid those shots in later rounds. I think Loma did that vs. Marriaga.

I thought Lomachenko was hit more than I have seen in the past (which was still not a lot by any means) and perhaps took more chances because of who he had in front of him. I don’t think he took more chances because he viewed Marriaga as some kind of a chump, I think he wanted to make a statement by stopping his opponent and thus committed to his offense and punch volume in a way that opened him up for the occasional counter shot from Marriaga.

Don’t get me wrong, he won every minute of every round but the patting on the head, hip wriggling and quasi-clowning does not belong in his repertoire. Those kinds of antics are not for everybody, but my guess is that the majority of under-40 casual fight fans (boxing and MMA) are into it. Hey, that’s the kind of thing that made Muhammad Ali stand out to me as a kid (although Ali did more verbal taunting and clowning before the bout than actual hotdogging during the fight).

 

RETIREMENTS AND COMPETITIVE MATCHUPS

Hi Dougie,

Thank you, as always, for your mailbag and making Monday and Friday better days! A lot on my mind this week:

1) Juan Manual Marquez is one of my favorite fighters and, while I will miss him, I am glad he retired with dignity, without needing to be KO’d to understand it was time to hang up the gloves. He’s certainly a 1st ballot hall of famer and his dramatic stoppage of Pacquiao will be what is talked about most as we look back on his career. But I think he was a major badass at 126, just watch you tube when he fought Robbie Peden, Derrick Gainer and Marco Antonio Barrera. I wish we could see a prime JMM vs Leo Santa Cruz or Lomachenko. The guy was one of the most brilliant tactical fighters, who made in-fight adjustments as well as anyone, but who also loved to brawl! I wish him well.

2) Tim Bradley will be missed too. I loved the way his fights would typically unravel into all out brawls. The bout against Provodnikov is a top 10 fight for me. Timothy unfortunately lost fans for winning the controversial decision against Pacman, but it wasn’t his fault the judges got it wrong!  Safety first did not exist in this guy’s vocabulary and I hope today’s younger fighters understand that what made Bradley so popular was his willingness to go war and his desire to stop every opponent.

3) Yes, Lomachenko is a top 5 p4p fighter and I understand he wants to clean out the jr. lightweight division, but come on! Let’s get the guy in there with someone who can be more competitive. We don’t need to watch another mismatch! I hope they pursue a match against Mikey Garcia, Jorge Linares, Terry Flanagan or Robert Easter. How do you see those matchups (which for now we can call mythical!) playing out?

4) Jesus Soto-Karass vs Mauricio Herrera was an awesome crossroads fight that showcased veteran smarts, toughness and aggression. I love the come forward style of Soto-Karass and the counter punching of Herrera. The fighting on the ropes was excellent and the counter hooks that Herrera landed were terrific. These guys kept their foot on the gas the entire bout and it was too bad someone had to lose that bout. Sign me up for more competitive fights like this one! Thanks!! – Rahn

Photo / HoganPhotos

You know, as crazy as it sounds, I enjoyed watching those two battle-worn gatekeepers go at it Friday night more than I did watching Lomachenko do his elite-boxing thing against Marraiga the following evening.

Soto Karass fooled me again. I thought for sure the Los Mochis native had given all he had to give with those two scraps with Yoshihiro Kamegai last year, but the heavy handed stalked obviously still has something left – enough to make for a competitive second half against Herrera.

And I was pleasantly surprised with Herrera’s effort. His educated jab was back for this fight, as was his ring generalship and defense (head- and upper-body movement and punch-blocking ability). Herrera’s still got his timing and reflexes, so he’s still a threat to unsuspecting welterweights. I think he could provide a test to fellow Golden Boy promoted 147 pounders, such as Lucas Matthysse or Sadam Ali, or fringe contenders like Konstantin Ponomarev and Adrian Granados (that would be good fight).

Soto Karass is definitely longer in the tooth with less in the tank, but he’s got enough pride, determination and experience to serve as a gatekeeper for prospects, such as Rashidi Ellis and Jamontay Clark.

Juan Manual Marquez is one of my favorite fighters and, while I will miss him, I am glad he retired with dignity, without needing to be KO’d to understand it was time to hang up the gloves. Marquez was always smart.

He’s certainly a 1st ballot hall of famer and his dramatic stoppage of Pacquiao will be what is talked about most as we look back on his career. The fourth time was the charm for JMM. With bout No. 4, Marquez earned THE RING’s 2012 Fighter of the Year award in the magazine’s Fight of the Year, which was also KO of the Year, and I believe the shootout included the Round of the Year.

But I think he was a major badass at 126, just watch you tube when he fought Robbie Peden, Derrick Gainer and Marco Antonio Barrera. The Barrera fight, which took place at 130 pounds (for Barrera’s WBC super featherweight title), is one of my favorite boxer-vs.-boxer matchups (maybe the best that I covered from ringside). That fight matched two Mexico City masters who put their skill, technique and hearts on the line. The fight was so good and intense that it seemed like the rounds were one-minute long. It zipped by. Of course, I’ll also cherish being ringside for JMM’s featherweight slugfest with Thai badass Terdsak Jandaeng, and his lightweight title rumbles with Juan Diaz (the first bout, of course, which was Fight of the Year) and Michael Katsidis. His RING lightweight title win over Joel Casamayor is an underrated boxer-vs.-boxer matchup.

I wish we could see a prime JMM vs Leo Santa Cruz or Lomachenko. Careful what you wish for, Marquez could stink the joint out during his featherweight prime. His blood-and-guts side didn’t really begin to emerge until that first showdown with Pacquiao. (Another reason to appreciate the prime PacMan!)

The guy was one of the most brilliant tactical fighters, who made in-fight adjustments as well as anyone, but who also loved to brawl! JMM was the opposite of most technicians, who usually become more technical and cagey as they get older and rise in weight. Marquez became more of an aggressive, high-volume offense risk-taker as he got older and climbed from 126 to 147 pounds.

Tim Bradley will be missed too. I loved the way his fights would typically unravel into all out brawls. Me too. But I also appreciated the times he boxed a controlled fight as he did with his master class against Marquez and stick-and-move clinic against Lamont Peterson.

The bout against Provodnikov is a top 10 fight for me. It’s one of the best fights I’ve witnessed in the last seven-to-10 years.

Lomachenko is a top 5 p4p fighter and I understand he wants to clean out the jr. lightweight division, but come on! Let’s get the guy in there with someone who can be more competitive. We don’t need to watch another mismatch! I think most hardcore fans agree with you.

I hope they pursue a match against Mikey Garcia, Jorge Linares, Terry Flanagan or Robert Easter. How do you see those matchups (which for now we can call mythical!) playing out? I think all four lightweight titleholders are capable of beating Lomachenko because of their considerable size advantage. I believe WBC 130-pound titleholder Miguel Berchelt, who is huge (and rangy) for junior lightweight, can give Lomachenko problems.  

LOMACHENKO’S RING ANTICS

Hello Dougie and thank you for the ever-exceptional mailbags.

What do you think of Lomachenko´s bullfighting antics against Sosa and now the things he did with Marriaga? I think it´s ok to be disrespectful against a guy who has disrespected you, but I didn´t see any real animosity between Loma and those guys prior the fights. Maybe today´s fight fans want to see this s__t, but as a fight fan almost at my 40s it doesn´t connect. I understand the side of one promoting himself, but in my view it´s the wrong kind of promotion.

Lomachenko is one of my favorite fighters. I even have t-shirts that have his face on them. He is one talented mf and probably the face of boxing for years to come. It´s just not right to do that s__t to your opponents just for ratings, if that is the purpose.

By the way Ray Beltran is still one tough SOB. – Joni Nurminen, Finland

I consider Beltran a lower-top-10 lightweight contender and, despite the trouble he had with Bryan Vasquez on Saturday, I think he remains a threat to all of the 135-pound beltholders. However, I would favor the current titles – and “little Loma” – to outpoint the Los Mochis native. Mikey Garcia might have the power and accuracy to take Beltran out at this stage of the veteran’s career.

Regarding Lomachenko’s ring antics, I understand why he does it (to demoralize or mentally wear down his opponents as he outboxes and physically breaks them down, and to garner attention) but it doesn’t add anything to my viewing pleasure. I would appreciate him just as much – probably a little more – if he didn’t try to embarrass his opponents as he bewilders them. (It just seems like overkill to me.)

But having said that, I must admit that it doesn’t bother me that much. It’s not so much of a turn off that it distracts me from the real craft and effort that he puts forth in the ring. The theatrics and the taunting seem arrogant and dismissive of his opponents but they don’t appear to be nasty, contemptuous or mean spirited. Not yet, anyway.

I hate to admit this, but I think the ring antics are going to help raise his profile in the U.S. because the highlights make for eye-catching sports program highlights and social media memes/gifs. It will make some fans hate him, but that will also probably add to his buzz.

 

DREAM MATCH

Doug – How would you see Lomanchenko vs Garcia at 135 turning out? – Kevin Key, Duluth, MN If I have to make a way-advanced pick on this fight, I’m going to go with Lomachenko by close decision. I think Loma would take his preparation to the next level for Garcia and the Southern Californian would bring out the Ukrainian’s best during a high-speed chess match.

 

Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer and on Periscope where you can join him and Coach Schwartz (and JP when he shows up) every Sunday for boxing talk on the track: