Monday, October 03, 2022  |

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Dougie’s Monday mailbag

04
Sep

CHOCOLATITO’S REVENGE

September 9th can’t come soon enough. Gonzalez vs Sor Rungvisia 1 was a grueling, epic fight that was ruined by incompetent judging and now Chocolatito gets a chance to right that wrong and setup a super fight with Naoya Inoue (who I expect will KO his unworthy challenger on the undercard without much trouble.)

I don’t think there’s much Chocolatito needs to change for this fight other then maybe a little more bodywork. He always does a great job of mixing up his attack to the head and body but Rungvisia appears to have the jaw of a pint-sized Chuvalo and I suspect the only way the smaller man can get the stoppage is if he targets the liver with extreme prejudice.

If Chocolatito and Inoue both win on the 9th, how likely is it they face each other next? Who would you favor? I have great respect for Inoue and all he’s accomplished so early in his career, but I’d have to favor Chocolatito. He’s a big step up from Omar Navarez and the gap in experience between the young Japanese fighter and the Nicaraguan veteran is huge. Although he’s undersized at this weight he still brings an avalanche of offence unlike anyone else in boxing.



And that’s why I’m so looking forward to next Saturday. Because at the end of the day Chocolatito says very little, then steps in the ring and fights like a straight up gangster. No pomp, no frills. Just heart, craft, and violence. – Jack

Well stated, Jack. That’s why Roman Gonzalez – who should be 47-0 right now, not that he or his legacy could be defined by an unbeaten record – is still Numero Uno in my book. When Twitter geeks come at me with their opinions on who’s No. 1 Pound-for-Pound, I calmly reply:

My #P4P Top 5:

  1. Chocolatito
  2. Chocolatito
  3. Chocolatito
  4. Chocolatito
  5. Chocolatito

And I mean that s__t. On Sept. 9, under the stars at that modern gladiatorial pit known as StubHub Center in Carson, California, I will witness the return of a boxing king and I will bask in the furious glory of all three co-main events from ringside.

Photo / Tom Hogan-HoganPhotos / K2 Promotions

I think Gonzalez-Sor Rungvisai I is still the front-runner for Fight of the Year, in my opinion, and I think the rematch is going to be just as awesome. (And, yeah, I get why everyone continues to stroke themselves off to Joshua-Klitschko and call their heavyweight showdown the Fight of the Year so far, but while that passing-of-the-torch bout was indeed dramatic and as high-profile as a legitimate boxing match can be, it was basically three exciting rounds – Rounds 5, 6 and 11. Gonzalez-Sor Rungvisai I was 12 rounds of wicked badassery and I have no doubt that the return bout will be just as savage; the newly crowned WBC champ from Thailand is not going to give that green belt up without another epic struggle.)

I don’t blame you one bit for being wet-your-pants excited about Sor Rungvisai-Gonzalez II and the U.S./HBO debut of Inoue, but do not sleep on the Carlos Cuadras-Juan Francisco Estrada fight or Antonio Nieves. Cuadras-Estarada is too close to call. I don’t have a favorite in that scrap; I just know that both men are experienced former champs in their athletic primes and they bring skill, technique, ring generalship as well as giant balls to their matchup. Nieves (17-1-2) is a hardnosed fringe contender from Cleveland who had a strong amateur background and has been developed well as a pro. The 30-year-old banker is not going to lay down or be intimidated against Naoya unless The Monster forces him to.

I don’t think there’s much Chocolatito needs to change for this fight other then maybe a little more bodywork. Agreed. I think his main concern is to avoid head clashes and be ready for the Thai southpaw’s hammer-left early in the bout.

He always does a great job of mixing up his attack to the head and body but Rungvisia appears to have the jaw of a pint-sized Chuvalo and I suspect the only way the smaller man can get the stoppage is if he targets the liver with extreme prejudice. Sor Rungvisai and Yoshihiro Kamegai have the best chins in boxing. (GGG and Chocolatito are a close 3rd and 4th.) But nobody can take a direct shot to the liver (well, Kamegai probably can).

If Chocolatito and Inoue both win on the 9th, how likely is it they face each other next? I don’t think it’s very likely. Cuadras-Estrada is a WBC 115-pound title elimination bout and Chocolatito is the type of competitor and professional who will honor the sanctioning organization’s mandatory. And I’m OK with that. I think Gonzalez-Estrada II or Gonzalez-Cuadras II are must-see TV. There’s no way those fights won’t deliver. Gonzalez vs. Inoue is a “super” superfly showdown that probably won’t happen until late 2018 – perhaps Chocolatito’s swan song (I’m getting a lump in my throat and a little misty eyed writing that).

Who would you favor? I would favor Inoue at this stage of their careers.

 

MYTHICAL FIRST-ROW CHOICES

Hello Doug,

Quick question: If you could watch three fighters from any era live on first row, who would they be?

My picks:

Ezzard Charles

Roberto Duran

Roy Jones

Thanks. – Abraham

Those are good picks. I was able to watch Jones from ringside a couple times during the tail end of his athletic prime. It was special.

I guess if I had to choose three from any era, I would travel back to a time when I could watch the fan-favorite all-time greats for whom very little clear film footage of their primes exists. In order:

Sugar Ray Robinson (the final two years of his amateur career, 1939-‘40, and his early pro years at lightweight/welterweight in the early-to-mid ‘40s)

Kid Chocolate (AKA Eligio Sardinias-Montalbo – prime years from 1929-’33)

Henry Armstrong (peak years – 1937-’39 – the stretch of time in which he compiled a 52-1 record, winning the featherweight, lightweight and welterweight world titles in the process)

There are many ATGs who fought around the turn of the last century and during the 1910s and 1920s – including Joe Gans, Sam Langford, Dixie Kid, Jack Johnson, Harry Greb, Gene Tunney, Jack Dempsey and Benny Leonard – that I think would be awesome to witness live and up close, but my guess is that somebody that looks like me would have probably been barred from sitting ringside (not that the ‘30s and ‘40s would have been welcoming to a person of color, but I think I could get in and out of those fights – at least the ones that took place in L.A. and NYC – without being kicked out, mugged or killed).

 

CRUISERWEIGHT BATTLE ROYAL

Greetings Dougie,

I’m sitting here getting psyched about The WBSS. Especially the cruiserweight tournament, which promises to be absolute dynamite!

I want to make some predictions about the outcome of the quarterfinals.

I’ve been following Marco Huck’s career for over a decade and been a fan of Oleksandr Usyk since his third fight, I like his charisma and his strong intimidating in ring presence. Huck being Huck, I think this fight will feature some good exchanges, but I think that Usyk will outbox and outhustle Huck to a clear 117-111-like decision. Although one can never tell with the officiating in Germany.

I think that Mike Perez brings his impressive speed and combination punching with him, when moving down to the cruiserweight division. Who knows, he might even be a bit more punch resistant in the lighter weight class. Although this could trouble the young bull Breidis and though an upset would be fun, I think the hard-hitting Latvian will prevail, maybe by late stoppage.

It’s a peculiar thing with Krzysztof Wlodarczyk, often he either stinks it out, as he did with Cunningham and Palacios or goes to war like against Green, Chakkiev and Fragomeni. I think his fight against Murat Gassiev will be a bloodbath though and I think El Diablo will go through hell, but I believe Gassiev is superior in both toughness and power, and though the pole might have better ring generalship, I think Gassiev will break him down to a stoppage in the second half of the bout, possibly by cuts.

I’m excited about Dmitry Kudryashov and though Yunier Dorticos is a bit more proven, the 14 months of inactivity could turn out to be fatal against the Hammer, especially early. I think the fight of the monstrous punchers will end early with the Cuban on the deck.

No matter who wins these fights I don’t think we’ll see one dull fight this tournament and I’m looking forward to enjoying it one fight at the time. What are your prediction of the quarterfinals?

Also, very excited about Superfly this weekend. These are wonderful times for boxing. Forgive if my English is a bit rusty. Kind Regards. – Hjalte, Denmark

Your English is better than mine, Hjalte.

I’m almost as psyched for the start of the WBSS cruiserweight tournament as I am for the “SuperFly” card (I just wish I knew how I’m going to watch Usyk-Huck on Saturday).

I favor Usyk – my overall favorite to win the tournament – to beat Huck. If it goes the distance, I expect the official scorecards to be somewhat close. However, I think there’s a decent chance that the defending WBO titleholder stops the battle-worn former champ by the late rounds.

I know Mairis Briedis is a solid titleholder with good skills and better-than-average power, but I’m going to assume that Perez has his head together and is acclimated to fighting at 200 pounds (even though his cruiserweight debut lasted less than a round against a outclassed opponent) and go with the Cuban lefty via close decision.

I think Gassiev is too young, fresh, strong, powerful and active for Wlodarczyk to outbox, hold off or slug with for 12 rounds. I think the 23-year-old IBF titleholder will score a middle-to-late rounds stoppage.

And I’m gonna go with Dorticos by middle-to-late rounds stoppage. I don’t think we’ll get the shootout you envision because I believe the rangy Cuban will box early, keep Kudryachov at a distance and gradually wear the Russian slugger down to a late stoppage.

 

PRINCE NAZ

Hey Dougie,

Hope you and yours are well and enjoying Labor Day (as an Englishman it pains me to spell it that way).

For some reason I saw a lot of Prince Naseem Hamed highlights posted this weekend. 2 questions. 1) did I miss something or was this just a coincidence this weekend? 2) how much of his potential do you think Naz fulfilled?

Naz gets a lot of stick for losing when he stepped up in levels but as far as I understand there was more it than that – would love your insight and/or any recommended reading about his fall from grace.

More than any other boxer he was the one who got me hooked – staying up into the early hours for his U.S. shows when I was a kid (aged 9 at the time of the Kevin Kelley fight) was about as exciting as sport/life got in those days so I was always have fond memories, despite my tastes changing as I have grown older.

Thank you for the weekly content – Monday and Friday wouldn’t be the same without the mailbag! – Alex, NY

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and questions, Alex.

You weren’t the only one that Naz hooked into boxing. His mid-to-late ‘90s body of work attracted and inspired a generation of hardcore fans, internet-age boxing writers and fellow boxers – including Paulie Malginaggi (who decided that he wanted to box after witnessing Hamed vs. Kevin Kelley live), Amir Khan and even Carl Froch.

From my very own stash of boxing mags, the January 1994 issue of Boxing Monthly.

I learned about Hamed in early 1994 when a I purchased an issue of Boxing Monthly that had this skinny, big eared Arabic-looking kid on the cover. It read: “Forget Roy Jones, forget Oscar De La Hoya, the brightest star in boxing is NASEEM HAMED. All he needs is the chance to prove it.”

I thought “Yeah, right,” but I was also intrigued. This was well before the internet took off and made it easier to view footage of fighters from other countries, but it was also a time when more foreign boxers were traveling to American, fighting on U.S. TV and living up to their hype – as Kostya Tszyu was doing.

Upon reading the article I immediately became fascinated with these tales from overseas about Hamed, who at age 19 was not eligible to fight for the British title, though his gym mates, which included then-British middleweight champ Neville Brown, proclaimed that

The first two pages of the 1993/’94 Boxing Monthly article on Hamed that was penned by Chris Bryans.

he was talented enough to challenge for world titles. Hamed was a bantamweight/junior featherweight at the time, and, according to Brown, he had to be on “top of his form just to survive” sparring with the teen version of Naz.

I followed Hamed’s career from that point on – mostly through boxing magazines, but occasionally on TV (in 1996, his two-round blowout of Daniel Alicea was tape-delayed on Showtime and his 11th-round stoppage of former/future featherweight titleholder Manuel Medina was one of the Spanish-language networks, maybe UniVision) – and told my casual boxing fan friends to look out for the “Prince” (he also went by the “Arabian Knight” back then). And when he finally made his U.S./HBO debut (vs. once-beaten former champ Kelley at Madison Square Garden in December 1997) he did not disappoint. HBO pulled out all of the stops in promoting Hamed’s arrival and he lived up to everything that had been said or written about him. He had a unique, ultra athletic-but-unorthodox boxing style, phenomenal speed and uncommon punching power, as well as flamboyant streak and penchant for showmanship that was guaranteed to attract and polarize an audience that was bound to go beyond the usual hardcore fans.

In terms of self-promotion and branding, he was way ahead of his time, but he was talented enough in and out of the ring to garner record paydays for the featherweight division during his peak years (’97-2001). I could be wrong, but I believe that with the licensing fees from HBO and UK television, plus sponsorships from Yemen/Arabic interests, Hamed was averaging between $4.5 million-$6.5 million per fight.

Although I was rooting for Marco Antonio Barrera to spank him, I thought Hamed was very good for boxing, and for what it’s worth, I always liked him and his many brothers (as well as one of his press agents, George Azar, who was very good about providing access to him during the HouseOfBoxing.com and early MaxBoxing.com years). Hamed was humble and affable in person (at least he was when he was around media here in the U.S.).

For some reason I saw a lot of Prince Naseem Hamed highlights posted this weekend. 2 questions. 1) did I miss something or was this just a coincidence this weekend? I saw the same Hamed fight clips on Twitter and wondered the same thing, but I’m not aware of any particular anniversary in relation to his live and/or career. But it was sure was fun watching that little monster do his thing. With all of his pre-fight/walk-in antics it’s easy to forget that dude was a hell of an athlete and a mean, punishing S.O.B. once the bell sounded.

2) how much of his potential do you think Naz fulfilled? It’s hard to say. He retired while still in his prime, but if his heart was no longer in the game, he made the right choice to walk away. All I know is that he fought 10 men who held world titles (losing only to Barrera) and won three major belts (and would have had all of them had the WBA not stripped Wilfred Vazquez prior to their showdown) during his 10-year-career. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2015 (and, yes, he got my vote). I’d say he fulfilled most of his potential.

Naz gets a lot of stick for losing when he stepped up in levels but as far as I understand there was more (to) it than that – would love your insight and/or any recommended reading about his fall from grace. I don’t know why he’d get “a lot of stick” for losing to Barrera, a first-ballot hall of famer and arguably one of the greatest Mexican boxers of all time. I haven’t read any books of Hamed, so I can’t recommend any for you, but I know there’s a couple – including “Prince of the Ring,” “The Prince and The Prophet” and “The Paddy and The Prince” – available on Amazon.com. Check ‘em out!

 

“CRAZY” CANELO-GGG PREDICTION

Hey Doug,

I know we still have a few weeks to go but I wanted to talk GGG-Canelo with you, especially since I believe you’re favoring Gennady Golovkin in the bout. I’ve gone through the match up several times and I keep seeing the same outcome… Canelo Alvarez by stoppage (this is where you’re welcome to call me crazy).

But (at least try to) hear me out. The first key thing we know is that Golovkin fights rarely go the distance. We also know that this is a legacy defining fight for both men and one where neither will want it left to the judges to decide. I think the gravity of the event will drive each to seek an early victory.

Now, how do I say this without coming off wrong – as high as I am on Golovkin, in my opinion, he has spent much of his career facing overmatched opponents who came into the fight mentally defeated. Often European-level guys. Now it’s not his fault given how feared of a puncher he is, but I think he is not ready for someone of Canelo’s caliber.

His wins over Daniel Jacobs and David Lemieux were solid victories, but I felt both men fought very cautious fights and didn’t give Golovkin much to deal with. They weren’t walkovers and they did some nice things in their bouts but he outclassed them.

Why do I think he’s not ready for Canelo? Simply put, I feel Canelo is too smart for him, too youthful, too adaptable, and has faced too many higher quality opponents in big event settings. I expect Golovkin will press early and Canelo will slip and counter pretty effectively. This will make GGG a little less reckless and revert to a jab heavy approach. I think once the mustard on GGG’s punches has come down a bit, Canelo will move inside and work the body and counter.

I don’t think GGG will know what to do at that point because he hasn’t had to face a test where he wasn’t in control or really struggling. I think he’ll then get a little more reckless trying to compensate and I think Canelo will land a series of pretty clean punches and will go for the stoppage. I would guess it ends around the 9th or 10th.

Note, I am far from certain of this outcome, but I just can’t see either man sitting back and jabbing too much in a fight of this level. I think both men are fighters who seek greatness and this won’t see the final bell. I have to side with Canelo due to the advantages I cited above. Would love to hear your thoughts. – Vincent, Seattle, WA

I see a distance fight, Vincent. Golovkin’s got a great set of whiskers and Canelo’s a sturdy young man who knows how to defend and block well in close and from middle distance. And Canelo also has a solid chin, and GGG’s defense is underrated.

But I don’t think you’re crazy for predicting a stoppage victory for Canelo. I don’t see it happening but you make a solid case and I’d love to hear you debate with my good pal Coach Schwartz, who is certain that Golovkin will be the one to score the ninth or 10th-round stoppage.

The first key thing we know is that Golovkin fights rarely go the distance. Check.

We also know that this is a legacy defining fight for both men and one where neither will want it left to the judges to decide. No check. Given his history with Vegas judges, I don’t think Canelo will mind at all if this fight goes the distance.

I think the gravity of the event will drive each to seek an early victory. No check. I think both men will be respectful of the other’s punching power, at least in the opening rounds.

Now, how do I say this without coming off wrong – as high as I am on Golovkin, in my opinion, he has spent much of his career facing overmatched opponents who came into the fight mentally defeated. Often European-level guys. There’s no doubt that some have come in “mentally defeated,” but more than a few came to win and gave their all, including some of the European-level guys, who just so happened to be world-rated at the time (such as Martin Murray).

Now it’s not his fault given how feared of a puncher he is, but I think he is not ready for someone of Canelo’s caliber. I beg to differ. Don’t discount Golovkin’s amateur background or his gym education in recent years when assessing his experience.

His wins over Daniel Jacobs and David Lemieux were solid victories, but I felt both men fought very cautious fights and didn’t give Golovkin much to deal with. That’s true to an extent, but I don’t think Lemmy was ready for GGG (he had just won his first world title) and I think Jacobs gave him problems.

Why do I think he’s not ready for Canelo? Simply put, I feel Canelo is too smart for him, too youthful, too adaptable, and has faced too many higher quality opponents in big event settings. Canelo is younger and he has faced higher quality opponents (although none of them were ranked middleweights), but it remains to be seen if he’s smarter than Golovkin or if he’ll be able to adapt to what GGG brings to the ring.

 

WILL HBO CEASE TO EXIST?

Hi, Doug. First time writing in. Pleasure in communicating with you. I want to commence by first mentioning that I believe you’re at the top of the heap of boxing journalists. You have a very profound level of insight, knowledge, wisdom and you also smoothly connect with your audience within an amiable and charismatic manner. Much respect for and towards your craft and persona.

Quick question – I feel like HBO Boxing is quickly fading out with the new rise of boxing on ESPN and with Bob Arum taking his business and PPV shows away from primarily being shown on HBO. Will this continue? It seems like fighters like Lomachenko, Golovkin and other marquee and A-level fighters may no longer be possibly fighting on HBO. Am I correct with this analysis of mine?…. Thus, I feel like Jim Lampley and Max Kellerman will soon be out of work. Do you believe this will happen? ….

I love HBO Boxing. It’s energetic emphasis on the craft, it’s production and broadcast style, commentating and even the show’s lighting. I see Showtime and other channels broadcast fights and it seems like they’re lighting and ambiance is not as lively and the lighting is not as vivid. It has a dark look to its given broadcasts. Thus, my liking HBO Boxing so much. … Bottom line, my question is – Will HBO Boxing cease to exist? If so, where would Lampley and Kellerman go?

Thank you for your time and effort in reading this email and may your skill set and job success continue and rise to an even higher level. It sure seems like you’re succeeding more and more each day. Well deserving and great to be seeing this. Much respect, my friend. Look forward to hearing from you in return. Sincerely. – Anthony, Miami, FL

Thanks for your very kind (flattering and inspirational) words, Anthony.

I don’t think you need to worry about the careers of Lampley and Kellerman. They would be just fine without HBO, but I don’t believe their boxing commentating gigs with the subscription cable network are in jeopardy.

I’m not saying HBO Boxing isn’t in a transitional phase or dealing with a restructuring of its budget, but the network has survived splits with major promoters before – most notably when Don King took Mike Tyson, Julio Cesar Chavez and his massive stable to Showtime in the early 1990s; and more recently when the Richard Schaefer-led Golden Boy stable (staked mostly with Al Haymon talent, including Floyd Mayweather) took their business across the street – and I think it will live without Top Rank’s players.

I’m not saying that losing a household name like Manny Pacquiao and elite boxers, such as Terence Crawford and Vasyl Lomachenko, isn’t a blow to the network’s boxing programming but sometimes an exodus of name fighters can make room for the development of new major players. When GBP took all of those Haymon fighters to Showtime, that allowed HBO to fill the void with multi-year appearances of Golovkin, Crawford, Lomachenko and Sergey Kovalev.

Let’s see what they do with the dates created by the absence of Top Rank’s big players.

I think HBO’s September calendar is step in the right direction. If I weren’t covering the shows on Sept. 9, 16 and 23, I’d definitely be watching them on TV, and I think these cards will set up future shows for late 2017 and the first quarter of 2018.  

I feel like HBO Boxing is quickly fading out with the new rise of boxing on ESPN and with Bob Arum taking his business and PPV shows away from primarily being shown on HBO. Arum’s ESPN may take away premier fighters from HBO, but by being showcased on ESPN (and supported by its many platforms), more potential fans might be attracted to boxing, and those fans may tune into to HBO Boxing. Also, Golden Boy is still in business with HBO and their ESPN deal could potentially develop future talent to be featured on HBO.

Will this continue? I doubt it. Most promoters are very happy to work with HBO. Arum is different because he’s been around for a very long time, likes to do things his way, and (with the help of his stepson and president of Top Rank, Todd duBoef) has the smarts, connections and experience to create a strong partnership with ESPN. But I think GBP, K2 Promotions, Main Events and other top companies will continue to work with HBO.

It seems like fighters like Lomachenko, Golovkin and other marquee and A-level fighters may no longer be possibly fighting on HBO. Am I correct with this analysis of mine? You’re right about Lomachenko, he’s a Top Rank fighter. You’re wrong about GGG. Time will tell where Andre Ward, whose contract with HBO just ended, lands.

 

 

Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer

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