Dougie’s Monday mailbag (Briedis-Perez, WBSS, more judging feedback)
WORLD BOXING SUPER SERIES
Hope you enjoyed the weekend. Tons of interesting fights coming up still this year. Just now mostly focusing on the “Super Series”…
I had to watch the Mairis Briedis v Mike Perez fight on some Russian feed on Youtube. That part was kinda cool actually, no announcers (that I could understand) made for an interesting change, but it wasn’t that fun a fight to watch. Still, both Perez and Briedis look rugged as hell; for anyone to win a contest like that against a stout, resourceful, strong willed adversary, takes some doing. I’ve thought Briedis had some chops for awhile. I was actually surprised at how much spoiling he did against Perez, and can’t help but wonder if that negative style, backed with a good engine and some ability to bang, might actually be the ticket against Oleksandr Usyk?
That semifinal fight is, I think, one of the two most interesting in the entire cruiserweight series. I think Usyk can pull through because he’s good on the inside plus his movement and his jab, but even more now, I think it could get interesting. How do you see Usyk v Briedis playing out?
And, what are the most interesting questions you see being answered in the Super Series? I’m keen to see if Eubank Jr. is the real deal (which he doesn’t have to win the series to prove); just how dominant Usyk is, with Murat Gassiev being the other fight I’m extremely curious to see how he fairs in. And, whether George Groves really deserves to be ranked among the best current fighters at 168, or whether Eubank Jr. and Smith will prove to be a cut above?
Finally, I think David Benavidez is going to take over the super middleweight division. Can you see any of the current titleholders or contenders stopping him?
Thanks for always doing the mailbag Doug! Cheers. – Alec
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Alec.
Can I see any of the current 168-pound titleholders stopping Benavidez? Yeah, I can see one or two taking him into deep water and drowning him there; at the very least I can see the more-experienced super middleweight standouts outpointing the still-green WBC beltholder.
Benavidez looked like a beatable fighter to my eyes during his tougher-than-expected 12-round tussle with Ronald Gavril last month. If Gavril – who is a mature and competent fringe contender but not very talented or accomplished – can extend Benavidez and even get in the Phoenix native’s ass a little bit, think what James DeGale, Gilberto Ramirez, George Groves and Chris Eubank Jr. could get done against the young gun.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the world of Benavidez and if he’s matched right over the next two-to-three years I believe that he can take over the 168-pound division and evolve into an elite-level light heavyweight. But he’s not there yet. Benavidez is just 20 years old! “Porky” Medina is still the best fighter he’s face (and remains his best performance). Let’s not crown him king of the division just yet. He’s a prince for now.
Perez and Briedis look rugged as hell; for anyone to win a contest like that against a stout, resourceful, strong willed adversary, takes some doing. No doubt about it. Both Briedis and Perez would be a handful for any of the top cruiserweights. I knew that about Briedis going into this past Saturday’s quarterfinal contest, but Perez proved it during those 12 rough-and-ugly rounds. I respect both 200 pounders but I don’t enjoy watching either fight that much, and I definitely don’t care to see them ever share a ring again. That fight was hard to watch (even with the cool Russian commentary – yeah, I watched the same stream).
I’ve thought Briedis had some chops for awhile. He had proved this physical strength and punching power by knocking out Manuel Charr’s 245-pound ass in 2015 and he exhibited his class in breaking down dangerous slugger Olanrewaju Durodola in 2016 and by outpointing Marco Huck last year. Against Perez he showed that he could shut down a Cuban standout by stinking it out (with a little assist from the referee in his home country).
I was actually surprised at how much spoiling he did against Perez, and can’t help but wonder if that negative style, backed with a good engine and some ability to bang, might actually be the ticket against Oleksandr Usyk? God, I hope not. I don’t want the cruisers who advance in this tournament to do so by stinking out the fights. Let’s hope there’s less grab-and-hold tactics from Briedis in the Usyk semifinal.
That semifinal fight is, I think, one of the two most interesting in the entire cruiserweight series. We’ll see. Usyk isn’t always Mr. Excitement and Briedis, as we saw against Perez, can be an ugly fighter. With a nod to my man Larry David, I’m gonna “Curb My Enthusiasm” on that particular fight.
How do you see Usyk v Briedis playing out? I think Usyk will be prepared for Briedis’s holding tactics, keep most of the fight at a distance and mid-range, and will outwork and outmaneuver the Latvian star to a close but unanimous decision.
And, what are the most interesting questions you see being answered in the Super Series? I gotta be honest with you, Alec, I’m not looking for “questions” to be answered as much as I’m looking forward to good fights. These guys – especially the cruiserweights – don’t have to prove anything to me; most of them had already established themselves as world-class competitors or fighters with clear world-class potential. Usyk, Gassiev, Briedis and Dorticos were already ranked among the top five or six of THE RING’s 200-pound ratings before the WBSS was put togehter. Even the somewhat shopworn Wlodarczyk is still in the mag’s top 10. Only Perez and Kudryashov were not in our top 10 prior to the tournament. And the three main super middleweights that I’m interested in the 168-pound WBSS – Groves, Callum Smith and Eubank Jr. – are currently ranked Nos. 3, 4 and 7 in THE RING’s ratings. So, I know these guys have talent, skill, experience and considerable potential. I just want to see them in badass fights. I’m not looking for the next Roy Jones Jr., Joe Calzaghe or Andre Ward. I’m hoping for a Nigel Benn-Eubank Sr.-type rivalry, and all the in-the-ring drama that accompanied their two bouts. I’m not expecting the next Evander Holyfield to emerge from the cruiserweight tournament, but I’d love to see a few fights that approach the sustained action of Holyfield-Qawi I and Jirov-Toney.
BORING CRUISERWEIGHT FIGHT
What a boring fight. I don’t know what Perez can do going forward. Was it rust?
The only winner in that fight was Oleksandr Usyk. In fact, I’m going to put some notes down on him winning the WBSS. Oh, and as a dark horse the Cuban with the power and that ain’t Perez! That is all. Regards. – Rob
Don’t be too hard on Perez and don’t get too high on Dorticos. Perez had the MUCH tougher assignment in Briedis. If Perez had been matched with Kudryashov he may very well have scored a stoppage (though probably not in the second round). He definitely would have boxed a lot better than he looked against Briedis.
Having said that, I do think rust was a factor in his performance on Saturday. How could it not be? Prior to Briedis, Perez had only one round (actually, just 29 seconds of a round) under his belt since May 2015.
What can Perez do going forward? Keep his head up, if he chooses to continue boxing, and maybe contemplate a move back to the heavyweight division, which doesn’t look that formidable outside of Joshua and Wilder. I’d be interested to see how Perez, weighing between 215-220 pounds, would fare against WBO beltholder Joseph Parker (if he can score a decent victory or two once back in the heavyweight division).
FUTURE RINGTV VIDEO FEATURE
After watching the GGG-Canelo fight for the third time – I tend to watch really good ones a few times, once for pure enjoyment, once to score and then again to pick up tips on boxing – I thought of a suggestion for the RingTV website. It would be really cool to see a feature where trainers or other boxing experts break down a round or even a minute or two of top-level action, explaining (a la RJJ) the subtle moves, positioning, defense, generalship, etc., which are sometimes lost in the mix of good ol’ fashioned bloodletting.
As a weekend-warrior boxer myself, I would find this fascinating. I love it when then commentators actually talk about the action and strategy in the ring, as opposed to the “story” or narrative of the fight (I’m looking at you, HBO). What do you think? – Jay
I think it’s a great idea, Jay. You have a future as an executive producer. This is something I’ve wanted to do for quite some time. In recent articles that I’ve penned for THE RING magazine, I’ve sought out the insight of trainers that I know and respect, including Stephen “Breadman” Edwards (who helped me analyze my selection of the best under-30 American boxers in an article entitled “U.S. Stars Aligned” in the most recent issue of the magazine, December 2017, along with “Ice” John Scully) and Rudy Hernandez. Scully and Hernandez, both former pro boxers, also helped me compare and contrast the amateur backgrounds of Canelo and Golovkin for an article that ran in the previous issue of THE RING (and Hernandez was also a key source in editor Michael Rosenthal’s cover story on Mikey Garcia for the December 2017 issue).
These guys know about and have experienced things by having been in the ring and by training people to box that Rosenthal and I can only guess at. I usually learn something when I interview a veteran trainer or boxer (or a retired boxer) about the finer points and nuances of fight preparation, a style matchup or what makes a particular boxer special or effective. And whenever I’m talking to or corresponding with men like Edwards, Scully or Hernandez in person or via email or social media I always say to myself: “This guy should have a regular column in THE RING and we need to get them in the studio to breakdown fights and upcoming matchups.”
I’ve participated in what you proposed a couple times with future hall of famer Bernard Hopkins (analyzing a few rounds of his fifth pro bout, his classic boxing clinic against Felix Trinidad and the Canelo-Golovkin fight). None of these shows/segments have seen the light of day for the time being (don’t ask me why), but my hope is to one day soon bring in a panel of boxing luminaries to regularly go over both classic fights and recent high-profile bouts in the interest of entertaining and educating fans.
Keep bugging me about this, Jay, we’ll eventually get it done.
POOR JUDGING IN 2017
Dear Mr. Fischer,
Thank you, as always, for the quality work and excellent coverage of boxing. It’s almost a weekly occurrence that I find something about the boxing scene that I’ve missed in your work. In response to your Friday mailbag, I wanted to follow up with you about recent judging. [The next six paragraphs just outline my point. Oof. I’m sorry to give you all the reading, feel free to not put it all in the mailbag just to spare your readers the same. Feel free to ignore this email and return to shorter messages from other boxing fans.]
It’s hard for me to recall a year with more high profile and championship fights marred by poor officiating (both judges and referees). I think the obvious start of the slide was Ward vs Kovalev 1, which went against every unbiased opinion I’ve encountered (I respect that some of your colleagues saw a Ward win, but I don’t know enough about boxing’s obscurities to understand it, even after multiple viewings).
Before the end of 2016, James DeGale got more than a few gift rounds (from more than one judge) against Badou Jack. The scoring of these fights and the history of liberties taken by those in power seemed to embolden boxing officials in 2017. The worst offense (because of the potential outcome, less so the nature of the slight to the rightful winner) was probably the scoring of the first fight between Roman Gonzales and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. I can understand an audience member being swayed by the amount of blood Chocolatito lost during the fight, even by his demeanor between rounds, but professional judges are supposed to score the fight without bias. As you (with Harold Letterman) so rightfully stated in the Friday mailbag, it’s about effective punching. I can’t see many rounds where Gonzales didn’t win that metric by a wide margin. It cost Chocolatito his title and perhaps his career. If he wasn’t set to fall from his Number 1 perch at super flyweight and in the pound for pound, a brutal fight with the Thai warrior certainly expedited it, and we all saw what resulted in the rematch.
Then in June, judges saw fit to give Robert Easter Jr numerous extra rounds against Denis Shafikov. In July, the WBO gave eight judges a shot to get the scores for Manny Pacquiao and Jeff Horn correct and all but one failed. In early September, not a single judge had a scorecard that made sense for David Benavidez’s win over Ronald Gavril.
After all this, boxing fans had to listen to Michael Buffer read Adalaide Byrd’s scorecard. I think it’s telling that the boos at T-Mobile Arena didn’t start after the wide score, but after Mr Buffer said Canelo’s name. I have to wonder if the reaction would have been the same if 118-110 had been followed by GGG. This is another one that I can’t see for the gift’s recipient, no matter how many times I watch (especially when you consider how the judges scored the rounds). Don’t get me wrong, I would probably have been okay with a fairly scored draw, but the rounds given to each fighter would have to make sense. Don Trella scoring the seventh round for Canelo is just as inexcusable as Ms Byrd’s entire scorecard.
This was after Tony Weeks robbed Andre Ward of a knockout in his rematch with Kovalev (only after Mr Weeks had gifted Ward eight extra inches of crotch to target over seven rounds) and before Joseph Parker received ridiculously wide scorecards against Hughie Fury.
These are just the championship fights, with belts on the line. We also had Broner over Granados in February, the favoring of N’Dam over Murata for a secondary belt, and probably numerous others I can’t recall.
My questions are as follows: Is boxing officiating suddenly getting worse? From your perspective, have these past twelve months been poorer than usual? Out of the fights this year, are there any you wish had received more scrutiny (and perhaps a suspension or forced retirement)? Finally, are there judges and referees who you believe deserve more positive attention for the job they do (and more top-level fight assignments)?
Please don’t mistake my meaning, the fights themselves, and the year as a whole, have been spectacular. But it’s like finding out the waiter spit into the best meal you’d had in weeks. I loved the food, but I still want to see the waiter fired.
All the very best to you and yours, I hope this finds you well and I send the best. Very Respectfully. – John
Thanks for sharing your MANY detailed thoughts on the controversial scoring that’s taken place in boxing from late 2016 through the banner year that 2017 has been.
Is boxing scoring getting worse? No, I don’t think it is. I think we’re seeing more boxing on more platforms (HBO, Showtime, the many channels of ESPN and Sky, BoxNation, pay-per-views, promoter-run live streams from around the world, etc.) than ever before, so we’re also witnessing more controversial scorecards than ever before. In the past controversial fights like Ndam-Murata and Joseph-Fury that weren’t broadcast on American TV would not have resonated that much in the U.S., but thanks to live streaming and social media hardcore boxing fans have a real-time global awareness of every significant fight.
But there is a problem with official judges not appreciating all aspects of boxing and ring generalship.
As I stated in last week’s Friday mailbag (and Harold Lederman noted in his “Hey Harold! How To Score A Fight” HBO YouTube video), it’s not rocket science – who wins a given round should just come down to who landed most of the clean punches and who’s doing more damage. My nine-year-old daughter (actually, she was eight years old at the time) knew that James DeGale should have lost his fight with Badou Jack just by looking at his lumped-up toothless face during the post-bout interviews.
But some judges make scoring more complicated than it should be or they simply give too much credit to the boxer who is employing what they believe is “boxing.”
In the case of Ward-Kovalev I, DeGale-Jack (which took place in January, not late 2016), Ndam-Murata and Canelo-Golovkin, they bent over backwards for the guy doing the sticking-and-moving, counterpunching and pot-shotting off the ropes. In the case of the two judges that scored Joseph-Fury for Joseph (by silly 118-110 tallies), the bent over backwards for the guy coming forward and initiating exchanges. On the Canelo-Golovkin undercard there was a close and hard-fought lightweight bout between Ryan Martin and Francisco Rojo. Martin won his first pro gut check by reasonable scores of 95-94 and 96-93, but one judge (Richard Ocasio) scored it 98-91 for Rojo, who was the aggressor throughout the fight but wasn’t effective until the second half of the bout. (THAT’s a scorecard that I wish would have received more scrutiny, and it may have had it not been overshadowed by the Canelo-GGG controversy.) I wouldn’t have had a problem with a draw or 95-94 for Rojo, but nine rounds to one for the Mexican (with a point deduction from Martin) was just plain bulls__t. That judge was every bit as bad as Byrd was in the main event. He just had the opposite outlook.
What is needed are judges that understand, appreciate and recognize all aspects of boxing. I talked about this subject at some length near the end of this past Sunday’s SMC track Periscope with Coach Schwartz (from about the 32:00 mark to 38:30). Check it out if you have the time.
The other thing that needs to happen is that boxing commissions worldwide need to do a better job of appointing neutral, competent officials to preside over high-profile fights (especially world title bouts that involve a hometown or home-country fighter against a fighter visiting from another region or country). Horn-Pacquiao, Broner-Granados and Easter-Shafikov were all hometown decisions. I’m not saying the guy who won didn’t deserve to win, but it’s obvious (especially in the case of the two awful judges – Henry Eugene Grant and Jamie Garayua – that turned in 120-108 tallies for Robert Easter Jr.) the hometown fighter was given the benefit of every close round in fights that were legitimately competitive. (Easter-Shafikov is another fight that I wish had been more scrutinized.)
And if an American boxer was hit with the number of borderline low blows that Ward nailed Kovalev with while in his opponent’s home country and the referee there handled it the way U.S. ref Tony Weeks handled Ward-Kovalev II, there’s no doubt in my mind that many American fans and media would have hollered loudly about how “unfairness” of the situation.
Boxing authorities everywhere – not just in the U.S. – have to be better about these things. The commissions, sanctioning bodies and the officials need to understand that the entire world is watching these days and more people have the platforms to raise a public stink over what they believe is unfair (or incompetent or corrupt).
Finally, are there judges and referees who you believe deserve more positive attention for the job they do (and more top-level fight assignments)? I gotta think about that one and get back to you in another mailbag in order to give you a comprehensive answer. Off the top of my head, and I know this may come off as a bit biased, I think most of the veteran California officials (including, but not limited to Jack Reiss, Raul Caiz Sr. and Jr., Tom Taylor, Max DeLuca and Dr. Lou Moret) generally do a fine job of refereeing and scoring boxing matches. Of course, there are plenty of officials from other parts of the U.S. that I think are doing a great job, such as New Jersey/New York-area referee Harvey Dock.
I have been trying to get someone to tell me a good reason why there isn’t open scoring in boxing. I think it would do 3 very important things:
1) It would let everyone know what the hell is going on with the fight as it’s happening, I just never understood why we need a “I wonder who really won?” moment at the end of every fight
2) It would expose a terrible scorecard as the fight is happening, instead of finding out about it after the fight when it’s too late
3) It would educate new and casual fans about the criteria for how a fight is scored and show them how the 10 point must system is used
Thanks for your time and really appreciate your column. – William
Thanks for the appreciation, William.
I respectfully disagree with you on the “benefits” of open scoring. I’ve always been against it because I think it has an unnatural impact on the fight. Firstly, it can cause the crowd to react in ways that can influence the judges – boos could force them to “adjust” their scores during the fight, regardless of what’s actually happening in front of them; while cheers could encourage them to “reward” a crowd favorite. Secondly, open scoring can influence the fighters (such as causing a boxer who is way up on the announced scores to merely sit on his lead; or force the boxer who is trailing to fight out of his or her style/character in order to “catch up”).
Watch the 1999 IBF 115-pound title bout between Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson and Ratanchai Sor Vorpin and the 2013 WBC/WBA 154-pound title bout between Canelo Alvarez and Austin Trout, both of which featured open scoring. Johnson and Alvarez were way ahead on the official cards that were announced after eight rounds, and both favorites played it safe/laid off on their offense in the final four rounds because they knew they had insurmountable leads. (Although I should note that Too Sharp, who was such a little badass, did take the initiative for about 2 minutes of Round 11. But at brave and bold as Johnson was, he played keep-away and did a lot of holding in Round 12. Alvarez, on the other hand, focused mainly on defense and the occasional counter punch down the stretch.) Do we really want or need to see boxers celebrating their victories before the darn fight is over?
It would let everyone know what the hell is going on with the fight as it’s happening, I just never understood why we need a “I wonder who really won?” moment at the end of every fight. Call me old fashioned but I like not knowing the who the official winner is until after the fight. That intense anticipation – especially after a close and competitive fight – is a big part of the sport to me.
It would expose a terrible scorecard as the fight is happening, instead of finding out about it after the fight when it’s too late. What’s the difference?
It would educate new and casual fans about the criteria for how a fight is scored and show them how the 10 point must system is used. Really? How so?
Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer