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Dougie’s Monday mailbag (ShoBox, Valdez-Quigg)

A reader compared Shohjahon Ergashev to Mike Tyson, but Iron Mike never did any showboating like this. Photo / Stephanie Trapp-SHOWTIME
15
Jan

FIRST SHOBOX OF 2018

Hi Dougie,

Happy New Year to you! Friday night’s ShoBox gave us some interesting fights, an enjoyable evening for very different reasons.

The opener – what about this Shohjahon Ergashev? He reminded me of a young Mike Tyson fearlessly rushing his opponent. Sonny Fredrickson had that deer-in-the-headlights look from the opening bell. Whatever Plan A was, he had no Plan B. Is Ergashev for real, or was it an over-matched opponent? Who would you like to see him fight next?



The second fight was great, lots of back-and-forth, Jesse Hernandez following an intelligent game plan, Ernesto Garza showing heart, a real close, fun fight, a good referee and a fair decision.

The Claressa Shields/Tori Nelson showcase can be summed up in one word – boring. How much did the fighters get paid? Nelson’s background story is compelling, working two jobs to raise her family and train. I hope her survival session paid her well. It certainly didn’t advance the cause of woman’s boxing. Why do they fight two-minute rounds? They should fight three-minute rounds, and title fights should be twelve rounds. In track, a 100 meters is a 100 meters, male or female. In basketball the hoop isn’t lowered for women. Female boxers are surely tough enough to follow the same format as the men; no one would call Shields or Nelson “dainty”.

A final point – the team of Steve Farhood, Barry Tompkins and Raul Marquez continues to impress me. Their commentary and their egos don’t get in the way of the fight. There was one dumb comment, from Tompkins, I think, saying that there was no loser in the Hernandez-Garza fight. I hate hearing that. Unless there is a draw someone loses. No one was embarrassed in that fight, but Garza lost. As always, thanks for the best column on the Net. – Ken Kozberg, Oakham, MA

Thanks for the kinds words, Ken.

I agree that Tompkins, Marquez and Farhood make up one of the best boxing broadcast booths in recent years. In fact, the more I think about it, they may be my favorite active commentating team. You’re right that they don’t have egos that interfere with the action. They’re also broadcast veterans (Barry and Steve were recently inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame) and extremely knowledgeable. And they’re also class acts away from the mics. All three are great guys.

Regarding your hatred of that boxing commentary cliché of “there was no loser,” all I can say is that you need to lighten up, Ken. It’s not that big of a deal.

what about this Shohjahon Ergashev? I thought the junior welterweight southpaw from Uzbekistan stole the show. I was most impressed by his performance on Saturday and will keep a close eye on him going forward. Giving fighters like Ergashev the spotlight and an opportunity to prove themselves and to begin building a following among hardcore U.S. boxing fans is what “ShoBox: The New Generation” is all about. Props to Showtime and producer Gordon Hall for staying true to that mission 16 years after the series’ inception.

He reminded me of a young Mike Tyson fearlessly rushing his opponent. Ergashev was fearless, but he was also poised (to my eyes). He didn’t seem to be in a rush, and didn’t have to be with Fredrickson, who was stationary and straight-up enough for him to consistently get off with his left hand. I noted Ergashev’s excellent balance and technique as he quickly dismantled the Ohio prospect.

Sonny Fredrickson had that deer-in-the-headlights look from the opening bell. He was clearly in over his head. Perhaps being on the ShoBox platform made him a bit tight, but it was obvious that Ergashev turned out to be more than he (or his team) expected. The ref stopped the fight in time for him to bounce back from this setback. Fredrickson didn’t absorb too much punishment (or have his will totally broken) and he’s only 23. I think he will learn from the experience.

Is Ergashev for real, or was it an over-matched opponent? Well, he’s real enough to have made Fredrickson look overmatched. I’d call Ergashev a legit prospect at 140 pounds. Can he develop into a legit contender? We’ll find out later this year.

Who would you like to see him fight next? Somebody more mature than Frederickson and with more hardnosed pro experience. Francisco Rojo, the rugged rock-thrower from Mexico City that gave lightweight prospect Ryan Marin a hard 10 rounds on the Canelo-GGG undercar, fits that description. A fighter like Rojo would likely force Ergashev to show us more of his boxing ability (or, at the very least, get him to work his jab a little bit).

The second fight was great, lots of back-and-forth, Jesse Hernandez following an intelligent game plan, Ernesto Garza showing heart, a real close, fun fight, a good referee and a fair decision. That was a good scrap. In fact, Garza is the epitome of the word “scrappy.” The stocky southpaw didn’t have the best technique, stamina or gameplan, but there was no quit in him. But the right guy won.

Photo by Stephanie Trapp-SHOWTIME

The Claressa Shields/Tori Nelson showcase can be summed up in one word – boring. One-sided shutouts are seldom entertaining. Although Shields was only in her fifth pro bout and Nelson was unbeaten in 20 pro bouts, the 41-year-old veteran from Virginia had no business sharing the ring with a 22-year-old former amateur star who won gold medals in two Olympic Games and two World Championships. We have to factor Shields’ amateur experience (she compiled an excellent 78-1 record in the unpaid ranks) into her pro matchups. My guess is, outside of dual middleweight titleholder Christina Hammer, there aren’t any stern challenges out there for Shields (who holds two world titles at 168 pounds). And Hammer might not be strong or durable enough to handle the still-developing Michigan native.

How much did the fighters get paid? No idea.

Why do they fight two-minute rounds? They should fight three-minute rounds, and title fights should be twelve rounds. I agree. There are women boxers, such as Shields’ 2012 U.S. Olympic teammate Marlen Esparza, who are pushing boxing commissions to allow them to fight 3-minute rounds. The Nevada commission allowed for this last year. I expect other commission follow suit and eventually move women’s championship bouts to 12 rounds.

 

UPCOMING FIGHTS

Doug hello,

Sifting the boxing tea leaves, here in the quiet part of the year…  Right now I’m most excited about all of the fights in the Muhammad Ali World Boxing Super Series. But, I feel like it’s about all been said and now it’s down to waiting on the trading of blows.

So, about some less heralded upcoming matches, and on the subject of cruiserweights, I’m psyched about the fight between Lawrence Okolie and Isaac Chamberlain. I like both fighters, and the grudge match nature of the thing. I don’t have a favorite, if I had to I’d bet on Okolie, but then Chamberlin’s been training in Ukraine with Usyk, which sounds serious. Thoughts?

Another fight of interest is the Scott Quigg vs. Oscar Valdez matchup. Quigg’s rugged, but has always seemed (to me) like his game lacks a little something. But he’s a workhorse, he’s rangy and aggressive, now he’s with Freddie Roach. I don’t know that much about Valdez, but look forward to finding out more. How do you see this going? If Quigg wins, do you think he can hold a featherweight title for any amount of time against the top competition at the weight?

And (to really go all over the place) I spent the holiday watching all of Terrence Crawford’s fights on video. Man! I’m guessing the harder Jeff Horn comes at Crawford, the worse Crawford will make him pay. I look forward to seeing it (I mean, I like Horn fine); but Crawford against Thurman and Spence, if I could make any fights happen I’d pick that round robin. I’m curious what you think about those fights — any of the three against one another, and if/when we might see them. If I had to wager, at the end of the day I see Crawford the last man standing but damn that’s a tough call!

Happy New Year, I’m looking forward to it. – Alec

Yeah, me too, at least we know we’re going to be watching Okolie-Chamberlain and Valdez-Quigg. Horn-Crawford also looks imminent for April. But Crawford vs. Spence or Thurman? Don’t get your hopes up. We’ll be lucky if we get Thurman vs. Spence by the end of the year.  For the sake of mindless debating, I slightly favor Crawford over Spence and slightly favor Thurman over Crawford.

I don’t have a favorite in the “British Beef” grudge match. I know Okolie’s got uncommon height (6-foot-5) and reach for a cruiser, plus a decorated amateur background, but he’s looked a little tight in the clips I’ve seen of him, maybe a little overanxious to whack his opponents out (not that I’m complaining about a seek-and-destroy mentality). Chamberlain seems more relaxed and fluid with his offense. Working with Usyk is excellent preparation for this huge opportunity. I’m not just talking about the sparring, but being around an Olympic and world pro champ, seeing how he prepares himself for a big fight, and learning about his training methods.

How do I see Valdez-Quigg going? I see a f__king war, dude. That’s a matchup worthy of the StubHub Center. I’m going to be there for that one. And, once again, I don’t not have a favorite. Valdez, the defending titleholder, is strong and confident, and I’m sure the two-time Mexican Olympian will have most of the Southern California crowd on his side, but

Oscar Valdez lands a left hook to Genesis Servania during their hard-fought WBO featherweight title bout. Photo / @TRboxing

Quigg is equally rugged and far more experienced. Valdez found a way to win tough title defenses against Miguel Marriaga and Genesis Servania last year, but I think Quigg is a bit smarter and more versatile than those fringe contenders. I envision a grueling, nip-and-tuck battle. (Hey, that’s what StubHub main events are supposed to be!)

If Quigg pulls off the upset can he hold onto the title? Not if he had to face elite featherweights, but do you really think he’s going to engage in unification bouts with Leo Santa Cruz, Gary Russell Jr. or even Lee Selby right after a tough fight with Valdez? I don’t see that happening (not in 2018, anyway). If Valdez-Quigg goes the way I think it will, the March 10 showdown will beg for a rematch. And beyond a return bout, Quigg would defend the WBO belt against whoever is in that sanctioning organization’s top 10, which includes (No. 1-rated) Joseph Diaz Jr. and his U.K. nemesis Carl Frampton.

 

KNOWING WHEN TO CLOSE THE SHOW

Hi Doug,

Thanks for answering my mythical fight a few months ago Henry Armstrong v Roberto Duran.

Anyway, having watched Kovalev v Ward I and GGG v Jacobs, the biggest problem I have with these fights is that neither challenger seemed to ‘go for it’. By that it seemed like they both wanted crawl over the finish line rather than sprint towards it and win clearly.

For years I never agreed with the reasoning that the challenger had to go out and take the title from the champ. As long as the challenger won, no matter how close the decision was, it should be enough… I thought. But watching these two big fights, and seeing how the challengers didn’t really ‘put it on the line’ but yet feel they deserved the decision, I’m beginning to change my mind.

I think boxing would definitely be more entertaining if challengers went into title fights feeling that they really had to rip the title from the champ, rather than try to gentle take it. What do you think? – Paul Jordan

The first feature story I wrote for THE RING magazine was on then-lightweight contender Shane Mosley, who was patiently waiting for a shot at one of the four sanctioning organization belt (but understandably getting a little antsy while watching his amateur peers, such as Rafael Ruelas and Stevie Johnston win world 135-pound titles). While interviewing Mosely for the piece (at his home in Pomona, California, on March 1, 1997), we watched Johnston, an amateur rival of his, win the WBC lightweight title with a split decision over Jean-Baptiste Mendy in Paris.

The fight was brisk and competitive but neither fighter was able to separate himself from the other. I remember Jack Mosley shaking his head after the fight and saying “Stevie’s lucky they didn’t rob him over there in France; you gotta close the show when you’re fighting for a title.”

Shane added: “They were boxing for a world title, I’m going to be fighting for it.”

Fast-forward three years, when Mosley got a shot at Oscar De La Hoya at welterweight, he backed those words up in the champions rounds of a hotly contested matchup of elite talents. He wasn’t content to merely frustrate De La Hoya down the stretch, he dug down deep in the final rounds (especially the final round) and let his hands go, risking getting clipped by De La Hoya, who was still in his prime and a formidable left-hooker. The result wasn’t just a split-decision victory for Mosley, their combined effort made for a compelling fight and his final round sprint added an exclamation point to the PPV event, creating a buzz that went beyond the boxing world.

Mosley (at least the prime version of Sugar Shane) got it. I wish more modern boxers did.

And while I don’t agree with the notion that the challenger has to TAKE the title from the champion, I certainly understand it.

 

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

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