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Dougie’s Friday mailbag (Matthysse-Kiram, Showtime, Usyk and more love for Spence)

Lucas Matthysse and Tewa Kiram engage in a staredown at the final press conference for their HBO main event. Photo by Tom Hogan- Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions
26
Jan

MATTHYSSE-KIRAM, SHOWTIME’S SCHEDULE

Hello Doug,

Let me begin by mentioning what a shame it is that we are unable to watch this weekend’s World Boxing Super Series matchup of Oleksandr Usyk vs Mairis Briedis.

Showtime rolled out their slate of fights and I must say I will be most looking forward to Erislandy Lara v Jarrett Hurd, Adonis Stevenson (finally facing a formidable opponent) v Badou Jack, Leo Santa Cruz v Abner Mares 2 and the Omar Figueroa v Adrien Broner scrap. Without going into detail as to why, I favor Hurd, Santa Cruz, Figueroa in what will finally seal the deal in Broner becoming more of a B-side/gatekeeper and then the toughest one for me to call of that bunch is Stevenson vs Jack, but I will go with Stevenson. How do you see those fights playing out? I also must add that the Showtime lineup doesn’t seem to really point towards any cross-promoting, at least in the near future.



I will be at this weekend’s fights for my first card in person of 2018 and I think the more I read about Tewa Kiram, the more excited I am to see this main event. If Lucas Mathysse wins, wouldn’t it be his very first world title? I hope Mercito Gesta ends up being an entertaining dance partner for Jorge Linares as was Luke Campbell in Linares’ previous bout at the Forum. Thanks again! – Andrew, Chula Vista, CA

Stylistically speaking, I don’t think Gesta can trouble Linares as much as Campbell did in September. The Filipino southpaw isn’t as tall, rangy or technically sound as the Olympic gold medalist. However, he does possess the footwork and athleticism to get in close to the talented Venezuelan, and he’s got enough pop in his punches to dent that questionable chin (or bust up that brittle skin). But to really have a shot at scoring the upset, Gesta has to apply more pressure than he usually does, and he’s got to hustle for three minutes of each round.

Linares and Gesta engage in a stare out. Photo by tom Hogan-Hoganphotos / GBP

Gesta told me that he’s 100% healthy and motivated at Thursday’s press conference, and he added that he had an excellent camp and sparring to prepare for his second world title shot. To his credit, he said he needs to score the knockout. That’s the right mentality to make for a compelling fight. We’ll find out tomorrow night if Gesta can put it all together.

As much as like Linares and Gesta, I’m more interested in the welterweight main event because of the clash of aggressive styles. Matthysse is a busy, fluid boxer-puncher; and Kiram is big, sturdy looking, with a good jab, hard right hand and decent footwork. The unheralded Thai welterweight isn’t battle proven like Matthysse, but he’s been well developed and he’s obviously the fresher fighter. Obviously, I favor Matthysse, who’s a beautiful combination puncher when he’s at his best (and I know that Joel Diaz has him in excellent condition), but I expect Kiram to push him. He told me (through translator Walter Sarnoi) that he’s studied hours of video on Matthysse and has the right gameplan to beat the veteran. We’ll see.

A couple notes on each welterweight:

Matthysse did a lot of sparring with Vergil Ortiz, one of the best young prospects in the game, to get ready for this fight, including a hard 10-round session last week. Diaz told me that Ortiz “respects no one in the ring” and that he wanted Matthysse to finish up his camp sparring with the 19-year-old Texan because he knew that the veteran would not be able to relax or coast. Diaz wants The Machine to be firing on all cylinders for this fight.

Kiram, who is 10 years younger than Matthysse, has no amateur boxing experience. His boxing foundation was a career in Muy Thai kickboxing, which he began when he was only 7 years old. He had 100 Muy Thai bouts (38 of which were professional bouts). He told me won 60 of those bouts and was the national champ at junior lightweight and lightweight. Kiram’s boxing hero is Khaosai Galaxy, known as the “Thai Tyson” when he reigned as the WBA 115-pound champ from 1985-1991. Kiram has the same promoter as his idol (40-year-old Galaxy Promotions).

Showtime rolled out their slate of fights and I must say I will be most looking forward to Erislandy Lara v Jarrett Hurd, Adonis Stevenson (finally facing a formidable opponent) v Badou Jack, Leo Santa Cruz v Abner Mares 2 and the Omar Figueroa v Adrien Broner scrap. I’m most into the Stevenson-Jack fight, followed by Lara-Hurd. The WBC light heavyweight title tilt is an even matchup and a good style mesh (athletic boxer-puncher vs. hardnosed forward-marching technician). The 154-pound unification is that rare style mesh that could force Lara to be entertaining, as he was during his 10-round struggle with Alfredo Angulo in 2013. Props to Showtime for helping to make these bouts a reality.

I favor Hurd, Santa Cruz, Figueroa in what will finally seal the deal in Broner becoming more of a B-side/gatekeeper and then the toughest one for me to call of that bunch is Stevenson vs Jack, but I will go with Stevenson. How do you see those fights playing out? I slightly favor Lara, Santa Cruz, Broner (who’s already a gatekeeper/fringe contender but, remarkably, remains an “A-side”) and Jack.

I also must add that the Showtime lineup doesn’t seem to really point towards any cross-promoting, at least in the near future. You’re probably right, but there are some special fights that can be made within the PBC/Showtime “boxing league.” Hopefully Lara-Hurd leads to a three-belt unification bout with Jermell Charlo, Santa Cruz-Mares II leads to the winner facing Gary Russell Jr., and, of course, Thurman’s comeback bout in May and Spence’s homecoming in June lead to their eventual welterweight unification showdown.

Regarding Usyk-Briedis, I think you’ll be able to watch a live stream on the official WBSS website.

 

‘ONETIME’ AND HIS WBA MANDATORY

Oh man…if the WBA makes Thurman fight Shawn Porter and Matthysse (assuming he wins on Saturday), I won’t give a s__t if we have to wait for Spence. I hadn’t thought about that. Matthysse is about to fight for one of the WBA’s “definitely-not-world-champion-but-maybe-next-in-line” belt. Oooh.

Also, Mythical Matchups:

Liston-Frazier and Liston-Holmes. – Ceylon

Liston by mid-fight stoppage vs. Smokin’ Joe and by close decision over Holmes. (Mind you, I’m not talking about the heavyweight champ version of Liston from 1962-1964: I’m thinking about Sonny at his peak as an avoided contender from 1959-’60.)

Matthysse and Kiram with the WBA’s “regular” 147-pound belt. Photo / Hoganphotos

I don’t think the WBA is pushing for a Porter mandatory. That might be the WBC (which rated Porter at No. 1 last time I checked). After the Matthysse-Kiram winner, Danny Garcia is the WBA’s next highest contender. However, the Garcia-Brandon Rios fight on Feb. 17 is sanctioned as a “final title-elimination bout” by the WBC. So, who knows? Thurman holds the WBC belt and the WBA’s “super” title, so we have to assume that he’ll fight one of his PBC rivals in a mandated rematch before the end of the year.

But I’m with you, I’d rather see Thurman vs. Matthysse (if the Argentine veteran looks like vintage “Machine” vs. Kiram).

 

MAN DOWN!

I know I am late, but Spence is that dude and has been for a while. I was in a grocery store a few months back and the bag boy asked me about some random sport, I have no idea, perhaps football that I don’t watch. When I told him the only sport I watch is boxing, he asked me who was the best guy right now. Back then I told him Spence.

That guy is a beast!!! When the trainer of the other guy literally says “I didn’t want my fighter to die in there” that lets you know he is a bad man!

I do not see Crawford or Thurman beating him, even though I like both guys. Thurman is not consistent enough in his offense and Spence grinds 3 minutes a round with hard s__t! He’ll beat Porter like a ragdoll because he will be there for the punishment. Garcia would be brutalized. Crawford has looked very good at 140, I do not see him just taking over the division immediately at 147, I think he will need to get acclimated to the weight. Spence is the #1 guy at the weight in my mind. Obviously he will have to prove it and when given the opportunity I think he will.

Think about this, you don’t hear ANYONE calling him out, OR even SAYING I want to fight him when asked!!!!!! They won’t utter his name. Everyone says Garcia (big money, big name, easy fight) and Thurman (supposedly the man of the division and has two belts). But Spence is the Lion of the division.

Oh well, with Ward gone, Thurman about to go down, at least we still got the Six God! Thank you. – Jason C. Brown

It’s true; there isn’t a welterweight in the world that’s in a hurry to share the ring with Errol Spence Jr., who badly wants to prove that he’s the best 147 pounder on the planet. His situation reminds me of when Gennady Golovkin was the boogey man of the middleweight division during his rise to prominence in 2013 and 2014. We knew none of the other 160-pound titleholders at the time were going to face him because he was a destroyer who didn’t have a big enough name/following to command a payday that was worth getting one’s ass kicked.

Hopefully, Spence (and the IBF beltholder’s team) takes a page from the Book of GGG and fights as often as possible. Golovkin fought four times in 2013 and three times in 2014. By the end of 2014, he sold out his first major venue (StubHub Center in Carson, California).

I do not see Crawford or Thurman beating him, even though I like both guys. I can see scenarios where Bud and One Time outpoint Spence, but I don’t think they can do it in their next fight (or even their next two bouts). Thurman’s got to knock off ring rust and Crawford, as you stated, needs to get used to fighting welterweights (however, I don’t think it will take him too long to acclimate to the new weight class; he often rehydrated up to 157 pounds as a junior welter).

He’ll beat Porter like a ragdoll because he will be there for the punishment. I think he beats Porter, but not like a ragdoll.

Garcia would be brutalized. Yes, by the late rounds of the fight, I agree.

 

LAID-BACK KILLER

Well, Errol Spence looked like a destroyer again. I though the commentators made a good point when they noted that one of the best aspects of his game is his control of distance. His small subtle steps always seem to keep him perfectly balanced and just at the right distance to pump the jab and leverage big shots to the body.

I know I’m jumping the gun a bit but I favor him over Thurman and Crawford at this point. His balance, power, piston jab and placid killer mentality make him a formidable force, a bit like GGG.

I hope Keith gets it together and fights him before the end of the year! – Jack

That was Paulie Malignaggi noting Spence’s control of distance during the Peterson fight and as the Brits like to say, he was “spot on.”

He does remind a lot of fans of a southpaw version of GGG. Some pundits, including Steve Kim, have compared Spence to Marvelous Marvin Hagler. I won’t disagree with these comparisons, but I will point out that Golovkin had trouble with the styles that Daniel Jacobs and Canelo Alvarez presented him, and the Marvelous One had trouble with the superb ring generalship of Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Thurman’s power-punch-on-the-fly style and Crawford’s versatile-switch-hit-with-bad-intentions ring generalship gives Spence all he can handle.

 

NELSON, USYK, OVERRATED 147-LB. DIVISION

Dear Mr. Fischer,

I hope that all is well for you and yours.

First, I wanted to get your opinion of the recent Johnny Nelson piece published on RingTV.com. I agree with Mr. Nelson that, in terms of boxing ability, Oleksandr Usyk is the class of the cruiserweight division. But I still don’t know how good Usyk’s chin is, and I would love to see him in the final with either Dorticos or Gassiev (so I’m rooting for him on Saturday). I think a Gassiev-Usyk final is both the most likely outcome of the tournament and the most interesting (how often does that come to pass?).

I’m more interested in Mr Nelson’s opinion that Usyk will be a heavyweight champion. Have you seen anything from the Ukrainian that lets you believe he could take a belt from Wilder or Joshua (or Parker, if he can beat AJ)? Usyk has class, and I think he’ll cruise to an easy decision against Briedis Saturday, he may even be able to get the Latvian out of there if he presses him (I’m guessing he won’t run the risk). I could maybe even see him dancing around a planted AJ for a Sugar Ray Leonard-esque decision against a bigger man (Leonard’s tactics against Hagler being the gold standard in that department), but I can’t see him beating Wilder, even with the gulf between their boxing abilities. Others have disagreed with me, saying Wilder would be the easiest scalp. What’s your take?

As it stands, I think Usyk will have done remarkably well just to make the WBSS final. Everything else seems premature, with all due respect to Mr. Nelson.

Second, and I imagine I’m in the minority here, but I don’t believe welterweight is anywhere near the best division in boxing right now. I think the top of the division is log-jammed because so many of the better fighters hail from the PBC stable and are therefore considerably less active. It may be the most competitive division in boxing, at least until Errol Spence or Bud Crawford can get more matchups with the top ten fighters, but in a more active division most of the guys in the bottom of the welterweight top ten would have two or three more losses. Al Haymon giving us a round robin between similarly matched fighters (Thurman, Porter, Garcia, Peterson, etc.), and those fighters stacking the top-ten, doesn’t sell me on the division having much elite talent. Unfortunately, I also happen to think that the elite talent in the division (Crawford and Spence) will be on the fence for a while (Spence) or sitting on the sideline indefinitely (Crawford) because of the same maneuvering that created the logjam in the first place. If Spence and Crawford can get the matchups to prove (or further exhibit, in Bud’s case) their bonafides, then I’ll probably agree that the class of the division has increased, and that it’s among the very best in boxing, but until that time, it’s just an intriguing weight class with a lot of similarly matched fighters. What are your thoughts?

Very respectfully. – John (Ten Stone, Hauser Jr)

I think aforementioned cruiserweight division is arguably a deeper weight class than welterweight. My choice for deepest division would be junior bantamweight (even without The Monster), followed by light heavyweight (when a proven veteran like Badou Jack is in the lower top-10, you it’s a talented weight class), cruiserweight and middleweight (which has two pound-for-pound rated fighters, plus talented standouts such as Billy Joe Sanders, Daniel Jacobs, Jermall Charlo and Sergey Derevyanchenko).

The welterweights remind me of the heavyweight division. The top three is very strong (and I’m assuming that Crawford will look great against Jeff Horn in April to join Thurman and Spence as a major beltholder). And then you have the others, most of whom are solid but aren’t world-beaters (or are no longer world-beaters because they’re faded). Welter is stronger than heavyweight, which has some rather ordinary fringe types and largely unproved up-and-comers in the lower top 10.

Regarding Usyk, I agree that he should be the favorite to win the WBSS tournament, but I don’t think he’ll have any easy time with Briedis and I know that the Gassiev-Dorticos winner will make for a dangerous opponent. He’s going to have to earn that Ali Trophy and undisputed champ status.

Let’s see how well he does in his next two fights before we start talking about his heavyweight chances. This isn’t like the late 1980s when we had a dominant undisputed heavyweight champ (Mike Tyson) who had run out of contenders to beat on, thus forcing hardcore fans and sports writers to turn an eye to the dominant undisputed cruiserweight champ (Evander Holyfield) in hopes of finding a suitable challenger for Iron Mike.

We’ve currently got three unbeaten heavyweight titleholders (four counting lineal/RING champ Tyson Fury). These men need to fight each other before we start looking at the 200-pound division for potential heavyweight challengers.

 

DERRICK JAMES

Hi Doug,

Hope all is well. Big fan of the mailbag. After watching the Spence vs Peterson fight one thing I noticed is how similar Jermell Charlo fights like Errol Spence. They both are very technical, they punch with textbook technique and accuracy. They place their shots well and get plenty of leverage on their punches without wasting energy. Only difference is Spence fights more fluidly and throws more punches. Perhaps Jermell is still mastering this style. I say all this to say Derrick James is a hell of a trainer and should be awarded trainer of the year. Thanks for all the mailbags, regards. – Malik, Baltimore, Md

Derrick James with his star pupil. Photo /_Ed Diller-DiBella Ent.

Mr. James won THE RING magazine’s 2017 Trainer of the Year award. (Buy a copy of the digital edition of the April 2018 issue, which is available now, if you don’t believe me!)

So, how’s that for service? The Boxing Writers Assoc. of America bestowed the Trainer of the Year honor to Anatoly Lomachenko (father and lifelong coach of Vasyl Lomachenko, who won THE RING and the BWAA’s 2017 Fighter of the Year award).

You can’t go wrong with either trainer, both of whom will probably win the award again. I thought the Andre Rozier (who trains Daniel Jacob, Sadam Ali and Sergey Derevyanchenko) was also worthy.

 

 

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

 

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