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Dougie’s Monday mailbag (Usyk-Briedis, Lucas Matthysse, Joshua-Parker)

29
Jan

BOXING THE WAY IT SHOULD BE

Hi Dougie,

Bleated Happy New Year, all the best in 2018.

I managed to find a stream for Oleksandr Usyk vs. Mairis Briedis. My observations and questions:



1) The crowd was rocking and the fight was stupendous. Both men fought and boxed at a high level for 12 rounds. An excellent display of skill, stamina and bravery by both fighters. The action was non stop, no holding and the advantage would swing back and forth between the two fighters often in the same round. Finally, and perhaps more importantly what seemed like a fair and accurate decision (do you agree?). Kudos to both fighters.

2) Why no U.S. TV? Only in boxing do I have to huddle around my laptop to watch what should of been on regular TV. It was such a good fight my two kids, 9 and 6, who generally could care less about boxing where transfixed to the screen.

3) Europe seems to have stepped beyond the U.S. in terms of the quality of its boxing shows. I contrast this fight with two marquee U.S. cards GGG-Canelo and Thurman-Garcia and it was ten times better than both of those combined. I hope the lack of TV last night does not become the norm and shut us U.S. fans out of good European boxing.

4) Do you think there is a change in boxing going on where more fights will be on “free TV” such as ESPN and CBS vs. pay networks and worst of all way too expensive PPV?

5) How do you see Gassiev vs Dorticos playing out?

6) What the hell has happened to HBO? Has their arrogance gotten then shut out from the two biggest promotion companies (PBC and Top Rank)?

All the best, your loyal reader who is at least for today a satisfied boxing fan. – Aaron in Miami

I’m glad that Usyk-Briedis delivered and satisfied you, Aaron, even if you had to view it via live stream.

I’ll respond to your many questions and statement in order:

The crowd was rocking and the fight was stupendous. That’s what happens when boxing makes a quality fight (this one matched two unbeaten cruiserweight titleholders in their primes, Nos. 1 and 3 in THE RING’s rankings) and puts it in the right place. 

Both men fought and boxed at a high level for 12 rounds. An excellent display of skill, stamina and bravery by both fighters. It was a world-class high-intensity boxing match in which both fighters gave 100% efforts but were still respectful of each other and the rules of boxing.

The action was non stop, no holding and the advantage would swing back and forth between the two fighters often in the same round. It’s early to start declaring Fight of the Year candidates, but I think most will agree that this unification bout qualifies.

Finally, and perhaps more importantly what seemed like a fair and accurate decision (do you agree?). Absolutely. Usyk deserved to win the bout in my opinion. I didn’t see the razor-thin outcome that most fans and media saw. (I didn’t watch the bout live, either, so maybe that had something to do with it.) I scored it 117-111 for Usyk, or nine rounds to three, scoring only Rounds 4, 6 and 12 for Briedis. However, I admit that Rounds 2 and 3 were very close and possibly could have gone to the hometown fighter, in which case I would have ended up with a 115-113 tally as most observers scored it.

Kudos to both fighters. Props to Briedis, who could make a nice living just defending one belt in his hometown, for attempting to unify titles against a potential world-beater; and props to Usyk for beating yet another quality fighter on foreign soil. Does any titleholder travel as much as Usyk? I guess Jorge Linares does, but I think the cruiserweight’s opposition has been a bit tougher.

Why no U.S. TV? That’s a question for the boxing executives at ESPN, HBO and Showtime. I’ll say this, I’m pretty sure the Sauerland Brothers joined up with Richard Schaefer with the assumption that the former “Golden Boss” would open doors to U.S. TV – namely Showtime due to the very cozy relationship he had with the subscription network while partnered up with Al Haymon. However, now that Haymon has blown through his time-buy money, he’s not about to give up Showtime dates to fighters that he doesn’t advise. So, despite the success they had while under the Golden Boy banner, Haymon and Showtime boxing czar Stephen Espinzoa do not have warm and fuzzy feelings toward Schaefer. It’s just cold, hard business, and that’s the same story with HBO (which wants to keep GBP happy) and ESPN (which wants to keep Top Rank happy). The other part of this equation is that, for the most part, the fighters featured in the WBSS cruiserweight and super middleweight tournaments are unknown (or unappreciated) in the U.S. It was the same story in the sub-bantamweight divisions prior to Roman Gonzalez breaking through on HBO (with the assistance of Gennady Golovkin and Tom Loeffler). HBO (or Showtime or ESPN) should have been featuring a badass like “Chocolotito” when he was going at it with Juan Estrada in late 2012 (in a co-feature to a main event – Brian Viloria vs. Tyson Marquez – that was also worthy of major network exposure). However, Gonzalez was unknown to casual fans and he was in an unpopular weight class (to general American sports fans).

Europe seems to have stepped beyond the U.S. in terms of the quality of its boxing shows. Dude, this has been the case for at least three decades.

I contrast this fight with two marquee U.S. cards GGG-Canelo and Thurman-Garcia and it was ten times better than both of those combined. I agree that it far outshined Thurman-Garcia. GGG-Canelo? Not so much. (But maybe you had to be there.)

I hope the lack of TV last night does not become the norm and shut us U.S. fans out of good European boxing. You are not alone with this concern. I think Showtime has been pretty good about televising quality bouts from the U.K. in recent years, HBO has been willing to travel for big events (such as Froch-Kessler II, Froch-Groves II and Joshua-Klitschko) or for special talents (Golovkin and Dmitry Bivol in Monte Carlo), and thanks to its new deal with Top Rank, ESPN has broadcast title bouts from Australia (Pacquiao-Horn, Horn-Corcoran) and Japan (Ndam-Murata II). My guess is that there will be more of an international flavor on U.S. networks that televise boxing as time goes on.

Do you think there is a change in boxing going on where more fights will be on “free TV” such as ESPN and CBS vs. pay networks and worst of all way too expensive PPV? Not really. I think most of top boxing talent that fights in the U.S. will appear on Showtime or HBO, although, ESPN, which is basic cable, will regularly feature elite boxers (Vasyl Lomachenko and Terence Crawford) and young titleholders (such as Oscar Valdez) due to its Top Rank deal.

How do you see Gassiev vs Dorticos playing out? Bombs away until somebody gets KTFO. I slightly favor Gassiev.

What the hell has happened to HBO? Has their arrogance gotten then shut out from the two biggest promotion companies (PBC and Top Rank)? I guess that’s one way to look at it (although you shouldn’t pretend that there’s no arrogance on the side of the promoters). The network is definitely in a rebuilding stage at the present time and it doesn’t have a schedule near as strong or complete as Showtime does through the month of June. However, it’s still January, so maybe HBO will announce a few quality dates over the next few weeks. At least they’ve got “SuperFly 2” coming on Feb. 24.

 

MATTHYSSE FINALLY WINS A BELT

Hey Doug, how are you?

I didn’t realize Lucas Matthysse had never won a real-world title. It was awesome to see him finally do it. It shows you that if you don’t fight the right names and are always going for real champions, it’s not as easy as it seems.

Also, to all of those people that say belts don’t matter, please call Lucas if they do or don’t. For a guy like him, who’s put all his life’s effort in to this grueling sport, I can assure you that there has never been a better feeling than the one he had Saturday night. No paycheck can compare to the feeling of finally being recognized as the champion of the world. It was something to see and admire. Good for him.  Thanks Doug, have a good week. – Juan Valverde, San Diego

“Good for him”?

That’s all you have to say about Matthysse-Kiram?

You’re not going to tell me that Lucas looked like pure ASS for seven and a half rounds? You’re not going to tell me that the fight totally sucked, and that HBO is officially the worst network that televises boxing? You’re not going to tell me that Tewa Kiram took a blatant dive and is the most pitiful fighter ever to appear on HBO, or that I’m a clueless geek for giving the unheralded Thai fighter the benefit of the doubt coming into what should have been a gross mismatch (but wasn’t because Matthysse is more shot than Tupac and Biggie)? You’re not even going to tell me that Matthysse’s “JV” WBA title is worthless!?!

I’m sorry, Juan, but if you’re no longer willing to take big greasy dumps on EVERYTHING, I’m afraid you’re going to have to turn in your hardcore boxing fan certification. You are now a card-carrying shill for Golden Boy Promotions, HBO and the WBA! (Not to mention a shameless Matthysse nut-hugger!)

I’m kidding, of course. It’s refreshing to see longtime boxing fans feel good when hardnosed veteran fighters achieve elusive goals and dreams. Matthysse faced at least eight legit junior welterweight contenders between 2010 and 2015, and he delivered more than his share of thrills (including THE RING/BWAA 2014 Fight of the Year, his 11th-round KO of John Molina, and a strong 2015 Fight of the Year candidate with his hard-fought decision over Ruslan Provodnikov). And though he fell short against Danny Garcia in a bid for the RING/WBC/WBA 140-pound titles, it must be noted that he should have won Lamont Peterson’s IBF title when he knocked out the Washington, D.C. native in 2013 but boxing politics kept that belt out of his heavy hands. 

 

CLASH OF THE LATINO LEGENDS

I’m sure you’ve done this mythical matchup before, but I can’t remember…

Julio Cesar Chavez vs. Roberto Duran @ 135, 140, 147.

Thanks. – Ceylon

There’s no doubt this mythical matchup has been brought up numerous times, and I’m certain that I always pick “Hands of Stone.”

I think Duran beats Chavez by close, competitive decision at lightweight (in what could be an all-time great fight), by competitive-but-clear decision at junior welterweight, and by late stoppage in a fairly one-sided contest at welterweight.

 

TITLE UNIFICATIONS

Hi Dougie,

Been reading a while here now and let me start off by thanking you for your regular mailbag column, where I always seem to learn something new or gain a different perspective.

First off: How good was that Usyk-Briedis fight? I think the right man got the decision but Briedis gained a lot of respect in my book. I’d thought it might look like his past few fights with lots of clinches but hats off to him for boxing Usyk for 12 rounds and showing he was nearly the equal of one of the most skilled big men in the game.

Have you ever seen two guys this heavy with that kind of movement? This is a rematch that I think fans want to see, and hopefully happens should Usyk win in the finals. Do you see this fight changing any predictions for the final? In my opinion, I actually think it raised Usyk’s odds in my eyes simply because although he showed a little less skill (or Breidis showed that Usyk isn’t as far and above all others as I’d thought) but he ate some pretty big shots and I think that the biggest threat to him losing the tournament is the power of Gassiev and Dorticos. I hope that makes sense.

Secondly: Is it just me or does it seem like we’re seeing more unifications nowadays? Obviously, the tournament is leading to unifications, but even in the much lower divisions we’re seeing guys take up multiple belts in the flyweights and fights like the Erislandy Lara-Jarrett Hurd showdown. I have to think that it’s good for the sport if only so us hardcore fans can see the types of fights that might not have gotten made several years ago. Maybe it’s just a generation of guys like Gennady Golovkin and Errol Spence and Anthony Joshua and so on that are looking to establish their legacies. Well, I hope it keeps up and I’m glad it seems like we have more big fights in the pipeline.

Thanks. – Michael from Washington D.C.

I think it definitely inspires young fighters to dream about being undisputed champions (and even a few veteran titleholders to dare to add to their belt collections) when some of the biggest names and most respected boxers in the sport are multiple beltholders, such as Joshua (who holds the IBF and WBA heavyweight belts and will attempt to further unify against WBO titleholder Joseph Parker on March 31) and Golovkin (who holds three of the four major middleweight sanctioning organization straps); and, until recently Andre Ward and Terence Crawford (who was undisputed). Keith Thurman holds two belts at welterweight and Errol Spence wants them. Spence’s desire to be undisputed (and his hashtag-battle cry of #StrapSeason) endears him to hardcore fans (as much as Thurman’s seeming lack of interest to earn more belts tends to turn the diehards off).

Lara-Hurd and the WBSS finals will give us three other multiple beltholders (and two new RING champs) by the end of May. And I agree that it’s good for the sport. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m more impressed with fighters that unify the belts in their division and prove they’re the best in that weight class than I am by division-hoppers who move up and down without establishing themselves as the top dog in any weight class.

I think Mikey Garcia did his career a disservice by not attempting to unify 135-pound titles against Jorge Linares and Robert Easter Jr. when he had the opportunity. Both fights were offered to him for significant money late last year, and, at the time, they were anticipated by fans and viewed as competitive bouts. However, given the form that Easter and Linares have shown in their most recent bouts, it’s EXTREMELY likely that Garcia would have defeated them both.

Had he done that, he’d be THE RING/WBC/WBA/IBF lightweight champ. But Garcia wanted to “go in other direction” and chase what he calls “history” by fighting IBF 140-pound titleholder Sergey Lipinets. I get that a victory over the Russian gives him a fourth title in a fourth weight class, but nobody views Lipinets as being on Garcia’s level. And, bottom line, is it really “historic” if nobody really cares?

Anyway, I’m glad more fighters and fans seem to respect unified champs these days. In the late 1980s and early ‘90s I used to tape posters (usually from KO Magazine) of Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Pernell Whitaker proudly displaying two or three major world titles to my dorm room walls. I viewed the multiple beltholders as a real champions and cut above the rest.

How good was that Usyk-Briedis fight? MUCH better than I thought it would be.

I think the right man got the decision but Briedis gained a lot of respect in my book. He did. Despite losing, I don’t expect him to drop in THE RING rankings.

I’d thought it might look like his past few fights with lots of clinches but hats off to him for boxing Usyk for 12 rounds and showing he was nearly the equal of one of the most skilled big men in the game. I thought Briedis put up a hell of a fight, but to my eyes (and I admit that I’m probably in the minority) Usyk clearly separated himself from the hometown hero. Every round was competitive, but I thought Usyk outworked Briedis and got the slight better of his fellow beltholder in the majority of rounds. I thought the Ukrainian southpaw was better at mixing up his attack, maneuvering around his opponent, counterpunching and hitting on the fly. I also thought he was better at blocking shots and utilizing upper-body movement to slip punches.

Have you ever seen two guys this heavy with that kind of movement? It’s been awhile. Juan Carlos Gomez, the WBC cruiserweight titleholder from 1998 to 2002, had similar size, style and athleticism to Usyk. “The Black Panther” could move and mix up his attack with volume and precision much like Usyk does now. And Vassiliy Jirov, the IBF cruiserweight titleholder from 1999 to 2003, was just as smart, physically strong and gutsy as Briedis (though from a southpaw stance). Both former cruiserweights were exceptional amateurs who became special pros. They had solid title reigns before moving to heavyweight where the eventually became opponents. It’s too bad there wasn’t a WBSS around for them to sign on to. They would have made for an amazing fight at 190 pounds.

This is a rematch that I think fans want to see, and hopefully happens should Usyk win in the finals. It probably will.

Do you see this fight changing any predictions for the final? Hard to say because we haven’t seen the other semifinal bout. Who knows? If Gassiev or Dorticos looks amazing in victory on Feb. 3 the winner of that bout could become the favorite in the WBSS final. But they have to fight the fight first.

In my opinion, I actually think it raised Usyk’s odds in my eyes simply because although he showed a little less skill (or Breidis showed that Usyk isn’t as far and above all others as I’d thought) but he ate some pretty big shots and I think that the biggest threat to him losing the tournament is the power of Gassiev and Dorticos. Briedis isn’t as known for his power as Gassiev or Dorticos, but he’s carries a pretty good punch and I thought Usyk took his flush right hands well. I don’t think anybody is going to have an easy time overpowering Usyk.

 

JOSHUA-PARKER FOR THE RING TITLE?

Hi Doug,

Hate to be a broken record about this because many of the mailbag readers have already mentioned it but… it might be time to vacate The Ring’s heavyweight title and put it up for grabs for the winner of the Anthony Joshua vs Joseph Parker matchup since this will crown a three-belt heavyweight champion in the division. – Eli, Austin, Texas

I’ve publicly stated that Team Fury has until the end of this month to schedule a fight or the linear heavyweight champ will be stripped of THE RING title (and I will probably continue to do so every day until Thursday). If THE RING championship is vacated, the Joshua-Parker fight, which takes place on March 31, is eligible for the title.

Championship vacancies can be filled in two ways:

  1. THE RING’s Nos. 1 and 2 contenders fight one another.
  2. If the Nos. 1 and 2 contenders choose not to fight one another and No. 1 fights No. 3, that matchup could be for THE RING title if the Ratings Panel and Editorial Board deems No. 3 worthy.

Right now, Deontay Wilder, who faces Luis Ortiz on March 3, is our No. 2 contender. The American has his share of detractors, but so does Parker (who hasn’t exactly looked like a world-beater since winning the WBO title). I could be wrong, but I doubt the Ratings Panel will view Parker as being as worthy of fighting for THE RING title as Wilder. Also, I think that most fans and media believe that the winners of the heavyweight title bouts in March will eventually face each other, and THAT’S the matchup that’s worthy of having THE RING title on the line.

 

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

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