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Dougie’s Monday mailbag (Groves vs. Eubank Jr., top shootouts, most athletically gifted)

Eubank Jr. (right) with semi-final opponent George Groves. Photo courtesy of World Boxing Super Series




12
Feb

GROVES VS. EUBANK JR.

I think George Groves vs. Chris Eubank Jr. is a really intriguing fight for a few reasons; the two men are basically in their physical primes and they’re both boxer-punchers with fun contrasting styles.

I for one haven’t written off Groves yet. Despite getting absolutely starched by Carl Froch in their rematch, Groves has balanced back and seems to have even made a few slight improvements (like cardio). To come back from such a devastating loss (both physically and emotionally) says a lot about his character I think. Oh, and I don’t hold his loss against Badou Jack against him either, that was a very competitive fight and Jack is a really good fighter.

As for Eubank, I considered him a bit of a hype job for awhile but I took notice after he rallied for a strong second half against Billy Joe Saunders. That competitive loss looks even better now after Saunders boxed so beautifully against Lemmy.

Even though Eubank’s last opponent was tailor made for his style of flashy combination blitzing, I think a lot of people have come to appreciate his incredible hand speed, good head movement, increased jabbing and great conditioning. I also don’t usually love the cocky type of persona, but for some reason I find Eubank pretty entertaining with his arrogant charisma.

The questions that remain for me are: Can he cut off the ring and deal with a mobile fighter who utilizes lots of lateral motion, and can he tighten up his punch selection–just tidy up some of that crazy offense. Groves probably isn’t quite as heavy handed or fast as Eubank, but he’s a sharp puncher who doesn’t waste his shots. He can also box and move a little, and I’m sure he’s studied the Eubank-Saunders fight for a little inspiration.

I’ll be happy for whoever wins this fight but I’ve gotta admit, it’d be kind of nice to see the less naturally talented fighter who everyone’s doubting pull off the upset. Really, though, I just want another great fight to enter the cannon of great British super middleweight showdowns. – Jack

I don’t think Groves-Eubank will disappoint, Jack. I’m looking forward to this one, and, like you, I’m not counting St. George out. The Londoner may not be the more naturally gifted of the two world-class super middleweights, but he’s the naturally bigger man, he had the more extensive amateur career (which included back-to-back ABA titles in 2007 and 2008), and he’s been in with more quality opposition (in my opinion).

Both Englishmen have faced a Chudinov (Euby stopped Dimitri in 12; Double G halted Feder in six for the WBA belt). And the Russian brothers are pretty tough. Eubank’s got Saunders, a faded Arthur Abraham and the rugged, game Gary O’Sullivan on his ledger. Not bad at all, especially considering he almost beat BJS. But Groves has got a future hall of famer (Froch) on his record, plus Jack, James DeGale, Martin Murray and a faded Glen Johnson. Granted, he lost to Froch and Jack, but he gave The Cobra fits, and as you noted, Jack is very good and that fight was legitimately close. Bottom line is that Groves has gone many quality rounds with quality fighters.

Chris Eubank Jr. and Sr.

Having said all that, I understand why everyone favors Eubank Jr. He’s looks like the goods and he’s got some of his father’s mojo. Eubank isn’t untouchable, but he seems far more durable than Groves, who often appears awkward, stressed out or fatigued during his bouts. But truth about Groves is that he’s dangerous even when he seems vulnerable. He was buzzed at the end of the opening round of his bout against Paul Smith, but he came back and blasted the far more experienced fighter in the second round. I’m not saying Smith is a world-beater or anything, but Groves took his legs with one well-timed right hand, and nobody has dismissed Liverpudlian like that. (By the way, as you might know, Groves sparred with Eubank to prepare for Smith.)

I think Groves is not only going to give Eubank problems in the early rounds, I envision him nailing Junior with eye-catching jabs and right hands. However, Euby appears to have inherited his dad’s almost inhuman ability to take a shot. I think he takes Groves’ best and dishes out his own punishment in the middle rounds. If he presses Groves hard enough down the stretch, he can score a late stoppage. I like Eubank in 10 or 11.

Even though Eubank’s last opponent was tailor made for his style of flashy combination blitzing, I think a lot of people have come to appreciate his incredible hand speed, good head movement, increased jabbing and great conditioning. There’s nothing NOT to like about Eubank Jr. in my opinion. As long as he facing the best, which he is thanks to the WBSS tournament, he’s a welcome addition to the 168-pound division.

I also don’t usually love the cocky type of persona, but for some reason I find Eubank pretty entertaining with his arrogant charisma. He doesn’t seem that cocky to me; no more so than Groves.

The questions that remain for me are: Can he cut off the ring and deal with a mobile fighter who utilizes lots of lateral motion, and can he tighten up his punch selection–just tidy up some of that crazy offense. I assume you’re talking about Eubank, and my hunch is that he’ll have some trouble Groves’ lateral movement (if the WBA beltholder elects to stick and move). I think he’ll need some help in cutting the ring off on Groves (such as Groves getting tired or greedy).

Groves probably isn’t quite as heavy handed or fast as Eubank, but he’s a sharp puncher who doesn’t waste his shots. True, but he’s no slouch in the speed and power departments. He’s got a “twitchy” quickness to his jab and right hand.

He can also box and move a little, and I’m sure he’s studied the Eubank-Saunders fight for a little inspiration. I’m sure that Shane McGuigan did if Groves didn’t.

 

MOST ATHLETICALLY TALENTED

Hi Doug,

I just read Tom Gray’s article where he says Roy Jones Jr. was the most talented fighter ever. In your opinion, who would you say is the most physically gifted fighter of all time? Who has the best blend of hand and foot speed, agility, reflexes, and power? Perhaps you could share your top 5 fighters in this category. I’m glad Tom pointed out that being the most talented doesn’t necessarily make you the best. For instance, I have Roy as the most talented fighter but don’t list him amongst my top 20 all-time greats. Here is my list of most talented fighters:

  1. Roy Jones
  2. Sugar Ray Robinson
  3. Mike Tyson
  4. Muhammad Ali
  5. Sugar Shane Mosley

I’ve seen people mention Terry Norris as being sublimely gifted but I haven’t seen enough of him to say for myself. – Mike from NJ

Norris was indeed a phenomenal athlete but he also had excellent boxing technique. To me, what made Terry special was his fierce fighting spirit. Same with Edwin Valero. He was gifted with speed, stamina and crazy power, but it was his scary will that truly made him a threat in the ring.

Sugar Ray Robinson

Regarding my pick for the most physically gifted boxer of all time, I gotta go with Ray Robinson. He was poetry in motion but fast and agile with one-hitter-quitter power in either hand. When you ask “Who has the best blend of hand and foot speed, agility, reflexes, and power?” Even the faded middleweight version of Robinson got a “10” in each category. But so did the prime version of Jones that fought at 160 and 168 pounds. I’d put him at No. 2, followed by Sugar Ray Leonard, Ali (the fastest, most fluid and agile heavyweight ever), Joe Louis (didn’t possess the agility and foot speed Ali was gifted with but had great reflexes, plus the elite power that The Greatest lacked) and Mike Tyson (most explosive big man ever while in his prime).

I should note that old-timers, such as Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Mickey Walker, Kid Chocolate, Young Stribling, Henry Armstrong and John Henry Lewis were known for their athletic prowess and natural ability.

The five most physically gifted boxers that I had the opportunity to witness fight live (while still at or close to their primes) are: Manny Pacquiao, Naseem Hamed, Mark Johnson, Mosley and Nonito Donaire.

 

SHORT AND NOT-SO SWEET FIGHTS

Hope you’re well Mr. Fischer, I’ll keep it short.

What are your favorite fights that end in 6 rounds or less? For my money the fight with the most drama and savagery per round is Liles v Littles II. That fight really had it all, controversy, savagery, multiple knockdowns, back and forth action, wild swings in momentum, and was punctuated by the KO of the year (apologies to Wilfredo Vasquez).

Other strong examples that come to mind are Norris-Waters and Marquez v Pacquiao IV. Thanks in advance and thanks for making Mondays and Fridays a little easier to get through. – Sal, Mississippi

Obviously, Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas Hearns is on my short list, along with a fea classic heavyweight shootouts – George Foreman vs. Ron Lyle, Michael Moorer vs. Bert Cooper and Derrick Jefferson vs. Maurice Harris.

Other six-round-or-less shootouts to consider are Jose Luis Ramirez’s fourth-round KO of Edwin Rosario (THE RING’s 1984 Fight of the Year) and Israel Vasquez’s sixth-round stoppage of Rafael Marquez (THE RING’s 2007 Fight of the Year). Both bouts were rematches.

Antwun Echols’ up-from-the-canvas (three times!) third-round stoppage of Charles Brewer is worth noting. The stoppage was controversial, but it was pretty wild. Echols was a nut… but dangerous!

 

THE JUDGES SURE DO LOVE CANELO

Hi Dougie,

I’ve a question about Saul Alvarez which isn’t necessarily meant to imply any wrongdoing, but I was looking through his record, and there are so many fights where the judges gave him more rounds than the general-watching consensus had it. Jose Cotto, Shane Mosley, Austin Trout, Floyd Mayweather, Erislandy Lara, Miguel Cotto, Amir Khan to Golovkin (there may be others). In each case, the margin was always more in his favour than the commentators and the average viewer had it.

Only in the case of Lara and Golovkin did it makes any difference to the outcome of the fight, but, whether it’s because his precise, hard punches and measured output look better and better the closer you are to the action or whether there’s something a little more sinister going on, can you think of other fighters who’ve, so repeatedly, so openly, been viewed more favourably by the judges than by the general viewer? Thanks. – David

The bigger star (or the guy who is more connected or has the most upside or brings in the most money), is usually going to get a little “help” from the official judges – especially in Las Vegas.

If you happen to be THE biggest attraction in the sport, the officials often going to bend over backwards for you. Mike Tyson usually didn’t need help from the judges but lenient refs (guys who let him elbow opponents and hit them when they were down without even a warning) were the norm with the heavyweight superstar. It’s crazy that it took TWO bites for him to be disqualified in the Holyfield rematch. (But, when Iron Mike needed some help with the scorecards, it was there for him because there’s no way he should have been up by one point and even on another card at the time of his stoppage against Buster Douglas.)

Photo / THE RING

There’s no way Sugar Ray Leonard, deserved to defeat Marvin Hagler by 118-110 margin. He was my boyhood idol and I still had to shake my head at that score. That was a 115-113 fight – either way. His rematch with Thomas Hearns should have gone to the Hitman, who scored two knockdowns, by two or three points. But Hearns only won by a point (113-112) on one judge’s scorecard, while Leonard was somehow gifted a 113-112 score and the third judge had it even (112-112) making it a split-draw.

Oscar De La Hoya received his share of generous scorecards during his glory years, including the two 116-112 cards in the Pernell Whitaker fight, the 116-112 and 116-113 tallies in the Ike Quartey fight, and the 115-113 score in his split-decision loss to Shane Mosley in their first bout (which should not have been a split nod). Oh, and I can’t forget the unanimous 115-113 scores for the Felix Sturm fight. (Or the 115-113 tally in the Floyd Mayweather bout, although at the time, there were more than a few members of press row – including unabashed Floyd-huggers – who scored that fight a draw.) At least with the Golden Boy, the typical Las Vegas scoring shenanigans even out a bit as he was on the s__t-end of controversial decisions against Felix Trinidad and with the Mosley rematch. (Some even count the Mayweather fight as one of the “controversial” decisions that went against De La Hoya in Vegas.)

Speaking of Mayweather, the 116-111 and two scores of 115-111 he got in the first Jose Luis Castillo were totally bogus, as was that awful 119-109 tally he was awarded in the Zab Judah fight. The 118-110 card he received for the Miguel Cotto fight was disrespectful of the future hall of famer from Puerto Rico, and the 117-111 card he got in the first Marcos Maidana fight just further proves that boxing (especially in Vegas) is not fair.

 

BARRERA-MORALES I

Hey Doug,

I want your opinion on this, I rewatched Morales-Barrera I again today and man, I can never find enough rounds to give Barrera the nod as many say he deserved. What am I missing? I feel Morales won more rounds on landed punches and activity, while Barrera won rounds on stronger damaging punches. This was the closest I’ve ever seen it at 6-6 and I won’t give the last round 10-8 because it wasn’t a knockdown.  Am I crazy? Or is it my Tijuana spirit that betrays my judgement? Lol.  Awesome fight; they don’t make them as they used too.

P.S. (I also see the rematch the other way around, I saw it live and always score it for Barrera). – Juan Valverde, San Diego

I scored the rematch for Barrera too, but I understand why most observers thought Morales deserved it. El Terrible fought like he wanted it more in the second bout. To my eyes, Barrera wanted it a little more in the first and third bouts. However, I will concede that the first fight was as hotly contested and evenly matched as you can have with world-class fighters in their prime.

But I thought Barrera was just a little more willing and a tiny bit more aggressive (forcing Morales to fight back – as opposed to taking the initiative – a little more than he was used to) during that classic first bout (which I witnessed live from press row along with the other two).

From where I was sitting, it looked like Barrera had more venom on his punches and doled out a little more pain than did Morales, who appeared a bit humbled immediately after the fight and during the post-fight press conference. There’s no doubt in my mind that his struggle to make 122 pounds had an impact on his physical strength, hand speed and punching power. Barrera, who was more comfortable making the junior featherweight limit and entered the bout with a huge chip on his shoulder because so many had counted him out, simply had more of an edge to everything he did in the ring that night.

Are you crazy? Is your Tijuana spirit betraying your judgement? Yeah, I think so, just a little bit. But it’s OK to be crazy and biased for a warrior like Morales. In fact, I encourage it!

By the way, I agree that the final round should have been 10-9 for Barrera, not 10-8.

 

 

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