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Dougie’s Friday mailbag (Groves-Eubank Jr., ESPN/PBC weekend, Larry Holmes)

Groves (left) and Eubank Jr. (right) are ready for action. Photo courtesy of World Boxing Super Series
16
Feb

THE RIGHT FIGHT AT THE RIGHT TIME

Hi Dougie,

Hope you and the family are well!

Wanted to share my thoughts on George Groves Vs. Chris Eubank Jr.



I’ll keep it short, for once.

I’ve leant towards a Groves all the way, till now.

Too big

Too experienced

Hard as nails

But! I think this is gonna be a really close fight. That is to say, I won’t fall off my chair if Junior wins and in style.

Totally the right fight at the right time for both, and a brilliant fight for British boxing. Is it being followed over The Pond?

Junior got some stick for ducking GGG but got to give him credit for taking this one.

I think the WBSS is brilliant! I feel it’s delivering the fights we want. Certainly, at Curserweight. The final will contest WBC, WBO, WBA and IBF belts.

The super middleweight WBSS would have been better if James DeGale and Badou Jack entered it. But overall a great addition to the boxing scene.

Keep up the good work! – Tabraze, London

Thanks Tabraze. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

No doubt about it, even without a major U.S. network signing on, the World Boxing Super Series is an impressive success story. It encouraged and presented boxing like a real major sport. The cruiserweight tournament has been especially satisfying because the best fighters of the division faced off, delivering chilling KOs and thrilling fights, until there were only two who will fight for all the marbles (and don’t forget that THE RING title will also be on the line on May 11).

I’ve leant towards a Groves all the way, till now. So, are you still picking St. George but now you see a closer fight, or did you change your pick to Eubank?

Too bigGroves? We’ll see.

Too experiencedWe’ll see.

Hard as nailsReally? Groves is many things – smart, talented, skilled, physically imposing – but he’s not known for his durability. Is he?

But! I think this is gonna be a really close fight. Me too, if it goes the distance. But if there’s a knockout, I’m thinking Euby is going to score it (sometime in the late rounds).

That is to say, I won’t fall off my chair if Junior wins and in style. Few fans will. Many expect him to win handily.

Totally the right fight at the right time for both, and a brilliant fight for British boxing. Is it being followed over The Pond? Yes, by the hardcore fans. The casuals, no so much. But hey, they’ve got the return of Victor Ortiz on Fox to get hyped about, so it’s all good.

Junior got some stick for ducking GGG but got to give him credit for taking this one. He deserves credit for entering the WBSS. I didn’t hold backing out of the Gennady Golovkin fight that much against him. A) I think that decision was mostly his father’s, and B) NONE of the top middleweights wanted to tangle with GGG in 2016 (BJ Saunders, Canelo Alvarez and Daniel Jacobs all put it off until a future date).

 

LARRY’S JAB; GOING WITH GROVES

Hey Dougie,

I wrote in a while back describing my build and boxing style and asking who you thought I should model it on, you marked out Larry Holmes, so I’ve been watching him. Particularly loved this video comparing him to Riddick Bowe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8HKOMqfJKA

He is the master jabber! Few questions:

  1. Do you think he had the best jab of all time?
  2. Why do you think he lost to Spinks? Was he past his best?
  3. How far past his prime was he when Tyson banged him out?
  4. The video narrator states that Riddick was possibly the most naturally talented heavy of all time in terms of sheer athleticism, do you agree? How do you rate Larrys athleticism and if not so good, what set him apart? Practice and commitment to a tried and tested technique?
  5. How many types of jab did he have?

Mythical matchups – all at their peak and prime

Holmes vs. Foreman

Holmes vs. Tyson

Holmes vs. AJ

Holmes vs. Fury

Homes vs. Wladdy

I have Groves this weekend, because:

Groves is too big, powerful, has underrated speed and is a solid boxer with an exceptional jab.

Eubank is overrated due to his flashy eye-catching combos on Instagram and against lesser opponents. I don’t believe he has the power. It took him 7 rounds of smacking Gary “Spike” OSullivan square on the chin and he still didn’t get a clean KO.

Also – I know you said his loss to BJS looks better now as BJS looked so good recently against D-Lemmy, but frankly BJS has only just stopped eating kebabs and drinking beer. He is a different level now and I think he schools Eubank Jr. if they meet again and BJS is still with the Ingle camp. Cheers. – Eddie, London

I favored Saunders over Eubank in the first, and I might be inclined to favor him in a rematch down the road, but it all depends on what they do and how they look now and later in 2018. I think Saunders has to be at his absolute best to defeat Eubank. He barely did it the first time and Eubank has matured quite a bit since then.

Groves is too big, powerful, has underrated speed and is a solid boxer with an exceptional jab. If everything you say is true, Groves will likely win tomorrow. However, the prize ring has a way of turning us boxing know-it-alls into liars, doesn’t it? On paper, I think Groves is the most formidable opponent Eubank has faced so far, but I’m not sure that the sum of the Londoner’s attributes will overwhelm him. I look forward to finding out how he reacts to a more-experienced but still-young titleholder who has equal-or-better skills. At the end of the night, it might just come down to chin, stamina and heart.

Eubank is overrated due to his flashy eye-catching combos on Instagram and against lesser opponents. I agree that many of Eubank’s best performances and highlights have come against lesser opposition who had tailor-made styles for his strengths, but I also think he’s a lot more than the “flashy, eye-catching combos” we see on social media. I think he’s got character, poise and intelligence to augment his natural athleticism.

I don’t believe he has the power. Really? His punches seem damaging from what I’ve seen of him. Does he need to have prime Roy Jones Jr. or Nigel Benn power to get Groves out of there?

It took him 7 rounds of smacking Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan square on the chin and he still didn’t get a clean KO. Maybe O’Sullivan has world-class whiskers and a ton of heart. Have you considered that possibility?

I wrote in a while back describing my build and boxing style and asking who you thought I should model it on, you marked out Larry Holmes, so I’ve been watching him. So, was I right about Holmes being an appropriate boxer for you to emulate? If you’re a tall, rangy boxer who has a good jab (or wants to develop a better jab), I don’t think you can go wrong with Larry.

He is the master jabber! Yes Sir!

Few questions:

  1. Do you think he had the best jab of all time? Among heavyweights, yeah, I think you can make that argument. But you can also make a good argument for Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis and Sonny Liston.
  2. Why do you think he lost to Spinks? A combination of Father Time and a very difficult style. Was he past his best? Definitely, but he wasn’t shot by any stretch of the imagination. He might have been a bit burnt out from his seven-year title reign (more so mentally – from dealing the politics of boxing and a public/media that wouldn’t embrace him – than physically).  
  3. How far past his prime was he when Tyson banged him out? I believe Holmes’ prime years

    Larry Holmes likely peaked in 1982, the year he defended his WBC heavyweight title against Gerry Cooney. Photo by: The Ring Magazine

    were from 1978-1982 (a span that included 15 title bouts), and the Tyson fight took place in 1988 (after he sat out ’87), so do the math.

  4. The video narrator states that Riddick was possibly the most naturally talented heavy of all time in terms of sheer athleticism, do you agree? I think Bowe is one of the most gifted heavyweights ever, but I’m not sure that he was THE most naturally/athletically talented big man of all time. Louis, Ali and Mike Tyson gotta be in that conversation. How do you rate Larry’s athleticism and if not so good, what set him apart? Holmes had natural speed and quick reflexes, but he wasn’t a great athlete. His work ethic and dedication to the sport set him apart. Practice and commitment to a tried and tested technique?That, and having great teachers and sparring in the gym, plus the right attitude when it came to learning.
  5. How many types of jab did he have?Holmes had as many looks and uses with his left stick as he needed. It was what we call an “educated” jab.

Mythical matchups – all at their peak and prime

Holmes vs. Foreman – Holmes by close UD or MD (and he might have to get up from a knockdown; it wouldn’t be as easy as he says it would have been because Big George had a great jab, too)

Holmes vs. Tyson  Holmes by late stoppage or competitive UD (again, he might have to pick himself up from the canvas in the early rounds to pull this off, but he had the great jab, the legendary guts and the punch-on-the-fly ability that would eventually enable him to neutralize and tenderize Iron Mike).

Holmes vs. AJ – Holmes by late stoppage.

Holmes vs. Fury – Holmes by UD in a difficult fight due to Fury’s size, style and ring antics (but I think Holmes would figure him out and drop the big man at least once).

Holmes vs. Wladdy – This would probably be the most difficult matchup for Holmes due to Klitschko’s excellent jab, size, athleticism, power and the grab-and-hold tactics that Emanuel Stewart taught him; but I think Holmes’s lateral movement would spare him punishment while his hand speed and jab variety – especially his jab to the stomach – would eventually enable him to clip Wladdy with a big right hand. Holmes by late KO or TKO.

 

BAM BAM 

I’m pickin’ brandon rios to upset danny garcia. – Ceylon

I’ll probably be rooting for Bam Bam (even though I like Garcia). I don’t know if he’s got enough left to take down Swift – who’s just as experienced, a little bit fresher, a little more crisp with his power shots upstairs, a superior athlete and probably better suited to compete at welterweight – but the Southern Cali.-based slugger can make it a good fight. Rios’ key to victory will be to jab his way in close and try to make it an inside fight. Rios has better “in-the-trenches” technique and body attack. If memory servers me, Bam Bam used to have a nasty left uppercut. He’ll need that weapon against Garcia.

 

STACKED WEEKEND

Hello Doug,
We have a stacked weekend filled with boxing. The ESPN card is not the most interesting, however I look forward to seeing how Shakur Stevenson is coming along in his development as a young fighter and Ray Beltran usually is involved in some entertaining fights. Then we have the two PBC shows which are both headlined by fights that I do look forward to watching, but I’d have to admit that the level of enthusiasm would’ve been intensified anywhere between 3-6 years ago. I am interested in seeing what Caleb Plant does against a veteran like Porky Medina and whether he can put on show with his athleticism at the same level against this minor step up in competition. The Ortiz vs Devon Alexander fight I think should be billed as the “Who Has What Left” fight because I don’t think anyone is sure what either guy can currently bring to the table and this fight must’ve been put together to see who is going to be a serviceable B-side to one of the more relevant/in-their-prime welterweights. I think Alexander pulls off the win in that main event, but I can easily see it going the other way taking the layoffs of both guys into account.

The Showtime card with Benavidez v Gavril 2 and Rios v Garcia. I like Benavidez to win and really hope he somehow is able to get a fight with the guys involved in the WBSS 168-pound bracket, but just like Zurdo Ramirez I think we’re going to have to wait and see if that can actually be made into a reality considering the politics involved. In the main event I have to go with Danny Garcia being the younger fresher fighter but man, if Rios has anything left doesn’t it seem like their styles will combine for a possible war for as long as it lasts?! I hope that’s the case and Rios does have it in him to take Danny into deep waters.

I cannot go without mentioning Groves v Eubank which is possibly the most anticipated fight of the weekend. I think Eubank wins, but like you, I think Groves tests him and his chin for the first few rounds before Eubanks’ superior skills take over. I hope to be able to catch it live. Regardless, I’m just happy to have so much boxing available this weekend. Thanks again. – Andrew, Chula Vista

Thanks for sharing, Andrew.

I’m not sure that Eubank has the “superior skills” in that all-British super middleweight showdown. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.

I look forward to seeing how Shakur Stevenson is coming along in his development as a young fighter and Ray Beltran usually is involved in some entertaining fights. I heard good things about Stevenson from Vasyl Lomachenko’s camp for Guillermo Rigondeaux, and that’s about the highest praise a young prospect can get in boxing. I’m glad Stevenson is getting to show his talent on the ESPN platform. I’m also looking forward to watching Beltran. He’s the epitome of a beer-and-chill TV fighter.

I am interested in seeing what Caleb Plant does against a veteran like Porky Medina and whether he can put on show with his athleticism at the same level against this minor step up in competition. I think Plant will do well against Medina, who probably lost a step after his grueling fights with DeGale and Benavidez. Plant is fresher, smarter, more athletic and just as determined (if not more).

The Ortiz vs Devon Alexander fight I think should be billed as the “Who Has What Left” fight because I don’t think anyone is sure what either guy can currently bring to the table and this fight must’ve been put together to see who is going to be a serviceable B-side to one of the more relevant/in-their-prime welterweights. Yup, the Ortiz-Alexander winner likely gets fed to Errol Spence Jr., Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter or one of the PBC’s welterweight prospects at some point down the line.

I think Alexander pulls off the win in that main event, but I can easily see it going the other way taking the layoffs of both guys into account. I’ll probably be rooting for Ortiz (although I like Devon) but I favor Alexander by decision.

I like Benavidez to win and really hope he somehow is able to get a fight with the guys involved in the WBSS 168-pound bracket, but just like Zurdo Ramirez I think we’re going to have to wait and see if that can actually be made into a reality considering the politics involved. Yup, I think you can expect Benavidez to eventually be matched up with the PBC 168-pound talent, such as the Dirrell Brothers and Plant (if he takes care of biz against Porky).

In the main event I have to go with Danny Garcia being the younger fresher fighter, but man, if Rios has anything left doesn’t it seem like their styles will combine for a possible war for as long as it lasts?! I think so. As it is, I’m still kind of looking forward to this fight.

I hope that’s the case and Rios does have it in him to take Danny into deep waters. We’ll see. I don’t think it’s going to be a walk in the park for Garcia.

 

2018 IS LOOKING GOOD

Doug, hi,

2018 continues looking up! I’m psyched, between here and the Golovkin/Alvarez rematch on through to the month of June, to see Naoya Inoue take on Jamie McDonnell at 118, Terrence Crawford get his feet wet at 147 (I think Horn’s gonna lose, but it’s a potentially interesting style matchup, if it’s not a massacre). Linares against Lomachenko fascinates me already; Parker vs Joshua is a big deal and I hold out a solid 20% chance of a surprise.

The Super Fly card is fantastic of course. And it would have been cool to see Viktor-go-Postol on Regis Prograis (or vice versa), but you gotta love Indongo as a replacement…

I could name another half dozen fights I’m really excited about without even getting around to the WBSS… it’s good. It’s really good. (+ we might even get AB, post sexual assault allegation, in the ring with Omar Figueroa, post DUI allegation, which is almost poetic… almost).

Couple thoughts: I was really glad you talked about Usyk’s footwork. I re-watched his fight with Briedis a second time purely watching the feet. Pretty interesting, and it made me like Usyk’s style more. I think Gassiev has more power, and also good footwork himself. Does Usyk have more power than he gets credit for? I think footwork will be the key to Usyk/Gassiev, and I give Gassiev a 45% chance in what will be a hell of a contest.

I’m only not mentioning Groves and Eubanks cause there’s nothing more to say, but I’m watching it.

MM: Calzaghe and Andre Ward were both mentioned in a recent mailbag. That’s one MM I’d really like to hear your opinion on.

Thanks, and Good Times! – Alec

I favor Calzaghe by close decision due to his footwork, solid chin, punch variety, high-volume workrate and overall athleticism.

You’re right about Groves-Eubank Jr. It’s time for all of us to shut-up and just watch.

2018 continues looking up! So far, so good.

I’m psyched, between here and the Golovkin/Alvarez rematch on through to the month of June, to see Naoya Inoue take on Jamie McDonnell at 118, Terrence Crawford get his feet wet at 147 (I think Horn’s gonna lose, but it’s a potentially interesting style matchup, if it’s not a massacre). Calm down a bit, Alec. That McDonnell-Inoue fight is not a done deal yet. But yeah, GGG-Canelo II should be excellent and it will be fascinating to see how Crawford looks at welterweight.

Linares against Lomachenko fascinates me already; Parker vs Joshua is a big deal and I hold out a solid 20% chance of a surprise. Again, don’t get too hyped. It looks like boxing politics and network contracts have squashed Linares-Loma for the time being. But, hey, I agree that Joshua-Parker isn’t the slam dunk for AJ that too many fans and media members seem to think it will be. I think Joshua’s got a real fight on his hands. And that’s the way it should be when you’re an undefeated superstar with two major world titles to defend.

The Super Fly card is fantastic of course. Yup, that’s the most stacked card on the schedule, so far, with ESPN/Top Rank’s March 10 offering (topped by Oscar Valdez-Scott Quigg) being a close second.

And it would have been cool to see Viktor-go-Postol on Regis Prograis (or vice versa), but you gotta love Indongo as a replacement… Julius should still provide Prograis with a stern test. I favor the Louisiana native, by the way.

I could name another half dozen fights I’m really excited about without even getting around to the WBSS… it’s good. It’s really good. (+ we might even get AB, post sexual assault allegation, in the ring with Omar Figueroa, post DUI allegation, which is almost poetic… almost). I wasn’t that into the Broner-Figueroa Jr. fight when it was first announced. Now that know that Figgy hasn’t exactly been training or living like a Spartan and that Broner’s mental and legal state is once again in question, I’m even less interested.

I was really glad you talked about Usyk’s footwork. You’re welcome. Somebody has to!

I re-watched his fight with Briedis a second time purely watching the feet. Pretty interesting, and it made me like Usyk’s style more. I think Usyk deserves a little more appreciation than he gets, but I understand why he’s not everyone’s cup of tea. 

I think Gassiev has more power, and also good footwork himself. True.

Does Usyk have more power than he gets credit for? I think so. He wears most guys out with volume because he’s a mobile/in-and-out boxer by nature, but I think if he sat down more on his punches (and turned them over a little more) we’d see more power in his shots.

I think footwork will be the key to Usyk/Gassiev, and I give Gassiev a 45% chance in what will be a hell of a contest. That sounds about right.

 

WILFRED BENITEZ’S CEILING

Hello Dougie,

Please, just two questions for you:

  1. If Benitez had been committed to the sport, how high do you think he could have gone? I read somewhere that he barely trained for the SRL fight, which sounds crazy.
  2. Is there any female fighter in the Hall of Fame? If not, do you think Cecilia Braekhus has a chance when she retires?

Thanks. – Tofunmi from Nigeria

As far as I know, there aren’t any female fighters in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. (There is an International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame.) I think Braekhus has a good chance of being the first woman boxer to make the IBHOF after she hangs up the gloves for good, but I think Christy Martin and Regina Halmich deserve to go in first.

Leonard (right) cracks Benitez. Photo: THE RING Archive

Had Benitez been more committed to the sport, I think he would have had a good shot at outpointing Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns, which would have made him an all-time great (instead of a hall-of-fame enshrined “could-have-been-great”). But I don’t want to sell Ray and Tommy short. For all we know, if Benitez had realized his potential prior to fighting them they might have raised their games even higher to beat him. They were those type of fighters.

Benitez won titles at 140 and 147 pounds against hall of famers (Antonio Cervantes and Carlos Palomino), but I believe he was at his best at 154 pounds.

The Benitez that we knew pretty much unraveled after dropping a majority decision to Hearns in December 1982. But I think a motivated and dedicated version of Benitez – one of the most naturally gifted boxers of all time and the youngest world champ ever at 17 – could have matured into a long-reigning junior middleweight champ. How good could he have been with more discipline? I think he would have had the ability to outpoint junior middleweight monsters like Mike McCallum and Julian Jackson during the mid-to-late 1980s if he had his head together. I’d take a focused Benitez over the 154-pound version of Donald Curry, too.

 

 

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

 

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