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Dougie’s Friday mailbag (Ryan Garcia, Lennox Lewis vs. Showtime, the WBO, Marciano)

Ryan Garcia's future looks bright. Here he celebrates his first-round KO of Fernando Vargas in an ESPN-televised main event. Photo by Tom Hogan-Hoganphotos / Golden Boy Promotions
23
Mar

STAR IN THE MAKING

Canelo better watch out for Ryan Garcia. This kid has the makings to take his place. – Matthew

Time will tell, Matthew, but Garcia seems pointed in the right direction, at least in terms of popularity. He’s got a lot of natural talent (specifically what Carlos Palomino calls “God’s gift” to boxers – hand speed – which has translated to explosive power against his current level of opposition), a good amateur background, a fan-friendly style (which is producing SportsCenter-highlight KOs), a charismatic/polarizing personality that welcomes (perhaps craves) attention, attractive features, an understanding of social media and an uncommon level of comfort on camera and in the ring. These are attributes that promoters and managers dream about when looking for young boxing talent to sign, but the keys to Garcia’s professional success (evolving his popularity into legit stardom) will be his willingness to learn and his ability to add craft and technique to his style/arsenal as he progresses/matures.  

Canelo’s most important (and often overlooked) attribute is that he’s a student of the game. He continued to learn and add layers to his style even after he won his first world title. When he first fought on U.S. TV, more than a few fans, journalists and boxing insiders noted that his upper body was “stiff as a board.” Now, most agree that he’s got excellent head- and upper-body movement. Canelo had been working on the finer points of boxing (such as his ability to pick-off/parry punches, block-and-counter, and fight off the ropes) in early 154-pound title defenses against Kermit Cintron and Alfonzo Gomez, but most didn’t recognize his defense and ring generalship until the showdown with Austin Trout.  



Garcia nails Vargas. Photo by Tom Hogan-Hoganphotos / Golden Boy Promotions

Garcia blasted his most experienced opponent to date, Fernando Vargas, last night. It was impressive given that Vargas is a former title challenger (albeit at 118 pounds) and was rugged enough to take featherweight fringe contender Horacio Garcia (a Team Canelo stablemate) the eight-round distance in a competitive fight last May (and he also gave Christopher Diaz a quality eight rounder in November 2016). The next step in Garcia’s development should be for him to go quality rounds with against opponents who have Vargas’ level of experience but are bigger (such as natural junior lightweights and lightweights). 

But the 19-year-old “KingRy” should not be compared to Canelo or Oscar De La Hoya (despite the obvious similarities to his promoter) at this stage of his career. Or maybe a better way to put it is that we shouldn’t expect him to be where they were (in terms of development) at his age. We have to keep in mind that Canelo turned pro at 15. By the time he was Ryan’s age he had 32 pro bouts (31-0-1) and was preparing to face Jose Cotto on the Mayweather-Mosley PPV undercard. Canelo was one year away from winning his first world title. 

De La Hoya sees a lot of “Golden Boy” in Garcia. Photo by Tom Hogan-Hoganphotos / Golden Boy Promotions

De La Hoya, an elite world-class amateur who turned pro a little later than Garcia (three months prior to his 20th birthday), won his first world title in his 12th pro bout. I don’t think Garcia, who just fought for the 13th time, should be in any rush to win a world title. His 20th birthday is in August. Maybe he’ll be a legit 130-pound contender by the end of this year; maybe he’ll be eligible for a world title shot before his 21st birthday. But it’s totally OK if he isn’t. All fighters, including those with star potential, deserve the time to properly develop.

LINARES SPLIT

Hey Doug,

Got a quick one for you. I just read that Jorge Linares has split with his trainer due to him liking to train in Japan and Vegas, while his trainer is committed to working in London preparing David Haye for his rematch with Tony Bellew. Do think this is a wise move for Linares? What effect, if any do you think it will have on his performance? It seems pretty risky to me to change trainers two months before you fight arguably the best boxer in the world. Thoughts? Best to you and the family. – Graham, Bangkok

Thanks Graham. I don’t think it’s a good idea for any boxer to change trainers (or his or her training routine) right before they face the most difficult/formidable opponent of their career. However, if the fighter and trainer hadn’t been seeing eye-to-eye or if their relationship had stagnated to a point where there was a breakdown in communication/learning/trust then maybe a change is for the better. I’m not saying that’s the case with Linares and Ismael Salas. From where I’m sitting it looks like they’ve had a very good run.

Lianres vs. Mercito Gesta. Photo by Tom Hogan-Hoganphotos / Golden Boy Promotions

But that doesn’t mean that Linares can’t have success with another trainer. He’s probably past peak as a boxer, but still relatively close to his athletic prime, and he’s got the invaluable experience from 47 pro bouts and nearly 300 rounds. Linares knows how to box and fight. He just needs to get into excellent physical condition, be mentally focused and have an astute world-class trainer help him with a game plan.

It will be interesting to see who Linares selects as his new coach. There are many to choose from but I’m not sure how many are willing to travel to Japan to train him. Ken Adams, a veteran Las Vegas trainer with a good relationship with Linares’ co-promoter (Teiken), has traveled to Japan in the past (with the late Edwin Valero). Perhaps he’s in the running.

 

OSCAR’S PUPPET?

Hi Dougie,

Is the reason you’re defending Canelo because you have to? We all know who owns Ring Magazine…. Just asking… – William

No, William. Oscar De La Hoya has not asked or ordered me to defend Canelo Alvarez. He doesn’t do that. Nobody from Golden Boy Promotions does that.

I’m allowed to have my opinions. I wouldn’t have lasted nine years with THE RING if I wasn’t. Having said that, I think De La Hoya and most of the good folks that work at Golden Boy are smart enough to recognize that I’m not defending Canelo. I’ve only defended the fighter’s right to a fair investigation before any judgement is dropped on him.  

 

KELL BROOK, ROCKY MARCIANO AND DANNY JACOBS

Doug,

Long time listener, first time caller. As compared to recent weeks, this week is kind of a quiet one for boxing in terms of matchups so I thought I’d pick your brain about a few things. Don’t worry, no Canelo stuff. It’s pretty obvious that the topic has been talked to death.

First up: Kell Brook recently said that he thinks he would destroy Errol Spence at 154 lbs. I personally disagree, but the first fight was an entertaining and rather close one until the eye socket broke so who knows? How do you see that fight going?

Secondly: one of the recurring boxing arguments that my friend and I have is about the career of Rocky Marciano. He insists Rocky is the best of all time, while I think his time at the top was too short and too devoid of marquee opponents to be considered an ATG. Was he a good fighter? Yes. But I think that there are at the very least ten heavyweights with better careers than the Italian-American slugger. Where do you rank him all time on your list of heavyweights?

Lastly: It seems pretty obvious that as of now Danny Jacobs is content on treading water while GGG and Canelo settle their business. How would he fare vs. the top of that division (GGG, Canelo, Saunders)?

MMs (excluding the matchups I asked about above):

Arturo Gatti vs. Ricky Hatton at 140

Shane Mosley vs. Tim Bradley at 140

Muhammad Ali (1960s version) vs. Larry Holmes

Best to you and your family. – Marc from Chicago

I’ll go with Hatton, Mosley and Ali by decision in those excellent mythical matchups. Thanks for finally writing in, Marc.

Spence-Brook II at 154 pounds? I picked Kell to win their welterweight showdown, but Spence proved to indeed be “The Truth” in that fight, so I gotta go with the younger, fresher man in the rematch. Brook looked sharp in his comeback fight, but we still haven’t seen him in with a world-class junior middleweight. I know Spence has yet to fight at 154 pounds, but it looks like he’s got the frame to carry that extra weight very well. Who knows? He might be stronger and more resilient at junior middleweight – that’s scary thought (especially for Brook if he gets his wish). It’s all speculation at this point but I think a junior middleweight rematch would go much like the first bout.

Marciano is definitely a great heavyweight. I don’t think I’d rank him in my top five, but he’s top 10. His epic first fight with Jersey Joe Walcott and two brutal battles with Ezzard Charles clinch that status in my view. Were Walcott and Charles in their athletic primes when he faced them? No, but JJW was THE camp and Ez was a top contender, and both are GREAT fighters.

Do I consider The Rock to be a pound-for-pound ATG? No. I’d rank him above Charles at heavyweight, but on a best fighters’ list regardless of weight class, Marciano isn’t anywhere near the Cincinnati Cobra. To be honest, I’m not sure Marciano would make my top 10 list of the greatest Italian-American boxers of all time. Maybe he does. I haven’t researched that subject or sat down to write it out, so I can’t say for sure, but I know that I’d rank the likes of Willie Pep, Tony Canzoneri, Lou Ambers, Fidel LaBarba and Jake LaMotta head of Marciano (and maybe Sammy Angott and Carmen Basilio, too).

It seems pretty obvious that as of now Danny Jacobs is content on treading water while GGG and Canelo settle their business. Well, to be fair, apart from Billy Joe Saunders (who is scheduled to fight Martin Murray), Sergey Derevyanchenko (who has the same trainer as Jacobs) and Jermall Charlo (who is scheduled to face Hugo Cenento Jr.), who else is out there for Danny to fight right now? If Jacobs takes care of business against Sulecki and Charlo does the same against Centeno next month, that’s a fight that should happen in the second half of 2018. If it doesn’t, and Jacobs isn’t scheduled to face BJS, then we can say he’s just hanging out waiting for the Canelo-GGG sweepstakes.

How would he fare vs. the top of that division (GGG, Canelo, Saunders)? He’s live against all three. On a good night, he can beat them. Stylistically speaking, I think Saunders would be his most difficult fight.  

 

SHOWTIME’S REVISIONIST HISTORY

Hi Doug,

I’ve read your mailbag for years and always figured I’d write in one day. I had long wondered what would finally make me take the plunge, and yesterday it happened: Through Lennox Lewis’s Twitter account, I found that Showtime had not only claimed that Mike Tyson was the last undisputed heavyweight champion (the spurious rationale being that Lewis, Bowe, et al. never held the WBO belt, even though any of us watching at the time knew that in those days Henry Akinwande’s / Herbie Hide’s strap was recognized roughly to the extent that my old toy WWE belt was), but that the network then doubled down on its claim when Lewis corrected them. As someone who watched Lewis come out on top against so many excellent fighters, boxing politics and horrendous judging, this attempt to deny the man his richly deserved legacy made my blood boil.

What say you to this? Is this a network thing because Lewis was an HBO guy, journalism cast aside to hype a potential A.J. vs Wilder bout, or do they just, to paraphrase Roger Mayweather, not K.S.A.B? To me, it’s disrespectful to not only Lewis and his fellow post-Tyson undisputed champs, but to the intelligence of boxing fans, to boxing in general, and to sports journalism.

Apologies for the rant. This one really got me seething.

Mythical matchups:

-Lewis Vs A.J. / Wilder / Tyson Fury

Cheers. – Ross

Prime Lewis beats all three – Joshua and Wilder by late TKO, Fury by UD. Wilder has a puncher’s chance, but I think Lewis at his focused best would avoid getting caught.

Straight from Dougie’s extensive boxing memorabilia collection – two 19-year-old fight programs. Oh, how time flies!

Regarding the Lewis-Showtime “beef” (if you want to call it that), I must side with the hall of famer. I covered Lewis’ two bouts against Evander Holyfield in 1999 (at the start of my career in boxing journalism) – I even wrote articles for the official fight programs (features on Holyfield and Fernando Vargas in the program for the first fight, and stories on Lewis and the undercard in the book for the rematch) – and I can tell you without hesitation that both bouts were not only billed as showdowns for the “undisputed heavyweight championship,” but that’s exactly how the media and the public viewed them.

At that point in time, holding the WBA, WBC and IBF titles equaled undisputed champion status in the U.S. I know the WBO had made considerable strides in Europe and parts of Latin America with notable titleholders but in America it was barely an afterthought, especially in the heavyweight division. The Puerto Rico-based sanctioning body was not recognized by the general sports media or even by some boxing publications, including THE RING. So, Showtime is wrong when they say that the WBO title “was widely recognized as a legitimate world sanctioning body.” No, the WBO’s recognition was not yet universal in 1999.

However, I wasn’t up in arms when Mauro Ranallo said Mike Tyson was the last undisputed heavyweight champ at the end of a recent Showtime Championship Boxing broadcast. A) It was live TV. You often say s__t off the top of your head during a quick on-camera round-table discussion (especially after a long broadcast – and it should be noted that Ranallo does the heavy lifting on those shows). It’s not like Ranallo wrote that in a historical article that ran in a major sports publication. And B) the sad truth is that most general American sports fans believe that Tyson WAS the last undisputed or “real” heavyweight champ. It is what it is. Tyson was “the man” in ways his conquerors (Holyfield and Lewis) would never be, and the fact is that a lot of casual fans simply weren’t paying close attention to boxing following Iron Mike’s title reign/era.

Having said that, I think Showtime could have handled the social media dispute a little better. Instead of saying “We respect you but we stand by our research team… blah, blah, blah,” they could have just said, “Sorry about that champ, we were thinking about the WBO belt, which is now considered one of the major world titles.” Hardcore fans would still be mad, but I think Lewis would have accepted that.

 

THE WBO

Hi Dougie,

Could be an interesting subject in your next mailbag. Regarding the mini brouhaha involving Showtime and Lennox, this could be an educational moment for us. At what point did the WBO become recognized as a major world sanctioning body and part of the four coveted titles to be considered undisputed? Care to give some of us boxing nuts a bit of a history lesson? – Butch

It was a gradual acceptance, Butch. There wasn’t a specific day, month or year when the

Riddick Bowe won the WBO heavyweight title with a sixth-round KO of Herbie Hide in March 1995.

boxing world said to the WBO “OK, you guys are legit.” It took two decades. The WBO was founded in 1988 and it grabbed an immediate foothold in boxing when Thomas Hearns and Hector Camacho agreed to fight for their vacant super middleweight and junior welterweight belts. The organization gained traction during the mid-1990s when U.S. standouts Oscar De La Hoya and Riddick Bowe briefly held their titles, but they still had an upward battle in America because The Golden Boy (who had not yet evolved into a star) held sub-welterweight belts (130 and 135 pounds) that he soon vacated to campaign at heavier divisions and The Big Daddy (who was near the end) also quickly dropped the belt. However, the WBO achieved legitimacy in Europe by the middle-to-late 1990s thanks to long-reigning titleholders Chris Eubank and Dariusz Michaelczewski, who were also live attractions that did excellent TV ratings in the U.K. and Germany.

Naseem Hamed and Marco Antonio Barrera forced HBO to recognize the WBO belt by the early 2000s, but I don’t think the organization received full recognition from the U.S. boxing media until the mid-to-late 2000s. When did it turn the corner in America? I think it was in the mid-2000s when Bernard Hopkins, who was recognized as the undisputed middleweight champ, added the WBO belt to his collection by beating De La Hoya in one of the biggest PPV events of 2004. Long-reigning WBO 168-pound titleholder Calzaghe also helped a lot by achieving undisputed champ status by winning unification tilts against IBF beltholder Jeff Lacy in 2006 and then WBC/WBA titleholder Mikkel Kessler in 2007.

 

AN ANSWER TO YOUR QUESTION

Dougie –

Just a quick answer to your question, “If they are the consummate, savvy professionals that you say they are and they REALLY WANTED to utilize Canelo’s considerable wealth and influence to use performance-enhancing drugs to gain an edge against GGG, as you and others believe, why would they bother f__king with some cheap-ass s__t like clenbuterol?” 

Bond, Armstrong and most of the rest who got caught went outside their trusted circles, and got burned. The smart move would be to limit access.

And speaking of disillusionment, texting while driving? You’re one of them? I’m shocked!!  LOL. – Ken Kozberg, Oakham, MA

I maintain my innocence, Ken. My daughter (who has achieved “Dream Chasing Boxing” and “Barbershop Conversations”-levels of Dougie Hate with that accusation during last Sunday’s SMC track Periscope with Tom Loeffler and Coach Schwartz) is a photo-taking addict. She should have presented at least one pic of me texting or tweeting while driving, but she CAN’T do that because she’s always got my phone in the car!

Anyway, I don’t see how you answered my question about Canelo and his team. Canelo purposely using clen in Mexico to cheat is akin to Bond and Armstrong going to GNC here in the U.S. to find their “illegal” performance edge.

 

GATEKEEPER MM

Hey Doug,

The modern day gatekeeper mythical matchup:

Darnell Boone v Dashon Johnson @ 160?

Thanks. – Ste, Manchester

Damn, that’s a good one. Well done, Ste.

Darnell Boone, AKA The Godfather of Gatekeepers!

This is a difficult matchup to figure, but I’m going to go with the O.G., the Godfather of Gatekeepers, which is Boone. Johnson is the better athlete of the two, but I think Boone is naturally bigger, the harder puncher and craftier. (Plus, he’s from Youngstown, Ohio, so I gotta give him a slight edge just for that.)

I think Deezol wins a close decision in an entertaining fight.

You know who would be a good person to pose this mythical matchup to? Gennady Golovkin, who has used both in sparring for obvious reasons. In fact, Johnson will be part of GGG’s sparring for the Canelo rematch, along with another decorated middleweight/super middleweight gatekeepr, Derrick Findley.

Come to think of it, if Boone and Johnson ever fought for real, Findley would have to get a crack at the winner for the G.O.G title.

 

THE ULTIMATE BOXER

Hey Dougie,I don’t know if anyone has already asked you this, but rather than a mythical matchup, how about a mythical fighter? If you could build your ideal fighter by combining the punches (jab/straight/cross/hook/uppercut), defence, chin and conditioning of any fighters, what would you choose? And who would be in his corner? Keep up the awesome work dude! – Jamie, UK

Thanks, Jamie. Will do.

How about Joe Louis’ jab, Thomas Hearns’ straight (right), Rocky Marciano’s (right) cross, Sugar Ray Robinson’s (left) hook, Mike Tyson’s uppercut, Pernell Whitaker’s defense, Marvin Hagler’s chin and Henry Armstrong’s conditioning/stamina, and Emanuel Steward training him (with in-the-gym assistance from Bill Miller and Luther Burgess)?

Does that sound like a formidable fighter to you?

 

THANKS!

Another great Mail Bag!!  Keep them coming Doug!! That’s it. – Marvin

I’ll take it, Marvin. Thank you! And I will keep them coming. (As my buddy Steve Kim likes to say, this beats having a real job.)

 

 

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

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