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Dougie’s Monday mailbag (Pacquiao-Matthysse, Regis Prograis, Crawford & B-Hop)

16
Jul

BOXING IN THE BIG EASY

Hi Dougie-

I must first confess I’m very biased but why isn’t boxing bigger in New Orleans? Jazz music, just a different vibe. Duran v Sugar Ray 2, etc.

Regis Prograis is nice, but does he take too many punches? How far can he go?

Also, Pacman looked good and earned another big payday but does he get fed to Terence Crawford? What’s next? Thanks. – Jamaal, Louisiana

I’m happy for Pacquiao (and impressed with his performance vs. Lucas Matthysse), but sadly, I think the next step for him is a late 2018/early 2019 date with Crawford, which will not end well for the Filipino icon. However, the only way the Crawford “torch-passing ceremony” takes place is if Bob Arum can come up with a big enough guaranteed payday to make it worth Pac’s while (and consider that the multi-division champ has tax issues in the United States). (Arum would also love to get Pacquiao to pass the torch to Vasiliy Lomachenko, but The Ring/WBA lightweight champ’s shoulder injury, plus his father-trainer’s insistence on him not fighting above 140 pounds, complicates that plan.)

Eddie Hearn, with the financial backing of DAZN and the services of Amir Khan, could make a play to get Pacquiao to visit Merry Ole England for that particular showdown. There’s also Mikey Garcia, but his backers (Al Haymon and Showtime) would have to come up with the same massive payday that Arum would need to get Pac to return to the U.S.    

Finally, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for Team Pacquiao to coax Floyd Mayweather out of “retirement” for a rematch. Normal human beings that tuned into their first fight are still pissed that it turned out to be the “Mega-Dud” of the Century, but sports fans have short memories, Pacquiao’s fanatics can be sold on what a “healthy, two-armed Manny can do” and Floyd’s faithful will tune in just to beat their chests about how “great” their idol is in anticipation of another “easy money” victory. I’m not co-signing on that rematch but from risk-vs.-reward/business/management perspective, it’s probably the best option out there for Pacquiao.

I must first confess I’m very biased but why isn’t boxing bigger in New Orleans? That’s a good question. I love New Orleans, it’s a party city with much better food, drink and tourist-type attractions and festivities than Las Vegas. (I haven’t been there for a prize fight since Roy Jones Jr. fought Eric Harding in 2000, but I would have been there this past weekend had I not had a special Ring-related engagement at The MET in New York City, which was wonderful.) However, unlike the “other” Sin City, New Orleans – which does attract a significant number of professional conferences and conventions every year – does not have the major casino money to bring in the really bigtime boxing events. Also, it doesn’t have enough homegrown boxing talent to build-up local attractions on a regular basis. And, finally, New Orleans is in a part of the country that practically views football as a religion. No sport is going to escape the shadow of football on any level (NFL, college or even high school), and unlike the major cities in Texas, another football-worshipping area of the U.S., New Orleans doesn’t have the massive longstanding Mexican population that is loyal to boxing.

Prograis vs. Velasco. Photo by Mikey Williams-TOP RANK

Regis Prograis is nice, but does he take too many punches? I like Prograis and his unique fighting style a lot. I really enjoy watching him fight. I think he deserves to be The Ring’s No. 1-rated junior welterweight, but I don’t think he’s that far ahead of our No. 2-rated 140 pounder, Josh Taylor, even though the Scotsman struggled mightily against Viktor Postol (who was perceived to be faded going into that bout). Prograis is not like Crawford, who was heads and shoulders above any other world-class junior welterweight. RP’s porous defense and susceptibility to facial lacerations is part of the reason I view him as a “mere mortal,” along with just-above-average athleticism and lack of “one-hitter-quitter” punching power. However, I think he makes up for being “hittable” by being smart, strong and determined.

How far can he go? I’m not sure. I think he can be a legit world titleholder (and not just an interim beltholder), maybe even a partially unified champ, but the World Boxing Super Series will give us all a much better understanding of what his ceiling is.

 

DID MATTHYSSE QUIT?

Hey Doug,

Hope everything’s well.

Manny Pacquiao’s win over Lucas Matthysse reminded us how exciting the Filipino superstar was and can still be. Even after all these years there’s no boxer that matches him in this department, at least for me.

One of the things that surprised me but probably shouldn’t have is how Lucas reacted to adversity yet again. The moment he sees himself in some sort of trouble, he collapses mentally. This goes to show how this sport is more about mental toughness than people think. It’s not easy being a prize fighter, even if you have talent, power and ability, if you don’t have mental strength you’re probably going to end up quitting. People watching it here couldn’t believe the second knockdown, what happened? Was it his eye?

ESPN+ is OK. I have very fast speed internet and there were no hiccups during the main event which is good. Resolution was stable, probably averaging at 720p, which is not ideal for a big 60″ screen. This is still designed for smaller screens so again, it’s work in progress. For $4.99 it was still a great deal to watch Manny. He’s still worth every penny.

Cheers Dougie! – Juan Valverde, San Diego

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Juan. During a night on the town (Manhattan) with my wife, I was able to peep a couple rounds of the Teofimo Lopez fight during a cab ride to Times Square, watch the first two rounds of the Prograis-Velasco main event before the start of a musical (A Bronx Tale), and then keep tabs on the Pacquiao-Matthysse undercard during diner after the live show and during the taxi back to our hotel. The main event from Malaysia started after we settled back in our room and I didn’t even think to watch it on my laptop screen until the bout was almost over. So, obviously, I’m happy with the ESPN+ service and I don’t mind viewing most of the fights on my iPhone screen (which probably wouldn’t have been the case a couple years ago).

I agree that the service is probably aimed at mobile devices (and the younger demographic that is more used to viewing entertainment on small screens) but I’d be surprised if they weren’t working on developing the technology for better large-screen (traditional flat-screen TVs) viewing. More and more people are watching streaming content on their TVs these days. ESPN has to be aware of that.

Manny Pacquiao jabs at Lucas Matthysse. Photo courtesy of Reuters and Golden Boy Promotions

Manny Pacquiao’s win over Lucas Matthysse reminded us how exciting the Filipino superstar was and can still be. I thought it was a very sharp and offense-minded performance from Pacquiao, but it didn’t remind me of the risk-taking frenetic form he used to display during his athletic prime. And I didn’t view it as an “exciting” fight. It takes two to tango, and Matthysse never got it going in my opinion. So, we were treated to a solid, one-sided performance from a future first-ballot hall of famer (and arguably an all-time great).

Even after all these years there’s no boxer that matches him in this department, at least for me. Manny was must-see TV for a LONG time, from his U.S. debut in 2001 all the way through 2010. His longevity, given his boxing style and the quality of his opposition, is insane.

One of the things that surprised me but probably shouldn’t have is how Lucas reacted to adversity yet again. The moment he sees himself in some sort of trouble, he collapses mentally. You’re right, and it surprised me for some reason, too. Given the opportunity this fight presented to Matthysse, I thought the Argentine veteran would go for broke, but instead Pacquiao made it very clear that The Machine is broke. I don’t know why I didn’t realize this going into the fight. It’s not like he looked good vs. Tewa Kiram earlier in the year (and I was ringside for that bout). I guess it’s a combination of respect for the fighter and wishful thinking (hoping we’d be treated to a fire-fight). However, Matthysse’s formidable body of work eventually took a toll on his body and psyche. Fight-of-the-Year candidates like his wild, up-from-the-canvas stoppage of John Molina (which won the award from The Ring) and his grinding 12-round battle with Ruslan Provodnikov must have aged him in ways that you and I can only imagine.

This goes to show how this sport is more about mental toughness than people think. It’s not easy being a prize fighter, even if you have talent, power and ability, if you don’t have mental strength you’re probably going to end up quitting. True, and even some of the great ones – men whose fighting mettle and honor can never be questioned – eventually reach a point in their careers when they just don’t want to take unnecessary punishment. I’m not mad at them for that, especially if they paid their dues in bloodshed during their primes.

Matthysse was dropped three times during his fight with Pacquiao. Photo courtesy of Reuters and Golden Boy Promotions

People watching it here couldn’t believe the second knockdown, what happened? Was it his eye? It could have been, and only he knows how fragile it is following the damage from previous bouts (mainly the Postol fight) and subsequent surgeries. I thought that Manny’s punch grazed his temple, which caused him to momentarily lose his equilibrium and that uneasiness (while sharing the ring with a fast, crafty southpaw) made him decide to take a knee in order to gain a few seconds to gather his wits.

 

MANNY FINALLY SCORES A STOPPAGE

Several times you are predicting Manny would lose and I’m glad that it was the other way around. And as you always write that future hall of famer should retire for good, 75% of my heart feel the same too. But on this particular fight, I do believe Pacquiao’s strategy not to over train is one of the keys. He looks very sharp, fresh and very much in good condition unlike his previous fights. And one more thing, I have noticed that he is so aggressive and the uppercut was really impressive.

Now he’s back, yet there is still a part of my heart that doesn’t want Pacquiao to go against Crawford or Keith Thurman. Maybe against Danny Garcia and hope he will have the same condition and performance. As a Pacman fan for two decades, already I’m really happy that he finally got this knockout against Matthysse.

By the way, Doug, I’m one of the avid readers of your column here in the Philippines.

Mythical matchups that Filipinos wish happened:

Luisito Espinosa vs Prince Hameed

Gerry Penalosa vs Johnny Tapia. – Ryan Pisuena of Manila, Philippines

I appreciate your kind words and your loyalty, Ryan, so I feel bad about my opinions on these interesting featherweight and junior bantamweight MMs involving your two of your better (but underrated) countrymen, but I gotta go with Hamed by late stoppage or decision (in a difficult fight for Naz) and Tapia by close (maybe controversial) decision.

Several times you are predicting Manny would lose and I’m glad that it was the other way around. Don’t take my Pacquiao predictions personally, Ryan. I think very highly of your hero and I really enjoyed covering his career (right up until his pissing contest with Mayweather became the focal point of the “Cold War” here in U.S. boxing). I admit I was rooting for The Machine going into this fight, but it’s not like I was going to put any money on the Argentine. I know that even the 39-year-old version of Manny is hard to beat.

And as you always write that future hall of famer should retire for good, 75% of my heart feel the same too. My heart is close to 100% certain that he should hang up the gloves. Pro boxers should not have careers that span more than 20 years. It’s just not healthy. Having said that, he’s still a top welterweight and he makes for many interesting matchups at 140-147 pounds.

But on this particular fight, I do believe Pacquiao’s strategy not to over train is one of the keys. The proof is in the pudding, as they say. If taking it a little bit easy in camp produced those results, he should always try not to over-train.

He looks very sharp, fresh and very much in good condition unlike his previous fights. I don’t think he was dull, stale or in poor condition for his previous bouts, but I do believe that he was more mentally dialed into facing Matthysse than he was for other recent bouts. Why? Matthysse’s reputation as a puncher probably added some training focus, but I think most of his motivation came from being his own promoter for this fight and having his company, MP Promotions, set up and organize the event. It was important to win and look impressive for the event’s sponsors in order to ensure future dates in Malaysia and other parts of Asia.

And one more thing, I have noticed that he is so aggressive and the uppercut was really impressive. That uppercut was SWEET, a product of timing and accuracy as much as it was speed and power.

Now he’s back, yet there is still a part of my heart that doesn’t want Pacquiao to go against Crawford or Keith Thurman. I think the young Americans beat the Pacman (and I WOULD bet money on those outcomes).

Maybe against Danny Garcia and hope he will have the same condition and performance. Even if Pac is in the same condition as he was for Matthysse, I think Swift would be a very dangerous fight for him. Garcia is not a battle-worn 35-year-old veteran like The Machine. He’s still in his prime with good reflexes and power, plus a lot of experience.

As a Pacman fan for two decades, already I’m really happy that he finally got this knockout against Matthysse. It’s been awhile, huh?

 

MAKING WEIGHT

Hi Dougie,

I hope this finds you and the family well and enjoying the summer. I was surprised that there was no mention of the Danny O’Connor-Jose Ramirez cancellation in either of last week’s Mailbags. Not making weight is one thing, but winding up in the hospital is another, and the pictures the BBC published had O’Connor looking like he was on death’s doorstep.

How is Danny doing?

This again questions the practice of previous-day weigh-ins. In a sport that is defined as dangerous, how much more damage is done to boxers by years of the dehydration/rehydration cycle?

I’m certainly not a doctor, but I wouldn’t want to put my kidneys or heart through it. I know that same-day weigh-ins were removed to protect the fighters from coming into the ring in a depleted condition, but couldn’t same-day weigh-ins, with a strong restriction on weight gains accomplish the same thing?

MM: Two of my favorites, Lennox Lewis vs Larry Holmes, in their primes.

Thanks for your thoughts. – Ken Kozberg, Oakham, MA

Thanks for YOUR thoughts, Ken

I gotta go with Holmes by decision or late TKO in a very competitive fight.

For the record, someone did briefly bring up the Ramirez-O’Connor fight being canceled in a previous mailbag, but they didn’t bother mentioning the reason, which tells me fans have become accustomed to fighters struggling like hell to make unnaturally lighter weights and occasionally damaging themselves in the process.

And that’s almost as sad as boxer’s gambling with their health to gain an edge in a combat sport that’s risky under the best of circumstances. 

How is Danny doing? I have no idea. I hope he’s feeling better and didn’t permanently damage himself trying to make 140 pounds. I wish he or his handlers would have just informed Top Rank and Team Ramirez that he’d hit the proverbial “wall” during the weight-making process and negotiated a non-title, over-the-weight bout. I’m sure Danny’s dreamed of fighting for a world title ever since he first put on a pair of boxing gloves, and not making the contracted weight would have cost him and his team a significant amount of money, but that scenario is still a much better outcome than what happened.

This again questions the practice of previous-day weigh-ins. I don’t like previous-day weigh-ins, but I’m not a participant or a trainer. I have no idea what it’s like to make weight and fight on the same day. Perhaps most fighters and their coaches prefer things the way they are.

In a sport that is defined as dangerous, how much more damage is done to boxers by years of the dehydration/rehydration cycle? I’m not a boxer or a doctor… (which begs the question: why do you guys ask me about stuff like this? I’m a writer. I never competed as a boxer, amateur or pro, and I sure as hell didn’t go through medical school)… BUT, since you did ask me, from what I’ve seen over the years, being dehydrated weakens fighters (big shock, right?), it robs them of their athleticism and makes it very difficult defend themselves or mount any offense. So, obviously it makes an already dangerous sport even more dangerous (and potentially deadly).

I’m certainly not a doctor, but I wouldn’t want to put my kidneys or heart through it. Boxers (fighters and wrestlers) are a rare and strange breed.

I know that same-day weigh-ins were removed to protect the fighters from coming into the ring in a depleted condition, but couldn’t same-day weigh-ins, with a strong restriction on weight gains accomplish the same thing? It’s conceivable, but it would only work with the full cooperation of all fighters and their teams, and that just doesn’t seem possible.

 

IS CRAWFORD THE NEW B-HOP?

Hi Doug;

Trust you’re doing fine. Writing for first time looking for your insights on a comparison that’s been lately crossing my mind.

It’s about seeing in Crawford as a new B-hop. Besides both being African Americans offering certain parallelism on their bios (coming from not easy surroundings; hanging around with wrong people…), the way Crawford climbs weights dominating opposition reminds me of Hopkins.

Although different sized and different boxers, they both use a huge range of resources to stop people that, on paper and one way or another, are supposed to give them stern challenges. They are both natural neutralisers. Can you see Crawford going as far as Hopkins on time and in terms of legacy? I do.

By the way; how do you see the 147-pound division? It’s full of talent but the big three guns are most likely to not to face each other anytime soon (Thurman, Spence, Crawford). I consider Porter and Garcia a “step below” fighters than the first three.

Can you see the division’s relevance being lowered in favour of others due to this fact?

At this side of the pond the category is dominated by puncher Lejarraga and there is expectation on the Brit Kelly; being both are younger than 25. Can you see them entering the elite anytime soon? What other prospect could be considered from the American side?

Thanks for your work; keep it up! – JS from London

Thanks for finally writing to the mailbag, JS.

I’ll start with the welterweight division. Yes, I agree that the relevance of this glamor division will be reduced if the top three or four do not fight each other.

Jaron Ennis

Who are the American welterweight prospects to keep an eye on? Philly’s Jaron Ennis immediately comes to mind. The undefeated (20-0, 18 KOs) 21 year old faces a fellow unbeaten young gun in Armando Alvarez (18-0, 12 KOs) on Friday on a ShoBox card. Check Ennis out if you get the opportunity. He was the subject of a recent New Faces feature in The Ring magazine. Also, check out some of the fights of Jamal James and Rashidi Ellis when you get a minute. They have potential.

At this side of the pond the category is dominated by puncher Lejarraga and there is expectation on the Brit Kelly; being both are younger than 25. Can you see them entering the elite anytime soon? Not in the next 12-18 months, JS. But both welterweight prospects have a lot of potential and I view both as future contenders (near future, which is saying something given the fact that Josh Kelly only seven pro bouts). Kerman Lejarraga (25-0, 20 KOs) has the look, record and fighting style of a beast. The Spaniard is rather basic and crude-looking in terms of his technique and finesse, but he believes in his punching power and durability. I was impressed by the new European champ’s second-round stoppage of Bradley Skeet, who is a very capable boxer. According to BoxRec, Lejarraga’s next two fights will come against experienced Michele Di Rocco and former British amateur standout and prospect Frankie Gavin. These fights will give us more of an idea of Kerman’s potential. Kelly (7-0, 5 KOs) is a sensational boxing talent gifted with a lot of athleticism (and showmanship). He’s fun to watch and I’m not surprised that he’s already turning heads in the UK. He just needs to further develop his style through quality rounds, but I’ve had my eye on him since his pro debut.

It’s about seeing in Crawford as a new B-hop. I can see why you’d compare the two. Crawford, though nowhere near as loquacious and media savvy as the prime Hopkins, has a surly, me-against-the-world disposition that The Executioner had when he was at his athletic peak. And both men are complete boxer-fighters. Crawford, like Hopkins back in the day, is a hardnosed technician who has a knack for grinding down his opposition the way prime Marvin Hagler did. However, like B-Hop, he’s more versatile than the middleweight great. He can stick-and-move, stand-and-trade, counterpunch, sharp-shoot, in-fight, body punch, scrap off the ropes, etc. You name it, he does it, which is impressive, given that he’s considered a top three pound-for-pound-level boxer without having been an elite-level amateur boxer (as so many previous P4P Kings were, from Whitaker to Jones to De La Hoya to Mosley to Mayweather to Ward to Golovkin to Lomachenko). That’s also something he has in common with B-Hop.

Although different sized and different boxers, they both use a huge range of resources to stop people that, on paper and one way or another, are supposed to give them stern challenges. Both men are as resourceful as they are resilient.

They are both natural neutralisers. Agreed.

Can you see Crawford going as far as Hopkins on time and in terms of legacy? I do. Only time will tell. He’s recognized as a pound-for-pound level boxer before Hopkins was, but we’ll see if he can coax popular, future hall of famers into the ring with him as B-Hop eventually did (Trinidad and De La Hoya). Hopkins had to wait until his mid-to-late 30s to get these two stars in the ring with him. And then he had a second career as a light heavyweight standout during his 40s. Hopefully, Bud won’t have to wait so long to get the really significant fights.

I consider Hopkins to be a great fighter, and all great fighters had worthy rivals. Crawford has POTENTIAL rivals – Pacquiao, Spence, Thurman and the Garcia-Porter winner. He needs to get these men in the ring with him in order to create a lasting legacy.

 

 

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

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