Thursday, November 15, 2018  |

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Dougie’s Friday mailbag (Usyk-Bellew, Usyk at heavyweight, WBSS)

09
Nov

IS USYK THE ONLY REAL THREAT TO AJ?

Hi Doug,

Hope you, the team, and the family are well. In the long term is Aleksandr Usyk the only “real” threat to Anthony Joshua? Really looking forward to the Usyk Vs Tony Bellew fight this weekend. I like Bellew. Good fighter, decent power, and good ring intelligence. However, maybe this is being a bit harsh, does he really have the credentials or even CV (resume) to beat Usyk?

Again, being a bit harsh, he beat an over-the-hill David Haye, who was on one leg. Got knocked out by the much smaller man in Adonis Stevenson (accepted he may have been very weight drained, but conversely, he had the size advantage). The Makabu win was a good one. He got put down and knocked out a decent fighter, but not an elite fighter.

The reason I bring this up is that Usyk is being asked in almost all his interviews what he thinks of AJ. It’s clear the Ukrainian has his sights firmly set on the heavyweight king. Again, a bit harsh, the two guys in the heavyweight division who are also aiming at AJ, are lacking IMHO. Tyson Fury has one good win over Klitschko, who in my humble opinion was not 100% that night. (Reference the Klitschko who turned up against Haye or Povetkin, or Pulev or AJ.) And, while I’d love to see it, I feel Deontay Wilder, although powerful, is too crude and not technically gifted enough to beat AJ.

So, if we’ve “written off” Fury and Wilder, and Usyk does what all of us think he’s going to do against Bellew, then all roads lead to AJ. That could really be something. Potentially Undisputed Heavyweight King Vs Undisputed Cruiserweight King. Both gold medalists from the same Olympic Games. Possibly one for the history books. Can Usyk do it? What do you think? He certainly is skilled enough, and has an edge in speed and footwork. Size and power is where he’ll lack. Engine? AJ has struggled in the past.

However, he’s got to get through The Bomber first! If Bellew has proved anything it’s not to write him off. I think he’ll give Usyk a good fight, but it’s a big, big ask. Would love to hear your thoughts. Enjoy the weekend. – Tabraze, London

Bellew doesn’t have Usyk’s amateur or cruiserweight credentials, but the 35-year-old Scouser is the more experienced professional and he will present some veteran “wrinkles” that the Ukrainian southpaw’s best pro opponents could not offer. Bellew is more than just tough and gutsy like Marco Huck, Mairis Briedis and Krzysztof Glowacki, he’s crafty. He’s got more seasoning than Michael Hunter, and while his hands aren’t as heavy as Murat Gassiev’s, he can crack (as Haye and Makabu can attest). But despite his guile, ring savvy, timing, sneaky speed and power, Bellew has to be considered a big underdog against Usyk, the most versatile, technically sound, active and mobile cruiserweight since a prime Evander Holyfield unified the division 30 years ago. Bellew is probably at this best when his opponents come straight to him and try to bomb The Bomber. Usyk is very comfortable circling and jabbing from a distance, or darting in and out with rapid combos from different angles for 12 rounds. I think the undisputed champ will retain his titles with a unanimous decision tomorrow.

And the Bellew fight probably will be his last at 200 pounds. He signed a co-promotional deal with Matchroom Boxing in order to get an eventual shot at Joshua. He’s made no secret of that. He made no secret of his heavyweight aspirations shortly after he won his first world cruiserweight title. I recall interviewing him at a Los Angeles press luncheon, prior to his HBO and U.S. debut against Thabiso Mchunu in September 2016, and he said as soon as he unified the cruiserweight division he would jump to heavyweight and aim for the world titles in boxing’s glamor division. He believes that his mobility, high-punch output and creativity will be too much for the big men. Who am I to disagree? I think he’ll have one – maybe two – heavyweight bouts before going after Joshua. Eddie Hearn will keep Usyk in his back pocket in case negotiations for AJ vs. the Wilder-Fury winner breakdown in 2019. After Wilder and Fury, I think Usyk probably has the best shot of defeating Joshua.

Really looking forward to the Usyk Vs Tony Bellew fight this weekend. It’s definitely the fight of the weekend.

I like Bellew. Good fighter, decent power, and good ring intelligence. And he’s a natural promoter who’s gotten the most out of his career. He’s bold. He takes chances, but he’s also realistic. I don’t think he takes on big challenges that he doesn’t believe he can pull off.

However, maybe this is being a bit harsh, does he really have the credentials or even CV (resume) to beat Usyk? He’s got as much (or more) than any other active cruiserweight that Usyk has yet to fight.

Again, being a bit harsh, he beat an over-the-hill David Haye, who was on one leg. Yeah, an over-the-hill David Haye that was a huge favorite to not only beat Bellew, but knock him TFO.

Got knocked out by the much smaller man in Adonis Stevenson (accepted he may have been very weight drained, but conversely, he had the size advantage). You are conveniently forgetting that Stevenson is one of the hardest punchers in boxing.

The Makabu win was a good one. He got put down and knocked out a decent fighter, but not an elite fighter. There are only a handful of “elite fighters” in boxing. Makabu was a legit contender, just like the fighters that Usyk beat to become the undisputed champ (and an “elite fighter”), and that’s good enough.

Again, a bit harsh, the two guys in the heavyweight division who are also aiming at AJ, are lacking IMHO. Tyson Fury has one good win over Klitschko, who in my humble opinion was not 100% that night. Klitschko may not have been 100% the night he was befuddled by Fury, but the future hall of famer was certainly not shot (as he proved by providing the sternest test of Joshua’s pro career 17 months later). I think the same version of Fury that upset Klitschko would give Joshua fits.

And, while I’d love to see it, I feel Deontay Wilder, although powerful, is too crude and not technically gifted enough to beat AJ. Wilder is probably too crude, technically speaking, to outbox Joshua, but that doesn’t mean he can’t clip the British star.

 

NEW ERA OF BOXING PROGRAMMING

What’s up Doug,

While I’m all for boxing moving to streaming services, as I’m a cord cutter myself, I find myself missing more and more fights that I have access to. It’s great that so many fights are being shown, but I have no idea when or where they are going to air, and pretty consistently find myself cursing that I missed a card when I check in on The Ring’s website Monday. It was much simpler when HBO, Showtime and ESPN had pretty predicable schedules and you really only had to keep up with three sources.

My question is, has The Ring ever considered putting out a weekly story going over the weekend’s upcoming fights, what time they’ll air, and what source you can watch them on? Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but with so many different streaming options it would be great to get a breakdown of the weekend’s upcoming fights and when and where to watch them all in one article. – Matto, Atlanta, GA

That’s a good idea, Matto, one that we put into play during the early years of RingTV.com (2008-2010). We called the feature “Weekend Preview.” Former editor Michael Rosenthal, who penned a weekly feature called “Weekend Review,” which went over the results of the major fights, thought it would be a good idea to provide analysis on the upcoming televised bouts. The Weekend Preview included the networks, air times, and co-featured bouts of the televised main events, as well as a breakdown and letter grade for each show. Here’s a link to one of them from the week of April 24, 2010, a Saturday that included Chris Arreola-Tomazs Adamek on HBO and Carl Froch-Mikkell Kessler I on Showtime.

I think the Weekend Preview is a weekly feature that we can and should resume on RingTV.com. Thanks for the suggestion!

 

GLASGOW FALLOUT

Hi Doug,

I hope all is well with you? I was happy to see the Mailbag back as usual on Friday, we missed you last Monday!

I wanted to write about the excellent WBSS doubleheader from Glasgow this past weekend. I am absolutely gutted for Ryan Burnett, whose freak back injury ruined the biggest night of his career (not to mention robbed us of a real barn burner of a fight). I thought Burnett was boxing brilliantly and Donaire looked revitalised too. The fight looked to be building into a classic before fate dealt its evil blow.

However, if anybody deserves to benefit from such fortune it is Donaire. That guy is a class act in and out of the ring and is now firmly one of my favourite fighters. I’d love to see him go on and win the whole tournament, what a perfect way to round off such a glittering career. Naturally, The Filipino Flash has had a hard job getting out of the huge shadow cast by his compatriot Manny Pacquiao. How do you think a contest between them both at their peak at 118 might have gone?

Secondly, what an exciting, dominating performance from Josh Taylor! It’s hard to believe that this was just his 14th professional contest. Sure, a lot of people are criticising Martin for not getting his punches off, but a lot of that has to do with the exceptional skills and precision punches from the Tartan Tornado. His body assault was remorseless – Mike McCallum and Julio Cesar Chavez Sr would have been proud of that. How do you see a potential Grand Finale between Taylor and Prograis playing out (assuming both get past their semi-final challenges)?

All the best. – Jeremy, UK

I think Prograis deserves to be the No. 1 seed in the WBSS junior welterweight tournament, as well as The Ring’s No. 1-rated 140 pounder, but I think Taylor is special and I have a hunch that he and trainer Shane McGuigan can come up with a game plan that will enable him to outpoint the formidable New Orleans native. I envision fast-paced chess match that features heated exchanges in some of the rounds and maybe a knockdown or two. If Prograis and Taylor make it to the final it should be a memorable showdown.  

I am absolutely gutted for Ryan Burnett, whose freak back injury ruined the biggest night of his career (not to mention robbed us of a real barn burner of a fight). He’ll rebound from this unfortunate setback and be back in the title picture before this time next year.

I thought Burnett was boxing brilliantly and Donaire looked revitalised too. The fight looked to be building into a classic before fate dealt its evil blow. Agreed. Maybe we’ll see a rematch at some point.

However, if anybody deserves to benefit from such fortune it is Donaire. That guy is a class act in and out of the ring and is now firmly one of my favourite fighters. I don’t think I’ve met the boxer who has as much respect for his fellow fighters, the media, the fans, the industry and the sport as Donaire.

I’d love to see him go on and win the whole tournament, what a perfect way to round off such a glittering career. He’s already got a hall-of-fame worthy resume, winning the WBSS would make him a first-ballot inductee for sure.

Naturally, The Filipino Flash has had a hard job getting out of the huge shadow cast by his compatriot Manny Pacquiao. How do you think a contest between them both at their peak at 118 might have gone? I think peak bantamweight version of Donaire would have outboxed a 118-pound version of Pacquiao, who actually leap-frogged both the junior bantamweight and bantamweight divisions after losing his WBC flyweight title on the scales and went directly to the 122-pound weight class. The version of Pacquiao that fought at 112 and at 122 (even after partnering up with Freddie Roach in the U.S.) was very raw. I can see him getting caught and dropped by one of Donaire’s well-time hooks, but I can also envision the fierce fighting spirit of the Pac-Man seeing him through knockdowns and wobbly moments and giving the Flash a hellish fight.

 

WBSS > THE ALPHABET BELTS

Hi Doug,

Hope you are well. Always a joy to digest the contents of the mailbag every Monday and Friday.

I was thinking about the WBSS, Everywhere you look the tournament is a receiving high praise from hardcore fans, fighters, and even the casuals. Are we eventually going to witness the demise of the sanctioning bodies in boxing and see them replaced with a more UFC inspired model of the best fighting the best and one man/woman ruling over each division?

MM’sTaylor vs Tzu Smith vs FrochWilder vs Valuev Take care and keep up the good work! – Joe

Usyk and Callum Smith earned The Ring championship belts as a result of winning the inaugural World Boxing Super Series tournaments.

I don’t see the WBSS format pushing the sanctioning bodies out of business, Joe. The involvement of the four major belts are big part of what made the tournament series a success. This was especially so with last year’s cruiserweight tournament, which involved all four major world titles, and delivered us an undisputed champion. All four belts (WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO) don’t necessarily have to be involved to crown a Ring champ (as we witnessed with the super middleweight tournament), but in most divisions, the beltholders are among the five or six best of that weight class. The bantamweight tournament involves The Ring’s top four 118 pounders (Naoya Inoue, Zolani Tete, Emmanuel Rodriguez and Nonito Donaire). All but Inoue hold a sanctioning body belt (and The Monster has the WBA’s secondary title). This year’s cruiserweight tournament doesn’t involve any world titles (which all belong to Usyk now) and it doesn’t hold the same interest among fans as last year’s 200-pound tournament.

Your Mythical Matchups:

Taylor vs Tszyu – KING Kostya, dude, by late stoppage

Smith vs Froch – The Cobra by close but unanimous decision in a good fight

Wilder vs Valuev – Bronze Bomber by mid-rounds…. TIMBER!!!!!!!

 

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE VS. LONGEVITY

Hi Dougie –

I hope all is well. I was recently thinking about a fight I attended with a few buddies in Memphis years back: Jermain Taylor vs Cory Spinks. It made me wonder how drastically Taylor’s career changed. Then I looked up his schedule and he had a pretty sick stretch in which he faced 13 consecutive fights over 5 years in which 12 of those opponents held major titles at one point and a combined 429-14 record.

Raul Marquez, William Joppy, Daniel Edouard, Bernard Hopkins (2x), Winky Wright, Kassim Ouma, Cory Spinks, Kelly Pavlik (2x), Jeff Lacy, Carl Froch and Arthur Abraham.

I also recall him getting a lot of flack during his title run. He went 8-4-1 in those fights but took some major beatings along the way. I think he had a nice career but that run all but ended him. With that said if you have a prime prize fighter how would you decide whether to plug your guy in with the toughest possible opponents available or to strategically navigate his career?

Boxing will always be my favorite sport but I confess I get frustrated when the top guys don’t fight (although the WBSS makes it all better) as I want to see (Crawford v Spence, Loma v Mikey, Wilder v Joshua, etc.) but accept that they may not happen whether it’s ‘the wrong side of the street’ or ‘different networks’ narrative that’s become common. I believe this the new cop out to avoid saying it’s really the ‘risk’ factor that’s at play most of the time.

Do you think history remembers strength of schedule or career longevity?

One example I have is Alexandr Usyk; hypothetically, if he beats Bellow and he beats the winner of Wilder/Fury vs Joshua IF it happens and retires 17-0 as lineal cruiser weight and lineal heavy weight champ is he considered a hall of famer with just 17 fights?

My last example is Yory Boy Campas; when he was 56-0 and fought Felix Trinidad for his first title shot. If he won that fight and defended his title 3 times vs decent opposition and retired as a 60-0 undefeated champ is that enough for him in your opinion to make the HOF?

Thanks as always for these mailbags. – Jamaal, Louisiana

Good to hear from you, Jamaal. I’ll try to answer your questions and respond to your statements in the order you presented them.

I looked up (Taylor’s) schedule and he had a pretty sick stretch in which he faced 13 consecutive fights over 5 years in which 12 of those opponents held major titles at one point and a combined 429-14 record. One thing about Jermain Taylor, he did not avoid a challenge, he gave 100% whenever he stepped into the ring, and he never bothered with excuses when things didn’t go his way. He was always respectful to his opponents and a gentleman with the media. It’s heartbreaking to see the troubles he’s currently going through.

Raul Marquez, William Joppy, Daniel Edouard, Bernard Hopkins (2x), Winky Wright, Kassim Ouma, Cory Spinks, Kelly Pavlik (2x), Jeff Lacy, Carl Froch and Arthur Abraham. That’s a very strong schedule. It includes one current hall of famer (Wright) and at least two future HOFers (Hopkins and Froch).

Jermain Taylor (left) had a difficult time cutting the ring off on slick and mobile Cory Spinks during their middleweight title bout in 2007. Taylor was fortunate to earn a split decision that night in Memphis.

I also recall him getting a lot of flack during his title run. I think most of the flack Taylor got from fans was due to controversial decisions that went his way in high profile fights. In span of 22 months, Taylor got the nod in disputed decisions against Hopkins (twice) and Spinks, and was able to retain his middleweight titles with a draw against Wright. (Personally, I thought those three excellent boxers won eight out of 12 rounds against Taylor.) The fan outrage led some fans to change Taylor’s nickname from “Bad Intentions” to “Bad Decisions.” I don’t think it’s fair that fans blame the fighter for favorable treatment from officials (judges and refs) but that’s just the way it is.

He went 8-4-1 in those fights but took some major beatings along the way. The fights with Wright, Pavlik, Froch and Abraham were grueling and punishing. The fights against Hopkins and Spinks were not that physical. The fights with Marquez, Joppy, Edouard, Ouma and Lacy were one-sided in Taylor’s favor.

I think he had a nice career but that run all but ended him. With that said if you have a prime prize fighter how would you decide whether to plug your guy in with the toughest possible opponents available or to strategically navigate his career? I’d play it by ear. If had a stud who I knew could kick ass, I wouldn’t keep him away from significant fights and stern challenges. I’d fight him tough and often. But if he engaged in a grueling/punishing fight, I would take his foot off the gas pedal and either sit him out for awhile or force him to take some “soft” bouts to allow him to properly recover. Part of Taylor’s problem was that once he became a champion and an HBO fighter, he preferred to fight only twice a year because he was making seven-figure paydays (and he understandably wanted to enjoy his money). However, he was never a fan of boxing or training, and often allowed himself to gain a lot of weight between fights. The excess weight and ring rust from inactivity forced him to work harder and spar more during his training camps and that added to his physical and neural deterioration.

Boxing will always be my favorite sport but I confess I get frustrated when the top guys don’t fight (although the WBSS makes it all better) as I want to see (Crawford v Spence, Loma v Mikey, Wilder v Joshua, etc.) but accept that they may not happen whether it’s ‘the wrong side of the street’ or ‘different networks’ narrative that’s become common. I believe this the new cop out to avoid saying it’s really the ‘risk’ factor that’s at play most of the time. I agree, and it’s not that new. Roy Jones Jr. and Floyd Mayweather Jr. played that game as HBO contract fighters.

Do you think history remembers strength of schedule or career longevity? It remembers both.

One example I have is Alexandr Usyk; hypothetically, if he beats Bellow and he beats the winner of Wilder/Fury vs Joshua IF it happens and retires 17-0 as lineal cruiser weight and lineal heavy weight champ is he considered a hall of famer with just 17 fights? I think so. That would be an amazing set of accomplishments. I don’t see how anyone could deny him.

My last example is Yory Boy Campas; when he was 56-0 and fought Felix Trinidad for his first title shot. If he won that fight and defended his title 3 times vs decent opposition and retired as a 60-0 undefeated champ is that enough for him in your opinion to make the HOF? Not really. The only name on his record would be Tito, and three defenses “vs. decent opposition” isn’t an exemplary title reign.

 

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

 

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