Tuesday, October 15, 2019  |

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Dougie’s Friday mailbag (heavyweight showdowns, Tank Davis, Hopkins vs. Toney)

15
Feb

HEAVYWEIGHT NONSENSE 

Hi Dougie,
What’s your take on the latest heavyweight announcements – AJ v Big Baby, Whyte v Breazeale – and the one we all know is coming – Wilder v Fury?

Coming from the UK where we have three of the top four (in my opinion), I can’t help but feel this is a huge let down thanks to Team Hearn.

Fair play, AJ was never going to get the fight with Wilder or Fury this April – that’s been clear since Hearn was soundly outmaneuvered in the negotiations by Finkel and Warren. It seems pretty clear Hearn and AJ tried to raise the stakes last year and Wilder just said “F__k this,” grabbed his chips and switched tables. Ever since then, Wilder v Fury was always going to be at least two fights.

AJ v Whyte is the natural fall-back fight because it’s genuinely interesting and, given Whyte’s progress, a genuinely decent fight.

But AJ v Miller?! I literally couldn’t care any less than I do about that. And to put it on PPV?

Whyte v Breazeale? As it’s a final eliminator, I can understand, but it still holds no interest for me or any of my boxing buddies.

I don’t for one minute think AJ has any fear about facing Wilder or Fury like a lot of people seem to (although for the record, I see Fury by UD and Wilder icing him within 8) but he and Hearn have royally f__ked up the last few months of negotiations as evidenced by the fact that Whyte now gets the cheers and AJ gets shouted down!

Wilder v Fury2 – excellent. I’ll happily pay for the rematch.

Your thought, as always, will be well received. Cheers. – Matt, The Old Country

I’m OK with the heavyweight action scheduled for this spring and summer. I think the build-up to the three bouts will firmly place the U.S./UK sports media spotlight on boxing’s glamor division, and I’m fairly certain that at least two of the three fights will deliver action/drama, and that the outcomes will set up a very interesting second half of 2019.  

I should note that Wilder-Fury2 appears imminent, but it hasn’t officially been “made” yet, and the proposed Whyte-Breazeale showdown, which is targeted for July, has only been ordered by the WBC, it’s not close to being a done deal.  

However, should Whyte-Breazeale happen, I’ll be into that matchup. Breazeale is always in dramatic slugfests. The only time his heart hasn’t carried him through adversity was when he fought Joshua. And Whyte, who as you noted has steadily improved (during a 9-0 win streak) since his lone loss to AJ, is an entertaining boxer-puncher when he is confronted with an aggressive style.  

I’m also good with Joshua-Miller. Is it THE heavyweight fight I want to see? Of course not. That would be Joshua-Wilder. But Wilder has unfinished business with Fury, and if Joshua vs. Wilder is going to be as big of an event in the U.S. as it would be in the UK, the

Jarrell Miller. Photo by Rosie Cohe / Showtime

British star will need to bring his show to America. I think Miller is the perfect opponent (not foil) for Joshua’s U.S. debut. He’s a legit contender (although still a little unproven and definitely not top five). He’s big, he’s skillful, he’s unbeaten, he seems to have solid whiskers, he’s a native New Yorker, and he can run his mouth as well as he moves those fists of his. I think Miller and his brash personality will give the June 1 promotion the push it needs to attract the attention of American sports fans who either aren’t that familiar with Joshua or are just not that interested in the Londoner, and I think he’ll give Joshua a tough fight. 

But, um… you obviously don’t feel the same way. (And that’s cool.) 

AJ v Miller?! I literally couldn’t care any less than I do about that. And to put it on PPV? I think it’s a decent matchup, but I agree that it’s not a pay-per-view caliber fight. Luckily for us Yanks, it will be on DAZN.

Whyte v Breazeale? As it’s a final eliminator, I can understand, but it still holds no interest for me or any of my boxing buddies. Maybe I just have low standards when it comes to the heavyweight division, but I think this will be an entertaining scrap, and I think the Whyte-Breazeale winner deserves a shot at the winner of the Wilder-Fury rematch.

I don’t for one minute think AJ has any fear about facing Wilder or Fury like a lot of people seem to (although for the record, I see Fury by UD and Wilder icing him within 8) but he and Hearn have royally f__ked up the last few months of negotiations as evidenced by the fact that Whyte now gets the cheers and AJ gets shouted down! British boxing fans – like most sports fans – are fickle. Yeah, they’re booing Joshua and cheering for Whyte now, but if and when AJ faces Fury or Wilder, half the fans jeering him now will jump right back on the 2012 Olympic champ’s bandwagon – and if he wins those fights the entire nation will celebrate him like a superhero. As for Hearn’s negotiating skills, maybe… just maybe… he’s doing exactly what he wants to do, maybe…. Juuuuuuuuuust maybe… it’s the best thing for all involved.

Wilder v Fury2 – excellent. I’ll happily pay for the rematch. There’s a lot of American boxing fans who feel the same way.

 

TANK IS THE NEXT PPV STAR? YEAH RIGHT…

Hey Dougie,

Long Time follower man. Going back to HoB days, baby. I remember sitting in a cube back in my 20s in the late ‘90s and finding you guys on the internet. Such started my ability to truly nerd out on boxing. Good times!

I appreciate all the great years of care and stewardship of the sport on the journalism side. Feels really cool to see The Ring in your hands these days. I definitely feel like I bought my Dougie Fischer stock early!!  😊

But I miss reading Michael Katz man. RIP to that legendary boxing scribe.

Anyhoo, more a comment than a question.

So, I was going through boxing twitter over the weekend and there was no shortage of trying to turn up the hype machine on Tank Davis by the likes of Floyd Mayweather and even Stephen Espinoza over at Showtime.

They had these respective tweets and other public comments referencing the star turnout for Davis at his fight and how he was the future next PPV boxing star. Blah blah blah.

I mean coooooome on man. I’ve seen some unrealistic hyperbole in the day, but this is up there.

And don’t get me wrong. Tank is a hell of a fighter. He could do some great things in the ring IF he truly dedicated himself. IF he walks the straight and narrow. IF he carries himself like a pro. IF he truly stays active. IF he challenges himself. IF he takes risks.

But that’s a lot of IFs man. And even then, that just makes him a popular / respected fighter to us hardcore boxing fans.

Uh, we’ve seen the pathway to becoming a PPV Star as a 130 lb or lower fighter. It’s to…

1) actually have fights with a bunch of other HOF level fighters (novel concept) and also beat them (and preferably not blown-up-in-weight past-their-prime potential HOFers)

2) move up in weight to 147 or above.

3) have a huge national group behind you

4) and /or have huge crossover appeal.

5) be willing to risk it all for greatness (somehow Floyd was allowed to get away with not doing that as he moved to 147, but at 140 and below he basically did.)

Ain’t none of those Tank Davis’ or his promoter’s / managers’ tendencies.

PPV Star??? Yeah, right! What a load of sh!te.

Those are the boxes to check of all the current and last legit PPV starts.

More boxers / promoters / managers / content programmers would do well to notice that.

That’s it, pal. Keep on Keeping on, Dougie Fresh!! – Todd Ebert

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Todd, and for checking in after all these years (and for being a “longtimer” going back to the old HouseofBoxing). (By the way, my “Uncle” Mike is not dead, he’s just retired.)

I think Davis does have the potential be something more than just a respected/popular beltholder. He definitely moves the needle, as they say, and I think he’s talented enough to become a real champ at 130 pounds, and entertaining/charismatic enough to become an attraction.

Gervonta Davis (right) stabs Hugo Ruiz to the body with a hard jab. Photo by German Villasenor

Gervonta Davis (right) stabs Hugo Ruiz to the body with a hard jab. Photo by German Villasenor

However, he’s got to fight (and beat) a fellow 130-pound titleholder to prove he’s a real champ. And, unfortunately, boxing politics will make it hard for him to unify against Miguel Berchelt, Tevin Farmer, or even “the other” WBA beltholder, Andrew Cancio. Also, although he drew well at the outdoor venue formally known as StubHub Center, it’s going to be difficult for Tank to develop a dedicated fan following while fighting on his current schedule. He’s got to fight more than once or twice a year (and it wouldn’t be a bad idea for him to defend his title in or around his home region of Baltimore).  

Can he be a PPV star? Well, as you noted, that’s a long shot. Junior lightweight is usually deep and competitive, but it’s not a glamor division in the U.S. And at 5-foot-5½, Davis doesn’t really have the frame to travel that far north of his current fighting weight. Honestly, I don’t think he’d be that effective above 135 pounds. However, there are PPV-worthy opponents for him at lightweight, mainly Ring/WBA/WBO champ Vasiliy Lomachenko. If Mikey Garcia is unsuccessful in his challenge to Errol Spence next month and decides to go back down to 135 pounds, he would be a PPV-worthy opponent for Tank as well.

I can envision a scenario where Davis wins a couple high-profile bouts at 130 (maybe against Carl Frampton, Leo Santa Cruz or maybe Gary Russell Jr.), then beats a notable live body at 135 (perhaps Lee Selby if the Welshman wins his lightweight debut), and becomes a ballyhooed potential challenger to either Loma or Garcia. But, again, politics could get in the way of Lomachenko-Davis, and although Mikey is part of the PBC/Showtime universe, he might view his fellow pound-for-pound player as a better lightweight PPV option than young Tank. (Think about it, if Garcia is going to boil his body back down to 135, he’s only going to do it for a monster fight and Lomachenko makes for the bigger, more significant showdown.)

So, the road to “PPV stardom” will not be an easy one for Davis (and somebody should tell Floyd that putting him in with Tenshin ain’t gonna cut it).

 

RAMIREZ-ZEPEDA, DEGALE-EUBANK, TEOFIMO

Hey Doug, hope you’re doing well.

I was a bit bummed for Hugo Ruiz but once again impressed by Gervonta Davis. He’s had a couple of dud performances but when he looks good he looks DAMN good. Impressive body attack, speed, power and poise.

I quite enjoyed the “Battle of the Joses” card on ESPN on Sunday, although I was disappointed by the decision result as I had bet a little money on Zepeda (who actually performed better than I expected he would.) I thought Zepeda was boxing beautifully but seemed to run out of gas a bit down the stretch…probably partly from not being used to distance fights but also in no small part from Ramirez’s pressure and body shots. I thought it could’ve been a draw but can’t complain about Ramirez getting the nod at all. I watched the card with my dad and he was just happy cuz Ray Beltran got another KO. He really likes Beltran for some reason.

I want to ask you for an early prediction of DeGale vs Eubank, and how you see the fight going. I think it’s a really intriguing fight, especially at this point in their respective careers. DeGale has the much higher pedigree and is just much more skilled than Eubank, but he’s also been fading a bit. Meanwhile Eubank has lost a lot of the hype around him since his loss to Groves, but I think people may be forgetting a little that he gave Groves some trouble in spots with his sheer athleticism combined with his determination and willingness to make it ugly and slug. I think this could be a really good style matchup, the classic slick finesse fighter who’s a little more physically vulnerable vs the determined, powerful, ugly brawler.

Lastly, I want to say that Both Lopez and Kovalev really impressed me in their last outings. I felt Kovalev could beat Alvarez if he boxed a little safer and smarter, but didn’t really expect him to do that. Well, he boxed perfectly, and also showed his chin is not permanently cracked. I was quite surprised, but he looks very formidable still.

As for Lopez, now I get why people were talking about this guy. And I must say, I’m totally buying into the hype on this one. There just wasn’t enough fight for me to judge him off of his KO of the guy Beltran KO’d a little while ago. But this fight–we got to see it all and damn this guy has just stunning speed, power, impeccable timing, ring generalship, punch selection…really a phenom. I’m going to make a comparison, (and yes I know he still hasn’t fought anyone yet and it’s never really cool to compare prospects to hall of famers,) but honestly, he kind of reminded me of Roy Jones in there. Maybe it was the disproportionate power punching and the fast twitch athleticism but also it was just a sense of timing and ring savvy. Anyways, I can’t wait to see him in action again. I for one think he could give Loma real trouble if they fought right now, but of course, it would be wiser not to take such a major leap up in competition. But yeah, just wanted to gush about Lopez a bit cuz I think he’s the goods. – Jack E.

Teofimo IS the goods. He’s proven to be a legit lightweight contender (albeit lower top-10) after just 12 pro bouts. That’s pretty darn good by American up-and-comer standards (only Ukrainian amateur stars and Japanese phenoms win world titles within their first 12 pro bouts).

I’d like to see him test his talent/skills/athleticism against bona-fide top 10 contender, as well as a slick-boxer type, before I start beating the drums for a Lomachenko showdown or compare him to RJJ.

I was a bit bummed for Hugo Ruiz but once again impressed by Gervonta Davis. He’s had a couple of dud performances but when he looks good he looks DAMN good. Agreed. Tank needs to fight a legit 130- or 135-pound contender. Ruiz needs to get his narrow ass back down to junior featherweight.

I quite enjoyed the “Battle of the Joses” card on ESPN on Sunday, although I was disappointed by the decision result as I had bet a little money on Zepeda (who actually performed better than I expected he would.) I was OK with the decision, but I wasn’t scoring it round by round and my viewing was repeatedly interrupted or distracted (I watched it via ESPN+ on my phone at a very loud and busy bowling alley, where one of my daughters was participating in a classmate’s birthday party). I should probably watch it again (at home on my TV) and score it.

I thought Zepeda was boxing beautifully but seemed to run out of gas a bit down the stretch…probably partly from not being used to distance fights but also in no small part from Ramirez’s pressure and body shots. Agreed, and Ramirez deserves credit for his body attack (even though it wasn’t as concentrated or effective as usual – and Zepeda deserves credit for that).

I thought it could’ve been a draw but can’t complain about Ramirez getting the nod at all. OK, you really must have bet “a little money” on Zepeda, because if you had wagered anything substantial, I know you’d be pissed.

I watched the card with my dad and he was just happy cuz Ray Beltran got another KO. He really likes Beltran for some reason. What’s not to like about Beltran (aside from his prior PED use)? Dude makes for fun fights.

DeGale (left) and Eubank Jr. Photo by Lawrence Lustig

I want to ask you for an early prediction of DeGale vs Eubank, and how you see the fight going. I don’t have a favorite in that super middleweight matchup, but I lean toward Eubank because I view him as the fresher fighter/athlete.

I think it’s a really intriguing fight, especially at this point in their respective careers. I think it should be an interesting contest. DeGale would do well to keep it a boxing match, but he has a habit of being pulled into a battles of attrition.

DeGale has the much higher pedigree and is just much more skilled than Eubank, but he’s also been fading a bit. I like DeGale a lot, but I think his “skills” are overrated and I think he’s more than just a little faded. The Olympic gold medalist has been in at least four grueling 12-round fights going back to 2015 or 2016.

Meanwhile Eubank has lost a lot of the hype around him since his loss to Groves, but I think people may be forgetting a little that he gave Groves some trouble in spots with his sheer athleticism combined with his determination and willingness to make it ugly and slug. I know Eubank can be outboxed/outclassed, but nobody has an “easy” time with him.

I think this could be a really good style matchup, the classic slick finesse fighter who’s a little more physically vulnerable vs the determined, powerful, ugly brawler. I don’t think DeGale is a “slick” or “finesse” boxer (he’s kind of a sloppy stick-and-move specialist/switch-hitter) and I think Eubank is more than an “ugly brawler” with power and determination.

 

HOPKINS VS. TONEY

Hi Doug,

I’m surprised that Bernard Hopkins and James Toney never fought.

Why do you think that fight never happened?

Who do you think has the greater legacy?

Who would win at the various common weights they competed at?

Kind regards. – Anish Parekh

For a brief period (late 1992/early ’93) Hopkins was the No. 1 contender for the IBF middleweight title that Toney held, but Lights Out vacated his 160-pound belt after dominating Iran Barkley to earn the IBF super middleweight title on Feb. 13, 1993. Three months later Hopkins faced the IBF’s No. 2 contender, Roy Jones Jr., for the vacant belt and dropped a unanimous decision to the ultra-talented Olympic medalist. Jones, like Toney, had a difficult time making 160 pounds, and in fact, only defended the IBF

middleweight title once (vs. Thomas Tate) before challenging Toney for the IBF super middleweight belt in November 1994. (Jones fought four times between the Hopkins and Toney bouts but three of those fights were non-title super middleweight bouts.) Hopkins, on the other hand, had no problem making 160 pounds (and often boasted that he could make 154 or even 147 for the right fights) and remained at middleweight. By the time Hopkins won the vacant IBF middleweight title in 1995, Toney was a full fledged light heavyweight (and he’d never again fight under light heavyweight). Believe it or not, there was talk of Hopkins facing Toney at cruiserweight (or some catchweight between 175 and 190) in 2003, but the two sides couldn’t agree on money.

Why do you think that fight never happened? Hopkins wasn’t on Toney’s radar while he could still make 160 pounds. By the time Hopkins had climbed the IBF rankings, in part due to winning the vacant USBA title with a first-round knockout of Wayne Powell in December 1992 and a defense of the regional belt against Gilbert Baptist in February ’93, Toney had fought Michael Nunn and Mike McCallum on TVKO (HBO’s old PPV arm), as well as a rematch with McCallum and the destruction of Barkley on HBO. The Nunn and McCallum bouts were replayed on basic cable and network TV. His fights with Reggie Johnson and Dave Tiberi were on network TV. He was The Ring’s 1991 Fighter of the Year. Hopkins, on the other hand, was an under-the-radar basic cable fighter at this time. He just didn’t have the name or accomplishments to get Toney’s attention.

Who do you think has the greater legacy? I slightly lean toward Hopkins because of the all-time records he holds and his consistency at the world-class/elite level. Toney is the greater talent but he lacked the discipline to get the most out of it and his career had several lulls and setbacks (that it shouldn’t have suffered) because of his sloth. But Toney is a first-ballot hall of famer and arguably an all-time great. He could have kicked ass in any era.

Who would win at the various common weights they competed at? I lean toward Hopkins at 160 if you’re talking about the best middleweight version of B-Hop, but if you’re asking me who would have won at 160 had they fought in the early ‘90s, I lean toward Toney (although there’s the very real chance that Lights Out would overlook the then-unknown Hopkins the same way he did Bernard’s old pal Tiberi and pay the price). I favor Toney at 168 pounds. I favor Hopkins at 175 pounds. I favor Toney at any weight above 175.

 

 

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