Dougie’s Monday mailbag (UK super middleweight legacies, Rios-Soto, 2-minute rounds)
BRITISH SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHT LEGACIES
With James DeGale’s loss to Chris Eubank Jr. likely spelling the end of the road for him, I wanted to ask a couple of questions about the British Super Middleweight scene.
Firstly, who had the better career, DeGale or Groves and who do you think was the better fighter.
Second, who had the better career, Froch or Calzaghe and who do you think was the better fighter?
Who would Come out on top between – Eubank, Benn, Froch, Calzaghe, Groves, DeGale?
Thanks. – Conrad, Sheffield
You should know I’m gonna go with Joe. (Hey, that’s kinda catchy. I might make some T-shirts with that line on ‘em.)
Seriously, I think Calzaghe’s boxing IQ, athleticism, footwork, high-volume punch output and underrated heart allows him to outwork and outpoint Eubank, Froch and DeGale; outbox Benn, and wear down Groves (who I believe would be competitive) to a late stoppage.
Firstly, who had the better career, DeGale or Groves and who do you think was the better
fighter. When I first thought about it, I went with Groves, but just barely (like the outcome of their pro fight when both were still up-and-comers). He fought the better overall competition thanks in large part to his two bouts with future hall of famer Carl Froch. But then I changed my mind because of DeGale’s accomplishments (and, no, I’m not counting what he did as an amateur). The difference between the two (and I admit that it’s minor) is that DeGale was able to win or break even against the top three opponents he faced – the marvelously talented Andre Dirrell, a still-dangerous Lucian Bute and gritty Badou Jack.
DeGale won his first world title against Dirrell, an experienced and respected 2004 Olympic bronze medalist, and he did it on U.S. soil (that’s impressive). He tried to unify belts (and pick up the vacant Ring title) against Jack, which counts a lot in my book. I thought Jack deserved to win that fight but I can’t deny that it was a sensational 12-round battle and clash of styles. DeGale also split title bouts with hardnosed Caelb Truax and scored victories over solid fringe contenders, such as Dyah Davis, Brandon Gonzales, Paul Smith and Marco Antonio Peribon.
That’s a resume to be proud of, and the same can certainly be said of Groves’ resume. However, Groves lost to his top three opponents (the two hearbreaking stoppages against Froch), the split nod to Jack, and the KO to Callum Smith in his final bout. It should be noted that Groves was highly competitive in all of his losses. That’s not lost on me. Winning isn’t everything in boxing and neither is losing. It’s the performance in the ring
and the kinds of fights that are created that counts most with me. Having said that, I think DeGale’s title victory and defenses weigh more than Groves’. ‘St. George’ beat Fedor Chudinov for a vacant title. He gets credit for defending that belt against Jamie Cox and Chris Eubank Jr. in the WBSS tournament, but defenses against Bute and Jack are more significant. Groves obviously gets points for being in the WBSS and vying for the vacant Ring title against Smith in the final of the tournament, as he does for beating a faded Glen Johnson and serviceable fringe contenders, such as Martin Murray, Denis Douglin and Francisco Sierra.
Second, who had the better career, Froch or Calzaghe and who do you think was the better fighter? Calzaghe, but it’s very close.
Calzaghe is the better natural talent and he was the superior ring general, but Froch was an underrated boxer and the quality of his opposition was better than any other super middleweight of his era. The Cobra challenged himself more than anyone. It’s mind boggling that he fought Jean Pascal, Jermain Taylor, Andre Dirrell, Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham, Glen Johnson, Andre Ward and Lucian Bute in back-to-back bouts. (Did he go unbeaten during that run? No, but who would apart from prime Roy Jones Jr.!?) However, I give a slight edge to Calzaghe because of the length of his title reign (10 years, a division record), his number of title defenses (21, a division record he shares with Sven Ottke) and his victories over Mikkel Kessler (which unified the WBO/WBA/WBC titles), Jeff Lacy (which unified the WBO/IBF belts), Byron Mitchell, Charles Brewer, and, of course, the faded but still difficult Chris Eubank Sr.
GOOD FIGHT IN TIJUANA
When I heard that DAZN was coming to Tijuana with Zorrita vs Bam Bam I knew I had to go. It’s been a while since I’ve been to a boxing fight in my hometown (there’s fights all the time btw) but now that we’re having a resurgence with Jaime Munguia being a champion, I know we’ll see more fights. Eddie Hearn and DAZN managed to pull off a very good event. Place was packed and the fight delivered. Yeah, it may not be two world champions doing it in their prime but the matchmakers knew what they we’re doing when they put these two in the ring and it showed.
In the end, the sport is about entertainment and these guys went in there and gave it all. I was expecting Soto to fold between the 6-8th round and it almost looked like my prediction was going to happen. He managed to bite deep and gather some strength out and edge some of those tough final rounds. I had the fight 7-5 and could easily see it a draw. The group I was with also agreed with that score. One of them even had it for Rios.
Promotion for the fight was good and a lot of people came to the building and filled it out. It shows that if you bring the right guys, the right matchup at the right price, people will come. Hopefully some of the bigtime promoters take notes from this event.
I’m also going to MSG to the Crawford-Khan fight mainly because of how good prices were. I’ve always wanted to go to MSG but travel expenses plus expensive tickets turned me off of doing it, but for a $150 ticket in a good middle area why not? Hopefully, I get to see you over there at Jimmy’s Corner. Looking forward to that event. See you soon Doug! – Juan Valverde, San Diego
I am too, but I’ll probably be watching it on TV (or via ESPN+). I plan to travel to Atlantic City for the Shields-Hammer fight the previous weekend and I’d rather not do back-to-back trips to the East Coast so close to the Canelo-Jacobs event (which is gonna be nuts). I do plan to be in NYC to cover the Joshua-Miller fight (at the famed Madison Square Garden). One of these days, we’ll be in the Big Apple for a fight card and hang out at Jimmy’s. Until then, I expect to see you at one of the upcoming big shows in the L.A. area (especially the DAZN show co headlined with the Sor Rungvisai-Estrada rematch and the Roman-Doheny 122-pound title unification on April 26).
It’s been a while since I’ve been to a boxing fight in my hometown (there’s fights all the time btw) but now that we’re having a resurgence with Jaime Munguia being a champion, I know we’ll see more fights. Good. Tijuana is on my live-boxing-coverage bucket list. (I wanted to go there 20 years ago when Erik Morales defended his WBC 122-pound title against Junior Jones, but I let paranoid family members talk me out of it.)
Eddie Hearn and DAZN managed to pull off a very good event. Place was packed and the fight delivered. I’m glad to hear that. Props both for making a fan-friendly scrap like Rios-Soto and taking it to the people (or should I say “la Raza”?).
Yeah, it may not be two world champions doing it in their prime but the matchmakers knew what they
we’re doing when they put these two in the ring and it showed. Rios is running on fumes and Soto is operating on muscle memory at this stage of their careers but they still possess uncommon warrior spirit, so we were treated to a gritty pressure fighter-vs.-boxer-technician style clash. I did not bother keeping score – these are the kinds of fights that mandate total attention and at least three bottles of beer – but I will repeat for the record that I did not see a one-sided fight. I thought it was fiercely competitive.
In the end, the sport is about entertainment and these guys went in there and gave it all. As they have each done for the entirety of their careers. I have the utmost respect for both (and I know giving “Bam Bam” props isn’t popular among Boxing Twitter Snobs, but I don’t give s__t).
I was expecting Soto to fold between the 6-8th round and it almost looked like my prediction was going to happen. I didn’t think Soto would fold (because he just doesn’t do that unless you can overpower him as Lucas Matthysse did), but I thought his fatigue would allow Rios to not only outwork him but inflict enough punishment to win rounds on the official judges’ scorecards. To Soto’s credit, he did not allow that to happen.
He managed to bite deep and gather some strength out and edge some of those tough final rounds. No surprise at all. Soto was in one of the best lightweight scraps I ever witnessed from press row – which is saying something, because I was ringside for Corrales-Castillo I and Marquez-Diaz I – which was his 12-round war with Urbano Antillon in December 2010. That dude can dig down like few others.
I had the fight 7-5 and could easily see it a draw. That’s because YOU. KNOW. YOUR. S__T! I couldn’t be there with you in TJ, but I’m with you in spirit, hermano.
The group I was with also agreed with that score. Of course! Your crew is made up of real fans. Real MEXICAN fans. I wish more of you were on Twitter! (I guess this is reason No. 1,001 for me to learn Spanish.)
One of them even had it for Rios. I ain’t mad at him.
FURY AND ESPN DEAL
Glad to see the mailbag going on now for years.
Just wanted to get your thoughts on the Tyson Fury deal with ESPN: do you think this will make it harder for networks/promoters to work with each other or do you think this will pave the way for them to collaborate more often?
I see some positive with this, now all three of the top named heavy weights are on three different top distributors for boxing; DAZN, Showtime and ESPN±. It almost forces all three or two of the three to figure out how to work with one another. It seemed like Joshua was getting frozen out but now he can get back in the mix if Showtime and Arum can’t agree.
I really hope boxing figures out how to continue to grow the sport whether it is through streaming, cable or PPV. It seems like there’s a scramble to capitalize on the various forms of distribution but it can also take away from the sport when certain fighters are on exclusive platforms (ie. Canelo on DAZN versus anything else).
Curious to hear your thoughts. Thanks, Dougie. – Mart (Toronto, Canada)
I think Fury going to ESPN is good for the heavyweight division, which is good for the sport. Fury got his foot in the door of the collective consciousness of American sports fans with his bold stand against Deontay Wilder, but with ESPN’s help and exposure, he can raise his profile in the U.S. to equal his stature in the UK in a relatively short period of time. Fury being popular in the U.S. would make the Wilder rematch and a potential showdown with Joshua that much bigger (and more lucrative for all involved). And if rumors are true that Gennady Golovkin has decided to align himself with DAZN, that will mean the top three biggest attractions in boxing call the new streaming service their home. DAZN can quickly become the new HBO with Canelo, AJ and GGG carrying their banner. Then there’s the PBC with it’s Showtime and FOX platforms. They still have the most world-class talent under contract. All they need to do is get these dudes to fight each other and unify titles at super middleweight, junior middleweight, welterweight, and featherweight. If everybody does what they’re supposed to do, boxing will grow in the U.S. and in other international markets. If these rival networks and platforms work together to make mega-fights, boxing can compete with major professional team sports.
Just wanted to get your thoughts on the Tyson Fury deal with ESPN: do you think this will make it harder for networks/promoters to work with each other or do you think this will pave the way for them to collaborate more often? I think Fury’s deal with ESPN (and other fighter-platform partnerships, such as DAZN’s deals with Canelo and GGG) will make it harder for cross-promotions and network collaborations to occur in the short term, but if these deals create bigger stars (as they’re supposed to) I believe there will be enough money on the table for all involved to work together and make the mega-fights that fans want to see, regardless who the fighters are affiliated with. And, as I stated in Friday’s mailbag (and will no doubt repeat over and over again all year), with the amount of money the networks/platforms are guaranteeing the boxing talent per fight, they will eventually HAVE to make the big cross-promotional showdown (such as Fury-Wilder II and Spence-Crawford) in order to make a profit.
I see some positive with this, now all three of the top named heavy weights are on three different top distributors for boxing; DAZN, Showtime and ESPN±. It almost forces all three or two of the three to figure out how to work with one another. Eventually, yes, but I would be shocked (pleasantly so) if any combo of the three platforms work together to immediately make a massive heavyweight event before the fall of this year.
It seemed like Joshua was getting frozen out but now he can get back in the mix if Showtime and Arum can’t agree. That’s crazy logic, because Joshua, Hearn and DAZN are still going to protect their interests no matter what, but boxing is a nutty business populated by certifiable ego maniacs, so who knows? Maybe you’re right. I hope you are.
WOMEN’S BOXING RATINGS
Hope this finds you and yours well. I’ll leave the discussion of James Degale’s and Chris Eubanks’ futures to others.
I was glad to see that Ring is going to start rating women’s boxing. I would like to again raise my voice in supporting the change to 3-minute rounds and 12-round title fights for women. It’s an important step to bring women up to the same level as men in the sport, and is needed for the general boxing public to take women seriously.
Why was the 2-minute round adopted in the first place? Because women aren’t strong enough to go 3 minutes? How absurd. I’m not much of an MMA fan, but the matches I’ve watched had the same times for men and women.
In the past you’ve said that the 2-minute round produced faster fights, and you enjoyed that.
With all respect, following that logic would you want shorter rounds for men?
Ring Magazine’s endorsement of standardizing the sport for men and women would go a long way for making this change happen.
I’ve also found a great way to spend my boxing sheckels now that I’ve canceled HBO – I just subscribed to Ring Magazine. Looking forward to my first copy.
Thanks again for what you do for the sport. – Ken Kozberg, Oakham, MA
Thank you for your kind words, thoughtful questions, and continued support, Ken.
Your first copy of The Ring will either be our April edition with Errol Spence and Mikey Garcia on the cover, or it will be the May issue, which will feature the one and only Terence Crawford. Enjoy!
Regarding the “rating” of women’s boxing, let me be clear that we do not yet have divisional rankings for world-class female professional boxers, but that is a goal of mine.
What we are doing (with the blessing of the Ratings Panel) is recognizing for the first time a women’s boxing match as a Ring championship, and that bout is the Claressa Shields-Christina Hammer middleweight title unification bout. It was an easy and logical choice to make. They’re recognized as the two best female middleweights and they hold all four major sanctioning body titles.
I think Katie Taylor, who has her sights set on winning all the major lightweight belts and a showdown with Amanda Serrano, is also on her way to fighting for a Ring title.
Why was the 2-minute round adopted in the first place? Because women aren’t strong enough to go 3 minutes? That’s what some believe, including the World Boxing Council, and they’re not apologetic about that belief.
How absurd. I agree with you. I don’t think women are at any more risk than men are fighting 3-minute rounds. Having said that, I don’t have a problem with women fighting 2-minute rounds if they’re comfortable doing that. If a female boxer wants to fight 3-minutes rounds, I think she should be allowed to do that as long as her opponent agrees with it.
I’m not much of an MMA fan, but the matches I’ve watched had the same times for men and women. That’s true. However, I’m not sure this is the huge issue you’re making it out to be. I called the action to a women’s boxing match with 3-minute rounds a few years ago. If memory serves me Marlen Esparza wanted to box 3-minute rounds instead of the customary 2-minute rounds for women’s bouts, so she presented her request to the Nevada State
Athletic Commission, which OK’d the change in rules. It made some news but I don’t recall it being that big of a deal. But my point is that although Esparza is well known because of her amateur and Olympic accomplishments, she requested 3-minute rounds in her second pro bout. It was a four rounder against a 2-3-1 opponent (Samantha Salazar). If Esparza can get that done in just her second pro bout, I’m sure that reigning world titleholders, such as Cecilia Braekhus, Taylor, Shields and Hammer, could request that major commissions sanction their bouts to include 3-minute rounds or to go the 12-round distance if they really wanted to.
In the past you’ve said that the 2-minute round produced faster fights, and you enjoyed that. I did and I do!
With all respect, following that logic would you want shorter rounds for men? Hell yeah! Especially if those dudes are boring. Less time to operate might encourage some over-cerebral types to let their hands go more and fight at a brisker tempo. I’m also in favor of dropping the number of rounds that guys fight, regardless of their styles. Even if they are all-action fighters, I don’t always need to see them beat the s__t out of each other for 10 or 12 rounds. Rios-Soto is a good example. Why did that fight need to be scheduled for 12 freakin’ rounds? There was no world title – or even a bulls__t regional belt – on the line. That was just guilty pleasure for Blood Thirsty Ghouls. It could have been 10, or even eight rounds. Sometimes it’s good to leave the BTS wanting more.
Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter and IG at @dougiefischer.