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Dougie’s Friday mailbag (Lara-Castano, Chris Eubank Jr., the ‘90s heavyweight era)

Is Erislandy Lara ready for what Brian Castano will bring to the ring? Photo by Stephanie Trapp-SHOWTIME
01
Mar

LARA VS. CASTANO

Doug,

Who you got for Brian Castano vs Erislandy Lara? Castano looked the goods against Michel Soro, which is all I’ve seen of him. Jarrett Hurd’s pressure strategy worked so well against Lara because of the combination of his size, stamina, and overall disregard for getting hit. I say “worked so well” in that it was enough to earn him a close decision (in the only Lara fight I’ve seen that I enjoyed watching; all props to him for the fight he made of it, which was right soldierly), but it was close indeed and Hurd is a monster. Does Castano have enough of “this that & the other” to get to Lara? I hope Lara doesn’t revert to form…

And a random question on a quiet-ish week: Kerman Lejarraga, a Spanish welterweight I first saw last November when he KO’d Frankie Gavin (having TKO’d Bradley Skeete earlier in 2018). Seems like he has great joy of being in the ring, looks to bring it, has been knocking people out, and keeps a busy schedule. How do you rate him — is he someone likely to get a world title shot; and if so, what does that path look like?

Thanks for always sustaining us with the Mailbag, I hope things are going your way. Cheers. – Alec

Everything’s lovely, Alec. Thanks for the mailbag appreciation.

Kerman Lejarraga

I like Lejarraga a lot. He’s a fearless, free-swinging brute with a big right hand and a vicious hook to the body, so he appeals to the primal side of my fan nature. However, as impressive as his 2

7-0 record – which includes brow-raising KOs of Skeete and Gavin that you mentioned – appears, I consider the European champ a fringe contender (as does The Ring, which does not rank him). He’s arguably baddest welterweight in Europe, but I don’t know how he’d fare against a world-class 147 pounder yet. His March 30 fight with David Avanesyan will give us more of an indication of his ability and potential. Egidijus Kavaliauskas, The Ring’s No. 7-rated welterweight, stopped the rugged Armenian in six rounds. Let’s see how Lejarraga does.

He’s currently rated in the top five of all four sanctioning organizations, but until I see more of him, I would strongly favor the beltholders to turn back the challenge of the rugged Spaniard.

Castano, The Ring’s No. 6-rated junior middleweight, is every bit the brute that Lejarraga is, but the Argentine is more polished, and he’s got the scalp of a legit contender (Soro) on his pro ledger. Castano, who had an extensive and decorated amateur career, also owns a WSB victory over Sergey Derevyanchenko, which is impressive. However, as tough and technical as Soro and Derevyanchenko are, they don’t present the savvy southpaw style that Lara will show him tomorrow night. Unless, the Hurd fight took some air out of Lara’s tires (which is possible given the grueling nature of that 2018 Fight of the Year candidate), I favor the Cuban veteran by hard-fought decision.

Castano looked the goods against Michel Soro, which is all I’ve seen of him. Outpointing Soro in

Castano. Photo courtesy of PBC

France let the world know that Castano is a world-class operator. He’s got a lot going for him – a hard jab, a Winky Wrightesque high guard, solid balance, decent head/upper-body movement, good combinations and the intuition to know when to press and when to move. I think he’ll give Lara a good fight, but I’m guessing the lateral movement (and ability to punch of the fly) from the former titleholder is going to trouble the 15-0 contender.

Jarrett Hurd’s pressure strategy worked so well against Lara because of the combination of his size, stamina, and overall disregard for getting hit. Castano doesn’t have Hurd’s size or his disregard for getting hit. Like I noted, Winky Wright would approve of Castano’s high guard, but he’s there to be outworked and outmaneuvered whenever he puts those “ear muffs” on.

Does Castano have enough of “this that & the other” to get to Lara? I think he’d got enough to make it a fight, maybe even an entertaining one. Perhaps he’ll rise to the occasion and do more than that.

 

EUBANK DESERVES SOME RESPECT

Dougie,

You are the man and you are keeping it real in 2019! Thank you for your mailbag and the hard work that goes into it – sounds like some late Sunday nights, I hope you get a good dark roast Monday morning to even things out.

I was expecting a mailbag full of hate for Eubank Jr given his past lack of focused training and lack of hired corner man – however, either there was less interest in this fight than I imagined or you pulled some serious cutting of letters before starting your mailbag.

Anyways, this was my first Eubank Jr fight, and I think that the haters (who previously may have had a point) need to show some respect. Saturday’s match in England was not a FOTY candidate, but it was a good scrap. In particular, Eubank Jr showed poise and discipline while fighting off the awkward (and dirty) DeGale and by the later rounds, Eubank Jr was doing some great in-fighting work when DeGale would try and smother him. I enjoyed seeing the ‘body-slam’ moment, and while it cost him a point, it showed that he had retained significant stamina in the late rounds, and if the ref was not going to penalize DeGale for holding, Eubank Jr needed to assert himself – I think it was an appropriate move though worthy of a point deduction.

DeGale is his biggest ‘W,’ and people will always be able to say that this is a post-Badou Jack DeGale on his way out, but it was still a dominant ‘W.’  In addition, I see no shame in losses to Saunders or Groves especially as the young warrior has seemed to learn from his mistakes.

How did you see the fight? You favored Eubank Jr. last week, did his performance exceed your expectations? Do you think he could pose any problem for the 168 title-holders? Eubank Jr vs Anthony Dirrell seems like a near-even match that I would eagerly watch.

I know that the Ring Ratings are not a democracy – but count this a vote to put Eubank Jr at #4 above Canelo. Canelo is the better fighter, yet he has not beaten a Top 5 contender, nor did he knock out someone who just forced a SD for the WBC crown in Yildirim. Eubank’s achievements at SMW are likely overshadowed by the criticism he draws, but I think he has done enough to be top 5.

Finally, last time I e-mailed I was down on Devin Haney for trying too hard to make a ‘statement’ in his last bout, your response has had me thinking about what it takes to make a ‘statement’ in boxing. I have come to the conclusion that early KOs will win time on SportsCenter, but winning bouts and belts is the biggest ‘statement’ one can make – especially given that KOs are less likely at the elite level. Would you change this sentiment at all?

Thanks for your great work, here’s hoping for a great Lara-Castano fight on Saturday! – Phil Lindholm, DuPont, WA

I think we’re gonna get a solid 154-pound matchup, Phil. I’m looking forward to it. Viva Cuba! Viva Argentina!

Regarding Haney and statements, I think SportsCenter-worthy KOs are good for career momentum, but quality rounds and distance bouts against solid opposition is better for career development.

Thank you for your mailbag and the hard work that goes into it – sounds like some late Sunday nights, I hope you get a good dark roast Monday morning to even things out. You better believe it, and I’ve got the light roast coffee-colored teeth to prove it!

I was expecting a mailbag full of hate for Eubank Jr given his past lack of focused training and lack of hired corner man – however, either there was less interest in this fight than I imagined or you pulled some serious cutting of letters before starting your mailbag. There was no cutting. I think the lack of Eubank feedback was combo of humble pie from his detractors and ambivalence for the matchup.

Anyways, this was my first Eubank Jr fight, and I think that the haters (who previously may have had a point) need to show some respect. I agree. I didn’t understand all the hate that was heaped on him after he lost to Groves. He dropped a competitive decision to a better-boxing, more-experienced titleholder. Big deal.

Saturday’s match in England was not a FOTY candidate, but it was a good scrap. I agree with Tris Dixon, who described it as “untidy” in his report for RingTV.com.

In particular, Eubank Jr showed poise and discipline while fighting off the awkward (and dirty) DeGale and by the later rounds, Eubank Jr was doing some great in-fighting work when DeGale would try and smother him. I agree, but I thought Eubank was just as awkward (and dirty) as DeGale.

I enjoyed seeing the ‘body-slam’ moment, and while it cost him a point, it showed that he had retained significant stamina in the late rounds, and if the ref was not going to penalize DeGale for holding, Eubank Jr needed to assert himself – I think it was an appropriate move though worthy of a point deduction. Again, if you’re gonna call DeGale “dirty,” you gotta call Eubank out for pulling WWE-style craziness like that. I didn’t think it was necessary, and I’m glad DeGale wasn’t seriously injured from it.

DeGale is his biggest ‘W,’ and people will always be able to say that this is a post-Badou Jack DeGale on his way out, but it was still a dominant ‘W.’ I recognized DeGale as being faded, maybe even

Eubank is on the attack against DeGale.

a little shopworn, but it’s still a significant victory. It puts him in position to fight one of the major titleholders this year.

How did you see the fight? I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as you did, but I was impressed by Eubank and I agree that he clearly won the fight.

You favored Eubank Jr. last week, did his performance exceed your expectations? No, he did what I expected of him against a version of DeGale who wasn’t sharp enough to mount a sustained attack or avoid Euby’s bombs, but savvy (and tough) enough to go the distance.

Do you think he could pose any problem for the 168 title-holders? Sure. Nobody is going to have an easy night with Eubank. Having said that, I think Callum Smith and David Benavidez are too big for him, and I think Caleb Plant’s style is all wrong for him. But I think he might have too much for Anthony Dirrell at this stage of the Michigan native’s career.

I know that the Ring Ratings are not a democracy – but count this a vote to put Eubank Jr at #4 above Canelo. Canelo is the better fighter, yet he has not beaten a Top 5 contender, nor did he knock out someone who just forced a SD for the WBC crown in Yildirim. Eubank’s achievements at SMW are likely overshadowed by the criticism he draws, but I think he has done enough to be top 5. The Panel disagrees with you (and me). They elevated Dirrell to No. 4 (over Canelo, which I don’t agree with, but I completely understand the reasoning) and the advanced Eubank to No. 6. 

 

ARE THE HEAVYWEIGHTS REVISITING THE ‘90S?

Hey Dougie,

Hope all is good with you.

I was just wondering what your thoughts are on the Wilder V Fury negotiations breaking down for the immediate rematch. Personally, I’m pretty disappointed, even though I can understand why either fighter may want a break after such a tough fight I have a few questions:

1) with all three top heavyweights with rival TV networks and promoters are we headed for another 90’s heavyweight era, where apart from Holyfield (against everyone) none of the truly top names fought in their prime? I’m not complaining about the 90’s as it was great, but the scene was set at that time for something even more special if Bowe and Lewis had faced off when they should have and the winner to fight a returning Tyson.

2) is Fury making a mistake taking another fight before the Wilder rematch, leaving Wilder more time to improve, or is it smart thinking as he feels he will improve even more and Wilder can’t make the adjustments?

3) How long before one of the top 3 gets upset? I’m thinking Lewis v McCall of course, but also to some extent Bowe v Golota

Anyway at least we have some decent fights in the lower weights to look forward to.

Now some mythical heavyweight matchups if that’s cool:

Bowe V AJ

Louis v Wilder

Ali v Fury

Tyson v Frazier

Marciano v Johnson

Cheers. – Burt Williams, England

I’ll go with Bowe by hard-fought decision, Louis by mid-rounds KO, Ali by decision (in a difficult and ugly chess match), Frazier by mid-round stoppage and Johnson by decision.

With all three top heavyweights with rival TV networks and promoters are we headed for another 90’s heavyweight era, where apart from Holyfield (against everyone) none of the truly top names fought in their prime? I gotta disagree with your take on the ‘90s heavyweight era, Burt. I think it was almost Golden Age for the glamor division, second only the 1970s. Yeah, Riddick Bowe didn’t fight Lennox Lewis and neither fought Mike Tyson in the ‘90s, but Evander Holyfield wasn’t the only notable heavyweight clashing with top-10 contenders. Yeah, the Real Deal faced the most – the trilogy with Bowe, Tyson (twice), Lewis (twice), Michael Moorer (twice), Ray Mercer and the still-formidable “old timers,” George Foreman and Larry Holmes – but that’s why he’s an all-time great. However, with the exception of Iron Mike, those badasses that Holyfield faced also fought each other for the most part, and they faced threats that Commander Vander didn’t – such as Razor Rudduck and Tommy Morrison.

Photo by: The Ring Magazine/Getty Images

Lewis, to his credit, faced Rudduck and Morrison, as well as Tony Tucker, Mercer, Andrew Golota and Shannon Briggs. Morrison, who often gets crapped on by fans, fought Lewis, Rudduck, Foreman and Mercer. And Mercer, who’s infamous for his frightening KO of the Duke and upset loss to Holmes, gave Lewis, Holyfield and Tim Witherspoon hell in tough 10-rounders. Guys like Moorer and Frans Botha get overlooked, but they were players. Even the fringe contenders like Bert Cooper, Joe Hipp, Axel Schulz and Alex Stewart made for some very good fights with the bigger names – especially “Smokin” Bert. Do yourself a favor and look up Cooper’s thrillers against Holyfield, Moorer and Mercer. Anyway, we’ll be BLESSED if this era’s heavyweights deliver a fraction of the excitement the ‘90s crew did.

Is Fury making a mistake taking another fight before the Wilder rematch, leaving Wilder more time to improve, or is it smart thinking as he feels he will improve even more and Wilder can’t make the adjustments? Time will tell, but I think Fury’s motivated enough to be in shape and focused for whoever he faces next and I believe that Top Rank and Frank Warren are savvy enough to keep the lineal champ unbeaten until it’s time to roll the dice against one of the beltholders. I think Fury will get sharper with more activity. I think Wilder is what he is – the most dangerous heavyweight on the planet.

How long before one of the top 3 gets upset? I’m thinking Lewis v McCall of course, but also to some extent Bowe v Golota. It’s not inconceivable that one of these guys can lose before a mega-fight can be made, but I think the Big Three are talented and experienced enough to handle most challenges, and I think Arum, Warren, Al Haymon and Eddie Hearn are smarter than you think they are.

Anyway at least we have some decent fights in the lower weights to look forward to. Yeah, even before the big fights in May, we’ve got Farmer-Carroll, which should be fun, Spence-Garcia is fascinating, Tanaka-Taguchi will be off the hook, and the Sor Rungvisai-Estrada II/Roman-Doheny doubleheader is as good as boxing gets.

 

WHO’S THE BETTER CRAFTSMAN

Hi Doug-Short and sweet: between Humberto Soto and Ray Beltran, which Mexican veteran is a better craftsman and why?   MMU:Paul Williams vs Roberto Duran at 47, 54, 60 Alan- New Hampshire

Duran on points in each weight class, but Punisher’s height, reach and volume would present problems. The unfocused, out-of-shape version of Duran could be outworked by Williams at 154 and 160.

Soto (left) in action against Antonio Orozco. Photo by Naoki Fukuda

I think Soto is a better craftsman than Beltran. Both Mexican veterans possess impressive technique, timing and ring generalship, however, Soto at his best was a better overall athlete and natural talent. His reflexes, hands, feet, and most importantly, his mind, were faster than Beltran. His defensive form was more fluid with his offense, which was tighter and more precise (and more active). Oh, and let’s not forget Soto’s footwork. Goodness, that was beautiful to behold – especially his inside angle game. Beltran didn’t have feet like Zorrita.  

 

HEAVYWEIGHT DISAPPOINTMENT

Hey Dougie,

Too much frustration this week, had to vent on the mailbag. Starting off, I’m disappointed in Fury, all his talk about legacy six months ago has gone out the window, he knew exactly what would happen if Bob Arum got involved, but he took the payday, and there’s no such things as an overpaid fighter so good for him, but his talk has lost all consistency. How much do you think it’s going to slow the division? Just watching Eubank-DeGale now and good god this is messy, if Eubank just learned to take a single step back he would have stopped him.

I hate to see him against any other big names for a while. Who do you think is best for him to fight next @ 160 & 168?

Glad to see Paulie Malignaggi in someone’s corner FINALLY. That guy has knowledge that is just wasted on most fans. I think if he keeps working as a 2nd assistant and learns the differences from being a fighter he can become a great coach.  Love the mailbag keep up the good work. – Will, Peterborough

Thanks, Will.

Time will tell if Malignaggi can become as good a trainer as he was a boxer and is a commentator/pundit, IF that’s something that he wants to pursue. I’m not sure it is. He was in DeGale’s corner for moral and technical support because they are friends. Malignaggi is doing very well as a broadcaster, unless he REALLY wants to train he’s probably better off avoiding the stress and frustration that comes with being a coach.

Starting off, I’m disappointed in Fury, all his talk about legacy six months ago has gone out the window, he knew exactly what would happen if Bob Arum got involved, but he took the payday, and there’s no such things as an overpaid fighter so good for him, but his talk has lost all consistency. I disagree, and I don’t think it’s all about the Benjamins for Fury. Becoming a worldwide attraction and a household name in America is part of any prize fighter’s legacy. Fury can’t do that without the help of Top Rank and the ESPN platform/exposure. I think Fury proved that he’s serious about being “the man” by taking the Wilder fight and doing what he did on December 1. We can’t take that away from him just because he’s not doing an immediate rematch with Wilder.  

How much do you think it’s going to slow the division? It’s not going to slow the division at all. It’s going to delay the rematch with Wilder. That’s just one possible matchup. Everyone in the division is still free to make the best fight available.

Just watching Eubank-DeGale now and good god this is messy, if Eubank just learned to take a single step back he would have stopped him. Junior is here on talent, not technique or Ring IQ.

I hate to see him against any other big names for a while. I’m ready to see him mix with the best this year. He’s 29 and he’s got 30 pro bouts – including 36 quality rounds with Billy Joe Saunders, George Groves and DeGale – under his belt. He is what he is. He either has what it takes to beat a major world titleholder or he doesn’t.

Who do you think is best for him to fight next @ 160 & 168? At middleweight, I’d say Rob Brant or Jermall Charlo. Brant is probably the most beatable of the 160-pound standouts (although I wouldn’t count the busy Minnesotan out) and Charlo likely makes for the best fight – maybe a shootout. A win against either would make Eubank a mandatory challenger for Canelo. At super middleweight, I think Dirrell (who is still very dangerous) is the best bet because the American appears to be fading (to me, anyway) and he’s got the WBC belt.

 

JUST A QUICK ONE

Hi Doug,

Just wanted to say keep up the good work on the mailbag. You’re leading the conversation when it comes to balanced boxing opinion. – Sam, UK

Thank you for those very kind words, Sam.

 

 

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

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