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Dougie’s Friday Mailbag (Boxing’s summer comeback, George Foreman, Gvozdyk What If?)

Special shout out to the OG of the Four Kings, wishing Hands of Stone a speedy recovery from COVID-19.
26
Jun

FOUR KINGS

Doug,

Really enjoyed the Four Kings special issue of the magazine. Unlike most boxing fans (who rival and probably surpass baseball fans for being history addicts), I struggle to watch old fights when I already know the result and I’m lacking context or understanding of whatever the “story of the fight” was (apologies for using that phrase lol).

The Four Kings issue helped provide a lot of that and inspired me to watch some fights I’m embarrassed to say I had never seen, and I was enthralled. Cheers. – Jerry, Los Angeles 

I’m glad you enjoyed our first (of hopefully many) Special Editions of The Ring, and I’m glad you took the time to review the Four Kings’ amazing round-robin series that helped define the 1980s.

Let’s keep the senior member of that all-time great quartet, Roberto Duran, in our thoughts and prayers as he goes mano a mano with the COVID-19 virus. I know he’s gonna beat it but what great fighter doesn’t feed off the energy of his fans?

 

YOU FORGOT ABOUT BIG GEORGE!

Hi Dougie,

When you analyzed big heavyweights in your June 22 mailbag you omitted the man who scored devastating knockouts over Joe Frazier (twice) and Ken Norton, and who could of had his hand raised three times in his fights with Ali and solid contenders Gerry Cooney and Ron Lyle.

Big George and I forgive you, Dougie. – Bill Caplan

Thank you, Bill. Please give my regards to the Punching Preacher from Marshall, Texas. I’m honored to have a hall of fame publicist share his thoughts and opinions with the mailbag. For those who don’t know, Mr. Caplan has been in the boxing game longer than most of us have been alive and his chief client (and very good friend) is George Foreman.

I know what you’re thinking, Bill. You think I forgot about Big George because I left him out of my “special category of heavyweights that could have competed with/defeated the best big men of any era while they were at their peaks,” which I detailed in this week’s Monday Mailbag when a reader asked me where I rated Sonny Liston. 

The 1976 version of George Foreman stalking down Scott LeDoux in Utica, New York. Big George scored a third-round TKO. (Photo by: The Ring Magazine/Getty Images)

I didn’t forget about Foreman (who, as you know, looked up to Liston when he was an up-and-comer). That special group of formidable big men – which included Liston, Joe Frazier, Mike Tyson and Riddick Bowe – were heavyweights that I don’t usually rate in my heavyweight top 10 (although Smokin’ Joe has occasionally cracked it at No. 9 or No. 10 depending on my mood). Foreman ALWAYS makes my top 10, in fact he’s usually inside the top five because of the manner in which he dominated Frazier and Ken Norton, the fact that he won The Ring’s 1976 Fight of the Year vs. Ron Lyle, and, incredibly, regained the championship 20 years after losing it, smashing the record of oldest world titleholder in the process (and he’s still holds it for heavyweights). His bold stand vs. a prime Evander Holyfield is icing on the cake.

However, Foreman certainly qualifies for that special group. The peak version of Foreman seen crushing Frazier and Norton in 1973-’74 could have given the best heavyweights from any era hellish nights. Only THE Greatest could withstand the prime Big George’s onslaught, and, as you know (because you were there), the unique and sometimes bizarre circumstances of that SuperFight in the Congo was a factor in Foreman’s performance that sweltering night in October 1974.

A fascinating mythical matchup or What If? scenario is what would have happened had Foreman-Ali taken place in the U.S. (and Foreman had not suffered a fight-postponing cut in sparring). I know who your pick would be and I’m not mad at ya even though Ali is my ultimate hero.

Bill, please write in again soon. I know you’ve got a thousand stories. Share them with the mailbag!

 

BOXING’S COMEBACK

Hi Dougie –

It feels like Top Rank/ESPN is running laps around the other promotion/network teams at present. (And kudos to them for figuring out how to mount their series of cards in a as-safe-as-possible a fashion.)

Is there any industry inside news or rumor out of Golden Boy/Matchroom/DAZN?

https://www.ft.com/content/9052379a-78eb-4825-a0f6-f3dba6299940

I’m a tad stunned given what (Top Rank/ESPN has done) that they don’t seem to have even a single card scheduled for July.

Care to speculate on what happens to GB, Matchroom and DAZN collectively or separately? Thanks, and stay well everybody! – Brock, San Diego

Andrew Moloney and Joshua Franco. Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank

They’ll be fine, Brock. Top Rank beat everybody to the punch and they’re doing a fine job with their twice-weekly shows in Las Vegas (I’ve especially enjoyed this week’s main events featuring the Moloney brothers, which gave us a minor upset with Joshua Franco’s UD over Andrew Moloney in a terrific junior bantamweight 12-rounder, and I’m looking forward to the July 7 show topped by Ivan Baranchyk vs. Jose Zepeda). Top Rank is the oldest promotional company in the game, so you know they’ve got their s__t together, but they also had the cooperation of the state government where they are based (Nevada), the blessing of the local athletic commission, and the backing of “The Worldwide Leader In Sports” (ESPN).

There’s no shame in the other promotional companies watching how Top Rank proceeds this month before moving forward with their own shows. Young folks are supposed to learn from the old heads, right?

However, I think the other major promoters would have returned in May or June if they were able to but the governments and athletic commissions where they are based were not ready to allow sporting events to resume due to COVID-19 concerns. Here in California, combat sports events were not allowed to be scheduled until July.

Golden Boy Promotions was planning to return on July 4 with Ryan Garcia in the main event, but will now proceed with a show on July 24 headlined by 2019 Prospect of the Year Vergil Ortiz Jr. It will be streamed live on DAZN.

On Thursday, Matchroom Boxing’s head honcho, Eddie Hearn, put out a Tweet that teased the official announcement of the “Fight Camp” schedule today. The weekly series, held in the backyard garden of the Hearn estate, is rumored to start on July 18 with a women’s WBC 130-pound title bout between beltholder Terri Harper and Natasha Jonas, and the series finale is supposed to be the heavyweight showdown between Dillian Whyte and Alexander Povetkin (on August 22). These shows will also be streamed live on DAZN (in the U.S.).

Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions is looking to return in mid-July with a weekly series from the BT Sports Studios that will feature cards topped mostly by British title bouts (which will be streamed on ESPN+ in the U.S.), but he’s re-scheduled the anticipated Daniel Dubois-Joe Joyce heavyweight clash on October 24 at O2 Arena in London.

Between a busy July and the end of October, I expect several major fights and events to be added to a jam-packed fall/winter schedule (especially when the PBC gets back into the swing of things), as well as to the first quarter of 2021.

Also, I should mention that several smaller regional promotional companies will be starting up weekly and monthly series, such as All Star Boxing in Florida (shows that can be seen on Telefutura) and Thompson Boxing Promotions in California (with it’s new 3-2-1 Boxing PPV series streaming from various platforms).

  

GVOZDYK, MYTHICAL MATCHUPS, FADING FIGHTERS

Evening there Dougie,

Great to see you cracking on with the mailbag. Not sure how things are going in The States but we’re just starting to get a bit of normalcy here so hope you lot follow shortly (while staying safe).

Appreciate the time it must have taken to answer my last question ranking 168-pound fighters, it was a big ask (also damn if Badou Jack hasn’t been really unlucky).

First off, MMs:

Antonio Tarver vs Artur Beterbiev

Bernard Hopkins vs Matthew Saad Muhammed

Dwight Muhammad Qawi vs Murat Gassiev

What do you think Oleksandr Gvozdyk could have accomplished had he stayed in the sport, given his very well rounded boxing skills, punching power and natural athleticism?

I was watching a Sergey Kovalev highlight prior to the first Ward fight. That guy was an absolute monster. After the Ward losses (first loss being a clear win for Kovalev) everything about him seemed to change. I know that Buddy McGirt is a very different trainer from JDJ (both excellent trainers) and Buddy had him pulling some power off his punches (particularly against Canelo) but he just seemed far more willing to throw with power prior to the Ward fights

What do you think causes this change? Is it McGirt’s training style, is it Kovalev aging, is it a mental thing or all of the above (or am I being an armchair Freud and is it just Kovalev lost to some very good fighters)?

Keep yourself and your family safe and take care. – Euan, Dunfermline, Scotland

I’ll go with “all the above” to explain Kovalev’s drop off following the Ward bouts (and, mind you, I think he was starting to fade BEFORE the first Ward bout, showing signs of slowing down vs. Jean Pascal and Issac Chilemba in 2016). But I think gradual fade from being “The Krusher” to just a heavy handed boxer with a good jab post-Ward is due to a combination of things: his lifestyle at the time (he burned the candle on both ends), psychological issues (he was a stubborn headcase to begin with but feared punchers often have a tough time regaining their mojo following their first loss – he suffered back-to-back losses that included a stoppage), and too many trainers with different methods/philosophies over a short period of time (he had three head coaches – John David Jackson, Abror Tursunpulatov and Buddy McGirt – from the Ward rematch to the Eleider Alvarez rematch). That’s three trainers (and several different camp locations) in just FOUR bouts. That’s a lot of changing up and readjusting, even for a seasoned veteran pro like Kovalev. In my opinion, a couple bouts is just not enough time to really gel with a coach and internalize whatever it is the new trainer is trying to teach.

Kovalev vs. Eleider Alvarez II (Photo by Mikey Williams/ Top Rank)

Having said that, I think Kovalev looked good in the Alvarez and Anthony Yarde bouts with McGirt in his corner. However, and with all due respect to Buddy, the pure boxing approach wasn’t the best approach vs. Canelo.

Mind you, even though he’s 37 and coming off his third stoppage loss in seven bouts, I think the Russian remains a legit light heavyweight contender. There aren’t many 175-pound standouts that want to share the ring with him.

Your mythical matchups:

Antonio Tarver vs Artur Beterbiev – Tarver by close, maybe majority decision

Bernard Hopkins vs Matthew Saad Muhammed – Hopkins by close UD in a rough and at time ugly scrap

Dwight Muhammad Qawi vs Murat Gassiev – Qawi by split decision in a brilliant, technical battle of attrition

Four months defeating Adonis Stevenson, Oleksandr Gvozdyk (left) was back in the ring against Doudou Ngumbu.

Four months defeating Adonis Stevenson, Oleksandr Gvozdyk (left) was back in the ring against Doudou Ngumbu.

What do you think Oleksandr Gvozdyk could have accomplished had he stayed in the sport, given his very well rounded boxing skills, punching power and natural athleticism? It’s hard to say because of what happened with Adonis Stevenson. The harsh reality of what happened to Stevenson in Gvozdyk’s title-winning bout had to weigh heavily on the Ukrainian standout’s mind and soul. Just my opinion, but he didn’t look right during his first title defense vs. the unrated Doudou Ngumbo and it seemed like he wasn’t able to really cut loose during the Beterbiev fight. He seemed to lack confidence. I’m not trying to take anything away from Beterbiev’s victory. I know he’s a badass. But ring fatalities and near-fatalities wear on the psyches of the fighters who inflicted the traumatic brain injuries.

It doesn’t mean that Gvozdyk couldn’t have eventually regained his peak form, or at least got back to his winning ways. Nigel Benn was beginning to slow down prior to the Gerald McClellan fight and he definitely lost a step after the tragic 1995 showdown, but he still made two more defenses of the WBC super middleweight title (stoppages of Vicenzo Nardiello and Daniel Perez) in the same year. It would’ve been even harder for Gvozdyk to come back because he would also have to recover from the first loss of his career, which was brutal, but who knows? If he had enough time to heal his body and get his mind right, then got a tune-up bout or two under his belt and had a good camp, I’d favor him to beat most of the top light heavyweights out there, including a borderline hall of famer in Kovalev, the once-beaten Marcus Browne, the hard-punching Joe Smith Jr., and battle-hardened veterans Jean Pascal and Badou Jack. When “The Nail” was dialed in he was arguably the best pure technician in the 175-pound division.

 

 

Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter and IG at @dougiefischer, and join him, Tom Loeffler, Coach Schwartz and friends on Periscope every Sunday from UCLA’s Drake Stadium track.

 

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