Dougie’s Friday Mailbag (Navarrete-Villa, Ezzard Charles, Joe Frazier)
I hope you’re well and enjoying some of the great boxing over recent weeks (I’m still buzzing over that firefight between Baranchyk and Zepeda).
I’m glad to see all the pre-fight coverage of the Emanuel Navarrete vs. Ruben Villa showdown. I’ve been high on that fight since it was announced. Navarrete is no joke, but I see Villa’s better footwork, hand-speed, and technique carrying him to a comfortable 8-4 or 9-3 type win where he gets tested in the middle rounds but the gap in skills takes over late. I’ve watched a few of his fights on Thompson Boxing shows with you on commentary, so I know you’re quite familiar with him. How do you see that fight going?
Naoya Inoue vs Carlos Zarate (115)
Inoue vs Johnny Tapia (115, 118)
Navarrete vs Danny Lopez (126)
Miguel Berchelt vs “Bazooka” Limon (130)
Best. – Jon (Toronto)
Interesting mythical matchups, Jon.
Naoya Inoue vs Carlos Zarate (115) – assuming Zarate isn’t drained weighing in at a the junior bantamweight limit (he weighed in at 116¼ pounds when he won the WBC bantamweight title from the excellent Roldolfo Martinez), I gotta go with the Mexican legend by mid-to-late stoppage in a terrific fight (especially if we’re going by today’s rules with a previous day weigh-in).
Inoue vs Johnny Tapia (115, 118) – Tapia by close, maybe majority decision at 115 pounds; Monster by close unanimous decision at bantamweight; both are high volume, high skill-level, high action bouts.
Navarrete vs Danny Lopez (126) – Little Red by mid-to-late KO in an exciting brawl (which is pretty much how all of Lopez’s fights went).
Miguel Berchelt vs “Bazooka” Limon (130) – Limon by late stoppage in a rough-and-tumble-but-entertaining scrap.
It seems hardcore fans are more into Navarrete vs. Villa than they were the original matchup for the vacant WBO featherweight title, Navarrete vs. Jessie Magdaleno, which is interesting because Magdaleno is far more experienced/battle tested than Villa. However, Villa earned respect as an up-and-coming prospect while fighting on Thompson Boxing shows from 2016 to early 2018 (and that wasn’t me calling those live-streamed fights with Beto Duran, that was our ole buddy Steve Kim), and since 2019, often while topping ShoBox cards, the 23-year-old Salinas native has evolved into a legit young contender. Villa is The Ring’s No. 8-rated featherweight (just one spot behind Madaleno).
Diehard fans and boxing hipsters are well aware of Villa’s extensive amateur background, tight technique and crafty southpaw style, so I’m not surprised that the slight majority of folks on my Twitter TL are picking him to win tonight’s ESPN/Top Rank main event, as you are. Villa’s quicker and more nimble than Navarrete. He’s got better footwork, a better jab, he’s a better counterpuncher, and he’s a better athlete. I like his chances, too, and I’m one of those “hipsters” picking him.
However, Navarrete has the right blend of attributes to trouble a tricky but light-hitting boxer like Villa. The 25-year-old former
WBO 122-pound titleholder has a solid chin, excellent stamina, underrated footwork and a high-volume attack. He should also be sharp as he’s had the title-fight activity of a 1990s beltholder, defending the WBO strap he won from Isaac Dogboe five times in just nine months. He also fought a non-title bout in June.
Navarrete reminds me a little bit of a mini-Antonio Margarito. Once he gets warmed up, he’s perpetual motion. If he can cut the ring off on Villa, he can outwork him the way Margarito did so many superior boxer-technicians. We’re going to find out how well Villa takes a shot and well he deals with pressure tonight. (And that’s the way it should be.)
Villa’s control of distance will be crucial in this fight. If he can do it, while getting his shots off, he can outclass Navarrete. But I envision a close fight and an interesting/entertaining clash of styles.
I’ve been watching some old Ezzard Charles fights recently. I was curious as to why he never got a shot at the light heavyweight title?
Also, how close was he to getting a title shot at 160? I was reading about him and how he beat the likes of Charley Burley and former champ Teddy Yarosz, before going to 175. I recall reading somewhere else that Burley was one of the most avoided fighters of that time, making Charles 2 wins over him really impressive.
Mythical match ups.
The Toney who fought Jirov vs Marciano.
The Jones who fought Ruiz vs Tunney.
Finally in one of your mailbags years ago, you mentioned you had a “good corporate job” but left to pursue a career covering boxing. My question is, was there ever a single moment that made you up and leave? Or was it always your plan?
Thanks mate. Regards. – Will
It was always my plan, Will. I was going crazy working a 9-to-5 office job (the National Notary Association in Canoga Park and later Chatsworth, you know those areas as “the Valley”). I had vowed to spend no more than two years editing the NNA’s newsletter and having to wear a tie every day (except for “Casual Fridays”) when I started working there in 1994, but working out like a maniac at the L.A. Boxing Club during this time kept me sane, and I lasted exactly three years before taking a leap of faith (I didn’t have a job lined up, apart from a summer teaching gig at my alma mater, Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, when I walked away). Penning a couple freelance articles for The Ring and covering some press conferences for Valley-area club shows during my lunch breaks probably snapped me out of my complacency and made me hunger to make boxing writing more of a full-time pursuit. From the summer of ’97 to the end of ’99, I somehow made ends meet with freelance gigs (mostly boxing) and teaching journalism part-time at various city colleges. During this time my friend Gary Randall and I started up the HouseOfBoxing website, which was bought in January 2000 and kicked off my journey in this wild sport/industry/culture in earnest.
Your mythical matchups:
The Toney who fought Jirov vs Marciano – Rocky by close, maybe split decision in a great (bloody and brutal) fight (especially if it’s a 15 rounder). Marciano’s workrate and underrated inside craft gets the edge on the scorecards although Toney’s fluid combinations and counterpunches keeps the fight close despite his spending much of the fight on the ropes and often fighting in spurts.
The Jones who fought Ruiz vs Tunney – The Fighting Marine by unanimous decision in an intense but somewhat disappointing tactical fight. Tunney keeps his distance and Jones becomes leery of taking the fight to the stick-and-mover when he learns Clean Gene is a lot tougher and scrappier than he looks.
I’ve been watching some old Ezzard Charles fights recently. I was curious as to why he never got a shot at the light heavyweight title? It’s a combination of racism, the titleholders of the mid-to-late 1940s not wanting to get their assess kicked by a future all-time great, and World War II.
A tough and popular fighter named Gus Lesnevich beat Anton Christoforidis and Tami Mauriello to earn the NBA title and the powerful New York State Athletic Commission’s recognition as the light heavyweight champ in 1941 (when Charles was still a middleweight and only about a year and half into his pro career). Gus defended his title once (vs. Mauriello) in November ’41 (same month Ez outpointed Ring-rated middleweight Teddy Yarosz). In 1942, while Charles was climbing the 160-pound rankings with back-to-back decisions over Charley Burley and impressive KOs of Christoforidis and Jose Basora, Lesnevich fought two non-title bouts (decision losses to Bob Pastor and Jimmy Bivins) and then served in the U.S. Coast Guard during the America’s involvement in WWII. From 1943-1945, the NBA 175-pound title and the NYSAC’s recognition was suspended.
Charles didn’t do much during that three-year period. He was enlisted in the U.S. Army from ’41-’45. He only fought twice in ’43 and lost both bouts (a decision to Bivins and a stoppage to Lloyd Marshall). He was inactive in ’44 and ’45.
While title recognition in the U.S. was on ice, Freddie Mills, a popular English fighter, was recognized as the “world champ” in Britain and most of Europe. So, when Lesnevich returned in ’46, they fought for universal recognition in May of that year (Gus won a 10th-round stoppage in England). He defended it against unbeaten Billy Fox in early ’47 and fought three non-title bouts that were crowd pleasers that year, earning him The Ring’s Fighter of the Year award.
Charles also returned in ’46 and earned a Ring ranking by the end of the year. It’s safe to say that he was avoided during this time, maybe not in ’46, but definitely in ’47 and ’48 when Lesnevich was engaging in rematches with Mills and Fox and engaging in a lot of non-title bouts. In the three-year period from ’46-‘48, Charles fought 29 times, compiling a 28-1 record (with 18 KOs) against the likes of Archie Moore (three times), Marshall (twice), Bivins (three times) and Elmer “Violent” Ray (twice – split bouts). These guys were part of “Murderer’s Row,” a group of badass African-American contenders (mostly middleweights and light heavyweights) who never received title shots.
Anyway, Charles made the jump to from light heavy to heavyweight (which in those days could be five or six pounds north) in early 1949.
Also, how close was he to getting a title shot at 160? He was never close. Although he was Ring-ranked at middleweight by mid-’42 (just two years into his pro career), he was quickly outgrowing the division. Back-to-back decisions over Joey Maxim, a Ring-ranked light heavyweight, in October and December of 1942 probably got him ranked at 175 pounds. The middleweight champ at this time was Tony Zale, who solidified his claim on the title with a decision over Georgie Abrams in November 1941. Zale had one fight after that victory, a non-title loss to Billy Conn in February 1942, before enlisting in the Navy and serving in WWII. Zale returned to boxing in 1946 but didn’t defend the title until his first slugfest with Rocky Graziano in November of that year. As you know, Charles was a full-blown light heavyweight by then. If you’re wondering who I think would have won a middleweight showdown had they fought in ’42, I gotta go with Ez despite his relative inexperience.
SMOKIN’ JOE, KING OF THE CRUISERS!
I hope all is well with you and your family. Thanks for entertaining and informing us boxing freaks on a regular basis. Just want your thoughts on one subject…. the Joe Frazier who fought Ali in the first fight only weighed 205 – how does he fare against the best cruiserweights of all time? I think he KO’s all of them, including Holyfield. What do you think? Thanks and have a great week! – Karl
I don’t think Frazier would KO the cruiserweight version of Holyfield, even if he weighed 200-205 pounds while Evander weighed in at the old division limit of 190. I think Smokin’ Joe would win a great fight, but it would be by decision. Remember, Holyfield took the best shots a peak-version of Riddick Bowe could rain down on him and returned fire for 12 rounds. He weighed in at 205 for that epic first bout of their trilogy. Frazier vs. Holyfield at 205 is an awesome mythical matchup.
I can envision Frazier knocking out most of the top cruiserweights, although I think some stylists like Carlos DeLeon and Ossie Ocasio, could take him into the late rounds – maybe. The height, reach and southpaw stance of Aleksandr Usyk and Juan Carlo Gomez would present some problems for Frazier. Dare I say Usyk might outpoint the Philly legend? Nah. I’ll go with Frazier, but on points.
Frazier vs. the cruiserweight version of James Toney (or the small heavyweight that fought Holyfield) would be interesting. I think Frazier outworks Toney en route to a decision. I’m not sure if he could stop Toney.
Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter and IG at @dougiefischer, and join him, Tom Loeffler, Coach Schwartz and friends via Tom’s Periscope (or Doug’s IG Live) every Sunday.