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Dougie’s Monday Mailbag (Joshua-Pulev, Joshua vs. Fury, Chris Colbert, Shakur Stevenson, Masayoshi Nakatani)

Anthony Joshua (right) exhibited fine form vs. Kubrat Pulev. Photo by Dave Thompson
14
Dec

JOSHUA-PULEV

Hi Dougie,

I hope you are well and tuned into the boxing on Saturday night! I always stump up the PPV fee to watch AJ. I have a bit of a soft spot for him for two reasons, one, Joshua v Klitschko was the fight that cemented my graduation from boxing fan to boxing fanatic and two, I’m from the same part of the world as the Watford man.

Immediately after the fight I was very impressed with Joshua’s performance, and I was surprised to see the mixed reactions from some media outlets and fans. What they saw as Joshua being caught between two styles I saw as him effectively blending the jab and move style he used to beat Ruiz and the seek and destroy style he used to rise to the top in the first place.



Joshua never looked in trouble and controlled and then brutally knocked a game and talented, albeit rather static fighter in Pulev. In my books that warrants praise.

I accept Fury is a much more talented fighter than Pulev and I would have the Gypsy King as a small favourite but I believe Joshua would have a good chance of winning that super fight.

What are your thoughts on Saturday night’s action and the potential mega unification fight? Thanks for everything. – Tommy, London

I thought Joshua looked sharp, technically speaking, and versatile in terms of his style and tactics. He didn’t always seem comfortable in there (even when he was smiling, mugging and talking to Pulev), but I don’t hold that against him. He was just one bout removed from a devastating stoppage loss (and even hall of famers – from Joe Louis to Wladimir Klitschko – need a few bouts to recapture their mojo after suffering a brutal KO)

Kubrat Pulev isn’t just a little bit crazy. He made this face after eating one of AJ’s bombs in Round 3.

and he was in the ring with a bit of a nutcake. Pulev isn’t just tough, he’s off-the-f__king-hinges game. He doesn’t just smile when he gets hit hard, he laughs out loud, and when he’s decked, he gets back up for more punishment. That’s a lot to deal with, but I thought Joshua handled it all – Pulev, public pressure, self-doubts, etc. – very well. I don’t pay much heed to the Twitter criticism. Canelo isn’t the only elite fighter out there with his own #Salty Society. Certain fans are going to hate Joshua no matter what he does, and the true reasons for their hate really has nothing to do with boxing.   

I was very impressed with Joshua’s performance, and I was surprised to see the mixed reactions from some media outlets and fans. I was also impressed. I wasn’t surprised that there were negative reactions to Joshua’s performance because he’s got haters and there’s a lot of miserable bastards on social media who just like s__t on anything, but I didn’t understand it. If Joshua had stunk out the arena with a safety first strategy that went the full 12, I could understand some fans and media declaring that he’d lost his fighting heart. Had he been reckless in his pursuit of a stoppage and was dropped or hurt in the process, I could understand fans and media saying he’s vulnerable or even sloppy. But his technique was on point, and he wasn’t too tentative or overly aggressive. It was a solid, balanced performance against a lower-top 10 heavyweight. And it wasn’t boring!

What they saw as Joshua being caught between two styles I saw as him effectively blending the jab and move style he used to beat Ruiz and the seek and destroy style he used to rise to the top in the first place. I saw the same thing you did.

Joshua never looked in trouble and controlled and then brutally knocked a game and talented, albeit rather static fighter in Pulev. In my books that warrants praise. Same here. He got hit with some one-twos that he shouldn’t have, he looked a little uncomfortable here and there, and maybe tried too hard to get into Pulev’s head with the smiling and talking, but hey, it’s a prize fight. Guys are gonna get tagged, it’s going to get uncomfortable and there’s going to be some psychological gamesmanship while the leather is traded.

I accept Fury is a much more talented fighter than Pulev and I would have the Gypsy King as a small favourite but I believe Joshua would have a good chance of winning that super fight. I think it’s very close to being a 50-50 matchup, but I do give Fury a slight edge, so let’s say it’s 55-45 or 60-40.

 

BATTLE OF THE BIG BOYS

Sir Douglass of Los Angeles.

I hope you and the family are well and good. The stage is set for another huge heavyweight fight (and a ton of other fun match ups between the contenders, but that’s for another day). Who do you favour today in the Fury-Joshua fight?

AJ showed some layers and wrinkles to his game yesterday that makes the fight very intriguing. AJ seems like he’s getting close to blending a more safe boxing style using his great amateur pedigree and size – with the classic combination punching, hooks n uppercuts through the roof style we all love to see. I don’t think he’s quite there yet with this new and improved boxer-puncher style but it’s making the fight more intriguing to me nevertheless!

I also liked AJ trying to do what Fury (and most elite fighters) do so well – making the opponent work without having to throw, AJ spent most of 4 and 5 doing this. Again though, it wasn’t super effective yet, maybe partly due to Pulev showing great smarts, heart and an incredible gas tank, especially for his age.

AJ’s only glaring way to beat Fury in my eyes is for him to find a way to get in that close/mid-range with regularity and probably early in the fight, AJ throws most of his best punches in that range and is always successful there (except for against Ruiz where he met a man with faster hands and a love for combos). Fury won’t want to fight in that range though, and it won’t be easy for AJ to get in his favored range. Fury will want it long or in very close where he is super comfortable!

Although AJ is showing more versatility, I don’t think he’s there yet with it and Fury’s comfortability fighting in pretty much any direction this fight could go makes him my favourite.

But. What a fight it will be and I hope we get two or three fights between the big men as I can only see AJ improving, the colossus is a great student of the game which is what all fighters blessed with natural physicality and athleticism should take from AJ’s great career. He’s also the only boxer my wife will watch, I wonder why?????? Best. – Luke

Hmmmm… that might have a little something to do with the #saltiness AJ gets from some fans.

It goes without saying that Fury-Joshua is a fascinating matchup. Let’s not even get into their personalities and popularity until the damn fight is made. For now I’ll just say that their styles mesh and talents mesh well. Joshua is the better athlete, but Fury is the more natural boxing talent. Joshua has better conditioning habits, but Fury is able to relax more in the ring, which enables him to fight more effectively down the stretch of distance bouts. Joshua has better offense, but Fury has better defense. Joshua has more textbook technique, but Fury makes his awkwardness work for him. Joshua is mentally strong and focused, but so is Fury and the Gypsy King has way of getting under his opponents’ skin. Both goliaths have quick hands for their size and good timing.

I give Fury the slight overall edge because I think he’s trickier (more creative), a little more versatile, and he has better recuperative powers. I also think Fury’s technique and punching power is improving under SugarHill Steward’s guidance, and his unpredictability/unorthodox approach to boxing could throw AJ off.

 

A BUSY BOXING WEEKEND

Hi Doug.

Merry Christmas to you and your family. Hope you are all well and staying safe. Boxing dominated my Saturday and kept my DVR busy with lots of great action. I just want to hit on a couple of highlights for me.

First the big guys. Anthony Joshua’s highlight reel KO of Pulev was dramatic, even though Pulev did not offer much in the fight. He was never really in it to begin with but his exit opened the door for negotiations to begin for the Tyson Fury fight we all want to see. From the after-fight buzz I heard it seems the powers that be might actually try and make this one happen. What an incredible night THAT will be. I’m sure they will pay Wilder some step aside money but what the hey…make it happen.

Edgar Berlanga has established himself as a must-see attraction but the reputation of 15 first-round KOs seemed to me a bit of a burden because he tried too hard Saturday to get number 16. He got it, but he came out swinging for the fence where he should have just settled down and just let the KO happen. I’m sure after the first guy gets into round two he will do just that. He’s a young guy so he has a lot of experience to gain but it will be fun watching him no matter who he is in there with.

Shakur Stevenson is always fun to watch. In an effort to not let this letter go too long I will just say that there are several good opponents out there for him but I want to see him in there with Tank Davis.

Finally, Chris Colbert….wow! I had never seen the kid before. Really impressive hand speed and decent punching power. His might have been the most exciting action fight of the weekend. Colbert stood there with a big puncher and just went for it relying on hand speed and reflexes to win the day. I thought he took too much punishment though. Does he always take it to give it that way or was he just making some kind of statement in this fight? I did not see him in the ratings on the Ring website. Where does he go next or who would you like to see him in with next? Whoever it is I will be tuned in.

Another year come and gone Doug. I have been with you and the mailbag since the Maxboxing days (over 12 years). Thanks for being there and for letting me take part. Can’t wait to see what 2021 has in store…once we get past the zombie apocalypse. Be well my friend. – David, Nashville

Thanks for the kind words and holiday wishes, David. Yes, let’s hope we get back to some normalcy next year (which will mark the TWENTIETH anniversary of this column – yikes!).

Photo by Dave Thompson

Anthony Joshua’s highlight reel KO of Pulev was dramatic, even though Pulev did not offer much in the fight. The Bulgarian veteran offered some crazy stubbornness and monster balls, which resulted in eight and half rounds of professional resistance for Joshua and I think that’s just what the doctor ordered for the unified titleholder after 13 months out of the ring. If there was ring rust or lingering doubts about his durability, the Pulev fight helped get rid of that crap.

From the after-fight buzz I heard it seems the powers that be might actually try and make (Fury-Joshua) happen. If they don’t, they shouldn’t be in the promotional or network businesses.

I’m sure they will pay Wilder some step aside money but what the hey…make it happen. I’m not so sure that Wilder will accept step-aside money. He seems fixated/obsessed with Fury and may seek legal action to force the third bout.

Berlanga scored his 16th consecutive first-round KO vs. Ulises Sierra. Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

Edgar Berlanga has established himself as a must-see attraction but the reputation of 15 first-round KOs seemed to me a bit of a burden because he tried too hard Saturday to get number 16. He got it, but he came out swinging for the fence where he should have just settled down and just let the KO happen. I think Berlanga is a Prospect of the Year candidate along with Jaron Ennis, Jesse Rodriguez and Elvis Rodriguez (no relation). I love the knockouts and his take-no-prisoners attitude. It’s good for the sport. The super middleweight smasher will go more rounds and pay more attention to his technique and set up game once he shares the ring with legit gatekeeper/fringe contender-level opposition, such as Vaughn Alexander or Lionell Thompson.

 

Shakur Stevenson is always fun to watch. I’d say he’s an acquired taste at the present time.

In an effort to not let this letter go too long I will just say that there are several good opponents out there for him but I want to see him in there with Tank Davis. I think Stevenson is a stern challenge for any top-10 junior lightweight, but a showdown with Davis would likely make for the biggest event and the most entertaining fight thanks to Tank’s popularity and aggressive boxer-puncher style. I wouldn’t hold my breath for this matchup, though.

That’s Colbert and Stevenson at the bottom right corner of this cover illustration by KronkAAArt. Both junior lightweights will be entering The Ring’s 130-pound rankings this week.

Finally, Chris Colbert….wow! I had never seen the kid before. Really impressive hand speed and decent punching power. Colbert is a special talent. He was part of the Honor Roll of the New School of up-and-coming young guns that were profiled in the cover story to the April 2020 issue of Ring Magazine, which included Stevenson, Davis, Teofimo Lopez, Vergil Ortiz Jr., Devin Haney, Ryan Garcia and Jaron Ennis, among others. I wrote that cover story and added Colbert to the group because I believe that his skillset and potential is on par with the others.

His might have been the most exciting action fight of the weekend. Colbert stood there with a big puncher and just went for it relying on hand speed and reflexes to win the day. Colbert was in with the right style and mentality (Jaime Arboleda is a stubborn, hard-headed slugger) to shine against.

I thought he took too much punishment though. Does he always take it to give it that way or was he just making some kind of statement in this fight? No, he’s usually a lot slicker and mobile than he appeared vs. Arboleda. I think he wanted to make a statement by standing his ground and outpunching the aggressive volume-hitter because he was criticized by some following his lackluster decision over awkward former titleholder Jezreel Corrales in January.

I did not see him in the ratings on The Ring website. That’s because he wasn’t in the top 10 prior to Saturday’s fight. However, I think that will change by the end of this week. The Ring Ratings Panel was impressed by both Stevenson and Colbert, so you can expect to see both make their debuts in our 130-pound rankings.

Chris Colbert stopped heavy-handed Jaime Arboleda in 11. (Photo by Amanda Westcott-Showtime)

Where does he go next or who would you like to see him in with next? Well, Colbert has the WBA’s “interim title,” which makes no sense, because the WBA titleholder, Tank Davis, is perfectly healthy and available to defend the belt, so why not Davis-Colbert? Prime Time would definitely test Tank’s skills. The WBA also has a “regular” champ (sigh) with Rene Alvarado, who would make for a fun scrap against ‘Lil B-Hop’ (although the rugged Venezuelan veteran might be tailor-made for the Brooklyn native).

 

WHY IS TYSON FURY GIVEN MORE CREDIT THAN AJ?

Dear Dougie,

I’m a longtime mailbag reader from your Maxboxing days and happily it my first time writing in. I hope you are well.

After watching AJ’s fight against Pulev this weekend, I searched for Tyson Fury on BoxRec and I was surprised to learn that Fury has only ever fought three world title fights whereas AJ has fought 10 world title fights.

Are we giving Tyson Fury too much credit (Ring Champion) based on his fights with Wilder and Klitschko while AJ has not been given enough credit for steadily building a bigger highly impressive world championship resume? By the way I love Fury, he’s box office, but two ‘stunning’ wins surely shouldn’t carry more weight than AJ beating 5 world champions and a ‘domination’ of the world’s top 10 heavyweights outside of Wilder and Fury.

I’m aware that the top 2 fighting each other in each division qualifies for a Ring Belt but do you think the number of world championship fights and quality of opponents is given sufficient weighting when deciding the Ring Champion?

It’d be great to get your thoughts Dougie? Cheers. – Conrad ‘Sweet C’ Wilson, Bedfordshire, England

I think one can make a strong case for either Brit having the best resume among heavyweights. Joshua has the quantity (in terms of titleholders faced, title defenses and belts currently held) but Fury has the quality (in terms of the ranking/status of the champs that he faced).  

Fury vs. Klitschko. Photo by Marianne Mueller/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Fury beat Wladimir Klitschko when the future hall of famer was the reigning Ring Magazine champ, and that upset also earned him the WBA, IBF and WBO titles. Deontay Wilder was Ring’s No. 2-rated heavyweight when Fury faced him (both times), and his stunning stoppage victory over the American placed the elusive WBC title in his possession and also enabled him to regain The Ring championship (a feat that only Floyd Patterson and Muhammad Ali have achieved).

The highest-rated heavyweights that Joshua has faced (according to the Ring) are Alexander Povetkin and Joseph Parker, both of whom were No. 3 in the magazine’s rankings. Parker was unbeaten at the time and the WBO beltholder. Charles Martin, who held the IBF title when Joshua beat him, was also unbeaten, but not highly ranked. Due to inactivity, Klitschko wasn’t ranked when AJ faced him; however, their passing-of-the-torch clash was the 2017 Fight of the Year (and it also earned Joshua the vacant WBA belt). So, there was significance to Joshua’s 11th-round stoppage of the future hall of famer, which also made for a huge event in the UK.

But Fury’s showdown with Klitschko in German was also a big event, as was his rematch with Wilder in the U.S. Beating both “on their turf” adds significance to those victories, as does the fact that Wladdy was the most dominant champ of his era and Wilder was the most feared puncher.

 

NAKATANI VS. VERDEJO

Hey Doug,

That was a huge win for Masayoshi Nakatani. The fight was one of the best this year that I thought it should’ve been the main instead of the Stevenson Snoozefest. Btw, with the spectacular win of Nakatani, I believe Teofimo’s UD last year over him made it even more special (I also read your tweet about it so I completely agree). What can you say about Verdejo? The man really tried but his chin and stamina couldn’t. There were some people over Twitter that says JuanMa and Verdejo was almost the same – I disagree. At least JuanMa became a champ before he got bulldozed multiple times.

I became a new fan of Nakatani so please tell me who would win if these fights happen:

NAKATANI VS HANEY

NAKATANI VS TANK

NAKATANI VS RYAN GARCIA

NAKATANI VS CAMPBELL

NAKATANI VS LOMA

NAKATANI VS COMMEY

NAKATANI VS STEVENSON

P.S., if they say Stevenson was like Floyd when he was young, I completely disagree. FLOYD was a killer when he was young and just became boring when he got older. STEVENSON is the answer to people with sleeping disorder.

Thank you and Happy Holidays! – Djbiancafrost

Stevenson vs. Kahn-Clary. Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

And to you, DJBF, but damn, that’s a cold statement to make about Stevenson. I think his fights will become more compelling and entertaining once he shares the ring with fighters who are on his level, and it’s clear that at this point he’s only going to be challenged by top contenders and world titleholders. So, bring on Miguel Berchelt, Jamel Herring, Oscar Valdez and Carl Frampton (all of these junior lightweight standouts, plus Stevenson, are promoted by Top Rank, and various matchups between the five have been talked about a planned for a long time).

I agree that the young, 130/135-pound version of Mayweather was more of an offensive force than Stevenson is right now, but it should be noted that the Newark native is only 15 bouts into his pro career. It’s too early to typecast him.

Nakatani vs. Verdejo. Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

I would favor all of the lightweight standouts that you mentioned for Nakatani, but I think the Japanese fringe contender (who might crack The Ring’s 135-pound rankings this week) would give Davis, Garcia and Commey a tough fight. I wouldn’t be shocked if he stopped Commey because the Ghanaian veteran has been in some wars and could be shopworn, plus the former titleholder has the kind of aggressive style that would put him right in line for Masayoshi’s hard right hand. I think Nakatani’s height (at least 6 inches taller) and reach would trouble the 5-foot-5½ Davis, and his durability, stamina and aggressiveness could give Garcia hell down the stretch of a 10- or 12-round bout.

What can you say about Verdejo? I can say there’s no title shot for him in 2021.

The man really tried but his chin and stamina couldn’t. I think the stamina was there (along with his usual athleticism and solid fundamentals), his whiskers aren’t world class. But it’s not just his durability that’s questionable, it’s his focus. He’s loses concentration and falls into repetitive patterns, which lead to him being nailed the way Nakatani got off on him in Rounds 7, 8 and 9.

There were some people over Twitter that says JuanMa and Verdejo was almost the same – I disagree. Me too. There’s a lot of dumb asses with Twitter accounts. I understand that JuanMa Lopez was a popular Puerto Rican who fell short of the lofty expectations his fans had for him, but the two-division titleholder was at or near the top of the junior featherweight and featherweight divisions (and in the lower top 10 of some pound for pound lists) at one time.

At least JuanMa became a champ before he got bulldozed multiple times. JuanMa ran into 2011/2012 version of Siri Salido. Once you get “Salidoed” you’re never quite the same, as Rocky Martinez and Francisco Vargas found out a few years later (even though they didn’t officially lose to the Mexican buzzsaw).

 

Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter and IG at @dougiefischer, and join him, Tom Loeffler, Coach Schwartz and friends via Tom or Dougie’s Periscope every Sunday.

 

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