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Dougie’s Monday Mailbag (Canelo vs. Plant, mythical matchups, title unifications)

01
Feb

CANELO VS. CALEB PLANT

Dougie,

Did you see anything that may cause Canelo any problems if they fight later this year? – Rodemeyer

Yes, absolutely, I saw hand speed, creative punch selection, distance/tempo control, elusiveness, mobility and overall athleticism from a good-sized natural super middleweight. The only thing Plant lacks (in terms of his matchup with Canelo) is extensive professional experience and world-class power (although it should be noted that he fought with an injured hand from the fourth or fifth round on, and maybe could have stopped Truax late with two healthy hands).



 

SPEED

Doug –

Would you give Plant the hand and foot speed advantage over Canelo? – Kevin Key, Duluth, MN

Yes, I would.

However, it must be noted that Canelo has “quick” hands, tricky combinations, and world-class timing (bolstered by hall-of-fame level fight experience). And, if everything goes according to his team’s plans, he will have had two full camps geared toward preparing for fast southpaws (sandwiching the Billy Joe Saunders showdown in May) by the time he takes on Plant’s challenge in the fall.

 

SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHT MATCHUPS

Good day, Doug.

Haven’t written since September, so it’s been a while. I’ll perhaps keep it short this time.

One thought that crossed my mind over the weekend is that right now the SMW division is in its best shape since quite some time. I’d even say since the Super Six (though, there were some fun fights involving Jack, DeGale and Groves in the meantime). I just hope all the notable guys of the current division either fight each other, or Canelo Alvarez fights them all. I’ll be fine with either of the two scenarios.

Now, how do you think the following MM’s between the guys of the Super Six era and the one of today would play out:

Andre Ward vs. Canelo Alvarez

Carl Froch vs. David Benavidez

Mikkel Kessler vs. BJS

Andre Dirrell vs. Caleb Plant

Best regards from Ukraine – Edward

Thanks for checking back in with the Mailbag, Edward.

Your mythical super middleweight matchups:

Andre Ward vs. Canelo AlvarezWard by close but unanimous decision in an intense and entertaining chess match

Carl Froch vs. David BenavidezFroch comes on strong in the championship rounds to win by majority or split decision in a brilliant battle of attrition (with overlooked craft from both badasses)

Mikkel Kessler vs. BJSKessler by close, maybe majority decision in a disappointly uneventful technical match (due to Saunders’ tactics and guile) won more by the Dane’s aggression and activity (especially his jab) than his skill

Andre Dirrell vs. Caleb PlantSweet Hands by close, maybe majority decision in another tactical bout, this one pitting Dirrell’s phenomenal speed and switch-hitting athleticism vs. Plant’s speed and sounder fundamentals. I think Plant’s more-complete technical foundation and ring generalship gives him the edge.

One thought that crossed my mind over the weekend is that right now the SMW division is in its best shape since quite some time. Interesting take the 168-pound weight class. I Tweeted a screen shot of Ring Magazine’s Top Seven from the RingTV Ratings section after Plant (our No. 2-rated super middleweight) shutout Truax (our No. 6 contender) and asked the hardcore heads if the IBF titleholder is “the most formidable potential challenger” for our champ, Canelo Alvarez, and if not, then who in the 168-pound division is?

Out of 90+ replies most either said it was David Benavidez or Billy Joe Saunders, but more than a handful felt the need to rip our rankings and/or the depth of the super middleweight division. Some of the glass-half empty opinions was clearly #saltiness from Canelo haters who don’t see a clear threat to The Ring/WBA/WBC champ, so they want to detract from the entire division. That way they can still piss on the Ginger King if he eventually beats all the top dogs. However, a few made some valid points about the lack of resume among most of the Ring-rated bunch. I’m going with your glass-half full attitude. I think the 168-pound division has a nice mix of young guns (Benavidez, Plant) and talented veterans (Saunders, Anthony Dirrell and Daniel Jacobs). And there are hard-headed sluggers like David Lemieux, John Ryder, Feder Chudinov and Anvi Yildirim, who I think would make fun scraps among themselves.

I’d even say since the Super Six (though, there were some fun fights involving Jack, DeGale and Groves in the meantime). You might be giving the current crop a little too much credit, Edward, but Canelo – the current pound-for-pound king and a future hall of fame – adds a lot of weight to the current division.

I just hope all the notable guys of the current division either fight each other, or Canelo Alvarez fights them all. I’ll be fine with either of the two scenarios. Me too, but I prefer that titleholders and top contenders fight each other. That’s the best way to determine who’s most worthy to challenge Canelo. However, I think we’re more likely to get the latter scenario.

 

GOLDEN AGE OF TITLE UNIFICATIONS

Hi Doug, love the mailbag, read it as often as possible. Like yourself, I’m a life-long fight fan (getting close to 40 years) and I’d like to say I’m enjoying the recent trend of beltholders and champions fighting each other much more frequently than in the past. So often top fighters have avoided each other once they get a belt like the other champions, well to be topical, like the other guys have Covid lol. I’ve noticed a huge uptick in not only unification fights but outright undisputed division champions.

Since the WBO formed in 1988 the first fighter to hold all four titles in his career was Riddick Bowe when he knocked out Herbie Hide in 1995. It took 16 years, until 2004, when Bernard Hopkins knocked out the Golden Boy, that all four titles would be held simultaneously. B-Hop was also the first fighter to defend all four belts at the same time when he decisioned Howard Eastman.

But in the last 4 years we’ve added Usyk, Crawford and Lopez to that list and we have a legitimate opportunity at heavyweight, super middleweight and super lightweight to be added to the list in 2021.

There is possible additions at Jr. Middleweight and Bantamweight could follow soon as well. Even just looking at the amount of divisions in boxing right now that has at least a current unified champion is currently at 9 out of the generally recognized 17 divisions.

With Chocolatito fighting Estrada in March, Charlo/GGG/Murata/Andrade needing a big name dance partner for 2021 and Julio Cesar Martinez looking at other beltholders at Flyweight we could possibly add a few more before the year is out.

The only divisions in recent memory that I can tell that hasn’t had a recent unification fight has been Super Featherweight (last time was 2005 Barrera-Peden), Featherweight (last time I can tell was when Hamed fought Tom Johnson in 1997) and Strawweight (The immortal Ricardo Lopez vs. Alvarez all the way back in 1998??).

I sure hope this trend keeps up. The more boxing can clarify its true champions in each division the better it is for fans, the fighters themselves and the chance for awarding of the Ring belt as well.

Take care. – Jason Donaher, Canada

Claressa Shields. Photo by Stephanie Trapp

Claressa Shields. Photo by Stephanie Trapp

Speaking of undisputed champions and Ring Magazine champions, there are currently two undisputed/Ring champs, both women – lightweight champ Katie Taylor and middleweight champ Claressa Shields (who is also going for undisputed glory at junior middleweight vs. Marie Eve Dicaire on March 5, which will also crown a Ring women’s 154-pound champ). The winner of the Jessica McCaskill-Cecilia Braekhus undisputed welterweight championship rematch on March 13 will be crowned with The Ring’s inaugural women’s 147-pound title.

So, the women – and their managers/promoters – clearly get it. In the 130-pound division, WBO titleholder Mikaela Mayer appears to be closing in on a unification bout with IBF beltholder Maiva Hamadouche, while Terri Harper, who holds the WBC strap, has agreed to meet WBA titleholder Hyun-Mi Choi (once her hand, which was broken in November, is completely healed). Look for the winners of these bouts to face each other asap.

The new generation of male boxers also appear to “get it.” Joseph Diaz Jr., who defends his IBF junior lightweight title for the first time vs. Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov on February 13, has repeatedly said that he wants to face the other 130-pound beltholders. Stephen Fulton, who just won the WBO 122-pound belt with an excellent performance against Angelo Leo, has also stated that it’s his mission to hold all four major world titles.

Although sanctioning body mandatories and promotional/network allegiances will make it hard for anyone to win and hold onto all four major belts, the road to unification bouts often leads to the crowning of Ring Magazine champions, even if “undisputed” status is not achieved. Currently, there are eight male Ring champions joining the two Queens of Boxing: Tyson Fury (heavyweight), Mairis Briedis (cruiserweight), Canelo Alvarez (super middleweight), Jermell Charlo (junior middleweight), Josh Taylor (junior welterweight), Teofimo Lopez (lightweight), Naoya Inoue (bantamweight) and Hiroto Kyoguchi (junior flyweight). Canelo, Charlo, Taylor, Lopez and Inoue are currently unified beltholders as well.

I view those who hold The Ring title as the real world champions, but I’m all for the noble pursuit of undisputed status, and it looks like that’s the goal of Fury, Canelo and Taylor in 2021.

Leonard vs. Hearns II. Photo by: The Ring Magazine/Getty Images

Since the WBO formed in 1988 the first fighter to hold all four titles in his career was Riddick Bowe when he knocked out Herbie Hide in 1995. The first title unification bout involving a WBO belt that I can recall was the super middleweight rematch between Sugar Ray Leonard (WBC) and Thomas Hearns (WBO) in 1989. Unfortunately (for the WBO), that bout ended in a controversial draw so the titles were not unified (at a time when the fledgling organization could have really used some star power – Hearns made one more defense of their belt, vs. Michael Olajide in 1990, and then moved up to light heavyweight).

It took 16 years, until 2004, when Bernard Hopkins knocked out the Golden Boy, that all four titles would be held simultaneously. B-Hop was also the first fighter to defend all four belts at the same time when he decisioned Howard Eastman. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, Hopkins is the last of the great fighters.

But in the last 4 years we’ve added Usyk, Crawford and Lopez to that list and we have a legitimate opportunity at heavyweight, super middleweight and super lightweight to be added to the list in 2021. Fingers crossed for Fury-Joshua and Taylor-Ramirez to go down this year (the undisputed junior welterweight championship looks close to being made for May), and let’s hope Canelo’s star power is enough to attract all the smoke at 168.

There is possible additions at Jr. Middleweight and Bantamweight could follow soon as well. I’m hopeful that Jermell and The Monster will try to complete their belt collections this year, but it all depends with those two. If Brian Castano beats Pat Teixeira on Feb. 13, we could see Charlo go for the fourth belt. I’m not sure what the plan is for Inoue. He was scheduled to face WBO titleholder John Riel Casimero prior to the pandemic, and there’s been talk of him unifying with WBC beltholder Nordine Oubaali, but nothing definite.

Even just looking at the amount of divisions in boxing right now that has at least a current unified champion is currently at 9 out of the generally recognized 17 divisions. Not bad. Not bad at all. But boxing can do better. Artur Beterbiev, one of the few unified titleholders who doesn’t hold a Ring belt, could have/should have another unification bout by now. I know there have been other factors (pandemic, injuries, etc.) but having to worry about a crappy ass IBF mandatory hasn’t helped matters. There’s talk that if Joe Smith Jr. wins the WBO title next month, he’ll go for a unification with Beterbiev, the WBC/IBF champ. (I’m hoping for Beterbiev vs. WBA beltholder Dmitry Bivol because the vacant Ring title would be on the line for that unification.)

With Chocolatito fighting Estrada in March, Charlo/GGG/Murata/Andrade needing a big name dance partner for 2021 and Julio Cesar Martinez looking at other beltholders at Flyweight we could possibly add a few more before the year is out. I’m so hyped for Estrada-Gonzalez II that I forget it’s a unification bout (Ring/WBC/WBA 115-pound titles). I view it as potential hall of famer (Gallo) vs. a hall of fame lock (Chocolatito). If Estrada wins, he’s a hall of famer. If Gonzalez wins, he’s an all-time great.

Rodriguez vs. Takayama was a tremendous battle for the IBF and WBO 105-pound belts.

The only divisions in recent memory that I can tell that hasn’t had a recent unification fight has been Super Featherweight (last time was 2005 Barrera-Peden), Featherweight (last time I can tell was when Hamed fought Tom Johnson in 1997) and Strawweight (The immortal Ricardo Lopez vs. Alvarez all the way back in 1998??). There was a strawweight unification bout in 2014, Francisco Rodriguez Jr.’s unanimous decision over Katsunari Takayama joined the 105-pound IBF and WBO belts (and it was a sensational fight). Juan Manuel Marquez unified the featherweight IBF and WBA belts when he beat Derrick Gainer in 2003. I think you’re right about junior lightweight.

 

WHAT’S IN A MEMORY?

Hello Dougie,

Reading the bag, and then I came to the letter requesting your Puerto Rico vs Mexico picks. The first thought that came to my mind was to ask you a question. Did you answer from memory?

You do good work. I read you work every Monday and Friday. I just tossed out my MaxBoxing tee shirt about a year ago. Thanks. – Joseph

You got rid of your MaxBoxing T-shirt!?!?! Dude!!!! That’s a collector’s item. Never toss out collector’s items. Here’s what you’re gonna have to do. If you’re not a subscriber, you gotta pre-order our Frazier-Ali 50th anniversary special issue from the Ring Shop. Yes, this is a shameless plug, but it’s the absolute truth that our latest magazine is a collector’s issue worth purchasing and KEEPING. FOREVER!

Regarding the Mexico-Puerto Rico mythical matchups, I compiled the first 15 off the top of my head. Then I did a little research (using the 2011 edition of The Boxing Register: International Boxing Hall of Fame Official Record Book and my 2009 edition of Ring’s Boxing Almanac & Book of Facts) to find another five matchups for an even 20. Of course, once I went down that rabbit hole I came up with a dozen more mythical matchups between standout Puerto Rican and Mexican boxers, so I extended the list to 25. I could have come up with 30 or 40 without trying too hard.  

 

 

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 or Dougie’s Periscope every Sunday.

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