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Dougie’s Monday Mailbag (Brian Castano, ‘Bek Bully,’ Warrington-Lara, poor judging)

Watch out world-rated middleweights, super middleweights and light heavyweights, Bek the Bully has arrived!
15
Feb

BRIAN CASTANO AND THE ‘BEK BULLY’

What’s up Doug, I hope all’s well,

If they fight next week, who wins Castano vs. Charlo and why? Castano has a serious engine and could do damage inside against Charlo but he’d need to be very careful at mid-range where Jermell is dangerous.

How highly do you rate Bek and what weight class do you think he’d be best at from 160-75? He looked comfortable at 170 and 160 might be a struggle considering his frame. I’d say stick at super middle where there are good matchups…apparently Berlanga was offered to fight him and his team said he wasn’t ready yet. That’s some serious confidence and the sign of a real fighter willing to fight anyone. Cheers. – David, Dublin



Bek Bully stops another opponent via killer body attack.

I think Bektemir Melikuziev is the goods, David. He’s a natural fighter with an elite amateur background (he won silver medals at the 2015 World Amateur Championships and 2016 Olympic Games), a world-class training environment (trainer Joel Diaz’s gym in Indio, California), and a lot of dedication to the sport. He took on one of the riskiest gatekeepers (Vaughn Alexander) in his fourth pro bout and he was scheduled to face former light heavyweight champ Sergey Kovalev in just his seventh pro bout (in Russia!). Obviously, he’s brimming with confidence as are his handlers (Diaz and Golden Boy Promotions). I was ringside for his first three pro bouts and let me tell you, just the SOUND of his body shots landing is UNNERVING. I can’t imagine getting hit with those hammers. Ooof! Alexander has got to be one of the toughest cats in boxing; big respect to the St. Louis native. Most fighters, even those who are world-ranked – be they middleweight, super middleweight, or light heavyweight – will not be able to last the distance as Alexander did. And it’s going to take a very special fighter to beat Bektemir, especially once he gets more than 15 fights under his belt. It was Cuban standout Arlen Lopez – a rangy, crafty, versatile, and experienced switch-hitter – who outpointed Melikuziev in the World Amateur and Olympic finals.

I think super middleweight is the best division for Bek Bully at the present time.

Castano (L) takes it to Teixeira en route to a shutout victory.

If they fight next week, who wins Castano vs. Charlo and why? I favor Jermell by decision in a competitive and entertaining fight. I think the Ring Magazine/WBC/WBA/IBF champ’s jab will slow down Castano’s pressure while racking up points, and when Brian is able to bull his way in close (which will eventually happen, the Argentine has real craft to back up his aggression and durability), the tempestuous Texas will earn respect with uppercuts, counter hooks and body shots. Bottom line: I think Charlo is the most talented AND the most experienced junior middleweight in the game. But Castano is certainly a worthy challenger.

 

UPSETS AND UPSTARTS

Hi Dougie,

What an unexpected start to the British boxing year.

Here I was getting ready to write in about more shocking judging in the Barrett v. Martinez bout but then an unfancied Kid from Mexico pulled off an Upset of the Year candidate.

Quickly on the judging, I think Eddie Hearn summed it up in the SKY post-fight interview when he said the cards were “disgusting” & “helped no one” whilst Zelfa nodded in agreement. It’s almost like the judges didn’t consider consistent, educated pressure to be an acceptable method of winning boxing rounds. Poor Kiko.

That s**t show was completely overshadowed by the main event when my boy Josh Warrington got pasted around the ring by the young gun Lara. Fair play to the kid who looked crude, slow but very solid and he duly took his chance – he also directed his corner to help the stricken Warrington which was a truly classy move.

What on earth happened to Josh though? He “looked” drugged (I’m not suggesting for a moment that he actually was) and certainly a shadow of his normal self. His usual intensity and granite chin were both AWOL.

That said he still had his moments, landing clean combos which were testament to his muscle memory/fighting instinct. Those shots wobbled the likes of Frampton and if there is a rematch Lara is going work very hard if he wants to fend off a Warrington who is even close to his best.

Do you think it should have been stopped in the fourth? For my money if a ref asks a fighter if he’s okay and the fighter’s response is to stumble forward then it’s pretty evident what needs to happen? Josh’s legs were jelly going out for the fifth and his corner, his Dad no less, (who incidentally was in no hurry to get into the ring when either of his fighters were KO’d on the night) should have called it.

On another note, I was really impressed with Castano on the US DAZN card. I’m admittedly late to that party but will be following his career closely after that tireless performance.

Lastly, I’m really excited by the Berchelt v Valdez showdown next weekend. I think it has every chance of being a modern Mexican classic.

Looks like we’re in for a breathless start to the year? Bring it on. – Chris R, UK

In the immortal words of the eternal boxing official Mills Lane: “LET’S GET IT ON!”

Barrera vs. El Terrible

Mexico vs. Mexico is must-see even when we’re talking about club fighters at the four-round level. When we get Mexican un-Civil Wars in the prize ring, we’re treated to greatness. I’ve been privileged to witness the elite level of this particular type of matchup from ringside/press row over the past 20 years with Marco Antonio Barrera-Erik Morales I and III, Israel Vazquez-Jhonny Gonzalez, Vazquez-Rafael Marquez III, and Barrera-Juan Manuel Marquez being the standout battles from my memory. If you haven’t seen all of these fights, please do your duty as a hardcore fan and find them on YouTube before you watch Miguel Berchelt-Oscar Valdez live. There’s no way Berchelt-Valdez won’t deliver blood and guts, skill and courage, action and drama.

Castano is one of the top three or four junior middleweights in the game. The newly crowned WBO titleholder had an excellent amateur career and he’s always come to fight in the pro ranks. He deserves a full bandwagon.

Here I was getting ready to write in about more shocking judging in the Barrett v. Martinez bout but then an unfancied Kid from Mexico pulled off an Upset of the Year candidate. Mauricio Lara’s stoppage of Josh Warrington is definitely the early frontrunner for 2021 Upset of the Year. Honestly, I can’t think of a matchup currently on the schedule where the underdog winning would top Lara’s feat.

Quickly on the judging, I think Eddie Hearn summed it up in the SKY post-fight interview when he said the cards were “disgusting” & “helped no one” whilst Zelfa nodded in agreement. Sir Eddie speaks the truth. Those two lopsided scorecards didn’t do Zelfa any favors. It pissed off a legion of hardcore fans, many of whom will hate on him going forward, it let Martinez know that he never had any chance – outside of scoring a KO – of winning that bout, which lets casual fans know that boxing is either really corrupt or embarrassingly incompetent.

It’s almost like the judges didn’t consider consistent, educated pressure to be an acceptable method of winning boxing rounds. Poor Kiko. Poor boxing. This sport can’t get out of its own way. When the “official judges” don’t know how to score a f__king fight, what’s the point?

That s**t show was completely overshadowed by the main event when my boy Josh Warrington got pasted around the ring by the young gun Lara. I gotta be honest, I didn’t see that coming, but I’m not totally shocked given Warrington’s pre-fight interviews, which seem focused on everyone and everything but Lara.

Josh Warrington gets knocked down by Mauricio Lara. Picture By Dave Thompson

Fair play to the kid who looked crude, slow but very solid and he duly took his chance – he also directed his corner to help the stricken Warrington which was a truly classy move. That was a very nice gesture from Lara. But I don’t think Lara looked crude at all, and his lack of speed was no big deal to me. As a Southern California fight scribe, I’m used to observing Mexican boxing technique, and I know that people (especially boxing broadcasters) make too much of speed. (Good timing – knowing when to let your hands go – is more important in boxing than being gifted with fast hands; take it from somebody who’s blessed with quick mitts but paid his dues sparring hardnosed Tijuana club fighters back in the day.)

What on earth happened to Josh though? He was surprised by an undercover badass. It happens in boxing. It’s a tradition. We’ve got to give Lara credit for his ability and performance. Looking at a first-round KO loss on a young fighter’s record and assuming he’s a “bum” or “weak” is one of the biggest mistakes that can be made in boxing. I recall that 90% of the boxing world gave Berchelt NO CHANCE against then-WBC 130-pound beltholder Francisco Vargas because he’d been stopped in one round a few years prior to his title shot. The other 10% were Mexican insiders who made a GRIP betting on El Alacran. The British commentators said there was no one of note on Lara’s record, but a 2017 victory over Eduardo Baez in his eight pro bout was worth noting, as was his one bout outside of Mexico, an eighth-round stoppage of Eduardo Estella in 2019 in Argentina.

He “looked” drugged (I’m not suggesting for a moment that he actually was) and certainly a shadow of his normal self. His usual intensity and granite chin were both AWOL. Without taking anything away from Lara, I’ll note five factors that could have contributed to Warrington not performing to the best of his ability:

1. Ring rust (Josh hadn’t fought in 16 months, the longest inactive period of his pro career)

2. Looking past his opponent (thinking too much about potential future championship bouts vs. Gary Russell Jr. and Xu Can)

3. Fighting a stupid fight (declaring that he’d stop Lara within six rounds and gunning for the KO from the opening bell)

4. Not understanding/respecting “Mexican Style” (Warrington had experienced a variety of styles but he wasn’t used to sharing the ring with Mexican nationals)

5. Fighting without the loud support of a Leeds crowd (some fighters truly draw extra spiritual strength from their supporters and Warrington is definitely one of them)

That said he still had his moments, landing clean combos which were testament to his muscle memory/fighting instinct. Warrington’s got fighting spirit for sure. He was out of it from the fourth round on.

Those shots wobbled the likes of Frampton and if there is a rematch Lara is going work very hard if he wants to fend off a Warrington who is even close to his best. Lara will be up to the task, but I think Warrington can take it if he boxes smart.

Do you think it should have been stopped in the fourth? It certainly could have been, either immediately after the knockdown or between rounds.

For my money if a ref asks a fighter if he’s okay and the fighter’s response is to stumble forward then it’s pretty evident what needs to happen? You would make a better referee than Howard Foster.

Josh’s legs were jelly going out for the fifth and his corner, his Dad no less, (who incidentally was in no hurry to get into the ring when either of his fighters were KO’d on the night) should have called it. I’ve said this before and I’ll (sadly) continue to say it: The corner (especially if the head trainer is the fighter’s father) is too emotionally involved in the fight to think rationally or see clearly, that’s why it’s so important for the referee to know when to save a fighter from himself.

 

HEAVYWEIGHT PROSPECT TILT

Doug –

Who would win between Jared Anderson and Efe Ajagba at this point? – Kevin Key, Duluth, MN

Anderson on points or late stoppage.

 

SCORING SYSTEM

Doug,

I just read the mailbag as I do every Friday at lunchtime. The letter about the 10-point scoring system attracted my attention – Sorry for dwelling on the same topic. Given the modern knowledge of head trauma, it’s a brave referee who allows a fighter to continue after two or three knockdowns in a round. The days of being allowed to continue after four, five, or six knockdowns in three minutes are almost entirely gone. So, if we’re unlikely to see a 10-6 or 10-5 round, why use a 10-point system? A five-point must system makes more sense in that respect. However, I personally can’t see a problem with rounds being simply scored win, lose or draw. It’s the easiest to understand and most fans (and half the commentators) refer to fights as 7-5 rather than 115-113 anyway. So why not use the simplest method?

I would caveat my letter by saying I was an amateur fighter/trainer for years, so that probably affects my view on the importance of knockdowns… Cheers. – O.

Roger Gutierrez pulled off the upset over Rene Alvarado thanks to three knockdowns. Photo by Tom Hogan-Hoganphotos/Golden Boy

I hear ya, O., but fans care about knockdowns. That’s why nobody had a problem with Roger Gutierrez earning a razor-thin decision over Rene Alvarado recently, even tho Alvarado clearly won the majority of rounds. Alvarado’s boxing acumen and workrate did not overrule the three knockdowns Gutierrez scored in the eyes of the official judges or the public. Indeed, it was almost universally viewed as a very SATISFYING victory for the Venezuelan underdog.

Turn the clock back 43 years when professional boxing matches were still scored on the “rounds-won” system in New York State, the press and the fans in attendance for Wilfred Benitez’s 10-round split decision over undefeated-but-unheralded prospect Bruce Curry were very UNSATISFIED by the official verdict even though the Puerto Rican prodigy (and reigning 140-pound champ in a non-title welterweight bout) legitimately pulled out the gut check by winning a slight majority of rounds. Why was everybody pissed off at the judges (and the referee – who officially scored the fight along with two judges back then)? Because Curry (the brother of Donald and a future 140-pound beltholder) scored three knockdowns during the barnburner.

I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the 10-point must system. I think it’s fine if the winner of a round gets 10 points and the loser gets 9 (even if it’s a very lopsided round or a very close round). I think it’s fair if a fighter loses a point if he or she suffers a knockdown. This is one of the rules that separates professional boxing from the amateur ranks. I think the problem is that too many professional judges aren’t aware that clean punching is the No. 1 criteria for winning a round, followed by effective aggression, defense and ring generalship (in that order).

With the Zelfa Barrett-Kiko Martinez fight on Saturday in England, once again, we saw an example of official judges either getting caught up in regional/promotional favoritism or being confused about the difference between “ring generalship” and just playing “keep-away.” To put it bluntly, Martinez got in that ass for 12 rounds but didn’t get much credit for his clean punches and effective aggression from the judges (especially Robert Williams and Steve Gray). Check out CompuBox Guru Dan Canobbio’s Tweet:

Martinez was going to get robbed regardless of the scoring system. Williams and Gray scored 10 rounds for Barrett (a Manchester native fighting on a Matchroom card in London). Howard Foster scored it 7-4-1 in rounds for Barrett, also screwing the Spanish veteran but not as deep as his colleagues.

 

FIVE FAVORITE FANTASY FIGHTS

Hi Doug!

What would your 5 ultimate fantasy matchups be?

Some of my choices would be:

Jack Dempsey v Joe Louis

Sugar Ray Robinson v Sugar Ray Leonard

Roberto Duran v Benny Leonard

Carlos Monzon v Harry Greb

Also, what actual fight would you have loved to have attended?

I would have been happy to see Hagler v Hearns or Tyson v Berbick.

Thanks. – Jonathan, Wales

Boxer Muhammad Ali steps away from a punch thrown by boxer Joe Frazier during their heavyweight title fight at Madison Square Garden in 1971. Frazier became the undisputed heavyweight champ of the world by winning a unanimous 15-round decision.

I would have loved to attend The Fight of the Century (the epic first encounter between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali) or Hagler-Leonard.

Ask me what my five ultimate fantasy matchups five days a week and I’ll probably give a different group of five dream bouts each time. But off the cuff, here are my top five mythical matchups (today at 1:15 a.m. PT – with my favorites listed first):

Joe Frazier vs. Evander Holyfield (at heavyweight)

Edwin Valero vs. Manny Pacquiao (at 130 or 135)

James Toney vs. Leon Spinks (at cruiserweight)

Muhammad Ali vs. Bob Foster (at 178, three-round amateur bout)

Marvin Hagler vs. Gennadiy Golovkin (at 160)

 

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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