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Dougie’s Friday Mailbag (petered-out punchers, #p4p trolling, lightweights)

Whatever happened to the Axe Man?
19
Feb

THE FRAGILE PUNCHER’S MENTALITY

Hi Doug,

I wonder if what’s happening to Deontay Wilder is a more extreme example of the sharp decline that seems to befall punchers after their first loss.

It seems if you can punch hard and then get comprehensively beaten, guys seem to unravel afterwards, see below examples:



Daigo Higa 15-1 (15KO) – Then 2 years out and 2-0-1 since

Murat Gassiev 26-1 (20KO) – Then 2 years out and 1-0 since

Jonathan Guzman (22-1) (22KO) – Then 2 years out and 2-0 since

Nicholas Walters (26-1-1) (21KO) – Hasn’t fought since

To me there seems to be a trend with a fighter who has a lot of momentum or buzz being a big puncher then losing unexpectedly and taking a log time out or never fighting again. It’s not as if these guys were at the end of their careers either.

Do you think this is a mental fragility in punchers? I’m sure there’s similar examples of guys who’s power isn’t as revered, but it’s something I’ve noticed recently among big punchers.

Some puncher vs non puncher MMs:

Dmitry Kudryashov vs Steve Cunningham

Adonis Stevenson vs Billy Conn

Jhonny Gonzalez vs Baby Arizmendi

Charley Burley vs Demetrius Andrade

Thanks. – Conrad, Sheffield

Cunningham, Conn and Burley by decision; Arizmendi by mid-to-late stoppage. Interesting Mythical Matchups!

I think there are psychological hurdles for any fighter to overcome – be they KO artist, pressure fighter or savvy stylist – when he or she loses unexpectedly, especially if the loss is a devastating stoppage or humiliating schooling. Boxing is an extremely mental sport and boxers are very proud competitors.

However, the cream can usually rise again to the top following a shocking loss, even though it often takes time – more than a few comeback fights, which can include another setback – for them to regain their mojo.

In the past 25 years, I’ve witness much of the boxing world declare the careers of current hall of famers – such as Marco Antonio Barrera, Kostya Tszyu, Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klistchko – to be dead after the fighters suffered shocking losses (to Junior Jones, Vince Phillips, Hasim Rahman and Lamon Brewster) only to eat their words. (And I’m not point the finger at anyone who doubted these guys, I’m guilty of counting Lewis out in the Rahman rematch.)

Right now, I’m reading the comments from a lot fans who are convinced that Josh Warrington is finished following the Englishman’s brutal ninth-round stoppage to Mauricio Lara. I say time will tell.

Are the big punchers a little more fragile than other boxers? Is it harder for them to bounce back after a loss? I don’t think so. I think some punchers that are beat up and/or undressed are never the same, such as Jeff Lacy following the Joe Calzaghe fight, while others need a little time to get their confidence back, but they do eventually, such as George Foreman following the Muhammad Ali fight.

Thomas Hearns stopped James Shuler, Mark Medal, Denis Andries and Juan Roldan (pictured) AFTER suffering a violent TKO at the hands of Marvin Hagler. Photo: The Ring Magazine/Getty Images

Some KO Kings don’t seem bothered at all following setbacks. Thomas Hearns was still the formidable Hitman after losing epic battles to Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler, and even after being brutally upset by Iran Barkley. Julian Jackson got right back to putting opponents to sleep after being KO’d himself by Mike McCallum and Gerald McClellan (twice). Diego Corrales kept his fierce fighting spirit following the demoralizing loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and the bloody mouth TKO to Joel Casamayor. (I think Chico’s body hit it’s limit following that unbelievable first war with Jose Luis Castillo, but psychologically, I think he remained hungry until his untimely death.)

Hey, some noted punchers even evolve after they suffer a loss or two. Ruben Olivares showed the world that he could mix some sweet boxing in with his big punches after stoppage losses to formidable countrymen Chucho Castillo and Rafael Herrera and an unexpected upset to Art Hafey. Same with Wilfredo Gomez following his first loss to Salvador Sanchez. They still knocked dudes out, but they added more wrinkles to their game, especially when they moved up to featherweight or heavier. Chiquita Gonzalez said to hell with being a little search-and-destroy killer after he was KTFO by arch-rival Michael Carbajal and he employed a nice stick-and-move game vs. the U.S. Olympian in their two return bouts (which he won on points).

It seems if you can punch hard and then get comprehensively beaten, guys seem to unravel afterwards. Sometimes there’s more to the story.

Daigo Higa’s failure to make weight for his title defense vs. Cristofer Rosales was as much a part of his hiatus from the sport as his TKO loss to the Nicaraguan underdog. Photo by Naoki Fukuda

Daigo Higa 15-1 (15 KO) – Then 2 years out and 2-0-1 sinceHiga was indefinitely suspended by the Japan Boxing Commission after missing weight (by two pounds) for his WBC flyweight title bout vs. Cristofer Rosales (who stopped him in the 2018 Upset of the Year). So, he had no choice but to sit out for at least a year before he could go before the JBC for reinstatement of his boxing license. However, there was definitely some psychological baggage for him to unpack following that debacle. Higa was the first Japanese fighter to ever lose his title on the scale. It’s not like it is here in the U.S. or even in the UK. The JBC takes that s__t seriously, as do the fighters. Higa wasn’t going to laugh it off like Adrien Broner or make excuses like Joseph Diaz Jr. and a dozen others in recent years (Scott Quigg coming in heavy for his showdown with Oscar Valdez comes to mind). Higa felt an immense amount of shame, which sapped him of his mojo until his most recent bout (vs. Yuki Kobayashi).

Murat Gassiev 26-1 (20KO) – Then 2 years out and 1-0 sinceGassiev’s heavyweight debut was delayed, postponed and canceled more than a few times due to recurring shoulder injuries. The Russian tank even had surgery on one of his shoulders and still re-injured it. Hopefully, he’s 100% healed up now (his first comeback fight was so ridiculously easy we can’t tell for sure).

Jonathan Guzman (22-1) (22KO) – Then 2 years out and 2-0 sinceGuzman made some managerial changes and eventually signed a new promotional deal following his points loss to Yukinori Oguni in Japan in 2016. He had been fighting on King’s Promotions, Murphy’s Boxing and DiBella Entertainment shows in the Northeast prior to venturing to Japan for title opportunities, but he signed with Top Rank in September 2018. Sometimes it takes time to sort out these contractual situations.

Nicholas Walters (26-1-1) (21KO) – Hasn’t fought sinceThere’s no doubt that the Axe Man was bewildered and demoralized by Vasiliy Lomachenko in 2016, but there were indications that he was getting sick of the sport (or the business side of boxing) before that 130-pound showdown. He was rumored to be making a comeback in late 2019, but it obviously didn’t pan out.

 

THE P4P MARKETING TOOL

Hello Dougie,

Hope everything’s well with you and your family. DAZN tweeted something that really caught my eye and got me thinking. They asked if Canelo was the best p4p in the world with three options, all of them said yes. Obviously, this ticked off a lot of people including me, and I realized that this is the kind of thing that sometimes makes me say things that maybe I really don’t think too much about and later regret. This kind of social media interaction where a certain platform pushes to promote something that sometimes not everybody agrees on makes a lot of people angry (and react in a bad way). Why post a question with no options other than the one you want it to be?

But really, the reason I’m writing is to actually talk about this topic, which I know really doesn’t matter because it means nothing, but it does when every single media outlet, promoter, publication and fighter that’s in the conversation talks about and mentions every single time to promote their version of the p4p king. (Linear Champ is also another one that they love). ESPN has their own best, Top Rank, DAZN and PBC also have their own dude, so this really confuses the fans and also opens up this conversation. Also let’s keep it real, this is Barber Shop talk, everybody likes to discuss mythical stuff, things that can’t happen or can’t be measured but by opinion. Much like the mythical matchups that you love, P4P conversation is also a conversation of something that can’t really be measured, and a lot of people love discussing it.

Most outlets talk about Canelo as the top p4p guy. He’s obviously been challenging himself and fighting at the highest level possible for the last couple of years and showing the world that he deserves to be mentioned in the #1 p4p conversation. When Lomachenko lost and Crawford and Spence refused to fight each other, Canelo responded by fighting Sergey Kovalev and Callum Smith in back to back fights and solidified his claim for the p4p throne and he’s the first to brag about it (something that ticks a lot of people off because of what would be looked at as lack of humbleness), not to mention Eddy Reynoso and DAZN (see my comments above) who just can’t stop talking about it (you should hear Eddy in the ESPN Deportes Spanish conversations, he pushes hard). This also got me thinking about how easily we ignore other fighters when everybody is only talking about the guys they want to push.

While we were discussing Canelo, Lomachenko and Crawford, over in Japan there was this small explosive fighter moving up in weight and beating the top fighters and not only beating them, but destroying them, and looking amazing while doing it: Naoya Inoue. I feel that in The Monster we’re looking at another case like Chocolatito. Roman Gonzalez was the best fighter in the world for many years and nobody even looked at him because everybody was focusing on guys that were avoiding each other at the higher weight classes, while this dude was dominating and showing a skill set that was unparalleled also moving up in weight and fighting top level opposition. Inoue much like Roman, is a hell of a fighter that nobody knows about that unfortunately will continue to be ignored. Yes, he’s been featured in a couple of cards, but outside of Japan and the hardcore base, nobody really talks about him.  Whenever Canelo or Crawford fight, you’ll hear about how each one of them is the best p4p fighter and some outlets will mention Lomachenko or Usyk but rarely will The Monster be talked about and that’s really because these guys really haven’t seen him enough to have him fresh in their memory.

Again I think Canelo, Crawford, Lomachenko, Spence, Fury, Lopez, Usyk all are very good fighters, maybe great, but Naoya Inoue is something else. The combination of speed, power, technique, fundamentals, and also his resume, makes him in my eyes the real number 1 guy right now. Naoya Inoue in many ways is becoming the Roman Gonzalez of our current generation. Hopefully people will start looking at him a little more, he is truly special.

Now, on to Saturday’s fight, I do think Berchelt is going to prove to be too big for Valdez. It will be an exciting fight, and much like Leo Santa Cruz vs Gervonta Davis, he will make it interesting until size and power start taking over. I’m thinking a late round bloody stoppage in a candidate for fight of the year. Yet something in my mind tells me I might be totally wrong. Can’t wait!

Thanks, Dougie. Hope you have a great weekend, stay safe. – Juan Valverde, Chula Vista

Thanks for sharing, Juan, and thanks for the well wishes for me and my family. I’m planning to have fun weekend even though it’s magazine crunch time and I’ll be spending all Saturday in a hotel room (as part of the Thompson Boxing bubble in Corona, California). Part of the reason I know I’ll have a good time is the Miguel Berchelt-Oscar Valdez showdown. There’s no way this junior lightweight title bout won’t deliver. There’s too much pride on the line and their styles and mentalities will mesh in a way that creates action and drama. Viva Mexico!

Miguel Berchelt did what he was supposed to do vs. Eleazar Valenzuela. Oscar Valdez won’t be as easy. Photo from Zanfer Promotions

I favor Berchelt like 95% of the boxing world, but I don’t think El Alacran will have his way with the former amateur standout and featherweight beltholder. I think Valdez will have his moments, especially early in the fight, he may even rock or drop Berchelt, but I think defending WBC titleholder has underrated boxing ability. Berchelt moves pretty well around the ring when he needs to, and while his technique isn’t the tightest, he knows when to let his hands go and he’s got some killer body-head combos in his arsenal. I think Berchelt will take over the second half of the bout and win a decision.

Regarding all those words you devoted to the “pound-for-pound” subject, all I really have to say is that I wish you’d saved your passion for more opinions and analysis on Berchelt-Valdez and other upcoming gems on the boxing schedule, such as Martinez-Arroyo, Povetkin-Whyte II, Estrada-Gonzalez and Ortiz-Hooker. Hey, call me a hopeless hardcore head, but I’d welcome questions and thoughts on Kelly-Avenesyan, Wallin-Breazeale, Bohachuk-Adams and Machado-Tanajara.

DAZN tweeted something that really caught my eye and got me thinking. That sentence right there is the BIGGEST compliment anybody could pay to DAZN’s social media managers. Congratulations.

They asked if Canelo was the best p4p in the world with three options, all of them said yes. They are extremely happy that Canelo has chosen to remain on their platform. Can you blame them? Why piss on their parade?

Canelo Alvarez, clad with The Ring middleweight and P4P belts. Photo by Tom Hogan-HoganPhotos / Golden Boy Promotions

Obviously, this ticked off a lot of people including me, and I realized that this is the kind of thing that sometimes makes me say things that maybe I really don’t think too much about and later regret. OK, I get it if you don’t agree that Canelo’s numero uno. I totally understand if anyone considers Inoue or Crawford to be the P4P King. I’m even OK with neurotic fan boys poking holes in Canelo’s resume. But I don’t understand getting mad at anyone – be they fan, media, network, Team Canelo, etc. – for believing that Canelo is the top dog among elite boxers. The Mexican star is a complete fighter who has demonstrated skills against the best boxers of four weight classes over the last SEVERAL years. As James Brown would say (if the Godfather of Soul were still with us) Canelo has paid the cost to be the boss!

This kind of social media interaction where a certain platform pushes to promote something that sometimes not everybody agrees on makes a lot of people angry (and react in a bad way). I know but a lot of those angry people need professional help (I’m not saying you’re one of them!)

Why post a question with no options other than the one you want it to be? Why ask why? Maybe they were just trolling. Even social media administrators get bored.

But really, the reason I’m writing is to actually talk about this topic, which I know really doesn’t matter because it means nothing, but it does when every single media outlet, promoter, publication and fighter that’s in the conversation talks about and mentions every single time to promote their version of the p4p king. (OK, I take it back, maybe you DO need professional help. Do you ever read some of the sentences you write for the mailbag back to yourself, Juan? Don’t forget to take a breath every now and then, and when you get too worked up, go ahead and log out of Twitter, push yourself away from your laptop and take a walk outside.)

Most outlets talk about Canelo as the top p4p guy. He’s No. 1 in The Ring’s pound-for-pound rankings. It wasn’t a unanimous decision, a couple of the Ring Ratings Panelists cast their votes for Inoue (Adam Abramowitz and Martin Mulcahey come to mind), but a strong majority of the panel believes Canelo is the man right now.

He’s obviously been challenging himself and fighting at the highest level possible for the last couple of years and showing the world that he deserves to be mentioned in the #1 p4p conversation. OK, if this is true (and it is) what’s your beef with DAZN?

When Lomachenko lost and Crawford and Spence refused to fight each other, Canelo responded by fighting Sergey Kovalev and Callum Smith in back to back fights and solidified his claim for the p4p throne and he’s the first to brag about it (something that ticks a lot of people off because of what would be looked at as lack of humbleness), not to mention Eddy Reynoso and DAZN (see my comments above) who just can’t stop talking about it (you should hear Eddy in the ESPN

Eddy and Canelo with some of their hard-earned boxing hardware (and I’m not talking about that can of Tecate).

Deportes Spanish conversations, he pushes hard). Canelo’s got a right to be proud of his accomplishments and status. He worked hard to get where he is and he remains hungry whereas too many world-class boxers (who have the potential to be elite) are content to fight mid-level opposition once or twice a year. Reynoso’s got a right to be full of pride. He helped develop Canelo from scratch. They’ve reached this current level against all odds. Nine out of 10 Pound-for-Pound Kings had Olympic-level amateur backgrounds. Canelo achieved what Manny  Pacquiao did (reach No. 1 without having an extensive international amateur career) but without the Filipino icon’s extraordinary natural/athletic talent. Canelo’s done it by developing into a complete boxer that old-school trainers would admire.

While we were discussing Canelo, Lomachenko and Crawford, over in Japan there was this small explosive fighter moving

Where is Inoue on your pound for pound list?

up in weight and beating the top fighters and not only beating them, but destroying them, and looking amazing while doing it: Naoya Inoue. I feel that in The Monster we’re looking at another case like Chocolatito. You’re preaching to the converted.

Inoue much like Roman, is a hell of a fighter that nobody knows about that unfortunately will continue to be ignored. It’s not easy being a sub-featherweight (outside of Japan).

Yes, he’s been featured in a couple of cards, but outside of Japan and the hardcore base, nobody really talks about him. Inoue made his ESPN debut in October and he delivered, but it will take more time and appearances for him to work his way into the consciousness of casual American fans. Had the pandemic not hit us, he would have made his Las Vegas debut in April and would have fought at least one more time in 2020. So, let’s give Top Rank and ESPN a little more time before we declare Inoue to be an “overlooked stepchild.”

 

SUPER EXCITED ABOUT THE LIGHTWEIGHTS

G’day Doug,

Haven’t written into the mailbag for a while. I just wanted to say that I’m super excited with the depth of the lightweight division now and the potential match ups.

We’ve got Loma, Lopez, Haney, Davis, Garcia, Commey and even Australia’s own George Kambosos Jr.

I hope all the politics and broadcasting rights don’t impede on what are potential classic showdowns.

It’s going to be a juicy 2021 for all the ghouls out there. I’m not keen on making any predictions as this is boxing and one punch can change everything.

All the best and I’m still loving the work you put in for Ring Magazine. Don’t retire too soon. – Jeff, Australia

Hey, I’m only 50. I can stick around for at least another decade. (Seriously, thank you for the kind words.)

However, I’m not holding my breath for any lightweight fireworks this year. We might get Lopez-Kambosos and Haney vs. Linares. And those are damn good 135-pound matchups. But the marquee showdowns and really big events – such as Lopez-Haney or Davis-Garcia – well… I’ll believe it when I see them in the ring. And I’m not going to blame boxing politics and exclusive network allegiances for all of the major lightweight bouts that don’t happen. Sometimes it comes down to the fighters’ desires to challenge themselves or their money demands.

We’ll see if the big names of the lightweight division really want to sort out who’s the best. If they don’t do it at 135 this year, maybe they’ll get it on at 140 next year (or in 2023). In the meantime, I’d be happy to watch Commey take on Javier Fortuna or Kamboso vs. Isaac Cruz or Linares vs. Masayoshi Nakatani.

 

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 (almost) every Sunday.

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