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Dougie’s Friday Mailbag (Canelo-Yildirim, Oscar Valdez, Bek the Bully)

Photo by Ed Mulholland/ Matchroom.
26
Feb

MIAMI FIGHT NIGHT

Hey Dougie,

Not the most competitive slate of fights this weekend but interested to check out some of the action. I’m not overly bothered with Canelo’s soft touch. I like the quick turnaround time and it’s cool to see him fighting in a new venue with some fans in attendance. Should be a short night at the office for him.

Pretty excited to see the debut of Keyshawn Davis. Seems like the hype is warranted & he’s done some impressive stuff at the PanAm/World amateur level. Have you dug into much of his footage & kept tabs on his amateur career? If so, curious if his style & tools remind you of any current/former fighters. Do you expect him to get the fast-track treatment?

Do you think we’ll be seeing Avanesyan/Yeleussinov sometime later in the year?  Kudos to Avanesyan for his willingness to mix it up with highly touted prospects, that’d be another interesting matchup.

Lastly, have you heard any rumblings about the continuation of the WBSS? Would be a welcome addition to the DAZN schedule, hope that series doesn’t fall by the wayside. – DJ

The World Boxing Super Series will return this year. Our man Kalle Sauerland and company are working on Season 3 as you read this. When will we hear an announcement? Who knows? It’s not easy getting world-class fighters to face each other in back-to-back fights these days, but I trust the WBSS will get it done sooner rather than later and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the junior flyweight division to be one of the tournaments (I know, I know, I’m Boxing Hipster).

Y’all wouldn’t call Anvi a “soft touch” to his face.

I’m not overly bothered with Canelo’s soft touch. I’m not either. (By the way, you are aware that you and I could gang up on this “soft touch” with baseball bats and he would still kill us both with his bare hands within about 30 seconds, right?)

I like the quick turnaround time and it’s cool to see him fighting in a new venue with some fans in attendance. I don’t really care where Canelo fights, but I think it’s good for the sport when star attractions fight in different regions and markets. I also like the quick turnaround and I’m rooting for Canelo to make good on his plans to fight four times this year because I think it sends the right message to world-class fighters who might have the ambition to one day attain his stature in boxing. We’ll see if he can do it.

Should be a short night at the office for him. I think Yildirim has improved since the TKO loss to Chris Eubank Jr. and his last bout (the technical split-decision loss to Anthony Dirrell), but I expect Canelo to stop him before the late rounds. Yildirim is as strong, tough and game as fighters come, but he’s vulnerable to uppercuts and body shots and that’s not a good thing vs. Canelo.

Pretty excited to see the debut of Keyshawn Davis. He should shine pretty darn bright vs. his first pro opponent.

Seems like the hype is warranted & he’s done some impressive stuff at the PanAm/World amateur level. There was buzz about him (from various world-class pro camps that used him for sparring) even before his silver medal wins at the 2019 Pan-Am Games and World Amateur Championships

Have you dug into much of his footage & kept tabs on his amateur career? I’ve watched a few of his WAC bouts and he’s about as skilled and poised as one would expect an amateur star from Pernell Whitaker’s hometown (Norfolk, Virginia) to be.

If so, curious if his style & tools remind you of any current/former fighters. Off the top of my head, I’d say Davis reminds me of Devin Haney.

Do you expect him to get the fast-track treatment? Yes, because he’s mature (almost 22), he’s already turned heads in elite pro gyms, and he’s got an extensive amateur background that gave him experience vs. older fighters and a variety of styles (aggressive, slick, southpaws, Cuban, Russian, Uzbekistan, etc.).

Do you think we’ll be seeing Avanesyan/Yeleussinov sometime later in the year? Yes, I do.

Kudos to Avanesyan for his willingness to mix it up with highly touted prospects, that’d be another interesting matchup. I agree, and I won’t count Avanesyan out although I expect the Olympic champ from Kazakhstan to be the oddsmaker and media favorite.

 

OSCAR VALDEZ: RISK = MOTIVATION

Hey Doug,

How’s it going? It’s five days after Saturday’s fight and I’m still buzzing about it, so I needed to write in. The fight was thrilling, even if it wasn’t as competitive as we thought it would be, but the boxing world should be in awe of what we saw for so many reasons. We still aren’t even talking about some of the issues during the fight, such as the “knockdown” in round 4 (more of a push) and the fact that Dave Moretti gave BERCHELT two of the first three rounds and Max de Luca gave him ALL THREE. What? And how did Berchelt take those flush hooks for so long? These are somewhat moot points now, but not really.

Before Saturday night, I liked Valdez, but I wasn’t a huge fan. I was more of a Berchelt fan (still am, especially after the way he started mounting a comeback in round 6). Valdez seemed skilled with power and a ton of heart, but he was a fighter who routinely underwhelmed and, I suspected, couldn’t take direction. When he eventually stepped up to an elite fighter, surely he would get knocked out. And Berchelt, on the cusp of being elite, would be the one to expose him.

I am a BIG Valdez fan now. For the past few years, I wondered why Berchelt wasn’t on anyone’s top 10 PFP list, and this fight helped me to articulate why. Berchelt really hadn’t fought anyone who could box and move and provide angles the way Valdez did, and until he did we didn’t have a complete picture of him.

Back in September, I wrote into the mailbag suspecting boxing fans and media were overlooking Teofimo’s chances versus Loma, and I was feeling the same thing in the weeks leading up to Saturday’s fight. It wasn’t just Valdez’s Olympics experience; it was that he won the spot over Berchelt. That has to affect both fighters psychologically. Confidence advantage to Valdez. Also, after watching ESPN’s excellent promo videos, I came away impressed with Valdez’s mindset. He was humble, confident, and grateful for the opportunity. Clarity and self-awareness, recognizing the difficulties he faced. Then I saw Berchelt at the weigh-in, and I was reminded again that it’s silly to predict fight winners until the weigh-in. Add in Eddy Reynoso in the corner and the fact that Valdez had to overcome more varieties in style over his past five fights, and Valdez’s mediocrity seemed like something he might be poised to overcome.

But Valdez’s win was more impressive to me than Lopez’s, even if Berchelt is no Loma, because Valdez had more to prove, and in a different way, more to overcome, fighting one of the most murderous punchers in the lower divisions. Whereas the Commey fight demonstrated that Lopez was every bit as good as his hype, the Adam Lopez fight made me suspect that Valdez just didn’t have that other gear, that ability to be elite. If Teofimo lost, we would’ve shrugged our shoulders, but if Valdez lost, it would confirm what we suspected: Though talented, Valdez couldn’t compete on an elite level. For the record, I don’t think Berchelt was elite, but he was on the cusp of it.

As a longtime boxing fan (since the ‘70s), in the aftermath of watching this fight, I felt the way I did after seeing legendary fighters and fights from the ‘80s and ‘90s. Back then fighters took risks and gave all of themselves and performed beyond themselves. I want to emphasize this: It’s a rare thing to see a “good fighter” rise above himself as Valdez did and become something new right before our eyes. One of the reasons is because fighters today are more reluctant to step up and take that dangerous 50-50 fight. I’m afraid that fighters today will take away all the wrong things from Berchelt-Valdez, after seeing Berchelt get outclassed and knocked cold like that. The real thing they should take away is that risk = motivation. Valdez showed me that it’s only when we step beyond ourselves and take risks that we can find motivation to perform on a different level. By overcoming massive doubters (19-1-1 from Ring insiders; not even a Ring ranking in the division), a bigger and more brutal puncher who outweighed him by 15+ pounds at fight time, the consensus number one in the division, and questions about his abilities, Valdez gave us that rare thing, and it’s something that only boxing can produce: A fighter having a perfect night when it counted the most and showing us that we can all rise above ourselves. Thank you, Valdez and Berchelt, for reminding me how much I love boxing.

Questions:

Why do you think Valdez won on Sat night? Was it more the Reynoso plan or more Valdez’s skills?

I realize Berchelt was the favorite, but 19-1-1? Surely I’m not the only one who thought Valdez was a live dog. Is there groupthink in the boxing media? Why?

I’m still a Berchelt fan, but he needs to rebuild, and clearly, the weight, and perhaps an overreliance on his power, caught up to him. How would you handle him from now on?

Is Valdez now number one in the division? I think so.

Let’s hear your thoughts on some predictions at 130. The three fighters I see giving him the most trouble are Tank, Stevenson, and Rakhimov.

Valdez vs. Tank

Valdez vs. Stevenson

Valdez vs. Herring

Valdez vs. Frampton

Thanks, and sorry for the length! – Mark in L.A.

I think Valdez would beat Rakhimov. It would be a hard fight but I think the new WBC beltholder would win a clear decision.

Valdez vs. TankIt’s a toss-up, but I’ll go with Valdez on points because I think the same thing that plagued Berchelt (weight drain) will catch up with Davis soon. Reynoso’s guidance and game plan (which is reinforced by Canelo in camp) is also a factor. I trust that Eddy would come up with the right strategy and not allow Valdez to fight too macho a fight (as poor Leo Santa Cruz did).

Valdez vs. StevensonShakur by decision in a competitive fight, I’m thinking the Newark native wins 116-112 on at least two official cards.

Valdez vs. HerringValdez on points, maybe controversially, in a hotly contested chess match.

Valdez vs. FramptonValdez on points in a scorcher that features balls, blood and skill.

Before Saturday night, I liked Valdez, but I wasn’t a huge fan. I was more of a Berchelt fan (still am, especially after the way he started mounting a comeback in round 6). I don’t see how anyone isn’t a fan of both fighters. Even when they look vulnerable (as Valdez has on occasion), they usually entertain. And they’re both very cool chaps.

Winky dominated Mosley but struggled with Candelo and Hernandez. Go figure. Photo credit: Reuters

Valdez seemed skilled with power and a ton of heart, but he was a fighter who routinely underwhelmed and, I suspected, couldn’t take direction. Maybe Valdez is just one of those fighters who, as they say, fights DOWN to the level of his opposition. It’s not a good quality, especially among world-class boxers, but it’s fairly common. There have even been some elite-level boxers that were eventually inducted into the hall of fame who did this; Winky Wright comes to mind. If you saw his back-to-back IBF 154-pound title defenses against JC Candelo and Angel Hernandez (as I did from press row), you wouldn’t have thought he could dominate Shane Mosley (twice), shutout Felix Trinidad and give reigning middleweight champ Jermain Taylor hell (in a fight he should have won).

When he eventually stepped up to an elite fighter, surely he would get knocked out. And Berchelt, on the cusp of being elite, would be the one to expose him. Other way around, but that’s why they fight the fights. And, like you stated, Valdez probably NEEDED to face a risky opponent – someone he knows can wreck him and would be hell bent on doing so – to bring out his best effort and performance.

I am a BIG Valdez fan now. For the past few years, I wondered why Berchelt wasn’t on anyone’s top 10 PFP list, and this fight helped me to articulate why. He’d faced a bunch of worn-out tough guys.

Berchelt really hadn’t fought anyone who could box and move and provide angles the way Valdez did, and until he did we didn’t have a complete picture of him. Berchelt and his management gave us a hint that they weren’t interested in world-class boxers when Jamel Herring outpointed Masayuki Ito for the WBO 130-pound belt. Prior to the fight, Berchelt (who was ringside) had talked a lot about wanting to unify titles. As soon as Herring’s hand was raised, Berchelt lost interest in that goal. He switched his attention to Valdez, who he or his management likely viewed to be in the same physical boat as former foes Francisco Vargas, Takashi Miura, Mickey Roman and Jason Sosa, which is BATTLE WORN.

Back in September, I wrote into the mailbag suspecting boxing fans and media were overlooking Teofimo’s chances versus Loma, and I was feeling the same thing in the weeks leading up to Saturday’s fight. You should have shared your opinion with the mailbag! Why didn’t you!!?? You could have been the resident boxing genius in the comment section all this week! Now we all think you’re bulls__ting about ordering the Upset Special. (Just kidding. Nobody cares.)

It wasn’t just Valdez’s Olympics experience; it was that he won the spot over Berchelt. That has to affect both fighters psychologically. Confidence advantage to Valdez. It doesn’t always work that way, but I hear ya.

Valdez is good people and few fighters love to train as much as he does.

Also, after watching ESPN’s excellent promo videos, I came away impressed with Valdez’s mindset. He was humble, confident, and grateful for the opportunity. I’ve met him (he used to train in Southern California with Manny Robles) and I can tell you that he’s every bit as cool and down-to-earth as he seemed in those well-produced countdown shows. I can also tell you that he loves boxing and he loves to trainer. I haven’t seen a world-class fighter love the gym and all the training as much as Valdez since a prime Shane Mosley.

Then I saw Berchelt at the weigh-in, and I was reminded again that it’s silly to predict fight winners until the weigh-in. Playing the weight game will eventually bite a fighter in his ass, and it always shortens his career.

But Valdez’s win was more impressive to me than Lopez’s, even if Berchelt is no Loma, because Valdez had more to prove, and in a different way, more to overcome, fighting one of the most murderous punchers in the lower divisions. Valdez was definitely in with more of a physical threat, but Lopez’s victory held more significance for a number of reasons.

If Teofimo lost, we would’ve shrugged our shoulders, but if Valdez lost, it would confirm what we suspected: Though talented, Valdez couldn’t compete on an elite level. You’re not wrong about that.

For the record, I don’t think Berchelt was elite, but he was on the cusp of it. Yes, you stated that earlier. You were on the record then. (Just kidding. Nobody cares.)

As a longtime boxing fan (since the ‘70s), in the aftermath of watching this fight, I felt the way I did after seeing legendary fighters and fights from the ‘80s and ‘90s. That’s high praise.

Back then fighters took risks and gave all of themselves and performed beyond themselves. They still do that, just not as often as they did in the ’80s and ’90s, especially in the “glamor divisions.”

I want to emphasize this: It’s a rare thing to see a “good fighter” rise above himself as Valdez did and become something new right before our eyes. One of the reasons is because fighters today are more reluctant to step up and take that dangerous 50-50 fight. Another reason is that they don’t fight often enough to be fully prepared for the big opportunities, even when they accept the challenge they find that they lack the experience to “rise to the occasion.” Kudos to Valdez and Lopez for doing so despite a modern-boxing schedule (made worse by the pandemic).

I’m afraid that fighters today will take away all the wrong things from Berchelt-Valdez, after seeing Berchelt get outclassed and knocked cold like that. Some will, some won’t. I think Valdez (and Lopez) have inspired more up-and-comers than you think.

The real thing they should take away is that risk = motivation. I hear ya, but it’s easy for us observers, who aren’t risking our health, to say that.

Valdez showed me that it’s only when we step beyond ourselves and take risks that we can find motivation to perform on a different level. It’s the rare individual, in any walk of life (not just sports), who has the self-belief and courage to do that.

By overcoming massive doubters (19-1-1 from Ring insiders; not even a Ring ranking in the division)… I can’t speak for all those who took part in the Fight Picks, but I don’t think everyone who predicted a Berchelt victory totally counted Valdez out or didn’t think he could compete. But even if they did, so what? So they were wrong. It’s not that serious (for the observers). Regarding Valdez’s Ring ranking, he had two bouts at 130 pounds prior to the Berchelt fight, TKOs of Adam Lopez (who took the fight the day before, weighed in at 126, and still scored a knockdown) and the shopworn Jayson Velez. The junior lightweights that were No. 8, 9 and 10 in the rankings had done more than that or had better wins at 130.

… a bigger and more brutal puncher who outweighed him by 15+ pounds at fight time, the consensus number one in the division… It isn’t a good thing for a welterweight to put on that much weight after the weigh-in, never mind a junior lightweight, no matter where he’s ranked.

… and questions about his abilities, Valdez gave us that rare thing, and it’s something that only boxing can produce: A fighter having a perfect night when it counted the most and showing us that we can all rise above ourselves. Viva Valdez! Viva Mexico! Viva Boxeo! Amen!! Hallelujah!!!

Thank you, Valdez and Berchelt, for reminding me how much I love boxing. Holy s__t, bro. This fight really moved you…, like maybe it’s changed your life. You’re gonna go for the gusto from now on. I’ve been motivated by your motivation! I’m getting a little weepy right now as I write this. (Just kidding. Nobody cares.)

(I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be such a sarcastic smart ass. It’s late Thursday/early Friday, I’m a little burnt out from putting the latest magazine to bed, and this is a really long email.)

Questions:

Why do you think Valdez won on Sat night? He was the better, smarter, healthier fighter on the night. There’s not a whole lot to analyze here.

Was it more the Reynoso plan or more Valdez’s skills? It’s both. Valdez couldn’t execute Reynoso’s game plan without a certain skill (and experience) level.

I realize Berchelt was the favorite, but 19-1-1? Surely I’m not the only one who thought Valdez was a live dog. You’re not.

Is there groupthink in the boxing media? No. Truth be told, most boxing media members enjoy disagreeing with each other. We’re salty like that. Many of us like being contrarians. However, we also like to be right, so most of us go with the chalk (the betting odds favorite) when it comes to big fights. Now, don’t got and get all upset with the odds makers. It’s not that serious.

I’m still a Berchelt fan, but he needs to rebuild, and clearly, the weight, and perhaps an overreliance on his power, caught up to him. How would you handle him from now on? I’d have him move to lightweight and maybe get him a new trainer.

Is Valdez now number one in the division? I think so. I think a slight majority of the Ring Ratings Panel favors Tank Davis at No. 1 and Valdez at No. 2.

 

CANELO VS. BEK BULLY

Hey Doug,

Just wanted to get your thoughts on some mythical/potential matchups. The main one being what would you make of a Bek Bully vs Canelo bout? I think this one has dynamite written all over it! I know Bek isn’t a big enough name yet to warrant this fight though. Whereas guys like Saunders or Andrade might, and I stress might, be able to outbox Canelo on their best day, I don’t see anyone else besides Bek being able to take it to Canelo and possibly bust him up.

In your opinion are the fights and arch nemeses available for Canelo to be an all-time great? I think he has the skills to compete in any era.

Mythical Matchups:

Pacquiao vs Canelo at 154

Sweet Pea vs Duran

Paul Williams vs Canelo

G-man vs James Toney

Btw do you have any funny stories of Lights Out like him cussing out reporters or sparring partners? Kind regards. – Barno, UK

Yes, I’ve got about 30 of them. You’re going to have to be a little more specific.

Your Mythical Matchups:

Pacquiao vs Canelo at 154Canelo by come-from-behind one-hitter-quitter, by Round 7 or 8.

Sweet Pea vs DuranHands of Stone on points from 135-154, all are close fights.

Paul Williams vs CaneloCanelo on points (close, maybe controversial) or late stoppage. Williams was scheduled to face Canelo in September 2012, but he suffered his motorcycle accident shortly after that bout had been signed.

G-man vs James ToneyLights Out on points in a tremendous fight (at 160 or 168).

Bek Bully stops another opponent via killer body attack.

What would you make of a Bek Bully vs Canelo bout? I’d be excited about it because Bektemir Melikuziev is a beast with an unorthodox style, but I would want the Uzbekistan amateur standout to get more pro seasoning for his own well-being. I don’t care how many amateur bouts Bek had, seven pro fights isn’t nearly enough to stand a chance against Canelo, the sport’s most experienced boxer still in his prime. The Mexican star would punish Bek over the second half of that match. But give Bek another year or two and then we’ve got a fight!

I think this one has dynamite written all over it! No doubt. If I heard they were sparring I would sneak in the gym to witness it if I had to.

I know Bek isn’t a big enough name yet to warrant this fight though. Give the Bully 18-24 months. He’ll have a name by then. Trust me.

Whereas guys like Saunders or Andrade might, and I stress might, be able to outbox Canelo on their best day, I don’t see anyone else besides Bek being able to take it to Canelo and possibly bust him up. It would be interesting to see how Canelo holds up against a bona-fide body snatcher.

In your opinion are the fights and arch nemeses available for Canelo to be an all-time great? Well, GGG is still out there. I know Golovkin is well past his prime, but he’s still a rival and he’s still a top-rated middleweight (who would probably benefit from a move to super middleweight). There are the Charlo twins, who have the frames (6-feet tall with 73½-inch wingspans) and athleticism to compete at 168 pounds. They would make for huge events in Texas, especially their hometown of Houston, where Canelo drew 30,000+ fans to Minute Maid Park when he fought James Kirkland in 2015. David Benavidez is also potential rival for Canelo (at 168 or 175 pounds). Canelo-Benavidez would also pack any stadium in Texas. So, Canelo has dance partners, and others (like the aforementioned Melikuziev) will emerge in the next couple years. Remember, Canelo is 30. He’s already a hall of famer. He’s got time to evolve into an ATG if plays his cards right.

I think he has the skills to compete in any era. So do I.

 

 

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.