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Dougie’s Monday Mailbag (Jaron Ennis, Smith-Vlasov, random questions)

Boots Ennis. Photo by Amanda Wescott / Showtime
12
Apr

BOOTS IS THE BEST (OR HE WILL BE)

Assalaam alaykum Mr. Fischer,

I wanted to write in after Jaron Ennis’ destruction of Sergey Lipinets. I believe that performance vaults Ennis into any legitimate top 10 (and perhaps top 5) welterweight rankings. I also think that Boots’ performance on the heels of Vergil Ortiz’s makes welterweight the deepest division this side of junior bantamweight.

It may be premature, but at this stage I would favor Boots over any welterweight not named Bud Crawford and I’d put him even with Errol Spence. Showtime Shawn might actually represent the hardest fight for him (excluding Bud). The only issue I see is that Lipinets did manage to catch him clean a few times but Boots always seemed to be doing more damage during those exchanges. I’d want to tighten up his defense a bit before stepping in with a bigger puncher.

The problem that I see is that, after last night, no welterweight ranked above Boots is going to give him a fight. Hopefully, if he chooses to sign with PBC (and even have a shot at most of the divisions fighters), he makes sure that his contract gives him a shot at both Spence and Ugas within 2 years. Otherwise, Uncle Al will just put him on the shelf with the rest of the stable and he’ll do all his fighting on the Twitter pages of the PBC fanboys.

What are your thoughts? Am I overrating Ennis after a great performance against a small welterweight without a whole lot of power? I hope you and yours are well and I send the best. Peace. – John

You’ve got a right to be very excited about Ennis. He’s the total package. He displayed everything vs. Lipinets, an undersized and somewhat basic but battled-tested lower top-10 contender: A crisp jab and switch-hitting prowess in Round 1, debilitating body shots and nimble footwork in Round 2, pin-point counter-punching and fluid lateral movement in Round 3, slick upper-body defense and inside game in Round 4, seek-and-destroy focus in Round 5, and the ability to close the show against a thoroughly outclassed and beat-up opponent in Round 6. He was confident but patient throughout.

Before Ennis’ buzz hit the crescendo we’re now witnessing, I included him in a Ring Magazine cover story (for the April 2020 issue – you can purchase it via our Ring Shop), entitled “Honor Roll,” which provided letter grades for 10 under-25 up-and-comers in several categories. It wasn’t your usual “New Faces” or “Prospect Watch”-type article, because the young guns had to have more than obvious talent; they had to have “star potential.”

Some of those I deemed “Top of their Class” going into 2020 already moved the needle in terms of social media followings and putting butts in the seats, such as Ryan Garcia and Gervonta Davis. Ennis moves the needle in a different way. He whips the hardcore fans into a frenzy. He makes the industry stop and watch. He causes insiders – from media to trainers to matchmakers to promoters (who have no financial interest) – to proclaim that he’s already the best welterweight in the world. And it doesn’t matter who he faces. Insiders and diehards were just as giddy after he beatdown Bakhtiyar Eyubov and Juan Carlos Abreu as they were this past Saturday after he thrashed poor Lipinets.

Jaron Ennis throws a right hand against Bakhtiyar Eyubov. Photo by Edward Diller/Getty Images

Brian Ceballo (8-0 at the time) outboxed Eyubov over eight rounds prior to the fourth- round stoppage that Boots (24-0) scored in January 2020. The few hardcore heads that noticed Ceballo’s performance gave him the equivalent to a “polite applause” via their Twitter comments (“nice job, Brian, you’re a nifty little boxer”). Alexander Besputin (11-0 at the time) shutout Abreu over 10 rounds in December 2018, dropping the Dominican veteran twice in Round 8, but the Russian southpaw’s performance garnered a collective “ho-hum” from most of the boxing world. But when Ennis beats these guys down, Twitter explodes. You’re almost restrained in your praise for Boots by comparison. More than a few boxing folks are saying he’d beat EVERY welterweight, including Bud. Whether or not that ever proves to be true, we can’t deny that Ennis elicits a powerful reaction from the “in-the-know” crowd.

I believe that performance vaults Ennis into any legitimate top 10 (and perhaps top 5) welterweight rankings. The Ring Ratings Panel suggested Ennis debut at No. 8 in our welterweight rankings. I’ll post a Ring Ratings Update with their comments later today.

I also think that Boots’ performance on the heels of Vergil Ortiz’s makes welterweight the deepest division this side of junior bantamweight. I think the 115-pound division is the deepest in boxing, but no doubt, welterweight is also deep. I think junior middleweight, junior flyweight, lightweight, junior welterweight and bantamweight are also pretty loaded.

Shawn Porter (right) boxed from a distance for much of his fight against Yordenis Ugas on March 9 in Carson, California, but still utilized his trademark infighting to eke out a split-decision victory. (Photo by German Villasenor)

How would Boots fair vs. hardnosed vets like Shawn Porter (right) and Yordenis Ugas (left). Photo by German Villasenor

It may be premature, but at this stage I would favor Boots over any welterweight not named Bud Crawford and I’d put him even with Errol Spence. I think the young man is awesome, but I’ve got to see him beat a legit top-10 welterweight before I co-sign on a statement like that. I think veterans like Shawn Porter and Yordenis Ugas would at least take him the distance.

Showtime Shawn might actually represent the hardest fight for him (excluding Bud). Porter arguably represents the hardest fight for any welterweight not named Ugas or Crawford. Nobody has an easy night with the Ohioan.

The only issue I see is that Lipinets did manage to catch him clean a few times but Boots always seemed to be doing more damage during those exchanges. I’d want to tighten up his defense a bit before stepping in with a bigger puncher. I’m sure he and his team will work on that. If Keith Thurman or Porter – or even Vergil Ortiz Jr. – lands the same overhand right that Lipinets grazed him with in Round 2, who knows how well he would take it? His team will make sure he’s defensively sharper when he faces a world-class welterweight with world-class power.

The problem that I see is that, after last night, no welterweight ranked above Boots is going to give him a fight. No kidding. His best bet is to become a mandatory challenger for one or more of the four major titles. The beltholders will still try to avoid him but maybe they’ll be stripped for not honoring the mandatory or (more likely) the sanctioning organization will create another belt for him (ugh).

Hopefully, if he chooses to sign with PBC (and even have a shot at most of the divisions fighters), he makes sure that his contract gives him a shot at both Spence and Ugas within 2 years. I don’t think it matters if he’s with the PBC or not, the titleholders with that promotional organization are not going to want to fight him. I think his brain trust should try to push him up the WBO rankings and aim for Crawford.

Otherwise, Uncle Al will just put him on the shelf with the rest of the stable and he’ll do all his fighting on the Twitter pages of the PBC fanboys. That would be a tragedy.

 

ENNIS IS A BAAAAAAAAAAD MAN!

Hey Doug,

Jaron Ennis is a very bad man.

Best to you and the family. – Graham, Sonoma

Thank you. As RUN-DMC used to say back in the day “Not bad meaning bad but bad meaning good!” (Peter Piper, if you don’t get the reference. I’m an ’80s kid.) 

 

BOXING OVERLOAD WEEKEND

Hi Doug,

Boxing fans had lots to choose from this weekend between the networks and DAZN. To save space I am only going to briefly touch upon a couple of the bouts I saw although I will mention that heavyweight Efe Ajagba turned in what might be the KO of the year against Brian Howard.

First the fight that seemed to be getting the lion’s share of publicity and a lot of interest was the women’s bout between Shannon Courtenay and Ebanie Bridges. I’m not really into women’s boxing and to be honest I had never heard of Ebanie Bridges until the article I saw on Ring’s website. Off that I went to Google images to see what the fuss was about. I was a little surprised at the presentation and of her weigh in attire and I thought, “Well THAT’S different…but can she fight?”

She talked a good game but if she brought nothing to the table then I figured it would be an embarrassing and painful evening (I was half right). Bridges was the stronger fighter and kept coming forward, pressing the fight making Courtenay fight her fight. There was plenty of toe to toe slugging offset by some boxing skills of Courtenay which turned out to be the difference in the fight. To her credit, even when she got visibly rocked late in the fight, Bridges never stopped coming forward. With her left eye closed and bruised (looking reminiscent of Carmen Basilio vs Robinson) her corner should never have let her come out for the last round. They are supposed to protect their fighter. I thought it was criminal…but that’s just me. The two ladies put on a helluva fight. Bravo to them, but If they do it again (as some suggested they might ruin each other). Might not be a good idea.

The other fight I want to mention is the title fight between Joe Smith and Maxim Vlasov. I have always liked Joe Smith from his every man persona to his no-nonsense fighting style. He is a union worker and I, as a former union guy (for 30 years) respected that too…and his highlight reel is second to none. I was ready for Joe to win his championship…all that being said….my impression as the fight ended, and you know what I mean here, when it’s over and you process who you thought won from what you just witnessed…I thought Vlasov won. I thought he out hustled Smith and that his twitchy unorthodox movement and quick punching totally confused Joe Smith who never could get much of a rhythm going.

I don’t know how you saw it Doug but I would be interested in what you thought. I do wish Joe well going forward and look ahead to what is next for him. – David, Nashville

Congrats to Joe Smith Jr., but how about that Maxim Vlasov!? Photo from Top Rank

Same here. I’m a Joe Smith Jr. fan. I wasn’t even mad at him for blasting the grand old man of boxing, Bernard Hopkins, right out of the ring and onto the cold, hard cement floor of The Forum. I was hoping he’d score a KO vs. Vlasov by the middle rounds because A) I wanted his fight to end before the Ennis-Lipinets started on Showtime, and B) because I wanted there to be real momentum toward a potentially explosive title unification showdown with Artur Beterbiev. However, by the third round I found myself rooting for the Russian veteran who was finally getting his first world title shot in his 49th pro bout (can you believe that? That’s some Marvin Hagler s__t right there!).

Smith brought the raw physical strength and punching power to the dance, but Vlasov was like a lanky boxing version of one of those Stretch Armstrong dolls from the ’70s. He absorbed Smith’s best punches like he was made of rubber and snapped back with fluid, unorthodox combinations. He kind of reminded me of Gabriel Campillo, who briefly held the WBA light heavyweight title but should have been the unified WBA-IBF champ (after sensational fights with Beibut Shumenov and Tavoris Cloud). The Spaniard southpaw had mad combinations and heart but he couldn’t punch and that always cost him in close fights. Same deal with Valsov vs. Smith. The fight was legitimately close, and I was impressed with the way Smith closed out the final two rounds, but the judges gave the American the benefit of the doubt in close rounds due to his heavier shots. I didn’t have a problem with Smith winning a close majority decision, but after watching the 12-round battle I felt like Vlasov got the better of Smith in more rounds than Smith got the better of Vlasov.

Mind you, I wasn’t scoring the fight. I just watched and enjoyed a damn good light heavyweight scrap because I also had the Showtime broadcast on (I watched ESPN+ from my laptop and Showtime from TV). When I get some time to myself this week, I’ll sit down and watch Smith-Vlasov again (without distractions) and score it round by round.

Sorry, I can’t comment on Cortenay-Bridges, I was running errands when that fight was on (nothing against women’s boxing, I also missed Benn-Vargas). I’ll have to catch up this week.  

Heavyweight Efe Ajagba turned in what might be the KO of the year against Brian Howard. It was certainly a chilling one-hitter-quitter. I think ESPN might have broken a record in the number of times they replayed it. I don’t mean to be a buzzkill (or the anti-Joe Tess) but keep in mind that Howard is a 40-year-old journeyman who has fought as light as 175 pounds and had been KO’d in three previous bouts.

 

BOXERS AND WEIGHT-LIFTING

Dougie,

When I was coming up, a lot of old-timers used to tell me that lifting for a boxer was bad. It made muscles tight and slowed you down. I experienced that myself when I experimented with weights and in some guys I’ve been in the ring with.  Muscles don’t win fights. Guys with muscles don’t necessarily hit hard.

Nowadays I see lots of videos with fighters lifting weights. It makes me cringe.  I can see the benefit in some strength training, focusing on the key lifts – squats, deadlifts, etc. But for the most part, I think it’s detrimental to a fighter. What are your thoughts on it? How do the trainers you talk to feel about it? – Muthena

I’m an ’80s kid and a child of the ’70s, Muthena, most of the trainers who took the time to answer my endless questions when I was first cutting my teeth as a boxing writer – hall-of-fame sages that include Emanuel Steward, Amilcar Brusa and Bill Slayton – are dead. They are from previous generations/eras. The trainers I talk to now – from Buddy McGirt to Abel Sanchez to the great Ken Adams (who’s 80) – are old school. They don’t shun cross training or strength and conditioning exercises, but their focus is on TEACHING the CRAFT of boxing. It’s not about body sculpting. When I see all these boxers posting videos of themselves doing deadlifts and squats and heavy ropes and the various agility drills, I think to myself “Good luck at the CrossFit Games.” And I hate to say it, but often times when I see these same boxers fight, they look sloppy as s__t and they gas out before the sixth round.

 

MYTHICAL 154-POUND TOURNAMENT

Hi Dougie,

I hope you’re well and immunized against Covid-19. I always look forward to Monday and Friday mailbags for boxing updates. I have a few questions which I hope make the mailbag this week:

(1) Why do fighters have so much more longevity now than they did a generation ago? Back in the 80s or 90s, a fighter in his early 30s was considered old. Nowadays, we see quite a lot of boxers competing at the top level in their late 30s or even 40s.

(2) Who do you think hit harder, early 1970s George Foreman or the early 1990s version? I am leaning towards the old man because of the extra 30+ lbs and tighter technique.

(3) Who wins this mythical junior middleweight tournament?

Top half:

Mike McCallum (1987) vs. John Mugabi (1985)

Felix Trinidad (2000) vs. Terry Norris (1992)

Bottom half:

Julian Jackson (1989) vs. Tommy Hearns (1984)

Roy Jones (early 1992) vs. Winky Wright (2004)

Cheers! – Ray

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and questions, Ray.

Why do fighters have so much more longevity now than they did a generation ago? Back in the 80s or 90s, a fighter in his early 30s was considered old. Back in the ’80s and ’90s – and certainly in previous decades – they fought way more often per year than the boxers do now and against a higher level of competition (on average). So, there was generally more wear and tear on their bodies.

Nowadays, we see quite a lot of boxers competing at the top level in their late 30s or even 40s. Yep. But I think today’s promising young boxers are more protected during the early stages of their careers than up-and-comers from previous eras, and I also think many of today’s fighters benefit from, ahem, vitamins and supplements (if you catch my drift).

Big George teetered but he never fell down vs. Holyfield.

Who do you think hit harder, early 1970s George Foreman or the early 1990s version? I am leaning towards the old man because of the extra 30+ lbs and tighter technique. I lean toward ’70s Foreman because of the speed and snap on his punches, plus the take-no-prisoners mentality he carried into the ring. I agree that ’90s Foreman had better technique. Old George was also sturdier, steadier and smarter. So, he paced himself better. But he was slow as molasses as wasn’t able to whack out world-class fighters the way he did in his youth. Guys like Tommy Morrison, Shannon Briggs, Alex Stewart, Lou Savarese and Axel Shulz would not have gone the distance with young Foreman, who probably would have killed a dude like Crawford Grimsley (who took old George 12 rounds). Having said that, I think young Foreman probably gasses out and gets stopped by the badass 1991 version of Evander Holyfield that old George took the distance.  

Your mythical junior middleweight tournament:

Top half:

Mike McCallum (1987) vs. John Mugabi (1985)McCallum by decision

Felix Trinidad (2000) vs. Terry Norris (1992)Trinidad by mid-rounds KO

Hearns celebrates after beating Wilfredo Benitez for the WBC 154-pound title. The Hitman was an awesome junior middleweight. Photo from The Ring archive

Bottom half:

Julian Jackson (1989) vs. Tommy Hearns (1984)Hearns by early KO

Roy Jones (early 1992) vs. Winky Wright (2004)Jones by close decision

McCallum edges Tito by close decision. Hearns knocks the still-green version of Jones out cold in the early rounds.

Hearns narrowly outpoints McCallum.

Your winner – Tommy “The Hitman” Hearns!

 

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 IG or Doug’s YouTube channel every Sunday.

 

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