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Dougie’s Friday Mailbag (Canelo-Bivol, Shakur Stevenson)

Canelo Alvarez and Dmitry Bivol pose at the final press conference ahead of their WBA light heavyweight title bout on Saturday at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Photo by Ed Mulholland/Matchroom
06
May

CANELO’S TOUGHEST CHALLENGE SINCE GGG

Hey Dougie,

Really enjoyed being able to read the mailbag again the past few weeks. You have already had great discussions on recent fights so I’m just going to skip ahead to Canelo vs Bivol. I see this as Canelo’s toughest challenge since GGG but still think Canelo is too good for Bivol. Not sure Bivol has the pop in his punches to slow Canelo enough. From what I’ve read your thinking is similar?

I’m heading to Vegas Friday and am super excited for my first ever Vegas fight. Other than the weigh-in and the fight itself, any recommendations for making the most out of my first, and possibly only, time going to a fight in Vegas? What do you think are the chances I get to see a classic fight, good fight, or stinker? You going to T-Mobile? Well thanks for any tips! – Ryan, Cincinnati



Hey Ryan, I think you’re gonna have a great time this weekend. I think the fight will be competitive and compelling, and if it isn’t, you’ll witness a memorable performance from Canelo. I’ll be there Friday and Saturday, so if you see me, don’t be a stranger. I always like meeting people from the great state of Ohio (where I spent my childhood during the 1970s).

If you’d asked me what to do in Sin City 15-20 years ago, I’d have had a lot of good (and a few really bad) suggestions for you, but I turn 52 later this month, those days are long gone! When I get to town, the first thing I’ll do once I’m checked in is take a nap! But if you want to chat it up with your fellow hardcore fight fans and maybe rub elbows with famous boxers and boxing insiders, the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame is hosting something called “Game Night with the Champs” at the RedTail restaurant inside Resorts World hotel on Friday night (starting at 7 p.m.) Former two-time welterweight titleholder Shawn Porter is hosting karaoke and video games with some of his peers after the NBHOF announces its 2021 and 2022 classes of inductees. It’s free! 

Beyond a special event like Game Night, what my buddy Steve Kim and I would do in Vegas during our younger/MaxBoxing years is hang out at the casino sportsbook or lobby bar (it was the sportsbook at Mandalay Bay; and it was the lobby bar – which was called the Betty Boop Lounge – when we stayed at the MGM Grand) because sooner or later the industry – trainers, managers, cornermen, promotional company folks, TV executives, and fellow media – would come through and spill their guts over drinks. At the MGM Grand, we’d either grab a table at the Lobby Bar that was near the main elevators, so we could holler at familiar faces who walked by, or we went to Fat Tuesdays down the escalators that lead to the parking lot, grabbed giant daiquiris and headed back up to the Lobby Bar and just leaned up against the outside wall facing the casino. Eventually, everybody who was or would be somebody in boxing would walk by, stop and chat. 

I see this as Canelo’s toughest challenge since GGG but still think Canelo is too good for Bivol. I agree.

Not sure Bivol has the pop in his punches to slow Canelo enough. I think he’s got enough pop to make Canelo think twice about bum rushing him, but I also believe that the Mexican star hits hard (and smart) enough to gradually break down the defending titleholder. 

From what I’ve read you’re thinking is similar? I think Bivol has the better (and busier) jab – which is a big deal – as well as a sneakier, more compact left hook. But Canelo is the better counterpuncher and more accurate power hitter. If he can slip and counter Bivol’s jab, I think he’ll systematically dismantle the Russian standout, but I don’t think Bivol is going to run around the ring – at least not at the onset of the contest. One thing I’ve noticed about Bivol is that he has a bad habit of dropping his hands immediately after jabbing and dropping his one-two combinations, and he’s open for straight right hands when he does this. I envision Canelo catching Bivol between shots, closing the ground and punishing the bigger man’s body with hooks. I don’t know if he can stop Bivol, but I think he’ll do more damage over 12 rounds and score a deserved decision. 

BIVOL IS GOOD, BUT… (HE’S NO BENAVIDEZ)

Dougie,

Long time reader but long time since I penned a letter and, well, depending on how busy it is for you; I am not sure if you do write Friday/Monday one, but hopefully I can make it. Regardless, I will be reading you. I miss them on a weekly basis as it was before, but I get that it takes a lot of work to answer back to us fight fans

In my humble opinion: as great as Canelo is (yes, absolutely he is great, so no hate from me) he learned, and it is using the Mayweather page as far picking as the right fights. I agree they are all challenging fights but darn how about fighting those in your regular weight class the fighters who most fight fans would like to see you take on, hello Benavidez 🙂

Basically, I hear the same story lines: Bivol presents a challenge, Bivol has this and that BUT, so the fact that there are always so many BUTs tells me everyone knows he will not present a challenge and who would win. It was the same for Smith, Plant,etc. The last time there were not so many BUTs was when Canelo fought GGG. What is it they say: Anything before BUT is BS!! 

It reminds me of Roy Jones fighting Ruiz (not Andy). We all knew he was going to beat him despite Roy jumping to fight at heavyweight. In fact, eventually Canelo will do that and fight at HW, but seriously do you see Canelo fighting a real heavy like Joshua or Fury? As much as you would have seen Roy fighting a Bowe or Holyfield?

Canelo went so Mayweather that he is saying the same things Mayweather/pundits said about him fighting Margarito when Canelo is asked about David Benavides. You know I am not making that up. I still believe Margarito would have given Mayweather a hell of a fight, the same as Castillo did in the 1st fight.

Canelo has been for a few years and will be the best fighter out there for a few more years. There is no argument on that as there was no argument about Mayweather during his reign. That said, sometimes there are fights you would like to watch unfold. Even my 16 year old who has been a boxing fan for a few years now tells me he would have liked to see Margarito fight Mayweather after watching fights on YouTube.

I believe that Benavidez will give Canelo a run for his money and as a boxing fan I like to see how it unfolds. Would Canelo school him the same Mayweather would have done to Margarito, highly likely but still you want to see them go at it. Take a page from Chocolatito, take on all comers, no excuses about them not being worth it, they have not fought anybody, let them fight themselves and then I fight them, etc. Would you see Chocolatito saying anything like that? To this date he fought anybody coming no matter what.

As a fight fan I would love to see that, as simple as that. – Carlos, Montreal

I get what you’re saying Carlos, but you can’t compare ANY of the big names of the current boxing scene to Roman Gonzalez. Chocolatito is a throwback. It’s why he’s my favorite active fighter. But he’s also campaigned in the overlooked and underpaid sub-bantamweight divisions. Nobody – not even the pound-for-pound level dudes like Gonzalez, Estrada and Ioka – gets paid what they deserve in those lighter weight classes. They all gotta fight each other to make a decent buck and set up any kind of retirement nest egg. 

In 2013, Mayweather was the P4P King and top shot-caller in boxing, while Canelo was an up-and-comer. Now Canelo is the Man.

You’re right to compare Canelo to Mayweather (even though I think the Mexican star is more entertaining and takes more risks than the American legacy standout). Canelo is the highest paid/most in-demand pro boxer in the game, and – like Mayweather 10 years ago – is THE shot-caller. That means he can pick and choose among the best of the three weight classes – middleweight, super middleweight and light heavyweight. His last three opponents have been unbeaten world titleholders, and that path has been celebrated by most of the boxing world, but it’s been pooh-poohed by the fans of the fighters he HASN’T fought yet – which includes Demetrius Andrade, Jermall Charlo and your guy, Benavidez. 

Personally, I’d rather see Canelo face Charlo or Benavidez than Bivol because I like those style matchups better, but I respect his choice of the WBA light heavyweight titleholder because I know the Russian is a quality boxer. And, hey, if he beats Bivol and goes on to face GGG and later the Beterbiev-Smith winner (for light heavyweight supremacy), I certainly won’t complain. 

I hear the same story lines: Bivol presents a challenge, Bivol has this and that BUT, so the fact that there are always so many BUTs tells me everyone knows he will not present a challenge and who would win. Really? I think it’s kind of strange that there are “so many buts” with Bivol but you don’t actually name them. Maybe there aren’t as many as those “same story lines” would have you believe.

It was the same for Smith, Plant, etc. OK, but I think Bivol is more formidable than those two.

It reminds me of Roy Jones fighting Ruiz (not Andy). We all knew he was going to beat him despite Roy jumping to fight at heavyweight. Yeah, we all knew he’d win, but that didn’t take away from the significance of the undisputed light heavyweight champ winning the WBA heavyweight title. We still elevated Jones to No. 1 pound-for-pound after that performance (if we didn’t already consider him the P4P King). It should be the same deal if the undisputed super middleweight champ wins the WBA light heavyweight title. 

In fact, eventually Canelo will do that and fight at HW, but seriously do you see Canelo fighting a real heavy like Joshua or Fury? No. But if he did, I’d expect weirdos to still say he’s ducking Boo Boo Andrade.

Canelo went so Mayweather that he is saying the same things Mayweather/pundits said about him fighting Margarito when Canelo is asked about David Benavidez. You know I am not making that up. I still believe Margarito would have given Mayweather a hell of a fight, the same as Castillo did in the 1st fight. I believed the same thing and I wanted to see that

David Benavidez takes it to Ronald Ellis. Photo by Amanda Westcott/ SHOWTIME

fight. But here’s a big difference between the Benavidez of now and Margarito by the end of 2006: The Tijuana Tornado had faced more legit welterweight prospects, gatekeepers and contenders – (in order) Sergio Martinez, Daniel Santos, Antonio Diaz, Danny Perez, Andrew “Six-Heads” Lewis, Hercules Kyvelos, Sebastian Lujan, Kermit Cintron, Manuel “Shotgun” Gomez, and Joshua Clottey – by that time than anyone else in the division. (It was after the Gomez fight in February 2006 when Bob Arum tried to make the Mayweather fight.) To date (after eight and a half years as pro), the best name on Benavidez’s resume is a mid-30s Anthony Dirrell (who gave him a good fight before being stopped in nine rounds in September 2019). After Dirrell, Benavidez lost the WBC title (his ticket to a Canelo showdown) on the scales before fighting Roamer Angulo. Since then, Benavidez has stopped Canelo sparring partner Ronald Ellis in 11 rounds and late-sub Kyrone Davis, whose claim to fame is holding the 2021 version of Dirrell to a draw. 

Don’t get me wrong. I think Benavidez is a badass. He’s a real fighter. But I think you’re getting overly excited about him and his style based on his dominance against a certain level of fighter, while dismissing a more battle-tested boxer in Bivol, who has faced Sullivan Barrera, Isaac Chilemba, former champ Jean Pascal and future titleholder Joe Smith Jr. in consecutive bouts between March 2018 and March 2019. 

 

EXCITED FOR CANELO-BIVOL

Hi Doug,

Hope you, the family and team are doing well. It’s fight week!

You’ll gather I’m more than a little excited about this fight. I know people think Bivol has lost some of the mystique he had around him early on but I still consider him a solid and stern test for Canelo.

You know I like to root for the underdog and even tho I rate Bivol highly I’m struggling to see how he can win. Canelo’s seen it all. Can Bivol hit harder than Kovalev or GGG? Punch faster than Khan? Move around better than BJS? Even if he could, Canelo would most likely figure it out.

For me, Bivol is solid all round, plants his feet really well to put power behind his shots, has got a very good underrated intelligent jab, and of course he’s naturally the bigger guy being taller with a longer reach. He’s also a good ring general and doesn’t panic.

I suppose another way to look at it, ignoring the weight class difference, is how does Bivol stack up against Canelo opponents?

GGG?

Kovalev?

BJS?

Jacobs?

Is Bivol the best Light Heavyweight out there?

Well being a Brit, it’s interesting how Uncle Frank never mentions Bivol when discussing Yard and Eddie Hearn, who has promoted Bivol in the past, won’t match him against Buatsi who have both had a similar number of fights as Bivol.

Does he beat Beterbiev? IMHO yes.

I just have a feeling that Bivol’s mind set, resolve and toughness will make this fight much more interesting than it may appear on paper. To my eyes Bivol has been a special talent and passed every test so far. Is this a jump too high to fast? IMHO yes, but that’s to Canelo’s credit not Bivol’s disgrace. Canelo is just head and shoulders above everyone else right now.

How you calling it?

MM:

Canelo Vs SRL

Canelo Vs SRR

Canelo Vs RJJ

Fury Vs AJ (will probably only ever be a MM)

Cap’s vibranium shield Vs Wolverine adamantium claws Vs mandalorian beskar armour

Keep up the good work! – Tabraze, London

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and opinions, Tabraze. 

Here are my thoughts on your mythical matchups:

Canelo Vs SRLLeonard by UD at 154 and close UD or MD at 160 pounds; Canelo by close UD above 160

Canelo Vs SRRRobinson by UD (at any weight).

Canelo Vs RJJJones by close UD at 160, clear UD or late TKO at 168, and competitive UD at 175.

Fury Vs AJ (will probably only ever be a MM)Fury by close UD (entertaining fight)

Cap’s vibranium shield Vs Wolverine adamantium claws Vs mandalorian beskar armourCaptain America’s shield beats any weapon or armor. 

You know I like to root for the underdog and even tho I rate Bivol highly I’m struggling to see how he can win. If he pulls off the upset you’re going to hate yourself for not calling it. LOL. 

Canelo’s seen it all. Yep.

Can Bivol hit harder than Kovalev or GGG? Nope, but he’s a more fluid puncher.

Punch faster than Khan? No, but he hits a lot harder (without trying).

Move around better than BJS? Maybe, but I don’t think he’ll try to. 

Even if he could, Canelo would most likely figure it out. Of course! That’s what elite-level veterans with 60 pro bouts under their belts do. 

Bivol outclassed current WBO light heavyweight titleholder Joe Smith Jr. in 2019. Photo by Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing USA

For me, Bivol is solid all round, plants his feet really well to put power behind his shots, has got a very good underrated intelligent jab, and of course he’s naturally the bigger guy being taller with a longer reach. He’s also a good ring general and doesn’t panic. That’s a pretty good scouting report, Tabraze. I’ll add that he’s athletic (fast and coordinated with good reflexes) and has a sneaky hook and hard straight right. 

I suppose another way to look at it, ignoring the weight class difference, is how does Bivol stack up against Canelo opponents? GGG? Kovalev? BJS? Jacobs? He’s right there with them, if not better. Prime versions of Golovkin and Kovalev beat him, maybe stop him late, but he’d probably outpoint both now. I don’t see Saunders, Jacobs, Jermall Charlo, or Demetrius Andrade beating him. David Benavidez might be able to stop him late with his pressure and volume punching, but I can also see Bivol outboxing and outpointing him. 

Is Bivol the best Light Heavyweight out there? I rate Artur Beterbiev ahead of him. 

Well being a Brit, it’s interesting how Uncle Frank never mentions Bivol when discussing Yard and Eddie Hearn, who has promoted Bivol in the past, won’t match him against Buatsi who have both had a similar number of fights as Bivol. Warren knows Buatsi ain’t ready. Let’s see how he does vs. Craig Richards later this month. If he shines, hopefully Warren will remove the training wheels and put him in with a legit contender next. 

Does he beat Beterbiev? IMHO yes. Maybe. I wish they would have made that fight a year ago. Oh well, if we can get the winner of Saturday’s showdown vs. the Beterbiev-Smith winner within a year, I’ll be a happy Blood Thirsty Ghoul.

I just have a feeling that Bivol’s mind set, resolve and toughness will make this fight much more interesting than it may appear on paper. Trust your feelings, Tabraze. Wait. I just remembered you picked Dillian Whyte to beat Tyson Fury. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT trust your feelings!

Is this a jump too high too fast? IMHO yes, but that’s to Canelo’s credit not Bivol’s disgrace. Canelo is just head and shoulders above everyone else right now. Canelo and Beterbiev are the only fighters from 168-175 pounds that I’d pick to beat him. 

How you calling it? Canelo by UD. 

 

DOES STEVENSON NEED MORE DIMENSION?

 

Hello Dougie,

This is my first time writing into your mailbag. All the pundits have been raving over Shakur Stevenson’s domination of Oscar Valdez, and while I agree it was a virtuoso performance, it actually raised a few questions for me.

First, while I’ve been a bit on the fence about Valdez and popping positive for PEDs, I think it’s pretty indisputable that he hasn’t looked even remotely as good as he did when he soundly defeated Berchelt. I feel like that just has to raise concerns about the legitimacy of that win. In this fight, even though he was told to go to the body, he didn’t seem to make much of an attempt at that, or try to come in behind a jab, instead continuing to fail with that high guard that wasn’t doing him any good. I felt it was a little bizarre how unable he was to make adjustments or perform at the level we saw in the Berchelt fight. How much of that was Stevenson making him look bad, and how much do you think could be, shall we call it other factors?

Second, I think Shakur has a unique, maybe generational talent at judging distance. I have seen very few who are as good as he is at standing right in front of someone and making them miss by centimeters. I don’t want to take anything away from him because he’s a very special fighter, and it clearly works for him, even if he looks like a clown running away smirking at the end of a championship unification fight. But I couldn’t help but think that he lacks some dimension to his game.

I’ve watched quite a few of his fights by now, and he always does exactly what he does: he stands in front, peppers his opponent with probes, makes them miss with his subtle footwork and pulls, and counters. He’s got to be one of the most frustrating people to fight, because you always know where he’s going to be, and yet you still can’t hit him. The problem, as I see it, is that it’s very hard to do real damage to someone from right in front of them in the pocket, because they’re a lot more likely to see the punches coming. It’s very rare for him to take an angle, for instance, as we might see from Boots Ennis or Vergil Ortiz, or even compatriots like Tank Davis, let alone people like Lomachenko and Usyk, who are masters at getting the angle and turning their opponents to setup devastating offense.

So uppercuts, and occasionally setting up a hook from either side, are about as good as he gets for hitting his opponent that they don’t see coming, and he doesn’t seem to really put his bodyweight into those uppercuts. They’re fast, but he seems like he’s more of an attrition and points fighter, and he certainly doesn’t seem to have a killer instinct to finish an opponent.  When you outclass someone as badly as he was outclassing Valdez, I feel like any of the pound for pound stalwarts would go for the finish. But that’s rare for Stevenson.

It leaves me a little torn because I don’t know who I would back to beat him in his weight classes, although I think Tank Davis and Lomachenko would be very interesting matchups, but I also feel like he’s missing both killer instinct, and also other aspects that we normally see in top fighters, such as the ability to take angles to really enhance his offense. I’m not sure he’ll ever need it, but it makes me feel like he doesn’t fit in my pound for pound list. Moreover, it makes him less fun to watch. He always looks like a cat playing with his food. That might make it harder to get good fights and really catapult into superstardom, much like Guillermo Rigondeaux is never going to put butts in seats. Am I being too hard on him? Do you think he needs to add more dimension to his game to be really worthy of the plaudits he’s getting, or will his current style carry him all the way through his career and leave him in pound for pound, or even ATG discussions?

Thanks for reading my long-winded question here. – Nicholas, currently from Alaska

Members of the Ring Ratings Panel suggested Stevenson crack the pound-for-pound rankings after his domination of Valdez. He didn’t get enough votes to do so, but if he keeps winning handily, it’s only a matter of time before he’s in there. I think he’s worthy now, but he’ll likely prove it as a lightweight. 

Regarding the “dimensions” to his style, yeah it would be awesome if he boxed and fought like a 130-pound prime James Toney, but he is what he is – un-freakin’-touchable. His current style and boxing mentality has served him well. He’ll be regarded as one of the best boxers in the sport whether he closes the show or not. Pernell Whitaker didn’t go for the KO, and we recognized him as the P4P King for years. Same deal with Floyd Mayweather Jr. above 140 pounds. Those two were criticized for not being more entertaining, but they were still in the biggest and most significant boxing events of their eras. All they needed was dance partners and that’s all that Stevenson needs. The good news is that he’s got worthy potential rivals waiting for him at lightweight. The screwy politics of boxing might prevent him from facing Tank and Ryan Garcia, but if he remains with Top Rank he could one day face the likes of Lomachenko and Devin Haney (who could hold all the world titles by then) at 135, and eventually the likes of Teofimo Lopez, Arnold Barboza, Jose Zepda and Jose Ramirez at 140. Maybe one or two of those guys can force Stevenson to “open up” more. 

First, while I’ve been a bit on the fence about Valdez and popping positive for PEDs, I think it’s pretty indisputable that he hasn’t looked even remotely as good as he did when he soundly defeated Berchelt. Although Berchelt was a solid odds favorite over Valdez, he was tailor made for the two-time Olympian in terms of style and mentality. Valdez didn’t have to look for him. On top of that, Berchelt was struggling like hell to make 130 pounds and was coming off a bout with COVID when Valdez shocked him. I’m not saying that victory was a mirage, but we shouldn’t assume Valdez was “juiced” and we damn sure shouldn’t compare Berchelt to Stevenson. 

I feel like that just has to raise concerns about the legitimacy of that win. That’s fair. But lacking any proof of wrong doing, I’m going to give Valdez credit for the victory. 

In this fight, even though he was told to go to the body, he didn’t seem to make much of an attempt at that, or try to come in behind a jab, instead continuing to fail with that high guard that wasn’t doing him any good. It’s like when fans were perplexed why GGG didn’t go to Daniel Jacobs’ or Canelo’s bodies. Their styles and talent simply didn’t make that an easy task. It’s hard to nail the midsection on a boxer who’s on the move. It’s dangerous to attack the body of an accurate, heavy hitting counter puncher.

I felt it was a little bizarre how unable he was to make adjustments or perform at the level we saw in the Berchelt fight. How much of that was Stevenson making him look bad, and how much do you think could be, shall we call it other factors? Valdez was simply outclassed by Stevenson. Don’t overthink it. 

 

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 Doug’s IG Live every Sunday.

 

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