Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Rios Has Reaffirmed His Status As A Player In The Welterweight Division

One of the most interesting topics in the sport of Boxing is whenever a discussion takes place concerning some of the greatest series of fights that have taken place in the sport. What sometimes is not talked about often is the physical toll that a series of fights can have on fighters.

A question that I had prior to the much-anticipated third meeting between Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado was how much did either fighter have left? After all, both Rios and Alvarado have crowd pleasing styles and have always given their best whenever they enter the ring. Two fighters who are more than willing to go toe to toe.

The first two encounters between Rios and Alvarado provided much action and left both Boxing fans and experts alike wanting more. Rios scoring a come from behind stoppage of Alvarado in their first meeting in 2012, which some feel was a controversial stoppage. Alvarado would get the nod in the second battle in 2013 winning a close twelve round unanimous decision in a fight that much like the first was full of fireworks.

After their second encounter, there would not be an immediate third battle to close the chapter of Rios versus Alvarado. Instead, both fighters would face other opposition before turning their attention toward each other. Alvarado, who won interim status in the WBO’s Jr. Welterweight ratings with his victory over Rios in the second fight would be elevated to the status of champion.

 Alvarado’s reign however, would not be long as he would lose the WBO Jr. Welterweight world championship in his first title defense against top contender Ruslan Provodnikov in ten rounds in October 2013. Alvarado would suffer another setback when he lost a twelve round unanimous decision to former multi-division world champion Juan Manuel Marquez in May of last year.

Rios meanwhile would move up in weight to the Welterweight division and gave a “Game” effort in losing a hard fought twelve round unanimous decision to Manny Pacquiao in November 2013. After the loss to Pacquiao, Rios remained in the Welterweight division and earned a disqualification victory over top contender Diego Chaves in August of last year in what was a foul filled contest.

This would lead to Rios and Alvarado renewing their rivalry when they met to complete their trilogy on January 24th at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield, Colorado. Unlike the first two encounters between the two however, there would be no drama. Rios battered Alvarado for three rounds, scoring a knockdown of his opponent in round three before the fight was stopped after the third round.

Although the rubber match between Rios and Alvarado simply did not live up to the anticipation that preceded it, Rios’ performance in the fight was very impressive and has reaffirmed his status as a player in the 147lb. Welterweight division. From the opening bell Rios implemented an almost relentless attack to the body and head of Alvarado and simply did not allow Alvarado any time to slow the pace as Rios out landed Alvarado 120/290 to Alvarado’s 20/87 total punches thrown.

Despite the fact that the third fight between these two men did not last as long as their previous two encounters, Rios’ performance should keep him in the discussion of potential lucrative bouts in the Welterweight division. As far as what may be in store for Rios in terms of the immediate future, with much of the division waiting to see whether or not the much-anticipated potential clash between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, the Welterweight division’s two most prominent figures will finally take place, it leaves a question mark on what may happen in regard to the rest of the division whether Mayweather-Pacquiao takes place or not.

In this observer’s opinion, I believe that potential fights between Rios and the likes of Timothy Bradley, Juan Manuel Marquez, Sadam Ali, and Marcos Maidana could all be interesting options and would likely be welcomed by Boxing fans. If Rios faces either of these men in the near future a victory over either would likely catapult him into a potential shot at a Welterweight world championship.

Although Brandon Rios has been through his share of wars in his thirty-six fight professional career, at twenty-eight years of age it is clear that he is not done competing at the elite level of the sport and Rios has more fight left in him. There may be some however, who are likely wondering whether or not the same can be said for Mike Alvarado.

It is certainly difficult to argue against the opinion that coming out of this trilogy it appears that Mike Alvarado is the one who has had more taken out of him than has Rios. At thirty-four years of age and having lost four of his last five bouts one may indeed question whether or not this latest loss to Rios will signal the end of Mike Alvarado’s career as a fighter.

Even though it is unclear as to what the future may hold for Mike Alvarado, it is important to remember the physical toll that a fighter goes through not only in regard to the fights that he’s fought, but also the preparation a fighter goes through prior to a fight. Although Alvarado himself stated after the third fight with Rios that he was not prepared as he should have been, Alvarado has engaged in several memorable battles in recent years inside the ring and it is quite possible that the accumulative effect of those fights have taken a toll on him.

Whether or not Mike Alvarado will continue his career is a question that only he can answer. I do believe however, that if Alvarado allows himself time to allow his body to recover from the wars that he has been through over the last couple of years, it may be beneficial in terms of extending his career. Sometimes all a fighter needs is time to regroup. 

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

The Boxing Truth ® is a registered trademark of Beau Denison All Rights Reserved.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Was Wilder’s Victory Over Stiverne The Beginning Of A New Era In The Heavyweight Division?

On January 17th the Boxing world centered on the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada for the first World Heavyweight championship fight of 2015 as WBC champion Bermane Stiverne defended his title against undefeated number one contender and knockout artist Deontay Wilder. Prior to this fight, I discussed some of the similarities between this fight and Mike Tyson’s historic world championship victory over then WBC champion Trevor Berbick in November 1986.

On paper the fight between Stiverne and Wilder did seem to present a similar scenario as when Tyson dethroned Berbick. An undefeated challenger who was considered the favorite going into the fight to win the title based in large part on his ability to score quick knockouts going against a champion who was making the first defense of his world title, who was considered an underdog to retain his crown. This similarity between the Stiverne-Wilder fight and the Berbick-Tyson fight is where any similarity  between the two fights would end.

In contrast, to Mike Tyson’s quick knockout of Trevor Berbick nearly twenty-nine years ago, the fight between Bermane Stiverne and Deontay Wilder would not have a similar outcome. The fight would however, provide action, excitement, and would also answer some questions that some may have asked prior to this fight in the process. The challenger Wilder, who entered the fight unbeaten in thirty-two professional bouts with all thirty-two of his victories coming via knockout had never been extended beyond four rounds in his professional career.

Although some who picked Wilder to win the fight had expected an early knockout, Wilder would surprise many as he fought a disciplined fight where he elected to box instead of looking for a quick knockout. Wilder used a consistent jab to set up combinations and along with good lateral movement was able to control the action for much of the fight. Though Wilder was clearly the more active of the two fighters throughout much of the fight, there were also periods where Wilder’s chin was also tested. This was evident when the champion Stiverne was able to land counter punches on Wilder and have periods of success landing punches while pushing the challenger back.

Over the course of this fight three questions were asked of Deontay Wilder. How Wilder would respond to being taken into the middle and late rounds of a fight, how he would respond to an opponent who withstood his offense and kept coming forward, and how his chin would hold up against one of the best Heavyweights in the division. As the fight went on Wilder would answer all three of those questions. He did not fade as the fight progressed, he was not discouraged when his opponent kept coming forward, despite taking significant punishment throughout the fight, and Wilder also showed he had a solid chin and could take Stiverne’s punches.

Even though the result of this fight would ultimately be a lopsided twelve round unanimous decision in favor of Deontay Wilder, what should not be overlooked is the heart and will of the former champion Bermane Stiverne, who was quite “Game” and never stopped trying to turn the fight in his favor. Although Stiverne was unable to attack Wilder consistently throughout and was only able to have success in spurts, he does deserve credit for the effort he put forth. After all, there were some who felt that Stiverne would become Wilder’s thirty third knockout victim in as many fights. Not only did Stiverne go the distance with Wilder, he was also able to provide Wilder with his first significant test.

As for the new champion Deontay Wilder, the victory not only earned him the WBC Heavyweight world championship, but in winning the fight he became the first American to win a World Heavyweight championship in the sport in nearly eight years. Off of a very impressive performance in his first world championship fight, an interesting question that some might be asking is whether or not Wilder’s victory might be the beginning of a new era in the Heavyweight division.

Even though there is no disputing that Deontay Wilder has established himself as one of two world champions in the Heavyweight division and proved in his fight with Bermane Stiverne that he is more than just a power puncher, this observer is not sure that a new era for the Heavyweight division is on the horizon just yet. Although the division now has a new champion, the division is still largely ruled by unified IBF/WBO/WBA/IBO world champion Wladimir Klitschko, who has compiled seventeen successful title defenses in his second reign as Heavyweight champion, which began in 2006. As the years have gone on, Klitschko has continued to dominate opponents and has shown no signs as he approaches his thirty- ninth birthday in March, of diminishing skills.

As I stated prior to Deontay Wilder’s fight with Bermane Stiverne, an interesting storyline that some feel could play out in 2015 is the potential unification of the Heavyweight division. It will be interesting to see whether or not a fight for the undisputed Heavyweight championship of the world does indeed take place before the end of the year.

In terms of the immediate future, it has been announced that Klitschko will defend his unified world championship on April 25th against undefeated top contender Bryant Jennings at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. What makes this interesting in terms of how it might impact the WBC championship equation is that Bryant Jennings is currently a mandatory challenger for the WBC title.

Although one can assume that the WBC will sanction a fight between the next two available top contenders to determine a new mandatory challenger for Deontay Wilder, seeing as Bryant Jennings will be fighting Klitschko for his unified world title, this would theoretically in the meantime give Wilder the possibility of making an elective defense of the WBC title. For his part Wilder has stated that he would like to face undefeated top contender Tyson Fury. What makes that potential fight interesting is Fury is currently the WBO’s mandatory challenger for Wladimir Klitschko and is the only mandatory challenger as of this writing in either of the four sanctioning organizations’ who’s world titles Klitschko currently holds respective Heavyweight ratings.

This could theoretically present a scenario where the winner of the Klitschko-Jennings bout could face the winner of a potential Wilder-Fury bout for the undisputed Heavyweight world championship. Before a fight between Wilder and Fury can be signed however, Fury must first step into the ring as he is currently scheduled to face WBO number four rated Heavyweight contender Christian Hammer on February 28th in London, England.

It will be interesting to see how these two fights might play a role in who Deontay Wilder chooses to face in his first title defense. While it remains to be seen whether or not the Heavyweight division is approaching what might be a new era, it is clear that the division is heading for an intriguing  period of time with a couple of compelling storylines. A dominant Heavyweight champion in Wladimir Klitschko continuing his march towards Boxing history as he may challenge Joe Louis’ all-time record for consecutive title defenses in any weight class in the history of the sport. With seventeen successful title defenses Klitschko is eight successful defenses away from tying Louis’ record of twenty-five successful defenses. If Klitschko can continue his march, that storyline will become increasingly a focal point of the division.

Another storyline that has emerged along with the potential unification of the Heavyweight division just might be a fighter who could ultimately be viewed as Klitschko’s potential successor. As a new Heavyweight champion begins his reign it will surely be interesting to see whether he too in time will be viewed as a dominant champion.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

The Boxing Truth ® is a registered trademark of Beau Denison All Rights Reserved.

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Friday, January 16, 2015

A Look At Stiverne-Wilder

As 2014 drew to a close, one of the interesting storylines that some feel could play out in 2015 is the potential unification of the Heavyweight division. Before any talk of a unification bout to determine an undisputed Heavyweight champion of the world can take place however, a fight that has become one of the more anticipated fights in the division in recent times will take place this weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Current WBC Heavyweight world champion Bermane Stiverne will make the first defense of his world title against undefeated current WBC number one contender Deontay Wilder at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Stiverne, the first Haitian to become a World Heavyweight champion, won the vacant WBC world title in May of last year when he scored a sixth round stoppage in his rematch with top contender Chris Arreola. In scoring his second victory over Arreola, Stiverne not only made Boxing history, but also became one of two world champions in the Heavyweight division joining unified IBF/WBA/WBO/IBO world champion Wladimir Klitschko.

The dominance of what this observer has often referred to as “The Two-Headed Heavyweight Championship Monster” known as the Klitschko brothers has for the moment been broken by former WBC champion Vitali Klitschko’s retirement. I stated prior to Stiverne’s rematch with Chris Arreola that no matter whom would emerge victorious as the new WBC world champion in the Heavyweight division that the winner would face a different battle. The battle for recognition that many past champions who succeeded fighters who had dominant reigns as world champion have had to take on. 

Stiverne’s first title defense will come in the form of the undefeated Deontay Wilder. Wilder, the 2008 Olympic Heavyweight Bronze Medalist has compiled thirty-two victories as a professional, winning all of those bouts by knockout. Wilder’s knockout streak is certainly one of the most impressive in the history of the entire sport as well as the Heavyweight division.

Some critics however, have stated that Wilder has not faced fighters who most consider top contenders. The criticism of Wilder’s level of opposition by some notwithstanding, his knockout streak is something that does deserve respect. Wilder has also been able to score knockout wins over fighters such as Jason Gavern, Audley Harrison, Malik Scott, and most notably over former WBO Heavyweight world champion Sergei Liakhovich. Even though the criticism in this observer’s eyes has been based on how quickly Wilder has been able to score these knockouts, as no opponent has been able to extend Wilder beyond four rounds, this observer believes that whatever criticism still exists regarding Wilder will be answered as he is now fighting at the top level of the Heavyweight division.

From a stylistic standpoint the fight between Stiverne and Wilder has the makings of what could be a shootout. Although Wilder, who has never gone the distance in his career is favored to win the WBC title over Stiverne, it is important to remember despite Wilder’s knockout streak, Stiverne comes into this fight with not only the WBC title, but also a career knockout percentage of over 80% in twenty-six professional fights. Stiverne, who has won twenty-four of those twenty-six bouts has been undefeated for nearly eight years since losing via what some feel was a controversial stoppage to journeyman Heavyweight Demetrice King in July 2007 and earning a draw against Charles Davis in April 2009. 

It will be interesting to see whether Stiverne will attempt a tactical approach in this fight and look to extend Wilder into the middle and late rounds. It will however, be equally as interesting to see if Wilder will look to conserve his stamina and not go for a quick knockout.

In thinking about this fight over the last couple of weeks, I started to have thoughts of the similarities between this fight between Stiverne and Wilder and the fight between former Heavyweight champion Trevor Berbick and a twenty year-old Phenom named Mike Tyson in November 1986. Much like the fight between Stiverne and Wilder, Berbick-Tyson was also for the WBC Heavyweight world championship.  As will be the case when Stiverne and Wilder enter the ring to do battle the fight between Berbick and Tyson pitted a champion in Berbick who was making his first title defense going against a fighter who like Wilder compiled an impressive undefeated record stopping twenty-five of twenty-seven opponents before challenging Berbick. Much like Wilder, Tyson was also considered a favorite prior to the fight to dethrone Berbick.

When Berbick and Tyson met on November 22, 1986 it served as the culmination of one fighter’s rise to a top of the Heavyweight division. Tyson scored a second round knockout of Berbick to win the WBC title and at age twenty became the youngest Heavyweight champion in Boxing history, a distinction that Tyson still holds to this day.

While the twenty-nine year old Deontay Wilder will not be attempting to become the youngest Heavyweight champion in history when he faces Stiverne, he will be attempting to become the first American to hold a Heavyweight world championship in nearly eight years. If Wilder is successful against Stiverne, he will become the first American Heavyweight champion since Shannon Briggs, who held the WBO Heavyweight world championship from 2006-2007 who lost his title in June 2007 to Sultan Ibragimov via twelve round unanimous decision.

Although Wilder is favored over the champion Bermane Stiverne, as this observer has often said over the years “Anything can happen at any given time in the sport of Boxing and that is what makes our sport great.” This is especially true in regard to the Heavyweight division.

Granted there may be some similarities between Mike Tyson’s fight against Trevor Berbick and the lead up to this fight between Stiverne and Wilder. Can the knockout artist in Wilder dethrone Stiverne? Yes this may be a similar scenario as when Tyson met Berbick for the WBC world championship nearly twenty-nine years ago, it does not however, necessarily mean that the similarities between that fight and this fight between Stiverne and Wilder will produce a similar outcome.

The outcome of the fight between Bermane Stiverne and Deontay Wilder will not only center on who will emerge with the WBC Heavyweight world championship, but also and perhaps more importantly, the winner of this fight could theoretically be in position to face Wladimir Klitschko for the undisputed Heavyweight championship of the world. With so much at stake for both champion and challenger the Boxing world now focuses its attention on the first Heavyweight championship fight of 2015. One can hardly wait to see what happens on Saturday night.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

The Boxing Truth ® is a registered trademark of Beau Denison All Rights Reserved.

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Monday, January 12, 2015

What’s Next For Dusty Hernandez-Harrison Following Win Over Rainone?

There is one scenario in the sport of Boxing that everyone can identify with.  A fighter working his way up the ranks and becoming a prospect. As that fighter generates interest and continues his rise the question that is often asked is when that fighter will go from a prospect to a contender?  Highly touted Welterweight prospect Dusty Hernandez-Harrison has become a fighter that should be viewed as a rising star in the 147lb. Welterweight division.  

Hernandez-Harrison, a native of Washington, D.C. had an outstanding amateur career winning one hundred seventy-three of two hundred amateur fights. Following his amateur career, Hernandez-Harrison turned pro in 2011 compiling twenty-four victories, and in the process quickly has emerged as a prospect to watch.

In November of last year Hernandez-Harrison scored a first round knockout over veteran contender Michael Clark. The twenty year-old Hernandez-Harrison stepped back in the ring on January 9th in the Theater at Madison Square Garden against Tommy Rainone in a bout for the WBC Continental-America’s Welterweight championship.

What impressed me about Hernandez-Harrison’s performance in this fight was the consistent pressure that he put forth against Rainone, who attempted to be an elusive target as he used lateral movement to try to land punches and maintain distance. Despite having some difficulty finding Rainone early in the fight, Hernandez-Harrison’s consistent pressure, greater activity, and combination punching was the story of the fight as he would go on to win a lopsided ten round unanimous decision. Although Rainone was quite “Game” he simply could not find a way to land punches consistently on Hernandez-Harrison and could not nullify Hernandez-Harrison’s pressure. 

After what could be best described as a workmanlike performance by Hernandez-Harrison, an interesting question will be what is next for him? There is no doubt that the Welterweight division is one of the most competitive weight classes in the entire sport. Hernandez-Harrison, who entered the fight with Rainone rated number seventeen in the WBC and number fourteen in the WBO Welterweight ratings respectively would appear likely to be nearing a fight against someone in either organization’s top ten.

What titles such as the WBC’s Continental-America’s championship really mean in the overall picture is that whomever holds the title is theoretically approaching status as a top contender as was the case with Deontay Wilder, who will be fighting for the WBC world championship in the Heavyweight division this weekend now as the WBC’s number one rated Heavyweight contender.

In regard to the Welterweight division there are a few possible future opponents for Hernandez-Harrison that I believe could potentially lead to a title shot down the line. Names such as Sadam Ali, Jeff Horn, Josesito Lopez, Yoshihiro Kamegai, and David Avanesyan could all present an interesting fight for Hernandez-Harrison.

A conundrum that can present itself for those who handle the career of a fighter and something that can be the subject of much debate among both fans and experts alike is how quickly a fighter should be moved up the ranks and pitted against top level opposition. In a division that is as talent stacked as the Welterweight division is, this could be an interesting question for a highly touted prospect such as Hernandez-Harrison.

In this observer’s opinion, although Hernandez-Harrison is only twenty years old, he has won all twenty-five of his fights as a professional and I believe he is a rising star in the Welterweight division. Whether or not Hernandez-Harrison will fight either of the fighters I mentioned as possible future opponents remains to be seen. 

One thing however, is clear Dusty Hernandez-Harrison is certainly a fighter to watch and it will be interesting to see where he goes as he continues to climb the ranks of the Welterweight division.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

The Boxing Truth ® is a registered trademark of Beau Denison All Rights Reserved.

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