Sunday, November 29, 2015

Is Fury’s Win Over Klitschko The Beginning Of A New Era In The Heavyweight Division?

When a world champion establishes dominance as a champion through holding a championship for lengthy periods of time and multiple title defenses the obvious question that will be asked among Boxing fans and experts alike is who might come along who can derail that champion. There have been of course many dominant champions in several different weight classes throughout the history the sport who eventually saw their reigns come to an end.

For long-reigning unified IBF/WBO/WBA/IBO Heavyweight world champion Wladimir Klitschko, his second reign as a Heavyweight world champion saw him become the very best the division had to offer. Over nine years since regaining a portion of the Heavyweight world championship in 2006 Klitschko saw his reign extend to eighteen successful title defenses, thirteen of those defenses ending in knockouts and successfully unifying four of five recognized world championships along the way.

For a significant part of that period of time Klitschko shared dominance of the division with his older brother Vitali Klitschko, who held the WBC world championship. The brothers Klitschko have been referred to by this observer as “The two-headed Heavyweight championship monster” over the years due to each brother’s dominance of the division. Following Vitali’s retirement in 2013, the Klitschko dominance continued with Wladimir recognized as the number one fighter in the division.

Although for a long period of time it appeared as though Klitschko would eventually get an opportunity to completely unify the division to become the one and only Heavyweight champion of the world, and could well have remained at the top of the division until he decided to retire, all championship reigns come to an end. For Wladimir Klitschko the end came on Saturday night when he faced undefeated number one contender Tyson Fury at the ESPRIT Arena in Dusseldorf, Germany. Fury was the third consecutive undefeated opponent that Klitschko would defend his championship against after a knockout victory over previously unbeaten number one contender Kubrat Pulev in November of last year and a twelve round unanimous decision over previously unbeaten top contender Bryant Jennings in April of this year.

What made this fight interesting beyond it being a battle of two knockout artists was it was a rare occasion that the 6’6 Klitschko would not be the bigger man in the ring as the 6’9 Fury enjoyed a height and reach advantage over the champion. As has been the case for many previous Klitschko opponents, Fury would have to answer the question of whether he could avoid the focal point of Klitschko’s offense the one-two combination of his jab followed by a straight right hand. The combination that has bedeviled many opponents who simply could not find a way to avoid it.

Fury would answer that question immediately when the fight got underway using head movement and faints to not only avoid the dreaded Klitschko one-two, but also prevent Klitschko from getting into any sort of rhythm. Prior to this fight, this observer stated that although sometimes statistics turn out to be merely statistics, when you get two fighters going against each other, each having stopped 75% or greater of their opponents it suggests that the fight might not go the distance. In this fight however, statistics would not matter.

For twelve rounds Fury and Klitschko engaged in the extremely tactical Boxing match. Each fighter looking to not give their opponent an opening to execute offense. Fury’s defense, along with his ability to nullify Klitschko’s offense and generally being the fighter forcing the action is what won him the fight. Sometimes it comes down to who simply can land more punches than their opponent. In this fight that  fighter was clearly Tyson Fury.

Although many of the rounds in this fight were close due to neither fighter being offensive minded, Fury’s ability to throw more and land more than the champion was the difference. It was not a fight that will go down in the annals of history as being an all-time classic, it will however, go down as a fight of historical significance.

Klitschko’s reign atop the Heavyweight division was a historic one. Klitschko’s eighteen successful title defenses placed him third on the all-time list of successful Heavyweight world championship defenses behind only Larry Holmes, who made twenty successful title defenses in his championship reign, and Joe Louis, who holds the all-time record for successful championship defenses in any weight division in the history of the sport with twenty-five successful defenses.

For the thirty-nine year old Klitschko however, in his nineteenth title defense he simply could not find a way to let his hands go consistently. He could not pull the trigger on his punches. He could not get into an offensive rhythm. For a fighter who is known not only as a knockout artist, but as one of the most accurate offensive fighters in the sport, Klitschko’s lackluster performance against Tyson Fury was one that probably has people wondering if this was merely a bad night at the office for a great fighter, or a sign of a fighter suddenly on the decline.

This observer is not sure if Klitschko is all of a sudden a fighter on the decline, but the little offense that he was able to land on Tyson Fury did not have much effect. Two things that stuck out in my eyes was not only Klitschko’s inability to land his jab or his right hand with consistency, but also a clear lack of offense to Fury’s body.

Whether this was due to Klitschko not being used to facing a fighter bigger and taller than himself and not really needing to rely on going to an opponent’s body before due in large part to having a size and reach advantage over the majority of his opposition is a question that only he can answer. It is understandable however, if some were of the opinion that Klitschko simply may have let this fight get away from him as it progressed.

Over the course of the fight as Fury began to pull ahead, I had thoughts of Larry Holmes’ first fight against Michael Spinks in September 1985. The fight that signaled the end of Holmes’ seven and a half years atop the Heavyweight division. It would also be the first loss of Holmes’ career, who was attempting to tie Rocky Marciano’s record of 49-0. Holmes, who went into his first fight with Spinks with a pinched nerve in his neck was reluctant to throw his right hand over the course of that fight.

Although many including this observer, feel that Holmes still did enough in that fight to retain his title, Spinks would earn a fifteen round unanimous decision. Much like Holmes, Klitschko seemed reluctant to throw his right hand with consistency in his fight with Tyson Fury.

Whether this is due to an undisclosed injury or a respect for Fury’s punching power is a question that only Klitschko can answer, but it was clear to this observer that for whatever reason the Wladimir Klitschko who entered the ring to defend his title on Saturday night was not the same Klitschko who has dominated the Heavyweight division for most of the last decade.

At the end of the twelve round championship bout, unofficially I had Tyson Fury winning the fight 9-2, with one round even in rounds or 116-111 in points. Although many of the rounds, particularly in the first half of the fight were close due to the sporadic offense of both fighters, it was clear by the second half of the fight that Fury was the one who was dictating how the fight was fought and Klitschko simply could not find a way to turn the momentum in his favor.

Although this fight could best be described as one that did not provide much excitement and one where one fighter simply did more than the other, an interesting question coming out of this fight is was Fury’s victory, a lopsided twelve round unanimous decision over Klitschko the beginning of a new era for the Heavyweight division?

This observer is not sure, but the more interesting question in my mind is whether or not we will see a rematch between Fury and Klitschko in 2016. After all, Klitschko was a long-reigning champion and it is customary for champions who have had long reigns with a world championship to be entitled to a rematch. Even though the fight did not provide excitement, it would be interesting to see if Klitschko would be able to make any tactical adjustments the second time around. Perhaps having to fight a fighter who is bigger and taller was something that Klitschko is simply not used to and maybe the second time around Klitschko might find a way to let his hands go more consistently.

Although there is no comparison really between Klitschko’s loss to Tyson Fury and Larry Holmes’ loss to Michael Spinks in 1985, beyond perhaps a similarity in Klitschko’s inability to throw his right hand consistently, one should remember that Larry Holmes did receive his rematch against Michael Spinks in April 1986. Much as was the case in the first fight, many including this observer felt Holmes deserved the decision, but it was Spinks who would retain his title via fifteen round split decision. Whether or not a similar result between Fury and Klitschko would happen if a rematch takes place remains to be seen.

As this observer stated prior to the fight however, regardless of the outcome of the fight, Wladimir as well as his brother Vitali will go down as two of the greatest and most dominant Heavyweight champions in Boxing history. Although both brothers have been labeled as “Boring” by some, numbers do not lie.

In regard to Wladimir Klitschko after eighteen successful title defenses he has put himself in the elite company as one of the top three most dominant champions in the history of the Heavyweight division. Even though Klitschko’s performance against Tyson Fury was lackluster and although his march towards Boxing history in what might have been a potential challenge of Joe Louis’ all-time record has been derailed, no matter what may be in store for Klitschko going forward, this observer would like to say job well done Mr. Klitschko, you have been a great champion. You have nothing to be ashamed of.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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

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Friday, November 27, 2015

Klitschko-Fury Preview

The next step in Wladimir Klitschko’s march towards Boxing history will take place on Saturday night in Dusseldorf, Germany when Klitschko will make the nineteenth defense of his unified IBF/WBO/WBA/IBO Heavyweight world championship against undefeated IBF number one contender Tyson Fury at the ESPRIT Arena. In his last title defense, Klitschko defeated a very “Game” challenger in previously unbeaten top contender Bryant Jennings via twelve round unanimous decision at Madison Square Garden in New York City, NY.

Klitschko, will now prepare to face his third straight undefeated challenger in the form of 6’9 Tyson Fury. Fury, unbeaten in twenty-four professional fights will have a rare height and reach advantage over the 6’6 Klitschko. Fury will come into this fight off of an eighth round stoppage of Christian Hammer in February of this year. Although Fury will have a four-inch reach advantage and a three-inch height advantage over Klitschko, Klitschko will have a significant edge in terms of experience having fought in sixty-seven professional fights.

Klitschko has defeated sixty-four of his sixty-seven opponents in his career. Although all of the champion’s losses have come by knockout, it is important to remember that he has been undefeated for over eleven years having not suffered a defeat since his first fight against former WBO Heavyweight world champion Lamon Brewster in April 2004.

The question I have as this fight approaches is how Fury will respond in his first world championship fight. Although he will enjoy an advantage in terms of height and reach over Klitschko, there have been fighters who have froze up in their first opportunity at a world championship. There is little doubt that the crowd support will likely be in favor of the champion who has fought many of his fights in Germany. In an arena that holds over 50,000 spectators as the ESPRIT Arena does it will be interesting to see how the challenger will respond to the atmosphere.

One may also wonder how Klitschko will respond to the rare occasion that he does not have a height or reach advantage over his opponent. Many opponents have been bedeviled by Klitschko’s ability to land his jab followed by a straight right hand. Klitschko has dominated many opponents with the one-two combination and this observer has no doubt that the combination will remain a significant weapon in Klitschko’s arsenal in this fight.

Both fighters have significantly high knockout percentages entering this fight. The champion has scored knockouts in fifty-three of his sixty-four career victories registering a career knockout percentage of 79%. Fury has scored knockouts in eighteen of his twenty-four career victories registering a career knockout percentage of 75%. Although sometimes statistics turn out to be merely statistics, when you have two fighters going against each other with each having stopped 75% or greater of their opposition it suggests that the fight might not go the distance.

It will be interesting to see if Fury is not fazed by the atmosphere of the event when he gets in the ring against Klitschko to see if he will have an answer to avoid the Klitschko one-two. Even though this is Fury’s first opportunity at a world championship, he has been tested thus far in his career with victories over the likes of former world title challengers Dereck Chisora and Kevin Johnson. Fury also showed in his fight against former IBF Cruiserweight world champion Steve Cunningham in April 2013 that he can get up off the canvas to win a fight.

If Klitschko can get inside of Fury’s reach and land his offense more than occasionally on the challenger, Fury could well find himself in a scenario similar to the one he was in against Cunningham in having to get up from a knockdown. In contrast, it will be interesting to see if the challenger can find a way to hurt Klitschko. One might argue that one of the reasons why Wladimir Klitschko has been as dominant a fighter as he has been over the last decade has been due in large part to his ability to not only use his technique and fundamentals to dominate his opposition, but also the ability to use his physical advantages to avoid being put in positions where he could be stunned and/or hurt by an opponent’s punches.

This will be a rare time where Klitschko will not be facing someone who is shorter than he is and will be looking up at his opponent. It will be interesting to see whether Klitschko will be able to defend himself from Fury’s offense in a similar way as he has against previous opponents, despite being at a disadvantage in terms of height and reach.

As dominant as Klitschko has been however, at thirty-nine years old one may wonder how much longer he will be able to dominate the Heavyweight division. It is true that fighters such as Archie Moore, George Foreman, and of course, Bernard Hopkins have shown that it is possible for fighters to still compete at the top of the sport well beyond the age of forty. If Klitschko can continue what may turn out to be a historic championship reign in his second reign as Heavyweight world champion his name will surely join that list.

For the twenty-seven year old Tyson Fury he may just be entering his physical prime and if he can establish a quick pace from the outset and find a way to make Klitschko uncomfortable, this may be the fight that will answer whether Klitschko can fight at a high pace at thirty-nine years old after having stamina problems early in his career. Whether or not Fury will be able to provide Klitschko with a significant test remains to be seen.

As Klitschko has continued his march towards Boxing history with each successful title defense one could question whether Klitschko will indeed be able to break the record set by Joe Louis of twenty-five successful title defenses of the World Heavyweight championship, the most in any weight division in the history of the sport, which he set between 1937-1949. If Klitschko is successful against Fury it will put him one successful title defense away from tying Larry Holmes’ mark of twenty successful title defenses of his Heavyweight world championship, which he compiled between 1978-1985.

There is no doubt regardless of what happens when Klitschko defends his title against Fury on Saturday night that Wladimir as well as his brother, the retired Vitali Klitschko will go down in history as two of the greatest and most dominant Heavyweight champions in the history of the sport. It remains to be seen however, whether Wladimir will be able to cement his legacy by potentially challenging the record of Joe Louis which has stood for sixty-six years. We will see if Klitschko’s march towards history will continue on Saturday night.

“And That’s the Boxing Truth.”

Klitschko vs. Fury takes place on Saturday, November 28th at the ESPRIT Arena in Dusseldorf, Germany. In the United States the fight can be seen on HBO Sports at 4:45PM ET/PT. HBO Sports will replay the fight later that evening at 10:15PM ET/PT. In the United Kingdom, the fight will be televised on pay-per-view by Sky Box Office at 7 PM (Local UK Time). For more information about availability in the United Kingdom please visit: Check your listings internationally.

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

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Premier Boxing Champions 11/25/2015 Results

IBO Jr. Middleweight world champion Erislandy Lara successfully made the first defense of his world title with a dominant third round stoppage of former IBF Welterweight world champion Jan Zaveck on Wednesday night at Hialeah Park Racing and Casino in Hialeah, FL.  A fight card that was significantly impacted by rain and caused a delay of the fight, Lara wasted no time in his bout against Zaveck once the green light was given for the bout to take place.

Lara began this fight fighting in the pocket and not using as much lateral movement as is usually his norm, perhaps due to the condition of the ring canvas that was covered with a tarp during the weather delay. Lara’s accurate counter punching and hand speed were simply too much for Zaveck, who was staggered by a straight left hand midway through the first round.

Lara continued picking his spots in the second round throwing and landing his punches in between Zaveck’s wide punches. Lara would stagger Zaveck for the second time with a straight left hand in the closing seconds of round two. 

A combination by Lara early in round three would cause Zaveck to momentarily extend his hand as if he wanted to touch gloves with Lara before turning his back as Lara continued to throw punches causing Referee Telis Assimenios to step in and stop the fight. It was revealed shortly after the fight that Zaveck had said that a punch from Lara to the right side of his neck caused a spasm in his shoulder. Official time of the stoppage was :41 of round three.

Erislandy Lara advances to 22-2-2, with 13 Knockouts. Jan Zaveck falls to 35-4, with 19 Knockouts.

Also on this card undefeated rising Bantamweight prospect Manny Rodriguez scored a seventh round stoppage over Eliezer Aquino.  Rodriguez was in control of this fight from the opening bell with his combination punching and not allowing Aquino to get on the inside where he could land offense.  As the fight progressed rain resumed, but it did not prevent Rodriguez from continuing to dominate the combat or the fight from continuing.

In the third round Rodriguez would score a knockdown of Aquino with a right hand. Aquino was penalized a point in round seven for spitting out his mouth piece. The fight would be stopped later in the round by Referee Sam Burgos. Official time of the stoppage was 2:44 of round three.

Manny Rodriguez advances to 14-0, with 10 Knockouts. Eliezer Aquino falls to 17-2-1, with 11 Knockouts.

In the Jr. Middleweight division Daquan Arnett scored a first round knockout of former Olympic Silver medalist Yudel Jhonson.  A right hand from Arnett staggered Jhonson and a follow-up combination sent Jhonson to the canvas midway through round one.  A right hand from Arnett sent Jhonson to the canvas for the second time later in the round. Jhonson was able to beat the count, but got up on unsteady legs prompting Referee James Warring to stop the fight. Official time of the stoppage was 2:47 of round one.

Daquan Arnett advances to 15-1, with 9 Knockouts.  Yudel Jhonson falls to 17-3, with 9 Knockouts.

In other bouts:

Heavyweight John Nofire (19-0, with 15 Knockouts) KO1 over Yasmany Consuegra (17-3, with 14 Knockouts) Official time 2:59 of round one.

Jr. Welterweight Jose Quezada (9-0, with 6 Knockouts) TKO 2 over Daniel Lorenzana (4-7-1, with 2 Knockouts) No official time available as of this writing.

Welterweight Jeff Souffrant (2-1, with 0 Knockouts) UD 4 over Gregory Moore (1-1, with 0 Knockouts) No official scores available as of this writing.

For Erislandy Lara, who won the vacant IBO Jr. Middleweight world championship back in June of this year with a twelve round unanimous decision over Delvin Rodriguez, his victory over Jan Zaveck was a statement making performance in a division heading towards transition.  Lara also still holds interim/regular champion status in the WBA’s Jr. Middleweight ratings.

Readers might recall my coverage of Lara’s victory over Rodriguez when I stated that Lara could be named full WBA champion, as Floyd Mayweather at the time had announced his intention to relinquish the world championships he held in both the Welterweight and Jr. Middleweight divisions.  Mayweather has since retired from active competition following his victory over Andre Berto in September of this year. Despite Mayweather’s retirement, he is still as of this writing recognized as WBA Jr. Middleweight world champion.

It will be interesting to see whether the World Boxing Association (WBA) will name Lara full WBA champion before the end of 2015.  If Lara is indeed designated full WBA champion as fighters who hold interim/regular status are normally designated in the event of a champion either relinquishing the championship or being stripped of it, Lara will become a unified world champion in the Jr. Middleweight division.

Although Lara’s fight with Rodriguez was not advertised as being for the International Boxing Organization’s (IBO) Jr. Middleweight world championship, it will be interesting to see whether the organization will mandate Lara to face a top contender in its Jr. Middleweight ratings.  Current IBO number one contender Saul Alvarez successfully moved up in weight last week and defeated Miguel Cotto for the vacant WBC Middleweight world championship.

Lara, who lost to Alvarez in a razor thin split decision in July of last year would likely entertain the possibility of a rematch if the opportunity for one is made available.  This observer believes it may be more likely that Alvarez will defend his Middleweight world championship in a unification bout with undefeated unified WBA/IBO Middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin in the near future rather than seek a rematch at this point against Lara.

For the moment as one of three active world champions currently in the Jr. Middleweight division, Erislandy Lara has made a strong argument for himself as being the number one Jr. Middleweight in the world.  How the division landscape will play out following Floyd Mayweather’s retirement remains to be seen.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thoughts on Cotto-Alvarez

On November 21st the focus of the Boxing world centered on the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, NV for the much-anticipated battle between multi-division world champion Miguel Cotto and former WBC Jr. Middleweight world champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Much of the focus in the week leading up to the fight centered on the World Boxing Council’s (WBC) decision to withdraw its recognition of Miguel Cotto as its Middleweight world champion for Cotto’s failure to comply with the WBC’s rules and regulations and ruling that the championship would be on the line for Alvarez only.

Despite much of the attention being focused on the subject of the WBC Middleweight world championship prior to the fight, the sport of Boxing was treated to a fight that lived up to expectations when Cotto and Alvarez squared off in the ring. For twelve rounds two of Boxing’s biggest stars engaged in a closely fought tactical battle.

Many of the rounds in this fight were extremely close and difficult to score. In many ways, the bout was the definition of what most associate with a close fight. Both fighters having their share of moments in almost every round and neither really taking a backward step. When it comes to close fights where both fighters are able to have their moments however, the challenge for the three official judges scoring the fight as well as fans watching the fight is to see and determine which fighter is able to be more effective with their offense.

Cotto was the more active of the two fighters and was effective in his use of lateral movement as a way to both set up his offense and defend himself from Alvarez’ punches. Alvarez however, was the more accurate of the two fighters and seemed to land the more effective punches. Although Cotto was more active throughout much of this fight and landed his share of offense, he was not really able to hurt Alvarez, back him up, or discourage Alvarez from coming forward.

As the fight progressed, Alvarez’ naturally bigger size, ability to absorb Cotto’s offense, ability to continue to apply pressure on Cotto and land the more effective punches of the two gradually became the difference in the fight. In the eyes of this observer, Alvarez was able to win several close rounds simply by landing punches that did more damage even though Cotto was more active.

A tactical Boxing match from the opening bell until the final bell where each fighter is able to have periods of effectiveness is bound to create a difference of opinion not only in terms of who won the fight, but particularly in how the fight is scored. Unofficially, I scored this fight eight rounds to four or 116-112 in points for Saul Alvarez.

Although the score may appear lopsided and not accurate in terms of what is considered a close fight, it is important to remember that fights are scored on a round by round basis. Even though many of the rounds in this fight were very close, Alvarez seemed to be more effective than Cotto in executing his offense. This ultimately was the basis for my scorecard and how I arrived with an 8-4 margin in favor of Alvarez.

The three official Judges Burt Clements, John McKaie, and Dave Moretti turned in slightly wider scores at the end of the twelve round championship bout. John McKaie scored the fight 117-111 or 9-3 in rounds, Burt Clements turned in a score of 118-110, or 10-2 in rounds, and Dave Moretti scored the bout 119-109, or 11-1 in rounds all in favor of Alvarez. Even though there have been some in the days following the fight that have called the scoring controversial and/or believe that Cotto did enough to win the fight based on outworking Alvarez over the course of twelve rounds, this observer believes the decision was accurate although I believe the bout was closer than how judges Clements and Moretti scored it.

With the victory, Alvarez won the WBC Middleweight world championship in what should be viewed as the biggest win of his career thus far. As for what is next for Alvarez, it is logical to assume that a battle against unified WBA/IBO Middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin may be in the near future. Golovkin also holds interim championship status in the WBC’s Middleweight ratings per his victory in a defense of his unified world championship over previously top rated WBC contender Marco Antonio Rubio in October of last year.

Whether or not the WBC will mandate a unification bout between Alvarez and Golovkin to take place sometime in 2016 remains to be seen. It will also be interesting to see whether the WBA or IBO will mandate Golovkin to face a mandatory contender in either sanctioning organization’s respective ratings before a bout with Alvarez can take place.

It will also be interesting to see how the upcoming Middleweight bout between top contender Daniel Jacobs and former undefeated WBO Middleweight world champion Peter Quillin on December 5th may factor into potential plans for a Golovkin-Alvarez unification clash. Jacobs currently holds interim/regular champion status in the WBA’s Middleweight ratings and one might argue that the winner of that fight could be mandated by the WBA to face Golovkin at some point in the future.

If a bout between Golovkin and Alvarez does not take place in the near future, it may be possible that a potential rematch between Alvarez and Cotto could take place regardless of whether Alvarez’ world championship is on the line. The fight between Cotto and Alvarez was very competitive and this observer believes a rematch between the two would be embraced by Boxing fans and experts alike.

Although it remains unclear as of this writing as to how successful the fight did in terms of pay-per-view buys, it was successful in providing an entertaining close battle between two of the sport’s biggest stars. A claim that cannot be made for some of the sport’s recent major pay-per-view attractions. Why not entertain the possibility of a chapter two between Alvarez and Cotto?

“And That’s the Boxing Truth.”

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