Tuesday, June 28, 2016

“PBC Saturday” Recap And Analysis

The anticipation of a unique and loaded day of Boxing for Boxing fans on Saturday, June 25th presented by the Premier Boxing Champions series lived up to expectations. A first of its kind presentation with three separate cards stretching across three different television networks in the United States featured two world championship fights and a bout between two rising Jr. Middleweight prospects looking to establish themselves as contenders in the three main event bouts.

The first of the three main events and the first world championship bout took place at the O2 Arena in London, England as undefeated International Boxing Federation (IBF) Heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua made the first defense of his world title against unbeaten IBF number nine rated contender Dominic Breazeale in a bout televised by Showtime in the United States. This was a bout that pitted two “Knockout Artists” against each other.

The champion Joshua entered the fight with a record of 16-0, with all 16 victories coming by way of knockout for a career knockout percentage of 100%. The challenger Breazeale entered with a nearly perfect career knockout percentage of 88% having knocked out fifteen of his seventeen previous opponents prior to the fight. In previewing this fight, this observer stated that a Boxing fan of any description could describe the anticipation of this fight based on the statistics of both fighters in one word “Fireworks!”

When the two fighters got in the ring however, it was the champion who put on a show as opposed to two hard-hitting Heavyweights in a toe to toe slugfest. From the outset, Joshua used superior hand speed and combination punching to dominate Breazeale in landing punches to the body and head. Although the challenger was able to show his mettle by absorbing significant punishment at the hands of the champion without breaking down for much of the fight, Breazeale simply did not have an answer to combat Joshua’s hand speed and overall skill.

Graphic Courtesy of:ThrowDownScoring.com/CompuBox

After six one-sided rounds Joshua was able to drop Breazeale with a combination early in the seventh round and was able to drop the “Game”, but over-matched challenger for a second time with a follow-up barrage to force Referee Howard Foster to stop the fight at 1:01 of the seventh round. A statistical illustration of Joshua’s domination of this fight as shown and provided by ThrowdownScoring.com/CompuBox shows the champion was in complete command from start to finish out landing Breazeale by 128 punches. The challenger simply could not find a way to consistently land his offense on the champion as he only landed 38 punches of 191 total punches thrown.

Although Joshua eventually broke Breazeale down and this fight ultimately ended the same way that all of the champion’s previous bouts have by way of knockout, what was particularly impressive was the overall technique and measured approach in which the champion executed his offense for the entire fight. He did not waste many of his punches and almost always threw punches off of his jab often in combination. It is rare to see a fighter, particularly in the Heavyweight division remain so disciplined throughout an entire fight by continuing to throw combinations and resisting a tendency to “Head Hunt” particularly once it became clear that his opponent was over-matched. Joshua simply took his time and gradually broke the challenger down.

As for the challenger Dominic Breazeale, he deserves much credit for being able to withstand as much punishment as he did in this fight in being able to extend the champion to the seventh round for the first time in Joshua’s career. What contributed to Breazeale’s downfall in this fight beyond being unable to deal with and answer the champion’s hand speed in my eyes, was a lack of head movement and also a lack of an attempt to land consistent offense to the champion’s body when he did let his hands go. Even though Dominic Breazeale exits this fight having suffered a beating in what is the first loss of his career, he showed his toughness and continued to fight on when frankly some fighters might have resigned themselves to defeat. It would not surprise me to see Breazeale take some time to recuperate from this loss, but he should not be dismissed as a contender in the division. He was simply overmatched and outclassed in this fight and it will be how he is able to cope with this defeat that will ultimately determine his standing as a contender in the division going forward.

As for the champion Anthony Joshua, it is likely that he will next defend his IBF world championship against current IBF number one contender Joseph Parker in what will be a mandatory championship defense. A question that some might ask coming out of this fight is how quickly that defense might come. It is important to remember that Joshua only became champion nearly three months ago and has now already made the first defense of his world championship, something that is rare in the sport of Boxing in this day and age.

Although it is as this observer said prior to the fight refreshing on one hand to see a world champion defending his championship so soon after winning the title, one has to wonder whether or not this will become a regular routine for Joshua as he looks to continue his championship reign. After all, there have been fighters who have held world championships throughout the entire sport, who’s reigns as champion have stretched significant periods of time while only averaging between one to three fights a year. Even though Joshua was as dominant in his first championship defense as he was when he won the IBF Heavyweight world championship from Charles Martin earlier this year and did not face much resistance in either fight, it will be interesting to see if he chooses to attempt to fight as frequently as he has been now as a world champion with his first championship defense out of the way.

An interesting question outside of the likely mandatory championship defense against Joseph Parker for the champion is where he will stand among the three world champions atop the division. As some Boxing fans might know, undefeated current WBC Heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder will next defend his piece of the World Heavyweight championship against former world title challenger Chris Arreola on July 16th. A recent development however, for the division is that the scheduled rematch between undefeated WBO/WBA/IBO Heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury and former longtime champion Wladimir Klitschko that was scheduled for July 9th in Manchester, England has been postponed due to an ankle injury suffered by Fury.

This does put the potential of a unification bout involving the Fury-Klitschko winner against either the Wilder-Arreola winner or the winner of the potential Joshua-Parker bout in doubt at least in terms of the near future. It will nevertheless be interesting to see if the potential winners of Wilder-Arreola and Joshua-Parker turn their sights to each other for potential unification bout perhaps in 2017.

The second main event as part of “PBC Saturday” that took place as part of this tripleheader of sorts featured an intriguing battle for the World Boxing Association (WBA) Welterweight world championship between undefeated champion Keith Thurman and former IBF world champion Shawn Porter at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. A highly anticipated bout that ended a thirty-eight year drought in bringing primetime Boxing back to CBS in the United States for the first time since the first encounter between Muhammad Ali and Leon Spinks on February 15, 1978.

The fight more than lived up to expectations. In a bout that was fought at a quick pace from start to finish, it was a battle of the champion’s ability to land flush power shots versus the challenger’s constant pressure and ability to throw in volume in a fight that was fought in spurts.

As is often the case when a fight is fought in spurts, many of the rounds in this twelve round world championship bout were extremely close and difficult to score due to both fighters having periods of effectiveness in virtually every round. Although Porter was consistent in applying pressure on Thurman from the outset and looked to swarm and smother the champion as he pushed Thurman back against the ropes, he was not always effective. Thurman was most effective during periods where he was either able to keep some distance between himself and the challenger or when he was able to land counter punches as Porter pressed forward.

There was no feeling out process in this fight as both fighters looked to engage each other from the outset. A challenge that can be present for judges in a fight like this can be to determine which fighter is executing their offense better than their opponent when both fighters are effective in spots. This was a fight where it was extremely competitive and exciting throughout as both fighters showed their willingness to not only engage, but also showed their ability to take a punch and return offense.

What impressed me about Thurman’s performance in this fight was how well he was able to land his left hand in landing left hooks and uppercuts, despite often being pushed back by Porter and was particularly effective when he was able to counter punch with it. Porter meanwhile, was impressive in his own right during periods where he was able to either cut the ring off from Thurman and push the champion against the ropes where he was able to land to the body, or during points where he was able to land lunging punches while using movement to disrupt Thurman’s offense.

As the fight progressed I wondered whether or not the pace of the fight would slow due to fatigue and both fighters more or less taking turns in being aggressive and landing flush power shots. In many ways, it was the definition of what one should think of in regard to a close fight. Both fighters landing power punches, both fighters showing aggression, and both fighters showing their mettle in being able to absorb punishment and return offense.

At the end of twelve rounds I had this fight scored even 114-114 a draw giving each fighter six rounds a piece on my unofficial scorecard. The three official judges however, turned in identical scores of seven rounds to five or 115-113 in favor of Thurman, who earned a hard-fought unanimous decision to retain his world championship. Although I felt this fight was quite frankly too close to call, it did not surprise me to see a winner determined by a narrow margin in this fight. As this observer has often said over the years when it comes to close fights, it will often boil down to what a judge prefers in their own individual criteria of how they score based on clean punching, effective aggressiveness, ring generalship, and defense.

This fight was quite entertaining where both fighters showed periods of all of that criteria, but I believe it may have boiled down to Thurman’s effective use of his left hand as well as his ability to counter punch effectively while under pressure from Porter. Although Porter was the busier of the two fighters throughout much of the fight, he was not always effective in his aggression. Entering the final round however, on my unofficial scorecard Thurman needed to win the round by a score of 10-9 in order for it to be a draw. If Porter had won the final round by the same margin of 10-9, he would have won the fight seven rounds to five or 115-113 in points on my scorecard.

Graphic Courtesy of:ThrowDownScoring.com/CompuBox

A statistical breakdown of this fight as shown and provided by ThrowdownScoring.com/CompuBox shows that both fighters were extremely active in this fight throwing a combined 1,201 punches over the course of the twelve round bout with Porter out throwing the champion by 123 punches. Total punches landed however, were nearly identical as Porter out landed the champion by a single punch 236 to 235.

Although the three official judges in this fight Steve Weisfeld, Waleska Roldan, and Eric Marlinski are the only ones who can say what the basis of their scores were, I believe this is a fight that will very much be debated among Boxing fans and experts alike and it is one where there can be a realistic argument made for either fighter as having won this fight. It is a certain candidate for 2016 Fight Of The Year and one that is definitely worthy of a sequel.

The third main event that rounded out “PBC Saturday” was a bout that took place in Boxing’s Jr. Middleweight division between rising prospects Justin DeLoach and Junior Castillo which took place at the Scottish Rite Theatre in San Antonio, TX and was televised in the United States by NBC Sports Network. Although this fight was originally announced as a ten round bout, the distance was changed to eight rounds.

 The slight technicality would have no effect on the fight as DeLoach, who entered the bout having won fourteen of fifteen bouts as a professional scored a dominant eight round unanimous decision over the previously unbeaten Castillo, who entered having knocked out nine of his previous ten opponents as a professional. Questions that are often asked of unbeaten fighters and more specifically fighters who are labeled “Knockout Artists” is not only in regard to their ability to take a punch, but also how they will respond to adversity.

In this fight, DeLoach put Castillo to the test from the outset using his hand speed to land short crisp combinations and solid lateral movement to keep Castillo off balance and unable to really get himself set to throw and land power punches. This resulted in Castillo only being able to land punches sporadically and missing with the majority of his offense.

In the third round DeLoach knocked Castillo down with a left hook that was thrown over a straight right hand. Castillo, who had never been knocked down as a professional prior to this fight was able to get up and the fight continued. DeLoach however, would score a second knockdown of Castillo in round six with a perfectly timed counter straight right hand. Although Castillo was able to land occasionally on DeLoach, he simply had no answer for DeLoach’s hand speed and timing. DeLoach’s effective fight plan and in particular his success in being able to land his straight right hand almost every time he threw it is what won him the fight by convincing eight round unanimous decision. Unofficially, I had this fight scored for Deloach giving him all eight rounds or 80-71 in points, while the three official judges turned in scores of 79-71, and  78-72 (On two scorecards) all in Deloach’s favor.

It will be interesting to see how Justin DeLoach progresses going forward and whether or not Junior Castillo will be able to bounce back from what should be considered a learning experience that could benefit him in the long run. Although one fighter was able to clearly stand out from the other in this fight, both should still be considered prospects and one win or one loss at this stage in their respective careers should not change that status. This should be viewed as one fighter showing with a convincing win that he  is simply ready to try and step up in the class of his opposition, while the other fighter simply has to learn what he can from his first loss and go back to the drawing board.

Overall “PBC Saturday” delivered on what the Premier Boxing Champions series hopes to deliver. To put on competitive fights and deliver those fights to a wide audience. Staging three separate cards in three different locations and across three different television networks in the United States in succession in one day is something that had not been attempted before, but should be considered a success for the first time it was put into practice. Three cards that showcased two world championship fights, a likely Fight Of The Year candidate, and a look at two rising prospects, who were looking to progress toward contender status in their respective careers.

As for the fight that arguably drew the most interest including over two million viewers on CBS here in the United States, it would not shock me to see a rematch between Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter. A fight that more than lived up to every expectation and successfully ended a thirty-eight year drought of Boxing in primetime on CBS. After an exciting give and take battle between two of the best fighters that the Welterweight division has to offer, this observer does not think it will be nearly as long before a world championship fight is showcased before a primetime audience on CBS as the Premier Boxing Champions series continues to show not only growth, but why the platform of free over the air (OTA) television should have never been absent from the sport of Boxing. Something that should be considered a victory for the sport and more importantly Boxing fans.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

Joshua-Breazeale/Thurman Porter stats and graphics provided by: www.ThrowdownScoring.com / CompuBox. Used with permission. For more information please visit:   www.ThrowdownScoring.com.or www.ThrowdownFantasy.com . You can score live fights by downloading the free Throwdown Scoring app on Google Play or on Apple ITunes.

For more information on the Premier Boxing Champions series please visit: www.PremierBoxingChampions.com.

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