Friday, December 9, 2016

Previewing Heavyweight Championship Saturday

Boxing’s Heavyweight division will close out 2016 with a bang on Saturday with two world championship fights in two different countries. The first championship bout will take place at the Vector Arena in Auckland, New Zealand as undefeated WBO number one Heavyweight contender Joseph Parker will square off with undefeated number three WBO contender Andy Ruiz for the vacant WBO Heavyweight world championship previously held by former unified world champion Tyson Fury.

Although the circumstances which led to three of five world championships being vacated in the Heavyweight division is a story in of itself, the battle between Parker and Ruiz will pit two of the division’s top contenders against each other. In one corner will stand Joseph Parker of Auckland, New Zealand. Parker, unbeaten in twenty-one professional fights has scored knockouts in eighteen of those twenty-one wins and will enter this fight with a career knockout percentage of 86%. In his last bout, Parker scored a third round knockout over Alexander Dimitrenko in October of this year.

Parker has only been extended to a twelve round distance once in his career and has only gone as far as ten rounds twice. This would indicate that Parker, a fighter who should be labeled a “Knockout Artist” could look to end this fight early should the opportunity present itself. Parker does have the ability to knock an opponent out with either hand, but also has the ability to be tactical in his approach so it will be interesting to see what his approach will be in this fight.

Standing across the ring from Parker will be Andy Ruiz of Imperial, CA. Ruiz, a fighter who is unbeaten in twenty-nine professional fights will enter this fight against Parker having scored nineteen knockouts in his twenty-nine victories registering a career knockout percentage of 66%. Ruiz does have slightly more experience in terms of total fights than Parker and has fought in 116 total rounds as a professional compared to Parker’s 87. What makes this potentially significant is although Ruiz has also shown an ability to get an opponent out of there, he has been forced to go the distance more than Parker has in his career and depending on how this fight is fought this could be to Ruiz’ advantage.

Even though Ruiz has held the NABF and WBO Intercontinental Heavyweight titles in his career, he has been criticized for his struggles with weight. Ruiz however, does have an exciting style in which he has been more than willing to engage with his opponents and has a good mix of punching power and hand speed. One thing that this observer has noticed in studying film of Ruiz that some would likely see as a flaw is he has been somewhat inconsistent in some fights in moving his head and is thus open to be hit.

The physics of this fight seem to favor Parker who will have a two inch height advantage of 6’4 to Ruiz’ 6’2 and will have a slight reach advantage of also two inches of 76” to Ruiz 74”. Although fighters have been tasked with combating greater height and reach deficits, this observer believes the task that Andy Ruiz will be faced with will be to get on the inside of Parker’s reach and try to outwork him in close. Despite the slight height and reach advantage of Parker not seeming to be as significant as some previous Heavyweight championship fights, it is logical to assume that Parker will look to keep Ruiz at distance where he will theoretically not be able to be as effective.

No matter who emerges victorious in this fight, it is also logical to assume that the winner could likely find himself in a position for a potential unification bout in 2017. The opposition for that potential unification clash just might be the winner of the second World Heavyweight championship fight taking place on Saturday as undefeated IBF world champion Anthony Joshua will make the second defense of his world title against current IBF number eight rated Heavyweight contender Eric Molina at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England.

In his first title defense in June of this year, Joshua scored a one-sided seventh round stoppage over previously undefeated Dominic Breazeale. Joshua much like Joseph Parker, is a “Knockout Artist” who has knocked out all seventeen of his opponents as a professional. As Joshua has continued to dominate all opposition that has been placed before him, the question that has been asked of him is the same as all fighters who are labeled “Knockout Artists.” Who can provide him with a legitimate test?

A potential answer to that question in regard to Anthony Joshua could come in the form of current IBF number eight rated contender and former world title challenger Eric Molina. Molina endeared himself to Boxing fans with the valiant effort he put forth in his challenge of current WBC Heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder in June of last year. Although Molina would suffer four knockdowns before being stopped in the ninth round of that fight, he did succeed in extending Wilder, another fighter known as a “Knockout Artist” into the latter stages of a fight for what was at that point only the second time in his career. Since that loss to Wilder, Molina has gone on to win two fights including a knockout win over former two-division world champion Tomasz Adamek in April of this year for the IBF’s Intercontinental Heavyweight title, which in layman’s terms essentially earned him a spot in the top ten of the International Boxing Federation’s Heavyweight ratings putting him in position for what will be his second attempt at a world championship.

The question that I have going into this fight centers on whether or not Molina will be able to not only extend Joshua in a similar manner as he was able to do against Wilder, but more specifically whether or not he can make this a competitive fight. Although Joshua was extended to the seventh round for only the second time in his career in his title defense against Dominic Breazeale, he did not face much resistance in that fight and it will be interesting to see whether Molina will be able to provide resistance as well as avoid the champion’s power.

It will also be interesting to see whether or not Joshua may look to seek an early knockout of Molina perhaps in an attempt to best what Deontay Wilder was able to do in his title defense against Molina last year. Although Molina finds himself in the same position of being a significant underdog as he was when he faced Wilder, he has shown his mettle and has also shown the ability to come from behind in order to score a knockout win as he was able to do in his last fight against Tomasz Adamek where he was trailing on all three official scorecards before knocking Adamek out in the tenth round.

Even though it is logical to assume that Joshua will look to pressure Molina from the outset and try to score an early knockout should the opportunity present itself, Molina must find a way to be tactical in his approach early on and look for a way to neutralize and nullify Joshua’s punching power. One way that Molina could accomplish this could be if he is able to establish himself as an elusive target and look to work the clock in rounds and try to limit Joshua’s ability to be effective and land punches cleanly while trying to make the most of his offensive opportunities. Of course, this is a task that is often easier said than done against power punchers, especially those who are known as “Knockout Artists” as Joshua is.

What has certainly been a frustrating year for the Heavyweight division could potentially see a silver lining with these two world championship fights. Although I look forward to sharing my thoughts in the coming weeks with regard to the landscape of the division as a whole, it is my hope that the outcomes of these two fights will lead to further progress in the Heavyweight division, something that has for various reasons not been accomplished in 2016.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

Parker vs. Ruiz takes place tomorrow (Saturday, December 10th) at the Vector Arena in Auckland, New Zealand. The fight can be seen in the United States on same-day tape delay along with a Jr. Welterweight doubleheader featuring undefeated WBO/WBC world champion Terence Crawford defending his championship against John Molina and a ten round bout between top contenders Ray Beltran and Mason Menard on HBO Sports beginning at 9:35PM ET/PT check your cable/satellite provider for time and channel in your area. For more information please visit: In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the fight can be seen on BoxNation at 8 AM (Saturday, December 10th Local UK Time). For more information please visit: Check your listings internationally.

Joshua vs. Molina takes place tomorrow (Saturday, December 10th) at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England. The fight can be seen live in the United States on Showtime Sports at 5:30 PM ET/2:30 PM PT. The fight will be replayed on Showtime later in the evening along with a live tripleheader featuring two world title fights Jermall Charlo defending his IBF Jr. Middleweight world championship against bullying Williams and WBA number one Featherweight contender Jesus Cuellar taking on Abner Mares beginning at 10 PM ET/PT. Check your cable/satellite provider for times and channel in your area For more information please visit: In the United Kingdom, Joshua vs. Molina can be seen on pay-per-view on Sky Box Office for €16.95 SD/€21.95 HD beginning at 5:30 PM (Saturday, December 10th Local UK Time.) For ordering information please visit: Check your listings internationally.

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