Friday, June 14, 2019

June 7-8th 2019 Thoughts And A Look Ahead To Fury-Schwarz

The weekend of June 8, 2019 was a significant one in the sport of Boxing. Firstly because it was the weekend of the annual International Boxing Hall of Fame induction ceremony. In addition to the IBHOF 2019 class being enshrined in Canastota, NY including inductees Donald Curry, James “Buddy” McGirt, Teddy Atlas, Julian Jackson, Tony DeMarco, Lee Samuels, Guy Jutras, and Don Elbaum, there were some interesting events that took place inside the Boxing ring. Of course, several Boxing cards take place over the course of just about any weekend during a calendar year. This column will discuss cards that took place during IBHOF weekend that took place in New York, NY. We will also take a look ahead to an interesting Heavyweight encounter.

On Friday, June 7th a card took place at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, NY that was held as part of the IBHOF weekend. Headlining this card was an intriguing encounter between former two-division world champion Zab Judah and Cletus Seldin. What this fight represented was a classic example of youth versus experience. Judah is a fighter who has held world titles in the 140lb. Jr. Welterweight and 147 lb. Welterweight divisions. At forty-one years old and with some believing his best days as a fighter were behind him, the former world champion returned to the 140lb. Jr. Welterweight division after spending many years fighting in the 147lb. Welterweight division.

The obvious question that is asked whenever a fighter moves down in weight after spending much of their career in a higher weight class is how they will adapt to the change. It was also worth asking the question of whether Judah would show signs of ring rust after only fighting twice in nearly five years. For Cletus Seldin, a man nearly ten years younger than Judah, has been a rising contender in the Jr. Welterweight division, and had established himself as a fighter known for an ability to knock an opponent out with either hand registering a near 77% career knockout percentage prior to the fight. Seldin’s only career loss in twenty-four previous bouts prior to the Judah bout was a ten round unanimous decision loss to Yves Ulysse in December 2017.

Although Judah appeared to get the better of the action in the first round of this fight, the main story would become Seldin’s consistent pressure and near non-stop attack to Judah’s body. Sometimes when watching a fight you can see a pattern develop as it progresses. The pattern in this bout consisted of Seldin pressing forward, throwing punches to Judah’s body, and mixing in offense to the head. Seldin had particular success in landing his right hand to Judah’s head throughout. In contrast to his opponent, Judah threw one punch at a time, which was not reminiscent of the fighter he was in his prime as he was known for his quick hands.

Whether this was due to his age, Seldin’s constant pressure and offense, or a combination of all the above is a matter of opinion. It was clear as the fight progressed however, that the combat was being dictated by the younger and perhaps stronger Seldin. As the rounds went on, it was also clear that Judah was suffering a beating in a fight that was scheduled for twelve rounds with the vacant North American Boxing Association (NABA) Jr. Welterweight championship at stake. Despite the action in the fight becoming increasingly one-sided, I did not get the sense that the bout would end inside the distance. This fight had the look and feel of one that would end in a unanimous decision win for Seldin.  Seldin would take advantage of an opening later in the fight that would ultimately change the appearance of a one-sided decision win to a stoppage inside the distance.

In round eleven, Seldin staggered Judah with a right hand. A follow-up barrage with the former world champion against the ropes seconds later forced Referee Charlie Fitch to stop the fight. Although given what had happened in the fight prior to that point the stoppage was the appropriate call, Judah immediately left the ring following the stoppage appearing to be upset over Fitch’s decision.

What would occur after the fight would appear to indicate that Fitch made the right call as reports began to surface that Judah had been hospitalized for what was described as a brain bleed. While reports ranged from mild to indicating that Judah was in a coma, Star Boxing, the promotional company that promoted the fight released a statement two days after the fight noting that though Judah was hospitalized, he was awake and communicating. This was followed by a further statement on Monday of this week by Star Boxing saying that Judah had been released from the hospital noting that while the former world champion needs rest, his prognosis was promising.

It is worth noting that there was a brutal knockout that took place on the undercard of Judah-Seldin in the Cruiserweight division where Alex Vanasse suffered a knockout in his fight against Eric Abraham. Though Vanasse was alert and communicating, he left the ring on a stretcher.There is no word regarding Vanasse’s condition as of this writing. Some Boxing fans may be aware of the bout between Jr. Flyweights Felipe Orucuta and Johnathan Rodriguez that took place in Mexico on the same night as those where Orucuta collapsed in the ring following being stopped by Rodriguez. Orucuta was placed in a medically induced coma and underwent emergency surgery in the days following the fight to remove a blood clot in his brain. It has been reported by’s  Jake Donovan that Orucuta is showing signs of improvement following surgery and is currently under evaluation.

What the knockouts in these three bouts should remind all of us is just how dangerous combat sports can be and underscore the risks fighters take each time they enter the ring to compete. It is something that even the most opinionated of fans should respect.

Outside of the three separate scary moments that occurred on June 7th, the weekend also marked the return of former Middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin on June 8th at Madison Square Garden in New York City, NY as he took on undefeated Steve Rolls in a bout fought in the 168lb. Super-Middleweight division.

The primary question going into this bout in my mind surrounded the change in Golovkin’s corner following his well-publicized split with longtime trainer Abel Sanchez. The change in bringing in new trainer Johnathon Banks was as much a part of the story of this fight as the bout itself.

In previewing this fight, this observer noted that while Rolls, who was unbeaten in nineteen professional fights prior to meeting Golovkin was  unknown to some, he had won regional titles in both the Jr. Middleweight and Middleweight divisions. It was crucial however, that Rolls get the respect of Golovkin early in my eyes.

It was a bit surprising to see a tactical Boxing match develop between the two as I thought Golovkin might opt to be a bit more aggressive from the outset. What was impressive however, was Rolls’ lateral movement and combination punching early. Clearly Rolls came to fight and was determined to give the former world champion a test that most would not expect. The lack of head movement from Golovkin in the early stages of the bout was also noticeable.

The two fighters were more than willing to engage and more often than not whenever Golovkin would land something significant, Rolls would answer with offense of his own. While some may have expected a quick knockout win and a statement making performance by Golovkin in his first fight since losing his unified Middleweight world championship in his second encounter with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in September of last year, it was a competitive fight and Rolls showed that he intended to make the most of the opportunity he was given in what was the biggest fight of his career.

Golovkin’s reputation as one of Boxing’s feared power punchers and “Knockout Artists” would show itself in round four. A short left hook to the head appeared to buckle the legs of Rolls. Golovkin would follow this with an overhand right that sent Rolls against the ropes. A short left hook to the head moments later would send Rolls down and out on the canvas.

At the end of the day, this was another knockout that will be added to Gennady Golovkin’s highlight reel. There will be some however, that will question whether the success Rolls was able to have prior to the knockout was a sign of decline for the thirty-six year old Golovkin. Yours truly will not make assumptions or elude to Golovkin being in possible decline.

While some might be critical of Golovkin’s performance, it is important to remember that this was his first fight with a new trainer in his corner. Although it is not an excuse and Golovkin did take some solid punches throughout from Rolls, it can take time for a fighter and a new coach to gel. Golovkin did accomplish what was the intended goal, getting back in the win column while also continuing to keep interest in a third fight between himself and Saul Alvarez at a high.

Whether or not that fight will take place later this year remains to be seen. With both fighters signed to and competing under the DAZN banner and with the digital sports streaming network looking to continue to provide a more economically reasonable alternative to the pay-per-view model while also looking to continue to build their global subscriber-base, I do not see a third encounter between the two being put off for too long.

Now we come to a look ahead to this Saturday and the return of former Heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury as he returns to the ring following his draw last December with current WBC world champion Deontay Wilder. The undefeated Fury will face fellow unbeaten Heavyweight Tom Schwarz in a twelve round bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV in the main event of a card televised by ESPN+ here in the United States.

As some might recall Fury appeared to be on his way to regaining a portion of the World Heavyweight championship in his fight against Wilder, but two knockdowns late in the fight that the champion was able to score resulted in a disputed draw. Fury showed his mettle in the twelfth round of that fight by getting up from what was the second knockdown Wilder was able to score when it appeared he had been knocked out in a scenario that could best be described as miraculous.

Fury will now turn his attention to the unbeaten Tom Schwarz.Schwarz, the German Heavyweight champion will enter the fight undefeated in twenty-four professional fights having scored knockouts in sixteen of those fights. While the 6’5 Schwarz has an impressive resume, he has faced limited competition thus far in his career and it is understandable how some might view him as an underdog going into this encounter with Fury.

In this observer’s eyes this fight will come down to what Schwarz will be able to bring to the table against the 6’9 Fury. Fury has nineteen knockouts in his twenty-seven career wins, but is more known for his ability to be elusive and awkward. It was his elusiveness and awkward style that frustrated Deontay Wilder into missing a significant portion of his offense in their fight last December. One could make the argument however, that once Wilder was able to shorten his punches and land on Fury, that it became a different fight.

It is indisputable that the two knockdowns Wilder was able to score late in the fight allowed him to earn a draw on the scorecards and retain his world championship. Although Schwarz is an underdog in this fight, it will be interesting to see if there is something that he saw from Fury’s fight with Wilder that he can implement into his strategy for this fight.

  The Heavyweight division is still reeling from Andy Ruiz’ upset two weeks ago over previously undefeated unified Heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua. With Deontay Wilder’s recent victory over Dominic Breazeale and Ruiz and Joshua headed towards a contractually mandated rematch later this year, this fight between Fury and Schwarz has the underlying question of whether the landscape of the division will continue to change. After all, anything can happen.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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