Saturday, February 28, 2009

Friday Recap: Adamek stops Banks, Johnson dominates Judah

Michael Nelson recaps the action from last night's Shobox and FNF cards.

Photo © Marty Rosengarten /

Fans were treated to an eventful night of boxing on Friday, as ShoBox produced two scintillating knockouts, both of which will be among the candidates for knockout of the year.

IBF Cruiserweight champion Tomasz Adamek KO’d Johnathon Banks in brutal fashion in the 8th round of a competitive bout, and Giovanni Lorenzo put Dionisio Miranda down for the count with a perfectly timed right hand in the 2nd round of their co-feature.

Earlier, Glen Johnson chopped down Daniel Judah over 10 rounds in the Friday Night Fights main event.


Johnathon Banks looked comfortable in the opening stanza against Adamek, controlling the action with a sharp jab thrown from his waist. Adamek patiently stalked the bigger man, but got caught with a right hand that stunned him momentarily. While Banks did not press his advantage, the jolting right hand and the several up-jabs he landed were enough to win him the round.

After Adamek’s corner preached patience, Tomasz slightly increased his pressure by pumping his jab a bit more. Banks, still in his comfort zone, found success with his jab as well. Both men were reluctant to let their hands go in a tense chess match.

Rounds 3-4 were more of the same, with Banks briefly buckling Adamek’s knees in the 3rd with a crushing counter left hook. But again, the cautious Banks, weary of Adamek’s powerful short right, never pressed his advantage.

Adamek upped his work rate in the 5th, landing several jabs. Banks still pumped his jab with regularity, with an occasional right to keep his increasingly more aggressive opponent honest. At this point, the stylistic similarities between Banks and Wladimir Klitschko (who Banks often spars with) were obvious: both try to dominate the action with a jab and a periodic big right hand or left hook, both ignore their opponent’s body, both select to hold on the inside instead of throw uppercuts, and both drape themselves onto an opponent’s back whenever their shorter foe bends forward, in an attempt to sap their stamina. While Emmanuel Steward was missing from Johnathon Banks’ corner, his imprint couldn’t have been clearer.

Adamek, now resolute in stepping up his pressure, gave Banks a quick 101 on the significance of a body attack in the 6th round and Banks was visibly bothered every time he got whacked with a left hook to the liver. In the 7th, Banks started turning his back to Adamek, a sign that he was beginning to wilt from Adamek’s body work and persistent jab to the mouth.

Banks landed hard right hand in the 8th that stunned Tomasz again, except this time, perhaps feeling it was his best shot at winning a fight that was slipping away from him, he attempted to follow up. His gas was nearing E though, and he was unable to land anything else significant.

Shortly after he recovered, Adamek landed a beautiful short right to Johnathon’s chin that put him on the canvas. Banks got up on rubbery legs, turned his back to referee Eddie Cotton and did all but say he he had no interest in further punishment, but Cotton wiped his gloves anyways and let Banks continue. Adamek trapped Banks in the corner and hit him with series of punches that rendered him nearly unconscious, slumped in a position eerily similar to how Kelly Pavlik left Jermain Taylor in 2007 (ironically, Taylor too was being trained by Emmanuel Steward at the time).

With the knockout victory, Adamek improved to 37-1 with 25 KOs. Johnathon Banks fell to 20-1 with 14 KOs.

In the IBF Middleweight title elimination that started the broadcast, Giovanni Lorenzo quickly imposed his superior pedigree and size over Dionisio Miranda. Miranda had one good moment in the bout; a long right hand in the 2nd round that snapped Lorenzo’s head back. His moment of glory was quickly truncated by a Lorenzo right that instantly transplanted Miranda on the canvas. Miranda struggled to his feet, but was unable to beat the referee’s count.

Giovanni Lorenzo, now facing a possible IBF title shot against Arthur Abraham, improved to 27-1 with 19 KOs. Dionisio Miranda dropped to 19-4-2 with 17 KOs.

Friday Night Fights...

Earlier in the night on ESPN2's Friday Night Fights, Glen Johnson, now an ageless wonder at 40 years old, dropped Daniel Judah in the first round en route to a workmanlike domination over his younger foe.

While Judah put up a respectable effort in the early going, by the middle rounds he was reduced to showboating and making faces, his way of handling the fact he was in with a far superior fighter. Johnson hurt him several times to the body throughout the bout, but failed to put him away. If there is a criticism to be made of Johnson, it’s that he often lets his wounded prey limp away instead of clamping down on the jugular. Nevertheless, it was another impressive performance by the Road Warrior, securing a 99-89, 99-90, and 99-90 unanimous decision.

Here’s hoping that we see him in with another one of the elite Light Heavyweights – if not Chad Dawson, Tavoris Cloud or Adrian Diaconu – sooner than later.

Glen Johnson is now 49-12-2, with 33 knockouts, while Daniel Judah fell to 23-4-3 with 10 knockouts.

e-mail Michael Nelson
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HBO WCB Predictions: Juan Manuel Marquez vs Juan Diaz

Tonight in Houston, Juan Manuel Marquez puts his world lightweight title on the line against "The Baby Bull", Juan Diaz. Here's what The Boxing Bulletin writers have to say on who'll emerge victorious.

Despite Juan Diaz being exactly the type of youthful, energetic opponent that foists his style on the fight and imposes his will on his opponents, I would not be surprised to see Marquez's counter punching mastery pick the sometimes off balance younger man apart.

In what I expect to be a very competitive and entertaining bout, I'll take Marquez to win a clear decision. This is the fight he makes it certain, if their were still any doubt, that he is a fighter to be admired right along with his other more highly celebrated contemporaries.- Jeff Pryor

Uppercuts and body work were instrumental in Nate Campbell breaking Diaz down, and Marquez has one of the better uppercuts in boxing and is no slouch when it comes to body punching. Diaz does have a strong, consistent jab that will give Marquez fits, but Marquez will eventually find his way around it. Also, aside from Barrera, Marquez has left all of his recent opponents with compromised vision, and if Diaz suffers a gash, his corner will have to do a lot better with handling blood than they did in the Campbell fight.

I see Marquez winning a close decision, a bit more decisively than the scorecards are going to indicate. - Michael Nelson

JMM is going to need fight changing punches to stop the pressure Diaz will bring, and I don't think he hits hard enough to do it.

I expect the first three or four rounds to go clearly the baby Bull's way, before JMM works his way back into the fight over the next third but it will take a ton of effort and his older legs will feel it. Diaz will take over down the stretch and win a clear decision in a fight that is more competitive than it is close. 8-4 or 9-3ish. Stronger, faster, younger and at this point in their careers, just plain better. - Mark Lyons

I'm taking Diaz by close decision. I think his advantages in youth, speed, size and volume punching will carry him to a close decision. Make no mistake about it, Marquez is as skilled and savvy as it gets, but he's a bit too and old and small. - John Vaci

Granted Marquez is probably a little undersized for the division, and is getting up there in years, but he's still the best counter puncher in the sport. Diaz will do his thing and let his hands go, while Marquez will pick his spots very effectively, and the judges will have to choose between quality verse quantity. If they go with quality, I think JMM will take it by 8-4, 7-5 type scores. - Andrew Fruman

I like Marquez by decision. Straighter punches and professionalism will allow him to thrive off the younger man's spirited effort. It is going to be a great fight. - Lee Payton

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Man on Fire

by Jeff Pryor

Juan Manuel Marquez is a man who is on fire inside. Long labeled a clinical technician who refused to go to war, and who fought without the passion so beloved by his Mexican homeland, Marquez now fights not just to win, but to show that he is a warrior deserving of his countries adulation.

Photos © Ray Kasprowicz

With such ambitions it becomes apparent that Marquez has resigned himself to facing more than one foe when entering the ring. This weekend he will battle at least four men in the squared circle; Juan Diaz the best young Lightweight in the world, Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales the two contemporaries he has been in constant, if indirect, competition with for virtually his entire career, and Manny Pacquiao, The Moby Dick to Marquez's Captain Ahab, the white whale that pulls Marquez inexorably through weight classes in pursuit of his obsession to prove once and for all that he can beat the Filipino sensation.

This fire that now crackles within Marquez was slow to ignite, and his is a flame that burns slow, gaining in heat the longer it smolders. In many ways his career trajectory mirrors that of both Bernard Hopkins and Joe Calzaghe. All three were under appreciated for much of their careers. For various reasons each was passed over or missed opportunities that may have made their careers take off sooner. While Calzaghe and Marquez both began their late career pushes at roughly the same time, Calzaghe has since decided he's proven all he wished to and retired, while Marquez continues to face the best opposition of his career and strive for a greater legacy.

In this way his tale is more closely aligned with Hopkins'. Each man lost their first fight. Each lost their first major title bout, Hopkins to Roy Jones Jr. and Marquez to Freddie Norwood. The similarities continue in that, since then, each has suffered 3 blemishes on their record; Taylor I & II and Calzaghe for Hopkins, Pacquiao I & II and Chris John for Marquez. Setting aside official decisions, it could be argued that neither man has lost since those losses to Jones and Norwood years ago.

It is also likely no coincidence that these two aging warriors are perhaps the two best technically skilled boxers in the world. While Marquez cuts a textbook silhouette and Hopkins' is that of an old school Philly slickster, neither were particularly admired for their athleticism and it is quite apparent that their longevity is due to hard work, diligence and the deftness of their craft.

Though his mastery of the art of boxing was admired by many, Marquez realized after his controversial points loss to Chris John in Indonesia that something had to give. It is to his great credit and to our greater satisfaction that Juan Manuel realized shortly there after that to accomplish what he wished in the sport he had dedicated the greater part of his life to, he would have to sacrifice even more of himself.

So it was that in his next bout against tough, but unheralded, Terdsak Jandaeng that Marquez began to fight with urgency, offense and spirit. He came out with a swollen eye, but an impressive and entertaining performance that marked the birth of a new era for "Dinamita" as a fan friendlier and determined prize fighter worthy of our attention.

Likewise in his next fight against a similar tough, but largely unknown opponent Jimrex Jaca, Marquez laid out his foe in the 9th round, peering through a face streaked with gore from a grisly cut on his forehead. Aside from showing us blood, he revealed to us that he was willing to push the peddle even when he was ahead and deliver everything he had to offer even if it meant giving up a little of himself to bring the pain to his opponent.

He was rewarded for his new riskier approach with a string of bouts to equal anyone's agenda of the last several years, Marco Antonio Barrera, Rocky Juarez, Manny Pacquiao, and Joel Casamayor. His fight with Barrera paled only in comparison to the incomparable Marquez-Vasquez trilogy that began that year. He went on to deliver a punishing decision against Juarez. And then the long awaited rematch with Pacquiao, again surpassed within the year only by his brothers third appointment with Vasquez.

Having been denied a third go around with his own nemesis, Marquez instead followed Pacquiao up to 135lbs. and was content to one up the "Pacman" by not choosing a lesser title holder like David Diaz with which to test the waters with, but by going after one of the two men who could claim to be the top dog at Lightweight, Joel Casamayor (Nate Campbell being the other). He proceeded to knock out the future hall of fame fighter, the first man ever to do so, in spectacular fashion. It must be said that Casamayor, at age 37 is past his best, though he was just off a stirring victory over the all Michael Katsidis.

At any rate, Marquez impressively stamped an exclamation point on his appearance on the scene at lightweight and had done all he could to position himself for another big money bout with Pacquiao. However, after his surprising victory over Oscar De La Hoya, Pacquiao is chasing money up the weight divisions himself right now, and his promoter, Bob Arum seems loathe to put Manny back into the fire with Marquez, when bigger money is there to be snatched.

Though his white whale has eluded Marquez once again, it would appear he is left in a position which is rather enviable. With Nate Campbell's trouble in making the 135 pound limit a few weeks ago, and his annex to a higher weight class, Marquez now finds himself unquestionably atop the lightweight division. Enter Juan Diaz, the man Nate Campbell trod over to gain his perch as top of the division last year.

Diaz brings a non-stop attack that can rattle off ten or twelve punch combos with regularity. Though he lacks big power, his chief weapon appears to be a mental battering ram in which his foes succumb to his relentless onslaught, unable to cope with the multi-punch barrages and more importantly the strain of knowing that they must make all there punches land, just to keep up. He has broken the will of champions like Acelino Freitas and Julio Diaz. The one man who has had success against Diaz was Nate Campbell, who's willpower never faltered, and who never wilted under the attack like each foe of Diaz's that came before him.

It would be fair to say that a fighter who could be knocked down three times in the first round of a fight against the most dynamic fighter in the world, who would rally back and pull out a draw, has considerable willpower, and that's just what Marquez impressively did against Pacquio in their first go around. If you believe as I do, that the secret to Diaz's success is willpower, the question that must be answered when Marquez and Diaz square off is what will be required of Diaz in order to break the will of Marquez. Can he deliver greater turmoil to Marquez, than he experienced in the opening round with Pacquio?...

I doubt it.

While Juan Diaz's throw-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach has worked well against sluggers, brawlers and bangers like Katsidis, Julio Diaz and Freitas, he has never fought anyone with the boxing ability and counter punch precision of Marquez. That said, Juan Diaz is exactly the type of youthful, energetic opponent that could make any 35 year old who has lost just a step or two, look old overnight.

If he should lose to Diaz, it would be the final stumble in his chase after Pacquiao. There is a fair chance it would end his hope of catching the Barrera or Morales type of esteem that he is after too. It is indeed a must win for Marquez if he is to make up for lost time.

If Marquez can defeat the "Baby Bull" and solidify his place as the best of the best at Lightweight, there will be little left to do at 135 and he will be left to chase that white whale again and hope to face off with the winner of Pacquio-Hatton. Baring that, perhaps the time would be nigh to revenge his loss to Chris John at a weight between the two, or perhaps face Nate Campbell at 140 in hopes that Pacquiao eventually is forced to look rearward and see the pursuing foe that deserves another shot.

Like Hopkins' late career win over Pavlik, Marquez can still add immensely to his legacy with a win against his young foe, at an age when most Prize Fighters are fading away. Like Hopkins' too, Marquez would likely delight in proving to fans and naysayers alike that he has been undervalued throughout his career.

After all the years of being on the losing end of the comparison to his Mexican contemporaries, Eric Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera, in the past several years Juan Manuel Marquez has been taking large strides in his quest to catch up to them. Adding a respected young champion like Juan Diaz to his win column would further close the gap between the trio, and it may take no more than another substantive win or two to cinch the three of them together in a Mexican standoff of boxing legacies.

The fire that burns in Marquez has taken him this far, propelling his late career surge in a burst of blazing ambition. Is there enough fuel left to ignite him past the fireplug that is Juan Diaz? Old "Dinamita" can be hard to predict, but if I were advising Diaz I would have one suggestion.

Handle with care...

e-mail Jeff Pryor
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Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Contender Finale Recap

After an intense but slightly awkward fight, it was no big surprise that the end to last night’s Contender final came suddenly. Both the tournament winner, Troy Ross and runner-up, Hino Ehikhamenor had thrown caution to the wind late in round 3, and it seemed only a matter of time before someone landed a really damaging blow.

The final sequence started with just over a minute to go in round 4, with Troy landing two chopping lefts, followed by a big right that drove Hino into the corner. Troy immediately pounced, and it looked like Hino may have panicked a bit, as he turned his back and grabbed the top rope to try and avoid Troy’s follow up assault. Once he did that, referee Steve Smoger was left with little option but to jump in.

While Smoger made the right call, the ending was still a little unsatisfactory as I don’t think Hino was that badly hurt. He was just trapped in a bad spot. I’m not a proponent of the standing 8 count in pro-boxing, but if ever there was a time it might have come in handy, it was then.

The time of the stoppage was exactly 2:00.

Up until that point, the two counter-punchers had engaged in a mostly tactical battle, punctuated with sporadic bursts of free swinging exchanges, where they both unloaded with bombs that mostly missed the mark. Overall, I thought Troy had slightly the better of the action, and was looking the more likely winner, but Hino was still very much in the fight until he got caught.

It will be interesting to see where Troy goes from here. I think he’s a legit top 5 cruiserweight, capable of giving the division’s current champ, Tomasz Adamek a run for his money. At the very least, I’d hope he gets a crack at one of the belts before the year is out.

As for Hino, he’s still young, and from the sounds of it hasn’t really given boxing his undivided attention. Hopefully he earned a decent paycheck (the prize money wasn’t announced for some reason) for his runner-up performance and can devote himself full time to getting better. With a bit more top level experience, I don’t think it’s out of the question that he could earn a shot at a belt somewhere down the line.

In the third place bout, Rico Hoye won a unanimous decision over Akinyemi “AK” Laleye by scores of 79-72 across the board.

It was a scrappy, mauling affair, with both fighters banging away at close quarters.

AK started off well, taking the fight to Rico and bulling him backwards, but Rico eventually started to find the mark, and by the third round was landing the cleaner, heavier punches.

AK never stopped battling, but was consistently getting the worst of it, and I think if Rico had a little bit more in his tank, he might have been able to finish things inside the distance, but as it was, he was a comfortable winner.

- Andrew Fruman e-mail
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HBO Preview: Juan Manuel Marquez vs Juan Diaz

This Saturday night, Juan Manuel Marquez defends the Lightweight Championship against plucky challenger, Juan Diaz. Since the fight was official, fans of both have been going back and forth on the outcome of this terrific match-up. The champion is favoured, but most think he's in for a taxing affair.

What's At Stake

For Marquez: The World's Lightweight Title. With Nate Campbell losing his belts at the scale, and moving up to the 140 pound division, there is no doubt who the lightweight champ is.

What is in doubt is Marquez' legacy. With his hall of fame credentials still in question, a victory over a respected young fighter like Diaz may put him over the edge. Some insist that he is overrated because he never actually won an official decision over Pacquiao. Those people will also remind you that Casamayor and Barrera had seen better days. Maybe he really is just a bad style match-up for the best in the world. Or maybe fighting Manny even, over 24 rounds, means he belongs at the top of the heap. We'll find out which side is right on Saturday.

For Diaz: This is a huge opportunity to wipe away the memory of what Campbell did to him. Really, with a win here, that fight becomes meaningless for anything other than the experience. As well as being able to pack the house with devoted fans, he'll be considered "the man" by all. If he pulls it off, his situation looks great next to Nate's, so a measure of revenge can be gained. Personally, I just want to see how the young man performs at boxing's highest level.

The Styles

Marquez is an offensive counter puncher. He stands in a classic, efficient stance that is the foundation for perhaps the most fundamentally perfect arsenal in boxing. His discipline in the ring is rivaled only by dedication he has shown to training throughout his many years as a professional fighter. What makes taking him especially scary, is his passion for winning. He's never been shy about trying to hurt the guy in front of him.

He's recognized as a quick, sharp puncher, who has stung everyone he's ever fought at one point or anther, though he's not thought of as a banger. Some think of him as a great defender, but I'm not sure that is the case. I see him setting up his attack, more than anything. Either way, he is definitely getting hit more these days.

Diaz is a hustling pressure fighter who keeps his chin tucked and his hands high. He's shown a belief in his jab, which allows him to get inside and do his best work. When you add his fighting heart and willingness to walk through fire, you've got a handy fighter, and a stern test for a 35 year old man.

Diaz' best attribute may be his combination punching. He is capable of bombarding opponents with salvos that make them more concerned with survival than winning. When winging shots up and down with a head of steam, he's a very difficult guy to deter.

What To Expect

First off, I think Diaz will be successful with his jab, and that says a lot, because that punch is the one that sets up his offense, and also goes far in dictating his comfort level. I've noticed that the Marquez brothers both eat quite a few jabs because of the way they set up, so I think it's a shot that the challenger can count on.

If he gets sucked into a jabbing contest though, he might be in trouble, because the champ depends on standing his ground and countering with short, stabbing blows. I think that's one area that could decide the fight. Marquez has the tighter technique, so I think he'll get there first with the harder punches. The fact that Diaz is always coming behind a high guard could mean he'll get beat to the punch quite often.

At his best, Juan Diaz wears guys down with his accelerated pace. I think his ability to win depends on breaking the older man down over 12 rounds. The only problem there is, Juan Manuel Marquez doesn't bend. In the past we've seen many examples of fun fighters throwing 100 punches a round, only to have that output brought down to something much more manageable by proven old pros.

I figure this pretty much HAS to be a close fight.
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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mark's Top 40 At 40: (35-31)

Mark Lyons is back with another installment of his top 40 list. Mark's turning 40 soon, and in honor of that milestone, he's counting down his 40 favorite fighters that he's followed since he started watching the sport back in the seventies. This week he covers numbers 35 through 31.

Take it away Mark...

35. Junior Jones

Career Record: 50-6 (28)

Three Favorite Fights: MAB TKO5 (DQ my ass) & UD12, Jorge Eliceo Julio UD12

Long and lanky warriors with punching power will populate a few spots on here. poison was always willing to lay it on the line and though his chin was a chink in his armor. His heart was as big as his wingspan. No excuses can be made from Barrera or his fans. Jones was just flat out the better man. He met Marco head on and brought out the dark side of him for the first time. It certainly wouldn't be the last.

Nice jab and a hard cross behind it. Jones was a tough puzzle for anybody from 118-122. Another great fight was his victory over HOFer Orlando Canizales. Jones isn't an all time great. But he was capable of beating guys of that caliber. Just a super exciting fighter.

34. Pipino Cuevas

Career Record: 35-15 (31)

Three favorite fights: Angel Espada II TKO12, Harold Weston TKO9, Pete Ranzany TKO2

Cuevas career had a rough beginning and a rough ending. But in between he was a stone cold killer. The man broke jaws like Chris Rock cracks jokes. Violent left hook to the head and the body. Very underrated by many because of his career record. Weston, Clyde Gray, Ranzany & Espada were all very solid fighters that he murdered.

Pipino had a chin that was considered among the best in boxing and his power was an 11 on a scale from 1 to 10. Then he ran into Thomas Hearns, much more on him later. Many over look that fight nowadays. But what BoxRec wont tell you is that Tommy was a slight underdog in there. That's how good Cuevas was.

In the message board era of Boxing "limited" is a greatly overused term. Pipino didn't have great feet and his hands were slow. But the two equalizers in his fists rendered slick boxers unable to leave their stools.

33. Julian Jackson

Career Record: 55-6 (49)

Three Favorite Fights: Terry Norris TKO2, Buster Drayton TKO3, Herol Graham KO4

I grew up when Boxing was more main stream. My friends were into the big ones and would watch other fights when inclined. The Hawk was one where I would call and say, "flip on Showtime, this guy is about to kill somebody." That's how it was with Jackson. Somebody was getting KTFO.

I don't think Julian would win as many as he would lose against the greater fighters in history. But he would always make it thrilling, and as Terry Norris found out, he could snatch victory from the hands of defeat with a single, devastating shot from the missile launchers he attached gloves to. One of the most memorable knockouts for me was when he pointed Buster Drayton to the canvas after an other worldly left hook.

Say what you want about him. But The Hawk was as exciting as the SI swimsuit issue for a 12 yr old. Always looking to take his opponent to his version of the guillotine.

32. Rocky Lockridge

Career Record: 44-9 (36)

Three Favorite Fights: Tony Lopez I LUD12, Julio Cesar Chavez LMD12,Eusebio Pedroza LSD15

As was customary with the Duva stable, Rocky took on all comers. You may find it odd that he lost all three of my favorite fights. But they were all wars and he could easily have gotten the win in all three fights. His one punch title winning KO of Roger Mayweather is one for the highlight reels.

Lockridge was tough as nails and always pressed the fight looking to land his booming over-hand right. An excellent inside fighter and body puncher. Rocky was able to push the best in two divisions to their absolute limit. The decision to Wilfredo Gomez was as bad as they come.

Anybody that faced Lockridge had to bring their lunch pail and be ready for war. As a fan, I don't ask for anymore than that.

31. Yoko Gushiken

Career Record: 23-1 (15)

Three Favorite Fights: Jamie Rios II TKO13, Rigoberto Marcano II KO7 & Alfonso Lopez KO7

I moved to Boston for a couple of years from age 9 to 11. They had a series on Saturday mornings that would run fights of Gushiken, Canto, Cuevas, Chacon, etc., yes even as a kid it was Boxing over Cartoons. That being said I had to chance to watch many Gushiken fights several times.

He won the world title in only his ninth fight and defended it thirteen times before retiring after his only defeat. Between Ring magazine, The Title Bout board game and that series in Boston, the Fierce Eagle continues to be my favorite Jr Flyweight and I don't think that will ever change.

He really had no weaknesses in the ring. Could fight inside and out, solid power and excellent defense. it's a shame he retired so early as a trilogy with Pedro Flores would have been nice. It's even a bigger shame he isn't in this watered down version of the HOF.

Check out last week's installment: 40-36

By Mark Lyons e-mail
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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Shobox Preview: Adamek vs Banks

Michael Nelson takes a look at the upcoming Shobox card.

***Check out The Boxing Bulletin's recap of the Shobox card, plus action from FNF as well: Shobox/FNF recap***

ShoBox comes back Friday night with a card that should produce some thrills. The main event features IBF and IBO Cruiserweight champion Tomasz Adamek (36-1) taking on the undefeated Johnathon Banks (20-0). In the co-feature, Colombian knockout artist Dionisio Miranda (19-3) battles Giovanni Lorenzo (26-1) in an IBF Middleweight title eliminator.

With pedigree largely developed in the legendary Kronk gym in Detroit, Michigan, under the tutelage of Emmanuel Steward, the heavy-handed Johnathon Banks has knocked out fourteen of his opponents, all within five rounds.

Boxing fans may remember him for his scintillating 2006 bout with Eliseo Castillo on Wednesday Night Fights, in which Banks found himself on the canvas twice in the first round. Banks showed tremendous heart by coming back to put Castillo down for the count three rounds later. Castillo hasn’t stepped inside the ring since.

In his last fight, he traveled to Germany to face Vincenzo Rossito on the undercard of Wladimir Klitschko’s bout with Tony Thompson. It was his biggest test since Castillo, a measuring stick to see how he compares with the likes of former Cruiserweight star David Haye and former contender Alexander Gurov, both of whom knocked out Rossito in two rounds.

Banks won a majority decision, but failed to impress. Not only was he out of gas by the 6th round, but it looked as if he didn’t know how to handle the fatigue, often turning his back to his opponent with body language that loudly expressed his desire for the fight to end. To his credit, he badly staggered Rossito with a right hand in the final round, which ultimately won him the fight.

Hopefully, it was a learning experience for Banks, because Tomasz Adamek’s short right is a punishing tutor. Adamek made the boxing world take notice with his two spectacular wars against Paul Briggs, earning a majority decision victory in both. After a lopsided loss to rising phenom Chad Dawson in early 2007, Adamek stepped up to the Cruiserweight division and regained his stature as one of the more dangerous fighters in boxing by beating O’Neil Bell into submission in 2008.

Then, last December in a fight of the year candidate, he dropped the favored Steve Cunningham three times to win a split decision.

To those keeping count at home, he has been in three fight of the year candidates: in 2005 (Paul Briggs), 2006 (Paul Briggs), and 2008 (Steve Cunningham). It’s difficult for this man not to be in a good fight.

Johnathon Banks may be able to hang his hat on the fact that Steve Cunningham rocked Adamek in the third round of their classic. But with a distinct disadvantage in speed, technique, and stamina, he has little more than a puncher’s chance. I expect Adamek to take Banks out in the middle rounds as Banks begins to tire.

On the undercard, Giovanni Lorenzo looks to bounce back from his loss to Raul Marquez eight months ago against hard-hitting Dionisio Miranda. Lorenzo’s speed of foot and hand may carry the day, but if he didn’t like the pressure that Raul Marquez brought to him, I imagine he won’t enjoy the duress Miranda will bring. Both men can pop and neither man has a great chin, so look for a knockout here as well.

e-mail Michael Nelson
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Score it!... Morales-Barrera I (Part 2)

We're back today with the second half of our look at the scoring of the classic first encounter between Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera.

Let's get right to it...


“Morales took the 7th with a multitude of uppercuts, outworking his shorter opponent on the inside.” - MN

“Another very close round. Anyone who calls this fight a "robbery" should be arrested. Morales was once again the busier man, but Barerra landed a brutal flurry at the beginning and again at the end of the round that did a lot of damage. The work in between by Erik was too much to overcome on my card.” – ML

“As with all these rounds, the separation between who is getting the best of it and who is getting the worst of it is pretty slim. Overall, Barrera's renewed aggression this round carries it, as he lands more of the head snapping shots.” – JP

“They spent most of this round forehead to forehead. I would have given the 7th to Morales, until he was stunned with a wicked combination that put him to sleep for a split second.” - LP


“Barrera has found something in his straight right hand, a punch he had been neglecting the last few rounds. He landed several clean ones, in addition to nice work to the body.” – MN

“It was a round of Barrera flurries and Morales rallies. The pattern now established is that Barrera's moments come when he has Morales against the ropes. Morales excels when he is hitting and turning Barrera in the center of the ring. Barrera had more of his moments than Morales this round.” – JP


“This was a hell of a round. Barrera landed some clean shots upstairs early, including one that buckled Morales’ knees along the ropes. However, Morales came back to dominate the next minute, and it looked like he might take it, only for Barrera to close strongly. I thought that overall, Barrera landed the most damaging shots of the round, so I gave it to him, but a case could have been made for Morales.” – AF

“This was another round where Morales was working so hard, you had to give it to him, but then he gets smacked by something unforgettable. It's such a tough call at this point, but I have to score the damage.” - LP


“Barrera landed a big hook at one stage that staggered Morales, but Morales landed several clean right hands during a spirited stretch in the middle of the round that was more than enough to earn it for him.” - AF

“Morales finds his range with the right hand, snapping Barrera's head back with a number of them. Barrera rallies late, and concludes the round with a damaging left hook to the body. Still, I gave the round to Morales.” - MN

“No matter how many times I watch this fight, I always come away amazed. My father is now standing for good and he said Holey Moley three times in this round. Not the commentary you're looking for but it speaks volumes. Erik staggered Barrera early in the round with a cross and the three right hands in a row off the ropes was brutal. MAB came back strong at the end. but it was too little too late.” – ML


“Yet another swing round and there are many. Marco was really effective to the body and he managed a few big right hands as well. Morales continued to be busier, but he misses quite a few shots and a little steam is off of them.” – ML

“Morales targets sharp right hands up the middle and around the guard, while Marco concentrates on the body. I think those nasty blows to the ribs and gut were the hardest punches, so I gave the round to Barrera.” - LP

“This was a tight one, but I thought Morales did just a little more. He was more aggressive, and worked a touch harder.” - AF

“Morales edges the first two thirds of the round, but the last 30 seconds several body shots put him in "run out the clock" mode and Barrera senses it enough to come on strong and rally for the round. Who takes it? Flip a coin. I'll nudge it towards Morales, as his work over the first portion carried the round over Barrera's spurts.” - JP


Without scoring the knockdown...

“I thought Barrera earned the final round, as he forced the issue and carried much of the action, while Morales was content to circle and try and pick his spots. As for the knockdown, it's unfortunately the difference in the fight on my card if I'm forced to score it.” - AF

“Morales landed a couple of eye catching right hands in the early going, but Barrera hurt Morales with a combination. Morales tried to come back after the slip but it's a bit too late. Larry Merchant's 12 second countdown is one of the more obnoxious things he's ever done.” – MN

“Morales was slightly ahead in the first two minutes of the round, but Barrera did hurt him with a hook about 20 seconds before the mistakenly ruled knockdown” – ML

“Morales does more the first couple minutes, controlling the pace of the fight and landing several big blows. Then Barrera lands a series of damaging shots which drive Morales stumbling into the ropes. Next we have the slip, called as a knockdown, after which Morales serves a volley of blows in the waning moments to try and make up for it. I felt Morales edged the round, though the knockdown fiasco and crowd reaction gives the impression Barrera owned it.” – JP

“The knockdown at the end is totally meaningless, so I think it's perfectly legit to ignore it. I understand that the judges have to take the point away from Morales, but we're not judging from ringside, nor are we scoring the fight live, so I'm going to deal with reality. The reality is there is no reason to deduct from Erik Morales in the 12th round, and I felt he did enough to win it, although it's still not enough to give him the fight on my scorecard.” - LP

Scoring the knockdown...

Without counting the knockdown, we've got two scorecards with a slight edge to Barrera, two draws, and one card with Morales in front. Taking the knockdown into consideration - and an official judge MUST do that - we've now got four scorecards in favor of Barrera.

Had that been the difference on the official cards, the controversy over the result would have no doubt been just as great from Morales supporters as it ended up being from those who felt Barrera really won.

However, the mistake by referee Mitch Halpern ended up having only a minor baring on the official result, as two of the three judges, Dalby Shirley and Carol Castellano still had Morales in front by scores of 115-112 and 114-113 respectively. The knockdown was the difference on Duane Ford's card. He had it in favor of Barrera, 114-113.

How did you score it? Let us know.

Check out Part 1 from yesterday.
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Monday, February 23, 2009

Score it!... Morales-Barrera I (Part 1)

The Boxing Bulletin's Scorecard feature, Score it!... is back, and this month we'll be taking a look at the classic first encounter between Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera.

Heading into the bout, most fans picked the undefeated Morales to come out on top of Barrera... and according to two of the three judges, he did. The verdict however was not without a fair amount of controversy, with many observers feeling Barrera had been robbed of the decision.

Let's go back to the Mandalay Bay, February 19, 2000...

The Boxing Bulletin have assembled a panel of our writers to judge the fight and explain their scores.

The Judges: Lee Payton, Mark Lyons, Michael Nelson, Jeff Pryor and Andrew Fruman.

Today, we'll break down rounds 1-6.


“The tone was set for the intensity of the bout, when Morales landed a low blow, and offered out his glove to apologize, only for Barrera to ignore him. Barrera came out the more aggressive of the two, and carried the first half of the round. Morales had a better second half, but it wasn’t enough to swing things in his favor.” – AF

“Morales tried to counter Barrera's rushes, with his own power shots, but got the worst of the exchanges. He picked it up over the last minute, but it wasn't enough.” - LP

“HBO appears to favor Barrera's work, not paying much lip service to the blows Morales gets in. With fifteen seconds left Morales delivers a clean left hookercut between Barrera's gloves, perhaps the best punch of the opening stanza, and which punctuates his work over the final two minutes of the round. “- JP

“The fury is immediate and awesome. Morales blocked quite a few of Marco's punches contrary to Lampley's orgasmic seizures. Very difficult round to score. Marco did get in some hard body shots, but I favored Morales as I felt he did more damage with his cross and uppercuts to the head.” - ML


“The dial gets cranked another notch higher. Barrera lands some big shots this round, both to the body and head. Morales delivers a number of his own... just not as many. It's a round to admire the skill and punching versatility each man has; they each land damaging blows with every punch imaginable, from jabs to hooks, and uppercuts to straight rights.” – JP

“Barrera landed some scorching combo's in particularly a double hook to the body/left uppercut to the head. Every time he lands Morales comes right back, but I gave it to Barrera on his body work and some hard clean shots to the head.” - ML


“Morales came out a bit busier, and tried to take the lead a little more. I thought he had a slight edge through the first minute, and finished nicely to earn the round on my card.” – AF

“Morales comes out bouncing on his toes, and is elusive for the first minute. Barrera gets inside and continues his body assault. It looks like another Barrera round, until Morales finishes strong, getting Barrera's attention with a flush uppercut. Tough to score; I give it to Morales.” – MN

“Through the first minute and a half Morales edges Barrera, landing short uppercuts and generally working harder to land his punches. At midpoint of the round Barrera begins to drive Morales into the ropes and unleash combinations on him. Morales lands his share in the exchanges too, though he his punches are lacking the eye catching quality Barrera's garner. Close round, HBO finally gives a share of credit to Morales. Barrera won his half of the round more convincingly.” – JP


“Marco's left hook to the body is a beautiful thing. However, he is getting outfought here when he presses Morales to the ropes. Another close round, but Erik's activity gained a slight edge.” – ML

"They exchange wildly again and it looks like Barrera may be getting the best of things, because he is moving forward, but his opponent is throwing with him all the way. They change roles and now it's the taller man moving forward. I thought Morales earned the round on activity, while Barrera's work on the ropes may have looked better than it actually was. " - LP

“Barrera continues to ooh and ahh the crowd with vicious left hooks to the liver. Morales had a few moments, but Barrera controlled the round with his body work.” – MN

“Morales shaded the first minute, while Barrera edged the second, and I couldn’t separate them in the third. Morales landed the better looking shots upstairs, but Barrera’s body work made it a wash.” - AF


“Great action, largely dominated by Morales, who feinted the socks off of Barrera to hit him with his right hand at will. Jim Lampley and Larry Merchant though Morales appeared hurt by a Barrera flurry, but I think he was just tired.” – MN

“Though Barrera's been sneering for the better part of five rounds, for the first time in the bout we can see the intensity on Morales' face as he pours on a withering attack that leaves Barrera little but to largely cover up and wait it out. Though Barrera's flurry makes the round closer, it is short lived and fails to overcome the sustained attack that Morales foisted on him for a full minute moments before.” – JP

“I have my Dad watching this with me for the first time in his life and this round drove him off his chair. Wow, Morales came out with a vengeance and never stopped punching. Clearest round of the fight so far.” – ML

“Tough round to score. Morales landed more punches this round, including a series of unanswered power shots in the middle of the round. Barrera started and finished well, and I think overall landed the heavier blows. Morales looks pretty tired at this point. It was Erik's round until the assault at the very end. The punches Marco hit him with were so shocking, they got him the nod on my card. Could have gone either way, in my opinion. ” - LP


“A tit-for-tat round that for the most part was even, until Morales landed a few more shots in the final minute.” – MN

“Barrera is playing defense causing it to be the slowest round of the fight so far. I gave it to Morales because he was the one trying to make the fight, but it is now apparent that Marco is the harder hitter.” - LP

“I had Barrera slightly up after the first couple minutes, but felt Morales did enough down the stretch to even it up. I know that’s already an outrageous two even rounds on my card, but there’s really very little to separate these guys.” - AF

We'll be back tomorrow for Part 2.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Cotto-Jennings / Pavlik-Rubio Experience

By Jeff Pryor

Madison Square Garden is always a wild venue on a Cotto fight night. Though I've been privy to these occasions before, for some reason the raucousness of the crowd that gathered for Cotto's inevitable deconstruction of Michael Jennings took me a bit by surprise.

Last time out, for Cotto-Mosley, I recall a forty-ish year old woman twirling a shirt over her head (a shirt, not her shirt sicko's) and warbling like a siren at the top of her lungs each time Cotto landed a punch. At one point she looked over at me and smiled apologetically as though to say... I know this is crazy, but I can't help it.

This time I did not see a singular instance to top that annoyance, however in general it seemed like there were more flags, more fist pumping and a volume level at least on par with that night back in November of '07. Perhaps the intensity only seemed so startling because I may have been expecting a more subdued Cotto crowd, what with his recent devastation at the hands of Margarito. In any event, it was loud.

That said the "Mecca of Boxing" took a long while to fill up. As usual, by the main event it was pretty well stocked, yet still there were conspicuous gaps here and there in the lower seats. The floor looked to be close to sell out and the upper levels had a very healthy smattering.

As I sauntered into the arena, I grabbed a program for fifteen bucks; I guess in these tough economic times Top Rank decided to slash a fiver off their usual charge. With the booklet, they were handing out a free Cotto poster/banner, with his name on the back, obviously meant to be waved about in a gesticulating manner at the appropriate times. During Cotto's fight, I did not see a single one of these banners being waved. Perhaps I was the only sucker who dropped fifteen on a program.

The undercard...

As I settled in for about six hours of boxing, Heavyweights Terrell Nelson and Lenroy Thomas were just getting started. Mark my words, and remember these names... these two Heavyweights are destined for anonymity. Thomas got the decision and at 11-1 perhaps he can keep winning and make an appearance on Shobox, but that's probably as good as it can get for him.

Undefeated Super Featherweight, Hector Marengo was up next, facing Angel Rodriguez. Again, nothing to write home about, Marengo salvaged his undefeated record with a draw against better than expected Rodriguez.

The pattern for the evening was now pretty well set for virtually all upcoming bouts. Underachievement, and mild entertainment.

Another undefeated fighter, Super bantamweight, Jorge Diaz, of New Jersey, got love from the crowd and faced down a tough Lante Addy. The highlight was the final round where the two of them launched hooks at each other for a full minute or more. I'm not speaking in hyperbole here, they literally threw punches non-stop like rock 'em sock 'em robots for over sixty seconds. The crowd finally snapped out of it's nap and went wild in appreciation.

With forty five seconds left in the fight the punches stopped and each man seemed to have run out of gas. The next thirty seconds or so went by with nary a punch thrown as though to punish us for getting too excited. Somehow the antsy crowd held off booing in light of what we had just seen. Then for the final ten seconds Diaz dug down and rattled off one last flurry to put a mild exclamation point on a win that until the final two minutes or so had been rather mundane.

Ladies up next, and another area native, Maureen Shea enjoyed a solid backing vocal from the crowd. The first round held the further promise of action when Shea dropped Kina Malpartida with a solid blow. From there on, through the next ten rounds, they fought on mostly even and fairly dull terms with Shea generally getting a slight edge.

With the WBA Women's Super Featherweight belt on the line, as well as Shea's undefeated record, it is to Malpartida's credit she never gave up and in the tenth landed a right hand that put Shea face down on the canvas. The "Million Dollar Baby" Hilary Swank sparring partner, got to her feet, but the ref waived it off. Shea's left cheek (on her face sicko's) was badly swollen and the doctors immediately began to check it out.

Malpartida was in tears as her hand was raised and she became a champion, emotion overcoming her. The crowd grudgingly applauded her achievement, perhaps a guilty reaction to the woman's tears, circumstances I'm sure a few of the men in the crowd could relate to from personal relationship experiences.

Norberto Bravo should retire. He is game, he tries, he seems like a very nice guy and a good family man, but at some point someone needs to put his health above all else. The three rounds he spent with Pawel Wolak were not devastatingly damaging, in fact Bravo had some moments, particularly in the second round, but Wolak looked much bigger than him and ultimately caught him flat footed on the ropes, and threw a volley of unanswered punches to halt it.

Wolak is a limited face first fighter, but perhaps he'll get a chance at a belt sometime. I don't know... who cares. I guess probably the vocal Polish crowd that came to watch him does. I guess pointless bouts like this just rub me the wrong way. Bravo was brought in to lose. He got paid and for that I'm glad, I certainly can't blame him for taking it, but it was mostly a waste of time for all else involved.

Up until this point the loudest crowd reactions may have been for the Round Card girls in their extremely short dresses.

Undefeated Middleweight Matt Korobov's KO was spectacular. Considering that the crowd was booing this bout within the first three minutes, it was the least he could do to deliver Cory Jones to us as a face plant victim at 2:59 of the final round. That KO is all anyone will remember of the fight, though all but the final ten seconds were pretty pedestrian for one of Bob Arum's "Biggest signings in years".

Buffer announces the celebrities in attendance. Tony Danza gets the biggest reaction, and that should tell you the caliber of celebrity this card drew. There is also a nice tribute to Jose Torres, who is loudly appreciated by the Puerto Rican crowd. Then we get to the meat of this card... First up, the fighting Irish.

John Duddy is low hanging fruit at this point. If Arthur Abraham were smart, he'd make a run at landing the Irishman before Pavlik does. At any rate, I had been in the house to see Anthony Bonsante defeat Matt Vanda a couple years back, so I failed to see how Duddy could possibly lose this bout, or do anything other than completely out class Vanda. Well... he certainly won the fight, but the most dominant round went to Vanda, when in the tenth he suddenly decided to take it to Duddy and appeared to "tattoo" him (sorry) pretty good.

In retrospect, Duddy versus Rubio would have been ideal. In my opinion, Pavlik dispatches Vanda in six or less, which suggests that a valiant effort by Duddy against Pavlik will only end in brutal stoppage.

As I think about it now, this was like a united nations card of boxing. The crowd had vocal factions from multiple countries; we had the Puerto Ricans for Cotto, the Irish for Duddy, the Polish for Wolak, the English for Jennings, the Russians for Korobov and the American's for everyone in between.

The main-event...

So far, not a lot to get excited about, save for the two last second KO's that we'd been witness too. But now, excitement was in the air, Cotto was getting flashed on the big screen more and more often, to louder and louder cheers and the moment was nigh to cut to the chase; the fighter that we were all here for (unless you were Irish, English, Polish or Russian).

We get the first of three national anthems, "God Save the Queen". The American and Puerto Rican heavy crowd boo's throughout, drowning out the anthem. Lame. If you aren't going to have a general respect for the country at least respect the pleasant young lady singing the tune. Perhaps this was a concerted response to the UK crowd that booed the National anthem at one of Ricky Hatton's fights, but somehow I doubt there was any intelligence behind this booing.

The Puerto Rican anthem came next and was wildly cheered, followed by the American Anthem which was even more wildly cheered and then followed with the chant of "USA, USA, USA..." I had to grin at the mindless chanting. Sure we are the greatest country in the world, but do we really have to remind everyone, even when no one from the USA is participating in the fight?

So the answer to our collective question was at hand; how would Miguel Cotto look in the wake of his comprehensive defeat to Margarito last year. The answer? Cotto looked like Cotto. The crowd still loved him and in a bout that was reminiscent of his fight with Quintana, Cotto appeared to break Jennings down, mentally and physically just like old times.

After the bout, we were reminded by Buffer to hang around for the Pavlik-Rubio bout on the big screen. In response, thousands of Cotto fans immediately streamed out of Madison Square Garden. I guess they are Cotto fans, not boxing fans. And there is nothing wrong with that, though I wish it were otherwise.

Next on the agenda, a trip to Youngstown...

I was rather excited by the prospect of this closed circuit broadcast. For some reason, I suppose from stories of Ali fights on closed circuit, I always found the idea of watching such an event as an interesting novelty. Not being old enough to have done it myself before, it was just such a bygone experience that I tend to enjoy.

The couple hundred of us who stayed to watch Pavlik walk over Rubio were largely a subdued crowd. Unfortunately, there weren't really enough of us to generate much excitement removed from the fight as we were. Perhaps the lack of a competitive fight to watch had something to do with our general indifference too.

The press swung their chairs around to watch on the two large screens that had been erected at one end of the arena, while others of us watched on one of the many jumbo-tron screens. The grounds crew began to dismantle the ring before us, as we tilted our heads up to watch. As the bout wore on, more and more of the Madison Square crowd left in clumps. I would suppose the same experience was rather more entertaining for the jacked up Youngstown crowd as they watched Cotto dismantle Jennings. A full house would certainly provide the spark that our location lacked.

Fittingly the night ended with a bit of a whimper, as Rubio quit on his stool. I walked home and that was the end of my fight night. (although I did pop in Carl Froch vs. Robin Reid later, as apparently I hadn't spent enough of my day watching boxing yet).

So, while I have been a bit critical in pointing out the general dullness of the evenings fights, it's worth noting that had Cintron-Clottey or Peterson-Cherry ended up on the card, as originally planned, it may have helped considerably.

My final verdict on the Cotto-Jennings/Pavlik-Rubio experience? For a fight that was almost literally in my backyard, I'll take it. But for anyone else but the true-blue Cotto devoted... not sure I would have made the trip.

e-mail Jeff Pryor
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Pavlik and Cotto Score Knockouts

by Lee Payton

While I'm not sure it was worth the price of the Pay-Per-View, at least now we know that Kelly Pavlik and Miguel Cotto are OK. It's a good thing too, because not only are they young and exciting, but they also attract large, passionate audiences whenever they fight. In short, we need them.

So while the guys across from them never really had a chance at winning, they did let us know that two of the sport's best are just fine.

The Middleweight Champion pounded his Mexican challenger, Marco Antonio Rubio, into verbal submission, after the conclusion of the 9th round. Really, one of corner men should have known it was time to pull the plug. I'm not sure if everyone caught it, but there was a last second whack to the body that went a long way in convincing Rubio to remain seated.

Pavlik wasn't especially accurate with his power on this night, but some of that was because his opponent was restricted to moving and covering up most of the fight. From the beginning, he showed little interest in taking a chance, as respect for the champ's power held his hands back throughout the contest.

The home crowd was treated to a handful of shocking blows during his usual steady work. They can now exhale. Kelly is still himself.

Is that enough to beat the other top middleweights in the world? I'll try to be quick.

I am not a fan of Arthur Abraham, but in my opinion, he`s terrible for Pavlik. The athletic edge is huge, and Pavlik is not exactly trustworthy on defense. I just don't think he can handle faster fighters. That's what it comes down to. Abraham would beat him, and probably by knockout.

Felix Sturm might be able to beat him in Germany. That`s actually a close fight. Not pretty, or action-packed, but competitive. Probably something I could go without seeing.

I've thought Paul Williams could beat Pavlik for a pretty long time now and nothing has changed. I think he is the quicker, tougher, better fighter. Of course, some will question how one could so boldly pick a guy who is mostly unproven at 160, against the division's number 1 fighter. Call it a hunch.

The other main event...

Photo © Marty Rosengarten /

Miguel Cotto picked up a strap he doesn't really need when he knocked out an unfamiliar British fighter named Michael Jennings, in the 5th round. A celebratory crowd filled Madison Square Garden for the return of the popular Puerto Rican warrior, and not one left disappointed or unsure. Their man is alright.

Though I`m sure he's glad it's over, Cotto looked fresh and powerful in slamming his hard left hooks to the body of an over-matched Jennings. He was properly alert without appearing fearful or in doubt of himself. Once it was clear he could do anything he wanted against a fleeing opponent, the finish was near.

He looked fine to me. What's next?

There were rumors that a rematch with Shane Mosley was on the table at one point. I think most fans see that fight as the most significant in the division, at the moment, but I'm not sure that's up next. It was a hard fight to pick in November of 2007, and it's no easier now. If pressed, I'd take Shane by late knockout in a fight he is losing.

Joshua Clottey is a top welterweight with a title, who also happens to be promoted by Bob Arum. He`s acceptable by HBO and doesn't demand a ton of cash for his services. He may have the inside track on an HBO date with Cotto, as things stand. I'll take Miguel by gutty late TKO, on hooks to the liver.

Andre Berto is another fine option for great TV. Cotto is the more professional of the two, but maybe fiery athleticism could mess with that enough to create something memorable. I'd love this fight. You have to go with the more experienced pug in a free-for-all.

The undercard: Local favourite, middleweight John Duddy, outpointed Matt Vanda over 10 rounds to earn a unanimous decision. Atypical of most Duddy fights, it was a rather dull affair, that saw him popping a jab and fighting responsibly. It wasn`t until the 10th round that we saw his head snapping back, the way we`re used to.

I understand the point of the PPV, but this would have been perfect on one of the national networks, or as a special feature on ESPN. It's a shame. A card like this one could have been used to create fans.

- e-mail Lee Payton
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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Pavlik/Cotto: Top Rank PPV Predictions

Attemping to get back in the win column, Kelly Pavlik and Miguel Cotto (pictured right) are both returning to action on tonight's Top Rank PPV. Pavlik puts his middleweight crown on the line against veteran Marco Antonio Rubio, while Cotto attempts to get back on track against unheralded Brit, Michael Jennings. Check out what the The Boxing Bulletin writers have to say about how the two main events will play out.

Also be sure to read Jeff Pryor's article from last month, The Audacity of Imperfection, which talks about fighters who lost for the first time in 2008.

I've not seen Jennings, but based on what I've looked up about him, my guess is that he is in for a beating. I have no doubt that he is a brave fighter, so I think he'll make it to the second half, but I'll be surprised if he has the skills to take advantage of whatever doubts may be left in Cotto's mind after being beaten into submission by Margarito. I expect Miguel to box patiently in the early going, and then start pushing forward when he realizes that he is in command. Miguel Cotto stops him in 9 and his fans rejoice.

The Pavlik-Rubio fight is much more interesting, but I still feel like the challenger has little to no chance of actually winning.

Rubio is an in-fighter who isn't big on defense. I'm not sure he's going to be able to close the distance in order to do his best work. Pavlik could really just stand his ground and 1-2 him to death, but he may be tempted to go forward, and that's how things could get tougher than they need to be. Both men prefer to come forward, and when that is the case, the man who backs up usually loses. I think the champion will eventually settle down, and win the fight in a spectacular way. Kelly Pavlik ends matters in 6 rounds. -Lee Payton

I've seen approximately zero footage of Michael Jennings, so I can't say conclusively how well he'll do against Miguel Cotto. Cotto punishes fighters who aren't at the elite level though. Looking at the Brit's record, we see that he 1) probably doesn't have much power, and 2) lost to the only decent boxer he fought.

He might be a durable guy, but given Cotto's history and Jennings' record, this has mid-rounds KO written all over it.

Kelly Pavlik's coming back down to middleweight, and back to the type of opponent he loves to fight: one that's going to be in front of him. Marco Antonio Rubio is a tough character who shouldn't be taken lightly. Pavlik doesn't take anything lightly, and he's favored in a firefight. Kelly loves knocking opponents out in rounds 6-8 and I see the same thing happening here. -Michael Nelson

I should imagine that if someone named Young Mutley could defeat Michael Jennings then someone named Miguel Cotto shouldn't have much problem doing the same.

The real interest here is not whether Cotto wins, but how well he looks doing so. Judging by interviews, Cotto seemed to be still psychologically strong immediately after his defeat to Margarito. Now with the added cloudiness as to whether he was up against a stacked deck that night, I would expect him to have few lingering mental effects. If his body has healed from the beating he took, then Jennings has a very steep hill to climb in trying to beat Cotto. Should the Englishman pull, what would be, a massive upset, it's safe to say that Cotto's career as we know it is over.

Bottom line, I would expect Miguel Cotto to win inside the distance, this time on the other end of a severe beating.

Having been ringside for Rubio's last performance, his split decision win over Enrigue Ornelas on the undercard of Pavlik-Hopkins, I must say I wasn't terribly impressed. Though I had seen him fight before and been mildly intrigued by his punching power, it would seem that while Rubio is tough and has decent pop, he lacks the polish to truly take advantage of those traits.

In his previous losses he has shown he can be outworked over twelve, by a feather fisted volume puncher like Kassim Ouma and knocked out in one round by a decent punching Kofi Jantuah. I would wager that Pavlik hits harder than the latter, and throws as many punches as the former. Not a great combination for Rubio.

Like Cotto, the wild card of course comes in the form of Pavlik's psyche. Though he has been loathe to make excuses for his performance against Hopkins this past October, it is clear that Pavlik feels there were extenuating circumstances which led to his downfall. While Hopkins would have been hard to beat with or without the travails of his week leading into that fight, they at least afford him an excuse within his own mind to explain away the performance and allow him to retain some semblance of self esteem.

I would expect Pavlik to get back on track in an entertaining bout. Perhaps a comeback not as smooth as Cotto's should be, but a rousing effort that see's the Youngstown native put away a tough and determined Rubio in exciting and explosive fashion. -Jeff Pryor

Cotto should destroy Jennings. My concerns with him were mental and I think this Margarito business will wipe away those issues. Cotto KO3

Rubio is a tougher opponent than people are giving him credit for. I think this has the potential to be a good scrap. Pavlik should be able to outwork him, but I actually think Rubio is a live dog. Kelly by UD. -Mark Lyons

I'm not too excited about the show, as it's hard for me to picture either favourite getting pushed too hard.

Just going off how Jennings has done against limited opposition - and that's all I can go off of, since I haven't seen him in action, I can't imagine he's close to the level needed to give Cotto a run for his money.

Rubio's tough, but made to order for Pavlik. TKO 6 in an entertaining bout, but one sided bout. - Andrew Fruman

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Friday, February 20, 2009

The Contender: Episode 11 Review

The final pre-taped episode of The Contender aired this past Wednesday night, with the four remaining boxers battling it out in the semi-finals.

Troy Ross 19-1 vs Akinyemi Laleye 12-1

Rico Hoye (pictured right) 22-2 vs Hino Ehikhamenor 14-3

Let's get to the action...

Photo © Chris Thompson LoFlame

Although a little one sided, the first fight of the night between Troy Ross and AK Laleye, was an entertaining battle.

While the weights for the fights on the show aren’t listed – at least I can’t find them listed anywhere – I have to assume that Troy had a decent size advantage. In his most recent fights before coming on the show, he’s been weighing around 192-195, while AK’s been between 175 and 182 (thank you

Given the size disparity, it was no surprise that John Bray’s instructions to AK were to box and move, and in the early going he could be heard yelling “Make him come get it! Make him come to you!” That was probably the only way AK was going to have a chance, but I don’t think it’s in his make-up to fight that way. He likes to mix it up too much, and he did just that, pressing forward each time Troy refused to lead.

While Troy was consistently getting the best of the action, Tommy Brooks felt he could be doing better. Before the second round, he urged Troy to throw the jab more, and put his punches together in combination, rather than loading up with big counter hooks.

Troy did seem to ease up on going for the one punch knock-out in the second and third rounds, but he certainly didn’t use his jab too much.

“You’re not using your jab!” Tommy told him before the fourth round. “All you got to do is throw your punches straight, baby. He can’t get out the way, he’s squared up. You’re rushing it. Take your time. Pick your spots.”

In the other corner, John told AK to just keep doing what he was doing. Considering AK hadn’t been following the plan, I have to assume John was just trying to keep his fighter motivated. AK kept battling, and while he was on the receiving end of most of the punishment being dished out, he did catch Troy with a really nice right hand during a good exchange along the ropes late in the round.

In the final round, Troy laid a real pounding on AK, but could never dent the man from Lagos’ spirit. AK took flush bomb after flush bomb, but kept willing his way forward, and was game until the end.

The scores were 50-45 across the board for Troy.

The second semi-final looked like an even contest heading in, with Hino holding a size advantage, but Rico being the more experienced fighter.

I thought Hino had a slight edge in what was an action packed first round. He found the mark a few times with his right hand, including one occasion where he followed it up with a nice left hook.

Before the second round, John told Rico he needed to keep space by using his jab and stepping to his right, to keep him away from Hino’s right. Rico just couldn’t do it though, and kept getting tagged. Even when he wasn’t using the jab, he was too much in Hino’s range and found himself getting whacked with right hands.

Hino looked like he had the better of things in the third as well. He appeared to constantly beat Rico to the punch, prompting host Tony Danza to comment that, “It’s almost like he (Rico) can’t pull the trigger.”

Before the fourth round, John reiterated to Rico that he needed to move to his right, and that he needed to get busier. In the other corner, Tommy didn’t have any complaints with Hino, and just reminded him that he was having success when he threw more than one shot at a time.

It did look like Rico was a little busier in the fourth, but Hino was still the one fighting with more initiative. He used his strength a little to push Rico back into the ropes, and as was the case with the previous rounds, getting that right hand in was key.

I think Rico realized he needed a knock out to win, because he came out with some real urgency in the final round. But despite his aggressiveness, he still seemed a little slow to get off and Hino was able to allude most of Rico's attack. Based on activity, it probably was Rico's round, although the best punch was probably a right hand from Hino moments before the bell.

The scores were unanimous in Hino’s favor; 50-45, 48-47 and 49-46.

The final show is all set.

Hino and Troy will be going ten rounds to decide this season's winner, while Rico and AK will be fighting an eight rounder to determine third place.

Catch all the action live on Versus at 8 PM this Wedneday.

I assume we’ll get some highlights of the other three bouts on the card, which are:

Alfredo Escalera Jr. vs Erick Vegas – 6 rounds
Felix Cora Jr. vs Tim Flamos – 6 rounds
Ryan Coyne vs Richard Gingras – 6 rounds

- Andrew Fruman e-mail
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Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Body Snatchers

Michael Nelson takes a look at the best in the business at working the body.

"Body shot!" screamed a gleeful Nate Campbell, immediately after catching Almazbek Raiymkulov with an uppercut to the solar plexus as Raiymkulov was lunging in.

Almazbek, otherwise known as Kid Diamond, draped his arms around Campbell. After referee Brian Garry separated the two combatants, Kid Diamond turned his back on Campbell as if looking for a way out the ring. Upon being told to turn around, the normally aggressive Raiymkulov was chased around the ring for several seconds before the HBO commentators started postulating on what was wrong with him.

Unnoticed by most of the observers watching the bout, the sneaky shot to the body in the 5th round silently turned a boxing clinic into a frightening beating. Kid Diamond was knocked down twice before the bell sounded to end the 5th, and was tormented throughout the remainder of the fight before it was finally stopped on another body shot with 45 seconds left in the final round.

It's a story familiar to the game's elite body punchers. To them, body punching isn't simply an investment for the later rounds that may or may not pay dividends. A well placed body punch can instantly change a fight, if not end it outright. Despite the numerous idioms, ('kill the body, the head will follow'), body punching is an understated art form, and describes one of the more difficult styles for an opponent to overcome.

In no particular order, here is a list of fighters who have mastered the ability to knock the air out of his challenger:

Nate Campbell (pictured left against Ali Funeka) – Among the most prolific body punchers in the game, Campbell's Valentine's Day bout against Funeka was slipping away from him going into the 10th round. The momentum was securely with Funeka and Nate looked as if he had nothing left in between rounds.

But, a rededicated body attack slowed down the surging Funeka enough to land a looping right hand to the temple in the 11th and drop him. Ultimately, Campbell's rally in the championship rounds saved him the fight, and perhaps his career.

Although a hook to the liver is generally the most effective body punch a fighter can possess, Campbell's slashing right hands to the left lumbar and right uppercuts to the sternum are just as jolting as his left hooks.

(photo © Scott Foster)

Antonio Margarito – Yes, there are those who believe speculation that Margarito has been loading his gloves throughout his career should preclude him from any 'best of' list. But until further evidence comes to light on what exactly was on those wraps, and what he used in previous bouts, I'm not subscribing to such theories. As it stands, Antonio is a phenomenal body puncher.

I've never seen a Margarito fight in which he wasn't consistent in his dedication towards breaking his opponent down to the body. That's something I can't say about any other fighter on this list. Expertly using his long arms to snap left hooks around his foe's elbows, he mixes in uppercuts to the middle of the abdomen to create a varied and devastating attack.

Miguel Cotto – Cotto has the most potent left hook to the liver in boxing today, bar none. The list of opponents he has effectively taken out with a single body shot is staggering. The amount he throws, however, has diminished as the level of his competition increased within the welterweight division. His neglect of body work proved to be a vital error in his TKO loss to Antonio Margarito last summer.

Shane Mosley – The vitriolic nature of Mosley's body work when he was a lightweight cannot be overstated. His bullheaded efforts towards destroying a man's midsection were notorious in both the ring and the gym. And he was powerful enough to not only end a fight with one punch, but hurt opponents with six inch punches to the ribs while inside a clinch.

Simply put, Mosley was the best body puncher I've ever seen.

But as he moved up in weight to fight bigger men, he became more easily discouraged from attacking the body. Before his bout with Ricardo Mayorga last year, many thought he would follow the blueprint that Felix Trinidad, who hurt Mayorga every time he went to the body, laid before him. Curiously, his body attack against Ricardo was nowhere to be found.

Mosley reinstated himself as perhaps the best in boxing with his 9 round destruction of Antonio Margarito last month. Using his quickness to sting Margarito with hard counter punches to the abdomen, and his strength to muscle Margarito to the ropes and blast him downstairs, Mosley showed that with a renewed confidence in his body attack, nobody his size should be a prohibitive favorite over him.

Ricky Hatton – Hatton's style is unique. Using underrated speed of foot, he darts in between his opponent's punches to get inside. He then grapples with him, using his strength to push him into a position that leaves his liver exposed for a left hook. Jose Luis Castillo caught wind of this maneuver the hard way, receiving a liver shot that put an end to his career as a six figure pugilist. Hatton remains the only person to put the iron-willed Castillo down for the ten count.

Hatton's thudding shots beneath the rib cage should make Manny Pacquiao nervous. It will be fascinating to see how Pacquiao deals with them.

Other body punch specialists include Israel Vasquez, Juan Urango, Juan Diaz, Alfredo Angulo, Chad Dawson, and Robert Guerrero.

e-mail Michael Nelson
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