Sunday, April 26, 2015

Wladimir Klitschko Raises Some Eyebrows In Victory Over Jennings

Saturday's fight may have some wondering

Heavyweight champ Wlakdimir Klitschko won on Saturday, as everyone thought he would. He didn't dominate like many, if not most, expected him to, however. Indeed, Bryant Jennings gave the man a fight. Oh, Klitschko won fair and square, no doubt about it. But he looked vulnerable, regardless.

While he's still the man in the heavyweight division, it may be time for serious fans to question if the Ukranian is truly the great we've been suspecting he might be. The other day I had an argument with a very intelligent fan who claimed Klitschko is the best heavyweight champ ever and that's all there is to it.

To even suggest Ali or Tyson might have a chance against Klitschko was just silly to this young man. Klitschko, after all, towers over both fighters and has a solid skill set. There was really nothing more to it, this fan argued.

Only we learned on Saturday there is more to it. Klitschko proved he can still be hit. He also proved that you can get in on him. Indeed, I easily imagined a prime Tyson attacking from the inside as I watched Saturday's bout. It wouldn't have been so easy for me to imagine that just twenty-four hours earlier.

Of course, it's important to be fair here. Klitschko may simply have had a bad night for himself. It happens. Holmes and Ali had some of those, after all. Even the greatest fighters are entitled to a few. Still, against an actual skilled fighter who employed movement, Klitschko didn't look quite so impressive on Saturday. The fact that the referee didn't have endless patience for holding didn't help matters for the champion, either.

While there's no doubt, Klitschko won decisively this weekend, the bout may have presented fans with more questions than answers.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Just How Good Is Wladimir Klitschko?

Just how good is Wladimir Klitschko, the one and - let's face it - only heavyweight champion of the world? Well, for starters, he's close to matching Joe Louis' record for longest title reign. That counts for something, right? Not to some people, actually.

The truth is that while Klitschko is enormously popular in Europe, he's not well regarded here. It isn't that he's hated. He just isn't thought about much. What's more, when he is, people don't view his skills in a positive light. Some, of course, argue that Americans just don't like Klitschko because he isn't American. Yet one look at Manny Pacquiao's popularity here in the states shoots down that theory.

The fact is that Klitschko was getting on Americans' radar about a  decade ago. He was a knockout king and some of us were getting excited for a superfight between he and heavyweight honcho Lennox Lewis. A crushing loss to Lamont Brewster, however, trashed people's high hopes for the man. And frankly, they never returned.

Even though Klitschko has fixed the flaws in his game plan since that time, he's fought largely in Europe, and against Europeans. Indeed, he's been completely off the radar. Perhaps more telling, however, is the fact that Klitschko learned to play it safe, to not put his chin on the line after tasting the canvas. In short, many Americans have found the man boring and unsatisfying to watch.

That all may change tonight when Klitschko gets it on with Philly's own Bryant Jennings in Madison Square Garden. Then again, it may not. It doesn't matter, though, at least not in the context of this article. What matters is how good Klitschko really is in the ring. Not how entertaining he is. Not how popular he is. How good he is.

And the truth is that he's very good indeed. Let's face it, there's no one out there who can beat him, save for a fluke. No one. That's saying something. Oh, people can argue that he's benefitting from a weak division, but the same was said of Louis and Marciano. Yet they're still remembered and Klitschko will be too at the rate he's going.

As far as where the man stacks up to the all time greats, I'm not so sure. He's big and talented, true, but could he beat Lewis? Or Tyson the night "Iron Mike" faced Michael Spinks? Or the slippery Cassius Clay who bested Sonny Liston? It's hard to say, frankly. I wouldn't completely write the man off, though.

And that, in and of itself, is saying something.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Roberto Garcia Rises Above A Dark Past - And Earns A Victory On PBC

Roberto Garcia's father was a tortured alcoholic who took Garcia's mother's life as well his own when Roberto was just a boy. From such a dark background, Garcia pushed himself. Rising through boxing's ranks, he landed a primetime bout on SpikeTV on Friday night, courtesy of Premiere Boxing Champions.

Garcia's opponent was Baltimore's James Stevenson. The location of the bout was America's windy city, Chicago. Wearing a large pair of rosary beads, Garcia bounced up and down as the two men met in the center of the ring.  It was about time to get swinging.

Stevenson sent Garcia to the mat in the first minute of the fight. Garcia didn't seem hurt, but it was a lively beginning to things, nonetheless. Garcia pursued Stevenson around the ring for the remainder of the round, while Stevenson tried to keep his distance.

The following rounds saw Stevenson again working to keep his space. Garcia, however, was able to land to the body. Yet Stevenson was faster and hit harder. It was clear that Garcia would have to dig hard in order to pull out a victory.

Garcia was nothing if not relentless, though. He simply wasn't going to be dominated. Although Stevenson was a better puncher, Garcia was the more aggressive puncher. It was one of those fights where it looked like the victory might rest on the personal tastes of the judges.

Regardless, Garcia's work ethic was hard to deny. Stevenson looked great in flashes, but Garcia plugged away, second after second, minute after minute, round after round. As the bell rang ending the eighth and final round it looked, perhaps, like Stevenson hadn't doing quite enough.

 The judges clearly agreed, for Garcia took the unanimous decision win. Stevenson just didn't show the necessary consistency, while Garcia was nothing if not consistent throughout the bout. Some people just know how to do what it takes to keep moving forward.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Why People Love Manny Pacquiao

Let's face it, people love Manny Pacquiao. They don't like the guy. They love him. Just love him. Part of the reason, of course, is that he's the arch rival of Floyd "Money" Mayweather,  a man who, on the surface of things at least, symbolizes hedonism and brashness. Yet there's more to Pacquiao than the fact that he's Floyd's counterpart.

What is it, then, about the man from General Santos City that draws people to him?

I would argue that it's the fact that Pacquiao strikes a balance. Sure, he's a buzzsaw in the ring, a guy who can literally land five punches before his opponent can get a shot off of his own, but, ironically enough, Pacquiao is also nice. What's more, he's open about the fact that he's nice.

In our super cool, super ironic culture, that takes some real courage. And people appreciate it. The fact that Pacquiao isn't afraid to smile, sing a love song or say he loves Jesus is refreshing to many individuals who've grown tired of the same old, same old.

And so it's that rare combination of sweetness and menace that makes Pacquiao so well liked. He's the good boy who can beat the bad boy's ass - and people appreciate it. Whether he can beat Floyd Mayweather is another story entirely. Most people "in the know" feel he can't. I won't be writing him off, however.

For the dude can fight. What's more, he can fight exceptionally well - perhaps even better than Mayweather does. But if he pulls it off on May 2nd, don't expect Pacquiao to gloat. He'll thank God, then Mayweather. Then he'll credit his bested foe for possessing incredible skill before having the good nature to say he's up for a rematch. And then Pacquiao will flash that goofy smile.

And then he'll be more popular than ever.  

Can Paul Smith Stun Andre Ward - And Everyone Else?

Will Paul Smith shake things up?

Marlon Starling.

That's who British super middleweight Paul Smith reminds me of - Marlon Starling.

Not that Smith looks or fights like the Hartford CT, 80s era champ. It's just that Smith is an experienced old hand who's going up one of the most lauded fighters in the world. Just like Starling was when he faced Mark Breland for the first time back in 87.

Breland, of course, was an up and comer, a man on his way to superstardom. It was said that the battle hardened Starling would prove a good "test" for the man. Nothing more. How stunned everyone was. Breland ended up getting knocked out and Starling shook the world.

Truth be told, no one expects such a thing to happen in the Smith-Ward match. But no one expected it to happen in the Starling-Breland match, either. Breland had all the skills, all the advantages. Starling had experience, but that was about it.

Like Smith, Starling also had a tendency to lose his most lauded bouts before entering the biggest match of his career. Yet he won. Will Smith? Most don't think so. But, as Starling could tell you, you can't write off an experienced vet. Even if your name is Breland.

Or Ward, for that matter.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Can Bryant Jennings Pull It Off On Saturday?

New York's Got A Fight On Its Hands This Weekend.

With May 2nd right around the corner, not a whole ton of press is headed in the direction of New York City, even though the heavyweight championship of the world will be battled for there. Yup, Philadelphia's own Bryant Jennings is going to take on international superman Wladimir for the big prize at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.

I've been following Jenning's for a while now and have always been impressed, if not with his ring work, then with his work ethic. Seriously, the guy raised a kid, worked full time and trained his ass off for years. He's also been nice to speak to personally. What's not to like about the man - besides his chances this weekend?

It's true - things don't look good for my fellow American when he steps into the ring with the giant Ukranian, Klitschko (By the way, why is it now wrong for Americans to cheer on American fighters because they're American? When did THAT become the new thing for tisky people to tisk over?). The champ has that incredible reach, after all. Plus that punch. Man. He may not be explosive, but the dude knows how to turn on the lights.

Still, Jennings does have a shot here. I would hope he's studied fights like Dempsey's pummeling of Willard, or Baer's destruction of Canero, in order to see that huge dudes can, in fact, be beat. That might inspire him. Besides, Klitchko not only can be beaten, he's lost several times already. Heck, he himself openly admits to having a weak chin.

The problem, of course, is that - unlike in the past - enormous heavyweights can actually, you know, FIGHT these days. Seriously, that wasn't always the case. It is now, though, and a lot of the credit goes to the late, great Emanuel Steward. He not only trained Klitschko, he trained Lennox Lewis, as well. And those are the two who've brought about this era of supersized heavyweight domination.

As I said, though, Jennings can do it.

It just won't be easy. At all.

First, he's got to get under, around, or through that jab of the champion's. He's also got to avoid the man's howitzer-like punches and avoid getting tied up on the inside. Oh and Jennings has to land - well and with some frequency. If he can do all that, the guy from Philly can stun the world.

And people can tisk at cheering American fans all they want.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

How Does Floyd Mayweather Stack Up To The Greats?

So now a lot of people are irked that Floyd Mayweather has declared himself better than such luminaries as Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson. That's understandable. Ali and Robinson are true icons, after all. The fact that they weren't undefeated, like Floyd currently is, almost ironically adds to their prestige. For here were men who knew how to come back from tough losses. The same can't be said of Floyd.

Still, I'm not so quick to write Mayweather off. Let's face it, the guy has earned the right to be considered one of the greatest ever, if not THE greatest. So, how good is Floyd, and - pound for pound - how does he stack up?

Let's start with Robinson. Frankly it may be tough to imagine Floyd beating the man. There was just something about Robinson - the way he was able throw numerous body shots in rapid fire fashion, the way he was able to last fifteen full rounds with incredible energy. Still, Floyd has proven himself to be incredibly disciplined in the ring. He also adapts well. Could he adapt to the endless energy and skill of the esteemed boxer-puncher? Perhaps not.

Then again, Floyd is more accurate and hits a lot harder than he's given credit for. Were he able to land clean when Robinson was going to the body with two fisted abandon...

As for Ali, it's almost hard to picture the heavyweight stepping into the ring with the welterweight Mayweather. Still, pound for pound and all things being equal, I think it all would come down to activity. Could Ali throw enough to beat "Money?" Fast as Ali was, I think Mayweather would have the edge.

Ali wouldn't be able to float like a butterfly against Mayweather. The question is: would he be able to sting like a bee? And if he could sting, how often would be able to?

Truth be told, there's other known legends who I believe could give Floyd real trouble. Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns, Roy Jones Jr, Willie Pep and Pernell Whitaker all come to mind. Whether or not they could actually beat the man (or if he could actually beat them) will always be a matter of conjecture.

Perhaps what's important is the fact that Mayweather's name deserves to be mentioned alongside those other men's. That and the fact that he's got a real life challenge against another real life legend just weeks away.