Thursday, May 28, 2015

Chris Algieri - A Tuneup For Khan, Or A Real Threat?

The Big Apple presents another interesting matchup

So on Friday evening there's going to be a televised fight which I apparently find a lot more interesting than some. Amir Khan, arguably the sole remaining threat to Floyd Mayweather's unblemished legacy, is going to be taking on Chris Algieri, a slick New York boxer who stunned a lot of people by beating Ruslan Provodnikov...before being thoroughly outclassed himself by Manny Pacquiao.

Most people see Algieri not standing much of a chance against Khan, and with good reason. For Khan is faster, more experienced and hits harder than his American foe. On the other hand, Algieri is one of he most high-energy fighters out there. That's important to remember. He's also very hard to knock out. Like the Terminator, he just keeps getting up after he's dropped to the canvas.

What's more, Algieri has very good footwork and possesses an impressive skill set. He's a real craftsman who now has the masterful John David Jackson in his corner. Indeed, the presence of Jackson could be a game changer. He led Kovalev to victory over Hopkins and knows how to map out a game plan better than anyone. Don't expect any talk of cages in between rounds on Friday.

Still, Khan's talent is so vast, his ring mastery so impressive, that it's very hard to say Algieri is going to pull off the upset victory (unless of course, the judges at the Barclay's in Brooklyn decide to do some home cooking). If he wants to stand a chance, however, Algieri is going to want to let his feet do the talking.

While there's just no way Khan will stalk Algieri around the ring the way Provodnikov did, Algieri can attempt to make things difficult for the Englishman by employing a defensive strategy that's gauged to frustrate his foe. Khan's best weapon may well be his jab. It sets up all his assaults. If there's nowhere for the jab to land, however...

It's understandable to consider this pie in the sky thinking. Again, Khan's skill level, on paper, at least, is superior to Algieri's. They say styles make fights and it's hard to imagine Khan's speed being nullified by Algieri, no matter how fancy the Long Islander's footwork in the ring may be. Still, this is boxing, a sport where it seems anything can happen.

At that's why Algieri is more than just a tuneup for Khan on Friday night.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Can Freddie Roach Help Ruslan Provodnikov Get Back On The Road To Success?


That's what I thought of while rewatching the Ruslan Provodnikov-Lucas Matthysse fight. Like Dempsey, Provodnikov kept moving forward. And, like Tunney, Matthysse stepped back and nailed his man with effective punches. Thing is, Provodnikov was never able to unload on Matthysse the way Dempsey was finally able to unload on Tunney. There was no controversy to be found between these two modern warriors. There was no long count, no question of who the better man was in the ring.

Truth be told, I've been iffy about Provodnikov for a while. Sure, he seems like a great guy and he's a whole lot of fun to watch. But while everyone else was singing his praises last spring, I was wondering if Chris Algieri would have a chance against him. That's not a boast, just the truth.

My suspicions proved to be correct. Algieri DID give Provodnikov a hard time. Don't get me wrong, I thought Provodnikov beat Algieri that night last June, but no matter. The Long Islander made Provodnikov look shaky, regardless. The fact that Manny Pacquiao went on to make Algieri look close to amateurish a few months later didn't help Provodnikov's case, either.

Still, Freddie Roach, Provodnikov's trainer, said in a recent interview that he's going to try to redo his fighter's strategy. Simply put, he wants the guy to box more and to pretty much be less of an easy target. Roach is right to wish for a change in style, for Provodnikov's current MO is dangerous, not just for his career, but for the man's overall health, as well. After all, there's only so many hard shots a dude can take to the head.

Will Roach succeed in his plan? That depends as much on Provodnikov as it does anyone else, frankly. Hopefully the Siberian will take his trainer's advice seriously. He can't afford too many more beatings like the one he took against Matthysse. After all, Dempsey ended up having a full life outside of boxing - and Provodnikov will want to have one, too.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Does Geale Have a Chance Against Cotto?

Does Daniel Geale have a chance against Miguel Cotto when they meet in New York City early next month? We won't know until the two men fight, of course. Yet, after watching the last fight each man has had, I've come to the conclusion that Cotto is simply far too sharp for his Australian foe.

This isn't to say Geale isn't good. To the contrary, the man's a slick mover, isn't afraid to engage when the situation calls for it and has a ton of heart. It's just that after watching Cotto's beatdown of Sergio Martinez in comparison to Geale's handling of Cotto back to back, it's hard not to conclude that Cotto is simply the all around better fighter.

Now I know there's people out there who will argue that Cotto simply beat up an old man last June, that Geale is the natural middleweight, that Cotto's no kid, etc. While all this is true, I still don't think it takes away from the fact that Cotto is an exponentially better fighter when he has Freddie Roach in his corner (at least in comparison to his recent decline). He's sharp, he moves quickly, he's hard to figure out and he hits far, far harder than he's given credit for.

He's also fought the best there is. Again, Geale is good. True enough, against most middleweights not named Golovkin or Cotto, I'd give him a true chance of winning. Indeed, I think he has a chance of beating Cotto himself. I just don't think he has much of a chance. That's no knock on Geale, it's just as I see it.

Perhaps I'll be proven wrong.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Fighter Of The Week - James DeGale

Yup, everyone thought it would be boring. It was one of those fights the "real" fans, the ones who want excitement rather high skills, didn't want to bother with. Well, if that was the case, those fans missed out. Because James' DeGale's bout against Andre Dirrell this past Saturday in Boston was an exciting, action infused affair.

DeGeale was a man who had clearly come to win. He took to the talented Dirrell quickly, and even put him on the mat twice in the second, courtesy of some thunderous punching. Dirrell was no slack, however. For the man came back and essentially started taking the fight to DeGeale. By the last few rounds it was basically anyone's to lose.

DeGeale made sure the day was his and that's why he and not Dirrell is being written of right now. Knowing everything rested on three to six minutes of high octane performance, DeGale went out and did what champions do - he sealed the deal. He took a unanimous decision victory and the IBF World Super Middleweight title back home with him to England.

Even with names like Froch and Groves dominating the division's horizon, it's time to take DeGale seriously. Froch will most likely be retiring soon enough and DeGale may well become "the man" at super middleweight. It will be tough to hold onto his crown, however, especially with names like Gennady Golovkin possibly appearing on the horizon. Yet DeGale proved on Saturday that he's a true for to be reckoned with - a man to be underestimated at one's own risk.

And that's why he's the Fighter of the Week.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Julio Caesar Chavez Jr Teams Up With Robert Garcia

Looks like Julio Caesar Chavez Jr. isn't ready to call it a career after losing to Andrzej Fonafara not so long ago. The son of a boxing legend with a career trajectory similar to Mr. Toad's Wild Ride will reportedly be fighting Marcos Reyes on the 18th of July. Chavez will have a new man in his corner this time, however. For he is now going to be trained by the legendary Robert Garcia.

Although Chavez has had other notable trainers before, such as Freddie Roach and Joe Goosen, he didn't perform particularly well under their tutelage. It will be interesting to see if the highly respected Garcia will help the man change course. Fortunately for Chavez, these are fast paced times, so fast paced that if he's impressive in July, people may forget the Fonfara fiasco.

He'll have to look impressive, though. The man's smart enough to hook up with a good trainer and to drop down to super middleweight (Chavez' single foray to up to light heavyweight resulted in the Fonfara loss). The question now is, will Chavez be able to shine? That, frankly, is more on him than it is his trainer(s).

Chavez is an interesting case in that he's quite good for someone who arguably got famous for a name. He's been middleweight champ and even had Sergio Martinez in real trouble when they met a few years back. He's fun to watch and is capable of surprising even his harshest critics.

Chavez has done himself no favors with those critics, however, with some choices he's made in and out of the ring. Now that he's with Garcia, perhaps the fighter will finally be able to put the criticism behind him.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Miguel Cotto Factor

A month ago, people couldn't get enough of them. Now, everyone wants them to just go away. Yup, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao can't retire quickly enough for boxing fans (okay, they may tolerate one more fight for Floyd). It's time, it seems, for some new blood, for the page to turn, for a fresh spring to bloom. We live in shallow times, after all, and the masses want something new and shiny.

Yet, in a sense, people are right to wish to move forward. Since there truly is a season for everything it's only natural to assume that the endless Mayweather-Pacquiao season is finally wrapping up. Just like Hagler-Leonard truly gave way to the Tyson era, Mayweather-Pacquiao will organically give way to another era. The question, now, however, is who this new era will belong to.

Obvious names come to mind: Bud Crawford, Vasyl Lomanchenko, Sergey Kovalev. Perhaps most of all, however, people are expecting Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez to be the sport's next golden boys (no pun intended). It's easy to see why.

Both represent something refreshing - a willingness to face new challenges. That's still an odd thing in the Haymon era. Sadly, it seems, fighters such as Leo Santa Cruz and Adonis Stevenson are more in keeping with the times. Until proven otherwise, these are two true representatives of the Kardashian age - people who put business before achievement.

No one in their right minds will accuse Golovkin and Canelo of being of the money first variety. This is especially true in the case of Canelo, who fought the slick and skilled Erislandy Lara rather than take the easy way out. As for Golovkin - hey, he's waiting for someone really good to step in the ring with him.

It's easy to see, then, why these two are front and center in line for the position of "next superstar."

Yet someone is standing in their way. A relic from the past, if you will. A multi-division titlist who now holds the middleweight crown even though he's not really a middleweight. I'm writing, of course, about Miguel Cotto, lineal and WBC middleweight title holder.

All you have to do is hop on Twitter to see that Cotto isn't just a major possible opponent for Canelo and Golovkin, he's an enormous roadblock, the guardian who won't let these faces of the future pass into a new era. The fact that the man also seems about as fun as a dead bass outside the ring at times doesn't help Cotto in the PR department either.

Here's something people need to keep in mind, however:

Cotto is a legendary fighter. What's more, his victory over Sergio Martinez last year wasn't a fluke. People can say he crushed an injured old man all they want - the fact is that Cotto looked amazing that night. Like him or not, trainer Freddie Roach has given the dude a second chance at boxing life and Cotto appears to be making the most of it.

So...will Cotto go the route of so many greats by eventually being trampled well pas this prime by an up-and-comer? Or will he take part in another new era - one started by a Mr. Bernard Hopkins, an era which says this season's old man ain't like last season's old man?

It will be interesting to find out.

Friday, May 22, 2015

It's A Shame Friday Night Fights Is Going Off The Air

Obscure individuals will now remain obscure.

It's a shame Friday Night Fights is going off the air. There, I said it. I know, I know, ESPN is now going to be airing PBC fights with the Friday Night Fights crew still in place and that's very cool. Yet Friday Night Fights offered up the little guys - and by little I don't necessarily mean small. I mean the guys you couldn't see fighting anywhere else.

And now those days are gone. Oh, less popular fighters will still be showcased all over the cableverse. Boxing, after all, is now more ubiquitous than it's ever been. Yet the less than popular fighters you will see in small televised venues now will at least have powerful backing. Could that always have been said of the guys stepping into the ring before those ESPN2 cameras?

Call me nuts, but I enjoy watching minor league baseball. It isn't as relevant as the majors, but the whole gritty, bare boned, stripped down aspect to it is fun. Plus, you never know whether or not you're seeing the sport's next big star. There's a certain electricity generating through the whole thing.

The same can be said - or could have been said - for Friday Night Fights. Figuratively speaking, it's as if the minor league ballparks are now being shut down. Chris Algieri, Ruslan Provodnikov and Willie Monroe Jr pretty much owe their careers to Friday Night Fights. And those are just recent names. How many other careers might now find the door being closed on them?

Boxing has always been a feast or famine endeavor. Now, however, the famine may spread a bit.

And that's too bad.

Here's to Friday Night Fights. It will be sorely missed.