Monday, March 2, 2015

PBC Aims To Change Boxing


Boxing will most likely never be the same after this weekend. Seriously. Why? Because Premeire Boxing Champions, otherwise known as PBC, is about to go to air live on major network television. What's more, it's providing viewers with major fights - for free.

Don't believe it? Check out this weekend's roster on NBC's flagship station. Undefeated welterweight Keith Thurman is going to face former Floyd Mayweather foil Robert Guerrero. What's more, three time titlist Adrien Broner is going to battle world class tough guy John Molina Jr in a junior welterweight scrap.

Not only are these big names, these are major, relevant matches, as well. Even more enticing is the fact that it's tough to pick a winner in either fight. Thurman is a knockout machine who appears to well be the future of boxing. The operative word here, however, is "appears." For Guerrero is an exceedingly skilled foe who has won titles in numerous weight divisions. Simply put, it's feasible to assume either man could score a knockout.

As for Broner, the brash, bold Cincinnati native seemed well on his way to being heir to Floyd Mayweather's throne when he was bested by Marcos Maidana in a brutal 2013 battle. Now the man who calls himself "The Problem" has moved down to junior welterweight where his speed, power and notable defense are likely to be more significant. The opponent he's up against, however, is a pure warrior.

For Molina waged such a war against Argentina's Lucas Matthysse last year that many, myself included, saw it as the greatest fight in all of 2014. Molina may not have been able to beat Matthysse, but he came so dangerously close that it's easy to see him upsetting Broner. Again, it's hard to be comfortable choosing either man to win.

Needless to say, NBC is going all out here. The peacock network hasn't run a major fight in primetime since Larry Holmes barely beat Carl "The Truth" Williams in a heavyweight title squeaker a full thirty years ago. Yet NBC clearly plans on making up for lost time. The legendary "Sugar" Ray Leonard will be on mic duty now, as will broadcast icons Al Michaels and Marv Albert. Throw in a Hans Zimmer score and you can see what a big deal it all is.

NBC isn't the only channel to be showcasing PBC (SpikeTV and BounceTV will also be showing PBC cards), yet the NBC flagship channel is going to be carrying this biggest cards this side of pay cable. And that may be what makes PBC a game changer. Fights of a caliber that fans used to have to pay to see will, as of this Saturday, be available to everyone with basic cable.

If that doesn't have the potential to bring boxing back in from the margins, it's hard to imagine many other things that can.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

It's Time For Frampton To Fight Rigondeaux

So, yeah, Carl Frampton looked like a monster this weekend in Belfast. Fast, aggressive, and powerful, Frampton appeared to be just what he is - a top notch fighter.

Now it's time for the man to face a top notch opponent.

Guillermo Rigondeaux is waiting.

Indeed, the Cuban immigrant to America has been waiting for a while. For Frampton. For Quigg. For De La Cruz. For any popular, talented opponent. So far there have been no takers. Santa Cruz, for instance, has pretty much made it obvious that Rigo is just too good for him to want to get in the ring with.

Frampton's opponent on Saturday, Chris Avalos, wanted no part of Rigo, either. Indeed, he gave up a chance to face Rigo for Rigo's title, opting instead to fight Frampton in Frampton's hometown of Belfast. That's saying something.

"To be honest, it was pretty easy," Frampton said after polishing Avalos off within five. Easy is something no one has called the Cuban slickster. Not anyone who knows better. Not ever.

Moments after Frampton spoke, Hall of Fame fighter and Frampton manager Barry McGuigan  made it clear that he feels Frampton is better than Rigo. Yet the talk then quickly turned to Scott Quigg and Rigo was forgotten.

With all due respect to Quigg, everyone knows Rigo is the man at super bantamweight. If McGuigan indeed wants Frampton to prove he's the best, he's got to arrange a fight between his man and Guillermo. Beating Quigg will prove one thing and one thing only - that Frampton can beat Quigg. In order to prove he's numero uno, Frampton has to get past Rigo.

It's that simple.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Cletus Seldin - American Tough Guy

Jonathan Garcia stepped into the ring this Friday in Long Island against local star Cletus "The Hebrew Hammer" Seldin in a junior welterweight bout broadcast live on ESPN2's Friday Night Fights. The undefeated Seldin was fifteen and zilch with twelve knockouts, while Garcia had a nineteen and two resume, with eleven knockouts of his own.

Both men came out swinging. The referee missed an early knockdown where Seldin's knee clearly hit the canvas after a Garcia shot, but it didn't matter. For Seldin proved himself to be a classic American tough guy. He may not have shown the extraordinary skill of some in his weight class, but he brought the heat.

He also brought  an effective jab, which he peppered Garcia with throughout the fight. Coupled with an overhand right and grinding body blows, Seldin's assault proved devastating for Garcia in the fourth, as the Michigan native got badly hurt. Yet, bloody and battered, Garcia survived the round.

Seldin wasn't to be deterred, though, rocking his man again in the fifth. Needless to say, the fight didn't enter the sixth, for the referee wisely stepped in and stopped the affair. Now Seldin stands at sixteen and oh with thirteen knockouts under his belt as well as an impressive showing on a major television platform.

Where does he stand among his peers, though? Truth be told, it's hard to tell. Seldin fights in a style that can rightfully be considered somewhat crude - at least in comparison to, say, fellow Long Islander Chris Algieri. Seldin also isn't above fighting dirty, either. On the surface, then, Seldin wouldn't appear nearly polished enough to crack through the tough competition to be found in the junior welterweight division.

Then again, the same was undoubtedly said about Marcos Maidana and he thrashed Adrien Broner before giving the great Floyd Mayweather himself a real run for his money (no pun intended). In other words, tough guys just can't be counted out. Far too many have gone further than expected simply because of heart and a no-give attitude.

No matter what, Cletus Seldin will never be boring. And that's good news for fight fans.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Erislandy Lara - Is Miguel Cotto Interested?

So now word around the twitterverse is that lineal middleweight champ Miguel Cotto may indeed be interested in fighting Erislandy Lara. This comes as a bit of surprise, for Lara may be as avoided as Gennady Golovkin, a man who we're widely told Cotto is afraid  to get in the ring with.

Of course there are differences between the middleweight they call GGG and Lara. Golovkin is a predator who destroys what's in front of him. Lara, on the other hand, is a world class Cuban slickster. Highly polished, extremely skilled, the guy is hard to catch, much less beat. And yet people love to give him a bad rap.

Truth be told, I felt Lara was robbed when he fought Saul Canelo Alvarez last year - and I'm a Canelo fan. Sure, it was a close fight, but I felt Lara owned it in the end. Then again, there are many out there who disagree. That being said, there are many people who simply don't like Lara because of his frustrating style. And that's unfortunate.

Not liking a fighter because he doesn't get beat up is like not liking a major league pitcher because he keeps you from seeing homeruns, or an athletic NFL quarterback who keeps you from seeing sacks. It's ridiculous when you think about it.

Lara, simply put, is one of the best athletes in the world. Annoyed by his style? Cheer for the other guy. Don't cheer for the man not getting fights, though. That's like wanting the Super Bowl to get cancelled because you hate the New England Patriots.

Boxing is a sport, not a popularity contest. And the 20-2-2 Lara is one of the best athletes the sport has to offer. Besides, it's good to keep in mind that over half of Lara's victories have been by knockout. It's not like the man is disinterested in getting a KO, after all.

So, will Cotto take the bait and get in the ring with the Cuban immigrant who calls himself "The American Dream?" I wouldn't be disappointed if he did. It would show that Cotto isn't afraid to risk another loss on his record - and it would give Lara another chance to prove himself amongst the sport's elite.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

PBC's "Corner To Corner" Premiers On NBC Sports Network

Roberto Guerrero. Keith Thurman. Adrien Broner. John Molina Jr.

All four men will be fighting on the maiden voyage of Premiere Boxing Champions, which will be aired on NBC's flagship channel - in primetime - on Saturday,  March 7th.

Guerrero, who has fought (and lost) to the great Floyd Mayweather, is set to fight the violently impressive - and undefeated - welterweight Keith Thurman.  Molina, a battle hardened veteran, will be facing the obnoxious, though not without talent, Adrien Broner in a junior welterweight clash.

Needless to say, NBC is doing this right. Boxing has taken a hit in recent decades. A lot of that has to do with the fact that most don't know who the top boxers in the sport actually are these days. By focusing on each of the four men who will be facing off in early March, the peacock network has gone old school with it's Corner to Corner program.

If all goes well, viewers will actually know who these fighters are as individuals before they face off as athletes. Familiarity breeds personal investment, after all. And personal investment breeds huge fan bases. It's smart to keep in mind that Mike Tyson drew eyeballs not only because he was a monster in the ring during those early days, but because people knew about the man himself.

Flitting from one fighter to next, documentary-style, Corner to Corner on Wednesday gave viewers insight into the lives of the contestants as they prepared for their respective fights. Viewers learned, for instance, that Guerrero is one hell of a husband (let's just say he takes the words "in sickness and in health" very seriously). They also learned that Thurman is dedicated to the memory of his former mentor while Molina is a dedicated family man.

And Broner? Well, viewers caught sight of a much more genteel Broner than hard core boxing fans have been used to seeing. Whether or not Broner is a changed man or if he's merely been told to play nice for the camera is irrelevant, really. What's important to NBC, and to adviser Al Haymon, who brought Premiere Boxing Champions into existence, is that an image is being formed.

Needless to say, Corner to Corner is going to have its critics, as, undoubtedly is Premiere Boxing Champions. The thing with Corner to Corner, however, is that it's goal is simple. NBC merely wants you to remember the names and faces. Unlike shows like Showtime's All Access, or HBOs 24/7, Corner to Corner is selling people more than it's selling fights.

That's a fine distinction. And an important one to remember.




Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The TRUTH About Mayweather Vs Pacquiao

Someone's getting tired of waiting.

For years people have been waiting for Manny Pacquiao to fight Floyd Mayweather for the unofficial title of "World's Greatest Boxer." Sadly, that fight hasn't least not yet. The truth, however, is that things have been in motion since a few weeks before Christmas.

Yup - Manny and Floyd have been negotiating in order to make this potential superfight happen. At least their respective camps have been. And that's a good thing. Scratch that, it's a great thing. What it's not, however, is something to keep people up at night in eager anticipation.

The world has seen this scenario before, after all, only to have nothing come of it. What makes things different this time is that even the media now appears unable to contain its excitement. It seems like every week or so a major and respectable publication announces that a deal has been made, only for the world to find out (sometimes within minutes) that the report in question is false.

There's no reason to get overly flustered, though. For I - an official and professional boxing analyst - will now give you the truth. And the truth is this:

I have no idea what's going on with the negotiations.

What's more, virtually no one else does, either - and that includes people within the Mayweather and Pacquiao camps.

In the end, I suspect that even Manny himself isn't sure what's going on. Nope. In my professional opinion, only Floyd and a handful of others are privy to developments - and the entire rest of the world is in the dark.

That's not all. The entire rest of the world will remain in the dark until Floyd - who's all about control - is good and ready to enlighten it. The bottom line is this - if Floyd doesn't make a personal announcement, via Twitter or Shots, that the fight has been made, then all bets remain off.

Here's even more good news - the fight may never happen. Believe it. Don't get me wrong, the bout is close to happening, but it could still fall apart, if it hasn't already. Many will blame Floyd if he doesn't meet Manny in the ring, and they may be right to feel that way.

Again, though, it will probably all be conjecture.

Depressed? Imagine how it feels writing about this sport.

Still, there's some good fights are there besides Pacquiao-Mayweather. Allow me to rephrase that, there's some REALLY good fights out there besides Pacquiao-Mayweather. And many will be aired on free TV.

Yup, CBS, NBC, and Spike will all be airing live, top level fights in the coming months. Check them out. You may find out you don't even need Manny or Floyd to be a fan.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Boxcino Tournament Opens In Rousing Fashion

The 2015 edition of ESPNs Boxcino Tournament started off with a bang on Friday Night Fights as Stanyslav Skorokhod of the Ukraine absolutely destroyed Michael Moore of Cleveland. Although Moore may have felt the referee stopped the bout too soon in the fourth, it was clear by that point that the fight was all but over. For Skorokhod, who goes by the name of the Nuclear Ghost (he's originally from outside of Chernobyl) was taking target practice on Moore's head. Bottom line - it was a sound call from the official.

In the following bout, New Jersey's John Thompson sprang back from a crushing knockout loss last year at the hands (or, rather, the gloves) of Frank Galarza to surprise Ricardo Pinell by handing the California native a unanimous decision defeat. Thompson, who was a last minute replacement after Cleotis Pendarvis didn't make weight, made the absolute most of his opportunity, boxing strategically, with backward movement and a crisp, solid jab.

The third match of the evening featured Vito Gasparyan and the undefeated Simeon Hardy. It was a seesaw affair, with the Guyanese fighter Hardy winning the first portion of the bout while the Armenian Gasparyan asserted control of the second. It was also one of those situations where heart carried the day...for Gasparyan carried away a unanimous decision win.

The final bout of the card at Connecticut's Mohegan Sun Casino pitted New Jersey native Alex Perez against Boxcino 2014 veteran Brandon Adams. Both men threw hard, to the point that, in round three, the fight looked like little more than a test of wills. Adams' work on the ropes, however, was able to give him an edge...and a savage fifth round KO victory.

Although no one was able to top Skorokhod's extremely impressive performance (though Adams came close), Thompson, Garsparyan and Adams were all able to climb Boxino's junior middleweight ladder on Friday, as well. The next time these four men enter the ring, Skorokhod will face Thomspon and Gasparyan will throw down with Adams. The winner of those two matches will then meet for Boxcino 2015's junior middleweight crown.

Each man will have time to rest, however, as Boxcino will feature heavyweights on next week's Friday Night Fights. Here's hoping this year's Tournament will end up as entertaining as 2014's was.