Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Can Fury Do It Twice?

Tyson Fury is a wild man. An offensive, perhaps crazy, wild man. He's interesting, though. I feel there may be some decency there, too. Being flawed isn't the same as being evil, after all.  When it comes to boxing, however, there's only one thing that matters - can the dude fight? I say yes, despite what the critics and others analysts may believe.

Indeed, the man is fast for a near giant. What's more, he's got an effective skill set. Lastly, and yes, this is important - he has the ability to get in people's heads. At least he has the ability to get in Wladimir Klitchko's head. That, more than anything, I believe, led to Klitschko losing his heavyweight crown last November.

A lot has changed since that time, though. Fury got fat, for starters. He also showed a marked disinterest in boxing. Now, that may just be Fury's way. Perhaps he's one of those people who simply has "down moments." Actions are what ultimately tell the tale, after all, and if the Englishman shows up primed and mentally sharp for his rematch with Klitschko, then there's obviously enough interest there for him to continue on in the sport.

If he can't summon the will to train hard enough to win, though, if he can't enact the discipline needed to show up in the ring this July both in shape and determined (provided it's not already too late), his reign as heavyweight king may well prove to be a brief one. That's if Klitschko is able to psychologically deal with Fury's bullying, that is. Indeed, the results this summer may have as much to do with the Ukrainian's frame of mind as they do with Fury's.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

What Canelo's Next Opponent Might Tell Us

So yeah, there's currently a lot of criticism out there for Mr. Canelo Alvarez. It's understandable, too. Reason away things all you want, fans have a right to see the best fight the best in a timely fashion...and pushing off a Canelo-GGG fight until at least next year is going to rightfully put off fans. Strange how boxing is the only sport I know of where the fans take a back seat (why is the UFC growing in popularity, you ask?).

At any rate, I have no idea what Canelo or his promoter Oscar De La Hoya are truly thinking, so I'm going to hold off criticizing these men outright. It's important to be fair, after all, especially in this age of click bait and knee jerk reactions. With that in mind, though, I feel Canelo's next choice of opponent might speak volumes regarding what his and Oscar's future plans are.

Should Canelo indeed surprise the world and face GGG next, well then all will - or should - be forgiven. Few think that will happen, though, so let's see what the other options are. There's challenging middleweights and junior middleweights out there like David Lemieux, Erislandy Lara and even Andy Lee. Should Canelo face men such as these, there may be good reason to believe the guy seriously wants to challenge himself...perhaps even in prep for a GGG showdown.

Should Canelo go the route of  Danny Garcia, however - or, worse yet, the route of Adonis Stevenson, then we know the parties' over, that he's a guy who is just cashing in while hoping GGG will decline through age or simply go away. Let's hope we don't hear a name from left field mentioned as the man's opponent this time around.

Then, of course, there's the save face move, otherwise known as Billy Joe Saunders. Saunders is a belt holder at middleweight, and like Canelo, has arguably appeared skittish of GGG. Since Saunders isn't seen as too much of a threat, at least in comparison to Golovkin, this may be the guy Oscar and Canelo try to get in the ring. Saunders seems like he may - "may" being the operative word here -  be a modern, risk averse fighter, though so he might simply have no genuine interest in a Canelo challenge.

So, in summations: none of us know where everyone's favorite red haired warrior is headed at this point, but by mid to late summer, the direction may indeed be clear.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Why We Still Love Marvin Hagler

Happy Birthday to the Marvelous one, Mr. Marvin Hagler. It's hard to believe that this legendary fighter from my youth is now 62 years old. Thinking back over all the time that's passed, I'm a bit surprised - though pleasantly so - that the man is considered such an icon today.

For the longest time I stated he beat Ray Leonard in their famous 1987 bout, but I'm going to probably have to look at it again now that it's been a while to make a fair re-assessment. Still, the conclusion of that fight - where the insanely popular Leonard won a controversial split decision over the grizzled Hagler - should arguably have been enough to confine Hagler to permanent Sonny Liston status. You know, the man forever known as a tough guy who was out-slicked by an icon.

That hasn't been the case, though. Indeed, Hagler has earned icon status himself over the ensuing decades. I think this is at least partially due to the fact that he never fought Leonard a second time. For Hagler was convinced judges would never give him a fair shake, and - knowing boxing - whose to say he wasn't right?

What Hagler's decision not to fight Leonard twice ultimately meant, however, was that their first fight would always be clouded in controversy, that there would never be a universal belief that Leonard really won their fight. In a sense, Hagler gave himself the role of Jack Dempsey to Leonard's Gene Tunney. Sure, Leonard and Tunney won, but millions have remained unconvinced of the validity of their victories.

Even more importantly, though, Hagler - like Leonard - now represents the kind of fighter who is willing to challenge himself, who isn't afraid to take a loss or even get knocked out. That's impressive stuff in this age of safe bets and avoidance. Here's hoping the memory of Hagler and his sportsmanlike disposition continues to live on...marvelously, of course.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Like It Or Not, Personality Matters In Boxing

I have to admit I'm uncomfortable writing this piece. Those of us who are essentially unassuming types always feel like we're runners up in the great race of life - even when we win - because it's the bombastic or showy or glittery types who seem to get all the attention and love. Indeed, the shining personalities are the ones that draw in attention and interest. It just is what it is.

And it's all particularly true in boxing. In an era of the UFC, an age of strangleholding, headbashing love and adoration, Floyd Mayweather managed to rule supreme, even though he was a technical and highly defensive boxer. Why? Because Floyd's personality was stellar as far as marketing goes. He didn't promote his fighting style - he promoted himself - and it paid off handsomely.

The same rings true for heavyweight kingpin Tyson Fury. Let's face it, the man's upset win over Wladimir Klitscko early last winter was a snooze fest. Yet Fury himself is media dynamite. Call him a hater, a Neanderthal or just plain crazy, the man draws in the kind of attention his considerable fighting skills are just unable to.

All of which brings us to Mr. Canelo Alvarez. Oscar De La Hoya seems to feel that letting a fight between Canelo and GGG marinate indefinitely will torture fans enough to bring about a Mayweather-Pacquiao sized payday. After all, it worked out pretty good for Floyd and Manny, didn't it?

Sure it did - but Canelo's not Floyd. He's kind of unassuming, like the rest of us. Add in the fact that he's not as good a fighter as Floyd and Manny were and Oscar's move is clearly more risky than he himself may think. Like it or not, personality matters in boxing - and Canelo can't bring in eyeballs on personality alone.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Canelo's Reputation Takes A Major Hit

Look, I don't know what's in Canelo Alvarez' heart. I also have to come clean and admit I'm not a professional fighter. That pretty much means I'm in no position to charge someone who takes punches for a living of cowardice. In other words, I have no interest in being a keyboard warrior. I just want to be fair and call it like I see it.

And here's how I see it now that Canelo has given up his WBC title:

The man's reputation has taken a serious hit. It doesn't matter if he did the smart thing, the savvy thing or the strategic thing...he looks bad right now. Will the man's reputation be able to survive this? I don't know, but I can't imagine this sort of stain washing off too easy.

Canelo has given up his title freely, after all, so that a man who wants to fight him can have it without a fight. What's more, this comes after Canelo literally knocked a pumped up welterweight senseless less than two weeks ago. It doesn't look good, my friends, It just doesn't look good at all.

Again, I don't know what's in Canelo's heart. I'm not criticizing Canelo's decision here, nor am I criticizing his team. I'm simply analyzing the public fallout from that decision. Needless to say, that fallout is fairly harsh.

Perhaps Canelo will end up fighting GGG in September. That could end up being a reputation savior. Indeed, it would pretty much be the only way to wipe out the memory of what's just transpired.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Boxing Isn't Fighting - It's A Sport

It really is as simple as that.

I remember the scraps I got into as a young man. I won some. I lost some. I was a kid and neither I nor my opponents were or were to become tough guys. We were just children settling things the way children did back then. Here's the thing, though - we fought dirty. I remember hair pulling and ball kicking to be two of my favorite moves. Such things would never be allowed in a boxing ring. Why? Because boxing is a sport, not a fight.

Fighting is dirty. It consists of two people doing what they have to do to win. Boxing, on the other hand, requires rules and skills. Sure enough, the best boxers in the world are rarely tough guys. Floyd Mayweather is a master tactician, perhaps one of the best to ever lace up a pair of gloves. I doubt, though, that anyone would consider him a tough guy.

Here's the truth - boxing used to look a lot more like real fighting than it does now. Guys fought with bare knuckles and were allowed to throw each other around. Those days are over, though. John L Sullivan would have had a far better chance of beating the hell out of Jim Corbett in 1892 if he were allowed to throw the guy around. He couldn't, however, because theirs was the first modern heavyweight title fight. That means Sullivan and Corbett were engaged in a sporting event rather than a brawl. And Corbett knocked Sullivan's ass out.

Look at it this way - could Ali have bested Foreman if they had fought in a bar parking lot? Could Mayweather have bested Pacquiao under such circumstances? What about Leonard?Could he have beaten either Hagler or Duran had there been no rules? The truth is that boxing is first and foremost a sport rather than a tough guy contest.

And frankly that's the way it should be. As they say, it's skills that pay the bills.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Time To Face Facts - Povetkin Should Be Punished If He Broke The Rules

Look, I've got nothing against Alexander Povetkin. He's a talented guy and it's nice to see a fighter get a big chance like Povetkin has/had against Deontay Wilder. Still, VADA, which is led by the serious Dr. Margaret Goodman, claims that Povetkin tested positive for meldonium last month. For those who don't know, meldonium is a recently banned substance that reportedly allows users to  keep exerting themselves more than they normally would.

Clearly, this is a big deal when it comes to a dangerous physical contest like boxing. Still, there are those out there who claim meldonium is really no big deal, that it's "probably" not even going to make that much difference for an athlete. Funny word, "probably." It doesn't make one feel quite as confident as the word "definitely" does.

Here's the thing - it doesn't matter if meldonium is dangerous, possibly harmless or completely harmless. Why? Because it's a banned substance and athletes - professional fighters, in particular - shouldn't be using banned substances. Those that do need to pay the consequences.

Now, none of this is to say Povetkin is actually guilty in all of this. He's still able to get a "B" sample run to prove whether he's broken the rules or not. People need to be fair, even in boxing. If the man did break the rules, however, then there should be no tisking or eye rolling. Those who might have a problem with the rules should take it up with WADA - the international anti doping organization. They shouldn't gripe about the stupidity of a public that feels those rules shouldn't be broken

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Let's Face It: Canelo-Khan Should Have Never Happened

Canelo Alvarez looked terrific against Amir Khan. He walked down a fast and very skilled opponent who had been frustrating him and laid him out in a fashion that will be long remember and replayed on countless video clips. Impressive stuff. There's a problem afoot here, though, one that needs to be mentioned:

This fight should have never happened.

Nope. Canelo should have fought the fearsome Gennady Golovkin, not a naturally smaller man from two divisions south of middleweight. At the very least Canelo should have faced a solid middleweight. This wasn't about matchmaking, though, so much as it was about sharp marketing. The goal was to have Canelo bring in money without really facing someone scary. So a top level welterweight was brought in to legitimize the proceedings.

And everyone went along with it - myself included. Oh, we let it be known that our eyebrows were raised, that we knew what the whole thing was really all about - but we still watched it, we still talked about it and, yeah, guys like me got a lot of clicks writing about it. And then we all sat there for a moment on Saturday night wondering if Khan would be able to get up. Something to think about.

It's understandable that we all bought into this - but from here on in we need to know better.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Why I'm Looking Forward To Fury-Klitschko II

So, while some are worked up for Canelo-Khan this weekend, my interest is also piqued for the heavyweight title bout later this summer between Tyson Fury and Wladimir Klitschko. Sure, the first go round between these two was something of a bore, but Fury still managed to shock the world by taking Klitschko's crown.

And all the Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder talk in the world can't change all that.

Look, I like both Joshua and Wilder, but the truth is that Fury is the man at heavyweight by virtue of beating an aging Klitschko. And now we're going to find out if Fury is more than a novelty at the top of the heavyweight heap. He's gained a lot of weight since beating Klitschko, Fury has, and he often seems like something of a tortured soul. Like it or not, such things can impact the rematch.

As can Klitschko's mindset. Frankly, Fury got in his head he first time around. If Klitschko can enter the ring this time unfazed, things might well turn out different. Everyone talks as if this is the post-Klitschko era when the truth is, we really don't know.

Perhaps that's one of the reason's why this fight is of great interest to me - because it's relevant. And honestly, the same will never be said of Canelo-Khan unless Khan surprises a lot of people. As a fan of boxing, I like there to be meaning to the fights. Say what you will, but Fury-Klitschko II is about as meaningful as it gets.

Bring it on.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Why Canelo Has A Big Decision To Make

Canelo has things to ponder

I've said it before and I'll say it again - Canelo Alvarez is good for boxing. He's exciting, he's a decent guy (at least he was when we briefly spoke) and he brings some much needed attention to the sweet science here in the post Mayweather-Pacquiao era. With that in mind, however, Canelo has a big decision to make - provided he bests Amir Khan this weekend, as many suspect he will.

Yup, Canelo has to decide whether he wants to try to be a great fighter or if he'd rather be merely a lucrative fighter. There's a big difference between these two categories and only few are able to be both lucrative AND legitimately great. Canelo has certainly made a lot of money. What he hasn't done, however, is achieved greatness. At least not yet.

In order for him to do that, Canelo will either have to face Gennady Golovkin in the ring or give up his middleweight title and challenge himself at a weight he's more comfortable at. It really is that simple. While people will forgive Canelo for fighting the very skilled Amir Khan, the fact that Khan has never fought higher than welterweight has raised some eyebrows.

And while Canelo-Khan may well be a successful and popular fight, people will start losing respect, REALLY start losing respect, for Canelo if he continues to not face Golovkin while insisting he can keep the middleweight title. If he emerges from this weekend victorious, Canelo will indeed find himself entering a new chapter in his life with all eyes upon him.

Frankly, I'd like to see him face Golovkin. If he simply abandons the middleweight title, however, I can live with it. If Canelo wants to have his cake and eat it too, however, if he decides he wants to be king of the middleweights without fighting the number one contender, then he'll have lost me. Again, no matter what Canelo does, he can remain a hugely popular and lucrative athlete. There's big, relatively easy fights for him to make out there, after all.

In order to be great, however; in order for him to be more than a showcase fighter, he's going to have to do the uncomfortable thing. It's what greatness requires.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Does Boxing Need A Floyd Mayweather Comeback?

Believe it or not, it was a full year ago that Floyd Mayweather got it on with Manny Pacquiao for the most hyped and lucrative fight in history. Since then, both men have fought once and have subsequently declared themselves retired. Floyd, however, is hinting at a comeback. I myself wanted him to stay retired - and no, I'm no Floyd hater - but that may not be the case.

So, will a Mayweather return be good or bad for boxing? Frankly, it may depend on two things. First, will Mayweather get a lot of people to watch him fight? I was honestly a bit surprised by the lack of buzz that went with Floyd's Saturday interview during Showtimes' fight card. For it was then that he teased the world with the serious possibility of his returning to the ring - against Danny Garcia, no less.

Perhaps that was the problem. Perhaps people don't want to see him fight Danny. Or do they? The truth is, the Philly native has his fans. Either way, Floyd's next opponent will have to be someone who draws in the viewers if the fight is to be good for the sport. Then, of course, comes the second matter.

In order for a Floyd return to really help boxing, it might have to be - wait for it - exciting. And I'm not talking about the pre-fight hype, either. Seriously. People are simply not going to pull their hair out solely over another masterful display of defense - and make no mistake about it, the man is masterful. Nope, Floyd's comeback will have to showcase the excitement of Mayweather-Maidana I, at least, in order to give the sport the jolt it needs.

Could that possibly happen, though?