"Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face."
~Mike Tyson

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Kell Brook vs. Errol Spence Jr. - Afterthoughts

What A Fight!

Photo: ringnews24.com
On Saturday May 27th, 2017 welterweight prospect Errol Spence stepped into the ring and challenged England's Kell Brook. On the line was Brook's 147 lbs IBF title as well as some bragging rights. In his previous fight Sheffield's Kell Brook jumped up two weight classes to face middleweight kingpin Gennady Golovkin. Although Brook came away from that fight with a broken right orbital bone, the Englishman showed his quality displaying a high level of skill and the heart of a warrior. By sharp contrast, the highest quality name on Spence's resume heading into this fight was New York native Chris Algieri whom, without having won the Manny Pacquaio sweepstakes some years ago, would still be wallowing in obscurity and mediocrity. Heading into this bout Brook was the more experienced and tested fighter but questions about both his physical and psychological health following the Golovkin fight remained. Whereas Spence was concerned boxing pundits questioned his level of opposition, his inactivity, and how he might respond against an opponent that could push him.

Although we are merely approaching its half way point, many in and around the sport of boxing view 2017 as one of the sports best years in quite some time. In this scribe's opinion it's the year that keeps on giving...kind of the like the Jelly Of The Month Club. What boxing fans got in Brook vs Spence was something exciting. I don't know that it's a fight of the year candidate but it was damn good. It was also a fight that showed what both fighters are made of and what one fighter had/has left in his tank. It also helped define the winner as the best welterweight in the world.

How It Played Out

My scorecard up
until the stoppage
At the onset of the fight Kell Brook was the fighter pushing the action and landing the more effective shots. He was also the busier fighter, and was a little more aggressive than he normally is early in fights. Conversely, Errol Spence seemed to be a bit gun-shy and at times sloppy in the early going. In a post fight interview Spence would reveal that he indeed was sloppy due to his long layoff. I scored the first 4 rounds for Brook, giving the first 3 rounds to Brook clearly. The 4th round was tight but I thought Brook edged that one as well. In round 5 the momentum started to swing as Spence won his first round on my scorecard. By the time the bell sounded for round 7, it was clear that Errol Spence was seizing control of the fight. Rounds 7-9 were all Spence as Brook was clearly gassing more and more with each passing shot landed on him. It was in these rounds that Spence shook off a good deal of the iron oxide that had been hindering his performance in the opening rounds. Each shot landed on Brook during this portion of the fight gave John Bull pause and caused his hands to drop a bit. Brook seemed to slow in these minutes, his enthusiasm or ability to go on the offensive was retarded by Spence's constant pressure and growing precision.

There were small echoes of Gatti/Ward in this fight with Spence really putting the hurt on Brook only to see Brook battle back through the fatigue putting Spence on the back foot with some solid shots and a ton of heart. It was all for not however when, in round 11, Spence sent Brook to the canvas and forced him to surrender, taking a knee after sustaining damage to his left eye. It was all a bit anti-climatic but it was a very good fight and an impressive win for Spence who not only answered the questions surrounding him but exceeded many of the expectations set upon him by fans and pundits.

There are many who are now calling Errol Spence Jr. the best welterweight in the world...count this writer among them. I don't think unified welterweight titlist Keith "One Time" Thurman lasts 8 rounds against Spence and I believe he would go the distance and defeat long faded and now irrelevant Manny Pacquaio. Speaking of which, the new IBF champion called out both of the aforementioned men but don't expect to see those fights anytime soon...if ever. I know, I know...it's 2017 and boxing is in the midst of a resurgence but hey this is still boxing. Manny Pacquaio is busy fighting exhibition bouts on what is tantamount to a farewell tour and Keith Thurman is out until the end of the year recovering from surgery on his right elbow. So where do both men go from here?

What's Next For Kell Brook?

Photo: http://cdn.images.express.co.uk
Kell Brook is a brave fighter if not also a very skilled one. He's also a guy willing to take risks, which is quite frankly, something many in boxing today refuse to do. Brook is a fighter that deserves admiration for his determination and grit if for nothing else. The beating he took from Golovkin was brutal and required a titanium implant. In his loss to Spence he sustained a second eye injury, this time to his left eye. Aside from a fight with fellow countryman Amir Khan, there really isn't anywhere for Brook to go at this point in his career. At 31 years of age Brook is what he is. He's a very good fighter but not a great one. Its probably safe to assume that Brook will fight on for a least a few more years but at this point in time it's difficult to envision him in another marquee fight outside of the Khan fight. I am of the opinion that Brook would do well to retire though I'm certain he and his handlers have plans to make a run at a couple of Jr. Middleweight titles.

What's Next For Errol Spence?

Photo: premierboxingchampions.com
Given Al Haymon's track record, a fight with the winner of the upcoming Guerrero vs Figueroa bout wouldn't surprise me. Such a fight makes little sense and no one has any interest in seeing it, which is why it will probably happen. Haymon has proven time and time again that he either doesn't understand how to use momentum to bolster his fighter's careers or he just doesn't want to. So as to when Errol Spence actually fights again, well that's anybody's guess. As mentioned previously a fight with unified champion Keith Thurman isn't going to happen, at least until the end of the year. I believe this is the most mouthwatering fight from the perspective of boxing fans but if that fight happens at all don't expect it for a long time. Politics and careful matchmaking are going to put Spence in against recycled and subpar PBC fighters for some time. Of course Shawn Portter is out there without a fight signed at the time of this writing and considering some of the other fights that could be made in its place, Spence vs Porter would make for a good if not interesting fight. Spence vs Matthysse would also make for an interesting fight but yea, that one's not happening either. I wholly expect Errol Spence to sit out for another 6-9 months and then come back against a C or D level PBC sacrificial lamb. Let's all hope I'm wrong.

Who's A Quitter?

9Photo: ih0.redbubble.net
When it comes to boxing I'm what us hard core guys sometimes refer to as a "bloodthirsty ghoul". I come from for the beatings, stay for the blood, and enjoy seeing guys being knocked out cold. The cold brutality of hand to hand combat is something that's always made the sport alluring to me since I was nearly 12. That said I have no desire to see any boxer permanently damaged nor killed in the ring. I don't think it very healthy when fans expect a fighter to give his health or life for their entertainment. These are not Roman Gladiators, they are modern men who earn a living for their families by fighting for our entertainment.

To those labeling Kell Brook a "quitter" I must ask, isn't the injury he sustained on Saturday enough? Even had Brook not sustained the career threatening injury he did against Gennady Golovkin, where is the shame in surrendering when you know you're done? In MMA tapping out is considered respectable. Why isn't this an acceptable practice in boxing? The way some folks are talking you'd swear they are watching and eagerly anticipating the final moments of Chong Li vs Chuan Ip Mung. Brook's left eye was damaged and he was having a difficult time with his vision. If you're among those that believe a fighter should sacrifice his eyesight for our entertainment you're a terrible human being. More to the point, there's a big difference between giving up and acquiescing out of necessity.

Remember that it was Kell Brook stepping up to face the hard hitting, feared, and avoided Golovkin and that it was his corner who threw in the towel in that fight, not Kell. Remember that it was Kell Brook who insisted on cutting weight to defend his IBF title against Spence, ignoring advice to move to 154 lbs instead of all the way back down to 147 lbs. These are not the qualities of a quitter by any stretch of the imagination. Instead they are qualities few modern boxers possess. Courage, a willingness to take risks, and leaving it all in the ring are things that should make myopic boxing fans respect Kell Brook. When Kell Brook took a knee in the 10th round he stopped because he valued his health and his life more than his job. What a concept huh? I can not and will not begrudge any person who puts his or her well being before their job, especially when that job is entertainment. A boxer risks his life every single time he steps into the ring and that should be enough for anyone. In the 32 years I've been engrossed with boxing I've seen quitters and Kell Brook is no quitter. Now if you'll excuse me I've got the sudden urge to watch an 80's martial arts movie or two.

Scott Jarvis is a boxing writer for Split Decision Boxing. He can be reached on Twitter or by email at splitdecisionbox@gmail.com.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Andre Ward A No Show For Face Off

Main Events' initial
Faceoff announcement
My opinion of Oakland's Andre Ward is well known throughout the boxing circles I'm a part of and I've previously given my opinions of the the fighter here on this blog. I'm also not the first to write about the enormous problem Andre Ward has connecting with the boxing public and it's media. ESPN's Chris Mannix wrote a fantastic piece about this very subject and it's well worth your time as it really hits the nail on the head. Ward's difficult personality and his obstinance in business have reached levels of infamy within the business/sport but it seems that he is now taking things to the next level.

On May 7th, 2017 Sergey Kovalev's promoter Main Events took to Twitter to announce that Andre Ward was a no show for HBO's popular promotional series "Face Off With Max Kellerman". Conversely Sergey Kovalev broke training, left Big Bear, and arrived to fulfill his obligation to HBO. In this tweet Main Events went so far as to label Mr. Ward a coward. Whether or not it was cowardice that was a deciding factor in Ward's unexcused and surprise absence is open for debate. What isn't debatable however is how Ward's actions, or lack thereof, infuriated HBO as well as the Face Off crew whom had set up and where ready to proceed with recording.  If there was ever an example of biting the hand that feeds you...this is it!

Andre's Biggest Problem Is Andre

Indeed Mr. Ward...
Photo: notable-quotes.com
Ward's decision to skip out on Face Off reeks of arrogance, a complete lack of integrity, entitlement, and is wholly unprofessional. One would naturally think that Andre Ward would want to do everything he could to help promote his upcoming tough sell of a rematch with Sergey Kovalev. This clearly isn't the case however. Ward's attitude towards commitments should come as no surprise to anyone whom follows boxing with even limited enthusiasm. Ward has a long history of breaking contracts and being a primadonna among primadonnas. Moreover, when he comes under fire from boxing fans and the media Andre Ward plays the victim card as if he plays no part in his failure to connect with audiences or his failure to become a global superstar. Andre Ward has been given every opportunity to succeed in boxing having the backing of both Showtime and HBO, former HBO Boxing boss Ken Hershman, and is afforded every advantage when it comes to fighting. Be it always fighting in his hometown, his pick of judges, referee, etc., Andre Ward enjoys more privilege than most fighters ever will. So why then isn't he more popular?

As someone whom works in marketing during the day I can say with a great deal of confidence that Andre Ward is a walking nightmare from a public relations standpoint. I don't know what individual or firm is currently managing that aspect of his career but its clear something needs to change. Andre Ward has been largely ill received by the boxing public not because he's been mismanaged or because of racism but rather because he comes off as smug, angry, and over compensating for an inferiority complex. He's also boring in the ring, rarely fights, and when he does fight it's often against less than stellar opposition. His personality traits and disposition are tough issues to work around in the world of PR though it would not be impossible to repair his public image. Repairing his poorly viewed personality however would require Ward to meet his team half way, follow instructions, and really commit to improving his image so don't expect his popularity to begin soaring anytime soon. In the meantime expect to see more hollow on camera smiles and faux interest from Ward as next months fight continues to go shamefully under promoted.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Andre Ward faced some serious adversity growing up and in dealing with the environment he was born into. This type of childhood takes a psychological toll even the strongest of individuals. That said however, as adults we are responsible for our actions and we should treat people how we think we think they'd want to be treated. Having been raised by two individuals whom suffered from Narcissistic Personality Disorder I can tell you that dealing with such persons is infuriating at best and impossible at worst. Persons with NPD are self absorbed individuals whom seek out conflict and have a great desire to control everything. They are also notoriously bad at dealing with or handling criticisms levied against them, even when they are of a constructive nature. Many will act as self saboteurs if it helps them become or maintain the status of victim. You can offer a dying narcissist eternal youth, eternal life, perfect health, and a septillion dollars and they'll find a way to turn the offer into a slight against them, play the role of victim, and completely fuck everything up.

As I mentioned previously Andre Ward has been given a great deal of advantage in the past and enjoys accolades he doesn't deserve, things other boxers would figuratively kill for. His lack of acceptance stems not from him being a victim of anything but rather his awful personality, lack of professionalism, and contempt for everyone not named Andre Ward. I'm no psychiatrist but having dealt with 2 narcissists growing up they're not difficult to sniff out. The next time you hear Andre Ward complaining about any of the following remember the acronym "NPD".
  • His lack of exposure
  • Lack of respect
  • Waning popularity
  • Lack of recognition
  • Wanting everything his way
  • Walking away like an angry child
  • Not honoring contracts
  • Behaving like a petulant child
To those who've chosen or might choose to do business with Mr. Ward I say this, be very careful what you wish for. In the past Andre Ward has proven to be unreliable, unprofessional, and will step on anyone to get what he wants. This is further evidenced by his failure to show up for HBO's Face Off. The industry nor boxing fans should support or enable this type of behavior. Those whom demand respect but don't work to earn it don't deserve it and won't get it.

Scott Jarvis is a boxing writer for Split Decision Boxing. He can be reached on Twitter or by email at splitdecisionbox@gmail.com.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Canelo/Chavez Jr. Analysis and Fight Prediction

Money, That's Why!

Photo: goldenboypromotions.com
On Saturday, May 6th 2017 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Mexican superstar Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (48-1-1) squares off against the once much ballyhooed Julio Ceasar Chavez Jr. (50-2-1) in a fight that will be contested at a catchweight of 164.5 lbs. This fight, let's face it, is really only happening because it's an all Mexican fight on Cinco De Mayo weekend. Other than the money it stands to make in this regard there's really no rhyme or reason for this fight. Chavez Jr. is a fighter who's greatest asset is his last name and in Canelo we have a fighter who has earned a bachelors degree from  the"University of Mayweather Boxing Business" (he's working on his Master's). He and his handlers have used this education to carefully craft a career and make more out of something that would look much more average without it. Canelo has done and continues to do everything he can to avoid fighting at 160 lbs, moving both up and down to avoid a fight with middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin. Sure Canelo is a good boxer but he's certainly more sizzle than steak. Unless you're the type of fan who gets caught up in the nationalism of the sport, there isn't much intrigue in this fight. In fact, the most intriguing aspect of this bout is waiting to see just how depleted Chavez Jr. is at the weigh-in and just how much he rehydrates on fight night.

Word of the day:
I don't believe in mincing words so I'll be direct here. Canelo vs Chavez Jr. is an absolute mismatch and it's certainly not a fight worth paying for. Even at his peak Chavez Jr. was average at best. I'd go so far as to argue that he was the epitome of mediocrity in the sport during his heyday. The majority of Jr's success has come as a result of not his skill or talent but by grossly outweighing his opponents on fight night. A weight bully through and through, as he has moved up in weight he has looked less and less effective as a fighter. Julio's lack of dedication and questionable training are also well documented.

Like Jr., Canelo's career is largely smoke and mirrors but he is the better boxer in this fight and better by a mile. Canelo has the better skills, the better resume, and isn't the fighter whom twice struggled with journeyman Brian Vera. At least Canelo beats the journey he faces decisively...most of the time. More to the point, Canelo isn't the one whom must cut weight having to come down from the Light Heavyweight division nor was he stopped by Andrzej Fonfara just 3 fights ago. Although Canelo is a biannual fighter, he'll still be the more active fighter entering the ring on May 6th, yet another advantage he'll have over his countryman. Don't let all of the hype surrounding the fight make you believe this is anything other than a showcase fight for Canelo. Yes, Alavarez is moving up in weight but the ginger is more than comfortable at this weight as it's much closer to his natural weight than say 155 lbs is. I expect the added weight to be beneficial to Canelo rather than detrimental. Canelo will have more energy and will be the healthier fighter because of the added weight. Chavez Jr. will be draining himself to make the 164.5 lbs limit and will suffer physically and mentally as a result.

The Fight Itself

It will look a lot like this
Photo: http://bltdsports.com
I expect this fight to look eerily similar to Canelo vs Kirkland. Being the bigger man, expect to see Chavez Jr. try and use his size to his advantage. There will be plenty of leaning in, on, and attempts to out muscle Canelo. I think Canelo sits back and employs the same game plan he utilized against Kirland here. Julio will try and drop his payload on Canelo in the early rounds and then gas in either round 3 or 4. At this point Canelo will open up on an exhausted Julio and drop him with something to the body. Following this knockdown I think Chavez Jr. gets up but doesn't recover and eventually gets stopped the following round. 

Chavez Jr. Keys To Victory

Canelo has every advantage, save for size, in this fight. Speed, power, skill, talent, athleticism, accuracy, everything goes to Canelo. Julio Caesar Chavez Jr. must use his size to great advantage if he is to have any hope of winning this fight. He'll need to use this sole advantage to disrupt and even shut down Cinnamon's offense. Jr. will need to take it to Canelo on the inside, employing plenty of holding, shoving, pushing, leaning, and of course digs to the body. If Julio can keep Canelo's work rate to a minimum and do damage on the inside he has a chance, albeit a small one, of pulling off the upset. Chavez's only hope of winning comes in making this an ugly and dirty fight.

Canelo Keys To Victory

Against Chavez, the Guadalajara native need only be himself. So long as he doesn't succumb to bravado and/or make a stupid mistake Canelo can easily counter punch his way to a stoppage or KO victory on Saturday. Canelo can capitalize on Julio's emaciation, lack of energy, lack of pop, inactivity, and soft boxing skills to make short work of his opponent. Canelo should make the bulk of his work body work if he wants to make this a short night. Not that he can't win head hunting against Jr. but Julio's lack of energy and severe weight drain can be exploited and exacerbated by some solid body work.

Winner: Canelo by KO in round 5.

Scott Jarvis is a boxing writer for Split Decision Boxing. He can be reached on Twitter or by email at splitdecisionbox@gmail.com.