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

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Weekend One - Two: Wearing New Pajamas, Sergey Kovalev Eyes New Trainer

What's My Motivation Here?

Photo: azquotes.com
Earlier this week a video began making the rounds on Twitter and Youtube. In this video the former strength and conditioning coach of the recently dethroned Sergey Kovalev talks very openly about the training habits of his ex-charge as well as some of his attitudes and the reasons Kovalev has looked so flat as of late. Although nothing revealed in the video really comes as a surprise, especially to boxing insiders, it's a doleful look into the mind of a supremely talented prize fighter who not only pridefully operates as a lone wolf in training but one that has lost a great deal of his motivation as well. It appears as though the once ferocious in ring destroyer has traded in his passion and work ethic for some very expensive silk pajamas.

Signs Of Trouble

Some will point to his fights against Andre Ward as the point in his career where Sergey Kovalev's skills began to erode and another very small and vacuous group of fans will note that the Russian was exposed in these fights. Both camps are woefully wrong, especially the latter of the two. It's not father time that defeated Kovalev in his two most recent bouts nor did Ward pull back the proverbial curtain on the former champion, exposing him as crude puncher devoid of skill. Instead we learned in both of these bouts that Kovalev is his own worst enemy. Be it pride, wealth, complacency, or perhaps all of the aforementioned, Sergey Kovalev appears to be yet another boxer that can't get and stay out of his own way. Moreover there were hints of trouble before he ever stepped into the ring against Andre Ward. In his fight against Isaac Chilemba, Sergey Kovalev looked far less aggressive, effective, and passionate than he ever had before. The ferocious killer and finisher we had seen in every fight preceding the Chilemba bout had seemingly disappeared overnight and gave way to a boxer that was evidently content in listlessly boxing his way to a decision. Post fight, the majority of boxing's media and the Main Events PR machine gave Chilemba all the credit citing that "he's a tough out for anyone." This writer saw a different fighter in Kovalev during that fight, not a tougher than usual or awkward opponent in Chilemba, especially for a fighter of Kovalev's ilk.

If you follow boxing regularly for even a short period of time you'll see history repeat itself quite frequently. Countless fighters have lost their fire and desire once they become financially comfortable. Hell, this isn't even an exclusive tale to boxing. It happens across all types of careers and to people from all walks of life. Complacency is a wicked bedfellow that can ruin a career and smother the fire that drives an individual forward. In the case of Sergey Kovalev he's not only sleeping in silk pajamas but he's also someone who seems mulish in his approach to training and fighting. Being a lone wolf and having confidence in oneself isn't necessarily a bad thing but there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. It's a well known fact that Abel Sanchez, trainer of Terry Norris and Gennady Golovkin, recognized a high level of skill and talent in Kovalev before dismissing him from his gym in Big Bear, noting very professionally that Sergey isn't necessarily a team player.

Shopping A New Trainer

Along with the video that hit the internet earlier this week, it was also reported that Kovalev is considering a move to another weight class and is interested in working with Virgil Hunter. Talk about pouring gasoline onto a fire that's already burning out of control....wow. Let's forget for a moment that outside of Andre Ward, Virgil Hunter has had zero success in the sport. Let's also forget that Hunter comes from a background working with troubled youths and that training boxers grew out of that line of work. What we must not be dismissive of however is the fact that Hunter emphasizes defense and a more passive style of boxing in his training. Sergey Kovalev is a fundamentally sound boxer-puncher who, until he became complacent, crafted himself one hell of a career by using his power. athleticism, and offensive mastery. Although its never the first thing people think of when they think of Kovalev his defensive game is indeed solid. Sergey Kovalev doesn't need a new trainer and Virgil Hunter certainly isn't going to do him or his career any favors. What Sergey Kovalev needs can't be found in anyone but Sergey Kovalev. Whether or not "The Krusher" is still inside of Kovalev remains to be seen but working with Hunter can only exacerbate the troubles he is having nor will it get him out of his new pajamas and back into his boxing trunks.

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

Monday, June 26, 2017

A Little Summer Cynicism

Summer Blues

While boxing is a year round sport one could be forgiven for thinking of summer as the sport's "off season". Generally speaking very few fights are scheduled in June, July, or August, especially fights of special significance. While it's certainly true that 2017 is one of the best years boxing has had in decades that doesn't mean it's having a perfect year nor does it mean that this summer's offerings have fans salivating and twiddling their fingers in anticipation. While there are a few fights of interest and note sprinkled throughout this summer's boxing schedule, the majority of this summer's offerings will leave boxing fans feeling blasé and with some free time on both their Friday and Saturday nights.

Pacquiao vs Horn

Photo: wikimedia.org
I was going to spend a great deal of time this morning drafting a Manny Pacquiao vs Jeff Horn fight analysis and preview piece but after staring apathetically at my monitor for the better part of 30 minutes and trying to find the allure in this fight I decided to go another route. As a boxing fan and someone whom also covers the sport there's a melancholy that accompanies the third quarter of every year. I suppose it doesn't help that I absolutely loathe summer but when boxing hits it's mid year slump I find myself feeling a bit morose and counting the days until Autumn. As the long hot days of summer begin to fade in late September boxing typically emerges from its network induced semi-coma with not only plenty to look forward to but boxing writers find themselves with no shortage of hot topics and big fights to cover as well. Whether you're a boxing fan, cover the sport in any capacity, or both you know that there's no shortage of controversy in the sport and there's always something to write or argue/debate about. In the interest of intellectual honesty however I'm going to state here that I just don't give a shit. While the summer and its lack of meaningful bouts don't do anything to diminish my love or passion for the sport, I won't waste time trying to concoct or fabricate interest in fights that don't do much for fans let alone the sport. I don't get paid to cover the sport so I'm under no obligation to polish any turds.

Jeff Horn's
recent resume.
Being a big proponent of candor I'll say this about Pacquiao vs Horn. I couldn't care less about this fight. I have zero interest in 401(k) fights and even less interest in retirement tours. Go out on your shield or just go the fuck home. I'm as big a Pacquiao fan as they come but his career post Marquez IV has been less than exciting and I believe that's a kind assessment. Why anyone is excited by this fight or there's any interest in it at all is beyond me. Jeff Horn is a nobody who's done nothing of note in the sport but yeah, let's get excited because Manny Pacquiao is fighting. The degradation of his skills began before his knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez back in 2012 but it was in that fight that Pacquiao lost his killer instinct...or perhaps it was taken from him. Since then Pacquiao fights have been devoid of drama and lacked gravitas, though to be fair he has remained effective against carefully selected opposition. That said, I won't spend my time writing puff pieces that attempt to honeyfuggle fans into thinking this is a fight of importance or that Horn might have a realistic chance of winning. Unless Pacquiao signs on to fight Crawford, Spence, Thurman, or any other top guy at or around welterweight I'll find something else to do on the nights he fights.

The Shit Show

While watching a dreadfully boring fight with my Grandfather back in the late 80's (the exact fight escapes me) I spent several rounds making snide comments about the fight and the lack of urgency in both combatants. I remember vividly how he turned to me and remarked "When it comes to boxing son, things can always be worse." Boxing often reminds me just how poignant and truthful his words were/are even 30 years later.

Fans and media honor fighter of the year, fight of the year, round of the year, knockout of the year, etc. yet boxing has no annual dishonorable mentions...no equivalent of the Golden Raspberry Awards, though it most certainly should. If the sport did recognize it's faux pas, it's disappointments, it's ripoffs, and its worst human beings, Mayweather vs Conor McGregor might win awards in all of the aforementioned categories.

If this article gives the impression that i'm contumelious towards what Michael Montero of Montero On Boxing calls the "#shitshow", it's because I am. Not only do I have no interest in this fight but its existence elicits both anger and sorrow in me. Think what you will about his cherry picking, his behavior outside the ring, his misogyny, and his boring style but Floyd Mayweather Jr. is one of the best defensive boxers of the last 30 years. Love him or hate him, if you're an honest fan, you will acknowledge that he is a superb boxer. So what's my problem with this fight? His opponent on the night of August 26th isn't a boxer but rather UFC mixed martial artist Conor McGregor. McGregor may be a great UFC fighter but his boxing skills are questionable at best and he's not fought once as a boxer, under boxing's rules, nor against anyone who can box even 10% as well as does Mayweather. A few minutes spent watching Mr. McGregor "box" on YouTube will demonstrate quite clearly that he'd have his ass handed to him by the vast majority of boxing's journeymen. The spin in the media would have this fight's target demographic believing that McGregor is a live dog in this fight. He's not a live dog, in fact he has no chance. Mayweather is going comfortably box his way to a unanimous decision and every fool who was arrogant, ignorant, incredulous, and stupid enough to pay for this fight will proclaim "boxing sucks", "boxing's dead", etc, etc, etc. I would urge consumers to be wary before buying any Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight, even those against other boxers but in this case it's especially important to remember that you do indeed get what you pay for. If you're an astute observe of boxing, MMA, or both you know that McGregor has no shot against Floyd. If the fight were to be contested under the UFC's rules I would be telling you that Mayweather has no chance but again, for the hard of hearing and willfully ignorant tools out there, Mayweather vs McGregor is a boxing match and the man who's dedicated his entire life to boxing is going to win.

This fight will be a media spectacle and expensive side show but it won't be much of a fight. People who doubt the validity of my chiding should read up on insane stupidity that was 1976's Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki. Being 3 years old at the time this farce took place I missed it, being too busy with Sam the Clam and whatnot, though I have watched it in it's entirety on YouTube since. Expect something very similar, including the post fight fallout, from the shit show on August 26th. I could go on and on about how horrible this "fight" is but I think Kenny Keith and Vince Cummings over at The Boxing Rant said it better than I ever could in an episode of the "Flash Knockdown" dedicated to this buffoonery.

Mayweather vs. McGregor OFFICIAL - Flash Knockdown #06

It's Not All Bad Right?

Despite my ramblings there are some things to look forward to this summer if you're a boxing fan. Promising prospect Robert Easter Jr. defends his IBF lightweight crown against Russia's Denis Shafikov on June 30th which can be seen on Bounce TV. Cruiserweights Denis Lebedev and Mark Flanagan square off on July 10th if that's your thing and HBO has a very solid card airing on July 15th. On that card Joe Smith takes on Sullivan Barrera in what should be a fun fight. At the end of July, the 29th to be exact, Adrien Broner vs. Mikey Garcia is going down and that should be a lot of fun...while it lasts.

I spent some time earlier talking about August 26th and the shit show happening on that day but there's an actual boxing match happening in Los Angeles that night too. That fight being Miguel Cotto vs. Yoshihiro Kamegai for the vacant WBO 154 lbs title. Kamegai always brings it and with Cotto having one foot out the door things could get very interesting. Post Labor Day, boxing gets very exciting and gets exciting fast! On September 9th Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Roman Gonzalez will square off in their rematch in what should be a damn good fight. Also on that bill are Naoya Inoue vs. Antonio Nieves and Carlos Cuadras vs. Juan Francisco Estrada. The card has been dubbed "Superfly" and can be seen on HBO. Don't miss this card as it has the potential to be the best night of boxing in 2017. The following week on September 16th the last big fight of the summer takes place., The mega fight featuring Saul "Canelo Alvarez" and middleweight kingpin Gennady Golovkin is a battle for 160 lbs supremacy. The winner of that fight will be considered the pound for pound #1 fighter by some including yours truly.

Summer being what it is for boxing aficionados, I guess it's a good thing that I'm also a professional armature musician and rabid video game enthusiast. Now go enjoy a good BBQ with some friends and try and stay cool!

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

Monday, June 19, 2017

Andre Ward Drops And Stops Sergey Kovalev

And Still Light Heavyweight Champion Of The World...

Photo: washingtonpost.com
On Saturday June 17th, 2017 the second most important fight of the year took place. The shamefully under/mis-promoted Ward vs Kovalev 2 went down at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. There was plenty of controversy surrounding the first meeting between these two fighters and the second go around proved to be no different. At the conclusion of the first fight there was the smell of a home cooked meal permeating from the judges score cards as Andre Ward was awarded a decision he did not deserve. In their second bout the odors were much more intense and they emanated from much more than just the score cards. It was a fight that should have provided the Light Heavyweight division with some clarity and it did or did not do that depending on where you stand on several issues. Regardless of which fighter you supported it's a fight that should give you pause and will likely result in a number of YouTube film studies.

Déjà Vu

Haven't I seen this fight

Photo: boxingmonthly.com
Andre Ward entered the ring on fight night as the slightly favored and unified Light Heavyweight champion while the surly Russian, despite being the uncrowned victor in the first fight, oddly entered the ring as the underdog and as the man with something to prove. Kovalev made boast after boast in the lead up to this rematch menacingly insisting that "he'd end Ward's career" and even walked out on the fights final press conference after physically and verbally taunting Andre Ward. Despite Kovalev's strong performance in the first fight and his in ring reputation as a cold and cruel fighter who knows how to finish, it again seemed odd that bookmakers were favoring Andre Ward, even slightly.

This scribe predicted that Sergey Kovalev would fight more aggressively and be the busier fighter from the opening bell this time around. Yours truly further predicted that the former champion would send Ward to the canvas more than once en route to a 7th or 8th round knockout. Kovalev showed that he was the better boxer in their first meeting and believing that Kovalev had simply run out of gas in that first fight I held firm that Kovalev and Jackson would make the necessary adjustments and come out aggressive in the second outing. I have never been so wrong in a fight prediction as I was for this rematch. The fight Saturday night was a near carbon copy of its predecessor with each round being close for one pugilist or the other. Kovalev did not fight aggressively as I had predicted but he did employ a very effective and disruptive jab for the majority of the first half of the fight. That said, most of his power shots failed to find their mark thanks to some brilliant moving and angles on Ward's part. Ward on the other hand seemed to be content in fighting off his back foot and employing his "slug and hug" style. Neither fighter did anything much differently than they did the first time around though after all of the hubris exhibited by Kovalev during the promotion of the fight it was extremely disappointing to see him come in with the same game plan he used in the first and fight with so little urgency.

Pump The Brakes And Back Up

...and still undefeated...
Speaking of Kovalev, back in July of 2016 he fought and defeated Isaac Chilemba via a 12 round decision. Chilemba is no slouch mind you but during that fight I noticed that the Kovalev fighting that night wasn't the same guy we had seen previously. Most brushed off the Krusher's lackluster showing by citing that Chilemba's awkward style and solid chin would pose a problem for any fighter. While the aforementioned about Chilemba is true, Kovalev fought with far less aggression than ever before, worked fewer angles and took fewer chances. When you've been an enthusiastic observer of the sport for 32 years you will see once devastating and dominant fighters change in a single night; its a regular occurrence in the sport. Sometimes it's age, it's distractions outside the ring, it's complacency, its psychological, or a fighter loses his passion for the sport but regardless of the reasons for the change, fighters are very rarely themselves ever again when they have a night like this. It's one of the most common tales in boxing and in the fight against Chilemba, Kovalev showed this writer that he had changed. While Kovalev has fought twice since he battled Chilemba, "The Krusher" has been M.I.A. since he defeated Pascal in their 2nd fight. The fact that a higher level of competition can often make dominant fighters appear less effective and lethal has not escaped me and Andre Ward is a hell of a fighter but he has never faced the version of Kovalev that sent Adonis Stevenson running to hide behind Al Haymon. In both fights against Andre Ward, Sergey Kovalev was not himself...for whatever reason. This current version of Kovalev is still supremely talented and dangerous but gone are the ferocity, the sense of urgency, and that je ne sais quoi that elevated him from very good to great.

Who Saw This Coming?

Photo: reviewjournal.com
Up until the 8th round the fight was very close and at the time of the stoppage I had Kovalev ahead by one round. I thought Kovalev was the more effective aggressor and the ring general in the majority of the first 7 rounds, despite turning in a somewhat disappointing and listless performance. Of course some of this had to do with Ward's superb ability to avoid punches and set traps but Kovalev looked and behaved like a fighter that was just going through the motions at times. He looked tired, frustrated, and gave off the impression that he had mentally checked out of the fight, even in those rounds which he won.

The 8th round was as bizarre as it was jaw dropping. In it, Ward caught Kovalev with a good shot to the head which clearly and permanently put Sergey on Queer St. There was also a moment in the that round where Kovalev doubled over and winced in agony. Having rewatched that round, I am still unable to ascertain exactly what produced that wincing but nevertheless it did major damage to the already weary and fading Kovalev. From this point on Kovalev stayed hunched over and seemingly tried to protect his body. In these final moments of the fight Kovalev never tried to grab or tie Ward up. In the last seconds of the fight Kovalev found himself being held up by the ropes and by the rules of boxing referee Tony Weeks should have broken the fighters apart and issued Kovalev a count as it should have been considered a knock down. Instead Andre Ward was momentarily allowed to continue his attack on his breaking opponent until Tony Weeks prematurely stepped in and waived the fight off. In a fight of this magnitude, with so much on the line, and in a fight featuring two elite level talents, the losing combatant should be given the opportunity to recover and even go out on his shield. Kovalev was never given a count nor was he afforded a single opportunity to continue.

Where Do They Go From Here?

As stated previously Kovalev spoke with such hubris in the months leading up to this fight that one could be forgiven for believing he'd come into the rematch on fire and use his anger to make right the injustice he suffered in the first bout. All of that pre-fight anger, fire, and fury that the ex-champion carried with him dissipated at some point before the opening bell of this fight and he turned in a somewhat tepid performance. Then again, perhaps those emotions have been buried or stifled by other issues. There are plenty of rumors swirling around team Kovalev and the man himself, though I won't speculate on these rumors since I have seen no evidence to substantiate any of them. The outcome of this fight and it's shocking and odd conclusion will only add fuel to these rumor fires and fans and media will speculate for weeks and months to come. That said, do not be surprised if Kovalev and John David Jackson part ways in the very near future. Call it a hunch.

Photo: img.bleacherreport.net
Although not without controversy, Andre Ward emphatically put his stamp on the Light Heavyweight crown on Saturday night and has unlimited options moving forward. It would of course be nice to see Ward attempt to unify his division and become undisputed Light Heavyweight Champion Of The World but Ward shamelessly and without hesitation talked about a move to Cruiserweight and even Heavyweight so it's unlikely we'll see the division unified anytime soon. This being Andre Ward and given his track record don't expect either a fight announcement nor a fight anytime soon. If the champion laces up his gloves again before 2018 rolls around most of us will be shocked.

Photo: i.guim.co.uk
As far as Sergey Kovalev is concerned his future in the sport is more or less one big question mark at the time of this writing. Does he try and secure a 3rd fight with Ward? Would Andre Ward even entertain such a notion? If he doesn't fight Ward again to whom does he look to for a fight? At age 34 Kovalev is, at best, at the very tail end of his prime. I would argue he's 3 fights past his prime but hey...that's another article. If Kovalev wants to jockey himself into a mandatory position for another shot at Ward or the next title holder he may have to face some very young and hungry fighters. Fellow countryman and up and comer Dmitry Bivol might be a dangerous out for the Kovalev of 2017 as might the less experienced but still dangerous Artr Beterbiev. Kovalev has never shied away from tough outs but things might be different if he chooses to continue his career. Of course Kovalev could choose to retire but that option doesn't make a whole lot of sense at this point in time nor do I believe that he or his team are considering this. Like Ward, he too could move up to Cruiserweight and attempt to make his mark there. For now Kovalev and his promoter Main Events are planning to challenge the outcome of this fight by filing a protest against the Nevada State Athletic Commission. It's very improbable that this protest will do little more than help them save face. What is probable however is that this course of action delays Kovalev's next fight for at least a short while.

Final Thoughts

Neither Roc Nation Sports nor Andre Ward can promote a fight to save their lives. I wonder, is it incompetence, apathy, or perhaps arrogance that saw this fight go virtually unpromoted and unnoticed? While neither Kovalev nor Ward are big draws it's being reported  by some that it sold just 160,000 PPV's and tickets were available on fight day for pennies on the dollar. Even when two elite talents aren't big draws a competent promotional outfit should be capable of generating more buzz and revenue in this type of fight. Just imagine what could have been with Golden Boy Promotions or Top Rank promoting this fight. In this instance, shame on Roc Nation Sports.

Many saw the fight this way.
Photo: 8.media.tumblr.com
The talk of repeated low blows from Andre Ward has permeated Twitter. There seem to be two camps with regards to this issue. A camp that asserts the low blows affected the outcome of this fight and a camp that claims the low blows were either legal body shots or were irrelevant because "Kovalev was done at that point" These blue eyes indeed saw a great deal of low blows coming from Andre Ward. They also saw Tony Weeks either having a bad night at the office or a very good one. Keep in mind that whether these shots were legal or not and now matter how frequently they occurred, Kovalev never took justice into his own hands, not once. He could have and should have been retaliating on the inside but instead he either ignored them or looked to Tony Weeks for help. In a fight that takes place in your opponents home country and in a city where his influence runs very deep you want to do everything in within your power to eliminate the need for your opponents hand picked judges, and you certainly don't want to depend on an official that fist bumps the hometown fighter as that fighter enters the ring. Kovalev seemed content in trying to fight a clean fight despite it being clear he wasn't getting anywhere with that mindset. Where has Kovalev's mean streak gone? Isn't it Andre Ward that always says, "you have to bully the bully"? That's solid advice Sergey.

This fight was a bad look for boxing. Be it:

  • The terrible promotional efforts of Roc Nation or lack thereof
  • The questionable officiating in this fight
  • The premature and absurd ending
  • The fist bumping between Ward and Weeks as Ward entered the ring
  • The fact that a fighter with a 50% KO ratio appeared stronger than ever before and put the hurt on a man known for his resilience
  • The repeated low blows
  • The 3rd poor showing for Kovalev
  • The rumors of trouble in the Kovalev camp
  • The rumors about Kovalev himself
  • The entitlement and coddling one fighter received
  • The fight being portrayed as USA vs Russia
  • The lack of attention this fight received
  • Fans at the post fight presser
  • The drug testing or lack thereof in this fight
  • The fact that all 3 judges were American
...this fight reeks of something putrid. This entire fight smells more foul than a car full of hot wing farts on blazing August day. Very few in the media are going to talk about the controversies surrounding this fight because the establishment fighter walked away with the victory and most boxing writers and YouTubers are either going to tow company lines or use Ward's victor to further some heinous and bogus political ideology or agenda. Andre Ward is an excellent defensive fighter but he's boring in the ring and he's a smug prick outside of it. Despite this, all of the aforementioned will get glossed over or will simply be dismissed simply because it's Andre Ward. For whatever reason both HBO and Showtime have always had an agenda when it comes to Andre Ward. He's America's boxing darling or rather they desperately want him to be. This is made evidently clear in the commentary that comes from the networks' commentating teams, their promo pieces, writings, etc. I won't pretend to know why this is the case but there's no arguing that it indeed is. This fight not only smells bad, it left a very bad aftertaste in my mouth and I'm glad it's over. There are much greater things to look forward to in the 2nd half of 2017.

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

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Andre Ward vs Sergey Kovalev 2 - Fight Breakdown And Prediction

Here is my analysis and prediction for the rematch between Light Heavyweights Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev.

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

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Weekend One - Two: Two Impressive Knockouts On Shobox

Friday Trumps Saturday

Usually boxing fans think of Friday night's fights as a sort of collective undercard for Saturday's bigger events. Both HBO's "Boxing After Dark" and Showtime's "Shobox" are programs that are meant to showcase those boxers on their way up; they are launching pads where prospects either graduate to contenders or fade into oblivion. Both programs are akin to ESPN's now defunct and much missed Friday Night Fights but with a little more polish, pomp, and usually better talent. The Shobox of June 9th 2017 however held more promise and intrigue than did any of the fights happening the following evening. The Showtime card not only lived up to its promise but it exceeded expectations as well. This card featured 3 bouts that, at least on paper, should have piqued the interest of fans everywhere.

Jon Fernandez vs. Juan Reyes

Reyes goes to sleep in round 2
In the opening bout of Friday nights Shobox card we saw Jon Fernandez, protege of former middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, take on journeyman warrior Juan Reyes. Fernandez entered the ring boasting a record of 12-0-0 10 KO's. Reyes on the other hand carried a 14-3-3 2 KO's record into Friday's bout. This being Shobox and given the disparity in punching power, few gave Reyes any chance of winning though to his credit Reyes had yet to be stopped prior to this fight.  With the exception of the opening minute of the fight, Fernandez controlled the fight landing series after series of power shots on the brave Reyes' face. Even after his face begun to show signs of swelling the resilient Reyes continued to adsorb heavy shot after heavy shot. Then out of nowhere at 2:36 of round 2, in attempt to launch his offense, Reyes walked into a sharp Fernandez right hand that appeared to catch him on or near his temple. The shot immediately sent Reyes down to the canvas and it was a scary collapse. Juan Reyes was unconsciousness before his limp body hit the canvas and the fight was immediately waived off by referee Charlie Fitch. In his win Jon Fernandez showed us that he has at least respectable power but as is the case with all prospects...I wonder how effective his power will be when he faces tougher opposition and eventually moves up in weight down the line. For the time being count me among those who want to see Jon Fernandez fight again.

Steve Rolls vs. Demond Nicholson

In a Super Middleweight bout and the penultimate fight of the evening undefeated prospect Steve Rolls faced off against the hard hitting Demond Nicholson. Rolls went to work early and nearly obliterated Nicholson with a left hand near the end of round one. Rolls continued to press the action in rounds 2 and 3 at least until Nicholson caught him with a big punch in the 3rd. From the 4th round on the fight was difficult to score and the judges awarded Steve Rolls a split decision. The scores were 77-75 Nicholson, 77-74 Rolls, 77-74 Rolls respectively and in the opinion of this scribe...incorrect. I had Nicholson winning the fight as did Showtime commentators Barry Tompkins and Steve Farhood.

Joel Diaz Jr. vs. Regis Prograis

140 lbs. contender Regis Prograis
There's something to be said about saving the best for last and that's exactly what happened in the final bout of the evening. Regis Prograis (pronounced Pro-Gray) faced off against the able bodied Joel Diaz Jr. in a Super Lightweight match up. Adding intrigue and some suspense to this fight, both men entered the ring undefeated and with high KO percentages. Heading into this fight Diaz Jr. was considered a tough out for the untested Prograis and a step up in quality of opposition. This was supposed to be a coming out party of sorts for the prospect from Houston Texas and he did not disappoint. Given that both fighters have a penchant for stopping their opponents I didn't expect the fight to go the distance but I thought it might go late believing both men would show one another respect for each others power. Instead of a fight that went deep Prograis dispatched Diaz Jr in a 2nd round that was as brutal as it was exciting. Diaz Jr was was laid out on the canvas not once, not twice, not even three but rather four times. The fourth time Diaz Jr. took a trip to the floor referee Mark Nelson waived the fight off, having seen Diaz Jr. absorb enough punishment.

Post fight, Twitter was abuzz with many praising Prograis for the sobering and impressive statement he made. It wasn't just that he dispatched a guy whom was supposed to be a tough out but it was the way in which he did it. Prograis made it look easy and demonstrated a level of skill that we see only in the sports top ring of talent. The eye test told yours truly that Prograis is not a very good fighter but rather one that might be special. I know, I know, he hasn't fought anyone yet. Fair enough but don't be surprised if the former prospect and now contender becomes a dominant figure in the sport. He called out all of the best Jr. Welterweights, including the impressive Terrence Crawford. I know I'm not the only one that's excited to see where Prograis goes from here. He's certainly got the potential and style to make some noise in the sport. At 28 years of age however I hope he's not moved too slowly. The fast track would benefit not only the fighter but the fans in this case as well. Hopefully we'll know what's next for Prograis very soon.

Final Thoughts

I skipped Saturday nights fights in part because I needed some time with my family. I also thought that Saturday's offerings were almost completely meaningless as well. As a young man in the 80's and early 90's I watched every fight I could find but as a middle aged man I find sitting through bouts that lack drama, a storyline, top talent, and those that don't lead anywhere to be an arduous and tedious task. At any rate next week we've got Kovalev/Ward 2 happening and that should provide plenty of drama and already has one hell of a storyline attached to it. If you haven't seen HBO's 24/7 for this fight watch it now, it's excellent!

24/7 Ward/Kovalev 2 - Full Show (HBO Boxing)

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

Monday, June 5, 2017

A Weekend Of Mismatches - June 3rd, 2017

A Bad Look For Boxing

Nearly half way through the year boxing appears revitalized in 2017. Through some great matchmaking as well as fights that delivered all on levels, boxing has started to return what it began taking from fans back in 2012. Even in it's best years however, boxing will occasionally show it's ugly side and televise mismatches, promote shot fighters, offer up fights no one asked for, enable protected fighters, and use all of the aforementioned to essentially pre-promote another fight that no one wants or needs to see.

What you've just read aptly describes this past Saturday, June 3rd 2017. On this night at the Bell Centre in Montreal, boxing fans were subjected to two meaningless fights in Jean Pascal vs Eleider Alavarez and Adonis Stevenson vs Andrzej Fonfara. Both fights had bad or questionable looks from the moment they were made. Jean Pascal for example was thought of as being a shot fighter while Stevenson's penchant for avoiding credible names in the ring has long been bemoaned by fans and pundits alike. Digressing for a moment, what would the late great Emanuel Steward think of Stevenson's post-Chad Dawson career path? One has to wonder doesn't he/she? Getting back to the crux of things, the bad auras surrounding these fights physically manifested themselves on fight night as both Stevenson and Alvarez emerged victorious, even if those victories were pyrrhic ones. Yes, there's still plenty to look forward to and be excited about if you're a boxing fan but Saturday June 3 of 2017 is a night best forgotten.

Jean Pascal vs Eleider Alavarez

On my card
It wasn't a
competitive fight
Coming into this match up, Pascal had lost two of his last four fights by knockout. He'd also received a gift decision against one Yunieski Gonzalez following his first fight with Sergey Kovalev. In all 4 of these bouts, Pascal looked less than spectacular and showed signs of erosion. Some may point to a career's worth of wars while others will cite Kovalev as the reason for Pascal's physical and mental decline but regardless, the Pascal we saw this past Saturday bared no semblance whatsoever to the fighter he was in years past. Eleider Alvarez on the other hand looked just the opposite in the fight. Poised and measured, if not a bit too tentative, Alvarez employed an accurate and stiff jab that Pascal could not avoid to save his life. Alvarez controlled the action and was the ring general from the opening to the final bell. Conversely, Pascal stood flat footed, often against the ropes, looking for one big shot. Pascal remained inactive for all but the final 30 seconds of each round at which point he launched a bevy of flurries; flurries I might add that were largely ineffective. Pascal landed very few punches in these flurries with Alvarez blocking the majority of the shots and others just missing their mark completely. Throughout the fight Pascal exhibited all the signs of a fighter who can no longer fight. If Alvarez had even decent power Pascal likely would have lost more than just a decision on Saturday.

Speaking of the decision, Alvarez won a majority decision, which was atrocious. When Jimmy Lennon Jr. read "We have a majority decision" my stomach sank and it looked as though Pascal would receive yet another gift. Two of the judges had the right man winning with scores of 117-111 and 116-112 respectively. The third judge scored the fight a draw at 114-114. I don't often agree with Teddy Atlas but when scoring like this rears it's ugly head his "incompetence or corruption" dichotomy makes a whole lot of sense. The judge whom scored this fight a draw should be suspended and investigated at the very least. At any rate the bout was a one sided affair that lacked excitement and drama.

Jean Pascal needs to call it a career and head home to his family with the few brain cells he's got left. As far as Alvarez is concerned, he was paid step aside fees by team Stevenson but after watching him jab his way to victory I find myself wondering why. Eleider Alvarez is a skilled pugilist no doubt but this is a guy Adonis Stevenson and/or his handlers want to avoid? Really? Alvarez's low work rate and lack of power make him tailor made for Stevenson. I would heavily favor the aging WBC titlist if that fight were to come off. In fact I'll go so far as to say Stevenson stops Alvarez in 3 rounds. Where either Pascal or Alvarez goes from here is anybody's guess though. As always...time will tell.

Adonis Stevenson vs Andrzej Fonfara 2

If Stevenson were a
Sumo Wrestler

In the lead up to it this fight was being called "the rematch no one asked for" by fans and media all over Twitter. In his quest to avoid any dangerous fights, Adonis Stevenson and his team elected to once more fight the once rugged Pole Fonfara. This rematch might have made much more sense had it happened in the immediate wake of their first fight back in mid 2014. Time isn't the only thing that tainted this fight however as Fonfara had looked bad in recent fights while Stevenson had continued to pad his bank account and wallet with fights against over matched opponents. Retrouvaille this was not.

Stevenson took the fight to Fonfara right from the opening bell and it was painfully clear that Fonfara, like Pascal earlier that night, had nothing for his opponent. Stevenson's left hand landed repeatedly on Fonfara's face; he was unable to avoid or block the shot regardless of how often it landed. Stevenson sent Fonfara to the canvas in round one and although he made it back to his feet it was clear the Pole was forswunke and woozy. Although Fonfara made it through the first round the fight essentially ended with that knock down. 28 seconds into round 2, Fonfara's trainer Virgil Hunter stepped up onto the ring apron and waived off the fight in order to put a halt to Stevenson's relentless attack and spare his fighter further damage.

No one legitimately gave Andrzej Fonfara a shot in this fight and rightfully so. If I'm Fonfara I seriously consider retirement...yes even at age 29. He's a spent fighter with nowhere to go in the sport. Stevenson on the other hand may be an aging one trick pony with that left hand of his but he's a dangerous and potentially lethal outing for anyone in the light heavyweight division. Stevenon's second win over Fonfara does nothing for boxing and nothing for his career but Adonis has no problem with that. The Haitian born Québécois isn't interested in legacy nor sport. He's interested in making money and will continue to do it with as little hassle as possible. Stevenson is going to fight on, likely against another opponent whom has no business being in the ring with him. Eleider Alvarez is Stevenson's WBC mandatory but given his track record don't expect to see that fight get made. Instead expect to see Stevenson vs Pascal in another fight at the Bell Centre. Both fighters draw crowds in their hometown and both are popular there. It's a barbarous fight and one that poses great risk to the health of Jean Pascal. Be that as it may, mark my words this fight gets made and happens in the early Autumn of this year.

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

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Weekend One-Two: Miguel Cotto Strikes A Deal

Enough Is Enough

Miguel Cotto
Photo: boxrec.com
There are very few happy endings in boxing. Being a proud breed, boxers often stick around long after their prime has faded from view. Be it their love of the sport, an inability to accept that their time has passed, or a career's worth of mismanaged finances, boxers always seem to find a reason to extend their careers and seldom does that turn out well, at least in the long term. In the short term however, shop worn fighters in the late twilight of their careers can pad their bank accounts (and records) with safe fights, layups, exhibition bouts...call them what you will. Though his career extension plan was put into play several years ago, it was announced yesterday, May 31st, 2017 that Puerto Rico's Miguel Cotto had signed a multi-fight deal with promotional outfit Golden Boy Promotions.

If you only read Twitter headlines and/or skim through boxing articles it would be easy to walk away believing that Oscar De La Hoya's promotional firm would merely be promoting the next couple of the future hall of famer's fights. Those who dig a little deeper however know that Miguel Cotto hasn't given GBP full promotional control over his career. Instead the fading star has formed a partnership with Golden Boy who will be acting as Cotto's co-promoter for the next couple of fights. Oscar De La Hoya and company will also be working with some of the prospects Miguel Cotto has signed to his own promotional firm. As it stands now there are plans to feature Cotto's stable of young prospects on ESPN cards in the coming months. Be sure to check out Montero On Boxing's video for more on this deal, it's good stuff.

Mike Montero on the Cotto/Golden Boy deal

While the latter part of this deal is certainly good for the sport, good for fans, and for the young fighters involved count me among the seemingly few that just aren't excited about seeing Miguel Cotto fight. Don't get me wrong, Cotto was a very good and exciting fighter in his prime but as is often the case with fighters who take a severe beating, Antonio Margarito robbed Miguel Cotto of much more than his undefeated record back on July 26th of 2008. The pre-Margarito Cotto hit much harder than the post-Margarito version of the fighter. He was also more aggressive, took more risks, was faster, and seemed to be more concerned with winning than he was with surviving.

David Lemieux
Photo: http.cdn.softlayer.ne
I guess I have to ask, why is anyone but Miguel Cotto excited about his deal with Golden Boy Promotions? Cotto believes he is bigger than the sport, having a skill advantage isn't enough so he weight drains larger and less talented fighters to give himself an additional advantage, he uses catchweights as a shield rather than as a way to make interesting fights, he's a part time fighter, and he hasn't even looked great against the mediocre competition he's fought after the first Margarito fight.

There is talk of a fight between Miguel Cotto and hard hitting Canadian David Lemieux (38-3 33Ko's). Shame on any boxing fan or pundit that wants to see that fight. Do we really want to see Cotto force a man down to another catchweight, especially a man that's had trouble making weight in the recent past? I am interested in watching fights between two combatants whom are as close to their best as possible. Should that fight even be made at 160 lbs I still have little interest in it because at this stage of Cotto's career Lemieux brutalizes and stops him before round 6. David is too young, too big, too strong, and too ferocious for the now timid Cotto. If Cotto wants to fight on I won't bemoan his decision to do so, however I haven't any interest in watching and I don't want to see his cherry picking and love of catchweights keep more important or meaningful fights from coming to fruition. Miguel Cotto isn't going to be effective with any top name in the sport at this point and watching faded champions cherry pick their way into retirement is not something I have much interest in. 

Mikey Garcia vs Adrien Broner

Announced just this morning, Mikey Garcia and Adrien Broner have reached a deal for a fight on July 29th, 2017. Although one could be very critical of this fight since it's a clear mismatch in favor of the vastly more skilled Garcia, this fight should actually be fun...at least while it lasts. In Broner we have a man who's dedication to the sport has long been in question. Moreover his extra curricular actives have landed the clownish and sophomoric boxer in some real hot water. If "The Can Man" comes into the fight at his best he could make the fight interesting and his antics in the lead up to and during the fight should make for some buffoonish entertainment and low brow laughs. Again, this may not be a big test for the lethal Garcia but it will be entertaining simply because of Broner's involvement.

Adrien Broner almost won an AVN Award for his
performance vs Marcos Maidana

Adonis Stevenson vs Andrzej Fonfara

This weekend's rematch between Adonis Stevenson and Andrzej Fonfara is a fight no one asked for and is the next in Stevenson's ongoing irrelevant and pathetic reign as WBC Light Heavyweight champion. Stevenson isn't a man interested in sport, legacy, his WBC title, or pushing himself in any way. Instead the Haitian born Canadian seems interested only in those paths which offer little resistance; for the boxing uninitiated that's boxing lingo for "easy money". In their first meeting Fonfara hurt and dropped the seemingly fragile Stevenson but ended up losing a unanimous decision to the champion. That was back in 2014 mind you and in the three years since, Stevenson has had some shaky moments against ham and eggers. Fonfara on the other hand has gone 4-1 in his last 5 since losing to Stevenson. While that may seem impressive he hasn't looked great recently and I expect Adonis Stevenson to knock him out before the fight reaches round 6. Stevenson may be aging, his skills may have eroded, and he may be largely inactive but he still has the eraser in his left hand and he'll still be the more talented fighter when they meet this weekend.

Enjoy the fights!

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