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

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Boxing History And Lore: From The Trenches At Cotto-Kamegai

My First Live Boxing Experience

Leaving for the StubHub Center
Last Saturday night in front of a sell out crowd at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, I watched Miguel Cotto out box, out land, and out bludgeon the tough as nails Yoshihiro Kamegai. I was also in attendance for Rey Vargas vs Ronnie Rios and a handful of entertaining off air under card bouts. Although I've been an astute and passionate observer of the sport for 32 years, this was my first live boxing event so to state that I was excited would be an understatement. My decision to attend this particular card was, at least in part, a sort of "fuck you" to the Mayweather/McGregor spectacle that was going down on the same night. I really wanted to throw my support behind a quality boxing event, not some shit-show aimed at the lowest common denominator. Mostly however, I felt that after 32 years of watching from my couch it was simply time to start going to live fights...accept no more excuses.

I made my way out of my house around 12:30 pm and made the nearly 2 hour trek down Interstate 15 to my hotel in Buena Park.  While checking into my hotel room I was contacted via Twitter by one of my readers/followers. This person asked if I had already arrived at the venue and since I made this trip alone his message pushed my anticipation to new heights. Prior to receiving his message I had acquiesced to the idea of watching the card alone and in silence from my seat. Knowing that there was someone waiting with whom I could talk boxing and share the experience however helped push me out of my hotel room, back into my car, and another 20 minutes down the 91 freeway to the StubHub Center.

My ticket
Upon arriving at the StubHub Center I found myself somewhat emotionally overwhelmed. At 44 years of age this doesn't happen very often so I was caught off guard by just how excited I was. Had any of my readers been in the car with me as I prepared to exit for the gate they would have sworn we were there to watch Canelo/Golovkin or that we had gone back in time to watch a prime Mike Tyson knock out Michael Spinks. After collecting myself a bit and liberally applying some sunscreen to my face and arms I set out to find the person whom had contacted me earlier. Being completely and utterly unfamiliar with the venue, we were unable to find one another. After a solid 20 minutes of searching for this person, I received another message from him suggesting we simplify things by meeting inside at either his seat or mine at a later time.

The LA Galaxy plays here...
Boxing's on the tennis court
After agreeing to this, I set off towards the main gate, entered, and began exploring the venue. Steve Kim of the Undisputed Champion Network and others have oft proclaimed this venue to be one of the best in which fans can take in boxing. When considering the opinions of others one must take into account the hyperbole that often accompanies the vocalizing of said opinions but in this case Steve and everyone else who has made this declaration are onto something. Having no other venue to compare it to, I can not remain intellectually honest and assert that they are correct in their assessment of the venue but the StubHub Center is a great venue nonetheless. Not only is it easy to navigate but every seat in the house is fantastic. There is no nosebleed section, no obstructed views, no need for giant television screens, and the atmosphere there was fantastic on this particular night. The only criticism I can levy against StubHub is it's lack of shading for it's audience. Although I had a great seat I spent 5 hours sweating to death while the sun beat down on my fair skin. Relief came only as the televised portion of the show began. I might have been more upset by this had the venue not placed gargantuan fans that blew cool water through their grates next to all of its restrooms and food/beverage vendors. I made use of these every 20 minutes or so.

My view from Section 9 Row D
Not bad...not bad
I spent nearly 45 minutes wandering the StubHub Center stopping several times to watch a couple of the preliminary fights from the top of the venue and take some pictures. I also stopped to talk about Canelo/Golovkin with several fans of both fighters. After fulfilling my wanderlust, I set out to find my seat. As I mentioned previously, the place is extremely easy to navigate so this took very little time. I was pleasantly surprised at how close my seat was to the ring and how easy it was to see the action within it.

Upon finding my seat I was greeted by two brothers sitting to my left. The pair was friendly and we spent the better part of the next 30 minutes talking boxing in general and about the card we were about to watch. After the brothers left for a restroom/refreshment break I received a message from the reader who had wanted to meet up with me earlier. He was in the venue and sent me a screenshot of his ticket. In an ironic twist of fate it turned out that he was seated right next to me in seat 2. I left my seat and met "Donald R. DeCicco" in front of our section's concession stand. Donald and I spent some time talking boxing, got some snacks/drinks, and then rediscovered our seats.

Nick and I talking some boxing
while we roast in the summer sun
By the time "Donald" and I returned to our seats there were some pretty solid under card fights taking place. Although this was my first live event and I had expected to keep my eyes glued to the ring, I spent the overwhelming majority of time taking about the sport with the people sitting next to and around me. Even those with whom I disagreed with were friendly and in good spirits which was a refreshing change to some of the people I've encountered at sports bars over the years. I can not say whether it was the fight card, the venue, a proud counter reaction to the fight in Vegas, or if the StubHub was just unusually filled with happy people but the vibe was there was positive and festive. Prior to attending this card, I had never been in a place where I was surrounded by thousands of people who love the same thing I do. Talk about awesome...

Meet And Greet

Me with Jesus Soto Karass
In between several of the off air fights I noticed that a number of professional boxers were making their way through the audience for what appeared to be meet and greets. Not wanting to be looked upon as an annoyance, I let most pass without so much as a "hey what's up" but when Jesus Soto Karass stopped by my section I asked for a picture. Karass appeared the most friendly of the bunch and he was more than happy to oblige my request. He spent a couple of minutes talking with me before he made his way back towards his ringside seat.

Meeting My Inspiration

Michael Montero and I with..
the "Finger To Nowhere"
There are four persons whom inspire me to write about boxing. These people are Steve Kim, Kenny Keith and Vince Cummings of The Boxing Rant, and of course Michael Montero. While all of these people help push me forward it is Michael Montero's work that motivates and inspires me the most. Having ingested his videos and articles, I've come to trust and respect his opinions when it comes to boxing. After admiring his work for so many years, it was a real thrill when he took time out of his busy schedule to meet with me over near my seat. Mike was personable, friendly, willing to talk a bit, made me feel like a dwarf (I'm 5'6), and had a great sense of humor. Thanks again for taking the time to meet up with me Mike!

The Main Event

Yours truly expected a little more from Kamegai though don't let that fool you into thinking his effort was lackluster. The former Japanese super lightweight title holder came forward and pushed the action from the opening bell right up until the final bell. Miguel Cotto however was faster, had far better footwork and body movement, landed the more effective punches, and had the better skill set. Each of the twelve rounds were near carbon copies of one another. Kamegai would charge toward Cotto before falling in and smothering his own work. When he did manage to get inside Kamegai either let loose a barrage of largely ineffective punches or he absorbed a great deal of punishment. Miguel Cotto hit his opponent with sharp, thudding, and accurate punches from start to finish. A large number of these hooks and straights violently snapped Kamegai's head back and to the side. Several other power shots from Cotto sent the over matched and outclassed Kamegai stumbling backwards, sometimes in exaggerated fashion. These moments drew "ooo's and ah's" from those in attendance but Cotto never pushed to get his man out of there.

No matter how much punishment Cotto dished out, Kamegai kept coming forward in his usual Kamikaze fashion, though as the fight wore on he did so throwing fewer and fewer punches and seemed unable to prevent himself from smothering his own work or at least the opportunity for inside work. Kamegai went from working on the inside to running right at his more fluid opponent, falling in, and then holding/grappling. If Cotto wanted the knock out you wouldn't have known it thanks to Kamegai having an unbreakable chin. The fight was a competitive but one sided affair that ended in a unanimous decision win for Miguel Cotto. Kamegai isn't the most skilled boxer on the planet but if stamina and resiliency were all it took to win titles, Kamegai would be the undisputed champion of boxing.

Cotto/Kamegai Fighter Introductions

I'll Be Back...

Exhausted, hungry, thirsty, and wanting to sit in a hot bath back in my hotel room I left the StubHub Center just as Max Kellerman concluded his post fight interview with Miguel Cotto. The entire experience was amazingly awesome if not a bit surreal and overwhelming. As I walked out to my car my thoughts immediately turned toward September 9th's "Superfly" fight card. If the atmosphere and vibe were this great for a middle of the road card featuring a guy at the tail end of his retirement tour then Superfly is going to be something indescribable. I will be returning to the StubHub Center for what is essentially the K2 Promotions portion of the Canelo/Golovkin undercar on the 9th of September. Additionally some of the people I met at the Cotto/Kamegai card are returning for Superfly. I'm not only looking forward to seeing these people again but meeting a couple of new faces as well. September 9th can't get here soon enough.

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

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Miguel Cotto vs Yoshihiro Kamegai - Analysis, Breakdown, And Prediction

32 Years A Fan And Never Once...

Photo: ringtv.com
My obsession with boxing began 15 days before my 12th birthday. It was on this day that the then undisputed middleweight champion Marvin Hagler would go on to knock out Detroit's Tommy Hearns in round 3 of of the best fights of all time. At the time I lived alone with my father, a man whom epitomized boxing fandom. Additionally, he always favored boxers more than he did guys whom could punch and so naturally he was insistent that Hearns would outbox the Marvelous One and win a decision.

This wasn't the first boxing match I'd ever seen mind you. My Grandfather and two uncles watched regularly throughout the 70's and early 80's but this was the first fight I watched with interest, having gotten caught up in my father's pre-fight hype. After watching the fight I found myself enthralled with the way both men fought and with how the fight abruptly and violently ended. I began watching boxing every weekend with my dad after that and then co-workers and friends after I came of age. In the 32 years since that fight my passion for the sport has never once wavered or waned. In fact I would argue that my passion for boxing has never been bigger than it is right now. I'm the type of fan that makes boxing a priority and will schedule his life around the sport, so why then have I never once been to a single live event? Be it school, work, girlfriends, cash shortages, being a musician, and then later a wife and six kids, there's always been some something standing in between me and attending a live boxing event.

Miguel Cotto vs Yoshihiro Kamegai

After watching from my couch, bed, countless sports bars, and of course my phone, computer, and tablet for 32 years, I'm finally attending my first live boxing event! This Saturday August 26th, Puerto Rico's Miguel Cotto and Japan's Yoshihiro Kamegai are set to square off in what should be an exciting match up at the StubHub Center in Carson California. Cotto looks to continue his winning ways since joining forces with Freddie Roach while Kamegai looks to disrupt Cotto's retirement tour. Make no mistake about it, Miguel Cotto is favored to win the fight and rightfully so but Kamegai is a guy who comes to fight and isn't content in simply showing up so that he can collect a paycheck. I don't know anyone whom is favoring Kamegai but make no mistake...he is a live dog in this one and it should be an solid entertaining scrap.

Making this bout even more intriguing is the fact that both fighters are coming off lengthy stretches of inactivity. The last time Kamegai stepped into the ring he did so in a rematch against Jesus Soto Karass and that was back on September 9th of 2016. Kamegai is no spring chicken and will enter the ring being just a couple of months shy of his 35th birthday. Age plus inactivity has felled many a boxer and fans should expect both to be a factor on the 26th. Adding some weight to this, Miguel Cotto hasn't fought since losing to "Canelo" Alvarez back on November 21st 2015. At nearly 37 years old and spending close to 2 years out of the ring, inactivity could be Cotto's Achilles heel. It's important to remember that in his losing effort against Alvarez the future hall of famer looked timid, tired, and at times unable or unwilling to pull the trigger.

Those unfamiliar with Yoshirhiro Kamegai's work will need to know that he employs a predatory style and that he is at his best when fighting on the inside. He has a savage short game that can break his opponents body down and leave them open for much bigger and damaging shots. He's a relentless stalker with a high work rate and an uncommon tenacity. Whereas Kamegai has just one gear (forward) and is somewhat one dimensional, Miguel Cotto makes use of a much more educated style and has the better ring IQ in this fight. After being bloodied, bludgeoned, and thoroughly beaten by Antonio Margarito in the summer of 2008, Cotto adopted a more defensive and cautious fighting style; a style that never suited him or did him any favors by the way. After coming under the tutelage of Freddie Roach in 2013 however, Cotto rediscovered himself and reinstituted his original style. One could make the argument that much of Cotto's success while with Roach is due, at least in part, to careful matchmaking and catchweights but Cotto still shows flashes of brilliance when he employs his craft. Whether it's his body work, heavy hands, quickness of foot and hand, or his ability to move, Miguel Cotto isn't going to be an easy out for anyone...even at this age and after the war's he's endured.

Yoshihiro Kamegai Keys To Victory

Golden Boy Promotions
Something tells yours truly that Miguel Cotto isn't going to give up the inside real estate that Kamegai will be looking for, neither willingly nor easily. Kamegai will need to break Cotto's body down with his fierce low hooks in order to slow Cotto down and keep him from moving away. If Kamegai can not catch Cotto the fight could be a 12 round game of cat and mouse but if he's able to slow his man down, it could spell trouble for Cotto. Though he's rather flat footed and plodding, Kamegai must find a way to cut off the ring and eliminate the majority of Cotto's lateral movement as well. If the Migeul Cotto that faced Canelo shows up Kamegai need only keep his work rate and aggression high and he could pull off the upset. The upset minded Kamegai would also do well to remember that when hurt, the normally offensive minded Cotto will begin running and fighting off the backfoot. Getting Cotto's respect and hurting him early is key to a Kamegai win.

Miguel Cotto Keys To Victory

Golden Boy Promotions
Like Kamegai, Miguel Cotto is capable of vicious body work. Given Kamegai's age, style, and inactivity, it would be wise for Cotto to go to the body often, especially in the early rounds of the fight. Taking away Kamegai's legs will more or less leave him without his offense which just also happens to be his defense. Cotto will need to utilize his movement and keep the fight on the outside with a strong jab as well as sharp power shots whenever his opponent attempts to work his way to the inside.

How It Plays Out

Expect the strong willed and seemingly tireless Kamegai to begin the fight exactly as you'd expect a pressure fighter to do. The Hokkaido native will look to impose his will on the aging Cotto and wear him down over the course of the fight. While his KO% is a respectable 75%, Kamegai isn't a power puncher the way a Gennady Golovkin is or Mike Tyson and George Foreman were. Instead he wins wars of attrition and stops his opponents with sheer volume of punches. Miguel Cotto will spend the first 2-3 rounds studying and learning to time Kamegai before he slowly begins taking over and then dominating the later rounds. If this were a pre-Margarito Cotto it'd be easy to pick Cotto by stoppage in the second half of the fight. 2017's Miguel Cotto however may not be willing to risk what it takes to stop someone like Kamegai nor might he have enough left in the tank to do so.

Winner: Miguel Cotto by unanimous decision

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

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Terence Crawford vs Julius Indongo - Fight Analysis And Prediction

Photo: pbs.twimg.com
This Saturday, August 19th 2017, WBC and WBO Super Lightweight champion Terence "Bud" Crawford is set to take on IBO, WBA, and IBF Super Lightweight champion, Julius Indongo. You may be asking yourself, "Julius who, Indongo what?" even if you're the type of fan that watches boxing every Friday and Saturday, spends all week listening to any number of podcasts, and makes arguments for and against fighters on social media in the weeks preceding a fight. The Namibian may be a virtual unknown with both the casual and core boxing audiences but that doesn't do anything to take the bite out of this fight. Sure one is well justified in simply wanting to watch Terence Crawford fight anyone but not only is Indongo a solid fighter but this is a unification bout to boot! If you paid attention to what you read at the beginning of this piece you'd see that there are 5 world titles on the line. That means the man who walks away victorious will be the champion at 140 lbs...the Undisputed Super Lightweight Champion Of The World!

Photo: i.makeagif.com
Completely unifying a division in any era is an arduous task and one that only the sports greatest are successful in. In today's era however it's practically unheard of thanks to politics, egregious protection, and modern boxing business models. The last time boxing had an undisputed super lightweight champion was way back in 2001. On November 3rd of that year the ferocious Kostya Tszyu floored Zab Judah in the 2nd round of their fight, made him do a hilarious chicken dance, and ultimately stopped him when referee Jay Nady was more concerned than impressed with Judah's jig. This fact alone makes this fight exciting and worth watching, even if you don't know who Julius Indongo is.

If you've never seen the "Blue Machine" apply his craft there are videos all over YouTube that you can check out at your leisure. If you don't have time for such an activity however you'll want and need to know that Indongo:

  • Is a Southpaw
  • Has fluid movement
  • Is very tall, has a long reach, and is rangy
  • Throws a great deal of one/two's but rarely punches in bunches.
  • Chases his opponents around the ring rather than cutting them off.
  • Doesn't have a lot of power but has a solid left that can be dangerous.
  • Often lunges in and leaves his chin unprotected when he throws power punches.
  • Is primarily an outside fighter.
  • Has a very questionable resume.
  • Is light on his feet.
If you've never seen Terence Crawford fight all you need to know is that he not only fights with a high level of skill and ability but he has the power to stop his opponents as well. He isn't the fastest starter but Crawford has a mean streak in him that makes him all the more dangerous. More to the point, "Bud" is fast and accurate with his punches, is quick of foot, has fast hands, and has very good movement. Julius Indongo is no slouch, no pushover if you will but he's going to have his hands full on the 19th.

Julius Indongo Keys To Victory

Photo: boxrec.com
In order to stop the incoming assault of Crawford, Indongo has to find a way to disrupt Crawford's offense. He'll need to make the man from Omaha reset often if he can't outright put him on the defensive. Indongo may not have much power but his one/two is one of the best tools in his arsenal. He'll want to utilize these punches often along with a good stiff jab. Indongo mainly uses his jab as a range finder for his power shots but he'll need to stiffen it up and use it often if he is to upset Crawford. Indongo will also benefit from a high work rate in this fight. Generally speaking Indongo's workrate is average but a higher volume of punches may help to keep Crawford guessing and from coming straight in against a fighter how doesn't possess much power.

Terence Crawford Keys To Victory

Photo: boxrec.com
Terence Crawford and his team would be wise to implement a game plan that involves being aggressive right from the opening bell. Indongo can box no doubt but he's been disrupted and caught by fighters of a far lesser quality. Crawford will want to go to the body of Indongo and flatten those tires as soon as possible. Once Crawford slows or stops Indongo's movement and takes his legs away he'll have a much easier time landing not just scoring blows but blows that do real damage as well. Crawford would also do well to implement a counter punching strategy. Indongo can get aggressive and tends to lunge in with his punches when he puts his foot on the gas. In doing so, he leaves himself wide open for counters which Crawford can and should exploit. Crawford should also employ an inside game since Indongo doesn't really fight or fight effectivly on the inside.

How It Plays Out

It's difficult to imagine a scenario where Indongo truly troubles Crawford let alone wins more than 3 rounds...if it even goes the distance. That said, given that Terence Crawford isn't exactly a fast starter and that Indongo is a good solid boxer, expect to see Indongo walk away winning the first 2-3 rounds with his movement while Crawford spends the early going studying his opponents timing. Crawford will take over sometime in the 3rd or 4th round and overwhelm and likely hurt Indongo at some point. Crawford drops Indongo once or twice en route to a 12 round victory.

Winner: Terence Crawford by unanimous decision

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

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Lomachenko vs Marriaga: An Entertaining Mismatch

Lomachenko Dispatches Marriaga in 7

Photo: boxingscene.com
Last night on ESPN Vasyl Lomachenko easily dispatched the severely over matched Miguel Marriaga. After 7 rounds of a sustained beating, Marriaga's corner decided it had seen enough and his team informed referee Jack Reiss that their fighter would be calling it a night. The Ukrainian technician was the heavy betting favorite heading into the fight but how many fans and pundits expected a complete wash?

Marriaga is a puncher whom normally imposes himself on his opponents with a come forward style but Vasyl Lomachenko is no "normal" boxer. Marriaga spent the majority of his time moving backward rather than forward and either couldn't or wouldn't let his hands go as much as he needed to. At times it appeared to yours truly that Marriaga's game plan was to foolishly try and outbox the vastly more talented Lomachenko. The majority of the time however it was clear that it was Lomachenko's constant pressure, speed, positioning, angles, and not any game plan that kept his opponent completely flummoxed for the entirety of the fight. So over matched was Marriaga in fact that at one point Lomachenko literally ran to a corner, stood with his guard down, and taunted Marriaga while avoiding nearly all of the shots coming at him. This type of bravado is born, at least in part, out of ego but it's clear that the Ukrainian whirlwind not only knows when he's in complete control but that there's more to being a successful boxer than simply winning.

Photo: reactiongifs.com

Marriaga was twice sent to the canvas by Lomachenko, once in round 3 and again near the end of round 7. Marriaga rose from the first knock down with a seemingly clear head but the knock down at the end of the 7th round came with an additional 4 rounds of wear and tear and was the proverbial nail the coffin for The Scorpion. From the opening bell, Lomachenko's offense overwhelmed the Colombian and set upon him like an angry swarm of bees armed with 'reloadable' stingers. It was a gross mismatch but one that was entertaining. Watching Lomachenko apply his superb craft is reason enough to watch his fights though it would be nice to see him in against the best in his weight class, that or the one above it. This needs to happen sooner rather than later too. We all understand that the politics of boxing as well as the desire to avoid supremely talented fighters are big hurdles in making the most exciting fights but if 2017 has taught boxing heads anything it's that these hurdles can be cleared when boxers actually want to fight. So what's next for Lomachenko? How about Miguel Berchelt, Jezreel Corrales, Gervonta Davis, or that illusive rematch with Orlando Salido? Surely any of these fights would have fans salivating but don't hold your breath. This scribe expects another soft touch for the enormously talented Lomachenko only because no one is in a rush to step into the ring with him.

Not So Fast

Photo: boxrec.com
Boxing fans are quick to both dismiss fighters as hype jobs and to anoint them legends long before they've proven themselves to be either. At the time of this writing no one has yet asserted that Vasyl Lomachenko is a legend or that he's one in the making but there are those that have already started with the comparisons to actual legends of the sport. If you're active on Twitter and Facebook you will likely have seen pundits, media, and fans comparing the meteoric fighter to the likes of Pernell Whitaker and Joe Calzaghe. To be completely fair I get the comparisons when you look at Whitaker's and Calzaghe's speed, workrate, and their lack of power but it's far to early to enshrine Lomachenko next to either of the aforementioned greats. Yes, Lomachenko passes the eye test and passes with flying colors but he's yet to face any of the sports best. The smart money says he beats those guys as well but we won't know just how good or great he is until he takes some big steps up in terms of competition. In the meantime, let's save the coronations, comparisons, and hall of fame inductions for the end of Lomachenko's career.

I think it's time I get started drafting my Canelo vs Golovkin analysis and prediction. That one's going to take some time.

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