Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Houston Boxing Awards

By Peter Lim

There was no shortage of action involving Houston fighters in 2015, a year that marked the end of a seven-year drought during which the Bayou City was devoid of any world titleholders. The city also played host to some remarkable match-ups that were considered for the categories of Fight of the Year, Knockout of the Year and Upset of the Year.

And the awards go to ...

Fighter of the Year: 
Jermall Charlo

Charlo (23-0, 18 KOs) ended Houston's dry spell of world titleholders since Juan Diaz lost his triple crown in 2008 when Charlo dropped Cornelius Bundrage four times en route to a third-round TKO in September to win the IBF junior middleweight belt. He defended the belt less than three months later, scoring three knockdowns against Wilky Campfort for a fourth-round TKO. Both fights were aired on NBC.

Granted, Bundrage was over the hill and Campfort was overmatched, but Charlo nevertheless showed vestiges of Mark Breland's jab, Thomas Hearns' right cross and Ray Leonard's creative punching angles in both fights. Should he prove to have Marvin Hagler's chin, he will be as complete a fighter as they come.

Honorable mention:
Virginia Fuchs (flyweight)
Jermell Charlo (junior middleweight)
Edwin Rodriguez (light heavyweight)

Fight of the Year: 
Edwin Rodriguez KO3 Michael Seals

The five explosive knockdowns in three action-packed rounds earned this doozie of a back-alley brawl the 2015 Fight of the Year honors for it's heart-stopping, Hagler-Hearns intensity. Both fighters were one punch away from being rendered unconscious at any given moment.

Rodriguez (28-1, 19 KOs) came out like a madman and dropped Seals (19-1, 14 KOs) in the opening moments of the fight but tasted the canvass twice and was on the verge of being stopped before the round was over. Still on unsteady legs, Rodriguez resumed his street-fighter mode and dropped Seals again in the second round. Seals was still very much in the fight and trying to set Rodriguez up for a debilitating counter when he was dropped for good in the third round.

Honorable mention:
Saul Alvarez KO3 James Kirkland
Dardan Zenunaj KO7 Bryant Cruz
Regis Prograis W8 Amos Cowart

Knockout of the Year: 
Saul "Canelo" Alvarez KO3 James Kirkland

After Alvarez (46-1-1, 32 KOs) survived Kirkland's initial blitzkrieg and dropped Kirkland in the opening round, there was little doubt as to who had the superior skill set in this highly anticipated showdown at Minute Maid Park. But rather than exercising caution against the always-dangerous Kirkland (32-2, 28 KOs), Alvarez turned executioner and delivered the spectacular knockout the sport so badly needed a week after the Mayweather-Pacquiao snoozer. Trapping Kirkland against the ropes in the third round, Alvarez dropped Kirkland with a right uppercut and blasted him into oblivion seconds later with a sweeping right smack on the button.

Honorable mention:
Edwin Rodriguez KO3 Michael Seals
Ivan Baranchyk KO1 Shadi Sharaweb
Miguel Flores KO2 Alfred Tetteh
Jermell Charlo KO7 Joachim Alcine
Pablo Cruz KO2 Luis Alberto Lopez
Dardan Zenunaj KO7 Bryant Cruz

Round of the Year: 
Edwin Rodriguez vs. Michael Seals (round one)
Usually a cerebral boxer-puncher, Rodriguez inexplicably morphed into a violent lunatic, clubbing Seals to the canvass in the opening seconds of the first round. Rodriguez moved in for the kill, swinging wildly like a drunken sailor in a bar fight, only to be dropped heavily by a short counter right. Rodriguez continued to attack with reckless abandon and was caught again by perfectly-timed right that left him almost comatose on the canvass. Discombobulated and delirious, he barely managed to struggle to his feet just before the bell sounded.

Still buzzed, Rodriguez somehow sobered up enough to beat Seals to the trigger, drop him again in the second round and stop him in the third. But had the bell not saved Rodriguez in the first round, this would undoubtedly have been the Upset of the Year, instead of the Round of the Year.

Honorable mention:
Cedric Agnew vs. Kevin Engel (round four)
Saul Alvarez vs. James Kirkland (round one)

Upset of the Year: 
Virginia Fuchs W3 (twice) Marlen Esparza

Southpaw Fuchs was 0-5 in her previous bouts against 2012 Olympic bronze medalist and tournament favorite Esparza, but she stepped up her game when it mattered most. She defeated Esparza not once, but twice, at the 2015 Olympic Trials in Memphis in October. Fuchs went on to win the gold medal at the Olympic Test Event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in December.

Honorable mention:
Robinson Castellanos W10 Rocky Juarez
Samuel Gutierrez W8 Juan Leija
Cortez Coleman TKO3 Robert Silva
Cesar Vila TKO3 Craig Callaghan
Adam Lopez KO2 Pablo Cruz

Prospect of the Year:
Regis Prograis 

Prograis (16-0, 13 KOs) is awarded Prospect of the Year on the strength of his back-to-back wins over previously undefeated fighters, both on ShoBox: the Next Generation. In August, Prograis resoundingly outpointed Amos Cowart (11-1-1, 9 KOs) over eight rounds. He ended the year stopping Abel Ramos (14-1-2, 9 KOs) on cuts in nine rounds in front of his hometown crowd at the Bayou City Events Center in December. The plucky southpaw displayed a concrete chin in both fights.

Honorable mention
Miguel Flores (featherweight)
Steve Lovett (light heavyweight)
Ryan Karl (welterweight)

Comeback of the Year: 
Cornelius White
White (23-4, 17 KOs) was all but written off after three consecutive losses, two by knockout, and a lengthy layoff due to eye surgery. But he came back strong in October, outpointing legitimate contender Marcus Oliveira (26-2-1, 21 KOs) over 10 rounds proving he is still a force to be reckoned with in the light heavyweight division. 

Honorable mention:
Cedric Agnew
Bahodir Mamadjonov
Pablo Cruz

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Dynamic ShoBox Quadrupleheader in Houston

Action packed Dec. 11 card in Houston

An international cast of boxers, eight of whom were undefeated, took the stage on a thrilling ShoBox quadruple header on Dec. 11 at the Bayou City Events Center in Houston. At the end of the night, five boxers had suffered their first losses, all by stoppage.

The card was staged by Savarese Boxing Promotions and DiBella Entertainment.

In the main event local favorite Regis Prograis (16-0, 13 KOs) stopped Abel Ramos (14-1-2, 9 KOs) in the ninth round on cuts in blood-and-guts junior welterweight war.

Prograis, a southpaw, was the more accurate and elusive of the two. Utilizing difficult southpaw stances and firing from various angles, he tattooed Ramos to the head and body with multi-punch flurries. By the third round, a cut had opened above Ramos' left eye. Ramos, 23, hung tough and delivered jolting hooks to the head and rights to the body but Prograis, 26, absorbed them well and continued to dominate the exchanges.

"People think they're going to knock me out, but that ain't happening," Prograis said. "My chin is golden. You ain't going to knock me out with nothing."

By the eighth round, Ramos' cut was visibly impairing his vision as he kept pawing at it with his gloves. He obviously couldn't see the punches coming as Prograis was hitting him with virtual impunity. His corner stopped the fight before the bell sounded to start the ninth round.

In the co-main event, grit and guts prevailed over skill and speed as lightweight Dardan Zenunaj (11-1, 9 KOs) of Belgium stopped Bryant Cruz (16-1, 8 KOs) in an electrifying war of attrition. Cruz plastered Zenunaj with rapid-fire flurries and defended himself well from incoming artillery, but the Belgian stubbornly kept chugging forward.

Zenunaj's dogged determination paid off in the fourth when he wobbled Cruz with a left hook to the temple and immediately pounced with a follow-up salvo punctuated with a left hook to the jaw that sent Cruz to the canvass. Cruz beat the count and continued to rattle off multi-punch combinations for the next two rounds. But the writing was on the wall. While Cruz's punches bounced harmlessly off the Belgian, Zenunaj seemed to hurt Cruz every time he connected.

In the closing seconds of the seventh round, Zenunaj unleashed a right uppercut followed by a sweeping left hook that sent Cruz to the deck for the second time. Cruz wearily made it back to his corner but trainer Ronnie Shields would not allow him to come out for the eighth and final round.

“I wanted it to be a war for all of the people watching and I did it, so I’m feeling really good," Zenunaj said."He is really good, much stronger than I believed he would be. He hung in there, but I did the work and I won."

Murderous punching Russian junior welterweight Ivan Baranchyk (9-0, 8 KOs) scored a blood-curdling first round knockout over Shadi Shawereb (9-1-2, 5 KOs) in a junior welterweight bout. With half a minute left in the round, Baranchyk cornered Shawereb and followed an overhand right with a decapitating left hook that dropped him for the full count and then some. Shawereb remained on the canvass for several minutes.

Middleweight Steve Rolls (13-0, 7 KOs) of Canada scored a come-from-behind fourth round stoppage over Steed Woodall (9-1-1, 6 KOs) of England. Working his left jab overtime, Woodall dominated the first three rounds, scoring a flash knockdown in the second round.

But just as Woodall seemed to be taking full control, Rolls found his timing for one-twos in the fourth for which Woodall had no answers. With Woodall trapped in a corner, Rolls unleashed a double-fisted volley that bounced Woodall's head around like a speed bag. Referee Lawrence Cole stepped in to save Woodall from further punishment at the 2:36 mark.

Local favorite Pablo Cruz (12-1, 4 KOs) dropped previously undefeated Luis Alberto Lopez (6-1, 3 KOs) three times en route to a second-round knockout in a featherweight bout. Cruz caught Lopez coming in with a short left hook that sent him to the canvass in the opening round. In the second round, Cruz fired a straight right followed by a left hook that felled him again. Lopez rose on spaghetti legs and Cruz pounced with a laser of a right hand that put him down for good.

“Coach Aaron (Navarro) kept telling me to throw the right hand and double it,” Cruz said. “I caught him with it and I saw him wobble a little so I put more power to it and boom, that was that.”

Southpaw Aziz Izbakiyez (2-0, 2 KOs) of Kazakhstan, scored three knockdowns over Joshua Clayton (0-1) for a first round TKO in a middleweight bout. Clayton jumped on Izbakiyez when the bell sounded and unloaded with both fists in a corner. But the Kazakh covered himself well and countered with a right-left-right hook that dumped Clayton to the canvass. Izbakiyez scored two more knockdowns courtesy of straight lefts before the referee stepped in.

Featherweight Darryl Hayes (5-5, 1 KO) dropped Jose Ortiz (0-4-1) in the first round en route to a four-round decision victory.

Houston-based Cuban Yunier Fleitas (5-0-1, 1 KOs) dropped Patrick Simes (1-5) in the second round en route to a six-round decision in a middleweight bout.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Roman Gonzalez vs. Brian Viloria

A miniaturized version of the Rumble in the Jungle

Doesn't this showdown resemble a miniaturized Rumble in the Jungle? Starve Foreman and Ali down to half their body weights and chop off their heights by a foot and what you get is Roman Gonzalez versus Brian Viloria - a seemingly indestructible destroyer at the peak of his prowess against an accomplished 34-year-old veteran whom many consider past his prime. Both are multi-division world titleholders and potential Hall of Fame inductees.

Style-wise, Gonzalez is a rare breed of educated slugger while Viloria is a quintessential boxer-puncher. As his record suggests, Gonzalez (43-0, 37 KOs) has been nothing but consistent thus far in his career, having beaten everyone he has faced including several fighters who defeated Viloria. Both an overachiever and underachiever, Viloria (36-4, 22 KOs) has shined against top-shelf fighters but also under-performed down to the level of mediocre to above-average opponents. Like Ali in Kinshasa 41 years ago, Viloria enters the ring a substantial underdog in New York.

Assets and liabilities

Power: Both fighters' formidable punching power stem not from their physical strength per se, but timing and accuracy. Conventional wisdom suggests that a calculating boxer-puncher always has a higher connect rate than a relentless volume puncher, analogous in military lingo, to a sniper always having more kills, bullet for bullet, than a machine gunner. But the exception proves the rule in this case.

Viloria does pack one-punch knockout power, especially with explosive counters, but they have to be perfectly timed and smack on the button to get the job done. He knows how to set his opponents up for a fight-ending punch, but more often than not, he doesn't connect cleanly enough to get the desired result. Gonzalez, on the other hand, throws punches in bunches with remarkable pinpoint precision. Even arm punches, thrown without much torque or leverage, can force opponents to reset and regroup because they connected spot on.

Body punching: Gonzalez is a headhunter; when he punches to the body it's a means to an end, secondary almost, designed to set up subsequent shots to the head rather than inflict damage in and of themselves. When Viloria zeroes in on the torso, he blasts away with the wickedest of intentions.

Chin: Both fighters have proven to have sturdy whiskers but Viloria's have been tested more than Gonzalez's. Viloria has been in more give-and-take wars and in his only stoppage loss against Carlos Tamara, he was more out of gas than hurt. Offense being Gonzalez's best defense, he rarely allows an opponent to plant his feet long enough to deliver a big punch.

Defense: Here again, conventional wisdom is defied. Gonzalez has superb armor and head movement but it is often overlooked because of his hyper-intense offense. Viloria, supposedly the more cerebral of the two, has been caught flush by stick-and-movers and crude brawlers alike.

The Intangibles

The sport of boxing could certainly benefit from the publicity windfall that an against-all-odds, Ali KO8 Foreman type upset would generate, but at age 34, can Viloria repeat at the garden what a 32-year-old Ali pulled off in the jungle? That Viloria has struggled against gatekeeper type opponents suggests he lacks the versatility to adjust and improvise mid-fight like Ali did with the rope-a-dope 41 years ago. 

But despite the overwhelming odds against him, there remain a few remote scenarios in which Viloria might emerge victorious. He does have the capacity to end a fight with a single punch but, as mentioned above, it has to be a perfectly-timed direct hit. Should Viloria connect consistently with rib-rattling body shots, will it take it's toll on Gonzalez in the later rounds?

Viloria is most dangerous when hurt and at the receiving end of relentless double-fisted attacks, which is exactly Gonzalez's modus operandi. And the Hawaiian Punch does have a knack for stopping fighters with high knockout percentages who had never or rarely been stopped.

Read this blogger's prediction for Gonzalez-Viloria at:

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Too much ado about 49-0

Marciano's record has been mangled, misinterpreted and misunderstood by many in the media. The reality is, 49-0 represents a heavyweight milestone and nothing else.
By Peter Lim

So much has been made about Floyd Mayweather's recent victory over Andre Berto that raised his ledger to 49-0, equaling the record Rocky Marciano retired with and took to his grave. But really, how relevant was Mayweather's accomplishment?

The number has been a jinx for sure, with several champions and titleholders attempting to reach or surpass that mark, coming tantalizingly close but falling a hair short at the finish line.

Larry Holmes, in the 21st defense of his heavyweight crown, was 48-0 when he was monumentally upset by reigning light heavyweight champ Michael Spinks 1985. Two-division champion Ricardo Lopez was 47-0-1 in 1998 when Rosendo Alvarez fought him to a draw in a unification straw-weight bout. And in 2013 Chris John was 48-0-3 when he was stopped by Simpiwe Vetyeka in the 19th defense of his WBA featherweight title.

But the truth of the matter is, only Holmes' derailment to Spinx has any real bearing to 49-0. Marciano's undefeated record represents a heavyweight milestone and means very little outside that weight division. While 49-0 has been spin-doctored and over-hyped as a pinnacle achievement for the entire sport of boxing, in actuality, it only applies to the big boys. Fighters in lighter divisions have exceeded that magical number, and then some. 

Julio Cesar Chavez eclipsed Marciano's 49-0 record by either 38 or 41 victories, depending on one's criterion; Chavez was 87-0 when he was gifted with a draw against Pernell Whitaker in 1993, and 89-0-1 when he suffered his first lost against Frankie Randall the following year. Willie Pep was 62-0 before losing to Sammy Angott in 1943. And Yori Boy Campas was 56-0 when he lost to Felix Trinidad in 1994.
Granted, Marciano and Mayweather might still share the record as boxers who retired with the most victories without a loss, but should their status be elevated above those who opted not to call it quits after exceeding 49-0? Chavez, Pep and Campas continued to win world titles and fight at the highest levels after their first defeats. Chavez ended his career at 107-6-2, 86 KOs, Pep at 229-11-1, 65 KOs and Campas at 103-17-3, 79 KOs. Holmes, too, remained competitive enough to vie for a world title on four occasions after his first loss to Spinks, ending his career at 69-6, 44 KOs.

Even the aforementioned Lopez and John might have surpassed 49-0, depending one's definition of "undefeated" as opposed to "unblemished." Lopez finished his career undefeated at 51-0-1, and John was undefeated in 51 fights (48-0-3) before suffering his first loss. Technically speaking, Ricardo Lopez is the fighter who retired with the best undefeated record while Marciano and Mayweather share the best unblemished record of retired boxers.

The prestige of 49-0 gets even more diluted when zooming further back to a prehistoric age when, God forbid, if you missed the fight on the radio or black-and-white TV, you had to read about it on actual paper and ink the next morning. Before this modern era of multi-million-dollar signing bonuses and slick multi-media marketing, boxers typically fought for their next meal rather than their next Maserati. Fighters often had to accept fights on less than a week's notice, sometimes against naturally bigger men, while laboring at exhausting day jobs.

Jake LaMotta, for example, made his debut in March of 1941 and ended the year at 18-2, averaging two fights a month. Sam Langford, in his 22-year career, fought everyone at lightweight to heavyweight.

Imagine how many other fighters would have exceeded the 49-0 mark in the old days if exceptional talents the likes of Ray Robinson, Archie Moore, Henry Armstrong, Sandy Saddler, Barney Ross and countless more were scouted early, carefully coddled, selectively matched and afforded the luxury of eight-week training camps like their present-day contemporaries.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Jermall Charlo fights for IBF belt

Jermall Charlo will most likely bring a world title back to Houston after a seven-year drought. Charlo fights for the IBF junior middleweight belt against Cornelius Bundrage at the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut on Saturday.

Read my prediction of the fight at:

Since Juan Diaz lost his three world lightweight world title belts to Nate Campbell in March of 2008, Houston has been devoid of a world titleholder. Houston's boxers sport a 0-5-1 record in title fights since Diaz's dethroning. This is how it went down:

Nov. 8, 2008: Houston's Raul Marquez was stopped in the sixth round by Arthur Abraham in Germany for the IBF middleweight title.
Feb. 9, 2009: Juan Diaz was stopped in the ninth round by Juan Manuel Marquez for the RING Magazine lightweight belt.
Feb. 28, 2009: Rocky Juarez fought to a draw against Chris John at the Toyota Center for the WBA featherweight belt.
Sept. 19, 2009: Juarez was outpointed over 12 rounds by John in a rematch in Las Vegas.
July 31, 2010: Diaz lost to Juan Manuel Marquez again in a rematch by 12-round decision.  
March 29, 2014: Cedric Agnew was stopped in the eighth round by Sergey Kovalev for the WBO light heavyweight belt.

Can Jermall Charlo break the dry spell?

Read The Houston Chronicle article on Charlo-Bundrage at:

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Regis Prograis - 10 years after Hurricane Katrina

The 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina happens to coincide with other landmark events in Regis Prograis' life. Prograis (15-0, 12 KOs) and his family were uprooted from New Orleans to Houston by Katrina in 2006 but Prograis has made the most of the city that offered him refuge and a new life.

Read more:

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Esparza-Fuchs rivalry heading to Memphis in October

Houston is home to the two top female amateur flyweights in the country - Marlen Esparza and Virginia Fuchs. Esparza recently returned from the Pan Am Games in Toronto with a silver medal and Fuchs won the National Golden Gloves championships. The crosstown rivals will compete in the 2015 Olympic Trials in Memphis, October 25-31.

Having lost all five of her previous bouts against Esparza by close decisions, Fuchs has little faith in the highly-subjective scoring system. Should she face Esparza again, as expected, at the trials, her best bet for victory is to go for broke, leave nothing to doubt and force the outcome out of the judges' hands, she said.

Read more:

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Local trio on fast track

I've been writing so much about the foreign imports and neglecting the homegrown fighters. Devonte Williams (7-0, 5 KOs), David Limerick (4-0, 3 KOs) and Armando Frausto (4-0, 3 KOs) are three Houston fighters still in the infancy of their careers.

Despite joining the prizefighting ranks less than a year ago, all three have embarked on a hyper-hectic fight schedule averaging a fight every two months. Williams, 22, is a defense-oriented stylist, Limerick, 26, a seek-and-destroy slugger, and Frausto, 22, an aggressive boxer-puncher.

Read more at:

Junior welterweight David Limerick (R)
Featherweight Armando Frausto 
Welterweight Devonte Williams

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Foreign fighters invade Houston

According to promoter and former heavyweight contender Lou Savarese: "Houston, in the last eight months, has become the most diverse city in the United States surpassing New York."

That diversity has impacted the Houston boxing scene, evidenced by teams of flag-waving, anthem-singing expatriates showing up at local fight cards cheering on fighters from their respective lands in languages ranging from Uzbek to Afrikaans to Polish.

Read more about some of the foreign insurgents who have injected a dose of international adreneline to what was already a colorful and cosmopolitan fight fraternity:

Rocky retires

After losing his last fight to Robinson Casstellanos in January, Rocky Juarez decided to retire after 22 years of competing as an amateur and pro. Juarez, 35, came tantalizingly close to striking gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, losing a controversial decision in the featherweight finals. His near miss at the Olympics would prove to be an omen in the pro ranks. Juarez fought five times for a world title with four losses and a draw.

Read more at:

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Silver lining in Mamadjonov's latest defeat

Can Mamadjonov get things right after his latest loss?
By Peter Lim

Houston lightweight Bahodir Mamadjonov suffered his second defeat and first stoppage loss as a pro against Richard Commey in Las Vegas last month. A native of Uzbelistan, Mamadjonov (17-2, 11 KOs) won five of the seven completed rounds before being dropped and stopped by Commey (22-0, 20 KOs) in the eighth round.

What isn't clear is the caliber of fighter that Mamadjonov lost to, so it is difficult to gauge Mamadjov's chin, and by extension, his future in the sport. While Commey's 91 percent knockout rate suggests he is an exceptionally murderous puncher, virtually all of those knockouts came against obscure and mediocre opponents in Europe and Africa. Time will tell whether Commey is the next Golovkin or simply a fighter with a good enough punch to stop 20 of 22 overmatched opponents.

What was clear in Mamadjonov's latest setback, though, was that he unveiled a whole new dimension to his game, an unexpected silver lining that had remained hidden until now. Midway through the fight Mamadjonov, who has fought as a southpaw throughout his career, switched to a right-handed stance from which he effectively outboxed and even rocked Commey on a number of occasions.

What was even more impressive was that he showed versatility as a right-hander, seamlessly alternating between the traditional high guard and cross-armed styles. The downside of course, was that he was caught and stopped while fighting with his left foot forward.

Switch hitters are a rare commodity in the sport of boxing. Fluctuating between lefty and righty, more often than not, has proven to be a liability rather than an asset. The vast majority of trainers discourage their fighters to avoid the ambidextrous style and say either do it to perfection or don't do it at all.

But Mamadjonov, who writes with his right hand, appeared as natural fighting from the orthodox stance as he did as a southpaw. Should he, at age 28, be able to regroup from the loss, go back to the drawing board and master this new-found ability, he just might be the second coming of Humberto 'Chiquita' Gonzalez. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Surefire thriller Canelo-Kirkland to follow humdrum Mayweather-Pacquiao

By Peter Lim

Coming on the heels of Canelo-Kirkland, the so-called Fight of the Century turned out to be the missed opportunity of the century for the sport of boxing. Had Mayweather-Pacquiao even remotely lived up to its hype, its momentum might very well have compelled many a casual fan to watch the genuinely explosive match-up that is Canelo-Kirkland and perhaps generated a new batch of lifelong sweet science converts. Instead, the humdrum, anticlimactic outcome of the richest fight in boxing history probably rendered the general public turned off and tuned out, relegating this potential Fight of the Year to a marginalized audience of diehard boxing fans and patriotic Mexicans.

Fire and Ice

Canelo-Kirkland is analogous to a collision course between a massive glacier and a raging wild fire. We've seen the cool, calculating and versatile Canelo box with boxers and brawl with brawlers, beating both at their own game. Mature beyond his years, no other boxer except his lone conqueror, Floyd Mayweather Jr., can adapt and adjust to his opponents' style as well as Canelo.

Kirkland, on the other hand, only knows how to fight one way and that is all out war. Not only is he a relentless high-volume puncher, he also packs mind-numbing punching power. There isn't anything too cerebral about his game plan; he blasts away with both fists with uncompromising ferocity until the other man wilts, and it has worked for him in all but two of his 33 fights.

The two fights that Kirkland was unable to impose his will on his opponents came against two relatively light hitters - Nobuhiro Ishida and Carlos Molina. In the Ishida fight, Kirkland was caught cold, dropped three times and stopped in the first round. Against Molina, he was outboxed and befuddled but was spared a second defeat when Molina was dubiously disqualified in the tenth round.

Canelo has never faced anyone as dangerous as Kirkland before, but all in all, Kirkland's weaknesses play more into Canelo's strengths than vice versa. Moreover, Kirkland will be coming off a 17-month layoff and will be fighting without long-time trainer Ann Wolf in his corner for the first time since the Ishida disaster.

See this blogger's prediction for Canelo-Kirkland at

Several members of Houston's boxing fraternity weighed in on Canelo-Kirkland

Juan Diaz, (40-4, 19 KOs), former triple-crown lightweight titleholder
"Canelo's like a young lion now who hasn't been hurt like Kirkland. We've seen Kirkland hurt and he cannot take a punch. Even though he's a knockout artist, once he get's touched, he's going down. I believe that Canelo's going to feel Kirkland's power but as soon as Kirland feels Canelo's power, he's going to fall like he normally does in big fights. I believe Canelo's going to stop Kirkland in five."

Lou Savarese, promoter and former heavyweight contender
"I like Canelo who has gotten better with every fight. Kirkland is a guy  who puts everything on the line and will knock you out or gets knocked out. It'll go to a decision, it'll be an exciting fight but I like Canelo to win it."

Rocky Juarez, (30-11-1, 21 KOs), 2000 Olympic silver medalist and five time world title challenger
"Canelo's going to win in less than six. The reason I believe that is because he starts off quick and the only loss that Kirkland has suffered was from first round stoppage. You've got to catch him cold because once Kirkland gets started he's a relentless and dangerous fighter."

Edwin Rodriguez, (26-1, 17 KOs), super middleweight contender
"It's going to be a good fight. I think it's going to be a unanimous decision for Canelo. Kirkland brings a lot of pressure but the thing about Kirkland is you don't know which one is going to show up."

Frank Tate, trainer, 1984 Olympic gold medalist, former IBF titleholder
"The first one to land is going to be the winner. I'm going with Canelo."

Ronnie Shields, trainer at Plex Gym
"I'll say Canelo by disputed decision."

Bobby Benton, trainer at Main Boxing Gym
"I think Canelo wins pretty easily."

Juan Lopez, trainer at Lopez Boxing
"All the deficiencies in Kirkland's technique - he gets hit, he's careless - is going to catch up. I think Canelo's going to stop him. It's going to be a knockout in six or seven rounds."

Result and Aftermath:

The dynamic, fire-and-ice clash of styles aside, there were numerous intangibles that added to the pre-fight intrigue of Canelo-Kirkland. Could Alvarez withstand Kirkland's punching power or be fazed by his uncompromising ferocity? Would Kirkland be as destructive and well-conditioned after a 17-month layoff and without Ann Wolfe in his corner? Was his chin was frail as it appeared in his disastrous knockout loss to Ishida or was that an aberration considering he had survived the punches of harder-hitting fighters?

All those question marks were erased after the first round. As expected, Kirkland (32-2, 28 KOs) came out fast and strong,forcing the fight into the trenches while unleashing a fusillade of punches upstairs and down from his southpaw stance. Back against the ropes, Alvarez (45-1-1, 32 KOs) took a few direct hits but absorbed most of the incoming fire on his arms and gloves, and stemmed the onslaught by tying Kirkland up in a clinch.

When the action resumed, it was Alvarez's turn to go on the offensive. While there was little method to madness in Kirkland's attack, Alvarez's assault was calculated but no less violent. Clinically timing Kirkland with pinpoint straight rights and left hooks, Alvarez stopped Kirkland in his tracks before he could close the distance and resume his blitzkrieg. A left hook to the body followed by a straight right to the chin dropped Kirkland along the ropes.

The writing was on the wall after that; Kirkland had revealed his full hand in the opening round, while Alvarez still had a few cards up his sleeve, and both men seemed to know it.

"When I dropped him the first time, I knew I had him," Alvarez said. 

Kirkland went for broke in the second round, gunning for Alvarez with reckless abandon only to run into solid counters that came in the form of hooks, crosses and uppercuts from both sides and at all angles. Alvarez viciously zeroed in to the body when Kirkland missed and overextended his punches. Still, Kirkland courageously pressed the action and landed a sporadic flush shot that kept the fight interesting.

By the third round, Kirkland seemed gassed but nevertheless went through the motions of throwing inconsequential punches in bunches that Alvarez casually deflected and dodged, biding his time and waiting for the right moment to pounce. That moment came when Kirkland dipped smack into a perfectly-timed right uppercut that dropped him to his knees. He beat the count on wobbly legs and Alvarez went in for the kill. Offense, being Kirkland's only means of defense, he swung at Alvarez with a right hook only to be beaten to the punch by a curling right that caught him clean on the jaw and knocked him out cold at the 2:19 mark of the round.

Savarese Boxing card a prelude to Canelo-Kirkland

By Peter Lim

Houston will see two consecutive nights of live boxing as former heavyweight contender Lou Savarese puts on a fight night at the Bayou City Events Center on Friday, a day prior to the dynamic showdown between Saul "Canelo" Alvarez and James Kirkland at Minute Maid Park. While big HBO-televised bouts like Canelo-Kirkland only comes to Houston every once or twice a year, Savarese Boxing Promotions has been staging regular cards in the city since 2009.

The show has traditionally served as a platform for young local fighters to transition from rookie to prospect to contender while honing their skills in front of their homegrown fans, but it gradually evolved to feature an international cast of foreign imports as well. Fighters from South Africa to Uzbekistan to El Salvador and everywhere in between began to attract immigrants from their respective homelands to the cards, creating a festive atmosphere where people from all corners of the globe and walks of life with little in common except their passion for the sweet science comfortably mix, mingle and make merry.

This latest card, showcasing an eclectic mix of local and foreign talent, is no exception.

In the main event, local favorite and regular fixture on the Houston boxing scene Juan Leija (11-1-1, 3 KOs) takes on Samuel Gutierrez (10-12-4, 3 KOs). Leija is the Texas flyweight champion but his title will not be on the line.

Radmir Akhmediyev (4-0, 4 KOs) takes on Aaron Anderson (3-36, 1 KO) in a middleweight bout. Akhmediyev, 24, who relocated from Kazakhstan to Houston last year to train under Bobby Benton, has often been touted by Savarese as the next Triple G.

Welterweight Craig Callaghan (7-1, 4 KOs) of Liverpool, England, will attempt to rebound from his first loss against Anthony Hill (1-7).

Polish heavyweight Krystian Dzienski makes his pro debut against Jerome Aiken (0-1).

Justin Ledet (3-0, 2 KOs) faces Celso Pinzon (3-2-1, 3 KOs) in a heavyweight bout.

And junior middleweight Angel Huerta makes his debut against Raymond Johnson (0-1).

Results and fight report:

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Mayweather-Pacquiao: A strength-weakness assesment

A strength-weakness analysis of Mayweather-Pacquiao
By Peter Lim 

Beyond the unprecedented hype of the richest super fight in the history of the sport lies a genuinely intriguing collision course style-wise in which each fighter has assets that play well against the other one's liabilities.

Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s defensive wizardry stems from an almost supernatural ability to read body language; he seems to know what his opponents are going to do before they do. Against Manny Pacquiao, though, he faces a southpaw who flouts the fundamentals of the sweet science, shooting from awkward angles to land punches on unlikely targets.

One of Mayweather's favorite evasive moves is turning and dipping to his right away from the usual incoming punch trajectory, leaving his opponents catching nothing but air. But should he attempt that move against Pacquiao, he might be flirting with disaster by exposing himself to Pacquiao's wide-angled straight left. Conventional wisdom dictates that the left fist almost always connects on the right side of the intended victim and vice versa, but Pacquiao has the uncanny knack for landing his left on the left side of his opponents' face. He emphatically demonstrated that propensity with knockdowns against Shane Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez and Chris Algieri.

The only time Mayweather was dropped came courtesy of a southpaw right hook in the second round against Zab Judah in 2006 that was mistakenly ruled as a slip. Although the straight left is Pacquiao's deadliest punch, he packs a pretty mean right hook as well, thrown from tight, unexpected angles. Just ask Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto how hard he hits with that hook. Mayweather tends to hold his left low leaving himself susceptible to the shot.

Even if Pacquiao can catch Mayweather cleanly, Mayweather rarely makes the same mistake twice. He was dropped by Judah and wobbled by Mosley early but was never hurt again and went on to beat both fighters decisively. Short of Pacquiao landing a fight-ending punch, Mayweather should gradually be able to figure out Pacquaio as the fight progresses.  

How effective Pacquiao can be offensively against Mayweather is a matter of speculation, but Pacquiao's vulnerability against the pull-counter is a proven fact, as Marquez exposed in his four bouts against the Filipino. And as effective as Marquez was with that maneuver, Mayweather practically invented the pull-counter. Not only does he execute it precisely with a harpoon of a straight right, he mixes in the check hook as well.

Pacquiao is most dangerous when he establishes a comfortable rhythm but against Mayweather, he faces the quintessential rhythm killer. Mayweather makes himself a frustratingly elusive target not only with his deft movement but also by smothering and entangling his opponents in clinches forcing them to constantly set and reset.

Masterful boxers have faced ferocious punchers throughout the history of the sport, but Mayweather-Pacquiao is unparalleled because of the fighters' uniquely contrasting modes of combat. Although it's a nebulous comparison, Leonard-Hagler - a match-up between two legends a few years past their primes - bears the closest resemblance to this showdown. (Sandy Saddler versus Willie Pep also comes to mind). Like Mayweather, Sugar Ray Leonard was a speedy, cerebral technician who knew how to adjust to any style. And like Pacquiao, Marvin Hagler was violent but calculating right-handed southpaw capable of ending a fight with a single punch. Brain prevailed over brawn in the case of Leonard-Hagler. How will this one unfold?

Read this blogger's prediction at:

Several members of the Houston boxing fraternity weigh in on Mayweather-Pacquiao:

Ronnie Shields, trainer at Plex Gym
"The first two rounds will probably go to Pacquiao. Mayweather will sit back and try to figure him out but it won't take him long. Once he gets the timing down he's going to throw a lot more combinations that will keep Pacquiao off balance and I think it's going to be an exciting fight from there. I just see Mayweather outboxing him."

Lou Savarese, promoter and former heavyweight contender
"I like Mayweather by decision."

Frank Tate, 1984 Olympic gold medalist, former IBF middleweight titleholder, trainer at Hank's Gym
"I'm going early with Pacquiao. But if it goes the distance, Mayweather wins."

Rocky Juarez (30-11-1, 21 KOs), 2000 Olympic silver medalist, five-time world title challenger
"Mayweather's going to win by decision. Mayweather's just too intelligent, too smart and he always finds a way to figure his opponent out."

Juan Lopez, trainer at Lopez Boxing Gym
"The thing about Mayweather is he's real good at blocking two, three, four punches, but what's going to happen if Pacquiao throws six or seven? He's real unorthodox and it's hard to prepare for a guy like that. But I still think Mayweather's going to outbox him and win a decision."

Miguel Flores (14-0, 7 KOs), featherweight prospect
"Pacquiao's going to bring to the table more than people expect but I'll have to go with Mayweather. I believe it'll be a decision but we'll see some wary moments where Pacquiao's going to make him work harder than he thinks he needs to."