Friday, March 24, 2017

Golovkin W12 Jacobs afterthoughts

Is Triple G losing some spunk in his step or was Jacobs as crafty as he appeared?

Granted, Jacobs didn't win the fight but snapping the murderous-punching Golovkin's 23-bout knockout streak and falling short of an upset by a round or two was certainly a major feather in his cap. So dominant and complete a fighter was Golovkin that he might have lost fewer rounds in his previous 16 title defenses combined than he did to Jacobs in this one fight.

Was it a matter of Golovkin losing half a step in his 35-year-old legs or was Jacobs just an exceptional fighter with sufficient savvy and ring IQ to derail Golovkin's penchant for having judges at ringside obsolete? Whatever the case, Jacobs managed to expose some chinks in Golovkin's armor, weaknesses that future big-name opponents the likes of Saul 'Canelo' Alvarev, Jermall Charlo and Billy Joe Saunders will be eager to exploit.

-- Golovkin is no counter puncher. Jacobs showed that if you're first to the punch, Golovkin will step back and reset rather than return fire immediately. Many of Jacobs' flurries were designed to impress the judges rather than inflict damage, much like they do in the amateurs. But they nevertheless stopped Golovkin in his tracks even though he caught most of the incoming fire on his gloves and arms.

-- He is troubled by fleet footwork. Golovkin can handle lateral movement as long as its only in one direction; he will chase you down, cut you off and chop you up regardless of whether you're moving east or west. But by consistently sidestepping and abruptly changing directions, Jacobs effectively foiled Golovkin's seek-and-destroy modus oenrandi.

-- Golovkin has proven equally adept at confronting orthodox and southpaw opponents alike with calculated yet uncompromising brutality, but he seemed confused and somewhat frustrated against a switch-hitter. Although Jacobs was virtually ineffective offensively as a southpaw, his alternating between stances seemed to throw Golovkin off his game.

But as problematic as Jacobs was, Golovkin still found a way to win, albeit barely. Facing the toughest challenge of his career, Golovkin dug deep into his body and soul to box, bang and bully his way to victory, which speaks volumes of his ability to overcome any adversity thrown his way.




Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Nguyen TKO6 Flores an early candidate for Upset of the Year and Comeback of the Year

At first glance, Dat Nguyen’s and Miguel Flores’ pre-fight records of 19-3 (6 KOs) and 21-0 (9 KOs) respectively might not have appeared that disparate. But upon further inspection, Nguyen’s stunning sixth-round TKO victory over the previously undefeated Flores must surely be considered an early candidate for Upset of the Year, and Nguyen a contender for Comeback of the Year.


Flores (L) and Nguyen face off at thee weigh in.
One boxing website listed Flores as a 51-1 betting favorite going into the fight. That’s nine points more  than the 42-1 odds that Buster Douglas faced in his 1990 monumental upset of Mike Tyson in Tokyo. While the 51-1 number might be unverified, the multiple obstacles Nguyen had to overcome were nevertheless very real.

Consider the following:

Nguyen was fighting an upcoming, undefeated PBC fighter in his backyard on a PBC card. A full 10 years older than Flores, Nguyen was inactive in 2014 and 2015.

He was plagued by managerial snafus early in his career and often had to accept fights on short notice. He fought twice last year, both six round fights against nondescript opponents. Flores, on the other hand, had been moved carefully up the ladder and had a breakout year in 2016 culminating in a career best performance against highly-touted Ryan Kielczweski.

Previously trained by Buddy McGirt, Nguyen was self-trained for this fight. Taking the fight on four weeks' notice, he assembled an impromptu squad of sparring partners, one of whom also drilled him on the punch pads. Nguyen instructed him on how to hold the pads for each combination, so he essentially trained his sparring partner on how to train him.

At the weigh in, Nguyen seemed genuinely perplexed that he tipped the scales 1.25 pounds over the contracted weight of 128 pounds. But he insisted he had made weight at his gym in Florida on a scale that had never failed him before.

When the bell sounded, Nguyen looked every bit the role of sacrificial lamb he was scripted to play. The younger, sharper Flores effortlessly speared him with long punches from range before ripping in crisp combinations upstairs and down in a one-sided first round.
But instead of breaking Nguyen down, Flores’ punches only seemed to chip away the ring rust that had accumulated over years of sporadic activity. The result was a scintillating, give-and-take affair that saw both fighters rain hellacious punishment on each other.

Ultimately, it was Nguyen’s better punch resistance that won him the fight. He absorbed Flores’ best shots with aplomb, allowing him to walk down, break down and eventually stop the younger hometown favorite.


See Nguyen-Flores fight reports in Boxing Scene and The Houston Chronicle.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Unprecedented transparency in Santa Cruz-Frampton

Leo Santa Cruz vs. Carl Frampton II turned out to be as entertaining and action-packed a scrap as their first fight. Both fighters showed remarkable sportsmanship and mutual respect before, during and after the bout. But thrilling fights and gallantry are a dime a dozen in the sport of boxing. What made this fight really exceptional was its pre- and post-fight level of transparency.  

To reveal one's game plan is short-sighted at best, foolhardy at worst, in any sport. Santa Cruz, though, had no inhibitions about throwing all his cards on the table and laying out the exact fight strategy he had devised before going into battle. Frampton edged him in their first encounter with superior gamesmanship, yet Santa Cruz saw no need to hide the adjustments he intended to make In the rematch. Santa Cruz executed everything he declared he would do - utilize his longer reach to control distance and tempo, tone down his natural propensity to brawl and only engage in exchanges on his terms - to a tee to win the fight. So confident of victory was Santa Cruz that he even had the foresight to talk about a rubber match before weighing in for the rematch.

Frampton, for his part, displayed a degree of perspective and humility rarely seen in the sport. In close fights, the loser typically truly believes he had won in the immediate aftermath. It usually takes a week or two of reflection and reviewing replays before he grudgingly concedes defeat. But minutes after the fight was over, Frampton spoke with the objectivity and overview of an unbiased journalist who had just covered the fight from ringside supplemented by multiple camera angles. With brute honesty, he candidly admitted that the fight was close but the verdict fair, apologized to his fans and admonished himself for ignoring what Santa Cruz openly stated he was going to do.  

Santa Cruz's more conservative approach did not diminish the thrill level of the fight, but  much of the credit should go to Frampton for pressing the action and forcing Santa Cruz to brawl more than he wanted to. Each fighter is now the culprit for the other's only loss so a third encounter is simply a no-brainier.

Frampton campaigned vigorously for the rubber match to be held in Belfast, and that would probably be fair since the first two fights were waged on American soil. Although Frampton could easily fill to capacity the largest soccer stadium in Ireland, Vegas or New York would still make more economic sense for all parties involved. London, perhaps, would be an evenhanded compromise.