Sunday, August 24, 2014

All it takes is one punch

Being a fan of combat sports comes with a double-edged sword. We love the excitement a one punch knockout can bring at any moment; but at the same time we cringe at the thought afterwards of what could really happen. Whether it's in a cage with mixed martial arts or in a ring with boxing, the reality that all it takes is one punch to change, win and end a fight is a scary one.

Fighters enter the combat zone knowing full well the consequences, or do they? Sure they understand that the possibility they could get put to sleep is always there; but do they understand it can have a lingering effect? I'm not talking long term, because I'm not a physician, but history has shown us that once a fighter gets stretched out unconscious, more often than not it continues to happen over and over.

The top photo shows MMA fighter Charlie Brenneman getting dropped by a vicious punch from UFC lightweight Danny Castillo. Throughout his career, Brenneman has shown a pretty durable chin, especially when he was fighting as an undersized welterweight. However of the seven losses in his career, four have been due to KO's and three of those were of the brutal one-punch/kick variety. 

It remains to be seen if these KO's will or do have a lingering effect on Brenneman's career, as will be the case for boxing great Manny Pacquiao (bottom photo) who was out cold face down on the canvas for a few minutes in this fight again Juan Manuel Marquez. Pacquiao has had two fights since this scary knockout loss, which he won both by decision, but it wasn't necessarily against the biggest guys and heaviest punchers in his division. Brandon Rios was a blown up super lightweight fighting at welterweight and Timothy Bradley has 12 KO's in 31 wins. 

Pacquiao's next opponent Chris Algieri has but eight knockouts in 20 victories. As long as Pacman continues to fight light punchers we may never know how that one punch from Marquez has affected him, if it did at all. However, there is no question it has already begun to happen to UFC lightweight Gray Maynard.

Maynard, once a title challenger and top contender in the UFC, has lost three fights in a row and four of his last five, all by vicious knockouts. Those are the only four losses on his record and yet they've all happened in his last five fights. The last three in row have taken place over the course of 14 months. Questions have been circling Maynard about his health and whether he should retire; but according to Maynard pending the results of tests being conducted on his brain he plans to continue his fight career. 

It can happen to anybody even the greatest of the greats as can be witnessed through the rapid decline of boxing champion Roy Jones, Jr. Once considered the best pound for pound boxer in the world, Jones career took a sudden turn after he was put to sleep with one left hook from nemesis Antonio Tarver. That one punch turned Jones from an undefeated marvel, to just another fighter who once was.

Before that punch Jones had lost only once, via controversial disqualification, in 51 fights. Since that punch he's lost seven times in 15 fights, three more by knockout. As previously stated, I'm not a physician so this is merely going on what I've seen. It's also not an exact science as can be witnessed by the comeback of UFC heavyweight Andre Arlovski.

Arlovski, a former UFC champion, was all but considered done after four losses in a row; three of which were due to first round knockouts. Everyone including myself said Arlovski was finished and his chin more fragile than paper mache. Yet, Arlovski has gone (7-1-1) in his last nine fights since and has worked his way back to the UFC where he garnered a win in his last bout. For now, it appears all is good for 'The Pitbull', but in three weeks he's scheduled to fight Antonio 'Big Foot Silva'. All it takes is one punch from that giant and the great Arlovski comeback story could be over just that fast. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Fight night is full of fisticuffs and fireworks

On a beautiful summer evening from the Sands Casino Event Center in Bethlehem, PA, amidst the shadows of the old Bethlehem Steel mill with the sound of harmonies from the annual 'Musikfest' outdoor music festival blaring literally yards away, fisticuffs and fireworks were going off indoors. That's because the latest installment of NBC Sports 'Fight Night' series featured a triple-header of "Big Boy" boxing; as there were two heavyweight and one light-heavyweight bout headlining the card.

In the main event, it was a showdown between world #2 ranked Vyacheslav 'Czar' Glaskov (18-0-1, 11 KO's) from the Ukraine and upset minded veteran Derric Rossy (29-9, 14 KO's). Glaskov nay have been the headline attraction, but someone forgot to tell Rossy as the big man from Medford, NY nicknamed 'El Leon' (The Lion), displayed the heart of one early on and throughout.

Not your typical slow and methodical heavyweights, both Glaskov (218.5 lbs.) and Rossy (232.5 lbs.) moved around the ring displaying impressive boxing skills, including effective jabs and multiple combinations. Surprisingly though, it was Rossy who was getting the better of the exchanges in the beginning as he was catching Glaskov with some clean shots. In the second round an uppercut that caught the Ukrainian flush on the chin, drew oohs and aahs from crowd, but Glaskov was able to walk right through it.

Glaskov, who was coming off an impressive unanimous decision victory over former two-division champion Tomasz Adamek, was expected to have an easy time of it with the journeyman; however Rossy was more than game as he gave 'The Czar' all he could handle and then some. After an entertaining back and forth ten rounds it was Glaskov who barely got out with a majority decision win as one judge had it even at 95-95; many on press row, including myself had Rossy winning 96-94.

In his post fight interview, Glaskov stated he injured his right hand early. He also stated that his first fight with new trainer John David Jackson might have contributed to his lackluster performance. Personally, I think he underestimated his opponent who surprised everyone, especially Glaskov with his will to win.

The co-main event featured a title fight in the light-heavyweight division for the PABA and WBO Oriental titles between Robert 'The Butcher' Berridge (24-2-1, 20 KO's) and Vasily 'The Professor' Leplikhin (16-0, 9 KO's). The height of Leplikhin proved the difference in this one, as at 6'4", he was at least 4-5 inches taller than the New Zealander Berridge.

'The Professor' was smart enough to use that length advantage to keep 'The Butcher' on the outside and pick him apart. With Berridge unable to figure out how to get inside of Leplikhin's reach, inevitably he was caught. Once at the end of the second round with a straight right that dropped him and two separate times in the fifth that ultimately finished him. The undefeated Russian Leplikhin looks like a force to be reckoned with at 175 pounds.

The first televised and featured bout of the evening was another heavyweight tilt between Auckland, New Zealand's Joseph Parker (10-0, 9 KO's) and Keith 'Untouchable' Thompson (7-3 4 KO's). Unfortunately for Thompson, he couldn't live up to his nickname as Parker peppered him quickly and often with jabs right from the start. Eventually that led to vicious one-two (left-right) combinations that finished the more often than not "Touchable" Thompson at 2:41 of third round.

On the under card it was a couple of local light-welterweights as Allentown, PA's Jonathan Williams (0-3) took on Bethlehem's own Ismael 'Speedy' Serrano. As expected, these 140-pound pugilists started a lot faster than their heavier counterparts. Slick boxing and punches in bunches was the order over four rounds. In the end it was the hometown boy Serrano who walked away with a split decision victory upping his record to (2-1).

Another Bethlehem product featherweight Luis 'Chiki' Acevedo also won on the under card improving his record to (1-0-1) in arguably the most entertaining fight of the night. It was an exciting high energy four round affair against Francisco Aguilar (0-2-2) of The Bronx, NY, which Acevedo won unanimously.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Don't believe the hype!

The last 24 hours in MMA has gotten real heated. This all because of a shoving match between UFC light-heavyweight (205 lbs.) champion Jon Jones (pictured @ right) and title challenger Daniel Cormier at their face off for promoting their UFC 178 showdown next month in Las Vegas. However while this fight has suddenly sparked some serious excitement among fans, I'm here to say in my best Flava Flav voice, "Don't believe the hype."

That's because while on the surface, the dislike between these two appears to be genuine, we've seen this supposed genuine disdain between opponents before. Jones (20-1, 9 KO's 6 subs) had this type of hype before his fight with former champion Rashad Evans and when it was over, we were treated to a one-sided five round dud won by Jones. Evans is always good for smack talk leading up to a fight, as he did with another former champion Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson before their bout at UFC 114.

Those two went back and forth many times before that fight as opposing coaches on 'The Ultimate Fighter' TV reality series. They both talked about all the things they were going to do to each other climaxed by Jackson's statement the day before the fight. I remember being there in person live at the weigh-ins @ The MGM Grand when Joe Rogan asked 'Rampage' for his comments; Jackson in an emphatic and furious state said, "He's dead!"

You just knew it was going to be a war. I felt lucky that I was going to see it live and so did all the other thousands in attendance. However, what ended up happening was Evans wrestled him to the ground for the first two rounds and Rampage did the same to Evans in the third; in the end, it ended up being another "alright" unanimous decision.

One year before that it was the "Bad Blood" between former welterweight champions Matt 'The Terror' Serra and Matt Hughes that had everybody clamoring for an epic showdown between two guys that didn't like each other. Their rivalry also built up on 'The Ultimate Fighter' as opposing coaches, you just knew it was going to be ugly. Surprise; you guessed it, a three round ho hum decision win for Hughes.

I could go on and on with examples of fights that were highly anticipated because of the rivalry between the two combatants that ended up being duds, but I won't. Also, that is not to say that these fights never live up to the hype. All I'm saying is hold your horses and don't automatically be thinking your shelling out $50.00+ for the fight of the year.

Cormier (15-0, 6 KO's 4 subs) does present an interesting challenge to Jones. A former heavyweight, now fighting at light heavyweight. A former Olympic wrestler who may finally be able to put Jones on his back and keep him there, which no other opponent has been able to do; and he trains daily with the heavyweight champion of the world Cain Velasquez.

However, he is only 5'11 to Jones's 6'4"; and his arms are really short next to Jones's incredible 84" reach. Add it all up and there is just the possibility that this fight may not end up being the showdown everyone expects. Besides, the last time I saw two fighters go at each other like that at a promotion presser was when Mike Tyson approached Lennox Lewis; yes, the 5'11 Tyson and the 6'4" Lewis. Yet, come fight night after the one-sided affair was over, Tyson was seen wiping the sweat off of Lewis's forehead. All I'm saying is, "Don't believe the hype!"

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