Saturday, May 30, 2015

Khan's win leaves more questions than answers

On Friday night in Brooklyn's Barclay Center Amir 'King' Khan was supposed to solidify himself as the next obvious opponent for the true "King" of boxing Floyd 'Money' Mayweather. Yet, although Khan (pictured @ left) may have secured a victory, his win against native New Yorker Chris Algieri left more questions than answers when it comes to Khan (31-3, 19 KO's) as a viable challenge to Money May.

Sure at just 28 years old, Khan has a 10-year age advantage to Mayweather, now 38, and is going into his prime right now. However, I witnessed many flaws and holes in his game against Algieri, especially on defense, that could and will be exposed by a master like Floyd. Less we forget that those 10 years, though considered a negative in terms of age, are actually a positive when it comes to wisdom; say what you will about Floyd Mayweather, but nobody is smarter in the ring.

Khan appeared ready to make the statement he needed Friday night as he started out crisp and clearly superior in speed against the game Algieri. He pitched a shutout through the first three rounds, however the former 'Big Apple' champ showed glimpses he was there to win. Eventually those glimpses turned into moments as he began to connect regularly with overhand right leads to Khan's face. If Algieri had any punching power, he may have actually finished the favored Khan with one of those.

Algieri (20-2, 8 KO's) tried his best, as the slick boxer who used that skill nearly one year ago in the same arena to surprisingly win a world title against one-dimensional Ruslan Provodnikov, flipped his game and actually sat down on his punches. A perfect game plan devised by his new trainer John David Jackson, as Khan admitted afterwards that he got caught off guard; however the light punching Algieiri just couldn't pull it off.

In the middle rounds as Khan began to slow down a bit, besides the overhand right, Algieri began to land lead left hooks with regularity. Again, with no punching power to go along with them, they garnered him a round here and there, but that's about it. Luckily for Khan, he too has a wise man in his corner in Virgil Hunter.

Hunter, the no nonsense trainer who has guided undefeated super middleweight champion Andre Ward, not only realized what Algieri was doing, but more importantly knew that Algieri did not have the necessary power to pull it off. He yelled at Khan to stop going in and out, where he was getting caught, and instead told him to stay within punching range. This simple adjustment made all the difference in the world as Khan took control again in the latter half of the fight en route to a unanimous decision victory.

In his post fight interview, Khan stated he wants Mayweather, which of course everyone expected, but I'm not sure he sold everyone on the idea. The light punching and relatively world class inexperienced Algieri actually gave him problems. This was only Algieri's third fight on the world class stage, and although he's lost his last two in a row, he showed definite improvements since his lopsided loss to Manny Pacquiao. His union with Jackson as his trainer should only continue to make him better.

Khan meanwhile, a former Olympic Silver medalist and former world champion, who currently holds the WBC Silver welterweight title, whatever that is, though showing improvements as well under Hunter, still has deficiencies and a suspect chin. Floyd Mayweather is a major level change from Chris Algieri, the highest level to be exact. Mayweather, though not the biggest puncher either, would definitely throw more follow-up punches and eventually hurt Khan.

The one thing in Khan's favor is the age. At any point Father Time can swing his cane and Mayweather can get old in the ring overnight. However, though 38, he has not been prone to much punishment and never comes into a fight unprepared physically and mentally. Thus, barring that, I see Mayweather defeating Khan easily if they should meet later this year, especially after Khan's win left more questions than answers about his game.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The champ is here; or is he?

For the first time in four years, the UFC has a light heavyweight champion not named Jon Jones. Daniel Cormier (16-1, 6 KO's 5 subs), who just four months ago lost in his bid to wrestle (no pun intended) the title away from Jones, made good on an unexpected golden opportunity when he defeated number one contender Anthony 'Rumble' Johnson (19-5, 13 KO's) on Saturday night.

With the now former champion Jones being stripped of his title after yet another legal matter, this time a hit and run traffic accident, Cormier (pictured above) was more than willing to step in on just three weeks notice and fight Johnson for the vacant championship. He did so in convincing fashion too as he withstood an early first round knockdown by Johnson, to get up and inevitably begin a ground and pound barrage against the former top contender who came in to the fight riding a nine fight win streak. The punishment eventually led to Cormier sinking in a rear naked choke submission in the third round for the victory.

Congratulations and all respect due to the new champion, who I happen to like very much, and since my personal disdain for Jones is publicly known, all the more better. However that said, I could not help but think to myself after Johnson, in a very classy move, strapped the belt around Cormier after the fight, "Does Cormier truly relish winning the title this way?"

I ask that question in no way as a slight to 'Rumble' Johnson or his skills as I thought and publicly stated going in to the fight he would win. I ask it rather on Cormier knowing he did not beat Jones in their meeting four months ago and Jones technically never losing the title in the cage. I feel I got the answer to my question immediately after the belt was strapped on and Joe Rogan interviewed the new champ.

Rogan came in and asked Cormier the obligatory, "How does it feel" question after winning the title. Cormier's response was to grab the microphone and tell Rogan he has only one thing to say; "Jon Jones, get your sh** together because I'm waiting for you." With that Cormier walked out of the cage to celebrate his reign as the new light-heavyweight champion.

I have mixed emotions about Cormier's statement. In one sense I say kudos to Cormier because it should be his only mission right now to truly establish himself as the champion considering he loss to Jones just four months ago. However, on another note I think to myself, he looks foolish saying it considering he loss to Jones just four moths ago. It appears Cormier now finds himself in a catch-22 situation.

He's won the championship he's coveted for so long and deservedly so, but do fans of the sport and even he himself look at him as such. I feel as though right now he's like Apollo Creed was in 'Rocky II'; he won the fight against Rocky in the first film, but he was not satisfied because he did not win the adulation. Thus, the reason he wants to face Jones again and actually needs to. Because till then wherever he goes he'll always be greeted as, "The champ is here; or is he?"

Monday, May 18, 2015

Don't be misled, boxing is far from dead

It's been 16 days since the supposed disappointment or let down of the fight of the century. I say supposed because while the fight surely did not live up to the massive hype, I also didn't expect anything less. However, the backlash the sport of boxing has taken since is totally unjust. More importantly though, those who claim boxing is dead are not just mistaken, they couldn't be more wrong.

Truth is right now boxing is better than it has been in quite sometime and as a hardcore fan, I haven't been this excited about boxing in a very long time. The reason is because for a while now it's been Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao that have kept the sport afloat. Thus, the question has been, where are the new stars that will keep this sport alive when they are done?

Well it took awhile, but the new stars are here and casual fans better recognize, there are more than a few out there; you just have to give them a chance. In the last two weeks since the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight, there have been some exciting, even extraordinary bouts that have taken place; and if you missed them solely because you felt disappointed two weeks ago, you have done yourself a disservice.

At the top of the list of rising new stars of the sport stands the man pictured above, world middleweight (160 lbs.) champion Gennady 'GGG' Golovkin (33-0, 30 KO's). A magnificent combination of boxer and puncher, this native of Kazakhstan appears ready to take the mantle from Mayweather as the sports "Pound for Pound" King. Not only in the ring either as he's moved to the United States, learned the language and as this past weekend's performance in Southern California showed. has endeared himself to the U.S. fan base.

So much so, that when he was asked about a potential fight against rising Mexican star Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez (45-1-1, 32 KO's) the partisan Mexican crowd did not boo Golovkin, but instead cheered. Alvarez, ranked number one in the world at 154 lbs., is another young beast ready to break out to the casual fan base. Already known to hard core fans, if you missed the three round war a week ago Saturday he had with James Kirkland, you missed an all-time classic. I am not overstating it when I say it was eerily similar to the 'Three rounds of Fury' fight between Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns 30 years ago in April '85.

While Golovkin and Alvarez top the list, there are other talented young champions out there that are about to become household names. Champions such as last years recognized 'Fighter of the Year', WBO Super lightweight (140 lbs.) champion Terence Crawford (26-0, 18 KO's), world flyweight (112 lbs.) champion Roman Gonzalez (43-0, 37 KO's), light-heavyweight champion (175 lbs.) Sergey 'Krusher' Kovalev (27-0, 24 KO's) and Deontay Wilder (33-0, 32 KO's), the first American heavyweight champion in nearly 10 years. Other names include Andre Ward, Nicholas Walters and Mikey Garcia; all undefeated and all champions in their respective weight classes.

This of course does not even include the established stars in the sport that are still fighting at a championship level such as Miguel Cotto, Vladimir Klitschko, Timothy Bradley along with the aforementioned Mayweather and Pacquiao. Boxing is alive and thriving and one underachieving mega fight or what is being spewed from the uneducated masses should not be your barometer. Watch the fights and don't be misled, because boxing is far from dead.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Don't hate the player, hate the game

Before I begin, I always feel I need to state the following disclaimer whenever I write about Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and that is, for the record I am not a Mayweather fan. However, I am a fan of boxing.

Say whatever you want, "Mayweather ran the whole fight," "Pacquiao didn't fight his fight" or "the fight did not live up to the hype." When push comes to shove, Floyd 'Money' Mayweather, Jr. (48-0, 26 KO's) did exactly what he always does and Manny Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38 KO's) did just the opposite, which is not fight the way he always does and that was the difference. What fans need to realize is that Mayweather had everything to do with that.

Going into this fight I told people two things; one was that Manny Pacquiao had a chance, if he were able to cut off the ring and pressure Mayweather against the ropes. Based on my scorecard (pictured above) written on a pizza restaurant menu, Manny Pacquiao was only able to do that in four rounds. The other thing I told everyone before the fight was that my heart was with Pacquiao, but my money was with Mayweather.

While I believed Pacquiao had a chance if he were able to do what I said, it was Mayweather who was able to implement his game, which regardless of what any casual fan wants to say is the true art of boxing. 'The Sweet Science' is not called such because it means to stand and trade toe to toe; it really means to hit and not be hit. That is the object of this game and Mayweather plays it to perfection.

Of course this is not the most pleasing style to the fans, but Mayweather for as much as he is hated for this, has never lied or misled anyone about how he fights. This is what he has done for 48 straight fights now and to think he was going to fight any different, especially when it has worked every single time to this point is ignorance on behalf of casual boxing fans.

I say casual fans because true knowledgeable fans would and should understand that there is no question about how two of the judges and I came up with a 116-112 score. People asked me last night, "How can Mayweather win a fight running?" It's simple, while he ran, he did punch from time to time, which is what he does, and did so effectively. Meanwhile, Pacquiao did chase, but did not punch effectively; when he was able to do so, he was given the rounds. Unfortunately for him, it only happened for one third of the fight.

Commentators and analysts calling the fight last night such as Al Bernstein and Max Kellerman pointed out during and after the fight that Pacquiao did not fight with the same punch output as he normally does. Even during his post fight interview with Pacquiao, Kellerman told him we did not see the same ferocity we usually see from him. As much as fans don't want to, we must give credit to Mayweather for that.

In sports we hear all the time, whomever is able to impose their will, will win the game. In this case it's clear that Mayweather was able to do that and Pacquiao, though he did for four rounds, was not. Important to note that the only round I was unsure about, round eight, I scored for Pacquiao; it could have easily been scored for Mayweather, which prompted HBO's Harold Lederman's score of 117-111.

I know the fight was not the classic everyone had hoped it would be, but for those that paid $100 expecting to see Gatti/Ward, Castillo/Corrales or Morales/Barrera you should have already known. People need to recognize that Mayweather is a boxer, not a fighter and there is a difference. Sure it's not pleasing, but it's the name of the game. The sport is called boxing, not fighting and Mayweather is just playing the sport. So don't hate the player, hate the game.

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