THREE PUNCH COMBO — This coming weekend, star prospect turned contender Errol Spence Jr. (he’s the one on the left) takes a massive step up in competition when he faces IBF welterweight champion Kell Brook. Spence has the looks of a potential superstar, but questions remain. We will find out a lot more this weekend as to whether the hype surrounding Spence is real.
There is no doubt Spence is immensely gifted with natural talent that is just not seen that often in boxing. He possesses very fast hands and his combinations flow very smoothly, often times overwhelming his opponents who can’t match his speed. Spence is well schooled with a strong amateur background and has honed his skills in his 21 fights as a pro. He will work behind a sharp right jab from the southpaw stance and has devastating power in both hands. It is easy to see why so many in the sport are so high on him.
But there are questions. In Spence’s ninth pro fight, he took his first step up in competition in facing Emmanuel Lartey in a scheduled eight round fight. At the end of round seven, Lartey hurt Spence with a right hook. Fortunately for Spence, the punch came right at the end of the round as he was legitimately wobbled. Spence more or less went into a prevent defense in the eighth and final round as he appeared to be still feeling the effects of that punch. After that fight, some in the sport wondered about his chin. Since facing Lartey, Spence has not faced anyone who was considered to be any sort of puncher.
Another big question facing Spence is how will he respond when things don’t go his way? With the exception of the moment against Lartey, Spence has not faced any adversity in the ring as a pro. Spence has basically been able to control the ring against his opponents and do pretty much as he wanted.
Kell Brook is a big welterweight. He is a heavy handed puncher with good skills. His hands aren’t as quick as Spence’s, but he has decent hand speed. This is going to be a fight for Spence that will answer a lot of questions. This fight could be for Spence what the Diego Corrales fight was for Floyd Mayweather Jr….or this could be the night that Errol Spence gets exposed.
The Near Term Outlook For Terence Crawford and Gary Russell Jr.
Terence Crawford and Gary Russell Jr. each scored dominant stoppage victories on Saturday. Crawford outclassed the skilled Felix Diaz in impressive fashion and Russell easily dispatched the tough Oscar Escandon. Both Crawford and Russell are seeking bigger fish and both may get much bigger fights the next time they are in the ring.
Crawford would love a fight with Manny Pacquiao and the payday that comes with such an event. However, Pacquiao’s management team at this time appears to view such a fight as too risky for their charge. So such a fight is unlikely, at least in the near future.
At ringside for Crawford’s performance on Saturday was IBF and WBA super lightweight champion Julius Indongo. Though a bout with Indongo is possible for Crawford, there are issues with making this contest. First, Indongo is not a big name. Crawford has fought good fighters but no big names and badly needs a name on his resume to help build his marketability. Second, Indongo may have to deal with a mandatory of his own in Sergey Lipinets. Indongo could always vacate the belt or attempt to work a deal with Lipinets but it is a complication. Finally, Crawford put on quite a bit of weight post weigh-in and a move up to welterweight may be happening sooner rather than later which would cross Indongo off the opponent list.
If Crawford goes to welterweight, there are plenty of name options available. One such option would be Timothy Bradley. Bradley crosses off all the marks as to what Crawford and his team would be seeking in an opponent. Bradley is a big name in the sport and the fight would certainly garner a lot of attention. It is a fight that can help build Crawford’s marketability and a win would firmly put him in superstar status. With such a status, he brings more to the table when seeking the bigger fights such as one with Manny Pacquiao. I think Bradley will be the top option for Team Crawford and I suspect we see such a match materialize sometime later this summer or in the fall.
Even more so than Crawford, Gary Russell Jr. needs a big name next time out. With the exception of Vasyl Lomachenko, the talented Russell has fought mostly lower level opposition. As a matter of fact, Escandon was easily the second best opponent Russell has faced in his career.
Russell is aligned with Al Haymon who has many of the top featherweights in his stable, so making a big fight for Russell should be easy to accomplish. One Haymon featherweight who also needs a big fight is IBF champion Lee Selby. Selby, who has fought most of his career in the United Kingdom, has made it clear he wants a fight in the United States and a unification fight with Russell certainly fits that criterion. This bout would garner plenty of attention in both the US and the UK and the winner would be positioned for big money fights down the road in a stacked featherweight division. It is a fight that seems very likely to get done for later this summer or early in the fall.
Expect to see Terence Crawford and Gary Russell Jr. competing on a much bigger stage the next time they enter the ring.
The Use of Instant Replay in Boxing
I have brought this topic up before but an incident that occurred this past weekend bears once again on the issue of using instant replay in boxing . Most other major sports utilize replay and it is time for boxing to do the same.
The system I propose is similar to the challenge system utilized in both the MLB and NFL. When the technology is available, the corners of each fighter will be allowed one challenge. They can challenge the ruling of whether a cut was caused by a punch or head butt or whether a knockdown was legitimate. The challenge must be made by the designated corner man to a commission official within a reasonable time. The commission can flat out ask the corner man if he wishes to challenge and a decision must be rendered by the corner man at that moment.
As with other sports, the video evidence must be indisputable to overturn the ruling of the referee. If the corner wins the challenge, they are allowed one more challenge during the course of the bout. If the corner loses the challenge, they would be out of challenges for the remainder of the contest.
In the case of a knockdown being challenged, the referee would instruct the judges to turn in two different scorecards if the decision were still being reviewed prior to the start of the next round. The first would be the card scoring the initial ruling of the referee and the second would be the card if the ruling were overturned.
Such a system keeps the flow of the bout going without interruption. It also limits the use of replay to just those crucial moments so it is not overdone. And it put the onus on the corner and not the referee or commission as to when the technology will be used.
In Saturday’s bout between Raymundo Beltran and Jonathan Maicelo, Beltran was ruled to have been knocked down by Maicelo in the first round. However, clearly it was not a punch that caused Beltran to go down, but instead an accidental head butt. In this instance, Beltran’s corner would have made motion for a challenge and a ruling would have been quickly made, probably before the round even ended. Due to the ruling however of a knockdown, HBO’s official scorer Harold Lederman scored the round 10-8 for Maicelo and I suspect the judges had it the same. If the ruling were overturned, at worst it would have been a 10-9 round for Maicelo and there would have been a good chance that the round instead would have gone to Beltran 10-9, a three point swing and could have had a major impact if the fight had gone to the cards.
Referees are human and do make mistakes. Instant replay technology is used in other sports to make sure that correctable errors do not happen. It is time for boxing to get in line.
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