THREE PUNCH COMBO — This week, Daniel Jacobs (32-2, 29 KO’s) makes his return to HBO as part of a new deal with the network when he faces undefeated upstart Luis Arias (18-0, 9 KO’s) in a 160-pound contest. In addition, heavyweight Jarrell Miller (19-0-1, 17 KO’s) will make his HBO debut when he faces Mariusz Wach (33-2, 17 KO’s) in the co-feature bout. Both Jacobs and Miller will enter the ring as substantial favorites in contests that seem on paper to be mere showcase bouts. However, could we be in store for a surprise or two on Saturday?
Daniel Jacobs (that’s him on the left, Arias on the right flanking promoter Eddie Hearn) comes into this contest a hot commodity on the basis of a better than expected performance in a losing effort to Gennady Golovkin in March. Remember, for that fight Jacobs significantly outweighed Golovkin in the ring and was theoretically able to absorb Golovkin’s punches better with that weight advantage. Also, keep in mind the 2017 Golovkin has not at all looked like the Golovkin from years prior. So there seem to be some logical reasons why Jacobs exceeded expectations.
Jacobs still has not corrected many of the defensive issues that were apparent in a 2010 knockout loss to Dmitry Pirog. Moreover, Jacobs is now 30 and has been squeezing down to the 160 pound weight limit basically his entire career. Eventually he is going to have to move up and asking him how much he is draining himself to stay in that weight class is a reasonable question to ask.
Luis Arias is a good fighter with above average hand speed who has been hungry for an opportunity. He was an accomplished amateur and with that extensive background is well schooled inside the ring. As a pro, Arias has shown tremendous improvement throughout his career, climaxing with his best performance his last time out in June when he stopped Arif Magomedov in five rounds.
Arias is a fighter who is peaking and fighting with confidence. His combination punching and hand speed could give Jacobs serious issues. By no means is Arias a pushover opponent for Jacobs.
There is no question Jarrell Miller is a talented fighter. But there are questions about his motivation and conditioning. For his last two fights, Miller nearly tipped 300 pounds on the scale. In those contests, he was able to physically overwhelm his opponents with his size. But in Mariusz Wach, Miller is facing a much more physically stronger heavyweight than he has ever faced in his career.
Miller is certainly more talented, but Wach has experience with going rounds with physically big men. What happens if we get to round six and Wach is still pressing forward, throwing punches with authority? We have not seen an opponent physically push Miller deep into a fight and this could be the night. And then the conditioning issues for Miller could come to the forefront for the first time in his career.
Anthony Joshua-Deontay Wilder Will Happen in 2018, Just Not Right Away
In the past two weeks, we have seen both Anthony Joshua (20-0, 20 KO’s) and Deontay Wilder (39-0, 38 KO’s) score knockout wins against overmatched competition to retain their respective portions of the heavyweight crown. A big money unification fight between the two will inevitably take place but just not right away as some are speculating.
Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, knows he has a major cash cow in Joshua. And Hearn is going to milk Joshua for all he can, all the while mitigating his risk. In Joshua’s last bout against a massive underdog in Carlos Takam, a crowd estimated at 78,000 was in attendance. That’s a massive number of people to watch a boxing match in which the opponent was basically given zero chance to win.
Why would Hearn risk Joshua right away against Wilder if Hearn can sell out another large venue for Joshua to take on a substantially lesser challenge? Remember, Kubrat Pulev was the original opponent for that last fight and would presumably be available to fight again in a few months. Hearn could sell it as Joshua needing to take care of his business before stepping it up later in the year and there would be no question that another 78,000 tickets could easily be sold with Pulev as the opponent.
Even if Hearn were readily willing to make Joshua-Wilder, Wilder’s team may not be so anxious to do so right away. Again, it comes down to having a cash cow and wanting to milk that cow for everything until having to take that risk.
Today, Wilder has another natural rival in Dominic Breazeale. The camps of Wilder and Breazeale got into an altercation last February and since have been looking for a way to get the two into the ring to settle their differences. Breazeale defeated Eric Molina on Wilder’s undercard on Saturday and the win will boost Breazeale’s ranking in the WBC, the sanctioning body in which Wilder holds the belt. From a business perspective, it is probably another seven figure payday for Wilder for a fight in which he would be substantially favored. Yeah, this fight is going to come together before Wilder risks it all in a high stakes fight with Anthony Joshua.
Eventually, there will be too much pressure from the public and the television networks for Joshua-Wilder not to happen. But since each has a built-in reason to fight someone else next, the big unification fight will be pushed back a little while longer while all those involved collect one more easy payday.
Remembering a Piece of Cleveland Boxing History
This Friday, boxing returns to Cleveland, OH with a nine-bout card. Four of the bouts will be televised by Showtime. The headline attraction is an evenly matched bout in the 126-pound division between Luis Rosa (23-0, 11 KO’s) and Cleveland’s own Yuandale Evans (19-1, 14 KO’s). Cleveland may not be known as a fight town but it does have a rich boxing history. One venue in particular has major historical significance in the sport.
Located in downtown Cleveland, Grays Armory is one of the oldest and most historic buildings in the city. Originally built to house weapons more than one hundred years ago, the building has been used for many events such as weddings, proms and, of course, professional boxing.
The first boxing card at Grays Armory took place on December 23rd, 1911 and was headlined by Cleveland’s own Johnny Kilbane, a future featherweight champion as well as Hall of Famer. Kilbane would win a 12-round newspaper decision that evening against Charley White. It would be five years before another boxing show returned to Grays Armory, but for a stretch between 1916 and 1921 the building would host a slew of fight cards. Future Hall of Famers Ted Kid Lewis and Jack Britton made their way to Grays Armory during this period. After 1921, it would be ten years before boxing returned to Grays Armory in sporadic fashion. The last old time fight card took place in 1934 and it would not be until 1998 that boxing would return once again to this venue.
After an absence of more than 60 years, boxing returned to Grays Armory on May 29th, 1998 in a club show that was headlined by former world title challenger Mike Griffith. Between 1998 and 2006, 18 such shows were held at the old venue, often featuring local area fighters. I was fortunate enough to have attended most of these events and the cards never disappointed. The old time atmosphere itself was worth the price of admission and if I was fortunate I could grab a seat on the balcony that directly hung over the ring providing the best view in the house. The venue itself was often described by fight fans as a poor man’s Blue Horizon.
The most infamous card during this time frame took place on February 16th, 2001. Mike Griffith faced off against Billy Irwin on a card televised as part of the Friday Night Fights series on ESPN. Griffith was coming off a controversial loss in a world title bid against Paul Spadafora and Irwin was also coming in off a defeat against Spadafora. Stylistically, this had war written all over it and fans were excited. However, two days before the fight Irwin pulled out after coming down with the flu and promoters scrambled to find a replacement. They came up with Emanuel Augustus who had just fought the prior week.
Grays Armory was packed that night with Griffith supporters. But those supporters watched in shock as Augustus laid a massive beating on Griffith throughout the course of the evening. Augustus consistently beat Griffith to the punch and landed the much more telling blows. In the tenth and final round, Augustus closed the show after landing several clean unanswered shots upstairs that forced the referee to stop the contest. It was a memorable performance by Augustus considering the circumstances. It has become the modern day signature moment at the famed Grays Armory, an event that many fight fans have not forgotten.
Photo credit: Ed Mulholland / Matchroom Boxing USA
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