3 Punch Combo: Scoping Out Tewa Kiram, Remembering Gatti-Manfredy and More

THREE PUNCH COMBO — HBO’s Boxing After Dark returns next week from The Forum in Inglewood, CA with a card that is co-headlined by popular action fighter Lucas Matthysse (38-4, 35 KO’s). Ranked number three by the WBA at 147 pounds, Matthysse will face off against the number one ranked fighter in the WBA in Tewa Kiram (38-0, 28 KO’s) of Thailand for that organization’s vacant title belt. While Matthysse is very well known to fight fans, the same cannot be said of Kiram. So just who is Kiram and can he present a challenge to Matthysse?

The first thing about Kiram that jumps out is his record. It is glossy, to say the least, Kiram having won all 38 of his professional fights with 28 of those wins coming inside the distance. But looking closer at his resume, there are no recognizable names on the ledger. To say the competition is suspect is an understatement. In his 37th professional fight, Kiram knocked out Vijender Kumar in the ninth round in what was Kumar’s professional debut. Moreover, all but one of his fights has taken place in his native Thailand with the one exception being a bout that took place in neighboring Vietnam. So Kiram has essentially not hit the road as a pro and this trip to California will be a new experience for him.

In preparation for this piece, I watched some YouTube clips of Kiram and here are my observations: He fights from the orthodox stance as an aggressive boxer-puncher and likes to work behind the left jab. Kiram will work the jab heavy and from what I have seen this is probably his best weapon. It is not a probing jab and one that he often throws with serious conviction behind the punch. Though he can counter, he prefers to lead throwing combinations behind the jab when openings are present.

Kiram is not fleet footed and his hand speed is below average. So though he works behind the jab, he will do so coming forward in a slow, plodding-like manner. And although the record indicates he is a puncher, the clips I have watched do not show a fighter who has one punch fight-changing power. Instead, Kiram possesses decently heavy hands with many of the knockouts saying more about the competition he faced than anything else.

Defensively, Kiram does move his head well and usually has his hands held relatively high. But he has some serious flaws that a polished fighter can easily expose. For one, when Kiram throws the left jab he often brings his left back to his hip which leaves him wide open for counter rights. I viewed several fighters with much lesser pop behind their punches than Matthysse clip Kiram clean with solid rights. Also, Kiram has a bad tendency when pressed to pull straight back with his hands down.

In my opinion, Kiram possesses no serious threat to Matthysse. He does some things well and may land some telling jabs, but he is just too slow both with his hands and feet to ultimately trouble Matthysse. Plus, the power of Kiram is not what the record indicates and I doubt he can get Matthysse’s respect. I expect at some point — probably sooner rather than later — Matthysse will make Kiram pay for one of his defensive flaws and that will bring this bout to a sudden, emphatic end.

Errol Spence Jr. Needs to Take a Page From Oscar De La Hoya’s 1997

Errol Spence Jr. (23-0, 20 KO’s) put on another tremendous showcase in dismantling former two-division belt holder Lamont Peterson (35-4-1, 17 KO’s) this past weekend at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. There is no questioning that Spence is a special talent. But in order to get to the next level in his career, he should revisit what helped propel Oscar De La Hoya into the next stratosphere of his respective career.

Entering 1997, Oscar De La Hoya was already a star in boxing. In June of 1996, he scored the biggest win of his career in battering the legendary Julio Cesar Chavez in what was a super fight in the sport. To get to the next level in 1997, De La Hoya did something very simple. And that is he fought often. De La Hoya fought five times in 1997 beginning with his 12-round decision victory against Miguel Angel Gonzalez in January of that year. There was a super fight against Pernell Whitaker in April and three other fights that helped to further boost De La Hoya’s growing superstardom.

Spence has the talent to be a star like De La Hoya but needs to be more active. Since his demolition of Leonard Bundu in August of 2016 before a massive audience on NBC, Spence has only fought twice. He needs to fight often in 2018, much like De La Hoya did in 1997. Yes, one of these fights should be a big one (Keith Thurman?) but the others do not necessarily need to be against the elite. Spence just needs to be active. By doing so, Spence’s star will grow and he can begin to reach that next stratosphere of superstardom in this sport.

Remembering Gatti-Manfredy

Arturo Gatti was involved in many memorable slugfests…so many, in fact, that some great shootouts that he was involved in have been somewhat forgotten. One tremendous fight that that doesn’t get the attention of others took place 20 years ago this past week on January 17th, 1998 in Atlantic City, NJ, when Gatti faced Angel Manfredy in a 135-pound contest.

Three months prior to facing Manfredy, Gatti was involved in a classic slugfest with Gabriel Ruelas. In that bout, Gatti rallied back after being nearly out on his feet in round four to knock Ruelas out in round five to defend his 130-pound belt. Following the bout, Gatti’s team wanted him to test the waters at 135 after he reportedly struggled mightily to make the 130- pound weight to face Ruelas.

Manfredy was an up-and-coming action fighter in 1997 in whom HBO had taken an interest. He appeared twice on the network that year including a card headlined by Gatti. Clearly Manfredy was being groomed as a future Gatti opponent. Though Manfredy also campaigned and held a minor title belt at 130, he agreed to face Gatti in a non-title fight at 135 in what would be boxing’s first big fight in 1998.

Considered a can’t-miss, all action fight, the match between Gatti (29-1, 24 KO’s) and Manfredy (22-2-1, 18 KO’s) was highly anticipated. And it certainly did not disappoint. The two met and exchanged big punches in round one with both having their moments. Toward the end of that opening stanza, a sharp right hand from Manfredy  opened a bad cut over Gatti’s left eye.

After more give and take action in round two, Manfredy would drop Gatti with a perfectly timed left hook in the third. Gatti was hurt but would rise and survive the ensuing onslaught before storming back in typical Gatti fashion, landing big shots of his own.

After being nearly knocked out in the third, Gatti roared back in the fourth, seemingly doing some serious damage to Manfredy with a prolonged attack on the ribcage. Rounds five and six were fought in a phone booth with both fighters landing a high volume and high percentage of power punches with defense being almost entirely abandoned. At the end of the sixth, the cut over the left eye of Gatti that he sustained in round one began to worsen.

Manfredy had a big round seven, teeing off on Gatti who could clearly not see the right hand coming due to the blood flowing in his eye from the cut. Manfredy continued to do damage to that cut in the eighth and toward the end of the round the ringside physician was brought in to examine it. But prior to Gatti getting looked at by the doctor, his corner pulled the plug and stopped the contest.

This fight was a brutal, bloody war from the opening bell. But with Gatti in so many of these types of bouts, this has kind of gone forgotten over the years. It is well worth the watch though and deserves to be remembered this month on the 20th anniversary for the great fight it was.

Photo credit: Lina Baker

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