Three Punch Combo: Handicapping Keith Thurman’s Next Opponent and More

THREE PUNCH COMBO — Welterweight champion Keith Thurman (28-0, 22 KO’s) is set to return to the ring on May 19th against an opponent to be determined. When Thurman does return, it will be on the heels of a 14-month layoff and he has made it very clear the opponent will not be any of the top contenders at welterweight. So just who will be in the ring with Thurman on May 19th? Here are the realistic options.

Adrian Granados (18-6-2, 12 KO’s)

I would venture to say Granados is probably option A. Granados is a tough gritty fighter but somewhat limited and not a big puncher. He can give Thurman rounds and will give an honest effort to keep Thurman on his toes; in essence, give Thurman a nice tune up fight. Showtime, who will be airing Thurman’s return, has also broadcast the last two fights for Granados which were competitive losses to Adrien Broner and Shawn Porter.

Alan Sanchez (20-3-1, 10 KO’s)

Sanchez is on an eight fight winning streak since losing to Luis Collazo in September of 2013. Similar to Granados, he is durable and not a big hitter. Though Sanchez has decent skills, he cannot come close to matching the skills or athleticism of Thurman. The win streak will help sell him as a somewhat credible opponent and the durability is a plus as Team Thurman will certainly be looking to get their fighter rounds in advance of bigger things later this year.

Levan Ghvamichava (18-3-1, 13 KO’s)

Though Ghvamichava has lost two of his last four, those losses were to solid opponents and he is coming off a good win against 2012 Mexican Olympian Oscar Molina. Ghvamichava is an aggressive but plodding type of fighter who is very slow and easy to hit. He would be ideal in that Thurman won’t have to look for him; he will bring the fight to Thurman. In addition, Ghvamichava’s style would probably make for an entertaining fight and ultimately give Thurman a good chance to score a spectacular knockout.

When a Win Is a Loss and a Loss Is a Win –

The Story of Romallis Ellis vs. Vince Phillips

In boxing, talented veteran fighters still in the prime of their career are often very selective in their choice of opposition following a setback. The term “cherry picking” is sometimes used to describe their selection of opponents as they look to maneuver their way back into a big fight. However, these types of fights are often mismatches that do little to help their career and that fans detest.

Taking a risk of losing in a crossroads fight for that talented veteran against a quality opponent is often seen as bad business. The pay may be on par with fighting a lesser opponent so why take the risk of losing? But taking that risk may pay big dividends even if the fighter loses. As a matter of fact, a hard-fought loss against a solid opponent may even do more than a win. Take the case of the Romallis Ellis-Vince Phillips welterweight contest in 1997 where the end result benefited the loser more so than the winner.

The aggressive, hard punching Phillips, once a highly touted prospect, began 1997 with his career on the ropes. Problems with drugs hindered early portions of his career. Inside the ring, he had suffered TKO losses to journeyman Anthony Jones in 1993 and a fast rising undefeated Ike Quartey in 1996 in what was a welterweight title fight. Now at 35-2 and at a crossroads following a couple wins against nondescript opponents, Phillips agreed to take on former US Olympic bronze medalist Romallis Ellis in an HBO fight in January of 1997.

Ellis came out of the 1988 Olympics with some fanfare but his career had never really gotten much traction. Ellis faced a lot of subpar opponents early in his career and suffered a bad loss to journeyman Daryl Lattimore in 1992. Management issues and injuries stemming from being struck by a car led to periods of inactivity following the Lattimore loss. However, following the accident Ellis took on a big challenge in stopping Pedro Sanchez in October of 1996. The big win raised his record to 23-1 and set up the showdown on HBO just a few months later against Phillips.

The fight, scheduled for 10 rounds, was a good crisp professional fight with many close rounds and many good exchanges throughout the night. It was evenly matched and entertaining. At the final bell, it was anyone’s guess as to who would get the nod. In the end, it would be Ellis who won a split decision in what was easily the biggest victory of his career.

What happened next can really only happen in boxing. Kostya Tszyu held a 140-pound belt. HBO had taken notice of the hard punching Australian and wanted to bring him on board. For his HBO debut, Tszyu’s people wanted a particular type of opponent. They wanted Tszyu to put on a show. To do this, they needed an aggressive opponent who would bring the action to Tszyu but who also was seen as exploitable. In addition, the opponent needed to have somewhat of a name

Coming off another loss in his career, Vince Phillips fit that profile perfectly. Tszyu’s team thought their guy would make an explosive HBO debut. But Phillips had other things in mind when they faced each other in May of 1997 and pulled off a career resurrecting upset. The win for Phillips turned his career around and he probably never would have received the opportunity if he got the nod against Ellis a few months earlier.

On the flip side, Ellis found it tough to get a big contest following the Phillips win. But he eventually did get an offer to fight new 154-pound champion Raul Marquez.  It was a bad matchup for Ellis in that he was badly outsized by the naturally bigger Marquez who dominated him and stopped him in the fourth round. Ellis could never get his career on track following the Marquez defeat and the win against Phillips was ultimately the final win of his career.

Flyweights Set to Steal the Thunder on SuperFly 2

HBO’s Boxing After Dark returns next week with a tripleheader in a card titled SuperFly 2. The event is headlined by a highly anticipated 115-pound title fight between title-holder Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (44-4-1, 40 KO’s) and his mandatory challenger Juan Francisco Estrada (36-2, 25 KO’s). Also on the card is an intriguing high stakes 115-pound crossroads bout between Carlos Cuadras (36-2-1, 27 KO’s) and McWilliams Arroyo (16-3, 14 KO’s). Though I love these two fights, it is the flyweight title bout between champion Donnie Nietes (40-1-4, 22 KO’s) and his mandatory challenger Juan Carlos Revco (39-3, 19 KO’s) that I think steals the show.

The 35-year-old Nietes, who hails from the Philippines, is a former three weight class world champion. He turned pro in 2003 and first won a world title in 2007 in the 105-pound division. He added a 108-pound belt in 2011 and a flyweight title in 2017, all the while not losing a single title fight during this time frame. He is a skilled boxer-puncher who will work behind the left jab from his orthodox stance and uses angles very well to land accurate power punching combinations. Nietes likes to be first and will also mix in some well-timed fluid uppercuts from the outside.

The 34-tear-old Revco, who hails from Argentina, is a former multi-division champion having won titles in both the 108-pound division as well as at flyweight. He is an aggressive fighter by nature who likes to work behind a stiff, well timed left jab to work his way inside. Once inside, he will go to work firing off combinations to both the head and body. Similar to Nietes, Revco prefers to lead and be first.

As we all know, in boxing styles make fights. And the styles of Nietes and Revco make for guaranteed action. Neither is afraid to be first and they will be letting their hands go from the opening bell. They are both crisp accurate punchers and neither would be considered a defensive wiz. In particular, there is not a lot of head movement from either. I see a fight that is competitive with plenty of punches landed on both sides.

It may not be getting the press of the 115-pound fights, but I think Nietes-Revco turns out to be the show stopper.

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