THREE PUNCH COMBO — Deontay Wilder (40-0, 39 KO’s) successfully defended his WBC heavyweight crown on Saturday with a gutsy performance against Luis Ortiz (28-1, 24 KO’s). I will admit I have been a vocal critic of Wilder throughout his career but am impressed with the courage and fortitude he showed in defeating Ortiz.
Wilder has a style in the ring that is not textbook. He does so many things that are fundamentally wrong including holding his hands frequently low and constantly pulling straight back with his hands down. Wilder will also lunge in swinging wildly at his opponents, leaving himself open to counters. And I could go on and on. But as fundamentally wrong as he appears in the ring, he has made this particular method of fighting work. The punching power is incredible and having such power can erase any and all mistakes. As a matter of fact, the defensive mistakes can give opponents a false sense of security and can lead to openings for Wilder to unleash that power.
It may sound like a strange comparison but Wilder is beginning to remind me a lot of Prince Naseem Hamed. Early in the career of Hamed many observers, including myself, thought he would get exposed when he fought a top tier opponent. Hamed was so unorthodox and did so many things technically wrong. Like Wilder, he frequently held his hands very low. He pulled straight back with his chin exposed. It was a certainty to me that the first upper echelon fighter he faced would make him pay for those mistakes. But Hamed made his style work and the fundamental mistakes he made often enticed opponents to throw, leaving themselves open for counters. And boy did Hamed make them pay with that power, similar to what we have seen from Wilder.
Is Wilder the next Hamed? I am not ready to go that far yet but Wilder’s unorthodox manner of fighting is certainly reminiscent of the Prince. Similar to Hamed, Wilder has made that style work due to the brutal power in his fists.
Under The Radar Fights
Though the fights may not be as marquee as this past week, the boxing schedule is loaded with a flurry of solid cards this upcoming week. While a lot of focus will be on a couple main event fights in Oscar Valdez vs. Scott Quigg and Mikey Garcia vs. Sergey Lipinets, the chief support to each of those main events is a compelling fight.
The co-feature to Valdez-Quigg on ESPN is a high stakes battle of undefeated 130-pound prospects between Andy Vences (20-0, 12 KO’s) and Erick De Leon (17-0, 10 KO’s). Vences fights as a typical boxer-puncher. He likes to throw power punching combinations behind a well-schooled left jab. He has above average hand speed for the division and though not a one punch knockout fighter does possess heavy hands. Vences is athletic and will fluidly switch stances from his natural orthodox stance to a southpaw position from time to time to change the look for his opposition.
De Leon, who fights from the southpaw stance, is an aggressive boxer-puncher. He likes to come forward and be first. De Leon is naturally very athletic and possesses very fast hands. He can rip off three or four punches in a row before his opponent has time to react. And though not really a big puncher or heavy handed guy, De Leon possesses a very sneaky quick right hook.
Vences-De Leon is very evenly matched; a true toss-up fight. Both fighters are taking a big step up and the winner is probably positioned for a title shot at 130. We are going to see a competitive entertaining contest between these two on Saturday.
On the undercard of Garcia-Lipinets, Showtime will televise the rematch between Rances Barthelemy (26-0, 13 KO’s) and Kiryl Relikh (21-2, 19 KO’s) for a vacant 140-pound belt. Barthelemy won the first fight by unanimous decision but it was a close competitive affair that deserves a do-over. The styles of the two made for a fun fight as well with Barthelemy using his legs trying to box versus the ultra-aggressive come forward style of Relikh.
Both Barthelemy and Relikh scored knockdowns and showed the ability to hurt one another in the first go around. Who can impose his style will be key in the rematch. Expect to see another fan friendly competitive contest with the stakes raised a bit with a title belt on the line.
Remembering the Controversial First Fight Between Ricardo Lopez and Rosendo Alvarez
Wednesday March 7th will mark the 20th anniversary of the only blemish in the professional or amateur career of the great Ricardo Lopez. An estimated 50,000 fans jammed into a converted bullring for a card that was headlined by Mexican legend Julio Cesar Chavez facing countryman Miguel Angel Gonzalez for a 140-pound title. For hardcore boxing fans, however, the co-feature between Mexico’s Lopez and Nicaragua’s Rosendo Alvarez was of greater interest. The fight turned into a memorable affair that was somewhat marred by its controversial outcome.
Entering his bout with Alvarez, Lopez (46-0, 35 KO’s) had been one of the most dominant fighters in the sport and many even considered him to be the top pound for pound fighter in boxing. Lopez was a master technician who rarely got hit and made his opponents pay a heavy price for mistakes they made inside the ring. He was a dream fighter for purists as he displayed both amazing technical skill as well as smart crowd-pleasing aggression that made him a joy to watch. In his previous bout, Lopez dominated the WBO 105-pound belt holder Alex Sanchez, stopping the very capable Sanchez in five rounds in what was the division’s first unification fight. Now Lopez set his eyes on the WBA title in the 105-pound weight class that was owned by Alvarez.
Alvarez (24-0, 16 KOs) had won the WBA 105-pound belt in 1995 on the road in Thailand where he beat the hometown favorite and then undefeated Chana Porpaoin. He made four successful defenses of that title including notching a couple knockout victories again on the road against then undefeated challengers. A heavy handed aggressive fighter who possessed good skills, Alvarez, although the underdog, was considered a legitimate threat to Lopez and the prevailing thought was that his style, at the very least, would make for a crowd pleasing fight.
The opening round set the tone for the contest. Lopez swung and missed wildly on a couple of occasions which was very uncharacteristic of him and also got tagged flush on a few occasions by counter rights. Alvarez also appeared much stronger than Lopez, pushing him back on several occasions during the round.
Moments into round two, a perfect counter right hand from Alvarez dropped Lopez for the first time in his career. Lopez would rise and though a little shaken seemed to be okay. The two then exchanged furiously with Alvarez getting the better of it in what was an exciting round.
Lopez began showing his technical superiority in the third and fourth rounds, out-boxing Alvarez, but Alvarez rallied in the fifth, pressing the action once again, backing Lopez up and landing some short crisp heavy handed punches. The size of Alvarez seemed to be taking a bit of a toll on Lopez.
After a close round six, Alvarez began the seventh raking Lopez with clean power shots. With about a minute left in the round, the two butted heads which resulted in a bad cut over the right eye of Lopez. And though the head butt was accidental, per the rules of the WBC the uncut fighter in Alvarez was docked a point.
At the urging of Lopez’s corner, the fight was stopped after this round and would go to the scorecards to determine the result. After a lengthy delay of over ten minutes, the cards were finally read with the bout being declared a split draw. However, if no point had been deducted from Alvarez the card of Dalby Shirley would have read 67-66 for Alvarez instead of 66-66 which would have given Alvarez a split decision win.
Action packed and controversial, the fight between Ricardo Lopez and Rosendo Alvarez in Mexico City was certainly memorable. There would be a rematch in November of that year that almost did not come off as Alvarez badly missed weight at the weigh-in. After much negotiation, Lopez agreed to go forward with the fight and won a tight split decision in another action packed contest.
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