3 Punch Combo: Okeksandr Gvozdyk, Ramirez-Prograis, and Cinderella Stories

THREE PUNCH COMBO: Oleksandr Gvozdyk (15-0, 12 KO’s) captured an interim light heavyweight title belt with a unanimous decision win against Mehdi Amar (34-6-2, 16 KO’s) last Saturday night in New York. But Gvozdyk didn’t really improve his stock as his showing wasn’t as impressive as most were anticipating. Could it be that Gvozdyk is trying too much to imitate the style of stablemate and friend Vasyl Lomachenko?

Lomachenko is a unique talent. He does things in the ring with his feet and athletic ability that few can come close to imitating. Lomachenko will stand right in front of his opponents and throw punches from all sorts of angles, all the while making his opposition miss with their return fire. He baits his opposition by making himself such an inviting target, yet has the wherewithal to generally avoid getting hit clean and then creating the precise openings he wants to hit his opponents with clean counters.

Against Amar, Gvozdyk tried to implement a style similar to that of Lomachenko. He stood in the pocket often and tried to throw punches from all different angles. His issue was that he does not possess near the athletic ability as Lomachenko. As such, he did not land as cleanly or as frequently as Lomachenko does and, more concerning, got clipped quite a bit, particularly with the right from Amar. Fortunately for Gvozdyk, Amar did not have much power though Gvozdyk’s right eye did exhibit some significant swelling during the course of the bout.

Gvozdyk is a very talented fighter. But he would be best suited to develop a style that fits him more appropriately. He has an excellent stiff left jab and can work fluid combinations behind that punch with a lot of success. Standing in front of his opponents, however, and trying to be like Lomachenko, will not go well for him as he steps up in class. There are some big time punchers at 175 and getting clipped by them will be much different than getting clipped by the likes of Mehdi Amar.

Is Regis Prograis Next For Jose Carlos Ramirez?

On the same show as Gvozdyk-Amar, Jose Carlos Ramirez (22-0, 16 KO’s) captured the vacant WBC 140-pound title with a hard fought win against Amir Imam (21-2, 18 KO’s). Earlier this month, Regis Prograis (21-0, 18 KO’s) captured an interim WBC belt in the same weight class with his destruction of Julius Indongo. So it would naturally seem that Ramirez’s next bout will be against the flashy Prograis. But don’t make that assumption.

Top Rank, the promoter for Ramirez, is a master of the risk/reward scenario in boxing. Prograis, who is not represented by Top Rank, represents a big risk to Ramirez with a much smaller reward than other potential opponents. Prograis is a fast handed southpaw who is an excellent counter puncher and in the past has feasted on aggressive opponents with some defensive flaws. Ramirez is an aggressive fighter who likes to bring the fight to his opponents but often leaves himself exposed to counters in the process. He also cannot match the speed of Prograis. It is a bad stylistic matchup for Ramirez and Top Rank knows this. At the very least, Ramirez needs more seasoning before stepping in with Prograis.

So how will Top Rank keep Prograis at bay? Well the WBC has in the past allowed for its champions to temporarily side step mandatory obligations if they can cut deals with the mandatory challenger. (Adonis Stevenson, their light heavyweight champion, has not fulfilled his mandatory obligation for years.) So Top Rank will seek to arrange a tune-up fight for each man, ideally on the same show in Fresno where Ramirez is a big ticket seller. This would garner decent paydays and exposure for both Ramirez and Prograis and help “marinate” the eventual fight between them, making it a substantially bigger event.

To better prepare Ramirez for Prograis, Top Rank will likely seek out another southpaw.  One possibility is Mohamed Mimoune (20-2, 2 KO’s) who is currently ranked #11 by the WBC at 140. A French-Algerian, Mimoune is recognized as the 140-pound world champion by the fringe International Boxing Organization. He’s a skilled fighter with decent speed, but a light hitter that Ramirez should easily handle while gaining valuable experience. As for Prograis, a good opponent may be Mike Reed (23-2, 12 KO’s). Reed is associated with Top Rank which makes the match easy to put together.

Boxing Cinderella Stories

It is that time of year when March Madness dominates the sports headlines in the United States.  For the next few weeks, sports fans will be inundated with storylines surrounding the NCAA Tournament.

One of the things sports fans most enjoy about the NCAA Tournament are the upsets and Cinderella stories. There is just something special about that small school that rises to the occasion and topples a big name college basketball program.

In boxing, James “Buster” Douglas slaying Mike Tyson in Japan in 1990 stands out as the ultimate Cinderella story. As for more recent Cinderella stories that are far, far, far less well-known, here are three of my favorites:

JUAN CARLOS MARTINEZ (18-12-1, 7 KOs) vs. BERNABE CONCEPCION (29-4-1, 16 KOs)

On May 6th, 2011 featherweights Juan Carlos Martinez and Bernabe Concepcion met in an ESPN televised contest. Concepcion was coming off a tough loss to featherweight champion Juan Manuel Lopez in a bout where Concepcion had Lopez on the deck. At just 23, Concepcion was thought to have a bright future. Hailing from the Philippines, he had recently signed a managerial pact with Manny Pacquiao and was given what was supposed to be a nice showcase the day before Pacquiao himself had a big fight against Shane Mosley.

Martinez was known as a rugged journeyman with not a lot of power and was thought to be a safe opponent. However, Martinez dominated the action from the start and never let Concepcion get into a rhythm. The fight would go the full scheduled eight rounds and though one judge inexplicably awarded the fight to Concepcion, the other two had it correct giving Martinez a major upset.

JOSE SILVERIA (16-19, 6 KOs) vs. KEVIN LAVALLEE (14-0-1, 10 KOs)

Unbeaten prospect Kevin Lavallee met Jose Silveria in a 130-pound contest on February 19th, 2016 in a bout televised by the CBS Sports Network. This was supposed to be a mere showcase for Lavallee as Silveria had dropped ten of his previous eleven bouts coming in. As a matter of fact, Silveria did not even have a corner when he showed up to Sloan, IA for the bout and picked up a corner man on the fly who did not even speak his language.

Despite all this working against him, Silveria showed up to fight and exposed the prospect Lavallee. Silveria found Lavallee a surprisingly easy target from the onset and dropped the heavily favored fighter in the third. Silveria’s aggressiveness and straighter punches proved problematic for Lavallee as his many defensive flaws became apparent. In the end, the massive underdog won a six round unanimous decision.

JUSTIN WILLIAMS (3-5-1, 2 KOs) vs. ALFONSO LOPEZ (22-2, 17 KOs)

It was supposed to an easy night’s work for 168-pound contender Alfonso Lopez when he faced Justin Williams on February 18th, 2012. The previous year, Lopez had given Kelly Pavlik all he could handle in dropping a 10-round majority decision. Williams, a relative novice, had such a pedestrian record that he was given little to no shot of even being competitive. But once the bell rang, Williams showed surprising boxing ability as well as confidence and out-boxed the aggressive Lopez for the duration of the six round contest. Lopez looked shocked at what Williams brought to the table and never made any adjustments to reverse the tide. In the end, Williams won a unanimous decision.

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