3 Punch Combo: The Indomitable Don King, a Red Flag for Ryan Garcia and More

Three Punch Combo — Earlier this month, Don King promoted fighter Amir Imam (21-2, 18 KO’s) dropped a hard fought 12-round unanimous decision to Jose Carlos Ramirez (22-0, 16 KO’s) for a vacant 140-pound title belt. Many in boxing believed Imam was King’s last stand in the sport and his defeat would essentially send the bombastic promoter away from boxing.

But much like when a similar obituary for King was written following a loss by his fighter Tavoris Cloud to Bernard Hopkins in 2013, King is not going away. He will never be the presence he once was in boxing but he will be a presence nonetheless. King still does have fighters with promotional deals and some are inching their way toward big fights. Here is a look at three fighters that King currently promotes:

Rafael Mensah (31-0, 23 KO’s)

Mensah has established a glossy unblemished record to become the mandatory challenger to WBA 130-pound champion Alberto Machado (19-0, 16 KO’s). Their showdown is likely to take place sometime this year and will probably find its way to a major platform. There is not much known about Mensah who has fought all but one of his fights in his native Ghana (the other in nearby Benin), but from the limited video available we know he is a southpaw who appears to be a classic boxer-puncher. He likes to work behind the jab and look for opportunities to counter. His record suggests he is a power puncher, but a lot of those knockouts have come against weak opposition so whether the power is real or not is a question. How he will fare against a fighter the class of Machado is also a major question, but it appears we will soon find out.

Vanes Martirosyan (36-3-1, 21 KO’s)

Martirosyan is a 154-pound contender who inked a promotional contract with King in 2017. He hasn’t fought since dropping a 12-round unanimous decision to Erislandy Lara in May of 2016, but has been actively seeking a big fight. Most recently, he appeared ticketed to a showdown with Maciej Sulecki (26-0, 10 KO’s). The WBC had ordered the fight to determine the mandatory challenger for their title at 154 but shortly after King won the purse bid for the bout Sulecki elected to take a fight with Daniel Jacobs. Martirosyan is a name and now has been elevated to number one in the most recent WBC rankings at 154. He is going to get a big opportunity at some point in the near future.

Trevor Bryan (19-0, 13 KO’s)

Bryan, ranked fifth by the WBA, is an undefeated heavyweight prospect from upstate New York. He nearly got a crack at another undefeated heavyweight from New York in Jarrell Miller this April, but the more well-known Miller opted to go in another direction. So far in his career, Bryan (pictured on the right; that’s Amir Imam on the left) has feasted on weak opposition. He does, however, have one decent name on his ledger in that of veteran Derric Rossy whom Bryan defeated by unanimous decision in a bout televised by Showtime. Bryan is athletic for a big man with above average hand speed and good skills. With the lack of quality heavyweights available, no doubt Bryan’s crack at a big fight will be coming sometime shortly.

Can Ryan Garcia Avoid the Pitfalls that Shipwrecked Felix Verdejo?

Ryan Garcia (14-0, 13 KO’s) put on yet another scintillating performance this past Thursday when he knocked out former world title challenger Fernando Vargas (32-14-3, 21 KO’s) in the first round of their scheduled 10-round bout. Garcia, who fights in the 130-pound weight class, is considered by many as the sport’s best prospect and a surefire future star. But with all the attention, Garcia must be extremely careful not to fall into the same traps as Felix Verdejo, another fighter who was once a highly touted prospect.

There is no question that Garcia has all the goods to be a superstar. The hand speed is just electric. There is real one-punch power in both fists. He appears just so fluid inside the ring. And the way he uses angles to place his punches is masterful. All this and Garcia, who is just 19 years old, is just beginning to touch his potential. There is room to grow and get even better.

There is a lot to get excited about when watching Garcia perform. But there was also a lot to get excited about when watching Verdejo come up the ladder a few years ago. In the case of Verdejo, he was crowned a star before he accomplished anything as a pro. With everyone around him telling him of his greatness, he became complacent and started relying on just his natural ability. That got him past a certain level of fighter but ended up costing him when he fought Antonio Lozada Jr. on March 17. Once he hit Lozada with his best and was unable to faze him, Verdejo was in trouble. Flaws, such as pulling straight back with his chin up and displaying little to no head movement, started to get exposed. In the end, Verdejo was stopped by Lozada and left with a lot of questions about where to go next in his once promising career.

There were some things that I saw that concerned me about Garcia this past Thursday. His entourage was a lot bigger for one. And in the little bit of action in his contest, I noticed a flaw. He holds his chin straight up and has zero head movement. It is correctable in the gym if he listens to those who will tell him the truth about what they are seeing.

It is important for Garcia to realize that he has yet to accomplish much in boxing. If he stays humble, the sky is the limit, but if he falls into the same trap as Verdejo and begins believing he is already a superstar, he may experience some of the same pitfalls that have tripped up Verdejo.

Why I Am Excited About Lomachenko-Linares

With the official announcement that Jorge Linares (44-3, 27 KO’s) will be defending his lightweight title against Vasyl Lomachenko (10-1, 8 KO’s) on May 12th in New York, the unthinkable has happened in boxing. And that is that rival promoters, in this case Top Rank with Lomachenko and Golden Boy with Linares, have worked together to make for an evening of boxing that benefits all in the sport.

In boxing this year, we have seen a plethora of instances in which big events ran concurrent with one another. On March 3rd, HBO and Showtime had competing cards in New York. The following week ESPN and Showtime ran concurrent events. We even had a scenario on February 17th where PBC ran a show on Fox that overlapped with the show it was also running on Showtime. Yes, that is right, the same organization that put on both events directly competed with itself for viewership.

Does the NFL run concurrent playoff games and split eyeballs for its biggest events? Of course not as that just would not make any sense. Well, this is something that routinely occurs in boxing. Lomachenko-Linares is a start, albeit a small one, to at least opening the dialogue to end this madness.

For those not familiar with the circumstance, ESPN will stage its regularly scheduled Top Rank card first featuring the Lomachenko-Linares bout as the headliner. Following that bout, HBO will come on the air with its own event, a Golden Boy promotion headlined by Sadam Ali making the first defense of his 154-pound title against Liam Smith.

I will admit I am much more excited to see the promoters and networks finally together for the good of the sport than for the actual Lomachenko-Linares fight itself. My hope is that they will see the benefit in elevated ratings for their respective broadcasts and that others will take notice. Then maybe, just maybe, some common sense will start to prevail and we will no longer see shows competing for the same set of eyeballs.

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