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Andrew Tabiti Isn't Your Typical High Grade Cruiserweight

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  • Andrew Tabiti Isn't Your Typical High Grade Cruiserweight

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    BY ARNE K. LANG

    These are exciting times for the cruiserweight division. The talent pool has never been deeper. From a global perspective, there has never been a cruiserweight fight as eagerly anticipated as the forthcoming match between Oleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev. It is expected to transpire in May in Saudi Arabia.

    One hesitates, however, to call this the golden age of cruiserweights because most of the top fighters in the division have no following among casual fans in the English- or Spanish-speaking countries of the world. It doesn’t help that many of the fighters clamoring for recognition have names that even hard-core fans have trouble pronouncing.

    Evander Holyfield is regarded as the best boxer to ever wear the label of a cruiserweight champion. When Holyfield won the title from Dwight Muhammad Qawi it was an all-USA affair. Holyfield was born in Alabama and raised in Georgia. Qawi, formerly known as Dwight Braxton, was born in Maryland and raised in New Jersey.

    My how times have changed.

    In preparation for this story, I took a census of the champions and top-tier fighters in the cruiserweight division, defining “top-tier fighter” as a man who was ranked in the top 10 by one or more of the four major sanctioning bodies. This yielded 25 names, only one of whom – Andrew Tabiti (pictured on the right) -- was actually born in the United States.

    The 25 fighters, based on their birthplace, represent 15 countries: Russia (6), Kazakhstan (2), Poland (2), Armenia (2), Cuba (2), South Africa (2), Ukraine, Latvia, Moldova, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Hungary, Nigeria, and the U.S.A.

    Andrew Tabiti, born in Chicago but a resident of Las Vegas for most of his life, is undefeated in 15 fights with 12 stoppages. Currently ranked #2 by the WBC and #3 by the IBF, he last fought in August of last year, winning a unanimous decision over former two-time cruiserweight champion Steve Cunningham on the undercard of Mayweather-McGregor.

    Tabiti, an anomaly in the circles in which he travels as he doesn’t use profanity, trains in Las Vegas at the Mayweather Boxing Club, the busiest boxing gym in the city. When he works the pads with his 65-year-old trainer, Floyd Mayweather Sr., winging combinations at warp speed, it’s quite a show for the folks sitting in the small gallery. The syncopation is mindful of the riff of a great jazz drummer.

    Tabiti knows he needs to be more active and is chomping at the bit to get back in action. He was told to be patient until things shake out in the World Boxing Super Series. His promoter, Leonard Ellerbe, says that something is in the works but refuses to identify the opponent(s) he is looking at. In the past, Tabiti called out Beibut Shumenov who recently announced that he was planning a comeback. A former Olympian and former two-division champion, Shumenov, a 34-year-old Kazakh, lives and trains in Las Vegas. He quit the sport last year with a 17-2 record, citing an eye injury, but has had a change of heart.

    Andrew Tabiti was two months shy of his twenty-fourth birthday when he launched his pro career in 2013. On paper he started late but he correctly points out that late starts have been the norm for good fighters in his weight class. Indeed, the average age of the “top 25” cruiserweights is thirty-one. Murat Gassiev, who turned 24 in October of 2016, is the youngest. Forty-seven year old Firat Arslan of Germany (rated #1 by the WBO) is at the far opposite end of the spectrum.

    Tabiti’s favorite fighter in history is Evander Holyfield. No surprise there. Holyfield won a world title at cruiserweight in his twelfth pro bout and went on to unify the title before making his mark as a heavyweight.

    Holyfield set the template for cruiserweights, the best of whom invariably go on to fight as a heavyweight where purses are richer. It is Tabiti’s dream to unify the cruiserweight title and then conquer the heavyweights. He bristles when told that he wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance against someone like Anthony Joshua because Joshua is just too big for him. “Speed trumps size,” he says. “I’m sure there are some fighters in the lower classes who could hang with me.”

    As for the Usyk-Gassiev match, Tabiti leans toward Usyk. “What strikes me about him,” says Tabiti, “is that he’s very athletic. He has an awkward style and being a southpaw makes his awkward style even more effective.”

    Usyk vs. Gassiev will produce a unified champion. The winner will become only the fourth boxer to own all four meaningful belts since the WBO arrived in 1988. But by all indications this ideal arrangement will discompose in a flash as the champion vacates the titles to pursue bigger game in the division above him.

    Tabiti’s next fight may be for one of the vacant titles, albeit it would seem inadvisable to have him wait that long before getting back in the ring. “I have a chance,” says Tabiti, “to become the American face of the cruiserweights.”

    One could say that he’s already there, but by default. Now he must add a few more wins to his ledger to make his face more familiar. It helps that he competes in a division that has acquired a bright sheen after years, nay decades, of being largely overlooked.

    Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel.

  • #2
    Cruiserweight is one of the deepest divisions in the sport. The thing that separates it from other divisions in my opinion is the best are fighting the best (with some help from the WBSS). I do think this is a golden era for the division.

    When I first saw Tabiti fight, I though he looked way too mechanical. He was no doubt very raw then and has since gotten better, Not by leaps and bounds but showing signs of improvement. His biggest issue so far as a pro, and this is mentioned in the article, is inactivity. For a fighter who is still somewhat raw, Tabiti needs to be fighting. It does not have to be on tv and not against elite level opponents. But he needs to be fighting to continue his improvement. He had just one fight in 2016 and just two in 2017. And nothing on the schedule yet for 2018 as he sits on being out of the ring for another long duration of time. Mayweather Promotions needs to get him active even if it means fighting off tv deep on undercards against low level opponents. He won't get better if he doesn't fight more and if he gets thrown in deep next time out it could be too much too soon.

    If I had to take a guess, he is going to fight Krzystof Glowacki next. Glowacki is ranked #1 by the WBC and Tabiti #2. It will be an eliminator with the possibility of winner vaulted to champion if the winner of Usyk-Briedis vacates that belt. If I were handicapping this fight, I'd make Glowacki a solid 3-1 favorite as I think Tabiti is not ready for him. His southpaw stance, boxing skills and experience against big time opponents will be too much in my estimation for Tabiti at this point in Tabiti's career.

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    • #3
      I like Tabiti...he doesn't have the life long experience from pre-adolescence but he managed to pick up a little of the Mayweather dna. Honestly I'm not sure who Tabiti could beat from the group of the WBSS participants. Not saying Tabiti is hopeless... He might surprise me ...but there didn't seem any push from the massively influential Mayweather or Haymon to get him a slot in the tourney. I dont have any gage on how he stacks up at the world level until I see his next fight.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by oubobcat View Post
        Cruiserweight is one of the deepest divisions in the sport. The thing that separates it from other divisions in my opinion is the best are fighting the best (with some help from the WBSS). I do think this is a golden era for the division.

        When I first saw Tabiti fight, I though he looked way too mechanical. He was no doubt very raw then and has since gotten better, Not by leaps and bounds but showing signs of improvement. His biggest issue so far as a pro, and this is mentioned in the article, is inactivity. For a fighter who is still somewhat raw, Tabiti needs to be fighting. It does not have to be on tv and not against elite level opponents. But he needs to be fighting to continue his improvement. He had just one fight in 2016 and just two in 2017. And nothing on the schedule yet for 2018 as he sits on being out of the ring for another long duration of time. Mayweather Promotions needs to get him active even if it means fighting off tv deep on undercards against low level opponents. He won't get better if he doesn't fight more and if he gets thrown in deep next time out it could be too much too soon.

        If I had to take a guess, he is going to fight Krzystof Glowacki next. Glowacki is ranked #1 by the WBC and Tabiti #2. It will be an eliminator with the possibility of winner vaulted to champion if the winner of Usyk-Briedis vacates that belt. If I were handicapping this fight, I'd make Glowacki a solid 3-1 favorite as I think Tabiti is not ready for him. His southpaw stance, boxing skills and experience against big time opponents will be too much in my estimation for Tabiti at this point in Tabiti's career.
        Well maybe I was wrong about Tabiti not being ready for Glowacki. Today in Poland, Glowacki struggled mightily in defeating the unheralded Sergei Radchenko by decision. Radchenko, though undefeated, had only 6 pro bouts entering this contest with only one of those wins by KO. This was thought to be a simple stay busy type fight for Glowacki as he eyed bigger and better things later this year. But almost all that came crashing to an end when Glowacki was dropped and hurt in round five by his supposedly light hitting foe. He was fortunate to survive the round and fortunate to escape with a win.

        Maybe Glowacki was not focused, who knows but he looked bad. Bad enough that if I am Mayweather Promotions, sometime this week I am getting on the horn with Glowacki's representatives to do all possible to make this fight happen. I did not like what I saw from Glowacki and think he is ready to be taken. And it may be by Tabiti later this year.

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