Here’s what’s on my mind this week:
Manny v. Timothy Bradley thoughts and predictions (June 9, HBO PPV)
This fight has more importance to the sport of boxing than any other scrap currently on the schedule. In all likelihood, Floyd Mayweather is going to handle Miguel Cotto. It could plausibly be a competitive fight, but I just don’t see Floyd losing it (he has too many ways to win, and he will hurt Miguel). Floyd hasn’t been in a barnburner (by design of his handpicking opponents) in a while, but he hasn’t shown any major weaknesses or signs of slowing down/regressing at all. While I won’t say Manny is regressing since Juan Manuel Marquez will always be a tough out for him stylistically, we haven’t seen Manny dominate a top opponent in years. Timothy Bradley is 100% a top opponent. Manny’s hand and foot speed is the stuff of legends, but Bradley is extremely fast with his hands. He’s a crafty fighter who intentionally leads with his head to make his opponents uncomfortable. As fast and solid as Timothy Bradley is, he is neither as fast nor as technically sound as Floyd Mayweather, so Manny better leave us all thinking there’s only one meaningful fight left for him. If Tim can make Manny look human, or even just good, Manny’s chances against Floyd don’t look nearly as bright as they did six months ago.
Manny’s footwork (his most impressive asset) should allow him to create angles that would effectively counter Bradley’s aggression and overhand right (by far his best punch). Bradley is both hungry and yet to taste defeat as a professional. If Manny fails to circle to his right and avoid that looping right hand, it could be a long night for him. Lastly, there’s a good chance Bradley strategically forces an inside fight by pressuring Manny, and as Lee Wylie pointed out, Freddie Roach-trained fighters aren’t particularly adept at fighting in close quarters. I think Manny’s movement should keep him out of trouble and create openings when Bradley overcommits himself with big right hands to secure a clear victory.
I’ll leave it at that… this fight has extreme significance, and it should be watched very closely to see if Manny has any signs of regression. If Manny still has what it takes to be considered in the conversation of P4P best, he’ll need to win this bout convincingly. I actually think Timothy Bradley would give Floyd a much tougher fight than he will give Manny stylistically. But that’s a moot point unless Bradley pulls off a major upset here (unlikely, not implausible). More to come… but don’t miss this fight.
Andy Lee v Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. (June 16)
In all candidness, I haven’t seen too many JCC Jr. fights. All I’ve heard is that he’s not quite a world-class fighter and has been babied from a matchmaking standpoint. He is still young, and he fights pretty aggressively so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt until my eyes tell me differently. Conversely, I’ve seen several full Andy Lee fights. He can be a world champion, but not in a weight class occupied by Sergio Martinez. Lee’s a good southpaw, but he’s not a great one. In baseball terms, he’d be referred to as a 4-A guy (one who is too good for AAA, but cannot produce in the big leagues). He will easily dominate good fighters, but he can’t cut it with the division’s elite. He’s crafty, but not quite clever. He hits hard, but his power is hardly breathtaking. He doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses, but he also doesn’t do any one thing particularly well. Lee’s best weapon is that he has Manny Steward (still the best in the business) in his corner. He’s a perfect test for Junior because if you can’t beat Andy Lee, you prove two things: 1) You’re not a world class fighter and 2) You have no chance to beat Sergio Martinez (which, for the record, is the whole point of this match being made).
Again, I probably don’t know enough about Chavez to predict anything, but I suspect JCC will win this via iffy decision, and Bob Arum will (in a shocking turn of events) balk at making a Martinez matchup.
Hopkins-Dawson 2, (April 28, HBO)
I freaking love Bernard Hopkins. What he does at his age is as mind-boggling as it is impressive. Even as a young fighter, he never had the best God-given skill set to compete at the highest level. After Roy Jones, Jr. (who conversely has some of the most God-given boxing skills of all time) beat him in the ‘90s, he turned himself into a true student of the game to give himself competitive advantages. And it’s worked for almost two decades now. You simply cannot count him out of any fight because he finds ways to win, and he almost always finds ways to forcefully and tactically make his matches into ‘his type of fights’. I literally will not ever bet against him (similar to Randy Couture if you’re an MMA fan).
That said, I can’t in good conscience pick him to win this fight (but I wouldn’t put my reputation or money on it). Chad Dawson is a spectacular boxer. He is long, technically proficient, pretty powerful, and he simply knows how to box. Frankly, he is built to beat BHOP. The one thing Dawson hasn’t been able to do is turn the corner from great to elite. He hasn’t found that killer instinct to finish opponents. He is content to let his opponents hang around while he puts on a boxing clinic. In his first fight with Hopkins, Dawson had a nasty look in his eye I hadn’t ever seen from him. Something about fighting Hopkins is bringing out a beast in Dawson. If he can match his skills with intensity, he not only will introduce Bernard to Father Time, but he’ll start skyrocketing up the P4P lists.
Bute-Froch (May 26 on EPIX)
First of all, props to EPIX. Whether it’s budget-related or not, HBO and Showtime do not book all of the great fights, and far too many mediocre fights end up on PPVs that nobody in the US should buy. EPIX is really filling a sizeable void by getting in the fight business. I think there’s real opportunity in matchmaking to book very marketable, fan-friendly fights on a network like EPIX. The issue is that I don’t have EPIX (I have Comcast cable), and can’t watch EPIX on TV. I doubt I’m in the minority here, and it’s really frustrating. (Sigh). I can log on to watch a stream on EPIXHD.com, of course.
This is another intriguing fight so I’m glad EPIX is televising it (at least to some households). Carl Froch is a gamer. The guy comes to fight, is typically is involved in action fights, and is always going to be a tough fight for any opponent. His fierce showing in the Showtime Super Six tournament was a great introduction to US fans (myself included). Standing across the apron from him will be Lucian Bute, who is poised to introduce himself to the world in this fight as a top-10 P4P fighter. Bute is a very slick fighter for this weight class, and he can really punch, too. The major question mark around Bute is why have his handlers never matched him with elite opposition? It’s not like he doesn’t draw in Montreal, so is there something they know that we don’t?
In any event, if Bute can get by Froch, an Andre Ward matchup will seemingly be inevitable, and that will be great for boxing since it would pair two of the finest technical boxers on the planet regardless of weight class. Boxing needs more superstars, and Bute/Ward could fit the bill. I like Bute to beat Froch clearly and emerge as a contender to Andre Ward’s hold on the division. Very few people can keep up with Ward, but I think he and Bute would put on a boxing clinic that even the average fan could appreciate.
ON: Tomasz Adamek
This poor guy is in no-mans land. He decisively lost to the aforementioned Chad Dawson (whom he probably can’t beat) a few years ago, and instead of quitting had a career rejuvenation as a heavyweight. He tore through heavyweight contenders (in very impressive fashion) to get a deserved title shot against Vitali Klitschko where he was shut out and outclassed. He has no chance/style to defeat one of the Klitschko brothers. All this poor guy does is win fights and fight in a crowd-pleasing style, but he’s simply stuck in between two weight classes that he cannot win titles in. If he handles Eddie Chambers on June 16, maybe he’ll serve as the de facto finals exam for Seth Mitchell before he gets thrown to the Klitschko wolves? On the record, I’d take Adamek in that fight.
ON: Robert Garcia: How good is this guy?
Am I the only one who doesn’t see this guy as the elite trainer he’s widely regarded as? I’m just not sold on him, but he’s getting a plethora of top talent right now. Brandon Rios is one of my favorite fighters to watch, but how has he gotten better in the last two years under Garcia’s tutelage? What new wrinkles in his game has he shown? Would you really bet on Rios against Juan Manuel Marquez (god, please make this fight)? I wouldn’t. And granted Antonio Margarito was a shot fighter after the Mosley drubbing, but did he show one ounce of improvement under Garcia? Maybe I missed it. Nonito Donaire is a phenomenal talent, but his recent showings have been less than remarkable, no? Yet, this guy keeps getting more top-tier fighters. Marcos Maidana is moving over to his camp, and Kelly Pavlik has relocated there for various reasons. In fairness, I will say that Pavlik looked good in his most recent fight showcasing a tight left hook that I hadn’t seen from him before. I think Maidana will be a fair benchmark of how good Garcia really is as a trainer. Maidana is an extremely powerful natural puncher (one of the only things a trainer can’t teach, but can enhance) for his weight, but his lack of technical expertise and tactical adjustments has cost him in multiple fights. This is something a good trainer can fix. A great trainer would harness Maidana’s power and turn him into a world champion. Time will tell.
On the topic of trainers, I definitely think Emanuel Steward is still the best. As I mentioned, Andy Lee is not the most skilled fighter of all time by any means. Steward has still managed to get him into a legitimate title fight, and on the verge of stardom. Manny took Wladimir Klitschko under his wing, and he has created a truly remarkable heavyweight champion. He defense is nearly impenetrable. This can definitely be attributed to Manny Steward. He realized that Wlad didn’t have great defensive instincts, so he structured his offensive attack to serve as his best defense. And it works brilliantly. He’s almost never hit anymore, and his machine-like offense is nearly flawless. It’s Manny’s best work in years.
ON: Young Holyfield/Foreman being kryptonite for Wladimir Klitschko (both Klitschkos for that matter)
In the spirit of hypothetical matchmaking (I recently read some TSS posts on Roy Jones vs. Manny/Floyd—both we’re well-written and correct—and countless Manny v. Floyd predictions including my own: http://www.thesweetscience.com/forums/showthread.php?5834-Pacquiao-Would-Beat-Mayweather), I’ve been thinking of how current stars would do against past fighters within their weight class. I think both of the Klitschko brothers are phenomenal. Wladimir is almost untouchable, and he is technically brilliant. If it weren’t for his suspect chin, he’d be a lock to beat 99% of heavyweights of all time. Vitali is equally dominant, and he uses his size/fluid punch sequences to perfection. Everyone naturally thinks of a prime Mike Tyson as a potential nightmare for these two, but I don’t see that. Tyson’s unmatched power and upper body movement posed problems for everyone, but I think the size differential would be too much for him to overcome. Since Vitali and Wladimir both use their jabs and control the ring so well, I just don’t see Tyson landing much at all. Granted it was not the prime Tyson, but the way Lennox Lewis dominated him with jabs and straight right hands is exactly how the Klitschkos fight. I digress.
A young Evander Holyfield would be a real terror for either Klitschko. When he first moved up to the division, his movement (both upper body and footwork) was incredible for a fighter of his size. There are no ‘athletes’ like that in boxing anymore. His physique, his quickness, his explosiveness… you just don’t see it in the heavyweight division anymore. You see it on NFL fields. Julius Peppers could’ve been a guy to give the Klitschkos a run. Maybe even Patrick Willis or LeBron James (Could you imagine LeBron in a ring with his reach/explosive athleticism? Still, I get the feeling he’d quit on his stool at some point in a close fight).
Back to The Real Deal. Youtube some old Holyfield fights and you’ll see what I mean. He jabbed, he moved, he threw combinations. I don’t see either Klitschko being able to find him with their potent jabs, and without their jabs, throwing one right hand at a time won’t win you fights against a fighter like a prime Evander Holyfield.
I’ll also say this: I’d pay a lot more to see 1975 version of George Foreman against Wladimir Klitschko than I would to see Manny v. Floyd. George was carved from stone before getting into the grill business, and he was one of the all time heavy hitters. Not to mention he was big enough to not be at a severe size disadvantage (which is the determining factor in so many of the Klitschko brothers’ fights). Just sayin.
ON: Why Brandon Rios v Juan Manuel Marquez could be a once in a lifetime action fight if things go as planned
I’m hoping with every ounce of wishful thinking that I have that Brandon Rios and Juan Manuel Marquez don’t have any hiccups in their respective fights this weekend (though I think it’s ridiculous that it’s a PPV). Supposedly, there’s a good chance that the two will meet at the Cowboy’s Stadium in Dallas contingent on their respect victories this weekend. This will almost certainly be a phenomenal action fight for the ages. It’s a classic aggressor v. counter-puncher fight and will likely look like one of Juan Manuel’s signature wins against Juan Diaz and Michael Katsidis. Rios is tough as nails, and he’s certainly vulnerable to being hit. Marquez seems genuinely angered by the last Pacquiao decision (as opposed to upset), and I’d love to see a fiery version of him against Rios. For a technical boxing enthusiast, there is nothing better than watching Marquez against good, aggressive fighters like Rios.
It’s the same reason his fights against Manny Pacquiao have all been incredibly exciting, close, and memorable battles. Juan Manuel Marquez is not afraid of anyone, or being hit by anyone. He will not back down, and he is so goshdarn crafty at creating angles for clean, powerful counter-punches. He does not have the elite athleticism of a Manny Pacquiao, yet he manages to give him fits by being mentally and physically tough, technically brilliant, and absolutely fearless. Another reason this potential Rios fight is so exciting is that it sets the stage for Marquez-PacMan 4. While this isn’t as sexy as Floyd-PacMan 1, it’s a lot more realistic at this point. And the fact of the matter is, I’ll pay to see Manny fight Juan Manuel Marquez the tenth time. For years I’ve held that their respective styles are built for one another. They will never have a boring fight. They will never have a one-sided fight. They are truly worthy adversaries.
Rios might just be aggressive and powerful enough to send Marquez into retirement, but I’d bet the other way. Marquez is so accurate and smart. I think he would stop Rios.
Next week’s thought starters: Evolution of boxing in MMA, Need to Dissolve Weight Classes, Is Adrien Broner the real deal (spoiler: yes), Ortiz-Berto picks
Who will win the Sergey Kovalev vs Andre Ward fight?