Friday, May 26, 2017

The Big Fight Preview: Kell Brook Vs. Errol Spence, Jr. at Bramall Lane Football Grounds

By Peter Silkov

Boxing has been threatening to make a comeback to credibility recently with some genuinely well matched big fights. Most recent of these was Anthony Joshua’s war with Wladimir Klitschko. Tomorrow we have the latest of what has been a series of encouraging matchups, both here, and abroad. Top of the bill, at the Bramall Lane Football Ground, in Sheffield, England. Kell Brook (36-1, 25koes) takes on his number one challenger, the undefeated Errol Spence Jr.(21-0, 18koes) in what will be the 4th defence of his IBF world welterweight championship. It will also be Brook’s first outing in the ring since his brave, but ultimately losing effort against world middleweight kingpin Gennady Golovkin, last September. In that match, Brook won praise for his bravery after being one of the few challengers to actively take the fight to the fearsome Golovkin. Yet, his bravery had a price, and he was eventually pulled out of the fight, battered and bloody, and with a broken right eye socket that required delicate surgery. One of the biggest questions ahead of his fight with Spence Jr. is how much of a mark has the Golovkin fight left upon Brook. Although we have been told that the eye injury has been repaired and is as good as new (albeit now with a titanium plate) there always has to be a question mark over a fighter when he is coming back from such a serious injury. The biggest question will be is the eye vulnerable to being re-injured, plus how will Brook react if the eye is injured again, even if only moderately. In facing Spence Jr., Brook is taking on one of the best prospects in boxing, a fighter who has had big things predicted for him. Spence has a similar box-fighting style to Brook, and the two should produce an interesting and exciting match. The biggest question with Spence Jr, is just how good is he, he is undoubtedly a talented boxer, but this fight will go a long way to telling us just how deep Spence Jr talent really goes.

With two fighters who are well matched, both physically and talent wise, this match has all the marks of being a very close and entertaining fight. I see this fight going the distance, with Brook winning a close and maybe controversial points decision.

The main fight on the undercard, is George Groves (25-3, 18koes) against Fedor Chudinov (14-1, 10koes) for the vacant WBA world super-middleweight title.

This will be Groves 4th attempt at winning a world title, after failed attempts against Carl Froch, (twice) and Badou Jack. This is a fight which Groves should win, Chudinov is very tough, but lacks the higher boxing skills of Groves. He also lacks the greater talent and experience of Groves.

Groves has said that this is a fight he must win, and if he can box to the best of his ability he should be able to claim a close but clear points win over Chudinov, and finally claim that elusive world championship.

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Willie Lewis Remembered…Boxer Extraordinaire

By Peter Silkov

Willie Lewis was the kind of boxer who died out with boxing’s golden age. He belonged to a time when fighters thought nothing of fighting every other week, and when the opponents were plentiful to do just that. It was a time when there were often boxing shows to be found in some club or other venue every day of the week, and only the toughest and hardest working survived what was often a hard and cruel occupation.

In an interview with 'The Ring' magazine in 1947, over 30 years after he had retired, Lewis compared the fighters of 1947 with his those of own era.

Boxing was a tough and hard-bitten business in those days, and a fighter had to know his trade if he expected to get anywhere. He had to learn what boxing really was, and he also had to know how to adjust his style to any occasion. One week he’d be fighting a 6 rounder in Philadelphia. A couple of weeks later he’s be in a marathon brawl in California, where twenty and twenty-five rounders were the usual thing, and often championship bouts were over the forty–five round route.”

Lewis continued “It was a tough schooling, but it paid dividends for those who survived. Under the same circumstances, the kids today would be as good as they were in my day. But times are different. This is an era of speed. Everybody’s in a hurry. So the fighters don’t get much of a chance to properly learn boxing, how to feint, shift, counter, and really master the trade. The public demands ‘action’ the slam-bang and give-and-take stuff. And its only on rare occasions, in championship bouts, that fighters today are asked to go more than 10 rounds."

Willie Lewis was born on May 21, 1884, in New York, and began his professional boxing career in 1901, at the age of 17. Lewis would develop into a clever and cagey boxer who could also slug it out when he wanted. Although no more than a middleweight, he often fought bigger men throughout his career, thinking nothing of giving away 20 or more pounds to light heavyweights, and even heavyweights.

Lewis certainly didn’t have an easy road in his fighting career, as he fought quality fighters right from the start. In just his 13th contest, Lewis shared the ring with a young Sam Langford, and was knocked out in the 2nd round.

For the remainder of his career, Lewis would meet some of the very fighters of his generation. Men such as, Harry Lewis, Jimmy Gardner, Joe Gans, Honey Melody, Mike Donovon, Curly Watson, Jewey Smith, Sailor Burke, Billy Papke, Stanley Ketchel, Dixie Kid, Frank Klaus, Cyclone Johnny Thompson, Jeff Smith, Mike Gibbons, Paddy Lavin, Georges Carpentier, Al McCoy, and Young Ahearn.

In an era where many white fighters drew the ‘colour bar’ when it suited them Lewis fought anyone, regardless of weight, colour or reputation.

Lewis was to become renowned for his use of the one-two, a straight left, followed very quickly by a straight right, so that the two punches landed almost simultaneously. Many of Lewis’ knockout victims where accounted for by this method.

During his career Lewis fought all over America, but also traveled to England, Canada and France for fights. He fought in France for the first time in 1908, and soon because a favourite with the French fans, due to his personality and style, both in and out of the ring. Lewis was one of the boxers who helped the boxing boom grow in France during this time.

Years after he had retired from the sport, Lewis was asked who was the best boxer he had ever fought, chose his namesake Harry Lewis.

No we weren’t related. Harry was Jewish, and one of the most skilled mechanics I ve ever seen in the ring. What he didn’t know about boxing wasn’t worth knowing. Just look over his record some day , and you’re get an idea. He specialized in knocking out guys who never were knocked out before. Harry was an artist in feinting and countering. His punches only went a few inches, but, boy, what authority they carried. Frankly I don’t know how I did as well as I did with him. He usually belted my ears off in the early rounds, but somehow I seemed to outlast him and finish the stronger. We fought half a dozen times, but never could seem to settle our differences. Two of our scraps over the 25-round route in Paris."

The two fights Willie is recalling here are his two battles with Harry Lewis for the World welterweight title, which his namesake had claimed. They took place on February 19, 1910, then two months later on April 21, both in Paris over 25 rounds. Each fight saw Harry Lewis have the early lead, but Willie whittled his advantage down, the longer that the fight went on. In the end, both fights were judged draws. Willie Lewis would never manage to capture a world title, but he came awfully close.

Lewis finally retired from boxing in 1915, after being knocked out in 2 rounds by Young Ahearn in Havana, Cuba. He retired with a final record of (56-16-8, 39koes.)

In 1920, Lewis survived being shot 3 times while making a phone call at a cabaret, which he owned. Throughout his career, he trained Joe Jeanette, and other boxers along the way. In later years Lewis worked as a bar tender at a tavern on 8th avenue New York, just a little walk from Madison Square Garden. Willie Lewis died on May 18, 1949, aged 64.

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Andre Dirrell Title Fight Erupts In Explosive Punches and Disqualification


By Peter Silkov

Last night”s scenes at the MGM National Harbour, Oxon Hill, Maryland, during the aftermath of the Andre Dirrell vs Jose Uzcategui match, were a disgrace to the sport. Uzcaregui had just been disqualified after the 8th round for landing a punch after the bell, which sent Dirrell face-first to the canvas, and unable to continue the contest. Ironically, Dirrell was also involved in a similar incident in 2010, when Arthur Abraham also knocked him out with a blow after the bell. However, on that occasion, the aftermath was not quite as controversial and violent as it turned out to be on Saturday night. Uzcategui seemed to be very unlucky to be disqualified in a fight that he seemed to be winning clearly, for a late punch, which seemed purely accidental. Uzcategui already had Dirrell hurt and backed up into a corner, and was in the midst of a throwing a flurry of punches, when the bell sounded. In the past, fighters have got away with such incidences with point's deductions, or simple warnings, but with Dirrell seemingly rendered incapacitated by the late punch, the referee had little choice but to disqualify Uzcategui.

Yet, if Uzcategui was thinking that his night had just taken a bad turn things were about to get even darker. Moments later, with both boxers now in their corners, and Dirrell quickly recovering, Leon Lawson, Jr the uncle of Dirrell, and member of his coaching team, approached Jose Uzcategui, and sucker-punched him with a brutal left hand that snapped Uzcategui's head back alarmingly. Luckily, a second punch by Lawson only clipped Uzcategui's neck, and by then, his corner-men had rushed in front of their fighter to protect him from Lawson. It was a vicious, and to be blunt, cowardly attack by Lawson, who then fled the scene, and is now being sought by the Police. Hopefully Uzcategui is unhurt from the post-fight assault that he suffered at the hands of Lawson.

This incident recalls the case of the Richard Grant vs James Butler fight in November 2001, who incidentally were also super-middleweights, like Dirrell and Uzcategui. Richard Grant had caused a mild upset by out-pointing the fancied Butler over 10 rounds. After the decision had been announced, Butler had walked over to where Grant was stood, but instead of congratulating Grant on his win with the expected show of sportsmanship and respect, Grant (whose gloves had been removed, but not his hand-wraps) struck Grant in the face with a terrible punch, which sent Grant to the canvas with blood pouring from his mouth. Grant was later found to have suffered a broken jaw and concussion. For Butler, the repercussions of his spiteful blow were irreversible. He was charged with assault and jailed for 4 months, and barred form boxing for a time.

Eventually, Butler who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the aftermath of the Grant fight, was allowed to return to boxing, but he remained an outcast and had just 4 more fights, winning two. Then on March 2006, Butler was jailed for 29 years for the voluntary manslaughter of Sam Kellerman (younger brother of Max Kellerman) who had been allowing Butler to stay in his house. Richard Grant himself was never the same fighter after the Butler incident, and although he returned to the ring when his jaw had healed, he went 5-7-1 in the remainder of his career. Ultimately the tale of Grant vs Butler is far darker than Dirrell vs Uzcategui, but Leon Lawson should be severely reprimanded for his actions on Saturday night, which not only could have caused serious injury to Joe Uzcategui, but also came very close to sparking off a full scale riot in the arena. Dirrell is now in line to challenge James Degale who beat him on points two years ago, but anyone who saw last nights fight up to its controversial conclusion, would struggle to find a case for Dirrell being deserving of another fight with Degale. The fairest way to sort out this mess would be a rematch between Andre Dirrell and Jose Uzcategui. Hopefully without the presence of Leon Lawson. 

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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Big Fight Report: Anthony Joshua Knocks Out Wladimir Klitschko and Brings The Heavyweight Division Back To Life


By Peter Silkov

Last night at London’s Wembley Stadium (April 29) a post-WW2 record crowd of 90,000 watched, and were enthralled, as Anthony Joshua (19-0, 19koes) overcame Wladimir Klitschko (64-5, 53koes), and crowned himself the new king of the Heavyweight division. While the enigmatic Tyson Fury remains the ‘linear’ champion due to his November 2015 defeat of Klitschko, there can be no doubt that Joshua is now clearly the champion in the eyes of the general public. In beating Klitschko Joshua added the vacant WBA world title belt to his IBF strap, but most importantly, in this era of multiple titles, which can befuddle even the most die-hard boxing follower, Joshua gained victory with a truly championship performance.

Once the leading beacon of boxing, with champions who basked in worldwide acclaim, the heavyweight division has struggled with mediocrity and a lack of competition for the past two decades. Yet, Joshua’s defeat of Klitschko has sparked off renewed interest and excitement in boxing's heaviest division, the kind that some had doubted we would ever see again. It is not simply that he won, but how he won, and just as importantly, how Klitschko lost.

The fight itself lived up to all expectations, and then surpassed them. We saw a duel between two highly-conditioned athletes. There was skill, heart, and brutality, all the ingredients that make boxing such a challenging, exciting, and unique sport.

Wladimir Klitschko, so often maligned in some quarters, for his perceived lack of durability and heart (even after a decade long run of beating the best which the division had to offer) produced a performance at the age of 41, that should finally silence the insults. Although he was beaten, Klitschko displayed the kind of heart that many have for so long claimed he did not possess. Wladimir also displayed the boxing skills that he ruled the division for well over a decade, until his November 2015 foray against Tyson Fury.

The story of this fight is not that of a faded, former champion losing to a younger, but more powerful novice. To say this would be a slight upon both boxers. At the age of 41 Klitschko is a prime example of how a life of dedication to his sport can preserve an athlete's skills. Technically it was hard to fault Klitschko last night. What he might have lost in the freshness of youth, he more than makes up for with his wealth of experience, earned with a record breaking, 29 world title fights. Yet to the naked eye, Klitschko is as good as he has ever been. In last night's defeat, he produced one of his finest performances.

As for Joshua, viewed by some as a product of media hype and strategic match making at its best, in victory, he proved himself to have the kind of qualities that only the genuine champions possess. In many ways he is still a novice, after 40 amateur, and only 19 professional fights, however, he has revealed something against Wladimir that no amount of experience can give a fighter, the ability to comeback from the brink of defeat. As the legendary world heavyweight champion of the 1920s, Jack Dempsey, once said, “A champion is someone who gets up when he cant.” Last night saw both boxers get up from knock-downs when they seemingly should not have, but in the end, Anthony Joshua got up the better.

The fight started off cagily, with Klitschko looking sharp and showing good movement, while Joshua steadily stalked his elusive foe. Both men used their jabs well, with Joshua’s being slower, yet heavier, while Wladimir’s was faster and more accurate.

Joshua had a better round three, as he looked to exert more offensive pressure upon Klitschko, who was still looking to work behind the jab, and connect with harder pot-shots. The action really started to simmer up in the fourth round, with both looking to land more telling punches, but Wladimir being the more active and accurate, and his extra speed and mobility, gave him a distinct edge.

Photo: Round by Round Boxing
In the fifth round the simmer finally started to boil, as Joshua came out with the intention of trying to take control of the fight, and finally began to unleash his full strength upon Wladimir. Suddenly the former champion was having trouble holding Joshua off and a prolonged barrage of punches sent Klitschko to the canvas.

Wladimir rose from the canvas slightly unsteadily, and with a severe cut over his left eye but, what followed was perhaps the bravest and most memorable minutes of the Ukrainian’s long career. Despite being bloodied and hurt, and with Joshua trying to finish him off, Wladimir launched a fight-back that turned the round onto its head. Several sharp blows to Joshua’s face, including an uppercut to the chin, suddenly took all the steam out of the British fighter. The final half minute of the round saw Joshua flop backwards onto the ropes, where he was forced to take several punches before being saved by the timely bell ending the round. As both fighters returned to their corners, after what must go down as top contender for ‘round of the year’ it was Joshua, rather than Klitschko, who looked the more worse for wear.

Photo: Reuters
Joshua still hadn’t fully recovered by the six round, and it was Klitschko who was now the hunter, rather than the hunted. Midway through the round he dropped Joshua onto his back with a huge right hand. Although he beat the count, Joshua looked ready for the taking. As Klitschko pressed his advantage, and tried for the finishing shot, Joshua showed his own steely resolve and heart as he stood his ground, held and fought back, and lasted the round. Klitschko, perhaps feeling the effects himself of the high voltage action, also missed with some shots in this round, had they connected, may well have ended the fight there and then.

In rounds seven and eight Klitschko seemed more circumspect, as he seemed content to out-box Joshua, who was still showing the effects of the previous rounds. In the years to come, Klitschko may well ask himself what might have happened had he forced the action more in these rounds, especially in the seventh, with Joshua still looking vulnerable in the extreme. As he was to say later, Klitschko felt that he could bide his time and that the longer the fight went, the weaker Joshua would get. Certainly this is how the contest seemed destined to go at this point.

Photo: Round by Round Boxing
However, the ninth round saw Joshua recovering his composure and the strength in his legs, as he began to fight back again, rather than just surviving. By the tenth round the fight was there for either man to take, as each seemed to be both dangerous, and weary in equal degrees.

It was Joshua who finally showed that decisive spark that is often the difference between victory and defeat in such bitterly fought fights. Starting the eleventh round the aggressor, he put Klitschko onto the retreat with his biggest attack since that tumultuous 5th round. Wladimir looked to ride out the storm, but once again, could not contain Joshua. The courage of Wladimir’s performance on this night was encapsulated by a huge uppercut that caught him squarely under his jaw, and seemed almost to take his head off, yet this man, who has for years been labelled as ‘heartless’ and ‘weak chinned,’ kept his feet, and attempted to fight back. However, Joshua was relentless, and several more punches to the head finally put Wladimir down. Wladimir beat the count, only to be floored again, seconds later, by another brutal barrage of head punches.

Photo: Daily Mail
Once more Klitschko defied logic, regained his feet, and walked again into the firing line. Joshua showed himself to be a merciless finisher, as he drove Wladimir onto the ropes, and landed several more punches upon Klitschko, who now appeared to be defenceless. Referee David Fields (who did an excellent job throughout the fight) finally stepped in and called a halt to the action at 2:25 of the 11th round.

It can be a cliché to call a fight a ‘classic’ or ‘thriller’, yet this match was worthy of such a label. While it did not contain the full-on ferocity of an Ali vs Frazier, or Bowe vs Holyfield, it was a heady cocktail of skills, mixed with violently swaying fortunes, and underlined with a slam bang brutality, plus as much heart as you can rightfully demand from two courageous warriors. This match was a throwback to the great days of the division. The hope is that we also saw a promise of things to come in the future.

Photo: Irish Mirror
As refreshing as the action inside the ring, was the mutual respect from both men during the build up, and then the aftermath of their classic fight. This was a match that has really underlined that boxers can treat their opponents with old fashioned humility and respect, and still attract the crowds to watch them fight. When the top fighters meet in the ring there should be no need for the kind of crude, and often distasteful, build-ups which so many recent fights have seen.

The mutual respect continued in the aftermath of the contest. With both men voicing their respect for one another, and recognising what they had both put each other through.

Joshua was impressively eloquent in the ring, straight after the hardest won victory of his career so far.

I’m not perfect, but I’m trying. I got a bit emotional because I know I have doubters. I’m only going to improve. Sometimes you can be a phenomenal boxer, but boxing is about character. When you go into the trenches, that’s when you find out who you really are. I came out and I won, that’s how far I had to dig. I came back and I fought my heart out. As boxing states, 'you leave your ego at the door and you respect your opponent.' A massive shout out to Wladimir Klitschko for taking the fight. I don’t want to say too much because I don’t know if he wants to come back and fight me. He’s a role model in and out of the ring.”

The defeated Klitschko was upbeat in his post-fight press conference interview.

I think we both did great, Joshua and I… I think we did a lot for the sport, the way we promoted this fight. How we respectively treated each other and it was a great night. A great night for boxing, for the fans, and it was exciting, an exciting fight. So I am happy about that and that’s what I’m taking with me. You will probably be surprised by my statement, but I don’t feel like someone who has lost. I feel tonight we all won, even if I didn’t get the belts, but I don’t feel that I lost, my name, my reputation, my face. I definitely gained rather than lost. Even if the result was not on my side.”

Photo: Global Publisher

While there is no doubt that this is not the golden era of the 70s, or even the 80s, revisited, this is a new era for the heavyweight division that promises to be exciting while it lasts. For the first time in many years we have a collection of young heavyweights with diffuse characters and differing styles and skills, and now one has emerged from them all with the potential to be an outstanding champion.

It is perhaps a too easy after such a fight, to get a little carried away, and over enthusiastic about the future. Yet historically, boxing has always thrived during the times when it has had an exciting heavyweight division. In Anthony Joshua, the division has the promise of an extremely marketable, and charismatic, champion whose strength and punching power is tinged with a rawness and vulnerability. As a fighter, he is everything boxing fans want to see from their heavyweight champion, something which can be pared down into one simple word. Excitement.


Joshua can only improve from last night's experience, and he will need to improve if he is to clean up the division, and remain champion. Although he showed great qualities by coming back from the brink of defeat like he did against Wladimir, there are only a limited number of times that a fighter can turn defeat into victory, before eventually they are finally faced by the reality of defeat itself. Joshua needs to improve his mobility, and his defence, and look at not coming into fights as heavily muscled as he was against Klitschko. That said, despite his weaknesses, Joshua still looks to have an edge over his main rivals, Joseph Parker, Deontay Wilder, and Luis Ortiz. The main threat to Anthony looks to be from Tyson Fury, who if he can get into physical and mental shape again, has the kind of size, speed, and style which could give Joshua fits. Joshua has proved now that he can end a fight at any time between the first and last bell of a contest, so even if Tyson Fury was to out-box him for 10 rounds, it would only take one punch to turn the contest onto its head.

Little wonder then that a proposed Joshua vs Fury match is already being talked about as developing into the biggest fight in British boxing history. It could also be the biggest fight the division has seen for decades. It would be a fascinating clash of different characters and fighting styles. The knockout bomber against the elusive boxer.

Ironically, the rebirth of boxing’s once most popular division, is taking place in the country which has over the past 100 plus years been ridiculed for its ‘horizontal heavyweights.’ The heavyweight division has returned to the place where boxing was born and a new era has began not just for the division itself, but the sport as a whole.

The indications are already that Anthony Joshua’s next fight may well be a rematch with Wladimir. No one who saw last night's fight would make any protest against such a match taking place.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Big Fight Preview: Anthony Joshua Vs. Wladimir Klitschko

By Peter Silkov

When Anthony Joshua (18-0, 18koes) clashes with Wladimir Klitschko (64-4, 53koes) this Saturday April 29th at Wembley Stadium, it will be a pivotal fight for both men, and also for the heavyweight division itself. This is a classic match between youth and experience. Can Klitschko derail the ascent of the young Joshua? In many ways Wladimir Klitschko has been one of the most unappreciated heavyweight champions of all time.

Despite his near decade long domination of the heavyweights, which was ended abruptly in November 2015 when he was out-boxed and out-psyched by Tyson Fury, Wladimir has never received the plaudits that his skills really deserve. Part of this is due to his early defeats, which have left a blemish upon his reputation, up until this very day. Forget that Wladimir has not lost a fight inside the distance for well over a decade now, he is still and will probably always be, viewed as a fighter with a weak chin and questionable heart. Many people regard these early blots on the Ukrainian’s record as proof that Joshua can take care of Wladimir in the same manner that he has dispatched his previous 18 professional opponents, yet Wladimir is in a different league to anyone whom Joshua has faced so far in his professional career.

Joshua’s severest test so far, was his December 2015 meeting with Dillian Whyte, in a fight that saw him stretched for the first, and only time, and visibly shaken on at least 3 occasions. Although Joshua finally won this clash in impressive fashion, it still left some lingering questions. Especially about the durability of his chin. Quite simply, during his professional career, Anthony Joshua has not been hit enough cleanly, thus far, for us to know whether he really has the durability to make it at the top level. Saturday might should reveal the answer.
Klitschko has had more world title fights than Joshua has had actual professional fights, and this edge in experience could well prove to be a crucial advantage for the Ukrainian. At the age of 41 years old, Klitschko may have lost the freshness of youth, but the wisdom of experience can often make up for this loss, especially in an athlete who is dedicated to looking after himself.

One line of thought is that Wladimir’s defeat to Tyson Fury in November 2015, was a sign that he was slipping as a fighter. Yet this is a risky assumption to make, due to the fact that in Tyson Fury, Wladimir met the most unorthodox opponent of his career, who was also a man inspired upon that night. Fury’s subsequent out of the ring problems could see him becoming one of the division's saddest stories of wasted talent.

The Tyson Fury of that night would always have gave Wladimir a headache, yet Anthony Joshua is a totally different fighter to Fury, and will not pose the problems for Klitschko that Tyson created.

Photo: Telegraph
Wladimir has often been derided as boring, but much of this is due to him winning so many of his fights in an one-sided manner, such has been his superiority over most of his challengers through the years. Wladimir is one of the most technically gifted heavyweights we have ever seen, but a lack of talented challengers has seen him deprived of the kind of defining fights that might have helped him gain the kind of recognition and popularity, which the heavyweight greats of the past enjoyed. Ironically, Saturday’s clash against Anthony Joshua may well gain, for Klitschko, the kind of plaudits that have always eluded him until now, should he emerge victorious.

This is a clash that will define the shape of the heavyweight division, according to who comes out victorious. Once the most magnetic division in boxing, the heavyweights have struggled over the past two decades to capture the imagination of the public. It could be argued that a Joshua win would be better for boxing than a Klitschko victory, but what the division needs now, above all else, is a definitive world number one. Taking into account the continued absence of Tyson Fury, the winner on Saturday night will have good reason to call himself the best active heavyweight in the world at the present time.

Already Saturday's fight has turned the clock back somewhat to the golden days of the past when the heavyweight championship commanded vast attention whenever it was fought over. The build up to the match between the two men has also been refreshingly polite and free from the kind of distasteful insults and controversies that have become so common in recent ‘big’ fights.

Many questions will be answered on Saturday, April 29. The biggest questions, being, how much has Wladimir got left, and how good is Anthony Joshua, should provide fascinating viewing. Not many of Wladimir Klitschko’s fights have been genuinely exciting, yet Saturday night may well prove to be different.

Perhaps the biggest question mark hanging over Wladimir is not so much his age, but the affect of him having 17 months out of the ring before this fight. No matter how fit you are, competitive inactivity can be a curse for an athlete, especially a boxer. Yet perversely, it can also be a benefit. The layoff may well have allowed Wladimir to recharge his batteries, rest his body, and renew his hunger. Certainly the indications in the fight's build-up have been that Wladimir comes across as a far happier and more relaxed man than the person who seemed tense and moody in the run up to the Tyson Fury match. Wladimir knows that it is Joshua who will enter the Wembley Stadium ring on Saturday with the expectations of 90,000 fans on his shoulders. All indications are that Joshua will be the favourite to win on Saturday night, despite the huge gulf in experience, and technical ability between the two men.

One aspect that has also been underplayed in the run up to this match is the fact that, despite his so called ‘boring’ fighting style, Wladimir Klitschko has still managed to score 53 knockouts in his 64 victories as a professional. While Joshua enters this match with the reputation as a dynamite punching knockout machine, Klitschko in reality can boast to have proven his own punching power at the highest level for well over a decade. Indeed, it may be the power of Klitschko which is the biggest danger to Joshua in this fight.

With most of his victories coming in the first three rounds, Anthony Joshua will be at his most dangerous in the early part of this contest. At the same time however, he will have to take risks in trying to achieve an early end to the fight. Klitschko’s fast and accurate hands have seen many of his previous opponents picked off and dispatched early, and there is the chance that if he is not careful that this will happen to Joshua. He cannot afford to be caught and hurt like he was by Dillion Whyte. If Wladimir catches him in the same way he is unlikely to be allowed the time to recover. Wladimir has proved himself time and again a cold and efficient finisher when he has an opponent hurt.

Wladimir’s main vulnerability in this fight will come from Joshua’s strength and power. Yet, Klitshcko has not been stopped by an opponent since 2004, when Lamon Brewster stopped him in 5 rounds. Thanks to the tutorledge of his late trainer, Emanuel Steward, Wladimir became a much smoother, and technically adept boxer, following the Brewster loss. He has built a 22-fight winning streak over the next 11 years, until he ran into the enigmatic talent, which is Tyson Fury.

The longer this fight goes on the more it should suit Wladimir. It is very unlikely that Joshua will be able to out-box Klitschko, especially over a long distance, and while his strength will make him dangerous early, will he be able to carry his power into the later rounds against a boxer like Wladimir.

In the event of the match going beyond the first 6 rounds, Wladimir’s experience will become increasingly important. Joshua is undoubtedly strong, with a big punch, but how will his stamina fare in a longer fight at this level?

Photo: RingNews24

This is a contest with a number of possible outcomes. Joshua will always have a puncher's chance, but Wladimir is not an easy target. Despite his age, there seems to be no reason to suppose that Klitschko has suddenly fallen apart as a boxer. The early rounds will be crucial for both men, and the end could come suddenly for either man in the first 3 rounds. What is more likely though, is that Wladimir negotiates the early rounds, and slowly takes over the contest, as his advantages in experience and technical ability make themselves count. It has been said in the build up to this showdown, that Joshua is getting Wladimir Klitschko at just the right time, but in the end, the opposite may be proved to be true. On Saturday night, Wladimir Klitschko will prove himself to be just a step too far for Anthony Joshua, and will either stop him somewhere between the 6th and 9th rounds, or emerge victorious with a clear point's decision.

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Big Fight Report: Roman Gonzalez Dethroned In The Big Apple by Hard-Headed Srisaket Sor Rungvisai

By Peter Silkov

It's been a traumatic last few months for little warrior, Roman Gonzalez (46-1, 38koes.) After winning his 4th world title last September, Gonzalez was deeply shaken by the death of his trainer, Arnulfo Obando, last November. Obando had been Gonzalez’s main trainer and mentor since 2010, and had guided him to 3 of his 4 world titles. His loss to Gonzalez was only too evident last night as ‘Chocolatito’s first defence of his WBC world super-flyweight title descended into a bloody nightmare for the pound-for-pound, number one, boxer in the world.

When Gonzalez won this title from Carlos Cuadras six months ago, there were indications that this might be a weight jump too far for Gonzalez. Unlike many modern fighters, Gonzalez does not lose a significant amount of weight for his fights, and in this, his 4th weight division, he is facing opponents who are naturally bigger than him on fight night. Although he prevailed against Cuadras in September, after a fight of the year epic battle, there remained doubts about whether he was destined to be as strong a force at super-flyweight, as he was in his previous divisions.

The man chosen to provide the answer last night, at a packed Madison Square Garden, was Thai tough man, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, (42-4-1, 38koes.) Rungvisai, a former holder of Gonzalez’s title, came with the reputation as a hard-punching tough nut, and he was to live up to this reputation in more ways than one.

The portents of what was to come were not good, as Gonzalez looked perturbed and tense, and close to tears in the moments before the contest started, constantly looking up towards the heavens, as he seemed to thinking about his late trainer, Arnulfo Obando. It was something that he was to do throughout this fight, leading one to wonder whether he was really in the right state of mind to defend his title at all.

The match started at a quick pace with both men exchanging shots and the challenger showed from the start that he was looking to stand his ground and not allow Gonzalez to push him back. In the last minute of the round the fight produced its first shock, as a body punch dumped ’Chocolatito’ onto the canvas by the ropes. The champion seemed to be more surprised than hurt, but already Rungvisai had lived up to his heavy punching reputation.

In the second round the action speeded up, as a stung Gonzalez went to work, barrelling forwards, and throwing punching with both hands. Rungvisai stayed with the champion though and would not allow himself to be put onto the back foot. Already the fight was developing into a grueling toe-to-toe battle, with neither man willing to give away an inch. Gonzalez had the faster hands, but Rungvisai the heavier punch.

The third round saw a development that was to have a significant impact upon the rest of the fight, as a clash of heads left Gonzalez with a severe cut by the side of his right eye. The cut would became worse during the course of the fight, leaving ’Chocolatito’ battling with a mask of blood covering his face. Although it was ruled by the referee, Steve Willis, that the cut was caused by an accidental butt, developments over the rest of the fight would lead an observer to conclude that it was no accident at all.

Fueled by the cut, Gonzalez intensified his attacks in the 4th round, unleashing fierce two-fisted barrages, which started to drive the challenger back for the first time. However, just when he seemed to be on the verge of taking control of the fight, Gonzalez building rhythm was disrupted by another head butt. As would be the case in future rounds, the head butts always seemed to occur when Gonzalez was in the ascendancy.

In the 6th round, Gonzalez seemed to be taking control of the fight through sheer will power, as he forced himself forwards and out-punched his challenger, despite a now permanent flow of blood splashing down the right side of his face. Once again his attacks were disrupted by butts. This time there were two and after the second one, not far from the end of the round, Rungvisai was finally deprived of a point by referee, Willis, yet the damage has already been done. By now, not only had the cut by Gonzalez’s eye been worsened, but he also now had a cut in his hairline.

The butts in the 6th round certainly seemed to take some of the steam from Gonzalez’s attacks. Though he still came forwards for the remainder of the fight, Rungvisai was never in the same kind of trouble that he had seemed to be in parts of the 4th and 6th rounds. The size disparity was also clear as Gonzalez’s shots, so potent in the lower divisions during his career, simply bounced off Rungvisai. Yet, Gonzalez was winning rounds with the intensity of his work-rate, which was, at times, breathtaking. He also showed far better accuracy than his challenger, while also at the same time, slipping, and blocking many of the punches which were coming his way.

Despite the challenger's round tactics, and the sheer viciousness of their combat at times, this fight was fought with an admirable amount of respect on both sides, with both men touching gloves after each round. This is the way of real warriors.

Rungvisai cleaned up his act noticeably after the point deduction in the 6th round, but in the 12th and final round, he pulled out all his tricks as a seemingly fresher Gonzalez sought to close the show with a good finish. The challenger held, wrestled, and ran away from Gonzalez, and at several points tried blatantly to butt Gonzalez again, then even attempted to lift the champion off the floor at one point. While Gonzalez won the round, Rungvisai was lucky not to lose another point for his last round antics.

The judge's verdict, when it came, was not well received by the audience. The scores were 114-112 twice and 113-113.

This was a hard fought thriller, which should be an instant candidate for fight of the year. Fights like this are always subject to perception, and certainly there were rounds that could have gone either way. Despite everything that went against him in this match, Gonzalez still seemed to have done enough to retain his title. The Boxing Glove made Gonzalez the winner by a score of 114-112.

While he had to whether a significant amount of punishment himself, Gonzalez often outworked his rugged challenger, and more importantly blocked and slipped many of the challenger's own punches. It is possible that the judges were influenced by Gonzalez’s bloodied features into thinking that Rungvisai was doing more damage than he was in reality. The fact remains that the only wounds inflicted on Gonzalez by Rungvisai were caused by butts.

It is hard not to feel respect for Rungvisai, who showed commendable heart and will to win in this contest, but it has to be said that his tactics at times crossed the line from the rough to the dirty. His frequent head butts undoubtedly made Gonzalez’s task all the more difficult, and the single-point deduction, which he drew from them was simply not enough of a penalty. Referee Steve Willis deserves criticism for letting Rungvisai get away with far too much in what was otherwise a thrilling fight, that was aside from the fouls, fought in a great sporting spirit.

Despite the controversial nature the verdict, this defeat for Gonzalez will have been costly. He has not only lost his world title, but also his unbeaten record and status as pound-for-pound number one in the world. After his struggle against Carlos Cuadras in his previous fight at this weight, the indications are that Gonzalez is not the dominant figure at super-bantamweight that he was in the previous three divisions that he occupied. Should he decide to stay at this weight and seek a rematch against Rungvisai, or Cuadras, or perhaps former foe Juan Francisco Estrada, then he looks to have further grueling fights in his future. Even if Gonzalez had received the verdict last night, and retained his championship (as we at The Boxing Glove believe he deserved), the indications are still clear that Gonzalez is not the same fighter at super-flyweight that he was in the lower divisions. There remains the chance that he could move back down to flyweight, but at 29 and over a decade of fighting at the elite level, it is questionable whether he can still comfortably make 112 pounds.

The sad fact is that at 29, and after 8 years at the top, it looks as if Gonzalez’s time is on the wane. Gonzalez is still a wonderful fighter, who is likely to provide us with several more thrilling contests before his day is done. Yet, as with all great champions, he has reached the point of his career where the sheen of his peak has faded, seemingly overnight, and with it his aura of invincibility. The former number one fighter in the world is suddenly a mere mortal.

Full Fight:


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