Saturday, April 29, 2006

Top 25 Heavyweights (As of May, 2006)

By JE Grant

The world of the heavyweights is now officially turned upside down. Readers of this column have seen wonderings about the strength of the eastern Europeans contingent, but few would have guessed that in the space of a few months, men from the former Soviet bloc nations would gain a certain amount of dominance of the division.

To be sure, Hasim Rahman and a few other Americans are still alive and kicking. Gone are the days, however, that American heavyweights – much like American professional basketball players from the “Dream Team” era – simply owned the weight class no questions asked.

There will be many amateur sociologists who will point to simple economics as the driving factor, but of course such an analysis is much too narrow. What’s more important to know is that the culture of sport in the former Soviet Union has now progressed past placing the highest value on Olympic or amateur world championships. The pro game is now prominent.

Indeed, in the first few years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the mentality of the first eastern Europeans entering the pro ranks was very amateur-like. Quitting in the face of adversity was not unusual because fighters were accustomed to simply looking to the next fight for redemption.

Professional fighting skills were also an adjustment for amateur fighters intent only on landing a high volume of blows for scoring. A mass movement of young pros to western Europe and the United States helped close that gap.

Finally, the most important single factor in making champions from the masses of mere participants, is that the culture from which the Klitschkos, Valuev, Liakhovich, the Ibragimovs, Maskaev et al. emanated, places a high value on athletic success. Whereas Americans have prized boxing titles since the advent of the gloved era –much as they treasure basketball, baseball, and American football championships – the rest of the world is catching up. Just as our “Dream Teams” in basketball and our baseball players in the recent World Baseball Classic, have found out, athletes from other countries in those sports no longer quiver in the face of Americans.

All is not lost for American fighters. Many youngsters are on the horizon and the added worldwide competition will likely spur them on to greater achievements.

One last note on this shift in the sport: It is not due to the supposed terrible state of the heavyweight division. Heavyweight boxing has constantly been derided as “weak.” Look back through your old boxing magazines and see what the oldtimers said about Joe Louis’ opponents in his 25 defenses; check out the comments on Muhammad Ali’s foes, especially in his second reign; etc… We always see the “good old days” with more than a little bit of sentimentality. The shift is real. We’ll see just how long it lasts.

* * *

1. Wladimir Klitschko, Ukraine – IBF Champion (Last month #3) Dominance. That’s the only word that suffices to describe his performance against a brave Chris Byrd. It is true that Byrd simply had too many mismatches– speed, size, boxing ability, power – to overcome. It also true that Byrd can still likely beat many of the fighters on this list. However one wants to look at it, Klitschko is at the top. He dismantled the skill fighter, Byrd, and he out-boxed and out-gutted the biggest hitter in the game, Samuel Peter, in his most recent outings. Klitschko won’t unify the belts – Don King is not dumb. He’ll not allow a Klitschko match with Liakhovich or Valuev, fighters in which he has financial interest. Free agent Rahman is a possibility and it is also the most meaningful fight in the division. More to follow.

2. Hasim Rahman, USA – WBC Champion (Last Month #1) Yes, Wladimir Klitschko passes him on this list without having met him in the ring. Rahman actually, and clearly, beat James Toney despite the bad decision resulting in a draw. However, his opponent was grossly oveweight, underpowered, and still he got by him with only a workmanlike performance. The one shining possibility here, however, is that Klitschko and Rahman could meet now that Rock is free of Don King. The gate and the payout would be massive. It is also the best fight this division can put together. If he can survive Oleg Maskaev (the Big O’s right hand has a history of landing on the chin of Rahman), he’s in for a megabuck showdown.

3. Serguei Liakhovich, Belarus – WBO Champion (Last month #20) Talk about huge!!! This man is the new “man”. He outboxed and outpunched Brewster who is arguably one of the biggests hitters in the game. Who else do you know who could withstand the high volume of clean shots Liakhovich (sometimes spelled Lyakhovich) did? His skills and finesse provided clear evidence that Liakhovich can continue to be a force in the division. The 15 month layoff did not seem to slow him at all. He can go for the big money right away --- Klitschko, Byrd, Rahman, and Valuev all represent mega paydays. Look for him to feast on Ray Austin first and then look out.

4. Lamon Brewster, USA (Last month #2) His major league loss to Liakhovich fortunately does not mean he is completely out of the picture. If anyone has ever seen a fighter with more heart I would like to meet him at once. He clearly lost but he was never completely out of the contest. Short fights of late may have cost him down the stretch. Look for “Relentless” to be back in action soon. Emphasis on action.

5. Chris Byrd, USA (Last month #5) Byrd finally secured a giant payday and he paid for it dearly. He can give anyone else on this list fits. He can still speed past the lumbering Valuev. He has more left in the tank than James Toney – and Toney can’t dent Byrd’s chin. He won’t ever beat Klitschko but he can still cash in and score some significant wins. More importantly he’s a fighter American fans can be proud of, and we are. Thanks Chris.

6. Calvin Brock, USA (Last month #6) If he can take the measure of Timor Ibragimov in June, he may find himself in the ring with Wladimir Klitschko. He may be America’s best chance at securing a title in the long run.

7. Samuel Peter, Nigeria (Last month #7) Peter stretched 7-footer Julius “Towering Inferno” Long in one round in April. Long presented no offense. Nonethelss, Peter remains active and dangerous.

8. James Toney, USA (Last month #4) We noticed that in the Ring ratings that followed the Klitschko-Byrd fight, Toney is still way up there. Why the continued lovefest for Lights Out? He had his heavyweight day in the sun and its over. No unified set of belts will adorn his growing waist. Five heavyweight contests and he has yet to beat a top ten man in that division. That’s right – he can’t get credit for anything against Ruiz when he followed their fight with a positive steroid test. This is not a knock on the tremendous career of Toney, just a realization that the end is near.

9. Danny Williams, England (Last month #8) He’s on tap for another all-British slugfest with Matt Skelton. Getting past Skelton likely means a shot at one of the trinket holders.

10. Nicolay Valuev, Russia – WBA Champion (Last month #9) If you ever thought Valuev was going to be a serious “champion” you now have your answer – his June defense is against Owen Beck. “What the Heck” showed signs of being a good prospect and then he met his first top opponent, Monte Barrett, and was stopped. He then faced his second top opponent, Ray Austin, and lost again. Since that time he has fought once, taking an 8-rounder against low-level opposition. Somehow this qualifies him for a title shot. If this is going to be representative of Valuev’s reign, let’s hope it is a short one.

11. John Ruiz, USA (Last month #10) Nothing is lined up. Is he waiting for something gift-wrapped in a nice box marked “WBA?”

12. Sultan Ibragimov, Russia (Last month #13) Yes, another strong, able heavyweight from the former Soviet bloc. He has talent and he has power. Riches await.

13. Oleg Maskaev, Uzbekistan (Last month #14) This man better realize the enormity of the opportunity in front of him. He has declined in ability sharply in the last couple of years but he can still whack. The Big O needs to muster all of the power remaining in his right hand and unload on Rahman when they meet this summer. A win against Rahman means riches he could not have imagined just a few years back when he was fighting in clubs. This is his last best chance.

14. Shannon Briggs, USA (Last month #15) In May the busiest heavyweight on this list is back in action. Although opponent Chris Koval is not exactly representative of the elite of the division, it is the activity that is important. Someone will be required to give Briggs a shot at some big cash and some kind of title soon. By the way, have you seen his collection of lesser “title” belts? He has almost every region covered.

15. Ruslan Chagaev, Uzbekistan (Last month #19) Now is the time for Chagaev to make his move on the scene. A good recent win against Vladimir Vichis should propel him to a bout with a major name.

16. Ray Austin, USA (Last month #18) The most important thing about fighting in April is the fact that he fought --- the opponent, Jeremy Bates, is unimportant for now. Since beating Owen Beck, Austin has somehow climbed the IBF ladder and may be the next mandatory for the winner of the Byrd-Klitschko event in April. Austin needs only to stay busy because based on recent evidence, the name of the opponent is not all that important to the IBF.

17. Dominick Guinn, USA (Last month unranked) The “Southern Disaster” took the first of what will need to be many steps to get back into real contention by beating Audley Harrison. Guinn was on the verge of the club-show circuit and he fought as if he was fully aware of that fact. He’ll now get other chances to be a contender. Hopefully the win over Harrison will give him the confidence to continue moving forward.

18. Monte Barrett, USA (Last month #11) More inactivity means further movement away from the elite of the division.

19. David Tua, New Zealand (Last month #16) He didn’t look all that good in any of his latest comeback fights and now he seems to have vanished from the scene. Time is running out.

20. DaVarryl Williamson, USA (Last month #17) Williamson returns to the ring for the first time since his dreadful decision loss to Chris Byrd in May. His opponent is Mike Mollo who, in spite of being 15-0, has never been more than six rounds. Williamson will have to be impressive if he is to get back in the title hunt soon.

21. Matt Skelton, England (Last month #21) Easily starched Armenian Suren Kalachyan in April. He gets a rare shot at quick redemption when he meets Williams in a July rematch. The heat is on.

22. Fres Oquendo, USA (Last month #22) Returned in February and we’re waiting to hear what is next. Hopefully it won’t be another two-year break in action.

23. Luan Krasniqi, Germany (Last month #23) The former challenger for Lamon Brewster’s belt took a decision over American David Bostice in April. He’ll have to do much more than that to prove himself a real contender. Of course given the state of ratings in the alphabets, maybe all he has to do is breath for a few more months to be named a mandatory challenger again.

24. Jameel McCline, USA (Last month #24) A clear points win over club circuit king Rob Calloway in April keeps him active and in the picture for a big payday or two. He’s still trying and still in top shape. Anything is possible, but I have the feeling he has slipped.

25. Audley Harrison, England (Last month #12) With his decision loss to Dominick Guinn, the big guy is just one step away from oblivion. He appeared listless and uninterested in the Guinn bout. Obvious talent does not count for much when the bell rings, Audley. Boxing is a put up or shut up kind of sport. The mountain Harrison must overcome is growing.

Prospects, fringe contenders, and others who need mentioning listed in no particular order. Don’t read the fact that they are listed here as an indication a ranking is imminent:

Joe Mesi, USA – He trudged his way to a shutout decision over 40-something Ron Bellamy in Puerto Rico ending a two year layoff. Since no one outside the arena saw the bout it is hard to make a solid assessment. It is probably sufficient for now that he is simply back in the mix. He said on Friday night fights that he will be in action again in June.

Chazz Witherspoon, USA – Took a decision win in April at Philadelphia’s fabled Blue Horizon. He’s scheduled for another bout in May. Keep it up Chazz.

Alexander Dimitrenko, Ukraine –The youngster cruised to a 12-round decision over journeyman Fernely Feliz in April. He still has many questions to answer before moving into the top rankings but at age 23, with a 21-0 record, the boxing world is going to start noticing him soon.

Alexander Povetkin, Russia – With all of the attention focused on eastern Europeans, don’t forget Povetkin the Olympic Gold medallist. At 6’2” and floating around 220 he is not big by current standards. At age 26, though, he’s a relative baby. He’s also 7-0 after having beaten Friday Ahunanya on the Byrd-Klitschko undercard. This is the same B-level Ahunanya who fought to a draw with Dominick Guinn.

Jean Francois Bergeron, Canada – He has run-up a 23-0 record against folks not on a “top” list of any kind. Time to put or shut up for the 32 year-old.

Timor Ibragimov, Uzbekistan – He has arrived at the perfect time in heavyweight history to score a major upset against the top American new guy, Calvin Brock, in June. With a win, everyone will believe that the rising eastern European tide is really a tidal wave.

Tye Fields, USA – His best win is over a terribly shopworn Bruce Seldon. Despite his 36-1 record, he’ll have to do much more than that to become known by more people than his immediate family.

Roman Greenberg, Israel – The 22-0 (15 KOs), 23 year-old is, by many accounts, a talent worth a close look. Perhaps he’ll fight next in a real boxing venue instead of Monaco.

J.D. Chapman, USA – This 23 year old Arkansan chugged to 22-0 (20 KOs) stopping previously undefeated Matt Hicks in April in a scheduled 4-rounder. Don’t be fooled by the fat record. The youngster has a very long way to go. Too heavy. Too slow. Too hesitant. Stay in the gym big fella – you’ve got some lessons to learn.

Malik Scott, USA – The light-hitting 25 year-old hasn’t fought since January. His 24-0 record will have to be tested at some point.

Gonzalo Omar Basile, Argentina – In April he won his 19th straight contest. Once again it was in Argentina against someone that none of us will recognize. We just don’t know enough about him to make a meaningful assessment. Hey, Gonzalo could you squeeze in an ESPN2 date?

Kevin McBride, Ireland – He finally returned to the ring after a 10 month layoff following his stoppage of the shell of Mike Tyson. He scored a 4th round stoppage of someone named Byron Polley, but at 286 was a full 15 pounds heavier than for his Tyson bout. He’ll be back in action in May against another journeyman. Can we really be expected to take McBride seriously? I think not.

Juan Carlos Gomez, Cuba (living in Germany) (Last month #25) Since being suspended in Germany for a positive drug test, he’s fallen off the (boxing) planet. Please report any sitings.

Kali Meehan, New Zealand – After his back-to-back losses to Hasim Rahman and Lamon Brewster, he’s captured two straight club show wins. In April he defeated Brazilian Rogerio Lobo in Fiji. At 36 he better take his best shot very soon.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Peter stays busy, stretches Long

By JE Grant

UNCASVILLE --- Heavyweight power puncher Samuel Peter, 26-1 (22 KOs), Nigeria, 256 ½, blasted out a reluctant 7-footer Julius Long, 14-8 (12 KOs), Romulus, Mich., in one round of a scheduled 10.

Long appeared to lose interest in the fight with the first big right hand landed by the feared Peter. Samuel winged wide shots at the giant journeyman and dropped his giant opponent for the first of two knockdowns that came from shots that did not appear to land solidly.

Peter forced Long into the ropes with a right hand and quickly followed the big man, making only the barest of contact with a left hand and followed it with a glancing right hand. Despite not landing flush, Long hit the deck hard and made no attempt at rising before the count of 10.

Time of the knockout was 2:35.


In a warm-up bout, Brian Minto, 24-1 (14 KOs), Butler, Penn., 220, overcame a determined effort by Billy Zumbrun, 19-7-1 (11), Ogden, Utah, 229 ¾, capturing a unanimous 8-round decision.

The 31 year-old Minto clearly won the first 2 rounds behind a snappy left jab. Zumbrun routinely squared up in an effort to get inside and had his head popped back repeatedly.

In round 3, Zumbrun began to walk through Minto’s jab and landed awkward, but effective, combinations. His crude methodology carried him through the 4th as Minto continued to rely almost exclusively on the left hand.

Minto resumed control of the fight in round 5, mixing in right hands and occasional hooks.

Sweeping the second half of the fight, Minto hurt Zumbrun at the end of the 7th round and nearly stopped his rugged foe in the 8th. Landing sharp punches from multiple angles in the opening minute of the final round, Minto left no doubt as to the outcome.

Ringside scoring was 78-74, 79-73, and 79-72, all for Minto. JEBoxing scored the fight 78-73, scoring the 8th round a 10-8 round for Minto.


In a walk-out bout, 20 year-old prospect Mike Marrone, 14-0 (11 KOs), Vero Beach, Fla. 222 ½, stopped hapless Dan Whetzel, 7-6-1 (4 KOs), Toledo, Ohio, 225, at 1:00 of the opening round of a scheduled 6.

The young heavyweight wasted no time in chasing down Whetzel who offered almost zero offense from the opening bell. Landing at will, Marrone fired multiple shots that forced Whetzel to the ropes. Referee Ken Ezzo stopped the bout with Whetzel failing to return punches.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Klitschko roars to the top, stops Byrd

By JE Grant

MANNHEIM, GERMANY --- Fighting with power and skill, Wladimir Klitschko, 46-3 (40 KOs), Ukraine, 241, scored two knockdowns enroute to stopping defending titlist Chris Byrd, 39-3-1 (20 KOs), Las Vegas, 213 ½, in 7 rounds to become the third man from a former Soviet bloc nation to hold a world belt.

Just as in their first meeting, the bout was never in doubt. Klitschko jabbed, Klitschko smashed sharp right hands, and Byrd could do nothing about it.

From round one the pattern was set. Klitschko peppered Byrd with an extended left hand and waited for opportunities to bomb with right hands. After a probing first round, Klitschko took away Byrd’s only possibility for winning rounds by effectively tying up his smaller foe on the inside.

After sweeping the first four rounds, (HBO’s Harold Lederman inexplicably gave the opening round to Byrd), Klitschko landed a picture perfect right hand to the southpaw’s chin putting him flat. Though still hurt, Byrd rose quickly only to face a measured barrage from Klitschko and offering almost nothing in return.

As Klitschko poured on the attack, doubts about his stamina and his propensity for punching himself out dissipated as he calmly worked in round 6 picking his spots wisely and maintaining adequate distance to land his thunderous right.

Round 7 began much as the round before with Klitschko finding Byrd’s chin with increasing frequency. After tagging Byrd with snapping combinations, Klitschko send him crashing to the canvas with a capstone right hand that was emblematic of the dominance he showed over the course of 19 rounds the two had engaged each other.

Byrd again rose and wanted to continue but a large gash over his left eye, wobbly legs, and no offense led to referee Wayne Kelly to halt the fight at 41 seconds of the round.

JEBoxing scored the bout 60-53 at the end of 6 rounds.

Keeping Byrd at arms length was the strategy that Klitschko honed to perfection.

The “trick was to keep his left extended,” said Klitschko trainer Emanuel Steward to the HBO audience.

The trick left Byrd without options.

“I was never in the fight,” said Byrd to HBO's Larry Merchant and Jim Lampley. Byrd entered the ring as the longest reigning of the numerous belt-holders.

Klitschko now wants to move on to the other three men who hold titles: Hasim Rahman, Nicolay Valuev and Serguei Liakhovich.

“Let’s go for some other belts,” said Klitschko. Although this is something that fans have clamored for, promoters and sanctioning bodies have little interest in allowing it.

Maybe it won’t matter if Klitschko continues defeating skilled fighters, such as Byrd, and big hitters, such as Samuel Peter.

“There’s nothing on the horizon” to stop Klitschko from “keeping the title until he retires,” said Steward.

For his part, Klitschko wants to defy his legion of critics by giving himself no way out.

Said Klitschko, “failure is not an option.”

Friday, April 21, 2006

The IBF: What will they do next?

By JE Grant

Several months back, readers will vividly remember, a welterweight champion named Zab Judah was soundly defeated in 12 rounds by a journeyman fighter Carlos Baldomir.

That fight, ostensibly for the welterweight championship – one of the few undisputed kind – should have settled the issue as to who was champion.

Enter the IBF. Baldomir, apparently unwilling to pay a gusher of money for the honor of being called “champion” by an organization that has run up a string of bizarre decisions in its relatively short history, was not awarded a belt by the IBF.

That night, for the first time in boxing history, a champion was defeated in the ring, yet left as champion. Because Baldomir failed to pay the IBF’s fee, Judah was allowed to keep his belt and his title.

Given the fact that there is little honor in professional sports today, Judah kept his phony trinket and entered the ring against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in “defense” of a title he actually lost against Baldomir. He displayed no shame.

Mayweather, for his part, cannot be held accountable for the lunacy that allowed the bout to be called a championship. He has proven himself willing to throw away meaningless trinkets in pursuit of matches with top fighters.

Believe it or not, had he not tossed his WBC super-lightweight belt before the Judah fight, he would have been required to pay a fee to the WBC for fighting for the IBF welterweight title. (Obviously greed is not confined to any particular sanctioning body).

Now we see in the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the IBF is ordering a Mayweather-Judah rematch. Really? In a bout in which Judah was pounded and thoroughly thrashed by the talented Mayweather, and engaged in flagrant fouls when it became obvious he was headed toward a stoppage defeat, the IBF somehow thinks a rematch is in order. Please mighty IBF leaders, say it isn't so.

Let’s be clear. Zab Judah, now an unmistakable loser in his last two fights, is to get a mandatory “world” title shot against the fighter who dominated him?

There could be no clearer signal that things have gone absolutely haywire in the IBF should this apparent decision stand.

If the potential answer weren’t so scary, one might ask the IBF president Marian Muhammad, what will you do if Mayweather refuses to go along with this edict? Will you give Judah the title back? We can say with certainty that no fighter in history has lost two title fights in a row in the same division has ever retained a title claim.

Is the IBF willing to make such a dubious historical precedent?

Floyd Mayweather stated a few years back that he does not need title belts to prove his greatness, and he is right. Despite his IBF trinket, he knows that only Carlos Baldomir is the welterweight champion – even though he would be a prohibitive favorite to punch Baldomir into next week should they meet.

Mayweather may very well throw the meaningless hunk of metal into his garage and go on to fights against opponents who are not on losing streaks. Ricky Hatton (who will soon fight for a meaningless trinket), Antonio Margarito (who holds a meaningless trinket), Miguel Cotto, and even Oscar De La Hoya loom in his potential future. In each case, title belts are of secondary value.

Championships as defined by the sanctioning bodies are now officially irrelevant. Perhaps we should cheer the actions of the IBF (and the other sanctioning bodies) of late for the brazenly foolish decisions of organization leaders who are not accountable to anyone and want to flaunt it.

One major state boxing commission (i.e. Nevada, New Jersey, Connecticut) can change all of that by refusing to sanction matches from so-called “world” sanctioning bodies that do not meet their standards.

Further, if a commission really wants to erase the plethora of sanctioning bodies they can use the method federal agents use when going after organized crime figures – stop their flow of money.

Step one: Put a cap on the amount of money they can siphon away from fighters and promoters for championship fees. I encourage every reader of this article to visit the websites of each of the organizations’ that post their rules and examine their fee schedule. You will become sick to your stomach upon seeing the gouging efforts of the organizations.

Step two: Refuse to sanction “interim” and regional titles. The organizations live and breath on their ability to create new ways to generate sanctioning fees. So-called “interim” titles and the growing list of regional championships are all methods of grabbing money. States could replace such titles by recognizing state champions and accept reasonable and very modestly priced fees for trinket belts associated with such titles.

As it is, fighters feel compelled to pay what amounts to ransom for the right to be a champion. Think about this: what if the NBA, NFL, MLB, or the NHL, required all players to pay a fee for the right to play in the NBA championship, the Super Bowl, the World Series, or the Stanley Cup? The fans and the players alike would laugh out loud.

Thanks IBF – for the sharp stick in the eye.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Wladimir Klitschko vs. Chris Byrd: A prediction

The only question of any substance about the upcoming Wladimir Klitschko vs. Chris Byrd II fight in Germany is clear: Why should this fight be any different than their first meeting?

In the 2000 meeting, Byrd was a 30 year-old titlist defending his belt for the first time. His only significant win came in his previous bout – a fight in which he was being trounced before his opponent, none other than Vitali Klitschko, quit in his corner due to an injury. However dubious that win, Byrd had persevered.

Byrd was quick, determined, and unafraid.

Young Wladimir, on the other hand, was a 24 year-old rising star. He had hit a bump in the road against journeyman Ross Puritty but subsequent wins over the likes of Axel Schulz and Monte Barrett excited the boxing world.

Klitschko was fast, powerful, and huge.

That first meeting was decided on Klitschko’s attributes of speed, power and size. Byrd’s quickness was exceeded by that of Klitschko. The power of the bigger man sent Byrd to the canvas hard – twice. And, Klitschko’s size, coupled with the light-punching of Byrd, insured against a test of the chin that would undermine him in future fights.

At no time in their first meeting was the fight in doubt. Byrd won two rounds on one scorecard, one round on another, and zero on the third judge’s ballot. In truth the first two judges were far too generous.

So what can be different nearly six years later? Byrd, approaching 36, has visibly slowed in the last few years. Further, in all the years intervening since his blowout loss to Klitschko he has scored precisely one stoppage victory. He has also developed a penchant for standing close and trading shots.

Klitschko of course went from his title-winning effort against Byrd to five successful defenses of his lightly-regarded belt. Then came the crash. A knockout loss to Corrie Sanders was followed three fights later with a meltdown loss to unheralded (at the time) Lamon Brewster.

Questions about his chin and his heart persist to this day following the two disastrous losses. Despite this he has pressed on.

In his last bout, Klitschko took on an undefeated and menacing puncher in one Samuel Peter. The big Nigerian pounded on Klitschko, but despite three knockdowns (two of which were questionable), Peter was thoroughly outboxed over 12 hard rounds. Perhaps the knockdowns left doubts about Klitschko’s chin hanging in the air, but the fact that he rose to win answered critics concerned with his heart.

In truth, there will be nothing different in this bout from the first meeting unless Byrd continues his recent trend of slugging it out. Should he choose that tactic he will find himself plastered to the canvas for keeps.

That is not to diminish the overall worthiness of Byrd. He is someone American fans can be proud of. An Olympian, an undersized heavyweight who has achieved far more than his physical tools should allow him, and a stubborn pride are all attributes that have made him a champion.

Unfortunately for him, those traits still leave him significantly short against Klitschko. The Ukrainian is faster, hits harder, and is a better boxer that Byrd. It’s as simple as that. He does not have enough guns to test the weaknesses of Klitschko.

If Byrd could hit with authority, things might be different. Klitschko’s two relatively recent losses were to big hitters. No one would describe Byrd thusly.

As it stands, Byrd has but one clear (and real) chance at victory. Klitschko was far ahead and pulling away from Brewster when he came unglued. No big punch felled Klitschko. Something went haywire in his head that resulted in him falling apart.

Byrd is a fighter with a giant heart who will press hard to win. He will never fall apart mentally. If he can push and prod Klitschko and force him out of his game, perhaps he can watch his large opponent crumble under the weight of his giant Ph.D. brain.

If that sounds like a far-fetched notion, it is. Don’t expect it to happen that way.

Byrd will attempt to rattle Klitschko early but will fail. Klitschko will launch his long jab and crisp right hands and will likely hit home more often than in the first meeting. If Byrd decides to contest in the middle of the ring and swap punch-for-punch, he will not last five rounds.

More than likely Byrd will feel the heat early and try to steal rounds as he twists and turns along the ropes through most of the fight. His chin is better than most heavyweights – he’s been stopped only once – and he can survive if he chooses to make it a distance fight. Klitschko will give chase and will land often enough to sweep round after round.

So, the answer to the opening question is, no. Nothing will be different from the first meeting.

Prediction: Klitschko by 12 round shutout decision.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Coulda vs. Shoulda: Guinn decisions Harrison

By JE Grant

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. --- Dominick Guinn, 26-3-1 (18 KOs), Little Rock, 228, outworked a lackluster Audley Harrison, 19-2 (14 KOs), England, 255, to take a clear and unanimous 10-round decision and reclaim some lost ground in his once promising career Friday night.

Guinn and Harrison were competing in what many saw as a wasted-talent contest. Both men demonstrated extraordinary talent early in their amateur and professional careers only to be knocked off track as they neared the elite of the division.

For the Guinn fight, Harrison seemed to have simply picked up where he left off with Danny Williams in England in his last fight. Long periods of posing. No jab to speak of. Rare combinations. No obvious desire to win.

He claimed going in that his training and focus were improved but it just did not show.

Guinn, himself guilty of letting fights slip away to lesser talents, obviously came to win. Taking advantage of the invitation to fight inside against his much taller opponent, Guinn belted Harrison to the body and scored with occasional combinations to the head throughout the contest.

Sporadic left hands from the southpaw Harrison enabled him to pick up three rounds in the bout but certainly not convincingly.

The second half of the fight was almost all Guinn as he continually worked inside and Harrison did not make him pay to work his way in. The bigger man landed left uppercuts that had some steam but they were rare and not followed with any substantial follow-up.

Scoring of the bout was 98-92; 97-93; and 97-93 all for Guinn. JEBoxing scored the bout 97-93.

Harrison, of course, is a one-time super-heavyweight Olympic gold medal winner. Rarely does a heavyweight skill-fighter such as Harrison come along with physical advantages that others could only dream about.

At nearly 6’6”, the southpaw Harrison gutted his way to the gold in Sydney through injury and pain. He seemed to be the complete package; size, skill, power, and grit. The ingredients of a professional heavyweight hero.

Although relatively old at age 29 for his pro debut, Harrison proceeded with great fanfare into the paid ranks.

He went for the gold early as pro with a fat television contract with the BBC. He pounded a series of low-level opponents, but the folks at the BBC were not thrilled with continuing to spend the big bucks to maintain the contract when its three-year run ended.

Moving his fight plan to the United States he took on tough journeymen Robert Davis and Robert Wiggins and appeared on the verge of a top ten breakthrough.

His Commonwealth title contest with former world title challenger – and conqueror of the vestiges of Mike Tyson – Danny Williams was supposed to be the “name” on his record that would propel him to a major bout.

Instead it was the comebacking Williams who claimed victory with a close 12-round decision and with it a chance for bigger paydays. (In fact he went on take a win in his next bout over the previously undefeated Matt Skelton in another all-British affair).

While Harrison, at age 34 was fighting to get back on track, Guinn, nearly 31, was struggling to keep himself off the club-show circuit.

Like Harrison, Guinn was an amateur star. In logging more than 300 amateur bouts, Guinn came close to capturing an Olympic bid before losing to Calvin Brock in the American trials.

Unlike Harrison, he gained an early professional reputation as a prospect with considerable skill and sharp power. His left hook was compared to the legends of the game for its quick, hard delivery.

High visibility wins over one-time prospect Michael Grant and Duncan Dokiwari, shown to HBO audiences, led to the label of him being the “next” big thing. He seemed complete.

Then it all came crashing down. A clear points loss to highly ranked contender Monte Barrett was first seen as a stumble. Two fights later, another points loss, this time to the talented Serguei Lyakhovich (the new WBO titlist) and the whispers began.

His next fight ended in a draw with Friday Ahunanya, who was coming off two losses. Not incidentally, Ahunanya went on to a stoppage loss to Sultan Ibragimov in his next bout.

Now the whispers turned into major doubts. A chance at redemption ended in a disappointing decision loss to James Toney.

With that loss, Guinn entered the ring against Harrison not on HBO but on ESPN2. He also entered not as the featured fighter but as the “name” opponent.

Now a winner once more, Guinn will undoubtedly move ahead in rankings and money fights.

For Audley Harrison, now with back-to-back losses, time is running out.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Floyd Mayweather: The king of all he surveys

By JE Grant

In the aftermath of Floyd Mayweather’s dominant 12-round decision victory over Zab Judah, the only question remaining about “Pretty Boy” is how long can he remain the pound-for-pound king.

Surely some will suggest that he showed vulnerability in the early rounds against Judah. So accustomed are fight fans nowadays to one-sided mismatches, that when two high quality contestants wage battle at an elite level, that we see the struggle for the win as weakness.

One should remember that even the legendary figures such as Sugar Ray Robinson engaged in pitched battles along the way. Robinson, for example, defeated Jake LaMotta in five of their six encounters, but each contest was brutal and close.

The true testimony of a great fighter’s ability is that he can find ways to win against wily and talented opponents.

Saturday’s encounter pitted two men who are likely near the top of their respective careers with respect to speed, stamina, strength and resolve.

Judah seemingly rose from the ashes after slogging through a loss to journeyman Carlos Baldomir. In that fight, Judah appeared soft and confused. The light-punching Baldomir nearly stopped the then-defending undisputed champion.

That version of “Super” Zab did not show up this time. For Mayweather he was fit and hard. His focus was on the task at hand.

Early in the bout Judah, with his awkward left-handedness, troubled the classically trained Mayweather. Judah landed flush left hand leads and sharp right hooks as counters to snap-up three of the first four rounds.

In the middle rounds, the true greatness of Mayweather began to shine through. He made the adjustments necessary to not only move ahead of Judah, but he found the way to his heart.

Body punches and powerful right hands slowed Judah and turned him from aggressor to survivor.

In the 10th round Mayweather also brought out the worst in his foe. Judah was well on his way to being stopped as Mayweather figured out the puzzle and began landing hard and often when he wound up and threw a bomb on the groin of Floyd. Judah quickly followed with a right hand rabbit punch on the injured Mayweather.

Of course the fight will best be remembered for what happened next. Roger Mayweather, Floyd’s chief second – and a former two-division world titlist – entered the ring to exact a bit of revenge for the transgression. The ring quickly filled with wannabes and hangers-on from both camps.

Cooler heads prevailed as the Las Vegas law enforcement community separated the camps and restored order.

The fight resumed but clearly Judah benefited from the extended period of not being pelted by the quick fists of Mayweather.

As he indicated in post-fight comments, Mayweather was content to finish the fight well in the lead and accept the decision victory.

Scoring was 116-112; 117-111; and 119-109. JEBoxing scored the bout 116-112.

A clear win over a top opponent and undeniable credentials as a pound-for-pound superstar opens several intriguing outlets for his talents.

Oscar De la Hoya, once thought of as way too big and powerful for little Floyd, is now someone he can honestly contemplate as a big (as in giant) money opponent.

Likewise, assuming Ricky Hatton thrills the world with his upcoming 147 fight with Luis Collazo, a showdown is a guaranteed blockbuster.

Other potential paydays could include Carlos Baldomir (for the actual welterweight title), Shane Mosely, Miguel Cotto, or Kostya Tszyu.

At 29, Floyd Mayweather may have finally arrived at the box-office and fistic pinnacle he has claimed to want for years. He’s rugged, yet singularly skilled in every key facet of the game from defense to counter-punching to digging down to out punch an opponent with nearly equal physical talent.

Revel in the brilliance and be thankful you get to witness it. It doesn’t come around often.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Mayweather – Judah: Not a close call

By JE Grant

One is tempted to ask what all the fuss is about when discussing the Floyd Mayweather – Zab Judah contest – and with good reason.

Mayweather at 35-0 (24 KOs) is rapidly approaching legendary status while Judah at a respectable 34-3 (25 KOs) may in fact be heading in the other direction. Only the extraordinary promotional acumen of Bob Arum could make this fight a pay-per-view event.

It is not easily dismissed that “Super” Zab was clearly pummeled his last time out o in a losing effort to Carlos Baldomir, a fighter who is at best a solid journeyman. Just consider that Arturo Gatti, who will challenge Baldomir for his welterweight title (the only legitimate one), is widely regarded as the favorite in the match. Who did not see “Pretty Boy” destroy Gatti?

Certainly Judah has had his successes. Out-boxing and out-foxing Cory Spinks is no small feat. Just as importantly, after being belted out by Kostya Tszyu, Judah moved up a weight class, won a unified title, and scored wins in 8 of his last 10 bouts. He is universally seen as skilled, speedy a proven success at welterweight.

Unfortunately for Judah, virtually all of those credentials except for the time spent in the weight class, are trumped or nullified by the truly “super” talents of Mayweather.

If Judah is a good boxer, Mayweather is a great one. If Judah is quick-fisted, Mayweather is lightning. If Judah has proven his mettle against top opponents, Mayweather, in beating both Jose Luis Castillo and Diego Corrales, has beaten fighters capable of epic battles.

In no department is Zab Judah the equal of Floyd Mayweather despite being highly proficient in almost every aspect of the game. He had an off night against Baldomir. Mayweather has had off-nights and won against the likes of Castillo. Add to that the fact that no better defensive wizard than Mayweather exists in the game today and we can surmise that it is case closed as to the outcome.

Bewilderment will show on Judah’s face; far more so than it did against Baldomir. Mayweather will land thunder from angles that Judah won’t stop. Judah will get hit flush with lefts and rights, hooks and straight rights, body punches and uppercuts with much great frequency than he has ever experienced. Keeping up Mayweather won’t be an option.

Judah is no quitter and he will fight hard for as long as he can – but the chin that let him down against Tsyzu and allowed him to wobble against Baldomir will be dented so early and so often that he will wilt from the torrential downpour.

As Floyd in fact surpasses all of the strengths that are usually Zab’s alone in a fight, Judah will crumble to the canvas.

Floyd Mayweather by KO in 5.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Heavyweight title changes hands; Lyakhovich takes WBO crown

By JE Grant

CLEVELAND --- Unheralded Serguei Lyakhovich, 23-1 (14 KOs), Belarus, 238 ½, stunned defending WBO titlist Lamon Brewster, 33-3 (29 KOs), Vero Beach, Fla., 232, by taking the title with a unanimous 12-round decision.

The clear favorite going in, Brewster figured to wear down Lyakhovich, a fighter who had been inactive since December 2004.

Instead it was Lyakhovich who was able to remain stronger in the closing rounds to pull out the improbable victory.

The fighters traded hard shot in the first five rounds. Brewster, noted for his sharp left-hooks, instead landed with flush right hands.

Lyakhovich (sometimes spelled Liakhovich) retaliated with skillful jabs and crunching right hands to the body. Brewster was clearly slowed by the hard body punches and was rarely able to mount an assault with combinations.

All that changed in round seven as Lyakhovich appeared to tire. Brewster landed a hard right hand that send the bigger man to the ropes. Brewster followed with a strong combination that forced Lyakhovich to take a knee for the fight’s only knockdown.

If it seemed that Lyakhovich was wilting while Brewster was coming on, it was only a mirage. In round eight, Lyakhovich regained his strength and his composure.

Lyakhovich alternately boxed and punched, hurting Brewster twice down the stretch to pull away. JEBoxing scored all of the last five rounds for Lyakhovich.

The difference in the fight was clearly the boxing skills and overall strength of Lyakhovich. He repeatedly landed hard right hands to the body of Brewster, effectively negating the “Relentless” one’s left hooks. His jabs keep Brewster on the outside for significant periods, none of which helped Brewster’s cause.

Given that Lyakhovich represented an optional defense for Brewster, we can almost bet there is a rematch clause in the contract. The bout offered as much excitement as we’ve seen in heavyweight boxing of late and a rematch could prove interesting.

Official scoring was 115-113, 115-112, and 117-110 all for Lyakhovich. JEBoxing scored the bout 116-111.

With the recent WBA title winning effort by Russian Nicolay Valuev, and Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko fighting for the IBF title later in April, it is clear that heavyweights from the former Soviet bloc are making a mark on the division.

Interesting months lie ahead.
Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu. Purchase Professional Boxing tickets from Coast to Coast Tickets. We have your sports needs covered with New York Yankees tickets, Boston Red Sox tickets and premium Bengals tickets. Check out our Black Eyed Peas tickets and Broadway show tickets.
  • Boxing Trend
  • Boxing Scene
  • Boxing Society
  • KO Corner
  • SJC Boxing
  • Blog and Weave
  • The Eight Count
  • World Boxing Chat
  • Boxing Fan
  • Boxing Along the Beltway
  • The Boxing Blog
  • East Coast Boxing
  • Knocked Out
  • Blogwise
  • Eastside Boxing
  • Late Rounds: A Boxing Blog
  • Irish Boxing
  • Boxing Craze
  • Ringside Report
  • Champions Boxing Gym
  • Boxing Help
  • National Boxing Association
  • Tyson Talk
  • Saddo Boxing
  • Boxing.Net.Au
  • Boxing News.De
  • Boxing Fever
  • Fired Up
  • Boxingranks.Com

    Powered by Blogger

  • Site Feed
    free web counters
    ISP Access Providers