Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Froch, Abraham meet in 'Super Six'

By JE Grant

Super middleweights Carl Froch and Arthur Abraham continue their struggle to remain in the ‘Super Six’ tournament and capture a belt along the way Saturday in Helsinki.

The Englishman Froch, 26-1 (20 KOs), a quirky, odd-punching former belt-holder, looks to redeem himself after falling (way) short against skilled Mikkel Kessler in a decision loss in April. With the loss, Froch also dropped a belt --- which will likely prove as less valuable than winning the tournament.

Strangely, the sanctioning body in charge of that belt, stripped Kessler after he announced that medical issues would preclude him from fighting for an extended period. Of course the sanctioning body being what it is (a greedy, cancerous infection on the sport…Sorry, I digress) wants to continue to make money so they declared that Froch’s bout with Abraham would be for their title (for a big fat fee… but again I digress).

Froch has parlayed his awkward style by ensuring he is always in top condition, is willing to suffer, take chances, and continue to believe despite being noticeably short on physical talent. His pre-tournament win over former middleweight champion Jermain Taylor provides testament to his complete confidence in his ability to win at any moment. In that bout, he was hopelessly behind going into the last round, yet pulled off the upset with a stunning knockout.

In Arthur Abraham, the Armenian-born German, 31-1 (25 KOs), Froch finds an opponent who also has a strong belief that he will win and will suffer to do so if necessary. His 2006 win over 12 rounds against hard-punching Edison Miranda was display of iron will, as Abraham’s jaw was broken early in the bout. The wound was obvious, yet he persevered, winning a unanimous decision.

Like Froch, Abraham is coming off a tournament loss. Going into his bout with Andre Dirrell, he was leading the tournament with his own crushing knockout of Jermain Taylor. The knockout gave him the points lead. Dirrell was behind in the tournament having been outpointed by Froch.

Having learned his lessons from the Froch bout, Dirrell took advantage of his considerable speed and skills to flummox the charging Abraham. Throughout the bout Dirrell pulled Abraham out of position as the latter set to throw his bombs even sending him to the canvas after catching him off balance.

Going into the championship rounds it appeared Dirrell was fading but still able to dictate the terms of the bout while looking vulnerable. In the 11th round Dirrell slipped to the canvas and Abraham inexplicably belted him as he knelt on the canvas. While Abraham seemingly disputed the damage done, it soon became clear that Dirrell was severely disoriented (and may still have related medical issues).

Abraham, for his part, refused to acknowledge defeat and appears undaunted going into the bout with Froch.

PREDICTION: While Froch beat Dirrell while Abraham struggled, almost no conclusions can be drawn from their respective meetings. Neither Froch nor Abraham bears any resemblance in style or speed to Dirrell. Both men have the power of will. Neither fighter is particularly fast or clever, though Froch’s awkwardness is almost a skill in itself. This bout will likely come down to power. Abraham has it in big supply, while Froch is only slightly above average. Look for Froch to attempt to box and give angles while Abraham stalks. When hurt Froch will revert to form and attempt to swarm, all the while exposing himself. This night will end in a knockout with no odd-ball decisions.

Abraham by knockout in 8.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Haye to take on Harrison for ‘other’ heavyweight title

By JE Grant

Saturday David Haye, considered by the WBA to be the world heavyweight champion, faces fellow Brit Audley Harrison in defense of his title in the M.E.N. arena in Manchester, England.

Let’s be clear, this is a mildly interesting bout between two men who in decades past would not be vying for a championship, at least not against each other.

Haye was a highly successful cruiserweight that mouthed his way to a so-called world title match against giant Nikolai Valuev and proceeded to run past his ponderous opponent, stopping only to flick enough punches to win a decision. (The fact that the belt was inexplicably stripped from Ruslan Chagaev, who himself had defeated Valuev to win it, only to be regifted back to Valuev is an article for another day – but suffice to say here that Valuev had a dubious claim to his belt).

Instead of trying to solidify his position, as Mike Tyson would say it, as the “Baddest Fighter on the Planet,” Haye chose the safest path the WBA would allow. He followed his win over Valuev with a blasting of way over-the-hill John Ruiz. Haye is now 3-0 as a heavyweight.

Proposed bouts with Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko never materialized as the boxing world now realizes because Haye wants no part of the brothers.

For his part, Harrison, the 2000 Super-Heavyweight Gold Medalist in the Sydney Olympics, was the one-time heir apparent to the great Lennox Lewis. Possessed with tremendous size, mobility, and power, he was a sure thing.

His career path was, to say the least, unusual. After turning pro at 29, he fought relatively infrequently for someone needing to make the most of his prime years. Puzzling losses to Danny Williams, a big, rugged, but limited heavyweight; Dominick Guinn, a talented fighter with his own set of peaks and valleys; a brutal knockout loss to Michael Sprott; and club-fighter-level Martin Rogan seemingly ended any hopes of real contention.

So what qualifies him for a title now? A rematch win over Sprott, in a bout he saved with a final round knockout after falling way behind, and three bouts against novices in the British ‘Prizefighter’ contest --- certainly not the credentials of a world-beater.

What we’re left with is a bout with one skilled, though largely untested heavyweight titlist in David Haye, against a once-golden prospect in Audley Harrison who fizzled every time he came close to moving up the ladder of heavyweight success.

Despite what would appear to be an easy payday for Haye against a “name” opponent, Harrison, because of his size and power has a chance of walking out of the ring with a new belt. His left-handed stance will prove awkward for Haye to handle. If his right handed jab is flowing, Haye’s chin make get a real test in the heavyweight division from an opponent who can end a fight with a single shot --- ask Michael Sprott about that.

Unfortunately for Harrison, those distinct advantages will likely not be enough on Saturday. Haye is clearly faster and enters the ring with confidence and power of his own. Harrison has routinely faltered as he approached stardom and his own chin has let him down -- again ask Michael Sprott about that.

Haye will get to Harrison early and often, and we will see if, when the heat is on, Harrison can for the first time in his career rise to the occasion. Don’t count on it.

PREDICTION: Haye by knockout in 5.

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