Down a warehouse-lined stretch of Paterson, New Jersey, a heavyweight boxer pounds the punching bag in an otherwise quiet gym. Boxers aren’t an unusual sight in this small town just a few miles from Manhattan; most notable among homegrown products are former WBO junior welterweight titleholder Kendall Holt and Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the hard-hitting middleweight contender who was the only man to stop Emile Griffith.
What’s unusual about this sight is that Zhang Zhilei, the super heavyweight silver medalist at the 2008 Olympics, is no local product. He grew up 7,000 miles away in Zhoukou, China, moving to New Jersey in 2014 to pursue a career as a pro boxer.
“I came here by myself,” said Zhang, who has a wife and son back home. “Sometimes I feel homesick and I really miss them, but there’s no regrets.”
If he walks through any public area in his home country, he’s mobbed by admirers. At 6-foot-6, 260 pounds, Zhang draws attention with his pure physicality, but save for neighborhoods with big Chinese populations like Flushing, Queens or New York’s Chinatown, most see him as someone who looks like a somebody. They just don’t know who.
Ask his trainer/manager, Shaun George, he’ll tell you they’re looking at the best heavyweight in the world.
“Zhang Zhilei is the best fighter in the world. He’s a skilled heavyweight, he does it all — box, bang,” said George, himself a former pro who has transitioned to a young trainer. “His technique is fine; it’s going to get better. All you have to do is put him in with the best fighters in the world.”
The only thing George feels Zhang is lacking is an opportunity. Zhang (19-0, 15 knockouts) is back in action on September 28 in a scheduled 10-rounder against Don Haynesworth (15-2-1, 13 KOs) in Changsha, China. The fight will be televised there on CCTV, but isn’t being picked up in the United States or United Kingdom, the geographical regions where most of the top heavyweights are from. Despite holding a respectable looking record, Haynesworth’s highest-profile bout was less than a year ago when he was stopped in three rounds by Bryant Jennings.
At age 35, Zhang wants something substantial soon, and he’d much rather be fighting someone higher up the totem pole. He admits to being “a little frustrated” with promoter RocNation about his relative anonymity at a time when the heavyweight division is hotter than it has been since Lennox Lewis’ retirement, with fighters like Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury poised to generate worldwide headlines and millions of dollars in purse money.
“I can fight any one of those guys, but do they want to fight me?,” Zhang, a rare heavyweight lefty, muses through interpreter Kurt Li. “This is one of the major problems out there, maybe because I’m an underdog, I don’t have a name yet. And what if they lose?”
Found in translation
To those not familiar with Mandarin, the language most commonly spoken on the Chinese mainland, it’s nearly impossible to follow along with the dialogue between Zhang and George as they work the punch mitts. One assumes they’re speaking the typical boxing lingo — “one-two”, “slip, slip” — but it’s difficult to be certain.
George, now 39, is a Brooklyn native of Guyanan descent who was a two-time National Golden Gloves champion and light heavyweight contender before his career wrapped in 2009. He went over to China in 2010, training the larger boxers of the Chinese national amateur team, including Zhang. He began learning Mandarin while in China, picking it up from the boxers in the gym and asking what certain phrases meant.
“Chinese is four tones, so one word can mean four different things depending on how you say it. It’s really hard for me to understand it, but the boxers teach it to me,” said George.
Li, asked on a scale of 1-10 what George’s comprehension of the language was, rated George a 4. Good enough to order dinner, but details of boxing strategy often require explaining by the native-speaking Li.
Zhang, like George’s situation, understands more English than he can speak, but when George corrects something that isn’t to the American perfectionist’s liking, Zhang responds, “Yes sir.” The goal, it would seem, is to have Zhang absorb George’s smooth, New York-style boxing to go along with his innate physical abilities.
“He’s a sponge,” said George. “One thing I can say about Zhilei is, if there’s something he doesn’t understand, he’s gonna keep working on it.”
Pro boxing in China, long outlawed during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, experienced a brief renaissance (or a “Rebellion” as a New Yorker profile termed it) in 2013 when two-time gold medalist Zou Shiming signed with Top Rank and kicked off a series of Vegas-style boxing events in Macau. Zhang’s own introduction to the sport began many years earlier, when he watched the first meeting between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield in 1996.
“Tyson stands for power, explosiveness. Holyfield’s mind is just unbelievable,” said Zhang. Zhang had first been acquainted with sports at 13 years old as a canoeing athlete, but switched to boxing at 15. “I just liked fighting,” said Zhang.
After making it to the final in 2008, Zhang returned to the Olympics in London four years later. That’s where he met Joshua in the ring. Zhang was a more polished fighter than he was in Beijing, where he leapt in and out wildly, ignoring his reach advantage to make contact. George had trained Zhang for the previous two years, but when it was time to fly out to London, George was passed over in favor of Chinese coaches.
“I thought Zhilei went in with the wrong strategy and mind frame,” said George, who watched the Games back home in New Jersey. “Zhilei listens to whatever his coaches tell him to do. So he went in there looking for the KO.”
Joshua scored a knockdown in Round 2 and went on to win their quarterfinal match, 15-11. George stayed on with the amateur team, guiding them through the 2016 Games, while Zhang turned pro in 2014 in search of a different heavyweight crown.
They reunited in October of 2017 when Zhang switched back to George after a stint with trainer Diego Rosario. Their first fight together in July, Zhang’s first in 10 months, resulted in Zhang’s sixth straight first-round knockout win. That’s more an indication of the level of competition he’s been fighting, but Zhang had been near an opponent befitting his aspirations a few days prior when he posed for photos next to Joshua at a press conference for the DAZN streaming app.
George said the images went viral in Chinese social media circles, with fans back home clamoring for one of their own to get a shot at the man who holds three of the four major heavyweight titles.
“I would like to make this fight happen. Anthony Joshua is a superstar, he’s a bigger name and he holds belts. In the heavyweight division, you never know. It takes only one punch,” said Zhang, punching his right palm with his left fist.
George feels the fight makes sense also from a demographic standpoint. The New York City area is estimated to have more than 800,000 ethnic Chinese residents, and about 1.4 billion people live in China itself. Why couldn’t an unbeaten Chinese heavyweight recreate the “Linsanity” craze (the hype surrounding former Knicks player Jeremy Lin) at Madison Square Garden opposite a British heavyweight champion making his U.S. debut, George wonders.
“He’s ready right now. Give me Bryant Jennings. Give me any top five heavyweight, I’ll tell you he beats them,” said George.
“I still have that very big hope, that the whole world is going to see me. Everyone’s eyes are going to focus on me,” Zhang says, as he once again strikes his palm. “I am a giant man from China.”
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Slowly but surely, details for the hotly anticipated heavyweight title tilt between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury are coming into focus.
The Showtime pay-per-view fight will be staged December 1, it was announced Friday, though there’s still no set location. However, sources tell The Ring Wilder Fury will take place at either Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas or Staples Center in Los Angeles. (The Ring previously reported the date for the fight.)
“Just signed my portion of the contract for the Wilder vs. Fury fight, it is officially on,” Wilder, 32, said on his verified Instagram account. “It’s going to be an exciting fight, it’s going to be an explosive fight. It’s going to be a fight for the legacy.
“It’s going to be a pleasure: the two best heavyweights competing against each other. I just beat, in my opinion, one of the best heavyweights in Luis Ortiz, and now I’m going for the next best in the heavyweight division.”
With Wilder (40-0, 39 knockouts) putting his WBC title on the line in a voluntary defense, there’s an immediate rematch clause in place should he lose in an upset, according to sources. The press tour will kick off October 1 in London and continue on with stops in New York and Los Angeles.
Fury (27-0, 19 KOs) remains the lineal champion dating back to his decision win over Wladimir Klitschko in November 2015. The Brit endured a lengthy layoff due to cocaine addiction and depression before returning this summer with a pair of victories over journeyman heavyweights.
“I just signed my end of the contract for the Wilder fight, signed, sealed and delivered,” Fury, 30, said on his official Instagram account. ” … Deontay Wilder, you’re going to get it, mate. You’re in big trouble. I’ve never met a man I couldn’t beat in a boxing ring or outside in the street.
“I know you got a big punch, I know you’re unbeaten, I know you got a big mouth and I know you want to win. But you don’t want it like I do. You can’t beat me. I will out-heart you. I will force my will upon you until you quit. That’s a promise. That chin is going nowhere. That chin will absorb all your power, and I’ll detonate it.”
Now that the date is squared away, the undercard is beginning to take shape. Junior middleweight champion Jarrett Hurd could return on the televised undercard, per sources.
He hasn’t competed since suffering a torn rotator cuff, but he’s resumed training. Hurd would likely be matched up with a middling opponent before an early 2019 showdown with Jermell Charlo for the vacant Ring 154-pound championship.
Hurd scored the biggest win of his career in April, a victory over Erislandy Lara that required a final-round knockdown to pull out the decision.
Heavyweight contender Luis Ortiz could also continue his comeback on the undercard. The Ring’s No. 4 heavyweight had Wilder in serious trouble during their March fight, but the 39-year-old Cuban was knocked out in Round 10. He returned with a second-round KO of Razvan Cojanu in July, and figures to secure another notable fight soon.
Mike Coppinger is the Senior Writer for RingTV.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger
LONDON — The hundreds of fans who shuffled into the Business Design Center on Friday were greeted outside by massive signage depicting likenesses of Anthony Joshua and Alexander Povetkin.
Once they made their way inside the sprawling, three story-venue, it was evident this wasn’t the usual weigh-in that’s customary in the United States. Dillian Whyte stood off to the right, and dozens of fans stood waiting in line to grab a photo with the heavyweight contender.
To the left, an opportunity to pose with Joshua’s heavyweight title belts, all three of which will be on the line Saturday at Wembley Stadium in the first fight streamed on fledgling platform DAZN, available on a free trial and $9.99 a month thereafter. The champion tipped the scales at 246.5 pounds; the challenger weighed 222 pounds.
Joshua, who sports one of the best physiques in boxing, stands tall at 6-foot-6 and towered over his foe, who is generously listed at 6-foot-2. Povetkin appeared strong but a bit soft. The 28-year-old Brit also owns the youth edge heading into his title tilt with the 39-year-old Russian, who was twice busted for performance-enhancing substance use.
“He’s gonna be quick; he’s gonna be fast. So I gotta put on my dancing shoes and be sharp on my feet,” said Joshua, who is making his fifth heavyweight title defense. “If they’re strong to the head, you take them out to the body. If they’re strong to body, you hit them to the head. Sooner or later they fold.”
Joshua is a 12-1 favorite to retain his titles, along with his status as The Ring’s top heavyweight. He’s coming off the first distance fight of his career, a 12-round decision victory over Joseph Parker in a title unification bout. If Joshua (21-0, 20 knockouts) is to score another knockout, it would be an impressive feat.
After all, Povetkin (34-1, 24 KOs) has never been stopped, though he was dropped by British journeyman David Price in March (his most recent outing). Povetkin (Ring No. 3) bounced back to stop Price in Round 5, and it was just the second fight in his career where he tasted the canvas. In his lone professional loss, he was dropped four times by Wladimir Klitschko but lasted the distance.
Said Joshua: “I’m proper relaxed because Rob (McCracken) said it to me, my trainer said to me, ‘don’t stress too much because in 30 years, you’ll look back and say these are the best days of your life.'”
Mike Coppinger is the Senior Writer for RingTV.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger
Tony Tubbs was a skilled heavyweight who rose to prominence in the 1980s, winning the WBA title in 1985 before losing it in his first defense. For a number of years he was a solid part of boxing’s glamor division, taking on several top fighters, although weight and drug issues threatened to blight a promising career.
Tubbs was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on February 15, 1958. He lived in the projects and his early years were difficult and led him toward boxing.
“Things were tough,” Tubbs told The Ring. “I was from a big family; two boys and seven girls. I was fighting all the time. I was fighting every time I got to the streets. I first went to the gym when I was 16.”
Tubbs was a top amateur. He reached the quarter-finals of the World Championships in 1978, losing to legendary Cuban Teofilo Stevenson who would go on to claim gold. The following year Tubbs won the AAU and World Cup golds medals, and during that time he served as one of Muhammad Ali’s sparring partners.
“Muhammad Ali taught me a lot. I miss him today, I really do,” said Tubbs, recalling his time with ‘The Greatest”. “When Muhammad lost to Leon Spinks (in February 1978), he was getting older, his reflex was getting bad. He needed me because I had speed. We would get in the corner, he would try to hit me, I would slip him. He was trying to slip a lot of shots. That’s what made him a champion again.”
After posting an impressive 240-13 ledger as an amateur, Tubbs turned professional after the U.S. boycotted the 1980 Olympics. He regularly appeared on the east coast and after just 14 fights, he faced his toughest opponent to date, former heavyweight title challenger Jimmy Young. “TNT” out-boxed the iron-jawed veteran en route to a 10-round decision.
The victory helped the young contender gain further seasoning while moving toward a world title fight. Shortly thereafter, Tubbs signed promotional terms with powerful promoter Don King, who ruled the heavyweight division in the 1980s.
In March 1985, on the undercard of the Larry Holmes-David Bey heavyweight championship bout, Tubbs bested James “Bonecrusher” Smith over 10 rounds in a WBA eliminator. Just six weeks later, the unbeaten contender took on old amateur rival Greg Page for the belt in Buffalo, New York. The two had met seven times in the unpaid ranks, with Page winning six of them.
Tubbs fought a disciplined contest in his first 15-rounder, upsetting his more experienced compatriot to win a unanimous decision in front of over 6,000 fans.
“(He beat me in) amateur boxing,” Tubbs reminded his detractors after the fight. “Tonight we fought as professionals. Determination won it for me tonight. I knew it was a close fight. I was trying to pace myself for 15 rounds. Greg’s mostly a counterpuncher, and even at 239 pounds he can hurt you with either hand, so I just tried to get there first with my punches and tag him when he came in.”
In his first defense, in January 1986, Tubbs weighed 15 pounds heavier than when he won the title. Subsequently, he was ouboxed and lost for the first time, dropping a razor-thin majority decision to Tim Witherspoon. After that fight, Witherspoon tested positive for marijuana and the two were mandated to face each other in December.
Tubbs, however, pulled out a week before the rematch with a shoulder injury. Don King, believing his fighter was looking for more money, would replace him with “Bonecrusher” Smith, who stepped in at late notice to upset Witherspoon in a single round.
This left Tubbs in a position where he would have to fight his way back into contention. He won three low-level fights before being selected to face undisputed champion Mike Tyson in Tokyo, Japan, on March 21, 1988.
Tubbs enjoyed a good opening round but quickly tasted the champion’s notorious power and was stopped following a brutal assault at 2:54 of the second round.
The former champion rebounded with three wins before besting Orlin Norris for the NABF crown, but the fight was declared a no-contest when Tubbs tested positive for cocaine.
His next big fight came against 1988 Olympic silver medalist Riddick Bowe in Atlantic City on April 20, 1991. Tubbs gave a good account of himself but dropped a hard-fought unanimous decision to the future heavyweight champion.
There were other good moments. Tubbs found some form when he outpointed the trio of Bruce Seldon, Jessie Ferguson and Alexander Zolkin in the early 1990s. But those wins were bookended by disappointing stoppage defeats.
Tubbs retired shortly thereafter, came back for one fight in 1997, returned again in 2002, and retired for good in 2006. He walked away with a record of 47-10, 25 knockouts.
“It was cocaine. I had problems, I’m not as sharp as I used to be,” Tubbs acknowledged openly. “I still play my part. I’ve been clean almost six years.”
Tubbs, now 60, still lives in Cincinnati. He is divorced and has 16 – yes 16 – children; eight boys and eight girls and, he estimates, 25-30 grandchildren. Perhaps not surprisingly, most of his money went on child support and he now lives modestly off his pension. He enjoys training children and giving them the benefit of his vast experience, particularly his grandson AJ. “If you see him fight, you see me,” said the former champ.
Tubbs graciously took time to speak to The Ring about the best he fought in 10 key categories.
TYRELL BIGGS: He was in the 1984 Olympics. He moved like Muhammad Ali. I beat him in a fight where we all came together in a tournament. I think he had one of the best jabs. He had good movement and e tried to be the next Muhammad Ali.
TIM WITHERSPOON: Tim had a good defense. He was tough to land a clean shot on.
MIKE TYSON: I think I had the best hand speed, but Tyson had hand speed too. He had power and speed.
BIGGS: I never had any problem with anyone’s footspeed. Tyrell Biggs; he’s a mover, you had to catch him. He had the best footwork and used all of the ring. I had to chase him down.
JIMMY YOUNG: I fought so many people [laughs]. Greg Page had a good chin, we went 15 rounds. Tyson had a pretty good chin, but if he went five rounds or more he’d tire out. Riddick Bowe had a good chin, I don’t think he beat me that fight. Jimmy Young had a nice chin. I would say he had the best chin.
WITHERSPOON: Greg Page was clever. He would let you come in and feint you and with his power. He would just sit there, but I was too fast. I beat him on the scorecards. Tim Witherspoon beat me on points and Bonecrusher Smith cracked him on the chin, anything can happen in a fight. I’d say that Tim was clever. He was comfortable in his fight zone. When I fought Bonecrusher I kept throwing combinations and getting out the way. I should have done the same thing to Tim, but every fight is different.
TYSON: I think Tyson was way stronger than Bowe. Tyson was a comer; he was like a Joe Frazier. He depended on hitting, and he was a fast hitter. He had short arms, but when he got in he could dig, so you don’t want to let him get in.
TYSON: When Tyson hit me I felt dazed. When you’re younger you can take the puncher better than when you get older. If I had stayed on the outside he wouldn’t have beaten me. He gave up all his strength after five rounds. He was a hitter. Certain fighters would never fought Tyson, Riddick Bowe would never fight Mike Tyson. Bowe never fought nobody, he never fought Lennox Lewis. I’m glad I had the fights I had.
BEST BOXING SKILLS
WITHERSPOON: He would come out just like a Philadelphia fighter, trying to counter. He’d try to put some things together, so you’ve got to think. But I was a boxer, I never was a puncher. When I first came in, I fought Witherspoon’s fight. I can catch and slip and do that game, but I should have been boxing because I know how to score. When you fight your own fight you always win, Muhammad Ali taught me that. Tim Witherspoon was a comer, he was a hitter, but I should have been working my jab. He fought his way, you’ve got to have skills to fight his way.
TYSON: I’d say Tyson. I was 30, Tyson was 21. He was in his prime, he was a force of nature.
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at email@example.com and you can follow him on Twitter @AnsonWainwright
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LONDON — Too often in boxing, the lead-up to a fight is really more about another matchup that isn’t yet happening.
It’s been that way for decades. While fans pine for a super fight that appears all too obvious, organizers deliver a less-appealing interim bout of sorts that serves as further promotion toward the end goal. This cat-and-mouse game dragged on for over five years before Mayweather-Pacquiao finally came to fruition.
Now, we’re being treated to similar drama between Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder.
Negotiations between the two heavyweight titleholders played out in the media this summer with anticipation at a fevered pitch, but the talks didn’t deliver the super fight. Instead, Joshua will share the ring with Alexander Povetkin on Saturday at Wembley Stadium in a matchup that represents little more than a stepping stone toward that eventual meeting with Wilder for all the marbles.
“With Wilder, I realized that there’s been a lot of talking and he’s done a lot of hard work,” said Joshua (21-0, 20 knockouts), The Ring’s top-rated heavyweight. “Ultimately, when we’re all in the same division, we all have to fight. We’ll get it on as soon as the time is right. Time doesn’t wait for no man and time didn’t wait for us to get our negotiation together so we have to keep it moving with Povetkin.”
After money, that’s what it’s always about in boxing: time. Really, Joshua-Wilder might not be ripe just yet. Sure, it’s a tasty matchup that would sell bundles of pay-per-views both stateside and abroad right now. It figures to be a much more lucrative event next year. The Mayweather-Pacquiao saga proved that the waiting game works.
The 2015 welterweight title bout was a couple years past its expiration date — at least from a competitive level — but the fight shattered revenue records. Using that formula, is there any rush for promoters to consummate Joshua-Wilder right here, right now?
And when one half of that equation is a bona fide superstar in his home country, like Joshua is, there’s even less urgency to consummate a coin-flip bout with a dangerous puncher. The unified heavyweight champion’s in-ring exploits routinely pack stadiums with 80,000-plus fans and there’s no sign of slowing down.
A similar crowd will watch the 28-year-old take on Povetkin, who on paper, represents the second-most dangerous test of the Brit’s career — even if the Russian is being counted out. “They’re underrating him,” Joshua offered.
Povetkin is rated No. 3 by The Ring, and like Joshua, is an Olympic gold medalist; in fact, he’s been a staple of the heavyweight landscape for the greater part of 15 years. It’s his advanced age and most recent performance that give insiders pause.
For even though Povetkin (34-1, 24 KOs) scored a fifth-round KO of British big man David Price in March, the 39-year-old Russian was dropped by the middling fighter in Round 3. Knock down aside, Povetkin might be considered a worthy foe at any other time, but in the aftermath of the failed talks between Joshua and Wilder, any other matchup is viewed as a consolation prize.
Joshua-Povetkin is being served as the kick-off for the U.S. launch of fledgling streaming service DAZN. A free trial is available to watch the fight, and executives are banking on Joshua’s star appeal to attract subscribers.
Wilder, meanwhile, is headed toward a high-stakes battle with lineal champion Tyson Fury, the other significant player in the heavyweight triumvirate. An announcement for a December date in the United States is imminent, and if Wilder wins as expected, a fight with Joshua next year will be worth that much more money.
After all, Fury is British, charismatic, and represents the most high-profile foe of Wilder’s career. Wilder has yet to gain a foothold in the American media landscape out of the tight-knit boxing circle, but his first pay-per-view headliner should change matters. Sharing the bill with a British star should give Wilder the rub across the pond, too.
“When I turned professional, Wilder and Fury were five years ahead of me so I looked to those guys and thought, ‘What are they up to in their career?'” Joshua recounted. “Now I’m on my journey. I’ve surpassed what they’ve done. I’ve set a new level of
what should be done in the heavyweight division.
“Everyone knows the heavyweight division could be one punch that can change the course of history. So that’s what keeps my eyes on the prize. … One foot wrong and you’re at the start of the pecking order again.”
That’s the fate Joshua is hoping to avoid, and the danger Povetkin brings. If Joshua is looking past him — he insists that’s not the case, of course — Povetkin could make him pay. He’ll have to work his way inside to take away the champ’s four-inch height advantage, but he possesses the experience to do so.
His lone career defeat came against Wladimir Klitschko in 2013, the same man Joshua stopped last year in a heavyweight classic. He was forced to rise off the canvas to do so, and in the process, proved his mettle, punching power and overall boxing ability.
Joshua is lined up for another Wembley Stadium outing on April 13, and if both he and Wilder are successful in their upcoming fights, the sides are sure to return to the negotiating table.
“I’ve ended every fight thinking I’ll fight Wilder next,” he said. “If I win this fight, I’ll definitely secure a fight for Wilder. I’m going to win this fight to fight Wilder. I’m going to fight him regardless so I’m going to focus on Povetkin. Don’t be cautious, just take out Povetkin like I would any other opponent.”
If all goes according to plan Saturday, it’s on Wilder to take care of his end of the bargain. Then the waiting game can resume in earnest.
Mike Coppinger is the Senior Writer for RingTV.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger
Yo Dougie, Hope all is good brother and you’re suitably rested after last weekend. Just a quick email regarding Alexander Povetkin and how he is being perceived as an opponent for Anthony Joshua.
It’s not surprising to see casual sports fans dismissing Povetkin’s chances as they don’t really know him so think it’ll be a walkover, however it’s surprising to hear and read so many comments from hardcore fans both here and in the US saying it’s a poor opponent for AJ.
When Deontay Wilder was scheduled to fight Povetkin a year or two ago he was viewed as a real live dog and maybe even favourite for the fight (seem to remember you even picking the Russian?!). Granted he’s a couple of years older now but it seems to be he is being overlooked as the fans want Wilder or Fury and nothing else will do. What do you make of his legitimacy as a challenger?
For what’s it worth I think AJ is going to put on a show and stop the game Russian inside 9. You?
No MM this time but instead a sick question for the blood thirsty ghoul in you… prime GGG (2013-2015), how far up in weight would he have to have gone and against whom before his beard got truly tested and he got knocked down? Peace, brother. – Mike
Probably light heavyweight vs. Adonis Stevenson.
I can envision Joshua getting a late stoppage against the Russian veteran, but I think he’ll play it safe and box a disciplined fight all the way to the final bell and a unanimous decision in a competitive fight.
Heavyweight contender Alexander Povetkin (standing) vs. David Price. Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
It’s not surprising to see casual sports fans dismissing Povetkin’s chances as they don’t really know him so think it’ll be a walkover, however it’s surprising to hear and read so many comments from hardcore fans both here and in the US saying it’s a poor opponent for AJ.Really? I’m not aware of that criticism. I’ve heard the disappointment from both hardcore and casuals in regard to Povetkin being a mandatory challenger after so much had been written and said about a potential Joshua vs. Wilder showdown earlier in the year, but those who are familiar with the 2004 Olympic gold medalist view him as a live dog.
When Deontay Wilder was scheduled to fight Povetkin a year or two ago he was viewed as a real live dog and maybe even favourite for the fight (seem to remember you even picking the Russian?!).I think you’re right. I thought Povetkin had too much for Wilder, who was still largely untested at the time, and I didn’t think the American would get a fair shake from officials in Moscow. I would probably favor Wilder if they were to fight now.
Granted he’s a couple of years older now but it seems to be he is being overlooked as the fans want Wilder or Fury and nothing else will do.The casual fans want to see the big names and the champions clash. I don’t fault them for saying “f__k sanctioning body mandatories” no matter how solid the challenger is. Hardcore heads have probably cooled on Povetkin following his two positive PED tests and the career interruptions and fight cancellations those setbacks caused. They look at his win streak since his lone loss to Wladimir Klitschko and they don’t see any world-beaters, and thanks to the PED scandals, even the impressive KOs of Carlos Takam and Mike Perez are viewed with suspicion. It is what it is.
What do you make of his legitimacy as a challenger? I think Povetkin is legit. I view him as the biggest threat Joshua has faced as a pro, next to Klitschko. However, I think the Russian is slightly past his prime and should be considered an underdog.
With all the talk about GGG-Canelo this past weekend, the best fight of the weekend got overlooked. Jose Ramirez-Antonio Orozco was an absolute barnburner.
How do you think Ramirez stacks up compared to the other top dogs at 140 (Regis Prograis, Josh Taylor)? I was pleased to see the heart that Orozco displayed and hope he can move forward with his career.
As for GGG-Canelo… it was a good fight. I think what we all suspect is that if you replace “GGG” with “TMT” or “Ward” on the trunks, the man wearing white gets the benefit of the doubt in every close round and wins 8-4 or 9-3. That is a shame, because Canelo deserves props by putting up a great fight, win or lose, against the MW juggernaut.
Povetkin-Joshua. Not a lot of hype in the States, but I am sure 90K fans will enjoy it. What is your pick?
Keep up the great work. – Donavan
I gotta go with Nunn by comfortable decision. If Canelo thought Austin Trout and Erislandy Lara were difficult southpaws, he would have been taken to hell by the lightning-fast 6-foot-2 lefty at his peak (1988-’89). Nunn was a slippery stick-and-mover who could switch gears and go into attack mode (head and body) at the drop of a dime.
I like AJ by UD. (And yeah, I’ve downloaded the DAZN app on my iPhone and Amazon Fire TV Stick, so I’m ready to watch it.)
Jose Ramirez-Antonio Orozco was an absolute barnburner.That heated 12-rounder was as good as a one-sided fight can be. Kudos to both Ramirez and Orozco for their tremendous efforts.
Ramirez (right) cracks Orozco. Photo by Mikey Williams/ Top Rank
How do you think Ramirez stacks up compared to the other top dogs at 140 (Regis Prograis, Josh Taylor)? I think the WBC beltholder is right there with the top dogs of the junior welterweight division. With his smart pressure, volume punching, sharp technique, body attack, solid chin and iron will, Ramirez is going to be a very hard man to outpoint – especially in the Fresno area (where he fights even harder). I hope we eventually get to see the winner of the World Boxing Super Series 140-pound tournament face Ramirez. If Jorge Linares looks sharp in his junior welter debut on Sept. 29, I think Ramirez-Linares is an interesting 140-pound style clash.
I was pleased to see the heart that Orozco displayed and hope he can move forward with his career.I think Orozco remains a player in the 140-pound division. I’d love to see him pit his heart and grit against the winner of the Hooker-Saucedo WBO title tilt or Sergey Lipinets (if the former beltholder is still able to make 140).
As for GGG-Canelo… it was a good fight.I think it was better than good.
I think what we all suspect is that if you replace “GGG” with “TMT” or “Ward” on the trunks, the man wearing white gets the benefit of the doubt in every close round and wins 8-4 or 9-3. You’re not wrong, but that wouldn’t mean those are the “right” scores for the fight. I think it was legitimately close if you gave both fighters credit for the fine work they put in for 12 rounds.
That is a shame, because Canelo deserves props by putting up a great fight, win or lose, against the MW juggernaut.I agree 100%.
In the aftermath of the Canelo/GGG fight and apparent outrage of fans I wanted to get your thoughts on boxings scoring system. I got in several debates about the categories of scoring (clean punching, effective aggression, defense, ring generalship). Many people argue that clean punching is the only criteria that counts. And while I agree it’s the most important, given that judging is done without the benefit of punch stats, or 360 angle of the fight, the other categories play a vital role in scoring close rounds, which is particularly important in a fight like this where virtually every round was close. Judges can’t always tell who is clearly more effective in the heat of a battle, and fans shouldn’t pretend like clean punching is somehow less subjective than the other categories (punch stats too for that matter). Not to mention if we were just counting who punched the other guy more exclusively, we essentially are using the old style of amateur scoring, which I am definitely against in a pro fight.
What’s your take on this debate?
In any case I am surprised (though I shouldn’t be) at the amount of outage from fans about this fight. It was as close as they come, I think I counted one clinch the entire fight, and it was high skilled bombs away all night. A score of 7-5 to either guy or a draw is completely reasonable, both guys are elevated to me. Haven’t seen two elite fighters this evenly matched since Pac/Marquez. Boxing fans never seem to know when they have it good!
PS: I ordered the PPV from RingTV, great job on the excellent commentary! – Joel in Montreal
Thank you, Joel. I was in very good company with Beto Duran and “The Flushing Flash” Kevin Kelley.
You’re absolutely right about diehard boxing fans not knowing when they’ve got it good. I came to this realization back in the mid-2000s when hardcore heads did more complaining about the various controversies of Pacquiao vs. Marquez I, Pacquiao vs. Morales I and Corrales-Castillo I (from the scoring of a three-knockdown round to the choice of gloves to mouthpiece spitting) than they appreciated the modern classics that they witnessed. It’s really sad that “their guy winning” and “lording it over the fans of the ‘loser’” is more important to them than seeing a great prize fight.
My problem with the outrage on the scores is that it’s gotten worse in the day following the decision after fans (many of whom agreed that the fight could have gone either way on Saturday) re-watched the bout two and three times, sometimes slowing down certain rounds to count punches landed. There’s nothing wrong with fans reexamining a fight, or changing their opinions on who they thought won, but they need to realize that’s not how real boxing judges score a fight. They see everything up close, in real time, from one perspective on the ring apron, and they don’t get to take their time with the scoring or view replays.
Everyone’s making a big deal about Round 12 now. Well, I’m gonna keep it real. I scored it for Golovkin, but I also jotted down in my notes “very close,” because that’s what it seemed like in real time.
My honest opinion on the “outrage” and “controversy” of Canelo-Golovkin II is that it’s a consequence of the middleweights’ popularity and the polarizing year-long feud between their camps/promoters. Canelo and GGG each has a legion of loyal fans, and both have dedicated contingents of haters/detractors; plus both have associates that get under the skins of hardcore heads with statements that are obviously meant to stir s__t up (Oscar De La Hoya and Abel Sanchez).
If Canelo and Golovkin were just your average middleweights, and not international stars, their rematch would have probably been received much like the Shawn Porter-Danny Garcia fight from the previous Saturday – as a good, evenly matched contest that could have been a draw or a 115-113 decision for either fighter.
But when the stakes are high and the bad blood has boiled for as long as it did between combatants and their teams as was the case for Canelo and GGG, the emotions of the fans can get out of control. That’s just the way it is.
R.I.P ENZO CALZAGHE
RIP Enzo Calzaghe
He helped turn Joe into a modern day legend.
Barring the Jeff Lacey fight what’s your favourite Joe Calzaghe performance and why? Take care. – Pete, Sussex, UK
Enzo Calzaghe (right) with son Joe. Photo courtesy of AFP.
Enzo did a masterful job in cultivating Joe Calzaghe’s unique fast-pace-high-volume-but-creative southpaw style of boxing. Even more so than Kostya Tszyu, I will often pick Calzaghe to prevail in the endless mythical matchups that fans come up with for this column. That’s how good a job the father did in developing his obviously gifted son. But Enzo also proved that he could train and improve lesser talented boxers. I know he will be missed dearly by all of the fighters he trained and the UK boxing community.
My favorite Calzaghe performance? Well, as much as I appreciate Calzaghe’s boxing acumen and ability to adapt to any style, I enjoyed him the most when he was on the attack (see his blowouts of Mario Veit and aggressively pursued stoppage of Omar Sheika). My pick is Joe’s two-round shootout with former two-time WBA beltholder Byron Mitchell. He threw caution to the wind from the opening bell and paid for it by hitting the deck in Round 2, but he scored his own knockdown shortly after and forced an admittedly questionable stoppage but it was still a thriller.
MORE THOUGHTS ON #CANELOGGG2
Hope this finds you and the family well. To answer your question from Monday’s mailbag – Max Kellerman referred to Ward-Kovalev twice, between the third and fourth rounds, and during the 10th. He was so restrained! I re-watched the fight and made note of it for you. Max to me is a major disappointment. I was such a fan of his in his ESPN fights period. Now it’s as much about himself as the fight game. Too bad, as his knowledge of the history of the sport is impressive. I don’t care what his politics are, or if he’s one of the cool guys in his media world.
Not a hard fight to re-watch! I was impressed as to how little the referee had to do, a credit to both fighters and their camps. Truly professional. I’ve been pretty critical of Canelo since his drug tests, but he made me a fan again. I was impressed with his game plan and his adjustments after the first fight, and his conditioning. I had GGG up 7 rounds to 5, but there were so many close rounds it is hard to argue the decision. What I don’t understand is Tom Loeffler having the fight in Las Vegas. He had to know any close decision would go against his fighter. New York, or Atlantic City or Brooklyn or a host of other venues. Was it purely money? Is he cold enough to say let his man lose and have a third fight? GGG could easily be 2-0 if the fights were held somewhere else.
A couple of more things – is this the last time I see Michael Buffer on TV? And there is no way in God’s creation that May-Pac II separates me from my shekels. I was conned once. As always, the mailbag is the best. – Ken Kozberg, Oakham, MA.
Thanks for the kind words, Ken.
I’m not kidding when I say this about #MayPac2, I really hope they fight again and charge their dopey fans out the ass for the most clearly orchestrated fake fight since #MayMac. I’ll have fun ignoring the hype, skipping the fight, and ridiculing the Mayweather and Pacquiao faithful.
Buffer is now exclusive to DAZN, so you can still see him on TV if you subscribe to the OTT service and beam it to your set via Fire Stick, Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast or other streaming device. “Let’s get ready to STREAM BOXING!!!!!!”
Not a hard fight to re-watch!Not at all. It was a damn good middleweight championship. It reminded me of the first James Toney-Mike McCallum fight, which is saying something.
I was impressed as to how little the referee had to do, a credit to both fighters and their camps. Truly professional.I agree. We weren’t trying to ignore Benjy Esteves during the online PPV broadcast but we didn’t mention his name once after the opening bell.
I’ve been pretty critical of Canelo since his drug tests, but he made me a fan again.That’s the magic of overcoming the odds with a hard-fought victory in a classic 12-rounder.
I was impressed with his game plan and his adjustments after the first fight, and his conditioning. I expected much of what we saw.They only two things that really surprised me (which I think caught most of us off guard) was his refusal to go to the ropes and the quality of his chin even late in the fight.
I had GGG up 7 rounds to 5, but there were so many close rounds it is hard to argue the decision.That’s how I see it (and for the record after re-watching it I also scored it for Golovkin by a 115-113 or 116-112 margin, but I’m still fine with my live score of 114-114 or anyone’s score of 115-113 for Canelo).
Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin. Art courtesy of Rob Ayala
What I don’t understand is Tom Loeffler having the fight in Las Vegas.What’s to understand? Golden Boy wanted the fight in Las Vegas. They have a close relationship with MGM Grand properties and the new T-Mobile Arena. Had Team GGG put their foot down about not returning to Vegas, we may not have gotten the rematch. Also, Vegas was the only jurisdiction that could pay both middleweight stars what they demanded from the return bout. This is PRIZE fighting, Double K., money matters.
He had to know any close decision would go against his fighter.Maybe. Maybe not. I’m as jaded as the next guy, but I thought we’d get an even closer fight the second time around and I still picked GGG by majority decision. (I was almost right.)
New York, or Atlantic City or Brooklyn or a host of other venues.I think NYC is realistically in the running for a third bout, if it happens, along with the Dallas/Ft. Worth area of Texas (AT&T Stadium). However, if Las Vegas really wants to host a fight, it’s almost impossible for any other city to outbid it.
Was it purely money?Come on, man. Of course, it was, for BOTH fighters and both sides of the promotion!
Is he cold enough to say let his man lose and have a third fight?No, Tom had full confidence in his fighter’s ability. I think Team GGG really thought they had gotten into Canelo’s head and that by getting the Mexican star to stand his ground and commit more to offense, the Kazakh hero could either clip him or wear him down. They assumed wrong. It happens in boxing. Hey, we still got a tremendous fight.
GGG could easily be 2-0 if the fights were held somewhere else.Maybe, but New York, California and Texas also have their share of poor and controversial scorecards every year.
GOLOVKIN DID NOT DOMINATE
Anyone who says GGG dominated by controlling the ring might be biased. Canelo pushed the action connected well with power and controlled the middle. I saw GGG get old on Saturday. Canelo landed some devastating body shots that literally lowered GGG’s arms they hurt so much. And I saw GGG muster Samson’s strength to give it a go for a win and he almost did. I think the best of GGG was left in the ring that night. Great fight and the judges got it right. For the record, I was of the opinion Canelo was gonna get KO’d before the fight started. – Danny, Los Angeles You weren’t alone in that opinion, Danny. I always envisioned a distance fight. These two excellent middleweights are just too tough, too defensively competent and too evenly matched to get the knockout.
Anyone who says GGG dominated by controlling the ring might be biased.I don’t think either fighter took complete control of any round. However, I understand the frustration from Golovkin fans. It’s true that he doesn’t get credit for his boxing acumen.
Canelo pushed the action connected well with power and controlled the middle. He was indeed the aggressor, but his aggression never allowed him to overtake Golovkin, who outworked him.
I saw GGG get old on Saturday.I wouldn’t call him “old.” He’s no longer in his prime, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t remain an elite boxer/world-class
Toney and McCallum put on another joint master class in their 1992 rematch. Photo / THE RING archives
middleweight. He changed his style for the more aggressive version of Canelo, which is something that special veterans do as they age. Bernard Hopkins was no longer the “Executioner” when he got into his mid-to-late 30s. He became more of a complete boxer/ring general. Mike McCallum was no longer “The Bodysnatcher” when he was duking it out with Toney at age 35. He became more of a jab-master/technician. Golovkin can make similar adjustments and still give the best of the 160-pound division a run for their money.
Canelo landed some devastating body shots that literally lowered GGG’s arms they hurt so much.He did well to the body. If they fight a third time, he should invest even more to the body.
And I saw GGG muster Samson’s strength to give it a go for a win and he almost did.So, if he’s an old man, he’s one bad-ass codger.
I think the best of GGG was left in the ring that night.Time will tell.
A small and funny question, for a change.
Who’s the most insufferable boxing legion you have ever endured? Better yet, give me your top 3.
I can think of the Mayweather Fans, the Canelo Haters, and maybe the RJJ fans. – Carlos, from Hermosillo, M?xico
I butted heads with Jones Jr.’s fans. They were indeed a hot mess. As were Tyson fans, who sometimes issued death threats when I (or other HouseOfBoxing or MaxBoxing contributors) wrote unflattering things about their messiah. As are Mayweather and Pacquiao fans, who I still have to occasionally deal with. (God, they are such simpletons. I really think they deserve each other.)
But all boxing fans that outright worship a dude to the point that they cannot tolerate any criticism toward their demigod are pathetic and insufferable.
Floyd-huggers are by far the dumbest of this breed. Chavez Nation were the poorest losers. Trinidiots were the most delusional. Golden Girls were the bitchiest. Roy Boys were the most insecure. Iron Mike’s Army were the most unhinged. GGGoons are the most antagonistic.
They all suck, but my top three would be the The Moron Team, Jones Town and the Tyson Terrorists – in that order. (I outlasted the deranged disciples of Mike and Roy, and I’m gonna outlast Floyd’s followers, too!)
MAYPAC2 QUIP FROM MONDAY MAILBAG
You gave me a hearty laugh once again with this Dougie…comedy and truth in the same paragraph:
Anyone who would pay to see that silliness deserves to be outright conned. Seriously, they should shuck and jive for 12 rounds (literally turn it into a dance-off) and after the final bell rings, they should laugh directly into the TV cameras. Manny can let Floyd do all the talking: “You stupid mother f__ckers! We got you again, bitches!” All Pac has to do is giggle his ass off.
Thank you! – Cogs
You’re most welcome.
I really am rooting for Floyd and Manny to make one more massive score before finally hanging up their gloves, and I hope that they can do so without scrambling each other’s already traumatized grey matter.
Watch your backs, homies! #MayPac2 might be creepin’ up on ya!
I wouldn’t pay for that nonsense, nor would I bother to cover it, but I know each has a legion nut cakes dedicated to promoting and protecting their legacies that would gladly plunk down $100 for the “honor” of cheering on the aging hero who has given them so much pride over the years. I also know that casual fans have short memories and are easily swayed by loudmouth general sports talking heads who debate and discuss this rematch around the clock for weeks. There’s probably a million of these dopes in the U.S. alone.
Would the rematch approach the numbers of the first fight? Hell no. But if it does just half, which is possible, the event will still be a success, and the future hall of famers will each make a fat grip. (And I really hope they gloat about it after bulls__ting in the ring for 12 pointless rounds. That would serve everyone who bought the PPV and everyone involved in the promotion right.)
Best night of pro career: Fernandez has had three special nights since turning professional three years ago.
“When I turned pro [a four-round decision over Sidney Cortes], when I won my first pro title [WBC Youth via fourth-round stoppage over Mikael Mkrchyan] and when I fought for the first time in the United States [a fifth-round stoppage over Nacliff Martinez],” Fernandez told The Ring through Oscar Zardain. “But I’m sure in the future I’m going to have more special nights.”
Worst night of pro career: Fernandez has won all 16 bouts to date, with 14 inside the distance, and has largely had things his own way. He is pleased with how his career has gone to this point.
Next fight: Fernandez made quite the impression on ShoBox last June, knocking out Juan Reyes in two rounds. Since then he’s stopped all his three opponents back in Spain, filling time while he awaited an invitation to come back.
That opportunity was offered to him over the summer, and he returns against O’Shaquie Foster in Shawnee, Oklahoma, in a 10-round bout this Friday.
“O’Shaquie Foster is a very good fighter and, although he was the underdog, he put on a great performance by beating Frankie De Alba in his last fight,” Fernandez said. “This is a big fight for both of us. I’m grateful to Lou DiBella for this opportunity to show why I’m one of the best prospects in boxing.”
Foster (13-2, 8 knockouts) will be appearing on ShoBox for the fourth time. The 24-year-old Texan was a decorated amateur who lost to Joseph Diaz in the Olympic trials before turning professional in September 2012. His final amateur record was 162-18.
Why he’s a prospect: Fernandez was a decent amateur domestically, winning the national title before turning professional. He had previously won silver and bronze in national tournaments.
The Spaniard has gained crucial experience sparring with former two-weight world champion Carl Frampton.
“I sparred with Carl Frampton in London and Vegas,” Fernandez said. “I was part of his team for the rematch against Leo Santa Cruz. I spent three weeks with him in his training camp in Las Vegas.”
Fernandez feels his biggest strength is his combinations and versatility. It should also be noted that he has impressive power, boasting an 88 percent knockout ratio.
Former two-weight world champion Sergio Martinez feels Fernandez, who is ranked No. 10 by the WBC, has a very high ceiling as a fighter and is one of the best, if not the best, fighters in Spain.
“Jon is very, very good,” Martinez said. “I think that he can be a superstar in the 130-pound division and fight for world titles in other divisions too. Probably he is the best [active fighter in Spain], but we have a lot of good prospects: Sergio Garc?a, Kerman Lejarraga or Carlos Ramos.”
Why he’s a suspect: “JonFer” looks the part and his team has good connections, but he may need to make a more permanent move Stateside to source better sparring.
How will he deal with a slick boxer who is able to hit and move?
Can he become his country’s 12th world champion? He would be the first since Kiko Martinez lost his IBF 122-pound strap to Frampton in 2014.
Fernandez feels there are a couple of things that would aid his development. “I need to be clever at closing the distance,” he said. “Sometimes I like to go to war and it’s not necessary.”
Storylines: Fernandez was born and raised in the industrial port city of Bilbao in the north of Spain. He is the oldest of four children. As a youngster he enjoyed the usual things.
“Like all school children, I liked playing soccer in the streets with my friends,” said the talented young prospect.
But when Fernandez was 14 years old, he stopped playing his country’s favorite pastime and took up boxing.
“I started to train in a kickboxing gym because my uncle is a pro kickboxer,” he explained. “My first day was amazing because I felt something special for that sport. And nowadays, boxing is my life.”
He has a handful of idols including Arturo Gatti, Oscar De La Hoya, Juan Manuel Marquez and of course, his promoter, Sergio Martinez.
Fernandez is married and enjoys running and visiting the cinema.
June 29 – Henry Maldonado – TKO 3
April 20 – Juan Huertas – TKO 3 2017
Sept. 29 – Alexander Podolsky – RTD 6
June 9 – Juan Reyes – KO 2
Apr. 21 – Ismael Garcia – RTD 2
Feb. 10 – Ernesto Garza III – TKO 3 2016
Oct. 8 – Mikael Mkrchyan – TKO 4
Sept. 1 – Nacliff Martinez – TKO 5
April 16 – Giorgi Gachechiladze – TKO 2
March 12 – Daniel Calzado – TKO 3
Feb. 19 – Reynaldo Mora – TKO 3 2015
Dec. 11 – Anzor Gamgebeli – KO 1
Oct. 2 – Ruben Garcia – KO 1
June 5 – Vasile Gigel – KO 1
May 15 – Jesus Sanchez – UD 4
March 27 – Sidney Cortes – UD 4
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow him on Twitter @AnsonWainwright
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On September 15, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin did battle at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas for the middleweight championship of the world. It was the kind of match-up that boxing needs more of. Two elite fighters ranked high on every pound-for-pound list and the top two fighters in their weight division, one of them boxing’s biggest pay-per-view draw.
It was a legacy fight for both men. But for Alvarez, it was something more. One year earlier, he and Golovkin had fought to a controversial draw. That fight had been for history and glory. This one, because of a positive test for a banned drug, was for Canelo’s honor.
Alvarez is a fighter at heart. He’s a tough SOB with a great chin. And he can fight. He turned pro at age fifteen and, in the thirteen years since then, has fashioned a 50-1-2 (34 KOs) ring record. On many occasions, he has gone in tough. But with each big win he achieved in the past, there was a caveat attached. This opponent was too old. That one was too small. The decision wasn’t right. And there was a 2013 loss to Floyd Mayweather when a too-young Canelo was befuddled over the course of twelve long rounds.
Golovkin, now 36, won a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics on behalf of Kazakhstan and had compiled a 38-0-1 (34 KOs) ledger in the professional ranks. More significantly, he’d reigned at various times as the WBC, WBA, and IBF middleweight champion and still held the WBC and WBA crowns. While Gennady had been tested by fewer world-class inquisitors than Canelo, he’d never shied away from a challenge. At his best, he relentlessly grinds opponents down.
Alvarez and Golovkin met in the ring for the first time on September 16, 2017, in the most-anticipated fight of the year. That bout generated a live gate of $27,059,850 at T-Mobile Arena, the third largest live gate in boxing history. The 22,358 fans in attendance comprised the largest indoor crowd ever for a fight in Las Vegas.
Photo by Tom Hogan-HoganPhotos
It was a spirited bout with most observers believing that Golovkin deserved the decision. Dave Moretti scored the contest 115-113 for Gennady. Don Trella scored it even. Adelaide Byrd turned in what might have been the worst scorecard ever in a major fight: 118-110 for Canelo.
Clearly, a rematch was in order. But on what terms? Despite being the challenger, Alvarez had been the driving economic force behind the first fight. That was reflected in the slightly better than 70-to-30-percent division of income in favor of Canelo and his promoter (Golden Boy). The differential was narrowed to 65-35 as negotiations for the rematch proceeded. A contract for a May 5 encore was signed. But while Canelo-Golovkin I had been conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect, the atmosphere was different now.
Alvarez is a hero in his native Mexico, while Team Golovkin has gone to great lengths to position Gennady as a “Mexican style” fighter.”
“There is no such thing as a Mexican style,” Canelo noted. “There have been many fighters from Mexico with different styles. My style is mine. I’m Mexican, and that’s what is important.”
But at the February 27, 2018, kick-off press conference for Canelo-Golovkin 2, Abel Sanchez (Gennady’s trainer) roiled the waters, saying, “I hope Canelo was able to see a transmission specialist for the rematch because in the first fight he was stuck in reverse. He was a runner. It behooves Canelo, with as much talking as he’s doing about his legacy and how he’s going to be remembered, to at least make it a fight.”
“I outboxed him,” Canelo said in response. “I went on the ropes. I made him miss, I controlled the center of the ring. I’m not a jackass who just comes forward, throwing punches and gets hit. He believes he is a great coach. He does not know what boxing is. He does not know what it is to have technique, what it is to box, what it is to make a move, knowing how to adapt to the circumstances of the fight, not just going forward throwing punches. I hope he goes home tonight and really thinks about what he says. Because he’s saying stupid idiotic things.”
Then there was a problem. A big one. On March 5, it was revealed that urine samples taken from Canelo by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) on February 17 and February 20, 2018, had tested positive for clenbuterol.
Clenbuterol helps the body increase its metabolism and process the conversion of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats into useful energy. It also boosts muscle growth and eliminates excess fats caused by the use of certain steroids. Under the World Anti-Doping Agency Code, no amount of clenbuterol is allowed in a competitor’s body. The measure is qualitative, not quantitative. Either clenbuterol is there or it’s not.
The Alvarez camp maintained that the positive tests were the result of Canelo having inadvertently eaten contaminated meat. To this day, Canelo has maintained his innocence. Regardless, on April 3, he announced that he was withdrawing from the May 5 rematch. Then, on April 18, the Nevada Athletic Commission unanimously approved a settlement agreed to by Alvarez that called for the fighter to be suspended for six months retroactive to the date of his first positive test for clenbuterol. There was no admission of wrongdoing on Canelo’s part. But there was an acknowledgement that clenbuterol had been present in his system.
Photo by Tom Hogan-HoganPhotos / GGG Promotions
With Alvarez temporarily out of the picture, Golovkin fought Vanes Martirosyan on May 5. Martirosyan had fought his entire career at 154 pounds, been out of the ring for two years, and won only four of eight fights over the previous six years. HBO didn’t even put his image on promotional posters for the fight. Instead, it ran a full-body photo of Golovkin down the left side of the poster and relegated Vanes’s name to a font one-twelfth the size of the letters “GGG”. Golovkin knocked Martirosyan out in the second round.
Then negotiations for Canelo-Golovkin 2 resumed. But now the Golovkin camp was demanding a 50-50 revenue split and pushing the narrative that, having tested positive for clenbuterol, Canelo needed to fight Gennady again to rehabilitate his image. They also argued that Team Canelo should be penalized an amount equal to the out-of-pocket expenses that had been lost as a consequence of the May 5 postponement. On June 13, the warring camps agreed to what is believed to have been a 55-45 division of revenue.
Canelo-Golovkin I was a feel-good promotion and a celebration of boxing. Two elite fighters had fought one another in an atmosphere of good will. “He respects me, and I respect him,” Gennady said of his opponent before they met in the ring for the first time.
Canelo-Golovkin 2 was a different matter. The expressions of mutual respect were gone. Leading up to the rematch, the antipathy between the fighters was such that they declined to participate in traditional marketing ventures such as HBO’s “Face Off” and, prior to the fight, appeared together only for the final pre-fight press conference and weigh-in. There was no kick-off promotional media tour. In its place, the two teams participated in a split-screen media conference on July 3 from their respective training camps in Big Bear and Guadalajara.
A deep wellspring of resentment flowed from Golovkin as a consequence of the first fight. He came into the rematch nursing a host of grievances. Some of his anger was motivated by having to take short money. He was also upset by the decision in Canelo-Golovkin I.
“Canelo lost that fight,” Gennady said. “That’s it. He lost the fight according to all standards. I thought I didn’t understand something, but then I reviewed the fight. These people [the judges] are like terrorists. They’re killing sport. It’s not about me. People like that should be in prison. People being cheated like that; it’s too much. This is America.”
And more significantly, Golovkin believed that Canelo had used illegal performance enhancing drugs while preparing for their first fight. Let it go? In Gennady’s mind, that made Canelo as much of a cheater as Miguel Cotto and many others believe that Antonio Margarito was cheating when Margarito fought Cotto with allegedly loaded gloves. Did Cotto let go of that grievance?
Golovkin called Canelo a liar and added, “I told the truth. If he does not like the truth, it is not my problem. It doesn’t matter if he likes me, loves me, doesn’t like me. I wouldn’t say I hate him. It’s just that my opinion of him has changed completely. What he says doesn’t inspire any respect. The people who support him and stand by him are swindlers, just like him. How could one respect them?”
Meanwhile, Abel Sanchez called Canelo “a man without character” and questioned his credentials as a representative of the Mexican people.
“Abel Sanchez just likes to talk,” Chepo Reynoso (Canelo’s manager and co-trainer) responded. “He talks too much. At the end of the day, it’s going to be Canelo and Triple-G fighting with their fists, not with their mouths. He likes to be the star of the movie, but this is not about him. It’s about Canelo and Triple-G. What we need to do as cornermen, as trainers, is to do our job quietly because it’s not about us. Learn to be quiet, please.”
Chepo also said that Golovkin fought “like a donkey” in that “he does the same thing over and over again.” That led Sanchez to counter, “Chepo Reynoso has never had an Olympian. Chepo Reynoso has never had a silver medalist. Chepo Reynoso has never had eighteen world champions like I have had. When he gets to that level, maybe he can speak in an intelligent manner.”
Canelo stated the obvious when he observed, “The cordiality we had is over. The respect that I had, that we had, it has been lost. They disrespected me for everything they have been saying, everything they have been doing, all their actions. Now it’s different. This fight is personal because of all that has been said, and it will be difficult to regain the respect we once had.”
As a general rule, the week of a big fight has a celebratory feel to it. It might be stressful for the fighters and promoters, but most people on site are enjoying the ride.
Fight week for Canelo-Golovkin 2 felt different. There was a sour residue from the ugly back-and-forth between two respected camps. The devastation that Hurricane Florence was wreaking in North Carolina added to the malaise. Oscar De La Hoya added silly to the equation when he told TMZ that he was “seriously” contemplating a run for president in 2020.
Canelo tried to tone things down. Taking questions in English and answering in Spanish at media events during the week, he observed, “I expect the best Golovkin for the fight, I will be the best Canelo. There will be no excuses. Some say that he won the first fight, and some say that I won. That is why it was a draw.”
Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Promotions
Asked about having tested positive for clenbuterol, Canelo answered, “I learned from it. I turned the page on it. And I am done with it.”
As for De La Hoya running for president, Canelo noted, “I don’t like politics. If he wants to do it, that’s his decision and his problem.”
All of this led to the question that mattered most: Who would win the fight? Here the war of words continued.
From Abel Sanchez: “On the fifteenth, when Oscar and Canelo are having breakfast, Oscar needs to remind him he needs to bring his courage to the venue that night . . . To win a fight, you have to try to win the fight. You win a fight by doing damage to your opponent and making it a battle . . . If he fights Gennady, he’s going to get knocked out. He would have gotten knocked out the first time, but he decided to make it a track meet that night. If he doesn’t defraud the fans again, then he’s going to get knocked out . . . Canelo Con Carne is finally going to face the music from the man he has avoided most. It will be a public service to the sport and the Mexican beef industry he has selfishly maligned.”
From Golovkin: “This wasn’t boxing by Canelo. It was running. He always has a way of running in the ring. However, in our last fight, he was really avoiding fighting close to me . . . I felt a couple of slaps. Slap! Slap! I didn’t feel real power, punch power . . . He’s fast; he’s quick. He is good fighter but he is not at my level.”
A lot of the commentary from the Golovkin camp was gamesmanship aimed at influencing the judges. It was also designed to lure Alvarez into an ill-conceived firefight.
Canelo was not shy in responding:
* “It’s easy for Abel Sanchez to talk. He won’t be getting in the ring and fighting on Saturday. Comments from Sanchez don’t really bother me because he doesn’t know what boxing is. He doesn’t know what it is to have technique. He doesn’t know what it is to box or to move. He doesn’t know what it means to adapt to the circumstances of a fight and not just go forward and throw punches. I find it strange that someone who believes himself to be a great trainer does not know how to distinguish between having technique and what he is saying.”
* “I have watched the first fight several times. The first fight gave me the guideline for the second fight. I know that I can do many things in the ring against him. I know that I can hurt him. I’m going to do the necessary adjustments and the necessary things to win. Instead of making changes, I’ve added to the strategy. They’re trying to get me to do what they want. But I will do what I have to do to walk away with the victory.”
* “Golovkin knows who I am. He knows what I am about. But he doesn’t know how much more I have left to show. I’m looking forward to showing him that on September 15.”
But neither side was certain who would win.
“It makes me laugh,” Canelo said of Sanchez’s predictions. “Saying what will happen when boxing is so unpredictable and so hard.”
And Golovkin was in accord, acknowledging, “Is not like a show. Is serious business. Every fight is dangerous fight. Even with the same fighters, every fight is different. Nobody knows for sure how it will end. I want. He want. I am ready for him. He is ready for me. This is boxing.”
Canelo Alvarez arrived at Dressing Room #1 at the T-Mobile Arena on Saturday night at 5:10 PM. A five-by-ten-foot Mexican flag hung on the wall opposite a large flat-screen television monitor.
Two hours earlier, a seven-man film crew that works for Canelo had set up in the room. In recent years, the crew has been gathering material for a documentary about Alvarez’s life. They also feed content to Canelo’s 3.6 million Instagram followers, his 1.3 million Twitter followers, and the 2.9 million people in his Facebook community. The cameras recorded his arrival in the dressing room with Chepo and co-trainer Eddy Reynoso.
Alvarez was a 13-to-10 betting underdog. One day earlier, he’d weighed in at 159.4 pounds while Golovkin registered 159.6.
Canelo sat on a black imitation-leather armchair to the left of the flag. HBO production coordinator Tami Cotel came in and repositioned him for a pre-fight interview with Max Kellerman. When it was done, he returned to the armchair and, arms crossed across his chest, began watching the first pay-per-bout of the evening – Roman Gonzalez vs. Moises Fuentes – on the TV monitor. Gonzalez knocked Fuentes unconscious in round five. Canelo nodded in acknowledgment.
Chepo Reynoso began folding gauze into pads for his fighter’s fists. When each pad was ready, he showed it to a Nevada Athletic Commission inspector for approval before bringing it to Canelo to ensure that it fit comfortably.
David Lemieux vs. Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan – the second televised bout of the evening – began. The winner would be on the short list of prospective opponents for Alvarez. Canelo turned his body slightly to the right in his chair, crossed his right leg over his left thigh, and studied the action with his right hand pressed against his chin. The fight didn’t last long. Lemieux KO’d O’Sullivan two minutes 44 seconds into round one.
Two fights. Two reminders of how quickly and brutally a fight can end.
Soft Latin music began playing in the background.
The monitor showed Gennady Golovkin arriving at T-Mobile Arena. Again, Canelo nodded.
Several sponsor representatives entered. Alvarez rose to greet them and posed for photos before returning to his chair. Video footage from his first fight against Golovkin began to play on the TV monitor. Canelo watched impassively, chatting occasionally with Diego Alejandro Gonzales (the son of Golden Boy public relations director Ramiro Gonzalez).
At 6:05, clad in a tuxedo, Julio Cesar Chavez came in to conduct an interview for Mexican television. That was followed by a visit from Nevada Athletic Commission executive director Bob Bennett, who arrived with several commission dignitaries and referee Benjy Esteves, who gave Canelo his pre-fight instructions.
Golden Boy publicist Gabriel Rivas and matchmaker Robert Diaz appeared from time to time to attend to various matters.
The video of Canelo-Golovkin I ended.
More well-wishers, family members, and friends came and went. Canelo rose from his chair to greet each one with a welcoming smile and embrace.
At 6:20, Canelo’s girlfriend came into the room with his youngest daughter, an adorable toddler named Maria Fernanda Alvarez. Canelo took his daughter in his arms and sat with her on his lap.
“What a beautiful girl,” he murmured.
He lifted her arms up and down while nuzzling her cheek and saying “Papa! Papa!” over and over again in a sing-song voice.
Maria rested comfortably in her father’s arms. Then Canelo rose from his chair and walked her around the room on her unsteady legs, holding both of her arms above her head from behind.
He looked like a man playing at home with his daughter, not a warrior readying for war.
Jaime Munguia vs. Brandon Cook – the third fight on the pay-per-view telecast – began. It was over in three rounds. Canelo put his daughter down and began stretching with Eddy Reynoso, his first boxing-related exercise of the evening.
Miguel Cotto, who Alvarez defeated in 2015 to win his first middleweight belt, came in, hugged Canelo, shook hands with Eddy, and chatted for several minutes with Chepo.
There was more stretching.
At seven o’clock, Eddy began wrapping Canelo’s hands with a representative of Golovkin’s camp looking on. Right hand first, then the left.
At 7:15, inspectors Alex Ybarra, Francisco Soto, and Charvez Foger cleared the room of camera crews, family members, and friends. In forty-five minutes, Canelo would leave his sanctuary for the ring.
Tami Cotel returned with the request that Canelo sit for a brief interview for HBO social media.
“I’m sorry,” Robert Diaz told her. “This isn’t a television show now. He has to get ready for a fight.”
Canelo put on a protective cup and black trunks with gold trim. Eddy applied Vaseline to his face. There was more stretching followed by a brief interlude of shadow-boxing.
Eddy gloved Canelo up.
There was some padwork.
Cotel returned. “You walk in twelve minutes,” she instructed.
Chepo draped a black serape emblazoned with a Mexican-flag emblem over Canelo’s shoulders
The dressing room had been remarkably quiet from start to finish. Now only the soft Latin music could be heard.
Canelo began signing in tune with the music. A love song.
He looked like a boy in a man’s world.
A.J. Liebling once wrote of rematches, “The spectator who goes twice to a play he likes is pretty sure of getting what he pays for on his second visit, especially if the cast is unchanged. This is not true of the sweet science.”
With Canelo-Golovkin 2, fight fans got what they paid for.
The crowd was divided with vociferous partisans on each side. Chants of “GGG! GGG!” were met with “Ca-nel-o! Ca-nel-o!”
Golovkin looked flat in the early going. Or was it old? Either way, he didn’t fight the way the world is used to seeing him fight.
A lot of that was due to Canelo. Looking back on their first encounter, Alvarez had realized that Golovkin was wary of his power. Very wary. In his dressing room after that bout, Canelo had told his team, “The judges think he punches like a monster. My punches were just as hard as his, harder.”
So this time, Canelo decided to test Golovkin early with more aggression and see how he responded. By moving forward and holding his ground, he deprived Gennady of the ability to set up at his leisure and gave him less room to mount an attack. This time, Canelo was the man stalking. This time, Canelo moved forward constantly and gave ground more grudgingly while fighting a measured disciplined fight.
And this time, for all of Abel Sanchez’s talk, Golovkin was the more cautious fighter. He jabbed effectively. But Gennady has built his reputation and dominated opponents with the power punching that follows his jab. And that power was absent here because, like all boxers, Gennady throws with less authority when his forward momentum is stalled.
Canelo went to the body consistently and effectively, fighting like the more confident man while forcing the pace of the fight. When Golovkin hit him solidly, he didn’t crumble. He fired back.
Gennady’s face started to show bruising as early as round two. Canelo was cut on the left eyelid in round four
After five rounds, Golovkin was breathing heavily in his corner. He isn’t a robot or computer-game figure. He’s a real person who’s subject to fatigue, pain, and all the other conditions that affect how a fighter fights. And the older a fighter gets, the harder it is for him to summon up the resolve to walk through punches.
After nine rounds, Golovkin looked to be fading. Canelo’s power was influencing him more than his power was influencing Canelo. It was clear that Gennady needed another gear to win. And he dug deep to find it.
Photo by Tom Hogan
Midway through round ten, Golovkin shook Canelo with a straight righthand and followed with a barrage of punches. But most of them missed, and Canelo regrouped to fire back. In round eleven, Gennady shook Canelo again. Round twelve saw toe-to-toe action as both men sensed that the outcome of the fight was in doubt.
At the final bell, they embraced. Two men who understood that, in the ring, they’re the equal of each other.
If Abel Sanchez had been hoping to influence the judges, it didn’t work. Canelo emerged with a 115-113, 115-113, 114-114 triumph.
“I scored the fight even,” Sanchez said afterward. “I thought that the twelfth round was the pivotal round. We’ve got to give Canelo credit. He was able to do the things that he needed to do tonight.”
LeBron James, who was sitting at ringside, later tweeted, “One of the best fights I’ve ever seen! Ultimate competitors in @Canelo and @GGGBoxing! Salute to both of you. Could watch y’all fight any day.”
Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin. Two fighters with vastly different personalities who come from significantly different cultures. But as elite fighters, there’s far more that unites than divides them.
Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at email@example.com. His next book – Protect Yourself At All Times – will be published this autumn by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism.
His name is Rob Ayala and he is the dude who has been known till now, in certain circles, as the “boxing comics guy.” You’ve seen his superb work kicking around the net, peer-to-peer-passed on social media.
I dug his work – he is @fightposium on Twitter – so I decided to reach out and try and learn more about who he is and why he is combining his love of fight sports and of art.
Michael Woods: Tell me your name, age, where you live, where you grew up, married, single, kids…
Robert Ayala: My name is Robert Ayala. I am 44 years old and was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. I am married and a father of two kids.
MW: How and why did you get into comics?
RA: A long time ago, for my sixth birthday, I received a couple of old Spider-Man comics, a sketch pad and pencils from my uncle. Right away I was drawn to the colorful artwork and action in each panel. I couldn’t get enough so I started collecting Spider Man comics, which turned into collecting the whole Marvel Universe. X-Men, Silver Surfer; The Avengers soon followed. I would trace and draw Spider-Man on everything. I’ve always had pencil and paper in hand, ready to draw. I drew so much that I would get into trouble by school teachers for always drawing during class. “Robert, do I have your attention?” my teachers would always say. Then “Superman II” came out in theaters. I was so inspired by the movie that I couldn’t stop drawing (General) Zod and Superman fighting. Eventually kids at school started noticing my artwork and they would ask me to draw their favorite superheroes. The rest is history.
Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin. Art courtesy of Rob Ayala
MW: Is that your full-time job?
RA: I work as a web developer and UI (user interface)/UX (user experience) product designer in the health care industry. However watching boxing and drawing comic books are my true passions! I also have a background in branding and graphic design. My dream job is to be able to convey the sport of boxing through my illustrated comic strips and help bring in a more of a mainstream audience.
MW: When did you create your first boxing comic?
RA: I started out doing cartoon commentary in 2011 for the Denver Broncos games. My work was featured on FOX 31’s Denver sports newscast. My first boxing comic book cover was (Vasiliy) Lomachenko vs. (Guillermo) Rigondeaux, back in November of 2017. I received such great feedback from the boxing and MMA community that I’ve decided to compose comic book covers for all future boxing and MMA matches. As long as there’s great fights, I’ll be producing stellar covers.
MW: Are you a massive boxing fan?
RA: I love combat sports! I’ve trained in Tae Kwon Do, wrestling and boxing since I was 13. So yes! I’ve been in love with the Sweet Science since the good ol’ days of watching “Wide World of Sports” with my pops and uncles. That was back when prizefighting was free to watch. Almost every boxing prizefight was a party at my family’s house. When I was a child, my dad and his brothers would invite family and friends over for food and the fights. Like every child back then, I liked (Muhammad) Ali but my favorite champion, as a kid, was Larry Holmes. Most of my friends didn’t start to like boxing until the (Mike) Tyson era but I’m glad I got to experience fighters like (Thomas) Hearns, (Marvelous Marvin) Hagler, (Sugar Ray) Leonard, (Alexis) Arguello and (Ray) “Boom Boom” Mancini.
WBC welterweight titlist Shawn Porter. Art courtesy of Rob Ayala
MW: Who are your influences in comics?
RA: Jack “The King” Kirby and Neal Adams were both groundbreaking artists for Marvel and DC. However Marvel’s high-profile illustrators of the ’90s like Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld and Erik Larsen were huge influences who made me want to stick with drawing. These artists of the 1990s were such a creative force in Marvel that they all partnered up to start Image Comics, which allowed them to publish their own creations without sacrificing copyrights.
MW: Why do you think comics are so popular now with young and older folks?
RA: I believe it’s the child in all of us, who likes to escape to fantasy and make-believe, and comic books are the perfect escape. But arguably it’s all the summer blockbuster movies that have everyone on the Marvel and DC train. Parents remember reading X-Men growing up, so they introduce their children to the world of superheroes.
MW: Why do you think people like your illustrations?
RA: I believe comic book fans appreciate my illustrations because it reminds them of art they’ve seen in their favorite comic books. I also get compliments from graphic designers on design layout and composition. And of course boxing fans love my work because I skew current boxing events into my own comic book hero universe. Perfect examples are (former IBF/WBA cruiserweight titleholder) Murat Gassiev resembling the X-Men’s Colossus and (WBC heavyweight titlist) Deontay Wilder as the Victor Von Doom villain type.
MW: You draw them or do them on a computer? How long does one take to do?
RA: On average it takes me three to four hours, from concept to production art. If I am feeling real inspired from a fight, I’ve been known to crank out a cover in like two-and-a-half hours. My process is pretty standard: Sketch/draw out the idea on paper, ink the pencil drawing, scan drawing to the computer, finish coloring, layout and design in Photoshop.
MW: Share your favorite one, if you don’t mind, and then tell us about it. Why is it your favorite?
WBC heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder as “Bronze Bomber.” Art courtesy of Rob Ayala
RA: Fighters with nicknames make it easier to create a cool cover. So I’d have to say the “Bronze Bomber” issue, where the Bomber says, “I want a body on my record!” When Wilder said that, I took to paper and pencil and started drawing. It was perfect timing because I just finished my (IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight titlist Anthony) “AJ” (Joshua) vs. (Joseph) Parker cover, so it was a perfect segue into the Bronze Bomber villainous cover! (Above) I also incorporated the previous AJ vs. Parker cover into the Bomber issue.
MW: Anything else you would like to share?
RA: I hope my fan base in the combat sports community continues to grow, as more fans want to see me create cool covers. I eventually want to illustrate a round-by-round, multiple panel breakdown of a fight. So on Sunday or Monday morning, boxing fans will be treated to a visually stunning story/report of the previous night’s fight, complete with a post-fight cover of the winner beating the loser in superhero-type fashion.
The first fight was a stepping stone that turned into a stumbling block, and now it’s about putting things right.
On December 12, 2015, Olympic champion Luke Campbell, then unbeaten in 12 fights, faced off against the vastly more experienced Frenchman Yvan Mendy. The quick-fisted Campbell had looked sizzling during the embryonic stages of his professional development and was being fast-tracked to a world title opportunity. But then disaster struck. Mendy floored the younger fighter en route to a 12-round split decision victory.
Campbell, who is currently rated No. 8 by The Ring at lightweight, was obviously disenchanted with his first professional setback. However, the affable young contender from Hull, England, was suffering from an illness coming into the bout and insists he was way below par.
And a lot has happened since. Last September, Campbell’s beloved father lost a brave battle to cancer only days prior to his son’s 12-round split decision defeat to then-Ring and WBA lightweight champion Jorge Linares. That tragic news wasn’t made public until after the fight, and the warrior-like performance Campbell put on that night can only be described as astonishing. The, a few months later, the decision was made for “Cool Hand” to switch from trainer Jorge Rubio in Miami to a closer base with Shane McGuigan in London.
This Saturday the pair take on Mendy in a rematch at Wembley Stadium in London, and this is a real fight.
“My mindset is on point and this is just like any other fight,” said Campbell with defiance. “Mendy is ranked No. 1 with the WBC and I’m ranked No. 2. It’s the top two lightweights in a final eliminator. I don’t hold grudges and I’m not upset about what happened in the first fight. It hurt at the time, I’m not going to deny that, but I need to beat the best in this sport. He’s in the way, and by beating him, I will get to clean my record. Sure, I’ll get satisfaction out of doing that.
“After the first fight, I wasn’t hurt because of him, I was hurt because of myself. I have nothing personal against him. It’s not about getting a rematch and getting one over on him. I want to be the best, so I want to beat them all. I don’t want to lose. I give this sport my life, day in, day out, sacrifice everything for boxing. You haven’t seen the best of me and September 22nd will be the first moment you see what I’m capable of.”
Campbell (left) loses for the first time to Mendy (right). Photo courtesy of Team Mendy.
The first fight featured some brutal give-and-take action. Mendy, who is currently rated No. 9 by The Ring, had suffered prior defeats to an upcoming Viktor Postol, as well as European champion Edis Tatli. Against Campbell, however, he wouldn’t take no for an answer and looked strong as he backed up the former amateur standout.
“I didn’t notice him as being stronger than any other lightweight,” insisted Campbell. “Don’t get me wrong, he’s strong; he’s a solid fighter. He’s very tough and he’s a hard man. He’s durable and he’s never been stopped. But they’re all strong when you get to a certain level. You don’t get to where he is without having strength and power.
“I just need to be the best I can be. It’s nothing to do with the shots he throws, or what he does good. I just know if I’m on form and ready, which I know I am, then I’ll beat him. I haven’t seen one of his fights since we met in the ring. I know he’s unbeaten in seven, but my coach will look at all that. Shane will tell me what to do and I’ll do it.”
As Campbell said, the Mendy rematch is a final eliminator for the WBC lightweight title. That belt, as well as the IBF version, is currently held by pound-for-pound star Mikey Garcia, who has been all over the scales in recent outings. There was a brief rumor that Campbell and Mendy could contest the vacant title if Garcia went ahead with a proposed move up to welterweight.
“There’s no movement on that right now,” confirmed Campbell. “If Garcia is talking about moving up to welter, and he does make the move, then I’d love to fight Mendy for the title. I don’t think that’ll happen, but you never know. For now, I just need to concentrate on who’s in front of me, and we’ll see what the next step is.
“If that belt gets tied up after this fight, then I’d love to face (Jorge) Linares again. If I’m cleaning up my record, then let’s face him too. Why not? And he’s ranked high with the WBC, so if Garcia vacates that could be a title fight. I learned a lot in the Linares fight, and I actually thought I won. I thought I won seven rounds, and that was with me getting put on my arse in the second round. That’s the reason they say I didn’t get the decision. But I faced a three-time world champion in his back garden, on his show, so I was always up against it. I’ve had my bad luck now – it’s gone – and now it’s time to get what I deserve. I’m gonna work for it and show you that I can do it.”
Campbell-Mendy II will be chief support to the unified heavyweight title bout between champion Anthony Joshua and challenger Alexander Povetkin. The bout will be shown live on Sky Sports Box Office in the U.K. and DAZN in the U.S.
Tom Gray is Associate Editor for Ring Magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing
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