April 30, 2013

MAY DAY - Mayweather vs Guerrero KO Digest Staff Predictions

Fists Trump Faith in Sin City?
By Jeffrey Freeman — Faith is a concept I've struggled with my whole life. It's generally understood to be belief without evidence. Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero is a faith-based fighter and he offers belief in Jesus Christ as the primary reason that he'll defeat Floyd Mayweather Jr on May 4th. Where have we heard this before? Evander Holyfield credited faith following his Biblical 1996 beating of Mike Tyson. That's a powerful precedence that can't be denied.

Considering what he's up against, there's no reason to believe it will take anything less than an act of God for "The Ghost" to emerge victorious against the consensus #1 pound for pound fighter in boxing. By no means a pacifist, Guerrero won't drop his hands and offer his chin but Mayweather should still have no problem finding it with lead right hands and clever counters.

With faith and facts in mind, here is what the devout staff of writers and reporters at KO Digest forecast on May Day.

Terry Strawson: Floyd Mayweather W12 Robert Guerrero - I cannot speak much more highly of Robert Guerrero. He is a six time World Champion with legitimate pound-for-pound credentials and he comes into this fight hungry, focused and deserving of the opportunity. Inspired by the relative success of Miguel Cotto before him, and buoyed by his performance against the similar minded Andre Berto, Guerrero will begin forcefully and look to get his head in the chest of Floyd from the outset, making life difficult for Money. Unfortunately for Guerrero, Floyd Mayweather is as great as he thinks he is and this fight will end by decision after the class and experience of fighting at the very highest level for almost two decades shines through. Mayweather UD ~ Terry Strawson is a regular contributor to KO Digest and his monthly "Spotlight on Boxing's Up and Comers" column is one of the most informative features that we're proud to offer on the 15th of every month to readers of KO Digest. 

David McLeod: Floyd Mayweather W12 Robert Guerrero - The edge in hand speed, and overall boxing experience will be the difference but Robert Guerrero will make Floyd Mayweather look human for the first time since the Jose Luis Castillo fight, raising the question if Father Time has finally caught up. Floyd by close decision, or late stoppage on cuts. ~ Self proclaimed boxing junkie David McLeod is a prolific contributor to KO Digest. In addition to covering live Broadway Boxing shows in the New York City area for KO Digest, his Friday Night Fight Flashback columns are very popular.  

Will Guerrero be in over his head like Ortiz was?
Derek Bonnett: Floyd Mayweather UD12 Robert Guerrero - Mayweather has been standing his ground more and fighting as seen against Ortiz and Cotto. I just don't think he has the legs to fight the way he used to. However, I don't think Guerrero is a bruising or powerful enough fighter to take advantage of the more stationary Pretty Boy. Mayweather still avoids shots well with shoulder and head movement. Guerrero is an excellent fighter, but he is in over his head here. PBF UD ~ Derek Bonnett is an experienced boxing reporter with SecondsOut.com. Specializing in ratings and lighter weight fighters, he is a monthly contributor on KO Digest and writes the popular "Bantamweights & Below" column.     

Luke Connelly: Robert Guerrero SD12 Floyd Mayweather - I would have picked Floyd without hesitation two years ago, but I think the Cotto fight and even the Ortiz fight shown that Floyd’s reflexes are starting to slip whether it's due to father time or inactivity. I see this fight in two phases: Floyd walks to Guerrero trying to lure him into attacking so he can counter (this is much of what he did against Ortiz and Cotto) but the problem is, Guerrero has the speed to land in the opening Floyd gives him. Floyd will give up on this and try boxing on the outside, which will lead to Guerrero bulling him into the ropes and roughing him up and landing to the body. This will also smother Floyd’s offense. I can’t really see Floyd hurting Guerrero as his beard seems to have passed the test against Berto and Aydin. With Floyd’s reflexes the way they are, he won’t be able to do anything Guerrero can’t answer. Guerrero SD ~ Luke Connelly assisted in the production of this article and his 'Who Am I?' boxing riddles appear every Wednesday on the KO Digest Facebook page.

Chuck Marbry: Robert Guerrero W12 Floyd Mayweather - I am picking Guerrero, and not for the obvious Christian angle. I am of the admittedly minority opinion that Mayweather is great because of his natural physical abilities, not because he's learned his craft. I think that with all the drama of jail, and changing promoters that Money will begin to show some age in this fight. ~ Affectionately known as the Pastor of Pugilism, former boxer and professional wrestler Chuck Marbry is a regular contributor on KO Digest with his weekly boxing sermon "Orthodox Stance" faithfully appearing every Sunday on the KO Digest Facebook page.
Sebastianelli's Money is on Mayweather
Joel Sebastianelli: Floyd Mayweather W12 Robert Guerrero - Floyd Mayweather Jr has retained the coveted crown of pound-for-pound champion for over eight years, and even if you believe that being hurt by one punch in an otherwise unblemished outing against Shane Mosley and a failure to shutout Miguel Cotto on the scorecards are signs of downfall , there is no doubt that the 36 year old is still the best fighter in the sport today, even if the margin over the rest of the field has been curtailed slightly from previous years.

Mayweather continues to be unflustered in the ring, never succumbing to strategic traps laid by his counterparts. Guerrero fights aggressively with a warrior mentality most successful when opponents have been lured into fighting his style of fight. Guerrero will need to take risks and push the issue, and although he’ll have his moments, he won’t force Mayweather into mental miscues and unforced errors. Like other similarly equipped foes retired before him, which include DeMarcus Corley, Arturo Gatti, and Victor Ortiz, Guerrero’s game plan will fail and the fight will turn into a tactical one, interchangeable with most of Mayweather’s victories during his reign as champion. The Ghost utilizes strong defense that can serve to keep him competitive, but you can put your money on Mayweather winning a unanimous decision with scores in the neighborhood of 117-111 ~ Joel joined KO Digest in January 2013 and has been a fixture on press row in the New England area for three years. In 2012, he served as the host of “The Boxing Fix” on Leave it in the Ring Radio. His monthly KO Digest interview is one of the site's most popular features.  

Mark A. Jones: Floyd Mayweather W12 Robert Guerrero - Mayday, mayday, mayday! Will that be the distress signal transmitted by the Robert Guerrero corner when they realize that they are hopelessly out-skilled? Many uncultured boxing fans are now Guerrero fanatics because of his barroom brawl styled fight with Andre Berto nearly six months ago. It was nothing more than low-brow entertainment; no real boxing skill was realized in that match-up. It was the equivalent of Rocky Balboa squaring off with Spider Rico. Guerrero is too stiff and vertical. He has very little verve to his game and he's too square when he's at close range. In addition, he's facing possible prison time from a recent weapons arrest in NYC. Regardless of the posturing, that must take a mental toll on Guerrero's mind set. The only question in this fight - does future hall of famer Floyd Mayweather Jr stop Guerrero in the later rounds or toy with him as a cat would a dead mouse? Floyd Mayweather Jr. wins a twelve round unanimous decision in a relative snooze fest. ~ Mark A. Jones is an expert in women's boxing and his monthly 'Sweet Side of the Sweet Science' column on KO Digest is one of the most informative and popular features that we are proud to offer boxing fans.  

Gopal Rao: Floyd Mayweather TKO10 Robert Guerrero - Guerrero tries to make it a rough inside fight but finds out the hard way that he's outgunned at close quarters as well as at range. Still, Guerrero presses on until the referee calls a halt to the proceedings with Robert looking battered and ineffective. ~ Based in California, Gopal Rao is a talented contributor on KO Digest with West Coast Ringside Reports and fight previews.

Guerrero pounds Katsidis
Steve Bridge: Robert Guerrero SD12 Floyd Mayweather - I know the smart money is on Money, and if I was following my head, that's who I'd pick, but I have a feeling that the Ghost is going to fight up to his opposition and I think he wants it more. This fight puts me in mind of Roy Jones vs Montell Griffin, a fight in which the Pound for Pound king was suppose to dominate. Instead, Griffin fought his butt off and frustrated Roy. Griffin won on a DQ after Roy hit him while he was down, which shows you how frustrated Roy was. The Ghost could pull out the same kind of fight against Floyd, minus the DQ. Guerrero is hungry and he has something to prove, and while Floyd is still one of the best in the world, he may be looking past Guerrero and that would be a big mistake. ~ Steve Bridge is a fanatical contributor on KO Digest and his new Dream Fight feature on the KO Digest Facebook page is extremely popular.

John Scheinman: Floyd Mayweather TKO9 Robert Guerrero - I pick Mayweather. Guerrero has scored exactly one knockout since 2009, if I'm not mistaken. I was never a big fan of Berto, and this is obviously a huge rise in class. Guerrero is hard-charging, physical and active. He likes to hit the body. If Mayweather has begun to slip - and I think any prediction in favor of Guerrero has to be premised on this - it could be a long, tough night. My thinking is it's not yet time for Mayweather, and he will sharp-shoot Guerrero from a variety of angles, cut him down and stop him by TKO around round 9 ~ Based in the Washington DC area, John Scheinman is an occasional contributor to KO Digest. In the past, his written work has appeared on the pages of The Ring Magazine and Bert Randolph Sugar's Boxing Illustrated.

The Ghost delivers on a promise to beat down Berto
Edwin "Ace" Ayala: Robert Guerrero TKO Floyd Mayweather - While Floyd has never tasted defeat, Robert has but once. Floyd has been "tested" in the ring only once (see Jose Luis Castillo I) but Robert has faced adversity on a few occasions (see Joel Casamayor and Michael Katsidis to name a couple). That's the intangible here and I'm going to go across the grain on this one and pick Guerrero by late rounds stoppage or split decision. A motivated Ghost will outwork a rusty Mayweather to get the upset. Don't be shocked if Floyd Sr. throws in the towel. ~ Senior staff writer Edwin Ayala is the right hand man on KO Digest. Experienced as a ringside correspondent, Ayala's "Then & Now" column is but a very small part of his invaluable contribution to KO Digest. 

Jeffrey "KO" Freeman: Floyd Mayweather TKO Robert Guerrero - I'd like to believe Guerrero could pull off the upset and humble "Money" Mayweather but without more compelling evidence of Floyd's decline, that's a blind leap of faith I just can't take. Mayweather stops Guerrero mid to late when things get nasty and Floyd gets sick of Guerrero's roughhouse tactics.

Fists trump faith in Sin City.

Jeffrey Freeman is the creator and Editor-in-Chief of KO Digest and a member of the RingTV "Ask the Experts" panel.

April 24, 2013

Bantamweights & Below - Boxing's Other Five Weight Divisions Vol. 4

New Flyweight Champion Juan Francisco Estrada
By Derek "DBO" Bonnett ~ April has been a stellar month for fans of boxing's smallest divisions, particularly at flyweight. Title fight upsets were abound and each of my divisional ranking from bantamweight and below saw some major reshuffling of the deck. In total, four belts changed hands and five upsets took place. Included in this myriad of divisional uproar is a leading contender for Upset of Year.

Also included in this muddle of miniscule action, China's amateur standout Zou Shiming debuted as a professional with a four round win over Mexico's Eleazar Valenzuela. Shiming won each of the four rounds without question, but his amateur style of fighting was still present as he slapped with his punches rather than turning each one over. His offense left his chin exposed for a more seasoned professional to take advantage of as he progresses the ranks of the pros. Although unranked, Shiming's career is certain to be guided with considerable speed toward a world title opportunity. However, the world's top flyweights pose a considerable threat to Shiming's success and how he adapts from the amateur game to the professional ranks will make for some noteworthy action from bantamweight and below.

World Class Boxing at Bantamweight & Below:

On Friday, March 29, at Thungsimuang, Udon Thani, Thailand, Oleydong Sithsamerchai scored a seventh round TKO over Richard Garcia in a super flyweight bout. Sithsamerchai fought for the third time in ninety days and raised his record to 47-1-1 (17). Garcia fell to 24-15-1 (6). Sithsamerchai remained ranked number six among my top super flyweights. In the eyes of the WBC, the Thai contender has moved from third to second and eyes a possible showdown with champion, and my top-rated super flyweight, Yota Sato later this year.

Also on the card, Wanheng Menayothin captured a unanimous six round decision over Sammy Hagler in a strawweight bout. Menayothin won for the second time in 2013 to keep his unbeaten record intact. His dossier now holds at 27-0 (8). Hagler fell to 15-14-2 (3).Menayothin jumped from sixth to third with the activity, but mostly due to some serious attrition in the division which occurred the following day. The WBC rates Menayothin second and the WBO has him at third. Higher profile bouts with Xiong Zhou Zhong and Merlito Sabilla could help Menayothin validate his high standing in the division.

  Takayama slays Dragoncito
On Saturday, March 30, at Estadio de Beisbol, Guasave, Sinaloa, Mexico, the unlikely run of Mario Rodriguez came to an end against Katsunari Takayama in a twelve round IBF minimumweight title bout. Rodriguez took a five fight win-streak straight to knocking off the then top strawweight in the world in Nkosinathi Joyi. Takayama claimed the title by unanimous decision with scores of 119-109, 117-111, and 115-113. Takayama had failed in his previous five world title attempts. He now becomes a two-time champion having previous reigned from 2004-2005. His dossier now stands at 25-6 (10).

Rodriguez falls to a deceptive 15-7-4 (11). The future may present a rematch opportunity for Takayama and Rodriguez. I scored their first fight a draw and the two wide scores were truly a case of ineffective aggression being greatly rewarded over effective, but lower volume punching.

Also on the card, Raul Garcia dropped a split decision to Pedro Guevara in a twelve round light flyweight bout. The cards favored Guevara narrowly by two counts of 115-113, 114-113, and a dissenting third margin 113-114. Guevara previously lost a split decision to IBF champion Jhonreil Casimero in his last fight. His ledger improved to 19-1-1 (13). Garcia, who has had seven split verdicts in his career, dipped to 33-3-1 (21). Once again, a rematch between the two is highly warranted. Guevara climbed from tenth in my light flyweight rankings to sixth. Garcia fell from sixth to seventh. Casimero climbed from fifth to fourth based on a residual impact of his previous win. Donnie Nietes fell from fourth to fifth combined with this movement and his recent draw with Moises Fuentes. The previously ranked seven through nine contenders each fell one spot.

Estrada pulls off an early Upset of the Year candidate
On Saturday, April 6, at Venetian Casino & Resort, Macao, Macao S.A.R, China, Brian Viloria fell victim in an Upset of the Year candidate. Juan Francisco Estrada won a split decision in a twelve round WBA/WBO flyweight title bout to claim his first titles. Estrada won with scores of 117-111 and 116-111. The third judge favored Viloria 115-113. Estrada raised his ledger to 23-2 (18). Viloria dropped to 32-4 (19). This bout currently top my candidate lists for both Fight and Upset of the Year.

Estrada crashed the flyweight rankings by claiming the top spot without previously being ranked. There was a harbinger of Estrada's rise. In his two losses, Estrada pushed current 108 and 115-pound champions Roman Gonzalez and Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr. to the limit before losing competitive decisions. Viloria fell from first to second. Juan Carlos Reveco was pushed out of the top ten to accommodate Estrada. The previously ranked two through nine contenders fell one ranking.

Also on the card, Milan Melindo stopped Tommy Seran in four rounds of a flyweight bout. Melindo dropped Seran in the first, second, and fourth rounds. The stoppage came at the 2:38 mark. Melindo raised his record to 29-0 (12). Seran fell to 23-2 (14). Melindo fell from third to fourth among my top flyweights due to Estrada's emphatic entrance. However, last month's Give That Man a Title Shot recipient is ranked number one by the WBO and could be matched with the new champion later this fall.

On Sunday, April 7, at Bodymaker Colosseum, Osaka, Osaka, Japan, Koki Kameda won a split decision over Panomroonglek Kaiyanghadaogym in a twelve round WBA bantamweight title bout. The judges allowed Kameda to keep his belt by scores of 115-114, 114-113, and 113-116. Kameda made the sixth defense of his title and raised his dossier to 30-1 (17). Kaiyanghadaogym (formerly Kratingdaenggym) dipped to 36-2 (19).

Kameda's number three ranking in my bantamweight rankings is on shaky ground following back to back split verdicts. Kameda arguably lost to Hugo Ruiz as well two fights back, but without a ranked number one WBA contender listed Kameda may be able to pick and choose his way around his top ten.

Also on the card, the upset bug bit Sonny Boy Jaro against Hiroyuki Hisataka in a ten round flyweight bout. Hisataka won by scores of 98-94, 98-94, and 96-94. Hisataka raised his record to 22-10-1 (10). Jaro fell to 34-12-5 (24). Hisataka remained unranked in my flyweight standings. Prior to this win, he was also unranked at flyweight by the major organizing bodies. With the loss, Jaro fell out of my flyweight top ten. Giovani Segura re-entered at number nine after deciding to settle back at flyweight.

Also on the card, Denver Cuello defeated Takashi Kunishige by majority decision in a ten round light flyweight bout. The scores were tallied at 95-95, 97-92, and 96-93. Cuello lifted his ledger to 33-4-6 (21). Kunishige fell to 24-9-2 (2). Cuello fought above strawweight for the second consecutive time. He retains his number one ranking, but may soon be moved up a division in my rankings. Cuello is ranked number one at 105 by the WBC and WBO as well. The WBA ranks him fifth at 108-pounds. I'd like to say a world title fight for Cuello is just around the corner, but he is easily among boxing's most feared contenders.

Shinsuke Yamanaka downs Malcolm Tunaco in Japan
On Monday, April 8, at Kokugikan, Tokyo, Japan, Shinsuke Yamanaka scored a twelfth round TKO of Malcolm Tunacao in a WBC bantamweight title bout. The challenger was down twice in the third and again in the twelfth. The stoppage came at the 1:57 mark. Yamanaka notched the third defense of his title and bolstered his dossier to 18-0-2 (13). Tunacao fell to 32-3-3 (20). Yamanaka moved from second to first among my top bantamweights. Anselmo Moreno fell from first to second.

Also on the card, Toshiyuki Igarashi was upset by Akira Yaegashi in a twelve round WBC flyweight title bout. The former WBA minimumweight titlist won by unanimous scores of 117-108, 116-109, and 115-110. Yaegashi raised his record to 17-3 (9) and became a two-division champion. Igarashi dipped to 17-2-1 (10). Yaegashi, recently removed from the 105 pound rankings, debuted at number seven among my top flyweights. Igarashi fell from seventh to tenth, pushing Rocky Fuentes out of the top ten. Luis Concepcion and Giovani Segura each climbed one ranking.

On Saturday, April 14, at Arena Roberto Duran, Panama City, Panama, Luis Concepcion scored a sixth round TKO of Anuar Salas in a flyweight bout. Salas hit the canvas in the first round and three more times in the sixth. Concepcion was decked in the third. The end of the contest came at the 2:36 mark. Concepcion raised his dossier to 28-3 (21). Salas fell to 13-2 (10). Concepcion held down the number eight spot in my flyweight rankings. Concepcion is ranked as high as number two by the WBC. Given his fan friendly style replete with big power and vulnerability, a match with newly crowned Yaegashi could make for a dark horse candidate for 2013 Fight of the Year.

Also on the move, Juan Hernandez, previously ranked seventh among my top strawweights, has been dropped due to a rise in weight. After winning his fourth bout above 105, Hernandez has campaigned above strawweight for well over year. Presently, he is unranked. Merlito Sabillo replaces him in the top ten at number ten. Hekkie Budler, Carlos Buitrago, and Xiong Zhou Zhong all advanced one ranking. Giovani Segura was removed from my super flyweight rankings to campaign fully as a flyweight. Denkaosan Kaovichit returned to the top ten in the tenth spot.

Bantamweight & Below Featured Rankings: Flyweight (112 lbs.)

1. Juan Francisco ~ Estrada Mexico 23-2-0 (18) WBO/WBA
2. Brian Viloria ~ USA 32-4-1 (19)
3. Moruti Mthalane ~ South Africa 29-2-0 (20) IBF
4. Milan Melindo ~ Philippines 29-0-0 (12)
5. Hernan Marquez ~ Mexico 34-3-0 (25)
6. Edgar Sosa ~ Mexico 48-7-0 (29)
7. Akira Yaegashi ~ Japan 17-3-0 (9) WBC
8. Luis Concepcion ~ Panama 28-3-0 (21)
9. Giovani Segura ~ Mexico 29-2-1 (25)
10. Toshiyuki Igarashi ~ Japan 17-1-1 (10)

Bantamweight & Below: Give That Man a Title Shot! 

Edgar Sosa has been there before. After a two and a half year reign as WBC junior flyweight champion, Sosa challenged Pongsaklek Wonjongkam for the WBC flyweight championship in 2011. In spite of losing a clear decision to the first ballot Hall of Famer, Sosa remained high in the rankings of the WBC. In the past twelve months, Sosa has won a unanimous decision over top-ranked Wilbert Uicab to pick up minor WBC belts to enhance his ranking.

Edgar Sosa trains hard in hopes of another title shot
However, just last month, Sosa avenged two previous defeats to highly regarded two-time champion Ulises Solis by scoring a serious contender for KO of the Year in two rounds. The bout was billed as a title eliminator, so it should produce a match-up with newly crowned Akira Yaegashi of Japan. Given their varying styles, it should make for an intriguing match-up. Sosa was also rumored to be facing Giovani Segura next, but nothing appears set in stone. The two were scheduled to meet back when Sosa was champion at 108. In addition to Uicab and Solis, Sosa also holds professional victory over Brian Viloria from back in 2007 to claim the then vacant WBC junior flyweight title.

Bantamweights & Below: On the Horizon:

On Friday, May 3, in Si Sa Ket, Thailand, Yato Sato versus Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in a twelve round WBC super flyweight title bout; Pungluang Sor Singyu versus Frederix Rodriguez in a twelve round bantamweight bout; Suriyan Sor Rungvisai versus Edison Berwela in a six round bantamweight bout. Also in Grenada, Nicaragua, Carlos Buitrago versus Yader Escobar in a ten round junior flyweight bout. On Monday, May 6, at Ota-City General Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan: Kohei Kono versus Liborio Solis in a twelve round WBA super flyweight title bout. On Wednesday, May 8, at Bodymaker Colosseum, Osaka, Osaka, Japan: Kazuto Ioka versus Wisanu Kokietgym in a twelve round WBA junior flyweight title bout.

On Friday, May 10, at Wat Punoi, Ban Mi, Thailand: Tepparith Kokietgym versus Jecker Buhawe in a twelve round super flyweight bout. On Saturday, May 11, in Toluca, Mexico, Mexico: Adrian Hernandez versus Yader Cardoza in a twelve round WBC junior flyweight title bout. On Saturday, May 11, at Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, Yorkshire, United Kingdom, Jamie McDonnell versus Julio Ceja in a twelve round vacant IBF bantamweight title bout.

On Saturday, May 25, at Estado Luna Park, Buenos Aires, Distrito Federal, Argentina: Omar Andres Narvaez versus Daniel Rosas in a WBO super flyweight title bout. Also, in Zihuantanejo, Guerrero, Mexico: Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr. versus Roberto Domingo Sosa in a twelve round IBF super flyweight title bout. Also on Saturday, May 25, at Polideportivo Espana, Managua, Nicaragua: Roman Gonzalez versus Gerardo Verde in a ten round flyweight bout.

Written by Derek "DBO" Bonnett - exclusively for KO Digest 

You can also find more of Derek's work on SecondsOut.com 

You can contact the author Derek Bonnett on Facebook

April 18, 2013

KO Digest Previews Saul "Canelo" Alvarez vs Austin "No Doubt" Trout

Remember the Alamodome
By Joel Sebastianelli - Those who fail to acknowledge the past are doomed to repeat it, and in the sport of boxing, history tends to reproduce moments of significance quite often. Travel back to Texas on September 10th, 1993. Sixty three thousand strong packed the Alamodome in San Antonio to observe the highly anticipated welterweight title fight between undefeated Mexican hero Julio Cesar Chavez and slick southpaw Pernell Whitaker. Official documents recorded a majority draw, but public perception expressed a different story—one of anti-climactic robbery, forever placing an asterisk next to the spotless record of the revered Mexican.

On April 20th, boxing fans will flock to the Alamodome once again, vociferously supporting another undefeated Mexican champion, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (41-0-1, 30 KOs), in his quest to retain the WBC junior middleweight title and unify against WBA champion Austin Trout (26-0-0, 14 KOs), a smooth American southpaw touting an unblemished professional record that sets a similar stage reminiscent of nearly twenty years ago.

Canelo Alvarez has been hailed as the high profile successor to Mexican legends like Chavez Sr. and Oscar De La Hoya. Bearing the pride and expectations of a boxing crazed nation upon the wings of myriad strong performances against weaker competition, Alvarez now stands on the cusp of validating his status as world champion and penning a new chapter in the book of boxing greats from his homeland. Like Chavez, who entered his one and only bout against Whitaker with a pristine career record of 87-0-0, Alvarez’s meteoric rise to stardom channeled memories of the past and fostered lofty expectations for the future. Already, fight fans have begun frantically calling for Alvarez to step into the ring with top echelon moneymakers like Floyd Mayweather Jr., despite an expansive career tally that features wins against respected opposition that's fallen short of the Mexican icon in terms of  talent. Nonetheless, the man bestowed with the hopes and dreams of passionate patrons numbering millions strong across the globe is deemed the favorite, already anointed with the crown of a proven commodity.

The parallel storylines and details shared by Chavez-Whitaker and Canelo-Trout jump out at the WBC champion, but Alvarez says he hopes to write his own version of the tale furnished with a different result. “It is a very similar fight. I watched it on video several times and Austin Trout, like Pernell Whitaker, is a southpaw, slick, difficult fighter. He's very difficult but that's what we're training hard for. We're training hard for that and come the night of the fight, we're going to make it where it's not so difficult for us.”

Austin Trout, the WBA titlist who hails from Las Cruces, New Mexico, enters the ring as an underestimated underdog with upper echelon skills. Trout erased much of the doubt surrounding his career by outclassing former champion Miguel Cotto on Cotto's home turf at Madison Square Garden in December 2012. The unanimous decision victory shed the 27 year old’s facade of a “paper champion” placed on him by skeptics unimpressed with wins against subpar competition, the likes of which include Canelo’s younger brother, Rigoberto Alvarez.

Yet despite the promise of stardom in the American market, Trout is not the main attraction of the fight card, overshadowed by Golden Boy Promotions’ prized pupil. “I don’t feel uncomfortable as a B-side. I’m more comfortable as an A-side, but it doesn’t bother me because B-side is a state of mind,” Trout told KO Digest during an international media conference call held in anticipation of the upcoming title fight. “I’m coming for the win, for the respect. That’s what I’m fighting for—to get the respect in this game that I feel I deserve.”

Trout’s status as the overshadowed fighter is supported by the lead-up to his brightest opportunity and toughest test to date against Alvarez. Earlier in 2013, the powers that be in promoting the fight proposed Canelo-Trout for the undercard of Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s May 4 fight against Mexican-American Robert Guerrero. Although the fight was pushed forward two weeks, Canelo has continued to lobby for a big money bout against “Money” Mayweather, and a win against Trout could reel in the opportunity against the pound-for-pound kingpin of boxing.

Trout leaves No Doubt at MSG against Cotto
“If he is overlooking me, then that’s better for me,” Trout replied in response to any perceived disrespect by the Mexican champ looking through him. “Regardless of who he wants to fight later, he still has to deal with me on April 20th. He’s been doing this a lot, but things happen to have been going his way. I like the trend that he’s setting, overlooking people.”

Canelo has asserted that he's been doing no such thing, and while this is the correct response to offer to the press, it is difficult to imagine the prospect of a Mayweather fight not weighing on the shoulders of a man who's faced minimal resistance in his rise to stardom from recent foes such as Josesito Lopez, Shane Mosley, Kermit Cintron, and Alfonso Gomez. Anointed and projected even in his youth as the next economic bell cow of the sport, Alvarez still has something left to prove to a legion of unsatisfied skeptics shrinking by the day. At just 23 years of age, Canelo is still a young gun, but the experience and expectations make this bout a must win.

“This fight is the defining fight for Canelo Alvarez,” said promoter Oscar De La Hoya, the last Mexican to reign supreme on the throne of Sweet Science supremacy. “This fight, if everything goes well, him winning this fight will take him over the top and will get him the respect from the critics who don't believe. So it's a very important fight, but it's a fight that the people are going to enjoy and I think both fighters are going to really, really fight their hearts out.”

Canelo pummels Josesito Lopez to the canvas
Austin Trout is a tactician between the ropes, utilizing a systematic style of outpointing opponents from the outside, peppering the jab and using it to set up straight rights. Coupled with strong defense and the ability to ease out of range of his opponents, Trout’s game plan contrasts with the more in-your-face style of Alvarez who lets power shots and combinations flow more freely than his American counterpart, a more fan friendly style that airs more on the side of excitement and brute force than caution and calculation. However, Alvarez’s previous opponents signed contracts as sacrificial lambs, most posing little threat to the prospect’s untainted record or well-being.

Canelo acknowledged that due to the style and effectiveness of Trout, there is an impetus to reign in his aggression and fight a mentally sound fight. “The key is to not get desperate, to not get wild. Take round per round, win round per round and see what comes up and counter that during the fight,” said Canelo through a translator.

After a brilliant performance by Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker in which he was untouchable throughout, the landmark bout against Chavez ended shrouded in controversy that swirled around WBC President José Sulaimán. Trout now makes the trek down into the depths of Texas, a state where corruption has been known to rear its ugly head more often than Joan Rivers, frequently involving the World Boxing Council. If history traversing numerous decades is any indication, Trout will surely need a convincing effort against Canelo in an environment where the crowd will roar at even the most menial maneuvers made by the favored Mexican.

The similarities between Chavez-Whitaker and Canelo-Trout are staunch and run as deep as the San Antonio River, resembling a sequel to a screenplay several years in the making. While the cast of characters are different, the storyline is largely the same. As Canelo Alvarez and Austin Trout enter into battle on April 20th at the Alamodome, both of the junior middleweight division’s top combatants have their feet set firmly in the present, but whether or not the future will echo the past remains to be seen.

Written by Joel Sebastianelli - exclusively for KO Digest  

Joel joined KO Digest in January 2013 and has been a fixture on press row in the New England area for three years. In 2012, he served as the host of “The Boxing Fix” on Leave it in the Ring Radio. Sebastianelli is the future of boxing journalism and broadcasting.  

Joel can be found Tweeting on Twitter @JJSebastianelli  

April 15, 2013

KO Digest Spotlight on Boxing's Up and Comers - Karim Mayfield

Karim "Hard Hitta" Mayfield
By Terry Strawson - Karim Mayfield was born in San Francisco, California on December 14, 1980. He is undefeated in 18 professional fights, with 10 of his victories coming inside the distance, and he is now the #1 ranked contender to the WBO junior welterweight title held by Mike Alvarado. His position atop those alphabet ratings becomes all the more impressive when you consider his late introduction to boxing.

"There was a gym that had opened up just a few blocks up from where I used to hang out with my friends. A friend of mine told me I should go check it out. I wasn't  even interested in boxing but one day I strolled over there and checked it out. I was 20 years old."

Despite not showing interest in boxing during his youth, the now 32-year-old Mayfield was certainly no stranger to fighting. The standard for settling disputes whilst growing up was some good old-fashioned fisticuffs. During an enjoyable and engaging conversation last weekend, the charismatic Mayfield (17-0-1) reminisced a little and credited some of his success thus far to his experiences on the street. "Most of my fights and my amateur experience came from the streets. I guess that's why I've been so successful in starting off so late because we did have a lot of fights. We fought a lot. I had 28 cousins so we would always fight with the gloves on, or with socks. Five or six pairs of socks on our hands and we would duke it out," said a laughing Mayfield.

His amateur experience, inside the ropes, is more impressive than his late start may suggest. Mayfield managed to chalk up a respectable 40-5 record and came amazingly close to making the 2004 US Olympic Team that was headed for Athens, Greece that summer. "People told me 'you don't even need to try to make the Olympics because guys up there have two hundred fights' and I had only had about twenty at the time but I ended up making it all the way to the Olympic training grounds in Colorado Springs. I actually got a bronze in the Western Finals," recalled Mayfield with pride.

Roy Jones compares Mayfield to Mike Tyson
As a fighter, Mayfield is a beast. At a glance, his approach can appear ungainly but a closer look conveys craft and experience beyond his approximately 60 fights, both amateur and professional. His attack, at its best, is varied and explosive - bordering on frightening. At his worst he can become predictable and trigger-happy with his powerful right hand. His drive and determination are only rivaled by his athleticism and natural ability. Compared by Roy Jones Jr. to Mike Tyson, he delivers his thunderous right hand with the worst of intentions and his uppercuts and hooks are compact and crisp when utilized.

"I definitely have a tremendous right hand and I'm working on setting it up a bit more as opposed to just throwing it. People can say 'well, he only has a right hand' but could you handle it? I mean, it's only two hands that everyone has, it's not like everybody got seven and I only have one, everybody only has two, so I'm halfway there," joked Mayfield.

His professional debut came in 2006 against Chris Mickle (1-0-1) on the undercard of a Robert Guerrero fight at the Oakland Arena in Oakland, CA. "It was in my hometown which was great and it was on a great card, Robert 'The Ghost' Guerrero was on it, Anthony Dirrell and Andre Dirrell were on it. It was just an explosive night and everybody got a knockout. It was like my coming out party. Definitely a good look for me and the Bay Area," recalled Mayfield.

Mayfield throws the right hand
Mayfield's however, has not been guided carefully by one of the major promoters in boxing. Early in his professional career, Mayfield was brought in to provide challenges to prospects expected to make the grade and each time he prevailed. He was expected to offer up a stern test, yet fail, against Francisco Santana back in 2008 but he ended up being on the right side of a split-decision. A year later, after Santana had won three more fights, his handlers arranged an opportunity for redemption.

Mayfield had other ideas and knocked Santana out in the rematch.

"Hard Hitta," as he is known by his strong following in his native San Francisco, has certainly taken the road less traveled. Mayfield was a sparring partner for world champions Zab Judah and Antonio Margarito long before turning pro. An Olympic alternate after 20 fights, his big break came, not after a big win, but after an impressive sparring session at the world famous Wildcard Gym in Hollywood,CA.

Sparring Pacquiao opened doors for Mayfield
"I didn't get signed until I sparred Manny Pacquiao and when I did good with him in the gym I started getting phone calls. People in the gym were silent, when I had my best day with him it was so quiet, like a ghost town. There are no pats on the back when you do that to the champion. They where whispering 'good job' to me. And literally two days after that, I had a few contracts on my table." According to Mayfield, roving video reporter Elie Sechback was actually contacted by Top Rank in order to remove internet footage from one of his better sessions at the Wildcard.

In 2011, after being inactive for just over a year, Mayfield stepped into the ring against former world champion Steve Forbes (35-9) on ESPN Friday Night Fights. Mayfield was in the ascendancy throughout but relied heavily upon his right hand and his strength in general to suppress the advances of a Steve Forbes in the twilight of his career. "I was in camp when Andre Ward was going to the Olympics and I actually sparred Forbes twice. I saw that I was able to bully him as opposed to boxing him, and he was getting ready for a title fight at the time, but that stuck in my mind."

After wearing Forbes down and eventually stopping him in the 10th and final round, Mayfield went on to challenge Patrick Lopez (20-4) for the vacant WBO NABO light welterweight title. "That was a hard fight. The guy was fucking relentless," said Mayfield. "I actually knocked him down three times and he kept coming back. We head-butted each other in that fight and both got cut. I had blood in my eye for a round, it was tough, he was a southpaw and he threw every punch hard."

Despite dominating Lopez and registering scores of 99-88, 97-90 and 98-90, Mayfield counts the fight as his toughest to date. A young fighter can learn a lot about himself in times of adversity and the extremely tough Mayfield certainly dug deep during that encounter.

His next fight came against Raymond Serrano (18-0) and Mayfield successfully defended his newly won WBO NABO title with a 5th round stoppage. At 16-0-1, Mayfield was primed for his first appearance on HBO and it came against Mauricio Herrera (18-2) in Verona, NY last October. Herrera, who holds victories over Cleotis Pendarvis, Ruslan Provodnikov and Mike Dallas Jr, was coming into the fight on the back of what was a spirited yet losing effort against Mike Alvarado. "My mind-set going into that fight was time management. I know this guy throws hundreds of punches and I don't wanna get involved in a slugfest. I don't want to try and match him because I throw every punch hard and don't wanna punch myself out. There are times when I need to be outside, chilling a little bit, and then there are times I need to be going forward but I just wanted to pick him apart."

Mayfield was a Hard Hitta against Herrera
After a fairly ugly start to the contest where Mayfield could not quite find his range, the fight opened up. Herrera, who walked forward constantly, found himself eating some big shots as Mayfield, like the fight itself, opened up and began to offer a variety of offense that Herrera did not seem to have an answer for. Mayfield's right hand repeatedly found the target over the top and his hooks and uppercuts, when thrown, were launched short and furiously to their mark. Mayfield neutralized Herrera and made him appear ordinary en route to a well deserved decision victory.

The win on HBO was certainly the highlight of his career thus far.

So what's next for Mayfield? Well, that's not really clear at this point in time. His #1 ranking in the WBO may not count for much in the immediate future, as the potential rubber-match between Mike Alvarado and Brandon Rios would surely take precedent over any mandatory obligations. Promoter Gary Shaw told KO Digest that he is "trying to put Mayfield on HBO again" and went on to say that he thinks "Mayfield is a wonderful talent." Although he couldn't comment on potential opponents, Shaw did say that he hopes to have Mayfield in the ring, "June 8th or the first Saturday in August."

Mayfield remains positive and is waiting patiently for that opportunity. He has a solid team that surrounds him including longtime trainer Brian Mciver, his brother LaRon Mayfield (who Karim was adamant I mention to show some gratitude) and now Virgil Hunter who has been apart of his camps on and off from the outset. The "Hard Hitta" is in good hands.

With the junior welterweight division crammed with talent and marquee names such as Mike Alvarado, Brandon Rios, Danny Garcia, Amir Khan, and Lamont Peterson among others, there are certainly plenty of options. Mayfield's unorthodox style and his incredibly dangerous right hand may present issues when matching him but with such a deep pool to draw potential opponents from, we should expect to see him in an exciting fight sooner rather than later.

Strengths:  Power, conditioning, and unorthodox style
Weaknesses: Raw technique, late start in boxing
Overall Rating: 

Written by Terry Strawson ~ exclusively for KO Digest

Look for a new KO Digest Spotlight on Up & Comers on the 15th of every month! 

The author would like to thank Anthony Ross from DaTruthBoxing and BeatTheCount 

April 11, 2013

KO Digest Previews Nonito Donaire ~vs~ Guillermo Rigondeaux

By Gopal Rao — Ever since dismantling a flyweight Vic Darchinyan in 2007, Nonito Donaire has enjoyed a career arc reminiscent of Oscar De La Hoya. Like Oscar before him, Nonito has climbed through numerous weight classes and yet still appeared to be the bigger man in almost all the matchups. And like De La Hoya, Donaire has done it with the benefit of fast hands, a sturdy chin, and a beautiful left hook that has seemed at times like the only weapon he would ever need to demolish anybody in his way.

But the stardom he's achieved has brought a healthy serving of skepticism along with it, just as it did for De La Hoya in the late 90's and early 00's. There are still many fans and observers who insist that Donaire's success is the product of careful matchmaking and savvy marketing, and that the express train to stardom will be derailed as soon as he gets in the ring opposite a fighter in his prime with bona fide pound-for-pound credentials.

With that comparison in mind, former Cuban Olympic gold medalist Guillermo "The Jackal" Rigondeaux stands poised to propel himself to stardom at Donaire's expense by upsetting the applecart in the same way that fighters like Shane Mosley and Bernard Hopkins once did with De La Hoya.

Donaire vs Rigondeaux is one of the biggest fights of 2013 in terms of its potential to shake up the pound-for-pound rankings, and for its relative place within the storied history of the 122 lb division. So how do the fighters stack up against each other, and what should we look for in this WBO/WBA super bantamweight unification fight when the opening bell rings on April 13th at Radio City Music Hall in New York City?

Of the two, Donaire (31-1, 20 KOs) is the fighter more recognized for his punching power due to highlight reel knockouts scored in lower weight classes. And although Donaire has an admirable array of boxing skills, from bob-and-weave head movement to pinpoint counterpunching, it is Rigondeaux (11-0, 8 KOs) who is considered the technical marvel, showing an uncommon level of ring savvy, throwing punches from all angles with both hands, and exhibiting incredibly quick and precise footwork. Yet there still seem to be persisting questions about Rigondeaux’s durability, and specifically, his ability to take a clean punch from an elite puncher like Donaire.

Donaire was not impressed with Rigondeaux against Cordoba
Rigondeaux’s coming out party was supposed to be a highly visible slot on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao vs Antonio Margarito in November of 2010. On that night, in only his seventh professional fight, he faced veteran Panamanian Ricardo Cordoba, a former world title holder, with a vacant title at stake.

That Rigondeaux had been fast tracked to a title shot came as little surprise to most observers. After all, none other than Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach had proclaimed Rigondeaux (reportedly 243-4 as an amateur) to be one of the best prospects he had ever worked with. However, after starting off quickly, flooring Cordoba with a body shot in round 4, Rigondeaux got clipped with a right to the face in round 6 that not only caused him to touch the canvas with his glove – an official knockdown - but it also sent him into defensive survival mode for the remainder of the fight, which he won by split decision.

“When you're doing this for quite a while, you tend to be motivated with the fighter in front of you, and that's the reason why I disregarded Rigondeaux in the beginning, because of the Cordoba fight that I saw,” said Donaire recently, when asked why he was reluctant to acknowledge the need to accept Rigondeaux as an opponent in the past.

Since that fight, Rigondeaux’s level of competition has plateaued, featuring high level prospects like Roberto Marroquin and Teon Kennedy, and second tier belt-holders like Rico Ramos. It is worth noting that Marroquin also managed to stagger Rigondeaux with left hooks on several occasions, but was otherwise dominated.

Donaire wanted Mares first then Rigo
Those subsequent performances of Rigondeaux's must have made an impression on Donaire at some point, however, as he eventually came around to the idea of making the fight happen when a more sought-after fight with Abner Mares could not be made. “When the fight with Mares didn't happen, then of course, Rigondeaux was the next guy in line, and the more that I'm watching, the more that I'm getting excited to fight. The more I'm seeing that the guy has a lot of quality, a lot of talent,” said Donaire.

“I think it's his ability to see punches, and his ability to be intelligent in there, and of course he has the speed and power like I do. I think that it's going to be fireworks between us, as much as it might be a chess match, because we're both offensive fighters,” said Donaire about how the matchup appears to him now.

Although it's possible to envision Rigondeaux putting on a clinic of counter-punching, defense and ring generalship, it seems as though the boxing public is adamant that both men must throw caution to the wind at some point. “For this fight, I will try to engage a lot more than I have in the past,” promised Rigondeaux.

If he's serious about that however, then there also remains the question of what will happen when he gets hit on the chin by a clean shot from Donaire, who echoed Rigondeaux's comments, saying that he owes New York City a good fight because of his lackluster showing against Argentinian Omar Narvaez at Madison Square Garden in 2011. “I'm thankful for the fans, so I want to give them the best fight that I can, and that's why I'm not afraid to get hit or to take a hit. I'm there to bring excitement as much as I can,” Donaire emphasized.

Similarly, Donaire's next fight, against former belt-holder Wilfredo Vazquez Jr., was anything but smooth sailing. By all rights, Donaire was expected to run right through his vulnerable and relatively unproven opponent. Instead, what he got was an awkward and oddly paced fight that drew audible boos from the live crowd, and a split decision victory from the judges. In the aftermath of this appearance, it was revealed that Donaire had injured his vaunted left hand. Although the injury never escalated into a major concern for Donaire, it appeared to be a factor in his hard fought victory over South African Jeffrey Mathebula, whom he floored once, and hurt badly, but could not stop en route to a unanimous decision. But Mathebula, like Vazquez Jr., was a relatively unknown quantity to American audiences, even though he had fought world class opponents in previous fights.

Donaire shows the effects of hitting and getting hit
Donaire emerged from both the Mathebula and Vazquez Jr. fights with visible swelling around both eyes, and various marks on his face. He seemed in control of both fights from start to finish, but he was clearly getting hit cleanly along the way, and the effects were plain to see. Although Donaire dominated subsequent fights against Toshiaki Nishioka and Jorge Arce, it was hard to miss the fact that neither opponent appeared to be in his prime on fight night, and both fought with extreme caution at the opening bell.

In 32-year-old Guillermo Rigondeaux, the 30-year-old Donaire is faced with an opponent that is still ostensibly in his physical prime, and whose technical skills are every bit as honed and polished as his own, if not more so. Rigondeaux is very difficult to hit cleanly, and almost impossible to hit twice in row, but he does seem to get shaken up by a solid shot.

Though Donaire takes a clean shot well, and delivers one even better, he is prone to getting touched up in between. Still it seems hard to imagine that Donaire will not land cleanly at some point against Rigondeaux. After all, if the towering but awkward Cordoba and the relatively inexperienced Marroquin were able to do it, then so too will the ultra-talented Donaire. However, Rigondeaux was able to overcome those setbacks and turn those fights back in his favor in short order. And although there were shaky moments that included a flash knockdown, at no point in either fight did Rigondeaux appear to be seriously in danger of being stopped.

On the other hand, Donaire will almost certainly be available to be hit by Rigondeaux as well, and the southpaw Guillermo has a stunningly wide array of punches at his disposal to oblige him with. Rigondeaux’s body punching in particular seems to be a concern, and it’s anybody’s guess how well Donaire will react to the kind of body shot that Rigondeaux stopped Rico Ramos or floored Ricardo Cordoba with. Still, it seems as though the fight with Donaire represents an extremely ambitious step up in class for Rigondeaux, who despite legendary amateur status, has only had eleven professional fights.

The most daunting possibility, of course, is that very little of anything happens over the first half of the fight, with neither fighter willing to take any real risks. This sort of fight would appear to be more difficult for Donaire, who craves the exchange of punches at a fast pace, than on Rigondeaux, whose style is built on being patient and methodical. However, given the climate of the pre-fight buildup, and the pressure on both fighters to not just win, but perform, both fighters will likely feel a powerful urge to go for the decisive win if at all possible.

Donaire KO's Montiel in the 2nd round
Another possibility is that the critical moment of the fight happens early and unexpectedly, with a lightning fast exchange taking place in the blink of an eye and settling matters then and there for the remainder of the fight.

This is what happened when Donaire fought Fernando Montiel at bantamweight in early 2011.  Obviously, frequent exchanges will favor Donaire, although one shouldn’t dismiss the possibility of Rigondeaux ending things with a withering body shot.

Both training camps have been relatively quiet as far as generating headlines or controversy. The only notable incidents that took place were Team Rigondeaux’s awkward last minute attempts to switch drug testing administrators from the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA), which already randomly tests Nonito year round, to the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), as well as the mid-camp revelation that Team Donaire had parted ways with controversial long time advisor Victor Conte.

Rigondeaux works with trainer Pedro Diaz
It’s also worth noting that Team Rigondeaux has retained the services of former Cuban National Team Coach Pedro Diaz in place of former head trainer Jorge Rubio. While a switch in lead trainers is potentially a moment of instability that can portend struggles in the short term, Diaz and Rigondeaux are already quite familiar with each other due to their work together in the past.

Neither revelation seems to be of any real consequence and reports have seemingly confirmed that VADA has indeed taken over the chore of administering drug tests for both fighters, and the split with Conte has apparently had little effect on the day to day operations of Team Donaire’s camp, which is overseen by trainer Brian Schwartz and conditioning coach Mike Bazzle, with Robert Garcia assuming the lead role on fight night.

Barring some hidden issue or last minute injury, it's reasonable to assume that both fighters will be entering the ring at some place close to their peak condition. With many of the two fighters’ best assets seemingly neutralizing each other, it would be hard therefore to pick against the boxer with greater experience fighting A-level competition as a professional, and that would be Donaire. Although Rigondeaux’s terrific skills and ring savvy have given him an insurmountable edge so far in his eleven professional fights, we have not seen how effective they are against the highest level of competition out there.

We have already seen Donaire match up against fellow pound-for-pound aspirants, albeit in lower weight classes, and we already know that even if his technique appears to be less polished and fluid than Rigondeaux’s, at least to the casual observer, he has gotten the job done so far against the best.

Both fighters are blessed with above average hand and foot speed, agility, reflexes and hand-eye coordination, and both men are considered thinking man's fighters as well. HBO analyst Roy Jones Jr. has even remarked on air that Nonito is the current fighter that reminds him most of himself during his dazzling prime as the consensus pound-for-pound kingpin of boxing.

For Rigondeaux to prove the experts wrong and beat Donaire, he would have to fight something close to the perfect fight, much as Shane Mosley and Bernard Hopkins did when they finally got their crack at Oscar De La Hoya in the previous decade. While this is not outside the realm of possibility given Rigondeaux's superlative technical skills, I see the margin for error being incredibly slim for him. 

The Filipino Flash wins again

OUTCOME: On April 13th in New York, we'll see Nonito Donaire overcome an early points deficit to take control in the middle rounds en route to a late stoppage victory over Guillermo Rigondeaux in a tense but controlled confrontation that sees Nonito continue uninterrupted on his path to a golden future.

April 5, 2013

The Sweet Side of the Sweet Science - Women's Boxing Monthly Vol. 2

By Mark A. Jones – Women’s boxing entered March like a lion with Ramona Kuehne successfully defending her WIBF, WBF and WBO super featherweight titles in Germany against Halanna Dos Santos. In Japan, on a card that contained six female bouts, WBA minimumweight champion, Etsuko Tada dominated the iron-fisted Yuko Kuroki. Women’s boxing continued to roar at mid-month witnessing WBC minimumweight champion, Naoko Fujioka knocking out trialhorse Maribel Ramirez in the fourth round of a scheduled eight and WBC lightweight champion, Erica Anabella Farias and WBA, WBO light flyweight champion, Yesica Yolanda Bopp both winning by stoppage in title defenses. 

The month concluded with Eva Halasi capturing the IBF welterweight title by upsetting Ivana Habazin by unanimous decision. Flyweight prospect Patty “Boom Boom” Alcivar won the New York State female flyweight title by pounding out a decision over the experienced Eileen Olszewski. Arguably the best match-up of March witnessed the rugged, Melissa “Mighty” McMorrow successfully defending her WBO, WIBF flyweight titles by winning a ten-round split decision over Nadia Raoui in a fist-flying affair.

Delfine Persoon, the current WIBF, IBF lightweight champion, won the WBC lightweight title eliminator by knocking out Kremena Petkova in the second round of a scheduled ten. With the win, Persoon moves to (24-1, 10 KOs) and is ranked as the #1 contender for the WBC lightweight title currently held by Erica Anabella Farias. Persoon has developed into a devastating right-hand puncher, and a match-up with Farias would be marketable to any network as women’s boxing continues struggle to gain main stream attention

A look back at March 2013 in women’s boxing:

On March 3 at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods Resort, Mashantucket, Connecticut, Shelly “Shelito’s Way” Vincent, 124, Providence, Rhode Island, entered the ring with multi-colored hair and attire resembling not only a world class super bantamweight, but a super hero about to save the day by besting a super villain lurking at ringside. Mikayla “MK Ultra” Nebel, 122, Columbus, Ohio, resembling nothing comparable to a super villain became the recipient of Vincent’s two-fisted attack.

Shelito goes to 8-0 against Nebel
Nebel, a long-range timing fighter, was unable to lay a serious glove on Vincent who employed a bobbing and weaving defensive technique, allowing her to easily evade any attack from Nebel while moving her into counters of her own. In the end, Vincent moves to (8-0, 0 KOs) winning an unanimous decision (40-36 x3) and looks to be a serious contender at both bantamweight and super bantamweight. Nebel drops to a deceiving (0-4); a record not indicative of her skill set.

Also on March 3 at Korak Hall, in Tokyo, Japan, Etsuko Tada, 105, Kyoto, Japan, successfully defended her WBA female minimumweight title for the ninth time with an unanimous decision over Yuko Kuroki, 104 ½, Fukouka, Japan, over ten rounds; scoring (98-92/98-92/99-91). With the win, Tada moves to (12-0-2, 2 KOs) maintaining her position as the #2 ranking female minimumweight boxer behind Naoko Fukioka (10-0, 6 KOs) also of Japan. With the loss, Kuroki drops to (9-3, 5 KOs) and remains a serious challenger owning serious firepower in both hands coupled with an aggressive take-no-step-back style.

On the undercard, Ibeth Zamora Silva, 106 ¾, Mexico, won the vacant WBC female light flyweight title by a razor thin split decision over Naoko Shibata, 106 ¾, Tokyo, Japan (96-94/96-94/94-96). It was the second close decision loss in six months involving title fights for Shibata who, in September, discovered herself on the short end of an unanimous decision to Etsuko Tada in a bid for the WBA minimumweight title. Silva once held the WBA minimumweight title on an interim basis, and held the WBC Youth title at minimumweight and light flyweight. Silva improves to (17-5, 7 KOs) elevating into elite status in the ever-crowded light flyweight division that contains pound-for-pound favorites, Yesica Yolanda Bopp, Esmeralda Moreno, and Jessica Chavez. Naoko drops to (9-3, 3 KOs) remaining a good midlevel contender at minimumweight and light flyweight.

On March 9 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Erica Anabella “La Pantera” Farias, 133 ¾, Virreyes, Argentina, retained her WBC lightweight title and her elite pound-for-pound status with a third round knockout of Liliana “La Tigresa” Palmera, 131 ½, Monteria, Columbia. Farias, in her stalking style, started quickly hurting Palmera early and often with the right cross to the body and head. Fighting only to survive, Palmera had enough movement and evasive skills to make Farias work to find her. Early in the third round, a right-cross setup by a wide left hook, found its mark on Palmera’s chin knocking her to the canvas. Palmera rose quickly, but her fate was sealed as she was quickly trapped in the corner and sent to the canvas to stay by a right hand to the ear setup by a preparatory combination to the body.

Winner and still champion - La Pantera Farias
The iron-fisted Anabella Farias has knocked down ten of her last twelve opponents stopping nine inside the distance with only Melissa Hernandez, Victoria Bustos and Ann Saccurato avoiding a defeat by stoppage. With the win, Farias improves to (16-0, 9 KOs) successfully defending her WBC female lightweight title for the eight consecutive time dating back to her wining the interim version in 2010. Palmera suffers her second stoppage defeat to Farias and witnesses her record drop to (21-10-3, 15 KOs) and (0-7) in title fights involving four different weight classes.

On March 23 at GETEC Arena, in Magdeburg, Germany, "Mighty" Melissa McMorrow, San Francisco, CA, USA, 110 ¾ retained her WBO and WIBF flyweight titles with a split decision victory over Nadia Raoui, Germany, 109 ¾ in a hard-fought ten. Two judges favored McMorrow (99-91/96-94) with the lone holdout determining that the native of Germany, Nadia Raoui delivered better than she received at (96-94). The two top-level flyweights split the early rounds with McMorrow, a forward-moving volume puncher successfully waking down her opponent evading most of what Raoui had to offer with a bob-n-weave style of defense. The success of McMorrow’s early bodywork allowed the defending champion to migrate her attack upstairs in the later stages of the fight. Nadia Raoui, a counter-puncher who mostly moves laterally, employed a different strategy for this battle. She moved mostly straight back forcing McMorrow to pursue her in a straight line in order to run McMorrow into quick counters down the middle of her defense. Raoui had sporadic success with the jab, right cross, and right uppercut, but did not possess the necessary firepower to dissuade the ultra-aggressive McMorrow.

Eddie Croft, the manager-trainer of McMorrow, disseminated proper adjustments between rounds which blunted any momentum Raoui may have built in the early stages of the fight. In the end, McMorrow’s early body punching, constant pressure, and extremely high punch volume took its toll on Raoui as she struggled to keep pace and wilted in the final stages of the battle. McMorrow swept rounds 8, 9, and 10 cementing her victory and maintaining control of two world titles at flyweight. McMorrow moves her record to (9-3-3, 1 KO) opening up endless possibilities with fellow flyweight champions, Ava Knight, Carina Moreno, and Renata Szebeledi or the still popular, Susi Kentikian. With the loss, Nadia Raoui stays relevant with a record of (15-2-1, 3 KOs).

A look ahead to April 2013 in women’s boxing:

On April 4, at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City, Heather “The Heat” Hardy (4-0, 0 KOs), Brooklyn, NY, takes on Mikayla “MK Ultra” Nebel (0-4), Columbus, OH, in a six round bout. This is a rematch of Hardy’s August 2012 professional debut where she confronted difficulties suffering a knockdown in the first round, but rallied to win the final three stanzas and the fight by a four-round unanimous decision victory. An action fighter with a huge fan base in New York City, Hardy trains out of the legendary Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, New York, with boxing trainer, Devon Cormack. When not training to improve her status as a super bantamweight prospect, she can be found training clients at Gleason’s Gym.

On April 6, in Zamora, Mexico, Irma Garcia (6-0-1, 1 KO; 4 no contests), a southpaw, defends her WBA female bantamweight title by re-matching Janeth Perez (17-1-2, 4 KOs) in a Boxrec 5-star rated match-up. Irma Garcia, a boxer-puncher with good movement, on January 15, 2013 won the WBA female bantamweight title by boxing her way to a controversial unanimous decision victory over Janeth Perez whose effective aggression and volume punching made for many lively exchanges. Look for Janeth Perez, an aggressive midrange left hook artist, to again take the fight to Irma Garcia; both fighters are very ordinary defensively with Garcia relying on movement to evade punches. Perez is far superior from close range and took advantage of Garcia’s stiff posture and poor in-fight skills in the previous meeting.

On April 12, at the Dover Downs Casino, Dover, Delaware, “Queen” Ronica Jeffrey (11-0, 1 KO), Brooklyn, NY, faces Natasha “The Nightmare” Spence (6-1-1, 5 KOs), Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, for the interim WIBA super featherweight title. Jeffrey is currently holding the WBC Silver female super featherweight title; a title she won by besting “Lethal” Lindsay Garbatt over ten rounds in August 2012.

This is an excellent stylistic match-up featuring the defensive wizardry of Jeffrey and the power-punching and forward aggression of Spence. Spence suffered her lone defeat at the hands of fellow hard-charger, Melissa St. Vil in February. Jeffrey, a three-time New York Daily News Golden Gloves Champion, is an emerging star in the sport.

On April 20, at the Arena Roberto Duran, Panama City, Panama, southpaw Alicia “Slick” Ashley (18-9-1, 1 KO), Westbury, NY, battles Chanttall “La Fiera” Martinez (18-5-0, 7 KOs), David, Panama for Ashley’s WBC female super bantamweight title. Ashley, a master boxer, won the title in July 2011 with a dominate decision victory over Christina Ruiz and has defended it successfully once since. Ashley holds wins over Alesia Graf, Elena Reid, Kelsey Jeffries, Bonnie Canino and all-time great Marcela Eliana Acuna. She is facing a formidable opponent in Martinez, a wide-punching pressure fighter and former holder of the WBA female super bantamweight title winning the belt from Lisa Brown in April 2011. Martinez successfully defended the WBA title twice before relinquishing it to Jackie Nava by decision in January 2012. Martinez is currently 22 years of age turning professional at the age of 16 in 2006; Ashley holds the edge in experience having defeated a higher level of competition and will turn 47 in August.

All time great Mia St. John
On April 13, the marquee match-up of the month pits women’s boxing pioneer, Mia St. John (47-12-2, 18 KOs) who travels to Arena Nord, Frederikshavn, Denmark to battle pound-for-pound elite, “The First Lady of Boxing” Cecilia Braekhus (21-0, 5 KOs). Cecilia Braekhus is defending her WBO, WBA, and WBC welterweight titles. The name, Mia St. John is already etched in the history of women’s boxing boasting Hall of Fame type accomplishments. Cecilia Braekhus holds every conceivable advantage in this match-up with the obvious exception of experience rendering St. John to spoiler status.

Braekhus is actively seeking a welterweight mega-fight with longtime champion, Holly Holm. Holm bested Mia St. John for the IBA junior welterweight title in 2005 sweeping every round in route to an unanimous decision victory.

What To Expect: Look for Braekhus to aggressively seek a stoppage in this battle with St. John to proclaim that she stopped an all-time great whereas Holm fell short of that accomplishment.

Monthly Featured Divisional Ratings - Flyweights:

The flyweight division is as talented as any weight class in the sport. Representing every region of the world, the flyweight division boasts nearly forty world class boxers. Foremost among them are three American boxers from California, Ava Knight, Melissa McMorrow, and Carina Moreno. Just missing the rankings is an eighteen-year old boxer/puncher from Guadalajara, Mexico, named Joselyn Arroyo Ruiz. She turned professional at sixteen, but fights like a veteran having the potential to be a long-time champion at flyweight.

Lady of Boxing Ava Knight - #1 Rated Female Flyweight
1- Ava Knight USA (11-1-3, 5 KOs) WBC Silver, IBF
2- Melissa McMorrow USA (9-3-3, 1 KO) WBO, WIBF
3- Irma Sanchez Mexico (25-6-1, 7 KOs) WBF
4- Carina Moreno USA (23-5, 6 KOs) WBA
5- Susi Kentikian DE (30-2, 16 KOs) WBA interim
6- Renata Szebeledi Hungary (16-9, 10 KOs) WBC
7- Nadia Raoui Germany (15-2-1, 3 KOs) WIBA
8- Arely Mucino Mexico (17-2-1, 9 KOs)
9- Raja Amasheh Germany (15-0-1, 4 KOs)
10- Simona Galassi Italy (18-2-1, 4 KOs)

Ava Knight - A Closer Look: Record: 11-1-3, 5 KOs Titles: WBC Silver female flyweight title From: Chico, California Age: 24 Experience: six years, 2007-2013 Style: Boxer/Puncher Strength: Speed Best Wins: Mariana Juarez, Kaliesha West, Arely Mucino Losses: (1) Ana Maria Torres Last Bout: Win UD-10 Susana Vazquez

The Goods - At the young age of 24, having not yet reached her prime, Ava is not only one of the most talented fighters in women’s boxing; she is perhaps the most promotable American female boxer. Owning a combination of speed, punching power, and fundamentally sound boxing technique accentuates her ability to adapt to her opponent’s style and fight strategy. Ava holds wins over the iron-fisted Arely Mucino and Kaliesha West, an impressive speed fighter; perhaps her most impressive victory was a decision win over women’s boxing pioneer and all-time great, Mariana Juarez in what was the ‘event of the year’ in women’s boxing for 2012. In that bout, Knight worked inside and outside befuddling Juarez with her speed and movement leaving Juarez, who in the twilight of her career is primarily a long-range counter puncher, little to counter. She gained valuable experience early in her career taking on some of the biggest names in women’s boxing. She fought to a draw in her fifth professional bout with Elena “Baby Doll” Reid, a veteran of 28 fights. Ava also drew with Kaliesha West at bantamweight and in her eight professional fights, lost a close decision to Ana Maria Torres in a bid for the WBC female super flyweight title. Torres is considered an all-time and a longtime holder of the WBC female super flyweight title.

Sweet Side Quick Quotes:

Ava Knight, #1 ranked female flyweight - "The flyweight division is full of talented fighters, and I am hoping that the women under me will want to take that step up to the number one girl - myself - so I can prove my domination of the flyweight division."

Ana Julaton, top ranked female super bantamweight - "Flyweight is a great division and super matches can be made between Light Flyweight and Super Flyweight. Again it's all about the promoters, fighters and business, but I feel there are enough matches that can be made in the Flyweight Division to spark global attention. We have already seen good matches in McMorrow versus Raoui and Alcivar versus Olszewski and Mucino versus Tapia recently, so time to make some great matches!"

Melissa McMorrow, #2 ranked female flyweight - "The flyweight division is one of the most competitive divisions in women's boxing. It is the most saturated weight class. I would love to do a super 6 for female flyweights!"

KO Digest's Dynamite Dozen Pound-for-Pound Women's Ratings: 

#2 Pound for Pound Cecilia Braekhus

1- Holly Holm (32-2-3, 9 KOs) (JWW/WW) USA
2- Cecilia Braekhus (21-0, 5 KOs) (WW) Norway
3- Erica Anabella Farias (16-0, 9 KOs) (LW) Argentina
4- Ava Knight (11-1-3, 5 KOs) (Fly) USA
5- Yesica Yolanda Bopp (24-0, 11 KOs) (JFLY) Argentina
6- Christina Hammer (13-0, 7 KOs) (MW) Germany
7- Melissa Hernandez (18-3-3, 6 KOs) (FW) USA/Puerto Rico
8- Layla McCarter (35-13-5, 8 KOs) (JMW) USA
9- Frida Wallberg (11-0, 2 KOs) (JLW) Sweden
10- Esmeralda Moreno (25-6, 9 KOs) (JFLY) Mexico
11- Mariana Juarez (36-6-3, 16 KOs) (JBW) Mexico
12- Jessica Chavez (17-3-2, 4 KOs) (JFLY) Mexico  

"The Sweet Side of the Sweet Science" is written and compiled by women's boxing expert Mark Jones - exclusively for KO Digest. You can find more of Mark's work on his women's boxing blog: Boxing Jones