September 30, 2013

Bantamweights & Below - Boxing's Other Five Weight Divisions Vol. 9

Little Hands of Stone
By Derek "DBO" Bonnett ~ I get asked all of the time why boxing fans don't follow the lightest divisions in the sport from bantamweight on down. My answer to that is, they do ... everywhere except the United States. American boxing fans have not had a lot of exposure to these divisions on network television historically. Plus, recently, the field of competitors has been thin, but it was not that long ago that some of the best fighters in the world such as Jeff Chandler, Orlando Canizales, Johnny Tapia, Danny Romero, Mark Johnson, and, of course, Michael Carbajal were American lighter weight champions who were also hailed as competitors at the top of the sport, not just their division. But, the USA is just one country, albeit one with great influence over the broadcasting of world championship boxing. 

Hawaiian Punch
If you examine the world boxing scene at Bantamweight and Below, you'll find the scene to be very healthy with strong world class presentations from Japan, Mexico, Thailand, Philippines, South Africa, and numerous South American countries. So, why are the Americans not representing in the lightest divisions as well as they have historically? Well, many American sports fans attribute the current heavyweight drought in our country to the NFL and NBA luring our best talent away from boxing. Perhaps since the 2003 release of Seabiscuit, more and more American lighter weight athletes are drawn to becoming ... jockeys. I jest Bantamweight and Below fans, but the drought is very real in these divisions as well; American boxing fans just don't care. This month, I rated the best of the USA from 118 to 105. Presently, the USA has one legit world class fighter from Bantamweight and Below in Brian Viloria. He is headed to the Hall of Fame, in my opinion, and rates at the cusp of all-time great status among little men. After him, the state of the game gets pretty bleak.

World Class Boxing Results at Bantamweight & Below:

On Friday, August 30, at City Hall Ground, Chonburi, Thailand, Wanheng Menayothin won a unanimous decision over Yuma Iwahashi in a twelve round minimumweight bout. Menayothin prevailed by scores of 120-108 twice and 119-109. The Thai-boxer moved his record to 30-0 (10) after scoring his fifth win of 2013. Menayothin held his number five ranking among my top-ranked minimumweight fighters due to activity. However, the Thai contender is in need of a more serious challenge to advance his ranking.

Hernandez does a Big Bang on Kakutani
On Saturday, August 31, at Gimnasio San Juan de la Barrera, Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico, Adrian Hernandez stopped Atsushi Kakutani in four rounds of a WBC light flyweight title bout. The end came at the 1:12 mark. Hernandez defended his title for the third time this year in raising his ledger to 28-2-1 (17). Hernandez remains paralyzed behind Roman Gonzalez in my 108-pound rankings. The Mexican champion is in dire need of a quality challenger in order to not be surpassed by number three Kazuto Ioka.

Also on this date, at Emperor's Palace, Kempton Park, Gauteng, South Africa, Nkosinathi Joyi stopped Benezer Alolod in nine rounds. The end came at 2:48 of the round. Joyi raised his record to 24-2 (17). Alolod fell to 12-5-4 (2). Joyi jumped into my 108-pound rankings for the first time as he competes in a new division. He climbed aboard at number eight. Raul Garcia Hirales and Alberto Rossel each fell one ranking.

On Tuesday, September 3, at Sun Messe Kagawa, Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan, Rodrigo Guerrero lost a questionable unanimous decision to Daiki Kameda in a twelve round IBF super flyweight title bout. All three judges favored the Japanese fighter by scores of 117-109, 116-110, and 114-112. Kameda raised his ledger to 29-3 (18). Guerrero dropped to 19-5-1 (12). Kameda climbed aboard my 115-pound rankings at number nine. Guerrero exited for the time being.

On Friday, September 6, at NCO Club, Royal Thai Airforce, Bangkok, Thailand, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai stopped late sub Daryl Basadre in six rounds of a bantamweight bout. The stoppage came at the 1:18 mark. Rungvisai raised his dossier to 29-5-1 (12). It was his sixth win of 2013. Basadre dipped to 9-1-1 (6). Rungvisai remained my sixth rated bantamweight. Also on the card, WBC 115-pound king, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai won a decision over Roque Lauro in a six-round bantamweight non-title bout. Rungvisai moved his record to 21-3-1 (19). Lauro fell to 9-16-4 (2).

On Saturday, September 7, in Nuevo Leon, Mexico, Hugo Ruiz captured a majority decision over Julio Cesar Miranda in a twelve round bantamweight bout. The three judges scored the contest 114-114 and 115-113 twice. Ruiz lifted his record to 33-2 (29). Miranda fell to 37-9-2 (29). Ruiz solidified his standing as my fourth best bantamweight.

Igarashi pounds Soto for the KO win
At Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan, Toshiyuke Igarashi moved up in weight to stop Omar Soto in nine rounds of a super flyweight bout. The stoppage came at the 2:32 point. Igarashi won for the first time since losing a portion of the flyweight title in April. His record now stands at 18-2-1 (11). Soto crashed to 23-11-2 (15). Igarashi has been removed from my flyweight rankings for the time being if he plans to pursue further glory at 115-pounds. Juan Carlos Reveco moved from tenth to ninth and Rocky Fuentes stepped back in at ten to fill the void at 112.

At Palenque de la Feria Mesoamericana, Tapachula, Chiapas, Mexico, Moises Fuentes blitzed Luis De La Rosa in one round to claim the interim WBO light flyweight title. The end came at the 2:40. Fuentes raised his record to 18-1-1 (9). De La Rosa fell to 22-3-1 (12). Fuentes climbed from seventh to fifth at 108-pounds in my rankings.

On Wednesday, September 11, at Bodymaker Colosseum, Osaka, Osaka, Japan, Kazuto Ioka stopped Kwanthai Sithmorseng in the seventh round of a WBA light flyweight title bout. The end came at the 2:17 mark. Ioka notched the second defense of his title and raised his record to 13-0 (9). Sithmorseng dripped to 43-2-1 (22). Ioka climbed from third to second among my top-rated light flyweights. Also on the card, Ryo Miyazaki retained his title with a majority decision over Jesus Silvestre in a twelve round WBA minimumweight title bout. The scores favored the champion 115-113, 115-114, and 114-114. Miyazaki added his second title defense and remained unbeaten at 20-0-3 (11). Silvestre dipped to 27-4 (20). Miyazaki climbed from seventh to fifth in my strawweight rankings. Wanheng Menayothin and Carlos Buitrago each fell two places. Silvestre kept his number ten ranking with the strong effort. 

Gonzales stays undefeated - #1 at 108 lbs
On Saturday, September 21, at Crown Plaza, Managua, Nicaragua, Roman Gonzalez stopped Francisco Rodriguez Jr. in the seventh round of flyweight non-title bout. The WBA junior flyweight champion was in control, but the stoppage seemed hasty at the 1:10 mark. Gonzalez raised his ledger to 36-0 (30). Rodriguez fell to 11-2 (9). Gonzalez remains the uncontested #1 108-pounder in my rankings.

Also on the card, Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr. stopped Darwin Zamora in seven rounds of bantamweight bout. The former 115-pound champion was recently stripped of his title for failing to make weight. Sanchez raised his record to 17-1-1 (9). Zamora fell to 21-9-1 (18). Sanchez Jr. rose in weight to the bantamweight division and entered my rankings at seven after previously being number one at 115.

Bantamweight & Below Featured Rankings: Best of USA

Viloria is the best of the US at Bantamweight & Below
1.) Brian Viloria (112) 32-4-0 (19) ~ Former WBC and IBF Light Flyweight Champion; Former WBO and WBA Flyweight Champion ~ Best Wins: KO 11 Ulises Solis, TKO 8 Giovani Segura, TKO 10 Hernan Marquez ~ Notable Fact: Viloria has Filipino roots, but was born in Hawaii and represented the USA on the 2000 Olympic Team

2.) Randy Caballero (118) 19-0-0 (11) ~ #1 WBO Bantamweight Contender; #9 IBF Bantamweight Contender ~ Best Wins: TKO 4 Luis Maldonado, UD 8 Alexis Santiago ~ Notable Fact: Caballero is a Nicaraguan-America who was the 2008 USA Amateur Flyweight Champion

3.) Rau'shee Warren (118) 7-0-0 (3) ~ Unranked at Bantamweight ~ Best Wins: TKO 2 Jiovany Fuentes, UD 6 Omar Gonzalez ~ Notable Fact: The three-time Olympian Warren was actually the youngest male of 531 to represent the United States in the 2004 Olympics. He was seventeen.

4.) Qa' id Muhammad (118) 8-0-0 (7) ~ Unranked at Bantamweight ~ Best Wins: TKO Samuel Gutierrez; TKO 3 Steven Johnson ~ Notable Fact: Muhammad was dropped thrice in round three of his last bout with Jamal Parram. He later dropped Parram twice in the fourth and twice in the fifth before winning by TKO in the fifth.

5.) Luis Yanez (115) 7-0-1 (0) ~ Unranked at Super Flyweight ~ Best Wins: UD 6 Jamal Parram, UD 6 Samuel Gutierrez ~ Notable Fact: Half of Yanez' bouts have been split verdicts

Bantamweight & Below: Give That Man a Title Shot! 

Menayothin stays busy and deserves a title shot
Wanheng Menayothin fought five times in 2012 and has already matched that feat in 2013. The Thai-contender has amassed a perfect record of 30-0 (10) and currently holds number one rankings by the WBC and Ring Magazine. He also holds number two rankings by the WBA and WBO. The twenty-seven year old has already captured three minor WBC titles and been the twelve round distance seven times. One of those victories was a 2011 unanimous decision over former world champion Florante Condes, who was still a top-rated contender at the time.

Since then, he is 13-0, but Menayothin has taken a serious step down in class. Some merit is there, but the bulk of this title shot demand is based on activity after breaking into my top-ten at strawweight.

It seems as though the WBC is the most likely title Menayothin will compete for given his experience in WBC minor title bouts, but nothing is set on the horizon. In an era when some of boxing's most recognizable competitors spend too much time on the inactive list, Menayothin's five bouts in nine months is a refreshing trend.

Bantamweights & Below — On the Horizon: 

Is Argentine Juan Carlos Reveco ready to step up?

On Saturday, October 12, at Polideportivo Gustavo Toro Rodriguez, San Martin, Mendoza, Argentina, Juan Carlos Reveco versus Ricardo Nunez in a twelve round WBA world flyweight title bout. One of boxing's protected titlist takes a mild step up in class.

On Saturday, October 19, at Messehalle, Leipzig, Sachsen, Germany, Moruti Mthalane versus Silvio Olteanu in a twelve round IBF flyweight title bout. The inactive champion looks to return to my flyweight rankings with a win over the holder of one of boxing's most deceptive records. 

On Saturday, October 19, at Arena Roberto Duran, Panama City, Panama, Luis Concepcion versus Carlos Ruben Dario Ruiz in a twelve round flyweight bout. The recent Give That Man a Title Shot recipient Conception keeps active in pursuit of that world championship opportunity. On Saturday, October 26, at Cuneta Astrodome, Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines, Jhon Reil Casimero versus Felipe Salguera in a 12-round IBF light flyweight title bout. The exciting champion looks to add his third title defense.

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

You can find more of Derek's writings & ratings at 

You can also contact the author Derek Bonnett on Facebook   

Author's Note: In this month's Featured Rankings, Best of the USA, I attempted a top ten, but the endeavor provided a final product I could not stand behind one hundred percent. So, I cut it down to a top five and found the same result. 

September 11, 2013

THE ONE - Mayweather vs Canelo KO Digest Staff Predictions

Money vs Mexico
By Jeffrey Freeman — When reigning World Welterweight Champion Floyd "Money" Mayweather Jr (44-0, 26 KOs) steps into the ring on September 14th in Las Vegas, NV to face defending World Junior Middleweight Champion Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (42-0-1, 30 KOs) it will match his busiest calendar year as an active fighter since 2007 when he faced Ricky Hatton and Oscar De La Hoya in mega fights. Both Hatton and De La Hoya were beaten by Mayweather but the split decision loss was especially tough for De La Hoya to accept. Since retiring in 2008 to become a boxing promoter, the Golden Boy's dreams of beating Mayweather have continued on vicariously through the hopes and skills of the five fighters that he's promoted in high profile matches against Mayweather. Juan Manuel Marquez, Sugar Shane Mosley, Victor Ortiz, Miguel Cotto, and Robert Guerrero have all come up short of being the one to "finally" beat Mayweather. Can the Golden Boy's unbeaten Cinnamon Boy finally be the one or will De La Hoya have to keep waiting for Mayweather to finally be defeated?

With these questions in mind, here's how the knowledgeable staff of boxing writers and reporters at KO Digest envision THE ONE playing out at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Included you will also find KO Digest staff predictions for the highly anticipated undercard bout featuring World Junior Welterweight Champion Danny "Swift" Garcia (26-0, 16 KOs) defending his title against the highly respected, hard punching Argentine (34-2, 32 KOs) Lucas "The Machine" Matthysse.

Terry Strawson: Floyd Mayweather W12 Canelo Alvarez -- In what's billed as the biggest fight of the decade, Floyd Mayweather Jr will pot-shot his way to a decision against the younger Canelo. Alvarez, whose stock rose after his marquee victory over Austin Trout in April, will look to stalk Mayweather with the same educated pressure that helped him prevail over Trout. Unfortunately for him and his huge following of adoring fans, it will not be enough to out-do the aging face of boxing. Mayweather is simply too good and although he may not have it all his own way during the encounter, he will no doubt end the night with his hand raised. Mayweather by unanimous decision. 

Danny Garcia W12 Lucas Matthysse - Matthysse is the most feared man in his division at the moment and Danny Garcia, the current WBC/WBA/RING champion, probably goes into this fight a slight underdog with odds makers. However, I cannot bet against him. I expected Kendall Holt to knock him out, Amir Khan to out-box him and Erik Morales to simply have too much experience. Each time though, Garcia has found a way to win. I expect him, and his absolute treat of a father Angel, to find a way once more. Matthysse is dangerous and his power is now accompanied by a confidence and belief that may have been missing in his controversial loss to Zab Judah. I envision an incredibly fast start from him as he looks to bombard Garcia with heavy shots, and continue on from his impressive destruction of Lamont Peterson. Having weathered the early storm, Garcia will finish the fight on the front foot. Looking stronger than his hard-hitting counterpart, Garcia will walk away with a majority decision. ~ 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 Canelo Alvarez -- At the bell, Floyd elects to play a game of cat and mouse rather than stand and  trade with a naturally bigger opponent. The plan is to weaken the younger fighter first and exchange punches later. Floyd uses his edge in speed and experience to attempt an early points lead although Canelo's hand speed is respectable. Floyd's lead right hands and  jab to the body keep Canelo momentarily at bay. Similar to the Mayweather-Cotto fight, Canelo also relies on the jab to work his way inside to rough up his opponent. Whenever Money's back hits the rope, he ducks and darts out of the corner. Canelo will have his moments and he may shock the world with a flash knockdown late in the fight courtesy of an uppercut or left hook as Floyd attempts to duck away from the corner. Surprisingly, the catchweight won't effect Canelo, and the fight is competitive down the stretch. Mayweather is an intelligent fighter, and the more experienced fighter finds a way to pull it out. Floyd by decision, 116-112.

Will Matthysse be celebrating a win over Garcia?
Lucas Matthysse TKO9 Danny Garcia - Normally a slow starter, Danny will attempt to start a little faster. As expected, he will elect to box, rather than trade with Matthysse. Garcia will win some of the early rounds by using the jab, and moving away from the left hook. The problem is two-fold, as Garcia has proven in the past that he gets hit with right hands, and Matthysse' right hand is almost as deadly as his hook. Matthysse, not overly concerned, elects to attack the body and cash in later. As the fight approaches the mid-rounds, there is a subtle shift, as "Swift" Garcia begins to stand and trade more with his iron chinned opponent. The effect of the body punches are beginning to take their toll. Slowly, Garcia gives a little ground, and occasionally his back hits the ropes.

In the ninth, a right hand stuns Garcia, and he looks to hold. "The Machine," known to be a great finisher, immediately goes back to the body, before lowering the boom. A left hook drops Danny in the corner, and after the brave champion regains his feet, the fight is allowed to continue. A left hook, and a pair of right hands to the head have Garcia out on his feet, and the referee immediately jumps in to rescue him. Matthysse by TKO in the 9th. ~ 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 with fight fans.  

Mark A. Jones: Floyd Mayweather W12 Canelo Alvarez -- As the summer season winds down, boxing gives us perhaps a Super Bout for the ages matching the consensus #1 pound for pound fighter in the sport, Floyd Mayweather against the most popular fighter in boxing, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. Both fighters are undefeated with Alvarez fighting to a draw against a fighter with a losing record and in his third professional start, escaped by the cinnamon hair of his chinny-chin-chin against the underappreciated and current IBF lightweight champion, Miguel Vazquez. ‘Canelo’, a high volume mid-range hooker, has improved dramatically since struggling with journeyman, Larry Mosley in October, 2008 rendering the apprenticeship part of his career where he struggled mightily at times, unrelated to his current skill level.

Easy Money for Mayweather or a changing of the old guard?
Mayweather, a strategic low-volume counter-puncher, and entering the post-prime of his Hall of Fame career, has faced the far greater competition and is unequaled in boxing IQ and conditioning. Mayweather gives away some of the early rounds to the volume of Alvarez as he learns his aggressive opponents movements and punch patterns. As Alvarez fades after round six, Mayweather will rally winning the match by a unanimous decision. What most concerns me is that if the fight is closely contested, the Boxing Gods may judge Mayweather as they did George Foreman against Shannon Briggs and Bernard Hopkins against Jermain Taylor and award the match to Alvarez to indicate a changing of the guard.

Danny Garcia W12 Lucas Matthysse - It is exciting when two perceived punchers are fighting for a world title on a big stage. We live in an era where the promoters give the current boxing fans what they want – a Rocky Balboa fight. In this matchup, Danny Garcia is actually from Philadelphia but is the boxer-puncher whereas the opponent, the iron-fisted, Lucas Martin Matthysse is the awkward-moving crowd pleasing banger. Garcia, a mid-range hooker possesses underrated boxing skills. Owning an old-school style of defense, Garcia rolls with punches and allows others to graze or barely miss him always placing himself in a proper range to counter. He doesn’t catch as many clean punches as people believe. Like many of the past greats from Philadelphia, Garcia owns a numbing left hook which knocked out Amir Khan just over a year ago. Garcia’s counter-punching ability will lend him well against the free-swinging two-fisted attack of Matthysse. Matthysse missed wildly and reached for Lamont Peterson who could not capitalize on the defensive liabilities of Matthysse like Judah and Alexander did in spots. Matthysse's best chance is early while the counter-puncher Garcia is learning his punch patterns and movements. If Garcia is still there after the end of the third round, he will prevail. Garcia suffers an early knockdown but rallies to win a unanimous decision. ~ 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 of all genders, ethnicities, and personal persuasions. 

Where will the Golden Boy be cheering for Canelo?
John Scheinman: Floyd Mayweather W12 Canelo Alvarez -- Alvarez presents yet another different kind of challenge to Mayweather, a young, determined, multifaceted fighter with a variety of weapons. I believed the key to beating Mayweather was to take him inside, like Cotto attempted to do, but that warrior just did not hit hard enough to turn the tide. The style seemed correct. We will not get that here. Instead, we will see Alvarez attempt to match Mayweather in artistry and tactics. In fights like these, there seem to be only brief moments where damage is done, but they are magnified by their infrequency. I do not see a war here, but, rather, two very focused and respectful boxers going at it, laying traps, old cagey stuff. Mayweather by decision. 

Lucas Matthysse KO9 Danny Garcia - Matthysse wins in 9 rounds because he hits too hard, rarely gets hurt, and he's that good. Garcia can tire and takes too many shots. ~ Based in the DC area, John Scheinman is an occasional contributor to KO Digest. His written work has appeared on the pages of The Ring and Bert Sugar's Boxing Illustrated. 

Bonnett predicts an early night
Derek Bonnett: Floyd Mayweather W12 Canelo Alvarez -- I picked Floyd Mayweather to beat Saul Alvarez since this fight was first signed. I have never wavered. Alvarez has come along nicely and certainly has improved, but thus far he has failed to "wow" fans when he was on the biggest platforms of his career. His wins over Mosley and Lopez came up short for expectations. While he impressed me with greater diversity in the Trout fight and I felt he won, he was not able to assert himself clearly over a man with less boxing ability than his current opponent. PBF is certainly standing his ground more and that could put him in harm's way as wasn't the case against Ortiz or Cotto. A more flatfooted Mayweather is a more vulnerable one. Nevertheless, Floyd wins a split decision in a genuinely close fight. 

Lucas Matthysse KO4 Danny Garcia - Lucas Matthysse can do more than just hit, but lately that much hasn't mattered. I think his aura as much as his ability wins this fight for the Argentine fighter. He is beginning to separate himself greatly from his world class competitors as he failed to do with Judah and Alexander. Garcia has been brought up well, but in a vastly different fashion. Garcia could have success with straight shots as long as he can avoid getting tagged with Matthysse's early barrage. However, I see him being too tentative early on and that allowing Matthysse to set the tone for the fight. Matthysse KO4. ~ Derek "DBO" Bonnett is an experienced boxing reporter with Specializing in ratings and lighter weight fighters, Bonnett is a monthly contributor on KO Digest and writes the popular "Bantamweights & Below" column

Joel Sebastianelli: Floyd Mayweather W12 Canelo Alvarez -- From the moment this fight was first announced, I felt as though Canelo Alvarez had a much more realistic chance to defeat Floyd Mayweather than many of his previous opponents. Alvarez's size is the biggest advantage, but it won't be enough. The young Mexican may not have what it takes to defeat the veteran, who still possesses the lightning fast reflexes and decision making that have made him the best in the sport, but he will put up a fair fight and clock Mayweather on occasion to remind the 36 year old he cannot take rounds off. Alvarez may not fare quite as well as his promoter Oscar De La Hoya did in May of 2007, but I expect Canelo to take three or four rounds in another typical Mayweather fight. 

Sebastianelli sees another win for father and son 
Danny Garcia W12 Lucas Matthysse - Since bursting onto the mainstream boxing scene, Lucas Matthysse has been labeled as one of the most fearsome punchers in the sport. After a pair of split decision losses to Zab Judah and Devon Alexander, winnable fights in which Matthysse simply didn't do enough to eke out the victory, I soured on the 30 year old. Although he redeemed himself with a string of explosive victories recently, the blueprint for how to beat the him has been posted, and Danny Garcia possesses the skills to do it. The champion has shown some pop in his fists, and while he would be ill-advised to slug with Matthysse, Garcia can box too, and should be able to stay undefeated by earning a close decision. ~ Joel joined KO Digest in January 2013 and has been a fixture on press row in the New England area for three years. His monthly KO Digest interview is one of the site's most popular features. 

Steve Bridge: Floyd Mayweather W12 Canelo Alvarez -- Mayweather has made a career out of making the division's best look ordinary and there's no reason to think this fight will be any different. Canelo is a good, young, strong champion with a world of pride and a whole country behind him, but this will be a new experience for the Mexican superstar, the big show, and he's in with the best. Frustration could play a factor when things don't go his way and if he can't make the proper adjustments he's in trouble. Canelo has the size and power to make it interesting if Floyd has slowed a step, but Floyd's boxing IQ will pull him through. I see the first five rounds being close with Canelo boxing aggressively and using the jab. Floyd will make the necessary adjustments and begin to pull away through the middle rounds. Alvarez's pride will force him into a higher gear once he sees the fight slipping away and he'll push Floyd hard through the championship rounds, but it's not going to be enough. Floyd takes it by unanimous decision in an exciting but tactical boxing clinic.

Lucas Matthysse TKO7 Danny Garcia - I'm picking "The Machine" to come out firing on all cylinders, making swift work of Danny Garcia, a solid champion with good skills, but I'm not so sure that victories over a shot Erik Morales and a past his best Zab Judah will be enough to prepare him to dismantle the Machine. In most people's minds, Matthysse should be an undefeated fighter and in those two fights he lost, he was in with boxers who used movement. Garcia will be there to be hit, he isn't afraid to mix it up, and that is going to be his undoing. ~ Steve Bridge is a fanatical contributor on KO Digest and his new Dream Fight feature on the KO Digest Facebook page is extremely popular.

Mayweather in a familiar position
Gopal Rao: Floyd Mayweather W12 Canelo Alvarez -- Canelo may yet ascend to the top spot on the Pound for Pound lists at some point, but now is not his time. The only opponent on his ledger who even comes close to replicating what he'll face in Floyd Jr is Austin Trout. I didn't see enough from Canelo in that fight to make me think he can beat Mayweather. If Canelo wins three rounds, I'll be mighty impressed. If he wins four, his fans will be crying robbery afterwards.

Lucas Matthysse KO10 Danny Garcia - Garcia's supporters insist that he can outbox Matthysse or perhaps even stop him late. I don't think anybody thinks Garcia will win a slugging contest. Matthysse has faced some pretty good boxers already in Zab Judah and Devon Alexander, and in both cases, he was the one making the tactical adjustments and landing big shots at an increasing rate as the fight wore on. Lucas lost both of those decisions, however, and there may be something there that Danny can use in his gameplan. My prediction is that Garcia starts out by trying to use angles and movement to keep Lucas off balance, but gets dragged into an increasing number of exchanges with each passing round. By the late rounds, I envision a game but out-gunned Garcia being saved by the referee as he's absorbing brutal punishment. ~ Based in California, Gopal Rao is a talented contributor on KO Digest with West Coast Ringside Reports and fight previews.

The Pastor of Pugilism prophetizes Matthysse's hands raised
Chuck Marbry: Floyd Mayweather W12 Canelo Alvarez -- Canelo will be able to pressure Floyd Jr some early, enough to move him out of his rhythm a bit, but at the end of twelve, look for Money Mayweather to pull out a very close decision.

Lucas Matthysse KO Danny Garcia - I see Matthysse's power being too much for Garcia to overcome, and Matthysse winning by late round stoppage.  ~ Affectionately known as the Pastor of Pugilism, former boxer and 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.

Edwin "Ace" Ayala: Canelo Alvarez SD12 Floyd Mayweather -- I see this fight as a repeat of the first Mayweather vs Jose Luis Castillo fight in which Castillo gave "Money" all he could handle and then some. Canelo and Castillo have similar styles. The power advantage definitely goes to Alvarez. Though neither fighter has been on the canvas, Mayweather was badly hurt in the second round against Shane Mosley and almost went down. Alvarez has never been close to going down. Alvarez may have the edge in the strength of his chin as well. As far as hand speed and footwork are concerned there's no doubt as to Mayweather's superiority. Alvarez is not a plodding slugger as he showed in his win over Trout, he does have some boxing skills, but no where near those of his opponent. The defense of Alvarez is above that of most Mexican fighters but there is no comparison to the mastery of Mayweather, whose "shoulder roll" is almost as legendary as his defensive instincts.

"Ace" Ayala picks the Canelo upset
Here's the problem though: Alvarez at age 23 has been on the rise and active with 33 fights since '07, while Mayweather's age of 36 isn't helped with a total of 6 fights in the same span of time which has to show up at some point. That point shows in this fight, Mayweather's third foray into a higher weight class. He'll look good and fresh in the beginning but as the fight wears on "Money" will as well. Alvarez finds it hard to hit Mayweather flush at first but as he and his trainers realize that Mayweather's punches aren't hurting him, he'll be instructed by his corner to bang on anything that doesn't move. Inactivity coupled with age and Alvarez's relentless attack causes Mayweather to slow down just enough to have to trade with his foe and this will be his downfall. He'll go the distance but lose his "0" to Alvarez via closer than expected split decision.

Danny Garcia W12 Lucas Matthysse - When unbeaten Danny Garcia puts his WBA and WBC junior welterweight titles on the line against WBC interim champ Lucas Matthysse, it just may be the fight of the night. Let's take a look at Garcia first who's beaten such names as the great Erik Morales twice (W12 and KO4), ex-champs Amir Khan (KO4), Zab Judah (W12), Kendall Holt (W12), and Nate Campbell (W10) among other contenders. An exceptional list but no one close to the power Matthysse has put on display. Only four fighters have not been stopped by Matthysse and they were Zab Judah (L12), Devon Alexander (L10), Carlos Adan Jerez (W10), and Bernardino Gonzalez (WDQ3). Though his résumé doesn't read like a who's who in boxing, the list includes former world champions Lamont Peterson (KO3), Humberto Soto (KO5), Demarcus Corley (KO8), and Vivian Harris (KO4). Power edge goes to Matthysse. As far as the strength of their chins, this is a tough one to so I'll call it a draw. When it comes to boxing skills, Garcia has shown us that what he lacks in power, he more than makes up for in natural ability. Boxer is not a moniker which I would put under Matthysse's name, but by no means is he a free swinging slugger. Then again he hasn't had to show any skills considering his average of just over 3 rounds per fight. I give Garcia a bit of an edge in boxing skills. Defense is a tough to call but I'll do so by taking a look at their one common opponent Judah who lost to Garcia but beat Matthysse via highly controversial split decision. Judah landed at a 46% clip in the win against Matthysse and a 29% rate in the loss to Garcia. Now this doesn't necessarily mean Garcia has the better defense but is indicative of the problems a pure power puncher (Matthysse) has against a boxer/puncher (Garcia). When all is said and done, defense is a draw. The thing that sticks in my head are the two losses on Matthysse's record to Judah and Alexander who have similar styles to Garcia. I envision Matthysse having success early, maybe even dropping his opponent, but his power diminishing as the fight goes into the later rounds. That's when Garcia takes over by out punching not with power, but by volume on his way to a unanimous decision.

 ~ Senior staff writer Edwin Ayala, from Brockton MA., 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 the KO Digest.

Mayweather will be 45-0 after beating Alvarez
Jeffrey "KO" Freeman: Floyd Mayweather Jr W12 Canelo Alvarez -- There's really no need to make this complicated. Floyd Mayweather is a better fighter than Canelo Alvarez in nearly every way imaginable. The controversial 152 lb catchweight guarantees that whatever advantages Alvarez might have in size and power are handicapped in favor of the best and most powerful negotiator in the sport. Mayweather's supreme talent, high quality of opposition, and invaluable experience on the big stage will carry him to yet another dominating win over a determined but overmatched opponent. Unless "Money May" gets old overnight on the greatest day of Canelo's young life, it's Mayweather by unanimous decision, 118-110.

Lucas Matthysse KO4 Danny Garcia - Much respect to Danny Garcia and what he's been able to accomplish since upsetting Amir Khan. It's been a great run and with his father Angel Garcia in his corner, good fun. It ends at the feet of Lucas "The Machine" Matthysse, a fighter on a quiet mission to prove that he's the next big thing from Argentina and the best junior welterweight fighter on the planet. Ultimately, Garcia is a slow starter who lacks the defensive boxing skills to do what Alexander and Judah did against the heavy handed Matthysse - avoid getting knocked out. In a one-sided fight made to look easy by the single minded attack of Matthysse, power again prevails in the year of the puncher.  

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

September 4, 2013

The Sweet Side of the Sweet Science - Women's Boxing Monthly Vol. 7

Beautiful Brawlers
By Mark A. Jones – On August 31 at the Sports House in Redwood City, California, the third edition the women’s amateur boxing series, “Beautiful Brawlers” took place in front of nearly 600 spectators. In a display of support for their amateur counterparts, well-known professional boxers Ava Knight, Melissa McMorrow, Carina Moreno, and Jolene Blackshear were in attendance. The chief architect of the Beautiful Brawlers card is Blanca Gutierrez who wears many hats in the California boxing scene. She co-owns a gym, Baby Face Boxing, works as a coach, manages the #1 ranked female heavyweight Martha Salazar, and with the “Beautiful Brawlers” series, has now thrown her hat into the promotion ring.

The 17-bout card featured U.S. Olympians Queen Underwood, Casey Morton, and Jamie Mitchell. Morton and Mitchell are highly ranked by USA Boxing at 119 lbs. Heaven Garcia won the ‘Best Boxer’ award 14 years old and under. Stalacia Leggett won the same award for those 15 and older. Mitchell, who won a close decision victory over Morton, won the ‘Most Inspirational’ award. The fourth edition of the Beautiful Brawlers series is tentatively scheduled for early 2014.

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

Hammer is the WBO Fighter of the Year
In August, the WBO named Christina Hammer their ‘Female Fighter of the Year’ presenting her with a diamond ring for her efforts over the past 12 months. Hammer posted a 3-0 record over the period defending her middleweight title twice, and becoming a two-division champion by winning the WBO super-middleweight title with a decision over Zita Zatyko in May.

On August 3 in Toluca, Mexico, the ever-popular, Zulina “La Loba” Munoz (39-1-2, 26 KOs) Mexico City, Mexico, successfully defended her WBC super-flyweight title for the fourth time by blasting out Maribel “Pantera” Ramirez (8-6-2, 3 KOs) Mexico City, Mexico, in the first round of a scheduled ten. To begin the fight, “La Loba” started stalked Ramirez landing well to the body and head with vicious power punches. With 45 seconds remaining in the round, Munoz landed a wide left hook that visibly shook Ramirez. Munoz closed the show with a well-placed right cross that landed on the point of the chin knocking Ramirez to the blue Corona canvas where she took a ten-count from the assigned referee. The #1 contender to Munoz is Mexican women’s boxing pioneer, Mariana “Barbie” Juarez. When this super-fight is made, surely it will be the ‘event of the year’ in women’s boxing.

On August 9, in Santa Rosa, La Pampa, Argentina, Monica Silvina “La Gata” Acosta in front of her hometown fans, retained the WBA female light-welterweight title with a seventh round technical knockout of Belinda “Brown Sugar” Laracuente, New York, New York, USA. With the win, Acosta improves her impressive record to (19-0-2, 5 KOs) issuing Laracuente her first stoppage loss. The 34-year-old Laracuente, who took this fight on short notice, drops to (26-28-3, 9 KOs). Acosta started quickly landing well to the body early in the battle particularly with the left hand. With Laracuente offering little in opposition, the mauling continued until Laracuente was unable to continue after seven rounds of one-sided action. The hard punching Chris Namus (18-3, 7 KOs) of Montevideo, Uruguay, is the WBA #1 contender to Acosta at light welterweight. Namus lost two closely-contested decisions in the hometown of the division’s consensus best fighter, Fernanda Soledad Alegre (15-1-1, 7 KOs) of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Choi defected for a better life
On August 15, at Wolmido, Icheon, South Korea, the “Defector Girl Boxer,” Hyun-Mi Choi (8-0-1, 2 KOs) Seoul, South Korea, won the interim WBA female super featherweight title with a ten-round unanimous decision victory (97-93/97-93/96-94) over former three-time champion, Fujin Raika (25-8-1, 10 KOs) Tokyo, Japan. The action was closely contested with Choi boxing well from the outside and Raika landing the heavier punches at close range when she managed to get close. The experienced challenger, at the age of 37, was only effective in spurts and could not deny the 22-year-old Choi from securing the WBA super-bantamweight title in her adopted home country. At age 13, Choi was selected to train for the 2008 Olympics as a member of the North Korean women’s boxing team. When the International Olympic Committee ruled against including women’s boxing as an event, Choi along with her family defected from the oppressive tyranny of North Korea’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-Il to the capitalist Nation State of South Korea in 2004 in the hope of discovering a better way of life. Once there, Choi pounded out an amateur record of 17-1. Upon turning professional, Choi, the former WBA female featherweight champion, won that title in her pro debut and successfully defended it seven times before moving to super-featherweight after finding it difficult to cut the weight.

On August 24 at Open Air Bike Show, Volgograd, Russia, Svetlana Kulakova (8-0, 1 KO) won the ‘interim’ WBA female light-welterweight title with a 10-round unanimous decision over longtime contender, Judy Waguthii (12-6-3, 3 KOs) Nairobi, Kenya, The matchup billed, “The Battle of Stalingrad,” Kulakova was outstanding throughout besting her experienced opponent with an aggressive two-fisted attack. In the tenth and final round, with enthusiastic fan base and a large advantage on the score cards, Kulakova suffered a cut over the left eye; however she successfully remained upright staving off Waguthii’s aggressive effort to obtain a stoppage victory. The win over the little-known but respectable Waguthii, who was impressive in defeat against Ramona Kuehne and Ji-Hye Woo, in previous world title challenges, inserts Kulakova into the discussion at light-welterweight which boasts champions, Fernanda Soledad Alegre (WBO), Klara Svensson (WBC Silver), Sabrina Giuliani (EBU), and Monica Silvina Acosta (WBC, WBA). Acosta is the official WBA female light-welterweight recently earning a stoppage victory over the previously unstoppable, Belinda Laracuente.

Ina Menzer wins two titles and then retires as champion
On August 24 at the Warsteiner Hockeypark, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany, Ina Menzer, the former longtime WIBF, WBO, and WBC featherweight champion, in front of her hometown fans moved her impressive record to (31-1, 11 KOs) and won the WBF and WIBA female featherweight titles with a ten-round unanimous decision over the former WIBF featherweight champion, Goda Dailydaite (8-1, 2 KOs) Essen, Germany, by the one-sided scores (100-88/100-88/97-92).

Over almost a 5 year period, Menzer successfully defended her WIBF title fifteen times; punching her way to an impressive record of 18-1 in world title fights besting such women’s boxing standouts as Esther Schouten, Ramona Kuehne, Yazmin Rivas and Laura Serrano before dropping a decision to Canadian, Jeannine Garside in July 2010. Sadly, directly after securing the WBF and WIBA world titles with the decision victory over Dailydaite, Menzer announced her retirement from boxing wishing to retire as a world champion. Historically, Menzer will be regarded as a top-shelf featherweight, and a pioneer of women’s boxing in Europe partially responsible for the popularity the women’s niche of the sport enjoys today.

Three Questions - Sweet Side Q&A with Noemi Bosques

Noemi “La Rebelde” Bosques
Noemi “La Rebelde” Bosques of Saint Petersburg, Florida entered the professional ranks in May 2012 after a stellar amateur career that boasts a #1 ranking in the state of Florida, a finalist at the Ringside World Tournament, and a Bronze Medalist at the National PAL Tournament. Since turning professional, Noemi has pounded out a record of (2-0-1, 0 KOs); the latest victory, a one-sided unanimous decision over the undefeated Monica Flores on July 12. The lone blemish on her record, a draw with Brooklyn Banger, Vanessa Greco, witnessed Noemi fighting with a heavy heart just two weeks after the death of her mother. Noemi currently has an October commitment to meet the ever-tough TBA at the La Carte Event Pavilion, in Tampa Bay, Florida.

Q: What attracted you to Boxing and what boxers do you most admire or emulate?

A: The chess strategy behind it. I love a good boxing match where the mind is involved, and fighters think several moves ahead. I love how it’s only you, versus the man or woman in front of you. No excuses, no team to rely on when that bell ring other than you, and the sound of your coach coming from your corner. Boxing is the extreme challenge, only you and your opponent, who's smarter when your mind and body are fatigued? Who trained the hardest? It's bigger to me than the physical fight everyone else is watching those few minutes. A fighter that I emulated when I first started was Susi Kentikian, another flyweight like myself. I genuinely liked Pernell "Sweet Pea" Whitaker, and Yesica Bopp is another one I look up to a lot.

Q: Tell us about your amateur boxing accomplishments.

A: Winning the Sunshine State games in Florida, winning state and regionals two consecutive years, bronze at the PALS and Ringside tournaments. I think being able to fight at the Olympic Training Center alone was an enormous deal. I think the amateur boxing experience was 110% necessary in order for me to become a successful pro boxer. I learned a lot watching fighters like Tyrieshia Douglass, Marlen Esparza, and Tiara Brown just to name a few.

Q: Over the past decade, the popularity of women’s boxing has stagnated in the United States. 
In your opinion, what actions need to take place to revive the sport?

A: I think media coverage and promotion should take more time to introduce these fabulous female fighters! There is an incredible amount of talent in the United States, but they're virtually unknown. Boxing in general, other than fighters who receive coverage on HBO and Showtime, who else is actually known by the general public? It's the advantage MMA has right now over boxing. MMA has won the interest of the mainstream television viewers because it is on mainstream television. The whole world is missing out! If women’s boxing had similar exposure, especially with gifted boxers such as Ava Knight, Kaliesha West, and Yesica Bopp, I guarantee that the sport would become more popular.

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

On September 7 at Arena Nord, Frederikshavn, Denmark, on the “Nordic Fight Night - The Gladiators” card, the KO Digest’s #1 pound-for-pound female boxer, “The First Lady of Boxing”, Cecilia Braekhus (22-0, 6 KOs), the WBA, WBC, and WBO female welterweight champion, battles iron-fisted prodigy and current WBO female light middleweight champion, Oxandia “La Loba” Castillo (12-0-2, 9 KOs), Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

In February, the 18-year-old Castillo nicknamed, “La Loba” (The Wolf) displayed her appetite for a world title by knocking out Hanna Gabriel (13-1-1, 9 KOs) in the second round of a brutal slugfest ending the former champions three-year strong hold on the WBO light middleweight title. Although Castillo scaled 168 pounds in late 2011, the move to welterweight should not be an exhausting proposition; as recently as early 2011, Castillo was campaigning as a welterweight. Only twice in her young career has Castillo been extended past four rounds. World class competitor, Cindy Serrano drew with Castillo in June 2011, and the unknown Damaris Vizcaino (0-5), after a six-year hiatus from the ring, extended Castillo into the seventh round in December 2012. Castillo has knocked out her last eight opponents with only Gabriel owning a winning record.

The 31-year-old Braekhus, of Bergen, Norway, displaying the utmost in professionalism is not taking her young challenger for granted. “She is young, hungry, and strong. That is a dangerous mixture,” said Braekhus of her opponent. Braekhus is no stranger to facing hard-punching welterweights winning a unanimous decision over Anne Sophie Mathis almost a year ago. Since winning the WBA and WBC welterweight titles with a decision victory over Vinni Skovgaard in March 2009, Braekhus successfully defended the WBC title eleven times and the WBA title ten. She added the WBO title belt to her collection in May 2010 with a ten-round decision victory over American, Victoria Cisneros.

Castillo vs Braekhus
Here is how the two female fighters break down in ten key categories where it would appear that Braekhus holds a significant advantage in 8 out of 10 of them:

Power: Castillo
Speed: Braekhus
Punch Volume: Braekhus
Accuracy: Braekhus
Defense: Braekhus
Chin/Durability: Braekhus
Skills: Braekhus
Quality of Opposition: Braekhus
Conditioning: Braekhus
Size: Castillo

Prediction: Castillo, who moves forward in a straight-line behind a solid jab, has a puncher’s chance if Braekhus makes the mistake of standing in front of her. Braekhus possess remarkable boxing skills, after governing the youthful aggression of Castillo early; Braekhus should befuddle her with movement and speed to completely dominate the later rounds where Castillo is inexperienced. Braekhus will be victorious earning a one-sided unanimous decision.

On September 7 in Saarbrucken, Germany, the Jordanian born, Raja Amasheh (15-0-1, 4 KOs) Karlsruhe, Germany, battles Eva “The Golden Baby” Voraberger (16-2, 8 KOs) Vienna, Austria, for the vacant WBF female super-flyweight title. After losing two of her first three professional bouts, Voraberger has won fifteen straight including a ten-round unanimous decision victory over Polina Pencheva in May winning the WIBF flyweight title. In her professional debut, Amasheh drew with Oezlem Sahin who would later become the WIBF light-flyweight champion. Since, Amasheh has gone undefeated battling past the six-round distance only once, a ten-round unanimous decision victory over super-flyweight trial horse, Fleis Djendji in October 2012. Both fighters are aggressive, forward moving, and throw punches in bunches, but neither has been tested by top-of-the-division competition. Voraberger is ranked #20 by boxrec with Amasheh besting her by one position at 19. This fight is significant due both fighters extraordinary popularity in Europe. It is likely to be well attended and widely covered.

On September 13 at the Twin River Event Center, Lincoln, Rhode Island, a significant welterweight contest takes place as Tori Nelson (6-0-3, 0 KOs), the former WBC female middleweight and current WIBA middleweight champion drops two weight classes to battle, Aleksandra Magdziak Lopes (10-1, 1 KO) for the WIBA welterweight belt. Since last October, Nelson from Ashburn, Virginia, has traveled twice to Bermuda, the adopted home country of the WBA middleweight champion, Teresa Perozzi earning a draw on each occasion. Battling out of Marshfield, Massachusetts, by way of Gliwice, Poland, Lopes has three decision victories over the past eleven months totaling 22 rounds of action which include wins over former WBC middleweight champion, Yvonne Reis and popular Connecticut slugger, Adelita Irizarry. Apart from the A-level skill set that both Nelson and Lopes consistently demonstrate, the difference in styles makes this fight a must-see. Lopes, the taller and younger fighter, is a fundamentally sound stylist who employs efficient lateral movement and exceptional speed. In contrast, Nelson is a straight-line swarmer that aggressively attacks her opponents like a bulldozer with a two-fisted attack. This fight is likely to be closely contested with the winner being placed on a short list for an alphabet title shot.

Hardy brings the Heat on September 16th
On September 16 at the Resorts World Casino, Queens, New York, Heather “The Heat” Hardy (6-0, 1 KO) Brooklyn, NY, battles Jennifer “Superstar” Scott (3-4, 2 KOs) Houston, TX, in a 6-round bout in the super-bantamweight division. Hardy, a former national amateur champion, has built an impressively large and ever-growing fan base since deciding to remove the headgear and lace up the smaller gloves of the professional ranks a year ago. Her popularity is partly a result of her well-known promoter, Lou DiBella, her penchant for self-promotion on various forms of social media, but mostly due to her fan-friendly two-fisted swarming attack and the inherent vulnerability associated with that fighting style. Jennifer Scott, who gave Jackie Trivilino (9-5-3, 1 KO), another fighter with a swarming style, fits in a losing effort three years ago, is a step-up in competition from what Hardy has faced to date during her blossoming career. Scott, a boxer-puncher with an aggressive streak has also competed in mixed martial arts and played linebacker for the Houston Lady Oilers. Of the opponents on the boxing record of Hardy, she is most similar to Mikayla Nebel, a tall lanky boxer-puncher whom Hardy has twice defeated by decision. At 5’7”, Scott has a two inch height advantage over Hardy and scaled 135 pounds in her most recent effort, a unanimous decision victory over Angel Ford in May. Considering the styles of both fighters, whatever the outcome, there will be serious leather-swapping action with neither fighter taking a backwards step.

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

Jessica Chavez is #5 Pound for Pound
1- Cecilia Braekhus (22-0, 6 KOs) Norway
2- Erica Farias (17-0, 9 KOs) Argentina
3- Ava Knight (12-1-3, 5 KOs) USA
4- Christina Hammer (15-0, 7 KOs) Germany
5- Jessica Chavez (19-3-2, 4 KOs) Mexico
6- Yesica Bopp (25-1, 11 KOs) Argentina
7- Ann Sophie Mathis (27-3, 23 KOs) France
8- Jelena Mrdjenovich (29-9-1, 14 KOs) Canada
9- Diana Prazak (12-2, 8 KOs) Australia
10- Marcela Acuna (39-6-1, 17 KOs) Argentina
11- Melissa McMorrow (9-3-3, 1 KO) USA
12- Esmeralda Moreno (25-6, 9 KOs) 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

September 1, 2013

KO Digest Interview: Keith Thurman - "I’m a twelve round fighter"

Knockout Artist in Action
Sometimes, one time is all it takes to make an impression on the public. Once the introductions cease and the focus shifts to the center of the ring, many fighters have frozen, tossing their game plans out the window and abandoning what brought them to the cusp of prominence. Others fall flat, proving that they never really had what it takes and that the buildup surrounding their rise was vastly inflated.

In the case of Keith "One Time" Thurman, pick any of his 21 professional fights, and one time is all it will take to get you hooked. Thurman (21-0, 19 KOs) is the welterweight division’s most exciting contender, a precision puncher not afraid to unleash a mix of "critical blows" to the body and the head.

Under the tutelage of the late Ben Getty, Thurman rose to prominence in Florida and has recently appeared on HBO, defeating Jan Zaveck and Diego Chaves in 2013. A world title shot looms in the future for the 24 year old, but he remains grounded in a calm, cool confidence that he can achieve his lifelong dream.  Thurman is a self-proclaimed spiritual man with faith in a higher power and in himself, but just like his exceptional boxing accomplishments in the amateur and pro ranks, he doesn’t flaunt it. In fact, the only thing loud about the Clearwater, Florida, native is the talking he does with his fists. If you blink during a Keith Thurman fight, you might miss it, but if the trend continues, you can bet the ascent and the stay at the top will last much longer.

KO Digest's Joel Sebastianelli: You’re 24 years old, but boxing has been a part of your life for many years. 
In fact, your first amateur fight came back in 1997. What brought you to the sport?

Thurman was influenced by his Dad and Bruce Lee
Keith Thurman: Boxing, to me at a young age, was a form of martial arts. I was interested in getting into martial arts when I was growing up. My dad took martial arts class, and I spent a lot of time with him, we’d watch a lot of Steven Seagal and Bruce Lee movies. And it was pretty much the combination of that and just being a normal kid growing up. I wanted to be strong like my dad, seeing him go through some of his moves and counters, and I just never really rushed into anything. Boxing was the first thing that opened up its doors to me at seven years old. My original trainer, Ben Getty, put on a boxing exhibition at the after school YMCA program, and that’s what got me hooked.

KOD: How soon did you know that you possessed very special, different from the other young kids who wanted to fight and that you could make a career out of this?

KT: I would say those thoughts started to enter my mind somewhere around my teen years—13, 14, and 15. I acquired three National titles and at 13 years old, I had my first knockout. That’s why, throughout the years, ever since I was 13 years old, I’ve been knocking people out. Seeing that occur, by the time I was 16 years old, I definitely remember saying to myself, “I see myself turning pro and making a career out of this.” It probably did occur before 16, but that’s when I solemnly went with it. I really believed in it being more than just a dream, but being a reality.

Thurman and late trainer Ben Getty
KOD: Early on in your training and for years after, you worked with Benjamin Getty, the famous trainer who worked with many great talents in the sport, including Sugar Ray Leonard. What did training with an accomplished man like Getty add to your skillset?

KT: Well, it made me the fighter that I am today. When you guys see me perform in the ring, you’re seeing a Ben Getty fighter perform. His background, after working with him for so many years, ultimately became my background. He had so many different sayings. “You can’t pass your homework if you don’t do the tests.” “A true champion is one who works hard.” He would just go on and on and on about what needs to be done in this game and this sport and passed down so much knowledge into me from an early age to the time I was 20 years old.

KOD: Clearly the two of your forged a very close relationship. How did his untimely death in 2009 affect you both as a person and as a fighter?

KT: As a fighter, I just knew what needed to be done. When you work with somebody that long, you really get to know them very well. To this day, I still say he taught me everything that I needed to know. I’m a very spiritual individual, and I believe that God watches over us. I do not believe he would take a man away from me that was so precious in my life if it was not his time to go. Ben suffered many things. He got Agent Orange in Vietnam, so he was in pain for that and on a heavy prescription. I just felt like it was his time to go, and I truly believe he passed down everything he needed to pass down to make sure that I would be a world champion. Standing at 21-0 with 19 knockouts, I believe that we are confirming that one victory at a time.

KOD: You transitioned shortly afterwards to working with Florida Boxing Hall of Fame member Dan Birmingham. How long did it take for the two of you to develop chemistry?

Trainer Dan Birmingham and fighter Keith Thurman
KT: What really happened was that we got into St. Pete boxing around the time I was 14 years old. Ben Getty took over Dan Birmingham’s amateur boxing program at St. Pete boxing at that time because he was highly active with me. Dan needed some help and he got Ben in the mix, and that got me in the door. Ever since then, Dan and I have been working together. Even when Ben was my trainer, he had Dan work the mitts with me. Dan never went to any of my amateur tournaments, but as soon as I turned pro, he was in my corner for my pro debut. It was just a matter of time. It was a great atmosphere and learning experience.

KOD: Although Birmingham is a notable trainer in the south, he's not a name that many casual boxing fans may recognize. What qualities about Birmingham led you to work with him and stick with him, instead of abandoning the partnership in favor of a famous trainer like so many young stars have?

KT: He was around when I was 14 years old working with me and Ben. If anybody understands me from a true individual self and from me and my boxing nature and background, only Dan would be able to do that. There’s maybe a few other trainers, but for people who don’t really know my history with Ben, I think it’s really hard for them to understand what kind of fighter I am. Dan just has that, and he has been working with me and we’ve been bonding. I think Dan is one of the best mitt men there is. We have a real good flow. He doesn’t need to tell you the combinations to throw, it is a very creative mitt work that we do. He’s just the guy I need in my corner. I believe that God provides the right people to be with you in your life to give you the experiences you need to have to become that better person that you need to be. People offered me to go somewhere else, but I also didn’t want to leave my home state. This is where I learned to box—this is everything, and I’m just glad I had a trainer like Dan to replace Ben.

Zaveck took Thurman's best and went the 12 round distance
KOD: Only two fighters have ever gone the distance with you: Jan Zaveck in 2013 and Edvan Dos Santos Barros in 2009. Zaveck was a heavy underdog in March, but showed up to fight in Brooklyn and challenged you for all twelve rounds. What made it so hard to put Zaveck and Barros away? What did they do differently than the others to hear the final bell?

KT: At that point, Barros was just tough. I knew that, prior to my match, he had only been stopped once, and it was a premature stoppage that occurred in Mexico. Nobody had legitimately stopped the dude, in my opinion, before I fought him.

It was an eight round fight, and in the seventh round I dropped him with a body shot, and he just got up and endured and the final bell went “ding.” He just moved, he was creative and he did what he needed to do to stay in the fight. Opponents find a way that makes it a little difficult to land a critical blow. Whether it’s slipping a punch, which is what Barros would do, he was popping and moving and I was trying to counter him with my left hook and he dodged it most of the night until I landed it to the body. Zaveck kept his hands up really well throughout the whole fight. There were only a few times I was able to catch him with his hands down. He kept his chin tucked and he had this little turtle shell defense that was really tight. He would try to smother me at times, and it was really hard to get that one punch in. My nickname is “One Time,” and I’m always looking for that right angle, that right position to land that one critical blow that can shake anybody or change the aspect of any fight. Some fighters make that very difficult.

KOD: Who gave you the nickname “One Time” and how did it come about?

KT: It’s one of the things that I took from my father. He told me a story once when I was in the amateurs about his boxing experience. It wasn’t anything really legit, it was more like backyard brawling, but somebody threw out the nickname “One Time” due to how he used to place his body shot. We all know how devastating body shots can be, and I just took it. My name is Keith Thurman Jr., and I figured I’d take on the name “One Time” due to my father. I thought it goes good with our name. It’s a great name and when I start thinking about it, it represents boxing the best. “One Time” is what the fans are looking for, what every fighter needs to be looking out for. 

Thurman training hard to be a champion
KOD: With 19 of your 21 wins coming by knockout, most of your fights have been relatively short. When opponents take you deep into fights and really challenge you, is that actually a blessing to get that experience at this stage of your career? 

KT: I already did have it. We train hard, man. We do the work in the gym, and it’s my job to perform and get the guy out of there. Some people can’t take it, and if they can’t take it, that’s not my problem. For those that can take it, we just have a greater performance to put on. I’m prepared to go for the whole show. With the Zaveck fight we proved that, with Diego Chaves we proved that—I was well conditioned in that fight—and that’s what it comes down to. You have to be in shape if you want to be a champion.

KOD: Which fight are you most proud of at this point in your career and why?

KT: There’s really not a fight, I’m just excited to be where I’m at and in the position that I’m in. I’m proud of myself for the overall progress, of the transition from amateurs to the pros, achieving the dream that I set out to achieve, and doing what my original trainer, Ben Getty, told me I would be able to do. I see it as one big blessing, and I’m happy to be performing and entertaining the fans in the sport of boxing. 

KOD: You've been described as a knockout artist. As a fighter who so clearly craves knockouts, how do you define that in your approach to training? What are the actual artistic tools of a true knockout artist in professional boxing?

Thurman is a powerful counter puncher
KT: Balance, distance, and timing. Counters are the most devastating punches because you add on the velocity of the person coming into the punch. That’s what I’m looking for. I’m looking for a devastating counter and a well-placed blow. The way I look at it is that I’m a twelve round fighter. My last two fights have been scheduled for twelve rounds, so that makes me a twelve round fighter. Every fight from here on out is twelve rounds. If it ends in one or two, that’s just the outcome, but I prepare myself for twelve rounds. Everybody from here on out is going to have to go twelve rounds with Keith “One Time” Thurman.

KOD: What exactly does that rush of satisfaction immediately after a knockout blow or big punch feel like? 
What does it feel like to land that “perfect punch?”

Thurman was more than happy to hurt Chaves
KT: It just feels great! It's hard work in action. It’s what you want to see and what I went there to do. I pride myself on knockouts and I don’t want to be at the end of the fight with my hands just raised up to the scorecards. I want to make sure that somebody got hurt this fight, that somebody went out and there was a solid winner. That’s what I come to do.

KOD: Several months ago, KO Digest profiled you as a Boxing Up and Comer, and in the interview, you were very clear in your desire to fight Paulie Malignaggi. A lot time has passed since then and the landscape of the division has changed along with it. Is that still a relevant match up for you?

KT: It could be but boxing is such a shape shifting sport. They always ask you “who’s next?” but in my mind, everybody and anybody is next. Especially when you’re as young as I am and you’re ready to go. It’s the same speech. We’ve got to talk to the team and see what’s going to happen. We take the journey just one fight at a time.

KOD: You’ve expressed that you’re an “old school fighter.” How do you go about carving out an old school career in a modern boxing landscape that is littered with too many champions and nonsense interim titles. How does that jibe with your desire to be like the old school fighters? 

Money Mayweather is a champion in charge
KT: To me, you’ve definitely got to play by the rules of the new generation, but there’s still a “teamship.” There are still those who are at the top, and they have a little bit more control. It’s all about getting in that position, climbing up the ladder, going after the team, getting a belt and having an easier time of making the fights you want to make. The champion, whoever has the belt, has an easier time in my opinion of getting fights.

KOD: You have a zero in the loss column right now. How much does staying undefeated mean to you, and how far are you willing to go to protect that record?

KT: It means a lot to be an undefeated fighter because that’s how you tend to build a legacy, but, I’m not really worried about protecting it. I feel like that’s my job as a fighter when I step in the ring, and that’s when I’m supposed to protect it—in that moment. Coming from an amateur background with six or seven National titles, tournament after tournament, you have to fight whoever showed up. Here I am—I showed up to everyone in the top ten. I’m pretty much on that list. Keith “One Time” Thurman is just ready to step back in the ring with anybody on the list. I’m down for whatever, so we’ll see. I want to move up the ladder in competition.

Andre Berto, Al Haymon, and Floyd Mayweather
KOD: One of the most controversial figures in boxing right now is Al Haymon. How did your relationship with him jump start your career? Fighters love Haymon, but a disconnect exists with the general public, who dislike the man. What do fans misunderstand about him? What doors of opportunity has Al Haymon opened for you specifically?

KT: The networks. He got us in with the networks, and we just come to perform and they like our performance. He gives you that opportunity, the one that a lot of fighters deserve. I think a lot of fans misunderstand the business aspect of boxing. Al Haymon is someone who opens up opportunities for people. He does his best to represent his fighters, and if you were in our position, you would want to be associated with a guy like him. He does his best to get his fighters out there if you put in the hard work.  

KOD: As an amateur, you trained with Andre Berto. Have the two of you continued any sort of relationship? 

KT: We go way back. I used to be in the gym watching him work before I could even step in the ring with him. We had some guys from our gym come to spar him, and as I got older and got closer to him in size, my trainer, being the man that he was, threw me in with the dogs and Andre Berto was it. I remember working with him when I was a teenager, almost up to the beginning of my pro career. He’s just a great guy and a hard worker. I don’t talk about the steroids, I don’t buy into that. I think if there’s a trace amount, then something happened to one of his products. He works hard, he’s a good dude, and we go way back. There’s a lot of boxing history there.

KOD: How would he feel about being matched against Berto if the matchup was proposed? 
Is there too much history between the two of you for you to ever seriously consider it? 

Robert Guerrero and Andre Berto beat each other up
KT: If it presented itself and was for a worthy cause, I don’t have a problem with it. I thought about it when I was 14 years old that it was a possibility. But, there are a lot of people in the welterweight division to go after, so we’ll just see if it happens. If that’s the fight they're going to make, then they're going to make it.

KOD: When you see fighters that you have become close to losing in a fight and getting beat up in the ring, how does that affect you? To cross sports, racing drivers say that if you’re concerned about the dangers of crashing, then you shouldn’t be driving. In boxing, do you get worried seeing others get knockout out, or do you block that out of your mind and focus solely on winning yourself?

KT: To a certain extent, boxing is not a team sport. We have the individual collection of people that help a fighter achieve his goals, but when it’s all said and done, it is an individual sport. When two men step in the ring, one man is going to be victorious. That’s the world we live in with the sport of boxing, and we just have to go with it. Certain people tell a fighter that they should take some time off and come back strong, but everybody is a little different. Some people rush and sometimes things happen. The word comeback is there for a reason, because some fighters do come back.

KOD: Monetary incentive bonuses have been popular in mixed martial arts for several years, and bonuses like “Fight of the Night” and “Knockout of the Night” are starting to make their way into boxing. Do you think these potential paydays encourage better fights?

KT: It’s not a bad idea. It's always good to know there is some form of bonus or extra reward. Every fighter is different. Most say that they’re focused on the fight, and in reality that’s all you need to be. But whenever I perform, I’m not just focused on the fight, per say, but I’m focused on performance overall. I want to give an overall great performance, and that’s just how I step into the ring and think.

"One Time" makes his dreams come true
KOD: Is switching weight classes or a catchweight fight things you’ve pondered? What weight class do you feel most powerful at?

KT: I feel most powerful at welterweight. It has been my dream to compete and get my hands on a welterweight world title for a long time, so that has been my goal. A lot of fighters move up and I know there is great competition in the next weight class, so we’ll see where my career takes me.

KOD: There is a big fight coming up in September between Floyd Mayweather and Canelo Alvarez. When watching a bout like that do you enjoy it as a fan, or do you focus on scouting the fighters as though they are future opponents?

KT: When I watch a fight, I look at the conditioning, their ring habits, how predictable they act in a fight, and I break it down because they are possible opponents. It’s going to be a great fight and I’m going to be glued to it looking at both of their moves. I think Canelo is getting better as he has been performing here in the United States—he’s young and dangerous. Floyd is still not looking 36, he showed that in the Robert Guerrero fight and his movement and skill level looked great. Let’s see what happens, this is a great fight.

The Future of Boxing

KO Digest Interview conducted by Joel "The Future" Sebastianelli

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