April 19, 2015

Ringside Report — Lucas Matthysse busts up and beats Ruslan Provodnikov

VERONA, NEW YORK — Believe it or not, not every fight in the world of boxing is fought for a worthless title belt or a whopping pile of cash. While it's true that the sport of boxing is a business, for Lucas "The Machine" Matthysse and Ruslan "The Siberian Rocky" Provodnikov, it's the hurt business. There was no junior welterweight championship at stake tonight at the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, NY., and their collective paydays for the bout are comparable in amount to what Floyd "Money" Mayweather would need just to pay a very small percentage of his soon to be even more massive tax burden.

Matthysse and Provodnikov both fight for the gory-fisted glory that can can only be won when engaged in Fight of the Year type performances. This is who they really are - warriors. In 2013, Provodnikov (24-4, 17 KO's) battled American Timothy "Desert Storm" Bradley to a close decision loss in the "KO Digest Fight of the Year" and in 2014, the Argentine Matthysse (37-3, 34 KO's) stopped John Molina Jr. in the eleventh round of a knockdown, drag out, slobberknocker to win the highly coveted "Ring Magazine Fight of the Year" award. 

It's easy then to see why boxing fans were so excited to see these willing warriors go at it. Both boxers are best described as brawlers and neither man is the type to take a backwards step. The match-up immediately begged the question of what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object. That is why anticipation was so high for their April 18 clash at the Turning Stone Casino in upstate New York, a somewhat curious location for a pairing that was preemptively being compared to the unforgettable drama witnessed a decade ago in three epic fights between Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward. During fight week in Verona, the pre-fight promotion shifted to Hagler-Hearns comparisons due to the fact that it coincided with the thirtieth anniversary of their unforgettable April 15, 1985 WAR in Las Vegas. According to Derek Bonnett of SecondsOut.com, HBO's Jim Lampley was spotted on the afternoon of the fight at the nearby International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota comparing it to Brandon Rios against Mike Alvarado.

Matthysse wins the war on HBO
In the ring on Saturday night, Matthysse and Provodnikov lived up to all the expectations in front of a capacity crowd that was frenzied from the very beginning. Provodnikov came to the ring to the sounds of "Burning Heart" by Survivor and the tone was set for a Rocky night of boxing. Provodnikov did his part by blocking jabs with his face like the "Italian Stallion" against Apollo Creed. Matthysse couldn't miss with it and he jumped out to an early lead by keeping the fight in the middle of the ring where he controlled the pace with the jab and follow-up power punches. A clash of heads in the second resulted in a nasty gash over the left eye of Provodnikov and it bled all night. In the fourth, Provodnikov won his first round by pressing the action and landing his left hook. Matthysse took back control and won the next five rounds by being more accurate with his punches than the onrushing Provodnikov. In the tenth round, a mouse appeared under the right eye of Mattysse and Provodnikov closed the fight strong, winning the last three rounds by forcing his left hook into the fight and onto the face of Matthysse. In the eleventh, Mattysse was visibly hurt for the first time in the fight and it looked like a significant shift in tide was taking place.

Provodnikov's face tells the story of the night
In the end, it wasn't enough and Matthysse was awarded a majority decision win by scores of 114-114, 115-113, and 115-113. HBO's Harold Lederman scored the fight a draw, while KO Digest scored it 116-112 from press row in favor of Matthysse. At the post-fight press conference, Provodnikov apologized profusely to his fans for failing to win the fight and he wore a dejected look of disappointment on his badly bruised face. "It was a close fight, but the better man won. Send me a rematch contract and I'll sign it," said Provodnikov. 

Matthysse bluntly acknowledged to the media present that he was "hurt" in the eleventh round and "tired" in the last three frames and he also noted how difficult it was to slow Provodnikov down in the ring. "I knew he was going to keep coming forward and I prepared for that and I won the fight."

Images and Words by Jeffrey Freeman, KO Digest

April 15, 2015

The Reflections of a Brocktonian Paperboy -- Extra! Extra! Read all about it

Hagler wins the WAR against Hearns
By Jeffrey Freeman — In 1985, there was no internet.

It was a different world 30 years ago. News and information was passed by word of mouth and on the printed page. Things were not as immediate as they are today in the age of social media and online reporting. Newspapers were the primary source of dispatch and most regular people had a paperboy who delivered it to their front door 7 days a week. Growing up in Brockton, Massachusetts, a massive paper route was my first job. I made about $150 a week with tips. I was 15 years old and used the money to buy boxing magazines and other youthful treasures like comic books and baseball cards. 

I had over 100 subscribers to the Brockton Enterprise and another 100 or so for the Boston Globe. Some people got both papers. Others got just the Sunday editions. It was a lot to keep track of and a lot of "pulp non-fiction" to go door to door with but I enjoyed it more than you can imagine, being the bearer of all the latest news.

8 minutes of fistic fury
The Boston Globe was a morning paper. The Brockton Enterprise was an afternoon paper. Sunday mornings were a nightmare for me and my ten-speed bicycle. The big stacks of fat Sunday papers that were waiting for me at the end of my driveway when I woke up at 4AM was an intimidating sight to behold. However, one day in particular stands out for me as a young news carrier. That was Tuesday, April 16, 1985. The Monday night before in Las Vegas, Nevada, "our guy" Marvelous Marvin Hagler had knocked out Thomas "Hitman" Hearns in the third round of an instant classic to retain his World Middleweight Championship and make his mark on history.

Brockton Enterprise Victory Edition April 16, 1985
And so it came to pass that during the early morning hours of April 16, it was my distinct honor and privilege to deliver the front page, good news to the waking people of Brockton (in my south side neighborhood anyway) that our hometown Marvelous One was indeed still champion of the whole wide world and winner of the most exciting prizefight in middleweight boxing history.

Later that day after high school in the City of Champions, I proudly did it all over again with the Brockton Enterprise. It only occurs to me now that when it comes to the timely delivery of boxing news, I've been at this for a very long time.

As always my friends in fistiana, thank you for reading.

April 7, 2015

KO's Ringside Notes & Quotes VII — Countdown to Mayweather VS Pacquiao

By Jeffrey Freeman, KO Digest 

April 6 — No press tour for Mayweather vs Pacquiao is a mistake.

The "biggest fight in boxing history" is just 27 days away and I bet you haven't heard it being talked about at the water-cooler once. Superfights are supposed to get the world talking and the people buzzing. Well, the world is awfully quiet about this one. The "big lie" in this promotion (if you can even call it a promotion) is the notion that this fight "sells itself" so they don't have to even bother. Nothing but drugs and hookers sell themselves in Las Vegas. Boxing matches, even really big ones, still need to be hyped, especially in a down economy. The truth is, boxing just does not matter to the world like it once did. Of course, addicted boxing fans will buy it like a strung out junkie buys heroin and cigarettes but most people are not addicted to boxing and most people don't care one way or another because there's no reason for them to care. Nobody is selling it to them as the "Fight of the Century", only assuming they'll buy it for whatever price they ultimately decide on for the pay-per-view. Ali vs Frazier or Hagler vs Hearns this is certainly not. Those were highly anticipated global events made even bigger and more fun by proper promotion. Then the fights themselves were amazing. Bottom line, Americans don't support Floyd Mayweather across nationalistic lines and Manny Pacquiao is from a far away land that most people don't care to understand.

Mayweather, 38, against Pacquiao, 36, on May 2 is an overdue money grab and the fight itself comes with a high probability of being boring to the eyes. The least they could do is make the build-up exciting for fight fans and enticing to mainstream sports fans who long ago abandoned boxing. KO still loves it though and here's what to expect in Vegas. 

KO Digest Previews Mayweather vs Pacquiao

Money Meeting Manny in Miami 
First and foremost, this match-up will be about offense versus defense.

Manny will be the more aggressive fighter. Floyd will be the more defensive boxer. The product of these styles, and how well they are imposed, will determine a winner. We'll see a super fast Superfight, a southpaw against right handed counterpuncher. Don't expect to see Mayweather's lead right land with regularity. That punch won't be there for Money because Manny won't be there to get hit with it. Floyd's jab will have to be razor sharp and his left hooks hard and accurate. Pacquiao must be a non-stop punching machine from every angle he can wrangle. The Filipino promises to break Floyd's D and take his O.  

Pound For PoundIrish Micky Ward talks to KO about the best fighter on the planet — "There's only one Floyd Mayweather. Everyone tries to be like him, he's the best. He's leaps and bounds ahead of everyone even at his age. It's incredible how he works so hard, that's why he is who he is. People don't see how dedicated that kid is. He's proven himself over and over."

Opponents often speak of how tiring it is to keep up with Pacquiao in the ring. American Tim Bradley has elite level conditioning and was exhausted after four rounds in both of his fights against Pacquiao. If Manny can "beat the brakes" off Mayweather early and wear him out, the fight will be his for the taking. If Mayweather can impose his defensive advantages and turn them into offensive opportunities, he will win the bout on points. What I am expecting is a legacy struggle. Both combatants are in that rarest of position in the sport of boxing where a win is worth so much more than just a world title belt or a better place in the current pound for pound ratings. This one is for "all time" history and perhaps it will be the fighter most aware of what's truly at stake who will win.

Head to Head
Ten Key Categories

Defense: Mayweather
Power: Pacquiao
Chin: Mayweather
Accuracy: Mayweather
Hand Speed: Pacquiao
Legs: Mayweather
Foot Speed: Pacquiao
Training Quality: Pacquiao
Elite Experience: Pacquiao
Counterpunching: Mayweather

PREDICTION: Does it help to carry the hopes and dreams of an entire nation into battle with you? Can Mayweather beat Pacquiao—and "Pride of Dedham, MA" Freddie Roach? Yes and no. Pacquiao somehow scores a tricky balance knockdown early for a critical 10-8 round and wins a close split decision. Offense overcomes defense but not by much. There will be those who say Mayweather won and those who agree with the Las Vegas judges. Maybe there will be a rematch and maybe there won't be, but when history looks back on the whole of Mayweather and Pacquiao, it will remember who tried to avoid the fight—and who finally won it.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Someday they'll get it on and settle it then
Amir Khan still doesn't want to fight Tim Bradley. It's now being reported that Khan turned down a proposed 2015 Bradley bout in favor of facing Chris Algieri. Back in 2011, when Bradley was in training for the Joel Casamayor fight, I asked "Desert Storm" about Khan, queried who's ducking who, and quizzed Bradley on their history of going back and forth but never fighting.

Bradley told KO, "One day, me and Khan will get it on in the ring and we can settle it then but I was supposed to fight Khan way before, in fact I was supposed to fight him after I fought Lamont Peterson but then Khan went on to sign with Golden Boy and Golden Boy didn't want no part of it. He ducked me first! We tried to make the deal, we kept calling but they never picked up. When the time is right, me and Khan will settle our differences, and we're gonna get it on."

According to King Khan, the time is still not right.

Lee is a never say die Irish warrior
Irish Eyes Are Smiling -- WBO middleweight champion Andy Lee keeps his promises and lives up to the lofty expectations that were set for him by late trainer and mentor Emanuel Steward. Back in 2011, when he was getting ready for the Brian Vera rematch (Vera stopped Lee in seven rounds back in 2008) I asked Lee about his recent do-or-die win against Craig McEwan in March of that year. After having live covered that memorable battle at MGM Grand Foxwoods, I was interested in Lee's outlook on the sport of boxing and where he sees himself fitting in. Are you a come-from-behind brawler or really a boxer? 

Lee told me, "I have shown in the past that I have what it takes to do both. I showed that I have what it takes to come back and dig in at the end. That [win over McEwan] gave me great belief in myself that if I have to do that, no matter how desperate the situation, I have it inside myself. There is no quit in me. I'll keep fighting until the end. If I have to go to war, I'll go to war."

Lee faces Peter Quillin on April 11 in Brooklyn on NBC.