August 5, 2015

KO's Ringside Notes & Quotes IX — #MayBerto, Klitschko, Fury & Krusher

Back to back Money grabs
By Jeffrey Freeman, KO Digest

Back in August of 2011, on an international media conference call held to promote Andre Berto's comeback bout in Biloxi, Mississippi against unknown Slovenian journeyman Jan Zaveck, I questioned the former WBC welterweight champion about his future in boxing and whether or not he had one after a decision loss to known quitter Victor Ortiz. I asked Berto if he believed he was at risk of becoming a "forgotten fighter" were he to lose to Zaveck.

Perturbed, Berto's response was two parts annoyance and one part incredulity. It was the first time a prizefighter had ever gotten publicly irritated with me for doing what I consider to be my job as a boxing journalist.

"Is that what it is?" Berto asked rhetorically instead of answering my question. "You lose one fight you’re forgotten about? Fighters have shown for years and years they lose one fight and then come back a whole lot bigger than they were before. Saying that kind of thing blows my mind about you reporters and just the sport in general sometimes." Berto then continued to let me have it.

"You’ve seen a guy like Shane Mosley resurrect his career three or four times. A guy like Bernard Hopkins and all these other guys, and they have four, five, six losses. I’m still young. I went through a tough defeat. I had a bad night. I don’t care about what people think or what they’re gonna write. At this point I’m just doing this for me, my family, and the real Berto fans out there and that's it!"

Four years later, Berto has two more losses. And a September 12 SHO PPV date in Vegas with Floyd Mayweather.

Fuck You
Middle Finger To The World — Light heavyweight champion Sergey "The Krusher" Kovalev is very crass. Read some of the things he supposedly says in Russian and you might think he could be called KKK to Gennady Golovkin's GGG. While the always smiling "Triple G" embraces fans of all colors and nationalities, Kovalev seems stuck in a Cold War mentality. Perhaps this war footing suits Kovalev best and we should all just appreciate his honesty as well as his brutality.

Boxing, at the level Kovalev plies his dark art, is not courtesy class. Such candidness is hard to come by in today's politically correct era. The "Krusher" is anything but PC. Kovalev employs two primary methods of verbally dealing with opponents he dislikes and who he plans to crush. The first is to call them "pieces of shit" when asked by the media about them. Adonis Stevenson and Jean Pascal have been so excrementally labelled by Kovalev. Who'll be next? His second method is to threaten an ass kicking and then casually deliver one. When I met Kovalev in New York last year at his WBO ring ceremony, I caught a candid shot of him as he was being photographed. 

They say a picture is worthy of a thousand words. This one of KK is worth at least two.

Business as usual for Klitschko
Furious Styles — Tyson Fury wants his fight against Wladimir Klitschko to be personal between them. At a recent face-to-face press conference to promote their highly anticipated October 24 heavyweight championship title bout in Germany, Fury repeatedly told the defending champion that it's "personal" for him and "personal" for them. Klitschko was quick to interrupt Fury to remind him that it's never personal for him, that boxing is always business, that there is no animosity here or in the ring. Dr. Steelhammer, ever the chess grandmaster, does not want his opponents to dislike him or to arm themselves with a burning contempt for him as a person. It's another subtle way Wlad K protects himself at all times. More than anything, Klitschko wants everyone he fights to be in complete and total awe of him, the long reining world champion with hands and arms full of strapping title belts. Some are awed and some are not but most are beaten before they ever get in the ring because Klitschko disarms them with his pure class.

Last year, KO Digest interviewed Wladimir Klitschko (64-3, 53 KOs) by telephone. It was a great 45 minute Q&A with "Dr. Steelhammer" as he readied for the challenge of Alex Leapai. We asked the champion about some of his future potential challengers, including the UK's massive Tyson Fury (24-0, 18 KOs) who Klitschko faces on October 24 in Germany. Regarding the young Fury, Klitschko kept it short and sweet: "He's young and green behind his ears." 

George is still taking Cannon shots at Briggs
KO Digest Grills Big George Foreman On the current state of the heavyweight division and why American fans have lost interest in recent years: "It's like a vacuum cleaner from outer space. We're looking for heavyweights, we're searching everywhere, looking under beds and rocks, looking for a great heavyweight. There just aren't any around. If there were, we could take over. But for some reason, everybody has the glamor of all the other sports, basketball, football, and baseball has taken over. But boxing will be back. A heavyweight will come on the scene and you won't have to worry about who's heavyweight champ of the world. His name will ring loud but it will be an American."

What about old 43 year old Shannon Briggs George?

"I don't think he was very good even when he was good." 

Waiting for Chavez Jr. to get serious about boxing
Wasted Talent — Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. is frustrating for boxing fans to abide with his myriad weight issues because we can see the obvious talent he possesses underneath all that baggage. A great fighter lies just beneath the surface and we have seen flashes of that potential, particularly in the championship rounds against Sergio Martinez. When Chavez Jr. punches, it's clear how big and strong he really is, what he's truly capable of in the ring, and the damage he can inflict. It's not too late for Junior to live up to his birthright but we're all growing tired of seeing it squandered. Will the real J.C. Jr. please stand up?  

Before Shawn Porter fought Kell Brook, I asked him:
If you beat the "Special One" will you fight Keith Thurman?
"Showtime" told me: "I'll fight 'One Time' two times!"
Now that he's beaten Broner, will he fight him one time?
"It's a fight I wouldn't turn down," Porter told KO Digest.

The Super 6 is History — The super middleweight division just ain't what it used to be. Andre Ward doesn't really fight at that weight class any longer. Carl Froch is officially retired. Arthur Abraham is a fossil who just refuses to go away. Robert Stieglitz was knocked out by him last month. James DeGale is a new world champion who I had the pleasure of covering up close and personal in Boston last May. Badou Jack is one of the worst fighters to ever hold a WBC title. George Groves may turn out to be a good fighter but Froch whooped him twice. The Dirrell brothers are overrated and fresh out of title belts in their fighting family. J'Leon Love turned out to be a TMT bust. And there is no superstar prospect in the 168 pound weight class for boxing fans to look ahead to.

If Gennady Golovkin moves up from 160, there isn't much there for him.

Super model with her super middle man
Shedding Skin — Carl Froch was wise to retire from boxing last month. At age 38, the writing was on the wall for the former WBC & IBF super middleweight champion. A youthful George Groves couldn't beat Froch in two fights but he did send a strong message and a hurtful warning that was too loud to be ignored. Far too many in boxing linger on past their primes or past their potency. It's refreshing to see that not all boxers are cut from this same cloth. There is an undeniable dignity in walking away on top or very close to it. Carl Froch was a throwback fighter whose record of consistently facing top quality opponents more than earned him the right to retire before having to face even more of them as his own skills waned. Gone now is the possibility of Froch vs. Gennady Golovkin. There will be no Wembley Stadium rematch with Andre Ward. Fellow Brit James "Chunky" DeGale can have Froch's old title belt but barring an unlikely "Cobra" comeback, he'll never get Froch in the ring. 

All of this fleeting allure only adds to Froch's legacy in the squared circle. History will now have to be the final judge of where Froch rates in comparison to Joe Calzaghe and all the other great super middleweight world champions. In the meantime, Froch can now finally afford to let that beautiful woman in his life (red hot model Rachael Cordingley) weaken his legs a little more often. 

Paulie and Froch have a similar future in retirement
Malignaggi's Media Magic Trick — He might not have looked it after Danny "Swift" Garcia was done beating him up last Saturday night in Brooklyn, but Malignaggi really is one of the lucky ones. The "Magic Man" doesn't have to say goodbye to boxing even though he'll probably retire from active competition at age 35 after back to back TKO losses. For many fighters, retirement from boxing is the hardest thing in the world to deal with because for most of these guys, there is no longer a role for them in the sport they love. Some boxers keep the love alive by becoming trainers but the vast majority have no boxing in their lives after boxing aside from what they see on TV. This is one of the best parts about being a fight writer. Boxers come and go though the years but the writer gets to stay and see this cycle play out. For Malignaggi, his role as a ringside commentator will serve not only his own need to stay involved but it also benefits all of us who get to bask in the glory of his wisdom.

Winner gets a shot at Hulk Hogan?
Crossing The Mason-Dixon Line

Hulkster & Antonio Tarver Talk Trash

With Sylvester Stallone's ROCKY spinoff CREED hitting theaters soon, it's interesting times for former protagonist ROCKY characters Thunderlips (played by Hulk Hogan) and Mason "The Line" Dixon (Antonio "Magic Man" Tarver). Hogan, a pro wrestling icon and an overly protective father (as well as a self-admitted racist) is now embroiled in an N-word controversy that's already resulted in his complete removal from WWE history books. The Romans, in their reign, called it damnatio memoriae, condemnation of memory.

Apparently, Vince McMahon is still a stone cold promoter and one badass boss. 

Racial tirades are no longer tolerated in the year 2015 and nor should they be. Coincidentally, Tarver, 46, and still vying for a very unlikely shot at the heavyweight championship of the boxing world, got all fired up on an international media conference call the very next day with upcoming opponent "USS" Steve Cunningham, a "real American" who, as a "war tested Veteran of this damn country," fights for the rights of everyman. Things got verbally heated during the pro wrestling like exchanges and at one point, Tarver actually said to Cunningham, "Nigger, you out your rabbit ass mind if you think you're going to fucking beat me. You're distracted homie."

KO Digest Special Feature: Rating Boxing's Five Best Weight Classes

Bradley survives a late storm against Vargas
1. Welterweight — Packed with stars, up and comers, power punchers, and defensive wizards, this Original 8 division is championed by the best fighter in all of boxing, Floyd Mayweather Jr., while its top ten rating list reads like a who's who in boxing today with the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Tim Bradley, Shawn Porter, Amir Khan, Kell Brook, and Keith Thurman.

Welterweight is also where the best junior welterweights show up when they're looking to move up for the big money. Danny Garcia stopped Paulie Malignaggi in 9 at 147 to begin his welterweight campaign. One can even envision former lightweight champion Terence Crawford packing on the needed pounds to someday soon compete with the big boys. And let's not forget Sadam Ali, one of the best prospect/contenders in all of boxing.

2. Light Heavyweight — It might look a little top heavy right now with Adonis Stevenson and Sergey "The Krusher" Kovalev as rulers of a division without too many credible threats left (beyond each other) but 175 will very soon be the place to be. Former super middleweight champion and elite P4P talent Andre Ward has his sights set on Kovalev's title belts. Edwin "La Bomba" Rodriguez will soon be lobbing bombs at "Superman" for the linear title. Polish puncher Andrzej Fonfara is better than anybody thought he was and we'd now like to see more of him after he made Chavez Jr. quit on his stool. Artur Beterbiev is just 9-0 but a serious force to soon be reckoned with. Bernard Hopkins and Jean Pascal represent the old guard and both might have a trick or two left up their sleeves. Sullivan Barrera (16-0) looks like a solid pro and you should keep your eyes on him.

Golovkin is a middleweight wrecking ball
3. Middleweight — The always popular glamour division that was once ruled so marvelously by Hagler and Hopkins is now ruled with bloody fists by Gennady Golovkin, winner of his last twenty prizefights by knockout. The WBA champion appears unbeatable, fights often, and routinely makes trophies of other men. The aging and undersized Miguel Cotto still holds the linear title for what that's worth and a Superfight against Canelo Alvarez promises to bring excitement to the championship before GGG's takeover of 160 is complete.

Fighters like Peter Quillin, David Lemieux, and Andy Lee should not be counted out and they will soon be tasked with the dirty job of dismantling Golovkin if they can. Lemieux gets a chance on October 17 at MSG in NYC.

4. Super Bantamweight — Small in stature but big in star power and potential marquee match-ups, the 122 lb. weight class boasts fighters such as world champion Guillermo Rigondeaux, Carl "The Jackal" Frampton,  Scott Quigg, Leo Santa Cruz, Abner Mares, and Nonito Donaire. Santa Cruz and Mares are set to rumble this month on ESPN. Frampton and Quigg both just won impressively and the pressure is on to make them fight before Frampton moves up to featherweight. Donaire has now won twice since the brutal TKO loss to featherweight champ Nicholas "Axe Man" Walters last year and the "Filipino Flash" looks ready for a return to big fights against the best in his weight class. 

Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey Freeman

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