Miguel Cotto v Sergio Martinez - Size Matters

Miguel Cotto is not a likely candidate for a successful jumper in weight.

Cotto's most successful outing in a higher weight class was a victory over a hobbled Yuri Foreman. Cotto's other fight north of 147lbs was a spirited loss to Floyd Mayweather, who lets not forget, is physically smaller than the Puerto Rican.

Cotto's best days were spent terrorizing the light welterweight division at 140lbs.

Sergio Martinez is not a big middleweight by any stretch of the imagination, but he punches like one.

Martinez went on an impressive KO run a few years ago, starting with what is frankly one of the KOs of the current century. It sounds like hyperbole, but it really isn't. Paul Williams was one of those iron chinned freaks like Carl Froch or Shane Mosley who just simply couldn't be felled by a mortal man. Martinez knocked him out cold, dead eyes and all.

There are some fighters much more suited to rises in weight than others.

For example, defensive masters who avoid getting hit feel no difference in the missed punch of a 147lber of a 160lber. If you don't get hit flush often, the prospect of raising the red flag in front of increasingly bigger bulls is a tempting one.

Similarly, athletes with incredible footspeed and athletic stamina can perform a similar trick, using their superior movement in their natural weight class to dart in and out against bigger, slower foes.

Is Cotto hard to hit? Not really. He is an offensive juggernaut, a come forward banger. On his back foot, he is not a defensive wizard. Freddie Roach is not known for honing a fighter's defense either.

The worries for Martinez are based purely on his injury record and his last two fights. Martinez is a fighter who relies on his superb athetlic ability to allow him to fight in an unconventional fashion. You can only fight with both hands dropped at your waist if you have the reflexes to dodge punches. You don't see many veteran fighters employing such a style.

 

A healthy Sergio Martinez wastes Miguel Cotto. But we cannot definitively say this 39 year old version is a healthy Sergio Martinez. His injury list is staggering, and it would appear to be a minor miracle that he has managed to be involved in an MSG headliner at this point in his career.

There's an easy money making bet on this fight, that is not particularly brave but nor is the return minimal. There are two probable outcomes.

A healthy Miguel Cotto does not last 12 rounds with Sergio Martinez. 

The crocked Martinez who struggled with the limited Martin Murray does not survive 12 rounds with a rejuvenated MIguel Cotto. Cotto could win a 160lb title in exactly the same way he won a 154lb title, with a hobbled opponent forced to withdraw on a blown out knee.

At the time of writing, Martinez by KO, TKO or Disqualification is priced at 11/4, and Cotto by KO, TKO or Disqualification is priced similarly at 3/1. Although I personally favor Martinez, the doubt over the knee makes a combination play on both sides of the bet a safe, yet profitable gamble. 

Why Groves Wins - Froch v Groves II Preview and Prediction

So I'm putting it out there right at the start of this post.

Barring a show of dumb machismo, George Groves should win his rematch with Carl Froch handily at Wembley tonight in front of a record crowd in excess of 80,000 fans.

This is a huge fight, no matter what Andre Ward says. The hype has been such in the UK that Sky Sports has been running nightly Froch-Groves based programming in primetime. We have the usual 24/7 knock offs, but also the more bizarre contributions such as a half hour long interview with tennis player Andy Murray giving his analysis on the fight.

It's an easier fight to analyse than most, as we have their first match fresh in the memory. What follows should take on a very similar pattern as quite simply put, Groves is superior to Froch, in almost all physical departments.

George Groves has vastly superior footwork and footspeed to Carl Froch. This will not have changed.

George Groves has better hand speed to Carl Froch. This will not have changed

George Groves has better one punch power than Carl Froch. This will not have changed.

George Groves is the underdog coming into this fight. This, for reasons unbeknownst to myself, has not changed.

Think about that. Of all those advantages that Groves has, he is still an underdog.

Sure, Froch has a vastly superior chin

Most would say Froch has superior stamina, while I would probably say that area was a wash. Froch starts slow and saves more for late, whereas in the last fight Groves managed to punch himself out with some silly warring in the middle rounds.

The idea is that Froch turned up to the first fight underprepared and overconfident.

Froch didn't struggle to make weight, he didn't looked drained at the weigh in, his punch output was not noticeably stunted. He was prepared.

Froch was probably overconfident in the first fight. But will a humbler Carl Froch have faster hands?

No.

Will a humbler Carl Froch have better head movement?

No.

Will a humbler Carl Froch still carry his left hand low and leave himself square on after missing with lunging punches?

You get the picture.

Now, of course it's not impossible that Froch can win this fight. There's a reason he is fancied, but he can only be fancied to repeat the feat of the first fight. Namely, start slow, get thoroughly dominated by a younger man, pace himself as Groves tires, before coming on strong in the latter half of the fight, hoping to draw a tiring opponent into a slugfest.

It could happen, but only if George Groves' boxing IQ is wallowing at Forrest Gump levels.

If I were to compare it to another rematch, I'd look at the Rios-Alvarado rubber match, where mile high Mike abandoned the all out slug fest that got him deservedly stopped in the first bout, and stayed on the outside, using his length to win a clear decision win over the more limited Rios.

Alvarado realised that he could hold his own in a phone booth brawl with Brandon Rios, but in all likelihood, he wouldn't win and wouldn't give himself the best chances of getting a vengeful W on his record.

Groves must be smart enough to see that he wins easily by refusing to fight like a rock 'em sock 'em robot.

On Behind The Ropes, the above clip showed Froch sparring with talented but inexperienced Chris Eubank Jr, and after holding his own early on with Eubank, Froch is caught flush several times. His trainer, Robert McCracken coaching from the sidelines, points out the same mistakes that ended up with him on the canvas in Round 1 of the first Groves fight. He throws stupidly long right hands and leaves himself square with both hands at his waist. When backing up he drops his hands, and gets tagged repeatedly, absolutely flush by Eubank.

Now I know it's sparring, but these are mistakes made before, and mistakes that will me made again tonight. Groves may be talking about a left hook to finish the fight, but it will be the same right hand that will floor Froch tonight.

The only way this fight is close, at all, is through Groves abandoning a simple 'hit and don't get hit' strategy, and once more getting into a slugging match with Froch after beating him around the ring for 6 or so rounds. 

If you're a Froch fan and insist on backing Carl, then I would recommend betting in-play on this fight unless you really think it will last 1 or 2 rounds. You will get very nice looking odds on Froch by KO mid way through this fight when he is being dominated again in the same vein as the first fight. 

But if you're like me, and see no reason for Froch to change the habits of a lifetime, don't be greedy on this one. The 13/10 odds on Groves currently represent tremendous value for a fighter who is a clear favourite when you remove emotion and simplistic 'Froch always gets the job done' arguments from the reckoning.

Carl Froch can only win this fight with a stoppage, if Groves stupidly chooses to get into another firefight. It's not impossible. He did it against Kenny Anderson, and he did it against Carl Froch last time out. But with the memory of that stoppage so fresh in the mind, I think Groves will avoid reverting to type, and deliver a consummate boxing performance with strategic involvement.

Don't be surprised if there are accusations of 'running' after the fight, which is always how sluggers try to belittle movers.

If Carl Froch manages to win on points against George Groves, I will eat my hat, my shoe, both my socks, my overcoat and my vest.

Amir Khan v Luis Collazo - How to Smash a Glass Cannon

One can always enter an Amir Khan fight with a whole bunch of ifs.

If Khan's chin stands up, then he will win.

If Khan uses his brain and fights from distance, he will win easily.

He usually wins, but as always, he will always revert to type. Not many fighters can adjust,

The one truly disciplined elite Khan performance that exists on film is his near shutout win against Andreas Kotelnik, when Khan coasted to a decision based upon his underrated jab, staying outside, using his massive hand and foot speed advantages to make a very good fighter look rather ordinary.

This fight was the exception to the rule. 

Khan's preference for fire fights can be seen in his fights with Willie Limond, Michael Gomez, Marcos Maidana, Lamont Peterson, Danny Garcia, and Julio Diaz.

In each fight, when Khan was hurt, his reaction every time was to go to war. It makes for tremendous entertainment, and make no doubt of it, Khan is an all action star, but at the elite level it resulted in consecutive losses to Peterson and Garcia, and he came perilously close to being stopped last time out against Diaz.

Will Collazo come into this fight with any other strategy than knocking out Amir Khan? 

He shouldn't.

Khan has all kinds of physical gifts, but a distinct lack of the technical cuteness that has made Collazo a tough customer for fighters like Ricky Hatton, Andre Berto and Victor Ortiz. Khan showed huge vulnerabilities when Lamont Peterson backed him up to the ropes and banged hard to the body on the inside. He doesn't show neat footwork, but merely back pedals as far and fast as possible, to reset the contest more to his choosing. 

Collazo will look to combine Peterson's inside work with Danny Garcia's counter punching. A southpaw,  expect the Brooklynite to load up on looping counters with either hand in the hope of landing a big shot. like Garcia's arcing left which discombobulated Khan and led to the stoppage in their encounter.

The two likely outcomes of this fight would be Khan by points, or Collazo by stoppage. The 4/1 currently available on the Collazo stoppage are frankly insane odds; think of it this way, if this fight were to take place 5 times, how many of those times do you think Collazo, a fully fledged welterweight, could hurt Khan?

I can't see, over the course of a 12 round fight, how Collazo does not put Khan on queer street at some stage. If he comes away with an Ortiz-like career high victory, I'll see you at the Barclays Center in September for Mayweather-Collazo.

 

 

When Strength Becomes Weakness - Hopkins v Stevenson

So far in his career, Bernard Hopkins has been impossible to knock out. His mooted unification fight with Adonis Stevenson pits him against a ferocious puncher with 20 KOs from 24 fights. If Stevenson were too over invest in his own one punch KO power, then the he could be in for a long and frustrating night. 

Hopkins is a difficult fighter to beat, but it is not impossible, especially approaching his 50th birthday.

To beat Hopkins, a fighter cannot be one dimensional. As Beibut Shumenov showed, if your one dimension revolves around throwing a terrible jab repeatedly, you won't only be beaten, but embarrassed.

Shumenov came close to being the first stoppage on Bernard's record since his vicious body shot felled Oscar De La Hoya in 2004. 

The only valuable part of his game plan, if there was indeed any game plan from the trainer-less Kazakh, was Shumenov's vastly superior volume.

His volume advantages were negated by the utter lack of quality in any of his work. Over 12 rounds, there was perhaps one meaningful punch landed on Hopkins chin, a left hook in the early rounds that resulted in Hopkins sticking his tongue out at the challenger.

That was as good as it got for Shumenov.

When facing an aging fighter, would it not make sense to utilize the advantages of one's youth, as opposed to emphasizing the negatives of one's own inexperience?

If you have superior legs, why not give them a light airing and move around the ring a bit? 

Hopkins lack of volume was natural, given that he is 49 years old. He makes up for his declining athletic ability with fundamentals so solid that it is not inconceivable that Hopkins could continue past his 50th year; this is not a man desperately striving to limp to the landmark half century, but one who continues to break down certain type of fighters with relative ease.

The potential unification bout with Adonis Stevenson now looks to be highly likely, after Stevenson's recent signing with Al Haymon, allowing for a lucrative showdown in Montreal some time later this year.

Bernard can be, and frankly should be, outworked by most decent athletes in the division at this point in his career. Hopkins can only win through quality, not quantity.

Much will be made of Stevenson's big left hand, and the KO threat that he poses. If Adonis approaches the fight with such an attitude, then we could potentially see one final Hopkins masterpiece, much in the same was he dissected Felix Trinidad and decimated Kelly Pavlik in fights where the Philadelphia native was a hefty underdog.

Stevenson's beastly power often leads people to forget that he is not a large light heavyweight, spending the majority of his career at Super Middleweight. At 6 ft 1 with a 75 inch reach, Hopkins holds a height and reach advantage over the 5ft 11 Stevenson, whose reach is listed at 72 inches with at BoxRec.

Stevenson can win the fight with Hopkins if he uses his brain and the advantages of his youth. Using his legs, pumping his solid right jab all night, and generally staying away from getting involved in any sort of inside fight.

Hopkins will look to exploit the one handedness of Stevenson's game, by neutralizing his big straight left by using all the tricks in his box to make sure that Stevenson cannot plant his feet and get leverage on his punches.

With his superior length, expect Hopkins to use his left jab as a measuring stick, combining it with his old school stance to remain out of range.

We've Come to the End of the Road - Malignaggi and Murray

Two fighters on opposite sides of the Atlantic both appeared to have reached career crossroads this past weekend.

In the UK, John Murray lost the 'battle of Manchester' to former stable mate Anthony Crolla, being stopped on his feet, one eye grotesquely swelling after being dissected by a razor sharp jab for the majority of the 10 rounds.

In the US, Paulie Malignaggi found himself stopped by a rampaging Shawn Porter, not for the first time, but for the first time being felled hard and rescued by a referee who perhaps let him take a few more shots than necessary. 

They both face a choice; to fight on, knowing that they have almost certainly peaked, or retire and move into other forms of employment.

Malignaggi has been a successful commentator on Showtime, as well as guest appearances in the UK where he has a reasonable profile after his losses to Hatton and Khan earlier in his career. Universally praised for his media work, all the signs point to retirement from fighting, but not from the fight game.

Murray on the other hand, faces a much tougher choice. Two years were spent on the shelf, due to a swollen pituitary gland, and the 'new and focused' Murray who has returned may be drinking less, but was getting his head snapped back with alarming regularity for a fighter who had his career put on hold for issues with his brain. 

The prospect of permanent damage did not dissuade Murray from continuing applying the Brandon Rios tactical defense, which primarily involves taking huge amounts of punishment with no head movement in hope that the opponent will eventually succumb to the pressure.

Malignaggi could feasibly continue at a fairly high level, as a gatekeeper, and his slick and crafty style could ensure many nights where he took little punishment.

Malignaggi doesn't need to retire, but he almost certainly will. Murray needs to retire, for the sake of his health if not for his bank balance. Will he sense it's time to go? Probably.

Will he retire? Probably not. 

 

Is Manny Pacquiao Declining? A Closer Look

The article I posted after the recent Manny Pacquiao victory over Timothy Bradley has been my most popular in the few month history of this website. And when I say popular, I'm talking page views in the half century numbers, people of earth. It's the sort of fame or infamy that I could have only dreamed of when I signed up to Squarespace late last year.

From reading comments on my own article, and on the other boxing sites I frequent, the argument against a Pacquiao decline runs something along the lines of, and I paraphrase:

'Pacquiao's style has changed. He's throwing less because he is smarter / a better boxer / his opponent's styles made it so / you love Mayweather / you are a douchebag stop saying these nasty, nasty things.'

Let me make it clear: I am approaching this neither from the standpoint of a Pacquiao fanboy, nor of a Pacquiao hater. I merely try to look at things with an analytic eye, to see if the stats match up with the perceived decline in Pacquiao's abilities.

For the record, I've been to two boxing cards live in my life, one of which was the Pacquiao - Rios fight in Macau. You can read about it here. I don't live in Macau, or Hong Kong, but I went there as a fan who has hugely enjoyed Pacquiao's rise to the pinnacle of the sport.

Pacquiao celebrating in the ring after the Brandon Rios fight. Not a bad view for the cheapest ticket.

 

So before I'm accused of being some Mayweather surrogate or Golden Boy employee, just know that I'm an average fan who likes to watch fights every weekend where possible, and to occasionally gamble on the outcome. 

All stats used to make the graphs below are taken from Compubox numbers available freely online, starting with the break out performance against Oscar De La Hoya and concluding with the Bradley Rematch.

On the X Axis, 1 = De La Hoya, 2= Hatton, 3= Cotto and so on. This is an article for more of the hardcore boxing fans obviously, but if you struggle to remember any of the opponents and want to double check them, this is Pacquiao's BoxRec page.

Why didn't I go back further into Manny's career? Is it all some dastardly plan of mine to make Pacquiao look bad in front of the 50 or so unfortunates who happen to have stumbled upon my site? The simple answer is, there was only so much copying and pasting and googling I could stomach today. The sample size is the last 11 fights, roughly a 5 year period starting in December 2008.

As not all of these fights have gone the distance, firstly I decided to chart Pacquiao's punches thrown per round, allowing us to include some of his more explosive performances, unlike the rather crappy graph in my prior article on Pacquiao's decline.

So, here we go. Firstly, we have the numbers of punches thrown by Manny Pacquiao, per round.

Take a look at that average line. An 80 punch per round output decreases all the way down to just over 50.

So, on average Pacquiao's output is declining. It's no monstrous, or pronounced, but it is happening. People can pin this on individual performances, and the styles of those opponents, but the pure numbers show that slowly but surely that on average, Manny Pacquiao is throwing less punches.

"Big deal!" say the true believers, "That's all part of the plan." Manny is changing stylistically, he's a more accomplished fighter, he might be throwing less but hey, I bet he's landing more punches. Well...

Let's take a look. Here is the percentage of his punches that land in the sample.

As you can see, the average percentage over the sample decreases from just above 40% to close to 30%

On average, not only is Pacquiao throwing less punches, but he's also landing less with the punches that he does throw. That does not suggest to this writer that he is becoming a more efficient or craftier operator. If he was intentionally sacrificing volume in favor of accuracy, then the numbers just don't back up such an argument.

I'm sure there are still non-believers out there who will say, oh well this only takes into account the work that Manny Pacquiao is doing, so let's take a final look at a stat that takes into account the output of his opponents too.

If we take Pacquiao's punch output per round, and divide it by the opponents punch output per round, we can see the extent to which Manny is outworking his opponent. For want of a better term, let's call it Pacquiao's punching ratio. Basically, how many more times does Pacquiao throw a punch in comparison to his opponent. 

Perhaps he has just faced more cagier, more technical fighters with improved movement, like Marquez and Bradley, so naturally he throws less, and lands less. So in the graph below, the number on the Y-axis represents how much more (or sometimes less) Pacquiao is throwing than his opponent. So for example, in the Clottey fight, the Pacman threw over 3 x as many punches as the Ghanaian. (3.12 times as many, to be exact).

Here's the final chart.

Again, a decline. He's throwing less, he's connecting less, and finally, he's throwing less when compared to his opponent's output.

 

 

For Gold or Glory? Money as Motivation in Boxing

Over at boxingscene.com today, Sergei Kovalev's trainer John David Jackson mused about this weekend's biggest fight between Bernard Hopkins and Beibut Shumenov.

Jackson suggested that Shumenov's vast personal fortune (or at least his families fortune) would be a negative factor coming in to his attempt to unify the Light Heavyweight titles in Washington against the Methuselah-esque Hopkins. Jackson said:

I give Bernard the edge . . . I think this kid will fall into the same trap everybody else does. He will fall into Bernard's trap, and play Bernard's game. They say this kid's rich beyond his wildest dreams. He's got money, so that means he's not hungry. They say he's a super-rich kid. So, how hungry is he really? He cares, but does he really care?

Jackson makes plenty of other more astute points as to why he think Hopkins will be too much for the inexperienced Shumenov, but let's delve a little deeper into the issues of fiscal motivation.

Why do fighters do all the insane road work, spar the extra rounds, fight on with closing eyes and broken bones, or climb from the canvas on jellied legs to face an inevitable pummeling into unconsciousness?

For the money? It's called prizefighting after all. 

In the LA Times last year, Shumenov's Vegas lifestyle was described in detail. Bill Dwyre wrote:

He lives in a 9,654-square-foot house on Coast Line Drive in northwest Las Vegas. The address is strange for a city in a desert, until you realize the property is on a man-made lake with expensive boats docked out back.

Shumenov's house has a gym with equipment that took eight men to carry down the stairs — that was just one piece. There is a film room, an elevator, a huge garage with cabinets stuffed with almost every kind of boxing equipment that exists — gloves, headgear and the like.

There is also a 10-foot-by-10-foot refrigerator in the kitchen.

Shumenov starts his day at 5 a.m. by going to his hyperbaric chamber. That's in his house too. He does a full workout in his gym, then after lunch goes to another gym for running and swimming and still another for training and sparring.

It appears that Shumenov's outrageous wealth could have afforded him many things he desired in life, and yet, he chose to be a fighter. His financial advantages can just as easily be attributed as the source of his success, given the facilities and focus it allows him to have on honing his craft.

Shumenov is not like Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. skipping training in favor of sauntering around in his underwear, munching cereal before he moves the couches around in his living room for a quick sparring session. Did childhood privilege encumber him with such laziness?

Nor is Shumenov like the recently de-throned champion Ricky Burns, who still works part time in retail in a well known sports shop. Has the lack of financial reward from multiple title defenses prevented him from giving his all in the ring?

He fought for nearly half an hour with a broken jaw against Raymundo Beltran. Was it the hope of future wealth that quelled the pain?

If you watch the full undercard of a major pay-per-view, you'll see numerous bouts. They're usually streamed on the internet these days, for the hardcore fans who care to tune in for that sort of thing. These bouts can be snooze fests, or they can be wars, in the same way that the headline fights can be tremendous display of courage and guts, or a snooze-fest.

Boxers fight each other in front of entirely empty rows of stadium seating, in a voluminous room void of atmosphere. The proverbial pin drop however, would not be heard, as it would be drowned out by the noise of leather thumping repeatedly against human flesh.

Declining In Plain Sight - Pacquiao Bradley II

Manny Pacquiao got a deserved win at the MGM Grand on Saturday night, defeating Timothy Bradley by UD to gain revenge for the 

Manny Pacquiao is a great fighter. That should not really be up for debate, unless you're trying to sell a fight in any which way you can

The decline is natural of course; Manny is now 35, at an age where some athlete's are already retired. Gone are the days of the 1000 punches a fight Pacquiao, they simply will not come back.

It could be argued that Pacquiao's output has naturally decreased against technically gifted boxers such as Juan Marquez and Tim Bradley, but if the Filipino still retained the same levels of physical talent, then surely Brandon Rios represented an opportunity to unload at will, as the Oxnard brawler became increasingly inactive in a fight where he lost nearly every round. 

Pacquiao is loved, but love cannot blind one to the obvious decline that is happening. The mooted 2 further years of fighting will be greeted with glee by most, happy to see a fighter still plying his trade a few more times before he retires to seek perhaps the loftiest office of government in the Philippines. 

But for those close to Manny, perhaps a few quiet words should be had. Would he rather end his career triumphant, like this prior weekend, or deflated, face down on the canvas against Marquez? If he fights 4 more years, the likelihood of another looping right finding his jaw become evermore probable.

Freddie Roach's remarks after the fight have a familiar sounding tone. As reported on boxingscene.com. Roach said:

I cannot say he is back at his best, because I didn't see that. We trained very hard for this fight, that's the truth, but there are still things missing. We were practising some things in the gym that weren't implemented in the ring...to tell you the truth, I'm a little disappointed, because of the way he fought at times. I thought he could do another kind of fight, other things.

The public will perhaps learn their lesson and stop predicting Pacquiao to win by KO. Whether he still has 'the fire' inside his belly becomes an irrelevant, as the decreasing punch output, and increasing ability to be tagged by long right hands are merely the natural consequences of aging.

Pacquiao called out Floyd Mayweather after the fight, saying all he had to do was pick up the phone and the fight would be made.

If Floyd likes money just as much as he professes, then perhaps it's time to make that call. At this point, that megafight would be a foregone conclusion.