Several boxing publications have gotten into a habit of publishing so called experts opinions picking winners in major fights. Boxing and gambling is synonymous, but who are those experts that pick fights? Most often they are journalists who have been covering the sweet science for a while but have never laced on a pair of boxing gloves. Is it fair to call them experts? One would have to consider the amount of time they devote to sweet science like going to gyms and watching boxers train, watching and analyzing fights as well as hands on experience in the ring. These are very good parameters by which to judge ones expertise, but at the end of the day picking fights is just like predicting a stock markets a crap shoot.
The fight that confirmed that philosophy in me was 2008 clash between then unbeaten middleweight champion Kelly and Bernard Hopkins. Kelly Pavlik was 4 to 1 favorite and was unanimously picked by experts to dominate the aging legend. This was the first fight I covered on the East Coast, outside of my comfort zone. And so I devoted a lot of time analyzing it. Every expert I knew thought Pavlik was too young and too strong for aging Hopkins. I remember walking inside the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City and getting a phone call from a friend of mine, a huge boxing fan who told me that if Pavlik lost that fight that he did not know anything about boxing. We all know what happened. Hopkins took young Pavlik to school. It turned out to be the beginning of an end to Pavlik’s career. In my humble opinion the only people who could be considered boxing experts are those who fought professionally or long time trainers. The rest of us are just scribes and should be called just that.
In more recent memory when Adrien Bruner faced Marcos Maida last year 23 of of 25 experts saw a clear path victory for favorite Bruner. Maidana forgot to read the script and dropped his foe twice on a way to a dominating win. And just last week 7 to 1 favorite Vasyl Lomachenko was picked by most experts to beat a current champion Orlando Salido. I have a feeling that half of these experts have never seen Lomachenko in the ring, because it was only his second pro fight.
How expert are those opinions? That was the question on my mind when I read an article published by Lem Satterfield “Who wins Canelo Alvarez-Alfredo Angulo?” Once again 22 out of 24 experts favor Canelo to be the victor of this weekend’s barnburner. On top of that Laz Vegas book makers have Canelo as 10 to 1 favorite to defeat Angulo in this Saturday’s super welterweight clash scheduled for twelve rounds at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Sounds like a slam dunk. Or is it? And that is why we watch the fights. This one will be televised live by ShowTime PPV. Don’t miss it and don’t blink. With so much power between the two combatants anything can happen, anytime.
Boxing fans keep going to fights like dope fiends chasing the dragon because once in a while they get to witness something very special where two men in a squared circle seemingly reach beyond any imaginable level of human endurance, will and determination as well as capacity to absorb and administer punishment and thus stage an inspired battle that ignites their hearts. Such was the case 43 years ago on March 8th, 1971 when Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali engaged in what was subsequently called “The Fight of the Century” at the Madison Square Garden in New York.
Trying to describe passion “The Fight” aroused in boxing fans as well as trying to recreate that epic night would be an exercise in futility. However 43 years later the same date, March 8th, 2014, could two Mexican warriors Alvarez and Angulo create something special in the ring? With no title on the line they are scheduled to face off at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Twelve rounds or less super welterweight showdown dubbed “Toe to Toe” will be televised live by ShowTime Pay Per View.
No title on the line doesn’t mean insignificant fight. Suffering heartbreaking loses in their previous bouts both men have a lot riding on this fight. Can they thrill fans and put on a show worth being remembered in boxing history books? Considering their Mexican heritage and machismo culture as well as the name of their encounter “Toe to Toe” there is a good reason to believe that we are in for a violent battle come March 8th. “In this particular fight there won’t be any running,” confirmed Angulo’s Coach Virgil Hunter when I interviewed him in Los Angeles last month. Rugged Mexican warrior Alfredo Angulo built his fan base by leaving his heart and soul in the ring every outing.” My fans know that whenever you see the name Alfredo El Perro Angulo on a fight card,” he said:” It is going to be spectacular. I’ve always given my best inside the ring.” True to his name “The Dog” Angulo will come to fight. “That night,” he continued:” It will be toe to toe, or it will be the dog chasing after Canelo.”
Angulo’s counterpart, twenty three year old super star Saul Canelo Alvarez promised Perro will not have to look for him in the ring.” When two Mexicans get in the ring,” said Alvarez who badly needs an impressive win after a loss to Mayweather:” There is going to be a lot of action. I think this is one of the better fights that we can give to the public.” Expect fireworks.Enjoy!
Amateur stand out from Ukraine Vasyl Lomachenko is scheduled to fight Orlando Salido for WBO featherweight title on March 1st at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. HBO will televise this event live. What is so intriguing about it is that it is only Lomachenko’s second professional fight. When asked if he was surprised about getting a title fight so quickly Vasyl said:” Yes, because I was aiming to do it in my first fight. I am surprised it is in the second.” Every joke has an element of truth to it and so is this one. Lomachenko’ s manager Egis Klimas shared that when highly coveted by promoters, two times Olympic gold medalist met Top Rank’s boss Bob Arum they didn’t talk about money. When asked by Hall of Fame promoter what he wanted, Vasyl said a title fight. Veteran promoter, Arum quickly came up with a solution. He suggested Lomachenko fight a ten rounder first on the undercard of a title fight between Salido and Cruz. Should everything go according to the script Vasyl was promised a title fight with the winner.
“ Where do I sign,” said Lomachenko who shined in his professional debut stopping veteran Mexican fighter Jose Ramirez in the fourth round with a well-placed body shot.
And so here we are. Orlando Salido is a battle tested veteran champion who has wrecked a few careers on his way. Would he be too much too soon for an amateur star whose longest fight up to date was a five rounder during World Series of Boxing Championships. Experts believe there is a huge difference between amateur and professional boxing. But not Vasyl.” Perhaps physical preparation plays the major role, the conditioning to get into later rounds, “said Lomachenko:” Everything else is pretty much the same.”
Vasyl was first in the boxing ring at the age of four and he knew he was destined for greatness at an early age.” As I remember it I was about 6 or 7 years old, I was already attending first grade,” reminisced Lomachenko:” I asked my father then what would be better to win world championship or Olympic Games. And my father replied that of course Olympic champion is more prestigious, because it only happens once every four years. Ok then I said, I will become an Olympic champion. After that moment I was seriously dedicated to boxing.” Vasyl did not disappoint his father Anatoly a well-respected trainer who put together national Ukrainian boxing Olympic team. He won an Olympic Gold twice; as a featherweight in 2008 and as lightweight in 2012. Aside from a Gold medal Vasyl Lomachenko was awarded Val Barker trophy as the most outstanding boxer of 2008 Olympics in Beijing China.
Finishing his incredible amateur career with a record of 396-1, Lomachenko has probably seen any kind of style in the ring and is five to one favorite to beat current champion on March 1st. But what kind of danger does Salido presents?
“When I come out to fight I see every opponent as danger,” said Lomachenko:” I take each foe equally seriously. This fight of course is no exception. I spar with two Mexicans with the same body type and weight that resemble Salido. That’s all I can tell you about this.”
Despite the unrest in Ukraine, Lomachenko seems focused on the task at hand. When asked about it Vasyl said: “Sports and politics don’t mix. I am sure you’ve heard that about hundred people are dead and of course it doesn’t leave me unfazed, of course I feel unhappy about what is going on in my country. But what are you going to do. I don’t know anything about politics. So I can’t side with either side, but the fact that a lot of people are dying is not right.” Vasyl told me that he knows heavyweight champ Vitali Klitschko personally and admires his efforts in Ukraine, but his focus right now is solely on a fight at hand and so far everything is going according to team’s plan.
Surprisingly, Klitschko brothers are not Vasyl’s boxing heroes.” When I was a kid and started to understand boxing my hero was Mike Tyson,” said Lomachenko: “When I was around 9 or 10 Roy Jones became a star and my attention was turned to him.” If you haven’t seen young Ukrainian star in the ring, erroneously he is a combination of speed and athleticism of Roy Jones and power of Mike Tyson. But when I asked him to compare winning an Olympic gold to winning a professional world title, Vasyl smiled and said:” I haven’t won yet; therefore it is difficult to judge now. Probably after March 1st I will be able to answer this question objectively.”
Saul Canelo Alvarez is eleven to one favorite to defeat Alfredo El Perro Angulo according to Las Vegas Book makers. Their twelve rounds or less super welterweight clash dubbed ‘Toe to Toe “is scheduled to take place at the Mecca of boxing, MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on March 8th, 2014. It will be televised live by Showtime PPV. Those are pretty high odds, especially considering it being a main event of a pay per view card. What can Angulo do to beat the odds and his younger opponent?
Angulo’s trainer Virgil hunter believes he has the winning formula. Both, Alvarez and Angulo lost their last fights. Alvarez lost and was outclassed by Mayweather last September in Las Vegas. Angulo was doing better against Lara dropping him twice in their contest at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles only to lose by TKO due to eye injury. Both men lost to pure boxers who did a lot of moving and running in the ring.” In this particular fight there won’t be any running,” stated Coach Hunter:” Each man has to sleep and think on his own. Each man has to come to grips on why he lost this fight, his last fight. And each man has to come to grips on what he is going to do on his next fight.”
Alvarez, who really looked lost at times in the ring with Floyd Mayweather, believes that Alfredo Angulo is a perfect opponent for him. One thing is for sure; Angulo won’t run. El Perro sleeps well at night knowing that in his last fight against a very crafty Cuban, he was able to cut off the ring and drop Lara twice during the contest. But Alvarez is not planning to run either. What does Angulo needs to do then?
“Concentration, pressure and ability to disrupt him out of his rhythm probably would be the most important factors,” said coach, Virgil Hunter who has been working with Angulo for past several fights:” There are numbers of ways to do that. I won’t disclose it, but that’s what we are working on, taking him out of his rhythm. I’ve seen him out of his rhythm and he can get lost quite quickly so we are going to do that to be effective and doing that will give us some great opportunities.”
So if Alvarez and Angulo stick to the script and fight toe to toe as their encounter name would suggest, who would benefit the most?” There is no doubt in my mind Alfredo’s got more power than Canelo,” said Virgil Hunter who has been training Angulo at King’s Gym in Oakland, California:” Look if Alfredo catches you, he is going to hurt you. If he doesn’t catch you he can hurt you and I am not just saying that as his coach, I have some great fighters in my gym and they tell me that, so I take their word for it. He has more concussive power than Canelo. I mean so far we have seen Canelo knock out little guys. We haven’t seen him knock out big guys. I mean it’s not saying he can’t do that.” Most likely either man could hurt the other, but what Alfredo Angulo and his fans are worried about is his recent tendency to swell up and get cut, which cost him the last fight against Lara.
“You do the best you can. Every fighter has an issue going into the ring. So if you get a fighter that gets cut what do you do?” continued Hunter:” You do your homework. We looked into why he gets cut. There a couple of things we are aware of it and we are working on. And of course, don’t get hit. That’s the first and foremost.”
“There is only one true test and that’s the Sports books in Nevada. And those Sports books have this fight as close to the even money fight as possible,” said Top Rank’s boss, Bob Arum announcing Pacquiao Bradley rematch from the podium at the press conference held in Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles on Tuesday afternoon: “So the people who really stand to profit or loose based on the outcome of the fight have made this a virtual pick em fight. The fight will be held April 12th at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas.” Actually Manny Pacquiao is two to one favorite according to 5Dimes, a popular on line Sports book, but that is a pretty close odds for boxing.
With Bradley’s WBO welterweight title and one of the top spots on a mythical pound for pound list on the line Pacquiao- Bradley rematch will be televised live by HBO Pay Per View. Tim Bradley won their first encounter in June of 2012 via a controversial split decision.” It’s a fascinating fight,” said Ring Magazine’s Doug Fisher:” Because Tim Bradley won the first fight but most people thought he lost, so he comes in with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove.”
“We both have something to prove for this fight,” said Pacquiao, 35 whose career went downhill after controversial decision loss to Bradley. Pacquiao did seem to rebound a bit after a dominating performance over Brandon Rios last year. But did we see the prime Manny Pacquiao or is the regal warrior on the decline? And if Pacquiao thought that he beat Bradley convincingly the first time around just like the rest of the world did, why would he want to fight the young lion on the rise again?
“To me you beat Bradley you are pound for pound,” explained Doug Fisher:” If Pacquiao beats Bradley and gets a decision he is back up where he used to be.”
Few gave Tim Bradley a chance in their first encounter and even fewer thought that he actually won the fight. In fact this controversial victory gave young undefeated champion more grief than he could ever imagine. But time heals all wounds and after a spectacular 2013 where Timothy edged Russlan Provodnikov in a Fight of the Year and out boxed master boxer, Juan Manuel Marquez, Bradley seems to have come to terms with first Pacquiao fight.
“I thought the outcome was fair,” said Bradley:” I thought that the fight could have gone either way. This time around I need to make this win more decisive in people’s eyes and hopefully I’ll get the credit after beating Manny Pacquiao for the second time.” WBO welterweight champion Tim Bradley speaks with renewed confidence. With last two fights he has earned the respect that eluded him after Pacquiao fiasco.
“I respect Bradley,” said Pacquiao:” He is a nice guy. He also improved a lot his boxing ability since last fight that we had. He proved that in Marquez fight and Russlan fight.” What a difference twenty one month’s makes. Last time around Bradley was virtually unknown aside from hardcore boxing fans and Pacquiao was a definitive favorite. This time around the betting odds are much closer.
“I see it as even money fight,” continued Doug Fisher:” I favor Tim Bradley. He is the younger fresher fighter.” Doug Fisher is not alone in his assessment. Respected veteran scribe David Avila picked Bradley to stay undefeated.
Of course, by most accounts Manny Pacquiao dominated the first fight. Can he turn back the clock and do it again and get the nod from the judges?
“Only God knows what’s going to happen,” announced Pacquiao from the podium:” I assure that Manny Pacquiao aggressiveness and the young Manny Pacquiao you will see Aril 12th.”
I have an extra sensory perception for boxing people. Everywhere I go I meet someone involved in the sweet science. Last Sunday while riding a bike with my niece Julia in Santa Monica I ran into a well respected Southern California coach, Shadeed Suluki, who used to train James Toney and is still training talented Ismail Sillah. Few months ago I ran into the best super bantamweight in the world, Guillermo Rigndeaux at Porto’s bakery in Burbank. The Sunday before last, after playing a game of paddle tennis on by Venice Boardwalk I ran into welterweight sensation, Victor Ortiz.
“Long time no see!” I exclaimed as Victor approached me after what looked like a run on the beach.
“How have you been?” Victor asked as he gave me his million dollar smile and a hug.
“Great, “I replied:” Aren’t you fighting soon?”
“Yeah, on the 30th of this month,” Victor said:” I am fighting Luis Collazo in Brooklyn.”
“How is your jaw?” I inquired.
“My jaw is fine,” replied Ortiz:” I took my time and now I can’t wait to get into the ring. “
“Who is your new trainer?” I asked.
“Danny Smith,” replied Victor.
“Is that the guy who used to train Fernando Vargas?” I asked
“Yeah, said Victor:” And he is training Jermain Taylor and Jeff lacy right now.”
“How is that going?” I inquired.
“We are jelling really well together,” said Victor:” We’ve been working really hard. Just watch I am going to clean out welterweight division.”
Nineteen months ago, following a controversial knock- out loss at the hands of Floyd Mayweather Jr, talented Victor Ortiz was in line for another huge fight and a pay day with rising super star Canelo Alvarez. All he had to do was to beat rugged Riverside welterweight, Josesito Lopez. On his way to doing just that Ortiz endured a broken jaw and retired in the ninth round thus suffering a TKO loss and a major set-back in his career .This only added fuel to the fire for of Victor’s nay-Sayers, who used this as an example to claim that Victor does not have a heart of a real fighter. Not only Ortiz’s haters feel this way. His opponent, veteran southpaw Luis Collazo recently expressed similar sentiments in an interview with Fight news. “I think that when the fire gets hot, he can’t deal with it!” said Collazo (34-5,17KO’S) who seemed very confident in his chances against Ortiz.
Twenty six year old Victor Ortiz who has received a key to the City of Oxnard in 2011 after besting Andre Berto has a different take on the situation. One of the few modern athletes like Klitschko brothers who prefer to protect their body in order to be able to continue to perform on the elite level Ortiz believes that just because he doesn’t subscribe to the most admired philosophy of willing to die in the ring that it does not mean that he won’t be a great champion and a great fighter for years to come.
Ortiz (29-4-2,22KO’S) has all the tools; speed, power technical skills and extensive amateur pedigree to clean out welterweight division just like he said he would. But before he can do that he needs to take care of Luis Collazo on January 30th. The fight will be televised on Fox Sports network.