Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Weighing In - July 2009: The Cruiserweights

Seven months after losing it, Steve "U.S.S." Cunningham set sail on a tour to regain the IBF title. His first assignment: successfully withstand the barrage of the hard-hitting Wayne "Big Truck" Braithwaite in Sunrise, Fla., on July 11.

Mission accomplished.

Throughout the course of the 12-round title eliminator, the 6-foot-3 Cunningham was content on trading with the diminutive Braithwaite on the inside, most times landing cleaner punches at a higher frequency. All three judges had Cunningham winning by a wide margin: 119-109, 117-111 and 118-110.

"I wanted to rough him up a bit, just give him different looks," Cunningham said of his willingness to mix it up with a dangerous opponent.

One win closer? Check.

It was Cunningham's first bout with Naazim Richardson as his trainer. Richardson -- who also trains Bernard Hopkins and Shane Mosley, among others -- gained recognition in January for discovering a foreign substance in Antonio Margarito's hand wraps minutes prior to entering the ring against Mosley. His keen eye led to a one-year ban for Margarito.

New trainer? Check.

Next on the U.S.S. log is reclaiming what Cunningham (22-2, 11 KOs) feels is rightfully his: the IBF belt, along with the then-vacant RING cruiserweight championship Adamek won in their epic December slugfest.

"I feel like a champion," Cunningham, 33, said. "A champion without a belt right now. I'm looking for my belt, and I found it. I know where it's at, so I'm going to go get it."

Following his win, he might not have to look far. Barring interference from fellow-Philadelphia fighter Hopkins, Cunningham and Adamek are on another collision course.

Also on July 11 but in Newark, N.J., Adamek packed too much ammunition for Bobby Gunn. Referee Earl Brown and a ringside doctor called a halt to the bout after the fourth round. It was Adamek's second win in as many fights since defeating Cunningham.

Though separated by more than 1,200 miles, Adamek and Cunningham were linked by I-95 and a memory of their first meeting.

Adamek (38-1, 26 KOs) floored Cunningham three times in December. Still, Cunningham's resolve and relentless will were enough to impress judge Clark Sammartino to score it for him 114-112. At 115-112 and 116-110, respectively, Shafeeq Rashada and John Stewart favored Adamek, a testament to how closely the two competed considering up to three extra points could have been deducted from Cunningham's scorecards due to the knockdowns.

It's no wonder why Cunningham is vocal about a rematch and deserving of such.

"I'm the No. 1 mandatory and hope to get (a rematch) sometime in '09," he said.

Not only is Cunningham not looking past Adamek, he also isn't seeing anything else in his scope. Adamek is the only blip on his radar.

A move to heavyweight doesn't entice Cunningham, either. In a fairly deep weight class with a lack of household names, he wants to be the face of the cruiserweight division. Evening the score with Adamek on a stage set by HBO or Showtime is the first step, as well as one toward closure.

"After Adamek, I'm going to get them belts," Cunningham said. "Then it's the whole cruiserweight division. (In beating Braithwaite) I wanted to send a message, let them know that I'm still the man in the cruiserweight division. Man up."

And the U.S.S. Cunningham won't dock until the mission is accomplished.

Top 10 at 200:

1. Tomasz Adamek (38-1, 26 KOs): The RING champion is a beast. He's deceiving to both opponents and fans. He has pure skill, a good chin and throws smart combinations. He rarely throws one punch at a time.

2. Steve Cunningham (22-2, 11 KOs): A rematch with Adamek makes so much sense that fans are worried it won't happen. When you throw the IBF in the mix, you never know what to expect.

3. Guillermo Jones (36-3-2, 28 KOs): El Felino has a solid resume to match his record. One of his three losses was by split decision to Cunningham in April 2005. He stopped Braithwaite in four and Arslan in 10.

4. Marco Huck (25-1, 20 KOs): Another victim of the sea-faring Cunningham, Kapt'n takes on Victor Ramirez on August 29. Huck fights almost exclusively in Germany, which makes fans weary of record.

5. Giacobbe Fragomeni (26-1-1, 10 KOs): Fragomeni has plenty going against him: He's 39, 5 feet 9 inches and has little power. Nobody told that to Wlodarczyk, who the fiesty Italian fought to a draw in May.

6. Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (41-2-1, 31 KOs): Diablo had Frago down in the ninth but couldn't put him away. He also owns an erroneous split decision win over Cunningham, which was later avenged.

7. Firat Arslan (29-4-1, 18 KOs): The southpaw has wins over Darnell "Ding-a-Ling Man" Wilson and Wilson-stopper Grigory Drozd. Alas, he's another German-based fighter who has rarely fought outside of his homeland.

8. Matt Godfrey (19-1, 10 KOs): Too Smooth put on a clinic against Shawn Hawk on July 10, fighting in the southpaw stance the entire bout. He owns quality wins over Emmanuel Nwodo, Felix Cora Jr. and Danny Batchelder.

9. Ola Afolabi (14-1-3, 6 KOs):
Kryptonite's knockout of Enzo Maccarinelli proved this Brit can bang a bit. He's recently been winning with ease, but needs better opposition to show fans how skillful he is.

10. Troy Ross (22-1, 15): In his first fight since winning The Contender, The Boss took an easy but terribly boring decision from Michael Simms. The Canadian is definitely talented. He just needs to be entertaining.

Notably absent: Hino Ehikhamenor (KO loss to Ross), Darnell Wilson (KO loss to Drozd), Jean-Marc Mormeck (KO loss to David Haye) and O'Neil Bell (what else is new?)

The Sweet Science lab is now closed.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Battle of Bantamweight Beasts

Predictions for Joseph Agbeko vs. Vic Darchinyan are posted on The Boxing Bulletin.

Add a comment or post your own prediction.

Also, more tragic news. R.I.P. Arturo Gatti.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

P4P Rankings - July 2009

It's the first Tuesday of the month, so it's time to evaluate the pound-for-pound best boxers in the world.

Michael Jackson's memorial service was held today at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Not only did the King of Pop have a nickname worthy of any top-tier fighter, he also churned out some bad ass music.

To honor M.J. -- who was as familiar with a hit as anyone -- here's the always subjective top 10, Jacko-style:

1. Manny Pacquiao (49-3-2, 37 KOs): A Nov. 14 showdown with Miguel Cotto at a likely catchweight of 144 -- a matchup in which Pac-Man will be favored -- is all but signed. Adding to the obvious advantages he'll have over Cotto, the Filipino will be the fresher of the two having needed only two rounds to dispose of Ricky Hatton to win the RING junior welterweight championship on May 2. Song: "Dangerous"

2. Juan Manuel Marquez (50-4-1, 37 KOs):
Dinamita's bout against Floyd Mayweather Jr. was rescheduled for Sept. 19 because Mayweather bruised rib cartilage while sparring. Marquez is the lineal champion at 135 pounds, but is meeting Mayweather at a catchweight of 144. If there is any doubt of his ability: One measly point separates him from Pacquiao in their two bouts (one draw, one split-decision loss). Nobody fights Pacquiao that close, and Marquez is always ready for a challenge. Song: "I'll Be There"

3. Bernard Hopkins (48-5-1, 32 KOs):
The Executioner has been inactive since picking apart middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik in a light heavyweight bout Oct. 18. He negotiated himself out of a cruiserweight fight against champion Tomasz Adamek and will be a spectator as fellow light heavyweights Chad Dawson and Glen Johnson clash in a proposed rematch. B-Hop might depart the rankings if nothing is scheduled by Halloween. At 44, he can't wait too long. Song: "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough"

4. Shane Mosley (46-5, 39 KOs):
Sugar Shane became the odd man out in the Pacquiao sweepstakes when Pac-Man opted to face Cotto. Who would've thought his Jan. 24 destruction of Antonio Margarito would turn out to be a bad business move? Mosley can't buy a fight right now, unsuccessfully low-balling himself for a shot at Pacquiao and begging for anybody to step up to the plate. According to his twitter page, Andre Berto has been told he is the first option for Mosley on Nov. 14. Let's hope. Song: "Rock With You"

5. Paul Williams (37-1, 27 KOs):
In the same boat as Mosley is the Punisher. The freakish physical specimen is hovering between three weight divisions -- 147, 154 and 160 -- and still has trouble finding worthy opponents. His April 11 decimation of Canastota-bound Winky Wright vaulted him into the top 10. Williams is a high-risk, low-reward fight for anyone, even if he chooses to compete in the stacked super middleweight division. If he campaigns at 168, will he still be avoided by the top guys? Song: "Who's Lovin' You"

6. Israel Vazquez (43-4, 31 KOs):
Vazquez hasn't fought since defeating Rafael Marquez in the 2008 fight of the year and has fallen three spots. What keeps him in the rankings is his legitimate excuse: He had surgery to repair his retina. This is not the same as retirement (Mayweather) or inactivity (Rafael Marquez). He has recently relinquished his RING championship at junior featherweight to join the featherweight ranks. Hopefully he'll return to form after injury, the layoff and the weight gain. Song: "Remember the Time"

7. Miguel Cotto (34-1, 27 KOs):
Nobody can deny Cotto's heart and guile. In a fight that easily could have gone either way, Cotto showed unbridled determination in eking out a split decision win over a game Joshua Clottey on June 13. Not only did he battle through Clottey's assault and a nasty gash over his left eye, he also overcame personal turmoil stemming from his split with his trainer, uncle Evangelista Cotto. With Joe Santiago in his corner, the Cotto camp has a lot of homework leading up to a bout with Pacquiao. Song: "Thriller"

8. Ivan Calderon (32-0-1, 6 KOs):
As mentioned in last Tuesday's blog, the Iron Boy may be showing signs of rust after a sixth-round technical draw with Rodel Mayol on June 13. At 34, Calderon is still the master of hit-and-don't-get-hit, but once the legs and hand speed begin to slow what is this feather-fisted puncher going to rely on? He's a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame, but the window of opportunity is closing for this great 108-pound champion to give fans a defining performance to remember. Song: "Smooth Criminal"

9. Wladimir Klitschko (53-3, 47 KOs):
Finally -- maybe a bit overdue -- Dr. Steelhammer makes his debut in the P4P rankings. His case is clear: He attained the vacant RING heavyweight championship in another dominant performance, this time in a 10th-round TKO of Ruslan Chagaev. His entry into the top 10 bumped out Vic Darchinyan, who challenges Joseph Agbeko in a bantamweight title bout on July 11. With the state of the heavyweight division as it is, Klitschko might remain on here for a while. Song: "Unbreakable"

10. Chad Dawson (28-0, 17 KOs):
Bad Chad is nearing a crossroads. The southpaw has the necessary tools to be a star, but hasn't reached pay-per-view status. Lackluster performances like his win over a 40-year-old Antonio Tarver in a May 9 rematch do nothing to garner the speedy southpaw a broader fan base. A second bout with Johnson won't be easy, especially considering the difficulty he had against the Road Warrior in April 2008. Song: "Bad"

The rest:
11. Vic Darchinyan
12. Kelly Pavlik
13. Tomasz Adamek
Carl Froch
15. Juan Manuel Lopez
Nonito Donaire
17. Rafael Marquez
18. Timothy Bradley
19. Nate Campbell
20. Chris John

Come back Thursday for a Sweet Science lab prefight analysis of the Agbeko-Darchinyan bout.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Heavily Weighing the Heavyweights

by Bill Jessup, Blast Furnace Brawler

On June 20, a new lineal heavyweight champ was crowned for the first time since 2004. The problem was nobody cared.

The bout -- originally scheduled between Wladimir Klitschko and former cruiserweight champion David Haye -- was slated for HBO’s World Championship Boxing. However, when the boisterous Brit backed out of the fight due to injury and was replaced by No. 3 heavyweight Ruslan Chagaev, HBO dropped the fight.


Well, for those who watched the fight (or any Klitschko fight, for that matter), it was obvious: It was standard boring Klitschko. Through a systematic destruction of his opponent, Klitschko won by 10th-round TKO. The fight should have never lasted that long.

Klitschko had broken Chagaev's will by the sixth, and he continued to punish Chagaev with jabs and straight right hands for three more rounds until the bout was stopped one second into round 10.

I half expected Dr. Steelhammer to stand in the center of the ring and scream, “What? Are you not entertained?” However, much like Proximo told Maximus: “Listen to me. Learn from me. I was not the best because I killed quickly. I was the best because the crowd loved me. Win the crowd and you will win your freedom.”

Klitschko needs to look at the great heavyweights and understand why they were great. They brought an entertainment factor, whether it was Muhammad Ali with his words outside the ring and skill inside it or Mike Tyson delivering brutal knockouts.

Klitschko will never achieve greatness until he can bring an entertainment value to the ring. Haye would have delivered that.

For nearly two years Haye has created the biggest buzz in the heavyweight division without even throwing a punch. The world wanted to see what -- if anything -- Klitschko would do differently against Haye and whether Haye’s insults and total disrespect for Klitschko and older brother Vitali had affected Wladimir as much as it seemed.

To quote Yogi Berra, “Ninety percent of this game is half-mental” If Haye was able to get into the head of Klitschko before the bell even rang, what would happen in the squared circle? Would Klitschko’s methodical jab be replaced by wild haymakers intended to remove the Brit’s head from his shoulders? Or would Haye’s head movement and foot speed prove to be an obstacle the robotic Klitschko may not be able to overcome?

There is a quote from William Shakespeare’s play, “The Twelfth Night:”

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em.

By becoming the lineal champion, Klitschko achieved something great but did not achieve greatness. However, had he fought and defeated David Haye? Greatness may have been thrust upon him.

Heavyweight rankings

1. Wladimir Klitschko: He became the first lineal champion since brother Vitali retired in 2005. ‘Nuff said.

2. Vitali Klitschko: He is the former lineal champion and current WBC champion. He boasts a record of 37-2 with 36 by knockout and is coming off a March 21 ninth-round TKO victory over Juan Carlos Gomez. He will possibly be the first Klitschko to get a crack at David Haye.

3. Alexander Povetkin: The Russian boasts a record of 17-0 with 12 knockouts. He is the current mandatory challenger for Wladimir's IBF title. He has wins against former titlist Chris Byrd and current top-10 heavyweight Eddie Chambers, and he's coming off a 10-round unanimous decision victory over American Jason Estrada.

4. David Haye: The former undisputed cruiserweight champion is now campaigning at heavyweight. He had a questionable chin at cruiserweight and will likely rely heavily on foot speed and head movement to succeed. With a record of 23-1 with 21 knockouts, he pulled out of his June 20 bout with Wladimir Klitschko. He's now campaigning for a September fight against Vitali.

5. Eddie Chambers: Fast Eddie consistently performs to the level of his competition. After suffering the first loss of his career to Povetkin, he has won his last three bouts -- most recently against Sam Peter in one of the least entertaining fights I have ever seen. He is scheduled to face Alexander Dimitrenko on July 4. Hopefully he will show more fireworks than in his last fight.

6. Chris Arreloa: With a record of 27-0 with 24 knockouts, he is the most intriguing name on this list. Arreloa is a big puncher. He needs to work on his weight issues and slim down. His aggressive style could prove troublesome for every aforementioned fighter on this list. His most recent bout was a fourth-round KO of Jameel McCline.

Also ranked:
7. Alexander Dimitrenko
8. Nikolai Valuev
9. John Ruiz
10. Denis Boytsov
11. Evander Holyfield (Come on, brother needs a paycheck!)

Editor's note: The views expressed in guest blogs are not necessarily the same as those of the blog owner.

Chambers defeated Dimitrenko by majority decision in Hamburg, Germany. Official judges' scorecards were 117-109, 116-111 and 113-113.

There are many gripes from casual fans and other detractors about the lack of American star-power in the heavyweight division. Chambers may not fit the mold -- he's a slick, cautious boxer without stunning power -- but how better to celebrate Independence Day than having Chambers earn a win overseas, where decisions are difficult to come by?

Happy Fourth of July. -- JRH

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

R.I.P. Alexis Arguello

I had planned to publish a guest blog today, but the death of Alexis Arguello deserves a higher billing than being just a snippet at the end of a post. Boxing has lost a legend. He will be greatly missed.

Yahoo! Sports: Kevin Iole's response
ESPN: Dan Rafael's response

HBO's Legendary Nights:
The Tale of Alexis Arguello vs. Aaron Pryor

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

R.I.P. Alexis Arguello
"El Flaco Explosivo"
(82-8, 65 KOs)
April 19, 1952 - July 1, 2009