BACK TO THE BASICS
Been awhile (yeah right!) but I’ll make this quick for once!
Robert Stieglitz-Arthur Abraham was a total shocker! I certainly didn’t expect the same guy who fought 12 rounds with a badly busted jaw to surrender in three rounds with a swollen eye. The King must have really crashed into the wall overnight!
Now to my main point: I noticed that many fans are arguing over whether Ruslan Provodnokov is an “ESPN fighter” or more than that. He’s HBO worthy. Trust me!
But who’s to say that good solid contenders like Provo and Keith Thurman, among others can’t fight some stay-busy fights on ESPN2’s FNF, or NBC Sports Net’s Fight Night?
Back in the ‘90s top-notch heavyweights like Evander Holyfield fought on ESPN. And that’s when heavyweights were still worth watching. I remember Shane Mosley shredding the ranks of the lightweight division on ESPN. Mind you that was the most dynamic version of Mosley there ever was. He would have ripped right through HBO’s boy Adrien Broner.
Anyways, I don’t expect the elite guys like Manny Pacquiao and Andre Ward to drop down to basic cable, but what about must-see warriors from Provo and Thurman to Berto, Angulo and Kirkland? What do you think? Thanks! I’ll be gone for awhile so Happy Easter by the way! – Dave
Whenever Kirkland returns to the ring, I wouldn’t be surprised if his latest “comeback” was on basic cable, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’d love to see the other fighters you mentioned on Friday Night Fights or another basic cable network but they’ve either recently positioned themselves for another subscription cable fight (as Provodnikov and Angulo have) or they’re managed by Al Haymon (Berto and Thurman), which generally means Showtime or HBO (until this last Monday’s announcement).
I’m going to touch on this subject a little bit in a feature story I’m writing on Gennady Golovkin this week. The main focus of the article is on Golovkin’s goal of fighting five times this year, but I’m going to compare him to world-class fighters of the ‘90s who often fought four-to-six times a year like Mosley and James Toney.
Those two badasses were welcome on HBO once they grabbed their first world titles, but they didn’t always fight on the subscription cable giant. They also fought on ESPN and the USA Network’s Tuesday Night Fights. I think Mosley’s first IBF lightweight title defense against Manuel Gomez was on one of those two basic cable networks. He also fought on the FX network and TNT during his lightweight title reign.
Toney fought his non-title bouts (often contested at super middleweight and light heavyweight) on basic cable. He fought seven times in 1993, the year he won the IBF super middleweight title from Iran Barkley on HBO. The Barkley fight was in February of that year. He defended it against Tony Thornton in October, also on HBO. At least three (Ricky Thomas, Glenn Thomas and Daniel Garcia) of the five bouts between those two title fights were on ESPN. So he stayed in the public eye while he kept busy (and improved as a fighter because of it).
During the late stages of Toney’s career, he fought on Fox Sports Net between HBO and Showtime appearances. Ole “Lights Out” goes back far enough for some of his non-HBO/Showtime fights to be on network TV, like his middleweight title defenses against Reggie Johnson and Dave Tiberi.
Same deal with The Real Deal. He didn’t fight on ESPN or any other basic cable network during the ‘90s. The one time Holyfield wasn’t on HBO, Showtime or pay-per-view during that decade was a stay-busy bout against Seamus McDonagh in June of 1990. I think it was on NBC.
Anyway, my point is that basic cable helped world-class boxers fight more than just two or three times a year. Just as it helped most of them work their way up the rankings until they earned the opportunity to fight on HBO or Showtime.
The money a boxer makes fighting on ESPN/Fox Sports Net/NBC Sports Net/UniMas is nowhere near as good as it is with Showtime/HBO, so some managers, promoters and fighters pooh pooh basic cable. However, I think basic cable is a sound investment on a fighter’s future.
Stieglitz surprised the s__t out of me (and he clearly shocked King Arthur s___tless, pardon my French, er German). Stieglitz is the first guy to really take it to Abraham since Edison Miranda did the first time he faced the Armenian strongman. It was a gamble. He could have punched himself out or ran into a hard counter shot while barreling in with those relentless right hands and right uppercuts, but he put Abe in his shell and kept the bully there until the poor bastard was half blind.
Good stuff from the German veteran. Now I want to see him defend his WBO 168-pound belt against former middleweight titleholder Felix Sturm.
ABRAHAM-STIEGLITZ 2 / CALZAGHE
What is next for the two super middleweights? They are very much a part of the B-team in the division and I don’t believe either would pose a threat to Ward, Froch or Kessler.
I personally would like to see Stieglitz in with George Groves next. I think Groves could win that fight. Although he is young, he is hell of a talent but if I’m honest I think there is more chance of seeing Abraham v Stieglitz 3. How would you see that fight going?
Joe Calzaghe turned 41 yesterday and is surely a shoo-in for the HOF. If he was to lace up the gloves and start training tomorrow how do you think he would get on with the Top 5 Ring rated supers? – Cheers Dave, Weymouth, UK
With a good training camp under his belt, I think Calzaghe could come back and take Abraham (currently THE RING’s No. 5-rated 168 pounder, although he’ll drop in the updated rankings) and Thomas Oosthuizen (No. 4) to school. I don’t think Lucian Bute (No. 3) has mentally recovered from Carl Froch’s ass whipping, so I see him getting overwhelmed by the Welsh wizard by the late rounds. Mikkell Kessler (No. 2) has grown as a fighter since his first meeting with Calzaghe (No. 1). He knows what to expect now and he knows how he could have fought better. I view Calzaghe’s rematch with Kessler and showdown with Froch as “pick-‘em” fights. Kessler and Froch would give Joe all he can handle at this stage of his career (and factoring in his inactivity).
RING champ Andre Ward is the only active super middleweight I would outright pick to beat Calzaghe, and I think it would be a very close distance fight. By the way, Calzaghe will get a check mark from Yours Truly as soon as his name is on the International Boxing Hall of Fame ballot.
Regarding what’s next for Stieglitz and Abraham, I think a rubbermatch is possible if the uncrowned King Arthur really wants it. I’m not sure he does. He seemed to lack passion during the rematch, but maybe he was just caught cold or was having an off night. It happens. If he doesn’t go for bout No. 3, I think his days as a world-class 168 pounder are pretty much over. If he continues, he’ll be a stepping stone for young guns like Oosthuizen or Edwin Rodriguez. If they beat him, Abraham will become a gatekeeper (and probably a pretty useful one, but I don’t think he wants to do that).
I think Stieglitz can make some decent money by either traveling to the U.S. and offering himself up as an opponent for Ward or by staying at home and defending his belt against popular UK upstarts Grove and James DeGale, both of whom have a good shot of beating him.
However, if I learned one thing this past Saturday it’s not to count out Stieglitz.
ARTHUR, STIEGLITZ & THE HULK
Before the fight, I thought Stieglitz looked tense and Abraham was relaxed. Maybe Stieglitz was focused and Abraham was over-confident. The way Stieglitz came out throwing power punches, pinning Abraham on the ropes, had to take Arthur by surprise.
I applaud when a boxer and his team make adjustments after a loss. This is something Abraham/Uli Wegner could never do. Stieglitz took the way Abraham shells up and used it to his advantage.
I was disappointed that Abraham resorted to punching behind the head, but referee Michael Ortega did a great job, warning both fighters and punishing Abraham when he wouldn’t comply. I’m not familiar with Ortega. Does he referee big fights in the States?
After you schooled me about Ola Afolabi, I’m looking forward to seeing him fight Marco Huck in their rematch. Will you be visiting his training camp?
Although I agree with you that pound-for-pound arguments are a waste of time – come on Doug, “Supes would make the Hulk his bitch”?! I counter your illustrations with two that I prefer.
Auf wiedersehen. – TJ
Damn, the one on the left is brutal!
I’m gonna have to go all “Floyd-hugger” on ya and call the artist of these drawings a Super-Hater and quite possibly a racist (against Kryptonians, of course).
Speaking of Kryptonians, Ola “Kryptonite” Afolabi is one of my favorite local boxer personalities and one of the most savvy gym fighters I’ve witnessed in the last 10 years. If I “schooled” you on Afolabi I’m sure it was a story of one of his sparring sessions. He can slip and counter while talking s__t like few others. Ola learned from the best – James Toney.
Anyway, his third bout with Capt. Huck is on May 11, so I have some time to track him down (last I heard he was up in Big Bear sparring with GGG) and maybe do a Gym Notes on the cruiserweight contender.
Ortega is a well-known and respected referee, especially on the East Coast of the U.S. He has refereed many big fights here and abroad.
Ward, Froch and Andre Dirrell, all of whom are better talents than Stieglitz, took advantage of Abraham’s “shell defense” but none of those three tried to take the rugged armadillo out. So Stieglitz, deserves the extra props he’s getting from hardcore fans.
MORE RESPECT FOR BOXERS
I just saw Kermit Cintron on FNF, and it got me thinking about the line in Pulp Fiction, how boxers don’t have an old timers day. It also got me thinking about the disrespect many fans and media have for boxers. That really needs to end.
I’m not a tough guy, and I don’t play one in real life, or on the Internet. I have trained in boxing however, and endured many rounds of sparring. Again, I don’t believe for one second this makes me some sort of bad ass. But what it has done is given me an even greater appreciation for the sport of boxing, and the participants willing to take it on at a competitive level. Because even when you spar in a safe, controlled environment, there is still a certain amount of fear and trepidation every time the round begins (at least I always felt it). If I took a few too many shots from an inexperienced sparring partner wearing 16 ounce gloves, I’d decide to take a couple days off from the gym and drink a few beers to recover. I can’t comprehend the physical and mental strength it takes to go through wars like Bradley-Provodnikov.
If we, as fans, are watching a guy on TV, he’s a legit pro. Even if he gets blown out, if you saw him work the bag or mitts in the gym, or tried to do a bit of sparring with him, you would be amazed by his skill level. Yet fans online, and journalists in all media frequently use terms which, in my opinion, are derogatory and disrespectful towards pros. “B-class fighter.” “Journeyman.” “Can.” “Bum.”
I must admit, I used to think in these terms myself. I even had my own personal classification system. Top ten (or maybe top fifteen) guys were “contenders”. Top twenty or twenty-five guys were “fringe contenders”. Top fifty guys were “journeyman”. Everyone else didn’t deserve a label, they were just bums, cans, or s__t fighters.
How should we classify fighters? I don’t know. But I just feel it’s incredibly disrespectful for anyone to discredit or degrade pro boxers who put themselves into situations that the overwhelming majority of us would never dare willingly walk into.
Sorry for the long rant. On a lighter note, I do have one question regarding a mythical matchup I don’t recall anyone ever asking you about: Hopkins vs. Hagler (both in their primes). I’m really stuck on that one. If I had to pick, I’d take Hagler by close UD based on the higher work rate.
Thanks. – James in Culver City
I go back-and-forth on this one, James. I think the first time someone brought it up to me I favored Hagler by close decision (especially if it were a 15-round bout). Like you, I favored his greater work rate (as well as his forward marching aggression). The next time it was proposed I went with Hopkins by close decision. I imagined that Bhop’s jab, lateral movement and ability to pot shot on the fly would give the Marvelous One fits. Both champs had great chins, textbook technique and were always in supreme condition. Regardless of who wins, I can’t see the fight not being very close on points.
Regarding the public’s attitude toward boxers, I was thinking the same thing while watching Cintron-Granados fight. Cintron is not my favorite fighter and I admit that he’s been frustrating to watch in recent fights, but he’s also someone I have the utmost respect for. Not just because he’s a pro fighter, but because he was willing to test himself against the best fighters of his division while he was in his prime.
From 2005 to 2011, Cintron fought Antonio Margarito (twice), Sergio Martinez, Alfredo Angulo, Paul Williams and Carlos Molina.
He lost most of those fights. He got a gift draw (vs. Martinez), just as he did on Friday. He somehow managed to dive out of the ring vs. Williams, which hardcore heads will never let him live down. But I don’t care. He got into the ring with brutal pressure fighters, athletic boxer-punchers, and one awkwardly crafty cutie.
I don’t think Mayweather could have faced that group without suffering at least one upset loss.
But when he was fighting on FNF, a lot folks on Twitter (myself included) became arm chair psychologists and tried to analyze what the hell happened to “the Killer.” ESPN2 commentator Teddy Atlas led this charge, but I don’t think Atlas was trying to be disrespectful to Kermit. He was trying to do his job.
And sometimes boxing writers have to tell it like it is when we cover a fight or pen a story. Sometimes we can’t get away from using words like “B-class fighter” and “journeyman” if we want to tell the truth.
However, the truth doesn’t always have to hurt. I don’t think terms like (tomato) “can” or “bum” are necessary in a serious fight report. (And, by the way, I don’t necessarily think “journeyman” is a derogatory term, but that is a subject for another time.)
While I was Tweeting my observations on the Cintron-Granados – some of which was critical – I tried to keep Kermit’s feelings and dignity in mind. And I wish more writers, bloggers and hardcore fan observers would do the same. The bottom line is that I don’t hate Cintron, so there’s no reason to aim hateful or hurtful words at him during or after one of his fights.
The same can be said about any fighter, all of whom I refer to as “champ” when I meet them in person.
Photos / Martin Rose-Bongarts
Email Dougie at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Tiwtter @dougiefischer