Doug Fischer

Dougie’s Friday mailbag

TERENCE CRAWFORD

Mr. Fischer -

Longtime reader (since Maxboxing), first time writer. Never miss your mailbags and always check out your fight reports before those of any other reporter. Just as the old guys had Bert Sugar, we've got Dougie Fischer. You'll probably disagree, but face it: just as Sugar wrote in the language of his readers, you write in the language of the modern fight fan. (I'll send you some cigars.)

Enough with the blowing smoke – just want your opinion on Terence Crawford. The way he came back after being comprehensively outboxed for four rounds was scintillating; like a true champ, he made the proper adjustments without getting discouraged, and showed genuine toughness in doing so. Then – in appropriately dramatic fashion – he gets seriously wobbled by Gamboa in the ninth, and responds by taking the guy out in spectacular style. I was out of my seat in that last round.

I don't want to get carried away, but watching Crawford brought Ray Leonard to mind. Gamboa was no Tommy Hearns, but he was a superb athlete with vast experience and naturally heavy hands, and Crawford emphatically handed him his first loss (especially impressive after he lost the first third of the fight). He's shown speed, talent, versatility, technique and grit, much as Leonard did; further, his even-keel attitude is something that will serve him well and help to extend his career.

So what exactly are we looking at here? This guy looks like the real deal to me. – Mark 

I think we are looking at the real deal, Mark, but what I mean by “real deal” is a true lightweight standout, arguably the best 135 pounder in the game right now. However, the current lightweight division is not very deep. In fact, it’s rather shallow. There’s Crawford, Miguel Vazquez, and maybe Richar Abril. That’s pretty much it.

Crawford’s more talented and versatile than Vazquez and Abril, and he’s more fun to watch, so he’s going to be the lightweight everyone talks about – especially after the way he dealt with Gamboa – however, I don’t think he’s done nearly enough to be mentioned in the same sentence as Leonard (or Marvin Hagler, as Roy Jones Jr. opined during Saturday’s broadcast).

No disrespect intended toward Crawford, who has shown us a lot in his last two bouts, but we have to keep in mind the level and limitations of the best fighters on his resume: Breidis Prescott, Ricky Burns and Gamboa.

Prescott was a dangerous spoiler at one point in his career, and Crawford deserves credit for fighting him on short notice in his first scheduled 10-round bout last March. However, by the time Crawford fought Prescott the Colombian had been beaten by Vazquez, Kevin Mitchell, Paul McCloskey and Mike Alvarado, so the rangy puncher is really a gatekeeper at best.

I was and continue to be a fan of Burns, the gutsy former WBO beltholder from Scotland, but we all know “the Rickster” looked like crap against Jose Gonzalez and did not deserve to retain his belt with that bogus draw against Raymundo Beltran (I thought Ray won nine rounds, never mind the knockdown). Burns may have been “burnt” out by the time he faced Crawford.

And even when Gamboa was dominating top fighters at 126 pounds, I was never so enamored with the Cuban’s athleticism (as too many fans were) that I didn’t notice his gross lack of technique and fundamentals. I never liked Gamboa’s chances against solid fighters at higher weights. As badass as Crawford looked and performed vs. Gamby, the truth is, he beat a talented but flawed (and inactive) blown-up featherweight last Saturday.

With a tip of an imaginary fedora and stogie to the late, great Bert Sugar – perhaps the sport’s last popular historian along with Hank Kaplan – I’m not quite ready to add “Bud” Crawford to the list of great American lightweights along with Benny Leonard, Lou Ambers, Sammy Angott, Ike Williams, Bob Montgomery and Beau Jack.

And thank you for the very kind words and the Sugar comparison (even though you were blowing some serious hallucinogenic-laced weed smoke). Sugar was always a great interview as well as a friendly face and chat at the fights (and the bar, of course), and even before I met the legend, he was one of the boss scribes who helped instill an appreciation for boxing’s rich history in me.

 

ERROL SPENCE JR., CRAWFORD’S CEILING

Yo Doug,

I was watching Dominic Wade doing his thing thinking this guy is quite good, looks big at the weight, etc… until Errol Spence Jr came in and looked like a beast! He made Wade looked average and to be fair I'd guess that he would make a lot of fighters look average. I went on to check his previous fights as well as some training footage and some videos about what happened in camp with Adrien Broner and Floyd Mayweather. Watching upcoming young guns fighting their way up is always fun. Needless to say that I will keep an eye on him!!

What a performance by Crawford!! He was saying for a while that he will shine when the time comes. Just the right timing then. In front of an electrifying crowd!! It was a very entertaining fight and the fans there made it great!! Except vs Vazquez in what would be a boring one I can't see Crawford losing at 135. And given his size he will be a major problem for anyone at 140, too. Where's his ceiling?? Peace. – Vince

I think Crawford is good enough to establish himself as the best lightweight in the sport, and possibly “the real” 135-pound champ, and I have no doubt that he could compete with the top junior welterweights.

I’m not going to call him “great” or a “future great,” or even say that he’s going to be a pound-for-pound player, even though he’s clearly got elite potential. The fact it, a fighter should have to face a lot of top opposition before breaking into any “mythical ratings” and despite positive talk from both Oscar De La Hoya and Bob Arum, the Cold War still exists in the U.S. scene. Even if Oscar and Bob really want to work together there are still a lot of obstacles that make doing business difficult, such as networks (HBO vs. Showtime), sponsors (Corona vs. Tecate), and good ole Al Haymon, who just signed Vazquez and has a lot of top 140 pounders under contract (including RING champ Danny Garcia, Lamont Peterson, Lucas Matthysse and John Molina). Crawford’s gotta fight and beat guys like that to live up to his hype/potential, and even if he’s willing to do so (and I think he is), it might not be possible at the present time.

As my good buddy Steve Kim is fond of saying, it is what it is.

Spence doesn’t just look like a beast, he is one. The welterweight southpaw from Texas is, in my opinion (and pretty much everyone else’s), the most talented member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic squad. I agree that Spence is the kind of prospect who makes other young up-and-comers look average. It was clear during his amateur career (he looked excellent during the London Games, even though he got a raw deal) and from the start of his pro career that Spence is special.

I covered some his early pro bouts, and I called one of his Fox Sports Net-televised fights (along with Rich Marotta) last July – his first-round KO of Eddie Cordova – and, like Crawford, his poise and patience stood out.

My only worry at the time was that Haymon would spoon feed him a little too much and stifle his development (as he did with Gary Russell Jr.) because the Cordova bout was Spence’s third consecutive opening-round stoppage. However, Spence was given a decent test with then-unbeaten Emmanuel Lartey, as well as with Ronald Cruz, so maybe he’ll be moved more aggressively than Russell was.

Personally, I think Spence (13-0, 10 KOs) is ready for some rated welterweights, such as Chris van Heerden (21-1-1, 11 KOs), an IBO beltholder from South Africa, and Quebec standout Kevin Bizier (22-1, 15 KOs).

 

GAMBOA’S SQUANDERED PRIME

What up fellow fight freaks,

Listen, I love a great scrap as much as the next guy, and Saturday's scrap between Crawford and Gamboa was an excellent one at that, but let's not go overboard. We knew pretty much what Crawford would bring to the table as we've all seen him progress on HBO in this the last year (although I don't think anyone expected him to be 152lbs.).

No, what we aren't acknowledging is Gamboa and what was stacked against him on Saturday night. When I think about the way Gamboa has been treated these last couple of years, it hurts me inside. Here was a guy who had the world in his hands with the talent he possessed. But after being shut out of matchups for mostly no fault of his own, and avoided, he sat on a shelf until his skills clearly began to decline. Then, after 2 fights in 2 whole years, rusty and out of practice, he has to accept a fight with a giant of a man in his home town just to get a big fight. That was desperation. Crawford himself said that Gamboa shouldn't be fighting at such a high division, but he (Gamboa) needed the money and exposure so he took a gamble and failed. He had no choice, and that's such a shame. It was clear from the beginning that Gamboa was hopelessly out-sized, but he fought on and even tried to knock-out Crawford in a last-gasp attempt.

I feel so bad for Gamboa. That is a clear case of an avoided/miss-managed fighter, and that was true even before 50 Cent came on board (he means well). People get upset that May vs. Pac never was made (at least not yet) but with Gamboa missing his prime, we lost out on MANY potential great matchups and Gamboa was cheated out of his prime. As far as Crawford, good job, I knew he would rise to the occasion and I look forward to seeing him against some jnr. welterweights, as we now know he can gain the weight, and there's competition there that he deserves. Overall it was a pretty good card by HBO. B+. – David D.

I hear what you’re saying about Gamboa, David, but I think the Cuban had more than a small role in his predicament going into the Crawford fight. He had a prime opportunity against Brandon Rios (who was struggling like hell to make lightweight) back in April 2012 and he pulled out of that fight due to issues with his co-promoter (Ahmet Oner) at the time. Gamby wanted more money, which is his right to ask for, but the bottom line is that he stood to make close to seven figures vs. Rios and that was a winnable fight. Had he beat “Bam Bam,” HBO was ready to get behind him as hard as they are pushing GGG right now. Gamby would have been able to write his own ticket.

However, he let certain people (The Money Team) get in his head and he made a few decisions that wound up seriously stalling his career. He signed with an inexperienced promoter (50 Cent) after leaving HBO and Top Rank (and Rios) with their dicks in their hands in early 2012. If you ask me, Gamby’s lucky that Top Rank and HBO were willing to do business with him at all after that debacle.

I’m not saying that the Olympic gold medalist hasn’t been dealt a bad hand or two.

He was ready to fight – and probably beat JuanMa Lopez – back when both featherweights were undefeated (and when the Puerto Rican lefty had a pretty strong fan following), but Bob wanted that matchup to, ahem, “marinate” (and he told media and fans that demanded it to “go f__k themselves”). That was raw deal for Gamby. I’ll give you that. However, it was his decision to jump to lightweight, it was his decision to pull out of the Rios fight, it was his decision to sign with 50 (which led to his inactivity) and, ultimately, it was his decision to fight Crawford.  

He gave it his best shot last Saturday and he fell short. No shame there. He should get back on the saddle as soon as possible, and get on with his career. He’s got no time for regrets or for anyone’s pity.

 

CRAWFORD-GAMBOA, FOREMAN’S SECOND CAREER

Hi Dougie,

Firstly, let me congratulate you on an excellent job with the Monday and Friday mailbags. Although this is my first time to send you an e-mail, I've been following your work for a few years now and I enjoy the reading discussions on-line.

I have two questions. Firstly, although I was never impressed with Gamboa myself, I'm not sure if Crawford was so dominant because of the Cuban's amateurish style, or if it simply had to do with the natural problems of facing a taller opponent – I can't help but think of how Antonio Tarver, Thomas Hearns and the late Vernon Forrest troubled Roy Jones, Ray Leonard and Shane Mosley, respectively.

Secondly, lately I've been watching a lot of George Foreman clips from the 1990s and I've come to really appreciate his unnatural strength, durability and underrated defense. How do you think the 40-something Big George would have done in the ff. hypothetical match-ups?

1. Foreman vs. Tyson (1991)

2. Foreman vs. Tyson (1996)

3. Foreman vs. Holyfield II (1993)

4. Foreman vs. Bowe (1994-95)

5. Foreman vs. Lewis (1994-95)

By the way, none of these are "mythical" in the normal sense. Any one of them could have happened in real life. Cheers. – Ray

True that, Ray. I was a big Foreman fan during his comeback and march to his first title shot (vs. Holyfield in 1991) and I really wanted that Tyson showdown to happen. I watched a lot of Big George’s fights during his prime (vs. Frazier, Norton, Lyle, Young, and of course, Ali) and I thought the 40-something version of Foreman was technically better and stronger mentally and stamina-wise than the younger version. I didn’t want to see him fight Bowe or Lewis because I thought their size might enable them to seriously hurt him but I always liked his chances vs. the smaller (and mentally fragile) Tyson.

1. Foreman vs. Tyson (1991) – Foreman sucks it up during the punishing early rounds and puts it on a gassed and bewildered Tyson to win a close but clear decision.

2. Foreman vs. Tyson (1996) – Foreman by early to mid-rounds TKO (it’s the Frazier bouts all over again).

3. Foreman vs. Holyfield II (1993) – Holyfield via majority decision in a closer and even more entertaining fight.

4. Foreman vs. Bowe (1994-95) – Bowe by decision or late TKO (Big Daddy’s sick inside game and Eddie Futch are the difference in a competitive fight).

5. Foreman vs. Lewis (1994-95) – Lewis by decision.

Crawford’s height might have troubled Gamboa a little, but I think his versatile style and his heavier weight is what did the Cuban in. Gamboa obliterated Al Seeger and Jorge Solis, who are the same height as Crawford. The difference is that they are natural featherweights, as Gamby is.

Bottom line for me is that despite that extensive amateur background, Gamboa was not a complete enough boxer as a professional to deal with a natural lightweight as smart, composed and multi-dimensional as Crawford.

Thanks for the kind words about the mailbag and thanks for finally sharing your thoughts with me and the mailbag community.

 

LIGHTNING ROD

Hey Dougie,

First time writer, long time follower from the maxboxing days. Man, you're the proverbial synonym of consistency and durability when it comes down to your mailbag. Good for you – even better for us.

Let's talk some business:

Just saw the announcement of the Danny Garcia fight in August. Dougie – excuse my language – but, what the f__k is going on here??? What were these matchmakers and managers smoking when they put this card together?

Rod Salka – "Lightning Rod"? 19-3-0 with 3 KOs (losses all by KO) – WTF?

Let's break this down a bit. Danny Garcia, the so-called recognized light welter champion of the world, is fighting a guy who is campaigning in the lightweight division, has 3 knockouts on his resume and his opponents have a combined record of 241-146-16. "Lightning Rod" hasn't even fought one single 12 rounder! This isn't funny – Dougie, this is dangerous! The guy has nothing to do in that ring with Garcia. Period.

Garcia is in his prime, he has come from a loss (PuertoRicanified win) against Mauricio Herrera – he should fight the best out there and not waste his and our time with "Lightning Rod". Come on, man! Garcia and his dad always talk a lot – but they completely lost my respect on this one. Besides not giving Herrera an immediate rematch to clear things up. If you want to be a champ – you clear things up and not fight a guy who hasn't fought one single 12 rounder!

I mean he has Lamont Peterson fighting on the same card – why not fight him (by the way – Peterson isn't any better in fighting a guy called E. Santana)? The welterweight division and its neighbouring divisions are the hottest in the whole boxing world right now. At this stage in Garcia’s career he has to take advantage of that. Big fights, big money and go away with your senses intact. That's the name of the game. Besides – who will be watching this crap? I know that I won't bother even reading one article about the whole scrap. And I really hope that the card gets boycotted as it's just bad for our beloved sport. Cheers. – Sven, Italy

I agree that the Garcia-Salka and Peterson-Santana fights are total mismatches and that, for the most part, Showtime’s Aug. 9 offering is crap (although I am sort of looking forward to the Daniel Jacobs-Jarrod Fletcher fight).

I also agree that the Garcias have earned some scorn from the fans due to their attitudes following the Herrera fight and the decision to face Salka, and that fans should skip watching the Aug. 9 show if they truly feel that the fight is a farce.

However, Garcia hasn’t “completely lost” my respect. I don’t like that he’s not fighting Peterson on Aug. 9, but I get it. The two welterweight standouts aren’t ready to square off yet. I’ve followed the careers of both men to know that neither is a coward or one to avoid a stern challenge, so I’m fairly confident that if both win next month – and both should – we’ll get Garcia-Peterson by the end of the year, or sometime in 2015.

I know Angel Garcia rubs folks the wrong with way his trash talking and the lack of credit he’s given to Herrera (who I thought won eight rounds against his son in March), but I can’t hold it against him too much for finally getting Danny the proverbial “gimme” fight. Garcia has been in pretty tough since taking on Kendall Holt in October 2011. The Holt fight was considered an even matchup, Zab Judah and Erik Morales were thought to be live dogs (at least El Terrible was in their first bout), and Garcia was the underdog vs. Amir Khan and Lucas Matthysse. The first bout with Morales wasn’t easy and the 12-rounds with Judah, Matthysse and Herrera were tough.

I’d much rather see Garcia fight a fringe contender at 147 pounds than defend his junior welterweight crown against a natural lightweight who is unrated at 140 pounds, but I won’t give up on “Swift” yet. (If Garcia makes a habit of going for the easy marks, as Floyd Mayweather began doing nine and half years ago when he fought Henry Bruseles, believe me, I will, but for now I’ll give the 26-year-old Philly native the benefit of the doubt.)

Regarding Salka (who’s never been knocked out, by the way), I don’t consider him a world-class junior welterweight (because he isn’t), but I think the Pittsburgh-area boxer can fight. I thought he soundly outboxed Canelo’s older brother, Ricardo Alvarez (in a 10-round 140-pound bout) in December, and I was impressed with his performance against former Cuban amateur standout Alexei Collado in his last bout.

Hey, thanks for the kinds words about the longevity of this boxing column and thanks for finally sharing your thoughts.

 

Email Fischer at dougie@boxingmailbag.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer

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