Doug Fischer

Dougie’s Monday mailbag

David Itskowitch speaks during a press conference for the Lamont Peterson-Amir Khan fight at the W Hotel on March 15, 2012 in Washington, DC. Photo by Ned Dishman/Getty Images

David Itskowitch speaks during a press conference for the ill-fated Lamont Peterson-Amir Khan rematch at the W Hotel on March 15, 2012 in Washington, DC. Photo by Ned Dishman/Getty Images

ROC NATION, MAYWEATHER-MAIDANA 2

Hey Doug,

I’m a huge fight fan from Syracuse, N.Y. I was wondering what are your thoughts on Jay Z entering the Sweet Science? I believe he will be good for boxing.

Also, the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Marcos Madaina rematch, which I think Floyd will win, nevertheless has me thinking of another No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter who gave a rematch after a closer than expected first fight and it did not turn out well. I’m talking Roy Jones Jr. vs. Antonio Tarver. The rematch was the beginning of the end for Roy. His aura of invincibility was shattered that night. Any chance of history repeating itself on Sept.13? – Michael T.

I don’t think so, Michael, which is not to say that I think Mayweather is “invincible.” I don’t believe any boxer is unbeatable (and that included Mr. Jones back when most of the boxing world lauded him as the GOAT).

I don’t think Maidana can pull a “Tarver” in his rematch with Mayweather for the simple fact that the Argentine slugger isn’t anywhere near the class of the former light heavyweight champ. Tarver, who was one of the best U.S. amateur boxers of the 1990s, is far superior to Maidana in terms of skill, technique, coordination, ring generalship and overall athleticism. Maidana has heavy hands but he lacks the speed, timing and technique to land a “one-hitter-quitter” on Mayweather.

Regarding Roc Nation Sports’ foray into professional boxing, I’ll give you the same answer I gave folks who asked for my thoughts on 50 Cent’s promotional aspirations two years ago: Let’s wait and see. I wanted to see who 50 Cent signed and who he hired to help him conduct the business of his new company before I gave an opinion on his potential impact on the sport (or ranked him above Bob Arum in a list of the top 25 “most powerful people in boxing”).

I’ll say this for Jay-Z and his company, Roc Nation’s venture into the business side of the Sweet Science is starting off on a much better foot than Mr. Curtis Jackson’s – not because they won the purse bid for a “Kid Chocolate” WBO middleweight title defense, but because they hired David Itskowitch to run their boxing operations.

If you’re not familiar with Itskowitch, I can tell you that he is a young veteran of the boxing biz. Itskowitch was Lou DiBella’s assistant in the mid-to-late 1990s when DiBella was still a top executive with HBO Sports and he was Big Lou’s right-hand man when the New York promoter left the network to form DiBella Entertainment in 2000. He served as the COO for Golden Boy Promotions for six years, from 2007 to 2013. Itskowitch is a smart guy who understands the roles of all the players in the sport – the boxers, managers, promoters, network execs, venue execs, sanctioning organizations, etc. – along with the ins and outs of the business.

 

THEATER OF THE UNWANTED

Dougie:

What is your take on Jermain Taylor/Sam Soliman? What I find the most frightening is that Taylor has a chance of winning. I doubt he will, as Soliman’s awkward style will likely confuse the fairly basic Taylor, but if Taylor wins he could be in line for a woeful beating in a future championship/unification fight against a young lion. I think it comes down to how much Soliman has left.

Secondly, how is it Taylor is getting licensed when other fighters who allegedly passed “all the tests” like Joe Mesi couldn’t? What are the criteria to determine which brain-bleed fighters get to continue, and which ones are suspended for life/effectively retired?

Last, since you don’t seem to choose any emails without mythical matchups: Klitchko/Lewis if the lights don’t go out in Ocean’s 11. – MT from the OC

The 2001 version of Wladimir Klitschko was nowhere near the effective version of the heavyweight champ that we see now. The late Emanuel Steward, who trained Lewis at the time (and molded the English heavyweight into the undisputed champ as he would Klitschko years later), needed at least four years (2005-’09) to rebuild Klitschko from the Lamon Brewster TKO loss and to develop him into a complete boxer-puncher.  

However, Klitschko had the height, reach, technique and athleticism to land a power shot to Lewis’ chops, and the power to put Big L to sleep. Lewis was the far more experienced and mature champion, but he was also distracted and less disciplined at the time. (If you recall, Lewis spent more time chillin’ with the Ocean’s Eleven crew in Las Vegas than preparing for his title defense against unheralded Hasim Rahman in South Africa – and we all know what happened in that fight.) So had Klitschko actually challenged Lewis in early 2001 (when that scene was shot), I think the Ukrainian would have clipped the champ early.

You’re not alone in your concern for Taylor. The manner in which he fell apart late against Carl Froch and was knocked cold in his final round against Arthur Abraham is still fresh in the minds of many hardcore fans. The fact that he suffered a knockdown against Caleb Truax in April 2012 and has feasted on two rank journeyman since that unexpected struggle doesn’t make anyone feel any better about his undeserved title shot.

Where was Teddy Atlas’ rant on this title bout being made? So what if the IBF rates Taylor at No. 15 in their middleweight rankings. He hasn’t earned a title shot and it can be argued that he shouldn’t be fighting based on the brain bleed he suffered against Abraham. Where does the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, which Atlas endorses as the only “legitimate” ratings authority, currently rate Taylor? One would think Atlas would have made at least half the noise about Taylor fighting that he made prior to the Garcia-Salka mismatch, but oh, that’s right… ESPN is televising Soliman-Taylor. Never mind.

Anyway, you bring up a good question: How did Taylor get licensed when other fighters who allegedly passed “all the tests” like Joe Mesi couldn’t after suffering brain bleeds?

My only answer, for now, is that not all brain bleeds and neurologists are equal (at least in the eyes of certain boxing commissions). Perhaps the brain bleed that Taylor suffered in his KO loss to Abraham in October 2009 was much smaller than the two subdural hematomas that Mesi suffered during his razor-thin 10-round decision victory against Vassiliy Jirov (who dropped him three times in the final two rounds) in March 2004 in Las Vegas. Maybe the fact that Mesi had two brain bleeds – one on each side of his brain – impacted the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s decision to suspend his boxing license.

Maybe the physicians that examined Mesi and cleared him to fight again, and those the former heavyweight contender enlisted to testify on his behalf when he went before the NSAC to have the suspension lifted a year after the Jirov fight, were not respected by the commission’s medical advisory board or its board of directors (who voted 5-0 to deny him a license). By keeping Mesi’s license under medical suspension, the NSAC basically kept him from fighting in other major U.S. jurisdictions (since commissions are supposed to honor the medical suspensions of other commissions). (And it should be noted that Mesi fought a bunch of journeymen in Puerto Rico, Arkansas, Quebec, Michigan, West Virginia and Rhode Island in 2006 and 2007 before retiring.)

Taylor, who was granted a Nevada boxing license by the NSAC in 2011, was reportedly cleared to fight by the Mayo Clinic and by the Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Veags. Maybe those clinics hold more weight with the NSAC’s medical advisory board than Mesi’s medical specialists. (And maybe Taylor’s advisor, Al Haymon, holds considerable influence with everyone in boxing, including the commissions.)

Or maybe Taylor just got “lucky” because A) his brain bleed occurred overseas and not during a fight in a major U.S. jurisdiction, and B) because he applied for a license in Nevada after the commission amended a rule that previously did not allow boxers to apply for a license there if they had previously suffered a cerebral hemorrhage.

I’m not picking on the NSAC, by the way. I bring them up because you brought up Mesi and they’re the commission that suspended his license. And because they reinstated Taylor’s license, a decision that earned them some criticism from former ringside physician Dr. Margaret Goodman. Since returning to the sport, Taylor has fought in California, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas. He has yet to fight in Nevada since the Abraham fight.

 

HARD UP

Hi Doug,          

I pray you and your family are doing well. Boxing must be really hard up for new stars. Kelly Brook is getting way too much praise for his performance against Shawn Porter. That fight was horrible because of the excessive clinching. They shouldn’t disqualify you for clinching too much but just keep taking points until the offender realizes he needs a knockout to win. Mayweather and Bernard Hopkins are the worst offenders of the clinching tactic since John (Clutch) Ruiz retired.

Chris Algeri gets his ass kicked by Ruslan Provodnikov and gets rewarded with a pay per view that no one in their right mind would purchase based on his latest performance. My conspiracy theory for that fight is that Brandon Rios was totally outclassed by Pac Man so Bob Arum figured that with Provodnikov being an aggressive fighter like Rios and Pac Man’s ex sparring partner he wouldn’t be able to sell the fight. I guess they figure with Algeri’s long lanky physique and stinky style that there would be some intrigue with this fight but he stunk it out to bad against Provodnikov for this fight to sell. That can be the only motivation I can see for awarding that fight to Algeri against a crowd pleaser like Provo.

I like the concept of this new boxing organization that cut the size of the ring in half and make these jokers fight. I have been saying forever the size of the rings are too large and makes it easier for guys not to engage. Didn’t expect Gabriel Rosado to knock Bryan Vera out but it was highly entertaining to watch.

I don’t understand people saying that they don’t want to see Pac Man vs Marquez 5. The first, second and fourth fights were as good as it gets. I’m always down to see rematches of great fights and the fifth fight would be better than Pac Man vs Mayweather at this point because Pac Man would really try hard to avenge his knockout loss and put himself him harm’s way. I pray they make this fight. What we don’t ever want to see again is Hopkins and Roy Jones 3 or Trinidad vs Delahoya 2 or Alvarez vs Lara 2. We don’t need rematches of boring fights. Thanks for the time.  – Blood and Guts from Philly

I can’t argue with your opinion of boring fight rematches. I still haven’t figured out what the hell B-Hop and RJJ did for 12 rounds during their 2010 rematch.

However, I understand where fans who don’t want to see Pacquiao-Marquez V are coming from. They basically feel like “Yo, we been there, they done that, let’s all move on.” Fans want to see new talent and new matchups.

Many of those same fans are willing to give new boxing formats, such as the pit-fighting format offered by BKB Boxing, as long as those new rules produce good scraps.

Although I thought Provodnikov narrowly outpointed Algieri, I disagree with your notion that the unheralded challenger “got his ass kicked” by the Russian pressure fighter. I also disagree with your “conspiracy theory.” Algieri got the shot against Pacquiao because of boxing’s Cold War. It’s as simple as that. It’s the same reason he got the shot at Provo. If GBP, Top Rank, Showtime and HBO hadn’t split the U.S. boxing scene down the middle, Provo would have been looking at potential big-money showdowns with Danny Garcia or Lucas Matthysse instead of a not-so-lucrative defense against Algieri. Same with Pacquiao, who has already gone through most of the welterweight standouts that are not aligned with GBP/Showtime/Haymon.

I also think Algieri has a shot at unseating Pacquiao, but I agree that the Nov. 22 PPV is a very hard sell to both hardcore fans (many of whom are either sour on Chris or bored with Manny) and to casual fans (who have no idea who Algieri is).

KELL (not Kelly) Brook is getting most of his praise from British fans, who are understandably excited about the emergence of a new world-class welterweight and arguably the best England-born 147 pounder since Lloyd Honeyghan. American fans still seem kind of Luke warm on Brook due to the clinching that you brought up and the usual fair-weather fan revisionist bashing of the hyped American (Porter) that he just beat.

 

RING CRUSIERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP

Mr. Fischer,

In the Monday mailbag nobody discussed the cruiserweight fight between Yoan Pablo Hernadez and Firat Arslan, although Hernandez is The Ring Champion and Arslan the number 7 contender. The fight was very close (I had it 115:113 for Arslan). Arslan did what he did in his first fight with Marco Huck (that he should have won also) – bullying the whole fight through. He is a real brave man giving his all while Hernandez was doing – what? Touching Arslan’s arms with dozens of slow soft punches – if you even call it punches.

Hernandez was a feather-handed Champion not even trying to keep the challenger at bay. If you get the chance to watch the fight please tell me what kind of game plan this was supposed to be? He didn’t move – he didn’t fight – he didn’t punch. Poor Arslan brought it all to the table just to get the lesser end again (as in his first fight vs. Huck).

Also disappointing the men in the corners. Fritz Sdunek for Arslan (coached e.g. champions like the K-Bros, Michalczewski and the German bad ass Graciano Rocchigiani) and Ulli Wegener for Hernandez ( coached e.g. Marco Huck, Sven Ottke, Arthur Abraham) are the most accomplished trainers in Germany. Still – in a very close fight (the German TV-commentator had it for Arslan) both were advising their men to take no more risks in the last rounds. Sdunek should have known that the challenger of a Sauerland stable member has to make up for at least two points before the first round even starts. And Wegener with that poor performance of his man? I guess he knew that Hernandez would win no matter what happened in the ring as long as he wasn’t ko’d. Or did the team of the promoter’s man (i.e. Hernandez) have information of the scorecards that the challenger didn’t have?

P.S. Now I hear about Hernandez vs. Afolabi (14 vs. 10 KOs). What are they going to do? Throw pads? – Matthias, Germany

Afolabi is my man but that’s not going to be a good style matchup. The challenger, one of the best Southern California gym fighters of the past 10 years, is a counter puncher. Hernandez is a Cuban southpaw. ‘Nuff said.

I’m surprised that you were surprised that nobody brought up Hernandez-Arslan for last week’s Monday mailbag.

UK fans were over the moon about Brook beating Porter. They were too busy celebrating or scolding American fans and press for discounting Brook to pay attention to a cruiserweight championship between a shifty Cuban lefty and a dude who looks like the bouncer for a gay bondage club.

U.S. fans just don’t give a s__t about cruiserweights (and fights like Hernandez-Arslan aren’t going to change that apathy).

There is a contingent of “Cubaphiles” among hardcore/Twitter Nation fans who probably would sing the praises of Hernandez had the Cuban’s fights against Steve Cunningham and Troy Ross been televised on HBO, Showtime or even ESPN, but since the “Iron Man” fights in Germany and on German networks he’s not going to get the Guillermo Rigondeaux/Erislandy Lara treatment.

Regarding your criticism of the fight (which I only watched bits and pieces of on YouTube), what did you expect? Of course, Hernandez was “touching Arslan’s arms with dozens of slow soft punches.” He’s a former Cuban amateur standout! Apart from Yuriorkis Gamboa, what former Cuban amateur star doesn’t still fight like an amateur and opt for a safety-first approach over a go-for-the-kill ring mentality?

And of course Hernandez wound up hitting Arslan’s arms all night. Arslan is a freaking armadillo. Arms are all he gives opponents as he stalks them like a 200-pound version of Arthur Abraham.

I can’t blame Fritz and Ulli for not urging their fighters to give more during the late stages of the fight. They know what they got in their corners. They know their fighters and their fighters’ limitations. Why pull a Teddy Atlas and yell and lecture and bring up family members and all that dramatic nonsense that we see in movies? They’re both too old for that s__t.

 

ANDY & HUFFS

Hi Dougie,

Just been reading your Friday mailbag so thought I’d write as I wind down for the long weekend over here in the UK and hope I make the cut for Monday.  

I’m not sure what that guy Andy was on when he wrote to you about Kell Brook, Amir Khan and Keith Thurman! But I’m pretty sure it’s the kind of sh_t that Chow from The Hangover feeds on. I think he might have some sort of attention deficit disorder? Maybe Tourettes? Or some sort of anger issues for you to p_ss him of so much with some very inoffensive comments about the aforementioned boxers.

Anyhow, I wondered if some of your pal Andy’s anger and frustration might have been born out of what I like to phrase “Hurry Up and F_cking Fight Syndrome” or HUFFS for short. “What is this?” I hear you cry. Well, it’s the boredom and frustration that us boxing fans get from waiting for certain matchups to happen (or “marinating” as Bob Arum would like to have it called, AKA sorting out politics, money, egos, TV channels, promoters etc, etc) or for certain fighters to step up their class of opposition so we can see how good they really are. 

Take Andy’s best buddy Kell Brook, for example. Us British fans have waited a couple of years now for him to fight for a world title. I’ve been itching for this to happen and waiting and waiting for him to step up to this level to see how good he really is. We all know that Gennady Golovkin is something special, but how good we still don’t know until he gets the chance to fight the likes of Chavez, Froch, Ward, Murray, Cotto, etc. We know that Thurman is a fantastic prospect (I’m sure Andy knows this deep down!) but until he steps up and faces a higher level of opposition in his stacked out division, we wait (im)patiently to find out how good he can be. The same goes for other prospects, touted future world champions or untested beltholders, including Stiverne, Wilder, Fury, Quillin, Quigg, Frampton, Degale, Thurman, Selby – to name but a few. Or the fights we are desperate to see, everyone knows make sense and should happen, but never do (Lewis V Bowe). Or take place way too late in their careers (Lewis V Tyson, Calzaghe V Hopkins/Jones).

We wait months for these fights to come round. Often years. Sometimes it never happens. The time it takes between a fight being confirmed and actually taking place is long. The top fighters/prospects only fight 2 or 3 times a year. Maybe this is where Andy’s frustration came from. Maybe his impatience for fights confirmed months in advance to finally get here is wearing him down. Maybe his Tourettes gets worse just after a British fighter wins a world title. Maybe he is just plain stupid. But let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and put it down to his HUFFS for now, at least until medically it’s proven otherwise.

Take care Dougie and chill the f_ck out, Andy. – CJ, UK (fellow HUFFS sufferer)

Maybe HUFFS is to blame for Andy’s overreaction to a simple and respectful fight opinion, or maybe it was just due to SALBS (Sorry Ass Little Bitch Syndrome, an affliction I’d only seen among Floyd Mayweather fans until Andy’s email for Friday’s mailbag).

Whatever it is, I still say Andy needs to get a grip. The rest of us non-bitch fans just need to be patient.

Porter finally proved to be the real deal (at least against top-rated beltholder with Porter’s style). The other “prospects, touted future world champions or untested beltholders” that you mentioned will also prove to be legit or hype in the next 12-18 months. Stiverne and Wilder should fight each other before the year is out. Fury’s just had a run of bad luck with major fights recently, but time and youth are still on his side, and I’m certain he’ll land a defining fight before summer of 2015. Frampton goes for his first world title in two weeks against former foe Kiko Martinez (who will be a much tougher hombre second time around), and Quigg’s time is coming. If Scotty doesn’t get a shot at the Frampton-Martinez winner, I’m sure he’ll either get a crack at Leo Santa Cruz, who is in need of a worthy challenge, or a shot at RING/WBO/WBA champ Rigondeaux (thanks to the “regular” WBA belt that he holds) by the end of 2015. Whenever Frampton and Quigg are ready to move up to 126 pounds, Selby will be there for them to fight.

Degale is the IBF’s mandatory challenger at super middleweight. Thurman is the WBA’s mandatory challenger at welterweight. If they don’t get shots at the stars who currently hold those belts (Carl Froch and Mayweather), they will soon fight a top contender for the vacant titles (and I have no doubt that both of my Halfrican brothas will rise to the occasion when they finally have the opportunity to prove themselves at the top level).

 

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

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