Boxing: Michael Woods

Pondering a Ward-Golovkin fight

November, 17, 2013
Andre Ward returned from a 14-month layoff Saturday night in Ontario, Calif., showing that he remains a masterful pugilist, one who has a stranglehold on the intricacies of the sweet science.

Ward's jab was a most potent weapon against the overmatched but willing and sturdy-chinned Edwin Rodriguez. And Ward's left hook, although not a concussion inducer, sent note to Rodriguez that he would pay mightily whenever he let his left hand drop away from his cheek.

Ward (27-0, 14 KOs), the super middleweight champ, confirmed what hard-core fight fans already knew -- that there is nobody in his division who has more than a minute's chance to defeat him. So, we wonder, who could challenge Ward?

Some names that have popped up include KO cravers and titlists Sergey Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson, both of whom are slated to fight on Nov. 30, against separate foes. One could surmise they would most likely meet each other in a light heavyweight showdown if both have their hands raised in two weeks.

Bernard Hopkins, the soon-to-be-49-year-old craftsman, could challenge Ward in the boxing knowledge department. But because he's aligned with promoter Golden Boy, which doesn't do work with HBO (the network has aired Ward's bouts), that matchup doesn't seem to be a viable coupling.

On social media, there seems to be a consistent call for middleweight star Gennady Golovkin, someone who can truly lay claim to the over-used nickname "Baby-Faced Assassin," if he chose to employ it, to jump from 160 to 168 to face Ward. With that in mind, I asked Golovkin's trainer, Abel Sanchez, what he thought of Ward's outing against Rodriguez.

"I would give Ward a 9.5 out of 10," said the trainer, who enjoyed Golovkin's last scrap, a TKO win over Curtis Stevens at the MSG Theater on Nov. 2. "He is who he is; he is not going to get any better. He didn't let Rodriguez bully him, and Edwin is limited, so he had no other tactics to try and get Ward. I was happy to see that Ward made more of a fight in some rounds, but he did so because he had a limited opponent in front of him."

So how would Golovkin deal with Ward if they tussled? "Gennady is a fighter with superior power, skills, strength," Sanchez said, adding with a chuckle, "and grappling ability." That crack was a reference to a knock on Ward -- that most of his bouts feature excessive wrestling, better suited to the octagon.

And, I wondered, could fans be treated to a Ward-Golovkin matchup in the near future?

"I hope so," Sanchez said. "Time will tell. Right now, they are both on top, and Andre must believe he is in a superior bargaining position, but not for long. The masses are catching on to GGG!"

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Bracero beats Salita in Brooklyn war

November, 10, 2013
NEW YORK -- Gabriel Bracero's left hook landed early, often and hard on Dmitriy Salita in the main event at the Aviator Complex in Marine Park, Brooklyn, on Saturday night. The judges got it right, bless them, and saw it 97-92, 99-90, 100-89, as Bracero picked up a regional welterweight belt.

Bracero also gets an extra bit of satisfaction, as this was an old-school-style turf war, with Sunset Park (Bracero-Town) gaining bragging rights over Flatbush (Salita-ville).

As solid as his showing was, Bracero's postfight chat with Steve Farhood, for airing on Lou DiBella's "Broadway Boxing" show, made perhaps an even greater impact.

"I changed my life around, and I deserve to have my story out there," said the 32-year-old Bracero, addressing the major-cable network suits, who would be in a position to OK a meaningful bout, maybe even a title shot, versus a big name at 140 or 147 pounds. "I have a story!" His trainer-mentor Tommy Gallagher looked on, beaming with pride.

And Bracero, indeed, has a story to tell. He went to prison for almost six years after getting pinched for attempted murder, getting out in 2009. "I have friends still in prison who are afraid to come out," Bracero said, indicating that many believe they won't be able to navigate a complicated and expensive world. "I'm their hope!"

Salita, age 31, entered at 35-1-1, while Bracero was 22-1. An unofficial decibel poll, by the way, told me that Bracero fans vastly outnumbered Salita fans in the hangar-style arena. Would that affect the contest at all, if and when someone needed a pick-me-up?

Bracero scored the best punch of the first round, a left hook, which buzzed Salita. "Tito!" chants, for Bracero, were heard, and a roar erupted when another stiff left hook landed clean on Salita. A leaping left hook in the third for Bracero had the crowd jazzed. Salita kept dropping his right and getting popped. He picked it up in spots, but his hands were slower all night, and his reflexes weren't as sharp as we've seen, as he got hit with leads many a time.

Bracero scored a knockdown in the eighth, off the left hook. Salita backed up Bracero some in the ninth, but he was cut under his left eye and then had another gash on his hairline by Round 10. We went to the cards and breathed heavily in relief when the judges got it right.

One wonders if we'll see Salita again; the fighter had told me that he would consider exiting the sport if he couldn't beat a Bracero-level boxer. Well, he couldn't. I'm assuming there will be some serious contemplation in Salita's mind in the days ahead.

Junior featherweight Heather Hardy (7-0) heard on the grapevine that foe Laura Gomez (4-4) was no pushover, no easy "W" ripe to be picked. The Gerritsen Beach native, fighting a stone's throw from her old digs -- she now lives in Williamsburg -- pressured Gomez and had the ringside doc stepping in and pulling the plug to save the green loser from excess punishment. The end came at 1:44 of Round 2.

Promoter DiBella, "Combustible Lou" as I refer to him fondly, came to the press table and ranted -- quite rightly, I thought -- about the scorecard that read 76-76 in the Charlie Ota-Mike Ruiz fight. "I don't know the name of the judge that scored that, but I never want her working on one of my shows again!" he said. "That fight could have been stopped." (The judge in question was Robin Taylor, for the record.)

Indeed, Japan-resident Ota is a 154-pounder on the rise. He served notice, with his aggression and discipline, that he is close to a title crack in the near-ish future. He landed hard and clean on Ruiz, a Freeport, N.Y., resident, and you wouldn't have blinked twice if around Round 6 the Ruiz corner had kept their man on his stool. Instead, it went eight, and Ota needed the two cards reading 78-74 and 77-75 to rise to 24-1-1.

After, DiBella said he can see a scenario where Ota gets one more win and then nails down a title crack. Demetrius Andrade, a new 154-pound belt holder, is a name DiBella mentioned for the Ota wish list.

Gennady Golovkin knocked Brooklyn-born Curtis Stevens to the mat with a left hook in Round 2 on Saturday night at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. Most expected the middleweight titleholder to close the show and finish off Stevens, but his opponent didn't cooperate. He hung tough, stayed smart and made it through Round 8.

Stevens landed scoring blows along the way -- more than Golovkin is used to absorbing -- but body shots in the eighth got to him. He was caught on the ropes, trying in vain to cover up, and went back to his stool nearly spent. His corner said "no more," seeking to keep him from being battered in the next round.

Golovkin, who needed to be patient as Stevens fought a tactically smart style, landed 293 of the 794 punches he threw, compared to 97-303 for Stevens, who spent the night trying to catch Golovkin after errant launches.

Perez downs Abdusalamov at MSG

November, 3, 2013

NEW YORK -- Two lefty heavyweights gave the fans at the newly renovated Theater at Madison Square Garden their money's worth Saturday night, with Mike Perez getting the better of Magomed Abdusalamov over 10 rounds. Perez (20-0, 12 KOs) outlanded Abdusalamov 312-248.

Afterward, Abdusalamov (18-1, 18 KOs) said he couldn't make a fist after hurting his left hand in Round 1. The plan for the Russian, according to trainer John David Jackson, was to back his opponent up. But he couldn't do that against the busy Perez, who was born in Cuba, lives in Ireland and trained for Saturday's fight at altitude in Big Bear, Calif. Perez ripped right hooks and did well to nail open body areas.

Perez won by scores of 97-92, 95-94 and 97-92, despite having a point taken for going low in Round 9.

Monaghan opens PPV with win

October, 12, 2013
Seanie Monaghan took another step toward a place many folks didn't think he would get to -- pay-per-view land -- with a win over Anthony Caputo-Smith on Saturday night.

No, he didn't headline the card, which unfolded at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas. But that he opened the pay-per-view portion of the card topped by a Timothy Bradley Jr.-Juan Manuel Marquez welterweight scrap was something of a marvel, considering he was dismissed by many -- and not just snobs, either -- as being a lunch-pail sort who was good for selling seats at local club shows, and that's it. But promoter Bob Arum saw something in the light heavyweight, and Monaghan showed Arum that Top Rank's investment in Seanie is a good one.

The Long Beach, Long Island resident Monaghan (19-0) stopped Caputo-Smith in Round 3, raking him with combos on the ropes. He landed left hooks and nasty rights when Smith was backed up against the ropes. Monaghan sometimes forgets to move his head, but to be honest, that's part of his charm. We can see him, at 32, maybe getting matched with a Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in a year or so. Smith, from Pennsylvania, dropped to 14-2.

Cynics -- and I dare say that is most of the folks who have been covering boxing for any length of time -- took it with two grains of salt when Miguel Cotto and new trainer Freddie Roach both said that they were working on bringing back the "old" Cotto, a left hook-happy hitter who sought and got KOs.

Darned if the trainer and boxer weren't on message, and Cotto, who turns 33 on Oct. 29, on Saturday night looked like a 10-years-younger version of himself who hadn't absorbed back-to-back losses to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Austin Trout.


Who would you most want to see Miguel Cotto face in his next fight?


Discuss (Total votes: 14,095)

Granted, Cotto (38-4) took on just a solid journeyman in Delvin Rodriguez (28-7-3) at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla. But he made Rodriguez look like a C-grade boxer as he imposed his will and skills, and a rib-battering left hook on the Connecticut-based brawler. In Round 3, two left hooks and a right sent Rodriguez to the mat, and the ref didn't even need to count, calling for a TKO.

The Puerto Rican boxer's stock jumped considerably, and social media buzz on whom he might face next percolated quickly. Maybe a jump to 160, from 154, to fight middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, in favorite old stomping ground Madison Square Garden next spring? Maybe a P.R.-versus-Mexico rumble against Canelo Alvarez, who looked worse against Mayweather on Sept. 14 than Cotto did when he met "Money" in May 2012?

So I'll throw the question to you, readers: Whom do you want to see Cotto fight next?
Paulie Malignaggi, Adrien Broner Al Bello/Getty ImagesCould we see a Paulie Malignaggi and Adrien Broner rematch sometime in the future?
Paulie Malignaggi, many smart and studied boxing folks said leading up to his June 22 clash with Adrien Broner, was quite likely to get steamrolled into oblivion at the Barclays Center. Broner -- the younger, stronger, faster fighter -- would be a bridge too far for the Brooklyn-bred Malignaggi, who turns 33 in November. The fight itself would be simply a formality, a torch-wresting exercise, they reasoned.

It didn't play out that way, as is often the case.

Then-welterweight titlist Malignaggi didn't disgrace himself in the least and proved he wasn't in over his head against a man tabbed by some as a leading contender to be the sport's top performer within a few years. One judge, Tom Miller, was taken with Malignaggi's showing, especially his volume edge, and scored the fight for the vet 115-113. He was outvoted by Tom Schreck (117-111) and Glenn Feldman (115-113), who both decided Broner's power edge spoke louder than Paulie's busy work.

In the week after the bout, Team Malignaggi litigated the scrap, making their case that Broner didn't win and in fact was exposed as an overhyped attraction, and pushed for a rematch.

Malignaggi adviser Anthony Catanzaro makes some solid points when he lobbies for a rematch:

It was a success at the gate, with 11,461 fight fans showing up at Barclays Center to take in the card that night, he pointed out. Also, the headline clash drew a peak of 1.3 million viewers during the broadcast on Showtime, he noted. Since Showtime began tracking individual fights in 2009, Broner-Malignaggi is its second highest-rated bout, trailing only Austin Trout's victory over Miguel Cotto in December. This being the boxing business, that the fight did well in that arena looms large. Money and eyeballs were generated, which has to factor into a decision to do it again.

"It was a very entertaining fight that Paulie won, so why not?" Catanzaro said to NYFightBlog.

Barclays and Nets CEO Brett Yormark told me he thought Malignaggi won as well, so Catanzaro has good backup to point to.

I'd be curious to see what Malignaggi could and would do differently in a sequel. From my semi-expert seat, I think he'd have to at least consider factoring in that many, if not most, judges prize power over volume and might have to alter his strategy to attack the body and sub in more head shots. That could open him up to fire and potentially make a more explosive, and less tactical, bout.

What are your thoughts?
Back in July 2010, when the people from the Brooklyn arena that hadn't been built yet, Barclays Center, announced they were getting into boxing, with an exclusive deal with California-based Golden Boy Promotions, it's fair to say the reaction wasn't shock, awe and optimism across the board.

After all, the topic was boxing, that much-maligned throwback sport whose best days were in the rearview mirror of the Camaro. A niche sport, they sniffed, relevant once or twice a year -- and probably for not that much longer, once Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao packed it in.

I confess, I had doubts myself, whether the NYC region would sustain the demand for regular dates at the Barclays Center. At the time, I recall asking Brett Yormark, the CEO of Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets, if the arena would have a micro-arena built, a theater to accommodate 5,000 or so fans, max. The implication of my question was clear: I don't think you can find enough boxing fans to fill up the barn on a regular basis. He assured me then that there would be no mini arena and that the fans would come.

Fast forward to today; I admit my skepticism was misguided. Barclays and Golden Boy has put on four boxing shows, the most recent one taking place on June 22, topped by a Paulie Malignaggi-Adrien Broner welterweight tussle. The attendance for each event has been healthy, and 11,461 people watched Broner take a split decision from the Brooklyn native.

I sat down last week for a chat with Yormark and asked him to reflect on the journey, getting boxing back to being more of focal point, not just a side dish, in the region.

"In some respects I feel vindicated," he said. "We've been able to do exactly what we hoped for, and more, and that's to bring an incredible sport back to Brooklyn, where it has a heritage, and have it flourish. And in less than a year we've been able to do that."

The grumblers, the tear-down artists, were out in force at the start. Boxing debuted on Oct. 20, 2012 at Barclays, and the "I told you so" crowd noted that they saw ticket markdowns and package deals available everywhere in the weeks leading up to opening night. They cited that as proof the endeavor would fail. In fact, audience response has been quite respectable, Yormark said. The first show drew 11,112; the second, on March 9, 2013 drew 12,293; the third, on April 27, drew 13,048. All the main events and select undercard bouts were televised on Showtime.

Critics mumble under their breathe that those figures represent a large dose of "comps," or freebies, to paper the house. Not so, Yormark told me.

"We did not comp," he said. "We're not comping. There are very few comps. The first two fights we discounted probably a little more than we wanted to, but we have not comped. We don't believe in comping here. One of the things we had to learn, we had to learn price it right, and in the last two fights, I think we really priced it right."

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Two middle-aged people, a man and a woman -- they looked like a couple -- strolled by the massive staging and setup at Times Square on the pedestrian island at 46th Street on Monday. The woman asked the man, "What's going on?"

"It's some kind of boxing thing," he answered.

Neither gets points for perceptiveness, as there was no shortage of signage indicating this event was meant to hype the Sept. 14 Las Vegas showdown between Floyd Mayweather Jr. -- the game's pound-for-pound ace, top draw and richest earner in all of sports -- and Canelo Alvarez, a handsome Mexican hitter who debuted at age 15 and inspires some of the same heart flutters in admirers that his promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, did.

[+] EnlargeFloyd Mayweather Jr. and Canelo Alvarez
Mike Stobe/Getty ImagesFloyd Mayweather Jr. and Canelo Alvarez kicked off their 11-city tour Monday in New York.
That this pair of folks paused to consider the hubbub in Times Square was the point. Showtime -- which lured Mayweather in with a 30-month, six-fight, megamillion-dollar deal at the start of the year -- wants to bring more eyeballs to the sweet science. Mission accomplished, it looked like in NYC, in the first stop of an 11-city media tour, as thousands braved the heat and late-arriving boxers, who were busy getting queried by media in a nearby hotel, to check out the spectacle.

Anyone expecting Mayweather to launch into a bad-boy tirade or insult fest at Canelo would have been disappointed, as the 36-year-old hitter played the crowd like a seasoned WWE performer.

He started a call-and-response chant, yelling "Hard work!" and had knowing fans finish his favored adage, "Dedication!"

He drew appreciative cheers -- after starting out with a majority of boos -- when he said, "There's no city like New York City," twice. He then expertly teased those watching by wondering if they might like to see him perform soon at Madison Square Garden.

The 44-0 Mayweather gets critiqued harshly, as is to be expected when you make $30 million a fight and aren't shy about proclaiming your excellence. Some grumble that he's having Alvarez weigh 152 pounds or less for a junior middleweight (154-pound) title fight, and that's not kosher -- not after Mayweather ridiculed Manny Pacquiao for seeking to level the playing field with catchweights. But most seem to understand that he's the game's signature player, and is thus entitled to tailor some elements to suit him when the opportunity presents itself.

The 22-year-old Alvarez didn't look even slightly awed by the majesty of it all. The 42-0-1 hitter didn't flinch in two stare-downs with Mayweather and declared, "This is my time. ... We're gonna win."

D.C. is the next stop for the tour, which will tally a seven-figure bill and is said to be the largest in fight game history, eclipsing the 10-city Mayweather-De La Hoya tub-thumper tour in 2007.

Can Alvarez perform as well as Oscar did in that unanimous decision loss? He has youth and strength on his side, but Mayweather didn't appear to have lost even a half-step in his previous outing, in May against Robert Guerrero.

Readers, could Canelo be the first to defeat Mayweather?

Adrien Broner admits that Floyd Mayweather Jr. is his role model. He regularly calls Mayweather "big bro," asks the pound-for-pound ace for advice and is exceedingly humble (for him) in admitting that Mayweather is boxing's top dog (for now anyway).

But Broner has also told the world that he sees himself as the sport's driver in the near future. To be the man, it makes sense for him to beat the man, right?

A Mayweather-Broner fight has been discussed in barrooms and chat rooms for a couple of years, but the issue becomes more salient now that Broner has leaped from 135 pounds to 147 pounds -- Mayweather territory. But Broner shut down the possibility of a Mayweather clash when asked at a Tuesday media gathering at Gleason's Gym in Dumbo, N.Y., ahead of Saturday's card, topped by a fight between Broner and welterweight titlist and Brooklyn native Paulie Malignaggi.

"My big brother got his legacy, I got mine," Broner said. "I want to see him retire undefeated. I don't want to hand him a loss."

But I do recall Broner having declared he wants to gross a billion dollars when all is said and done. It's a given that a fight with Mayweather would bring him $10 million dollars or so closer to that goal. That doesn't entice him.

"It's not about money," Broner declared. "I ain't hungry, I'm fine."

Both Broner and Mayweather will contradict themselves, a stance they took in days past, and leave fans and naysayers alike puzzling it out, trying to decipher their words and actions.

Danny Jacobs cancer-free, elated

April, 24, 2013
Danny JacobsTom Casino/ShowtimeAfter a recent scare, Danny Jacobs was determined to be cancer-free and ready for Saturday's fight.

Danny Jacobs, the middleweight prospect from Brownsville who will fight Saturday night at Brooklyn's Barclays Center against 36-year-old Keenan Collins (15-7-3, 10 KOs), of York, Pa., felt a lump in his back a few weeks ago and an alarm bell went off. A tumor on his spine nearly killed the 26-year-old Park Slope resident two years ago.

So about a week ago he went to see a doctor, who did tests and came back with the immensely gratifying news: no cancer. The lump arose just from the stress of training, Jacobs (24-1, 21 KOs) told NYFightblog on Tuesday at the Judah Brothers Gym in East New York, during a press event to hype Saturday's Showtime card topped by Danny Garcia-Zab Judah.

"I'm glad I got it checked out; now I can go into the fight with a clean mind," said Jacobs, who has been working hard to get his Get in the Ring Foundation -- which targets cancer, childhood obesity and bullying -- off the ground.

I asked Jacobs, does the possibility of a recurrence stick in your head? "Every day," said the man who was diagnosed in May 2011, with admirable and appreciated candor. "Every day."
Freddie Roach -- who was in the corner of Top Rank prospect Zou Shiming, the two-time gold medalist from China, last Saturday in Macau -- chatted with NYFightblog about the faceoff between Nonito Donaire and Guillermo Rigondeaux, which unfolds Saturday night at Radio City Music Hall.

Roach trained the Cuban-born Rigo for a couple fights in 2010, but that boxer has a tendency to switch support personnel more than most people change toothbrushes.

Who does Roach see getting his hand raised in the showdown between the two super-bantam aces?

"I like both guys," he said. "It's a tossup, 50-50. Whoever lands the most clean punches. ... It'll be a thinking-man's fight, with both countering. I see someone being knocked down, I'm not sure which one. I'm down the middle that one."

Quillin picking Martinez to beat Chavez

September, 14, 2012
Peter Quillin will be watching Saturday's middleweight clash between Sergio Martinez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. carefully. Because the 29-year-old New York City resident could easily find himself facing off against either man in the near future. Quillin has his own mountain to climb, on Oct. 20, when he meets Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam, the WBO interim title-holder, of course, so he is in focus mode on that scrap. He was kind enough to fire me a prediction on the tussle, which unfolds at the Thomas & Mack in Las Vegas and airs on HBO PPV.

"Chavez doesn't seem focused like Sergio," said Quillin (27-0 with 20 KOs). "I'm picking Sergio. I think Sergio will use his legs and I believe Chavez hasn't fought a puncher like Sergio ... but Chavez's weight should help him and may give Sergio problems. That's why this fight is important to boxing."
Paul Malignaggi, the WBA welterweight champion, has begun light training for his Oct. 20 bout at the Barclays Center, presumably against Pablo Cesar Cano.

Malignaggi told NYFightBlog that Cano (25-1-1) hasn't been locked down 100 percent as of today, but he expects that the 22-year-old Mexican fighter will be the man standing across from him on the first fight night at the new Brooklyn arena.

Malignaggi jetted from New York to Los Angeles last week to begin training. "I'm training lightly," he said, "but will pick up the pace soon enough."

He's still saving room for some summer fun. The 31-year-old with a 31-4 record will judge a ring card girl competition in Las Vegas this weekend.

Once Cano has been locked in, Malignaggi will sit down with trainer Eric Brown and start talking about a game plan. He'll fly back to New York three or four weeks before the fight and resume training here so he can help with the promotional push.