Posts Tagged ‘Golden Boy’

By George Ogier

FloydWladSaturday night saw two genuinely modern greats of world boxing step into the ring, continents apart. Floyd Mayweather laced up the gloves for the 44th time as a professional whilst Wladimir Klitschko made his 63rd ring walk in the paid game.

The two men turned pro a little over a month apart after each winning medals at the 1996 Olympics and both have risen to the top of the sport. You could make a strong case that each man would have prospered in any era of boxing such are their gifts and yet people bend over backwards to disparage the achievements of Floyd and Wladimir.

You would struggle to find two more different sportsmen than Floyd Mayweather and Wladimir Klitschko. One is a loud-mouthed braggart with a chequered past and a taste for the overtly flashy. The other is a more thoughtful, reasoned man whose life away from boxing only strays into the public domain as a result of having an actress girlfriend.

However, when it comes to fighting, Floyd and Wlad are matched in their love for the sport and their dominance over those who have tried to topple them from the pinnacle of it. In spite of such imperious careers there is queue a mile long waiting to tell us that Wlad’s an imposter or that Floyd is a runner.

The root of scorn for each man is borne out of a very different set of circumstances. The main point of frustration with Wladimir appears to be that his peers just aren’t very good. It is a perfectly valid point but hardly Klitschko’s fault.

If Wladimir had avoided big names and just coasted to easy title defences then I could understand the anger but the truth isn’t that simple. Wladimir and his brother Vitali are the two best heavyweights on the planet. The only man who might come close is David Haye and Wladimir put such a beating on the Londoner that it left no doubt as to the identity of the world’s best big man.

Klitschko’s next opponent will probably be the unbeaten Russian, Alexander Povetkin in a fight that has been long talked about. Before people rush to suggest that Wlad has been avoiding Povetkin it is worth remembering that the Russian’s camp have shown little appetite for this contest in the past. It took the promise of a huge payday to make the bout a reality.

There is no denying that this a weak era for heavyweights. The two best won’t fight each other – and rightly so – because they are brothers. The challengers are often out of shape or blown up cruiserweights. Let’s be clear though, Wladimir Klitschko would have been a top ten fighter in any era.

Wlad is very good technically and accusations of his being robotic are wide of the mark. He rarely has to deviate from the one-two style that has served him so well but when called upon to do so the Ukrainian has varied his approach. Klitschko is also in great shape and clearly looks after himself between fights. The history of heavyweight boxing is littered with fighters who have taken a relaxed approach to fitness.

Wlad4It is obviously difficult to compare eras but the fighters from golden ages of the past would be dwarfed by “Dr Steelhammer”. As one writer pointed out, Rocky Marciano wouldn’t have been a heavyweight today. Wlad has also fought “fast” guys and few, if any have made it past his ramrod jab.

Wladimir Klitschko’s record has more than its fair share of mediocre fighters but as they say, a boxer can only beat what is put in front of him. Wlad struggled early on at the elite level but he has ironed out those faults and should now be recognised as an all time great of heavyweight boxing. sixty people have lost to Klitschko and only nine of those opponents have seen the final bell. That is greatness in any era.

The anger directed at Floyd Mayweather is of an altogether different nature. The public don’t often respond well to ostentatious displays of wealth, even less so from a man convicted of domestic violence. Once again though, the off-kilter moral compass of some boxing fans renders that argument useless.

The other big shadow hanging over Floyd is that of Manny Pacquiao. It is hard to escape the feeling that Mayweather avoided the Filipino great when Manny was at his peak. The window of opportunity for that fight has now gone with it being announced that Pacquiao is to fight Brandon Rios later this year.

Pacquiao aside, Floyd Mayweather has achieved some special things in boxing. World titles in five different weight classes is no mean feat. Especially when you consider that Floyd has gone from super featherweight all the way up to light middleweight.

Mayweather has fought many greats of modern boxing, Corrales, Castillo, Hatton, De La Hoya, Mosley and Cotto. There are other names on Floyd’s record not mentioned there who will also end up in the hall of fame yet plenty behave as though Mayweather has spent a life ducking tough opponents.

In recent times there have been people queueing up to claim that Mayweather’s next opponent would be the one to break the spell. De La Hoya would be too big, Hatton would be too rough, Cotto too powerful. In the end they all went the same way.

FM1Even Floyd’s most recent conquered foe, Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero said he’d have too much for Mayweather to handle. It is one thing to talk a big game but nobody has managed to live up to their pre fight promises against Floyd Mayweather.

One of Robert Guerrero’s main bugbears ahead of the fight appeared to be Floyd’s entourage. Guerrero referred to them as mere cheerleaders, there to chant Mayweather’s mantra of “Hard work. Dedication”. Guerrero misses the point. That chant is not just something repeated offhand. Few people in boxing train harder than Floyd. There’s a reason he makes great fighters look silly and it isn’t simply natural talent.

I understand the nature of people’s attitudes towards Floyd Mayweather. He can be unpleasant at times and the talk of wealth grates a little after a while. Nevertheless, I’m of the opinion that Mayweather is one of the greatest fighters to ever set foot in a ring. You might not like the man but he has done more than enough to earn your respect.

Boxing is one of the few sports where those involved have their achievements measured by those they beat rather than the achievements themselves. In a sport where the best don’t always fight the best that is a fair judgement. However, fans should avoid letting that taint their perspective of two strikingly different but equally remarkable athletes. Floyd and Wladimir won’t be around forever, I suggest we make the most of them while they are.

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As the ramifications of Amir Khan’s loss to Danny Garcia are still to be fully understood, have we credited Khan with too much ability since the Olympic star has turned pro?

By George Ogier

When Thierry Henry left Arsenal for Barcelona in 2007 many of the club’s fans hoped that Theo Walcott would blossom into a like for like replacement for the Frenchman. Walcott was bestowed with Henry’s no. 14 shirt and it was generally accepted that we were looking at a future superstar of English football.

Five years on and Theo Walcott is indeed a mainstay of the Arsenal side and a regular for his country. However, there is an inescapable feeling that the former Southampton academy star hasn’t lived up to expectations. Perhaps those expectations were too great and Walcott just isn’t good enough to meet them.

In 2010 Chris Waddle claimed that Walcott “has no football brain”. Waddle expanded on his point by saying “I just don’t know if he studies the game, learns the game, or what. He’s at a great club where they play fantastic football week-in, week-out and I’m just surprised he’s never developed his game”.

Whilst it is undoubtedly true that Walcott has improved over the last two years I think Chris Waddle had a valid argument. What is interesting though is that it’s possible to take Waddle’s statement and substitute football for boxing. It could then be applied to another young star of British sport making just as much sense. Step forward, Amir Khan.

In the same way that Theo Walcott was expecting to eventually replace Thierry Henry at Arsenal, Amir Khan was destined to be great. His career has overlapped slightly that of Ricky Hatton, the most popular British fighter for years. Many around the sport expected Khan, after his Olympic success to replace Hatton in the hearts of British boxing fans.

As plausible an idea as it might have been originally, it just never happened. Strangely, Khan and Hatton share some of the traits that made Ricky so popular. Khan, like Hatton never takes a backward step, he also appears to be willing to fight anyone. However, that is where the similarities end.

Ricky Hatton was an incredibly accomplished boxer underneath the “ready for war” exterior. As time progresses I am not entirely sure that the same can be said of Khan. When the Bolton fighter was knocked out by Breidis Prescott it led to huge changes in the Khan camp. Many were of the opinion that a knockout like that can happen to anyone.

As Khan rebuilt his career we were treated to the spectacle of his epic contest with Marcos Maidana. Amir appeared to have put the ghost of Prescott to bed in proving that he could take a shot. Nonetheless, lessons needing learning after that fight and they were there for all to see.

The issue of performing enhancing drugs aside, Khan’s showing against Lamont Peterson in December was again full of holes as he suffered his first loss at light welterweight. Once again Amir got pulled into a brawl when he would have been better boxing at range and moving.

Questions have been asked about Amir Khan’s relationship with his trainer, Freddie Roach in the aftermath of Saturday’s Garcia fight. While there can be little doubt that Manny Pacquiao is the main focus of Roach’s attention in the Wildcard gym I think it is unfair to blame Khan’s performances on Roach.

When the ill-fated Khan v. Peterson rematch was still alive Sky’s Johnny Nelson went to interview Freddie Roach who was keen to outline his plans for Khan, “I want him [Khan] to fight more flat-footed. When he’s flat-footed and not bouncing everywhere he sees exactly what’s happening…..when he’s bouncing there’s too much activity to see what the other guy’s doing”.

Roach clearly had a system in place to iron out the deficiencies in Khan’s defence. Indeed, ahead of the Danny Garcia fight Roach made it very clear that he wanted Amir to throw punches in no more than 2s or 3s and then move out of the pocket. It was a strategy designed in part to nullify Garcia’s counters but also to ensure Khan wasn’t hanging around to get hit.

it could have been so different

Amir began Saturday’s fight boxing to plan but perhaps buoyed by the sight of a cut over Garcia’s right eye he began to revert to type. Khan remained in the pocket for too long and began throwing combinations of four and five shots rather than two and three as instructed.

At this point everyone knows how the fight ended but surprisingly the majority of people I have spoken to seem to regard the result as a huge upset. Danny Garcia is an unbeaten world title holder who before Saturday had knocked out fourteen of twenty-three opponents. I thought it was a real pick ’em affair that I expected Khan to perhaps shade. It’s certainly no Mike Tyson-Buster Douglas.

After the Peterson fight I lamented the fact that Khan kept getting dragged into unnecessary wars. Surely a boxer with Amir’s amateur pedigree could learn to box smart and work to his strengths. I have now reached a point where I am not sure that is a viable option.

Freddie Roach put into place a plan to help Amir Khan beat Danny Garcia. After two rounds of success Khan seemed to give the impression of a man who knew better and began to fight the way he has always fought.

Nobody can question the heart of Amir Khan. He rebuilt his career after the Prescott loss. Amir then toughed it out in the ferocious battle with Maidana. Unfortunately both moments of adversity were as a direct result of Khan’s own actions. The same applies to the problems Amir faced in the Peterson fight and again on Saturday against Danny Garcia.

Amir Khan will always be an exciting boxer to watch. His unpredictability means that fans approach his bouts with a real sense of the unknown. Trainers cannot teach their fighters to have courage but bravery is not enough. A refusal to adapt and learn from mistakes will ultimately cost a boxer dearly.

Khan has said that he will be assessing his relationship with Freddie Roach as he plans for the future. Clearly upset with playing second fiddle to Manny Pacquiao, Kahn might seek to change trainers. Many fans and journalists alike have said that this might be for the best. I would suggest that Amir Khan might should look a little closer to home when searching for the root of his problems in the ring.

By George Ogier

Victor Ortiz ices his broken jaw.

The career progression of a talented young boxer is a tricky path to navigate. The danger of over-matching a promising prospect is at the forefront of any promoter’s mind. Conversely, if a fighter is given a string of easy opponents there is a risk of inflated egos and poorly honed ring craft.

This unfortunate situation was played out in front of a Staples Centre crowd two weeks ago when “Vicious” Victor Ortiz lost to Josesito Lopez. Ortiz failed to come out for the tenth round after suffering a broken jaw.

Victor Ortiz has been criticised and empathised with in equal measures but the answer to one question was in high demand. Had Golden Boy Promotions (GBP), Victor’s managers created a scenario whereby their fighter was under-prepared?

At one point Ortiz was very much GBP’s “next big thing”. When Victor quit against Marcos Maidana in 2009 people began to suspect his mental toughness. This continued after a bizarre stoppage and post match interview in the fight with Floyd Mayweather.

There was a suspicion that in hyping Ortiz to the rafters and then matching him against easy opponents GBP had not prepared their fighter properly. Ortiz just wasn’t ready to deal with the pressure of being in trouble during a big fight. It is important for a boxer’s career progression that their opponents improve fight after fight and Victor Ortiz had never been tested in this way.

As Sheffield’s Kell Brook prepares for his next bout this Saturday it is very easy to draw parallels between his rise and that of Ortiz. In those comparisons it is a logical step to then wonder if Brook’s promoter Eddie Hearn is unwittingly setting his man up for a similar fall.

Kell Brook has been lauded by many as the one of the finest British boxers of his generation. Sky Sports have continually trumpeted the idea that Brook is destined to be a world champion. Commentator Nick Halling has even gone as far as to label Brook “world class”.

The is no doubt whatsoever that Kell Brook is a talented boxer. However, he has yet to be tested by anyone at the elite level of world welterweights. The biggest name on Brook’s record so far is Matthew Hatton, a durable European level fighter at best.

Firstly, under the management of Frank Warren and now with Hearn, Brook has been inactive and under-matched at almost every turn. There is a chance that Kell could challenge for a world title but at this point he woefully prepared to do so.

Brook and Jones.

Brook’s latest opponent, Carson Jones is a case in both points. Jones is almost four months younger than Kell Brook but comparing their career statistics you would never know. Jones has fought forty-six times to Brook’s twenty-seven. Jones has also boxed nearly twice as many rounds as Kell, 237 to 120. It is worth noting too that Carson Jones made his professional debut one month after Brook.

Some observers think this fight will be a real test of Kell Brook’s abilities but I am not entirely convinced by this claim. Eddie Hearn has been quick to inform the press and fans alike that Jones is an elite fighter. The American is ranked no. 3 in the world by the IBF but that is where his international recognition begins and ends.

Not ranked in the top 10 by any other sanctioning body, Jones has an even poorer record in terms of opponents than Brook. The man from Oklahoma appears to be durable enough and would seem to have a reasonable punch with twenty-four stoppages. There is however an inescapable feeling that we will learn very little about Brook from this contest.

Unfortunately for Kell, he exists in the insular bubble that is British boxing. The scene in the UK is thriving enough that our own fighters rarely feel the need to test themselves abroad. The media in the UK are too quick to proclaim British boxers as “world level” operators without ever having proof.

This parochial attitude from British promoters means that fighters from these shores often have virtually no profile outside Great Britain. Eventually this will prove problematic for Kell Brook. The current welterweight champions will be aware of the Sheffield fighter but he is an unknown quantity at this stage.

The upshot of this mystery surrounding Brook means he is unlikely to get a title shot any time soon. No champion will want to fight Kell as the situation stands. He is too good to be considered as an opponent in a “ticking over” contest. The other side of this coin means that Brook is not enough of a “name” to warrant a PPV show on a big network like HBO. This creates little financial incentive to box him.

Until Kell Brook fights a genuine world title contender he is very much a member of the “who needs him?” club. He is too talented for a champion to take a risk on but he is yet to beat anyone of the quality that demands he gets a title shot. Brook is at the stage of his career where he needs to be noticed. He needs to bang on the collective doors of world title holders. Thanks to Eddie Hearn, Brook hasn’t even pulled into the driveway yet.