(July 24th) Saturday night, July 15th, Mastic/Shirley New York former WBC International Light Heavyweight Champion Joe Smith Jr. boldly faced once beaten Sullivan Barrera on HBO’s Boxing After Dark. Amongst all the criticism after the bout it was diagnosed for the second time in his young career with a broken jaw.
With Shenandoah National Park Ranger Roy Cleveland Sullivan holds the Guinness Book of Records for being hit by lightning seven times in boxing the idiom “Lightning Never Strikes Twice” took another hit. The second “lightning strike” came Saturday night July 15th at the Forum, Inglewood, California, when after flooring challenger Sullivan Barrera in round one the 27-year-old power punching Smith Jr. trained and managed by the “Fighting” Capobianco’s was forced to battle on with was later diagnosed as a fractured jaw. First detected at UCLA Medical Center on the west coast, Smith returning home would have his jaw wired at Stony Brook University Hospital near his home. This would be the second time the valiant warrior Smith battled under such conditions.
While broken jaws are uncommon, nothing new to boxing. You can go back to English bare-knuckle champion Tom Cribb’s breaking of former US slave and American’s real first world champion Tom Molineaux’s jaw in their savage contest back in 1811 through Muhammad Ali’s 1973 highly glorified broken jaw battle with Ken Norton and one thing is certain facing such an adversity is not just a sign of courage but gives us a snapshot into the mindset of the fighter and his team.
As many of the Monday morning quarterbacks have criticized Smith Jr.’s corner for not stopping the fight, I see it much differently. Let’s look at some of the facts. Smith a distinguished amateur beginning with numerous, junior, novice and open titles going on to win two New York Golden Glove titles turned pro in 2009. Winning his first six bouts all coming by KO Smith would face his first real adversity amateur or pro August 7th, 2010 in just his seventh pro fight facing Lawrence, Massachusetts, Eddie “Thunder” Caminero, the new pro battled four rounds with was post-fight diagnosed as multiple jaw fractures.
Returning to action eleven months later, winning his next fifteen, eleven of those victories coming inside the distance against an increasing level of competition including Otis Griffin, Michael Gbenga, Cory Cummings and Will Rosinsky. The old school fighting Irishman would go onto make the most of of his biggest opportunity June 18th, 2016 stopping former WNC Light Heavyweight challenger Andrzej Fonfara in one round.
Readily excepting his next challenge, four months later Smith would again make the most of an opportunity launching Philadelphia boxing methuselah and future Hall of Hamer Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins out of the ring and into retirement in eight rounds. Smith labeled the “Common Man” by Hopkins before their bout, Smith continuing his fight anyone, anywhere attitude unhesitatingly excepted the fight to face once beaten Barrera.
Putting aside the rumors of a bruised jaw in his last sparring session prior to the fight, when you consider that at no time did the young talent ask for or show any open display of wanting the fight stopped.
A throwback fighter in search a world title, Smith understanding his position going into the fight made a personal choice to continue. In fact, after the contest the young “Irishman” immediately went onto praise his team for their judgement and support.
To understand this further if you have to consider the fact the heavy-handed Irishman always armed with a one punch solution thoroughly understood his chances and possible consequences having been in this position before. Whether it was potential for further injury or more important to him the fact that the fight being stopped at this juncture of his career with the potential of a meeting for the winner to face former WBC World Champion Sergey Kovalev in November on the line a stoppage loss would severely handicap the young boxer/puncher in his world championship bid.
Now having the advantage of hindsight and no further damage having been done and Smith now recovering from the second surgical procedure on his jaw I think it should be perfectly clear to any and all Team Smith doubters fully knowing the consequences and odds the choice they made to fight on was the right one. After all, in today’s hide and seek, protect the zero-boxing mentality who knows when the next opportunity, if any would come. To me Smith and his team not only made the right decision but in my mind made a choice consistent with his let’s fight mentality.
Knowing Smith since he was a young teen and having witnessed his steady progression as a fighter, specifically his skills as a boxer since coming under the tutelage of a pair former fighters Phil and Gerry Capobianco. To me it is clear to see the confidence and self-assurance Smith has not only in his punch but the years of boxing awareness and expertise they bring both in and out of the ring. It is that along with a genuine and almost parental care about their charge that I think allows Smith the fighter to clearly look forward and stay focused on the task at hand.
Now 23-2, 19Ko’s the hard working, union backed 27-year-old boxer / laborer, after commending his opponent Barrera for his performance has not shown any sign of regret and remains entirely focused on his recovery and his return to his quest for a world title.
What might that quest entail? Promoted by Joe Deguardia’s Star Boxing, Smith with a five month return prognosis, medically cleared, could return with a potential take the rust off comeback fight around December or early 2018, potentially setting up a financially rewarding long talked about fight against former amateur rival and sparring partner Seanie Monaghan.
Ironically or in the stars Monaghan suffered his first defeat the same night July 15th, to Staten Island 2012 Olympian “Sir” Marcus Browne. That quick plan being just one of many options alone justifies Smith’s desire to continue to battle Saturday night, after all he is the one facing the punches. The Monaghan loss most likely calling for a step back return fight of his own sync’s up two very popular Irishman on a collision course perfectly timed for St Paddy’s Day at Long Island’s newly renovated Nassau Coliseum.
One thing is for sure, Smith no stranger to adversity again proved he is NO ordinary Joe. Admitting after fight that there were moments he contemplated giving in to the increasing pain, quickly cited his corners positive input reinforced and re-energized his desire to continue. It is with that in mind if you consider Smiths current position you could easily draw parallels to the great Irish light heavyweight and future heavyweight champion Gene “The Fighting Marine” Tunney.
I’m not making a comparison of skills, talent or power but of a situation similar to the position Smith found himself against Barrera. On May 23rd, 1922, Tunney in his first and only defeat after having had his nose severely smashed, both eyebrows cut and bleeding from the nose and mouth early in his Light Heavyweight Title challenge of reigning champion Harry Greb, “The Fighting Marine” once verbalized his choice to continue stating: that during that fight he rationalized to himself that if Greb couldn’t finish him off, he would be the better man.
Again, not to make a direct comparison of Smith to Tunney but it is with that same mindset that Tunney would turn that mental victory into a Hall of Fame career going on to face the future Hall of Famer, Greb four more times without a loss, later claiming the World Heavyweight title scoring a ten round unanimous decision over one of the sports most popular champions Jack Dempsey.
Tunney was 25 for the first Greb fight. So, before we jump to conclusions when it comes to Smith, as true boxing fan, I just ask that at this stage of Smith’s promising young career we all just take a deep breath, sit back and watch to see what is this old school tradesman’s next move brings.
By: Coach K Last night May 27th, at the Bramall Lane Football Ground, in Sheffield, Yorkshire, UK, Desoto, Texas, 2012, US Olympian, Errol “The Truth” Spence Jr. claimed the IBF World Welterweight title with a hard fought eleventh round knockout of Sheffield’s, Kell “Special K” Brook.
Brook showing the spirit of a true world champion returning from his only defeat, a two-division trip up to challenge 160lb monster Gennady “GGG” Golovkin chose to battle the weight obstacle and return to the 147lb division and defend his IBF title.
It would be after travelling nearly 7,500 miles the 27-year-old, unbeaten southpaw, Spence well deserving of the challenge would quietly but emphatically begin to stake his claim.
In the beginning the soft spoken, but hard hitting, quietly confident Spence persevered early on taking all the champion had to offer. Fighting tough he would continually make subtle but telling adjustments until almost on key when prodded by his corner in round nine he would begin to stalk the champion drawing on the fruits of a relentless body attack and pinpoint combination punching breaking down and tearing up the UK’s “Special One” wearing him down and closing his non-surgical left eye, putting the champion on a knee with a barrage of punches in round ten. Showing the killer instinct to match his skills, Spence continued his up and down two-handed assault and again putting the champion on a knee in round eleven, this time for a referee Howard John Foster full count.
While the 31-year-old, Brook suffering just his second defeat slips to 36-2, 25Ko’s, the world caliber title win moves Spence Jr. to 22-0, 19Ko’s. But more importantly it may have also done boxing a major service. What is that you might say! Well it can finally call out and put an end the much-ballyhooed future circus event between self-proclaimed “Best Ever” Floyd Mayweather and UFC’s, Conor McGregor.
See, after the fight the modest newly crowned, first time world champion finally prodded to give an interview called out Clearwater, Florida’s, WBC World Welterweight and WBA Super World Welterweight Champion Keith “One Time” Thurman. It was then I realized here it is, the perfect opportunity for someone to force the outspoken, self-indulging 49-0 Floyd “Money” Mayweather to finally put his money where his mouth is and finally step into a career defining, risk taking fight and face the real “Truth” for the dubious so called #50 record.
Like luck, greatness can be easily defined as the minute accomplishment is finally made when preparation finally meets opportunity. As I see it, for the last two decades the “A” side, my way or the highway, Las Vegas anchored Mayweather has controlled the opportunity. No more perfect example than his record tying #49 fight “opponent” selection of Andre Berto. Not to be a Berto basher but didn’t he already have losses to prior Mayweather division climbing, $$$$ chasing targets Robert Guerrero and non-descript “Vicious” Victor Ortiz. Plus, to set the record straight 49-0 gets its significance in the heavyweight division. The division where even the most casual fan knows it can all end on a single punch. The fact is outside boxing’s most famed division 49-0 has been surpassed several times.
There is Jimmy Wilde going 93-0-1 to start a career that went 132-3-1. Packey McFarland at 70-0-5, Ricardo López 51-0-1 making 21 title defenses, Willie Pep 62-0 finally losing to future Hall of Famer Sammy Angott and Mexican great Julio Cesar Chavez winning his first 87. Oh, and let’s not forget
Carlos Zarate who at 52-0, 51Ko’s like those just mentioned did not even go into a “first” retirement faced unbeaten future Hall of Famer Wilfredo “Bazooka” Gomez for his first defeat in fight #53.
See the handwriting is on the wall. Spence with his win over Brook, just another one of the names on Floyd’s most avoided list could easily put an end to the possible Mayweather/ McGregor, money / phony record grabbing circus event.
Before you attack me. I’m just the messenger. It wasn’t me who said he was better than Muhammad Ali, or would school unbeaten Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. It wasn’t me who just a week ago before the Gervonta Davis / Liam Walsh fight while Shawn Porter, unbeaten champions Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia, remain out there in WWE fashion called out the Walsh brothers to fight on one night. It was Floyd “Motor Mouth” Mayweather.
So here is one of those potential career defining moments and Mayweather once again has the “opportunity” to finally challenge himself with a true risk-taking test and put aside the McGregor pro-boxing debut, three ring spectacle and face “The Truth”. It would be a resolute challenge, win, lose or draw. One that might even ingratiate even the most soured Mayweather, “Naysayer”. It’s time to put up or shut up!
Today’s Boxing and “The Sweet Science!
By: Coach K – BillyCBoxing.com
Over the very recent months whether in the gym, in the Billy C chatroom or at the fights I have found myself in more and more conversations about boxing as the “sweet science.”
The dialogue usually begins with each participant giving their individual definition of what they see as the “sweet science.” The discussion most times quickly turns to the individuals vocalizing their favorite model. It didn’t take long to realize that most of the new, millennial boxing fans describe the “sweet science” as the best defensive fighter and most offering Floyd Mayweather Jr. as their example. While I firmly believe in the freedom of speech and the right of everyone to have an opinion, I also believe in the old adage, you know the one, about everyone having one and that includes myself.
So, in this case, I think it’s important for the crux of the conversation regarding boxing as the “sweet science” have its roots soundly grounded in some fact, rather than fan fair. Therefore, for the sake of this article and future “sweet science” debates I hope you would do just that and take into consideration the fact that defense is only one part of boxing, particularly when it comes to the sports scoring system.
As the rules apply it’s simple, punches landed is the number one factor in scoring with effective aggressiveness second and ring generalship in an if needed comes in third place.
Continuing on this line, you must face the fact that no matter how crafty or slick a fighter may be, no fight has ever been won on a slipped punch. Even when those “highly skilled defenseman” bob and weave, rock and roll, run, duck, back pedal, their way through a bout, they must land a punch to score, plainly rendering offense the other major ingredient in the synthesis of a fighter’s style and their version of the “sweet science.” I would suggest that it is the unique blend of a boxer’s offensive AND defensive attributes that should be studied when evaluating his or her representation of the “sweet science.”
For example, while Hall of Fame puncher-brawler Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini may well represent a great offensive fighter, but with no disrespect intended but he is leaps and bounds away from a defensive wizard and falls well short of a solid example of the “Sweet Science”.
On the other side of the coin, we have today’s TMZ fan favorite and self-proclaimed “Best Ever” Floyd Mayweather Jr. While he may be classified as a may defensive genius, it is his minimal risk, at times passive offense and boring style that leaves him without a career defining fight and well short of what “I” would describe as the “sweet science.” How much money you make doesn’t play here.
In an attempt, not to give away my age or bring up unfamiliar names in talks with today’s young or new fans, when it comes to naming my model of the “sweet science” I usually skip some of my favorites like Benny Leonard, Ray Robinson, Barney Ross and the well-balanced Gene Tunney and go to a name more current and likely to be readily recognized and whole heartedly advocate two division world champion Vasyl “High Tech” Lomachenko. The most constructive way to tell you why is just to tell you a little about him.
Vasyl Lomachenko is professional boxer born February 17th, 1988, in Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, Ukraine. His father a former amateur fighter and his mother a gymnast and trainer it was shortly after coming home from the hospital that Vasyl would don his first pair of boxing gloves and barely four short years later he would commence his formal boxing training under the close tutelage of his father Anatoly.
Demonstrating a deep aptitude for the sport at an early age, Vasyl was pulled out boxing by his trainer / father around age nine and placed in dance school. While training in dance and playing ice hockey, two sports requiring extreme footwork, very focused even as a youth Lomachenko developed a stronger, faster and more powerful level of balance, flexibility and agility along with a true sense of creativity. Returning to boxing Vasyl would develop many unique training regiments parlaying those gains into increased endurance, speed, timing, accuracy and dramatic lateral foot movement, combining it all with an ice hockey styled aggressive edge resuming his assault on the Ukrainian National Boxing Team and the 2008 Olympics at age thirteen. Vasyl has claimed numerous times that if his father had not been a boxing coach he probably would have chosen to play professional ice hockey.
Transitioning those skills to the ring, competing in the featherweight and lightweight divisions the hardworking, entertaining heavy handed pro styled crowd-pleaser quickly turned his superior skills and creativity into a Silver Medal at the 2007 World Championships, consecutive Gold Medals at the 2009 and 2011 World Championships and consecutive Golds at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, becoming one of the most highly rated, if not the top ranked amateur boxer of all time compiling an amateur record of 396-1, avenging his only loss to Albert Selimov, twice.
Leaving the amateurs to enter boxing’s controversial limbo state known as the World Series of Boxing Lomachenko unbeaten fighting as a lightweight in six bouts 2012-13 Lomachenko turning pro July 2013 signing with Bob Arum’s, Top Rank Boxing.
Rather than follow the well-established career buildup trek of several calculated transition fights, the twenty-five-year-old Vasyl would go “Hi Tech” October 12th, 2013, making his pro debut in a 10-round bout claiming the WBO International Featherweight title stopping Mexican veteran Jose Luis Ramirez, 25-3 in four rounds.
It would be in his second pro bout March 1st, 2014 the skilled Ukrainian would stumble dropping a controversial, closely contested WBO Featherweight title challenge split decision to an above the weight, premier rule bender and low blow king, fifty-five fight veteran Orlando “Siri” Salido.
Four months later, June 22nd in just his third official professional bout, Lomachenko would lay claim to vacant World Boxing Organization Featherweight Title pressuring and landing well timed combinations and drilling body shots out pointing Capitol Heights, Maryland’s mobile but less accurate previously unbeaten Gary Russell Jr. Not a small detail when you compare it to Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s winning his first title in his eighteenth bout against Genaro Hernandez who had lost to Oscar de La Hoya eight fights earlier. Why mentioned it? As a comparison to todays protected risk versus reward opponent selection mentality, since it would take the then “Pretty Boy” almost ten years to finally fight the four year older now on the slide “Golden Boy”.
Making his first title defense in just his fourth pro bout Lomachenko dropped Thailand mandatory challenger Suriya Tatakhun (Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo) in round four enroute to a to a resounding 120-107 times three unanimous decision victory.
On May 2nd, 2015, the Ukrainian star made his second successful title defense, out classing Puerto Rico’s Gamalier Rodriguez ripping speedy combinations to the body and head, turning the thirty-fight veteran into heavy power shots, flooring his beaten challenger twice finally forcing referee Robert Byrd to wave it over in round nine.
It would be November 7th, 2015, in bout number six, while making his third title defense against Mexico’s Romulo Koasicha, we would see Lomachenko the dancer. Holding what can only be described as “Hi Tech” target practice, Lomachenko landing large bunches of punches would finally put his out classed foe out of his misery a drilling body shot, finally ending the high skills exhibition in round ten.
June 11th, 2016, taking a step up in weight and opposition putting on a brilliant display of footwork and angle punching Lomachenko would claim the WBO World Super Featherweight strap out-landing the experienced Roman ‘Rocky’ Martinez three to one, before dropping the three-time world champion cold with a tight a left uppercut, right hook combination in round five.
In his last outing, this past November 16th the 5’6” Lomachenko fighting giving away eight inches in ” reach continuing to accelerate his level of opposition out boxing and out punching Jamaica’s bigger “Axe Man” Nicholas Walters, 26-0-1, 21Ko’s picking his spots angling his way past the “Axe Man’s” 73” reach, hurting him several times through the first six rounds thoroughly convincing the previously unbeaten power puncher he had taken enough punishment retiring the frustrated “Axe Man” after round six.
Scheduled for action this weekend Saturday, April 8th, Lomachenko takes on another
heavy handed opponent when he faces off against Camden, New Jersey’s, Jason “El Canito” Sosa, at the MGM National Harbor, in Oxon Hill, Maryland. The 29-year-old Sosa, 20-1-4, 15Ko’s unbeaten in his last twenty fights holds a twelve-round draw with the now once beaten “Axe Man”.
On top of that superlative amateur career it is through these eight challenging fights that Lomachenko has established he is a rare, dying breed and the perfect example of the “Sweet Science.”
The crafty, agile ring general comes with a GPS like awareness and a laser range finding jab. He has shown he is a polished fighter setting himself right in the mix with history’s best ring generals. It’s not just the decisive lateral movement, the precision angling or the small windowed defense, Lomachenko is a technically sound boxer / puncher, armed with a full arsenal, possessing and demonstrating all the classic techniques big and small, offensive and defensive. He is always well conditioned and is physically and mentally relaxed under fire, forever transforming his classic / innovative style repeatedly surpassing his earlier forecasted potential as a comprehensive technician and sagacious pro.
Exhibiting the footwork rivaling a Johnny Dundee, Barney Ross and Benny Leonard, Lomachenko excels with neutralizing side steps and pivots allowing his most defensive position to simultaneously be his most dangerous. His continuous changing levels, turning of feints into blistering combinations like a Bruce Lee shadow, it is his no run, no hide “sweet science” offensive defense that makes him shine.
As a response to those critics who are caught up in the “Best Ever” Mayweather PC, social media storm defining the “sweet science” in track and field event terms, Lomachenko is a master at cutting off the ring. The next time you see him in action pay close attention to his footwork, it’s the key to what allows the Ukrainian star to remain simultaneously out of harm’s way but still in the perfect position to strike.
Holding the pin point punching accuracy of a Joe Louis, the chest blasting, midsection solar plexus punching, oil drilling fashioned left hook to the liver, punishing body attack of Alexis Arguello, Lomachenko’s body work is second to none today.
Putting together all the precision foot work, calculated feinting, speed and power together with an inexhaustible work rate and superior skill set, Lomachenko adding new and innovated flairs to his solid classic style, “Hi Tech” a southpaw version of Willie Pep.
As he continues to modernize some classic skills Lomachenko hasn’t stepped too far from some of the old-time greats. While showcasing the inside chicanery of a Henry Armstrong he quickly can adjust and emulating a more current day “Hitman” Ricky Hatton when appearing to engage in mutual grappling the Ukrainian technician cleverly uses it like a wrestling feint initiating counterfeit clinches setting up his initial punching range or to open the way to a quick step or angle widening the options of his fully loaded punishing tool set.
Maybe it’s an undiagnosed dissociative identity disorder, or whatever you want to call it, it a treat to see Lomachenko the childhood dancer / hockey player morph into Lomanchenko the boxer and alternate between Loma the “Hi Tech” General to Loma the “Violent Barbarian”.
As there is no question his lengthy amateur experience has helped paint this masterpiece, you can’t overlook the intangibles. When you witness the volatile combination of desire, heart, aggressiveness, smarts, superior athleticism, a virtuous work ethic mixed together with all the skill you can’t help but realize that’s what makes Lomachenko the complete package.
When considering Lomachenko, as “the whole package” and his loss to Salido you must give that fight an open-minded evaluation. Especially when you take into consideration that the great Alexis Arguello lost his fourth and fifth fights, the “Filipino Flash” Nonito Donaire lost his second pro bout, “The Matador” Ricardo Mayorga, Juan Manuel Marquez, and “The Executioner” Bernard Hopkins all lost their first pro bouts and one of boxing’s top ten, best-ever, Henry Armstrong losing 3 of first four was stopped in his pro debut, it’s easy to see the Salido fight as an anomaly or “the exception that proves the rule.”
So now you that you have my pick for today’s best example of the “sweet science” when you add in the second most mentioned name on “sweet science” enthusiast lips and everyone-else’s mind the fight everyone wants is a “Hi Tech” match against unbeaten Cuban boxing star Guillermo “El Chacal” Rigondeaux.
The slick fighting southpaw Rigondeaux, another fighter commonly named fighter in “sweet science” conversations comes with an impressive amateur career of his own. Winning Gold at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics compiling a record of 463-12 in the amateur ranks the 36-year-old, much avoided defensive virtuoso, holding pro victories over Roberto Marroquin, Nonito Donaire, Joseph Agbeko and Hisashi Amagasa makes a “Hi Tech” vs “The Jackal” a potential all hands-on deck “Sweet Science” match-up.
Andre Ward Facing the Heavyweight Decision of a Kovalev Rematch!
By: Coach K – January 11, 2017
After helping boxing fill the void for boxing’s TMZ, Floyd Mayweather fans taking on Russian “Krusher” Sergey Kovalev Andre “SOG” Ward following his controversial decision win has a tough world championship career call to make.
After contentious contract negotiations, including “warm up bouts for both fighters Ward entering the Kovalev fight still healing the business wounds of a contract dispute with Goosen Promotions “SOG” signing with Roc Nation and going down for the first time in his career is faced with another one of those long time boxing business and legacy hurdles, a rematch clause.
It is that rematch clause giving Ward, 31-0, 15Ko’s the chance to squash the buzz of a controversial decision the opportunity to clearly frame and define his legacy.
Like so many of the sports greats before him, the 2004 US Olympic Light Heavyweight Gold Medalist is now faced with a personal and revealing choice, one that has defined many of those before him. One that has led to such historical rematches like “Sugar” Ray Robinson vs. Carmen Basilio II, Rocky Graziano vs. Tony Zale II, “Sugar” Ray Leonard vs. Thomas “Hitman” Hearns II, Rafael Marquez vs. Israel Vazquez II and Evander Holyfield vs. Riddick Bowe II. Not ending there, the rematch choice has gone onto draw out some unforgettable, trilogies including Floyd Patterson vs. Ingemar Johansson III, Erik Morales vs. Marco Antonio Barrera III, Micky Ward vs. Arturo Gatti III and of course the near fight to the death “Thriller in Manilla” Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier III.
While no family man could disparage the reigning WBA, IBF and WBO World Light Heavyweight Champion for taking the biggest pay day, it is it’s more than just a man’s word or signature on the line for the financially sound Ward. He has a heavyweight choice to make. A choice no just for him, but one that could help steer the sport itself away from the last two decades of no risk, high reward, safe, ducking and dodging path of least resistance.
With todays newly found creation of college safe zones, I can only hope the aspiration for the proverbial undefeated “zero” doesn’t bring us a Mayweather styled timely first retirement or a step aside or in this case a go away check that would deny the sport and it’s loving fans the long-endeared right to witness true personal challenge, world championship drive and pursuit for greatness of fighting the best they demand and deserve to see. Anything short would be a sign it’s time hang them up and follow “Vicious” Victor Ortiz to the movies.