Boxing: Kovalev Wins

By Tom Donelson / Author, Member Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) … contributor to dmboxing since 2008

Sergey Kovalev recaptured his WBO Light heavyweight title from Eleider Alvarez, who previously knocked the Russian light heavyweight down to win the title.  He managed to revenge only the second person who defeated him and did so in dominating form.  Kovalev began by winning the first two rounds, connecting on combinations while Alvarez slow in starting . 

In the fifth round, Kovalev looked in control but in the sixth, Alvarez got the better of exchanges with his right hand but the rest of the fight, it was Kovalev who looked strong and in the last round, Alvarez looked tired as he took big punches.  The key punch was a big right hand that nailed Kovalev in the sixth round, but Kovalev didn’t budge or appeared hurt. From that point, Kovalev took over the fight and won it easily.

The Compubox numbers tell the whole story as he connected on the double the punches, was consistently more active.  Kovalev landed 213 punches over those twelve rounds, whereas Alvarez landed only 111, less than 10 per round.

I had the fight 58 to 56 going to the second half and Andre Ward of ESPN had it 59 to 55.  The seventh round saw Kovalev pound Alvarez throughout the round and the rest of the fight was not much different.  Kovalev not only took control of the fight, he dominated every aspect of the fight as he jabbed and box effectively while landing solid body punches.  Alvarez simply couldn’t gain any momentum in the second half of the fight as Kovalev moved in with body shots before moving out boxing with effective jabs.  Alvarez rarely connected on a right hand and that was why Kovalev easily won. There was only one round that Alvarez landed more punches and that was eleven.  I gave the third and the sixth round due to Alvarez landed some big rights but those rounds could easily been given to Kovalev. While two judges had 116-112, this fight could have ranged from 117-111 to 120-108 in my view. I simply couldn’t find four rounds to even give Alvarez. 

Oscar Valdez came back from an 11 months respite from the ring and pounded Carmine Tommasone from the first round.  Tommasone landed jabs after jab to keep Valdez and for the first three rounds, Valdez looked rusty and missed many shots but Tommasone simply couldn’t hurt him.  In the fourth, two knockdown, one from a counter right and another from left hook to the body.

Tommasone nose was bleeding due to the hard punching Valdez and it was obvious that Tommasone was not going to have the power to make Valdez fear him.  Valdez simply continue the assault as he sent Tommasone down the sixth before ending it with a right hand uppercut.

As the fight continued, Valdez rust went away and connected with more accurate punches.  Tommasone undefeated record went up in smoke and Valdez won his 25 fight without a loss plus he kept his version, the WBO featherweight title.

Charlo fights at the Barclay plus a few surprises by Tom Donelson

Boxing is the theater of the unexpected and one of the most unpredictable thing to predict is how a judge will view a fight.  Jermell Charlo/Tony Harrison fight was one of those fights that many of us watching the fight saw Charlo the winner but the judges had it for Tony Harrison.  Charlo was the aggressor throughout the fight and landed an average of three punches more per round and I had him up by117-111.  While much of the audience were stunned, Charlo allowed Harrison to stay in the fight.  He never dominated the fight as the favorite he was and while he stunned Harrison in the last round, he could not finish off Harrison.  Compubox saw that Charlo landed more punches in 9 of the 12 rounds but many of these rounds were close and decided by a punch or two so we saw many close rounds, very similar to the Fury-Wilder fight in which there were many close rounds. The difference in the Charlo-Harrison fight was that Charlo never had Harrison in trouble until the twelve whereas in the Fury –Wilder fight, Wilder twice nearly stopped the bout but for the ability of Fury to remained standing against two very brutal knockdown that would have stopped most fighters.

Jermell Charlo may have shown that he would certainly be an underdog against Jarrett Hurd, who is probably the best Super Welterweight in the world and who stopped Harrison when they both fought.  Charlo fought a tactical fight and while he was the aggressor, Harrison did effective counterpunching at selected times in the fight.  In my view, there were four rounds easy to score but there were eight rounds that were close as Compubox numbers attest.  The judges gave most of those rounds to Harrison and they were more impressed with Harrison’s counter punching than Charlo aggressive tactics. 

Dominic Breazeale scored a one-punch knockout of Carlos Negron in the ninth round of an entertaining heavyweight bout. Breazeale, with his eyes on Wilder’s belt and with Wilder in the audience watching, was hoping to make a statement.  While Breazeale dominated most of the fight, it was not an easy fight as Negron landed a few solid shots of his own as a counter puncher.  Breazeale nearly ended the bout at the end of the fourth round when he landed a big right as the bell ended the round, but in the fifth and throughout the sixth, Negron came back with counterpunches of his own and gave himself a chance at an upset.  Breazeale finally got control of the bout in the seventh round as his strength took hold and in the ninth, he ended with one big right hand.

Breazeale went on to challenge Wilder after the fight for a shot at his title but we won’t know whether Wilder will give him that shot or look for a bout with Anthony Joshua or rematch with Tyson Fury.  Regardless, Breazeale got himself in line for a title shot but right now, the heavyweight has a logjam as Fury draw with Wilder has produced a three way jam at the top with Fury established as a legitimate threat to Joshua-Wilder reign as the best heavyweight and Dillion Whyte late stoppage of Dereck Chisora puts him in the conversation as a title contender, maybe in front of Breazeale.

For the main event, Jermall Charlo came out defending his interim Middleweight title against Russian Matt Korobov, who gave a good account of himself.  Charlo looked more like a fighter who wanted to revenge his twin brother’s defeat than a fighter who needed to fight a more smarter fight against a canny opponent.  Korobov counterpunch effectively out of his southpaw stance and throughout the first half of the fight, Charlo looked puzzled as he kept getting nailed with straight lefts.  At the halfway mark, I had the fight four rounds to two in favor of Korobov and wasn’t until the sixth round that he started to connect with solids straight right against Korobov and I had him winning six of the last seven rounds as he certainly lost most of the early rounds.

It was until the last round did Charlo get Korobov in trouble as he nailed Korobov with big shots repeatedly but Korobov refused to go down.  I had this fight 115-113 for Charlo and while the judges agreed that Charlo won the fight, they had a bigger spread and I couldn’t understand the 119-108 score at all.  There was no way that Korobov won only one round and Charlo got credit for a 10-8 round on that card.  The other cards were reasonable at 116-112. 

Charlo fought a poor first half of the fight but adjusted over the second half but is he ready for Alvarez, who is the present king of the Middleweight or triple G’s? Based on this fight, I would even rate Danny Jacob a slight favorite.

Colin, Josh and Jay

I mention that the offense that the Redskins ran in the fourth quarter with Josh Jackson would be no different with Colin Kaepernick, except that Colin is a better quarterback. The kicker is that Washington is still in the playoff hunt, just behind the Eagles, Panthers and Vikings.  If the Redskins win all their remaining games and Vikings lose one, they are in.  They play the Jaguars, Titans and Eagles who may be without their number one quarterback in Wentz.  All winable games.

My view is that Colin should play and have stated this on the Batchelor pad with LA Batchelor and while I may not like his politics but we witnessed a running back for the Chiefs who played for nearly three quarter of the season even though the NFL knew that he had beaten his girlfriend in February.  So the NFL doesn’t look so good now but then Roger Goddell in my view is the worse commissioner of any major league but that is debate for another time.

For Jay Gruden, he has been hit with sever injuries bug so there are things out of his control but one thing in his control is the daily lineup and when you pick Mark Sanchez over  Colin, that is on you.  Gruden has one last chance to save his job and we will see what he will do with that gift.

Redskins, Colin Kaepernick, and the End of Jay Gruden Era

Jay Gruden era will not be officially over until after the season is over but it is unofficially over.  When the Giants, the New York Football Giants, had a 34-0 lead at halftime, my first thought was how does a team with a shot at the playoff be this unprepared to play?  Part of the problem was injuries but if there was a team they should be beat that would be the Giants and their best receiver, Odell Beckman, Jr. wasn’t even playing.  The game ended when Sanchez threw his first of two picks that came back for a touchdown, the players knew they weren’t going to score and the defense simply gave up.  The whole team did or they did until the fourth quarter when Josh Johnson racked up 240 yards by himself, threw on touchdown and ran for another.

Watching this and the first thought was this what the Redskins offense would have looked like if Kaepernick was playing.  A running quarter back who would give the depleted offensive line a break and maybe make a few plays to keep the defense off the field.  I am not fan of Kaepernick activism and to quote John Lennon, “You won’t make it with anyone anyway if you keep carrying pictures of Chairman Mao” and that decribes Kaepernick who once showed up in Miami in a Fidel Castro T-shirt.  Needless to say, the Dolphins passed on him and signed Jay Cutler instead.  Not that they benefited from Cutler but better than explaining to many of Dolphins fan base that you signed some, commie loving, Castro loving player.

Redskins could have signed him and they wouldn’t be worse off than they are now.  Fans wants victories and a franchise starved for a playoff spot, it would have been worth the effort to sign him and if he flopped, so what.  You gave it your best shot but Sanchez flopped and now Skins are out of the playoff spot.  A season that four weeks ago was looking magical is now over.

 

Fury and Wilder, The Fight

Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury fought an entertaining fight in which most pundits viewed Fury as the winner. This was not the controversial decision everyone made it out to be.  Many of the rounds were close and while Fury fought a good defensive battle, most of the rounds were decided by one punch or two. The closet to dominant rounds according to Compubox numbers for Fury was the third in which he connected on 11 punches to 4 for Wilder and the tenth in which Wilder was credited with only one punch landed to Fury’s ten punches. Contrast those rounds to Wilder dominant rounds in the ninth and twelfth round in which he sent Fury down.

Dan Rafel of ESPN had the fight in favor of Wilder 114-112 and I could easily see that decision and the 113 to 113 draw was equally reasonable since this card had Fury winning 7 rounds but when you lose two rounds by 10-8, which is negative four points for those rounds.  115 to 111 card was reasonable since that judge had Fury winning 9 rounds and that is not reach either.  Could you give Wilder 7 rounds as one judge in his scorecard 115-111?  Yes, you could since many of these rounds were simply too close and throughout the bout Wilder was the aggressor.  There is no doubt that the two knockdowns matter since on the 113-113 card, those two knockdowns matter as the judge gave two 10-8 rounds as he should have.  Those two knockdowns allowed Wilder to keep his version of the titles as if Fury had not been knockdown twice, he would have won the fight.

So let not pretend this was outrageous robbery for it was a tough fight to score but the majority of pundits had Fury winning in spite of the knockdowns.  I leaned toward Dan Rafel’s card and I could easily live with any of the other cards.

There was two things that came out of this fight. One is that Fury is an underestimated boxer who limited Wilder to 17% connect rate and six punches per round just as he limited Wladimir Klitschko to 4 connects for round.  His mobility is surprising for someone who is 6’9” and he slipped many punches.  While he never had Wilder in trouble, he did some effective counterpunches in spot but he was not consistent in landing punches.  While he landed 25% of his punches compared to Wilder 17%, he only landed 84 punches and many of his power punches were hardly devastating punches.  Wilder landed the two big punches of the fight and nearly ended the fight in the final round as Fury was laid out on his back but he got up.  What helped Wilder with the judges was that he was the busier fighter as he threw 430 punches to 327 punches.   This doesn’t mean that judges should give a fighter credit for throwing punches if they are not effective and many rounds, Wilder threw haymakers that missed their target and his jab inaccurate.  Fury’s defensive skills were impressive enough to win the fight and if he didn’t get knock down, he would have prevailed.

Wilder weakness on the other hand showed up including throwing his right hand in haymaker fashion. Many of his right hands were telegraphed and avoided by Fury.  His failure to set up his right hand with an ineffective jabbing hurt him.  He could not set up his right hand often but twice and those two times showed what happens when he does connect.   His power was his strength but his boxing skills still needs refining.  Fury at times made Wilder look amateurish and wild misses with his right hand were frequent.

Should we have a rematch? Yes, since Wilder as a fighter needs to defeat decisively Fury in a rematch or many fans will view Wilder as a beneficiary of a bad decision. For Fury, he came close to winning a heavyweight title and should be given a second change since there was enough controversy.  Hopefully they won’t make us pay 75 dollars for the privilege.

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Another bout was that got no headlines was the Oleksander Gvozdyk-Adonis Stevenson in which Gvozdyk dominated from the third round as he connected on accurate punches and put the pressure on the 41 year old Stevenson.  In the eleventh round, he nailed Stevenson with combination that sent Stevenson to the ground and the referee stopped the fight.  Stevenson reign as light heavyweight is over and now he clings to life as he was admitted to critical care.  Last report is that he is an induced coma and hopefully he will survive and recover.

Jarrett Hurd stopped a game James Welborn with a devastating body shots.  Welborn jumped on Hurd and forced him to the rope at the beginning of the fourth round before he got nailed with a counter body punch that stopped Welborn in his track.  Jermell Charlo challenged Hurd for his Super Welterweight belts and who knows what will happen if Jermell Charlo wins his next bout later this month.

 

Jacobs Prevail by Tom Donelson

Danny Jacobs edge past former sparring mate and undefeated Sergiy Derevyanchenko for the IBF Middleweight title.  He won by a split decision as two judges had him winning 115-112 while Julie Lederman had Derevyanchenko winning 114-113, disagreeing with her father who had Jacobs winning by a wider margin that the judges. I had 116-111.

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Both fighters knew each other after sparring over 300 rounds and while Derevyanchenko came in with a 12-0 record but he also had 20 plus fights in the World Series of Boxing that did not count in his professional record.  Derevyanchenko was noted for the being an aggressive fighter but over the first half of the fight, Derevyanchenko showed restraint in his attack and with good reason. Throughout the bout, Jacobs launched vicious body shot and it didn’t help Derevyanchenko that he went down on a flash knockdown on a Jacobs’clubbing right hand near the end of the first bout.  Derevyanchenko did manage a combination in the second round that shook Jacobs up but from that point, Jacobs showed overall better skills and ring generalship as he moved and gave himself angles to hit Derevyanchenko.  Derevyanchenko fought a competitive fight and many pundits had the fight closer than I had.  Each round was competitive including the first round until Derevyanchenko hit the canvas at the end of the round.

Danny Jacobs escaped from being trapped on the rope while keeping much of the bout in the center of the ring.  Derevyanchenko did not match Jacobs hand speed and nor did he cut off the ring as well as he could but then Jacobs mobility has much to do with that.

There were moments that Derevyanchenko got the better including a solid left hand and right hand combination in the tenth round and he took the final round but it was too little too late, at least on my card.  While Harold Lederman had this fight in favor of Jacobs, other of the HBO team including Roy Jones and Max Kellerman warned the audience that while Harold had it easily in Jacobs favor, the judges would have it closer. They did and Harold own daughter disagree with her father on who won.  Now Jacobs want Alvarez to unify the title.

HBO is now leaving the fight game and by the end of the year, there will be no HBO covering boxing.  For years, Showtime has surpassed HBO and other just as ESPN and Fox sports covered the sport.  HBO was the king of boxing coverage for over four decades and if there was a big fight, HBO had it.  Over 1100 fights were seen on HBO since 1973 but over the past few years, Top Rank and Premier boxing took their business elsewhere and many of the bigger stars moved to Showtime, leaving HBO with very few big fights.  Over the years some of the greatest performed on HBO including Lennox Lewis, Roy Jones, Oscar De La Hoya, Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns.  The last big stars left on HBO was Saul Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin, who will now be free agents.

For me, a decisive shift from HBO to Showtime was the Showtime Super Middleweight tournament and over a period of three years, Showtime had some of the best fighters in the 168 pound fighting each other and it was here that Andre Ward became a star as he won the tournament and became the king of the division.   HBO is no longer part of boxing but boxing may benefit from this as there are other who are willing to broadcast more matches.  My own bias is that covering Showtime boxing was more fun and their announcers were more accessible.  I remember covering a SHOBOX and I had the chance to interview the late Nick Charles and Steve Farhood, and found them both not just knowledgeable about the sport but down to earth.  I will miss Harold Lederman who often explained the nuance of scoring and hope he lands somewhere.  Jim Lampley is staying with HBO, so his career as play by play announcer is over but Max Kellerman may end up back at ESPN.   Boxing will survive and with Showtime, they have will a network that will promote the sport that HBO failed

Iowa Consistency by Tom Donelson

Kirk Ferentz has become one of my favorite coaches and two decades ago, I became a Hawkeye fan.  For many Iowans, Iowa is their professional team and Saturday is their day to love their Hawkeye with tailgate parties beginning in the morning.

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Kirk Ferentz is not the greatest coach in college football but he is a good coach and Iowa understand that in Ferentz, they have a coach that fits their state and their expectation.  The reality is that most college teams are Iowa and not Alabama.  Alabama is a super team that expect to win championships and very few schools actually are truly contenders.  Most teams finish 8-4, 9-3 or maybe a few will win 10 games and make a bowl game.  Iowa is one of those teams that almost every year goes to a bowl games while winning an average of 8 games.  Since 1979, Iowa has had only two coaches, Hayden Fry and Kirk Ferentz.  Fry has won 143 games over 20 years and retired with most victories of any other head before Ferentz won his 144 victory the first game this year.   Ferentz and Iowa have been competitive since the turn of the century including winning more games than SEC power Tennessee and as many as Notre Dame.   Over the past five years, Iowa has defeated Nebraska four times and all of the victories by double digit.  Nebraska was once a leading power and when it joined the Big 10, it was presume that Nebraska would add another power team to the Big Ten. Instead, Nebraska has drifted back to the pack in a weak Big Ten West.  This year Nebraska is off to a 0-4 start and now is starting to rebuild.  Scott Frost, the new head coach and a former Nebraska star, want to rebuild Nebraska to its glory days of Tom Osborne but the question is Nebraska can actually return to its glory day or will they be a eight, nine or occasionally ten victories and occasional major bowl game and will Nebraska be satisfied with being like Iowa?

For four decades, Iowa have had two head coaches, big victories and a few bowl wins, averaging nearly 8 victories per year.  Bowl victories in the Ferentz years included victory over SEC powers such as Florida and Louisiana State, so Iowan fans have managed to enjoy their team, knowing that that at least team will have a winning record and go to a bowl game.  Iowa fans travel to bowl games and many bowl games love to have Iowa knowing the fan base shows up.

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Most college teams are like Iowa and not Alabama, teams that will have good years, a few bad and maybe magical year. Iowa in 2015 had a magical year finishing the regular season 12 -0 followed up by a pair of 8-5 records which included a victory in the Pin Stripe Bowl in 2017 along with a big upset of Ohio State 55 to 24.

Alabama fans expect their team to be in the playoffs and Clemson fans have similar expectation. Notre Dame fans for years have had similar expectation and yet since the turn of the century, Notre Dame has not been much better than Iowa and while Notre Dame have been to a final, Alabama merely crushed the Fighting Irish and this year, they are looking to be in the playoffs again. The Irish name gives the advantages when selection time comes but Iowa program has been as good as Notre Dame over the past two decades.

In the 1990’s, Tennessee was a National Champion and now they are no better than Iowa as a program.  Notre Dame was a national powerhouse but haven’t won a national title since 1988, and the meantime, Iowa has had only two coaches who led their team to success, bowl games and consistency.  Iowa has settle for consistency and sent players to the NFL, and Fry assistant coaches have become head coaches in their right including Bob Stoops, Bill Snyder and Kirk Ferentz.

The lesson for college fans is to be satisfied with what they have. Iowa has developed a successful program that has won 489 wins over the past four decades, several bowl victories and sent several of their players to the NFL.  The problem that many schools are not as satisfied with who they are as they fire coaches and start all over.  Nebraska is now in the same position as Iowa but fans will not forgive Frost if he doesn’t return Nebraska to the glory days of National titles.  Bo Pelini was fired despite averaging 9 victories and winning at 70% rate.  After getting fired beating Iowa, Nebraska Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst arrogantly responded, “We are supposed to beat Iowa.”  Last year, Eichorst got fired after Nebraska lost their third straight to Iowa, all by lopsided fashion and Nebraska was only 19-19 after Pelini was fired.  What Iowa gives their fans is consistency and stability, virtues rarely appreciated.