No Mas and the rematch that couldn’t be.

If I were to say “Thrilla in Manilla”, I imagine most boxing fans would immediately know what I was talking about. If I were to say “the Rumble in the Jungle” the same thing would happen. If I were to mention “the Fight of the Century” there may be a brief moment of confusion while a fan pondered whether I was discussing Jack Johnson vs James Jeffries, Joe Louis vs Max Schmelling or Joe Frazier vs Muhammed Ali but once it was clear which of the bouts I was referring to, I imagine most boxing fans… and many casual fans… would know the bout. Boxing is a sport built on iconic moments in iconic bouts between iconic fighters.

And arguably none of them are quite as iconic as “No Mas”.

I don’t intend to focus heavily on the Roberto Duran vs Ray Leonard bout itself. There is a staggering amount of excellent journalism and writing on the topic for any fan wishing to enlighten themselves (I’m a particular fan of Sports Illustrated’s articles on the subject). ESPN recently made it the subject of one of their (generally excellent) 30 for 30 documentaries. And you can go onto virtually any boxing forum, blog or website and see it discussed somewhere (often at considerable length).

To give the very basics; five months after Duran had defeated Leonard in their narrow first bout (where Leonard stood his ground and brawled with Duran) the pair had a rematch. This time Leonard moved extensively, repeatedly landing sharp punches on Duran who struggled to keep up or catch him. By the seventh round Leonard was openly playing to the crowd and as the eighth round came to a close Duran turned his back on Leonard and supposedly said to the referee Octavio Meyran “No mas” (No more)… although I note there has been some controversy about whether those words were actually said by Duran.

There have been many theories and suggestions put forward about why Duran, a man up to that point known for his machismo and unwavering will to win, decided to call it a night. Perhaps the most common is that he was suffering from severe stomach cramps, a result of him ballooning up in the size between the first and second bouts with Leonard and having to lose a vast amount of weight in a very short period. Others have suggested a shoulder injury. Some of the more unkind commentators have suggested that Duran was simply frustrated that he couldn’t track down, trap or hit Leonard and he quit in little more than a fit of pique. They’re not the theories I want to look at.

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Brook vs Senchenko: Results and Analysis

For a long time Kell Brook slipped under the radar.

Not in terms of “Special K’s” name value or media image. Almost from the moment he turned pro at 18 boxing fans have been inundated with promoters, trainers and fellow boxers telling us how special he is and the mantra over the last few years is how it was a certainty that Kell Brook would be “the next” world champion. Likewise, it seems impossible to turn on a boxing broadcast in this country and not see Brook as either an analyst or in attendence. No, as a British boxing fan it’s been near impossible to miss Brook.

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But we never held him and his promoters to the standards we do others.

Think about the above paragraph again. For years we’ve been told that he is a special boxer. That he will be a world champion. That he is one of the elite, one of the best, that it is only a matter of time before he fulfills his destiny.

And yet who has he faced?

There have been impressive performances sure… he destroyed Hector David Saldivia, smashed Carson Jones in their rematch, outclassed Lovemore Ndou and dominated Michael Jennings. In truth there is probably only a handful of bouts where he has looked underwhelming and only one bout where he looked bad (the first bout with Jones). But look at those names. Were any of them seen as world class? Were any of them seen as world beaters?

Boxing fans have a tendency to mock those who can’t match their hype with their achievements. We ridicule Deontay Wilder for continuing to face scrubs. We laugh at Amir Khan and how he declares himself one of the best in the world. Nathan Cleverly was widely mocked for facing the likes of Shawn Hawk while talking about facing Bernard Hopkins. And do I really need to talk about how Audley Harrison and his constant comments that it was his destiny to be world heavyweight champion were viewed?

Yet Kell “Special K” Brook was rarely criticised for this.

He’s 27 years old. Going into this bout he’d had 30 bouts. He’s been a pro for nine years. And yet his was still spinning his wheels; too good for domestic class, too good for fringe international boxers but either unwilling or unable to take that step up to the next level, to really push on and make a run for a world title. And yet he and his promoters had managed to escape most of the mockery and criticism that normally comes with that. Way back in 2010 Brook’s victory over Kennings was a WBO eliminator… yet here we are three years later and he’s still not boxed for a world title, let alone held one.

Criticism had started to appear in recent months, notably in the wake of the long delayed and then eventually cancelled bout between Brook and IBF champion Devon Alexander. People started to question whether Brook really wanted to face the best or whether he was content to stand his ground, earning good money as an attraction in Sheffield, unwilling to take the risk of facing a higher level of competition. That he wanted to win a world title the soft way, waiting for a vacant belt to appear rather than to go off and beat a title holder.

And that’s why this bout with Vyacheslav Senchenko was important.

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Brook vs Senchenko: Preview and Prediction

Another weekend and we seemingly have yet another British card with yet another British fighter right on the verge of world title contention.

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This week’s contestant is Kell “Special K” Brook, an undefeated 27 year old from Sheffield with a 30-0 record. I sort of have a love/hate relationship with Brook as a fan, much of which is out of his control. He’s clearly a talented boxer but as a fans we’ve been told by his promoters (originally Frank Warren and now Matchroom) that he’s “the next” world title holder for at least the last three (if not four… if not five…) years… and yet here we are, years later and she’s still not a world champion and still not had his title shot. Fairly or unfairly that tends to build a level of resentment… Nathan Cleverly went through the same thing as a match with Hopkins was constantly mentioned only for us to instead get Robin Krasniqi. Perhaps most frustratingly of all, Brook could have already had a title shot but a series of injuries meant that the hapless Lee Purdy replaced him and while the Colchester man was brave, he was utterly outclassed by Devon Alexander. A win here and Brook is, supposedly, guaranteed a title shot early next year.

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Paulie Malignaggi, boxing media and what we should be looking for…

I’m a little late to post this, but it is certainly still worth mentioning.

A little while back Paulie Malignaggi was doing the usual prefight hype for his upcoming “Battle of Brooklyn” match against Zab Judah. He starts off with a few anecdotes about his time in boxing (including mentioning how Al Haymon’s team called to sign him… one of the reasons he’s the manliest man in boxing) and his relationship with Zab, notably recalling a time when as an amateur Judah was actually helping to corner him during a tournament. It’s very friendly, very light, quite entertaining and fairly standard.

On a side note though, especially in the wake of the crude promotion for Malignaggi vs Broner, it is nice to see Malignaggi not have to go the lowest-common denominator route with his pre-fight hype. Trash talk is all well and good but the stuff prior to Malignaggi/Broner was crude, banal and painted neither of them in a positive light. Malignaggi’s a good enough speaker that he doesn’t need to descend to that level to get people interested in a bout.

But he then goes on to talk about the media reaction to his last bout and notably his post-fight comments about Al Haymon affiliated fighters (as Broner is) getting the nod in narrow contests. He especially objected to the way that some in the media tried to present the fact that one of the judges gave the bout to him in the same context as CJ Ross’s ridiculous card in the Mayweather/Saul Alvarez bout. Personally, I did have Broner winning, albeit somewhat narrowly but I can certainly understand why a judge would favour Paulie; it was very much a bout where Paulie’s higher workrate went against Broner’s more precise punches.

Paulie then used this to launch into a wider attack on the boxing media. He focuses on what he sees as the media’s obsession with the “nerdy” side of boxing writing; working out a pound for pound top ten, “analysing” fantasy fights and establishing who the lineal champions of a division are for example while seemingly refusing to really engage with some of the bigger issues confronting boxing. He uses himself as an example, pointing out how “rants and raves” about things when really, it should be the media driving the crusade on them. He finishes by mentioning that while the media will often criticise a boxer who is ahead in a bout “playing it safe” and coasting the last few rounds to minimise risk at the cost of excitement, the media won’t take the risk of really investigating major stories if the risk is they lose media credentials and press access.

It’s a powerful rant and one Paulie clearly feels strongly about.

And I agree with him.

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Frampton vs Parodi: Results and Analysis

Carl Frampton continued his march towards a world title bout with a one-sided victory over Jeremy Parodi.

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Frampton was aggresssive throughout, boxing behind his jab and pushing Parodi back, mixing in effective hooks to the body and straights to the head. Parodi tried to box and move but lacked either the power to deter Frampton or the skill to avoid him. In the fourth a big left followed by a series of rights cut the Frenchman, towards the end of the fifth a number of painful looking uppercuts landed cleanly and then in the sixth a huge hook to the body dropped Parodi for the count.

In some ways this bout rather snuck under the radar (for example, I didn’t do a preview for it) but I submit there was a reason for this. Parodi had a very pretty record at 35-1-1 and it is certainly impressive for a 26 year old to have had 37 bouts but in reality this was a stay-busy bout for Frampton. While his level of competition had improved in the buildup to the Frampton bout there was a real lack of quality or depth there and from watching his bouts Parodi appeared to be a useful boxer… but little more. His jab and move style will be enough to frustrate lower level opponents but he lacks the physical attributes or high level of technical skill to take him beyond being a European contender. Put simply Frampton is on a different level to that… this bout was a step down from his last two opponents… former IBF title holder Steve Molitor and current IBF title holder Kiko Martinez.

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Alvarado vs Provodnikov: Results and Analysis

It lived up to the hype.

Over ten brutal rounds Ruslan Provodnikov outfought and outlasted a game Mike Alvarado, hunting down his opponent before finishing him in the 10th.

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As expected, Provodnikov was relentless, constantly coming forward and looking to land hurtful shots. Alvarado found some success early through a combination of occasionally going toe to toe and then reverting to a more classic boxing approach, while landing a number of his signature uppercuts. Over seven rounds the bout was basically even and a case could be made for either fighter to have a narrow edge on the scorecards. The eight however was decisive. Alvarado appeared to have serious stamina issues… perhaps because he was very much in headhunting mode and throwing wild punches, perhaps because of a number of agonizing body shots from Provodnikov. Ruslan hurt Alvarado and then mercilessly pursued him, landing with bigger and bigger shots, dropping him twice. Alvarado tried to jab and move during the ninth and tenth round but he could do nothing to change the momentum, nothing to frustrate Provodnikov and nothing to stop the blows piling on. The referee could have stopped it during the ninth, Alvarado’s corner probably should have after the ninth and finally they mercifully did with Alvarado on his stool after the tenth.

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Alvarado vs Provodnikov Undercard: Predictions and Analysis

Boxing has a long history of poor undercards.

And frankly, this could be one of the most underwhelming yet.

While Alvarado vs Provodnikov is a main event which will set any fight fan’s heart racing, the previous bouts in the evening are, on paper, barely enough to make one pay attention.

juan diaz

Undoubtedly the biggest name on the undercard is former 135lbs unified title holder Juan Diaz. “The Baby Bull” had a long and successful career at 135lbs, picking up the WBO belt before unifying with first Acelino Freitas and then Julio Diaz and at one time had a legitimate case for being considered the best lightweight in the world and arguably a top 10 pound for pound talent. That said, his career did entire a distinct downward streak following the victory of Diaz. He was out muscled, out though and out fought by Nate Campbell to lose his belts, he had a good comeback win over Michael Katsidis (which was wider than the judges would have you believe) and then was stopped in an absolute war with Juan Manuel Marquez. His next bout was a very controversial decision victory over Paul Malignaggi and he then lost a rematch to the Magic Man before losing a second bout to Marquez which was more tactical but still fairly exciting.

And at this stage Diaz bowed out. And no-one blamed him.

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Mike Alvarado vs Ruslan Provodnikov: Preview and Prediction

Sometimes bouts come along that are interesting because of what they represent. Regardless of how exciting what happens in the ring is likely to be they’re bouts we tune into because of the stature of the boxers in question, the title on the line, the way it’s been hyped… a vast selection of reasons. Last week’s bout between Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez is a good example of that. While many looked to the pair’s last bouts and thought it would be a blood and guts war, I suspected different and while I think my view was correct I still enjoyed the highly charged technical and strategic chess match.

This one’s different.

provodnikovalvarado

Ruslan Provodnikov and Mike Alvarado are both coming off fight of the year candidates… hell, Alvarado’s coming off three in his last four and two in a row. And these weren’t one-offs or a strange quirk of fate. Both have throughout their careers put on exciting bouts that get a fan’s blood pumping. Both are aggressive, both are as much fighters as they are boxers, both hit hard, both keep up a high workrate, both look for offence over defence. And more then that their styles mesh. While boxing has a habit of making even the most sensible predictions look foolish, it’s hard to imagine this not being an exciting bout.

And let’s be clear, this isn’t just a bout which will likely be entertaining but represents nothing. Both Alvarado and Provodnikov are good boxers in their primes and near the top of their division. Golden Boy and their 140lbs tournament may have dominated the headlines regarding junior welterweight over recent years but the winner of this bout will have every right to consider themselves one of the best in the world at this weight… maybe a step below Danny Garcia but certainly on the level of say Lucas Matthysse (and the fact that we will likely never see Matthysse vs Alvarado, Rios or Provodnikov is one of the saddest consequences of the cold war between Top Rank and Golden Boy).

So, who wins?

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Too many champions in boxing today and the myth of one champion per division…

A rallying call that is often raised in boxing media today is that there are too many champions and we need to return to the “good ol’ days” of one champion per division. At first glance that makes sense. After all, isn’t it confusing that we can have four (or more) recognised world champions in a weight class? That there can be a WBO Champion, an IBF Champion, a WBC champion and a WBA champion? How about a RING champion? Or a Transnational Boxing Ratings Board champion? Or the host of minor champions… IBO, WBF, WBU? Surely they must be running out of acronyms soon? And that’s without looking at the fact that each sanctioning body can have multiple champions in a weightclass… super belts “normal belts”, interim belts, diamond belts…

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It’s clearly a mess. And I fully understand why people want to go back to the old days when there was one champion. We all knew how it worked then. And I sort of agree… albeit with one rather large caveat.

It isn’t true.

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Bradley vs Marquez results and analysis

The ability to adapt is often an underrated talent for a boxer to have. As fans we tend to eulogise about the boxers who can do one thing brilliantly… be it power punching, grinding inside work, stick-and-move boxing or counter punching. In contrast we are generally a bit more dismissive of those who can do everything well but nothing brilliantly. That’s not necessarily deliberate; it’s simply harder for them to stand out.

Timothy Bradley Jr. v Juan Manuel Marquez

Timothy Bradley showed exactly how effective adaptability can be tonight as he outpointed the consummate counter-puncher in Juan Manuel Marquez in a bout that lacked the outright thrills of the last bouts for each of the pair but was in it’s own way thrilling, a tense chess match of high level technical boxing from two masters. The judges scores of 115-113 and 116-112 Bradley, 113-115 Marquez were a little narrow for my taste (I had it closer to 116-112 Bradley) but I understand why they were narrow.

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