Steve Farhood’s “Destructive Dozen”

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FROM SHOWTIME BOXING ANALYST STEVE FARHOOD

Jhonny Gonzalez’s first-round annihilation of Abner Mares in August 2013 was overwhelming evidence of the fact that he rates with boxing’s most destructive punchers.

Now the WBC featherweight titlist will defend against Gary Russell Jr. this Saturday on SHOWTIME.

My Destructive Dozen:

Javier Fortuna, 27-0-1 (20), junior lightweight: Perhaps premature to list here, but a personal fave. Especially dangerous in first round.

Gennady Golovkin, 32-0 (29), middleweight: Looked like Martin Murray was gonna be the first to last the distance in a title fight vs. Triple G, but noooooooo…

JHONNY GONZALEZ, 57-8 (48), featherweight: Check out YouTube vs. Hozumi Hasegawa, Roinet Caballero, and Jackson Asiku. The Mares fight was hardly his first highlight-reel kayo.

Wlad Klitschko, 63-3 (53), heavyweight: His right hand was rumored to have knocked down the Empire State Building. Good luck, Bryant Jennings.

Sergey Kovalev, 27-0-1 (24), light heavyweight: Just when it seemed Pascal was getting back in the fight … And who else knocks down Bernard Hopkins?

David Lemieux, 33-2 (31), middleweight: Let’s see if his legit power is sufficient when he moves up to championship level.

Marcos Maidana, 35-5 (31), welterweight: The Broner Owner has impressively carried his power from 140 to 147 pounds.

Lucas Matthysse, 36-3 (34), junior welterweight: Evidence: 1) Humberto Soto’s been down once in 75 bouts, courtesy of Matthysse; 2) What he did to Lamont Peterson; 3) He scored knockdowns in two of his three losses (vs. Devon Alexander and Zab Judah). Does Provodnikov fall next?

Adonis Stevenson, 25-1 (21), light heavyweight: Can it still be said that the southpaw with the huge left hand has kayoed a higher level of opponent than Krusher Kovalev?

Keith Thurman, 25-0 (21), welterweight: Don’t be fooled by his recent decision wins; he scored knockdowns in both of them. He needs to land his right hand only One Time.

Takashi Uchiyama, 22-0-1 (18): Has scored stoppages in eight of his 10 world title fights. Only criticism: He fights solely in his native Japan.

Nicholas Walters, 25-0 (21), featherweight: A combined five knockdowns of Vic Darchinyan and Nonito Donaire have won me over.

 

Sammy Vasquez: Pittsburgh-Tough

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FROM SHOWTIME BOXING ANALYST STEVE FARHOOD 

Pittsburgh’s not a blue-collar town, it’s the blue-collar town, so it’s no surprise that since the Immaculate Reception in 1972, the holiest of local heroes have worn black and gold.

But there was a time the heroes were colored black and blue.

Before Franco Harris, Terry Bradshaw, and Mean Joe Greene transformed Pittsburgh from the Steel City into Title Town, the sporting scene was largely defined by boxing. Charley Burley was so good, he couldn’t get as much as a sniff of a title fight. Fritzie Zivic had a flattened nose that suggested the heavy bag occasionally punched back. And Billy Conn broke his hand not on the head of Joe Louis, but rather on that of his father-in-law.

They were tough guys who were easy to root for.

Judging by the substantial crowds he’s beginning to draw in Pittsburgh, unbeaten welterweight contender Sammy Vasquez could be the city’s next Chosen One. In today’s boxing world, it’s unusual for a young American boxer to secure a serious hometown following. For a while, Fernando Guerrero did so in Salisbury, Md. Mike Alvarado draws well in Denver—but that may be over now. And within the last year or so, Terence Crawford, now a world titlist, has won over all of Omaha.

There are precious few other examples.

Vasquez seems to have what’s needed. His back-story is rich: Serving in the National Guard, he survived a pair of tours in Iraq. And his boxing story is deep: As an amateur, he came close to making the 2012 Olympic team, and having turned pro one week before his 26th birthday, he’s been perfect, impressively defeating opposition that has recently included a couple of legitimate tests.

The 28-year-old Vasquez, 17-0, will fight for the second time on ShoBox: The New Generation when he faces Ghana’s Emmanuel Lartey at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh. Last April, Vasquez’s SHOWTIME debut was a brief one; he kayoed the previously unbeaten Juan Rodriguez Jr. in less than a round. This time, the southpaw, who can box with patience or attack with passion, will likely have to work a bit longer; fellow lefty Lartey’s never been stopped, having gone the distance with, among others, former Olympians Felix Diaz and Errol Spence.

What convinced me that Vasquez was made of the right stuff was an otherwise insignificant fight. In the first round of his February 2014 bout vs. Jamar Freeman, Vasquez stepped on the foot of the referee and twisted his ankle. No prob: He got taped up, resumed the fight, and scored a fifth-round stoppage as if nothing had happened.

The report card of a prospect cannot be fully filled out until he or she overcomes some type of adversity. Vasquez has already done so.

When you watch Vasquez, check out not only his technical skills and punching power, but also the buzz he creates. It’s too early to tell whether he’s championship-caliber. His star appeal, however, is already unmistakable.

On the televised portion of the card, Miami-based Cuban light heavyweight Humberto Savigne, who’s coming off consecutive second-round kayos of Jeff Lacy and Maxell Taylor, will meet unbeaten Texan Craig Baker.

It’s not really accurate to label Savigne a prospect because he’s 36 years old. But he’s had only 13 pro bouts. He’s worth a watch for a singular reason: He wields a destructive right hand.

Savigne has been calling out WBC 175-pound titlist Adonis Stevenson. To be considered for such a bout, he’ll need to look sensational against Baker.

Also televised will be a featherweight bout between a pair of southpaws, Dominican southpaw Claudio Marrero, 15-1, and Nicaraguan veteran Orlando Rizo, 18-5.

Marrero’s only loss came against top-10 contender Jesus Cuellar. Given his strong amateur pedigree and considerable talent, he’s a good bet to rebound strongly enough to eventually secure a shot at a world title.

ADONIS STEVENSON KNOCKS OUT DMITRY SUKHOTSKIY TO RETAIN WBC LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

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Adonis Stevenson defended his WBC Light Heavyweight World Championship for the fourth time with a devastating fifth-round knockout of Russian challenger Dmitry Sukhotskiy in the main event of SHOWTIME BOXING: SPECIAL EDITION on Friday at Pepsi Coliseum in Quebec City, Canada.

Known for his knockouts, the southpaw champion was patient early, not forcing the action against a defensive Sukhotskiy.  When Sukhotskiy did decide to punch, Stevenson was extremely effective with his counter shots and floored the challenger with a straight left in the closing seconds of the second round.

Stevenson (25-1, 21 KOs) hit his stride in the fifth, knocking down Sukhotskiy with a straight left and then flooring him for a third time seconds after Sukhotskiy beat the count.  The onslaught continued, with the Haitian-born Canadian going for the kill and attacking with a series of vicious lefts.  The final shot landed flush oo the chin, knocking Sukhotskiy (22-3, 16 KOs) out at 2:42 of the round.

“I gave a beautiful knockout for SHOWTIME,” Stevenson said.  “I just used my speed, my movement.  I have the power and I know the knockouts are going to come.  I’m not going to force it.  I was just waiting for him and, bang, I caught him.  I wanted to hit him with my left hand and it worked.

“I’m the big champion.  He has to come to me,” said Stevenson of any challengers.  “I’m the man in the light heavyweight division. They have to come to me. My job is to go in the ring and knock everybody out.  I’m a ‘Superman.’”

In the co-feature, Jo Jo Dan won another razor close split-decision over hometown favorite Kevin Bizier in a welterweight rematch of their 2013 bout, scored 115-112 Dan, 114-113 Bizier, 114-113 Dan.

The early rounds were extremely close with back-and-forth action that could have gone either way.  Bizier had his best round in the seventh, landing 38 punches to Dan’s 12 and flooring the Romanian for the first time since 2011.  But the Quebec City native may have punched himself out, as Dan rallied and was the more active fighter from that point on.  Dan landed 113 to just 78 for Bizier from the eighth through the 12th rounds.

“It was a very hard fight,” Dan said.  “Kevin is a warrior.  I did my best in the ring.  I think I controlled the action and I think I won the fight.  He changed a lot from the first right.  He moved a lot, and he surprised me with that.  He caught me, but I came up and I came up stronger.  He spent all his energy to put me down.”

With the win, Dan (34-2, 18 KOs) became the IBF No. 1 contender to champion Kell Brook at 147 pounds.

“Yes, of course (I’d fight Bizier again), but first I want to fight Kell Brook,” Dan said.  “I hope we’ll make an exciting fight like this one.”

After the fight, Bizier (23-2, 16 KOs) was disappointed to again be on the losing end of a close split-decision.

“All the close rounds went to Jo Jo,” Bizier said.  “We knew we had to win those last two rounds and I guess they gave it to him.  When I hurt Jo Jo in the seventh I hurt my right hand.  At that point, I was fighting with one hand.

“Let’s fight again. Why not?  The first two fights were close.  I don’t know why, but the judges just seem to give the close rounds to him.”

Super middleweight contender Andre Dirrell was triumphant in his return to SHOWTIME, registering a near-shutout 12-round decision over Derek Edwards, scored 119-109, 120-108, 119-107.

The switch-hitting Dirrell fought entirely from the southpaw stance and dominated the bout from the opening bell, landing lefts and combinations with ease while breaking down Edwards and maintaining his distance.  Dirrell (24-1, 16 KOs) landed 46 percent of his power punches compared to Edwards’ 19 percent.  Edwards (27-4-1, 14 KOs) only managed to land one jab through the entire 12 rounds.

“I want to perfect my craft as far as fighting southpaw,” Dirrell said.  “I was shooting the left hand.  This guy has a tough, tough head so I’m not going to doubt my power one bit.  I’m glad to walk away with a victory.  My knuckle was hurting but it wasn’t bad enough that I couldn’t throw it.  This boy could take a punch.

“I’m getting there. I’m proud of my performance, but it was a tough 12 rounds.”

Dirrell, who advanced to the No. 2 spot in the IBF super middleweight standings, was asked after the fight by SHOWTIME reporter Jim Gray if he’d like to avenge his lone loss to IBF 168-pound champ Carl Froch.

“I believe he’s scared to fight me,” Dirrell said.  “It’s too risky a fight to take.  But I’m going to push it to the best of my ability.  There’s a win on his record that’s questionable to everyone in the world.  Give me the rematch.  Prove to your fans that you beat me and try to do it again.  Step in the ring with Andre Dirrell and you’re going to see what I’m all about.”

In the opening bout of the telecast, undefeated light heavyweight contender Artur Beterbiev kept his perfect record intact with his seventh knockout in his seventh professional bout, finishing previously unbeaten Jeff Page Jr. at 2:21 of the second round.

Page (15-1, 10 KOs) surprised Beterbiev in the first, knocking down the former Russian amateur champion for the first time in his career.  But Beterbiev (7-0, 7 KOs) stormed back in the second, roughed Page up in the inside and floored the Kansas native.  Page beat the count but was dazed and Beterbiev finished him with a lead right hand that sent Page face-forward to the canvas.

“I felt a bit sleepy before the fight and I don’t think I was concentrating for a fraction of a second (in the first round),” Beterbiev said.  “I got angry after the knockdown and decided to go forward.  I have a lot to learn in professional boxing, but I’m looking forward to the experience.”

When asked if he thinks he could beat WBO/WBA/IBF Champion Sergey Kovalev, who he defeated as an amateur, Beterbiev was noncommittal.

“I beat him (Kovalev) as an amateur so I can’t say much,” Beterbiev said.  “It’s hard to say right now.”

Six Fighters. Three Fights. One Man’s Opinion. A Look At Saturday Night’s Fight Card.

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FROM SHOWTIME BOXING ANALYST STEVE FARHOOD

Andrzej Fonfara is a fan-friendly TV fighter.

Have I just praised him or insulted him? Maybe a little of both.

Glass half-full: A TV fighter is someone who’s fun to watch. Aggressive. Capable of scoring KOs. Never in a bad fight. Certainly worth an hour of your viewing time.

Think Gabriel Rosado. Or Chris Arreola. Or Josesito Lopez.

Glass half-empty: A TV fighter gets hit more than he should, which usually prevents him from attaining championship-level status.

Think Gabriel Rosado. Or Chris Arreola. Or Josesito Lopez.

In his most recent bout, the 26-year-old Fonfara, 25-3, challenged WBC 175-pound titlist Adonis Stevenson in May on SHOWTIME®. The Polish light heavyweight was a 10-1 underdog, and when he went down twice in the first five rounds, the odds might as well have risen to 100-1. But Fonfara roared back to drop and almost stop the imposing Stevenson.

The challenger faded late and lost by unanimous decision, but made a name for himself in the process.

Glass half-full: It was a moral victory that significantly raised Fonfara’s stock. Now he was somebody.

Glass half-empty: There are no moral victories in boxing, nor any such thing as a good loss. A somebody could be anybody.

Whatever your perspective, Fonfara, who’s based in Chicago, returns home to face France-based Doudou Ngumbu of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Ngumbu, 33-5, is a road warrior who’s faced local fighters in the Ukraine, Poland, and South Africa, so the 32-year-old veteran is not likely to cower in his corner.

This time it’s Fonfara who’s the favorite (5-1), and his in-the-pocket style and reasonable punching power give him a sizable advantage. But Ngumbu is as awkward as his name, and he’s been stopped only once. If he lands his right hand often enough, he’ll trouble Fonfara.

Remember, Fonfara hits and gets hit. Add the fact that Polish fans might just top even Puerto Ricans and Mexicans as the most passionate in boxing and we’re looking at a lively and energized main event.

In other words, both a good live fight and a good TV fight.

Kameda

In the co-feature, WBO bantamweight titlist Tomoki Kameda returns to SHOWTIME after his one-punch KO win in July. (Remember, little guys can punch!) The Mexico-based Japanese 118-pounder will defend against a countryman of sorts, 28-year-old Alejandro Hernandez of Mexico City.

It’ll be Hernandez’s third try at a world title; he previously fought for championship belts at 112 and 115 pounds.

For a four-month period, Kameda and his brothers, Daiki and Koki, simultaneously held world titles. They are the only trio of brothers to have won world championships.

Kameda came to Mexico at age 15 because he wanted to be “different from his brothers.” His entire amateur career was fought in Mexico, and he lives there now. He’s known as “Mexicanito,” and his hook-to-the-body kayo of Pungluang Singyu on the undercard of the Canelo Alvarez-Erislandy Lara PPV was evidence that it’s not just a nickname of convenience.

The 23-year-old Kameda, 30-0, seems a complete package, with exceptional speed and eye-popping power. Having committed to fighting in the USA, he has an opportunity to do something unique: How many Japanese fighters have established themselves as championship-level stars in the West?

In Hernandez, who is 28-10-2, Kameda faces a veteran boxer-puncher who’s been tested by the likes of world titlists Leo Santa Cruz, Omar Narvaez and Marvin Sonsona. The Mexican, who’s a big underdog, will try to become the only current world champion with double-digit losses.

Hernandez is game (he’s been stopped only by Santa Cruz), but on paper, at least, he’s out of his depth.

The first televised fight will feature a 130-pounder who’s demanded attention for good reason: His one-punch power has produced several spectacular knockouts.

I called Javier Fortuna’s U.S. debut back in 2010, and his first-round wipeout of prospect Victor Valenzuela was nothing short of frightening. Since then, the southpaw Fortuna, 25-0-1, has also obliterated Yuandale Evans and Miguel Zamudio via first-round knockout.

Quality of opposition? Valenzuela, Evans, and Zamudio were a combined 49-1-1.

This’ll be the 25-year-old Fortuna’s fourth fight at 130 pounds. As was the case with junior lightweight titlist Rances Barthelemy on the most recent SHOWTIME boxing broadcast, Fortuna, a native of the Dominican Republic, has a precious opportunity to separate himself from the other top fighters in his underwhelming division.

For a pure puncher, all it takes is one timely performance…

Fortuna will take on Abner Cotto, who’s on a bit of a run. Last time out, Cotto, 18-2, outpointed former world title challenger Jerry Belmontes on the road in Corpus Christi. Before that, he lost a competitive decision to unbeaten top-10 contender Francisco Vargas.

Here’s the key: Fortuna often comes out of the blocks like Usain Bolt, while the 27-year-old Cotto has had his share of first-round issues. (In April 2013, Omar Figueroa blasted out Cotto in one round, and Belmontes hurt the Puerto Rican in the first round as well.) It’s imperative that Cotto extend the fight; Fortuna has scored only one stoppage past the fourth round.

The guess is that Fortuna has a bit too much of everything for Cotto. But the only thing I’ll be looking for is that put-away punch.

See you on Saturday!

Polish Power: A look at the five best Poland-born fighters of all-time

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FROM SHOWTIME BOXING ANALYST STEVE FARHOOD

On Saturday, Nov. 1, Poland’s Andrzej Fonfara will headline a SHOWTIME BOXING: Special Edition at UIC Pavilion in Chicago.

Fonfara proved his toughness in May, when he nearly upset defending WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson in Montreal.

In Chicago, Fonfara (25-3) will battle the Congo’s Doudou Ngumbu.

Poland’s boxing fans may just be the most passionate in boxing. And the fighters have been special, too. Here are the five best Poland-born fighters of all-time.

  1. Dariusz Michalczewski: Titlist at both light heavy and cruiserweight. Best known as being the second-best 175-pounder during Roy Jones’ reign, but went 48-2 and made 23 successful defenses of the WBO title, and that ain’t shabby. Defeated among others Hall of Famer Virgil Hill, Montell Griffin, and Graciano Rocchigiani.
  1. Tomasz Adamek: At 37 and still competing as heavyweight. Is 49-3. Reigned as world titlist at both light heavy and cruiserweight. In 2009, stopped countryman Andrew Golota in Lodz, Poland. Bout was billed “Poland’s Fight Of The Century,” and roughly 25 percent of country’s population watched on TV. Always undersized, but all heart, all the time.
  1. Krzysztof Wlodarczyk: Cruiserweight is 49-3-1 and has been mainstay in division for eight years. Just lost WBC title in September. Has beaten Steve Cunningham and Danny Green.

Question for Vanna: Why hasn’t this fighter’s name been used on “Wheel Of Fortune”?

  1. Andrew Golota: Where to begin? I’ll try the end: Heavyweight fought for presumably final time in 2013 at age 45. Was talented, enigmatic, and unpredictable. Was twice beating Riddick Bowe, only to be DQ’d in both fights for repeatedly punching low. Beat Tim Witherspoon, drew with Chris Byrd, was stopped in one round by Lennox Lewis, and fought to macabre no-contest with Mike Tyson. Went 41-9-1, and contended for the  better part of a dozen years.
  1. Pawel Wolak: All-action junior middleweight performed like a wind-up toy. Went 29-2-1 and fought for last time in 2011. In that same year, drew with Delvin Rodriguez in strong candidate for fight of year. Finished that memorable brawl with right eye hideously swollen and shut. Beat Yuri Foreman and lost close decision to Ishe Smith.

Farhood Facts About the Upcoming Stevenson vs. Fonfara Bout

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1. REMARKABLE PARALLEL: Adonis Stevenson’s one loss was by kayo to Darnell Boone in April 2010. It was on an off-TV ShoBox undercard. Stevenson was 13-0 at the time. Boone was 16-15-2. Stevenson has since gone 10-0 and won the WBC light heavyweight title.

On July 7, 2007, Bermane Stiverne, also Haitian, suffered his only loss by kayo on an off-TV Showtime Championship Boxing undercard to Demetrice King, 11-15. At the time, Stiverne was 12-0. He’s since gone 12-0-1 and won the WBC heavyweight title.

2. HAITI & POLAND:
Haitian-born world titlists: Stevenson, Jo Alcine, Jean Pascal, Bermane Stiverne.
Polish-born world titlists: Dariusz Michalczewski, Krzysztof Wlodarczyk, Tomasz Adamek.

Andrew Golota unsuccessful challenged for a version of the heavyweight title four times.

3. TWIN THREATS: Jermell Charlo and twin brother Jermall Charlo are unbeaten junior middleweights. The only twins to have won world titles were Thailand’s Khaosai and Kaokor Galaxy, but they fought in different divisions.
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4. CROSS-CULTURE: Charlie Ohta is a rarity: an American fighter based in Japan. His given name is Charles Bellamy. (Ohta was the surname of his first boxing sponsor.) Ohta served in the U.S. Navy in Japan. He speaks some Japanese and has taught English in Japan. Twenty-four of his 26 pro bouts have taken place in Japan.

5. DAVID LEMIEUX: The 25 year-old middleweight has a kayo percentage of .935 (29 kayos in 31 wins) is the highest in the middleweight top 20.