Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Sergei Kovalev vs. Andre Ward II

Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, NV, June 17
TV: HBO PPV
By Peter Lim

The first fight unfolded exactly as I predicted, except that the wrong fighter won the decision. Since both fighters truly believe they decisively won the fight, they will fine-tune rather than overhaul their respective game plans in the rematch. The course of the rematch though, will for the most part, repeat itself.

In the first encounter Kovalev inflicted more damage from mid-to-long range but Ward was more effective when he took the fight into chest-to-chest territory. Ward will try and capitalize on his success of smothering Kovalev and killing his momentum with his signature jab-and-grab and hold-and-hammer tactics, while being infuriatingly elusive on the outside.

But Kovalev will have also made adjustments in training camp in both his offense and defense. The Russian intensifies his pressure by doubling up on his jab and increasing his punch output. At the same time, he knows he cannot win the hold-and-hit exchanges that Ward will instigate so, rather than trying to outpunch Ward in the entanglements, he strategically clamps down with the bearhug and headlock to force a break.

The heavier handed Russian might score a flash knockdown or two en route to winning eight of the 12 rounds, just as he did in the first fight. Hopefully, the judges will get it right this time around.


Friday, June 9, 2017

Regis Prograis vs. Joel Diaz

Turning Stone Casino, Verona, NY, June 9
TV: Showtime
By Peter Lim

This matchup can best be described as a B-caliber superfight. If boxing were baseball, Prograis-Diaz would be the minor league world series. Both undefeated fighters have shined on the prospect circuit and have been on the cusp of being elevated to contender status. Both are exciting boxer-brawlers and neither likes to take a backward step, but Progais is the more cerebral of the two and that will ultimately tip the balance of the fight.

The early and middle rounds are competitive with each fighter testing the other's chin and punching power in many a ferocious exchange. But as the fight progresses, Prograis capitalizes on Diaz's weaknesses more the vice versa. Firing his southpaw right jab in doubles and triples to set up combinations, Prograis dominates the late rounds to win a close but convincing unanimous decision.

Afterthoughts:
I predicted Prograis would win via a mix of methodology and machismo, but it was all machismo.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Kell Brook vs. Errol Spence

Bermall Lane Football Ground, London, England, May 27
TV: Showtime
By Peter Lim

All things being equal and sans any unforeseen collisions of styles, sleights of hand, or tricks under their sleeves, Spence (21-0, 18 KOs) should emerge victorious in this scintillating encounter. His slick southpaw mode of combat, explosive punching and defense should allow him to out-maneuver Brook (36-1, 25 KOs) to a close but unanimous decision.

But in this sport where two men of similar size do battle in a 20X20 square foot ring, all things are never equal. And there are always intangibles that come into play.

We know Brook has a rock solid chin, having stood up to Gennady Golovkin's murderous punches for five rounds while managing to effectively return fire in spurts. But Spence is riding a 12-fight KO streak, scoring knockouts against fighters who had never previously been stopped in his last six bouts. Unlike Golovkin, though, Spence's potency stems from accuracy, timing and immaculate technique which can have a different impact than sheer brute punching power.

Punch for punch, Spence is probably the deadlier of the two, but Brook is no slouch in the rocking, socking department either. Moreover, he throws punches in bunches and has the propensity and audacity to return fire a split second after getting nailed. He hits harder than any fighter Spence has previously faced, and Spence's chin has never been significantly tested before. The quintessential bully, Brook imposes his will on his opponents simply by being rougher, tougher and more alpha.

But Spence's ring generalship, rooted in his decorated amateur career, ensures that he avoids being lured into the back-alley brawl that Brook will try to instigate. Time and again, Brook manages to rock him with clean punches but Spence has the wherewithal to cover, clinch and spin away from any sustained punishment and box his way to a decision win in the 115-113 to 116-112 range.
 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Saul "Canelo" Alvarez vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, NV, May 6
TV: HBO Pay-Per-View
By Peter Lim

This all-Mexican showdown is a super fight only by virtue of celebrity, not because their respective skill sets match up evenly. Canelo earned his superstardom the hard way, taking on an impressive list of opponents with a diverse array of styles. Conversely, Chavez, for the most part, inherited his lofty status from his legendary dad and namesake.

Talent-wise, this will prove to be a mismatch. Chavez's size advantage will not even be factor in this fight.

Utilizing his superior ring IQ, Canelo deftly boxes circles around Chavez, much like Sergio Martinez did for 11 rounds in 2012. At opportune moments, he steps in with power punches and accurate combinations that cumulatively break Chavez down as the fight wears on.

Chavez proves gutsy if nothing else and tries to up the ante by pressing the action in the later half of the fight. But Canelo will not be content to cruise to a decision victory. He meets Chavez's aggression head on, winning the heated exchanges with the better-educated punch sequences. Canelo hurts Chavez with a counter hook and immediately pounces on him with a two-fisted flurry to stop him in the tenth round.



Thursday, April 27, 2017

Anthony Joshua vs. Vladimir Klitschko

Wembly Stadium, London, April 29
TV: Showtime
By Peter Lim

Over a decade ago, I predicted that once the Klitschko brothers were gone, the heavyweight division would return to normal with the average fighter standing 6-foot-2 to 6-foot-4 and weighing in between 220 and 230 pounds. Anything above 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, I believed, posed more of a liability than an asset to a fighter in a 20X20 square foot ring. The Klitschko brothers were merely an anomaly in the sport.

How wrong I was. The heavyweight division has undergone an unprecedented growth spurt over the last 15 years leaving the division in a perpetual state of gigantism.

Anthony Joshua (18-0, 18 KOs) is the quintessential example that a bigger, bulked-up frame need not necessarily impede agility, movement or explosiveness. His jab proves not only faster than Klitschko's, it is harder as well. First on the draw, Joshua catches Klitschko with one-twos throughout the fight. In the seventh round, Joshua, 27, closes the show with a picturesque straight right as emphatically and decisively as Klitachko (64-4, 53 KOs) used to do with that same punch throughout his career.

Klitschko, 41, finally retires and the long overdue changing of the guard is official.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Shawn Porter vs. Andre Berto

Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY, April 22
TV: Showtime
By Peter Lim

Porter's and Berto's styles ensures this will be fan-friendly encounter no matter the duration of the fight. Porter (26-2-1, 16 KOs) is a natural brawler by instinct who can box cerebrally when he needs to; Berto (31-4, 24 KOs) is a boxer who favors thinking over instinct, but when caught in the trenches, he can duke it out with the best of them.

Both fighters are veterans of numerous bruising and bloody battles but Porter appears to have emerged from the rubble the fresher and less-shopworn of the two.

Porter's slight edge in strength and punch resistance will make all the difference. Berto attempts to stick and move only be cut off and forced to trade. The ultimate bully, Porter gets the better of the exchanges and Berto begins to fade in the middle rounds.

Fighting in desperation mode, Berto tries to lure Porter in and set him up with a fight-ending counter, but Porter absorbs his best shots with ease and aplomb. Berto eventually succumbs to Porter's sustained aggression in the tenth round, tasting the canvass on two or three occasions along the way.

Afterthoughts:
Porter stopped Berto' one round short of what I predicted but everything else went down the way I called it, including the knock downs.

Jermell Charlo vs. Charles Hatley

Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY, April 22
TV: Showtime
By Peter Lim

Although their records do not appear too disparate, this all-Texas matchup is a mismatch. Charlo's level of opposition exceeds Hatley's by leap and bounds, he's superior in every respect of the game and, despite his substantially lower knockout percentage, is the harder puncher.

The fight might be close in the early rounds solely because Charlo (28-0, 13 KOs) is a slow and tentative starter. But once he figures Hatley (26-1-1, 18 KOs) out, Charlo effortlessly imposes his will, methodically dissects Hatley and knocks him out with a picturesque multi-punch combination in the sixth round.

Afterthoughts:
I was spot on with this prediction. Charlo was the consummate pro and Hatley was exposed as an overhyped pretender.