Archive for the ‘Fight Mythical Matchups’ Category

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Andre Ward has a formidable task ahead of him this weekend when he challenges light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev. But he walks a path rich with examples of accomplished super-middleweights making successful leaps to light-heavyweight. Recent history includes three prominent names — Joe Calzaghe, James Toney and Roy Jones Jr. After one of his last training sessions before Kovalev, I caught up with Ward to hear his strategies to take down these Hall of Famers.

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JOE CALZAGHE

46-0, (32 KOs)

Notable Wins: Chris Eubank, Robin Reid, Jeff Lacy, Mikkel Kessler, Bernard Hopkins, Roy Jones Jr.

Ward: “Man, that’s a really, really tough fight. He’s similar to myself. One thing he and I talked about a few years ago at the boxing Hall of Fame was his competitiveness being his biggest asset. It’s the same thing with me — we just don’t want to lose. Two guys with that kind of competitiveness would have made for a tremendous fight in both of our primes.

A fighter like Calzaghe with great legs, range, [and] throws a lot of punches? They don’t seem hard but they add up. I think it’s about not trying to match him punch for punch but being accurate. Of course, I have to implement my game plan and work the body, inside and outside. You have to do a lot with Calzaghe or he’ll pick you apart. I have a lot of respect for him.”


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JAMES TONEY

76-10-3 (46 KOs)

Notable Wins: Michael Nunn, Iran Barkley, Mike McCallum (2X), Evander Holyfield, Vassiliy Jirov

Ward: “Oh man, that’s another monster right there! Man… I think my strategy would be similar to the way Roy [Jones] fought him: surprise attacks and speed. Sometimes, you’ll have to try to beat him at his own game on the inside. That would not be easy because he rolled and countered so well. He’s just a master on the outside and inside. He had a great jab and was taught from the old school.

What gives him a little bit of trouble is the footwork, ins and out, and the surprise attacks. Like Roy, you kind of have to jump on him before he can get started. ”


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ROY JONES JR.

64-9 (46 KOs)

Notable Wins: Bernard Hopkins, James Toney, Virgil Hill, Antonio Tarver, Montell Griffin, John Ruiz

Ward: “Man, that’s almost like blasphemous to me to think about how to fight and beat Roy Jones. That’s my guy right there. I love Roy, always have. To be honest, it’s hard to even wrap my brain around that one. This would probably be the toughest fight.

C’mon, the people must’ve forgot! I don’t know if we’ve ever seen somebody quite like Roy in his prime. His speed, the power — he did everything “wrong” right but was bad enough to get away with it. [Pauses] that’s a tough one.”

Andre Ward challenges WBA/WBO/IBF light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev this Saturday November 19 live on HBO pay-per-view. 

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We’ve finally come to the end of BeatsBoxingMayhem’s year-end boxing awards. Last up are the fighters who carried and also dominated the sport in 2013. Read on and see if you agree.

 

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10. MARCOS MAIDANA

– TKO win over Josesito Lopez in a Fight of the Year candidate

– Dominant win over Adrien Broner in a Upset of the Year candidate

The fact that Marcos Maidana is now viewed as a legit challenger to Floyd Mayweather tells you how great a 2013 he had. The knockout of Lopez came in a fantastic shootout, and the Broner win also earned him the WBA welterweight title (his first belt). If Maidana wins the Mayweather sweepstakes, it’s quite the Cinderella story. Who would have guessed this for Chino after getting outclassed by Devon Alexander in 2012?

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9. MIKEY GARCIA

– Wide 8th round technical decision win over Orlando Salido

– KO wins over Juan Manuel Lopez (TKO4) and Roman Martinez (KO8)

Despite problems this year on the scale, Mikey Garcia had his best outing as pro in 2013. He stormed out the gates with a three-knockdown, technical decision win over rugged Orlando Salido to win the WBO featherweight strap. He followed that up by easily knocking out Juan Manuel Lopez at featherweight (Writer’s Note: Garcia failed to make weight and lost the belt on the scales), and moved up to super featherweight to dispose of Roman Martinez to win the WBO strap in a second weight class. The fellow champions at super featherweight hail from the Orient in Takaschi Uchiyama (WBA) and Takashi Miura (WBC), which likely means Garcia will scale another weight class and seek out more well-known prey like Yuriorkis Gamboa.

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8. GENNADY GOLOVKIN

– 5 successful defenses of the WBA middleweight title

– All wins by stoppage over Gabriel Rosado, Nobuhiro Ishida, Matthew Macklin and Curtis Stevens

GGG’s 2013 is a good example of how to continue raising your profile despite being avoided by the best names in your division. Golovkin showed his dominance against middleweight hopefuls Rosado and Ishida, but rightfully endured criticism in the first half of the year since he had yet to meet a legit, Top 10 middleweight. He erased that this summer by leaving Matthew Macklin a yelping mess on the canvas courtesy of a left hook to the body. Stevens wasn’t a top 10 middleweight, but he was a dangerous puncher, allowing Golovkin to put to rest any questions about his chin.

To gain a higher spot on this list next year, GGG will need to finally lure Martin Murray in the ring, and then snatch the crown from Sergio Martinez.

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7. DANNY GARCIA

– 2 defenses of the WBA and WBC junior welterweight titles

– Wins over Zab Judah and #2 man in the division, Lucas Matthysse

Ever since he knocked out Amir Khan last year, Danny Garcia has been viewed by most as a vulnerable, transitional champion. Even worse, he started having his skills overlooked by his loudmouth father Angel. And to be fair, Garcia did himself no favors by failing to finish off Zab Judah and struggling down the stretch of their April fight.

The Judah fight made Garcia a considerable underdog heading into his September fight against Lucas Matthysse. Instead of another KO of the Year candidate from Lucas, he got a boxing lesson from Garcia, who weather Matthysse’s first half aggression to shut his eye with lethal left hooks. A 11th round knockdown sealed Garcia’s win, who’s now received his rightful recognition as one of the sport’s premier fighters.

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6. TIMOTHY BRADLEY

– Unanimous decision in Fight of the Year winner against Ruslan Provodnikov

– Split decision win over Juan Manuel Marquez

Bradley turned his fortunes around heavily in 2013. He nearly lost (and some would say should have if knockdowns and 10-8 rounds were properly scored) to Ruslan Provodnikov but deliverd the clear-cut Fight of Year in 2013. He then showed his versaility and ring smarts by using his legs and speed to outbox Juan Manuel Marquez. Bradley now sits as the #2 ranked fighter in the welterweight division behind Floyd Mayweather.

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5. SERGEY KOVALEV

– 4th round TKO over Nathan Cleverly to capture the WBO light0heavyweight title

– Knockout wins over Ismayl Sillakh, Gabriel Campillo and Cornelius White

Sergey Kovalev needed just 12 months to go from obscurity to world champion. It wasn’t just his power that served him well in all his victories — Kovalev showed adept skill in cutting off the ring and hurting his opponents with accurate, short shots. Nathan Cleverly, a long-tenured titlist and undefeated at the time, was no match for Kovalev and even considered retirement afterward. Kovalev is on the fast track to unifying the division with Adonis Stevenson now within his sights.

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4. AKIRA YAEGASHI

– Captures the WBC flyweight title and makes 2 successful defenses

– Wins over #4 ranked Edgar Sosa and #6 ranked Toshiyuki Igarashi

We didn’t get the usual Fight of the Year from him, but that doesn’t mean Akira Yaegashi was no less dominant in 2013. Ending 2012 on the sour note of losing a decision to Kazuto Ioka, Yaegashi bounced back with a tuneup KO over Saenmuangloei Kokietgym, and tough but clear decision wins Oscar Blanquet, Toshiyuki Igarashi and Edgar Sosa. The latter win is particularly impressive as it comes after Sosa’s win over Giovani Segura (who waged war with Hernan Marquez in a Fight of the Year favorite). If you ignored the little guys this year, Yaegashi is a good reason to start playing attention in 2014.

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3. GUILLERMO RIGONDEAUX

– Unifies WBA and WBO super bantamweight titles in decision win over Nonito Donaire

– Dominant decision win over Joseph Agbeko

Rigondeaux arguably achieved the best win this year when he schooled Nonito Donaire in April. The Filipino Flash was a consensus Top #5 Pound 4 Pound fighter at the time, but was made to look like a novice. Rigondeaux followed the signature performance with an easy decision victory over a reluctant Joseph Agbeko. The challenge in 2014 for Rigondeaux will be opponent selection, as HBO backballed him for a time on the grounds that he’s a “boring fighter.” Put him in there against a Carl Frampton or a Kiko Martinez, and that boring tag will be forgotten.

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2. Floyd Mayweather

– Successful defense of the WBC welterweight title against Robert Guerrero

– Moved up to light middleweight and won the WBA and WBC titles from Canelo Alvarez

– Headliner of boxing’s biggest event of 2013 in “The One” pay-per-view

The king stays the king…to a degree. Mayweather had an excellent 2013 in first making his Showtime debut against a credible Robert Guerrero, who cemented his welterweight credentials with wins over Selchuk Aydin and Andre Berto. Floyd easily outboxed him. Next up was the challenge of facing a strong light middleweight in Canelo Alvarez, whose performances against Josesito Lopez and Austin Trout had some enamored enough to believe he could dethrone boxing’s kingpin. Mayweather showed how foolish that was by completely dominating Canelo to remain the man in two weight classes.

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1. ADONIS STEVENSON

– Avenged lone defeat at the hands Darnell Boone by KO

– Captured the linear light-heavyweight title with a TKO1 victory over Chad Dawson

– Dominant KO wins over Top 10 ranked light-heavyweights Tavoris Cloud and Tony Bellew

2013 was the Year of the Black Superman. First, he showed his old-school mindset in rematching the only man to defeat him, Darnell Boone. Stevenson KO’d him in the sixth. He was supposed to just be a solid test for  champion Chad Dawson. Stevenson dusted him in the first round. And to show his reign was legit, he immediately took on two ranked challengers in Tavoris Cloud and Tony Bellew. Both barely won a round before being stopped. Stevenson gave you everything you could want in 2013 from a fighter. He was active, faced top challengers, and ended his fights with knockouts. He can do even better in 2014 with fellow champs like Sergey Kovalev on the horizon.

  VS.

Earlier this week, James Toney stated that he wished he would’ve faced Mike Tyson at some point in his career. When asked how the fight would’ve gone, Toney boasted that the fight would have been “easy.” Of course, many boxing fans snickered at the idea of Toney, a former middleweight, being able to compete against arguably the most feared and offensively talented heavyweight in boxing history. But once you get over the seemingly apparent outrageousness of the statement, a case can be made for this mythical fight being much closer when you consider the timeframe when it could have happened.

First off, let’s be clear that the James Toney who’s been at heavyweight since 2003 would be no match for the prime Mike Tyson of the mid to late 80s. Although close in height, Tyson was much more powerful physically and in regards to punching strength. He’d be able to get inside without the worry of being clinched heavily, which is the strategy every taller/bigger fighter implied against him. Toney’s excellent D would insure that some of Tyson’s bombs missed, but Iron Mike’s speed and the close quarters guarantee he’d eventually start landing heavy leather. And unfortunately for Toney, he doesn’t have a good enough punch to keep Tyson off of him. Considering Tyson only has one KO past the seventh, Toney might survive to a decision if he gets past that point. Either way, he’d still take a beating.

However, James Toney’s chances of victory increase dramatically when you consider the only time these two could have faced each other is sometime between 2004 and 2005. Toney was coming off an impressive KO over a shopworn Evander Holyfield. At 217 pounds, Toney was in the best shape of his heavyweight run. On the other hand, Tyson had taken a massive beating against Lennox Lewis in June ’02. His one bout in 2003 was a one round blowout of Clifford Etienne.

By 2004, Tyson was physically breaking down and mentally losing his passion for boxing. Tyson had been a pro for 15 years with a pressure style not conducive to a long career. He had back problems before the Etienne bout. He weighed 233 pounds, the second highest weight of his career, when he blew out his left knee and was subsequently knocked out in four rounds against Danny Williams in 2004. He equaled that much too high weight again in 2005 when he gassed and quit after six rounds against Kevin McBride.

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Toney was also having physical breakdowns at this time, but due to his use of steroids. In his September 2004 decision win over Rydell Booker, Toney suffered a bicep tear. He next fought in April 2005, having his decision win over John Ruiz annulled when post-fight tests discovered Toney had used a banned anabolic steroid.

Had Toney and Tyson fought in 2004 or 2005, I’d favor Lights Out. Although both were fighting in the 230s, that weight was much more detrimental to Tyson, who burned out after just a few rounds. Toney’s chin would allow him to survive Tyson’s early blitz. After that, Toney would slowly start working Tyson over the short hooks to the body and head in close. Because Toney’s power is minimal at heavyweight, the fight would go into the later rounds. Based on how he mentally capitulated against Danny Williams and Kevin McBride around this time, it’s likely that Tyson retires on his stool. Iron Mike had diminished enough at this point where even fringe contenders were a struggle. The only thing that remained consistent was his punching power.

Let’s hear your thoughts. Did a faded Mike Tyson still have enough in 2004 or 2005 to handle James Toney, or would Lights Out have closed the book on Iron Mike’s career?

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Mike Tyson vs. George Foreman

Posted: September 8, 2010 by Ismael AbduSalaam in Fight Mythical Matchups
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As a young fighter, Mike Tyson’s mentor Cus D’Amato used to show him films of all the previous  heavyweight champs. The legendary trainer would break down their styles, offering Mike detailed analysis of their strengths and weaknesses.

When they got to George Foreman, Cus is reputed to have told him that no swarmer, come forward aggressive fighter (Dempsey, Marciano, Frazier) ever beats Foreman. He was too strong, and would push them into the range of his deadly uppercuts, as seen in his two round blitz of a previously undefeated Joe Frazier in 1973.

Trying to box Foreman wasn’t easy, either. The former champion possessed a hard jab, and could cut off the ring quickly and trap opponents on the ropes. Ken Norton fell victim to this and suffered a brutal KO in just two rounds. Ali was forced to adopt the rope a dope when Foreman was able to easily trap him on the ropes despite Muhammad’s excellent footwork.

And when he was landed on, George Foreman held a sturdy chin that served him two decades later in the 90s, when even as an old man the young fighters were wary of mixing it up with him on the inside. Add this up with his punching power, and it’s easy to see why pundits expected Foreman to reign for a long time in the mid 1970s.

Mike Tyson, contrary to popular belief, did not excel at in-fighting. He retained a bad habit throughout his career of stopping his offense anytime he was clinched. This was unlike his idol Jack Dempsey and others like Rocky Marciano and Joe Frazier, who would punish opponents in clinches: whether through legal punches or foul shots to the kidney, hips, or groin.

Tyson’s lethal game was at mid-range. From there he could rip off hard combinations. His great head movement and weaving prevented him from absorbing punishment, and kept him in position to crash home counters on his usually larger opponents.

Against Foreman, this would be crucial. Tyson would not want to get too close, as Foreman would simply push him back by his shoulders and smash him with uppercuts and hooks. At mid-range, Tyson would have opportunities to counter the slower Foreman. Although Foreman shook off several Frazier left hooks in their two bouts, Big George would have never faced someone like Tyson, who was blessed with dynamite and speed in both hands.

With all that said, there’s one other Tyson flaw that I feel would sink him against Foreman, and that is Iron Mike’s inability to fight going backwards. His offense is 100% forward, and when any fighter has forced him in the other direction he loses most of the leverage on his punches. George Foreman is likely the strongest heavyweight champion physically, edging others like Jim Jeffries and Jack Johnson. At many points during the fight, he will move Tyson backwards. It will be bullying, but not involve all the grappling that Holyfield did against Mike in 1996. It will be shoving coupled with hard punches. And on the backfoot Tyson doesn’t have the capabilities to make Foreman pay like Ali and even Jimmy Young did.

This is a shootout and a great fight to debate. To add more allure to this matchup, rumors persist that Tyson refused to fight Foreman in 1990 mostly due to what Cus D’Amato had instilled in him about Foreman’s abilities.

So who are you going with, Tyson or Foreman?

Foreman vs. Norton

Tyson Highlights

Shane Mosley vs. Roberto Duran

Posted: August 19, 2010 by Ismael AbduSalaam in Fight Mythical Matchups
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Before they leapt to welterweight to secure the signature wins of their careers, Roberto Duran and Shane Mosley made their names among hardcore fight fans by terrorizing the lightweight division.

Duran was a nightmare opponent no matter your style. Boxers were systemically broken down with unrelenting, educated pressure. And sluggers were routinely outclassed on the inside courtesy of Roberto’s innate countering ability, rough fouls, and his skill at slipping punches.

On the other hand, Shane Mosley had simply too much speed and power for his opponents. After taking the IBF title via unanimous decision from Phillip Holiday in 1997, Mosley would make 8 defenses, all by knockout.

 A big fan of Duran, Mosley spoke exclusively with me last November regarding how he’d handle Duran’s legendary inside fighting and dogfight mentality.

 “I think that I’d fight exactly how Sugar Ray Leonard did. I’d be on my toes and use my boxing skills. I know he’d come right at me. What would offset Roberto Duran would be my strength and my power,” Shane Mosley explained. “He wouldn’t be able to wrestle me because I’m pretty good on the inside. It’s funny you say him because I study his clips and we’re alike in a lot of ways. He can box as well as fight. The other day I watched his fight with Edwin Viruet. I picked up some different things in that fight. But the best fight probably wouldn’t have been at welterweight. The best fight would’ve been at lightweight because we would’ve really rumbled [laughs].”

 You can see in the above quote Mosley’s demeanor; even when he knows it’s more beneficial to box a particular opponent, the fighter in him can’t pass up a brawl, hence his admission that he and Duran would have “rumbled” at lightweight. As soon as Duran caught him with a good counter, Mosley would be drawn into a hellacious battle on the inside much like his predecessor Sugar Ray Leonard was in 1980.

Sugar is correct, his physical strength will prevent him from being bullied and overwhelmed like some Duran opponents. However, Hands of Stone holds the skill advantage in the trenches, and will repeatedly catch Mosley from different angles with counter hooks. Mosley would flurry hard, blazing shots in retaliation, but more often than not Duran would be the one slipping those punches and landing the cleaner work inside.

Mosley would be in the fight the full 15 because of his toughness and iron chin, and would undoubtedly be Duran’s toughest test at lightweight, even more so than his classic trilogy with Esteban DeJesus.

My prediction is Roberto Duran wins a close decision in a memorable war with scorecards in the 144-141 range over 15 rounds, and both men getting stunned or hurt several times.

Time for your thoughts. Does Duran prevail, or is Mosley a Sugar with too much power and speed for Hands of Stone?

Roberto Duran Highlights

Shane Mosley Highlights

 VS.

The junior welterweight division may not have the glamour or history as the weight classes it’s sandwiched between (lightweight and welterweight), but the 140 pound class has produced some legendary fighters since its modern creation in 1959.

Two of those elite fighters are Aaron Pryor (39-1, 35 KOs), who ruled the division in the early 80s, and Kostya Tszyu (31-2, 25 KOs), who cleaned out his weight class in the late 90s and early 2000s.

Pryor was a whirlwind of a fighter, throwing dozens of punches at a time and drowning opposition in never-ending pressure.

Unlike many fighters of that mold, Pryor had power and secured many early and mid round KOs

He first hit the national scene with a dominant destruction of legendary champ Antonio Cervantes to win the WBA title. The aged Cervantes was wily enough to get a flash knockdown in the 1st, but got an unmerciful pounding in the subsequent 3 rounds before a muh-needed ref stoppage.

Pryor was an active champ making 10 defenses (8 by knockout) from 1980-1985. Two of those defenses were epic battles with fellow Hall of Famer Alexis Arguello, who was attempting to be the first man to win titles in 4 different weight classes.

Pryor’s downfall was not an opponent, but drug abuse. When he tried a comeback in 1987 after 2 years out, he suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Bobby Joe Young, and only fought 3 insignificant bouts over the next 3 years before retiring due to eye problems.

Kostya Tszyu started quickly in the early 90s due to his amateur background (which includes a win over the late Vernon Forrest), facing former world champion Juan La Porte in just his 4th bout. By his 14th, Tszyu had won the IBF title by knocking out Jake Rodriguez in 6 rounds.

A stalking, extremely heavy-handed puncher, Tszyu seemed primed for a long reign after beating vets like Roger Mayweather. But Tszyu suffered a stunning upset to Vince Phillips in 1997, losing an exciting 10th round TKO.

Tszyu credited the fight as a learning experience in pacing and won the WBC title the in 1999 by KOing slick boxer Miguel Angel Gonzalez.

He strung off eight defenses with several notable KO victims in Julio Cesar Chavez, Shamba Mitchell (2X), Jesse James Leija, and Zab Judah.

Like Pryor, inactivity hurt Tszyu in the end. Plagued by injuries, he only fought 2 bouts over 2 years (2003, 2004) before being faced with a hungry Ricky Hatton in 2005.

In his UK backyard, Hatton grinded down the normally durable Tszyu over 11 hard rounds with mauling and low blows. Making no excuses, Tszyu never fought again.

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As seen above, both men have unquestionable credentials, facing the best opposition throughout their careers.

Pitted against each other, Pryor and Tszyu offer contrasting skill sets that will force adjustments and memorable exchanges.

Pryor’s punch activity and intelligent pressure will pose huge problems for Tszyu, who would be forced into fighting backwards and defensively for much of the fight. The issue is not the pressure alone, but the fact that Pryor uses many angles to turn opponents, and when focused he was great at slipping punches and countering on the inside.

Tszyu’s possessed great accuracy, and his challenge would be creating the space to drive home his outstanding right hand which would do damage. Pryor had a great chin, but he could be stunned and dropped early (Cervantes, Arguello) when he got too wild with his pressure attacks. Case in point, see the below shot that dropped Pryor against Akio Kameda in the first round.

Tszyu and Pryor are both good hookers, but Tszyu usually throws much straighter punches. More often than not, Tszyu’s punches would land first if given the space. It’s unclear if Kostya is strong enough to push Pryor off like he did Sharmba Mitchell in their first bout, but he’ll want to do whatever possible to get Pryor to mid and outside range. There, Tszyu can seek to put him on the end of his best punch, like he did to Zab Judah in his most famous KO.

It’ll be a taxing battle for both men, but I feel Aaron Pryor has a style that’s been proven as kryptonite to Tszyu with lesser skilled opponents. Even in his prime, Tszyu struggled and was KO’d when Vince Phillips crowded him and made him fight going backwards. Hatton added more fouls, but did the same thing years later. Tszyu was still able to land bombs on Ricky, but in most instances he was leaning backward and not getting full extension and power.

With Pryor, Tszyu won’t get the punching space he needs to be effective. In addition, Pryor would maintain angles and keep turning Tszyu to prevent the powerful Russian from getting set. However, Tszyu’s too good to get completely shut out, and I’m certain Pryor would get dropped at some point by Tszyu’s right, which was many times set up beautifully by Kostya’s hooking jab.

My prediction is Aaron Pryor by a 10th round TKO in a war that sees him dropped early.

 

Aaron Pryor Highlights

Kostya Tszyu Highlights

Aaron Pyor Speaks on Kostya Tszyu

 

 

 When you think of sheer determination and heart, not many fighters can rank above Rocky Marciano and Evander Holyfield. Numerous times throughout their careers, both men were labeled undersized for the weight class and made underdogs against larger and sometimes more skilled opponents. And yet, each man consistently defied the odds and carved out memorable Hall of Fame careers.

Rocky Marciano is no stranger to most boxing fans. As the only undefeated heavyweight champion in history (49-0, 43 KOs), the Brockton Blockbuster holds a distinction over other undefeated champs like Sven Ottke in having fought and beaten the best fighters of his era. Initially dismissed as a crude, clumsy, and defense-deficient contender on his way up, Marciano began turning heads when he knocked out promising contender Rex Layne in 6 rounds in 1951.

The performance led to a showdown with his boyhood idol Joe Louis later that year. Louis was far past his prime but still dangerous, having won his last 8 bouts. Marciano dominated the contest and scored a 8th round TKO that served to be the end of Louis’s career. From there, Marciano went on to win the heavyweight title in a classic come from behind KO against Jersey Joe Walcott, and made 6 defenses (5 by KO) before retiring on top in 1955 at the age of 32.

Evander Holyfield began his career as a cruiserweight, making his mark as possibly the best fighter ever at that weight with wins over Dwight Muhammad Qawi (2X) and Carlos De Leon. Bulking up, he moved to heavyweight in 1988 and scored impressive wins over lower tier names Michael Dokes, Alex Stewart, and Pinklon Thomas.

An early heavyweight showdown with Mike Tyson was not be, as Iron Mike was upset by Buster Douglas in 1990. Holyfield went on to defeat Douglas in just 3 rounds and made 3 successful defenses before being losing to an undefeated Riddick Bowe in 1992. He avenged that defeat in 1993, but lost the title right back in 1994 in an huge upset to southpaw Michael Moorer. The Real Deal’s career seemed to be at a close when he was knocked out in 8 rounds in the rubber match with Bowe in 1995.

But only a year later, Holyfield secured his signature win by outmuscling Mike Tyson to an 11th round TKO, and winning the rematch by DQ. He held the title until 1999, when he lost to Lennox Lewis.

For the past 10 years, he has continued to fight past prime to mixed results, but is still a top 20-25 fighter despite being 47 years old.

In a proposed matchup between them, two words come to mind: pain and bloodshed. By today’s standards Marciano was a small heavyweight, weighing no more than 189 in his prime and standing at 5’11 with a 67 inch reach. But pound for pound, Rocky was one of the hardest punchers in history. The majority if his opponents were never the same afterward, either retiring (Walcott, Louis) or posting losing records over their remaining bouts (Charles, LaStarza).

Marciano was great at cutting off the ring and forcing fighters into dangerous exchanges. With immense stamina, Rocky would routinely throw over 100 punches per round, with the majority being power shots. Most fighters were simply overwhelmed. Roland LaStarza for example, suffered busted blood clots in his arms for simply trying to cover up against the ropes.

While not a defensive marvel, Rocky Marciano was also better than given credit for. Many opponents stated afterward that he was not as easy to hit clean as he looked. Marciano fought out of a crouch, and Muhammad Ali noted this point after their stimulated computer fight, praising how well Marciano was able to slip his jab in spots.

With Holyfield, Marciano would have an opponent that wouldn’t be afraid to brawl in the trenches with him. Marciano, whose shorter arms were an huge asset in trench warfare, would seek to make the entire fight a prolonged brawl and prevent Holyfield from having any space to box. A good example of this would be the first fight with Ezzard Charles, who was the only man to go 15 rounds with Marciano. Charles did very well early, but could not continue to sustain Rocky’s pace and was definitively overworked in the crucial later rounds.

At 6’2 and over 210 pounds, the always in great shape Evander Holyfield has 2 skills necessary to beat Marciano; being able to equally brawl and box. For the Real Deal to win, these skills must be matched evenly. As seen in fights with Ray Mercer, George Foreman, and Riddick Bowe (rematch), Holyfield can box well off the back foot and with his jab. That will be essential to piling up points as Marciano wades in.

Too much movement will tire him out, so when Rocky does breach mid-range distance, Holyfield will have to fire off combos and hold as he did to Mike Tyson. Evander is one of the stronger heavyweight champs, so it’s likely he’ll be able to control Marciano in the clinches and of course land those rough, illegal head butts of his to open cuts or disrupt Rocky’s game plan.

This fight essentially comes down to how smart Evander Holyfield chooses to be. In the past, we’ve seen Holyfield’s strategy go out the window once he’s hit hard (Bowe I and III). If that happens with Marciano and he tries to wage a battle of machismo, Holyfield gets taken out by about the 8th round. But I believe Holyfield will respect Marciano’s ability as he did Tyson, and combine the best elements of that fight with his boxing ability as seen in the Bowe rematch. And Evander has taken shots from the division’s biggest punchers in George Foreman and Lennox Lewis, so it’s likely Holyfield’s chin will see him through the rough spots.

After 12 brutal and career shortening rounds, I see Evander Holyfield emerging victorious with a majority decision, with scores resembling 114-114 and 115-113 twice.