Monthly Archives: February 2015

Gennady Golovkin should be feared by all including Miguel Cotto

Forget split decisions, fine margins, hostile crowds, bloodied faces, controversial stoppages or luck. None of it matters to WBA Middleweight Champion Gennady Golovkin.

He has yet to be party to those elements of professional boxing that even the best fighters endure. The 160-pound destroyer finds a way to solve any dilemma facing him. Simply put, show the man a ring and he will put on a knockout show.

Leaving audiences mesmerised by performances at iconic venues like Madison Square Garden in New York and the MGM Grand in Las Vegas has seen GGG’s international appeal nearing fever pitch. California was briefly charmed last time out when Marco Antonio Rubio lost a count in less than four minutes.

At this point in his career—with a 31-0 record, 28 knockouts—Golovkin seems unstoppable. Unfortunately, such a reputation comes with one notable drawback: finding a willing opponent to fight.

As Guillermo Rigondeaux has witnessed from the super bantamweight pack, success can only be prolonged to a point, until it is one day met with avoidance. No one among Leo Santa Cruz, Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg has entertained the Cuban’s challenge.

The comparison is thankfully a little less dramatic in the case of Golovkin. He has plenty of options to consider, including gaining or losing weight to shuffle among the middleweight class. Yet as he mentioned post Rubio, Miguel Cotto (39-4) is the man to be hunted.

The narrative of Cotto not being capable to establish himself at 160 pounds has been revised after his dominant display against Sergio Martinez in June. The four-weight champion was almost assured of victory after a punch-perfect first round that saw Martinez floored three times.

Such form is the minimum requirement for a meeting with Golovkin.Cotto’s all-action persona might look more spectacular than Golovkin’s measured footwork when coming forward, but it is hardly more effective, as the Puerto Rican’s four losses would suggest.

Based on skill and style, both men share similarities. The pair rarely nurse early rounds, steadily moving rivals to the ropes or a corner. And preparations to set up vicious knockdowns are never far from being executed by either.

Golovkin’s preference is to instantly strike at an unprotected head or body. The slightest defensive surrender or momentary high guard ruins challengers time and again. Matthew Macklin needed two ribs mended for thinking a head shot was to follow a right-handed uppercut to the chin. Instead, a whipping to the body left him down and out in Connecticut.

Since that night in June last year, Golovkin has boxed a total of 20 rounds in four fights and knocked three opponents out. Curtis Stevens avoided such fate through retirement in Round 8.

Cotto far outstrips the Khazak in terms of experience and is of course known for his own power and hand speed. A reliance on counterpunching and combinations has forced submissions in the past.

Consider these Cotto’s strong suits.

When they are well-rehearsed, as with Antonio Margarito second time around, few would beat the 34-year-old—except Gennady Golovkin.

In the event that the two meet, expect GGG to manage the ring as he has done so expertly to date. Though a bout into the competition rounds can be reasonably predicted given Cotto’s resilient nature, it’s difficult not to imagine a moment when the open shoulders ofGolovkin stretch to their limit and provide the impetus for a shuddering knockdown.

The smallest of gaps will always be punished. Cotto’s defences might be sound, but they certainly aren’t impenetrable.

This article was published by The Bleacher Report on Tuesday October 28 2014

What’s next for Leo Santa Cruz?

When Leo Santa Cruz admitted at the beginning of the month that Al Haymon had bought out his contract from Golden Boy, after the former decided against further negotiations for a super-bantamweight unification fight with Guillermo Rigondeaux, the Mexican drew the wrath of a boxing public, all too keen to write him off as a coward. Those assessing his actions on social media repeated a mantra that seemed more a vendetta against the talented WBC title holder rather than legitimate criticism. Their taunts of “running from Rigo” echoed far and wide.

Santa Cruz’s shyness to fight comes at a time when Rigondeaux has been shown to be fallible, with two knockdowns in his last outing. The difficulty for Santa Cruz appears to be being able to take heart from his most recent performances. Opposition that has included journeyman Manuel Roman and a less than heavy handed Jesus Ruiz brought comprehensive victories, but not the type of brawl expected of someone with an eye on becoming the best in the division. The investigation into whether he can move forward with such an ambition is becoming more than a cause for concern.

Supporter discontent is obvious and won’t be subdued until Santa Cruz shares a ring with a respected rival. Inside the boxing business, his professionalism has been maligned by those directly involved with the Rigondeaux negotiations. Golden Boy President Oscar de la Hoya has since expressed his disappointment on the matter while Rigondeaux’s manager Gary Hyde questioned the attitude of someone brazenly taking easy paydays at the expense of high profile fights.

Speaking to Behind the Gloves, Hyde was less than sympathetic to the suggestion that ‘El Terremoto’ should continue to be held in high regard within the 122 pound division.

“I don’t believe Leo Santa Cruz will ever fight anyone with a heartbeat. He is fighting complete and utter nobodies. I don’t want to be disrespectful toward any fighter, but the boxers he is fighting are a disgrace to boxing. (Having the opportunity) to fight them on big bills as well, is not fair.” Hyde’s words are representative of a lengthier discussion on Santa Cruz’s past rejections to participate in unification bouts.

A match-up with IBF titlist Carl Frampton was, according to Cyclone Promotions, effectively cast aside when the Belfast man became the mandatory challenger for the WBC title in April last year.

Some credence may be given to the idea that Santa Cruz’s development continues to be propped up by a very healthy television contract with Showtime. Indeed, a financial package upwards of $3 million could potentially have been retained had he opted to stay the course with the legendary Cuban.

Looking forward, the opportunity to secure a bout with noteworthy opposition is fast becoming a task with endless significance. Making weight with another sparring partner or fighter who registers only with the sports aficionado’s will all but end dreams of becoming an undisputed champion in the division. While the likelihood of such an achievement has already been written off in some quarters, being relegated to the position of afterthought to conversations involving Rigondeaux, Frampton and Scott Quigg would scupper expectations of becoming a box office draw.

Tempting to put the proud traditions of Mexican, willing-to-fight-anyone type of boxing to rest is a dicey game, too. Saul Alvarez, Juan Manuel Marquez and to a lesser degree Abner Mares, epitomise the hardy attitude of men reared by their country’s warrior-like psyche. They are to be revered and admired in equal measure, accepting of an underdog tag if facing pound for pound generals. In the case of Alvarez and Juan Manuel Marquez, both can attest to taking aim at the very best in Floyd Mayweather. Their boxeo compatriot takes his place among such company by birth right but not currently by showmanship. Instead, it is from the portrait of a Mexican male, observed by late national poet, Octavio Paz that Leodegario (Santa Cruz’s full name) seems cast. ‘Whether young or old, pure Spanish blood living in the Americas or of mixed Spanish and Indian blood, he seems to me, to be a person who shuts himself away to protect himself: his face is his mask and so is his smile.’ Discarding this mask and showing himself to be ready for war is now the only favourable option for Santa Cruz.

The month of May decides a future WBC title challenge from either Andres Gutierrez or Hugo Ruiz. In the interim, a potential bout with Mares has been lost to a March contest for the former three division champion, as he takes part in Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions debut against Arturo Santos Reyes. Contemplating featherweight fights seems somewhat premature given the desire of others to do business at 122 pounds: but while Frampton gets ready to make a first IBF defence with Californian Chris Avalos next week and Rigondeaux frustrates himself with another duel in Japan (this time Shingo Wake), their intentions are indubitable.

Frampton wants a fight with Scott Quigg in the summer, while Hyde plans on shocking the WBA champion into action once he recovers from a lengthy injury to his right hand. “I’ll be looking to force that (Rigondeaux) fight, the minute I hear he is in the gym” he says.

The task then for Santa Cruz is a simple one, re-establish himself as a man of Mexican principal, make difficult decisions and finally engage with negotiations face to face, without the mask.

This article was published by behindthegloves.com on Sunday 22nd February 2015

Shot in the arm for Irish Boxing as Frampton sets up ITV debut

Irish boxing has been given a huge shot in the arm with the news that Carl Frampton will showcase his first IBF Super Bantamweight world title defence on ITV.

Airing live on February 28, the fight with mandatory challenger Chris Avalos means a return to free to air world championship boxing in the UK and Ireland for the first time since Carl Froch won the WBC super-middleweight title in 2008. The announcement ends Cyclone’s previous three fight television deal with Box Nation.

The event, scheduled to be broadcast from Belfast’s Odyssey Arena, sees Frampton return to the location after September’s outdoor contest with former champion Kiko Martinez at the Titanic Slipway. Looking forward to the new venture, ‘The Jackal’ was typically upbeat in front of a packed media audience at London’s Heron Tower.  “It’s a wonderful platform to show my talent. I can’t wait to get going and put on a great show.”  A full undercard will begin proceedings on ITV4 with super flyweight Jamie Conlan expected to entertain television audiences in his WBO Intercontential title bout with number two ranked Warlito Parrenas.

Frampton then takes centre stage before 11pm as he seeks to extend his unbeaten record to 20 wins.

While head of ITV Sport Niall Sloane wouldn’t be drawn on viewing figures estimates, interest in the fight could see millions tuning in. He spoke of his emotion at securing the deal. “We are delighted to be given this opportunity. This works for us. Barry is a very persuasive man and Carl is an exciting boxer. It is a great time to be presenting his talent and a wonderful time to be back.”

Negotiations between Cyclone and ITV began in the New Year with little difficulty.  “It was all relatively easy. I had a phone call with Niall (Sloane) and it was all done fairly seamlessly, said McGuigan. Such a partnership is likely to create further anticipation of a future matchup between Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz but McGuigan insists that his immediate target is to deliver a world class product for television audiences. “I want to have a long term relationship with ITV. We will have to demonstrate that it is worthwhile for them. We are prepared for that and I sincerely hope that we have a future. It opens the door to a whole host of opportunities.” Before Frampton, ITV hosted Irish super-middleweight champion Steve Collins as well as Prince Naseem Hamed, Nigel Benn and most recently Amir Khan.

Californian Avalos has already predicted a knockout loss for Frampton and McGuigan is in no doubt that his premier attraction will be tested considerably. “It’s a tough fight. This guy will forensically examine Carl’s capabilities, both his chin and his heart.”

This article was published by Irish-Boxing.com on Tuesday 27th January 2015

Schools Rugby: Methodist College remain the team to beat in the Ulster Schools Cup

The three-time defending champions are likely to be tested by Wallace High Lisburn

It might only take a glance at the photograph of last year’s Ulster Schools Cup champions to remind the current Methodist College Belfast collective of their historic task at hand.

The image of ecstatic young men at Ravenhill, each holding up three fingers, is a gesture few have a chance to better. For the class of 2015, holding an extra digit aloft to signify four consecutive titles would greet a triumph that has eluded every Methody alumnus since the competition’s birth.

The one-school dominance that has thrived in Ulster since 2012, is likely to be tested by Wallace High Lisburn. An unbeaten season has included victory over Methody at Pirrie Park, with this term earmarked for improving upon last year’s semi-final loss. A confident approach can be assured toward the latter end of proceedings but as with every other attempt to upset the holders, much depends on mental affairs.

The sense of belonging at Ravenhill on St Patrick’s Day is Methody’s alone. How they do it has been a matter of experience lately. Being hardened to the case of provincial naysaying helps, too. While every school has their own view of success, if each could band together to deaden Nick Wells’ managerial grip on the Schools’ Cup, the decision would be unanimously welcomed.

He insists that his team have benefitted from the attitude and performances of previous years, as they prepare for a fourth straight title.

“These boys realise this is what it’s all about. It’s why we train the way we do. It’s why we target the tours the way we do. They saw the wonderful atmosphere at the newly opened Ravenhill last year against Sullivan and they want a taste of it.”

Preparations this month have taken a backward step however as sickness has seen a crisis of sorts in the champions’ camp. As a result, several senior figures have had to be stood down for regular fixtures.

Previous to the lashings of illness, Wells’ side outlasted their provincial counterparts at the Clongowes Wood Schools’ Rugby Festival in October. The Co Kildare invitational was largely disappointing for those of a northern persuasion, given their comeuppance by Leinster’s likely lads and Colegy College Wales.

Methody have since gone on to impress on their pre-tournament tour of Portugal, convincingly beating the Portuguese u-19’s 25-7. As with the past three years, there are few weaknesses that opposition can point to and say with surety that the Malone Road outfit will crack in time. Wells is not slow in expressing his thoughts on perceived or actual shortcomings.

“I know some people say you lose the ambition and drive for competition but I look at it the other way – we have all the experience in our favour and we are the cup specialists.”

Aside from the peerless form of Wallace, RBAI have lost only two matches from thirteen, with both losses against strong opposition. When the pair met in December, supporters were left to reflect upon a highly entertaining 17-17 draw and an early preview of the action awaiting them in February, when the sides enter in round three.

Last year’s runners-up Sullivan Upper have had a consistent year to date but have been unable to match Belfast’s elite too often. Another final is perhaps an unattainable target.

Should the Hollywood side be forced to play a less prominent role, Wallace will seek to fill the void. A bulk of provincial representatives add their flair to a well-balanced and developed squad, with outside centre Andrew Cardosi arguably the best in his position across Ulster. Their attacking displays are capable of winning games inside a half. Royal School Armagh attested to that in November when they conceded five tries without registering a solitary point.

Priority and pride dictates that captain Sam Moore will remind his team they have a duty to overturn Methody’s semi-final victory 10 months ago. Since then much has changed in determining who might be rightly considered favourite to win a return game; but little can be expected to prevent another ferocious cup battle between now and March 17th.

Among the opening round winners, Limavady Grammar prevailed in a closely fought contest with Wellington College while Banbridge Academy put on an entertaining show for home supporters with a 45-point win over Antrim Grammar.

This article was published by The Irish Times on Wednesday 21st January 2015