Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Opinion of the Week

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is strong, has very good power, very good balance, and proved that he can handle a slick southpaw like Austin Trout. What he lacks, however, is a consistent jab, body shots, and the ability to cut off the ring. If Canelo can gain those skills soon, he will be a long-term champion. If not, he will go the way of other hard-punchers who lacked basic skills, such as Nigel Benn, Razor Ruddock, and Omar Sheika.

The Fear Of Losing

The fear of losing is the worst opponent a fighter can ever meet.  It's the only opponent a fighter should ever avoid. I’m not talking about nervousness, anxiety, or weak knees when taking on a tough opponent at a big event. No, that’s normal and in some ways will always be with the fighter. The fear of losing, however, can take away a fighter's will, potential, and promise and, more often than not, he'll never get it back.

A really good boxer I trained with, let’s call him Perry Greene, had a ton of potential but let the fear of losing get the best of him.  In the gym, in the amateurs, and in his early pro fights, he was the one to watch. As he progressed through the pro ranks, however, he started to hold back his talent. You couldn’t really put your finger on it—he was throwing a lot of jabs, power punches, good movement, but there was something missing. Something was wrong. As soon as he got more attention from the press and fans, whatever it was that was missing, was gone for good. Fighters that he should beat easily, he would struggle with. Fighters that he would hurt badly, he would let survive. What was going on? Why wouldn’t he finish off and beat easier competition? Was he afraid that with showing his true potential people would expect more? In fact, people did expect more from him in each fight.

His father may have been the main issue. His father was a perfectionist who expected nothing but excellence from his son. Being very good wasn’t enough. Perry had to be perfect. After a particular disappointing win at the Great Western Forum, Perry’s father was giving him a verbal beat-down for not knocking his opponent out in the four-round fight. I even saw his father actually smack his son outside of the gym once or twice for not dominating a sparring partner. The father’s arguments with Perry's trainer were a common occurrence.

Now I’m no psychiatrist, but seemed to me that Perry was afraid – terrified even, of disappointing his father. Little by little that fear started overtaking him, and instead of motivating him, started to take away his will, talent, and potential. It’s been said that a little fear is a good thing—it keeps you sharp, focused, and ready. But if a fighter is afraid of losing, he has already lost. Fighting like that is like playing poker with scared money. It’s just a matter of time before you lose all your chips.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Brandon Rios vs. Alvarado: Where Are the Skills?

Was That Boxing?
What a disappointing boxing match between Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado. Actually glorified street fight would be a better term for what I saw. Disappointing because of the lack of basic skills the two fighters, especially Rios, displayed. Not only are fights like that bad for the boxers but also bad for the sport of boxing.

Lack of Basic Skills
Boxing is not boxing until the fighters exhibit basic skills; otherwise it’s just a good street fight. Except for the occasional waving of his hands in front of his face, Rios does not know how to block or parry a punch, much less throw a counter. Alvarado is barely any better. And although Rios shows he can actually throw a decent jab, he rarely let it go. Round 9, for example, showed Rios throwing only 15 jabs (that’s 5 a minute), when he needed the jab to get inside Alvarado’s reach and close the distance. Rios' power punches would have landed more often after measuring Alvarado with the jab, keeping him unsteady and off balance. The best power punchers have always used their jab. Look at how Tyson used to get inside the reach of much taller opponents, or how Julian Jackson would measure his victims with jabs before knocking them out cold, and how Hearns would flick about his skinny left arm, covering his opponents’ eyes until that right hand put them to sleep .  

The punch stats also showed that Rios and Alvarado averaged only 5 body punches a round. The commentators were praising their toughness but what they fail to realize is that if either of the fighters worked the body early on, the fight would not have gone past 8 rounds. Rios never even bothered to cut off the ring to be  in a position to work Alvarado's body. Chavez Sr. (the real champion) worked the body of his opponents for the first three rounds, allowing him to stop 87 opponents, most notably when he knocked out Meldrick Taylor with only 2 seconds left. (Taylor lost nearly a pint of blood and was never the same again.)  Alvarado is given credit for using his legs and jab more often than in the first fight. That’s like giving credit to a basketball player that actually makes more free throws than he misses.

No Help To The Sport
Both fighters, but especially Brandon Rios, is doing nothing to improve the sport of boxing. Sure the fight can be called exciting, but so was the fight between SpongeBob and two ladies.
Boxing like that doesn’t show any real skills and gives the impression that boxing is just a matter of being tough. When that happens people tune out to see other tough sports, such as cage fighting, beach volleyball, and roller derby. Not only is fighting without basic skills bad for boxing, but also bad for the fighters’ health. As tough as Rios is, he will not be able to take those kinds of punches for too long. His matches along with the sparring which I assume is equally as defense-less, will take away any kind of career longevity and most probably cause health issues starting in his thirties. Weird thing is that Rios was a very accomplished amateur and was even an alternate on the Olympic team. No reason why he should be a head-first fighter. You can be exciting and have basic boxing skills. Just ask Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., Julian Jackson, James Toney, JM Marquez, Sergio Martinez, and Nonito Donaire. Just don't ask Spongebob.