Southpaw Jack's

Un-Orthodox boxing blog

The long, hard road back for David Price

Posted by Jack Sumner on March 20, 2014

David Price was riding the fast track to heavyweight glory a little over twelve months ago. The 6’8” Olympic bronze medallist had vanquished all fifteen of his professional foes in impressive fashion – thirteen of them inside the distance – and was the UK’s most touted rising talent, who had also earned acclaim across the pond as ESPN’s prospect of the year. An impending step up in class against American veteran Tony Thompson was expected to be a walk-in the park for the Scouse behemoth. After all, the heavyweight division was anaemically weak, and at domestic level Price had shown the ability to flatten pretty much anyone with his booming right hand.

The rest, as they say, is history.

priceIt seemed as though Price’s career might be resigned to history after Thompson replicated his shock stoppage win in their July rematch, rising from the canvas to once again stop a shaken Price in front of his home fans at Liverpool’s Echo Arena. Such is the value placed on a loss these days, a pair of back-of-back stoppage defeats is incredibly damaging to the stock a rising young fighter. In the fickle world of modern boxing, many believed Price to be finished.

A split with long-time trainer Franny Smith followed and the Liverpudlian’s promoter and chief cheerleader Frank Maloney retired from the sport. A nightmare 2013 ended with Price right back at the drawing board. A fresh start and new surroundings were needed if he was ever going realise his potential. But prospects have bounced back from similar situations in the past and have gone on to do great things in this sport.

Look no further than the current heavyweight ruler Wladimir Klitschko, who before he reached the summit suffered knockout losses to Ross Purity, Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster and was written off by fans and media alike. Ten years on, he’s the standout heavyweight of his area and bonefide hall-of-famer with the second longest title reign in heavyweight history and viewed as untouchable amongst the current crop of pretenders to his throne.

Not to say that David Price will ever be another Wladimir Klitschko, but the now 30-year-old prospect can surely find solace in the case of the heavyweight champion. Now with the beauty of hindsight, it’s clear that Price wasn’t ready for a test like Thompson; going in against a two-time world title challenger as a fifteen-bout novice averaging less than three rounds a contest at domestic level.

Price returned to the ring on January 25th with a first-round knockout of Istvan Ruzsinszky, a 12-9 Hungarian journeyman who served his purpose as a confidence booster for the big man’s comeback. The level of opposition will have to be stepped up drastically for Price to climb the ladder again but as his defeats to Thompson proved there’s no need to throw him in too deep, too quickly. If he remains active against steadily increasing levels of opponent this year that may be the best medicine and this time next year he could back amongst the crop of heavyweight contenders.

That’s exactly what new promoters Sauerland aim to do with Price and the German-based outfit have taken him away from the pressures and spotlight of fighting at home to re-launch their new charge in continental Europe. After returning to winning ways against Ruzsinszky in Stuttgart, Price was scheduled to meet Ondrej Pala in the same city on March 29th, however the entire fight card was cancelled when headliner Marco Huck fractured his thumb.

But the date with Pala has now been rescheduled to April 12th in Denmark as part of Sauerland’s “Nordic Fight Night” promotion in Esbjerg, meaning just a two-week postponement and providing he comes through unscathed, the chance of another outing before the summer.

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Pala boasts a respectable looking if maybe a little inflated 32-4 record and last November gave Dereck Chisora two difficult sessions before succumbing to a third-round stoppage in a European title challenge. It’s good matchmaking by Sauerland, a decent test and a live opponent yet one who shouldn’t pose too much of a threat to Price if he his on his game, yet may extend him some rounds and is a familiar name to British fans having recently given Chisora a scare.

It’s clear that Price needs professional rounds under his belt. The second loss to Thompson highlighted a worrying lack of stamina and an inability to remain defensively proficient under pressure. The first loss to Thompson raised question marks over his chin. While that’s clearly something that can’t be trained, Wladimir Klitschko provides an example of how better conditioning and improved defensive adeptness can go a long way to protecting a seemingly vulnerable fighter.

Klitschko of course enlisted the help of the legendary Emanuel Steward to shore up his defence and make the most of his considerable attributes and Steward had previous in resurrecting the career of another athletically gifted yet vulnerable heavyweight in Lennox Lewis. Steward was a one-off but after a stint working with the highly respected Adam Booth late last year, Price has hooked up with a new trainer with whom he hopes to forge a longstanding a fruitful relationship.

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Tommy Brooks worked with Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson and both of the Klitschko brothers and has been guiding Price through a second training camp ahead of the bout with Pala; the pair’s first considerable challenge after they were fed a gimme. It’s going to be a long, hard road but if he can keep winning whilst making the necessary improvements to his game, Price can get back into the position he was one year ago but this time equipped with the tools to go much further.

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Burns counting on home advantage vs Crawford

Posted by Jack Sumner on February 26, 2014

This Saturday at the SECC Exhibition Centre in Glasgow, Scotland, Caledonian braveheart Ricky Burns will once again call on his fanatical home support as he makes another defence of his WBO lightweight title. He’ll need to draw on every ounce of support he can get however in what’s widely perceived to be his toughest test to date. Standing in the opposite corner on fight night will be unbeaten American challenger Terrance Crawford, who crosses the pond as the odds-on betting favourite.

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Burns (36-2-1, 11 KO’s) is a two-weight world champion taking part in his tenth consecutive world title fight and making the fifth defence of the WBO strap he currently holds. He’s proven his exceptional fitness and iron will to win on countless occasions and his boxing ability has often been underrated. Even on home soil however, with a wealth of top-level experience having been a part of some of Scottish boxing’s biggest ever nights, he carries the underdog tag against an opponent who is yet to become a proven entity on the world stage.

Granted Crawford (22-0, 16 KO’s) has looked like the potential star promoters Top Rank are billing him to be up to this point, but as with any up and coming talent questions remain over how good he really is until he starts mixing it at world level. He’s also yet to complete twelve rounds, with his biggest victory to date a ten-round points decision over Amir Khan conqueror Breidis Prescott. Crawford pitched a near shutout, but Prescott’s been outboxed heavily before by the likes of Kevin Mitchell – who was blown away by Burns.

The reason for the widespread dismissal of Burns’ chances on Saturday may largely come down to his last two performances however and the feeling that the 30-year-old Scot is incredibly lucky to still hold a version of the world lightweight crown. Last May, Burns was down on all three scorecards against slick Puerto Rican Jose Gonzalez, only for victory to be snatched from the jaws of defeat when Gonzalez inexplicably retired on his stool after the ninth round citing a wrist injury.

Ricky-Burns-BeltranThen in September, Burns got the benefit of what was perceived to be a terrible injustice of home cooking when judges scored his brutal encounter with Raymundo Beltran a draw. Most observers felt that Beltran – who broke Burns jaw in the second round and dropped the champion in the eighth – had dominated the fight and won clearly.

Question marks remain over whether Burns jaw will hold up in his first fight following the subsequent surgery, but one thing Burns did show in his fight with Beltran is that he will not lie down and let his title be taken easily. On the back of two disappointing performances at home also and with an underdog mentality that has served him well in the past, perhaps Burns will rise to this occasion and prove his class to those who are writing him off.

Although he hasn’t yet proven his class in a professional ring, Crawford does boast a fantastic amateur pedigree. In the unpaid ranks he scored victories over Diego Magdaleno, Danny Garcia, Carlos Molina and Mikey Garcia en route to national championships. He’s also had world-class sparring and is rumoured to have held his own with the likes of Timothy Bradley. The perception of Crawford’s ‘inexperience’ therefore is pretty inaccurate.

It’s a hard sell to convince anyone that Burns is a match for Crawford’s technical ability and talent. Crawford is also quicker, more athletic and stylistically could be a nightmare match-up for the champion. Burns will have to draw on the intangibles – such as his home advantage – and his toughness and will really have to be at his best to retain his title. Praying that Crawford has been affected by leaving the USA for the first time might not do any harm either.

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Chavez Vera II: What has changed ahead of rematch?

Posted by Jack Sumner on February 26, 2014

This Saturday at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr and Bryan Vera lock horns in a rematch of one of the most controversial fights of 2013. Last September, the protagonists met at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, with Vera viewed as a stepping stone for Chavez, who was looking to return to winning ways after his first career defeat and a year-long layoff from the sport.

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But Vera proved he was not just a stepping stone, or at least not one that should be overlooked, firing out of the blocks, out-throwing and outlanding Chavez over the scheduled ten rounds to what most observers believed was a hard-earned upset victory. When the judge’s scorecards were revealed however, celebrations in the Vera corner were brought to an abrupt and alarming end. The official verdict read scores of 96-94, 97-93 and, most alarmingly, 98-92, all in favour of Chavez.

The scorecards were much to the confusion of the largely pro-Chavez crowd in attendance and the various media outlets covering the fight. In fact, independent fight score collector Bobby Hunter complied a list of 59 press scores for the bout; 53 had Vera victorious, whilst the other six scored the fight a draw. Nobody believed that Chavez had done enough to win.

But as bad as September’s debacle was, the silver lining of the controversial first encounter is that it’s led to this intriguing return bout. However you scored their first meeting it was close, so changes either man has made in the intervening six months could be the difference come Saturday night.

Much has changed in Chavez’s life outside of the ring. He’s become a father for the first time, an experience that noises from his camp suggest has made him a more motivated individual. He’s apparently more dedicated to his boxing and obliged with responsibility perhaps for the first time in his life, hopefully he’ll meet his obligation of making weight for the Vera fight this time around.

The build-up to the first fight with Vera was a media circus that centred around Chavez’s struggles with his weight. Having ballooned above 200lbs during his suspension from the ring – a result of testing positive for marijuana following his loss to Sergio Martinez in September 2012 – it emerged that Chavez was unable to make the originally contracted 163lb catchweight. The fight was postponed three weeks and renegotiated at the super middleweight limit of 168lbs, but then on fight week Chavez informed promoters Top Rank that he would be unable to make that weight either. He was finally able to make 173lbs and forced to pay Vera an undisclosed fine as a result, though Vera had little choice to but to still go through with the fight at such a late stage.

This time Chavez (47-1-1, 32 KO’s) insists he has had no struggles with the weight at all and he will make the agreed 168lbs as he has no desire to pay Vera another hefty fine. If Chavez has made the weight comfortably and shows up in shape, given that he also likely underestimated Vera last time, will he simply have too much for the Texan as was originally expected?

Bryan Vera has had a long hard road to get this far and without the finances and promotional backing of his adversary, everything he’s earned up to this point has been the result of his own blood, sweat and tears. His record (23-7, 14 KO’s) doesn’t do him justice and since hooking up with trainer Ronnie Shields he’s made considerable improvements to his technique. In the last couple of years he’s scored some of his biggest wins, beating Sergio Mora for the second time and stopping Serhiy Dzinziruk.

Vera is always in fantastic shape and given that he didn’t get the verdict he deserved in the first bout, he’s going to be even more motivated and determined this time around. As a fighter who appears to be on an upward curve, improving and finally getting the best out of his attributes that’s a pretty dangerous combination. Chavez might be taking Vera seriously, but he’ll need to. In a battle of guts and glory, where would you put your money?

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Another early shower for Golovkin?

Posted by Jack Sumner on January 30, 2014

This Saturday, Monte Carlo welcomes back Kazakh wrecking machine Gennady Golovkin, as he defends his WBA middleweight crown against Ghanaian challenger, Osumanu Adama. ‘GGG’ returns to the scene of his third round knockout over Nobuhiro Ishida last March, where he’ll be pursuing his sixteenth consecutive stoppage victory.

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Since arriving on American shores with a fifth-round destruction of Gregorz Proksa in September 2012, Golovkin has built arguably the most fearsome reputation in boxing, fighting on four occasions last year and dispatching each opponent with relative ease. The calibre of his opposition to date has been questioned however and fans long to see the 31-year-old puncher in big-money unification bouts in 2014. Whilst a Peter Quillin or Sergio Martinez fight continues to elude him though, Golovkin (28-0, 25 KO’s) can do little more than stay busy against the best available opposition.

A stay busy fight is exactly what we have at the Salle Des Etoiles resort this weekend, with Adama (22-3, 16 KO’s) ranked 12th by the WBA and expected to pose about as much threat as a tax collector in Monaco. But they breed them tough in Ghana and Adama has never been stopped in his professional career. He pushed former IBF champion Daniel Geale for twelve hard rounds and his other two losses came against career super middleweights, in Donovan George and Dyah Davis.

Not that anybody will be surprised if Golovkin ends the job early, but Adama may well have the resolve to take the champion a few rounds. He’s campaigned at super middleweight himself and has always shown a solid chin. In his loss to Geale, he displayed some decent boxing ability too and is quick and adept at moving in and out of range.

But given that he can be somewhat erratic and taking into account Golovkin’s ability to cut off the ring, it’s a tall order for the 33-year-old betting outsider. For many people, the only question in this fight is; in which round will Golovkin end proceedings?

With the heavy favourite as short as 1/66, it’s a matter of how long the wild swinging Adama can survive taking hard punches from Golovkin in the pocket. How many minutes work before ‘GGG’ will be done with post-fight pleasantires and able to head for one of the casino’s luxury showers.

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Selby v Munroe: Reloaded

Posted by Jack Sumner on January 30, 2014

British boxing fans heading to South Wales are in for a treat this Saturday February 1st, as a thrilling domestic double-header lights up Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena. Lee Selby challenges for the vacant European featherweight crown against former world-title challenger Rendall Munroe, whilst in the chief support, an all-Welsh duel pits Gavin Rees against Gary Buckland.

reloadedThe Matchroom promoted bill also features a number of blossoming domestic stars on the undercard, with Olympic gold medallist Anthony Joshua and Swansea’s Prizefighter light welterweight champion Chris Jenkins, also returning to action. But most of the attention will be focused on the main event and Selby’s bid to take another step towards the world title picture.

Selby (17-1, 6 KO’s) has enjoyed a meteoric rise through the featherweight ranks in the past two years, since claiming the British and Commonwealth titles with a sixth-round stoppage of Stephen Smith in his Liverpool backyard. Five title defences have followed since and in the meantime Selby also added the WBC international crown, outpointing highly ranked contender Viorel Simion in what was probably his toughest test to date.

His toughest test until now that is, as in Munroe (27-3-1, 11 KO’s), Selby meets a man with experience far beyond domestic level. The Leicester southpaw will be competing in his seventh European title fight, holds a pair of victories over current world super bantamweight champion Kiko Martinez, and challenged for a world crown himself in 2010, bravely going the distance with a then dominant champion in Toshiaki Nishioka. All of those accomplishments came at 122lbs, as did a sixth-round defeat to Scott Quigg that forced a brief retirement from the sport last year. But the ‘Boxing Binman’ is back and, at featherweight, believes he remains a world-class operator but is stronger than before.

“I don’t think I ever stopped being at my best. The issue for me was my weight, that was the thing letting me down – trying to make the weight all of the time. Sometimes it takes a bit of relaxation time to realise, and as my manager said to me recently, the best thing that happened was me retiring, getting my head clear and deciding what I wanted to do.”

“This is a step towards another world title fight. After I win this fight I will be a two-weight European champion. The talk at the minute is that Selby is ready to challenge for a world title, so after I beat him does that not say that I will be ready for a shot at the world title?”

Munroe may well have a new lease of life after moving up in weight, but in truth faces a tall order in Selby, who’s huge at 126lbs. The Welshman’s two-inch height advantage and broad-shouldered frame are indications to how much bigger he might look on the night. Eager to fulfil the early potential he has shown, Selby has been supplementing his boxing education with regular trips to the States, getting invaluable sparring at Floyd Mayweather’s infamous ‘Doghouse’ set-up in Las Vegas, as he looks to reach the top.

One man who has been at the top of the sport is former WBA light welterweight champion Gavin Rees, who now campaigning at lightweight, believes he is in the last-chance saloon against compatriot Gary Buckland. Rees (37-3-1, 18 KO’s) is coming off back-to-back defeats to Adrien Broner and Anthony Crolla and has stated that a loss to Buckland (27-3, 9 KO’s) could bring down the curtain on his long career.

Buckland is looking to bounce back himself however after suffering a brutal knockout at the hands of Stephen Smith last August at this venue, but with Welsh Pride at stake, look for him to maintain his come-forward approach on his return to the Motorpoint Arena. Still only 27, an upset win for Buckland could catapult him into big fights at lightweight. There’s a lot on the line in this intriguing crossroads clash.

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