Matthysse's Boxing Skills Withstand Provodnikov's Iron Will

Photos: Ed Mulholland

By Eric Raskin

To put the violent business meeting between Lucas Matthysse and Ruslan Provodnikov in the most overly simplistic terms possible, it was a battle of skill vs. will. And skill won out.

Or perhaps will just ran out of time.

Before a sellout crowd at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York, two of the purest action fighters in the deep junior welterweight division delivered on all of the prefight hype and promise, even if it took until the last two rounds for the fight to become competitive enough to qualify as a true Fight of the Year candidate. Matthysse, he of the greater skill and versatility, built what seemed like a comfortable early lead, but Provodnikov, he of the indefatigable will, roared back in the later rounds to nearly undo all of Matthysse’s brilliant work. In the end, though, it was Matthysse who prevailed, with judge Don Ackerman scoring the fight a draw at 114-114 and Glenn Feldman and John McKaie both shading it for the Argentine “Machine,” 115-113.

The fact that those scorecards were ever heard was easily the most shocking development of the night. However, once they were read, how little there was to separate the two warriors was utterly predictable. Both men had lost three times previously—Provodnikov by three debatable decisions, and Matthysse by two debatable decisions and another decision that was just one round shy of debatable. This time, there wasn’t much to debate. The right fighter got the nod—even if the result might have been dramatically different in the 15-round days.

Known as “The Siberian Rocky,” Provodnikov entered the ring to the Rocky IV anthem “Burning Heart,” and he would need to call on just that early and often. Matthysse got off quicker from the get-go, his right hands causing Provodnikov’s left eye to swell not 30 seconds into the bout. It got even worse for the Russian in the second, when an accidental headbutt from Matthysse sliced open a cut over his increasingly compromised left eye. No matter how much damage Matthysse did, though, his iron-chinned opponent kept asking for more and kept plowing forward. Uppercuts and overhand rights found the mark for Matthysse, but Provodnikov was undaunted, scoring with occasional left hooks and applying enough pressure to make the second and third rounds close.

Round four was easily Provodnikov’s best of the fight’s first half, with counter rights, left hooks, and a right over the top that made Matthysse hold among the highlights. Not among the highlights? Provodnikov sprinting across the ring out of a break and running full-speed into a Matthysse bodyshot without so much as flinching to block it.

As “Rus-lan! Rus-lan!” and “Ma-tee-say!” chants duked it out in the arena, Matthysse did his best not to duke anything out in the middle rounds, using his jab to establish distance and picking the wilder, slower Provodnikov apart with counters. By the end of round seven, Provodnikov was pawing at his worsening cut and looking generally lost. And it probably didn’t help that his head trainer, Freddie Roach, was unable to be with him on fight night as he prepared star pupil Manny Pacquiao for his upcoming showdown with Floyd Mayweather.

But that unmistakable Provodnikov will began making a dent again in the eighth. Hard combinations stole a ninth round that Matthysse seemed in charge of early, and in the 10th, Matthysse’s right eye started swelling. Still, the gap still seemed almost insurmountable with two rounds to go. But just over a minute into the 11th, referee Benjy Esteves called timeout to fix the tape on Matthysse’s glove, and the break energized Provodnikov. With about 30 seconds to go in the round, a left hook from the Russian rocked Matthysse, causing the heavily tattooed gladiator’s knees to dip. The crowd exploded as Provodnikov followed up, setting the stage for a lay-it-all-on-the-line 12th. An exhausted Matthysse refused to go down, no matter how many clubbing shots Provodnikov landed, and the final bell sounded, leaving the judges to tell The Siberian Rocky what he already seemed to know: that he had come up just short.

“He’s always in every fight, because that’s who he is,” said Provodnikov’s promoter Artie Pellulo. “[Matthysse] won the fight, but it was a great fight.”

“He was the hardest puncher I fought,” Provodnikov said of Matthysse after falling to 24-4 with 17 KOs. He was asked if he thought at any point that his cut was bad enough to warrant a stoppage. “The only time I would ever want a fight stopped is when I’m laying on my back,” he said, freakishly tough talk perfectly backed up by his actions in the ring.

The CompuBox statistics were wider in favor of Matthysse than the scorecards, as he out-threw Provodnikov 1,034 to 755 and outlanded him 327-201. Most notably, Matthysse dominated the jab category, more than tripling his opponent’s output and nearly tripling his landed count.

“Ruslan is one tough fighter,” Matthysse, 37-3 with 34 KOs, exhaled. “I’m ready for the next great fighter. I want to take on the winner of Mayweather-Pacquiao.”

It’s hard not to flash back from that comment to what occurred in the ring after Matthysse’s 2013 knockout of Lamont Peterson, when his then-promoter Richard Schaefer declared him “the new Manny Pacquiao.” It was an unfair comparison then, and it might still be asking too much of Matthysse to see how he stacks up at that uber-elite level.

Matthysse appears better suited for pairing off with flawed action fighters with oversized hearts. And remember, this is a weight range that also contains Brandon Rios, Amir Khan, Tim Bradley, and Marcos Maidana, among others. There are plenty of options for The Machine. And those options include the guy he edged out at Turning Stone this Saturday night, if both Matthysse and Provodnikov can endure the violence one more time.

Dispatching Dulorme, Crawford Picks Up Right Where He Left Off

Photos: Will Hart

By Nat Gottlieb

Terence Crawford had a sensational year in 2014, grabbing a world lightweight title on Ricky Burns’ home turf in Scotland and winning two tough title defenses on his way to receiving Fighter of the Year honors. In 2015, he's picking up right where he left off, with an impressive performance against another much-ballyhooed young contender, Puerto Rican Thomas Dulorme.

While Crawford was widely considered the more skilled boxer, there were questions about whether the 27-year-old Nebraskan, who was moving up from lightweight to the 140-pound division to take on Dulorme, could continue his dominance in the bigger weight class.

Questions asked. Questions answered. Emphatically.

Fighting with remarkable poise and focus, Crawford (26-0, 18 KOs), seemed to be measuring and sizing up Dulorme through the first five rounds. Then, in his corner before the sixth, Crawford’s trainer Brian McIntyre told him “to step it up.” And like a push-button machine, Crawford did just that.

Becoming suddenly aggressive, Crawford let his hands fly with bad intentions, knocking down Dulorme with a huge right hand just 28 seconds into the round. After that, with Dulorme fighting on shaky legs, the outcome of the fight seemed to be academic. Twice more Crawford sent the Puerto Rican plunging to the canvas before referee Rafael Ramos called the fight at 1:51 of the round.

The victory was of major importance to the rising star, both for him and the division. In dispatching Dulorme, Crawford put himself in line for several big fights in the loaded junior welterweight division, including a possible matchup against the participants of the second fight in the split-site double header between sluggers Ruslan Provodnikov and Lucas Matthysse. 

Dulorme (22-2, 14 KOs), once hyped as the next great Puerto Rican fighter until he was knocked out by Argentine slugger Luis Carlos Abregu in 2012, had been solidly on the comeback trail. Crawford knocked him off the rails, and it's unlikely he'll fully recover his stature.

The super-patient Crawford seemed content in the early going to let Dulorme play the aggressor while he measured and studied him like a cat getting ready to pounce. Dulorme outworked Crawford, perhaps winning two of the first four rounds just on aggression, but his punches were mostly picked off by Crawford's gloves or dodged with superb body and head movement reminiscent of a young Floyd Mayweather. And then Crawford turned it on.

“My corner told me to pick it up,” Crawford told HBO’s Max Kellerman after the fight. “I felt bigger and stronger at 140 pounds.”

The ease with which Crawford dispatched Dulorme, who was coming down from welterweight and appeared to be the bigger man in the ring, was stunning to watch. Through five rounds Crawford didn’t waste a punch or take one of any significance. But it will be interesting going forward to see how Crawford deals with some of the biggest punchers in the division, including Matthysse and Provodnikov. He has the potential to become a pound-for-pound contender, but he has his work cut out for him before he can stake claim to that label. 

Watch: Fighters Weigh in Ahead of Saturday's Action

Everybody’s Under The 140-Pound Limit

Matthysse-Provodnikov Photos: Ed Mulholland | Crawford-Dulorme Photos: Will Hart

By Eric Raskin

The best boxing matches are typically the ones that provide the most drama. The best boxing weigh-ins are typically the ones that provide the least drama. All you can hope for is that the fighters make weight and avoid getting into an impromptu brawl that risks scuttling the contest. Going by those criteria, the weigh-ins for this Saturday night’s HBO split-side doubleheader were both smashing successes.

Lucas Matthysse, Ruslan Provodnikov, Terence Crawford, and Thomas Dulorme all weighed in without incident, coming in under the 140-pound limit on their first attempts. At Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York, Matthysse tipped the scales at 139, followed by Provodnikov at 139.5. In Arlington, Texas, Dulorme checked in at 139.2, followed by Crawford at 139.8. This is former lightweight titleholder Crawford’s first fight as a junior welterweight and he looked positively ripped, making you wonder where he was finding an additional five pounds to cut just five months ago.

While the actual making of weight for Crawford-Dulorme was drama-free, their engagement in the traditional stare-down moments later packed plenty of intensity. They went nose to nose for a solid minute, and when underdog Dulorme’s promoter Gary Shaw tried to get the fighters to face the audience and the bank of cameras to pose for photos, both pugilists refused to break their gaze. Instead they started talking trash (inaudibly for the viewing audience, sadly, and presumably in different languages) while their eyes remained locked on each other until members of their teams finally pulled them apart with no formal fighting poses ever assumed.

“I’m ready, this is my year,” Dulorme said through an interpreter. “2015 is the Dulorme year, and I’m going to rip him apart tomorrow.”

Crawford was asked about his move up in weight and whether Dulorme appeared bigger than him. “Not at all,” said the reigning Fighter of the Year. “I feel great. I feel physically strong.”

Some 1,500 miles northeast, Provodnikov and Matthysse got along significantly better than their counterparts in Texas. Their stare-down ended after just a few seconds when Provodnikov broke into a smile, with Matthysse flashing his own pearly whites immediately upon seeing his opponent’s.

“I’m focused, I’m determined, I’m ready to go,” Matthysse simply stated.

“I can only say one thing: I’m not going to disappoint any of my fans,” said Provodnikov. “You’ll see everything you expect to see tomorrow.”

Let’s hope so. The weigh-ins both went according to script. If the fights do as well, this will be a memorable night of gloved warfare indeed.

A Son of the Caribbean, Thomas Dulorme Fights for His Place on the Boxing Map

Photo: Will Hart

By Diego Morilla

Among the dozens of shiny little belts being passed around in the world of boxing these days, the true meaning of the title  “world champion” has lost its meaning for many people.

Thomas Dulorme is not one of them.

As a French-speaking native of the island of Saint Martin in his early childhood, and as a resident of Dominican Republic later on, Dulorme developed a strong connection to each of the island-nations where he lived.

But it wasn’t until he found a country of his own to fight for that he came to understand the global nature of his quest for a championship.

“Saint Martin is my origin, the place where I was born, but I lived in Puerto Rico since I was very young, and Puerto Rico has given me everything,” said Dulorme, during a recent telephone interview during the last leg of his training camp in his homeland, adopted or not. “I always represented Puerto Rico, but I love all Latinos.”

Dulorme (22-1, 14 KOs) will have a career-defining chance to represent his people this Saturday April 18th on a HBO Boxing After Dark split-side doubleheader, when he will face lightweight titlist Terence Crawford (25-0, 17 KOs), in what will be Dulorme’s first crack at a world title after being hailed as the next boxing idol to come out of Puerto Rico a few years ago.

Now, Dulorme is in the final stages of a full recovery after being stopped in an early crossroads fight by Argentine challenger Luis Abregu in 2012. But Dulorme has managed to amass a 6-0 winning streak since that fateful night, and the long-awaited title bout is surely a reward for the hard work he has put on since then.

For that, he has recruited a group of similarly globetrotting trainers and advisors to guide him through this challenge, in an effort to minimize the margin of error and to make the most out of an opportunity that many people thought should have come earlier in his career.

“I have a great team for this fight,” said Dulorme, naming people such as Anthony Otero, Felix Pagan Pintor, Oscar “Don Khan” Seary, and the team’s newest addition in Jose Rosa, a former Olympian in Montreal 1976, in what comprises a team that has a combined amount of years of experience in boxing that could easily rival any boxing team in the world. “Some of them give me some great pad work, some others are focusing on correcting mistakes, others are great at hand-wrapping. Each one gives me something different.”

The loss to Abregu, as devastating as it may have been, did leave a few lessons on Dulorme, and learning not to underestimate his opponents appears to be one of them. His new team provide him with just enough combined knowledge to keep him ahead of his challenge, and opens a new chance for him to fulfill his once-limitless promise of becoming the next great Puerto Rican boxing hero.

No stranger to traveling through uncharted territory to get to the promised land, Dulorme believes his chance to finally shine on the big stage is near.

“I think I am closer now,” said Dulorme, when asked about his dream of becoming the new face of the illustrious Puerto Rican boxing tradition. “I think that if I win on Saturday I will be on track to be a great champion and get the big fights. I only have to win on Saturday and remain focused looking ahead, and continue winning.”

That path, however, is not uncharted territory for Dulorme. As an accomplished amateur fighter who started boxing when he was little more than a toddler, Dulorme has won the Puerto Rico Golden Gloves, Saint Martin Golden Gloves and Dominican Republic Golden Gloves, winning 142 amateur fights and losing only 2 of them in the process.

Continuing his winning streak in this stage of his career will require him to summon all of that mojo and then some. And he has managed to find that inspiration in a particularly unnerving situation.

“He did say a few disrespectful comments about us Latinos and I got a bit angry about that,” said Dulorme about his public dispute with Crawford’s trainer, Brian “BoMac” McIntire, who made a few seemingly inappropriate comments about Latinos. “It is nothing personal. But I still support and defend my people.”

One can only assume that Crawford has his own personal brand of pride to defend as well. But Dulorme believes this will only add pressure to his opponent, not to him.

“I think he is fighting before his own crowd, and they may be thinking that he has to look good, or be thinking on how to give a good impression. I am not thinking about that. I am thinking about making weight, staying focused and winning the fight,” said Dulorme about the task at hand, without forgetting that the attention of the boxing world will be divided between his bout and the Matthysse-Provodnikov bout that will follow from a different location.

“We are four great fighters in two terrific fights this Saturday, and they are both on HBO. I believe every boxing fan should be watching those great fights.” 

CompuBox: Matthysse vs. Provodnikov

Every so often, a fight comes along whose mesh of styles virtually guarantee robust, unforgettable action. Tony Zale-Rocky Graziano was one. Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward was another. Now we have Lucas Matthysse-Ruslan Provodnikov. Gatti-Ward didn't need title belts to be great and neither does Matthysse-Provodnikov because any fight that pits "The Machine" vs. "The Siberian Rocky" has to be good.

Statistical factors that may determine the outcome include:

Breaking An Old Habit?: Along with Mikey Garcia, John Molina and Adrien Broner, Matthysse had long been one of boxing's slowest starters. The average junior welterweight throws 59.9 punches per round but in four of the last five fights before meeting Molina last year the Argentine averaged just 38.3 punches per round in round one. But in his last two fights against Molina and Mexican Roberto Ortiz, Matthysse managed to rev up his engine more quickly. In round one against Molina, Matthysse threw 47 punches (landing nine) while against Ortiz he fired 57 punches (landing 12). Of course, those figures don't compare to what he is capable of doing in later rounds, but it's a much more encouraging trend.

Matthysse put Ortiz away in round two but against Molina he suffered his ups and downs -- literally. Matthysse was dropped in rounds two and five and suffered a cut in round three but rebounded with knockdowns in rounds eight and 10 before registering the knockout in the 11th. This fight of the year candidate saw Matthysse prevail 275-104 overall, 71-18 jabs and 204-86 power and land 48% overall, 30% jabs and a sky-high 60% of his power shots against the sieve-like Molina. After going 9 of 47 in round one, Matthysse's averages from rounds 3-10 were a mind-boggling 31.8 of 59.9 and in rounds 8-10 he averaged 74 punches and 43.3 connects per round. When "The Machine" gets loosened up, he is unstoppable.

Give and Take: Provodnikov is a tough guy's tough guy who is willing to absorb more than his fair share of punishment for the chance to deliver his own. His last high-profile fight -- a 12-round split decision loss to the unheralded Chris Algieri nearly one year ago -- was a prime example of this phenomenon. Provodnikov scored two thunderous knockdowns in round one, the first of which also produced a massive swelling around Algieri's eye that eventually slammed shut. But Algieri's steady yet high-volume attack (82.8 punches per round) as well as his stinging counterpunching enabled him to build decisive statistical leads of 288-205 overall, 111-41 jabs and 177-164 power and percentage leads of 29%-26% overall, 20%-12% jabs and 41%-38% power. Provodnikov's defeat wasn't due to a lack of effort -- his 64.7 punches per round was above the divisional average -- but it was more a result of Algieri's ring generalship and off-the-chart guts.

Although Matthysse is a rock-fisted puncher, it may be better for him to include his boxing skills because each of Provodnikov's three losses came to boxers who had good technique but who also were talented enough to incorporate the right mixture of slugging. Timothy Bradley won 2013's Fight of the Year by unleashing 83.3 punches per round to Provodnikov's 56.3 and out-landing him 347-218 overall, 129-32 jabs and 218-186 power. Bradley jabbed plenty (40.8 thrown/10.8 connects per round) while limiting Provodnikov's jab (13.5 thrown/2.7 connects per round) and was the more accurate puncher in all phases (35%-32% overall, 26%-20% jabs, 43%-36% power).

Provodnikov's first defeat came to Mauricio Herrera, who paved the way for what Bradley did -- 76 punches per round to 58.3 for Provodnikov, connect leads of 302-240 overall, 121-74 jabs and 181-166 power and effective jabbing (36.3 thrown/10.1 connects per round to Provodnikov's 21.2/6.2). Provodnikov was slightly more accurate overall (34%-33%) and in jabs (29%-28%) but Herrera, who, like Algieri, suffered a horribly swollen face, led 38%-37% in power accuracy. 

Thus, Matthysse would be well advised to showcase the other dimensions of his game, which he has shown are available to him.

Prediction: And Matthysse will do just that -- provided he gets by the Russian's opening wave.  Expect fireworks: Matthysse's last 4 opponents (Ortiz, Molina, Garcia & Peterson) landed 40% of their power shots, while Provodnikov's last 3 opponents (Algieri, Alvarado, Bradley) landed 43% of their power shots- Wgt. class avg.: 36%.  Matthysse's chin has been somewhat unreliable of late -- in his last three fights he was dropped twice by Molina and once by Danny Garcia -- but that shouldn't be much of an issue because Provodnikov, at least against better fighters, is a clubbing puncher who wins by attrition. Once "The Machine" works out the early kinks he will run over his rugged but less skilled opponent. That said, it will be fun to watch for as long as it lasts, and the guess here is that it will go all the way. Matthysse by thrilling decision.

CompuBox: Crawford vs. Dulorme

Terence Crawford's rise from obscurity has been nothing short of startling and illuminating. Born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, Crawford toiled in virtual anonymity until March 2013, when he was summoned as a late sub for then-140-pound titlist Khabib Allakhverdiev to fight Breidis Prescott. After decisively out-pointing Prescott, Crawford rolled off five more wins that included a WBO lightweight title and a 2014 campaign that many thought was worthy of Fighter of the Year status.

Now, the "Hunter" is seeking new prey in a new weight class. The one-time sub for a junior welterweight titlist is fighting for a vacant belt at 140 against once-beaten and one-time super prospect Thomas Dulorme. Will this story come full circle? We'll see.

Statistical factors that may determine the outcome include:

Crawford's Many Sides: During his run Crawford has proved himself to be, arguably, the most versatile fighter in the sport. Not only can he switch-hit with fluidity and equal effectiveness, each fight appears to reveal a new wrinkle. Against Sidney Siqueira Crawford was a volume puncher (81 per round) that featured an excellent body attack (40 body connects among 101 landed power shots). In beating Prescott he threw far less (43.2 punches per round) and he boxed more than he slugged (286 jabs, 146 power shots) but he was very efficient, especially in his power punching as he boasted a 44%-19% bulge). As in the Presoctt fight, Crawford proved he could out-box a taller man in Ricky Burns. There, he upped his punch rate to 67.6 per round, used a balanced attack (422 jabs, 389 power shots) and produced lopsided numbers (213-76 overall, 52-27 jabs, 161-49 power). Against Alejandro Sanabria Crawford featured an almost perfectly balanced offense (112 jabs, 121 power shots) but was extremely accurate (36% overall, 50% power) and defensively responsible (23% overall, 27% power) and showed off one-punch explosiveness as a hook dropped Sanabria in the opening moments of the sixth.

Against Yuriorkis Gamboa, Crawford proved he can come back from a slow start and show off a previous untapped wild side in producing the knockout. From round five onward he out-landed Gamboa 116-41 overall and 80-38 power and was extremely efficient in his power percentages (78%, 53%, 71%, 73% and 67%).

During his most recent victory over Raymundo Beltran, Crawford showcased his extraordinary jab, which was also effective against Andrey Klimov (36.5 thrown/8.8 connects per round). The Beltran numbers were eye-popping: His 12.5 connects per round more than doubled the 5.1 lightweight average and he reached double-digit connects in eight of the 12 rounds, including a stretch of 20, 18 and 18 in rounds four through six and finished the fight with four more in rounds 9-12. That table-setter allowed Crawford to post massive connect gaps (243-96 overall, 150-23 jabs, 93-73 power) and impressive accuracy across all phases (38% overall, 34% jabs, 46% power). The only cause for pause -- Beltran landed 36% of his power shots, a higher figure than in other bouts.  Crawford's put up good numbers in his last 4 fights. He landed 46% of his power punches (wgt. class avg.: 36%). He also landed 8 jabs per round (wgt. class avg.: 5)

The Comeback Trail: Dulorme has won six straight since his disastrous seventh round TKO loss to Luis Abregu in October 2012, a fight that saw the prospect dropped twice and hammered consistently (121-54 overall, 103-29 power while tasting 46% of Abregu's power shots). While Dulorme has won, he hasn't shown the same explosiveness that marked his rise to prominence. He has scored two KOs in those six fights as compared to the 12 KOs he scored in 16 fights before facing the Argentine.

In six pre-Abregu fights Dulorme averaged 60.5 punches per round, averaged 27.2 thrown jabs and 5.7 jab connects per round and landed 46% of his hooks, crosses and uppercuts while his opponents averaged 35.8 punches per round, landed 1.6 of their 11.9 jabs per round and connected on 23% overall, 13% jabs and 28% power. Conversely, in three CompuBox-tracked post-Abregu fights the numbers have dropped precipitously. Dulorme's work rate plunged to 39.5 per round to his opponents' 34.8. He has landed 3.9 jabs and thrown 18.8 jabs per round to his foes' 2.4 and 13.8 and the accuracy gaps in Dulorme's favor have shrunk to 30%-25% overall, 21%-18% jabs and 38%-30% power.

Not only has he become a more reluctant fighter offensively, he has shown signs of fatigue late in bouts. Against Francisco Figueroa Dulorme started well as he averaged 51.8 punches per round in rounds 2-5 and out-landed Figueroa 48-21 overall and 48-20 power in that stretch. But in rounds six and seven Dulorme's output dipped to 47 and 34 respectively (40.5 per round) and out-landed Figueroa 16-9 overall and 13-8 power before scoring the TKO in the eighth.

Karim Mayfield's ugly style induced a mauling, slow-paced fight (30.8 per round for Dulorme, 28.4 for Mayfield) that included underwhelming accuracy (27%-21% Dulorme overall, 22%-20% Mayfield jabs, 36%-21% Dulorme power). Dulorme established a lead in the first six rounds by prevailing 47-28 overall and 31-20 power. But in round seven Mayfield led 11-8 in total connects while Dulorme's work rate dropped from 35 punches to 26. In fact, in three of the final four rounds Dulorme's output was below 30 (26 in the seventh, 27 in the ninth and 24 in the 10th) while Mayfield's rose from 31 in the sixth to 33, 35, 39 and 29 in the final four rounds. Dulorme hung on to lead 83-61 overall, 34-25 jabs and 49-36 power, but he failed to put the hammer down when he could have.

Dulorme's most recent fight with Hank Lundy was a tale of two halves. Dulorme kicked off the fight with a first-round knockdown and a first half that saw him build bulges of 74-66 overall and averaging 48.6 punches per round to Lundy's 42.2. But the fight turned in the sixth round and from that point forward his output dropped to 40.8 per round while Lundy's surged to 48 and saw Lundy prevail 85-80 in total connects, thanks largely to a 10th round in which Lundy out-threw Dulorme 62-37 in thrown punches and out-land him 25-17 overall. In the end, Dulorme clung to a slim 152-151 lead in total connects, which accurately projected the split decision that would follow.

Needless to say, this habit of fading late in fights could be disastrous against a multi-faceted yet consistently excellent fighter in Crawford.

Prediction: Crawford is a man on the rise while Dulorme, while still winning, is not the same fighter who caused so much excitement early in his career. Yes, Dulorme is the naturally bigger guy (he's had seven fights where he's weighed 145 or more while Crawford's career high was 142 against Andre Gorges in April 2012) but the Nebraskan's talent level has proven to be elite while Dulorme has yet to reach that plateau. Crawford by late-round TKO.

Mayweather, Pacquiao Indulge Media But Leave Them Guessing

Photo: Will Hart

Photo: Will Hart

By Kieran Mulvaney

Two days of open workouts taught us approximately as much about the respective strategies of Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather as we might reasonably have expected: essentially, nothing. And who really can blame either man for not wanting to display any hint of the training underway or the tactics being developed for their May 2 clash at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas? There is simply too much at stake to risk giving away anything that could dull any possible edge or dilute any putative surprise.

So Mayweather, who performed on Tuesday for approximately 300 credentialed onlookers at his eponymous boxing club in a Vegas strip mall populated primarily by Chinese restaurants, did enough to work up a sweat – hitting a heavy bag, transferring to a speed bag, going through the motions of some pad work with his uncle Roger, and counting out some ab crunches – and not much more. Pacquiao, who the following day welcomed a similar crowd into the confines of Hollywood’s Wild Card gym, did even less: some slow motion pad work with trainer Freddie Roach, some bouncing around the ring, and shadowboxing. Then, suddenly, there was a declaration that the show was over, before he descended the stairs to the parking lot outside and was gone.

Photo: Alexis Cuarezma

Photo: Alexis Cuarezma

So be it. The principal purpose of both events was for the two fighters to talk with the assembled media, and in that respect they each discharged their responsibilities to maximum effect. Thirty years after Marvin Hagler and Tommy Hearns developed such antipathy during a 23-city media tour that promoter Bob Arum at one stage had to physically intervene to prevent the fight from taking place in a St. Louis restaurant rather than a Caesars Palace ring, Mayweather and Pacquiao are undergoing a PR blitz of a more modern nature, one that takes advantage of the reach of satellite networks and social media. So instead of 23 assignments, each man has so far had just two: their joint appearance at the kick-off press conference in downtown Los Angeles, and their respective hosting duties this week.

And not only did the two principals speak to the media, their camps, supporters, and friends did too. Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions, predicted confidently that his man would knock Pacquiao out; Roach similarly anticipated a decisive victory for his charge. Pacquiao adviser Michael Koncz reflected with deep hurt on the emotions stirred by seeing his friend knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez; less expectedly, Lil’ Kim was on hand to support her friend Floyd and share her excitement at the fact she will be in the crowd on May 2.

But if both sides were reluctant to reveal too much, there was much that could be inferred – and two seemingly contradictory things in particular.

One was the genuine confidence that each camp feels, a confidence that is almost jarring given the quality of opposition but is likely a result of the fact that each man has been studying the other in depth now for over five years and as a consequence feels he knows the other inside-out.

The other is that, for all that assurance, all involved are genuinely aware of the difficulty of the task ahead. Mayweather and Pacquiao have fought and defeated – in many cases annihilated – a string of opponents, including existing or certain future Hall-of-Famers such as Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto, Juan Manuel Marquez and Oscar De La Hoya – but this is the fight by which each man will be defined. And for all their achievements and the quality of their opposition, neither man has ever before experienced an event of quite this magnitude, or faced a foe of quite this nature.

That is why the real work began long before the cameras were turned on, and resumed only once they were turned off. The results of that work will become apparent in 16 days.