CompuBox Preview and Prediction: Braekhus vs. Magziak-Lopes

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

At age 37, Cecilia Braekhus has built a strong case for being the greatest female boxing champion ever to walk the earth. If one's criteria for determining that status is performance under championship conditions, her qualifications are beyond question: She has held at least one major world title since March 14, 2009, and in that time she has made 23 defenses of the WBC title, 22 of the WBA strap, 20 defenses of the WBO title, eight defenses of the IBF strap and eight defenses of the undisputed championship, the most ever recorded by anyone -- man or woman -- in the four-belt era. Add to that her reported 75-5 amateur record and victories over 12 opponents who have held titles at some point in their careers, and one can see why she is called boxing's "First Lady."

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Braekhus will be making her second (and final) HBO appearance against Aleksandra Magdziak Lopes, a 38-year-old Pole who has lived in the U.S. since age 16, is a full-time lawyer, and who is challenging for 147-pound honors after two failed attempts at the vacant WBC super welterweight title against Mikaela Lauren (a common opponent) and Ewa Piatkowska. Will moving down the scale give Lopes the needed strength advantage to overcome Braekhus' skills or will Braekhus prove once again that she is (as WWE legend Bret Hart often said) "the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be"? 

A Testing Win

In her first HBO appearance against Kali Reis (who also was moving down in weight to challenge Braekhus), the Norway-based Colombian was tested more severely than usual in that Reis scored a knockdown in the seventh and followed up with a strong eighth and ninth before Braekhus rebounded in the 10th. Still, the final numbers favored Braekhus as she was more active (37.7 punches per two-minute round to Reis' 35.7), landed more in each phase (115-78 overall, 38-12 jabs, 77-66 power), connected more accurately (31%-22% overall, 20%-9% jabs, 42%-29% power) and led the CompuBox round-by-round breakdowns 9-1 overall, 9-0-1 jabs and 6-4 power en route to capturing all three judges' scorecards (96-93 twice, 97-92).

Including the Reis victory, Braekhus has earned statistical leads over her four CompuBox-tracked opponents in that she has been more active (38 per two-minute round to her foes' 33.8), landed more (11.9 to 6.4 total connects per two-minute round, 4.1 to 1.5 landed jabs per two-minute round and 7.8 to 4.9 power connects per two-minute round) and landed much more frequently (31%-19% overall, 22%-11% jabs, 40%-24% power). But Father Time (and Mother Nature) eventually snares everyone, and one must wonder if that time will come when Braekhus is inside a boxing ring? Yes, the 38-year-old Lopes is 17 months older than Braekhus, but she hopes that her size and relative freshness (25 fights to Braekhus' 34 and 162 rounds to Braekhus' 264) will provide adequate compensation.  

Falling Short

In her second chance at the WBC super welterweight title, an all-Polish match versus Ewa Piatkowska, Lopes' counterpunching kept her in the fight throughout the first half of the contest. But one moment midway through round six damaged Lopes' hopes: A jab and right to the chest that scored the fight's only knockdown. With each fighter recording 60 total connects through seven rounds, Piatkowska nailed down the decision -- and the vacant title -- by out-landing Lopez 40-26 overall, 18-16 jabs and 22-10 power in the final three rounds to extend her final leads to 100-86 overall and 52-32 power to off-set Lopes' narrow 54-48 lead in landed jabs. Also helping Piatkowska's cause was her constant aggression, her superior accuracy in all phases (28%-18% overall, 24%-19%

PODCAST: StubHub Tripleheader Preview (Ep 283 )

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HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney preview Saturday's Boxing After Dark tripleheader from the StubHub Center in Carson, California, featuring top female fighters Cecilia Braekhus and Claressa Shields and "Super Fly" stalwart Juan Francisco Estrada.

After Chocolatito's Knee Injury, Juan Francisco Estrada Steps in to face Victor Mendez

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Following a knee injury sustained in training by Four-Division Pound-for-Pound Champion Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez, former Unified World Champion and #1 ranked Juan Francisco “El Gallo” Estrada, (37-3-0, 25 KO’s), of Sonora, Mexico will now face cross-town Mexican rival Victor ‘Spock’ Mendez, (28-3-2, 20 KOs), also of Sonora, Mexico in a ten-round super-flyweight clash at Undisputed on Saturday, December 8 emanating from the StubHub Center in Carson, CA. The tripleheader will be televised live on HBO Boxing After Dark beginning at 10:20 PM ET/PT.

“It’s unfortunate that Roman suffered this knee injury in training, he was in great shape and very excited to fight again after his ‘Knockout of the Year’ victory on September 15 in Las Vegas,” said Loeffler. “However, Juan Francisco Estrada and Victor Mendez have both been in training for upcoming fights and each eagerly jumped at the opportunity to fight each other.”

“This will be Juan Francisco’s fourth consecutive fight on HBO, the first coming at the StubHub Center at Superfly 1 in his outstanding battle and victory over Carlos Cuadras. He’s fought on every Superfly show and is always in exciting fights which has made him very popular with boxing fans who will be thrilled to see him fight again on December 8.”

Said Estrada, “Everything happens for a reason, my fight fell scheduled in Mexico fell through but now I have a bigger opportunity on HBO. I’ve had a great training camp and can’t wait to fight Victor Mendez. We’ve known each other for years and now get to settle who is the best super flyweight from Mexico.”

“Juan Francisco Estrada is a great champion and I’ve wanted to fight him for a long time,” said the 25-year-old Mendez. “I’ve heard many great things about the outstanding battles and great fans at the StubHub Center and look forward to fighting there on December 8 and on HBO.”

Estrada is currently world ranked #1 by Ring Magazine and #2 by ESPN. He is also world ranked #1 by the World Boxing Council.

The 28-year-old Estrada is coming off a dominant 12-round decision over Felipe Orucuta on September 8 at Superfly 3. Prior to that, the 28-year-old Estrada challenged WBC Super Flyweight World Champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai on February 24 at Superfly 2, losing a hotly contested 12-round majority decision in a sure-fire ‘Fight of the Year’ candidate that had the huge crowd at the Forum in Inglewood, CA on their feet cheering throughout. Both fights were featured as the main event on HBO’s Boxing After Dark.

Mendez has won nine of his last ten bouts including his last four in a row. Most recently he knocked out Alberto Ascanio in the third round on June 1, 2018. In 2014, he battled current world champion Luis Nery in an eight-round clash losing by very close majority decision.

Undisputed is headlined by  ‘The First Lady’ Cecilia Braekhus (34-0, 9 KOs), defending her titles against two-time world title challenger, Aleksandra Magdziak-Lopes, (18-4-3, 1 KO), a native of Gilwice, Poland, now based in Marshfield, MA in the televised ten-round main event. Magdziak-Lopes also holds a victory over Braekhus’ recent opponent Kali Reis.

Opening the HBO Boxing After Dark telecast, two-time United States Olympic Gold Medalist and Claressa Shields, (7-0, 2 KOs), of Flint, MI faces WBO Women’s Super-Middleweight World Champion Femke Hermans, (9-1, 3 KOs), of Londerzeel, Belgium in a ten-round middleweight world title clash.

PODCAST: Bivol-Pascal Postfight (Ep 282)

HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney analyze Dmitry Bivol's dominant but somewhat unsatisfying win over Jean Pascal and Murodjon Akhmadaliev's TKO victory over Isaac Zarate in his HBO debut.

Bivol Wins But Doesn’t Wow Against Former Champ Pascal

Photos: Ed Mulholland

By Bradford William Davis

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. --  Dmitry Bivol has achieved a number of benchmarks in his young career, including winning an alphabet title paired with a string of successful defenses and an undefeated record. Though he is still recognized as a rising star, his unanimous decision victory over Jean Pascal at the Etess Arena at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino -- like his last win over Isaac Chilemba -- fell short of the declarative statement he was looking to make about his place atop the light heavyweight division.

That’s not to say Bivol (15-0, 11 KOs) failed to win handily. There is little argument that he, still 27 years of age, proved himself the superior fighter to the 36-year-old Pascal, a proud former title-winner himself. A quick survey of the stats bear out the margin of his win. According to CompuBox, Bivol landed 127 power punches to Pascal’s 54, to go with a 90-6 edge on landed jabs. Save for Pascal’s spastic and desperate flurry of hooks — including a desperate hurling of both arms in the ninth round that resembled a bear’s attempt at a hug more than former champion practicing the sport of boxing — Bivol was in control throughout. But winning wasn’t the singular goal for the heavy favorite; only domination could continue fueling the hype.

However, over the fight’s later rounds, what stood out was Pascal’s showmanship more so than Bivol’s performance. At times, the Montreal-based fighter trotted in place, smirking at Bivol to rile up the crowd, taunting the eventual victor like he was the one in cruise control, despite the scorecards showing the opposite. Bivol’s reputation as a power puncher might lead his biggest boosters to think a knockout was inevitable, but Pascal, clearly winded, feinted with the same vigor in the final round as he did when the opening bell rang.

As Bivol chatted with color commentator Max Kellerman about his night and his future in the division, one could hear boos pushing through the crowd. Maybe his next fight will provide an opportunity not just to resume ascent, but bring the fans into his corner.

****

Isaac Zarate, an employee at a brewery in between his prizefighting, had in some ways, a remarkably successful night, working his way to a televised undercard ahead of a fight with significant title and ranking implications. Then, competing for nine rounds with the up-and-coming Murodjon Akhmadaliev, who also made his HBO debut, might be the summit of his fledgling boxing career. But whatever moral victories Zarate accumulated don’t compare to the complete thrashing Akhmadaliev (5-0, 4 KOs) gave him, particularly from the second round onwards.

The referees may have stopped the fight, but it was barely an act of mercy -- clamors from observers to stop the fight were made early and often. Towards the end of the truncated battle, Akhmadaliev was able to put his whole weight behind nearly every punch, sometimes losing balance and falling into his opponent. Zarate should be lauded for his impressive chin, one strong enough to conceal the winner of the fight a round (or four) too long.

Weigh-in Slideshow: Bivol + Pascal

Dmitry Bivol and Jean Pascal weigh-in in Atlantic City one day before their November 24th brawl. Watch Bivol-Pascal tomorrow night at 10 PM on HBO World Championship Boxing.

CompuBox Preview + Prediction: Bivol-Pascal

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With Eleider Alvarez's upset of Sergey Kovalev to win the WBO title, Adonis Stevenson's long periods of inactivity that are excused by the WBC, and the chin problems exhibited by IBF counterpart Artur Beterbiev (who still has a perfect KO record), the WBA's Dmitry Bivol is looking more like the best light heavyweight in the world more by default than anything else. But if he is to stamp himself as the top man without any qualifiers, he must not only defeat former titlist Jean Pascal (who lost a decision to Alvarez in June 2017 and was stopped twice by Kovalev), he must do so in dominant and dynamic fashion.

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Pascal, on the other hand, broke his promise to his mother and grandmother that he would retire -- win, lose or draw -- following his upset win over 16-0 prospect Ahmed Elbiali by winning an eight-round decision (at cruiserweight) against Steve Bosse in July, and the power of his name was enough to gain this title opportunity. Far older men than the 36-year-old Pascal have been successful at 175 -- Pascal was victimized by one in Bernard Hopkins and the 41-year-old Stevenson has been champ since 2013 -- so history suggests time hasn't passed Pascal by yet. Can Pascal add his name to a list of late-career champs that include Dick Tiger, Archie Moore and Bob Fitzsimmons, or will Bivol once again prove that youth, more times than not, will be served? 

Shut-Down Mode

In boxing, the name of the game is to hit and not be hit, and while many have rendered themselves boring or even unwatchable in pursuit of this ideal, Bivol has been exciting and effective. On offense, Bivol has inflicted considerable damage in his five most recent fights against Samuel Clarkson (KO 4), Cedric Agnew (KO 4), Trent Broadhurst (KO 1), Sullivan Barrera (KO 12) and Isaac Chilemba (W 12) and the proof can be seen in the stats as he averaged 14 more punches per round (53.6 vs. 39.6), lapped his opponents in terms of total connects per round (17.3 vs. 5.7), landed jabs per round (6.7 vs. 2.0) and power connects per round (10.6 vs. 3.7), and landed with above average precision in each phase (32.3% overall, 23% jabs, 44% power as opposed to the division averages of 30%, 21% and 37% respectively). He also has scored eight knockdowns in his last five fights (three against Clarkson, two versus Agnew and Broadhurst and one against Barrera). But it is on defense that Bivol has shined; in his last five fights he has put together defensive figures that would make Floyd Mayweather, Erislandy Lara and Guillermo Rigodeaux smile as he allowed just 14% of his opponents' overall punches, 9% of their jabs and 22% of their power punches to get through. Also, Bivol has not allowed an opponent to land 10 or more total punches in the last 31 rounds; the last time an opponent achieved double-digits in that category was when Clarkson landed 10 in round two of their April 2017 match. Also, in his last eight fights dating back to his May 2016 fight against Felix Valera, Bivol has out-landed his opponents in terms of total punches in 57 of the 59 rounds fought, including a string of 45 in a row that began in round 10 against Varela and ended in round eight against Chilemba in Bivol's most recent outing (Chilemba led 9-7 in total connects). He enters the Pascal match with a modest four-round string.

One possible hope for Pascal -- a notorious low-output fighter -- is that Chilemba successfully slowed the pace to a crawl with his ring generalship and spoiling tactics while also keeping Bivol's power in check. Bivol averaged just 37.3 punches per round to Chilemba's 39.3 because Chilemba threw more total punches in the final six rounds, but because Bivol was much more accurate (35%-16% overall, 24%-13% jabs, 51%-19% power), he ended the fight with connect gaps of 154-73 overall, 67-37 jabs and 87-36 power. Better yet for Bivol, he completed the 12-round fight strong as he out-landed Chilemba 38-16 overall and 28-6 power in rounds 10-12. 

Is Less More?

Pascal has long been one of boxing's most selective fighters in terms of output, and, because of that, the only way he wins is by making the most of what he throws while also limiting his opponents' success. That was what happened against Elbiali, who, despite being 16-0, lacked the experience to counteract Pascal's tactics or the stamina to maintain his work rate. Elbiali averaged 49.3 punches per round in rounds 1-3, but plummeted to 29.6 in rounds 3-6. Meanwhile Pascal, who averaged a robust (for him) 43.2 punches per round, cashed in with his wild overhand power shots as he landed 50% of them to Elbiali's 38%, attacked the body hard (he led 43-27 in body connects) and ended the fight with a series of unanswered power shots in the sixth. For the fight, he led 112-69 overall and 108-57 power while prevailing 46%-30% in total accuracy.  

In the five fights before Elbiali (Lucian Bute, Yunieski Gonzalez, Alvarez and Kovalev twice), Pascal averaged a measly 30.9 punches per round to his opponents' 49.7 and was out-landed in all phases (15.8-14.1 total connects per round, 7.2-2.9 jab connects per round, 8.6-8.2 landed power shots per round) despite being the more accurate hitter overall (36%-32%) and in power punches (45%-35%). It also was telling that Pascal was 2-3 in those fights, and some say he could have been 1-4 as Gonzalez lost a close but unanimous decision. To sum up: Pascal's low output forces him to walk a delicate tightrope; all the factors must fall into place to give him the best chance to win. Can Pascal create that environment or will Bivol break through -- and break Pascal in the process? 

Inside The Numbers

Bivol landed/threw at the light. heavy. avg. for total punches.  His jab (6.6 landed per round) is better than avg. and he landed 43.6% of his power shots. Bivol does not go to the body with regularity, as just 14.4% of his landed punches are body shots- CompuBox avg.: 25.8%.  Bivol opponents landed just 3.7 power shots per round and just 22.2% of their power punches.  Pascal avg'd nearly 20 fewer punches thrown than the light heavy avg., but landed 41.7% of his power shots (only 8.6 per round).  pascal goes to the body well, as 36.2% of his landed punches are body shots. Pascal opponents landed 34.3% of their power shots. 

Prediction

If Pascal is to pull off the huge upset, he will need to slow the pace to his level and hope that his accurate power shots will draw more attention from the judges and deter Bivol from throwing combinations. The Chilemba fight showed that Bivol can be slowed by guile and negativity, but Pascal isn't that kind of fighter. He is an offensive-minded athlete who chases the one-punch KO and, against Bivol, his lack of output will prove disastrous. Bivol's advantages in height, reach, volume, shot-for-shot power and youth as well as his deep amateur background and puncher's confidence will add up to a TKO victory, a win that will elevate Bivol's standing and should send Pascal into final retirement. 

Olympic Gold Medalist Claressa Shields and Femke Hermans Square Off on December 8

Photo: Stephanie Trapp

Photo: Stephanie Trapp

Two-time United States Olympic Gold Medalist and WBC/IBF/WBA Women’s Middleweight World Champion Claressa Shields, (7-0, 2 KOs), of Flint MI will face WBO Women’s Super-Middleweight World Champion Femke Hermans, (9-1, 3 KOs), of Londerzeel, Belgium in a just announced ten-round middleweight world title clash at Undisputed, set for Saturday, December 8 at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA and televised live as the opening bout of the now triple-header on HBO Boxing After Dark Beginning at 10:20 PM ET/PT.

This past Saturday night, November 17, Shields added the WBC title with an impressive ten-round decision over Hannah Rankin in Mulvane, Kansas. Scores were 100-90 on all three judges’ scorecards for Shields who dominated with her technical skills and physical prowess. 

Just 23-years-old, Shields won the IBF and WBC Super Middleweight Championships in August 2017 with a dominant stoppage of Germany’s Nikki Adler. In June of this year and in just her sixth pro fight, she dropped down to 160 pounds and won the IBF and WBA Middleweight titles with an exciting unanimous decision over Hanna Gabriels.

The 28-year old Hermans won the vacant WBO title with a ten-round decision over Nikki Adler on May 12, 2018 in Bayern, Germany. She had previously challenged Alicia Napoleon on March 3, 2018, in Brooklyn, NY for the vacant WBA Super Middleweight World Title, losing a ten-round decision.

Said Shields, “I’m so excited to be fighting live on HBO and to share the stage with Cecelia Braekhus on December 8. It’s a great step forward for women’s boxing to have the two best female fighters in the world on the same card on worldwide television.”

“Claressa Shields is a very special athlete on a mission to lift women’s boxing and to prove she’s the greatest female boxer ever,” said Dmitry Salita of Salita Promotions. “It is an honor for Salita Promotions to be a part of her historic journey.”

Stated Shields’ Manager Mark Taffet, “Having spent a quarter century at HBO, it will be very meaningful and memorable for me to see Claressa Shields in that ring on December 8.  I thank HBO, Tom Loeffler and Salita Promotions for providing this great night and opportunity for Claressa.”