Both Fighters Project Confidence as Kovalev and Caparello Make Weight in AC

Photos: Will Hart

By Frank Della Femina

When Blake Caparello stepped on to the scale Friday afternoon at Revel Casino in Atlantic City, it was easy to imagine the digital read-out render the word, "Why?" instead of his weight of 174 pounds. After all, not many people are willing to enter the ring across from a man as feared as Sergey "Krusher" Kovalev.

Lately, Kovalev's opponents have been coming in as heavy underdogs. His previous challenger, Cedric Agnew, hit the canvas three times on the way to a 7th round KO this past March. He did manage to leave Kovalev with a not-so-friendly reminder that not every win will come void of pain – or in this particular case, a few stitches above the eye.

But as HBO's June match-up between Ruslan Provodnikov and Chris Algieri showed, anything can happen in a boxing ring, which is why Caparello is so confident in his chances of pulling off an upset.

"I believe in my ability. I know I can beat him," said the Aussie southpaw. "If I wasn't confident I wouldn't have taken the fight. I'm confident. My team is confident and [promoter] Lou DiBella is confident. That's why we took the fight."

For all the animosity that often builds during fight week, Kovalev and Caparello seem to have taken a "save it for the ring" approach. Neither has been so bold as to take proverbial jabs at the other, nor has there been anything less than a few smiles exchanged, starting with Thursday's press conference (sarcastic as they may have been).

"I'm coming to America to beat Sergey Kovalev," Caparello boasted from the podium Thursday afternoon. "I'm confident in my abilities and I'm ready to be a champion."

Moments later Kovalev responded simply, "I want to just get in the ring and get my next win this Saturday."

Simple and to the point. Perhaps even a direct reflection of Kovalev's natural ease with which he approaches an opponent; never asking whom he's facing, only when the fight will happen, and at what weight he needs to be.

Like Agnew before him, Caparello enters the contest undefeated. However, all but one of those 19 wins came in Australia. If the Russian can add to the right side of his professional record of 24-0-1 (22 KOs) Saturday night, he could face a fighter—Bernard Hopkins—with much greater name recognition soon after.

Official Weights from Atlantic City

Sergey Kovalev: 174 pounds

Blake Caparello: 174 pounds

CompuBox: Brandon Rios vs. Diego Chaves

By CompuBox

When Manny Pacquiao met Brandon Rios last November, the "Pac Man" -- believe it or not -- had not won a fight in two years and 12 days. Pacquiao responded by producing his best form since pounding Shane Mosley two-and-a-half years before and winning a comprehensive 12-round decision.

When Rios meets Diego Chaves on Saturday, it will have been 22 months since his last victory, his seventh round TKO over Mike Alvarado in the first of their two fights. Will Rios shake off the ghosts as well as Pacquiao did against him? Or will Chaves confirm that Rios is a waning force?

As for Chaves, he had already dealt with the first loss of his career against Keith Thurman 13 months ago by returning to Argentina and cracking Juan Godoy in three rounds. A victory over Rios, which would be his first outside his native land, would put him back in the 147-pound title conversation but a defeat will surely peg him as a regional standout who struck his head on a glass ceiling.

On paper, their aggressive styles seem made for one another. But will that translate inside the ring? Not even they will know until the first bell rings.

Statistical factors that may shape the outcome include:

Rios' Struggles: When Rios was at his best -- a few years and 12 pounds ago -- he boasted a rare blend of extreme volume and accuracy. In his lone WBA lightweight title defense against Urbano Antillon he averaged a mind-blowing 107.3 punches per round, landed 50% of his total punches, 42% of his jabs, 56% of his power shots and out-landed the challenger 162-95 overall, 53-18 jabs and 109-77 power in less than three rounds. his 36.3 power connects per round nearly tripled the 13.6 lightweight average. Yes, he took more than his share (44% overall, 33% jabs, 47% power) but his firepower was more than enough to get the job done.

Once his weight struggles kicked in he lost that magic. He was overweight in 135-pound title fights versus John Murray and Richar Abril and his last two fights against Mike Alvarado (fight two) and Pacquiao illustrated the erosion of form. Against Alvarado, he averaged 68.6 punches per round -- still above the 60.0 junior welterweight norm but below his best -- and was out-landed 261-241 overall and 84-59 jabs, negating Rios' 182-177 edge in power connects. Alvarado struck him with 38% of his hooks, crosses and uppercuts while Rios landed 34% of his.

The slide was even more dramatic against Pacquiao. Rios may have been campaigning in a more comfortable weight class -- and he was even heavier once he rehydrated -- but he paid a big price in terms of his form as well as the punishment Pacquiao dished out. Averaging just 41.8 punches per round -- far below his previous career low of 53.2 against Oscar Meza in May 2009 -- Rios was hit often (281-138 overall, 58-25 jabs, 223-113 power) and at a high percentage (36% overall, 48% power). The only bright spot was that he managed to hit Pacquiao with 43% of his power shots but they had no effect on the Filipino. That was telling given that Pacquiao had suffered a one-punch KO loss in his most recent effort and was coming in off the longest layoff of his career.

What does Rios have left in the tank, and will it be enough to repel the bull-strong Argentine?

Volume Equals Victory: Like Rios, Chaves thrives when he gets his engine running. Seventeen of his 19 knockouts have occurred within three rounds and his high output is the main culprit. In blowing out Ismael El Massoudi (TKO 2) he averaged 79.4 punches per round and the trend held during his wins over Jorge Miranda (KO 3, 107.4 per round) and Jose Miranda (TKO 2, 80.2).

When he's forced to go longer distances he has been able to maintain his energetic pace. Against Eduardo Flores (TKO 9) he ranged between 72 and 92 punches per round and his body attack accounted for 109 of his 186 power connects. In beating the sly 38-year-old Omar Weis he fell behind early due to Weis' wiles and a shocking knockdown. But from the eighth round forward Chaves shifted into overdrive and from rounds eight through 11 he out-landed Weis 143-84 (total) and 124-60 (power) en route to a narrow but deserved victory. In all Chaves out-landed Weis 271-226 overall and landed 29% overall and 35% of his power shots while tasting 31% of Weis' total punches and 38% of his power punches.

When he stepped up in class against Thurman, the volume game all but disappeared. He averaged only 49.5 punches per round, well below the 76.5 he averaged in his five other CompuBox-tracked fights, but he managed to give "One Time" everything he wanted -- and some that he didn't want -- for eight rounds before suffering knockdowns in the ninth and 10th rounds. Thurman's success in the final two rounds enabled the American to vault ahead in terms of connects (118-107 overall and 85-68 power) and percentages (29%-24% overall, 16%-15% jabs, 41%-34% power).

Also, Thurman's balanced boxing (202 jabs, 205 power shots) forced Chaves to stray from his power game and engage in a more scientific match in terms of punch selection (255 jabs, 198 power shots, a 56-44 split in favor of jabs that conflicts with the 60-40 split in favor of power shots in his other five CompuBox-tracked fights). But given Rios' past, Chaves won't have to worry about technical boxing; he'll be there to hit -- and be hit.

Prediction: The tag line for Greg Haugen-Ray Mancini was "Tough Guys Don't Dance" and such will also be the case with Rios and Chaves. Both are tough, tenacious battlers who come at opponents in straight lines. Expect plenty of power shots and a high contact fight: 29 of their combined 35 landed punches per round (83%) were power shots.  Opponents landed 43% of their power punches vs. Rios, while Chaves opponents landed 38% of their power shots.  A plus for Rios: He may be a badly faded force but he at least has a far more dependable chin -- and he'll need it. Chaves was floored and nearly knocked senseless against the otherwise light-hitting Weis and was indeed knocked senseless against the ferocious-punching Thurman. However, Rios doesn't have that kind of power and Chaves has less miles on the odometer. Chaves may be 22 days older but he's years younger in terms of ring age. Also, welterweight is not Rios' best weight and defense has never been a strong suit. Chaves by decision in an action fight.

CompuBox: Sergey Kovalev vs. Blake Caparello

By CompuBox

If Sergey Kovalev, promoter Kathy Duva and HBO had their way, this date might have witnessed the long-desired unification bout between Kovalev and WBC titlist Adonis Stevenson. But since Stevenson bolted for "the guys across the street" to fight Andrzej Fonfara (and possibly Bernard Hopkins), Kovalev has been content to bide his time while blasting out whomever was placed in front of him.

This past March 29, the victim was 26-0 Cedric Agnew. On Saturday, it will be Blake Caparello, a lanky Australian southpaw with a strange style and a 14-fight winning streak. The knockout percentages couldn't be more different (88 percent for Kovalev, 30 percent for Caparello) nor the fighting styles but in boxing contrast is the spice of life.

Will Kovalev score his career-high ninth knockout in a row or will Caparello pull off what may well be the upset of the year, if not the decade thus far?

Factors that may influence the outcome include:

Kovalev vs. Left-Handers: The switch-hitting Agnew opted to fight almost exclusively from the left-handed stance and while he managed to average a meager 17.2 punches per round to Kovalev's 63.6 he managed to give the Russian tank a lot to think about. Head clashes opened cuts over both Kovalev eyes and his high guard limited the champ to a lower-than-usual 27% overall, 18% jabs and 34% power. Still, Kovalev proved he could land the hook as it scored knockdowns in rounds two (jaw) and six (body) and a jab to the body -- of all things -- ended up scoring the 10-count knockout. The final numbers were sufficiently dominant as he out-landed Agnew 107-31 overall, 36-9 jabs and 71-22 power and the jab was impressively effective as he averaged 31 thrown and 5.7 connects per round, well above the 22.6 and 5.2 light heavyweight norms.

In January 2013 Kovalev created an army of believers by blasting out former 175-pound titlist Gabriel Campillo in round three thanks to the three-knockdown rule. Kovalev took full advantage of Campillo's slow-starting tendencies by going 24 of 90 to Campillo's 2 of 12 and 30 of 83 to 9 of 41 in round two to set up the third round destruction. In all Kovalev out-landed Campillo 77-13 overall, 22-9 jabs and 55-4 in power shots but more importantly Kovalev averaged 90 punches per round to Campillo's 23.6.

Given what happened in these two fights Kovalev's approach against southpaws is clear: Negate the positional war by going straight through it and ceaselessly firing cluster bombs.

Caparello's Caper: If the man from Down Under is to spring the monumental surprise, he must manage to neutralize Kovalev's hot start by applying his two-inch reach advantage and his quirky style. One way is to adopt the approach he utilized in his most recent fight against Elvir Muriqi -- being proactive with the pace (74.4 punches per round to Muriqi's 34.4), using a busy jab (39.4 thrown/4.1 landed per round) and steadily piling up points each round. He out-landed Muriqi 139-79 overall, 41-17 jabs and 98-62 power and while he wasn't precise (19% overall, 10% jabs, 28% power) he muffled Muriqi enough (23% overall, 12% jabs, 31% power) to get the job done.

The other way is to muck up the proceedings and make it messy, as he did against a reluctant Allan Green and his close fight with Daniel MacKinnon, both of which were 12 round decision wins. Caparello won the MacKinnon bout by being busier (45.1 per round to 35.2) and at least using the jab (26.7 thrown per round) if not landing it often (6%). MacKinnon banked on his power punching to break through but Caparello's style prevented him from making much of a dent (28%, an 87-71 connect edge and a 32%-28% accuracy deficit). Caparello led 91-90 in total connects and 20-3 jabs, enough to get the nod from the judges.

The Green fight was no more than a glorified sparring session and the American reportedly was hesitant even to leave the dressing room. Again, the pace was modest (41.8 per round for Caparello to Green's 30.5) but Caparello's 46% power accuracy was enough to deter Green's ambition. Caparello out-landed Green 155-68 overall, 24-20 jabs and 131-48 power only because he was so much more active (502-366 in total thrown punches). For Caparello, a dull fight is a winning fight.

Prediction: Unfortunately for Caparello, Kovalev doesn't do boring. Instead, he'll bore in, do his damage and leave the ring with another KO on his ledger. Next?

Watch: One-on-One with Brandon Rios and Diego Chaves

HBO Boxing Insider Kieran Mulvaney goes one-on-one with Brandon Rios and Diego Chaves before they face off Saturday night from the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.

Watch live on HBO Boxing After Dark, starting at 9:45 PM ET/PT.

Watch: Rios vs. Chaves Press Conference

Report from the Rios vs. Chaves final press conference. Rios vs. Chaves happens Sat., Aug. 2 on HBO as part of a split-site tripleheader beginning at 9:45pm ET/PT.

Re-Post: What Does Brandon Rios Fight Like?

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

By Hamilton Nolan

Brandon Rios takes on Diego Chaves as part of a Boxing After Dark triple-header this Saturday at 9:45 PM. Before Rios’ last fight – a unanimous decision loss to Manny Pacquiao – HBO Boxing Insider Hamilton Nolan considered the question, “What Does Brandon Rios Fight Like?”

Brandon Rios fights like the bronze head of an old battering ram that swings only forwards and backwards in a straight line but that's good enough.

Brandon Rios fights like a flatfooted platypus waddling up on shore awkwardly, and the platypus is wearing boxing gloves for some reason.

Three hunched figures are shuffling along a street in a retirement community. "Why, I remember the Great War," says one. "I remember the Great Depression," says another. "What?" says the third. That's Brandon Rios. He's always hunched and shuffling. Sure can punch though.

Brandon Rios fights like a bobblehead doll whose bobblehead will not break off no matter how many times you slam it on the side of a desk.

"Look back, and smile on perils past," said Walter Scott. "Look, I'll smile while I'm getting punched in the face. Fuck it," said Brandon Rios.

Brandon Rios's uppercuts slice like a thresher, tossing the wheat into the air, greedily consuming all in its path. "Wheat" in this case is "a human's face."

Pernell Whitaker is to Brandon Rios as a darting gazelle is to an oak tree that drops dangerously heavy acorns.

Brandon Rios fights like no one ever taught him to fight and furthermore he could not care less that no one ever taught him to fight because he just got done knocking out all the guys who were taught how to fight.

Brandon Rios stands like he's trying to grasp a softball between his elbows, and walks like he's inching forwards along a balance beam. When he covers up he looks instantly helpless. But when he punches, his shoulder rolls forward a little more than the average man's, because he cares a little more about knocking you out than the average man.

Brandon Rios is an example of what would happen if all you cared about in life was punching people in the head and goddamn the consequences, whatever they may be.

Jay, Silent Bob, and Brandon Rios were loitering outside of a 7-11. None of them looked out of place. Jay, Silent Bob, and Brandon Rios were in a boxing match. Only Brandon Rios lived.

Brandon Rios fights like someone whose successful career is hazardous to his long-term health.

Brandon Rios fights like a kid who actually likes to fight, who craves violence, who has used his fists as a bargaining chip, who has forsaken all self-reflection in favor of constant action and an instant temper and who long ago found a settled resolve to accept any and all punishment that comes with this lifestyle in exchange for the morbid but certain peace of mind that it offers. There is probably a deep psychological reason for this, but Brandon Rios is not a psychologist.

 

An Argentine Fighter Has Second Chances in His Blood

image.jpg

Photo: Will Hart

By Diego Morilla

Back in the golden era of Argentine boxing, during the 1950s, Rudecindo Chaves never really stood a chance against the top contenders of his time. But later in life, he would get to see his son Ismael fulfill his dream and make it all the way to a world title bout in Australia.

And even though Ismael was stopped in three rounds in that dream bout against Kostya Tszyu in 1997, he would later become the trainer of one of his young nephews, and in turn end up taking to a world title belt that was three generations in the making.

Second chances are few and far in between for most people. But they run in the Chaves family DNA. For Diego Chaves (23-1, 19 KO) – who meets Brandon Rios (31-2-1, 23 KO) in a 10-round bout this coming Saturday in Las Vegas on Boxing After Dark – that chance has come in a different sport than the one he had initially chosen.

"I played soccer in the minor league system of the Velez Sarsfield club until I was 18 years old," said former interim welterweight titlist. "Soccer helped me with my legwork, it gives me a lot of mobility. But I take boxing with much more respect and seriousness."

In a country in which every kid gives at least one serious try to become a professional soccer player, having made it that far in one of the country's most consistent teams is quite an achievement. But the young Diego abandoned his promising soccer career to pursue that elusive title belt that was still sitting at the top of the family's wish list.

And he got it with a demolition of Ismael El Massoudi back in July of 2012. That fight netted him the chance to face fellow undefeated welterweight contender Keith Thurman in his second trip away from his homeland (the first one being an irrelevant six-rounder in Las Vegas in 2010).

The memories of that fight – and tenth round KO loss –still hurt.

"The loss against Thurman was something we didn't deserve because we were doing great until the last round,and then we got careless," said Chaves, who is still eyeing a rematch"We wanted to change the game plan at the last minute to lure Thurman to come forward a little bit, because he wasn't opening up the way he had in other fights. We changed our style and yet he continued going backwards, which was not good for us.  And when we tried to go back to our previous fight plan I took that hook to the liver and I couldn't recover."

A win against Thurman would have put Chaves among the ranks of the "Argentine legion" of rising stars such as Marcos Maidana, Lucas MathysseCarlos Abregú. Instead, Chaves headed back home to regroup and rethink his career. He took only one minor club fight just to stay busy in early 2014, and then he got the call.

"I really loved to hear that HBO thought of me for this fight, to hear that they wanted Diego Chaves for this big fight," he said"Fighting in Las Vegas against Brandon Rios on HBO is something really big for me, and very special. After this victory, I am sure a lot more doors will open up for me."

That opportunity almost disappeared for Chaves. A "glitch" in the U.S. State Department's database kept him in Argentina until Wednesday of fight week. When the visa was finally issued, he immediately flew to Las Vegas.

Chaves will have to quickly put his travel woes behind him. Against Rios, he will be fighting a talented, highly-rated former champion trying to overcome a 0-2 streak in the last two years in a crossroads fight. Chaves is aware that this opportunity means much more than just a chance to break the 1-1 tie in his record fighting in the United States.

"This is a new door that opens up for me," said Chaves. "I think the image I left (in the Thurman fight)was quite good. I think we have to change a little bit and become a bit more aggressive."

It is easy to see why Chaves sees a more favorable scenario in this new opportunity. Thurman was a more polished, mid-long range fighter with great mobility, much in the mold of the guys Chaves ran into during his aborted path towards the 2008 Olympics (including names such as Demetrius Andrade, Erislandy Lara and others). His defeats against those fighters convinced Chaves to make the jump to the pros before even trying to qualify for the Olympics, in the understanding that his style was more suited for the paid ranks.

And in Rios he will have a consummate professional brawler, one who will stand right in front of him and trade leather all night if he has to, bringing his own brand of aggression as well.

"He has the heart of a warrior, like a good Mexican fighter. We know he has heavy hands, but he is much slower than Thurman. And we know that I am faster and I am much more mobile", says Chaves, who believes Rios will be the perfect opponent to showcase the more aggressive style he plans to bring out"I know he's had great opponents like Mike Alvarado or Manny Pacquiao, but I am better than him."

The big paydays and huge knockouts achieved by his countrymen in the 147-pound neighborhood are indeed an inspiration, but his goal remains the same: avenging his lone loss to date and then regaining his title.

"I want the rematch, and then I want to be a champion again," says Chaves. "I don't care who I fight against. But first of all, I want to get that rematch done, and after that I can fight against anybody."

If he manages to beat Rios he'll surely have his wish fulfilled, and his family's long history of resilience and persistence will prevail once again.

Watch: One-on-One with Sergey Kovalev and Blake Caparello

HBO Boxing Insider Kieran Mulvaney goes one-on-one with Sergey Kovalev and Blake Caparello before they face off Saturday night from the Revel Atlantic City.

Watch live on HBO Boxing After Dark, starting at 9:45 PM ET/PT.