In the first podcast from fight week, HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney break down the CompuBox numbers for this week's PPV match-up between Canelo Alvarez and Amir Khan.
By Hamilton Nolan
Some have said that Amir Khan versus Canelo Alvarez is a mismatch. It’s not. Each man has the tools to beat the other. And each man’s tool belt is missing one thing that could save his life.
Amir Khan (31-3, 19 KOs) is a world-class fighter who does not get the respect he deserves. He used to; but that ended on July 14, 2012, at the very moment that a Danny Garcia hook clipped the side of his head and knocked him stupid, shattering his golden boy image. Since then, he has been considered damaged goods. The world seemed to think that Khan’s fatal flaw had been exposed. He was not regarded as a complete enough fighter to climb up the pound-for-pound lists any longer.
Let us, however, give Amir Khan’s talents a rational assessment. He has some of the very fastest hands in all of boxing--certainly the fastest hands above featherweight. Khan is athletic, and his legs are fast too, but his straight punches have an otherworldly speed that can render even quick fighters helpless to get out of the way. All things being equal, Amir Khan can pop a fighter standing directly in front of him with jabs before his opponent’s eye can tell his mind to tell his body to move out of the way. His hands are fast enough to change the offensive balance of a fight. He can throw four, six, eight straight punches in a flurry and then circle away before a single counterpunch can come back. It is a powerful gift.
Earlier in his career, when he trained with Freddie Roach, he was extremely aggressive, a quality that Roach tends to cultivate in his fighters. For Khan, it was foolish. Though he managed to overwhelm many opponents with unbridled attacking speed, he also rushed into many punches that he didn’t need to. Since his switch to training with Virgil Hunter, Khan has adopted a boxing style much better suited to his abilities: he circles constantly, he uses his jab and straight right, and makes his speed his defense, rather than just his offense. When he resists the urge to jump forward and get into flurry contests, it is very, very hard for anyone to beat Amir Khan.
Indeed, none of his three losses were actually true demonstrations of a better fighter defeating him. Breidis Prescott knocked him out with a single punch in the first round in 2008; Danny Garcia, who was seen at the time as far more mediocre than Khan, likewise caught him with one big shot that led to his end early in the fight. His third loss was by decision to Lamont Peterson, in Peterson’s hometown of DC--a decision that Khan should have won. These losses tell us that Amir Khan may not have the greatest chin against big punchers. They tell us that Amir Khan should not fight like he’s in a bar fight. But none of them tell us that a greater fighter has outboxed Amir Khan when he fights intelligently. That has never happened. It has never been convincingly shown that he can be beat when he moves, and showers his opponent with combos, and does not stick his chin out.
Coincidentally, that will be his game plan.
Canelo Alvarez (46-1-1, 32 KOs) is certainly the scarier fighter. But is he the better fighter? At 25 years old, Canelo is only now becoming a fully realized fighter. He has a ton of pro fights but lacks the world class amateur career that propelled Khan through the Olympics. He is a terrifying, explosive puncher, with a right hand like a bolt gun and a left hook that stretches his chest muscles to extreme proportions, as if he were trying to rip out a cow’s stomach. He is one of the most reliably dangerous punchers in boxing; if you trade with him, you will be knocked out. Any opponent who fails to move for the entire fight can find themselves, like James Kirkland last year, knocked out so decisively that everyone wonders how their head stayed on their body.
The good news for the rest of the world is that Canelo is flat-footed. He carries a lot of muscle and fights in spurts, with vicious explosions followed by predictable periods of inactivity. He has quickness and solid boxing skills, like slipping punches and countering, but they only take place within a four-square-foot box directly in front of him, a box that he seems to trudge across the ring and set up in front of his opponent before the demolition begins. It is possible to outsmart him, out-time him, and stay away from him, as Floyd Mayweather demonstrated in Canelo’s only loss.
Of course (not to produce false hope), Floyd Mayweather is Floyd Mayweather. And then there is the little problem of the weight. This fight will take place at 155 pounds, Canelo’s preferred weight. Amir Khan’s most impressive victories took place at 140 pounds. That is quite a leap. Khan may carry up his speed, and he may carry up an increase in his power, but he will also carry up his chin. That is a problem. If a chin cannot handle a big-punching 140-pounder, it will not do well against Canelo Alvarez.
So the fight will rest entirely on how well Amir Khan fights it. He has the foot speed and the hand speed and the experience to keep Canelo at a distance, tag him with fast punches, and exit the premises. Counting on him to do this flawlessly for 12 rounds is probably not a good bet. But it is a real possibility. And that is what makes it all so interesting.
On the undercard, the cave man destructo-machine David Lemieux is granted a fight with Glen Tapia, a strong and (once) promising New Jersey fighter who is both smaller than Lemieux and who may never be the same after taking a truly horrifying beating at the hands of James Kirkland in 2013. That fight will be a war, and a chance for Lemieux to bounce back from a loss to Gennady Golovkin--as will the fight between Curtis Stevens, another aggressive puncher who was walloped by Golovkin, and Patrick Teixera, who is out to establish himself on the national stage. And Mauricio Herrera, one of the craftiest men in boxing, meets Frankie Gomez, a younger fighter attempting to slide into the spotlight.
HBO Boxing unofficial scorer Harold Lederman discusses Canelo vs. Khan. Canelo vs. Khan happens Saturday, May 7 live on pay-per-view beginning at 9pm ET/6pm PT.
HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney break down Gennady Golovkin's 2-round dismantling of Dominic Wade and Roman "Chocolatito" Gonazalez's victory over McWilliams Arroyo.
Watch the complete first episode of 24/7 Canelo/Khan. Episode 2 debuts Sat., April 30 at 11pm ET/PT on HBO. Canelo vs. Khan happens Saturday, May 7 live on pay-per-view beginning at 9pm ET/6pm PT.
Photos: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
Gennady Golovkin scored his 22nd straight knockout victory as he blasted overmatched challenger Dominic Wade to the canvas three times inside two rounds at The Forum in Inglewood, California on Saturday night. Wade rose to his feet much more slowly after the second knockdown than he did after the first; after the third, he couldn’t get up at all, referee Jack Reiss counting to 10 just as Wade’s corner climbed the ring apron waving the white towel. The official time was 2:37 of round two. Golovkin improved his record to 35-0 with 32 KOs.
The result was hardly a surprise. Going in, the only question was how long Wade would last, and whether Golovkin would elect to take his time before delivering the coup de grace. This wasn’t necessarily a testament to the perceived haplessness of Wade – although, truthfully, he is hardly going to go down in history as the greatest of world title challengers. But the prefight perception was that there was a massive gulf in class between a boxer who had faced nobody even remotely on the level of a champion who has been knocking over a parade of highly competent challengers with consummate ease.
It did not take long for Wade (18-1, 12 KOs) to look out of his depth, as Golovkin stalked forward behind a stiff jab and almost immediately sought to land a hook off that jab. Wade attempted to return fire with a lengthy jab of his own and even aimed some hooks at Golovkin’s midriff, but he looked understandably uncomfortable in the face of the Golovkin offense. Toward the end of the opening frame, as the two fought in close, Wade aimed a left hand toward the champion, who uncorked a short right hand that landed on Wade’s ear. The man from Washington, DC immediately crumpled to the ground, but was able to beat the count just before the bell rang to end the round.
Golovkin began the second in a mood to search and destroy, and an overhand right to the jaw sent Wade down again. He spent a good long while on his hands and knees, either searching for the strength to rise or asking himself whether he wanted to. He did, eventually, and Reiss spoke to him at some length to confirm he was committed to continuing, but the end came just seconds later. Another right hand flattened Wade along the ropes by Golovkin’s corner, his legs splayed out at drunken angles, and that was the end of the challenger’s night.
Credit is due to Wade for taking the fight, and Golovkin can only fight who is put in front of him. And, truth be told, the crowd of 16,353 didn’t seem to feel at sll short changed by the one-sided whupping they had just witnessed. Still, Golovkin’s plea for a worthy challenger continues to be a plaintive one, although he was all smiles afterward as he told HBO’s Max Kellerman that, “of course I need big name or big fight to please the fans.” The obvious name and fight is against Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, who holds one of the middleweight belts, is the lineal champion after defeating Miguel Cotto last year, and faces Amir Khan in Las Vegas on May 7. Asked if he had a message for the Mexican, Golovkin said simply, “Give me my belt. I need my belt.”
While Golovkin’s knockout streak continued, that of Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez came to an end after a stretch of ten consecutive stoppages thanks to an impressively resilient effort by flyweight challenger McWilliams Arroyo. Puerto Rican Arroyo (16-3, 14 KOs) rarely looked likely to defeat the consensus pound-for-pound best fighter in the world, but he at no stage wilted under Chocolatito’s trademark relentless assault and showed no hesitation in standing in front of his vaunted foe and trading punches. Still, the three judges’ scorecards of 119-109 (twice) and 120-108 accurately reflected the Nicaraguan’s domination over a foe who might well have beaten any other flyweight on this night.
As was the case in his last outing, against Brian Viloria, Gonzalez had a relatively quiet first couple of rounds, as Arroyo worked behind a stiff jab and looked for a home for his left hook. Suddenly, about two-thirds of the way through the second round, Gonzalez, as if having sized up his foe to his satisfaction, sprang to life.
A left hook knocked Arroyo backward in that second round, and Gonzalez began to steam forward. Arroyo fought him off, but the narrative was already being set: round after round, Gonzalez would keep stepping forward, firing a fusillade of punches from all angles, punishing Arroyo’s body and then switching upstairs with lefts and rights; Arroyo would fire back when Gonzalez took a breath, but then the champion would resume his assault.
The Puerto Rican’s cause was hardly helped when the soles of both his shoes fell apart in the fourth round, requiring some emergency taping in the corner, and it looked for a while afterward as if Arroyo might fall apart too. But he gathered himself and sought to turn back the incoming tide as best he could. The problem was that his offense was limited mostly to left hooks, and his punches were relatively slow; Chocolatito’s in contrast never stopped coming in a blur, the suffocating pressure they brought constantly driving Arroyo backward.
It says even more for Arroyo’s performance that Gonzalez (45-0, 39 KOs) was not exactly phoning it in. Round after round, he sprang out of the blocks determined to attack Arroyo’s head and torso, and in seemingly every one of those rounds there was a moment when Arroyo looked staggered or hurt and was forced to retreat to a corner or the ropes. Yet, every time he looked on the verge of wilting, he found another reserve of energy; and over the final couple of rounds, he exchanged hooks with the champion in an impressive finale from both men.
Gonzalez threw an incredible 1,132 total punches, landing 360, for a 32 percent connect rate; 311 of those landed blows were power punches. Gonzalez threw 26 more punches for power alone (737) than Arroyo did in total.
“It was a very difficult fight,” Gonzalez insisted. “McWilliams moves very well and he was able to avoid the punches. I wanted to fight and brawl and counter but it was difficult because he moves quite a bit and was hard to hit.”
Photos: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
Between them, the four fighters who will be appearing on HBO’s World Championship Boxing on Saturday night boast an incredible record of 114-2. Both of those losses appear on the ledger of McWilliams Arroyo, who is making a bid for the flyweight title of Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez, and one of those was on points in just his fourth pro bout while the second was a highly disputed, and arguably hometown, decision against Thai flyweight titlist Amnat Ruenroeng.
It is, in other words, at least on paper an immensely accomplished field, and one that might reasonably be expected to produce fireworks. Yet the considerable bulk of those wins are in the 78-0 combined record of Gonzalez and headliner Gennady Golovkin, many of them achieved against foes of greater distinction than Arroyo or Golovkin’s middleweight challenger Dominic Wade have faced. While it is possible that by the end of Saturday’s broadcast from The Forum in Inglewood, California, either Golovkin or Gonzalez – or both – will have suffered his first loss, it is not the most likely outcome.
This is not because either Arroyo or Wade are undeserving of their place in their spotlight. Arroyo, in particular, had an accomplished amateur career and is a more than capable contender; at this point in their respective careers, he might arguably be favored against Chocolatito’s most recent victim, the highly creditable Brian Viloria. Of Wade, a more recent arrival, there is less footage on which to base a judgment, but he did recently defeat an experienced and legendarily awkward former champ in Sam Soliman, and he is the mandatory challenger for one of Golovkin’s alphabet belts, however much that is worth.
Arroyo and Wade, in other words, would be perfectly acceptable title challengers – for other champions. Wade would probably lose to the likes of William Joppy and Keith Holmes - previous middleweight beltholders who, like him, hail from the nation’s capital – but he’d almost certainly give them a good fight. Arroyo, as mentioned, might beat Viloria and arguably already did defeat Ruenroeng.
But Golovkin and Gonzalez are made of special stuff. They are not mere beltholders; they are head and shoulders above others in their weight class (although Canelo Alvarez might have something to say about that in Golovkin’s case). Gonzalez is almost universally regarded, with the ostensible retirements of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, as the number one fighter in the world, pound-for-pound, right now, and such is his skill set he might well have seized that crown for himself by now even if they remained active. Golovkin is, by many counts, right behind him at number two; and as much as there are obvious differences between men whose fighting weights are 48 pounds apart, there are also commonalities among the reasons why both are so dominant, not least the fact that they both possess exquisite footwork that ensures they are frequently in the perfect position to torque devastating punches while preventing their wounded foe from escaping to a safer part of the ring.
Before a remarkable night in Tokyo in 1990 (and even for many years thereafter), boxing fans tuned into Mike Tyson fights, not in anticipation that he would lose, but with the expectation that he would not – that he would in fact win in devastating fashion. Much the same is now starting to happen with Golovkin – and, as his fame and reputation grows after two fights on HBO, Gonzalez. That is unlikely to be anything but enhanced by the time the two men have finished business on Saturday night. No matter how competitive, their outings are certain to be compelling.
Weights from Inglewood:
Gennady Golovkin: 159 lbs.
Dominic Wade: 159.6 lbs.
“Chocolatito” Gonzalez: 111.4 lbs.
McWilliams Arroyo: 111.6 lbs.
By Gordon Marino
Gennady Golovkin is the Clark Kent of boxing. With thin legs and the tapered body of an elite swimmer, there is nothing about the Kazakhstan native that would belie the Superman-like punching power that has made for his remarkable streak of 22 straight knockouts.
True, “GGG” has naturally heavy hands, but the secret of his preternatural punching prowess is grounded in his supreme technique and impeccable balance.
A calm but relentless attacking machine, Golovkin always keeps his weight over center. Although he is always coming in and igniting combinations, he avoids pitching forward and losing the torque on his shots. GGG is surgical at cutting off the ring, but once he has his foe in range he does not smother his power by getting in too close and taking away the space to punch. In over 350 amateur contests and 34 professional bouts, Golovkin has yet to say hello to the canvas. Confidence in his neural circuitry and in his ability to end a fight with one swipe enables the middleweight champ to sit down on his punches.
Like a home run hitter, Golovkin is able to bring his upper and lower body into perfect sync so as to transmit the strength in his well-conditioned pins into his mitts. When he turns his body into his short signature left hook, the blow comes as quick and smoothly as a door slamming shut in the wind.
Golovkin’s trainer Abel Sanchez, said, “One of the things that I love most about Gennady is that he does not get drunk on his power. He is very patient. He cuts off the ring and comes in behind the jab.”
There is more to GGG’s fine art of destruction. Supreme boxing masters do not switch back and forth between offense and defense. Their gloved game is seamless. They punch while catching punches. That is GGG. In his 2014 stoppage of Daniel Geale, you can glimpse Golovkin getting tagged as he lands the right that puts Geale to bed.
Sanchez said, “Gennady has been knocking people out with the left hook lately, but his right is the more powerful punch.” Unlike a lot of big bangers with a Suzie Q of a right, GGG usually whips his power hand in a looping trajectory in something between a straight right and right hook. The little extra arc makes his right more explosive and brings it around the high guard that most of his opponents adopt once they get a taste of Golovkin’s howitzer-like shots.
In 2013, Matthew Macklin had his boxing ambitions caved in by a Golovkin left hook to the liver. Reflecting on his defeat, Macklin explained that standing in front of a fighter who can deliver Golovkin’s packages of pain produces both panicky mistakes and premature exhaustion.
Golovkin uses his mental muscle to deliver those packages. Sanchez observed, “Gennady has a couple of different uppercuts but he doesn’t use them to knock people out. He uses a left uppercut with his palm facing out to come down the middle with and open a guy up.”
Sanchez continued, “Gennady uses the right uppercut primarily to set up the body shot; he is not really trying to land it. He just wants to freeze the guy, bring the guy’s arms in and then land his best punch, the left hook to the body!”