Dougie’s Friday mailbag (Burnett-Donaire, Regis Prograis, ‘Best I’ve Watched’)

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From left to right: Ryan Burnett, Kalle Sauerland and Nonito Donaire. Photo by Shabba Shafiq

DONAIRE’S LAST STAND

Doug,

Eleven years ago it was the young lion Nonito Donaire that vanquished the old lion Vic Darchinyan. I didn’t see the hook at first, as it was so fast.

Fast forward eleven years and Donaire’s role has been reversed, as the old lion. Honestly, I haven’t seen him hungry for several years now. Did Rigo dampen the fuse? Ryan Burnett is obviously young and hungry. It’s funny how young and old are determined by only a handful of years in boxing.

This weekend’s fight with Burnett for me is a toss-up. Youth verses experience. If Donaire sticks to his game plan and makes those adjustments, I see him retiring on a high with that belt. I see this as his last hurrah. He’s pushing 36 and that’s the right age to retire in my opinion. – Jeff, Australia

Mid-30s is getting pretty long in the tooth for a natural flyweight, but Donaire obviously still has some gas in his tank. He would have been blown out by Carl Frampton if he was shot or badly faded, and he actually held his own and had moments in that featherweight fight even though he clearly lost.

Against Burnett, Donaire is facing another plucky Belfast boxer but at a more natural weight (118) and against a lesser talent than Frampy. However, Burnett is a handful. The WBA titleholder is light on his feet, busy with in-and-out movement and tricky with his power-punch selection. He has the kind of style and mentality that tends to outwork the old lions of the sport.

Photo by Mikey Williams/ Top Rank

Having said that, I think Donaire is live in tomorrow’s WBSS quarterfinal because he can still crack (especially with his left) while Burnett has a hands-down approach to boxing and tends to lunge in with his chin unprotected. The two main questions I have about this intriguing crossroads title bout are: 1. How good is Burnett’s chin? And 2. How will Donaire feel fighting at the bantamweight limit for the first time in nine years?

If Burnett’s chin holds out (and I have a hunch that it will), and if Donaire’s reflexes, which have already dulled from age, are further diminished by weight drain, I think the Belfast native will retain his WBA belt via unanimous decision in a good fight.

Eleven years ago it was the young lion Nonito Donaire that vanquished the old lion Vic Darchinyan. I didn’t see the hook at first, as it was so fast. That’s back when he lived up to his nickname, the Filipino Flash. If memory serves me, that stoppage of Darch Vader in their first fight was The Ring’s Upset of the Year and KO of the Year.

Fast forward eleven years and Donaire’s role has been reversed, as the old lion. That’s how it generally goes in boxing, and while Donaire’s style has settled down as he’s aged, he hasn’t changed his style in way that he can outfox and outbox the hungry young lions, like a Bernard Hopkins or Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Honestly, I haven’t seen him hungry for several years now. Did Rigo dampen the fuse? I think the fuse was damp going into the Rigondeaux fight. He seemed to lose most of his hunger after winning the BWAA’s 2012 Fighter of the Year award. But getting outclassed by Rigo certainly didn’t light a fire in his belly.

Ryan Burnett is obviously young and hungry. It’s funny how young and old are determined by only a handful of years in boxing. Well, there’s nine years separating these two lions.

If Donaire sticks to his game plan and makes those adjustments, I see him retiring on a high with that belt. If he upsets Burnett, he’s not going to retire. He’s going to try to defend that belt in the semifinals of the WBSS.

I see this as his last hurrah. Yes, it probably is.

 

BURNETT VS. DONAIRE

Hi Doug,

Missed the mailbag. Hope you are well.

Kind of rooting for Nonito Donaire to pull off an upset this weekend just so that Zolani Tete can fight him on neutral ground.

He is back two divisions lower at bantamweight, a weight he hasn’t fought at since 2011 and that is essentially the big story of the fight. How will the move down in weight affect him?

Conventional wisdom dictates that when an older fighter moves down in weight, all his energy is spent making the weight limit and he is robbed of his strength, endurance and even his ability to absorb a punch. Former heavyweight titleholder, Chris Byrd’s move down to light heavyweight is often brought up as an example.

There are, however, also examples to the contrary, where a fighter has been stretching himself to fight at a higher weight, mostly because the opportunities where there and then, when they move down to a weight more suited to their body types, manage to rejuvenate their careers. Orlin Norris and our own Baby Jake Matlala are two examples I can think of.

Which one of these two scenarios will play out for Nonito Donaire? Would like to hear your thoughts on this issue.

I was chatting to IBF world flyweight champion, Moruti Mthalane, awhile back and he told me that he doesn’t think Donaire will drain himself making the weight. He remarked to me that the Filipino great is not that big and is definitely not a natural featherweight. Although he stopped short of picking him to win, he did say that it would be foolish to count him out.

Donaire has always been a stalking puncher who systematically goes after his opponents and uses his explosiveness and unusual angles to catch them. Below featherweight he usually had the power to send them home early or at least stop them from trying too hard. If you box and move, he will simply outpoint you with the jab, unless you have the skill level of a Rigondeaux, which Burnett doesn’t have. The way to beat him is to force him to go backward and outwork him.

Burnett has a busy, aggressive style of fighting, without being a big puncher. Then he also tends to pull out of the pocket with his hands down. His reflexes and chin has so far saved him from disaster but that could be a big blunder against Donaire. In fact, his style is tailor made for Donaire and if this was a prime version, I wouldn’t give Burnett much of a chance.

However, the other big question, beside the weight issue, is whether Donaire still has the reflexes to pull the trigger in time. That, to me, is the big problem for Donaire. Looking at his fights over the last few years, he is definitely getting hit more, for starters, which isn’t the biggest deal for this fight. He has always had a very solid chin, only Walters managing to stop him and I can’t see whatever power Burnett has troubling him. However, I expect Burnett to be a bit more wary and his reflexes will prevent Donaire from clipping him with more than one or two at a time.

Unless he rediscovers some one shot power at bantamweight, I think it just won’t be enough. I think he might buzz Burnett a couple of times and have his moments in this fight, much like he did against Frampton, perhaps slightly more, but I don’t think that at this stage he will be able to keep up with his younger rival.

I have to go with Ryan Burnett outworking Nonito Donaire to earn a hard fought decision.

How do you see it and how do you think Tete goes against either one?

Mythical matchup:

Dingaan Thobebela vs Vinny Paz at 168

Regards. – Droeks Malan, South Africa

Ah yeah, a mythical matchup of former lightweight titleholders who also competed at super middleweight (where The Rose of Soweto won the WBC belt). I’m gonna go with your countryman on points in a very close, very exciting contest.

I favor Tete over either Burnett or Donaire – on points – in competitive fights but clear victories for the rangy southpaw.

I agree with your pick and analysis of the Burnett-Donaire fight. I think the 2018 version of Donaire (regardless of his weight class) gets outworked by Burnett over the distance. The light-on-his-feet, explosive/reflexive counter-power-puncher that dominated at 112, 115 and 118 pounds nine-to-12 years ago is long gone. As you noted, Donaire is more of a flat-footed stalker these days, who tends to load up with heavy pot shots. I think Burnett (if he sticks to the right game plan) can only outwork Donaire, but outmaneuver four-division titleholder.

Kind of rooting for Nonito Donaire to pull off an upset this weekend just so that Zolani Tete can fight him on neutral ground. Donaire’s got some history with (as well as a winning record against) South African standouts, including your buddy Mthalane, Jeffrey Mathebula and Simpiwe Vetyeka.

He is back two divisions lower at bantamweight, a weight he hasn’t fought at since 2011 and that is essentially the big story of the fight. How will the move down in weight affect him? I don’t think it will completely drain him and leave him a shell as poor Chris Byrd was against Shaun George 10 years ago. Donaire is in good spirits, and he has gone about gradually reducing the weight the right way. However, I don’t think he’s going to have the positive results that Orlin Norris did when the small former heavyweight contender dropped down to cruiserweight. Norris made his drop in weight just five years into his pro career. Donaire is 17 years into his pro career. (Byrd was 15 years into his pro career when he dropped from heavyweight to light heavyweight.) At bantamweight, I think Donaire will be a little sharper than he was at 125 pounds against Frampton, but not as physically strong or durable. He might have a little more bounce in his legs, a little more fleet in his feet, however I doubt his reflexes will be much quicker. But we will see tomorrow. Moruti is correct when he says we should not count Donaire out.

 

CANELO-GGG 3?

Hi Doug,

I am only 12, however I have been watching boxing since I was nine years old. I have a question regarding the Canelo Vs Golovkin fights. Is there a chance of a third fight? It feels every fight they have it will lean more towards Canelo. I also think that having the fight closer to Canelo’s country is what makes the decisions controversial. There was almost no noise from the crowd when GGG landed a clean punch but when Canelo did the crowd almost made it seem as if there was a knockout.

Thanks for reading. – James, Lancashire in England

Thanks for writing, James. It’s great to hear from young fans.

You’re a sharp observer. I agree that, going forward, the hotly contested middleweight matchup between Canelo and GGG will lean more toward the Mexican star. Gennady Golovkin probably hit his physical peak five or six years ago; he was still in his prime as recent as 2015, but I think there have been slight diminishing returns since that year. While Canelo has just entered his physical prime at age 28, and he’s figured out that the best way for him to compete with Golovkin is to stand his ground (and work the body). Perhaps Canelo will take his strategy a step forward and attempt to apply hard pressure in a third match with Golovkin. Who knows what would happen with that scenario?

Will there be a third fight? I think so. While there are some very interesting 160- and 168-pound matchups for both middleweight stars (vs. the likes of Daniel Jacobs, Callum Smith, Demetrius Andrade and Gilberto Ramirez) no potential fight moves the needle like a third bout between the two.  

Depending on what network or platform GGG signs with, bout No. 3 could happen as early as next September. It might not happen next year, but I think it will eventually happen. There’s too much pride and money on the line for it not to.

I also think that having the fight closer to Canelo’s country is what makes the decisions controversial. No doubt about it in my mind. Had the first two bouts taken place in a neutral country, such as England, my guess is that GGG would still be the unbeaten middleweight champ. Having said that, bout No. 1 still would have been viewed as competitive and bout No. 2 still would have been seen as very close, no matter where the fights took place.

There was almost no noise from the crowd when GGG landed a clean punch but when Canelo did the crowd almost made it seem as if there was a knockout. Golovkin has the love and respect of the Mexican fans, but on the eve of Mexican Independence Day, in Las Vegas, with Canelo fighting “Mexican Style,” the Mexico native was going to have the crowd on his side.

 

FEMALE RANKINGS

Hi Dougie,

Just wondering if The Ring is considering putting up female boxing rankings in the ranking section and maybe even a pound for pound ranking, too?

Cheers. – L.

Yes, we are considering the establishment of divisional women’s boxing ratings on the website and in the magazine, and we’ll probably bring back the female pound-for-pound rankings, too.

And you can probably expect at least two women to earn the first divisional Ring magazine championship belts in 2019. Maybe more.

 

REGIS PROGRAIS

Regis Prograis put some boxing on display. Really enjoyed seein that dimension. He’s damn strong, has great balance and excellent sense of distance. DYIN to see Baranchyk-Prograis.

BTW – I sense a Terry Flanagan-Jorge Linares fight happening at 140. Almost happed at 135, didn’t it? just a feelin.

Gennady Golovkin shoulda fought Sergey Derevyachenko. GGGeez that was a waste.

I’d fully and wholeheartedly support nicknaming Usyk THE FEEL. Count me in. Doug, please make sure the writers are in full compliance–the people (at least a coupla people) have spoken.

MM – Provodnikov-Baranchyk

-Ceylon

I’ll go with Provo by late stoppage in a Fight-of-the-Year war.

If Usyk dominates Tony Bellew next Saturday and then, once again, says he’s “very feel” during his post-fight interview I will not only beat the drums for all boxing media to recognize his new nickname, I will put that moniker on the front plate of his Ring magazine Fighter-of-the-Year belt.

Regis Prograis put some boxing on display. Really enjoyed seein that dimension. I enjoy watching Prograis box any style, and he’s as versatile as they come. He’s not as polished as a Lomachenko, Crawford or Mikey Garcia, but he’s every bit as complete and he’s very effective at 140 pounds. (Come to think of it, Mikey vs. Prograis would be one hell of a junior welterweight fight, wouldn’t it?)

He’s damn strong, has great balance and excellent sense of distance. Agreed. Prograis is a throw-back fighter. I like it when he’s not in a rush and we get to how good his timing is.

DYIN to see Baranchyk-Prograis. I’ll take Regis on points, but he’d have to work hard for it.

BTW – I sense a Terry Flanagan-Jorge Linares fight happening at 140. Almost happed at 135, didn’t it? just a feelin. You might be right. There was talk of Linares-Flanagan before Linares-Lomachenko was made. I’d be OK with that fight, if it was his next bout. It would have to take place in Manchester to make any sense, though. But the 140-pound showdown I’d like to see is Jose Ramirez vs. Linares (somewhere in California, or maybe Vegas).

Gennady Golovkin shoulda fought Sergey Derevyachenko. GGGeez that was a waste. If Team GGG would have taken Team Derevyanchenko’s substitute challenge seriously the only thing that would have happened would be Golovkin NOT fighting on May 5. They had two weeks to salvage that HBO date (and they barely got it done in time with ready and willing Vanes). They didn’t have time dick around with Team D., or with the IBF. I like Derevyanchenko a lot, and I have a lot of respect for his promoter, Lou DiBella, but I still think he

Photo: Twitter @HBOboxing

was thrust into a f__ked up situation with fighting his managerial and gym stablemate, Daniel Jacobs, for the vacant IBF belt. A) he wasn’t seasoned enough to competently challenge GGG or DJ (if he’d been a little more active, had a couple more bouts under his belt prior to fighting Jacobs, I think he could have beat his sparring partner and buddy). B) he had to go against a gym mate and his own trainer. C) he was put into a must-win situation. The only way he was going to come out of the Jacobs fight as a viable middleweight player was by winning the IBF title. By extending Jacobs 12 hard rounds and ALMOST beating the talented veteran, all he did was solidify his rep as a “high-risk-low-reward” threat to all of the 160-pound standouts. It sucks. I wish him well, though.

 

BEST I WATCHED

Hey Dougie,

Long time reader but first time writing in. Love the mailbag.

I’m probably not alone in thinking that alongside the mailbag, my favourite Ring regular feature is the ‘Best I Faced’ column. Very insightful and really good to get that rare post-career breakdown from some great fighters.

I wondered though about breaking down the fans’ perspective. This obviously won’t be from the POV of someone going toe-to-toe in the ring – but the fan view is valid too. Maybe ‘favourite’ is a better qualifier than ‘best’.

My list is below. It’s based on my lifetime rather than going through the entire history of the sport. These are my personal favourites.

It’ll be interesting to get your own thoughts Dougie – as a fan before anything else.

JAB

I’ve got to go with my man Lennox – and I’m thinking particularly vs Tua and Holyfield 1

DEFENSE

I like Floyd about as much as you do but you’ve got to give credit where it’s due. Early Floyd especially. The Corrales fight was a masterpiece.

However, the right answer is Sweet Pea.  Next question…

FASTEST HANDS

I was always a big fan of prime RJJ and prime Naz; shots coming super-fast from silly angles. For me though it’s ‘Lights Out’ (MW and SMW version obviously).

FOOTWORK

I actually think the right answer here might already be Loma.

My favourite though is Iron Mike. He wasn’t the flashiest but he would work his way into attacking positions like a master.

CHIN

I’ll never forget McCall staying on his feet when basically a zombie against Lewis – unreal! It has to be Hagler though. Fought the best, stayed upright and kept coming forward.

SMARTEST

Dinamita! He got destroyed by Pacman in their first round but got up, worked him out, adapted and went to work. That’s class.

STRONGEST

My man Nigel Benn. Based mainly on getting knocked out the ring by McClellan and getting back up to win. That guy was a bad-ass.

PUNCHER

The Hawk was ridiculous but I like prime Iron Mike.

BOXING SKILLS

Sweet Pea. Loma might run him close in years to come.

OVERALL

Whitaker

Cheers. – Rico, London

Interesting request, Rico. I guess if I base my selections on fighters whose careers transpired during my lifetime, as you did, (and keep in mind that I started following boxing as young kid in the late 1970s) my ‘Best I Watched’ goes as follows:

JAB

Larry Holmes. I hated him because he humiliated and followed my hero, the man that attracted me to the sport in the first place, Muhammad Ali, but his left stick was mesmerizing; and even as a kid, I could see that he could win fights with that one key punch.

DEFENSE

Pernell Whitaker. I noticed his defensive prowess during the 1984 Olympic Games, but did not appreciate Sweet Pea as a pro until he left the lightweight division and planted his feet while schooling a fellow ATG in Julio Cesar Chavez and outclassing or competing with the best welterweights of the 1990s. I thought Pea deserved to be the BWAA’s Fighter of the Decade over Roy Jones Jr. Wilfredo Benitez, who I didn’t appreciate enough during his prime years, is also way up there.

FASTEST HANDS

Roy Jones Jr. Prime Jones has the fastest, most explosively powerful hands I’ve ever seen. Even when I finally got a chance to see him live and up close as a young member of the media in the early 2000s (2000-2003), when he was past his prime, fighting at light heavyweight, his hand speed was phenomenal.

FOOTWORK

I was an admirer of middleweight titleholder/perennial contender Sumbu Kalambay. To me, he was a 160-pound Ali.

CHIN

I’ll go with prime Ray Mercer. He took the best bombs of both Tommy Morrison and Lennox Lewis.

SMARTEST

Roberto Duran’s bold and savvy stand against the younger, bigger, stronger Iran Barkley resulted in one of the great upsets of the 1980s. (Photo: The Ring)

Roberto Duran is by far the craftiest and most ring savvy fighter I’ve ever seen, even when he was way past his prime and way about his prime fighting weight. I could watch his 1989 middleweight title win over Iran Barkley every day for the rest of my life and never get sick of it. I even learn from watching his losses against Marvin Hagler and Robbie Sims. Floyd Mayweather Jr. is also up there, in and out of the ring (as his own matchmaker).

STRONGEST

Marvelous Marvin Hagler. I wasn’t a fan during his title run but I respected him and always likened him to the “Immovable Object” of boxing.

PUNCHER

Thomas Hearns. At his best, his power (and the speed and superlative technique that helped set it up) was scary. I still can’t watch his knockout of Roberto Duran. Julian Jackson and Naseem Hamed are up there, obviously.

BOXING SKILLS

Whitaker. Prime James Toney, when he had trained right, is also up there, as is Marco Antonio Barrera.

OVERALL

Sugar Ray Leonard. Nobody comes close to being the “total package” as my boyhood idol. A lot folks won’t agree with me, but I put prime Terry Norris up there too, along with Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson.

 

 

Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer and on Persicope.

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