Dougie’s Friday mailbag (Haney-Ndongeni, Budler-Kyoguchi, most memorable fights by division)

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Devin Haney and Xolisani Ndongeni are ripped and ready for the first ShoBox main event of 2019. Photo by Rosie Cohe/SHOWTIME

SOUTH AFRICAN SHUFFLE, JAPANESE HUSTLE, SHOBOX SHOWDOWN

Hi Doug,

All the best for the new year, I trust that 2019 will build on the terrific last two years we had.

Moruti Mthalane looked twentysomething and not his 36 years when he dismantled Masahiro Sakamoto. Of course, one has to keep in mind that the opponent was basically a tough guy who fought with heart to make the most of his opportunity but now Mthalane needs to make his mandatory against Masayuki Kuroda before he can hopefully get to the big unification fights.

Kuroda seems like a somewhat more experienced version of Sakamoto, a guy mostly known as a Japanese national champion with a nice run of wins behind him but not much international success. How much of a threat is he?

Mthalane really wants the fight with WBC titlist Charlie Edwards but then there is also WBO beltholder Kosei Tanaka. Although I am itching to hand out another Ring belt (how awesome would that be?) I think Edwards is the less formidable option. How do you see our man going against those two?

It was heart breaking for us to see Hekkie Budler lose his title but most expected it although I was one of few who thought he could pull off another miracle if he could withstand Kyoguchi’s power, which he ultimately couldn’t.

Is Hiroto Kyoguchi the second-best Japanese fighter (unless you don’t agree that Naoya Inoue is number one)?

Team Budler seems to want to make another title run but that division is stacked. The other champions, Shiro, Alvarado and even Angel Acosta are very good fighters so I struggle to see how he gets another major belt around his waist, hopefully I am wrong. Would you favour him against any of those three? Pity Ryoichi Taguchi is heading north because that would have been a great rematch.

How do you see Devin Haney vs Xolisani Ndongeni? If I look at the US media, he is simply there to be a fall guy and although I would favour Haney to take a decision I think that Ndongeni has the better overall experience against the more diverse opponents although his career has been treading water over the last two years. Still, Haney only really has Mason Menard and Juan Carlos Burgos on his resume. If you look earlier in Ndongeni’s career, he has Mzonke Fana and the other guys he has fought are unknown outside of South Africa but some of them were better than the guys Haney fought before Menard and Burgos.

Ndongeni is up against the house fighter who is also the promoter so there is no way he is going to get it if it is close. Haney can fight very well on the backfoot (vs Menard) and he can also fight in the pocket (Burgos) but I have a hunch he is more comfortable sticking and moving. I think Ndongeni either has to get Haney to come to him or he has to go after him in more intelligent fashion than Menard (he has much better feet and upper body movement that Menard). I don’t think that Haney really has a big punch at the top level or am I wrong?

Mythical (or possible) Matchups:

Kyoguchi vs Ken Shiro

Taguchi vs Kyoguchi

Alex Stewart vs Adam Kownacki

Julian Jackson vs Canelo Alvarez at 154

Regards. – Droeks Malan, South Africa

Happy New Year, Droeks! I’ll answer your mythical/possible matchups first, and go with The Dynamite Boy (Kyoguchi) by controversial split decision over Shiro and hard-fought decision over Taguchi (in a fight-of-the-year candidate), Stewart by late stoppage in a slugfest and Alvarez by decision (I’d say “close decision” but Canelo either has to put on a master class – which I think he’d be capable of – or he’d get whacked out by The Hawk). 

I’m really looking forward to the first ShoBox of 2019. Kudos to Showtime, producer Gordon Hall and everyone involved with the near-19-year-old series. They’ve stayed true to their mission and continue to introduce boxing fans to the sport’s future standouts (without spoon-feeding them). Haney-Ndongeni is good matchup on paper. Haney, who’s already cracked The Ring’s lightweight rankings at age 20, is in with his best opponent (on paper). Xolisani brings good experience and boxing ability with his 25-0 record. The South African’s got decent jab, solid lateral movement and a kind-of awkward rhythm, which can all be difficult for a smooth boxer like Haney. However, your countryman doesn’t seem to have the athleticism (including speed and power) or offensive output to seriously threaten the young boxer-promoter. I like The Dream on points.  

Ruben Villa (left) and Ruben Cervera. Photo by Rosie Cohe/SHOWTIME

I’m also glad that Thompson Boxing/Banner Promotions-guided prospect Ruben Villa IV is in tonight’s co-feature against a 10-0 Colombian (with nine KOs to his credit). Ruben Cervera, who is 21 like “RV4,” has fought nothing but stiffs in his native country but you never know with these unknown Colombians, sometimes the power is real and they’re dangerous. We’ll find out. Villa, who split four bouts with Shakur Stevenson in the amateurs, is a skilled southpaw featherweight technician.

Moruti Mthalane looked twentysomething and not his 36 years when he dismantled Masahiro Sakamoto. The man is a marvel and an inspiration. He’s earned The Ring’s No. 1 flyweight ranking by winning 14 in a row (which includes two IBF title reigns, as well as an IBO run for good measure) since his lone loss against Nonito Donaire TEN years ago. (My, how time flies! See what I did there? “FLIES!?”… you know, ‘cuz he’s a 112 pounder… OK, let’s keep going)

Of course, one has to keep in mind that the opponent was basically a tough guy who fought with heart to make the most of his opportunity but now Mthalane needs to make his mandatory against Masayuki Kuroda before he can hopefully get to the big unification fights. I really hope a unification series can take place at 112 pounds (as well as 108 pounds) because there are so many good matchups at those weights and the standouts are generally willing to face each other. Maybe the World Boxing Series will consider it for their third season (if they continue). Or perhaps Tom Loeffler can partner up with a platform like DAZN or ESPN and continue the SuperFly series there (but add flyweight and junior flyweights to the 115-pound concept). (I’m thinking DAZN makes sense because Eddie Hearn promotes 115-pound beltholder Kal Yafai and newly crowned 112-pound titleholder Charlie Edwards.)

Kuroda seems like a somewhat more experienced version of Sakamoto, a guy mostly known as a Japanese national champion with a nice run of wins behind him but not much international success. How much of a threat is he? I think Kuroda is a solid veteran but he’s the type to do just enough to lose a close decision, even on a good night.

Mthalane really wants the fight with WBC titlist Charlie Edwards but then there is also WBO beltholder Kosei Tanaka. Bro, you can’t go wrong with either matchup. By the way, MAJOR props to Tanaka for making his first defense of the WBO title against former unified/Ring 108-pound champ Ryoichi Taguchi in March. Tanaka is a stud, like my boy Kyoguchi. They aren’t looking for easy fights.

Although I am itching to hand out another Ring belt (how awesome would that be?) I think Edwards is the less formidable option. How do you see our man going against those two? I don’t think there are any easy marks among Mthalane’s fellow beltholders. I would favor him (slightly) over Edwards, but I would favor the 23-year-old three-division beltholder (Tanaka) to beat the 36-year-old veteran.

It was heart breaking for us to see Hekkie Budler lose his title, but most expected it although I was one of few who thought he could pull off another miracle if he could withstand Kyoguchi’s power, which he ultimately couldn’t. I thought Budler boxed well for four or five rounds, his jab and lateral movement were on point. His mistake was to exchange with the younger man as much as

Hekkie Budler is caught with a right uppercut from challenger Hiroto Kyoguchi during their Ring/WBA 108-pound championship bout on Dec. 31, 2018, in Macau. Photo by Kevin Lee/Getty Images

he did. Once he began to plant his feet and stay in the pocket more, he opened himself up for Kyoguchi’s body attack, which is brutal. Kyoguchi prides himself on his body punching prowess (and also throws a mean uppercut). I’ve been told that he studies tapes of Finito Lopez and Chocolatito Gonzalez and tries his best to emulate their body punching form. Budler needed to be on his toes and punching on the fly throughout the fight (more “plucky” than “scrappy”), but I think “scrappy” is part of his nature. He’s got nothing to ashamed of.

Is Hiroto Kyoguchi the second-best Japanese fighter (unless you don’t agree that Naoya Inoue is number one)? He happens to be my personal favorite of Japan’s “Rising Sons,” but I’m not sure if he’s clearly in the top five. He probably is, but I’d definitely rate Naoya Inoue, Tanaka and Ken Shiro ahead of him. (Maybe Taguchi is ahead of him, too.) But Dynamite Boy is cut from the same cloth as The Monster, Tanaka and Shiro in that he didn’t waste ANY time taking on world-class opposition after he turned pro. He won his first title (the IBF 105-pound belt) just 15 months after his pro debut (and he took on a hard-ass Mexican beltholder trained by Eddy Reynoso in just his eighth pro bout). Kyoguchi’s first defense of that belt was against a top contender and former title challenger (Carlos Buitrago). That’s how it’s done. I love that these Japanese standouts refuse to squander their prime years.

Team Budler seems to want to make another title run but that division is stacked. The other champions, Shiro, Alvarado and even Angel Acosta are very good fighters so I struggle to see how he gets another major belt around his waist, hopefully I am wrong. I think Budler’s corner did the right thing by pulling the pug after Round 10. He didn’t take a terrible beating against Kyoguchi. Still, he’s clearly no longer in his prime. I think if he take a bit of break, had a good camp and sticks to a disciplined gameplan he can give three titleholders you mentioned very competitive challenges, but I wouldn’t favor him in any of those matchups.

Pity Ryoichi Taguchi is heading north because that would have been a great rematch. Agreed, but I’m stoked for Tanaka-Taguchi.

 

MOST MEMORABLE FIGHTS BY WEIGHT CLASS

Hi Dougie –

I hope all is well. I was wondering your take on the best/favorite fights you’ve ever watched per weight class (I know you’ve seen hundreds and it’s likely impossible to pick 1 so maybe most memorable is a better term) and a few other categories. I confess I haven’t seen as much in the 3 lightest weights but listed some of my most memorable below.

Heavyweight – Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier III

Cruiserweight – Vassily Jirov vs. James Toney

Light Heavyweight – Matthew Saad Muhammad vs. Yaqui Lopez

Super Middleweight – Joe Calzaghe vs. Mikkel Kessler

Middleweight – Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas Hearns

Jr. Middleweight – Julian Jackson vs. Mike McCallum

Welterweight – Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns

Jr. Welterweight – Julio Cesar Chavez vs. Meldrick Taylor I

Lightweight – Julio Cesar Chavez vs. Edwin Rosario

Jr. Lightweight – Manny Pacquiao vs. Erik Morales I

Featherweight– Salvador Sanchez vs. Azumah Nelson

Super Bantamweight – Israel Vazquez vs. Rafeal Marquez II

Bantamweight – Jhonny Gonzalez vs. Fernando Montiel

Super Flyweight – Roman Gonzalez vs. Sor Rungvisai I

Flyweight – Hernan Marquez vs. Luis Concepcion

Light Flyweight – Roman Gonzalez vs. Juan Francisco Estrada

Minimumweight – n/a

Bonus:

Most Underrated Classic – Mickey Ward vs. Emanuel Burton (Augustus)

Best Drama Fight – Jose Luis Castillo vs. Diego Corrales I

Biggest Upset – Michael Moorer vs. George Foreman

Thanks. – Jamaal, Louisiana

I’ll give this a try (without doing much research or limiting it to the fights I covered as media) and I’ll start with your bonus bouts:

Most Underrated Classic: Antonio Diaz vs. Hector Quiroz (junior welterweight) – the FIRST fight, not the brutally sloppy rematch. “Tono,” who is doing a swell job assisting his brother Joel Diaz train a new generation of badasses out of their Coachella Valley gym, took part in more than a few underrated classics, including his showdowns with Micky Ward, Ivan Robinson and Antonio Margarito. He’s an underrated Action Hero in my humble opinion.

Best Drama Fight: It’s almost impossible for anything to top Castillo-Corrales I (which I was ringside for – I even got to be part of Showtime’s “media judge” panel alongside Dan Rafael and Tim Smith), but I think Israel Vazquez-Rafael Marquez III just nicks it.

Lloyd Honeyghan (right) vs. Donald Curry. BoxRec. Image courtesy of www.BoxRec.com

Lloyd Honeyghan (right) vs. Donald Curry. BoxRec. Image courtesy of www.BoxRec.com

Biggest Upset: Donald Curry losing to Lloyd Honeyghan (Douglas over Tyson is the biggest upset of the modern era, if you go by the official odds, but I didn’t count the Columbus, Ohio native out in that fight)

I think all of your most-memorable fight selections are excellent, and I don’t disagree with a single choice (well, except for Jhonny Gonzalez vs. Fernando Montiel, that fight kinda sucked), but just for the challenge of it, I’ll pick different bouts:

Heavyweight – Joe Frazier vs. Jerry Quarry I (Riddick Bowe vs. Evander Holyfield I certainly burns bright in my memory, tho)

Cruiserweight – Evander Holyfield vs. Dwight Muhammad Qawi I

Light Heavyweight – Archie Moore vs. Yvon Durelle I

Super Middleweight – Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns II

Middleweight – Roberto Duran vs. Iran Barkley

Jr. Middleweight – Vincent Pettway vs. Simon Brown (Felix Trinidad vs. Fernando Vargas, which I got to witness live, is just as worthy)

Welterweight Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Roberto Duran I

Jr. Welterweight – Aaron Pryor vs. Alexis Arguello I

Lightweight Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo I (Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Juan Diaz I, which I was honored to be ringside for, is also up there)

Jr. Lightweight – Vicente Mosquera vs. Edwin Valero (Arturo Gatti’s IBF title defenses against Wilson Rodriguez and Gabe Ruelas could go here)

Featherweight Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Manny Pacquiao I

Super Bantamweight – Wilfredo Gomez vs. Lupe Pintor (Erik Morales vs. Marco Antonio Barrera I, which I got to witness live is just as worthy)

Bantamweight Paulie Ayala vs. Johnny Tapia I

Super Flyweight – Robert Quiroga vs. Kid Akeem Anifowoshe

Flyweight  Jorge Arce vs. Hussein Hussein I (Giovani Segura vs. Hernan “Tyson” Marquez is close)

Light Flyweight Michael Carbajal vs. Humberto “Chiquita” Gonzalez I

Minimumweight Francisco Rodriguez Jr. vs. Katsunari Takayama

 

GGG, HBO, CANELO AT MSG

Hey Doug,

I suppose it is obvious GGG will fight on DAZN. If I’m on GGG’s camp, it’s good Loeffler has spoken to other platforms to gain leverage for a third fight with Canelo on DAZN.

About HBO, do you think them, along with Showtime, played a significant role in marginalizing the sport since the 90s? I have mixed feelings about HBO. Their production was the absolute best. Then again, I’d rather watch boxing with commercials and a lesser production if it means the fights are “free”, and there are more people out there talking about it.

For example, a while ago I watched the first Leonard-Duran fight, it was a network broadcast. I can remember the commentator (Cosell maybe, but I’m not sure) calling a “great uppercut for Leonard”, and the replay showed it was wide. Also, Duran had his arm in an angle, so even if accurate it would have hit his glove. My thoughts were, a guy like Roy Jones would have pointed out, “No, he missed”.

It’s a good time to be a boxing fan, ESPN covers it more since their new investment in it, and I’ve seen fight card commercials on FOX during football games.

Finally, I went to my first ever boxing event with the wife for Canelo-Rocky Fielding at MSG. As far the event goes, it was good. The fans doing the “wave”, singing along to “Sweet Caroline”, the national anthems and Michael Buffer were worth seeing in person. I hope I don’t pick up the expensive habit of going often! The fight was an exhibition, really, and I was aware of that coming in. With that said, as far as “real” fights, what’s the best fight night “buzz” you can remember from a live event? – Carlos, Marlboro, NJ

At the same storied New York City arena where you and your wife watched Canelo do his thing, I witnessed (no, the better term would be EXPERIENCED) Felix Trinidad win the WBA middleweight title with a brutal stoppage of game-but-outgunned William Joppy 17½ years ago. The atmosphere was so loud and intense and passionate that it bordered on idolatry. It was almost overwhelming. Nobody in my time covering the sport could pack Madison Square Garden like Tito, although Miguel Cotto came close (and his showdown with Zab Judah there makes my top five “best live fight night buzzes”) and Gennady Golovkin does very well at the legendary venue.

I suppose it is obvious GGG will fight on DAZN. If I’m on GGG’s camp, it’s good Loeffler has spoken to other platforms to gain leverage for a third fight with Canelo on DAZN. If Golovkin’s goal is a huge-money third fight with Canelo or simply to regain the middleweight titles, it makes sense for him to sign some kind of deal with DAZN. If he’s not that interested in middleweight belts and just wants to stay active vs. solid guys for good money and maximum exposure, he might opt for ESPN or go with the PBC where he could fight on Fox (although he could wind up on the PPV arms of both Fox and Showtime). GGG’s the most sought after free agent in boxing right now, so wherever he winds up, he’s going to be well compensated.

About HBO, do you think them, along with Showtime, played a significant role in marginalizing the sport since the 90s? Yeah, of course. Those two subscription cable networks outbid the free terrestrial networks for world-class boxing during the late ‘80s/early ‘90s until by the mid-90s the only place to watch elite boxers in the U.S. was on premium cable. But I can’t be mad at anyone. It was a mutually beneficial relationship between the boxing folks (who made more money) and the premium cable networks (which increased their subscribers and retained them with the exclusive sports content).

I have mixed feelings about HBO. Their production was the absolute best. No doubt about it. Other networks are still trying to emulate HBO’s production style and story-telling techniques, especially with big boxing even pre-shows, “to this day!” as our good friend Deontay Wilder would yell.

Then again, I’d rather watch boxing with commercials and a lesser production if it means the fights are “free”, and there are more people out there talking about it. Agreed. But it looks like boxing has all the bases covered in 2019, with premium cable (Showtime), basic cable (ESPN), free network (Fox) and subscription streaming platforms (DAZN/ESPN+). Showtime has the most experience with producing and presenting boxing, plus they’re committed to making quality matchups; Fox is in the most homes, ESPN is everywhere (homes, hotels, airports, bars, fitness centers, etc.) and its got high production quality and top talent; and the DAZN and ESPN+ platforms enable fans to watch the fights outside of their homes (on the go and on demand) on multiple platforms if need be. It is indeed a good time to be a boxing fan (as you noted) if one is plugged in and knows how to properly manage time and schedule.

 

 

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

 

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