Dougie’s Friday mailbag (Pacquiao-Thurman, heavyweight up-and-comers, Dre does no wrong)

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Manny Pacquiao and Keith Thurman stare each other down during the kick-off presser for their July 20 crossroads welterweight title bout.

PICKING MANNY TO WIN

Hey Doug, just wanted to write you in anticipation of Manny Pacquiao-Keith Thurman. When this fight was first announced I have to admit I was worried for Manny, but as the fight draws nearer my opinion has shifted and I now favor Pac to win, perhaps even stop Thurman.  To be clear, I’m not writing off Keith based off his last performance.  He was coming off a very long layoff and multiple injuries and Lopez was determined that night.  I expect the version of Keith that fights Manny to be much sharper, though maybe not as sharp as he was in his mid 20’s.

The main reason I’m going with Pacquiao is based on his last performance against Broner. In that fight I thought Manny used smart aggression, not throwing a ton of punches but picking his spots to throw quick overwhelming combos. I especially liked how he finished his combo’s with the step through power jab, and I really liked his spearing left to the body. I think Keith’s fragility is much overstated (he ain’t no Amir Khan) but I do think those quick straight shots on the inside will hurt him in a way they didn’t the more durable Horn and Broner.  (And both those tough cookies still got hurt in their fights with Manny.) Keith also is prone to telegraphing his punches when he loads up looking for the “one time.” This flaw combined with his propensity to sometimes keep his hands too low and sometimes forgetting to duck when on the ropes is going to give Manny opportunities to hurt him and maybe take him out.

I should add that Keith could totally win this fight. Despite some of his technical flaws he has big power and good lateral movement that could frustrate Pacquiao. That being said, I heard Keith say in an interview that he may try and rough up and bully Manny in close the way Horn did. I don’t know if he’s just saying that to promote the fight but if he’s serious I think that would be a bad gameplan, one that could get him knocked out. As a Manny fan, I’m most concerned about Keith’s ability to set traps; stepping back and throwing counter uppercuts and such as Manny lunges into the dead space.

Anyways, I’m picking Manny to pull off the victory, but I admit I’m still a bit nervous. Keith Thurman is a great fighter and still near his prime. These days he doesn’t get enough respect. If Manny wins this it would be his best win since Tim Bradley, probably even better.

By the way, who would you pick between a prime Bradley vs Thurman? – Jack

Hmmm… good mythical matchup. Both welterweights possess sharp boxing minds, fast hands and move about the ring very well. Both fighters are very resourceful. Thurman’s got the edge in power, but Bradley had the higher punch output. If it comes down to guts, which I think it would, I’ve got to go with Bradley on points. I think Desert Storm, at his aggressive best, would be forced to survive a wobbly moment or two, maybe he’d even have to get up from a knockdown, but he’d outwork and outpoint the naturally bigger, harder puncher.

You’re not alone in picking the 40-year-old Pacquiao to get the better of the unbeaten 30-year-old beltholder. It seems like everyone I know is either picking Pac or just rooting for the future first-ballot hall of famer. I agree that Thurman is an underappreciated talent, but I don’t bother complaining about it. He’s got a big part in how he’s perceived due the choices his made in and out of the ring, and due to some of the comments he’s made to the media. My man Thurmy can come off as anything from a certified Space Cadet to a spoiled Poster Child for the PBC to an overly cautious paper champ that has become more manager than prize fighter depending on the sound bite you come across.  

Whatever. I like him. He’s different. He’s got the best resume among active welterweights next to Senator Manny’s, and in my opinion, if he’s truly motivated by this tremendous opportunity, he’s got the talent and the smarts to win the fight on July 20.

Hopkins (right) punches Pascal during their light heavyweight championship on May 21, 2011, in Quebec. Hopkins won to become the oldest major world champion in boxing history at 46. Photo by ROGERIO BARBOSA/AFP/Getty Images

When this fight was first announced I have to admit I was worried for Manny, but as the fight draws nearer my opinion has shifted and I now favor Pac to win, perhaps even stop Thurman. Holy s__t, if Pacquiao were able to score a stoppage, that’s have to rank up there with one of the greatest late career victories of the modern era; certainly it’s would be among the best wins by a 40-year-old/40-plus former champ in recent memory, right up there with George Foreman’s KO of Michael Moorer and Bernard Hopkins decision victories over Antonio Tarver, Winky Wright, Kelly Pavlik and Jean Pascal.

To be clear, I’m not writing off Keith based off his last performance. He was coming off a very long layoff and multiple injuries and Lopez was determined that night. Thank you. Too many fans and media have used that fight as “Exhibit A” in their argument of why they claim that Thurman sucks ass. For starters, Josesito is a certified badass. I know he was selected to lose, but he had a great camp and entered the bout with a winning attitude. He did what a respectable gatekeeper is supposed to do, which is ask questions of the favored fighter. I think that fight knocked off a lot of Thurman’s ring rust and provided him with the kind of gut check that will rekindle a fighter’s fire.

I expect the version of Keith that fights Manny to be much sharper, though maybe not as sharp as he was in his mid 20’s. Agreed. But I expect Thurman to be smarter than he was in his mid-20s.

The main reason I’m going with Pacquiao is based on his last performance against Broner. Really? I thought Adrien, with his flat feet and low-punch-output, was the perfect foil for faded veteran with Pac’s boxing style.

In that fight I thought Manny used smart aggression, not throwing a ton of punches but picking his spots to throw quick overwhelming combos. OK, so you focused more on what Pac did right, rather than look at what Broner didn’t (or couldn’t) do. That’s probably the right way view that fight. Give the “old man” credit.

I think Keith’s fragility is much overstated (he ain’t no Amir Khan) but I do think those quick straight shots on the inside will hurt him in a way they didn’t the more durable Horn and Broner. (And both those tough cookies still got hurt in their fights with Manny.) You might be right, but I think you should keep in mind that Thurman has a far more mobile style than Horn or Broner. He might not stand around to be nailed by those “quick straight shots on the inside.”

Keith also is prone to telegraphing his punches when he loads up looking for the “one time.” This is true. And Thurman often wings those punches wide.

This flaw combined with his propensity to sometimes keep his hands too low and sometimes forgetting to duck when on the ropes is going to give Manny opportunities to hurt him and maybe take him out. Good points. You’re starting to convince me, but we’ll see. I’m still picking Keith.

Don’t sleep on Dan Birmingham, folks!

I should add that Keith could totally win this fight. Despite some of his technical flaws he has big power and good lateral movement that could frustrate Pacquiao. You damn straight! He’s the THURMANATOR, baby! And his trainer, Dan Birmingham, is BIRMINATOR! Don’t forget that!

That being said, I heard Keith say in an interview that he may try and rough up and bully Manny in close the way Horn did. I don’t know if he’s just saying that to promote the fight but if he’s serious I think that would be a bad gameplan, one that could get him knocked outWe’ll see. Maybe he has smarter, more technical methods of “roughing up” Pac on this inside than Jeff Horn did.

As a Manny fan, I’m most concerned about Keith’s ability to set traps; stepping back and throwing counter uppercuts and such as Manny lunges into the dead space. WAR, THURMANATOR!!!

 

THE NEW HEAVYWEIGHTS

Happy Friday Doug,

I’m excited for the Rey Vargas vs Tomoki Kameda fight on Saturday (rest of that card also really solid), and I’m eager to see how Rob Brant fares in the rematch against Murata on Friday. I haven’t followed Brant much, but he seems well placed in the MW division to do great things.

But, what I hope we can hear some of your thoughts about is the current heavyweight division, particularly up and coming new faces and/or those just outside the Ring top ten, who might be making some noise soon. The London ESPN card with Joe Joyce vs Bryant Jennings and Nathan Gorman vs Danial Dubois has me fired up. Some of the best UK prospects, with undefeated records, making a move. Though if Bryant Jennings does half as well in the ring as he did in the press conference he’ll win by KO (him calmly dismantle Joyce’s manager while Gormam chuckled was hilarious to watch). Also, in action is Tony Yoka; and Dillian Whyte vs Rivas coming along next week. Curious who your picks are? I got Joyce and Dubois, but Gorman might show us something? And I don’t know enough about Rivas to have an expectation there.

So, my main question: outside of the Ring’s top-ten, who do you see as the most promising and/or exciting faces in the heavyweight div? On my radar are all three of the above UK fighters, plus Usyk of course, then also Michael Hunter, Agit Kabayel, Filip Hrgovic, Efe Ajagba, and Tony Yoka. Any thoughts on these fighters, and any other noteworthy names to be looking out for? I’m very high on Michael Hunter and think, with Andy Ruiz factored in, we may be seeing the rise some highly effective smaller HW’s to balance (and challenge) the juggernauts in the division.

Thanks as always, and good times ahead! Cheers. – Alec

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Alec.

I think Usyk will be a major heavyweight player as soon as he’s able to debut in the division. Hunter should be considered a solid fringe contender and on a good night the small heavyweight could play the role of spoiler against a top-10 contender if they make

Ajagba socks faded gatekeeper Amir Mansour. Dougie’s a fan of the Nigerian heavyweight prospect. Photo by German Villasenor

the mistake of looking past him. The others you mentioned are all prospects, some of whom (Yoka and Hrgovic) had stellar amateur careers and can be moved quickly despite having less than 10 pro bouts under their belts, but the bottom line is that they haven’t been tested yet. Of the group you mentioned, the one I like watching fight the most is Ajagba. He’s like a technically sound Deontay Wilder. But I still have no idea if the 25-year-old Nigerian puncher can take a shot, or if he’s got the stamina for a hard distance fight (or a competitive bout that goes beyond four or five rounds). I have the same questions about the other guys you mentioned. The good news is that they’re all with top-level trainers, managers and promoters, so they most likely will properly developed to their full potential. The bad news is that most managers and promoters are overly cautious these days, so it might be awhile until we see them in with legit threats.

Having said that, I think both Dubois and Joyce are in with legit threats this weekend, so kudos to the British duo and their management/promotional teams.

Murata and Brant engage in a staredown after weighing in for their rematch. Photo by Naoki Fukuda/Top Rank

I’m excited for the Rey Vargas vs Tomoki Kameda fight on Saturday (rest of that card also really solid), and I’m eager to see how Rob Brant fares in the rematch against Murata on Friday. I think both matchups are competitive. Kameda is live against The Ring’s No. 2-rated junior featherweight because of his speed and body attack, but if Vargas utilizes his reach and freakish height through a stick-and-move strategy, he should be able to outpoint the talented and confident Japanese challenger. Brant has the style and punch output to once again outpint Murata, but I expect the Japanese middleweight star to be better prepared and more dialed in this time around, which means we’ll get a better fight. Hooray for us! Still, I favor the American by close verdict.  

I haven’t followed Brant much, but he seems well placed in the MW division to do great things. Agreed, especially if he’s willing to cross the stream in terms of promotional outfits and broadcast platforms, but he’s gotta win this rematch before we can talk about all that.

The London ESPN card with Joe Joyce vs Bryant Jennings and Nathan Gorman vs Danial Dubois has me fired up. Me too. I’ll be watching this show live.

Some of the best UK prospects, with undefeated records, making a move. Though if Bryant Jennings does half as well in the ring as he did in the press conference he’ll win by KO (him calmly dismantle Joyce’s manager while Gormam chuckled was hilarious to watch). I think Jennings has a real shot at the upset, but only if he boxes a disciplined fight by utilizing his experience and a lot of lateral movement. I think he needs to box Joyce the way he did against Wladimir Klitschko. Joyce is much bigger and very strong. If Jennings tries to beat up the British standout, he’ll likely wind up getting stopped himself. However, Joyce is rather ponderous. He doesn’t have the quickest hands, feet or reflexes, so maybe Jennings can outmaneuver him. We’ll find out.

Also, in action is Tony Yoka; and Dillian Whyte vs Rivas coming along next week. Curious who your picks are? I got Joyce and Dubois, but Gorman might show us something? Yeah, I’ll go with the chalk, but I agree that Gorman (who kind of reminds me of a poor-man’s British version of Adam Kownacki) is dangerous.

And I don’t know enough about Rivas to have an expectation there. Oscar Rivas is live, the Colombian can fight, but I favor Whyte, who is more talented and far more experienced against world-class opposition.

 

ANDRE WARD

Dear Doug,

I appreciated your comments about Andre Ward, who has turned out to be quite interesting and insightful to listen to.

But would you agree that Ward “knocked out” Kovalev with the worst unpenalized championship-winning foul since Roberto Duran hit Ken Buchanan in the nuts? – Best, Leslie Gerber, Woodstock, NY

Yeah. Sure. I’ll agree with that. I can’t think of a worse KO scored from a foul or questionable blow in recent decades off the top of my head, so why not? But I hope you realize that your opinion, and especially mine (because I just big-ole hater and everybody knows it), does not matter.

ANDRE WARD CAN DO NO WRONG.

I’m seriously thinking about putting those words on a T-shirt along with a photo of his handsome mug.

And I have no doubt that as soon as I do that (and feature it on one of those Sunday morning Periscopes that I do with Ward’s No. 1 fan, Coach Schwartz, and Tom Loeffler’s from the Santa Monica College track), I’ll get a not-so-friendly cease-and-desist letter from Ward’s legal counsel.

And knowing that, I’ve also considered making a T-shirt that reads:

JOSHUA DUBIN CAN DO NO WRONG

Doomsday… meet Dreday

However, I realize I’ll have to be craftier than that, because I’ll probably get a cease-and-desist letter for that shirt, too, so what I might do is give ole Dubin an alias and cartoon caricature. I’m thinking about something like rapper MF Doom’s take on Marvel’s Dr. Doom character:

DR. DUBIOUS CAN DO NO WRONG.

Ya like it? It definitely won’t be for sale anywhere.

 

 

Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter and IG at @dougiefischer, and watch him on Periscope every Sunday from SMC track.

 

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