Tyson Fury has made no secret of his desire to face the dominant heavyweight champion, Wladimir Klitschko. For years he’s spoken of his desire to face Klitschko before the Ukrainian fighter retires. To date, however, nothing has happened.

Fury is a fighter who splits opinion. His detractors are plentiful and nothing the man does will ever placate them, as is usually the case in boxing. When anyone brings up Fury as a potential opponent for Klitschko the first comment of many is usually referencing how Fury was put on his seat by Steve Cunningham. Not taking anything away from Cunningham, but those against Fury love to point out that Cunningham spent the bulk of his career as a cruiser weight, and has never been a knockout artist. Do these comments hold validity, or is it simply people overlooking the fact that in boxing (especially the heavyweight division) one well timed punch can change an evening?

Next up for Fury is his demeanor. He is brashy. He has a confidence that crosses all the way into arrogance. He doesn’t seem to care who he angers, he will still look to say his piece. Some fans love this side of Fury and see ths as a character he is portraying to sell his brand, which is himself. Others feel he is disrespectful to the sport and take his comments as literal.

The there are those who think Fury possesses the skills necessary to challenge the champion and push him all the way. Fury has height. He has reach. He has power. He has technique. He has desire and he has heart. Fury seemingly has all the tools that have been lacking in Klitschko opponents of recent years. When Klitschko has faced a boxer with worrisome power his opponent has usually been lumbering, limited in skills or both. When he’s faced an opponent with height it’s more often than not been a guy of limited mobility and slow hands. When he’s taken on a fighter with good movement and hand speed it’s often a guy who is so much smaller than him that they cannot get inside Klitschko’s thunderous jab to be any bother to him.

Not that any of this is Klitschko’s fault. The man has taken on everyone who has been placed in front of him and beaten every style for years. Fury may be no different in that respect, but at least he brings the intrigue level up.

When asking if the boxing world is ready for this fight I guess I should have been more direct. Rather than whether the boxing world is ready for a bout between these two giants, what I’m really wondering is whether the boxing world is ready for Tyson Fury as a world champion. The man already splits opinion. He already ruffles feathers. How many more will he ruffle if the championship belt on fastened around his waist?

Fury reiterated his desire to face Klitschko once more over the weekend. After dispatching of Christian Hammer with relative ease on Saturday, and after performing a victory song in ring, Fury took to the mic to call for a bout with Klitschko.

For his part, Klitschko is already scheduled to face American challenger Bryant Jennings next month. Should he come through that unscathed it could be time for him to negotiate a bout with Fury for later this year. Fury has worked himself into position as a mandatory challenger for Klitschko, and the champ has shown over the years that he will take on every mandatory challenge thrown his way.

A bout with Fury will undoubtedly bring a high level of entertainment. Fury has stoked the fires with banter for a couple of years now, and having stepped up his own game with a string of improved performances, Fury seems to be fulfilling some of the potential many have seen in him. Fury will do all the talking needed for this bout, and then some. He will also not shy away from trying to back up his talk inside the ring. As those who have followed Fury’s career to date have seen, there’s nothing the big man loves more than a good scrap.

Only a few things could stand in the way of a Klitschko-Fury showdown. An upset loss to Jennings. An untimely retirement from the new dad (that’s Klitschko). A desire to regain the belt his brother used to hold under the Klitschko banner by taking oh Deontay Wilder in a unification bout.

I, for one, hope none of those things happen. Fury vs Klitschko is a bout boxing needs to see. It will bring attention back to the heavyweight division. It will pit Klitschko against an opponent who will push for him to come out of his comfort zone. It will introduce the world to Tyson Fury the fighter and help them look past Tyson Fury the character looking to sell a fight.

Let’s help make this fight a reality.

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Who is Golovkin?

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Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin, or “GGG” to many, is the man whose name is on the lips of many boxing fans right now. His rise to some seems sudden, to others watching closer has been gradual, but to all it brings the question of how high can he go?

Golovkin, born in Kazakhstan and now based out of Germany, checks the box that seems to always get casual boxing fans salivating at the thought of his fights. He knocks people out; he knocks almost everyone he faces out.

31 professional bouts have yielded 31 victories, 28 of them early. Golovkin holds a knockout ratio over 90% and is currently sitting on an 18 fight stoppage streak. With those kinds of numbers, Golovkin is on the brink of superstardom and is just missing one thing, credible opponents.

 

Search for Credibility

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My use of the term credible opponents is not a knock on anyone who has faced Golovkin. Any fighter has to build through different levels of opponent on their way to the top. I’m merely alluding to fighters who have reached the top and have in-ring achievements akin to those desired by a fighter like Golovkin.

In his 31 professional fights, Golovkin has failed to step into the ring with any fighters who make the world sit up and say “wow” when he beats them. In fact, only in his last two outings has Golovkin actually stepped into the ring with a former title holder.

In those outings Golovkin blew out Daniel Geale, a two time middleweight title holder, and Marco Antonio Rubio who held the lowly regarded WBF Super Middleweight title briefly. Both solid fighters in their own right, both gutsy and gritty competitors, but both are fighters who have failed to make that final step up to being top draw competitors.

This leads to Golovkin’s record looking pretty thin with regard to that higher level of opponents. To some, this lower level of opposition could be pointed to as a reason for the high knockout percentage.

Lower ranked fighters are typically ranked lower for good reason. They may be easier to hit, they may have a lower punch resistance and they may have a more limited toolbox of attacking and defensive skills than higher caliber fighters. As a result, there are still question marks over how effective Golovkin will be when he does meet a higher quality of opponent in the ring.

Is Golovkin a Ducked Fighter?

On the other side of the argument are those, including Gary Poole in this article published on Yahoo Sports this week, who apply a different spin on the level of credible opposition.

The aforementioned article, and others like it, suggest that the poor level of opponents Golovkin has been facing is down to his being ducked by better fighters because of the high-risk, low-reward they would be facing by stepping into the ring with him.

As a fighter who has not taken on many fighters known outside of hardcore boxing fan circles, the general public knew little about Golovkin until recently. As a result, those on the top of the pile may have felt that taking on Golovkin was too much of a high risk, low reward situation.

There could be some credence in this theory. For all the accolades a victory over these fighters Golovkin would have received with a victory, those at the top would have effectively lost to a no-name fighter. In the fickle world of boxing, this can seriously damage a career and marketability.

Problem with Fight Selection?

Gennady Golovkin v Marco Antonio Rubio

As with anything, however, there are always two sides to every story. Is Golovkin’s lack of credible opponents for the reasons mentioned above of him being too much of a risk to take on, or is it a case of he’s going about becoming a bigger name in the wrong way?

To become a bigger name and be knocking on the door of big fights you typically have to earn the right. Golovkin has been blazing a trail of destruction amongst lower ranked opponents. He stepped up a little in taking on Geale, but then Rubio was a backward step. Is this poor management and opponent selection?

Given that Peter Quillin recently vacated his title, claiming that he wanted to be able to position himself toward bigger fights rather than take on mandatory defenses, surely something could have been worked out to get a fight between he and Golovkin. That would have put two undefeated champions (as Quillin was never defeated for his title) against one another and that would have made more waves.

Considering that thought process, one would have to examine who Golovkin and his camp have been pushing for fights with to determine if he’s been a victim of poor opponent selection, or if he is a ducked fighter because of his skill set.

 

Who Does Golovkin Want to Fight?

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. of Mexico is treated in his corner between rounds during his bout against Sergio Martinez of Argentina at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas

Three fights have been discussed recently as preferred fights for Golovkin. A bout with the winner of two fighters seemingly destined to meet each other next in Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Cotto, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, and the inevitable between any fighter within spitting distance of 154lbs and a fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr.

First is the link to Mayweather, the weakest of these links. Many fighters have tried to grow their own brand off the back of the pound-for-pound king. Some, like Robert Garcia, have even managed to successfully hound Mayweather long enough to land a bout with him.

The Golovkin link, however tenuous, is somewhat ridiculous. Mayweather is undersized to a degree at welterweight and relies upon his superior technique to defeat naturally larger opponents. On his occasional forays to the junior middleweight, Mayweather is always below the limit at weigh-in and is often outweighed by a significant amount come fight time.

For a natural middleweight to be calling for a fight with an undersized welterweight it makes you raise your eyebrows. This is obviously just a way of capitalizing on the name of Mayweather to try to increase your own exposure and visibility.

Now we move on to the Canelo or Cotto option. These guys seemed destined to face each other next, and Golovkin has spoken about wanting to face the winner. Cotto’s trainer, Freddie Roach, has also spoken of a desire to face Golovkin after Canelo.

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Cotto is a step in the right direction as he is at least a title holder in the middleweight division, having recently destroyed Sergio Martinez. As such, this makes sense as a possible fight because it is a unification bout between two middleweight champions. Is it a fight that would really showcase Golovkin though?

To that, my answer would have to be no. Cotto has a name Golovkin can use to increase his own name recognition. However, in Cotto he faces a man who was an undersized junior middleweight who went on to defeat a middleweight champion often described to be undersized.

In Canelo you have a guy who has mostly campaigned junior middleweight division. Canelo, while not very tall, is a compact and stocky fighter in the mold of former middleweight champion Arthur Abraham, now a title holder in the super middleweight class. Canelo’s frame would allow him easy transition between the divisions, and as he ages and his body matures he will undoubtedly become a natural fit for the middleweight division.

At the moment, Canelo has no notable wins at middleweight. What he does have, like Cotto, is a recognizable name that Golovkin can use to his advantage.

Now to Chavez. Chavez, like all other fighters looked at so far, has name recognition amongst casual fans. As for competition level, Chavez is an often unmotivated fighter who doesn’t apply himself in his training, often looks listless in the ring and struggled against the uninspiring Brian Vera.

Chavez is another fighter who brings name recognition to a bout with Golovkin. However, like all the fighters mentioned by Golovkin’s team he is nothing more than name recognition. He is, at least, one opponent discussed who is actually bigger than Golovkin who was beginning to look like a school yard bully looking for fights with the little guys.

Who Should Golovkin be Facing?

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For me, this is simple. If Golovkin is not taking on fellow champions within the middleweight division, he should be looking to step up and make waves in the super middleweight division. By making waves, I do not mean facing Chavez, who in spite of being in the super middleweight class has not performed in any meaningful affairs there to be considered a big hitter in the division.

I already mentioned seeking a bout with Quillin. As Quillin vacated his title he is not bound by mandatory defenses and a bout with Golovkin should be the kind of “big fight” he claims to crave.

Jermain Taylor recently won another middleweight title, but as he was knocked sideways by Arthur Abraham, we really don’t need to look at him as a viable opponent for Golovkin.

That leaves the super-middleweight division, where there are a number of mouthwatering fights that could be made.

Golovkin could take his show back to his European roots and seek out a bout with Arthur Abraham, grizzled veteran who started as a middleweight champion before stepping up to the super middleweight division. Not a bad fight to begin your campaign in a new division.

How about new WBC super middleweight champion Anthony Dirrell? An undefeated fighter with silky skills and the ability to mix it up if needed. Dirrell just defeated Sakio Bika to get his hands on a title and welcoming Golovkin to the division would be a great first defense.

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Then you look to the top fights. The kingpins of the super middleweight division are Carl Froch and Andre Ward, and neither man has a current opponent.

In Froch you have the experienced warrior. He’s been in with everyone who matters in the division, and only Kessler and Ward have beaten him. Froch avenged the Kessler defeat and is seeking a big showdown to end his career on. If Golovkin wants to make the right waves, a bout with Froch would be a great way to go about it.

On to Ward. Long periods of inactivity due to surgery and promotional disputes caused Ward to be stripped of his title. That doesn’t take anything away from the long-dominant fighter in the division. Ward is undefeated, and other than a gallant rally in the closing rounds by Froch when the pair met in 2011 Ward has barely been troubled in fights.

So, is Golovkin Ducked or What?

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After looking through articles and reported conversations with his management team, I’m going to have to say it looks more like Golovkin is a victim of poor management rather than being a ducked fighter.

His team has a knack of calling out fighters who have prior involvements, are notoriously difficult to make bouts with or are small fighters they know he can bully into submission. That’s not the way to go about making yourself a legend.

There are fights that can be made that are better than Rubio, Osumana Adama, Nobuhiro Ishida, it just takes persistence and hard work.

This also doesn’t stop solely with those in his management team; Golovkin has to take some of the blame. Because of his high knockout percentage, long run of stoppages and undefeated career, it’s obvious Golovkin sees himself as the star attraction in his bouts. In those bouts he’s been involved in, he certainly is the star attraction. However, moving forward he will have to get used to the fact that for the next two or three fights he is no longer going to be the A-side fighter, to borrow Cotto’s terminology.

If Golovkin was to enter a bout with any of the four fighters he earmarked as potential opponents, or even if he went into a bout with the likes of Froch or Ward, he will not be the star attraction. All those fighters have more name recognition, a larger fan base and regularly achieve larger numbers with either pay-per-view sales or broadcast numbers.

As such, Golovkin will have to spend a couple of fights on the B-side of the card, take a lower portion of pay for the event and bow to the demands of the stronger side of the draw. If he does that, lands the big fights he says he wants and wins, then he becomes the main attraction and the ball is back in his court.

Ducked? No, or at least not because anybodies afraid to face him. When you are the star attraction of an event you are the person making the demands and taking the larger cut of pay. Golovkin must be unwilling to accept that until he’s been in a couple of big fights he is not in a position to be the main attraction.

Unless he takes that hit and becomes the B-side I feel the big fights are going to be increasingly difficult for Golovkin to achieve.

*All stats regarding boxer records come from boxrec.com.

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As an Englishman I want to see my country lift the world cup once more. I know that the chances to do so this year are severely limited, but sometimes when you’ve been written off that’s when the time is right to achieve something.

England line up today against Uruguay in a must-win game to keep their hopes alive of getting out of the group stage of the tournament. Unlike in previous campaigns, this do or die matchup has not been brought about because of underperforming. No, in this instance it’s been brought about by bad luck and brilliant Italy defending.

In the opening game Italy took a one goal lead early in the second half. For the next 40 minutes England attacked. With each attack more Italy players joined their defense and formed a barrier around their goal. They dropped deeper and deeper to ride the pressure England was sustaining. It was truly a masterful display of defending from an Italian team doing so well what we’ve seen for so many years – protecting a one goal lead like their lives were on the line.

A little luck of the roll here, a slip by an Italian defender and it would have been 2-2 and the momentum would have swung England’s way and taken some of the pressure off today’s game. That, however was not the case and now England must win against a Uruguay team who are looking to bounce back from an unlikely loss in their opening matchup against Costa Rica.

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After looking at the upcoming Uruguay game there are some sweeping changes that England need to make from the Italy game, in spite of how encouraging their play was in that game.

Against Italy, England went with a 4-2-3-1 formation. The forward line in this formation was packed with pace and instructed to run at the Italy defense. Over the years, in spite of the wonderful abilities of Italian defenders, pace was something they were not known for. The difference between the two teams in terms of the pace of the English attackers vs. the Italian defenders was telling all night long. Sterling in particular had the heels of every defender, and even Welbeck and Sturridge managed to get in behind their man a few times.

Uruguay, however, are not Italy. Pace is something that isn’t lacking in any area of their team. England will not terrify Uruguay with pace and need a different approach to the game.

Football, like any sport, is about taking your opponents advantage from them and forcing them to alter their normal style of play. Uruguay love to attack with pace down the wings. In fact, it’s very common to see one of their main strikers in Luis Suarez or Edinson Cavani spin out to a wide position during attacks while the remaining striker moves to a central position to attack when the ball comes in.

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This is the most important factor of the game for England to counter. They need to take the wing play away from Uruguay. Force them to play through the center of the pitch where there will be more traffic and fewer spaces to exploit.

How do they do this? Altering their formation and personnel is essential. The 4-2-3-1 used against Italy left the England full backs extremely exposed to wide play. Luckily for England this isn’t a huge part of Italy’s game as they look more often to come inside and build their attack through Pirlo’s distribution.

England need a formation that will still allow them to attack, but that will provide cover for the full backs. With essentially four men committed to attacking in the formation we’ve already seen there no room for wide cover defensively and there’s a lack of bodies in the middle even if they could force play inside. England would be overrun in both areas by Uruguay.

This is why there have been 23 of the best players from the country selected to play in this tournament. There are games in which formations need to be changed, and this is one of those games.

The best formation for me is to play a 4-4-2 with a narrow diamond. This essentially fields 4 central midfield players, 2 of whom will be a little wider than normal to cover defensive duties on the flanks, but not wide enough to be wingers or traditional wide midfielders. The other two midfielders would comprise of a deep lying midfielder protecting the defenders and an attacking midfielder to link play behind the attacking duo.

For this formation to work the two midfielders who are deployed in the widest aspects of the diamond need to be comfortable central midfielders with the ability to take the ball out wide and beat a man.

A change in formation like this will require a change in several starters from the last game simply because there will be better suited players for the different positions. This doesn’t mean the other players’ world cups are over; it doesn’t mean they are being punished for anything. It simply means that a change of formation, tactics and lineup was essential for this specific matchup.

We’ve seen just yesterday with Spain what loyalty can bring. Spain manager Vicente Del Bosque stayed rigid and inflexible with his lineup. Showed incredible loyalty to a number of players who either form or ability to handle the opposition should have led to being dropped. The result was the holders already out of the tournament before the final group game has even been played. England need to avoid that kind of behaviour and be adaptable. Shape and alter their team to meet the unique challenge brought by the next opponents.

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I’ve already said I feel a diamond shaped 4-4-2 is required, but who should play? Here’s what I feel would be the best lineup for England to face Uruguay with.

GK – Hart

RB – P. Jones

CB’s – G. Cahill, P. Jagielka

LB – L. Baines

DM – S. Gerrard

RCM – J. Wilshere

LCM – R. Barkley

AM – A.    Lallana

FW – W. Rooney

ST – R. Lambert

As you can see there are several changes to the Italy lineup, all are required to give England the best chance for success, not only in this game but also in the Costa Rica game that could prove to be just as important as today’s Uruguay game.

First of all in defense. Given that Uruguay love to attack down the wings it is important to have defensive cover there. The first line of defense has to be the full back, and Glen Johnson does not fill that defensive need. Against Italy I counted 4 occasions in which Johnson was the England player farthest up the field. This will leave too much ground to make up against a team like Uruguay, so a defender who doesn’t foray up the field with as much reckless abandon is needed.

As Hodgson decided against a second right back to Brazil given the versatility of Jones and Smalling this is the perfect game to use the defensive abilities of one or the other to provide a little more stability defensively at the full back spot. I chose Jones over Smalling as I feel he is the stronger of the two defensively, and the better with his positional sense.

Through midfield there have been several changes. With a narrow diamond you need players who can perform both centrally and out wide. Barkley has played central roles and wide roles for Everton and throughout his loan spells at other clubs. When he came on against Italy he was deployed down the left and showed some nice skills on the flank. He challenged down the line a couple of times and he also came inside to link up well. Those are essential abilities for a player in a wider role with the diamond. Barkley is also tall, strong and able to provide defensive cover for Baines, while at the same time blocking the line effectively to force Uruguay inside.

On the other side of the diamond I went with Wilshere. I considered simply dropping Sterling back to a more midfield than attacking role, which there’s no doubt he would perform well. The problem there, however, is the yellow card Sterling picked up against Italy. While Sterling will never shy away from a tackle, he’s a little ragged in his tackling ability and if you add the extra defensive duties to his role in a deeper position he will pick up a second yellow and I feel he’s needed more for Costa Rica than for Uruguay.

Wilshere can play anywhere. He’s shown with Arsenal that he has the ability to attack and beat a man, so he can venture down the wing. He’s naturally a more central midfielder, so he will likely drift inside a lot to get play linking up. This is fine because Lallana will be in the more advanced role midfield role and he can drift out when Wilshere comes in to keep cover out wide.

On to Lallana. He was unlucky to lose out to Welbeck in the starting lineup for the Italy game, and he did well when he came on. Lallana can play out wide, but is better in the middle as his incisive passing and drive will open up space for Lallana and those around him.

Up front the best option is a deep forward and an advanced striker. This is where the furor can begin. I have selected Wayne Rooney for deep and Lambert to spearhead the lineup – no Sturridge!

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Sturridge is a great player and dropping him is not a negative approach to this game. Sturridge, like many of the younger England forwards, brings speed and athleticism to the team. Against Italy that was perfect. Their defenders, while wonderfully adept defensively, are not very quick and Sturridge, Sterling and Welbeck brought pace to trouble them. Uruguay are not Italy and they have more pace throughout their squad. As a result they won’t be troubled to the same degree by Sturridge’s pace.

Instead, a two man strike force containing a physically strong player with great ball control for hold-up play is the perfect compliment to Rooney. It’s no coincidence that some of Rooney’s best football came when he was partnered with Emile Heskey. Heskey was the bull whose movement, holdup play and unselfish link-up play provided Rooney with the space to exploit. Lambert can do the same.

Many won’t agree with the changes I suggest, and Hodgson may simply decide to keep trying to overwhelm with speed and attack. I feel it would be better served to adapt to the opposition and alter style, shape and personnel. What do you think?

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Floyd Mayweather Jr and Marcos Maidana fought on May 3rd in what turned out to be a great welterweight boxing contest. Those reading that lead-in line may think I’ve gone bonkers for waiting almost two weeks to be posting any kind of comments or a review of the fight, but it is what it is.

I’ve delayed, actually resisted, posting anything until now because the back and forth banter between the die hard Mayweather fans and the Mayweather haters has been at fever pitch.

Every boxing article I’ve read has been declaring that Mayweather has lost his edge, is vulnerable, is beatable. The comments sections adjoining these articles are filled with Mayweather haters taking the comments of the writer even further or the Mayweather die-hards defending their favourite fighter’s every move.

In spite of all of this vitriol I have failed to read a single article, a single report, or a single comment that points to something I saw, heard and read before the fight occurred. I watched the Mayweather-Maidana pre-fight presser, during which Mayweather made a very similar statement to the one he made before the Cotto fight.

Mayweather said to all the gathered press representatives and the television cameras that we would not see the version of Floyd Mayweather who took on Robert Guerrero or Saul Alvarez. The Mayweather who danced around his opponent and landed shots when he wanted to while avoiding just about everything they threw.

The declaration before this fight was very similar to the one he made before the Cotto fight. He talked about adversities he’s faced in fights in recent years and still found a way to win and declared that in this fight he would stand in front of Maidana, a style that would suit his heavy handed opponent, and still find a way to win.

Those words have been completely overlooked as journalists have written stories declaring the fight as the beginning of the end for Mayweather. To justify their own words in attempting to prove that Maidana has proved Mayweather is slower, weaker and more vulnerable than ever they have overlooked this critical aspect of the fight.

Now, don’t get me wrong. In no way am I trying to take anything away from Maidana. Maidana fought a great fight and unlike many fighters before him he wasn’t awed by the occasion or intimidated or distracted by the Mayweather circus (in this instance literal as well as figurative circus). No, what I am intending with this ramble is to point out something that seems to have been overlooked by all.

Watching the fight, after listening to Mayweather’s words in the press conference, I was not surprised with the number of times Mayweather was against the ropes twisting and turning as Maidana pressed him. I was not surprised by the number of times each man threw three or four shots that were instantly sent back by the other.

I was not surprised that Maidana shut out all the sideshow acts that accompany fighting Mayweather as he was always cool and collected in the build up to fights with opponents like Victor Ortiz, Amir Khan and Adrien Broner that brought a lot of side activities. Sure, the spotlight is definitely brighter when you face Mayweather, but he’d been in fights with more attention and drama than your usual fight.

Did Maidana do well to succeed where so many others have failed against Mayweather? Sure. He fought a great fight and threw a lot of punches. He landed a lot on Mayweather, but it didn’t look like he had Mayweather in trouble at any point in the fight. There was no “Mosley Moment” in which he managed to buckle Mayweather’s legs.

I wonder, however, if Maidana would have enjoyed equal success had he faced the version of Floyd Mayweather who had Alvarez swinging for shadows in September. Given that Mayweather signaled his intent to stand and fight we can’t draw any strict conclusions from the outcome of this fight as to whether Mayweather is indeed showing signs of age and a recession of skills.

A rematch would be a great next step as I believe any closely contested bout should be met with a rematch so that both the boxing fans can revel in the excitement once more and the fighters themselves both get another shot at a truly definitive ending to the fight. In a rematch we may get to see how the pressure and punch output of Maidana would work against the movement and pot-shotting version of Mayweather we’ve seen in recent outings. That would give us an answer to whether there is any decline in Mayweather’s skills, or whether the fight was tough because he chose to make it tough.

Lets hope there’s more to come in this budding rivalry.

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The media is an incredible tool for professional athletes, if they know how to use it to their advantage. Combat sports, such as boxing and mixed martial arts, are one such sport in which the media is very important. Those who use it, and use it well, can increase their marketability immensely. In a sport in which you don’t have a team to fall back on you would be wise to figure out how to use the media to your advantage.

In today’s sport there are few better at using the media for their own gains than reigning pound-for-pound boxing king Floyd Mayweather Jr. Mayweather highlighted his savvy use of the media and the constant rumours in boxing during this interview with Chris Robinson.

After hype and public clamor for a bout between Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao had reached fever pitch a few years ago, back-to-back losses by the Filipino fighter caused the calls to dissipate somewhat. However, last month’s dominant display by Pacquiao over Brandon Rios reawakened those calls.

When asked about a potential future bout with Manny Pacquiao, Mayweather responded by saying, “My focus is May 3rd. I don’t know who my opponent will be. If it’s Pacquiao, it’s Pacquiao. If it’s Amir Khan, it’s Amir Khan. For 17 years they’ve been putting guys in front of me, and I’ve been beating them. Come May they’ll put a guy in front of me, I’ll go to training camp, work hard, and the results will be the same.”

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In those few sentences, Mayweather expertly used the media and boxing rumour-mill to his advantage. Without giving away a single detail about his plans for his upcoming bout on May 3rd, Mayweather managed to get people talking. Using the two names the media are continuously throwing out there as a potential opponent – Khan and Pacquiao – Mayweather’s words got ears pricking up and taking notice.

Since that interview hit the web I’ve seen headlines stating that Mayweather and Pacquiao will face off in May, using portions of the above quote to justify their claims. This is exactly what Mayweather aimed for and other fighters should take note.

His words gave away nothing, but they ensured that there his name would appear in headlines across the internet. Even if the articles written never came near print that doesn’t matter. What counts is the fact that with today’s modern media comments like these are pounced upon, spread in seconds and put a fighters name on the tips of tongues.

A fighter like Mayweather will always have to fend off rumours about who they are going to fight. He’s been at the top of the pile for so long that everyone young, up and coming, fighter wants to show he is the man to knock Mayweather off his perch while every veteran feels their wily skills and tricks would allow them to have a chance.

Also don’t forget the power of having Mayweather’s name alone associated to you. If you are a young fighter and you are linked to a bout with Mayweather you are going to instantly garner more interest from more casual fans as they look to see why you’re linked with the man.

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Mayweather simply uses these rumours to make sure that nobody ever forgets about him. Simply using the two names that the majority of fight fans and press representatives are throwing out left, right and center allows Mayweather the opportunity to self promote with without showing his hand. Every Pacquiao and Khan follower undoubtedly pounced on those words and spread them around as quickly as they could.

How many million people saw Mayweather’s name shortly after the interview went live? How many million people are instantly zoned in on May 3rd? Every aspiring athlete who wants to advance their career as quickly as possible needs to look at the way Mayweather has learned to effortlessly promote himself.

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Manchester United are struggling. Manchester United can’t win the title. Manchester United won’t make it to the Champions League next season.

Whatever the story is you’re reading about Manchester United’s fortunes, one of the three statements above will likely be made within the story, often all three. So, now that I’ve got the obligatory knocks on the team out of the way lets begin.

Manchester United are in a transitional period. People don’t like to hear it, but they are and it’s been going on longer than David Moyes has been with the club, it’s just become apparent now because Moyes is trying to address things and actually allow the transition to happen.

The transition I’m talking about is reshaping the Manchester United defense.

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Sir Alex Ferguson left Moyes with a championship winning team, minus Paul Scholes. It was widely assumed that there may be a blip or two in that transition, but that a team capable of winning the Premier League by 11 points the previous season should be able to at least maintain their status as a top four team.

The criticism being leveled at Moyes in the wake of up and down form by United is inevitable. After all, he followed a man who had been able to achieve and maintain success over three decades, a man who hand picked him for the role. The level of criticism he is facing, however, is unfair but the only way he can get out of it is to hit the formula he’s seeking. The other approach he could take is an absolute non-starter for Moyes and would be career suicide. So, since the United manager can’t say it I will.

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The shambolic defense Ferguson left Moyes with is the reason for the up and down form.

There, I said it. It isn’t Moyes’ fault, or Manchester United’s fault. Instead, the blame lay at the feed of the greatest manager of all time, Sir Alex Ferguson.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Ferguson was incapable of creating a solid defensive foundation to his teams. After all, the man brought us Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister (not to mention Dennis Irwin and Paul Parker). Ferguson was generally blessed with stability at the back early with the aforementioned Bruce, Pallister, Irwin and Parker. Parker moved on to pave the way for Gary Neville, who took the right back position almost all the way up to today. Some defenders, like Jaap Stam, came and went. Some, like Laurent Blanc, were brought in as stop gaps while younger defenders continued to develop. Then partnerships like Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic blossomed. With the long career of Neville, the emergence and longevity of Evra, and several solid years from Edwin van der Sar between the sticks, the United back line was as formidable at times as its front line.

Times change, however, and people age. Ferguson saw this and drafted in Chris Smalling and Phil Jones to hopefully usher in the new era alongside Jonny Evans. That transition depends upon a couple of factors, most important being the continued health and form of the veterans of the defensive lineup. This is where the shambolic mess Moyes was left with comes into play.

 

Ferguson saw the need to work on the next generation of the Manchester United defense and sought out the players who fit his mold. Defenders who are comfortable both on the ball and in the tackle. Defenders who are versatile enough to fill in when required in other positions. Defenders who could learn from Ferdinand and Vidic. What he failed to do was see that the writing was already on the wall with regard to Ferdinand and Vidic. Ferguson overlooked the fact that their days were done in terms of being world class defenders who would ease the youngsters into both life at the top and comfort in the Manchester United lineup.

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When Ferguson should have been seeking out a truly world class defender to play alongside the younger defenders as they continued their development he instead fixated himself with his offensive line. Like any true striker, Ferguson wanted to fill his squad with the type of attacking quality to strike fear into his opponents. It worked. With Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez, Ferguson had three world class strikers. Add into that mixture the versatile Danny Welbeck, Shinju Kagawa (fresh from being a revelation in Germany), the crossing ability of Antonio Valencia and the ever present Ryan Giggs and Ferguson had an attacking force to rival anyone.

The manner in which his front line pulled the team out of trouble and into winning positions time and time again papered over the fact that Manchester United were screaming for some established quality in defense. The younger defenders are still working on holes in their games and the veteran defenders are too far past their best to compete against the best of the best. Manchester United had no middle ground for defensive reliability, but Ferguson chose to do nothing. Whether this was because the team was such an offensive powerhouse that he didn’t notice the defensive frailties I sincerely doubt. I believe it was more a mixture of the loyalty he felt to the likes of Ferdinand, Vidic and Evra not to replace them coupled with his belief that Smalling, Jones, Evans and Rafael were the players to take the team forward and that they would develop quicker than they have.

What is still a factor is that these younger defenders have no world class leader to keep pulling them in. It’s all well and good for them to hear about what great defenders Ferdinand and Vidic were and how they can learn a lot from them, but when they see week in and week out that these defenders are being caught out by any top class players they face it negates that talk. They have needed at least one world class defender in his prime to enter the picture and show these youngsters the kind of stability, consistency and dedication to keep improving they need and that didn’t happen.

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Moyes is still the man to move Manchester United forward. The work he did with Everton’s defense is allowing his replacement, Roberto Martinez, to reap the benefits and plaudits of his attacking flair and free flowing football. However, what is often overlooked in the praise heaped upon the “revolution” at Everton is the fact that without Moyes none of the current plaudits for Martinez would be possible. Martinez is a good manager and is constantly improving, but his footballing philosophy is about attacking football, ball retention, passing and opening up opportunities through that mentality. At Everton it is working and at Wigan that same style had them in a relegation dogfight every year, culminating with relegation. It’s not a vast difference in the quality of the team he has that has made the change, but the fact that Moyes organized and schooled the Everton defenders to a degree that they arguably the most complete defense in the league. Martinez finally has the one thing missing from his teams – a defense. He wasn’t able to organize, build and school that defense and now has one ready made. He is an astute man who will allow his defenders to teach him rather than thinking it is all his doing, and when it is time to replace retiring defenders he will be versed enough to be able to continue the legacy Moyes left him with.

Moyes, on the other hand, has moved to a club with three decades worth of success who are reigning champions, but who defensively are two or three steps behind the level he had achieved with Everton. Not necessarily in terms of talent, but in terms of organization, positional and tactical knowhow, intuitive understanding and belief in themselves. Ferguson was right that Smalling, Evans and Jones can take United forward for another decade of success, but he wasn’t ready to let go of his “old guard” to allow a successful apprenticeship for these up and coming stars.

The secret for immediate improvement in the fortunes of Manchester United lie in the defensive organization of their new manager. Moyes is one of the better defensive tacticians in the management seats around the Premier League. He needs to not be afraid to ruffle a few feathers by pointing out to the veterans that their times have come to an end. A high caliber central defender and a quality left back will allow Moyes to be able to bring in his defensive philosophies to players whose bodies are still capable of making the adaption in style. This way he can bring the future stars forward in their development while correcting a porous defense.

One final note on the subject comes from an article I read on UK Yahoo Eurosport, actually more a headline for an article. Moyes pleaded for the media to blame him and not the players for the clubs current poor form. I would like him to have worded that differently in order to take an indirect shot at the fact that he was left with a defense that had past and future but no present. I would like to have seen Moyes say “Blame the Manager”. While many would still read into that headline blame Moyes, the few who are looking at a broader scope could read into in the fact that he was left without a ready to go defense in spite of reputation and title credentials.

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The heavyweight boxing division, once the proud flagship division of the sport, has lost its place at the top of the pile in recent years. The announcement through the Ukrin News Agency on October 24th that WBC Heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko plans to run for Ukranian presidency in 2015 has shone a dull light back on the division and brought a question to my mind. What happened to the heavyweight division?

What happened? Well that depends upon your level of belief of what you read, or even what you hear from commentators during other boxing matches. The fall of the heavyweight division could be blamed on a lack of competition behind the dominant Klitschko brothers. This is the most common opinion I hear, and usually comes from commentary being conducted during other boxing bouts.

It could be a sign of the times. Much like changes in fashion, musical taste and art appreciation going in cycles, appreciation of the art of boxing could also be cyclical.

With many fans these days tuning into the lighter weight classes, typically from the Welterweight (147lb) division to the Super Middleweight (168lb) division, it could be that current boxing fans are after fast paced action and see the heavyweight division as too slow and lumbering to hold their attention. As CDC reports have shown a 22% increase in ADHD diagnoses between 2003 and 2007 it is entirely possible that there could be an inability amongst fans to pay attention for long periods of time if there is not constant action. This could go some way to explaining a shift in popularity from the slower heavyweights to the fast paced lighter fighters.

Another explanation could be jealousy. Jealousy of what?

Let’s take a look at October’s heavyweight boxing divisions top 10 challengers, as listed through the International Boxing Organization.

  1. Alexander Povetkin (Russia)
  2. Robert Helenius (Finland)
  3. Tomasz Adamek (Poland)
  4. Kubrat Pulev (Bulgaria)
  5. Tyson Fury (United Kingdom)
  6. Odlanier Solis Fonte (Cuba)
  7. Anthony (Tony) Thompson (U.S.A.)
  8. Vyacheslav Glazkov (Ukraine)
  9. Bermaine Stiverne (Canada)
  10. Chris Arreola (U.S.A.)

Ten fighters lining up to gain a shot at gaining a heavyweight boxing title. Ten fighters and just two American’s on the list, both of whom have lost recent challenges against a Klitschko brother. Could it be possible that a level of jealousy about the heavyweight division having slipped from America’s grasp be behind the continued announcement by boxing commentators that the heavyweight division is lacking in strength.

American does have a long running affinity with the heavyweight division, one that could lead many to feel that the one time flagship division “belonged” to America. In fact, since John L. Sullivan was recognized as the first heavyweight champion toward the end of the 19th century, in spite of there being no official ranking system, each decade since has consisted of American dominance within the heavyweights.

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The early 1900s saw James Jeffries and Jack Johnson creating an American stranglehold on the division. Johnson’s reign as champion would actually continue into the following decade as he held the strap until 1914. From 1919 to the mid 1920s, Jack Dempsey ruled the heavyweights until his countryman and great rival Gene Tunney took over to close out the decade. The 1930s saw the start of a record breaking title run from Joe Louis that would continue into the late 1940s. Enter Rocky Marciano, who took over in the 1950s, followed by Floyd Patterson (1950s-60s) and Muhammad Ali (1960s). Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Ali again would take American dominance of the heavyweight championship into the late 1970s. Larry Holmes continued the American stranglehold to take the title into the 1980s and then passed the torch along to Mike Tyson.

After over 100 years of heavyweight dominance, the American stranglehold began to slip from the mid 1990s on. The titles passed back and forth across the Atlantic and while American’s have held titles at various times since then, there has been no dominant American champion present themselves. That dominance passed to the U.K.’s Lennox Lewis, then to the Klitschko brothers.

For many, America is the home of boxing. Without a dominant heavyweight champion stemming from the United States, it seems the boxing public has slowly begun to forget about the division. It has led to calls that the division is dead as the focus has shifted to the lighter, and predominantly American dominated, weight classes.

Whether you believe that the heavyweight division is dead, sleeping or simply moving along nicely under the radar, it is undeniable that the gloss the giants of boxing once held has dulled significantly. I don’t buy into the belief that the heavyweight division is dead. Inn fact, despite the drop in public opinion, the level of competition within the heavyweight division is high and growing stronger by the day. That, however, is a story for another day.

Here’s another original article by me published through bleacherreport.com

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Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Let me start off by saying I generally enjoy watching Amir Khan fight. He has speed of both hand and foot, he is aggressive and he loves to throw combination punches. Khan is an exciting, dynamic fighter who rarely leaves fans wondering why they tuned in, win or lose.

Adding to the enjoyment I get from watching Khan fight is the fact that it’s very rarely a one-sided affair. For all of Khan’s hand and foot speed, he is poor in so many defensive fundamentals that he is incredibly easy to hit, and hit clean.

Often moving into rather than away from punches, popping his head up every time he throws a jab or dropping his hands before stepping back, whatever mistake he makes it usually ends with him being clocked and rocked.

In spite of all this, in spite of the enjoyment that usually comes from watching Khan in yet another valiant battle of heart over head, I am not excited at the prospect of Khan taking on IBF Welterweight champion Devon Alexander in December.

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I truly don’t say this to knock either fighter. Anyone who steps in the ring deserves respect for the dedication they’ve shown to their training and preparation and the level of bravery it takes to stand one-on-one with another human being to fight.

I say this because, as styles make fights, this is such a clash of styles that I feel there will be more threatening to engage than actually engaging. For the first time in many years fans, tuning in for the usual Amir Khan edge-of-the-seat drama may be disappointed.

Fighters will always fight to their biggest strengths, as they should. Amir Khan will look to use his incredible speed to edge him along to victory. He is also one of the better-conditioned fighters in boxing and can push a frenetic pace for the whole fight while still looking like he has more to give. Khan will look to dart in with quick combinations and dash away before Alexander can fire anything back.

Alexander, who is no slouch when it comes to hand speed and combination punching, is a far superior defensive boxer. His movement around the ring will create angles that nullify the in-and-out attacks of Khan as Alexander simply won’t be right in front of him.

Alexander’s movement and defensive skill was on display against Randall Bailey, in which he was able to take away Bailey’s power using superior footwork and grind out a victory to capture the IBF crown. This is the manner I expect Alexander to approach the Khan fight in as he looks to frustrate his opponent into recklessness.

This is where fans will scream for the Khan of old to show his face. In past fights Khan hasn’t been good at sticking to a plan. When all was going well against Marcos Maidana, Khan abandoned the strategy that had been working so well and let his bravado take over. He engaged Maidana in close and was rocked badly.

Who Will Win Between Amir Khan and Devon Alexander?

  • Khan by KO

    12.2%
  • Alexander by KO

    16.9%
  • Khan via Decision

    43.9%
  • Alexander via Decision

    16.9%
  • Who cares? I’ll take a nap through that one!

    10.1%

Total votes: 189

Alexander will be happy to move around the ring and land counters and small combinations to build up a points advantage.

He will stick to his strategy and hope, with the fans, that Khan will revert to past times and completely abandon the plan he comes in with out of frustration and start to attack blindly, searching for an opening. Alexander showed Maidana that his power is often underestimated as he landed heavier than expected shots almost at will throughout their 2012 bout.

Khan, on the other hand, will look to display a new ability to stay on task and avoid the past reckless behaviour.

One of the aspects of his game Khan wanted to improve on when he aligned himself with Virgil Hunter as his new trainer was his ability to stick to a planned strategy throughout the fight, and to lose the wild and ragged edge that had often been his undoing.

In the two fights Khan’s had with Hunter in his corner, he’s shown slight improvement in his ability to stay on task. While still having a couple of wild moments, Hunter has been able to calm Khan down and get him back to task with his advice between rounds.

As a fighter who strives to improve, I have no doubt Khan has spent significant time in the gym with Hunter since his last fight in April, working on small aspects of his game and on his focus when times get tough.

This is why I predict a snoozer.

With a new focus and a willingness to trust his trainer and stick to their plan, Khan will become frustrated by Alexander’s excellent footwork. However, unlike the old days of him losing his patience and rushing in, only to be countered and put on his backside, Khan will stay focused, follow instruction and try to box his way through.

The following article is an original article by me published through BleacherReport.com

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The British heavyweight boxing scene just added another player to its ranks with the announcement, via Kevin Mitchell of the Guardian, that 2012 Olympic super-heavyweight gold medalist Anthony Joshua has decided to join the professional ranks.

Joshua won the Olympic gold last year with a controversial victory over defending champion Roberto Cammarelle after a judges’ countback. Behind after the opening two rounds, Joshua valiantly fought back to earn a draw on the judges’ cards, thereby triggering the countback, which involves tossing out the highest and lowest scores from each fighter’s cards and recalculating the scores on the remaining ones.

Following his Olympic gold, Joshua signaled his intent to remain an amateur and try to follow up his Olympic success with a World Championship gold, having missed out on gold in the 2011 World Championships by just one point.

In choosing to become a professional fighter, Joshua joins a British heavyweight scene that is quickly approaching the cramped level.

Fellow Brits David Haye and Tyson Fury are set to fight in September, with the winner hoping to earn a shot at Vitali Klitschko’s WBC World title.

Dereck Chisora got back to winning ways with a controversial stoppage of previously undefeated American Malik Scott.

David Price has seen his stock fall somewhat after back-to-back stoppage losses to veteran American fighter Tony Thompson.

Britain’s first ever Olympic super-heavyweight gold medalist, Audley Harrison, refuses to stay out of the ring. After Chisora’s victory over Scott, Harrison took to Twitter to declare his availability for a September showdown.

Richard Towers is a promising prospect who is ready to make a step up in his level of competition. His bout against Lucas Browne was recently scrapped after he was denied an Australian visa due to a past conviction for kidnapping.

Also climbing up the British heavyweight list is Tyson Fury’s cousin Hughie Fury. Having only joined the professional ranks this year, the 18-year-old Fury has already rattled off eight victories from eight contests as he seeks to beat Mike Tyson’s record by becoming the youngest heavyweight champion ever.

Now with Joshua, another tall and rangy heavyweight, stepping into the professional ranks, the British heavyweight scene is really heating up. While Joshua will take it slowly and steadily as he makes the transition to professional fighting, he certainly has the talent to be competing on a high level within a few years.

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