Weekend Review: Toe-to-Ass

The following is a double-header review from our BMB family about this weekend’s pay-per-view fight card that the intern and I watched through our neighbor’s window, figuratively speaking (wink-wink).
toe to ass
The night did not start well for the Canelo Alvarez camp, as his older brother simply was outclassed by journeyman Sergio Thompson with very simple combinations to the body and head, and by Thompson’s overall work-rate, an impressive late addition to the fight card due to immigration issues.
The second card shimmered as the talented Jorge Linares, previously a Freddie Roach protege, pulled off beautiful combinations to the head and body of Nihito Arakawa, the light-fisted, indestructable man from Japan. To me, it’s just frustrating to see such potential in the motivation, mind, body, and basic technique of Arakawa, but having this almost-perfect boxing package deflated with an embarrassing lack of power. Arakawa, if you’re reading this, please spend a year chopping trees! I swear you’ll be a star in the ring killing 95% of the lightweight division. Linares, on the other hand, can really use this fight to increase his stock, as he can really clean up the top of the lightweight divison. He clearly has an excess of talent, and I use the word excess specifically because of Malignaggi’s quote during one of Linares’ beautiful combinations:
“Linares has beautiful combinations, but he spends too much time after his combinations admiring his handiwork instead of moving away from Arakawa’s pressure.”
This is a telling quote about Linares, and maybe of every young outboxer in today’s professional boxing world. (And can we take a moment to just applaud Malignaggi’s poetry in boxing commentary? He’s just killing it in the booth!) Young professional outboxers arguably get into the limelight early, demonstrating god-given gifts in speed, agility, and above all, grace in dispatching one, or multiple punch combinations on an opponent without getting hit in the process. This is especially true in the Mayweather era, where outboxers are also narcissists, priding themselves in the mental game that began miles before stepping in the ring. Once they step into the ring and actually gain confidence, you can see them smiling at their pugilism, taking a moment to breathe in the smell of defeat from their opponent. Exhibit A: Jorge Linares, punctuating a beautiful 4 punch combination on Arakawa with a huge uppercut, and then just standing right there in front of him, letting Arakawa push into his chest again with patty-cake punches, stealing points away from what should have been a shut-out round. Linares could do well by looking at his tape and comparing it to Mayweather or Sugar Ray Leonard’s, and seeing how outboxers use their combinations to slip away from infighters and challenge them with multiple angles, never losing focus, and always pressing the action.

Anyways, enough with my rant. On to the next fight.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the Leo Santa Cruz fight was the most boring fight of the night, even with his vaunted volume punching that’s as predictable as Peyton Manning’s passing yards every Sunday. This predictability seemed to have caught up to Santa Cruz, when his opponent Cristian Mijares pulled a Joshua Clottey and showed up for a payday and basically looking to not get knocked out. 10 rounds of ZZZs, but props to Santa Cruz for adding another notch to his belt.

Before I talk about the main-event, I want to pass the pen to BMB contributer and in-house statistician, Jose Manuel Hernandez on his take of the Canelo v Angulo boxing match:

I was expecting more from this PPV bout, and frankly, I still don’t see why people think that Canelo is a PPV draw.  We will have to wait to learn about the actual PPV buys, but I can’t imagine this being a big money maker for any side.  One thing that needs to be echoed here is that Canelo has not really been doing anything to enhance the package he came with since being crowned by Golden Boy as the next best thing (after Mayweather).  Against slow, flat-footed boxers, Canelo is seemingly masterful with his faints and even displays some good “shoulder-roll” defense that we have grown to marvel at when Mayweather does it (see Trout fight, Canelo looked so skilled defensively, in spots).  Yet, even after starting this fight with massive bombs, he still gassed in the later rounds and resorted to his two second spurts of action at spots during the fight.  I would love to see Canelo fight Lara or the winner of Cotto/Martinez.

Lastly, does Canelo have legitimate 154lbs power? Why couldn’t Canelo make 154lbs for this fight?  How did this impact his opponent, Angulo?  Did he (Angulo) really not make weight either(154.5lbs)?  So many questions, yet the only thing that is for certain is this, Canelo apparently has a contract with Showtime for 3 “big” PPV fights this year. This is his chance to make us all believe that he has earned the crown he so callously wears.

– Jose M. Hernandez, BMB Contributing Writer

I totally agree with Jose.  Before the fight, I was thinking that Angulo could very well take advantage of Canelo’s wide punches by timing his head movement and shoving it into a phone booth with compact combinations to the head and body. This plan was thrown out the window as Canelo unloaded heavy, heavy combinations right off the bat. Canelo seemed to have made strides in his own mental game with this first move, and you can find the root of it in how his last opponent Mayweather started in Canelo’s previous fight. Mayweather was never a so called “slow-starter” or “fast-starter” but he started extremely fast against Canelo last year, setting the tone and pace that would ultimately decide the championship fight.

Canelo took a page out of that book and transformed into a killer as soon as the bell rang in the first round. Angulo’s eyes widened, and he admitted to his flustered trainer Virgil Hunter that “(Canelo’s) punches bothered me a little.” Canelo did not have to hear that from Angulo’s mouth, as his eyes were probably enough evidence to Canelo that his game plan was working, despite Canelo visibly gassing again in the 6-8th rounds. Overall, Canelo was pretty impressive, albeit still lazy in the later rounds with wide punches and a lack of focus. Canelo demonstrated tighter combinations in his hands, and new wrinkles in his feinting, expanding his already extensive toolbox of weapons. He has not convinced me that he’s eliminating any of his weaknesses though, and I really hope he would start being honest with himself to realize that. As a BMB writer and boxing patron, it would be unfortunate for such a talent like Canelo to be wasted in not practicing humility and working on weaknesses.

As for Angulo, his courage was really questionable for me. His whole persona of toughness and doggedness evaporated in the first round, and his efforts were stifled and outmatched with one or two punches on a fading Canelo. I was really cheering him on, but this is probably the fate for many no-movement infighters like him (i.e. Rios, Margarito, etc.) For all future fighters hoping to go pro with this style, there is a ceiling, and it is called brain damage. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have that Mike Tyson/Jack Dempsey head and torso movement paired with vicious, compact combinations on the inside? I can only dream of this in the Mayweather/Outboxer era we’re in right now.

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