Dougie’s Friday mailbag (Lomachenko-Crolla, Shields-Hammer)

LOMACHENKO AND SHIELDS-HAMMER BREAKDOWN

Hey Doug, hope all is well with you and the family.

I’m looking forward to seeing Vasiliy Loma back in the ring. Are you attending the fight? Anthony Crolla seems like the kind of good, slightly rote fighter that’s made for Loma to completely style on, but he’s also shown a never-give-up spirit against Jorge Linares, and Loma is a little undersized at lightweight. Part of me wonders if Loma’s found it hard to find the motivation for this fight to put in 100% in camp. That being said, the talent discrepancy is so big that Loma will probably box circles around him even if he put 50% in. The way I see it, we’ll either get another Loma multi-angled masterpiece, or else a more-competitive-than-expected fight. Either is fine with me.

Was wondering if you could give us a little primer/background on Claressa Shields vs Christina Hammer? I admit I don’t know much about the women’s boxing landscape but my understanding is that these are two pound-for-pound undefeated champions meeting in their primes/near primes? That sounds like something not to be missed. I see Hammer has fought more professionally but who has the overall experience edge? Who do you favor and will the winner clinch pound for pound queen status in your opinion? – Jack

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this weekend’s two big main events, Jack.

I don’t have a favorite in the Shields-Hammer showdown, I think the matchup is that even. Last I heard, Shields was a 3-to-1 odds favorite, so if you’re a betting man, you might want to go with the Lady Hammer just for the value.

Will the winner clinch No. 1 in the women’s pound-for-pound rankings? Maybe. The Boxing Writers Association of America rates Shields No. 2 right now, so if she wins in decisive fashion, I can see her unseating Cecilia Braekhus for the top spot. If it’s a close or controversial victory, maybe not. If Hammer, who is just outside of the BWAA’s women’s P4P rankings, beats Shields my guess is that she’s crash the top five but won’t get the No. 1 spot.

LR SHO SHIELDS VS HAMMER PRESSER TRAPPFOTOS 02262019 4152 300x200 - Dougie’s Friday mailbag (Lomachenko-Crolla, Shields-Hammer)

Claressa Shields and Christina Hammer will fight for the first Ring women’s championship.

Who’s got the overall experience edge is a good question. Hammer has fought more professional bouts (24 to eight) but that might not be as significant an advantage as it seems given Shields’ extensive/elite amateur background: 78 bouts (77-1 record) and gold medals in two Olympic Games and two World Championships tournaments. However, Hammer has gone the 10 rounds 12 times; Shields has gone that distance four times, so I’m giving the Kazakhstan-born German veteran a slight edge in experience.

I also think Hammer, who is 28 and has been a world titleholder for 8½ years, is the more mature and patient of the two middleweight standouts. She’s also taller and rangier than Shields, who just turned 24, but she may not have the physical strength to keep the American unified beltholder off of her.

I think Shields is stronger and busier than Hammer. I think Shields is good ring general but I view Hammer as the better technician.

As for their styles, they’re both boxers.

Shields is versatile but I believe she’s at her best as a stalking combination puncher. I think she boxes better coming forward than she does backing up, moving around or fighting off the ropes. She’s got a good jab when she uses it and strong right hand, which she can get a little wild with at times.

Hammer is a stick-and-move specialist with an educated jab, solid fundamentals and good balance, footwork and timing. She’s generally controlled and calculating during her fights. Shields lets her hands go with more passion. Both can counterpunch and set traps. They should mesh well in the ring. I’m looking forward to this one. And, hey, the winner will be crowned The Ring Magazine’s first divisional female champion!

I’m looking forward to seeing Vasiliy Loma back in the ring. Are you attending the fight? Yes Sir. I will be covering this card.

Anthony Crolla seems like the kind of good, slightly rote fighter that’s made for Loma to completely style on, but he’s also shown a never-give-up spirit against Jorge Linares, and Loma is a little undersized at lightweight. Agreed. I think Crolla’s size and spirit will give the pound-for-pound king more trouble than his style or technique.

Part of me wonders if Loma’s found it hard to find the motivation for this fight to put in 100% in camp. He told ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael (and me) that he “absolutely” did NOT lack motivation to train 100% for this fight. He says he’s motivated to make history – it doesn’t matter who his opponent is. 

The way I see it, we’ll either get another Loma multi-angled masterpiece, or else a more-competitive-than-expected fight. Either is fine with me. Same here.

 

SPRING CARNAGE

Doug hi,

I haven’t been able too get too psyched for Lomachenko v Crolla.  I think we all know what we’re going to see and that there won’t be much delight in seeing it once it happens. But yeah, sure, “that’s why they fight the fights,” they’ve still got it to do. But on the other hand we’ve got Friday, April 26, coming along: Sor Rungvisai vs Estrada is like a 51-49 rematch, and I think Roman vs Doheny is a smokin’ fight.  I’m going with Rungvisai and Roman, and pretty curious to see Scott Quigg at 130 lbs.

Very next day Relikh vs Prograis. Relikh really can bump, and I’m curious if he can find any success against Regis Prograis, who’s rampant. Donaire Vs Tete could be the fight of the weekend. Then between there and June 1 there’s more good fights than a body can even keep track of.

Downstream of that carnage, I’m betting, is Prograis vs Josh Taylor and that’s the fight I’m most fascinated with, more than any I can think of (that’s likely to happen) later this year, and I flat out can’t pick a winner. Was thinking Taylor, but then re-watched Prograis dismantle Flannagan…and I just don’t know. Prograis is more of a tactician than he’s credited for, his power is real, and his balance and fluidity are phenomenal. While Taylor has the size and reach, Olympic footwork, and a way of making everything he does look easy. Both guys get hit.  37 combined fights only six have gone the distance… You calling this one?

Thanks for all the mailbag goodness! I hope you’re catching the fight live Friday and that something interesting happens after all. Cheers — Alec

I’ll be there, at Staples Center, tonight, Alec. It’s always interesting when Lomachenko works his brilliant craft in the ring, but I’m hoping we get an entertaining fight in the main event. There are also some very promising up-and-comers on the undercard, including USBA welterweight beltholder Alexander Besputin, who Egis Klimas and Bob Arum are very high on (for good reason).

Do I have a pick for Prograis-Taylor? Not yet. The future matchup is too close to call, and it’s too soon to really pontificate on. I just want it to happen because the winner will be crowned Ring Magazine junior welterweight champ and will have the potential become the much-needed star of the 140-pound division.

Obviously, I favor Prograis over Relikh – via decision – and I think that Tete-Donaire could be the fight of the night (not the weekend, nothing is gonna outdo SSR-JFE 2), even though I foresee a mostly tactical battle.

Sor Rungvisai Estrada HBO2 300x206 - Dougie’s Friday mailbag (Lomachenko-Crolla, Shields-Hammer)

Action from SSR-JFE 1! Photo: Twitter @HBOboxing

The Sor Rungvisai-Estrada rematch tops the best card of the month, in my opinion. I don’t have a clear favorite in either co-main event. I think Sor Rungvisai is a monster, but I wonder when he’s going to hit the wall with boiling his body down to 115 pounds. And as brave and brilliant as Estrada was in nearly outpointing SSR last February he looked rather ordinary in his last two bouts. But I expect both super flyweights to bring their A-Game on April 26. Same with Roman and Doheny, who like mirror images. I’m also looking forward to seeing Quigg at 130, as well as Vargas-Soto and Anthony Simms Jr. at super middleweight in a solid test (Vaughn Alexander).

 

LOMA VS. CROLLA

Hi Dougie,
Just some questions regarding the match up between Loma and Crolla. Despite being a fan of Crolla I don’t give the guy much chance of winning but I do still think he’s being underestimated by a lot of fans and even Arum (strange considering he’s meant to be promoting the fight). Based on the way Crolla handled the early onslaught of Barroso and survived 24 rounds with a very good version of Linares I’m not envisioning a stoppage and I think he has just enough skill to make it entertaining and competitive if not close, like in the first Linares fight.

So, my questions are, given his skillset what plan gives Crolla the best chance of pulling off the upset? Crolla does have a decent hook to the body. What are Loma’s weaknesses if any?

And how would Crolla have matched up with Pedraza who Loma fought last time out and Commey who fans seem to think has more of a chance to beat Loma. Thanks. – G

Anthony Crolla 300x300 - Dougie’s Friday mailbag (Lomachenko-Crolla, Shields-Hammer)

Crolla’s a big lightweight. Photo by Mikey Williams

I think the version of Jose Pedraza who gave Loma a decent fight in December gives Crolla fits. My hunch is that Commey’s aggression would play into Crolla’s strengths. Crolla at his best can smother Commey in much the same way (but maybe with a little more technique and leverage on his shots) that Denis Shafikov did in 2016 (however, I should note that the Ghanaian standout has improved since that fight under the guidance of Andre Rozier). Styles make fights, bro.

Good point about Crolla hanging tough in back-to-back bouts with a top-form version of Linares. Fans and media forget that their first bout was competitive. I don’t think the Manchester native will be “easy work” for Loma, who has admitted as much.

So, my questions are, given his skillset what plan gives Crolla the best chance of pulling off the upset? All technical boxers – even ultra-talents like Loma – require time and space/distance to operate at their best. Crolla’s best bet may be to take a page from Orlando Salido’s book and crowd/smother and rough up the Ukrainian from the opening bell.

What are Loma’s weaknesses if any? He’s not a natural lightweight.

 

RING MAG, SHIELDS-HAMMER, AVENASYAN-LEJARRAGA

Hi Doug,

Hope all is well. First up, just wanna say that on my first trip stateside last month I bought the April issue of The Ring and it’s the edition of the magazine I’ve enjoyed most since I started shelling out my pocket money for it in the mid-nineties. I really enjoyed the features on Devin Haney, boxing legends, Jessica McCaskill, Josh Warrington, and Canelo Vs Jacobs. Kudos to all involved, and more stuff like that, please!

Secondly, I thought I’d ask how you see Shields Vs Hammer going. I have this nagging feeling it’ll go the way of other recent boxing showcases, with the home fighter, Shields, getting a controversial decision over an outsider, Hammer, who most think did enough to win.

Finally, just thought I’d show some love to what appears to be an underrated early FOTY candidate in David Avenesyan Vs Kerman Lejarraga. Some great back and forth action in a high-paced fight with a thrilling stoppage and an upset special. Really enjoyable scrap all round. I hadn’t seen Avenesyan fight before, and I was impressed by his athleticism, effective switch-hitting, recuperative powers, and ability to stay calm and keep the earmuffs on when under fire in the pocket. Do you know whether this was a much improved version of Avenesyan? Does he have a higher ceiling than most thought? Either way, I’m now a fan and will be on the lookout for his next fight.

All the best. – Ross

Thanks for sharing, Ross.

I haven’t watched the Lejarraga-Avenesyan fight yet. I’m not surprised that it was a high-tempo slugfest or that the battle-tested Armenian overcame the defending European champ. This is what I had to say about Lejarraga in the March 1 edition of the mailbag column: 

I like Lejarraga a lot. He’s a fearless, free-swinging brute with a big right hand and a vicious hook to the body, so he appeals to the primal side of my fan nature. However, as impressive as his 27-0 record – which includes brow-raising KOs of Skeete and Gavin that you mentioned – appears, I consider the European champ a fringe contender (as does The Ring, which does not rank him). He’s arguably the baddest welterweight in Europe, but I don’t know how he’d fare against a world-class 147 pounder yet. His March 30 fight with David Avanesyan will give us more of an indication of his ability and potential. Egidijus Kavaliauskas, The Ring’s No. 7-rated welterweight, stopped the rugged Armenian in six rounds. Let’s see how Lejarraga does.

He’s currently rated in the top five of all four sanctioning organizations, but until I see more of him, I would strongly favor the beltholders to turn back the challenge of the rugged Spaniard.

Obviously, Lejarraga isn’t ready for the world-class welterweights, as Avenesyan is a gatekeeper, but he’s just 27. He can bounce back from his first loss, but he’s going to have to refine his style a bit.

Props to Avenesyan. He’s a boss gatekeeper for the 147-pound division along with Josesito Lopez and Adrian Granados. I look forward to seeing him test young guns like Jaron Ennis, Rashidi Ellis and Josh Kelly some day (hopefully soon).

april2019 cover 308x432 214x300 - Dougie’s Friday mailbag (Lomachenko-Crolla, Shields-Hammer)I just wanna say that on my first trip stateside last month I bought the April issue of The Ring and it’s the edition of the magazine I’ve enjoyed most since I started shelling out my pocket money for it in the mid-nineties. That’s high praise, Ross, thank you. We’ve already put out the June edition (previewing Canelo-Jacobs). Do check it out, along with the May issue (which features Terence Crawford on the cover). Both issues are just as strong as the April 2019 mag.

I really enjoyed the features on Devin Haney, boxing legends, Jessica McCaskill, Josh Warrington, and Canelo Vs Jacobs. Kudos to all involved, and more stuff like that, please! You got a deal. We’re working hard on the July issue right now (and it’s looking GREAT). Shout out to Michael Montero (Haney), Don Stradley (boxing legends/folklore) and Thomas Gerbasi (McCaskill) for those excellent stories in the April issue.

Secondly, I thought I’d ask how you see Shields Vs Hammer going. I think we’re going to be treated to an entertaining, high-level, hard-fought, nip-and-tuck boxing match.

I have this nagging feeling it’ll go the way of other recent boxing showcases, with the home fighter, Shields, getting a controversial decision over an outsider, Hammer, who most think did enough to win. That wouldn’t shock me, but I hope the official judges have their s__t together and the right women earns the decision (or we get a knockout – I’d be cool with that, too).

 

THE BLUE HORIZON & WEEKNIGHT FIGHTS

Hello Doug,

Hope everything’s well with you and your family. I was thinking back to the days of Tuesday and Friday night fights. I remember the Blue Horizon as the place where a lot of boxers started building up an audience, kind of like the Nokia Theater was Golden Boy’s place to do that. What ever happened to that venue? I remember it didn’t have a bad seat in the house.

I think a lot of the fights we get on DAZN, ESPN+ and maybe FS1 or PBC on Saturdays are on that level and should probably be left off for weekday dates leaving Saturdays exclusively for bigger more competitive fights. There’s way too much boxing on TV and most of it is crap. It’s expensive to book a venue on the weekend and that makes it economically tougher to pay boxers to fight each other. Why not use weekdays in these hardcore venues to build up these fighters, and yes, broadcast these fights for anybody to watch on these platforms but leave the best matchups for the best days.

Thanks Doug! – Juan Valverde, San Diego

I think you’ve got an idea that promoters are warming up to given this year’s ridiculously crowded schedule. Lou DiBella’s most recent Broadway Boxing club show took place on this past Wednesday at Sony Hall in NYC.

Golden Boy Promotions has reset its monthly club series (formerly LA Fight Club) to run on Thursdays (and is calling it Thursday Night Fights), usually at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California.

And Tom Loeffler’s 360 Promotions is putting on its Hollywood Fight Nights series (at The Avalon club) on Sundays this year.

When I first started covering boxing, Forum Boxing did at least one Monday show at The Forum in Inglewood. Thompson Boxing Promotions used to do their monthly series at the DoubleTree Hotel in Ontario, California on Mondays during the mid-2000s.

Regarding Golden Boy’s old club series (Fight Night Club), you’re thinking of Club Nokia (a much smaller venue than Nokia Theater, which is now Microsoft Theater, and wonderfully intimate) at LA LIVE across from Staples Center in DTLA. Fight Night Club was on Thursdays. I think what happened was that the network partner (Fox Sports) didn’t want to do shows on Thursdays, but Club Nokia wasn’t available on Fridays or Saturdays (they were always booked up with music acts). I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since the first year of that series.

 

COMING OUT FIGHTS

Doug—what are some of your favorite holy sh**/coming out fights where guys really announce themselves to a wider audience? Chocolatito vs Sosa, Pacman vs Ledwaba, GGG vs Proksa spring to mind—you have some other good ones worth checking out?

What’s going on with the radio silence from Callum Smith after his WBSS win? Any truth to the talk about him making a US debut in the next few months? He’s massive at 168–do you think he secures another meaningful SMW fight or does a jump to 175 seem inevitable to you? He always seemed like a blue chip to me, but I can’t help but feel that inactivity might be biting him in the ass from a momentum standpoint. He doesn’t seem to be parlaying his WBSS success in the same way Usyk has kept fans buzzing and looking forward to his next moves. He’s like the UK counterpart to Gary Russell Jr—talented as hell but doesn’t really fight enough for me to get invested one way or another as a fan. – DJ

Smith is scheduled to make his long-awaited return (and first defense of his Ring and WBA 168-pound titles) on the Joshua-Miller undercard on June 1 in NYC. After that, the talk is that Smith will seek a unification showdown with WBO beltholder Gilberto Ramirez if the promoters of the two giant, unbeaten super middleweights (Eddie Hearn and Bob Arum) can work out a deal. Keep your fingers crossed.

Those are good “coming out” fights that you mentioned (although I’m not sure the Roman Gonzalez vs. Edgar Sosa fight really counts as Chocolatito was already P4P No. 1 at the time and a huge favorite to beat the Mexican veteran; but it was his HBO debut and first exposure to a wider U.S. audience, so I get why you included it).

Two “coming out” fights that just popped into my head also involve my beloved Chocolatito (who is STILL the KING, by the way) – Juan Estrada’s bold 108-pound title challenge against the prime version of the Nicaraguan and Sor Rungvisai’s thrilling (and controversial) Fighter of the Year and Upset of the Year candidate victory over Gonzalez. I know that Estrada lost a competitive decision to Gonzalez but the fight was so damn good, and the young contender exhibited such a high level of skill and ring generalship that you just knew that he was a future champ.

In that same vein, Tim Witherspoon’s split-decision loss to then-heavyweight champ Larry Holmes in 1983 (in just his 16th pro bout) was an indication of future success even though I think the talented Philly fighter never realized his full potential.

 

 

Email Fischer at dougie@boxingmailbag.com. Follow him on Twitter and IG at @dougiefischer, and watch him on Periscope every Sunday from SMC track.

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