Sunday, 21 June 2015

A Tale of Two Punches

On Saturday night two of the top welterweights around graced the latest card by Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing. In the main event at the MGM Grand Shawn Porter outworked, outfought and outshone Adrien Broner en route to a 12 round unanimous decision victory, with the penultimate fight of the evening seeing Errol Spence Jr. demolish Phil Lo Greco inside 3 rounds. For Porter, it was a win which re-established his position at the top-table of the 147lb division, for Spence Jr, it served as another showcase of a special set of skills which will soon see him join Porter and his counterparts at world level. 

One thing in particular which piqued my interest was comparing and contrasting the hooks thrown by Errol Spence and the hooks thrown by Shawn Porter. Both throw the punch viciously, but one does it with calculation and composure, the other with an intentional abandon. Whilst it’s the same punch, both these guys throw with a very different technique. Spence brings his arms extremely tight into his body; which is advantageous for two reasons. Firstly, it generates power from the core, it’s what destroyed Lo Greco - those quick, short digging hooks to the body. Secondly, it keeps a tighter defence. Often boxers throw the hook by opening their body a lot more, choosing to surrender part of their armour by the extension of the punching arm. This is of course always the case when a boxer throws a punch, but Spence doesn't leave himself so exposed. No sooner has the punch landed than the arm is snapped back, the defence uncompromised.

The reason Spence can throw this type of hook is because he doesn’t over-reach, and as such it can only be effective in close-quarters. To be able to land that short, dagger-hook there needs to be little separation between Spence and his opponent. He doesn’t throw this punch as a range-finder, it is used with lethal intention every time. He needs to set up the hook by getting close to his opponent first.

In the gif below, he employs this technique against his opponent Raymond Charles. He first gets in range through a series of jab feints, then throws the left hook with Charles backed up on the ropes. The left hook is more open and extends further but he’s already tucked the guy onto the ropes and has made it hard to counter. In this sequence we can see that Charles can’t wrap his own counter right hook around the body thanks to Spence’s side on stance creating too much distance, instead he tries to throw the right to the head, which Spence has already lowered – successfully avoiding the punch. 

It’s often quoted as conventional wisdom that the most effective weapon when fighting a southpaw is the left hook, but Spence doesn’t leave him any opportunity to throw this punch either. When Spence does throw his right hook it is quick and to the body, before Charles can even react it has already returned to its defensive posture. So whilst the left hook does extend more (which it has to, as it’s travelling a further distance), his stance and the position Charles is in on the ropes means it cannot be taken advantage of. Whilst the right hook, which is more susceptible to the counter, is barely out of its shell for a second.

Another thing to note is the incredible accuracy of Spence’s hooks to the body. Whilst they are quick, they manage to wrap around the guard of his opponent. In the gif above Raymond Charles has retreated and has his left arm low, protecting the body, Spence still manages to throw the right hook around the defence and lands a clean, damaging body shot. Spence goes on to put his opponent down onto the canvas just seconds later after continuing the assault. 

The gif below is a further example of the accuracy of his body punching, this time against Saturday’s foe Phil Lo Greco. Again, Spence keeps the guard tight and snaps back the hooks to his own body, yet still manages to find the small section of real estate Lo Greco leaves exposed behind his own defensive guard. 

As for Shawn Porter, his hook is a different weapon altogether. Compubox numbers for Spence aren’t available so we can’t compare their numbers here, but a look at the stats of some of Porter’s fights is revealing. Porter throws an average of 13.5 jabs a round, that’s way down on the welterweight average of 24.3. What Porter does do though, is throw hooks – and a lot of them. He averages 41.8 power punches thrown per round, that’s way up from the divisional average of 33.5 (per Compubox doesn’t break it down further into what these power punches are, but a simple eye-test will bring most people to the conclusion that A LOT of these are hooks.

With more of a disregard for the range finding jab, Porter lunges with his hook - he throws them open and at different angles. He can move several feet across the ring with one hook, whereas Spence barely moves. In the second gif above the two are in a phone-box in the middle of the ring, when unloading his first couple of hooks Spence has his feet set and doesn’t alter position. The gif below shows Porter’s markedly different style when dispatching the hook against Adrien Broner. The sequence starts near the ropes to the left, 4 punches later from Porter and the two end up at the other side of the ring. 

This time Porter does set his work up with the jab, which Broner evades by tilting his head back. By the time it has returned to its natural position, Porter is already barrelling his way inside. The jab, whilst missing its target, does enough to capture Broner’s attention, preventing him from throwing the counter. This allows Porter to push his head down into Broner’s chest, closing the distance, and throw three large overhand hooks. Whilst the gif is merely a few seconds long, it’s a pretty accurate snapshot of how the fight as a whole went. 

Porter throws with abandon, he's an extremely aggressive, come-forward fighter and the lunging hook is a key part of his arsenal. It overwhelms opponents, it denies them any opportunity to take a breath or gain rhythm. It can cut down the ring and leave opponents with no hiding place. Porter doesn’t always rely on a well-timed jab to find his range, he’s happy to throw out the textbook and simply jump on top of his foe. In the gif below, from the same fight against Broner, Porter leads in with a big right hook over the top. Note how far away the two fighters are from each other, a distance Porter cuts down with one punch. Whilst he does feint slightly with the left, this barely registers and Porter has already jumped a step forward before doing so anyway – and if you watch his feet he does literally jump forwards. 

It’s an extreme style, one that when countered can be made to look one-dimensional. Against Broner it worked effectively all night, but against Kell Brook, a much more mobile opponent on his feet, it came undone. Towards the end of the gif you can see Broner's only defensive answer at work, as he ties Porter up and pushes his forearm into his face - something referee Tony Weeks allowed him to do all night 

Whilst Porter can look somewhat rudimentary, this is just his style, and it’s a style that has proved very successful. On paper it wouldn’t be hard to orchestrate a game-plan to outbox Porter, but throughout his career this has clearly proven to be easier said than done, it’s hard to stick to a disciplined plan when facing such an uncompromising aggressive attack. The fact that Kell Brook managed to do so is testament to his skill as a fighter. 

by Nathan Fogg

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Brook Returns With Stoppage Win - A Round Up of Tonight's Boxing Action

The Kell Brook Carson Jones rematch really could have gone either way depending on which version of the fighters’ turned up. Last time around many were surprised and impressed by the American’s relentless aggression and power. His next outing was the complete reverse, limping to a draw with Dean Byrne over 8 rounds. A repeat performance tonight would have meant a complete anti-climax and an eventual defeat. As for Brook, it was important he showed the determination to be able to recover from injury which cost him a huge world title fight against Devon Alexander. That Brook showed the motivation and focus in the build up and in tonight’s fight is a testament to his professionalism and desire to improve.

The fight started well for Brook, who didn’t allow Jones to get on the front foot by forcing him back with a strong jab and accurate combinations. The second round was much of the same, Jones threw very little and didnt look in the fight at all.  A sharp, tough combination  put Jones down , although anybody who had watched the first fight ought to have been disappointed seeing Jones taking a knee. After seeing a brutal end to their first fight, it was suddenly hard to see why they were even in the same ring together.  Brook’s domination continued through the third, again picking his punches cleanly and repeatedly hurting a lacklustre Jones. At 26, it was suddenly as if Jones had aged 15 years, and the fight came close to being stopped on more than one occasion. Jones seemed to recover over the next two or three rounds, coming forward and aiming to pressure Brook like had had in the first. However, Kell’s power and quality punching meant that Jones’ chin was never far from being rocked. The only criticism, and an often repeated one, was that Brook let Jones survive and didn’t end the fight when he could have. Jones had shown that he wasn’t the same fighter Brook stepped in with last year, and after taking a knee in the second you have to question his heart. In fairness to the American, he stuck in and kept coming forward in a way that earned back the respect every fighter deserves just for entering the ring and aiming to be competitive. He continued to take punishment however and provided little threat to Brook. A strong end to the 7th round and a quick, relentless start to the 8th gave the referee no choice but to step in and put Carson Jones out of his misery. In the end, it was a disappointing non-event which failed to even coming close to replicating their first encounter. Bigger and better things surely await for Brook.

Elsewhere on the bill Less Selby took on Romanian WBC number 4 Viorel Simion. Rated by some as a big step up for ‘The Welsh Mayweather’, Simion however provided little in boxing ability. His flat footed, walking forward style allowed Selby to showcase the skills we all already knew he had. Fast feet and variety of punches at awkward angles kept Selby on top, whilst the aggressive SImion at least provided a real test for Selby’s stamina and chin, as well as his concentration. Over 12 rounds, Selby took a 12 round Unanimous Decision by fighting effectively and sensibly on the back foot. Simion proved a crude operator and didn’t allow Selby, the heavy favourite, much time to breath. Such a matchup left Selby struggling to look as impressive as he would have wanted, but up until a tough last couple of rounds he looked in control of the fight. As expected, the Romanian’s non stop aggression gave him small spells of success, but for the most part his wild punches were effectively slipped by the technically far superior Selby. Next up for Selby, a match up with mandatory challenger Ryan Walsh?


Also on the card was Derry Matthews v the hometown up and comer Tommy Coyle. Coyle, trained by Jaime Moore, started quickly and seemingly had Matthews hurt late in the first round. Body shots again looked to be Matthew’s undoing, but in typical fashion he managed to grit through the early pressure. Even still, the fight continued much in Coyle’s favour, who threw and landed the cleaner shots and looked to be heading towards a points victory. It would have been a big scalp on the Hull fighters’ cv, out boxing and outsmarting a fighter who has shared the ring with elite domestic fighters such as Ant Crolla, Gary Buckland and Gavin Rees. Heading into round 10, few would have predicted anything but a Coyle win. Easily ahead on the scorecard, he had seemed to take the most out of his opponent. As Richie Woodhall at ringside called however, Matthews is never without a one punch knockout punch, and that came out of nowhere to silence a hopeful Hull crowd. It was a huge KO win for Matthews, who continues to stake his claim as a top British fighter, but as Matthews sportingly acknowledged Coyle should not be disheartened as he dominated most of the fight.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Warrior's Call - A Look Ahead To Froch-Kessler II

On Saturday night Carl Froch faces Mikkel Kessler in a rematch that has proved to be one of the most anticipated fights for British boxing since David Haye Vs Wladimir Klitschko. By Sunday however, there will be little doubt that this one was worth it.

It is a genuine 50-50 fight, between two of boxing’s most respected warriors, with everything on the line. For Froch, a possible shot at avenging his only other defeat to Andre Ward as well as a possible catchweight fight with ring legend Bernard Hopkins. For Kessler, a chance to prove that he is still the giant at 168 that he has been for almost a decade.

This fight, it seems, finds both fighters at different trajectories in their respective careers. Despite Kessler pulling off convincing knockout wins in his last three fights against Brian Magee, Allan Green and Mehdi Bouadla, some question whether he will be able to last another 12 round war with the Cobra. Froch, on the other hand, has arguably improved the most out of the two since their 2010 fight, with recent devastating KO’s against Lucian Bute and Yusuf Mack. The Bute fight especially elevated Froch back to his status as a real challenger to Andre Ward’s place at the top of the Super Middleweight rankings.
Whilst Froch may be the betting favourite, those who watched Kessler’s Unanimous Decision victory of Froch 3 years ago may see the fight a little differently. The first fight proved to be the exciting toe to toe encounter many expected it to be, but it also showcased an intriguing clash of styles. Froch saw quick success but was mostly fighting a relaxed style on the back foot. Once Kessler managed to get into range as early as the 2nd round it was easy to see why he was favoured on the scorecards. Dominating the centre of the ring, Kessler’s relentless jab didn’t allow Froch to get into the rhythm he may have wanted. His blistering hand speed was more than a match for Froch’s well timed counters. Both fighters were nonetheless happy to trade punches, with most rounds being tightly contested. It is arguable that if Saturday night brings a similarly paced fight, it might be Froch that walks away with a hometown decision.

The fifth round was arguably one of Froch’s best, landing the most powerful punches of the fight so far, whilst Kessler answered convincingly in the 6th.  For me it was at this point the fight turned; going into it I had Froch a round up, but the momentum quickly began to shift as the crowd lifted Kessler into outworking and outpunching his opponent. A straight right hand visibly hurt Froch in the 8th as Kessler began to stretch his lead. The remainder of the fight was much closer, with the 10th and 11th producing a toe to toe war and a nightmare for anyone trying to score.  It wasn’t inconceivable that the 12th round may have been the decider, although any nerves from the partisan Kessler crowd were later proven to be unfounded. Farcical scoring gave Kessler a wide Unanimous Decision victory, with judge Roger Tilleman scoring the bout 117-111 – a bigger margin than two judges had for Ward in his much more convincing win over Froch. In the end at least, the result was the right one - and I scored it 116-114 Kessler. The 12th was a final round truly worthy of a world title bout. Both fighters left it all in the ring, landing heavy blows whilst wiping away blood from both their respective cuts in a showcase of sheer testicular fortitude. Expect to see nothing less on Saturday night.

Prediction: It is hard not to favour Froch. His last two victories have emphatically proven that he deserves this rematch, and if he avenges his loss it will be set up perfectly for the next rematch against Ward. We have seen much more from Froch’s victory over Bute than in any of Kessler’s most recent wins over Bouadla, Green or Magee.  The home crowd will also play an important role, as long as the Cobra can handle the immense pressure, as he will finally receive the support that Britain’s Pound for Pound king deserves. I expect a relatively fast start in which both fighters will look to continue the war they fought in Henning 3 years ago. This time, I predict Froch will walk through Kessler, who has claimed he is coming for a knockout. This may just be fight talk, but I also think it is a dangerous tactic from the Dane. His best success in the first fight came when he used his superior hand speed and kept Froch out of rhythm. If Froch is truly in the best form of his career, than a toe to toe war may see him as the victor. It will be another close fight, and another test for both men’s iron chins - I expect the fight to go the distance again. This time though, it will be Froch’s arm raised in a UD victory.

Friday, 29 March 2013

The Boxing Notion Speaks to Martin Murray, Weeks Away From His Title Fight With Sergio Martinez

British Middleweight Martin Murray is currently preparing for the biggest fight of his career: an April 27 showdown with Argentine Sergio Martinez. He’ll be stepping into the Lion’s Den when he enters the 50,000 capacity stadium of Club Atlético Vélez Sarsfield, in front of Martinez’s adoring following. Taking place in Buenos Aires, where Martinez was born, Murray faces a huge task in the Argentine fighter who is currently ranked as one of the best fighters in the sport.

The Boxing Notion caught up with Murray this week and discussed the upcoming bout, his fight with Felix Sturm in 2011 as well as the current domestic Middleweight division.

BN: How is preparation going so far for your upcoming bout with Sergio Martinez?

MM: Everything has been going to plan. My team have worked on a game plan for the fight and now we're working on getting everything right for the night.

BN: You're entering the 'Lion's Den' once again, like when you faced Felix Sturm, is this something that intimidates you at all?

MM: Not at all. I've said before, this is like any other fight. Obviously the crowd are going to be against me but I just get in the zone and focus on what I need to do."

BN: How did it feel to come so close to capturing a World Title in the Sturm fight?

MM: It was heartbreaking because I know I won the fight. What made it worse though, was not getting a rematch. We asked for it loads of times and Sturm wasn't interested.

That fight left me in no man's land and it's taken a long time to get another World Title fight. If he'd have knocked me out or beaten me clearly it would have probably been better, because at least then people would have wanted to fight me.

BN: With many seeing the result of the Sturm fight as controversial, is the judging in Argentina something that will be in the back of your mind come fight night?

MM: No, not really. I'm in there to do a job and I go into every fight thinking I'll win if I perform as well as I know I can. The judges don't worry me.

BN: How do you feel about being the underdog in your fight with Martinez?

MM: It suits me perfectly. I was an underdog against Sturm and it didn't faze me, and this fight is no different. If anything it makes it easier because all the pressure is on him.

BN: Martinez has previously stopped fellow domestic Middleweights in Barker and Macklin, do you feel you're capable of dealing with Martinez's power?

If I was worried about a fighter's power I wouldn't got as far as I have. Sergio Martinez can punch but I'm not Barker or Macklin and I believe I can take whatever he throws at me and give better back."

BN: Do you feel you've learnt from Martinez's previous fights with Barker and Macklin?

MM: Like I say they're different fighters to me. Myself and my team have sat down and seen the things Sergio Martinez did in those fights and we think we know enough about him to come up with a game plan that'll beat him.

BN: I know there are more pressing issues at hand, but do you feel you'll mix with the likes of Macklin and Barker further down the line?

MM: Barker maybe, not so sure about Macklin however because he thinks he's a big thing in America now and doesn't need to fight us. Barker's a decent guy and I've got a lot of respect for him, but I don't think much of Macklin. We've offered him a fight before for good money and he turned it down.

BN: With you all currently in and around World Title shots, could we be on the verge of another great domestic Middleweight rivalry, after the likes of that of Benn-Eubank-Collins?

MM: It could be. I've never really looked at it like that, though. I'm not in the game to be a big name like they were, I'm in it to provide for my wife and kids and if that means having to beat Barker and Macklin then so be it. For now I'm just looking at Martinez

By Matthew Liam Fogg


Saturday, 23 March 2013

Skilful Skeete Destined for Bigger Fights

Written by Matthew Liam Fogg, for South London Press.

Rising Welterweight prospect Bradley Skeete enjoyed a successful start to his 2013 campaign by skillfully outpointing Galway-born fighter Peter McDonagh at York Hall, Bethnal Green, on Thursday night. 

It was the second time the pair have met in the ring with their previous bout coming in September last year. Skeete, this time beating McDonagh more convincingly according to the scorecard, endured nonstop effort from his opponent in a hard-fought victory. 

'I won by two rounds last time and won every round this time, it just shows my improvement,' said Skeete, speaking after the fight.

Skeete controlled the early rounds in the bout, despite a constantly oncoming McDonagh. Using his obvious height and reach advantage Skeete was able to accurately land punches from different angles, which at times left McDonagh swinging wildly and chasing Skeete for the majority of the contest.

McDonagh did have some success in the middle rounds, landing more as he looked to hold Skeete and trade blows up close. This only increased the deficit however, as he was eventually deducted a point in the ninth for a combination of using his head and holding too frequently.

Referee Jeff Hinds scored the fight 100-90 in Skeete's favour; who patiently outboxed McDonagh using his lengthy jab to halt his opponent’s pressing style and open up his own attacks.

Skeete successfully defended his Southern Area Welterweight Title for the first time and admitted that fights against the likes of Frankie Gavin and Lee Purdy, two other names in what is a talent-rich domestic weight division, may lie ahead. 

Frankie Gavin, who is set to defend his British Welterweight Title for the third time next month, is also unbeaten which would provide an extra element of interest should Skeete land a fight with the popular Birmingham fighter.

Lee Purdy would also ensure a challenging night for Skeete, as the Colchester man has previously held the English Welterweight Title and currently holds part of the IBF Welterweight belt.

'There's nothing to say those fights won't happen in the future. 2013 is going to be a big year for me,' Skeete remarked post-fight, on possibly facing the aforementioned boxers.

‘It’s about the right fights at the right time. I’ve got a good team around me and we’ll all sit down and decide what’s best for me, in order to keep progressing.’

Improving to eleven victories without defeat, Bradley Skeete seems determined to keep impressing. Interest now lies on Skeete’s possible next opponent and his expected return to the ring later this year.

Headlining the night of boxing at York Hall, former British Olympian Billy Joe Saunders beat tough Manchester fighter Matthew Hall to successfully defend his British and Commonwealth Middleweight Titles.

By Matthew Liam Fogg


Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Amir Khan Vs Julio Diaz; Khan's biggest fight yet?

Since being knocked out by Breidis Prescott back in 2008, Amir Khan has been on the end of an onslaught of criticism. Some believed his opponents were being picked carefully to swerve any unnecessary glass jaw shattering’s that may interfere with what appeared to be a bright future. Regardless of doubt, Khan has broken many barriers in boxing. As a former Olympian and former world champion at two weight divisions, what else does Khan really need to prove?

Unfortunately, that is not how boxing works. To ensure his name is engraved in boxing, he must win his next fight against Julio Diaz (40-7-1 29KO) to recapture the buzz that once accompanied his name. He recently went under the guidance of Virgil Hunter, 2012’s Trainer of the Year, after losing two consecutive fights to Lamont Peterson, and a KO delivered by Danny ‘Swift’ Garcia. Hunter is well respected for his work with undefeated super middleweight champ Andre Ward, and is restoring faith in his British fighter.

In a recent interview, Hunter said: “Anybody Amir Khan fights, if you intend to knock him out, be ready to take some punishment.”

Anybody who challenges Khan is going for a knock out, making no exception to Diaz. Winning two of his last three fights by way of knockout, Khan’s new defensive strategy will be forced into action. When speaking to The Telegraph last week, Diaz said: “I’m training for a knockout. We know that Amir Khan can be hurt and taken out.”

Khan has, in the past, put on impressive performances against tough opponents. Arguably, his best performance in terms of matchup was his 2011 defeat to Lamont Peterson – a fight many saw in Khan’s favour. Controversy surrounded the fight when a mysterious hatted figure was spotted passing notes to the judges, and celebrating in Peterson’s corner after. A rematch then fell through due to Peterson failing a doping test. Regardless, Khan demonstrated his aggression, speed and ability to fight toe-to-toe.

Against Danny Garcia, Khan seemed unprepared for Garcia’s sluggish offense and criticized Freddie Roach’s tactics which neglected his defense.
Under Hunter, Khan is 1-0 after battering Carlos Molina in a predictable win. As a former world lightweight champ, Diaz has had some wars including his 2007 loss to then-unbeaten champ, Juan Diaz. He recently came off an exciting draw with slick welterweight, Shawn Porter. Despite his recent commitment to 147lb, Diaz has agreed to the 143lb catch weight to make the fight possible. The 33 year old will be pressing on Khan’s cautious style when the two meet at Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena, April 27th.

Fighting on home soil for the first time since he beat Paul McCloskey, Khan cannot wait to “laugh in Kell Brook’s face,” claiming to have a bigger fan base in the Yorkshireman’s home town of Sheffield. Brook will face Devon Alexander on May 18th in New Jersey, and a win will award him with the IBF welterweight. Khan is still searching for redemption against Garcia and Peterson to put his 140lb demons at rest, delaying any realistic plans of a Khan vs Brook fight at 147lb. Should both fighters lose their next bouts, a good old ‘War of the Roses’ should be at the top of their agenda.

With support of an intelligent trainer continuing to build an impressive CV, Khan should not be written off just yet. Virgil Hunter’s proficiency could be the missing component to breaking ‘King’ Khan’s frustration.

By Sherif Dhaimish