Texan Errol Spence to defend title against Cuban Yordenis Ugas. In about 9-1/2 weeks, on April 16th, pressure and power punching Errol Spence will take on counter-punching extraordinaire Yordenis Ugas.
Jaime Mitchell defends her world title against Carly Skelly. Both these ladies have interesting stories. Jaime Mitchell had a tough life growing up and with perseverance became a world champion. Carly Skelly is a nurse who picked up boxing as a hobby and eventually became a WBC International Titleist.
Jaime Mitchell: Long range boxer with inside attacking skill
You see Jaime Mitchell move and punch, and you can tell she is well schooled boxer. She likes the long range, initiates her offense from the outside–she steps with her punches, especially her jab. However, when she gets close after her initial step, she doesn’t just bounce back outside. She can throw combinations of hooks on the inside as well. This ability of hers actually got her in some trouble her last fight because she was there to be countered. Nevertheless, it is a good skill to possess. I would think she just needs to be a little mindful of her exit. From the looks of it, she probably doesn’t get countered enough to have to change anything.
She has nice footwork. In one of her past fights, the commentators mentioned she had worked with Kenny Adams. I can see that with her backward shifts; I met Kenny Adams once and he called those stutter steps.
She seems to have decent enough power and throws power shots. The damage she causes appears to be by accumulation rather than a death touch.
She has long range boxing and can attack from the outside. She does not seem to favor the mid-range. She can attack on the inside as well. Can she defend on the inside? This is an open question.
Carly Skelly: Offensive minded southpaw
Another southpaw. Another aggressive southpaw. She is similar to Jaime Mitchell in that she can imitate her offense from the outside with a stepping jab. The difference is when she gets inside, she has no qualms about clinch work. I don’t hate that. I like some good clinching, good strategic clinching. She does seem hittable when steps in.
Long range. Long range. Inside combinations. Inside clinching. Both will start off trying to move forward. They have similar strategies at long range. I wonder who will be better at countering at the long range.
Will the clinching of Skelly overcome the inside attack of Mitchell?
This fight is hard for me to decide. I think ultimately Mitchell’s power should carry her to victory, as Skelly seems available to hit.
If Skelly can either counter or stay at long range and use her southpaw footwork to pivot away from Mitchell’s right hand, she can win. But I am skeptical that she can because she hasn’t done that in her fights.
I see Mitchell walking Skelly down and landing hooks. Skelly can delay the power shots by clinching, but if she can’t establish her own offense, she won’t be able to win.
I’m sorta interested in watching now.
This is an interesting fight coming up next week promoted by Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) and their promoter of record, Tom Brown (TGB Promotions). One Time Keith Thurman, a former world champion and well-known fighter with wins over Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia, Josesito Lopez, and a split decision loss against all-time great Manny Pacquiao brings with him plenty of big fight experience. El Azteca Mario Barrios is also a former world champion, who lost his title against the great Gervonta Davis. Cornered in part, by Virgil Hunter, who was the coach of undefeated champion Andre Ward, Mario Barrio has a high-powered coaching team behind him.
Keith Thurman Style: Boxer/Puncher from the Outside
Keith Thurman is what I would surely call a boxer/puncher. He has the skill and movement to box from the outside. He can lead the attack and he can counter-punch. He has good power, which is why early in his career his nickname was One Time–in that he can knock you out if he hits you one time. From seeing his fights, he is a well-rounded fighter, able to make in-fight adjustments as necessary, change his style and strategy round by round.
Considering the three general styles–of boxer, pressure, and slugger–he is a boxer. Range is mostly outside, but he has the ability to fight at all ranges. However, he does not seem to prefer the mid-range.
Mario Barrios Style: Mid-range Counter Puncher
Mario Barrios is someone I was not too familiar with. After view his last three fights, he looks to be a mid-range guy. He has offense, but you would not call him an aggressive fighter. He is primarily a counterpuncher, with good finishing instincts. What I mean, is when he thinks his opponent is vulnerable, he will unleash a combination.
All in all, he is a mid-range counter puncher. He has some power, but he mostly deals damage with combinations.
So we have an outside boxer/puncher versus a mid-range counterpuncher. This is a strange match up because the boxer/puncher usually, can also counterpunch. From watching his previous fights against pressure fighters, Mario Barrios has struggled a bit, losing against Tank Davis and winning with a late knockdown against the Russian Batyr Akhmedov. However, both of these pressure fighters were also southpaws, which added a challenging variable. With Keith Thurman’s history, I would not assume that he’s going to bring relentless pressure.
In the boxing manual published by the Navy, it was written that between fighters of the same skill level, the one who is better at feinting will win. The two common strategies against a counterpuncher is a pressuring, volume attack to overwhelm the counterpuncher, or to make the counterpuncher go first. Classically, the way to make the counterpuncher go first is to use a lot of feints. A more modern style born out of Olympic boxing is to attack or show your punches while retaining your balance to step back or defend and follow with a counter to the counter; but if the counter punch does not come, you step in and throw committed combinations.
Being the smart boxer that he is, I’d assume that Keith Thurman will try to establish the jab and also use a lot of feints. I can easily imagine him circling from the outside throwing jabs and feints; if the knockout is there, he will take it, but I don’t think he has as much power as Tank. Otherwise, he might be content with winning a decision with circling and jabbing, and landing the occasional telling blow off a feint, as he counters the counter of Mario Barrios.
How can Mario Barrios win? I think strategically, he will have a little harder time because of his preference for the mid-range. I’m not 100% sure, but I think he’s moved up in weight for this fight. Okay, I’ve looked it up, and he has moved up. This is a welterweight fight as opposed to feather or super featherweight. In the lower weight classes, he had the height and reach advantage. In the battle for dominance of range, or the zone of combat as Nacho Beristain calls it, Mario Barrios’s opponents typically had to step to him, get inside to land. Barrios needed merely to hold his ground and hit them as they come in. Against Thurman, he will not have as big of a height or reach advantage. Thurman will not need to get inside to touch him, and Thurman, while circling, will be able to reach Barrios. I would like it if Barrios fought inside a bit more.
Keith Thurman has only lost once, against an all-time great, left-handed, volume and power puncher. There’s not exactly a blueprint to defeating him. Against Danny Garcia, he did take a split decision win, so maybe something there can be enlightening. Danny Garcia does have some similarities to Mario Barrios, in that both are mid-range counterpunchers. However, Garcia has the clear power advantage over Barrios.
Against Thurman, I’d like to have a volume attack with power punching. That would be ideal, take away his space and land hard shots. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen those things from Barrios. That doesn’t mean he can’t execute those strategies, however. Perhaps, he’s been waiting to show them.
Based solely on what he has done in the past, I think Barrios would be well served by cutting off the ring, and touching Thurman as Thurman comes in. Work the body early to slow Thurman down in the later rounds. Take away the movement, force the fight into his pace towards the end of the fight. I would not carry the fight to Thurman until the ring has been cut off–you need to put Thurman in the corner first before leading because in the center of the ring, he’s just going to dance around you. Barrios needs to have the mind of winning the rounds with clean, telling blows.
I think this is going to be a tactical fight. I think Thurman takes it based on his movement and power punching.
Here’s a clip of a knockdown or knockout from Instagram.
The two fighters are swinging for the fences. Blue is leading the attack; we can see this because he throws first. Red is trying to counter attack blue; we can see this because he is punching with blue, after blue throws.
In strategy, you should understand your opponent’s strategy. Identify it. A counter puncher reveals himself, when he waits for you to go first, and punches with you, tries to time you, or returns punches after you.
Dealing with a counter puncher, there are two primary tactics. You either make them go first, which can create a very boring fight, or you overwhelm them with offense.
Mark Magsayo and Freddie Roach did it. He defeated Gary Russell, Jr. and took the WBC world championship. Congrats to him. Here’s to a long and successful title reign. I wonder if there will be a rematch eventually. Apparently, Russell was injured before or during the fight. However, if I were Magsayo, I’d look forward to the future.
The other fight discussed was the Matias fight. This was a brutal fight, which was to be expected. Ananyan seems to have decided to exclusively fight on the inside which is a difficult way to go. Matias seemed to have improved on managing distance to unleash his power punches by not allowing Ananyan to smother him.
I think I remember seeing clips of this fight or hearing the results and being somewhat surprised. I am familiar with the Puerto Rican boxer, Subriel Matias. Right as COVID began, I was in Puerto Rico for a fight. One of my guys was fighting on Matias’s promoter’s event. A day after we land in Puerto Rico, the entire island is locked down due to COVID and the fights were canceled. We stayed in San Juan for a week, which was nice, aside from the whole COVID thing.
Back to Matias, he is a fearsome puncher. A slugger? For sure a knockout artist. In the first fight with Ananyan, Subriel Matias, lost a decision, but since then he’s won 2 fights by knockout demonstrating his punching prowess.
With limited memory of the first match, I’m going to speculate that Petros Ananyan outboxed Subriel Matias. Just from a strategic view, that’s how that should have played out.
I’m going go to watch that fight and make some observations before discussing their upcoming rematch.
6 rounds into watching the first fight, it is not going how I would have first guessed. First round Petros Ananyan is boxing with good foot work. He’s moving and punching. Circling to his left, and shifting backwards or stutter stepping before he circles, which gives him some space from the Subriel Matias’s right hand. This is a smart move.
After the 1st round, this is becoming a bit of slugfest. They’re fighting in the phone booth, shoulder-to-shoulder. This is, indeed, a strategy against a slugger, especially a mid-range slugger. The inside range smothers the power punching. This is typically not the preferred choice but it becomes the way if you cannot keep the slugger away. Better to go into the eye of the storm than to be destroyed by the wind.
I’m real curious how Petros Ananyan wins this fight. So far, Subriel Matias seems to be up either 5-1 or 6-0; does he fade in these later rounds?
There it is. In the 7th round, Subriel Matias is put on the ropes. And then he gets hit with a series of right over hands and a left hook. He gets rocked and stumbles backwards; gets held upright by the ropes so the referee calls it a knockdown. The rest of the fight goes this way, with Petros Ananyan bringing the fight now. He is the aggressor, forcing the range to be mostly on the inside, shoulder-to-shoulder.
So for the rematch, what do we have? I’m going to have to say that I think Petros Ananyan is actually the more skilled of the two because he has shown the ability to box, and to fight inside. Subriel Matias has the power edge at the mid-range, but if you take that range away, the power diminishes because he hasn’t the leverage or the space to generate force.
The thing with fighting inside like this, is that you don’t just learn that quickly or easily. That is the tire drill. Rounds and rounds in the tire. It seems that going forward with this next fight, Subriel Matias either needs to learn how to fight at this range or learn how to fight of his back foot. Or maybe, he can get good enough at both those things to change the outcome. I’m not sure.
For Petros Ananyan this is still a dangerous fight but his path to victory is pretty clear. Do the same thing as before, box from the outside by choice. Go shoulder-to-shoulder on the inside by necessity.
I think the telling thing was that by the 7th round Subriel Matias was stuck on the ropes. Typically, you’re there on the ropes because you’re either fatigued (tired) or you don’t know how to escape the ropes. In this case, I think both were factors but not being able to escape the ropes seems to be more troublesome.
The adjustments that theses fighters are going to make is really interesting. Subriel Matias can either go harder for the KO early, box more (step back, circle, side-step, or pivot) when Petros Ananyan attempts to go shoulder-to-shoulder, or he can master the inside range.
I think skill-wise boxing off the back foot is easier for Matias to execute, but mentally, it will be harder because of his forward attacking style. Mentally, shoulder-to-shoulder is probably easier but the skill to fight that way does not come easy. Especially when Ananyan put him on the rope you can see the discrepancy in skill at this range. On the rope, you’re flattened out, your stance is squared up and you’re a sitting duck. Ananyan, despite being so close is using Matias’s own head and body to act as his (Ananyan) shield or defense. Ananyan seems to know how to use angles and positioning to aid in his defense. Matias does not seem to be as aware.
If Matias could counter-punch, it’d make this fight easier for him. I think his best strategy for the rematch is to come aggressive still at Ananyan, but when Ananyan comes forward to smother, Matias should step back, step around, and keep boxing off the back foot. Alternatively, he needs to have learned how to fight shoulder-to-shoulder in anticipation of this rematch. Matias could also probably use an increase in conditioning due to the increased pace of having to answer the inside fighting of Ananyan.
Interesting fight coming up this weekend. American Mr. Gary Russell defends his WBC world title against Filipino Magnifico Mark Magsayo. Promoted by PBC and live on Showtime, January 22nd, 2022 at 6pm Pacific Time.
Do these fighters need introduction? If you’ve been a boxing fan for bit, Gary Russell, Jr. is probably someone you know of despite his supposed inactivity. You might know him from his fight with Vasily Lomachenko in 2014. Wow. That was a long time ago, wasn’t it? In that fight he lost a majority decision against one of the top P4P fighters in the world at the time and to this day. I remember watching that fight; it was competitive but Lomachenko had a little bit more tools in his tool box. Also, as a southpaw versus southpaw match up, it gets sorta weird for both fighters. Nevertheless, Gary Russell, Jr. has bounced back from that fight and is on top of the world again, winning 7 straight fights since then.
Mark Magsayo hailing from the Philippines might be someone you’re less acquainted with. I’ve actually been following him because of his previous promotional dispute in Asia. I follow some of the more active regional promotions and I remember there was something on about his contracts with one company and another. Clearly, those issues have been resolved. Now, he trains with Wild Card Boxing Club in Santa Monica, California and legendary coach Freddie Roach. I think he’s also with MP Promotions (Manny Pacquiao). So this fight against Gary Russell, Jr., appears to be a co-promotion with PBC (Premier Boxing Champions).
GARY RUSSELL FIGHTING STYLE: Mid-range Pressure Fighter
Looking at Gary Russell, Jr.’s fighting style, we can see that he is a southpaw. He prefers the mid-range, throws voluminous combinations. In my eyes, he’s actually a unique southpaw in that sense. Southpaws are typically counter punchers. The stylistic question is whether he is a boxer or a pressure fighter. I don’t think he’s a slugger. Although he has KOs and TKOs, with mostly TKOs, these knockouts (or referee stoppages) are typically the result from a cascade of unanswered punches instead of one punch power (the touch of death, as I like to think of it). With that in mind, I have to consider him a pressure fighter. I propose that he is a mid-range pressure fighter. Mid-range because his combinations tend to be straight punches with a splattering of hooks. Being a southpaw helps his defensive ability since he can spot the right hand coming, which is power punch most people throw.
MARK MAGSAYO FIGHTING STYLE: Mid-range Puncher
Mark Magsayo, I had to watch a bit of his fights to get a feel for how he fights. I viewed his last 3. I can comfortably say that he is puncher/slugger. Does he have the death touch, one punch KO power? I’m not sure. Clearly, he has power. However, I noticed that his last couple of KO wins have come late in the fight. Knockouts early in the fight tend to demonstrate a boxer’s devastating punching power. Knockouts late in the fight tend to be because of an opponent’s exhaustion. So early KO is due to power, late KO is due to an opponent’s fatigue.
Range-wise, I think he is mostly a mid-range type of fighter. He likes to bounce a little outside, but that is just for show. He doesn’t really initiate offense off that bounce or from the outside. Some call this sniper-style: bounce, bounce from the outside to get into mid-range, plant your feet, and fire punches. Whereas, a truly outside fighter might be stepping to connect on his punches; the hand lands before or at the same time as the foot. Another thing that tells me about his range, is when he finds himself on the inside, he doesn’t do much. Not much offense, a little bit loose on the defense. Mostly, he steps away. And defensively, Mark Magsayo seems a pretty loose at all ranges.
If all things were equal, Mark Magsayo should have the strategic advantage being he is a slugger and Gary Russell, Jr. is a pressure fighter. Pressure fighters play into the slugger’s game. Sluggers need to just land 1 punch to knock you out. Pressure fighters oblige them by coming forward to be hit.
Gary Russell, Jr. is unique in the sense that he is southpaw. His style is also unique in that he’s a mid-range pressure fighter. In the pro ranks, pressure fighters typically like to move inside. Being southpaw and initiating from mid-range gives Russell time and space for defensive maneuvers to counteract against power punching. So he is better and more skilled than the average pressure fighter.
Russell just needs to play his game, do his thing, and the fight should go how it usually goes for him. Put Magsayo on the back foot, which further negates his power, and keep the pressure coming. With Magsayo’s defense being loose as it is, a TKO is possible, perhaps after the 7th. 9th round maybe?
Magsayo needs to catch Russell early or he has to knockout Russell late. As his past fights have shown, Magsayo is more likely to get a late knockout. Can he? I don’t think Russell with be fatigued enough to put away. I’ve seen some say that Magsayo has a puncher’s chance; he does. Will he have that chance? I don’t think Russell will give it to him. He’ll have to take it.
I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.
In a previous post, we looked at a boxing exchange between to fighters, with one of the fighters getting the better of the other. If I were being less polite, I’d say that red shorts dominated blue shirt. And if it were an amateur bout, based on that exchange alone, it would be close to being a referee stoppage. At least 2 standing 8 counts would have been appropriate.
Sometimes, when watching fights in person, people might ask me how would I plan for a certain fighter. Again, this is amateur boxing. At amateur fights, I usually scout to check out potential opponents that we will meet in the significant tournament. Sometimes, when you see a pretty big mismatch, I’d be inclined to say that “my strategy here, would be to not take the fight because this guy can’t handle the other guy.”
Because you can have a good strategy in theory, but if your guy can’t execute it with a good probability of success, then its not really going to work. If execution has to be perfect for the strategy to work, then we have a long (or short) night ahead of us. I like having some margin of acceptable error.
With that in mind, how do we handle red shorts?
As I mentioned before, from the brief video, he looks to be a slugger. Not a wild slugger, but he looks to be trying to land power punches almost every time. He doesn’t look like an in-fighter, but he does flirt with the inside range since we can define the inside range where you can land hooks. He doesn’t really step with his punches; he looks like a mid-range guy that throws long hooks when closing in.
It seems that he favors a 1-2 (cross) combination. Note this differs from a 1-2 (straight). His balance stays pretty good after the cross, so you wouldn’t expect him to be vulnerable from being off balance after the 2. However, his defense tends to be sloppy as he punches, and just after he punches. These seem to be openings to attack.
We can’t tell how good his defense is here. But let’s presume that prior to a punching exchange, his first defensive sequence will be good. He will be able to defend against the first wave of attack. I infer this from the crispness of his 1-2 (cross) and his good balance after the 2.
With that said, now what? Let’s box him. Circular movement and on the bicycle. Show him the jab. Touch his guard with the jab. We don’t need to move fast, but we’d like to be consistent in the movement. He’s going to come to us, so we don’t need to get into range. Let’s try to not let him plant his feet. Punchers like this need to plant their feet to get power.
He likes to throw the 1-2 combination, so we need to disrupt that. Preferably, we can parry his jab, and jab with him. Gonna need to keep that left ear tucked behind shoulder as we jab, because the cross will be coming in hot. We have a few targets to jab at: 1) the face, 2) the chest, 3) the throat, 4) the right shoulder. We prefer the face, but he might have good head movement, so we can target the parts that don’t move as much. When we jab, we might need to stick the jab–meaning, not to retract it back to guard. Might need to use the jab as like a stop hit. If needed, we can use the inside guard also known as the leverage guard. Either way, our ear will be behind the shoulder defending against the cross.
When we start to get his timing down, maybe mid-way through the 2nd round, we can start adding the left hook as part of the attack and counter-attack.
If that fails, we might need to go into the eye of the storm. But that’s for another day.
In summary, we’re not going to stand in front of him. We’re going to be a moving target. Circle left. Circle right. Backpedal. Step around. Pivot. Stutter step. Doesn’t need to be fast–just constant, with syncopation. We’re going to show him the jab, and touch his guard with the jab to occupy his mind and to satisfy the judges. When he starts throwing, we’re going to time him with counter punches. We can also return counters, after he throws the 2. Take the rounds.
There is a sparring clip making it’s way around social media. One athlete lands quite a few power shots; the other’s slip technique is called into question.
In amateurs, we’d distinguish the boxers by glove color. Red gloves is red corner. Blue gloves is blue corner. If you’re smart, your jersey top, if not your whole uniform, will match you corner color. These guys here don’t exactly follow those guides but let’s call one red (red shorts) and the other, blue (blue shirt).
Let’s assess their strategy. At first impression, red looks to be a slugger. How good of a slugger, it’s hard to tell with this limited footage. A good slugger should have one punch KO power. With so many clean shots landed, he should have dropped blue if he had that type of power. However, this is sparring so it’s likely he’s holding back. The top end of his power and slugging ability is thus inconclusive.
Blue is clearly a boxer-stylist because he is not pressuring and not slugging. By the process of elimination, that makes him a boxing style of a guy.
In this limited exchange, red dominates by landing clean power punches. What could blue have done, strategically, to improve his performance?
If we recall our strategic matchups, boxing should have the advantage over slugging. By default, blue is “boxing”. He needs to do a better job of boxing. What is boxing? Boxing is the jab, the lead hand, lead hand combinations, good footwork, footwork to step out of range, footwork to circle, footwork to move laterally, pivots, so on and so forth.
Let’s look at the first big punch red lands.
There is some criticism on blue’s slipping technique here. I’d agree with those criticisms.
However, I think his biggest mistake, aside from not using his feet for defense, is not using the jab. Instead, he opts for a right cross.
Unfortunately for blue, red beats him to the punch. Blue eats a right cross.
The hard part is doing. It’s easy to say things after the fact but I would have liked to see other choices. And there are many.
I would have liked a plain old jab here. Maybe a double jab. If he’s good, maybe a hook off the jab, or in the parlance of our times, a 1-3 combo.
A step back would have been good. Step around also, but I don’t think he could do it.
What blue did was an attempt at a pull counter, I think. His movement was sort of like a hybrid pull and slip. A slip would have moved his head more outside. A pull would have moved his head more backwards. Using the right hand was a little premature.
Some other times blue could have used the jab.
Another jab opportunity but he prefers the left swing (note the difference between swing and hook).
In closing, blue, by default, was operating under the boxing paradigm. If we were being less charitable, we could say that blue was not boxing at all. He was “throwing hands”. The strategy needed here was better boxing or a better selection from the boxing toolkit. More jabs. More footwork. Better boxing. Better control of the boxing range.