The 'Left-Hook Lounge': Vivek Wallace's Weekly Mailbag Featuring Pavlik, Lacy, Hopkins, Calzaghe, and More!!!
This week's 'Left-Hook Lounge' installment should have taken place in Youngstown, Ohio, because it comes with lots of power, and with heavy doses of Pavlik! Aside from the pride of Youngstown, Hopkins, Lacy, Taylor, and Calzaghe all made the mailbag as well. Before we wrap it up completely, things get a little hot when one fight fan chose to put me on the spot. I don't know, maybe it's the U.S. Marine in me, but being the rebel I am, of course I gladly obliged! So with no further ado, we jump in the mix, starting in Dallas, Texas where a fight fan wanted to know the following:
Article posted on 22.10.2008
Ricky F. (Dallas, TX): I'm a huge fan of Jeff Lacy and I wanted to know what your perspective is on the upcoming fight between he and Jermain Taylor?
Vivek W. (ESB): I like Jeff Lacy a lot, but I think this fight was probably not the best one for him to take right now. I could be dead wrong, but at first glance, I like Taylor in this fight by a wide margin, possibly even a stoppage. Unfortunately, for Lacy, this is a fight that could mean, win - move forward, lose - you're now relegated to Friday Night Fights at best, basement underground level at worst! Lacy has not looked good since the Calzaghe fight and his last fight in particular left me wondering if there's something else going on that we're not aware of. He seems normal outside of the ring, but inside the ring it just hasn't translated. Taylor on the other hand is coming off a string of loses that humbled him as well, but Taylor is a different type of fighter with a totally different type of personality. He's shown a little more heart in my observation. I think Taylor has looked better at the super middleweight level and that should help him as he moves forward. I hope for Lacy's sake that he performs well, but I just don't know that this fight is a good one for him. Taylor is looking to make a statement, which for Lacy, could very well end in an exclamation.
Bruce Samson (Quantico, VA): In your follow up article to the Pavlik/Hopkins fight you spoke of Pavlik, stating that he isn't Pound for Pound material. How do you justify that statement when he only has one loss?
Vivek W. (ESB): I've been emailed this question at least five times, and for the record, I'd like to reiterate what I said and I stand by it totally. I think it's actually a great dis-service to take such a young fighter and place that P4P label on him. It builds this huge expectation, and as soon as the guy doesn't meet them, he's questioned by the same ones who placed it on him to begin with. Some young fighters find it very tough to bounce back from this unnecessary pressure. Just ask Lacy. Pavlik is a great fighter, no doubt, but the man you saw soundly defeat him is the one who's pure overall skills dictate that he should be on that P4P level, yet most of the boxing writers out there fail to keep him near the top of that list because he isn't a media child. Power is great, but it takes more to equate one a P4P contender. We saw Antonio Margarito recently expose the still evolving Miguel Cotto who also earned this label too early, and he's no where near a better boxer than Cotto. To quote Roger Mayweather, "certain fighters live and die by hurting an opponent, but you can't hurt what you can't hit". Winky Wright, James Toney, Roy Jones, Hopkins; all guys who's talent has kept them at the top of their game despite losses, yet neither name is heard in the P4P mix because they aren't media spectacles.
Tito Trinidad was a dangerous fighter, but Oscar De La Hoya - being the better fundamental boxer - soundly defeated him, yet was ignorant enough to take the last few rounds off and it cost him the fight. When Trinidad faced the fundamentally sound Hopkins, it was lights out. He couldn't hit Hopkins, and Hopkins made him miss then made him pay. Pavlik is not a polished boxer from a fundamental standpoint and it showed. If Ivan Calderon was Pavlik's size, he would have won that fight against Hopkins, based on pure skills and the mind to use them, despite his lack of punching power. Hence the term, Pound for Pound, meaning a talent that would transcend any variables (ie. weight, height, whatever) if all things remained equal. Everyone may not agree, but these type of fight results continue to prove why I stand by my theory. The better fundamental boxer defies age, etc, proving that P4P legitimacy has far less to do with excitement, and much more to do with pure skills. Oddly enough, no one has stopped to think, but this could be a year where we potentially see each of the currently listed P4P fighters fall - (referring to Pacquaio, Calzaghe, Cotto, and Pavlik). If that happens, I think then and only then will many out there stop to truly question what it really means to be a pure pound for pound contender. Until then, I'll continue to lay out the prelude for that case!
Erik Penelas (Boca Raton, FL): Joe Calzaghe was recently very critical about Kelly Pavlik and the way he looked against Bernard Hopkins. Do you think the comments by Calzaghe were credible?
Vivek W. (ESB): I think Pavlik's loss coupled with Hopkins' one-sided performance over him set the stage for Calzaghe to become a temporary opportunist. I don't know how much I like the comments because styles make fights, and just because Calzaghe slipped past Hopkins doesn't mean Pavlik wouldn't size him up. Joe is a great fighter and I think a fight between he and Pavlik would live up to expectations, but for him to call Pavlik "overrated" and say he was "exposed" I think was a bit classless for someone who wouldn't face him. If history is any indication, Calzaghe had better think twice before making such statements. A few years ago, when Antonio Tarver prepared to face Hopkins he stated that "every boxer has to lose weight before a fight" and that "only Roy Jones jr. makes excuses about losing weight"; only to turn around and have one of his worst performances ever, suffering a brutal one-sided defeat to Hopkins after having to lose 43 pounds which he gained to play a role in the movie 'Rocky'. In a similar twist of faith, this could serve as a very ominous moment for Calzaghe who now stands to face a very talented opponent would could easily - as he stated - "expose" him as being "overrated" as well. None of us knows if this will happen, but when you speak ignorantly, we've all learned in life that karma can make poetic justice reveal itself very quickly. I'll be the first to remind him if it does!
Marcus Stringer (Charlotte, NC): Two weeks ago you were dead wrong on your prediction of Peter over Vitaly Klitschko. Last weekend you were one of the few in the sport to accurately predict the Hopkins/Pavlik fight, and the fight went exactly the way you predicted. What did you see going into the fight that made you predict that way?
Vivek W. (ESB): I've always felt that anyone can predict the predictable. I exercise a formula that takes a lot more thought, and a totally different process. I like to breakdown the intangibles in the fight itself, and the intangibles between the actual fighters. When studying these intangibles I review EVERYTHING. Everything from extensive past fight footage on both fighters, to breaking down past interviews, to studying pre-fight press conference body language, and the list goes on. I literally take a full day to dissect signs that aren't as easy to pinpoint in fighters and ask myself "if I was a trainer, how would I go about preparing my fighter for this guy or that guy?" For the Klitschko fight it had more to do with him returning from near career ending injuries and defeating a man who was considered fundamentally flawed, but still somewhat dangerous. I questioned whether Klitschko could find his rhythm and bring enough conditioning to get the job done. He answered that question. I was wrong, but I'd use that logic every time.
In the Pavlik/Hopkins fight, there were a few key pointers I considered. If you look at the press conference after Pavlik's second fight with Taylor, Pavlik and his corner spoke regularly about the fact that he couldn't pump his double jab, and he couldn't "get off". To him and his team, it wasn't a lack of his skills, it was a major lack of his ability to use them, which we now learn had to do more with his weight and ability to fight that heavy with the same conditioning. Another thing, of all the fighters Pavlik has defeated, he was able to press most of them and keep them on the ropes and at a favorable distance until he eventually stopped them. Both Miranda and Taylor were stopped by Pavlik against the ropes, not the center of the ring. Being that Hopkins is one of the best in-fighters in the business, I knew that he would wipe-out that distance, and being such a smart fighter, I knew he wouldn't lay on the ropes and take a beating. The only way to beat such a clever fighter is to be a better in-ring strategist, and Pavlik's current experience simply isn't polished enough at this point to allow him to do that. This is why the only person we've ever seen decisively defeat Hopkins was Jones. Pavlik is a great talent and I think his future will indicate that, but Hopkins' experience put him on another level. That made my decision a good one. Age never played a role because a thinking fighter doesn't try to fight at a rabbit's pace, he imposes his own and forces the opponent to change. (Think Floyd Mayweather Jr).
Carlo N. (West Covina, CA): Do you think the same type of issues Pavlik encountered with increased weight will play a role in Pacquiao's performance against Oscar De La Hoya?
Vivek W. (ESB): I think that's a very real possiblity. It may be somewhat nullified by the fact that Oscar will be coming down lower in weight than he has in years as well. In this fight, I think both those things could play a role, but I think the problems are a bit bigger for Pacquaio. Pacquio is great, and very exciting to watch, but you have to consider that Oscar De La Hoya has only been soundly defeated once, depending on who you ask, twice. That was Hopkins by KO - (which I doubt Pacquaio can do) - and Mosley in the first fight. Other than that, Oscar has been solid enough fundamentally to keep himself in past fights according to the judges score cards every time. We know that Pacquaio's fiery nature will push him to occasionally get on the inside and land some clean shots, but we also know that his defense - or lack thereof - has allowed him to get hit quite a bit as well. It's a matter of conditioning and Oscar has taught us that he can't quite do it over the long haul anymore, but the argument about him not being able to "pull the trigger" anymore, I find a non-issue. Realistically, how much of a 'trigger' do you need when you outweigh a guy by 20 pounds? If he just tugs at that proverbial 'trigger' a few times early on, his boxing skills could be enough to get him to the finish line where he could eek out a points decision. It took Hopkins 9 rounds to get the KO. Mosley, Mayweather, Trinidad, and many others failed. A lighter Pacquiao may hurt him, but he doesn't hit harder than any of those guys which tells me it'll go the distance, and I'm not sold on Pacquiao's ability to outbox Oscar just yet. That's subject to change, but the extra weight I think may hurt Pacquaio more than help. Team Pavlik just proved that.
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