'Left-Hook Lounge': Vivek Wallace's Mailbag feat. Valero, Mayweather/Mosley, Hopkins, Bute, and Pavlik/Martinez!!
Thierry I. (Miami Beach, FL): What are some of the more notable observations that you've personally taken note of in the Mayweather/Mosley 24/7 series so far?
Article posted on 19.04.2010
Vivek W. (ESB): A few things have been pretty interesting for the most part, but one thing that stands out to me in particular is the fact that despite the negative rhetoric going back and forth, both of these men and their trainers have been very open about the realization that they're in for the fight of their lives. I can't recall the last time I heard Roger Mayweather give an opponent this much credit, recently stating in so many words that Mosley is arguably the best opponent Mayweather has ever faced and holds a very good chance to do what no other man to date has. The flip side of that can be heard in Richardson's very honest observation that a fighter doesn't reach this 'level' of greatness by being one dimensional or having one strength; but rather Floyd is a man who contains many dynamic elements. Richardson went on to say that not only does he think Floyd will "rumble", but at some point will "turn into a dragon, grow wings and fangs, and start to spit fire"..
That realization hits on a key topic I discussed with a fight fan recently. That topic was that Mayweather has been light years ahead of so many opponents of the past that he was always able to hit cruise-control and snatch victory while in auto-pilot. The response from the fight fan I was talking to was, "well, that's what happened with Roy Jones jr., and when he was finally tested, he had no answer". While I think Roy Jones jr. was more athletically talented, Mayweather I'd tag as by far the better fundamental boxer. Jones had simply reached a point in his career where his instinctive reflexes weren't quite the same, but with Floyd, I firmly believe - like Naazim Richardson alluded to - that there are dimensions to his game that we have simply yet to see.
At its best, it's a bit like a handyman. He's gonna bring the entire work belt to every call, but some days he may need to use the screwdriver, other days the hammer, periodically, maybe even the drill. But, he will only pull the necessary 'tool' from the belt, never all of them. A 'job' like Mosley may require him to pull every 'tool' he owns out of the belt, and what's scary is that we know he has more, but we've only seen a few, and those few alone have led us to call him arguably the most talented fighter of this era and potentially many others. I welcome this type of fight for him because he now has an opponent that will require him to dig deeper (into that belt) than anyone has in his career. If he's as great as he wants us to believe, this type of task could very well be the one that halts fence-straddlers and haters, forcing them to say (even if it's only within their own mind) "damn, I hate his big mouth, but that mutha***** is probably the greatest to ever to lace a pair up, bar none"! He always said he's that good. On the night of May 1st, he'll be given a grand opportunity to prove it.
Amos L. (Hialeah, FL): I'm totally shocked about the situation that unfolded with Edwin Valero. Can you give us your thoughts on this tragedy.
Vivek W. (ESB): I found this news to be absolutely devastating, for several reasons. Before we even get into Valero himself, there's the realization that a family is now without a loved one who will be dearly missed. Edwin Valero was one of those talents that I watched at a distance for quite some time, and I always saw him as far more credible than many felt, punctuated by his recent victory against Antonio DeMarco. To know that the sport is now less one helluva talent, and to know that the reason is cold-blooded murder, (by his own admission), is absolutely mind-boggling.
One unknown fact about me is that I've always had a profound interest in human psychology, (particularly that of serial murderers and psychopaths), for the mere fact that in a very chameleon like fashion, they have the ability to blend in society like an average Joe, yet are instantly capable of crossing lines that they can understand, yet don't 'see' like a normal person, which is a direct testament to how uncanny mental ailments can be. In the case of Valero, I would stop short of saying that he is either of the two, but this is a direct reflection of how substance and alcohol abuse can mentally cripple one, resulting in a similar act to those who suffer from those same mental health diseases. I really wish that I could talk to him, simply to gauge his mental repository and see what was really going on in his mind. As a former U.S. Marine, I can remember talking to a former Vietnam vet about his current mental position in the aftermath of such trauma, and what he said makes me wonder how similar to his thoughts did Valero truly feel in life.
He said "the worst place anyone in the world could want to be is in my head"! I've never heard the possibility, but when you look at the fact that Valero was a helluva talent with a very good financial position and a promising future, I can't help but wonder if there was a reason for great depression that we simply don't know about. He seemed to be fighting demons that most of us can only imagine. We know that he had a brain injury before. Many of the medications given for certain brain conditions, etc, have been known to cause depressive states, suicidal tendencies, and even trigger outburst that can lead to this type of behavior. We just don't know what happened. What we do know is that this young man has been fighting demons for quite some time, and no one stopped him, so in a very unfortunate and tragic way, he stopped himself. That's very sad, because in the ring, his great talent had me wondering if anyone else was truly capable (of stopping him).
Mike R. (Norfolk, VA): What were your thoughts about the Martinez/Pavlik fight, and where do you see both men going from here?
Many have failed to understand why I have always fancied pure fundamental skills over power and all those other made-for-movie effects. The reality - as displayed in this fight - is that taking punches and bleeding while still coming forward is great for rah-rah element it gives the viewers, but fundamental skills truly bring results more often than not. What was even more intriguing is that Martinez didn't demand a catchweight or anything, he simply came to the ring holding nothing promising but a ring IQ, and by the final bell, that was all he needed, despite being a MUCH smaller man. I was criticized quite heavily a while back for referring to Pavlik as a 'rock-em-sock-em-robot', but that's exactly what he fought like. As far as where they go from here? There's the rematch clause, but truthfully, I think Pavlik's weakened state (due to issues making weight) could have been a bigger contributing factor than the bad cuts he suffered.
Where this proposition gets a bit dicey is that Jack Loew said in so many words a while back that the whole going-up-in-weight experiment was never happening again, citing the two times Pavlik tried it, (Taylor II and Hopkins), he "couldn't get off". Now they don't have much of a choice, but trouble is.....the men who run things at super middleweight hit a lot harder than Pavlik and some would argue are far more diverse in their talent, as evidenced with Dirrell, Ward, Froch, Abraham, and others we now see at the helm. I don't think Pavlik's one dimensional style would find much success at all against the likes of many of those men. From a training position, I think Pavlik needs to stop that hammering tires stuff, and work the speed mitts and get in some footwork. Fundamentally, he has a lot of ground to cover if he plans to compete at 168, arguably the sports deepest division.
As far as Martinez goes, I don't think he needs to stay at middleweight, outside of facing Pavlik in a rematch. He's far too small, and unlike the wiry Paul Williams, he would have no advantage whatsoever over anyone their at all. Although he looked good at middleweight, I think there's still a lot he can do going back south. Williams is a viable option, the Cotto/Foreman winner is a viable option, and call me crazy, but I'd love to see Antonio Margarito try to do to him today what he was able to get away with earlier in Martinez's career. That's three options, among many others. The sky is the limit, this kid is great....hell, make that borderline amazin'!
Jason J. (Los Angeles, CA): Bernard Hopkins was mentioned as a potential opponent for Lucian Bute. How would you see that fight playing out if it actually materialized?
Vivek W. (ESB): All I could do was laugh when I heard this possibility mentioned. And I don't mean that in a condescending way, either. I say that because no matter how much people say Hopkins' style is ugly and that he needs to retire, the fact that you felt the need to ask me this, (and I'm sure you're not the only one thinking it), tells me that without question, Hopkins is still seen as a talent, not an old man here for a paycheck. That being said, I think it would be a helluva match, and a relatively easy one to make. Lets go down the list....Hopkins would be willing to cross the border to make it happen, (check)...there's a demographic to sell it to, which would make it a relative success monetarily.....(check).....Hopkins loves the underdog role, which he would be in.....again....(check).....the money would be solid due to a credible opponent, punctuated by a string of absolutely brilliant performances, (check).
Beyond that, when you ask yourself what's in it for Bute, you have the reality that he would now get a chance to add a Hall-of-Famer to his resume that still has a slot in the top 5 P4P group in the sport. I see this one falling in place easily, and I expect to hear representatives initiate dialogue within the next few weeks. Now, as far as who wins? That's a tough one. I've seen so much growth in Bute since that first Andrade fight, but the reality is, he barely escaped that one, and had referee Marlon B. Wright not done something so obviously wrong, Bute may not be undefeated right now. I think Hopkins' awkward spoiling style would be a stiff test for Bute. One unlike he's ever had before. I can't call a winner, but I do know on the surface that several things point to Hopkins.
Not only would his awkward style potentially nullify Bute's speed and power, and not only does he have a ton more experience, but he's one of the best out there against a southpaw, and despite being an inch shorter, he'd bring a 5 inch reach advantage into the ring. A Calzaghe like work rate is about the only tested and proven style that I think would give Hopkins a problem at this point, because despite his great conditioning, he simply can't keep that pace for 12 rounds. A tactical match against ANYONE trying to outbox him could be met with harsh results. Some would probably say that Taylor didn't have that type of work rate, but I'd reply in saying that Taylor had relatively the same reach, was a different type of fighter, and arguably lost that first fight as well. I hope they get it done. I wouldn't mind seeing this fight....not at all!
Adam O. (San Francisco, CA): I think Lucian Bute is a much better fighter than any of the Super 6 tournament fighters. How do you think he would have fared had he been involved after seeing his recent performances?
Vivek W. (ESB): I would have to respectfully disagree. I think Bute is a great fighter. One whose upside continues to surface, fight after fight. That being said, the best fighting the best - as it relates to the Super 6 tourney - isn't just a slogan. It's a reality. Each man in that tournament I find to bring something vastly different to the table, and each are equally dangerous. Froch is a cagey guy with good talent and Kessler is still an old lion that can mix it up with the best of them; but Abraham's power, Dirrell's speed combined with power, and Ward's diversity can all spell trouble. Even newcomer Alan Green, despite flying under the radar, his power clearly puts him above the rim.
Bute has quite a few skills that would prove problems for some of these men, but to say he's unequivocally better in my mind is not only a mistake, but flat out false. Comparable, maybe....but indisputably better? Not at all. Andrade is a warrior, but the fundamentals of approximately all of these other guys in the tournament would have never allowed him to come as close to victory as he did against Bute in their first encounter. He has grown in every performance since and that's the mark of a true champion, but I will definitely stop short of endorsing him to defeat each of these other perennial contenders.
(Vivek Wallace can be reached at email@example.com, 954-292-7346, Youtube (VIVEK1251), Twitter (VIVEK747), Facebook, and Myspace).
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