Monthly Archives: January 2014

Heavyweights Bryant Jennings & Artur Szpilka Vie For Top 10 Ranking

Finally, after near a decade of corpulent lethargy, the first of America’s big men this year will actively look to crack what used to be their native born birthright as heavyweight contenders and champions starting Saturday, January 25th at Madison Square Garden in New York. Rising fringe contender American Bryant “By-By” Jennings, 17-0, 9 KO goes against Polish rival Arthur “The Pin” Szpilka, 16-0, 12 KO in a 10 round battle of closely matched undefeated records.

Artur Szpilka

Artur Szpilka

If nothing else their ring aliases will breathe a some fresh air into the run of the mill copy cats Cobra, Hitman, and other standard fearsome aliases that seldom match the fighters. They’re also matched well by size with Szpilka at 6-3, 230+plus to Jennings 6-2, 220+plus. Szpilka reach not noted in boxrec, but certainly Jennings’ listed reach of 84″ is in the very highest range of heavyweights, so he’ll have that significant advantage, but only if he knows how to make use of it. Jennings is also at the traditional peak age at 29 years, so he needs to move fast to develop for a title shot within a couple of years. Szpilka is 24 years, just now entering the traditional prime years and and what a gig he landed on HBO. Not bad for a wayward Polish tough only recruited to boxing after a coach noticed his form in a brawl of soccer fans. Form good enough to land him an 18 month incarceration.

Bryant Jennings

Bryant Jennings

Significantly Szpilka is also a southpaw with a diverse range of styles. He can box upright or in a free flow, or brawl as he showed against Mike Mollo in a pair of knock down, drag out classics. Oddly enough I’ve seen less of Jennings who has been on NBC broadcasts, but he seems like the classic American boxer/puncher mold maybe with a touch of Philly dark arts he may use. Also significant after his booming year of 2012 with five fights, Jennings only fought once in 2013 and seems to have realigned with a new promoter, broadcaster, manager, and trainer. How that works for him is unknown, but this fight looks very competitive on paper. I’d favor Szpilka slightly as a fighter since he’s already been mixed into the American scene against slightly stiffer competition overall, but it goes without saying that Jennings is the home money fighter for this nontitle 10 round bout.

I’d imagine HBO hopes to leverage Jennings for a subsequent American world title challenge they can broadcast. The Jennings team has also arranged a top five ranking in both the WBC an WBA if proof is needed about how highly he’s regarded by the suits. If he has any fans in Philadelphia, it’s only a quick skip over to New York, however Polish fans usually outnumber Americans at these types of venues. Szpilka should have plenty of moral support if he can clear Homeland Security after a snafu sent him packing back to Poland to secure more papers. Be a shame if Homeland Security killed what could prove to be the most important American heavyweight fight of the year, but such are the signs of the despairing times in the American big man division now desperate for a resurgence.

The anchor fight of the HBO broadcast also reflect a sign of the times featuring two half sized, very game and skilled fighters, undefeated two-division world champion Mikey Garcia (33-0, 28 KO) defending his WBO junior lightweight title against current #1 contender Juan Carlos “Mini” Burgos (30-1-2, 20 KO).

The big man war has a chance to go head to head against the little man war for the best fight of the night, a perfect duke’em up session for die hards. Might even see an early contender for fight of the year, so don’t be shy now. Best two fights of the month of January me thinks.

All Cleared~Jennings 225~Szpilka 223

All Cleared~Jennings 225~Szpilka 223

The Day Boxing Died~~Where Have All The Sluggers Gone…”long time passing…”

IE: The Day Boxing Died~~Where have all the “American” sluggers gone to the tune of the alltime top classics below with the substitution in the lyrics.

The Day The Music Died by Don McLean

I was a lonely teenage broncin’ buck
With a pink carnation and a pickup truck
But I knew I was out of luck
The day the music(boxing) died

Where have all the flowers gone by Pete Seeger

Where have all the flowers(sluggers) gone, long time passing?
Where have all the flowers(sluggers) gone, long time ago?
Where have all the flowers(sluggers) gone?
Young girls(boxing poohbahs) have picked(neutered) them everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Mrs Robinson by Paul Simon

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio(Joe Louis)
A nation turns it’s lonely eyes to you (Woo, woo, woo)
What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson(Sugar Ray Robinson)
Joltin’ Joe has left and gone away
(Hey, hey, hey…hey, hey, hey)

There are still plenty of Latino sluggers and sluggers from the former Soviet states, but there is a critically endangered species watch for American sluggers as the most optimistic designation, or an extinct designation for the pessimist and realist. The top American fighters in their divisions are Floyd Mayweather Jr, Andre Ward, Timothy Bradley, and Bernard Hopkins, and none of them could pop a bubble gum bubble with a sledgehammer. They couldn’t break an egg with a piledriver. They couldn’t dent a stick of butter or bust a bag of popcorn with brass knuckles. Flies giggle when they pull out their flyswatters. The light in loafer crowd blow kisses at them.

Look, there is no shame in being a top boxing featherduster, but a quick look at the IBRO top 20 P4P greats indicates that traditionally big sluggers who could also box some were highly prized above all other fighters with some 15 out of their 20 being some great sluggers. Featherduster types like Willie Pep or Harry Greb were anomalies to the greater preference for boxer/punchers like Gene Tunney or Ezzard Charles or sluggers who were also good boxers like Jack Dempsey or Sam Langford. Not that we can ignore the fighter Hopkins pretends to be like, Archie Moore, the all time knockout king with 131 knockouts. Hopkins pretends like Olive Oyl pretends to being like Miss Italy or a garden slug pretending to be a tiger.

Pep and Greb each have tons more fights than these modern toothless wonders all combined if you want to talk about the light relevancy of modern fighters to the core history of boxing. Fighting canned, hometown fights once a year is what today’s boxing illiterati prize as their top two P4Pers in Mayweather and Ward.

Unbelievable that boxing has dwindled down to this.

Then to see the cloying, clinging cognoscenti rattle on about superior athleticism of today’s boxers is like watching a cat cough up a rat hairball as if they even knew the definition of athleticism much less how it might apply to the essentials of what makes a fighter an all time great. Archie Moore, Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Sam Langford, Jimmy Wilde, they weren’t competing in the decathlon, the timeless gold standard that track and field uses to define athleticism from whence the idea originated.

The decathlete needs both strength and speed allayed with rare superior coordination, endurance, and mental toughness to compete in 10 separate events in the heat of summer over a 2 day period. Jim Thorpe was the first modern athlete widely regarded as the greatest ever when he accepted gold medals in the 1912 Summer Olympics in both the pentathlon and decathlon, the only Olympian to ever win both. Not only, but he played Major League Baseball for a number of years before being a founder and first star of the fledgling National Football League, so his achievements greatly surpass modern athletes who seldom show multi-sport talent much less abilities to Thorpe’s gold standard. He was a pretty fair boxer and wrestler on top of all that. Today’s American boxing P4Pers have no strength or power, so we have to ask, how fast are these modern wunderkinds over 100 meters or 1500 meters and what are their pole vault and javelin numbers?

Not good enough to bother to count or who TF cares, take your pick. IBRO link here for an actual boxing comparison:

As often happens in boxing, the politics have shifted much like a storied slugging  pro baseball team falling on hard times, reacting as any politician might by changing the debate and altering their message to stay relevant. Baseball does this by expanding or contracting their field dimensions to complement their pitchers and hitters on the team. Visiting team sluggers can’t easily crack newly spacious outfield fences that reflect the type of left and right handed pitchers the hometown team has. If the home team is stocked with left and right handed sluggers, bring the fences in and blast out the visiting teams in a blizzard of homeruns.



Boxing can also alter ring dimensions and surfaces and shorten the rounds, but additionally has altered the debate and message on the fly as needed by altering the scoring rules on a fight to fight basis, wink-wink.

There was a noteworthy slip up in the “Boxing Poohbah World” recently when a well known and well impugned long time boxing rag mentioned in an article that good defense usually beats good offense. Oh brother, more drinkin’ instead of thinkin’ as happens too often in boxing publications, otherwise they would recall the order in the original Marquis of Queensbury rules. In order of importance, 1.) Offense, 2.) Defense, 3.) Ring Generalship.

Simply put, without offense there is no fight nor any purpose to boxing. It’s been proven that a fleet footed fighter in good condition can run around the ring forever avoiding most blows, but is that boxing or some catch me at the track type of sport? Yet highly hyped fighters will usually be given those types of decisions today, turning off boxing fans who don’t care for track meets which is why they wanted boxing, especially when boxing is allayed with slugging, not track…….DUH!

Not that the self appointed “boxing authorities” throughout history have paid any more attention to rules any more than democracies pay more than lip service to their constitutions. Rules are made to be broken as the saying goes in any state of governance including the anarchy of boxing as it grew out of illegal bare knuckle roots. Nonetheless, boxing remains the only sport where the loser of 100% of every second of every minute of the contest can be the resounding winner and newest big hero by delivering a thunderous knockout in the waning seconds of a fight as recently happened to longtime undefeated fringe heavyweight contender David Rodriguez, delivered by former fringe contender Darnell “Ding-a-ling” Wilson who didn’t get his name by pushing out marshmallows. Record here:

Darnell Wilson

There are various levels of offense starting with marginal round by round point accumulations as Mayweather totals his fights during his most acclaimed period, but slugging offense rules over all as the ultimate end statement. Moreover, a fighter loses at least a point every time they’re knocked down, negating an otherwise good boxing round in their favor.

Longtime curmudgeon Bernard Hopkins continues to charge that “slick black boxers” are being “underrated,” clearly clueless of the high Boxrec and Ring ratings of Floyd Mayweather Jr, Andre Ward, Timothy Bradley, plus the grizzled baldeth one hisself. I’m here to tell you that on the elemental boxing level in the ring, the Hopkin’s slick rhymes with “it” and starts with “sh” since all but Bradley are among the dirtiest of the top fighters, not that the sometimes butting Bradley is a saint.

Incidental fouls, however, are part of the sport which are supposed to be one of many reasons for an impartial referee if such a beast ever existed. Smart fighters like a Miguel Cotto will invariably fight a clean fight as he reserves the right to a well timed low blast to the protective cup anytime he gets hit hard enough to need some time to recover. He’ll gladly take that first warning and the time it takes for the opposing fighter to recover his ardor for fighting, usually not for the rest of the fight. That’s staying within the fair boundary of the rules.

Marshmallows anyone?

Marshmallows anyone?

Nonetheless, “unwritten” changes to rules emphasizing defense might explain the general malaise and ennui among the few remaining occasional public viewers. They might like to watch boxing, but are turned off by incomprehensible weekly scoring controversies, bogus referee stoppages, and idiotic referee interference on top of suffering the off putting powder puffery posing at the top of the boxing food chain. He’d really rather watch the girls volleyball tourney where he can at least honestly admire the form if he can’t see a good fight.

You could almost make the claim these top guys are illegally loading their gloves and protectors in helium the way they punch like junior strawweights. Willy Pep and Harry Greb made up for light punching by with a blizzard of offense delivered with either hand from every angle and position imaginable, some of the most exciting fighters ever. Top Americans today don’t actually want a fight, they want to box and foul in equal measure with a pro ‘rasslin’ type of ref ignoring their fouls that everyone else can plainly see as they dumb down a fight to a level they can a win at.

Timothy Bradley used to have a very dynamic unorthodox style of offense but lost a lot of hard earned respect  after his Pacquiao debacle and now fights in an upright safety first defensive style that he has struggled with. He flirts with the dark side of dirty, but thus far hasn’t crossed over because he wants to become a star and he still has a sense of honor in combat. Compare to Ward and Hopkins who have substituted grotesquely illegal tactics for much of their offensive output. Hopkins seemingly tutored Mayweather who debuted the Hopkin’s  patented upperbutt against Saul Alvarez before lacing his eyes a few rounds later. Then the ref had the audacity to warn Alvarez, not Mayweather. 

Folks, it ain’t just slugging that’s missing in action among today’s developing talent. There are a few still developing American sluggers in James Kirkland and Keith Thurman, but genuine boxing skills are lacking as Mayweather had when he was developing or as Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns and Marvin Hagler developed coming up. There are no Oscar de la Hoyas, Shane Mosleys,  or Vernon Forests type quality coming up. I’m not some ol’ git who always thinks the new generation is inferior to the old generation either. That’s another debate entirely. I respect developing fighters willing to fight top competition no matter what their talent level is, but the canary in the boxing mine has sounded the alarm. 

Bottom line, from heavyweight down to welterweight, there are no extraordinary American fighters coming up. It took only one screwed up generation to leave American boxing effectively dead in the water after more than 120 years of dominance. I’ll close with some comments on a modern application of scoring as judges might be instructed………R.I.P.

This is a 4 part modern interpretation of Queensbury Rules. Note the double emphasis on OFFENSE, not fouls. Offense rules with defense counting dead last in this criteria, but let’s take a closer look:

  • Clean punching: “Clean” punches are punches that land on the face/side of the head and the front/side of the torso. (Modern pro judges have moved to Olympic type tap-tap scoring where body punches are almost never counted)
  • Effective aggressiveness: A boxer demonstrates this trait when he consistently and successfully moves forward in a controlled manner. (We’ve seen too many dominant offensive onslaughts ignored by judges, the most blatant examples are Ponce de Leon and Paulie Malignaggi dominating Adrian Broner with punches and ring generalship yet losing the fight.)
  • Ring generalship: The judges favor the fighter who controls the pace and style of the bout. (Judges in the criminal justice system and boxing actually favor wealthy defendants with high powered attorneys and big money fighters with big promoters. Always have and forever it shall be notable exceptions not withstanding)
  • Defense: Boxers that skillfully incorporate defensive maneuvers receive credit in this area.(Simply running is not is not the traditional defense of staying in the combat range as the fighter slipped, ducked, blocked and countered effectively, skillfully being another key word ignored. Twisting into a pretzel below the beltline is not skillful defense, it’s cowering much like flopping to the ground to buy time in the old bare knuckle days that London Prize Ring Rules corrected)