Summer is no time for
the blues. Personally, it’s jazz-rock (circa 1971) kind of season for me. I’m
living in a new city with Miles Davis’ jazz-rock masterpiece “Jack Johnson” on
repeat and enjoying the low-key gems of summer. No, there aren’t big marquee
fights out there. There’s no summer tent pole pay-per-view in boxing this year.
The biggest event stateside thus far has been the Floyd Mayweather-Saul Alvarez
multi-city media tour, the teat of which the media can’t stop suckling though
the fight is two months away.
Instead, to keep the
film analogy going, there are unexpected low-budget hits, emerging stars of
tomorrow and, of course, all-action, popcorn fights.
In the unexpected,
emerging star file we have Edwin Rodriguez and his beatdown of Denis Grachev
this past Saturday. Coming in, one prominent boxing scribe had referred to
Edwin Rodriguez as “a hype job.” Certainly Rodriguez had not faced murderer’s
row in his 24-0 (16) career. The best guy he had faced was arguably Don George.
That win, which saw Rodriguez avoid a fight more than engage in one, left
boxing fans a little sour on “La Bomba,” wondering why when faced with a
complicit brawler like George, the normally aggressive Rodriguez turned boxer.
But credit to trainer Ronnie Shields’ development of the
young man. And even more credit to Lou DiBella to not just keep Rodriguez
active but to risk his prospect overseas in Monaco in the “Million Dollar Super
4” tournament. The gamble and time in the gym was well spent.
I’ll be honest. I wasn’t that big on Rodriguez over the
years. To me, he seemed a guy destined to pick up a weak link belt and then be
ultimately fed to a superior “A-side.” But certain moves, looking closer and
allowing the George win to move further away in the rearview mirror, say
Rodriguez has a chance to be something more than that.
Rodriguez wears “Rival” gloves. They have a particular
feel, made with care by Canadian trainer and cutman Russ Anber’s company. It’s
not a typical brand though, like an Everlast or a Reyes. It’s a very specific
Rodriguez, some would argue, is a big brawler type who
can box enough to set up his power. At 6’ with a 76” reach, he’s got good size
and length to handle himself at 168 to 175 pounds. So this aggressive puncher
is trained by none other than Shields, a veteran technician who trained Pernell
Whitaker. Again, a very specific choice.
For this last camp, Rodriguez and company trained for
around three weeks up in the Bay area with legendary sprint coach Remi
Korchemny and former Tower of Power bassist, founder of BALCO and anti-doping
advocate Victor Conte. Before you jump to your normal lazy media conclusions, Conte
owns and operates a family-run supplement company called Scientific Nutrition
for Advanced Conditioning (SNAC). If you noticed, during Rodriguez’s ring walk
he was wearing a SNAC shirt. The training Rodriguez underwent included sprint
work as well as hypoxic boxing techniques Conte and Mike Bazzell are working on
at Undisputed Gym in San Carlos, CA.
When we’re talking “hypoxic boxing training,” I am
talking some variations of this:
This is not to be confused with the portable, charcoal
filter mask being marketed. This is a much more complex system using a
hypoxicator, which simulates high elevation. Battles, mitts, heavy bag, the treadmill
and other exercise forms are utilized, not to mention better nutrition and
(legal) supplementation. Again, a very specific choice.
Rodriguez landed 70 out of 115 punches in 2:50 of that
first and only round. 11 jabs landed and the 59 remaining blows were of the
power punch variety. A left hook to the body at 30 seconds of the round
hurt Grachev and the constant up-and-down attack of “La Bomba” never allowed him
to recover. Right hands high on the head were the money shots for Rodriguez,
who dropped Grachev twice before thudding him upstairs repeatedly with right
hands until finally referee Stanley Christodoulou realized Grachev was in too
much shock to drop and called a merciful halt to the action.
The fight is a statement but one that should be tempered
with perspective. Denis Grachev, while an impressive scalp, no doubt, is not
Andre Ward. Rodriguez is not ready just yet for someone of that caliber. But he
is certainly on the road to Ward. He seems to fit right in with what HBO is
building: rugged stars who blast people out of there. Boxing in general needs
more high-stakes gamblers who want to entertain at all costs. Puncher’s gloves,
explosive training, excellent game planning and savvy management, Edwin
Rodriguez is putting it all together. I’d like to see him extended to see the
limits this new training provides. He certainly earned a shot at something on
HBO. I’d love to see him fight Carl Froch, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. or Mikkel Kessler
even. All fun, action fights.
This Saturday’s heavyweight bout between Malik Scott and
Dereck Chisora is either going to be a sleeper hit or sleep inducer. Scott was
a sparring partner for Lennox Lewis’ last five fights. At age 32, he is that
great gym legend you always hear about, the guy who should be the best American
candidate at contention. Sure, he’s 6’4” with boxing skills, balance and a high
ring I.Q. but injuries, managerial issues and just plain bad luck put him on
the shelf for four years. After a three year absence, Scott returned in 2012
and has had four fights to warm up for this one.
The problem is that with 12 knockouts in 36 fights, he is
a pure boxer. And because of the all the sparring work, Scott has a tendency to
fight without urgency. On foreign soil, he’d better step it up a notch.
Chisora has had just one fight this year, this past
April’s ninth round TKO win over Hector Avila. It was a solid bit of work that
shook the rust off for sure; however, Chisora was 252 for that fight. He needs
to shake off more than rust. Chisora needs to be more “Del Boy” and less “Doughboy”
if he wants a chance to get inside and work his volume attack magic on Scott.
To help with that problem, Chisora, the Daily Mail’s Laura Whitwell reported, is
on a new diet courtesy of Soulmatefood, the same team that prepared meals for
the London Olympic boxers.
“One of Dereck’s problems has been his diet,” promoter
Frank Warren told Whitwell. “That’s been addressed in a big way.”
Great Britain had three gold medals, one silver, and a
bronze for what it’s worth.
Between the two, Chisora has the higher caliber
experience in a live firefight. While Scott has plenty of sparring experience
with every heavy you can think of, this is also Scott’s first time fighting
overseas. Those new conditions can throw anyone off, not to mention the home
canvas advantage for “Del Boy” Chisora. Scott’s a raw fighter with just 40
fights under his belt, amateur and pro. Despite his setback to David Haye,
there is a lot left in Chisora, who is only 29. Against Avila, he seemed to
have maintained his aggression. His conditioning was the problem.
That all said, this fight could be a replay of Lewis vs. David
Tua if we’re not careful. Scott likes to live on the jab if he can tame you
with it and Chisora loves to follow without using his jab. This could be a one-sided
slow dance to Snoozeville because both men tire as well. Here is hoping it’s
There’s a lot to be
excited about this summer. The gems aren’t that hidden. Mickey Bey vs. John
Molina is going to be a fun one that can change fortunes at any time. Someone
will get tested in Olusegun Ajose vs. Hank Lundy too. Both fights have serious
career ramifications and combatants who will fight like they realize it.
As we roll along this
summer, it’s important to note that not all sanctioned violence need come with meaningless
pomp and circumstance. Sometimes all we need is good matchmaking with some
career stakes on the line and fighters willing to let it all go to get what
they need. Here’s to a great summer.