By Tré Berry & Jon Uddin | 03/25/2021
Last Saturday, we seen the return of Artur Beterbiev after a 17 month hiatus filled with delays pertaining to health. We also seen the Cruiserweight division undergo an intriguing shift, as Lawrence Okolie finally lived up to his potential, doing so on the big stage.
Project combat authors Jon Uddin & Tré Berry will converse in-depth on those fighters, and we will also touch up on Vergil Ortiz stepping up, rising in the big moment, and we will also address the growing disappointment with Terence Crawford, and his constantly shifting mindset, as well as his criticism of Canelo Alvarez ducking black fighters.
THE MACHINE PUTS OIL ON THE GEARS, AS BETERBIEV MADE HIS RETURN TO RING
TRE BERRY III – To be frank, given all the delays that took place with Unified WBC/IBF World Light-Heavyweight Champion 🇷🇺Artur Beterbiev, I expected during the week of the fight for something else to pop up to once again kill those plans, but I was pleased to see him actually get to the ring this time, perhaps as thrilled as Russian fans were to see their prodigal son coming back home to fight on home soil for the first time since turning professional.
Like the majority of Eastern European/Russian talent, they have extensive amateur pedigrees (they are currently in a Golden-Age in that regard), and most of them decide to turn professional at advanced ages, with the intent to accelerate their journey towards getting to the big fights before they age.
Beterbiev is no different, as he entered the professional ranks at the age of 27. The now-36 year old sits in an interesting position. Do you think he will further expedite the process in possible back-to-back-to-back fights such as 🇺🇸Joe Smith (possibly for the WBO belt), 🇰🇬🇷🇺Dmitry Bivol (for the WBA Title & Undisputed moniker) and even a 🇲🇽Canelo Alvarez (legacy) match-up to cap the career, and what would the impact be?
JON UDDIN – Like you I was relieved to see Beterbiev finally get this fight out of the way as he cannot afford anymore setbacks in his career whether they be due to physical injury or promotional roadblocks.
I’m fairly confident, yet still cautiously optimistic, that he will go full speed ahead with his next big challenges in the division which hopefully begins with a fight that is sure to provide guaranteed fireworks with promotional stablemate Joe Smith Jr. (assuming he takes care of business in his own next fight against 🇷🇺Maxim Vlasov of course) and should Beterbiev get by the explosive Long Islander, face off with Bivol, who has run into numerous roadblocks that have stalled his career as well, in a mouthwatering clash for boxing fans, not just in Russia, but worldwide.
A Canelo matchup is more complicated. First of all, Beterbiev will only get his crack at Canelo if he clears the two challenges previously stated. On top of that, Canelo has already made it clear that he intends to collect all the hardware at the Super-Middleweight division, and even if that’s done in a years time, he will always have more challengers in the wings to choose from. Plainly stated, Beterbiev will have to wait and see what Canelo wants to do for that one to happen, but if his fights with Smith and Bivol turn into blockbuster wins it will increase the probability.
OKOLIE’S TURNAROUND, REALIZING HIS TALENT AND PROSPECTS GOING FORWARD
TRE BERRY III – There was a time personally when I looked at now-world titlist 🇬🇧Lawrence Okolie, and didn’t see the natural talent turning to skill, or him being warranted for the hype at the time. In recent times, he made changes in his camp, as well as in himself, and is now basking in the fruits of his labor, in the pinnacle moment of his career.
Given the result, winning the WBO Cruiserweight belt under new Head-Trainer 🥋Shane McGuigan (who is unequivocally the main reason towards him reaching a new level), grade Okolie’s performance getting past battle-tested 🇵🇱Krzysztof Glowacki, and what may his future look like going from here?
JON UDDIN – That was a flat out A+ performance by Okolie with his sixth round knockout over Glowacki. Glowacki has is a rugged vet that has been in with some of the best the Cruiserweight division has had to offer, only falling to current RING/IBF Champion 🇱🇻Mairis Briedis, and former Undisputed Champion 🥇🇺🇦Oleksandr Usyk before last Saturdays loss to Okolie.
It wasn’t hard to predict that Mcguigan would have a game plan centered on Okolie using his length and jab heading into the fight, but to watch Okolie execute to perfection was quite impressive. Glowacki was left flustered, finding no openings to attack which has been rare in his career with his awkward and rugged approach in the ring. Yes we have to be fair and state that Glowacki himself hadn’t been in the ring since his 2019 loss to Briedis, but I won’t deduct anything from Okolie’s performance for that. He showed how effective he can be using his jab and physical gifts which will be something for any of the current fighters in the division to reckon with.
While fights with the likes of Briedis and Dorticos won’t happen next, there are solid tests to continue his development against the likes of Poland’s Michal Cieslak and Russia’s Yury Kashinsky. If Okolie can get either of those fights, or anything linear and win, he can close out 2021 with a unification against one of the other alphabet titlists.
VERGE ON THE VERGE OF SUPERSTARDOM, STEPS TO TAKE NEXT ON THE JOURNEY
TRE BERRY III – It’s scary to think that a budding prospect like 🇺🇸Vergil Ortiz Jr., is already a contender in the crowded Welterweight division at only 22 years old. When analyzing the repertoire, he nearly has the full package, as he has the demeanor of a 40-year old , natural talent, an abundance of already developed all-around skills, and the work ethic.
He never gets too high or too low on himself, and has the cold calculated killer demeanor that I noted immediately when I first seen young 🇵🇷Miguel Cotto leave his imprint on the way up in the ranks. Given Vergil’s skills, demeanor, pursuit, and growing popularity, what path would you have him take towards an eventual title shot against one of the big dogs?
JON UDDIN – I think the path he has been on is the perfect one. Facing and handling Hooker was a great gauge for where he is at and where he can go.
I think Ortiz should continue to let it be known he wants the big dogs in the division, I don’t subscribe to the “he isn’t ready yet” train of thought. Fans want old school mentality back in boxing but when it’s presented many of them shoot it down. Jermaine Taylor wanted B-Hop and B-hop obliged, as did Holyfield with Bowe and most recently Teofimo Lopez defeated Vasiliy Lomachenko. (Hopkins vs. Taylor 1 pictured)
So, until he gets Bud or Spence he should continue sharpening his skills with that tier just below whether that be 🇺🇸Shawn Porter, 🇺🇸Regis Prograis, 🇱🇹Mean Machine, 🇨🇺Ugas etc. If he still hasn’t managed to get a crack at a belt between Crawford or Spence, then a fight with 🇺🇸Mikey Garcia should be considered because that’s a huge fight in the Lone Star state, if he wins he’s big time, if he loses he doesn’t do so without getting better. Outside the box, a matchup with Jaron Ennis is enticing for hardcore fans but that’s a fight that won’t be made without belts on the line.
THE DISAPPOINTING REVELATIONS OF BUD CRAWFORD FULLY COMING TO LIGHT
TRE BERRY III – Me personally, when I look at whose to blame for 🇺🇸Terence Crawford, and 🇺🇸Errol Spence Jr. still not fighting yet…..I blame everybody, and that goes for the fighters, Promoters engaging in unnecessary squabble, and major networks failing to create an insurmountable level of pressure to make the fighters feel incomplete without the fight happening…and to all those parties, they have different percentage blame when it comes to this failed equation.
Now after hearing Crawford answer a few questions during the 🇺🇸Vergil Ortiz Jr. vs 🇺🇸Mo Hooker fight, pertaining to a possible clash with the young seasoned phenom Ortiz, and him rendering the Spence fight dead, his percentage in the blame surely has to go up, as new questions have to be asked about him, as he is coming off as someone playing games.
The Spence fight (by his word) is dead in the water, and he states that Ortiz has to work himself up towards getting a fight with him – you have the PBC/Top-Rank ⛓️gridlock that makes it very difficult for him to cross the street…yet his friend Shawn Porter has extended an olive branch to cross the street and fight Bud, but nothing is materializing at all.
Focusing on Ortiz for a minute, Crawford claims he’s “onto bigger and better things”…but considering how good Ortiz is already, he should be open to fighting him, but the more pressing matter is…who can he fight next to justify that claim? the only names that come to mind are 🇵🇭Manny Pacquiao, and fighters outside of Welterweight – and someone as open as Pacman is, Bud still hasn’t been able to secure a contract.
I hate to say this, but many of the traits that turned people off about 🥉🇺🇸Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the second half of his career, is starting to either seep into Crawford, or is beginning to get revealed, and it makes many worry about Crawford’s role in the health of the sport at this juncture, despite how great a fighter he is. I’d like you to share your thoughts on the Bud conundrum, and what can he do to save face right now?
JON UDDIN – I like that you used the term “save face” when it comes to this situation with Crawford. At this point I believe Crawford is very calculated if not deliberate in the current moves he is making and “saving face” is not a concern of his as he seems to have moved to an almost bitter F-k ’em attitude about it all, justification to fans be damned. I’ll add that in the current social media/youtube boxing climate it’s much easier for fighters to do this because fans play sides, so even when a fighter takes what’s viewed as a bad move for the sport, they will always have an army ready to defend them.
I don’t know if things were said between the two camps that broke Crawford’s desire to make this fight, or if he continues to be disgruntled about Pacquiao never coming to fruition and he is telling Bob Arum if this doesn’t happen, that doesn’t happen, but he has definitely locked into his position more than ever. To be honest with you I don’t see him moving off of his position when it comes to Spence or Ortiz so the best we can hope for at this point is him fighting the winner of the upcoming fight between 🇺🇸Jose Ramirez and 🏴Josh Taylor, but let’s be realistic of that low likelihood as well.
A QUESTION FROM THE “COMBAT FAMILY” (OUR READERS AT COMBAT PROJECT)
IN ADDRESSING TERENCE CRAWFORD’S QUOTE DIRECTED TO CANELO ALVAREZ
STAN PERRYMAN – Here is a quote from Terence Crawford “He (Canelo) shied away from 🇺🇸Jermall Charlo and 🇺🇸Demetrius Andrade for a long time. When you look at Canelo’s career, it’s like he’s shied away from the black fighters. I think the black fighters give him the most problems.” . As boxing fans do you feel there is any credence to Buds referencing race in his criticism of 🇲🇽Canelo Alvarez resume?
TRE BERRY III – First and foremost, Bud being the one to say that should further raise eyebrows, as he may be the wrong messenger for the topic of ducking at this present time. Now just because someone doesn’t quality as a good messenger, doesn’t render their words to be false, or even misleading.
There may be some semblance of credence to the statement, being that Canelo didn’t fight Andrade or Charlo (yet)…but on the flip side, he did fight 🥉🇺🇸Floyd Mayweather Jr., 🇺🇸Daniel Jacobs…..and 🇺🇸Austin Trout, who tends to get lost in the mix due to his transition into a journey-man, but once upon a time, he was a top Super-Welterweight, and who Canelo had to beat to win the divisions RING World Title – So can people really say that about Canelo? I suppose we will have to take a deeper look into this quote to get context on the claim.
Looking at the case of Demetrius Andrade, at some point, someone will have to fight him. In his case, I can’t sit here and put that 🏷️tag on Canelo, because NOBODY else is fighting him at the top, regardless of race and region – (all due respect to 🇬🇧Liam Williams who is getting his shot). Now, to take a deeper look at Andrade, WHY is he so avoided? he’s good sure, though he may not be on the level of the true elites that are harboring at, or have been at the weight in recent times.
Andrade classifies as high risk/very low reward, because of all top-fighters in the sport right now, he may have the least backing of supporters, and doesn’t bring any 💵real money to the table (comparatively speaking to other boxers), and he seems to be someone that is pegged to be a last resort option after the rest of the division fights each other, establishing a pecking order, and an alpha-dog standing atop the ranks.
So that leaves us with big brother Charlo. I’m going to flat out say yeah, that Canelo should have fought him, or should fight him soon. Now with that being said, at this point, Canelo only cares about going after the belts to claim Undisputed at his new ⚖️settle-in weight, and it looks like he’ll never go back to 160, so I feel like if that happens, it’ll have to be at 168 lbs.
Late great Trainer 🥋Naazim Richardson stated before his passing, something that I vehemently felt, and agreed with. He said that both Charlo brothers are preposterously strong, and have the physiques that can carry them through the weights, and when I see both of them “especially now”, they could fight right now at a weight higher than where they harbor at now, and their power will still remain dangerous…that means 🇺🇸Jermell Charlo at Middleweight, and Mall at 168.
Now with that being said, I could easily see Jermall chasing Canelo to Super-Middleweight. If things go well for him, he can put himself on the radar there, and go for the big fight, and if Canelo STILL doesn’t want to fight him, then at that point in time, it can be looked at as a clear ducking situation authored up by the redhead in the overall equation.
So here you have the 🔎5 clear candidates of black elite boxers that harbored at the weights Canelo fought at, that could make, or break the claim put out there by Terence Crawford. Out of those 5, Canelo did fight 3 of them while they were in their prime. The 4th one Andrade has been avoided…but was it due to the fear of losing or the lack of revenue a prizefighter is allowed to gauge when assessing opponents? The answer could be both, but to me, it’s clearly the money aspect (he fought Jacobs, and he isn’t a big draw himself as a comparison).
The 5th example, yeah Canelo has to fight Charlo. With his budding fanbase, rangy skillset, having the gift of gab to sell the big fight, it should happen…the question will just come down to – which weight would it be at, and when❓ if Canelo decides to finally allow the fight to happen.
In conclusion to those thoughts, of the 5 fighters in question, 3 he has fought, and a 4th one (Andrade), there’s justifiable reason why that bout hasn’t happened, so that leaves only Charlo in my personal opinion that has been outright ducked for what he beings to the table…thus rendering Terence Crawford’s statement as a baseless one in my eyes.
I focused on top-ranking fighters to make my case because there is an assumption on Crawford’s part that some fear is in the equation cast throughout. As far as there being a biased motive, I will point out that Alvarez has also fought aged vet 🇺🇸Shane Mosley, 🇺🇸James Kirkland, and 🇿🇦Lovemore Ndou, so 6 out of 8 black fighters fought since approaching the title realm, there is no bias towards black boxers to speak of.
Something to point out, Canelo will always face multiple lanes of criticism simply because he drove it on himself during his coming up. It doesn’t mean that those same criticisms exists, but whether it was former Promoter 🕴🏼🇺🇸Oscar De La Hoya’s shady business dealings, and Canelo’s willingness to go thru with it, certain things may never sit well with people when it comes to Alvarez, so although he’s coming up out of that, he has to cover all bases before these criticisms end at full stop.