Combat Sparring Session🥊🥊: (Week of May 2nd)

By Tré Berry III & Jon Uddin🖊️🖊️ | 04/28/2021

This week, we speak about Emanuel Navarrete’s budding prospects as his fame continues to grow, Kenshiro Teraji after his latest victory, and Vasiliy Lomachenko’s return to face Masayoshi Nakatani.

We will also talk about Edgar Berlanga’s more realistic plight going forward, as well as this weeks action, with fighters like Andy Ruiz Jr., Katie Taylor, Moruti Mthalane, Joseph Parker and Dmitry Bivol getting back to action.



VAQUERO NAVA

THE EMANUEL NAVARRETE GRAND PUZZLE

JON UDDIN – Saturday night in Kissimmee, Florida, WBO Featherweight World Champion 🇲🇽Emanuel Navarrete was successful in the first defense of his new title, dropping a game 🇵🇷Christopher Diaz four times before stopping him the twelfth and final round.

Navarrete’s style in the ring continues to be a nightmare for his opposition. While he may start slow in the first few rounds, he continuously applies pressure and with his power carrying into the late rounds he delivers thudding shots that eventually break his man down.

As his style is a brutal one for his opponents to face, it may be just as tough for hardcore boxing purists to watch in action. His delivery is awkward and he often appears off balance enough to throw himself on the canvas (he did as much Saturday night). He appears to making it up as he goes along in the ring at times and to many watching ringside or at home, it looks as though the code to beating him should be easy to crack.

As always, easier said than done. I don’t think Navarrete is a guy that can simply be outboxed, he is hard to hurt and conditioned to go all twelve rounds, carrying his power while doing so. Someone will either have to get inside that long range of his and see if they can deliver enough damage to chip away at that solid chin, or can do what he does and do it better.

As the Featherweight division stands now I don’t see anyone who can figure out the first part of that formula, but the latter may be a dynamite fight between Emanuel Navarrete and either 🇨🇳Xu Can of China whose work rate is otherworldly, or 🇲🇽Rey Vargas whose long reach could prove difficult for Navarrete to navigate (although Vargas has no issue with making a fight slow and ugly). Many are quick to move Navarrete up to Super-Featherweight for a matchup against 🥈🇺🇸Shakur Stevenson, but before that happens I would love to see him face Xu Can or Rey Vargas.



TRÉ BERRY III – Navarrete for me might be the most unique World Titlist in all of boxing right now, in terms of approach, his type of skillset, and his dimensions.  The thing that throws people off is his immense reach, the one area in which he reminds me of Mexican ATG 👑🇲🇽Salvador Sanchez (just to make clear, no he is not Sanchez, but the reach factor applies).

How that throws opponents off is that typically someone with his style, is one that likes to work their way inside to inflict damage, but he is able to stand way outside, and pick away at you with long, lunging, awkwardly placed shots.  Conventional wisdom says to fight someone like that on the outside…but what do you do when you have someone with reach like that who operates at that distance to take your advantages away? it nullifies your ability to box him on the backfoot..unless you got the height and reach to match.

At 126, only someone like a 🇲🇽Ray Vargas can compare in that regard, which causes a headache for everybody else.  The way to beat Navarrete, you have to be able to step inside, use heavy lateral movement while doing so, and counterpunch with the right hand…now that approach is difficult as well because Navarrete seldom has a lull in the action, and has a way of punishing you if you stay in his kitchen for too long.

Fighters like 🇲🇽Mauricio Lara, and 🇨🇳Xu Can classify as modern day war machines in human form, who love to get in close, and engage at all costs, so could you imagine the type of high octane fights we would get with them getting a chance to mix it up with Navarrete? each would be instant Fight of the Year candidates – unless something fluky were to happen.

I’m down for a Rey Vargas fight too, and although Navarrete could easily fit in at Super-Featherweight, I want to see him do his part to help sort out the Featherweight division, as the rest of the lot will have to take him seriously.  I’m also beginning to see that Navarrete could be a highly marketable fighter after getting a gauge on what his niche is.

The proud Mexican cowboy, who dawns the hat, and the whole get-up, looking to go where the danger is…..if he keeps up his winning ways, I’m sure someone in power will begin to recognize the marketing potential that is under their noses.  There is certainly a market out there for him to explore.



EDGEBER

EDGAR BERLANGA’S JOURNEY UPWARD

JON UDDIN – Ding dong the streak is dead.

Rising Super-Middleweight 🇵🇷Edgar Berlanga had his streak of sixteen consecutive knockouts, all in the first round, brought to a halt Saturday night as 🇺🇸Demond Nicholson was not just able to make it out of the first round, but took the 23 year old Brooklyn native the whole scheduled eight.

Berlanga’s power was still on display in the fight as he put Nicholson on the canvas four times including at the end of the eighth round, comfortably winning on the cards 79-68 and 79-69 twice. Streak lost, experience gained. That is going to be the case going forward for Berlanga and more knockouts will come, first round or otherwise, but as he continues to climb the ladder the opposition will become more powerful themselves as well as more defensively sound, athletic and as durable as Berlanga is strong. But knockouts get eyes and the streak more than did its job for the Top Rank marketing and getting Berlanga on the radar.

Put on both your manager and trainer 🧢hat for a minute and tell me what fighters you would like to see as Berlanga’s next challenge and what aspects of his development do you want to see brought out from them?



TRÉ BERRY III – I personally feel that the knockouts, and knockout streak was a good thing, because it allowed a young, hungry, bluechip talent to get his name known, so from that perspective, it served its purpose.  Now that the streak has ended, the real prospect experience truly starts in my opinion, and the amount of rounds, and experience he can gain from better fighters, that can get a few rounds out of Edgar, will take him a long way in his maturation process.

What I seen on Saturday is a positive sign.  He confirmed my suspicion that he had solid boxing ability from mid-range, and what was showcased was a pretty solid jab, timing, and subtle footwork, which tells me that his backing as a contender is a legitimate one.  Certainly he has work to do in a couple of areas before he ascends to the next level, but such is the case with 98% of all prospects that come into discussion.

The experience factor should be his goal going forward, so who would I like to see him fight? 🇺🇸Jesse Hart called him out, and Hart, much like his father 🇺🇸Eugene is a quality Philly fighter, who surely can pass off a bit of wisdom to the young lion, as he displays a pretty sound, cagey skillset.

If Berlanga’s people are really confident in his capabilities, and where he is in the maturation process, maybe they can match him up with someone like 🇺🇸Gabriel Rosado, who is probably in his sharpest form right now.  Gabe does have a bout scheduled with top prospect 🥈🇺🇿Bektimir Melikuziev for June 19th, so Edgar wouldn’t know whether he were to face him after a win, or a loss, but when it comes to Rosado, losses never throw him off his game, so he can provide Edgar a test.



yeoy

KEN SHIRO’S MARKETING POTENTIAL

JON UDDIN – After 16 months out of the ring, partially due to a suspension, WBC Junior-Flyweight Champion 🇯🇵Kenshiro Teraji made his return in dominant fashion defeating veteran 🇯🇵Tetsuya Hisada by scores of 118-109 twice and 119-108 on the third card.

The win wasn’t a surprise as Teraji is arguably the top fighter at Junior-Flyweight, the other fighter that will stake claim to that is 👑🇯🇵Hiroto Kyoguchi who holds the RING/WBA titles. While that would be a great fight, nothing seems to be moving in the direction of that matchup taking place any time soon (I don’t have any specifics on why but those in the know have said as much). As boxing fans we have grown tired although accustomed to fights we want and should get not coming to fruition, but rarely do we have to deal with that in the smaller divisions.

Last month we saw Kyoguchi featured on the undercard to the blockbuster rematch between Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman Gonzalez and it is getting my hopes up that we will see more of the little guys from Japan make it to the states and get eyes on them. However with all of the streaming avenues we have at our disposal none of them, ESPN+, DAZN, or FITE picked up the Ken Shiro card, and not making a fight with Kyoguchi won’t help the divisions cause. Do you think Naoya Inoue and Ryota Murata can change the trajectory of the marketing of Japanese fights in the U.S.?



TRÉ BERRY III – I’ll say in the cases of Naoya Inoue, and Ryota Murata, they broke through due to sheer entertainment value whenever they’re in-ring, which is as big a proponent as anything else when factoring in everything to the equation.  I feel that both of their emergences opened the eyes of wider cast of fans worldwide, to pay more attention to Japanese boxers, who have something big brewing from their region.

Now when thinking about Ken Shiro, yeah he is that good…and to specify how good he is, he ranks as my #4, or #5 current fighter from Japan, yet he ranks somewhere within my Top 20 Pound-for-Pound, which says it all about the talent that is flourishing from Japan.  Now the marketability aspect, there isn’t anything particularly entertaining about his style, so the importance of an opponent with an exciting approach becomes paramount when trying to market him.

Kenshiro did show up on an Inoue undercard when he faced, and blasted out former Titlist 🇵🇭Milan Melindo, which was great to see, and in knowing that a good deal of people got to see his talent in full display…but I believe it was because he was fighting Melindo, who was a well known fighter in terms of lower weight divisions, that the fight got picked up in the first place.

In my opinion, Matchroom/DAZN’s 🕴🏻Eddie Hearn has done an excellent job of going after top boxers void of exposure, and signing their potential rivals, to make the fights, or to make the potential of their match-ups a much more realistic possibility.  Eddie recently signed Light-Flyweight Champion of the World 👑🇯🇵Hiroto Kyoguchi, so hopefully Eddie can go that route again, getting some type of cross-promotional deal done with Teraji, so that the Light-Flyweight division can be properly mass marketed, and we can get that fight.



LOMA VS NAKATANI

VASYL LOMACHENKO FINDS HIS OPPONENT

JON UDDIN – It’s been announced that on June 26th former three division Champion 🥇🥇🇺🇦Vasiliy Lomachenko will make his return to the ring. This will be Lomachenko’s first fight since his loss to 👑🇺🇸Teofimo Lopez last October, and he will be taking on 🇯🇵Masayoshi Nakatani who suffered his lone defeat at the hands of Lopez as well.

In his loss to Lopez, Nakatani found victory in defeat as he gave Lopez the toughest test of his career at that point and followed that up by stopping Felix Verdejo after being out-boxed throughout the fight. While not holding a flashy boxing skillset, Nakatani brings a strong chin and incredible grit that makes him a tough out for anyone he shares the ring with. That grit combined with a considerable size and reach advantage is likely why its been reported that Lomachenko specifically sought Nakatani as his bounce back opponent, even after a loss anyone that has followed Loma’s career knew he wouldn’t come back to a “soft touch” tune up bout.

The fight announcement gave boxing fans the opportunity they love to play both matchmaker and sports psychologist. While some will say the fight is perfect for his return, others will be dismissive of Nakatani offering any real challenge. Along with that, many will be looking for any glitch in the performance, ready to attribute it to Teofimo “exposing” Lomachenko, weakening his mentality.

How do you feel about the choice in Nakatani as Loma’s return opponent and what will you be looking for in the matchup?



TRÉ BERRY III – The thing that has been evident, and admirable about Lomachenko’s career, is that he never truly takes any soft touches (the worst fighter he’s probably fought is 🇲🇽Romulo Koasicha, and he was a well ranked, solid fighter).  On that note, it is no surprise that he was willing to throw himself back in the frey against a budding Lightweight contender, coming off of the pinnacle performance of his career.

We can also take a look back to the 🇲🇽Orlando Salido fight in Loma’s second outing to continue that point, and to also tie in the psyche portion of your question.  Given the egregious foul fest from Salido aided by an incompetent Referee, and Salido being 2 lbs. overweight at the weigh-in, coming into the fight at an absurd ⚖️147 lbs., Lomachenko was severely shorted in the fairness department, and due to Laurence Cole, many lowblows that were uncalled, was factored in by the judges as legal body blows (something I’ve never really seen anybody bring up regarding this bout), which contributed to them scoring the fight a split decision victory for Orlando Salido.

Right there, you would expect that being in that predicament would send someone like Lomachenko in a tailspin, feeling shafted out of a fair deal, and that with an official 1-1 record, that he would scale it back in terms of competition for his next bout.  What did he do next? he internalized what happened, and immediately went after (at the time) young, unbeaten super talent 🇺🇸Gary Russell Jr., and dominated.  Though the Salido fiasco became a large portion of the overall story, when you look at his performance against Russell, Vasiliy almost made you forget what happened due to putting forth a stellar performance in his next outing.

Now I say all of this to relate to my next point.  What plays in Loma’s head after his fight against Teofimo was in going against his fathers wishes to delay the fight due to an ongoing shoulder problem, that hampered his ability to train, and be in optimal form inside of the ring, as his best punch, the right hook was nonexistant due to the injury, only throwing 25 of them throughout twelve rounds of action, throwing only 13 in the first 10 rounds of the fight.

On top of that, Lomachenko believes that he didn’t lose the fight (with transparency, he scored the fight a 114-114 draw, as did I), so those two factors could normally play on any fighters psyche.  The one thing I look at, relating back to Gary Russell, is that Nakatani wasn’t his first choice as a comeback opponent.  He immediately set his sights on undefeated Lightweight phenom 🇺🇸Devin Haney – A bit of a deja vu moment, as Loma was once again willing to throw himself back in the fire, which indicates that he still maintains the right frame of mind, and it also supports the first point I made with him always willing to step out, and fight strong comp.

I have no worries in that area whatsoever.  What I am paying close attention to is the health of his right shoulder.  Since the 🇻🇪Jorge Linares fight, Lomachenko’s body is starting to break down, and while his skills are not on the decline, he has fought most of his fights at Lightweight with an injury, or with the effects of an injury, so his physical prowess may be breaking down after 418 fights, amateur, semi-pro, and pro.

Lomachenko had the exact same injury that occurred in the Linares fight, and though he beat 🇵🇷Jose Pedraza, the right hook was non-existent there, so couldn’t put together his normal peak performance.  I’m expecting the same to happen in the Nakatani fight, hesitation to use his best punch, unless there’s a moment where he can finish the fight with it.

Lomachenko tends to risk it all, injury included when there’s an opportunity for the stoppage, like when he finally started throwing the right hook in the 11th against Pedraza, and late against Teo when he needed a strong finish.  Nakatani is a tall, lanky, awkward Lightweight, and Loma really being a true Super-Featherweight, struggles a little bit with length, so that will be interesting to see.

Though Loma isn’t new to fighting rangier, taller fighters, I am interested to see how he attacks, and shifts on the inside against a tough Nakatani, who is willing to take a couple, in order to dish it back.  All in all, I expect a fun battle.





THIS WEEKS MATCHES

RUIZ VS ARREOLA

ANDY RUIZ  VS.  CHRIS ARREOLA

JON UDDIN – While I don’t feel this fight is PPV worthy it definitely has the makings of an entertaining bout for however long it goes. In Ruiz 1st fight under Reynoso’s camp, he should/better be able to get a TKO by mid rounds, up until then it is the perfect fight to watch with a 12 pack of Tecate.



TRÉ BERRY III – I’m expecting a 5th, or 6th round knockout for Ruiz over Arreola – however that comes.  More than anything, it’s two Heavyweights with entertaining styles, so we should be getting guaranteed Combat.  More than anything, I just want to see the transformation of the revamped Ruiz under Reynoso’s tutelage.  If there’s any Trainer in boxing that I’d put all my trust in when it comes to the current spectrum, it has to be 🥋Eddy Reynoso.

Now from a broad perspective, the PPV tag attached to this fight is laughable, and I’ve joined in on those laughs, as it doesn’t make sense to us, but I’ve been giving it a second think-over.  While this isn’t a big spectacle for US, this is a HUGE fight for the East L.A. contingent, being that that’s where they’re from.  The overwhelming amount of prideful Mexican-American backing that comes out of the region for both is enormous, and getting them to plan get-togethers, crack a few 🍺brews in front of the TV while talking smack to their company, maybe there’s enough of those fans in Los Angeles alone to carry the weight of the Pay-Per-View? if so, a ballsy executive move by those in power might actually work.



BIVOL VS RICHARDS

DMITRY BIVOL  VS.  CRAIG RICHARDS

JON UDDIN – WBA Light-Heavyweight Champ Bivol is finally back in action and hopefully we get some action in this fight. The highly skilled Bivol has clearly fell into the “too good for his own good bracket” but turning the heat up and displaying some killer instinct while getting Richards out of there could help generate some much needed and deserved buzz.



TRÉ BERRY III – Buzz is something Bivol is deserving of…but I can also say Bivol and buzz are hard to put in the same sentence.  The reason why that is…is because Bivol’s the ultimate 🚧worker, who clocks in, works hard, makes no noise, doesn’t say much, clocks out, and goes home.  As good as he is, you won’t hear a peep from him before he wow’s you with his skills inside of the ring, then when he gets out of the ring, it is difficult to find him.

He doesn’t really have to alter his approach, because it is who he really is.  He can simply let the cameras, and fame follow around fellow Light-Heavyweight Titlists 🇷🇺Artur Beterbiev, and 🇺🇸Joe Smith Jr..  When the time comes for all the belts to come together, neither of these 3 commit to playing games, and are serious customers about their legacies, which means they don’t have to oversell themselves to make the fight.



MTHALANE VS EDWARDS HALF

MORUTI MTHALANE  VS.  SUNNY EDWARDS

JON UDDIN – They don’t come more consistent than Mthalane. The South African 🔴IBF World Flyweight Champ hasn’t lost a fight in over twelve years and will be looking to hold off a young hungry challenger in the undefeated Sunny Edwards. Fun fact, Edwards was four years of age when Mthalane turned pro in 2000.



TRÉ BERRY III – (Laughs) that’s one hell of a tidbit right there.  Mthalane is an easy going guy, if that was brought to his attention that Sunny was 4 when he turned pro, Moruti would cringe, and probably chuckle.  That young boy grew up to be a talented fighter, so Mthalane is aware enough to know what he’s dealing with, but he is the last person I worry about in boxing, because with Moruti – What you see, is what you will always get, and history proves that notion.



CHISORA VS PARKER

DERECK CHISORA  VS.  JOSEPH PARKER

JON UDDIN – I really don’t know what to make of this one. Honestly feels like Joseph Parker is on the longest journey back to world title contention following his back to back losses to 🥇🇬🇧Anthony Joshua and 🇬🇧Dillian Whyte in 2018. While Chisora may bring more to the table at this point in his career, it feels like he is to Parker what Arreola is to Ruiz in their fight.



TRÉ BERRY III – I do agree that Joseph Parker’s ascension back to getting another title shot seems endless, but the same narrative can be applied to most Heavyweights, especially right now as we keep getting teased of a Joshua vs. Fury Undisputed showdown.  What I don’t agree with is Chisora being to Parker what Arreola will be to Ruiz.

I happen to believe that while Parker is the better fighter, that there isn’t that much separation between the two when it comes to ability, and both like to stand and fight, so anything could happen there once the bell rings – whereas Arreola in his fight, I have fears for his health due to the pending domination that is coming his way.



KAY KAY

KATIE TAYLOR  VS.  NATASHA JONAS

JON UDDIN – While we won’t get the same build up for this fight (verbal or otherwise) that we got from Shannon Courtenay and Ebanie Bridges I’m hopeful we get the same level of action or more. Katie likes to fight and when she has a willing dance partner, which I think Jonas can be, it can turn into a fun ten rounds even if Taylor is a class above.



TRÉ BERRY III – I believe this fight is one that will steal the spotlight of the card.  Both Taylor, and Jonas are prideful women who love a good scrap, and when all the belts are on the line, it gets a little something extra out of the combatants, which is an unspoken plus of Undisputed bouts.

I feel that Katie is so technically brilliant, that the percentage of beating her in that manner is almost non-existent.  The word “impossible” should be abolished from the dictionary, so for that, I would pick the next closest adjective to say that the percentage is extremely low to beat Katie in technical fashion.  You have to fight her, and try to rough her up…n even that is a tall task.  I’m sure that’s what Jonas will try to do that.  I’m just not sure she has an awkward enough style (for reference, think 🇧🇪Delfine Persoon) to get around what Taylor can do, but all in all, I expect a good fight.




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