This evening, at Verona’s Turning Stone Casino, a promising featherweight named Miguel Flores (20-0,9KO’s) will face against another prospect with some talent, “The Polish Prince” Ryan Kielczweski (25-1,7 KO’s), in the main event of Premier Boxing Champion’s latest card. Based on what I’ve seen of these two, this seems like a good, even match-up between two similarly talented boxers. Of equal importance, it’s got the potential to be fun to watch given their respective styles. Flores appears to be the superior technician, but Kielcweski seems to have the edge in terms of speed and mobility. Neither of them possesses world ending power, but they’ve both proved themselves to be willing to engage in the trenches when required, and capable of returning fire after getting tagged.
This article isn’t quite what I had intended to write earlier in the week.
Initially, I had wanted to write about last night’s clash for the WBC 130lb championship that pitted the undefeated title-holder Francisco “Bandido” Vargas and the grizzled, battle-hardened Orlando “Siri” Salido. It was a match-up between two Mexican fighters with some measure of skill and an abundance of will; and I knew that all hell would break loose the moment one of them managed to land a good punch. It carried the promise of excitement and intensity, and it elicited a sense of anticipation in me that I hadn’t felt about a boxing match in quite some time.
One of the best known quotes in A.J. Liebling’s immortal “The Sweet Science” concerned a tough, tricky welterweight contender from the 1950’s named Billy Graham, whom he famously described as being “as good a fighter as one possibly can be without being a hell of a fighter.”
These words have resonated with me ever since I first read them, for they serve as the perfect way to characterize those boxers who lack any one outstanding attribute yet are still capable of achieving success in the ring. For me, those are the fighters who are most compelling. It always intrigues me to watch fighters who rely upon their intangibles like grit, guile, and ring generalship to win fights; and it always captures my attention when these types of boxers are pitted against those who are talented enough to be considered “a hell of a fighter”.
The much anticipated, long overdue match-up between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao has featured multiple narratives during the course of its build-up, and has been explored from virtually every conceivable angle. But one recurring theme that stands out more than most is the idea that this is the fight that truly cements the legacy of two fighters. In the eyes of many observers, the victor will have established himself as not only the best fighter of his generation, but will have ascended to the pantheon of greatness occupied by only a few select individuals. On the other hand a defeat, depending on its nature, could harm the other fighter’s legacy beyond any hope of repair.
This past weekend, as boxing fans focused their attention yet again upon the question of whether Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao would finally meet inside the ring, former super middleweight champion Mikkel Kessler took to Facebook to address a question of a different sort. This question concerned Kessler’s future as a competitor, and within the space of a few short paragraphs, “The Viking Warrior” provided his answer:
“I have thought long and hard over the options, which have been made available, but none of these options are enough to get me motivated” stated Kessler. The Danish boxer then added “I am always in training, it is part of my life, but I consider myself in a state of retirement.”
As the final seconds of 2013 ticked away, our attention turned from whatever kind of celebratory beverage we held in our hand toward the topic of what might occur in the year to come. For fans of boxing, the future seemed uncertain; and those of a more pessimistic inclination probably felt they had good reason for viewing it as being rather bleak.
After all, at the start of 2014, the rift between promotional organizations and networks seemed as vast and impassible as it ever had at any point since it was first created. The number of appealing match-ups to look forward was rather limited, and the match-ups that had been bandied about (e.g. Floyd Mayweather-Amir Khan) did little to whet the boxing fan’s appetite. Given that context, it becomes easy to understand why some observers felt that the year would prove to be a disappointment.
Still, six months later, these fears have proved to be unfounded.
(Photo credit: Ed Mulholland/HBO) If you’re looking to witness a boxing match that’s defined by the differences that exist between the two combatants, then you’d be well served to watch the upcoming WBO Jr. Welterweight bout that’s scheduled to take place this evening between Ruslan Provodnikov and Chris Algieri. For, in terms of their background, as well as in terms of their fighting style, these two present about as stark a contrast as a boxing fan could ever hope to find.
The champion, Provodnikov (23-2, 16 KO’s) is a stocky, barrel-chested Siberian with facial features that appear to have been hewn from pure granite. He looks to be the very epitome of the term “battle-hardened warrior”, and in this case appearances aren’t the least bit deceiving.
Time and again, boxing fans have watched champions dispense with challengers in a manner that makes them wonder why these fighters were presented with the opportunity to challenge in the first place. Our natural impulse in that situation is to question the contender’s ability and accomplishments; and to declare that he wasn’t deserving of the chance he was given.
To be fair, that opinion is often justified. Let’s face it- we’ve all watched fighters receive a title shot simply because they were connected to the right people, or because they happened to be in the right place at the right time. We’ve all watched these types of fighters fail miserably in their attempt to dethrone a reigning title holder; and have their challenge quashed quickly and seemingly without much effort provided by the champion in question. We’ve watched this happen more than once, so it’s completely understandable for to be a bit cynical when it comes to rating the challenger’s worth as a fighter.