Left-Hook Lounge Mailbag: Vivek Wallace Speaks on Stevens vs GGG, Canelo’s Weight (Reason for Concern?), & Zab Judah!

stevens22Mark C. (Hollywood, FL): Looks like Curtis Stevens has talked his way into a showdown with GGG. I like Steven’s power and his heart. Do you think he can pull off the upset?

Vivek W.: When you have two heavy punchers like this, anything is possible. But I wouldn’t advise anyone to drop any ducats in the bucket! Sometimes in life we have to be careful what we wish for! I won’t go out on a limb and say, unequivocally, that Stevens loses. But when you examine things a bit closer, I really don’t know that his chances are as great as he may think. I love his confidence, and I think you have to respect a young lion in the sport who feels strong enough about his talent to not only call out the biggest star in his realm, but actually go forward with the plans to take him out. That being said, GGG has been in beast mode lately, and there’s really nothing major for Stevens to get out of this fight.

While GGG is the ‘buzz’ fighter right now getting strong attention in the middleweight division, a fight against him isn’t gonna get Stevens a huge payday. Perhaps a very decent one, but not one strong enough to justify the legitimate risk he’s taking that could see him end the fight on his back. If he does in fact get stopped by GGG…..lets say by early stoppage…..what does that do for his career or chances at another big payday any time soon? In defense of Stevens, he did do pretty decent against a man far more talented than anyone on GGG’s resume (Andre Dirrell). But the flip side of that is that he took an “L” to the likes of Jesse Brinkley after nearly shutting his eye as early as the first round and subsequently failed to put him away.

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The fact that he lost that bout, yet did decent against a very good fighter in Andre Dirrell displays the biggest problem that lies within Curtis Stevens. Consistency. GGG has a very durable chin and won’t be easily shaken. How does Stevens handle a man with the chin to outlast him, a work rate to outwork him, and the power to up end him? That’s what Stevens will have to be prepared for. There seems to be a lot of buzz surrounding him after he stopped Saul Roman, but lets keep in mind, this is a guy who’s KO ratio stands at a pretty marginal 64%. The only real game changer in the hand of cards he has available to play will be whether or not GGG alters his typical ‘stalk-til-they-can’t-walk’ style to avoid getting clipped himself. If GGG fights timid to prevent getting touched up, all bets are off!

I really think that’s the only chance Stevens has. A slightly altered, less aggressive gameplan from GGG. I think it’s safe to say GGG has enough heart to enter the ring with his vintage stalker swag. But it’ll be on Stevens to land something wicked early and often to remind him that for once, he’s in the ring with a guy who can crack like he can. Anything less fails the test! As GGG will walk him down as the fight public sits in front of their flat-screen ready to yell “timber”! As another one will certainly bite the dust! Stevens has to seize this moment early. If he manages to, his future in the sport will suddenly change in one night! He now has the stage he craved. But can he stomach the dish which now sits before him? All I have to say is “I hope he’s truly hungry”! The table is set!

Andrei S. (Miami Lakes, FL): Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez tipped the scale last week at 166.8lbs for his 30day weigh-in for the Mayweather fight. That’s actually heavier than he was at the same stage for the Trout fight. With 14lbs left to lose and his skin already appearing a little flush, do you think there’s a weight concern with over-training?

Vivek W.: I find it pretty funny that him being 3 ounces heavier than he was at the same stage of a different fight is even being discussed. People are making noise about this like it’s a 10lb differential. We’re talking 3 ounces, here. If I’m gonna bring anything into play using the #3, it’ll be the fact that for the second fight in a row, he’s 3lbs below the 30 day limit of 169lbs imposed at this stage. I find it laughable that it’s even being discussed. The last time around (against Trout) he had the identical amount of pounds to lose and the identical amount of time to lose it. In the end he showed up fight night and actually looked damn good!

To answer your question directly, NO! I don’t think we need to raise a red flag, as he has proven that he can perform under these circumstances. That being said, although he has performed well under these terms, we have typically seen him slow down a bit late in fights. Would I drop a “red flag”? NO! Is there grounds to drop a yellow one? Absolutely. Keeping in mind that Yellow is the official color indicating that one needs to “proceed with caution”. In the NFL, a Yellow flag also symbolizes a penalty that requires one to take a few steps back before trying to proceed forward at all. Let me lay that point out a little more clearly:

When we look at a guy like Shane Mosley, Shane started his career at lightweight. He stayed there for the first 32 fights, – 6 years of his career – until he was the age of 27. Taking time to physically grow into that frame, he moved up in weight to the welterweight division. After moving to the welterweight division, he stayed there for 4 years, and after adjusting physically, he went up in weight again to the jr. middleweight division. So that’s 6 years as a lightweight, and 4 years a welterweight, before making a jump to jr. middleweight. Compare that to Saul Alvarez, who at the age 23 has already taken that jump, and has far exceeded the consistent walk around weight of Shane Mosley, who’s actually a bigger guy by an inch and a half. This all by the tender age of 23. The prime of his physical career.

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This isn’t anything groundbreaking, as everyone has a different body frame. But it is pretty telling that at 23 he’s already walking around three weight classes above his current. Many fighters do it, but it’s never a good sign, as several who do happen to deal with the same stamina related issues late in fights. To the contrast, think about the work rate much smaller fighters have. Pales in comparison. An intriguing element to this reality is that prior to becoming a jr. middleweight, (where his biggest paydays began), Alvarez was rarely seen above roughly 160lbs between fights. He was simply a smaller guy, with several photos out there to prove.

This is the quickest indicator of a fighter dealing with the “silk pajama” syndrome – where the money starts to roll in and they become so comfortable, they reduce the typical dedication that gets them where they currently are. When you analyze some of the earlier fights in his career he was far less winded late in the bouts. Now, there are points where you can see him laboring late, and I bring this up because it proves that this isn’t a guy naturally growing into new weight classes. This is a guy eating himself into new weight classes, as the heavier weight didn’t start until after the jump in weight divisions, which is where the bigger money began and a form of complacency along with it!

As I said previously, he has managed to perform well against everyone in the past. But Mayweather is a different level. Considering that Canelo has hired a nutritionist, and started his camp earlier than he typically would, it does make me curious about the fact that his weight isn’t slightly lower at this stage. An old adage has it that “if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got”. There lies the irony. What he has always gotten (in the past) were victories, despite the fatigue. But against someone like Mayweather, it’s that very fatigue that could cost him the victory. Looking at that big picture, I think the best way to answer your question is to say it’s a matter of “NO” means “KNOW”!

I say that in the sense that against everyone else, he hasn’t had a reason for concern with his weight and conditioning, so the answer would be “NO”! But against the likes of Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather, where one mistake can be fatal, we simply don’t KNOW! Although there’s 44 other men around the sport who learned the hard way as they quickly found out! Stay tuned…..

Matt N. (Columbia, SC): I read the other day that Goldenboy Promotions has started the groundwork to sign Zab Judah. I know you’ve always called Zab a “cat with 9-lives”, but hasn’t he loss them all at this point?

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Vivek W.: I have to be openly honest in saying that it did baffle me at first when I saw this headline. That was the gut feeling on the surface. But at 10,000 feet, looking at the bigger picture, I don’t have a problem with it, and I don’t think you should either. These guys are prize fighters. Not pride fighters! This is how he supports his family. How many players in the NFL and NBA have we seen who look horrible in comparison to some of their younger contemporaries, yet there’s just something about them that keeps them in the sport?

If Tim Tebow still has a job doing what he loves, why can’t Zab Judah? He may not be considered elite any more, but he comes to play ball, and he comes to win. Everyone speaks about how he folds under pressure, but I always point to the fact that you have to respect him for constantly seeking the type of pressure that can make him fold. When has Judah ever turned down an opponent? No matter who it was or how feared they may be, the guy signs the dotted line, he puts in the gym work, and he shows up with his hard hat, ready to do damage; even when most of the damage is done to him (in the end). He just keeps coming back!

I would agree that he probably has run out of those 9 lives by now, so lets evolve with him! Rather than us calling him the proverbial “Cat with 9 lives”, lets just call him Jason! He makes a living entertaining on Saturday nights, but every time he steps in the ring it’s reminiscent of Friday the 13th, walking down Elm Street! In apt fashion, most of his battles end with a lot of blood a temporary defeat…..but when the morning comes, Brooklyn’s favorite son finds a way to rise yet again! I respect that. If he can continue to past his physicals and perform at a competitive level, why would I wanna break that flow? Get used to it ladies in gents! I’m afraid Brooklyn’s in the house! And the house is packed!

(Vivek “Vito” Wallace can be reached on Monday nights at “Left-Hook Lounge Radio” at 9ET/6PT. He can also be reached at 954.300.5692, Twitter (@vivekwallace747), Instagram (Viveks View), and FaceBook).