These Styles Don't Make Fights
By Steven B. Weinberg I Contributing Writer and Photographer
Published: January 29, 2018
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They say that “styles make fights.” The classic example is boxer versus puncher. Can the boxer be slick enough to outmaneuver the puncher? Can the puncher move forward and catch the boxer? We are often told this matchup will create an exciting night of boxing. Unfortunately, when the skills are too widely mismatched, it is a disservice to the sport as was the case in HBO’s mid-December card featuring WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders v. David Lemieux and Cletus Seldin v. Yves Ulysee Jr. It will most likely be the case again on February 17th when Danny Garcia faces Brandon Rios.
HBO’s card started with Cletus Seldin, a Long Island Club fighter, whose KO prowess allowed him to join Mike Tyson and Roy Jones, Jr. as the only three fighters to appear on the network in two consecutive months. Seldin was supposed to move forward with his signature left forearm guard and put Usysee to sleep with his right. Instead, Ulysee danced around the ring, effectively embarrassing Seldin, including knocking him down three times in the first three rounds. For the entire fight, Ulysee was free to move in any direction he desired because Seldin simply does not possess the skill even to attempt to cut off the ring. As a result Seldin repeatedly swung and missed, and the crowd booed at the lack of sufficient action.
Unfortunately, Saunders v. Lemieux turned out to be more of the same. Lemieux, who was coming off of his brutal KO of Curtis Stevens, a KO of the year candidate, was expected to do the same against Saunders and regain a middleweight belt. Disappointingly, Lemieux could do nothing but move straightforward, allowing Saunders to continuously move to his right and connect with the left jab. Lemieux was left bloodied and bruised for his efforts. The fact that Lemieux could not merely step to his left to stop Saunders exposed more of Lemieux’s limits than anything else in his previous 41 fights and the crowd was again left listless.
On February 17, 2018, fans will, unfortunately, most likely be treated to more of the same. Boxer Danny Garcia makes his return to the ring after a nearly 12-month layoff against puncher Brandon Rios. Garcia is coming off a semi-controversial split decision loss to Keith Thurman, the first of his career. A tune up fight is needed, but for marketing purposes, a palooka is not going to do. Enter Brandon Rios. He is no slouch, but he is fighting for only the second time in over two years, and his career is hardly moving in the right direction.
In his last five fights, Rios has lost unanimous decisions to Mike Alvarado and Manny Pacquiao. Won a fight he was arguably losing when Diego Chavez was disqualified in a messy and dirty affair. In a rematch, he made Mike Alvarado retire after three rounds. Alvarado did not train for the fight and was arrested at 4 a.m. on weapons charges two weeks prior. Rios was stopped by Timothy Bradly, and finally, KO’d journeyman Aaron Herrera.
Rios is clearly aware of his role in Garcia’s comeback and is saying all the right things to the pre-fight press about being in great shape, being serious, and ready to win. After all, in the history of boxing, there probably hasn’t been a single fighter to say they are not in shape, aren’t serious, and expect to lose. What Rios has not said is that he has learned to box instead of brawl or cut off the ring instead of simply moving forward. Pacquiao famously said before his fight with Rios that he was going to “hit him in the face . . . A lot,” which is precisely what happened. Expect more of the same on February 17th in what promises to be a dull affair.
Seldin and Lemieux had the same excuses for their poor performances: their opponents ran and were afraid to exchange. Rios will most likely say something similar. However, the truth is, the boxers in these matchups simply are more skilled and far too smart to fight the puncher's fight, which makes for lousy matchmaking and a bad night for fans. If boxing is going to keep the momentum built earlier 2017, promoters will have to do a much better job matchmaking then giving us Garcia v. Rios.