LEGENDARY trainer Freddie Roach is a studious, experienced and intelligent man whose opinion is valued whenever a big fight approaches.
The fact he is working with Tyson Fury ahead of the Brit’s WBC world heavyweight title shot against Deontay Wilder on Saturday (December 8) may skew his view on this particular fight, but it’s one worth hearing nonetheless.
According to Roach, Fury’s major advantage in the fight, his first meaningful one for three years, lies in the fact he was born left-handed and has underrated punch power.
“Wilder’s fought two southpaws (Artur Szpilka and Luis Ortiz) and struggled with both of them,” said Roach. “Tyson was born left-handed; he’s great (as a southpaw). He maybe should have been a southpaw all along.
“A lot of people think he’s not a puncher, but he can punch really hard and knock this guy out in the late rounds. I see Tyson by knockout in the late rounds. People think he can’t punch, but he can punch really, really good. I believe I have the better puncher of the two.”
Given the men attached to Roach in the past – Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto, James Toney to name a few – you’ll struggle to find a better Fury endorsement than that. Indeed, when asked to compare ‘The Gypsy King’ to the other heavyweights with whom he has worked over the years, Roach was similarly generous with his praise.
“He fits right in there,” he said. “Tyson could deal with all of those guys.
“Could he beat them all? I’m not so sure. He would definitely have a chance. Anyone who underestimates him will lose, and that’s happened here (with Wilder).”
Fury beating Wilder on Saturday night is one thing. Fury punching harder than Wilder, he of the 39 knockouts in 40 wins, is another thing entirely. But if Freddie Roach believes it to be true, you’d be advised to at least give it some thought.
Thankfully, in a little over 48 hours we will know. Better yet, we will have the answer to every question.
For most fighters the idea of facing Vasyl Lomachenko in a boxing ring sounds more like a worst nightmare than a dream opportunity. Yet, for Manchester’s Anthony Crolla, the man next in line for Lomachenko should he defeat Jose Pedraza next Saturday (December 8), it’s all he wants for Christmas and it’s a fight he hopes will happen next year.
The good news for Crolla today is that his promoter, Eddie Hearn, received a letter overnight from the WBA informing him Crolla will be next in line to face the winner of Lomachenko vs. Pedraza.
Received the letter overnight from the @wbaboxingofficial – the winner of @VasylLomachenko v Pedraza on Dec 8 must fight @ant_crolla86 next! @DAZN_USA @SkySportsBoxing pic.twitter.com/hK6LL4uyGb
— Eddie Hearn (@EddieHearn) November 30, 2018
Most fighters would experience a shudder at this point. They’d look the other way, pretend they didn’t hear, and explore other options. Lomachenko, after all, has stopped eight opponents on the bounce, forcing four of them to retire, and seems a puzzle no amount of preparation, toughness or intelligence can help solve.
But Anthony Crolla is a little bit different. He doesn’t see anything to fear. He merely sees an opportunity to do something unbelievable.
“If the fight got made, it’s more than likely it would be in America,” said Crolla. “You would imagine New York or Vegas. I’ve been lucky enough to box on an undercard in Vegas.
“For me, the only one left to do would be New York. I like the whole history of Madison Square Garden. I was lucky enough to be there for the Cotto-Margarito fight. New York, it would make it a bit easier for the fans. It’s a bit shorter.
“March or April, in an ideal world, but obviously we’ve got to see what happens on December 8, and being honest, what Lomachenko’s plans are.”
It would take a brave man to back Crolla to beat Lomachenko, if indeed that’s who he ends up fighting. But that doesn’t mean the Manchester fighter is undeserving, nor mean his incredible fitness levels, drive and work rate won’t give the gifted Ukrainian a problem or two he hasn’t encountered before. Who knows? Stranger things have happened.
(Of course, the other option here is that Lomachenko sees little point in defending his WBA title against Crolla and simply vacates in order to move on to bigger and better things. But why let a detail like that get in the way of a feel-good story?)
Losing inside the first round wasn’t the way Anthony Mundine wanted to leave boxing, but, as is often the case with fighters on the cusp of retirement, it was probably the best way for him to go.
Stopped inside 96 seconds by Jeff Horn at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane today, there is now no doubt the game is up for the 43-year-old Mundine. He looked out of sorts, he looked old, and he was put out of his misery quickly.
Rather than a happy ending, it was the boxing ending – the realest of endings. It will hurt, no doubt, but what it also means is that Mundine is now free to proudly look back on a fine career that saw him win a WBA super-middleweight title and compete in every division from junior-middleweight to cruiserweight.
“I was ready, I was prepared,” Mundine said afterwards. “It’s just boxing. You get caught sometimes.”
Appearing shaky from the off, Mundine was ultimately shell-shocked by Horn’s fast start, initiated while on the front foot. He was hit by several body and head shots before a final left hook ended matters after just one minute and 36 seconds.
The end for Anthony Mundine. A great career is finished. Well done to Jeff Horn, the next generation for Australian boxing pic.twitter.com/DmMnvc4yDB
— Jamie Pandaram (@JamiePandaram) November 30, 2018
“I’ve had a great career,” said the outspoken Australian, who moved into boxing following a high-level career in rugby league. “Jeff proved tonight that he was the better man with a better shot. That’s the next generation, man. I was ready, I was prepared. It’s just boxing – you just get caught sometimes.”
Former WBO welterweight champion Horn, meanwhile, made good on his promise to send Mundine hurtling towards retirement and, at 30 years of age, seems primed for another run at a world title.
“It’s the perfect night,” he said. “I learnt that from my last fight [that] I was a little too stationary and I was getting a few of those straight shots to the body. I got [Mundine] with that first one and I knew it was just a matter of time. I didn’t feel him buckle but I just knew that the landing shot was perfectly timed, and I knew it would have hurt.”
In paying tribute to Mundine, the victor revealed any pre-fight beef between the pair, manufactured to sell the event, had been squashed. “He’s an extreme athlete,” said Horn, 19-1-1 (13). “I’ve got to give him that. He’s done some great things and I’ve only got respect for the guy.”
Mundine bows out with a pro record of 48-9 (29).