By: Sean Crose
When I spoke with Kevin Newman last May, he was ready to return from his first loss and get his career back on track. What struck me was how grounded the guy was, confident, yet realistic. Sure, the loss, which occurred on last summer’s Mayweather-McGregor undercard, hurt, but life moved on and it was time to get back to business. The conversation made one think of all the great fighters with not one, but numerous losses on their records (in other words, the vast majority of great fighters). Unfortunately, Newman’s comeback fight was canceled. Not that he let it eat at him.
“Opponent issues,” he says matter of factly. “Guy bailed on us last minute.” Now, with a new fight scheduled for this evening, Newman is ready to finally get back to business. As far as Newman’s concerned, the cancellation “just gave me a little more time to sharpen up.” And so tonight, at Sam’s Town in Vegas, Newman will be entering the ring against fellow supermiddleweight Cesar Ruiz. “Tough guy from Mexico,” he says of his opponent. “He’s a shorter guy… I’ve got the height and reach advantage.” Not that Newman intends to become overconfident. “I’m just focused on this Friday,” he tells me.
He won’t have to travel far to get to the fight. For Newman resides in Vegas with his family. “Yeah man,” he says, “it’s always good to fight at home…I’m a home town guy.” That fact certainly makes things easier when one is a fighter who lives in the boxing capital of the world. There’s also the fact that one doesn’t have to journey far from home to fight. What’s more, Vegas is the center of the Mayweather Universe, which Newman is a part as a member of The Money Team. Newman knows how important it is to have strong backing, but he’s also self aware.
“I was trying to campaign at middleweight,” he says of the not so distant pass. It simply wasn’t meant to be, however. A fighter’s body simply changes. “My body is filling out and getting older,” he states. Here, after all, is a man who is disciplined enough to make weight, but who understands that a higher weight division is better for him at this point. “With me, it’s not necessarily the pounds,” he says, “maybe (it’s) my bone density or something like that…I could tell my body looks a little different the lower I dig.” It’s a common situation for many, if not all, fighters, one that Newman aims to take advantage of now that he’s a supermiddleweight.
“I’m going to do my thing on Friday,” he says. And afterwards? “Obviously I want to be as active as possible.”
By Eric Lunger
There looks to be big news coming in the heavyweight division, as Anthony Joshua, the WBA, IBF, and IBO champion, is close to finalizing a bout with WBO kingpin Joseph Parker, for a date most likely in late March. While both camps have indicated that a deal is close, no announcement has been made. Boxinginsider caught up with Kevin Barry, Parker’s long-time trainer and former New Zealand Olympic medalist, and Barry is confident that a final agreement is imminent. “Eddie Hearn and David Higgins have been in constant contact; we expect the fight to be named [soon]”, said Barry, “they’ve been working on the fight for the last eight weeks and it is closer every day: both parties want this fight.”
Photo Credit: Kevin Barry
Even though Parker (24-0, 18 KOs) weathered a strong challenge by Hughie Fury in Manchester, England, last September, many boxing pundits still don’t give the New Zealand heavyweight much of chance against the charismatic Joshua (20-0, 20 KOs), a gold medalist for Britain at the 2012 London Games.
A large part of this pro-Joshua tendency is what might be termed the “Klitschko Afterglow.” The April fight — in which AJ dethroned the king — was so exciting, so dramatic, so theatrical even, that is it little wonder that AJ glows in the eyes of many commentators. I confess that it was, for me, one of the most thrilling fights of the year, hands down. But we should also remember that Klitschko had the former Olympic gold medalist in real trouble in the latter part of the fifth round, and then in the sixth round, as Dr. Steelhammer dropped Joshua with a blistering straight right.
There are two areas where I think the Kiwi champion actually has the edge: in the combination of footwork and hand speed, and in his conditioning. AJ will certainly have the edge in crowd support, but this can cut both ways, as we will see.
First, Parker probably has the fastest hands in the division, and he really had to learn how to move in the ring in order to beat Hughie Fury. Joshua does not fight off his back foot (like Fury), and thus the two British fighters are quite different. But if Parker can use his feet to create some difficult angles and to benefit his double jab, it will give him an edge over the slower-moving Joshua. Parker uses his jab to the body and the head, and follows it with a straight right, exactly the type of punch that put Joshua on the canvas in the Klitschko fight.
Intimately related to footwork is conditioning, and here I think Parker has a clear advantage. The Kiwi went twelve rounds with Fury, who back-pedaled most of the bout, but Parker looked as fresh and quick in the twelfth round as he did in the first. Barry said his fighter was frustrated by Fury’s style, but “Joe wasn’t tired at all” after the bout. the knock on Joshua is that he tends to get tired during rounds, and needs to recover on his stool. Klitschko exploited this, and there were points in Joshua’s fight against Carlos Takam in October where the big British champ looked gassed out. A highly conditioned and aggressive Joseph Parker will not let Joshua take time off during a round, and that could be the difference maker.
So, where do Anthony Joshua’s supposed advantages lie? Barry discounts the notion that Joshua has the edge in punching power: “a lot of people are saying that, if it comes to a throw down, Anthony Joshua will have too much power. When it comes to a throw down, I can promise you that Joe will be throwing down at the same time. When Joseph Parker hits Anthony Joshua on the chin, and he goes down – and he will go down – we will not let him off. There is no way we will let him back in the fight. When Joe puts him on the canvas, Joe will finish him off.”
Barry sees Parker’s durability as the flip-side to Joshua’s power: “I know this about heavyweight boxing: you need to be able to give a punch – and both these guys can give a punch – and you need to take a punch. Joseph Parker has never been down as an amateur, as a professional, or in sparring. I’d back him against any heavyweight in the world, and we are looking forward to backing him against Anthony Joshua.”
Maybe Joshua’s advantage lies in the support of a raucous home crowd, and he certainly is wildly popular in the UK. Again, Barry thinks AJ’s advantage in this regard is over-rated: “Eddie Hearne made comments the other day, saying that he believes when Joseph Parker gets in front of a huge crowd, that he would become a different person. I can tell you this, Joseph Parker is the most relaxed fighter I have ever worked with as far as controlling his emotions. Whether it’s two, five, ten, or eighty thousand people, it is going to be the same guy that walks to the ring, the same routine that we’ve had for the last five years.” In fact, Barry feels the pressure is really on the home fighter: as the favorite, and especially after a lackluster outing against Takam, “the pressure is on Joshua for a great performance.”
Finally, it clearly rankles Team Parker that there is so much hype around Anthony Joshua and that AJ is looking past Parker: “Joshua is already talking about Tyson Fury and Wilder – this is laughable to me. If he’s really looking past Joseph Parker, he is in for a huge, rude awakening. Joshua has two names on his resume that garner respect, Carlos Takam and Wladimir Klitschko. Takam took the fight on twelve days notice, and Klitschko was 40 years old.”
Nonetheless, Barry has been in the fight game his whole life, and he can see the big picture here: “this is a great, great fight on paper, both these guys are young and both undefeated. Both are world champions, but both guys are far from the finished product. This makes for a highly exciting unification fight, and the boxing world — especially heavyweight boxing — we need this fight. There hasn’t been a unification fight for seven years. This is a great fight.”
By: Eric Lunger
On May 6th in Manukau City, New Zealand, charismatic WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker (23-0, 18 KOs) made his first successful title defense, decisively out boxing Romanian Razvan Cojanu (16-3, 9 KOs) over twelve rounds. Despite a technically proficient and disciplined performance by Parker, the local media were disappointed, having hoped for a KO victory for their home town fighter. In addition to being 6’ 8” and good boxer, Cojanu was a sparring partner in Parker’s camp and a late-minute replacement for an injured Hughie Fury, the original opponent. He was, therefore, intimately familiar with Parker’s style.
Photo Credit: http://photosport.co.nz/
Boxinginsider.com spoke with Parker’s long time trainer and former Olympian Kevin Barry last week, and Kevin had this to say on the media’s reaction to the fight: “The New Zealand media really were a bit in awe of Anthony Joshua’s performance against Klitschko, and they were thinking: ‘Right, Joe is going in against a last minute replacement.’ But what they didn’t realize is that the most dangerous sort of opponent is the one you bring in the last moment. There are many examples of this sort over the years.”
In addition, Cojanu went more than one hundred rounds with Parker, and sparring partners are invited to become part of the camp. “The days that we are not sparring,” Barry pointed out, “they are training along side Joe, watching what I am doing with Joe, the combinations we are working on, and so on. So, for me this was a very dangerous fight; Razvan Cojanu know more about Joe’s style than any opponent he had faced.”
But with a successful defense under their belt, the team is looking forward to fighting Hughie Fury (20-0, 10 KOs) on September 23 in Manchester, England. While Barry has a good deal of respect for the challenger, he is confident in his fighter: “I don’t think Hughie can match Joe with strength. He’s got decent skills, a world amateur underage champion, and he’s undefeated. He comes out of a very good boxing family, and he’s well coached. I have no doubt that on September 23 we will get the best Hughie Fury there is.”
Barry understands what is at stake at this level: “This is a big fight for a young guy. It takes a lot of courage to be in this position. This is Hughie’s first time in the major spotlight, and there is huge pressure and expectations on him. They’ve got the hometown advantage, but with that comes huge pressure and expectations from friends, family, his fan base.”
The Parker team knows that this opportunity to make a statement in the UK is the crucial next step in Parker’s career. Barry said: “I will be imploring Joe to let his hands go, this fight in the UK is something we have waited for for a long time. Eighteen months ago, when Joseph was the number one mandatory contender with the IBF, we thought we’d being going there to fight Joshua, and at once stage we were, until we both took a different path. But we are there now, and I don’t want this to be a twelve round fight. Joseph Parker is going to really let his hand go in this one, there is no doubt in my mind.”
Izuagbe Ugonoh set to Make his Mark against Dominic Breazeale: A Conversation with Trainer Kevin Barry
By: Eric Lunger
Live on FOX this Saturday night in Birmingham, Alabama, charismatic American heavyweight Deontay Wilder will make his fifth defense of the WBC championship belt against unbeaten Gerald Washington.The PBC card is stacked from top to bottom, but I am excited about the heavyweight clash between Dominic Breazeale (17-1, 15 KOss) and Izuagbe Ugonoh (17-0, 14 KOs). Even for a global sport like boxing, Izu, as he is known, has made a fascinating journey to reach this moment at the Legacy Arena. His parents emigrated from Nigeria to Poland, where Izu was born. After graduating from Jędrzej Śniadecki University School of Physical Education in Gdansk, Izu embarked on a successful kickboxing career, making the transition to boxing in 2010.
Ugonoh caught the eye of veteran trainer Kevin Barry in 2013, while sparring in Las Vegas withheavyweight prospect Joseph Parker of New Zealand. Parker captured his first world title in December of last year, and Barry hopes to bring Ugonoh along the same path. Boxinginsider.com caught up withKevinon Thursday, and hespoke about his relationship with this remarkable athletewho is about to lace up the gloves for the biggest fight of his career.
Barry met Ugonoh fortuitously, as he was searching for sparring partners for Joseph Parker: “In my early days with Parker, we were traveling around various gyms in Las Vegas sparring anyone we could possibly get some ring time with, and I heard that Izu was training with Kenny Adams. I rang Kenny and went over there, Joe and Izu sparred six rounds, and it was probably some of the best work we had in Vegas. We came away with the thought: we’ve got to get more of this;this kid can really fight!”
It didn’t take long for Barry to connect with the Polish-born fighter: “that went on for about six sparring sessions, and during that time we built up a bit of a rapport with him. As it worked out, both Joe and Izu were helping Bermane [Stiverne] prepare for Chris Arreola, and we became even closer friends. Things weren’t really working out for Izu; I think he had moved around about five different trainers, I believe that he just wasn’t happy. He came to me and asked, ‘would I be interested in working with him?’ It was my second year with Joe Parker, and Joe was living in my house. I didn’t want anything to interfere with the chemistry that we had going, so I sat down with Joe and I sat down with Izu. In the end, in October of 2014, I took Izu to New Zealand, and fought him down there. Then in November of 2014, I moved him into my house with my family and Joe.”
Barry brought Ugonoh along carefully: “we had five fights down there [in New Zealand] in 2014, and then five fights in 2015.” Ugonoh’s pace slowed down last year with two bouts, a fourth round TKO of Ricardo Ramirez and a second round stoppage most recently of Gregory Tony.
Barry is pleased with Izu’s progress: “he has waited very patiently for this opportunity. The last two years, he’s been fighting well within himself, he’s been learning his craft, becoming a better, more well-rounded fighter in all aspects of the game. This is our first fight with Al Haymon’s PBC, and it’s a big fight.”
The matchup is an exciting one for fans. Barry sees the fight this way: “it’s a great matchup of skill and size. Really, they sort of mirror each other: Izu is 30, Breazeale is 31; Izu is 17-0, Breazeale is 17-1. Both have 81 inch reaches, both have about 8 KO’s in the first three rounds.”
Barry concedes that Breazeale has a better resume: “Breazeale has fought better names, sure, Anthony Joshua, Amir Monsour, Fred Kassi.” But Barry sees his fighter as ready to compete at that level. “Look,” Barry said, “Izu would knock out out Monsour and Kassi.I tell everybody, I think Izu is the sleeper of the heavyweight division. On Saturday night, live on FOX and around the world, everyone will know who Izu is.”
Barry feels that Ugonoh is ready for the big stage: “He is a very talented fighter, a very intelligent fighter. He’s got explosive power and very heavy hands. Look, the big question mark is: hey, this is a big step up in class from where he’s been fighting. But this is a fight, when it was first addressed to Izu, he jumped at it with open arms, saying, ‘this is the fight I’ve been waiting for.’”
Barry and his fighter know that the stakes are high: “Izuknows that the spoils definitely go to the winner in this fight: a great performance will see with Izu or Breazeale go on a short list for a fight for the world title.”
Boxing’s New Breed Of Fan Helps Keep Things Dysfunctional
By: Sean Crose
While watching cable news tonight I saw a well-known member of congress answer some tough questions. Only he didn’t directly answer. He meandered. He obfuscated. He acted like the smartest person in the room, the person who we should all just leave alone, since it was he, not us, who knew what to do. So help me, the guy reminded me of a lot of people in the world of boxing today. All he needed to do was say “this match needs to marinate a bit” and he’d be in line to make a series of pay per view bouts.
All of this, of course, leads to a larger issue. Boxing clearly looks like it needs a single ruling body of some sort. The United States’ Government might, in a sane era, seem like a perfect choice to act as that ruling body – at least as far as stateside activities are concerned. Sadly, however, this is not a sane era. Not to engage in hyperbole, but American elected officials from both parties are, as a whole, about as fit to run boxing as the much maligned organizational bodies have proven to be. This has nothing to do with politics, actually…or even corruption. Our contemporary leaders just aren’t competent enough to instill any sense of real trust these days.
What then, can be done? I’m not always in agreement with Yahoo Sports’ Kevin Iole, but he penned a brilliant article recently on the state of contemporary boxing. Too much time is spent in the courtroom, he argues, and not enough time is spent making matches most fans want to see. Iole is dead on here. The powers that be appear interested in everything but what the diehard fans want. Even as boxing becomes less and less popular in America these individuals still refuse to change their ways.
Sure enough, boxing’s new breed of fan, which is interested in fighter’s earnings rather than in genuine ring achievement (you can find its members in comments sections throughout the internet), might be ubiquitous enough to keep matchmaker’s bank accounts at least somewhat healthy. Why these new breed fans would rather see, say, Garcia-Salka (content, I suppose, in the knowledge that Danny will earn an easy and sizable check), than they would Canelo-GGG is beyond me. These fans are out there, though, and I suspect they’re at least part of the reason boxing continues on its less than healthy trajectory.
The irony, as Iole points out in his piece, is that boxing could be much more lucrative if the fan base at large was catered to. The UFC may, with the help of the media, hype certain white combatants to an unwarranted degree, but at least it appeals to its customers. With the new breeds willing to accept pretty much anything (except perversely, good matchmaking with reasonable pricetags), things may keep coughing along in boxing just as they are at the moment.
Too bad. There’s a lot of talent out there right now just waiting to be challenged.