The Pressure Is On: A Look at the Heavyweight Division
By: Hans Themistode
Pressure bursts pipes.
It’s true isn’t it? If you add enough pressure to anything, eventually it will break. With that being said, that very same pressure can also create diamonds.
In the case of WBC Heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, (40-0-1, 39 KOs) Lineal champion Tyson Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs) and unified belt holder Anthony Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs), they all share an enormous amount of pressure.
These three men are undoubtedly the very best that the Heavyweight division has to offer but how exactly should they be ranked? Deontay Wilder is the longest reigning title holder of three having held his title since 2015. How about Joshua? He does hold the IBF, WBA, WBO and IBO titles. He also has faced the better opposition of anyone else in the division. Fury may have the best claim to being the divisions best as he is the man that beat the man. In late 2015 he shocked the world in defeating Wladimir Klitschko and ending his nearly ten year reign.
The best way to end the debate is to simply have them face off with one another. Wilder and Fury waged war on one another when they met in the ring on December 1st 2018. It was a fight that saw Fury outbox Wilder for the vast majority of the contest but the WBC champion managed to score two knockdowns including a dramatic one in the 12th and final round. The final call was a draw. It left fans salivating for the sequel. Unfortunately as is the case most times in boxing the rematch was shelved.
Although Joshua has yet to step into the ring with either man he has routinely faced stiff competition. Alexander Povetkin, Dillian Whyte, Wladimir Klitschko, Joseph Parker and a slew of other top contenders have all fell by the way side when matched up with Joshua.
It seems as though these three fighters are joined at the hip. That trend continues as they will grace the ring within a short amount of time of one another. Wilder will have his WBC title on the line when he takes on mandatory challenger Dominic Breazeale on May 18th. Joshua will make his U.S debut on June 1st at Madison Square Garden against the unbeaten Jarrell Miller while Fury will travel to Las Vegas on June 15th to take on the relatively unknown Tom Schwarz.
The longer these fighters don’t step into the squared circle with one another, the more the pressure to win will mount. Not only do they need to win but they also need to do in so in dominant fashion.
With the talent that currently presides in the Heavyweight division, it just takes one bad night from any of those three champions that could ultimately lead to a loss. The fans shudder to think of such an upset. Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury are great champions. Who is the best from this group will be discovered soon enough as they will face each other at one point in their careers. However until that time comes they all must continue to win.
The question now is, will these fighters allow that pressure to break them and lead them to a loss before they get matched up with one another or will they thrive off that pressure and continue to win? Only time will tell.
The Psychological Relentlessness of Erislandy Lara
The Psychological Relentlessness of Erislandy Lara
Written by Tae Joon Kim
Erislandy Lara’s chess match against Austin Trout exemplified a grandmaster of psychological strategy and manipulation. Lara was able to take command of every aspect of the boxing match against Lara as, right from the first round, he controlled distance, Trout’s punch output, Trout’s emotions and fired his own offensive at will as he accumulatively damaged Trout’s chin.
This was no surprise as Erislandy Lara is considered by many to be one of the most clever and cerebral boxers of contemporary times.
Although neither fighter was particularly dominant in Round One, Lara immediately seized mastery over the pace right from the get go. Beginning in Round Two, it became clear that Lara’s reactions to Austin Trout’s offensive would not give away any openings, as Lara kept things simple and utilized subtle slips and slides with his shoulder to avoid Trout’s offensive. He never overexerted his evasive movement to overuse his energy nor permit Trout to capitalize on any defensive mistakes.
An intriguing subtle difference between the two offensively, which became apparent starting in Round Two, was the confidence with which both opponents had behind their jabs.
When Trout was able to calmly slip from Lara’s jabs, Lara didn’t take “no” for an answer. Lara would follow up his own missed jab with a further offensive assault and with great success! On the other hand, when Trout failed to land his own jab, which typically ended up landing on Lara’s arm, he did not follow up with a successive combination. At this point very early in the fight, Lara already asserted his subtle yet nonetheless overwhelming relentless offense whenever such moments would arise. With great self-restraint, Lara also still kept the punching output of both himself and Trout to a minimal, so that the continual repetition of the fight’s momentum would continue to be in his favor, and thus make for an increasing succession of psychological pressure on the part of Lara’s tactics.
In the Fifth Round, Trout- after failing to apply pressure to Lara and falling victim to his pace- had attempted to throw a combination with multiple hooks to the head, but keeping his calm, Lara knew exactly what to do as- at this point- he had everything under control. Lrara simply stepped back and raised his high guard, so even during rare moments of Trout attacking as he pushed himself to the edge of his will, Lara would not allow himself to be overwhelmed by Trout’s emotional game, thus strictly forcing himself to keep playing an objective and calculative game while Trout at this point had no choice but to rely on guts and instinct. After all, no one can beat today can beat Erislandy Lara at a chess match.
The frustrating nature of this match from Trout’s viewpoint was that whenever he would try to execute on his offense, Lara would utilize very simple and minimalist movements to either evade or defend his punches. Lara was more evasive/defensive than he was reliant on counters (though whenever he did counter, they usually delivered devastating consequences for Trout!)
For a majority of Trout’s offensive attempts, these are all what Lara had to do to keep things frustratingly simple:
1. Step Back.
2. Block with shoulder.
4. For combinations, block with the high guard.
These reactions were utilized in very high repetition monotonously throughout the fight, all the while as Lara kept calm and attacked at will. For Lara to be able to stick to these fundamental reactions for the entirety of twelve consecutive rounds, without overexerting himself, is simply tactical and psychological brilliance.
For Trout, it must have been as if almost every single one of his punches were futile, as Lara didn’t look to even be trying.
Lara, just like other cerebral boxers such as Floyd Mayweather Jr., Guillermo Rigondeaux, Wladimir Klitschko and Andre Ward, is able to maintain a minimalist nature to his fights despite the potential brutalities involved in the ring. This reveals a very gifted mind in Lara who understands that to break the will of the opponent before him, he must be the master of his own mind, able to explore and potentiate the depths of his fighting style and creativity as he maintains serenity and objectivity.
For all twelve rounds, Erislandy Lara was psychologically relentless and unforgiving.
With multiple straight lefts landing on Trout’s chin in successive accumulation, complemented by the psychological breakdown of Trout for the entirety of the fight, all lead to a phenomenal knockdown in the eleventh round. This was not achieved by mere power. These were the results of Lara’s long-term investments of straight lefts, intense focus, incredible calm, simple and fundamental evasion, and manipulation of the fight’s rhythm.
Erislandy Lara is simply one of the greatest tacticians of the sport today and deserves to fight another big name as soon as possible!