The PBC Mailbag: Old vs. New, Gervonta Davis and More

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Respected trainer Stephen "Breadman" Edwards breaks down the sweet science as he fields questions from fight fans. 

What's up, Breadman? Thanks for your mailbag. I have a couple of mystical boxing clashes for your analysis:

1. Kostya Tszyu vs. Floyd Mayweather
2. Manny Pacquiao vs. Gervonta “Tank” Davis
3. Mike Tyson vs. Joe Frazier

Have a great week.

Bread’s Response: I wish we could’ve seen Tszyu vs. Mayweather around 2003-2004. It would’ve been a classic. Tszyu was really good versus boxers. He wasn’t tall but he fought BIG with that probing lead hand, his ring command and laser like right hand. If you moved away from him and let him dictate, he was hell in boxing boots. Both of his professional losses came against attacking fighters NOT boxers.

So Tszyu has some stylistic advantages over Mayweather. But Mayweather has sublime instincts. He can press if he has to. He did so against Judah and he did it versus Mosley. Both of them are sharp and can punch. This is a close fight for me. I’m really high on Tszyu because of his pedigree. Tszyu could really box, he just happened to be a big puncher so he doesn’t get the credit for his boxing ability. 

But Mayweather is the superior overall fighter and he seems to adjust to be whatever he has to be. My guess is on their best day, Mayweather would win a close decision by changing his attacks and rhythm but I wouldn’t bet heavy on it. Kostya Tszyu was no joke and a legitimate GREAT fighter. Let's say Mayweather by decision.

Pacquiao versus Tank is another great match up. I know Tank doesn’t have the resume that Manny has. But head to head matchups are about who can beat who, not who has the better resume. I would say Tank is live because he’s a supreme counter puncher and Manny can be reckless at times. But Manny evolved into a great boxer-puncher by the time he got to lightweight. The Manny that beat David Diaz at 135 in 2008, can beat 99% of the lightweights who ever lived. I can’t pick Tank to beat THAT Manny at this moment. Let’s say Manny by decision. 

Tyson vs. Frazier is a tough fight. I will say Tyson has to get him early. It’s not out of the question but it’s his only chance. If this fight goes past four rounds, Tyson would be in trouble. Watch Frazier against Jimmy Ellis and Bob Foster. People remember Frazier from the “Thrilla in Manila” but him and Ali were both past their best. Frazier from 1967-1971 was as fine a pressure fighter the heavyweight division has ever seen. So, Tyson within four or Frazier after four.

The past few nights I’ve been watching a lot of earlier Roy Jones fights. In many of his pre-Hopkins fights, the announcers talked about how Roy was a generational talent that only boxing people know about. He had something like 17 fights in his first 4 years as a pro. They talked about him having issues with promoters and not being able to get the big fights. Fast forward a few years and he is a global superstar. The past 1-2 years we’ve heard almost the exact same things about Jaron “Boots” Ennis. Do you see any similarities between RJJ and Boots’ career trajectory? Thanks, Bread. 

Mark Stoy, Columbus, Ohio

Bread’s Response: I do actually see similarities between Roy and Boots. I’ve always said that Boots is a mix of Roy Jones and Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson. Both Boots and Roy were trained by their dads. Both do things unconventionally but get away with them. Both are boxer-punchers with a big punch. Both score highlight-reel KOs. Roy broke through in 1993 when he beat Bernard Hopkins on HBO for the title. Boots didn’t have a title winning fight although he’s the champion. Roy was 24. But Boots is 26. A year and half later, Roy took on James Toney in their PPV superfight. He was 25. So, it may seem as though Roy was moving extra slow. But Roy was moving faster than Boots was. He got a title shot at a younger age and in less fights. Boots is 26 and will be 27 this year. Their ability seems similar. Their career pace seems similar but Roy’s was slightly faster.

In my time of watching boxing, I have seen about a hand full of talents below heavyweight that I looked and said that guy can make $10 million in one night as the A-side. Making eight figures in one night is a very rare occurrence despite the reports we all hear. In my time of watching boxing, I have seen fighters who I looked and said they would win titles in 3-5 divisions and be the best the fighter in the world: “Sugar” Ray Leonard, Pernell Whitaker, Roy Jones, Floyd Mayweather, Terence Crawford and now Jaron Ennis. That’s how good I believe Boots is. Hopefully he can get to prove it.

What’s up Breadman, hope you’re well! Two quick ones for you: One, I often see fights where it seems like one guy is struggling to get to his opponent. You’ll hear both the announcers and fans say he “doesn’t know how to cut off the ring.” In your opinion, is that an overused statement and how should a fighter actually cut off the ring? What goes into “cutting off the ring”? 

Two, as a fan, there is nothing worse than seeing a guy you’re rooting for get slowly broken down. You can sense it. I see it often when one fighter is constantly moving forward and the fighter moving around or backwards eventually runs out of steam. I know it’s easier said than done, but can you explain why some fighters just won’t stand their ground in the middle of a ring against a fighter who clearly fights better when attacking or moving forward? I’ve always been curious about whether it’s a physical or mental thing.

Thanks! JP

Bread’s Response: I don’t know if it’s overused but it is a real thing. Most fighters in this era, work more on training for fitness than training for skill. There is a skill in cutting the ring off. What makes it difficult is, you have to score points and defend yourself simultaneously while trying to corner a moving target. It’s very taxing physically and you have to have a certain mentality to do that. That’s why everyone won’t be successful with the style. 

Cutting the ring off simply means staying in front of your opponent and not letting him get to where he wants to go—to a point where he becomes stationary because he’s not successful moving. You can tell if a fighter is successfully cutting the ring off because the opponent who is moving will consistently be on the ropes or in the corner and he will constantly be seen trying to switch directions, because exits will be cut off.

Fighters don’t stand their ground for simple reasons. One is they aren’t willing to do it because the opponent is too dangerous and they can get hurt or stopped. Two, they don’t have the leg strength to hold their ground and fire. We call that posting up in the center of the ring. Well, you need strong legs and a strong mentality to hold your ground and fire at an attacking fighter. So, it’s a physical and mental thing. There is a reason for everything in boxing…

 

How do you think David Benavidez will do at light heavyweight now that it’s reported that he will fight Oleksandr Gvozdyk? Do you think he gets the fights he wants at 175 and can he take the division over by beating the winner of Bivol vs. Beterbiev?

Bread’s Response: I think Benavidez should be in the top 10 pound for pound in the world. I think he can be a champion at 175. I think he will be a force. There has been no official announcement regarding Benavidez-Gvozdyk but if the two were to scrap, my early prediction is I think Benavidez beats Gvozdyk. 

Gvozdyk has had three fights in 2023, so he should be sharp. The fights went under the radar but they happened. I was big on “The Nail” when he beat Adonis Stevenson. That was a BIG win on the road, to go Stevenson’s hometown and stop his five-year title reign. But shortly after that, he lost to Beterbiev and took off for almost four years. I never like to see a fighter take off multiple years after a KO defeat. Unless there was an injury, there is no need to take off that long just because you lost a fight. Getting back in the ring ASAP and getting rid of the taste of the loss usually is the best remedy. 

In past eras, the two best fighters in terms of coming back from bad KO losses were Tommy Hearns and Terry Norris. Look at their records. When they lost, they came right back and washed the bad taste out of their mouths. I know this is a different era but four years is a long time. So, because of Benavidez’s youthful violent style, and Gvozdyk possibly having some confidence issues, or lingering effects of the loss to Beterbiev, I will take Benavidez for the win. 

I also think Benavidez matches up well with Bivol. Some believe Bivol can outbox him, but I don’t see it that way. I think Benavidez is better defensively than he appears. And I think Bivol’s bouncy style works in Benavidez’s favor. Bivol boxes in a comfortable in and out bounce. Benavidez attacks in a way where you won’t be able to be comfortable bouncing in and out. The pressure that, say Joe Smith puts on, is different than what David puts on. I can see Benavidez carrying Bivol too fast and making him work harder than he’s comfortable with and taking over late. 

Now the more difficult fights to predict are Benavidez vs. Beterbiev and David Morrell. If Morrell moves up to chase Benavidez that fight is a pick ‘em in my opinion. I don’t know enough about Morrell to pick him to beat Benavidez. But my goodness, he passes the eyeball test with flying colors. He’s strong, wiry, athletic, he has pedigree and he’s a southpaw. He’s also younger than Benavidez. Benavidez has a youth advantage over most of his opponents, he won’t have that over Morrell. That’s a really hard fight for David that I can’t call at the moment. 

Currently, I would favor Beterbiev over everybody at 175lbs. Beterbiev is a monster in my opinion. He’s not just a hard puncher. He has craft because he lands his best punches versus everybody. He would’ve been a gold medalist if he didn’t run into Oleksandr Usyk in the Olympics. However, Beterbiev is close to 40, so I have to assess him on a fight by fight basis. And methodical fighters usually have issues with speed. David is very fast. David also throws 5-6 punch combinations in the midrange. Beterbiev did have issues with Yarde, so it wouldn’t be a blow out. This matchup gives me Chavez vs. Taylor and Tszyu vs. Hatton vibes. 

Forget about if you thought the referee made the right call. Taylor’s speed in the midrange and inside was difficult for Chavez to handle. Chavez was landing hard single shots, where Taylor was landing rapid fire 5 and 6 punch combinations which is hard to win rounds against. Taylor was winning on points. I thought he won 9 out of 11 scored rounds. 

If David can take Beterbiev’s punches, it’s a fight David can win because it would be hard for Beterbiev to outpoint him on a round by round basis. The issue is no one has been able to take Beterbiev’s punches. Great match up, let’s hope it happens.

There are rumors that Frank Martin may fight Gervonta “Tank” Davis. Martin seems like a solid prospect but can he really stand up to Davis and give him a real fight? I’m not sold on Martin after his last performance. What are his chances against Tank and how do you like the matchup? 

Bread’s Response: If Tank would have picked Jose Valenzuela people would complain. I happen to think “Rayo” is an excellent fighter and his win over Chris Colbert was one of the best knockouts of the year. But he’s only 13-2. So, trust me, there would be complaints about it, even though he’s a good fighter. 

I do think Davis vs. Martin is a good fight if it happens. Before Martin supposedly struggled in his last fight, people wanted to see him versus the best. Now that he’s had a lukewarm night, guys are complaining about him fighting a top guy. If the fight were to happen now, I don’t know if I’d pick Martin to win. But I don’t have an issue with this matchup. Martin has IQ. He has boxing ability. He can punch some. He’s undefeated. He has an elite coach in Derrick James. In his last fight, he wasn’t performing well. He wasn’t having his best night. But he kept at it, he showed a clutch gene and superior conditioning and he pulled the fight out with a late knockdown. He deserves credit for that.

Well-rounded fighters have historically given offensively dynamic fighters tough fights as the underdogs. Bernard Hopkins was undervalued going into his fight versus Felix Trinidad. Hopkins was a champion for six years when he met Tito. Tito was an ex-welterweight. Tito was still the favorite because of his dynamic offense. Hopkins undressed him. The well-rounded fighter’s gifts don’t show up as much in showcase fights. Their gifts are their ability to adjust and to neutralize. It’s not as aesthetically pleasing but often just as effective.

Shane Mosley was offensively dynamic. Winky Wright was well-rounded. Mosley despite being smaller was the favorite when they fought. Winky beat him back to back. Mike Tyson was the more offensively dynamic fighter versus Holyfield. Holyfield was the underdog. Holyfield undressed him twice.

I would favor Tank over Martin currently. I think Tank is a top 10 pound for pound guy. But we won’t know how good Martin can be, until he faces a top guy because again, well rounded fighters get undervalued until they step up, because their gifts show up best versus elite offensive fighters.

The biggest case of this I saw was Marco Antonio Barrera versus Naseem Hamed. Most picked Hamed. But Emanuel Steward knew they picked the wrong guy. He said so on an HBO broadcast. I’d like to see how Martin shows up on the BIG stage. I think it would be a good fight.

Send questions and comments to dabreadman25@hotmail.com.

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