Monday, 12 August 2013

Anthony Hardy Exclusive Interview: "My pro debut went to plan"

No Holds Barred: You made your pro debut on the 7th of July in Sunderland against Matt Seawright. How did your fight go?

Anthony Hardy: More or less to plan, really. Obviously I’d done the research on Matt before the fight so I knew what to expect. I knew he liked to come in low, throw the big right hand over the top, and try to get forward a lot, so I just counter punched him a lot and made him miss.

No Holds Barred: Was Matt as tough as you expected?

Anthony Hardy: Yeah, he was tough but I was well prepared. I won the fight three rounds to one. They gave him the third round because he landed with a good shot, but aside from some good stuff from him in that round, I was in control throughout; I was never hurt or anything. It was a tough debut but I think I came through well.

No Holds Barred: Did you have to adjust at any point?

Anthony Hardy: Well, after losing the third round, I put my foot on the gas in the fourth round. I nearly had him out of there late on in the fight; he held on for dear life.

No Holds Barred: Will you be making any changes to your game plan in the future?

Anthony Hardy: I think it’s just all about improving what skills I’ve already got. I would have liked to have been a little bit sharper on the night, but I just put that down to debut nerves. I think in my next fight I’ll open up a bit more and throw more combinations. I just wanted to be safe and win the fight at the end of the day.

No Holds Barred: Do you know if your fight or the event was filmed?

Anthony Hardy: Somebody was there filming. I’m going to get in touch with the person who filmed it to see if I can get a copy. Not sure if I can put it on YouTube, but we’ll see.

No Holds Barred: Your debut was at welterweight but when we last spoke, you told me you can make light welterweight. How did you feel at the weight?

Anthony Hardy:  I felt really comfortable at the weight on the night. I was actually going to fight lighter on the night, but a week or so before the fight we were told that Matt would come in anywhere from 10.7-10.9 stones so I adjusted my dieting a bit and worked on my strength some more. I walk around at about that weight anyway so it’s not hard for me to make welterweight.

No Holds Barred: Is a drop down in weight on the cards in the future or are you staying at welterweight?

Anthony Hardy: I’d be happy to fight at light welterweight, no problem. I’ll make whatever weight I’m told to. I’m good at getting the weight off so I don’t mind which weight I fight at.

No Holds Barred: Will the weight for your next few fights be decided by who you’re fighting in your opinion?

Anthony Hardy: I think me and the coaches will sit down and have that discussion. We've got a good diet, strength and conditioning program at the gym. We've got a new strength and conditioning coach and she works everything out for us.

No Holds Barred: What did your trainer Peter Cope think of your performance?

Anthony Hardy: He was really happy with it. Like he said, Matt Seawright is a tricky opponent. I know some people think pro debuts aren't all that important, but with the way I’m so tall and with him being a lot smaller than me, it was quite difficult for me to get my shots off accurately and time them correctly.

No Holds Barred: I think people underestimate how difficult pro debuts can be. Juan Manuel Marquez, Bernard Hopkins, Henry Armstrong, and countless others, all lost their pro debuts.

Anthony Hardy: Yeah, exactly. It can be difficult.

No Holds Barred: Do you have a second pro fight lined up yet?

Anthony Hardy: Yeah, it looks like I'll be fighting on the 19th of October at Rainton Meadows Arena. I'm really looking forward to it. I was meant to be scheduled to fight on the 13th of September in Newcastle but it doesn't look like it will happen. I think they had a full bill or something. 

No Holds Barred: What are your immediate future plans?

Anthony Hardy: I’d like to go and spar at the Ingle Gym in Sheffield soon. Aside from that, it’s all very much just keep on with what I’m doing; sparring with Bradley Saunders and training at the gym.

No Holds Barred: Have you changed your goals at all?

Anthony Hardy: I just want to keep busy as much as possible really. I want to keep winning as well, obviously, and then hopefully knock on the door for some small titles soon and then reevaluate my goals as time goes by.

Be sure to follow Anthony on Facebook: and on Twitter:  @Anth_Hardy11

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Deontay Wilder - Let's be cruel to be kind

Deontay Wilder is coming off of his biggest named victory to date last night against Siarhei Liakhovich, who he stopped in one round. A tremendous knockout victory for sure but does it simply gloss over a record which has barely any positives to it?

I'm going to analyse Deontay Wilder's career in this article from top to bottom and you can judge for yourself.

I thought the KO over Liakhovich was very good and it was a decent-ish win (i'll get onto that a bit more later). I also think Wilder could well be the most powerful guy at heavyweight outside of the Klitschko brothers. So, already we have to consider Wilder a threat in the division as power is arguably the most important attribute at the weight.

His skills and chin will always come into question, of course, up until he actually fights a live opponent, which up to now he hasn't done. For me, it's a 50-50 chance whether those skills are up to the job as there is no evidence yet to suggest one way or another. For example: Would Edwin Valero's power have been able to beat Manny Pacquiao or Juan Manuel Marquez? I am absolutely of the opinion that Pacquiao would have bludgeoned Valero and forced a stoppage, and i am certain Marquez would have countered him all night long and embarrassed him. Would that have been the end of Valero? Check out his record. Aside from the DeMarco win he didn't have much else on there.

So, my assessment of Wilder's win last night and his overall talent can be put like this: If he was to be put in the ring with one of the Klitschko brothers right now, it would be Lennox Lewis vs Shannon Briggs II - Wilder obviously playing the part of Briggs, and having only a few early rounds to win before being outclassed and stopped.

Now, i think it's appropriate to look at why a win over Liakhovich was only "decent-ish", in my opinion. One - Liakhovich hadn't fought in close to 18 months. Two - His last two fights were 9th round losses to Bryant Jennings, and Robert Helenius, and were his only in-ring performances in three years. Three - Liakhovich's last wins were against mediocre opposition in Evans Quinn and Jeremy Bates in 2010 and 2009 respectively. Four - His last decent performance was arguably his 12 round UD loss to Nikolai Valuev in 2008. Five - His last good win was over Lamon Brewster in 2006, which was also the night he won the lightly regarded WBO heavyweight title; which he subsequently lost to Shannon Briggs in his next fight.

So, all in all, i think a win over Liakhovich isn't all that great for a guy who already had 28 fights under his belt. So, i'd call it a "decent-ish" win, but certainly not a good win.

It is that "28 fights" thing which bugs me the most; aside from maybe the hype from all the knockouts he's scored. Have people never heard of Billy Fox, Lamar Clark, and Don Steele before? A man who has already fought 28 times should not be still fighting guys like Liakhovich or Audley Harrison. Those are the sort of opponents you fight after a dozen fights; He's four years too late to be doing this. Bryant Jennings fought Liakhovich in his 13th fight, Tyson Fury fought Dereck Chisora in his 15th fight, Kubrat Pulev fought Dominick Guinn in his 9th fight.....

And, for those who endlessly tell you that Wilder "never had many amateur fights", make sure you tell them that a) He had 29 amateur fights (24-5-0), won two domestic titles, and an Olympic bronze medal, and b) Peter Quillin is three years older than Wilder at 30, only had 15 amateur fights (half the amount that Wilder had) and he is currently the WBO middleweight champion.

Tell them to stop making excuses for Wilder all the time as it isn't helping his career.

Now we should look at Wilder's earlier fights to see why it took him 28 fights to "step up" (in the loosest possible terms) against perennial no-hoper Audley Harrison.

In his first 20 or so fights, his handlers contented themselves with throwing him in there with less than mediocre opposition.

Guys like Ethan Cox, Shannon Gray, Richard Greene Jr, Joseph Rabotte, Kesley Arnold, Travis Allen, Jerry Vaughn, Ty Cobb, Dustin Nichols, Shannon Caudle, and Reggie Pena barely had any fight experience between them.

Many of the fighters he has fought have also either been morbidly obese or just plain obese: Richard Greene Jr (352 lbs), Joseph Rabotte (264), Ty Cobb (254), Alvaro Morales (291), and Damon McCreary (262). Or how about Dustin Nichols at a whopping 398 lbs !!!

On the occasions where Wilder has fought known journeymen, they have also been incapable of taking a punch - something which good journeymen are famous for being able to do. Let's look at some of them and their current records: Charles Brown (8 KO losses from 16), Harold Sconiers (13 from 27), Marlon Hayes (6 from 12).

Heck, DeAndrey Abron (5 from 10) wasn't even a heavyweight! He was a career light heavyweight who had only once moved up above light heavyweight when he fought at cruiserweight against Valery Brudov two and a half years previously. He moved up from light heavyweight for the Wilder fight and then back down to cruiserweight afterwards.

The only two journeymen who seemed to buck the trend of losing by KO and actually managed to make it the distance sometimes were Alvaro Morales and Dan Sheehan. Morales' record currently stands at 4-14-7 and he has only been stopped on two occasions (by Joe Hanks and Deontay, himself), whilst Dan Sheehan has only been stopped 9 times from 39 losses.

Most of the guys Wilder has fought have had no punch resistance, in fact. Almost all of the fighters he has fought have lost more fights by KO than they have over the full distance. This explains why he has 29 KOs from 29 fights.

We still see this in his later fights as he has stepped up in the last two years:

Damon Reed, Dominique Alexander, Owen Beck, and Matthew Greer can all be described as journeymen nowadays as their careers come to a close. They too have very little punch resistance compared to some other journeymen who notoriously have chins of steel: Reed (10 KO losses from 17), Alexander (14 from 16), Beck (10 from 12), and Greer (7 from 11).

Even when Wilder has fought opponents who may have seemed fairly decent on paper, their in-ring showings showed they were no different:

- Daniel Cota: 17-3-1 at the time, had fought nobody known, and lost three times already.

- David Long: 11-1-2 at the time, had also fought nobody known.

- Jesse Oltmanns: 10-2-0 at the time, had also fought nobody known.

- Kelvin Price: 13-0 at the time, had also fought nobody known, and looked fat too.

- Audley Harrison: 31-6-0 at the time, had a lot of in-ring experience, but let's face it Harrison was a perennial no-hoper with no chin.

The one fight i actually give Wilder full credit for (let's not get carried away here; it's one fight out of 29!) is his win over Kertson Manswell. He was 23-5-0 at the time, and definitely Wilder's best opponent to date. Manswell had been the distance with Ruslan Chagaev, Cedric Boswell, and Mike Perez in the year prior to fighting Wilder.

My overall conclusion of Wilder's career is that he is an exciting fighter who is a MUST to watch. He could very well go far and he could be "the next big thing". However, if he is indeed the "next big thing", we have yet to see any evidence of this. Again, refer back to my comment about Billy Fox, Lamar Clark, and Don Steele. Check out their records. Wilder's 29 KOs are no more impressive than those of Fox, Clark or Steele and to think they are is buying into the hype a little bit too much. He is going to need to step up and prove his power against guys with some punch-resistance and solid chins. Personally, i don't think he CAN be pushed into the mega-fights too soon as he simply doesn't have the rounds under his belt (49 rounds from 29 fights). This means his stamina might not be all that.

I think he needs another 18 months of fighting against top notched low-level contenders followed by good contenders to see how he does against guys with better chins and see how his stamina checks out. I suggest he fights the likes of Dominick Guinn: 45 fights, 10 losses, never been beaten inside the distance; Fres Oquendo: 43 fights, just 2 stoppage losses, the last of which was 9 years ago; Michael Sprott: 57 fights, plenty of in-ring experience, and despite 10 of his 20 losses coming inside the distance, he has made the final bell against many of Europe's top heavyweights.