Forgotten Fades – Ricardo Williams Jr. vs Juan Valenzuela

Sometimes we get fights that for one reason or another that has a fighter that pulls out and they are replaced with a different fighter.  Sometimes that different fighter maybe looking for a second chance redeem themselves and turn their career around.  Sometimes that results in a fantastic fight happening.  Sometimes an unexpected result that happens that no one thought would be possible or feasible.  This is the tale of Ricardo Williams Jr vs Juan Valenzuela.

                Ricardo Williams Jr was a highly touted prospect from Cincinnati, Ohio.  At the 2000 Olympics Games, he had a good showing and came back with the silver medal.  After which he would turn pro and sign with Lou DiBella along with some of his Olympic teammates.  “Slick Ricky” showed glimpses of being a future champion within his first couple of fights.  He displayed a very entertaining boxer puncher style who whipped beautiful combinations into his opponents.  In his 9th professional fight, he would score a very impressive victory soundly outpointing former IBF world light welterweight champion Terron Millett over 10 rounds.  With the good however there was the bad.  When Ricardo signed with Lou DiBella, he received a signing bonus of $1.4 million dollars.  That amount was unprecedented for a debuting fighter.  A millionaire before accomplishing anything significant in the ring, he also started showing signs of being underconditioned and listless.  This would plant the seeds of destruction for him and his career.

                Juan “El Pollo” Valenzuela in contrast, did not have such an illustrious debut.  He debuted a year earlier in 1999.  His career was a tougher road travelled as he worked his way up the ladder. In 2002 we burst on to the world stage when he upset future world champion Julio Diaz on an episode of “ESPN Friday Night Fights”.  Diaz was just coming off a very close split decision loss to Angel Manfredy in a lightweight title eliminator, which was his first loss. In his second fight from that loss, he faced “El Pollo” and was shockingly knocked out standing up in 1 round.  Unfortunately for Valenzuela, he would follow that upset win with 2 straight losses to then highly touted prospect Alex Trujillo and hard punching journeyman Ernesto Zepeda. 

                The fight was scheduled as the main undercard support for Tim Austin vs Rafael Marquez.  Ricardo was originally scheduled to face Juan Carlos Rubio but Rubio ended up pulling out of the fight.  So “El Pollo” was penciled in as a last-minute replacement.  This was scheduled to be a 10-round fight at 140 pounds.  However, Ricardo would be overweight by 1 pound on top of Valenzuela also weighing at 144. It was changed to be contested at welterweight.  The fight night weights would show Ricardo Williams at 149, Juan Valenzuela at 157.  Once again, questions were raised on Ricardo’s commitment and dedication to his training.   On that night, live on HBO, some of those questions would be answered.

                From the opening bell, Valenzuela put the pressure on Williams and moved forward.  Valenzuela would let both hands fly eager to test the smaller man’s chin.  Williams was able to move back and land some nice counters. However, the counters did not really seem to faze much less stop any of Valenzuela’s momentum.  What also was apparent was that Ricardo Williams was not conditioned for a fight like this. From Round 2 on, you can see him with his mouth open as he moved around the ring.  In between rounds, you could see him in his corner taking deep breaths.   Round 3, Valenzuela keeps moving forward on Williams starting to land some big shots.  That constant pressure from a bigger man had Williams on edge.  His legs starting to get heavier, Williams opted to start standing his ground to trade.  In doing so, Valenzuela started mixing up his head shots with some vicious body work.  The end of the 4th round, the crowd exploded as both men landed power shots on each other.  The middle rounds saw Valenzuela start taking control of the fight.  When Williams fights off his backfoot, Valenzuela is in full pursuit.  “El Pollo” barely giving him any room to set and land too many effective counters.  Failed to get his respect, Williams started getting outworked and taking some unnecessary shots. He was being bullied into the ropes catching combinations upstairs and downstairs.  One thing that I could not help but notice: “Slicky Ricky” was a tough guy and had some steel resolve in him.  This had been an incredibly rough fight for a prospect to go through.  That resolve would be tested even more in the later rounds of the fight.

 In round 8, Valenzuela found his mark and was hitting Williams repeatedly with power shots.  At one point in the round, Ricardo does answer back with a combination of his own.  Valenzuela’s response:  Turns away and does a shimmy type of dance much to the delight of the crowd.  Then he turns back and increases his punch rate on a fading Ricardo Williams.  The late great Emanuel Steward noted in his commentary that the punches that Williams was throwing at this point were almost shoeshine.  That was a huge round for Valenzuela.  The 9th round saw Valenzuela press harder on the gas pedal and just pounds Williams all over the ring.  A series of straight right hands and uppercuts followed by a 1-2 combination had Williams on the verge of being knocked out.  In fact, the only thing Valenzuela did wrong in this round was mistake the 10 sec warning to be the end of the round.  He started prematurely celebrating before the ref turned him around to fight.  In the 10th and final round, you can sense the fight is incredibly close.  The late Harold Lederman had it 86-85 for Williams on his scorecard.  Valenzuela, showing signs of fatigue for the first time in this bout, still did not shy away from his game plan.  Williams would eat a huge shot from Valenzuela and then come back with hard counters.  They would end up trading toe to toe as the final bell rang.  What an extraordinary fight and showing of guts by both fighters.   It would be an unfortunate first loss for the former Olympian Ricardo Williams Jr. Juan “El Pollo” Valenzuela would win a unanimous decision with scores of 98-92 and 97-93 x 2. 

The aftermath for both fighters would see their career trajectories go off different directions.  For Ricardo Williams Jr, he would never regain any of the momentum that he had as a prospect.  Shortly after the loss, Lou DiBella would release him from his contract.  Two fights later, he would suffer an embarrassing upset split decision loss to aging former WBO Welterweight Champion Manning Galloway.  In 2005, he was sentenced to 3 years for drug trafficking charges.  Upon his release from prison, he would resume his career on smaller cards and venues.  He still displayed some of the talent that made him so highly regarded.  He would win 9 straight fights before suffering his first knockout loss at the hands of Carson Jones for the USBA Welterweight Title.  After winning 3 more fights, Ricardo Williams Jr. would retire with a 22-3 record with 12 knockouts.  For Juan Valenzuela, his career momentum only moved upwards.  One of the first fighters that was signed to Golden Boy Promotions, he would rattle off 4 more wins.  During which he would establish himself as a very fan friendly fighter.  However, fate would deal him a very cruel hand.  He was scheduled to fight Miguel Cotto on the undercard for Manny Pacquiao vs Juan Manuel Marquez 1.  A pre-fight exam would reveal a detached retina.  Valenzuela would not fight again for another 3 years.  He returned in 2007 to fight a split decision draw with journeyman Daniel Stanislavjevic. He has not fought since and presumed retired with a 20-6-1 record with 9 knockouts.  The last thing I heard regarding “El Pollo” was the fact he was training some fighters.  To me it is a shame 2 talented fighters turned into 2 notable “What If?” candidates in the annals of boxing history.  My highest recommendation to watch.  You will not be disappointed.

Written by Patscorpio

Nightly Knockouts

Nightly Knockouts

Nightly Knockouts

Nightly Knockouts

THE CENTER OF THE RING (Boxing Training)

If you’ve watched enough fights or been training a lot along with sparring and competition. You have probably heard the following statement or variations of it. “Hold the center of the ring” “Back to the center” “Stay off the ropes”

A great piece of advice but let’s dig further into what is affected when it comes to the center of the ring and why it is always sought for (or at least mentioned non stop by corners and commentators alike)

The most common reason of why the center of the ring is sought after in a basic sense is it gives the impression that you are the one in control of the ring making the opponent give ground and be forced to move around to find a way back in. When it comes to a basic idea of judging a fight “the one who backs off, appears to be losing” there is way more to unpack as it depends on effective aggression and what the person giving ground is doing.

However due to that basic idea it becomes very easy for a fighter to fall short on the judges score cards because all they saw was someone moving backwards. Which because of judges, another reason for people gunning for the center of the ring.

The judges can see you clearly 

Here is a diagram of a ring, take note of where the judges sit

As you can see each judge’s view can become limited based on where the two fighters are going, where it becomes more of their best assessment of what is going on if someone is on the ropes or the corners vs the center of the ring where it is easier to see.

From this point of view you can see if it comes to clean hits. It’s 1 – 1 for both fighters. However going back to the diagram, one judge will be able to see what Canelo did in that position (Possibly 2 out of the 3 depending on which side of the ring they are on). For the other two judges, Golovkin has Canelo on the ropes and gets some shots in before backing off.

While there can be some benefits fighting off the ropes if you have the skillset, you have to make sure it shows that you came off the winner of that exchange.

Make them back off not wait for them to do so

Now we have an idea of what we are dealing with while in the ring, let’s see what is most likely to happen when both fighters are more determined to hold the center.

Most obvious is, exchanges are most likely to happen. Both of you are trying to be the one in control of the hill. So sparks will fly, a whole bunch of subtle strategies will come into play. How effective is your jab? How good is your defense? Can you get shots in while not paying the price? Are you able to use small steps to make the person over commit?

Also of course, there will be moments you lose the center. It becomes a case of how do you manage to lure the person into giving away the center so you can get back there forcing the positioning back to neutral? Losing the center does not necessarily kill your mobility options (unless you go straight into the ropes or corner) it just means you have to be a bit more precise and use subtle movement, effective aggression and defense to get it back.

This all expands further into so many other avenues when it comes to technique, setting up offense and defense which I will set aside for another time. This focus was just food for thought for the fighter, the trainer, the coach and the fight fans who watch two competitors put their skills to the test.

And as always keep training, keep studying fights and rebuild your game

Written by PJ the Fight Architect

Real Talk Music: RZA vs DJ Premier Battle Recap

On this episode of “Real Talk” the Ring Gang crew share their thoughts on the DJ battle between the RZA and DJ Premier on Instagram live this past weekend
Some pre podcast banter that the Ring Gang crew recorded prior to our actual podcast on very random topics. The random topic was Vice TV Recap Brawl For All.

ALTERNATIVES TO THE GYM (Boxing Training)

It is pretty obvious nowadays due to the pandemic access to certain luxuries or things taken for granted have now suddenly become limited if not completely closed entirely.

When the gym leaves you on “read”

With this new prospect of people working, communicating and collaborating remotely people are seeking solutions to being stuck at home and not gorging themselves on snacks without first burning the calories to earn it. We are now looking to simply doing workouts from home.

Seems simple enough but not necessarily for everyone. For some people loved the social aspect of the gym, hanging out with like minded people and motivating and encouraging each other to reach that eventual goal one day at a time. Having the coach there and ready to provide instruction on what to do and have a game plan to approach that goal, it’s quite a lot to lose so suddenly.

Let’s first take a look and see what is being done now because even the gyms need to make sure their clients are still receiving their money’s worth and not feel left in the dust.

FORMS OF COMMUNICATION

For the most part, we have access to phones and the internet. Calls, e-mails, texts, group chats are still available especially with how connected most people are to social media (whether they want to be or not).

Gyms are making content for their members to follow, as well as accommodating those who may not have certain items in their house but suggest to try and get them if possible.

Shadow boxing routine from Coach Aaron at Kingdom MMA and Fitness

Not only just gyms but various fighters and online trainers are providing little routines that are simple to follow and don’t require much. Just yourself and some space.

So trainers are doing their part. What can we the people at home do to get ourselves started and not get too lethargic while in lockup?

Stuck at home, an outgoing person’s worst nightmare

SPACE

Depending on where you live, space will be required to start your workouts. If we just focus on not having any gear whatsoever just simply for body weight exercises. Enough space to allow you to do push-ups, sit-ups, planks, squat thrusts and jumping jacks would be a good start (so about your height horizontally and vertically measured on the floor)

This will allow you to start basic workouts, no gear required. There are plenty of sources showing daily routines or challenges to follow for the month as you slowly learn the mechanics of your own body while building strength in the joints and smaller muscles that might get ignored when trying to use athleticism to blaze through.

You can work on how your strikes look and see if they are being done right

Record so you can see how you look and fix whatever is needed

Have focused drills on a specific combination or technique (don’t slack)

Do these during the rest in between sets

  • Straight punches, shoe shine combinations as many as you can before the next set or at least for 15 – 30 seconds

Be more comfortable throwing your strikes in a controlled manner, so then you realize when you are overdoing something and learn to find out why.

SIMPLE GEAR TO GET STARTED

Now depending where you live, you are not the only one who has become “inspired” to make a home gym and you’ve noticed a lot of weights have disappeared from the shelves like toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Let’s make due with some gear that doesn’t break the bank while still maintaining small space available.

  • Jump Rope
  • The most basic and cheap alternative in case jumping jacks are getting boring, good cardio can be the equivalent of a run (I’d recommend going outside for a light jog or walk, get some fresh air while maintaining your distance)
  • Medicine Ball
  • This item has yet to disappear (50/50 chance), good for adding some variation to push-ups and sit-ups
  • Kettle-Bell/Dumbbell
  • Free weights to build strength if you want a bit more than simply body weight
  • Yoga Mat
  • In case you are concerned with sweating all over the place, having a towel nearby helps too

When more space is available to you, say like a basement or garage then more doors open based on your budget or who is willing to help you put stuff together.

Make due with what space you got whether it is a lot

Or Not

In the meantime the biggest hurdle for everyone is accountability, can you police yourself and maintain the discipline of keeping to a routine? Only you have the answer to that, the saying is it takes four weeks to turn something into a habit, let’s give it a shot.

Written by PJ the Fight Architect.