The Daily Bread Mailbag returns with Stephen "Breadman" Edwards tackling topics such as Sonny Liston suffering his loss to Muhammad Ali, the top five best heavyweights of this era, young fighters stepping up earlier for tough bouts, and more.

Hi, Bread     

A few weeks ago,an article appeared noting the 50 year anniversary of Sonny Liston's death and reviewing the unanswered questions.Another described Sonny as one of the two greatest heavyweights ever(the other being Ali).That article had him in his mid 40s for the Ali fights.It also claimed that his family was kidnapped prior to the Ali rematch to guarantee that he'd take a dive.Then forums appeared seeming to endlessly debate that controversial  fight.       

Maybe this topic has been overdone,though a few items from the last column got my attention. First Liston going down in the first round seemed unbelievable, considering how well he took blows from Cleveland Williams a few years earlier. But,as you've pointed out, Ali won the psychological war in the first fight. Some saw the punch in Lewiston as a blow to the temple.That nerve center blow ,not seen coming,could have been more effective than Williams bombs to Sonny's granite chin.Your thoughts are preferred to the forum chatter.      

Someone asked about training to handle being hurt.Did Ali have this down to a science?He once wrote about getting buzzed,entering that odd 'half dream'zone, taking it in stride and putting on an act.One was telling Foreman he hit like a 'sissy',even though he'd been buzzed.When he took a good right from Bob Foster,he did an exaggerated wobbly dance ;it was obviously an act and he KOd Foster moments later.A few years later,he did the same thing after a Shaver's right.He WAS hurt,but that same act seemed to cause Earnie to hesitate while Ali's head cleared.Of course,Ali's granite chin helped.      

Does the 'cat eyes' include peripheral vision? I'd read that Ali could go to his corner after a round and tell his corner what people were doing at ringside,though he kept his eyes on his opponent at all times (maybe not so much at the first Cooper fight). Looking back this may be TOO long.Happy New Year & thanks for each Saturday's great reads.

Terry of Warren, Pa.

Bread’s Response: A few years back I met a man by the name of Paul Gallender at Russell Peltz’s office here in Philadelphia. Gallender I hope I spelled that correctly, was in town promoting a book he wrote on Sonny Liston. We talked about Liston and in fact at the African American Museum later that night, they were doing an Expo on Liston and the book. It was very cool. I read the book and even sent a copy to some important people. Gallender believed that Liston was much older than his stated age and he also believed that Liston fought under an assumed name earlier in life. It was very interesting. I don’t want to argue facts. But I will state them. Then I will insert my opinion.

Sonny Liston was 100% mob connected. How connected and how deep, who knows. But that’s a fact. In my opinion the 1st fight was 100% legit. Here is why. Liston tried to ko Ali after the substance was rubbed in Ali’s eye. Ali almost quit because he couldn’t see. Now ask yourself why would a fighter and/or his team put a solution on his body that will burn the eyes of the opponent, try to ko the opponent for the fight not to be REAL. That to me shows they wanted to WIN. I know you brought up the rematch but there are some people who think both fights were FIXED. I don’t believe that.

In the rematch I do have a gut feeling something suspicious happened. I have actually researched this. I agree with some of Gallender’s points but not all. What I think happened was Liston did in fact get caught by a nice jolting right hand. That punch was legit. In slow mo you can see it landed and it shocked him. So the Phantom Punch moniker is not accurate. That punch LANDED.

The issue for me is could he have gotten up. YES I believe he could have. I think Liston acted a little bit after he was buzzed and the he didn’t do a great job of acting. I’ve seen several fighters do this and it gets unnoticed. A few years back two GGG opponents did this. They were hurt. But they “acted” more hurt than they really were in order to get the fight stopped. I won’t name them because this is just my opinion and I won’t disrespect anyone. But my eyes and guts don’t lie to me. Back to Liston. Here is where the FIX conspiracy comes in at. 

I don’t know if his family was kidnapped. I don’t know if he was told to take a DIVE. I don’t know if someone bet on him to lose and he did what he had to do. But I do believe he could have gotten up if he wanted to. But the referee Jersey Joe Walcott, lost control of the action and Liston had to lay down for too long and it didn’t look real. I also believe whatever the reasons were that Liston did NOT get up, Ali was NOT in on it. He didn’t have to be. He was better. He had already soundly beat him. And he was too prideful to be in on that.

Ali was just as shocked as anyone that Liston went down and didn’t get up. Ali had Liston’s ticket and he knew it from their 1st fight. You can go over being hurt in the gym, millions of times. I do think it will factor in. Tommy Hearns learned later in his career how to hold and it helped him to never get stopped over middleweight. But Ali had COPING skills. I don’t know if anyone taught him that or was it something he was born with. But he had it. He just knew how to COPE with being hurt. He had WILL power. He refused to allow him to be stopped. He was wired to overcome adversity. THE BOXING RING is a truth machine. Whatever is in you will come out of you. Ali dealt with adversity in and out of the ring. He was resilient. All of these things factor in as far as getting stopped. Unless you are knocked out COLD with a shot, there is usually a moment or two where you can escape the KO. But only special fighters in that department can consistently overcome that. It’s a combination of many things. It’s composure. It’s will power. It’s having a chin.

Everyone talks about Juan Manuel Marquez’s combination punching but his best quality is this. He gets dropped and hurt more than any fighter I have ever seen who has NEVER been stopped. Something clicks in Marquez and he refuses to be STOPPED. What’s even more special is he DOES NOT clinch when he’s hurt. He actually fights his way through the adversity. He’s on Ali’s level in this one department.

No that’s not CAT EYES you speak of. That’s Master AWARENESS. Ali was able to do more than one thing at a time. Some people have freak concentration like that. Floyd Mayweather is like that. There was a fight where he was fighting and he heard the announcers talking about football and he screams I like Michael Vick. He didn’t miss a beat in the ring. That AWARENESS also helps Ali and Floyd not get clipped. Often times getting clipped comes down to losing track of a certain punch. For the most part they don’t and when they do their CHINS hold up. Great write in but try to make them smaller next time.

Hey Bread,

Hope you and your family are healthy. I noticed that you mentioned off nights in the last mailbag. Are there some fighters in particular that you remember that were in such great shape and on their game that you knew that they would win just by watching them pre fight? I remember Mustafa Hamsho looking so ripped that I knew that Bobby Czyz didn’t stand a chance!                                   

Best regards, Brett C.

Bread’s Response: Yes I do man. I was a big fan of both James Toney and Roy Jones. But when I saw how sharp and loose Jones was, I knew Toney was in trouble. I was home from college that weekend and I was couldn’t wait for that fight. It was almost if I didn’t want either to lose but I knew Toney was in trouble. As you guys know I was a big Holyfield fan. When I saw Riddick Bowe in their first fight in the locker room, I got sick. When Bowe came down to “Feel It in the Air” by Phil Collins I got sicker. In the Holyfield vs Tyson II fight, Holyfield was zoned out. He came down to a Gospel song and it seemed as if he was speaking in tongues. I knew Tyson had no shot. Gerald McClellan was my guy. When he fought Nigel Benn I heard Nigel Benn say they brought him over here to BASH me up. Benn didn’t say it in a way where he wanted people to feel sorry for him. He said it in a way where he felt as though everyone was against him and he was willing to die to show them up. Even though McClellan was rolling early, I had an eerily feeling in my gut. It proved to be correct.

In the Julian Williams vs Jarrett Hurd fight I had personal knowledge because I trained Williams at the time. But I knew Williams would ROLL. I was so confident I told some BIG players in boxing to bet the house on JROCK and they did. Julian literally had no BAD days in over 2 months. Not even while cutting weight. He never had a bad day training. He was engaged on the gameplan and he never wavered. He didn’t try to overthink or outthink what was put in place. The week of the fight, my only concern was nothing stupid happened to ruin his peak. During the walk down I was laughing because I knew we would shut everyone up. For that fight Julian was truly in the zone and I knew he would be. I had been telling him for 2 months nothing was going to stop him on May 11th. Not even fighting in Hurd’s hometown.The great Naazim Richardson asked me in private did I feel comfortable with the fight. He was in awe of Hurd’s ability to take a punch. I think he was worried that we had to go to Hurd’s hometown and that Julian couldn’t afford to lose another title shot. He didn’t say that but I think that’s what he meant. He was being supportive but he wanted to know how I felt. I told him we would be fine. I was short with him and he liked to talk. He apologized later because he thought he offended me. But he didn’t. I loved Naazim he could never offend me, I knew he meant well. I was just zoned out myself and I didn’t want any cynical energy around me. I didn’t even want to talk to people too much before the fight.

If someone asks you the best 5 heavyweights of “this era”, what do you think they mean by era?I mean I could say 2000-present.I could say 2010-present.I could say now.I hate giving them names  of current guys because there is unfinished business in their primes .I like Joshua, Fury, Wilder, Povetkin, and then a battle between Ruiz Jr and Whyte for the final spot.

Bread’s Response: I would say the fighters currently active in this era who have been relevant within the last decade. To go back to 2000 would be too far. No one from this era was relevant in 2000. Lennox Lewis was the best heavyweight in the world….If time stopped today I would say Joshua, Fury, Wilder, Povetkin and Ruiz Jr. You have to rate Ruiz over Whyte because of the Joshua win. That’s bigger than anything Whyte has done.

Bread,

As you know, Ryan Garcia is pushing for the Gervonta Davis fight next and there seems to be some legs to it. Now, of course you have the typical negative boxing fans saying he is too young and "not ready." Garcia has his flaws, but why is he not ready for this type of fight? Tommy Hearns was 22 years old when he fought SRL and fought a hell of a fight! Mayweather was 21 years old when he beat Hernandez and 23 years old when he beat Corrales. Why is it that in this generation that young age is seen as such a detriment? A fighter THAT good and THAT young is going to have a different type of mindset where he doesn't believe he can be stopped. He will push through hell and back trying to achieve greatness.

A fighter that is in his late 20s or early 30s may have a different perspective of life and may not want to push through adversity the same way. Personally? I LOVE it when these youngsters want to be great and go for it. Teofimo Lopez was 23 years old with only 15 fights wanting to go after arguably the P4P best fighter in the world and look what happened there. How do we change this type of mindset in boxing? I believe in some cases a fighter shouldn't rush it, but all these young fighters from Tank to Shakur to Devin to Teofimo to Colbert to Garcia should be able to test their potential greatness. Early losses against each other won't hurt these guys in the long run. Imagine if majority of these guys get involved in a round robin and the types of fights we can get? Who cares if they catch a loss or two? All fans should be pushing for these fights and not trying to disparage the fighters by telling them that they "aren't ready."Take care.

Bread’s Response: Here is how we change the narrative. Younger guys not only step up to take legacy defining fights. But they win. Once it happens a few times then more fighters will want to do it and more handlers will be willing. Teofimo Lopez isn’t enough but I’m glad he did it. More guys have to be successful. If 2 more fighters under 24 take the type of fight Lopez did then it can change the mindset back to better eras.You’re correct about youth. It breeds a different type of will and confidence. I have seen fighters run in snow when they were young and they cared about being great. After they become wealthy, they run when the weather is suitable for running. They don’t wake up as early. And in the ring they aren’t willing to walk through the same fire. Younger fighters for the most part will fight harder when faced with adversity. Great point.

Hi Bread,

I started reading the mailbag last year and I remember you mentioning a few times about fighting southpaws. I saw on twitter boxers were saying that Garcia's foot placement was all wrong. I was figuring he did that so he could land the left hook. I remember Lee Wylie did a video on Cotto when he fought Sergio Martinez. Cotto established the jab then feinted off of it to step inside of Martinez' lead foot to land the left hook. What is your take on it?

Bread’s Response: I have seen fighters score kos with their lead foot on the inside and on the outside. Watch the shot Kostya Tszyu kos Zab Judah with. His lead foot was in on the INSIDE. Sometimes it’s a more direct way to the target. Sometimes Manny Pacquiao will get his lead foot outside and land his left hand. Sometimes he will step inside. With Garcia I think it was more of a defensive issue than offensive. He was landing the shots he wanted offensively. Defensively is where he had issues. He really didn’t have an answer for Campbell’s left hand to the body or counter right jab. Campbell had better positioning. His foot was on the OUTSIDE often. But it didn’t matter did it?

 The reason being is Garcia just started to overwhelm. He started to back him up. He didn’t wait on him and eventually he got him to cover up because he was overwhelming and he was able to get a liver shot through. I really think it depends on what type of punch you want to land and what type of punch you want to defend. For example if you’re a great left hooker to the body. You want your foot outside the southpaw’s so you can land that shot, especially in close. I think the best fighter’s adjust to what they want to do and what the opponent wants to do. No one is exclusively in either position. I have seen both work. For every fight you show me where the fighter who had outside position won. I can show you a fight where the fighter who had inside position won. It’s over stated if you really want the truth.

Sup Breadman, long time reader, first time writing in.

In a recent mailbag where you discussing the awful run of bad luck experienced by Matt Korobov you mentioned he’s probably one of this generations most skilled fighters to never win a title. This prompted me to go back and watch several of his fights and I mostly agree. This me wondering who you think belongs in that conversation with Korobov. If you had to pick 5 of this generations best fighters who never won a belt, or likely won’t win one at this point, who would they be? I was thinking Luke Campbell. Olympic gold medalist in both of his title shots he had good close fights with not only the guys who were the 135lbs kings at that moment, but also real P4P players (Linares and Loma) and he gave them both hell.

With the loss to Garcia and the enormous amount of young talent at 135 it’s unlikely we see Campbell back in the title picture before his career comes to a close. Another fighter that came to mind was Sullivan Barrera, at 38 and coming off a loss to Hart it’s unlikely he finds himself in a title fight let alone win one, but he’s managed to stay in the top 10 at 175lbs for half of the decade. Went to the cards with Ward, has solid wins over Shabransky, Joe Smith Jr, and Sean Monoghan it seemed at his best he was only gonna lose to the very best. I don’t think I can put together a complete top 5 without thinking about it a little more, maybe your insight will help me round out my list.

Bread’s Response: This is tough because it’s hard to say who can win a belt. But I will name fighters who at least got title shots. There are 4 belts available in each division. That’s 68 titles! I agree Korobov should be in the top 5. Let’s see Luke Campbell also. Erickson Lubin. I think Lubin WILL win a title but he hasn’t yet and he did get one title shot. Michel Soro is also very talented and he never won a title as of yet. Andre Dirrell is supremely talented and he never won a world title. And I would put James Kirkland in there. He hasn’t received a title shot but Kirkland was some fighter in his prime.

Greetings and Blessings as always sir. In your opinion what constitutes a perfect fight from an individual fighter? Every fighter and style is different, is the performance based on how well they execute a game plan, conditioning, punch selection etc? How well do the intangibles effect accessing a performance. I’m sure level of opposition play a part as well. For example De La Hoya vs Quartey may have been a better fight, but Chavez 1 was a much better performance from Oscar. What are a few perfect fights to do a study session on. Thank you as always for your time.

Jack from Detroit.

Bread’s Response: I constitute the PERFECT FIGHT by what my eyes tell me factoring in the APPLICATION of SKILLS and EXECUTION of GAME PLAN. It’s hard to describe but I can tell you some perfect fights to study. I will try to name big fights at the highest level because most elite fighters will look perfect vs inferior competition. When I see a fight I consider perfect it doesn’t mean the fighter who was perfect didn’t get hit or didn’t make one mistake. That’s impossible for the most part. But it means that the fighter was just lights out. In the ZONE. He rarely made mistakes. He didn’t leave shots on the table. He adjusted quickly to resistance. You know it when you see it. Here goes.

Salvador Sanchez vs Wilfredo Gomez.

Pernell Whitaker vs Jose Luis Ramirez2 & Greg Haugen

Roy Jones vs James Toney

James Toney vs Iran Barkley

Julio Cesar Chavez vs Edwin Rosario

Buddy McGirt vs Simon Brown

Manny Pacquiao vs Oscar De La Hoya

Floyd Mayweather vs Diego Corrales

Marco Antonio Barrera vs Naseem Hamed

Roberto Duran vs Ray Leonard1

Bernard Hopkins vs Felix Trinidad

Oscar De La Hoya vs Julio Cesar Chavez1

Muhammad Ali vs Cleveland Williams

Joe Frazier vs Muhammad Ali

Marvin Hagler vs Tommy Hearns

Canelo Alvarez vs Callum Smith

There may be a few more that I have watched in entirety but I they don’t come to mind this Sunny Morning.

In past mailbags, you’ve made a point to distinguish the difference between GREATER and BETTER. You’ve said BETTER refers to a fighter’s talents and skillset while GREATER refers to their accomplishments.So here’s my question: Who are some fighters who became GREAT, but you think they had contemporaries you would describe as BETTER?

Bread’s Response: Um….let’s see. I think Barney Ross was the 2nd best fighter of his era behind Henry Amrstrong. But guys like Tony Canzoneri and Mickey Walker are consistently rated over him. I believe Ezzard Charles is better than Archie Moore. But until recently Moore was considered greater and better. I love Moore but he’s not. I believe Wlad Klitschko is GREATER than Vitali Klitschko because of number of title defenses and longevity but I believe Vitali is the better fighter.

Bread,

I saw your tweet regarding fighters only fighting two times a year far too early in their careers which hurts their development. That is an interesting point and a true point of this era. Can you discuss the difference of how much a fighter spends in the gym when they only fight two times a year opposed to when they start out and get 4-6 fights per year? Are you able to spot it instantly when a fighter starts taking more time off in the gym as their career progresses? How do you deal with that as a trainer? I love how you breakdown the best attribute of fighters, so can you break down from the following youngsters what they do best?Ryan Garcia, Teofimo Lopez, Gervonta Davis, Chris Colbert, Shakur Stevenson, Devin Haney.

Take care.

Bread’s Response: It’s not just how much time a fighter spends in the gym. A fighter locks in more when he has a fight date. A fighter progresses more earlier in his career when he fights more often. It’s very simple. The more you do something the better you will get. In this era you have to supplement it with quality sparring and making it fun to go to the gym even though the fighter won’t be fighting for 6 months.

I can tell by their weight. I can tell by their complacency level. It’s hard on them to be honest but this is a hard game. I used to get consumed with what a fighter does while he’s not around me. But now I tell them what they need to do and I let the GRIND see if they will do it or not. I can’t babysit a fighter who won’t be fighting for another 6 months. If he wants to get better he will come in the gym and be engaged. If you constantly call and give direction to a fighter who is not doing the right thing, he’s going to resent you and become combative. So I speak my peace and don’t stress it anymore. Integrity is if you do the right thing while no one is looking.

 I love these young studs we have coming up. We have to be careful calling them the 4 Kings. They have not fought one fight against each other yet. The 4 Kings fought 9 times and the first fight happened when Ray Leonard fought Roberto Duran in his 4th year as a pro. What we write last forever. So if these kids don’t ever fight, and WE started calling them the 4 Kings, it would irresponsible to say the least.

Breaking Down the Attributes:

Ryan Garcia - Is a Gun Slinger! He seems to have the quickest draw in the GAME. He has the ability to stay in the danger zone. Keep his eye on he target and punch while the opponent is punching.

Teofimo Lopez - is a very gifted all around fighter. He seems to be able to do everything at a high level. He has no glaring weakness and he checks the boxes in every category. Most all around fighters are not as gifted physically as Lopez. Most are solid in every area. But Teofimo elite all around. He has elite feet. He has elite punch release. He has an elite first step. He’s very well proportioned. He’s not only a puncher but he’s physically strong which is different. He can throw every punch in the book. He’s doesn’t have freaky defensive reflexes but he’s very competent defensively and his IQ doesn’t let him get beat up.

Gervonta Davis - He’s a great mix of violence, athleticism, power and speed.

Chris Colbert - has elite boxing talent. He knows his way around a boxing ring with elite talent to go with it.

Shakur Stevenson - Has a PREEMPTIVE Gift defensively. He can neutralize an attack with his eyes, instincts and feet before the attack is mounted. I don’t know who’s the best. But he is the most difficult to beat at this point.

Devin Haney - Is a super sharp jabber. Haney’s jab is special and he uses it to neutralize opponents offensively and to defend against their attacks. Haney has one of the top 5 jabs in boxing.

Hi Bread,

I have frequently heard you talk about the trainers you consider on top of their game right now. Obviously, Reynosos have done wonders with Canelo and appear to be doing a good job with Garcia. Despite the criticism, I actually feel that they are doing a decent job with Valdez as well. He is not as explosive but is taking far less punishment in fights. It is evident by the punch stats. Having said that, Nery is certainly on a free fall and Reynosos can't seem to be able to stop it. Obviously, you can't do well with all fighters but I was wondering if it also has something to do with having an excessively large stable. All his fighters demand attention and he gives more attention to the starlicious ones like Canelo, Garcia and Ruiz. Is there a point where a trainer needs to stop accepting fighters into his stable because he can't give equal amount of quality time to all of them?

Regards, Saurabh

Bread’s Response: Eddy Reynoso is a great trainer. I wouldn’t care if Oscar Valdez and Luis Nery lose the rest of their fights. A trainer is not a magician, he’s a trainer. And just because they aren’t doing as well as Garcia and Canelo it doesn’t mean Reynoso is not doing a great job. It may mean that Garcia and Canelo are more adaptive athletes. Maybe they learn quicker. Maybe they don’t have the distractions outside of the ring. We don’t know. In school we are given homework and things to study. Some students go home and study. Some don’t. That’s not on the teacher and trainer. That’s on the student or fighter.

I have seen fighters come in the gym and talk while they shadowbox. They do just enough to warm up. But they never work on what they were taught the previous day. That right there will stunt the learning curb. Maybe Garcia and Canelo are more engaged. Maybe Nery and Valdez peaked out. I have no idea. I’m not in the gym with them. But if they don’t ascend like young Garcia I won’t blame Reynoso. That’s ridiculous if anyone does. Nery has major weight issues which can zap a fighter’s prime. And Valdez is a high energy fighter. He may be declining. As far who will be treated better. I think the fighter with the fight coming up gets the most attention. If they all have fights coming up, I don’t know how Reynoso manages his schedule. Some trainers, train everyone at the same time. Some assign time slots so everyone can get individual attention. I do both.

Personally I think it’s hard to train more than 5 fighters at once. Even if they don’t all have fights at the same time there are only but so many hours of in the day. The average training session is 90 minutes to 2 hours. There are only but so many working hours in the day. A fighter has to rest. He also has road work and conditioning. A trainer needs rest to and you can’t train professional fighters on an assembly line like you’re doing a white collar boxing class. Specificity is important. So from my perspective I wouldn’t take more than 5 guys and that’s my MAX. But everyone is different. Ideally I only want 3 guys close to the same weight, so I can have in house sparring.

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