By Chris Robinson
There always seems to be something special about having a conversation with North Philadelphia-based trainer Naazim Richardson.
Regarded as somewhat of an intellectual Zen master by those close to the sport, Richardson is in Carson, California this weekend, as he will be leading underdog Demetrius Hopkins into battle against hot prospect Jermell Charlo as part of a Showtime-televised tripleheader from the Home Depot Center.
Throughout the week, Richardson has been fielding questions from the media about different aspects of the fight game.
Always interested in Naazim’s breakdown of a meaningful, upcoming fight, I asked him for his thoughts on the Floyd Mayweather-Saul Alvarez showdown on September 14 in Las Vegas.
Mayweather is coming off of a virtuoso display against Robert Guerrero last month, as he boxed his way towards a commanding unanimous decision victory over twelve rounds. Mayweather showed excellent reflexes, timing, speed, and movement during the contest, none of which seemed to surprise Richardson.
“Pretty much the way we thought it would go,” Richardson said of Floyd’s victory. “Anybody who knows Guerrero didn’t expect Floyd to stop him. And everybody knew Guerrero was going to give the best effort he could, but Floyd is special.”
Asked if he sees similar greatness within Alvarez, Richardson was reluctant.
“I appreciate Alvarez, because I respect athletes who put that kind of work in, but I think this fight tells us whether or not Alvarez is special,” Richardson explained.
“I felt like he only had one test, and that test was [Manny] Pacquiao beat Shane [Mosley], Mayweather beat Shane; he wasn’t there to beat Shane,” Richardson added. “Him beating Shane meant nothing. His job was to go in there and do something that they couldn’t do and he couldn’t get that done. As a matter of fact, Shane ended up fighting him better than the other two.”
Having trained Mosley heading into his match with Alvarez last year, Richardson studied the Mexican star meticulously and came away with some keen observations that he still feels hold true today.
“I had seen Saul close when I was watching him with Shane and I noticed that he has a tendency to fight like a guy who makes weight,” Richardson said. “He moves early in every round. In the beginning of every round, he doesn’t engage, he moves. And then, halfway through the round, he counter-punches. And by the end of the round he starts moving forward and in the second half of the fight he starts fighting, he starts rumbling.
“When he starts rumbling, the biggest plus about Saul Alvarez is he puts combinations together,” Richardson continued. “He won’t just pot-shot. He will run them combinations off and that wins fights.”
Without asking for an official prediction on the fight, I got the sense that Naazim feels Saul might come up a little short when he faces off with Mayweather in three months' time.