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Rory MacDonald (15-1) vs. Robbie Lawler (21-9)
Rory MacDonald will try to get closer to earning a title bout as he goes up against Robbie Lawler at UFC 167 on Saturday night.
Since losing to Carlos Condit in 2010, MacDonald has won five straight matches, looking dominant. During the win streak, he has beaten top-notch competition such as Nate Diaz and BJ Penn, showing he has the ability to defeat anybody. He won three of those fights by unanimous decision, while winning the other two with devastating knockout blows. MacDonald's biggest strength is his quickness, able to deliver a vicious blow at any moment. In that match against Condit, he went toe-to-toe with one of the best fighters in the welterweight class, proving he belongs among the true contenders. With an opportunity for a chance at the title within his grasp, he must be ready to go against a fighter with vicious knockout power as well. Lawler has won his first two matches in the UFC, including an impressive knockout victory over Bobby Voelker at UFC on FOX 8 in his most recent fight on July 27. In that match, he delivered a huge kick to the head, showing impressive ability.
MacDonald is a terrific fighter with the ability to win a match in any different way. Of his 15 victories, he has won six by knockout and six by submission, with seven of those being first-round finishes. The 24-year-old has also won three matches by decision. His quickness will play a huge role in this fight, as he lands 4.13 strikes per minute, a significant advantage over Lawler, who lands just 2.63 strikes per minute. His 51percent striking accuracy is also much better than Lawler's 42percent rate, as is his striking defense of 67percent (Lawler is 61percent). The Canadian-born MacDonald's biggest advantages in this match will be his athleticism and cardio. While "Ares" has shown the ability to win by way of knockout, he does not want to have this fight turn into a slugfest. If he comes out disciplined, he will be in great shape. However, if he tries to go punch-for-punch against Lawler, he could be in trouble.
Of Lawlers 21 career victories, 18 have come by way of knockout and 12 wins were first-round finishes. He also has two wins by decision, and one by submission. While the 31-year-old American does not land as many strikes as MacDonald, his punches do a lot more damage. During his two wins this year, "Ruthless" has been able to set the pace of the fight and turn it into more of a slugfest, where he is almost unbeatable in this class. In addition to being one inch smaller than MacDonald, Lawler is at a disadvantage when it comes to the takedown game, as MacDonald has a takedown defense of 86 percent, while Lawler's is just 63 percent. As long as Lawler is able to control the fight and keep it mostly on his feet, then he is in great shape. With two fighters with such different abilities, whoever is able to come out and dictate the fight will be leaving the octagon with a victory.
Boxing: Wladimir Klitschko clash still some way off despite grit and guts of Tyson Fury 2013-04-22
Nathan Cleverly moved from neglected world champion to the centre of attention with a flawless display while Tyson Fury survived a wild night to lead a confused crowd in song at the end of his New York debut on Saturday night.
Fury had talked and talked in the weeks and days before the first bell at the Felt Forum, the cavernous basement venue at Madison Square Garden, and there were many hoping for him to be silenced by the educated fists of Steve Cunningham. It looked like Cunningham, who was three stone lighter and six inches shorter, would deliver their wish when Fury, standing square and with his left hand low, was hit and dropped with the first punch of the second round.
"I was caught, I went down and then I got up to win," said Fury, after his singing had silenced the crowd. "I have grown up watching real men fight and real men get up when they are knocked down, get on with it and win. That is what a heavyweight has to do. "
Fury was fighting without his mentor, trainer and uncle in his corner after a visa mishap left, Peter Fury fuming at the Canadian border; it is unlikely that the fight would have started, continued and ended in any other way. Fury is a reckless attraction, a fighter with excessive heart, tremendous natural talent and a tendency to make his fights slugfests like the clashes that illuminated the 1970s and 80s.
On Saturday night Fury was out on his feet and at the mercy of Cunningham, who looked at times like a peak Evander Holyfield, for several rounds; he had a point deducted in round five for holding, which was the only way he was staying upright. However, it was also in the fifth that Fury's bulk first started to drain Cunningham's strength and desire. It was, make no mistake, the type of fight scriptwriters refer to when they create ridiculous fight scenes.
"Man, he is just so big and he can fight," admitted a crushed and tearful Cunningham, who was stopped for the first time in his career. "I thought that he was down for good when I dropped him but he just got up more determined."
It needs to be said, to put the fight in context, that last December Cunningham lost a disgraceful split decision to Tomasz Adamek, who is considered the No 1 challenger for the world titles held by the Klitschko brothers, Wladimir and Vitali.
In round seven, as Cunningham was being manhandled with disturbing ease, Fury held up Cunningham's head with his left forearm and delivered a cruel right hand to the chin. Cunningham went down heavily and had no chance of beating the count. The final punch and illegal move, by the way, would have the delighted the kings of filthy fighting Rocky Marciano and Muhammad Ali.
Fury, who is 24 and unbeaten in 21 fights, now has a final eliminator for Wladimir Klitschko's IBF heavyweight title against Bulgaria's Kubrat Pulev, another of the "Eastern European stiffs", before getting a championship fight. On Saturday night he failed to convince everybody but he showed once again that grit and guts are crucial, and often missing, ingredients in a heavyweight boxer's construction.
Cleverly is much better at containing his emotions and fought with the right amount of brain and force to win every single round against Robin Krasniqi, his mandatory challenger, and retain his WBO light-heavyweight title at Wembley. Cleverly, performing like a vintage Joe Calzaghe, seldom wasted a punch, moved unnecessarily or took too many silly punches. It was a masterclass of control, a welcome outing for the purists.
"The plan was to just get through this guy because he was a mandatory and I had to fight him," said Cleverly. "Now I want the fights that will really test me and I know that they can be made."
In a bizarre decision by the WBO, an organisation that is based in Puerto Rico but, like all the sanctioning bodies, often delivers orders based on fantasy, Cleverly has another immediate mandatory against Jrgen Brhmer, a German who is a balding bad-boy and felon from the old east of the country.
"I would like to make the fights the fans want, not the ones that the sanctioning bodies order, " said Frank Warren, the promoter. "I will speak to all involved and see what can be done about Brhmer." In theory Cleverly could fight the WBA champion Beibut Shumenov as chief support when Bernard Hopkins defends his IBF title against Karo Murat in Brooklyn on 27 July. Hopkins, 48, is the weight's prize cash attraction and has agreed to fight Cleverly.
There will be some serious late-night fixing necessary to get Cleverly to Shumenov without meeting Brhmer, and to get Manchester's Fury in the opposite corner to Pulev. In boxing the fighting has always been the easy part.
Haroon Khan: Baby Khan ready to rumble but his mum can't bear to watch 2013-04-22
Boxing has never been short on bands of brothers, from the Coopers to the Klitschkos. Amir Khan's younger sibling Haroon is the latest to forge a family link with the fight game, though not everyone in the Khan clan is happy about it.
The 21-year-old recalls how his mother, Falak, was so distressed at the ringside after witnessing Amir being shockingly KO'd in 54 seconds by the Colombian Breidis Prescott in his 19th professional fight that she collapsed and had to be given oxygen.
The next day she asked Haroon to hand her his own amateur boxing kit. "I said, 'Thanks mum', thinking she was going to wash it. But she binned it and told me, 'You're not boxing any more'."
It was only after Amir and their father, Shah, pleaded with her that she reluctantly relented. "She said I could carry on but only if I promised to stay amateur."
It is a promise that he has been unable to keep, and he will make his professional debut on the undercard of big brother's 12-round bout against the Mexican Julio Diaz at the Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield on Saturday.
Their mother is far from happy at the prospect, especially following the death earlier this month of the boxer Michael Norgrove, the sport's first fatality in Britain in 18 years. "Obviously she is worried, just as I was when I knew I had to break the news about turning pro. She was abroad when I made my mind up and I kept putting off telling her. But in the end my dad insisted I had to make the call.
"When I told her she pleaded with me and said, 'You don't need to be a boxer. We've already got one in the family'." Haroon had recently done a photo-shoot for Selfridges, so she begged him: "Stick to modelling."
"I admit I was in two minds but boxing won," he says. "Now, after this boxing death, she keeps asking me, 'Are you sure you've made the right choice?' I can understand why she doesn't like seeing her sons get hit. This is a dangerous business but, like Amir, I know the risks.
"I told her, 'Look what Amir's achieved; if he can do it, so can I. Don't worry, one day you will be as proud of me as you are of him'."
One of the questions I asked Shah Khan after Amir won the 2004 Olympic lightweight boxing silver medal in Athens was: "Are there any more at home like him?" "Actually yes," he said. "And he might even be better than Amir one day."
It is a prediction with which Amir himself concurs. "As kids we used to scrap with each other in our front room and he was quite a handful. There will be a lot of pressure on him as my kid brother but he is his own man and I really believe he will go all the way. I made mistakes by not being totally focused and I've told him, 'No messing'. This is the hurt business and it's for real."
Once tagged "Baby Khan", Haroon is Amir's little brother in every sense, fighting at super-flyweight (8st 3lb), some two stones lighter, three inches shorter and five years younger than the former world light-welter champion.
He decided to make the switch to the pro ranks where he will be promoted by his brother after the frustrations of an impressive amateur career in which he boxed for England but, when he was overlooked for the Olympic squad, won a Commonwealth Games bronze medal representing Pakistan, his father's birthplace.
He was trained as an amateur by Amir's old Bury club coach, Mick Jelley, who says: "Whether he makes it is up to him. He has everything going for him but sometimes he has wanted to play the good life, and the good life doesn't work. If he applies himself he'll smash his way through, there'll be no stopping him. The thing is, he's become a man now."
Style-wise Haroon, or Harry as he is known, is different to Amir, more of a box-fighter in the Ricky Hatton mould. "An exciting little bugger," says Jelley.
Surprisingly, Haroon is now being schooled in Salford by Oliver Harrison, the first of three trainers fired by Amir. The split was acrimonious but Haroon says: "They still speak, and it was Amir who suggested him because he is a great coach to young fighters."
Falak Khan will not be in Sheffield to see Haroon's pro debut against the 20-year-old Bulgarian Stefan Slavchev. She has not watched either of her sons fight since that fateful night in Manchester four years ago. Instead she stays at home, literally praying for their safe return.
"Amir has taught me a lot, not only about boxing but about life," says Haroon. "But I won't be so gung-ho as he was. One thing I've learned is that if you go down, don't get up and start trading punches. Stay on the back foot. Amir learned from that bad experience and went on to become a world champion. I'm going to be one too, whatever it takes."
Just don't tell mum.
Boxing: Dereck Chisora says David Price is right2013-04-22
Price rejected the chance to fight Chisora in order to avenge his second-round knockout by Thompson in February, with the two due to meet again in Liverpool on 6 July. Chisora, who meets Hector Alfredo Avila, of Argentina, at Wembley Arena on Saturday, said: "I expect [Price] to win the rematch. Me against him would be a great fight."