The Bad Left Hook Scouting Report is like fine wine: the longer you leave it in the cellar, the more likely you are to forget you ever had it in the first place and then you find it years later and maybe you are afraid to taste it because maybe it will ruin memories from your youth and then you start wondering why you are afraid to re-examine your past and perhaps you are afraid that even your best days were never actually that great and perhaps all the important people in your life never loved you to begin with and perhaps your whole life you've just been a giant disappointment to everyone and yourself and oh God I really really need this Pacquiao-Mayweather bout to be really good to justify all my hopes and dreams...
Errr... apologies for that, I don't know what came over me, apparently I am a bit of a mess... It sure is good that the world is in the hands of calm, competent and reliable leaders instead of whimsical columnists, am I right?
But enough about the future, let's remember some of Scouting Report's glory days:
- Heavyweight Anthony Joshua, touted as the next great heavyweight of his generation.
- Light heavyweight Russian youngster Dmitry Bivol.
- Minimumweight titleholder Kosei Tanaka.
- Former 2012 US Olympian Jose Carlos Ramirez, fighting at jr. welterweight.
- Power punching American super-featherweight Saul Rodriguez.
- Former 2012 US Olympian Joseph 'JoJo' Diaz Jr., fighting at featherweight.
- Argentinian buzzsaw light middleweight Brian Castano.
- British giant super-middleweight Callum Smith.
- Olympic medalist and hopeful cruiserweight title challenger Evander Holyfield.
- Cossack otaman and rising cruiserweight contender Oleksandr Usyk.
- Floyd Mayweather's favourite young fighter: welterweight
Errol FlynnErrol Spence Jr..
- Fan favourite Chechen hammer Artur Beterbiev, fighting at light heavyweight.
- Young and developing American light middleweight Erickson Lubin.
- Kiwi heavyweight banger Joseph Parker.
- Former Mexican amateur star Oscar Valdez, fighting at featherweight.
- Lithuanian dental therapist Egidijus Kavaliauskas, fixing people's jaws at welterweight.
- Philly fighter and soon-to-be jr. middleweight title challenger Julian Williams.
- Japanese light flyweight champion Kenshiro.
- Heavyweight cousins Tyson and Hughie Furry.
- Thai teenage flyweight prodigy Stamp Kiatniwat.
- Russian welterweight dazzler Konstantin Ponomarev.
- Puerto Rican lightweight super-prospect Felix Verdejo.
- Japanese flyweight warmonger Daigo Higa.
Today we'll have a look at Ukrainian light heavyweight prospect Vyacheslav Shabranskyy. Shabranskyy fights out of Los Angeles and does have a bit of a reputation in the US, mostly as a result of his win over Yunieski Gonzalez last December. Gonzalez was coming off a very good performance against Jean Pascal whom he had arguably bested in their recent encounter and was viewed by most as a sleeper top-10 contender at 175 pounds. Shabranskyy, who was also known as a quality prospect, had never faced anyone near Pascal's ability in his career, yet he ended up convincingly outpointing Yunieski Gonzalez.
While his career hasn't moved forward too much since that career-best win, he is slated to face fellow prospect / fringe contender Sullivan Barrera on December 16th, so he is on course to solidify his status as a contender at 175 pounds (he is currently rated 8th at the weight by ESPN, 7th by The Ring and as high as 5th by the TBRB - please don't make me spell that out in full).
As opposed to many of the blue-chip prospects we've covered so far, Vyacheslav (Slava) Shabranskyy didn't have a particularly successful amateur career, as he was stuck behind the phenomenal Oleksandr Usyk in his native Ukraine, failing to ever best him for qualification to any international tournaments. He did however have over 200 amateur fights and frequently made it to the final of the National Championships. He also had international amateur success as a kickboxer.
In 2010 he moved to California and joined the "LA Matadors" team that was competing in AIBA's semi-pro World Series Of Boxing league. He had a decent showing over two seasons of that league, including a win over 2008 Olympic Silver medalist Kenneth Egan. After that he turned pro under the tutelage of trainer Manny Robles Jr., who was training the LA Matadors team and who also trains Oscar Valdez. While his early run was mostly over nondescript opposition, Golden Boy did sign him to a contract and got him on TV. He showcased his power and, of course, the aforementioned win over Yunieski Gonzalez. His record is currently 17-0 with 14 KOs. Here are some of his fights on Youtube:
- Let's start with a loss. Here he is losing an action fight to unheralded amateur Kennedy Katende in the World Series Of Boxing Season 1.
- His other loss in the WSB was against three-time Uzbekistani national amateur champion Ramzjon Ahmedov, but here he is getting revenge on Ahmedov in the following season of WSB.
- Moving on to the pro ranks, this is his 10th bout, a quick wipeout of quick-wipeout specialist Demetrius Walker.
- His 11th bout consisted of a couple of random rounds in with a random fighter from the Dominican Republic scene called Emil Gonzalez. Poor matchmaking, honestly.
- His 13th bout is a 5 round stoppage of fellow undefeated prospect Fabiano Pena.
- His 14th bout was his biggest scare, going down twice in the first round against undefeated but very inexperienced Paul Parker.
- His 15th bout was his biggest win, a very sharp performance in a decision win over up-and-coming Cuban contender Yunieski Gonzalez fresh off his excellent performance against Jean Pascal, whom he arguably beat.
- His following bout was a stay-busy affair against (undersized) veteran prospect-tester Derrick Findley.
- His latest bout was also not much of a challenge, a stoppage of not-very-competitive Oscar Riojas.
As usual, let's a have an in-depth look at his strengths and weaknesses, organized into several categories from best to worst
The Very Best
1) Punch accuracy, on both long range and inside punches. Shabranskyy has amazing control of his punching trajectory. His punches seem to find his opponent's chin from almost every angle, every distance and almost irrespective of the opponent's guard or head movement. It is awesome how he sneaks his punches through or around defenses.
2) Work Rate. The best thing about Shabranskyy's work rate is that not only does he throw more punches than an average light heavyweight, but he does it constantly throughout the round and throughout the bout. He doesn't take breaks, doesn't have lulls in action, doesn't take rounds off. He is a constant machine delivering hits. This is an excellent way of A) wearing down opponents both physically and mentally and B) preventing them from implementing their gameplan.
3) Size. He is a big, tall light heavyweight. He uses his length a bit when fighting from the outside and his weight when leaning on opponents to tire them out inside (Klitschko-style).
4) Punching in combination, using both hands. Shabranskyy has a varied and unpredictable attack. He punches in all sorts of combinations, mixing in uppercuts, body shots, sometimes doubling up the right hand, sometimes starting off with a cross, he even sometimes counters in combinations like Juan Manuel Marquez.
5) Conditioning. Excellent stamina into the late rounds (despite the very high work rate) and also excellent resilience under fire.
6) Calm and composed under fire. The many years in the ring (amateur or pro) are visible in how under control he is at all times. Whether he is attacking or under attack, whether he is hurt, tired or his attacks aren't having the desired effect, he seems to maintain his rhythm and his gameplan.
7) Making distance work. Shabranskyy seems to have a good command of range. On the one hand, he controls it well with his jab and by moving his feet. He therefore generally manages keeps his opponent at a distance where he can easily punch him. But he is not "married" to fighting on the outside. He is able to control the opponent and punch him both at mid-range and in-close. Most importantly, he never seems to be uncomfortable with the current distance and you cannot keep him from punching by stepping inside or outside a certain radius.
8) Trainer. I have said it before and I will say it again: I think Manny Robles is the best young boxing trainer in the world. And you can see this in how Shabranskky has been improving at an increasing pace. You'd think many many years of amateur habits (which you can see in his early bouts) are hard to shake. But I think Robles is actually making a difference in the gym.
9) Jab. Slava has a powerful and reasonably active jab. He visibly hurts and backs up opponents with it. I am not giving it a high mark though because he doesn't really use it to set up his offense as well as he could. He just throws it constantly to slowly accumulate punishment on his opponents and wear them down. But he rarely follows it up fluidly with a power punch attack.
10) Power. If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times: a prospect's KO ratio is not a good indication of his power. Even though in his pro fights above we have almost exclusively stoppages, in reality almost every one of them is the opponent quitting due to accumulation of punishment instead of Slava taking them out. For the sheer number of fully-leveraged power shots he lands straight on the chin, his opponents should really go down a lot sooner than they eventually do.
11) Cutting off the ring. Shabranskyy's ring movement seems slightly robotic but he does move his feet and does cut off the ring. It's not textbook or spectacular, but it is pretty efficient: I have yet to see an opponent successfully get away from him.
12) Body punching. Slava varies his combinations nicely and frequently goes to the body, oftentimes unpredictably, mid-combination. What I don't like about his body punches is that they aren't very compact and he seems to prefer targeting the wider areas of the mid-section as opposed to going for the liver.
The Not So Great But Improving
13) Hand speed. Well, this is something I normally think of as "natural ability" and I don't usually expect to see it change with age or experience. But what can I say, in his earlier bouts his handspeed was downright bad whereas in more recent bouts it's merely "below average". Wonders never cease.
14) Chin? This one is always difficult to gauge. You can see him take massive overhand power punches straight on the chin in the two WSB bouts above without flinching. And in the Yunieski Gonzalez bout he seemed to really handle the Cuban's power. On the other hand, Pena visibly hurt him at least twice and that Parker dude dropped him twice in the first round and had him in trouble.
15) Winding up power punches. His power punches are generally anything but compact. He tends to create this really wide looping trajectory with his entire arm to generate speed and power behind his fist instead of pushing with his feet and his body. This makes his punches predictable. This is also something that trainer Manuel Robles clearly points out to him in the corner. To his credit, he's made good strides in this regard in his latest bouts. Once again, credit to Manny Robles for noticing this and working on it in the gym.
16) Stance. Earlier in his career he seemed to have a pretty stiff, forward-facing stance, his body squared up and his chin unprotected. He has corrected it to some degree, his feet look better placed far apart from each other and he seems more relaxed. Still not great, though.
17) Overall defense. Shabranskyy takes more power punches flush on the chin than perhaps any other prospect we've covered so far in this series. His guard and his footwork are decent, but he very easily gets away from them and starts slugging it out with opponents. He doesn't seem to be able to combine offense and defense. He is either doing one or the other at any given moment. And he is brave and reckless to his own detriment.
18) Overall speed. He almost always seems at a speed disadvantage in the ring. Both his feet, his hands and his reactions seem slower than his opponents'.
19) Anticipation. Slava has big problems predicting opponents' attacks and angles. He is very often surprised by lead power punches that aren't set up in any way. And offensively he walks right into counters and into the opponent's best angles all the damn time.
The Downright Horrible
20) Head Movement. Especially when attacking, Shabranskyy leaves his chin way up and exposed. His head always has the same trajectory going forward, his chin is never behind his shoulder. He just takes so, so many repeated power punches down the same avenue.
Well, if nothing else Shabranskyy is difficult to outpoint, because he punches a lot, he punches in combination and most importantly he lands a very high percentage of his punches. Oh, and he does this non-stop for the entire duration of the bout. I imagine it's got to be exhausting to be an opponent in the ring with him. Even an experienced light heavyweight can expect to take more punches than perhaps ever before in his career. And there's some power in them too. Also, I have yet to see movement, angles or return fire deter Shabranskyy in any way. Neither your movement nor your attempts to beat him into retreat will keep him off of you.
What he is susceptible to is getting blasted out into wonderland by a very hard puncher. His chin is way too exposed and he takes too many power punches flush. I do believe that a big puncher who is tough enough and calm enough to withstand a few rounds of his aggression will eventually land a KO punch on him. I would give him little chance against someone like Adonis Stevenson, Sergey Kovalev,or Artur Beterbiev. On the other hand, bouts against Nathan Cleverly, Andrzej Fonfara, Juergen Braehmer, or Eleider Alvarez would probably be very intense.