Alright, thank you everyone for joining us on our show, where we have a look at some of the sport's brightest young stars, trying to figure out who will be the next Floyd Mayweather, the next Manny Pacquiao or, more importantly, the next Seth Mitchell. This highly acclaimed show has received nominations for a Peabody award, an Emmy, a Pulitzer Prize and at least one public citation for vermin infestation by negligence. Last time out we got a little bit technical and then we got a little bit tactical but now the gymwork is done and we are back where we belong, in the ring. And the ring is getting quite crowded, as we have thus far covered:
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 Flynn Errol Spence Jr.
Fan favourite Chechen hammer Artur Beterbiev
At the public's request, today we are having a (hopefully quicker) look at a highly-touted American youngster, southpaw Erickson Lubin.
Now, personally I never get around to following the American amateur scene, but from what I understand, Lubin was touted as America's brightest hope for the 2016 Olympics, before surprisingly turning pro in late 2013 at only 18 years of age. He's now fighting as a jr. middleweight, he is with Al Haymon, he's been keeping busy and gradually increasing his quality of opposition. Thus far, his record stands at 13-0 with 10KOs.
I was able to find a few of his fights on youtube:
Here is his 3rd pro-fight, an insulting one round affair against designated loser Roberto Acevedo who came in to lose and quit when he surprisingly failed to lose after the first round. Feel free to skip this video.
Here is his 6th pro fight, where he went the distance for the first time in his career against a very experienced but undersized Mexican trialhorse called Noe Bolanos
Here is a pretty bad video of his 8th pro fight, against Mexican gatekeeper Norberto Gonzalez, which I included because I happen to think it was his best win. This one has the last 5 (of 8 rounds).
Here is his 10th pro fight, against an undefeated part-time club fighter called Kenneth Council
Here is his 12th fight, a 6th round stoppage against designated prospect tester / stay busy opponent Orlando Lora. This fight has a surprising ammount of give-and-take.
Here is his penultimate fight, a quick stoppage against former Mexican-scene fringe contender Alexis Camacho, who mind you has been mostly out of the ring for the past 5 years.
I have unfortunately been unable to track down his latest bout anywhere, a 10-round decision over random Mexican fighter Jose De Jesus Macias.
As usual, here is a list of things I noticed, divided into several categories, keeping in mind that Lubin is very young, possibly even still growing physically.
The Very Best
1) Improvement. Lubin's development is just so visible! In his early fights, he was spectacularly under-developed as a fighter and generally as any sort of athlete. But you can see more and more new things in his game every single fight.
2) Length and reach. Lubin has an excellently long reach that he uses well.
3) Jab. Very active, very educated jab, pretty powerful too. Excellent at keeping opponents away, you immediately see them try to move their upper body in all sorts of weird ways when trying to attack him, just trying to dodge / dribble around that jab.
4) Grabbing and wrestling. The kid knows when and how to tie his opponent up and seems fairly at home grappling on the inside. An unexpectedly mature skill to have. Unfortunately, this also makes Lubin one of the least entertaining fighters we've profiled so far in this series, as there's a lot of holding in his bouts.
5) Active right hand. Lubin fences and hits a lot with his front (right) hand. He either jabs, hooks or pesters his opponents constantly with it.
6) Stance. Lubin is a southpaw who keeps his right shoulder in front of his chin really well which enables him to keep his right hand in front, very active, a very important part of his game.
7) Natural awkardness. The fact that he is a southpaw, has exceptional length, a very active and confusing jab / right hand and keeps his chin tucked behind his shoulder makes him very awkward for his opponents, who fail to find the angles or the proper step sequence to attack him. And all of this without him moving unnaturally, circling or moving his upper body. What I mean is, he is not an educated, deliberately awkward fighter like, say, Anselmo Moreno, Richar Abril or even Juan Manuel Marquez (with his constantly rotating ring movement). It just comes with his body.
8) Hand speed. His right hand seems faster than his left but still... I have (sometimes) seen some out-of-nowhere bursts of short hooks that are exceptionally fast, which suggests he has better handspeed than he displays; he is just being careful with his attacks.
9) Work rate. He is reasonably active, in that he throws the same two or three punches over and over again. But I can't say I've seen any of his opponents overwhelmed and tired out by his punch volume. Actually, come to think of it, as he's increased in size and bodymass, his activity rate has predictably gone down.
10) Power. I actually think that his 77% KO ration is not a correct indicator of his power. Most of the opponents he stopped were way, way overmatched. Actually, in all of the prospect reports I've done, I haven't seen opponents this poor for any of the fighters I've reviewed. But, that is actually to be expected, Lubin is very young and has a lot of things to work on. 3 of the 4 opponents he failed to stop have been stopped numerous times by other fighters. And don't be fooled by how much and often he hurt Lora. First of all Lora has no defense and no chin and secondly Lubin had him badly wobbled from the first round and yet failed to put him away for another 5 rounds.
The Not So Great But Improving
11) Technique and footwork. He doesn't always put his weight behind his punches. He doesn't rotate his body or his core when he punches, he pushes more than he digs his punches. He also pushes well on his backfoot on the jab but when he steps forward for the power punch he squares up too much, loses the distance between his feet and thus his balance and when he launches his back hand, he pushes up instead of forward on his back foot, thus not getting proper leverage.
12) Strength. His body is definitely still a work in progress and he's visibly grown since his professional debut. He used to be a scrawny kid, but looks beefier now. I am still not convinced that he is as strong physically as a 154-pound contender is supposed to be, but that's one of the easier things to fix.
13) Ring movement. Lubin has stiff feet some of the time, he sometimes walks like he's on stilts. I would say that the only natural movement he makes is forward, closing the distance. Any other movement seems kind of deliberate and mechanical. But I do see a lot of potential for improvement here. I am convinced that he has fast feet, it's just that using them doesn't come naturally for him. Once he gets that into his reflexes I am sure he can be quite mobile.
14) Punch accuracy and timing. To my eyes many of his power punches miss in all sorts of wide ways. His body shots are especially off. There has been some improvement here in the last two bouts.
15) One handed fighter? To me it seems like his right hand is visibly more powerful and more accurate than his left, but it's not THAT bad, I am sure this will improve with time. He does have sufficient game in his left hand, it's not like he has to water it to keep it alive.
16) Upper body movement. There used to be no shots whatsoever from Lubin where he set up a different angle of attack by moving his body. Now instead of "none" there are "very few". Defensively... meh... again, let's say I did see him move his body well to avoid shots a couple of times.
17) What is the opposite of tight? Wild? Unravelled? Lubin is generally all over the place. Hands always end up in all sorts of positions away from his body, he lunges a lot, to no end I daresay. He armpunches, he squares up, he lets his chin hang out. He is untidy in all sorts of ways.
18) Punch variation. Lubin knows two or three punches, most of them lunging from a distance. Very limited and unimaginative. He has a good setup in his jab, but no end-game, no finishing move.
19) Combination punching. Lubin does not look like a natural combination puncher to me. He just sets up his left hand power punch by doubling up the jab, but after the left hand lands, 80% or 90% of his combinations end.
20) Guard. What guard? Maybe mouthguard... that one he has got.
21) Body punching. I distinctly remember reading somewhere before seeing the videos that Lubin was a body puncher. Maybe he is, but I haven't seen it in any of the fights I've watched.
22) Head movement. Big problems in this area. Both Lora and Gonzalez tagged the shit out of Lubin with slow punches at obvious angles.
23) Counterpunching. Not something he does.
24) Chin? Call this a hunch :)
The Downright Horrible
25) Lack of assertiveness. Just like we discussed in the piece about Callum Smith, this is a double-edge sword. You could say that Lubin is very patient and cautious and he's got poise and restraint, which is a good thing. Or you could see it the way I see it, that he is lackadaisical, doesn't pressure his opponent enough, his attacks are sporadic or even lazy and they lack a gameplan and assertiveness. He just sort of... hangs around in there, throws a few punches... waits for the fight to be over already so he can get some pizza. I see little interest in actively breaking his man down.
26) Lead uppercut from the back hand. Lubin has a bolo punch that he goes to fairly frequently that is just a disgrace and cringeworthy to watch. A lead uppercut from the southpaw position with his God damn strong left hand. When he throws this, he:
A) first drops his right hand guard, then
B) starts moving his straight up chin forward along with his whole body and then
C) starts following up his lead chin with a very low uppercut that remains behind and below his torso for most of the punching movement, thus dragging it behind instead of pushing it forward with his body weight.
At no point does he bring his right hand back up to protect his chin, even after the punch has landed. This is such a hilariously vulnerable sequence. There is no way this doesn't end up being countered repeatedly when he steps up in opposition. Now, for what it's worth, I think somebody somewhere worked on this with him because in his early bouts it used to be his go-to punch, whereas in the last couple of bouts it seems to have been replaced by a slightly tighter lead left cross, which is still shitty and leaves him unprotected but seems to have better leverage. As his best opponent so far (Norberto Gonzalez) demonstrated, Lubin is open for overhand right all niiiiight looooong (cue Lionel Richie).
I tried making a gif of an example of such a bolo punch. It's the first time I ever try anything like this, I hope it loads OK.
I actually regret having had a look at Lubin this early. He is very far away from where he needs to be and is in the middle of a radical evolution / transformation. It is sooo difficult to tell where he'll be in a couple of years. For one thing, I haven't even seen his latest bout, for all I know he has already made further strides. As of November of 2015, there are many things he's improved dramatically, but quite a few that he hasn't.
The first and most important thing, in my opinion, is that they haven't found an identity as a fighter for him yet. What are his best strengths? What are the ways to best utilize these strengths? Right now the answers to these questions are not visible in the ring.
Here's the thing, I heard that Lubin was a blue-chip prospect. When I hear someone has loads of talent, I usually expect to see blinding handspeed (Gary Russell Jr.), devastating power (Saul 'Neno' Rodriguez), sick body movement/fluidity (Dmitry Pirog), supreme athleticism (Anthony Joshua) or triple-axel fast feet (Anthony Joshua). Lubin excels in exactly zero of those areas. So how do you build him into a contender? For my money, Lubin would be best suited as a Wladimir Klitschko-like spoiler. He certainly has the jab-jab-hold gameplan down already. Right now his work at breaking down his opponents is extremely untidy and disorganized and not showing much promise. I think his best potential is to transform into a mover, a jabber, a potshotter, a counterpuncher and a hugger, which is a style so difficult to prepare for, especially from a southpaw with such length.
I honestly have no idea if Lubin will ever develop into a contender. Junior middleweight is usually a weight-class pretty stacked with talent, it's a certainty that at some point Lubin will start encountering fighters that are stronger / more athletic than he currently is, with better handspeed and with big time power. We'll just have to revisit him this time next year and take another look to see where he's at.