Team Godfrey Sees Silver Lining in Simms Victory

By Derek Bonnett: Prior to dropping an uncomfortable twelve round unanimous decision to Rudolf Kraj in Germany, Matt "Too Smooth" Godfrey ranked among the more promising young prospects in the sport and his scintillating work as an ESPN regular served to substantiate this opinion.

Since losing his unbeaten ledger to Kraj, Godfrey has not appeared to ply his trade with the same confidence and fluidity as when he dispatched Shaun George and Felix Cora Jr. in front of a pro-New England crowd. In fact, he’s struggled and appeared disinterested. He’s been dropped twice now in bouts against Emmanuel Nwodo and last time out against Michael Simms. In between, he’s won lopsided contests against a pair of lesser names, but didn’t raise his game to the same heights as his pre-Kraj form.

Knockdowns are part of natural progress in the fight game, but it’s worth noting that these speed bumps have occurred only since losing his first bout and during a time when Godfrey needs to be at his best to re-establish himself among the elite of the cruiserweight class.

Godfrey’s trainer, John Scully, offered some thoughts about Godfrey’s latest visit to the canvas.

"It was almost surreal in a way, like it wasn’t really happening," Scully described. "It happened very early in the first round, so we weren’t even really settled in the corner yet. Then, boom, down he goes. He looked fine, though, like it stunned him more than anything. He recovered very well and came back strongly. That may have been the best part of the fight in a certain way of thinking, the fact that he got dropped early by a huge shot, but didn’t show any sign of being gun shy; he jumped right back up on the horse and won the decision in his opponents hometown with the promoter of the fight literally working his opponent’s corner and with three Northern California based judges at ringside."

Perhaps the most important point of evaluation concerning a knockdown is the inflicted fighter’s reaction. In this regard, Matt moved forward and showed some progress. After getting dropped by Nwodo, he seemed to lose a bit of his composure and went on to struggle for the next couple of rounds before he saved the night. The Simms knockdown may have been more wake-up call than scare.

Evaluation is something Scully understands quite well as a trainer and while he doesn’t throw the A+ out there too often, he is careful not to do more damage than good by being over critical of his fighters.

"I find it hard sometimes to expect more or be mad if a guy doesn’t show all of his capabilities because I know that every fighter at Matt’s level wants to do the best they can and they are trying hard to achieve their best. They give you the best they have at that given time. It was a very difficult fight and the style was much different than that of our ESPN opponent from July, Shawn Hawk. Michael Simms is an extremely cagey and crafty and dangerous guy; the type of guy that managers and promoters keep their unbeaten prospects away from and for good reason. I think Matt was much fresher, his conditioning came through, and he outworked Michael. But at the same time he gained very valuable experience in the process."

Simms is not short of experience by any stretch. He’s never been stopped in twelve losses (five split decisions) and has faced contenders like Vadim Tokarev, Marco Huck, and Troy Ross. He’s also dropped Yoan Pablo Hernandez, drawn with Felix Cora Jr. and Kelvin Davis, and defeated Derrick Harmon. In retrospect, Simms may be one of those spoilers who it is near impossible to look good against.

As long as he’s learned something, maybe Godfrey is entitled to a little slack.

The best news on the Godfrey front is that this is his second fight in two months. With top fighters like Tomasz Adamek possibly moving to heavyweight and Guillermo Jones, Firat Arslan, and Kraj all inactive for over a year, it is important for Godfrey to make some noise and in impressive fashion. Otherwise, fighters like Ross, Hernandez, or Enad Licina might pass him by in the rankings.

"I understand now more than ever it is a thing where TV dictates so much and you have to be impressive out there," Scully recognized. "At the same time you have to win, but sometimes you have to choose between [a safe] victory and giving your opponent his best chance to win while trying to be visually impressive. There are people who want Matt to go for the knockout more and be more aggressive, but those are people that don’t fight for a living and don’t understand that every boxer isn’t cut out to go for the KO just for the sake of going for the KO. Knockouts generally happen when you don’t try for them, just as Matt scored three good knockouts on ESPN over the course of the last couple years."

With a quarter of the year to go, it is conceivable that "Too Smooth" could make another appearance in the ring before the close of December. It’d be a wise option and one that could pay dividends after being out of the ring for eight months prior to his July return against Shawn Hawk.

"I would definitely like to see him fight again by the end of the year," Scully stated. " His promoter should keep him as busy as possible or at least as busy as his connections and juice will allow him to be. We had sat around for quite a while there before we got the Hawk fight and now this one relatively close to each other. We need more of that. Matt is a world class fighter and a highly ranked prospect, but at the same time he is learning as he goes, the pro game at this level is something that takes years to master. The more fights we can get the better; we just need our people to get them for us."

A Troy Ross showdown would be an excellent bout to help give the division shape. Ross appears to have the talent to become only the second world champion after gaining fame from The Contender series. The winner of Hernandez-Licina would also be a viable challenge as both men have shown glimpses of elite class. Perhaps the best gauge of exactly where Godfrey stands would be a rematch with Kraj. The German fighter is sure to have built up some rust and now might be the perfect time for Godfrey to avenge his lone blemish.

Plainly put, does Scully think his charge is the same contender he was before losing his unbeaten record as he is now four fights deep into his comeback trail?

"I certainly think he is more well known, more talked about, and more accepted now as a contender than as just a prospect," Scully admitted. "He has more of a name now than he did before the Kraj fight and has been mentioned as a possible opponent for Adamek recently so that’s all that matters -- getting in the mix with the big guys. He’s certainly more savvy and well-rounded now."

Savvy? Well-rounded?

It sounds like Godfrey’s difficulty in the ring is less indicative of a downward spiral and more evident of his continuing education in the school of hard knocks

September 16, 2009
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