Boxing in 2019: Fractured AF

We’ve gotten to a very strange point in the sport of boxing in 2019. The sport’s premium broadcasting network, HBO, has out of the game for good after a slow decline in quality and frequency of fights. Fighters seem divided into various promotional camps perhaps best defined by what network they are fighting on. Most fighters are split between three factions: FOX/Showtime (aligned with Al Haymon and the Premier Boxing Champions organization), ESPN (aligned with Bob Arum’s Top Rank Boxing and Frank Warren’s Queensbury Promotions) and DAZN (working with Eddie Hearn/Matchroom and Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy).

There’s never been more boxing broadcast. Whereas in previous times boxing cards would show merely the 2-3 top matches on each card, ESPN, FOX and DAZN have begun showing the entire card – from the 4-round debut matches in front of an empty arena to the final fight of the night. There is seemingly a fight (if not multiple competing cards) scheduled every single weekend. Shoulder programming is now a thing, with ESPN+ hosting boxing-focused shows and the PBC with a weekly studio show on FS1.

Quantity does not equal quality, and 2019 has experienced a dearth of actual good matchups as titleholders and stars take on largely stay-busy or overmatched opponents, and fights the general public has taken interest in are not happening for political reasons – most notably in the heavyweight division, which is red-hot for the first time in decades and is in the process of shooting itself squarely in the balls, and the welterweight division, in which the best two fighters (Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford) find themselves on opposite sides of the street with seemingly no hope of finding a way to cross it.

Let’s take a look at a few notable divisions, and where things stand from a network perspective. Keep in mind this is to the best of my knowledge and I’ve done very little research so if there are mistakes here feel free to call em out.

HEAVYWEIGHT (MESS)

Top Fighters/Beltholders

  • Anthony Joshua (DAZN) – WBA, WBO, IBF
  • Deontay Wilder (Showtime/FOX) – WBC
  • Tyson Fury (ESPN)

Other Notables

  • Oleksandr Usyk (DAZN)
  • Luis Ortiz (Showtime/FOX)
  • Dillian Whyte (Free agent)
  • Jarrell Miller (DAZN/suspended)
  • Kubrat Pulev (ESPN)
  • Joseph Parker (Free agent)
  • Adam Kownacki (Showtime/FOX)

This division is a fucking mess. The three fighters the world is excited about all are aligned with three separate companies and all three seem reluctant to cross the street and make a fight. Joshua and Wilder in particular, can make a fight that would be likely the biggest in the sport but can’t seem to figure it out. All three are in generally uninteresting matchups next (particularly Fury). Though Wilder/Fury fought to a dramatic and hotly debated draw in December, we seem miles away from seeing them in the ring together again. I’m sick of talking about this division, as it has perhaps the greatest potential while simultaneously being the biggest disappointment.

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT (ESPN)

Top Fighters/Beltholders

  • Dmitry Bivol (Free agent) – WBA
  • Oleksandr Gvozdyk (ESPN) – WBC
  • Sergey Kovalev (ESPN) – WBO
  • Artur Beterbiev (ESPN) – IBF

Other Notables

  • Marcus Browne (FOX/Showtime)
  • Badou Jack (FOX/Showtime)
  • Anthony Yarde (ESPN)

The four beltholders in this division are all monsters. Three of the four are with ESPN and the fourth is technically a free agent. There is literally no reason why these guys should not fight each other and unify all these belts. ESPN has the ability to make all of these fights and if they don’t….we riot.

Just kidding, we like boxing, we’ll get fucked and like it!

SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHT (FOX/Showtime)

Top Fighters/Beltholders

  • Callum Smith (DAZN) – WBA
  • Anthony Dirrell (Showtime/FOX) – WBC
  • Caleb Plant (Showtime/FOX) – IBF
  • David Benavidez (Showtime/FOX)

Other Notables

  • Jesse Hart (ESPN)
  • Jose Uzcategui (Showtime/FOX)
  • Chris Eubank Jr. (Free agent)

This feels like a weirdly shallow division in which Callum Smith (the lineal champ and WBSS season 1 champ) is the clear number one and the biggest talent is probably David Benavidez, a fighter who lost his belt due to a cocaine suspension but looks like a beast and is still crazy young. It doesn’t seem like a division that it would be hard to make big fights, other than the fact that it’s a division that lacks big name fighters.

MIDDLEWEIGHT (DAZN)

Top Fighters/Beltholders

  • Canelo Alvarez (DAZN) – WBC, WBA, IBF
  • Gennady Golovkin (DAZN)
  • Demetrius Andrade (DAZN) – WBO

Other Notables

  • Jermall Charlo (FOX/Showtime)
  • Daniel Jacobs (DAZN)
  • Sergiy Derevyachenko (Free agent)
  • Rob Brant (ESPN)

This is a division where all the belts are under one network (DAZN). They have almost every name in the division, including both Golovkin and Canelo, two of the biggest stars in the sport and two guys on a collision course for a trilogy fight. Charlo and Brant have some secondary belts, but it doesn’t make them particularly relevant.

WELTERWEIGHT (FOX/Showtime)

Top Fighters/Beltholders

  • Errol Spence Jr. (FOX/Showtime) – IBF
  • Terence Crawford (ESPN) – WBO
  • Keith Thurman (FOX/Showtime) – WBA
  • Shawn Porter (FOX/Showtime) – WBC
  • Manny Pacquiao (FOX/Showtime)

Other Notables

  • Danny Garcia (FOX/Showtime)
  • Yordenis Ugas (FOX/Showtime)
  • Sergey Lipinets (FOX/Showtime)
  • Kell Brook (DAZN)

Seeing a trend here? This division may have the most ‘names’ of any division out there, and almost all of them are with PBC. Terence Crawford, one of the pound-for-pound kings of the sport, finds himself on the outside looking in here, without a particularly interesting opponent and coming off a disappointing PPV with a mediocre opponent in Amir Khan. PBC should be taken to task a bit here – in a divison that they own, they have not done a good job of matching their own fighters against each other. Their best talent here, Errol Spence, has not fought anyone else on this list with the exception of Brook (who is borderline notable at this point, anyway) and that needs to change, and soon.

LIGHTWEIGHT (ESPN)

Top Fighters/Beltholders

  • Vasyl Lomachenko (ESPN) – WBA, WBO
  • Richard Commey (ESPN) – IBF
  • Teofimo Lopez (ESPN)

Other Notables

  • Robert Easter Jr. (FOX/Showtime)
  • Mikey Garcia* (FOX/Showtime)

Lomachenko is the king of this division. Commey is the only other beltholder here, and I’m putting Lopez in the top section as one of the sport’s rising stars (although still a young, green contender at this point). Mikey Garcia is the guy who could perhaps give Vasyl his most interesting fight, but there is some confusion about what weight he will be campaigning at moving forward, having ditched belts to move up to welterweight and lose a non-competitive decision to Spence in March.

JR LIGHTWEIGHT

Top Fighters/Beltholders

  • Miguel Berchelt (ESPN) – WBC
  • Tevin Farmer (DAZN) – IBF
  • Gervonta Davis (FOX/Showtime) – WBA
  • Masayuki Ito (Free agent) – WBO

Other Notables

  • Andrew Cancio (DAZN)
  • Joseph Diaz Jr. (DAZN)
  • Alberto Machado (DAZN)
  • Francisco Vargas (ESPN)

This is a splintered division, but given it’s a smaller weight class lacking in big star power (with the possible exception of Davis), it wouldn’t surprise me to see some street-crossing to make big fights. The belts are fractured here but DAZN seems to have the deepest volume in this division and the ability to make the best matchups here. Berchelt is the most accomplished fighter of the group, Farmer is probably the best boxer, and Davis the hardest hitter and biggest talent. This division could be interesting if we actually see some matchups. Davis has few opponents worth a damn and also may have to move up soon. His talents have been wasted thus far.

FEATHERWEIGHT

Top Fighters/Beltholders

  • Leo Santa Cruz (FOX/Showtime) – WBA
  • Gary Russell Jr. (FOX/Showtime) – WBC
  • Josh Warrington (ESPN) – IBF
  • Oscar Valdez (ESPN) – WBO

Other Notables

  • Xu Can (DAZN)
  • Carl Frampton (ESPN)
  • Tugstsogt Nyambayar (FOX/Showtime)
  • Shakur Stevenson (ESPN)
  • Kid Galahad (DAZN)

Another splintered division with the belts pretty much divided between ESPN and PBC, this one is a frustrating one. Leo Santa Cruz is largely content to cash checks and fight mediocre opponents, Gary Russell Jr. is the most talented fighter here but only wants to fight once a year and be a part time fighter. Warrington and Valdez are significantly more interesting – both action fighters who make for good scraps and would make for a hell of a fight with each other. Can’t really give one network the advantage here.

 

 

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Career in Review: Sergio Martinez

I’ve been going down the rabbit hole every so often and rewatching the careers of certain fighters – covering Miguel Cotto and Floyd Mayweather thus far – and I would be remiss if I didn’t shine a little love on ‘Maravilla’, former middleweight champion Sergio Martinez. Martinez was, during his heyday, my favorite active fighter, and though his reign as middleweight king was short, he was exciting, flashy and dynamic. Join me down the Maravilla rabbit hole, starting with his 2009 matchup with Paul Williams:

 

December 5, 2009: Paul Williams (USA) MD12 Sergio Martinez (Argentina)

STW Scorecard: Williams 114-114 Martinez

This was a really high level, fun fight broadcast on HBO. Funny enough, Max Kellerman starts the broadcast by saying these were “the two best junior middleweights fighting at middleweight”. Williams was a nasty bastard, tall and lanky with  a mean punch, with Sergio’s signature frenetic style bouncing in and out and tagging with a left hand. They both hurt each other in a great R1 (both getting knockdowns). Sergio owns the first part of the fight with his speed and power and Williams is having trouble avoiding that right hound. R4 was a phenomenal round that’s worth going back and watching – Williams is bleeding badly at this point and both of them are just throwing hard leather and landing.

The fight continues like this, with both fighters hurting the other one and snapping each others’ heads back. Kellerman compares the fight to Ward-Gatti and while it didn’t quite get there it was fun and high level throughout. A draw would have been a fair outcome, and one judge (Julie Lederman) had the same card as me. The second judge scored 115-113 for Williams, which is acceptable, but the third judge scored it 118-110 (or 10-2 in rounds) for the American, which is gross. Another example of boxing judging marring a great fight.

 

April 17, 2010: Sergio Martinez (Argentina) UD12 Kelly Pavlik (USA)

STW Scorecard: Martinez 116-111 Pavlik

Immediately after facing the much avoided Williams, Martinez jumped into the ring with the middleweight boogeyman Kelly Pavlik, a big, heavy hitting strongman and lineal middleweight champion. Martinez put on a masterclass here of boxing – landing quick shots and getting out, making Pavlik follow him aimlessly around the ring, even clowning him a bit.

Pavlik finally reaches him and scores a knockdown in Round 7 – a balance shot more than anything, but still counts as a knockdown and swings the momentum of the fight. Martinez shows heart though, standing and trading and Kelly has both of his eyes cut badly by R10 and has withdrawn into a bloody shell of himself, tired and out of ideas, Martinez moving and boxing his way to a title.

Sergio Martinez (Argentina) KO2 Paul Williams (USA)

STW Scorecard: Martinez 10-9 Williams

Now with a title, Martinez immediately launched into a rematch with Williams. Expecting another tough battle after their Fight of the Year contender the first time around, this one went, well, a bit differently.

After a close first round, Martinez just fucking crushes Williams with an upstairs left hook that turns the American’s lights completely off. Knockout of the Year without question, and one of the best straight one-punch KO’s I’ve ever seen. Go look this up, right now.

 

March 12, 2011: Sergio Martinez (Argentina) TKO 8 Sergiy Dzinziruk (Ukraine)

STW Scorecard: Martinez 70-61 Dzinziruk 

Martinez made this challenger look like a basic ass statue. He’s so fast and unconventional that he just tagged circles around him while Dzindiruk throws slow, basic, helpless punches. I believe Martinez knocked him down on five occasions before the referee stepped in and finally stopped it in the 8th. That nasty left hook again!

 

October 1, 2011: Sergio Martinez (Argentina) KO11 Darren Barker (England)

STW Scorecard: Martinez 99-91 Barker

An admirable effort from Darren Barker, who came in really game but Martinez was just a couple of levels above. I rewatched this on YouTube and saw a British broadcast and I just don’t know wht the fuck they were watching – they had Barker winning through six which is absurd – but anyway, Sergio just beats Barker to the punch at every turn and in the back half of the fight literally just receives a beating. In R10 Martinez lands a nasty short right to the body that doubled Barker over in half and it’s frankly incredible that he didn’t go down from it. Halfway through the next round Barker goes down like a sack of bricks and doesn’t come close to beating the count – turns out he had a busted eardrum. Admirable effort from Barker but just totally outclassed by Martinez.

 

March 17, 2012: Sergio Martinez (Argentina) TKO11 Matthew Macklin (England)

STW Scorecard: Martinez 104-102 Macklin

I was at this one live at the MSG Theater and I have fond memories of this. This was a good, competitive fight, with Macklin landing well and actually winning the fight at the halfway point, and then scoring a knockdown in R7 when Sergio’s glove touched the canvas. Martinez doesn’t have him figured out at all though in R8, but right then he starts coming on. He picks up a string of rounds and then at the end of R11 Sergio lands a perfect left hand that has Macklin down on his ass, his face swilling up and bleeding badly. Sergio puts him down one more time before the round ends, and Macklin’s corner stops the fight between rounds, not wanting to send him out there for even one more round. Great fight, great finish.

September 15, 2012: Sergio Martinez (Argentina) UD12 Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (Mexico)

STW Scorecard: Martinez 118-109 Chavez Jr.

This was a big fight in the career of Sergio Martinez; simultaneously his coronation and the beginning of his downfall. His first PPV fight against the highly popular (and much, much bigger) young Mexican, Martinez boxed the massive Chavez’s ears off for 11 rounds putting on a masterclass performance. After pretty much sweeping every minute of the fight, Martinez gets macho in R12 and decides to trade. Big mistake.

This round was exciting, insane and absurd in so many ways. Halfway through Chavez hurt Sergio BADLY and started landing multiple shots flush upstairs. Martinez had blood streaming down his face and was seriously injured. He goes down, but when he gets up instead of holding or running he stands his ground and fights back until the bell.

Sergio took a win here, but he blew his knee out in that last round, an injury that would ultimately end his career.

There has been rumors on boxing media that Sergio and Chavez have been in talks on a potential rematch this year (2018) a fight that nobody wants and nobody should see. Just say no.

 

April 27, 2013: Sergio Martinez (Argentina) UD12 Martin Murray (England)

STW Scorecard: Martinez 113-115 Murray

I don’t know about this one. Martinez, clearly still compromised by that knee injury, took this homecoming fight in Argentina and probably lost it to the tough challenger in Murray. The fight was close enough that there was no way they were taking Sergio’s title from him in his home country, and let’s not speak of this fight ever again as a hobbled Sergio Martinez winning an undeserved hometown decision over a lifetime contender is not how I want to remember Maravilla.

 

June 7, 2014: Miguel Cotto (Puerto Rico) TKO10 Sergio Martinez (Argentina)

STW Scorecard: Cotto 90-77 Martinez

The bitter end for the lineal champ. This fight- which I went to live – makes me sad. Sergio, injured, inactive and approaching 40 years old, came in to this fight at Madison Square Garden with a massive knee brace and a brave face and not much else.

Turns out Martinez was cashing out, in what would be his final fight. He just had nothing for Cotto, who looked great, though it was a little hard to judge as Sergio was badly, badly compromised from the jump. His leg was unstable and he could barely move. Cotto came out quick and aggressive and Martinez just couldn’t handle it, getting knocked down three times in the first round alone. Cotto continued his assault as the rounds wore on, and Martinez showed heart to stay in it, but Cotto just dominated him every second. Cotto scored another knockdown in R9 when he caught Sergio with a jab coming in. After the round, his corner tells him his knees aren’t working and they have to stop it, ending the champion’s career. Great performance from Cotto, but with, unfortunately, an asterisk.

 

 

World Boxing Super Series Season 2 – Quarterfinals

The best development in boxing in the last few years has to be the introduction of the World Boxing Super Series – eight man, single elimination tournaments in various weight classes, with competitions taking place around the world.

The first season of WBSS featured two weight classes – super middleweights and cruiserweight. The cruiserweight tournament in particular was completely stacked – all four major belts were involved, meaning the winner of the tournament would be undisputed champion. By winning the tournament, Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk put his name at the top of pound-for-pound lists and created a legacy of perhaps the best cruiserweight in history.

The super middleweight field was much weaker, but the eventual winner (the UK’s Callum Smith) firmly etched his name into the minds of boxing fans around the globe as a real champion with an impressive knockout of countryman George Groves in the final. Both tournaments were successes, and to the great pleasure of boxing fans worldwide, the tournament was quick to announce a second season – this time featuring three weight classes (cruiserweights, super lightweights, and bantamweights). The quarterfinals have been completed, so let’s take a look at where things stand in all three tournaments.

BANTAMWEIGHTS

The bantamweight tournament in some ways feels like it’s going to be an inevitable crowning of “The Monster”, Naoya Inoue, the young Japanese prodigy who is wreaking havoc in the lower weight classes. That said, the bantamweight tournament sported a strong field with three major titleholders: you had Inoue join titleholders Ryan Burnett, Zolani Tete and Emmanuel Rodriguez. Joining those four was veteran fighters Juan Carlos Payano and Nonito Donaire (moving back down to bantamweight in the twilight of his career), and two unproven low seeds in Mikhail Aloyan and Jason Moloney. Here’s how the first round went down:

RESULTS:

Oct. 7: Naoya Inoue (Japan) KO1 Juan Carlos Payano (Dominican Republic)

Inoue has torn through just about every opponent he’s ever fought, and he made an immediate impact in his quarterfinal matchup against the veteran Payano, brutally knocking him out in a KOTY contender. Find the replay to find the beautiful footwork, shot placement and brutality of the knockout combination that ended this fight just as it was getting started. You could almost see Payano’s brain hit the back of his skull and turn his lights out. Absolutely brutal, and scary for the rest of the field.

Oct. 13: Zolani Tete (South Africa) UD12 Mikhail Aloyan (Russia)

STW Scorecard: Tete 115-110 Aloyan

Tete is a tall, lengthy and skilled boxer, the current WBO titleholder and difficult style matchup for anybody. Aloyan, conversely, is a small, compact Russian who had a decorated amateur career but came into this fight completely unproven, with just four fights. The two did not create a lot of buzz in their matchup, as their styles meshed into a slow, uninspiring snoozer in this unanimous decision win for Tete. After starting quickly and scoring a R1 flash knockdown, the South African fighter puts most of the fight in cruise control. Both fighters lost points (Tete for elbowing, Aloyan for holding) as the end of the fight devolves into a grapple fest. Aloyan won’t be much of anything as a professional, as whatever skill he has is negated by the fact that he doesn’t much power in there. You’d hope to see better from Tete moving forward – he’s either not the truth, or fights to the level of his competition. Time will tell.

Oct. 20: Emmanuel Rodriguez  (Puerto Rico) SD12 Jason Moloney (Australia)

STW Scorecard: Rodriguez 116-112 Moloney

A couple of undefeated up and comers here, although Rodriguez holds the IBF bantamweight belt. Moloney gave a good account of himself and was incredibly game, but was a half step slower and less accurate throughout. Rodriguez was precise and skilled, showing good schooling and an athletic disposition. Moloney left it all in there and had a nice rally late, but too little too late in my mind. Scorecards were a bit closer than I thought, 7-5 Rodriguez x2 and one 7-5 Moloney card. Deserved win for Rodriguez, who has his hands full in the next round with Inoue.

Nov. 3: Nonito Donaire (Phillippines) RTD4 Ryan Burnett (Northern Ireland)

STW Scorecard: Donaire 38-37 Burnett

The biggest upset of the quarterfinal round of the WBSS saw the veteran Donaire take Ryan Burnett’s WBA title off of him in Glasgow after the Northern Irishman suffered a freak back injury (turned out to be a torn oblique) after whiffing on a punch in the 4th round. After a tight back and forth beginning that saw an intriguing matchup of the slower but still powerful Donaire trying to hunt down the quicker, more accurate Burnett, it was a disappointing way to end the fight, and Donaire didn’t do much celebrating to have won in such a strange way. That said, Donaire now finds himself holding a bantamweight belt and moving on to face South Africa’s Tete, a matchup – based on the first round – you have to feel Donaire can win. There is, however, a Monster lurking on the other side of the bracket, and one that many Donaire fans might be nervous to see him in the ring with.

SUPER LIGHTWEIGHTS

This is my favorite of the current tournaments going on, mainly because we have two burgeoning, up and coming stars involved in Scotland’s Josh Taylor and the USA’s Regis Prograis, and is genuinely a tournament without a heavy favorite. Either of those two could win, but their potential finals matchup is thrilling. Neither has an easy path to the finals either, as the rest of the tournament was made up of either experienced, tough opponents without a big name (Terry Flanagan, Kiryl Relikh, Eduard Troyonovsky) or young, unproven and largely unbeaten fighters with an element of danger to them (Ryan Martin, Ivan Baranchyk, and Anthony Yigit).

Oct. 7: Kiryl Relikh (Belarus) UD12 Eduard Troyanovsky (Russia)

STW Scorecard: Relikh 115-113 Troyanovsky

This was a close fight, though not necessarily a great fight. Relikh, the WBA titleholder in the divison, was the stronger puncher and much more of the come-forward guy, with the Russian backing up and trying to pick him off coming in. The back half of the fight belonged to Troyanovsky, as he started to get timing down and a progressively more exhausted Relikh seemed to run out of ideas and just come forward with no plan. All three scorecards were 7-5 to Relikh for the deserved decision, but neither man looked great here. Relikh is all grit and heart, and comes forward and throws big punches, but he is cursed with a lack of power. That said, his only two losses came on questionable decisions and he’s going to be a tough out for Regis Prograis in the next round. Speaking of…

Oct. 27: Regis Prograis (USA) UD12 Terry Flanagan (England)

STW Scorecard: Prograis 119-108 Flanagan

Prograis, the young, flashy New Orleans boxer, has on the come-up just blown everybody out of the water. He’s shown crazy power, highlight reel KOs and an exciting style with an at times troubling lack of defense. His quarterfinal matchup saw him in tough with Terry Flanagan, who lost his belt (the only one not in this tournament) in his previous matchup to tricky boxer Maurice Hooker. Flanagan is no joke for a first round matchup. He’s a tough veteran who knows what he’s doing, and Prograis’ dominance here should be nothing to sneeze at. Those disappointed that he didn’t get a knockout fail to appreciate the work the young American put in, as he beat his veteran opponent to the punch at every step, drilled him with a heavy KD in R8 and overall proving himself to be a cut above – and not just a big puncher.

Oct. 27: Ivan Baranchyk (Belarus) TKO7 Anthony Yigit (Sweden)

STW Scorecard: Baranchyk 68-64 Yigit

‘Beast’ is the most fitting way to describe Ivan Baranchyk. The man is a walking muscle, just a relentless come forward pressure fighter with little skill but a lot of sadasm. Yigit put forth his best effort but was hopelessly overpowered, as at every turn Baranchyk was up in his grill not allowing him to breathe. The doctor stopped this fight after the seventh after Yigit’s eye exploded in a disgusting hematoma that looked awful. Baranchyk isn’t the greatest fighter in the world but he’s a tough matchup. Taylor-Baranchyk might be my favorite semifinal matchup in all three weight classes.

Nov. 3: Josh Taylor (Scotland) TKO7 Ryan Martin (USA)

STW Scorecard: Taylor 60-54 Martin

Going in, I thought this was an underrated matchup. Taylor is one of the rising stars in the sport, a polished young fighter who shone brightest when actually matched tough – with impressive wins over fellow prospect Ohara Davies and Viktor Postol (and nobody looks impressive against Postol).  Martin is an extremely athletic, unbeaten young fighter (his nickname was literally ‘Blue Chip’), trained by Abel Sanchez and someone that looked like a promising fighter at one time. He’d been unconvincing in his stepup fights (most notably a disputed decision against journeyman Francisco Rojo on the GGG-Canelo 1 undercard).

I was wrong. Taylor was many levels ahead of Martin. Martin could not get off, looked afraid of the moment and barely threw any punches, content to nervously let Taylor box his ears off and dominate him in every way. In R6, Taylor turned it up and started really putting a beatdown on Martin, who was bleeding and seemed defeated. Martin found a way out in the very next round, taking an accidental rabbit punch and using that as an excuse to go down, the referee somewhat awkwardly stopping the fight. It was a strange stoppage but Martin wasn’t upset about it at all, seemingly glad to just get out without getitng too hurt. The Josh Taylor train moves on, and now he must fight a Belorussian animal in Baranchyk.

 

CRUISERWEIGHTS

As good as the season one cruiserweight tournament was, the second season in this division has been a bit mystifying. Why the WBSS decided to run back this weight class immediately is anyone’s guess – the last season featured all four major belts, while this one features none. This year’s cruiserweight crop features two also-rans from the last season (albeit good ones) in Mairis Breidis and Yunier Dorticos, established veteran Kryszstof Glowacki, up and comer Andrew Tabiti and four guys even the most hardcore boxing fan has never heard of. It does not have last season’s champion (who has all of the belts) nor last season’s runner up (Murat Gassiev) and thus feels kind of like an also-ran tournament with limited relevance. Some good fighters here but it just doesn’t feel…important. The best you can get from this tournament – because even a lower level a tournament is better than no tournament – is some good fights and action, and sadly, the quarterfinal round didn’t have much of that either.

Oct. 13: Andrew Tabiti (USA) UD12 Ruslan Fayfer (Russia)

STW Scorecard: Tabiti 116-111 Fayfer

Tabiti is a fighter who seems like he has the goods to be a star – he’s handsome, well spoken, sculpted and powerful looking. He’s also, to this point in his career, been an absolute bore to watch. His most impressive win to date was a decision win over an over-the-hill Steve Cunningham on the Mayweather-McGregor undercard, a fight that was so boring that it threatened to set boxing back 15 years given the amount of casual eyeballs that were on that fight. Tabiti went into the Russian’s backyard on this one, and managed to outpoint him despite fighting tentative, doing more posing than actual fighting. Fayfer was nothing but a jab and grabber and didn’t do much other than hold. Brutal fight, one of the worst of the tournament thus far.

Oct. 20: Yunier Dorticos (Cuba) UD12 Mateusz Masternak (Poland)

STW Scorecard: Dorticos 115-113 Masternak

The best fight of the cruiserweight quarterfinals saw power puncher Yunier Dorticos hang on for a really close win over Masternak, a limited but tough fighter who managed to take Dorticos’ early power shots and survive to nearly steal one from the Cuban big man late. Dorticos is a fighter who I’d have put as my favorite before the tournament started – he got knocked out late in a competitive fight in last season’s semifinals, a fight that was one of the best fights I saw in 2018 – but he didn’t look great in this one. He was getting caught with shots, never had Masternak seriously wobbled. You wonder if either Masternak was better than expected or if Dorticos lost something in the ring that night in his war with Gassiev. Time will tell, as he has an interesting matchup against the flashy and talented but underwhelming Tabiti.

Nov. 10: Kryzysztof Glowacki (Poland) UD12 Maksim Vlasov (Russia)

STW Scorecard: Glowacki 118-110 Vlasov

Competitive but clear, this was a pretty entertaining scrap between the veteran Glowacki and the little known Vlasov, who was game and gave it his all but didn’t have enough for the former titleholder. The fight really got cooking down the stretch when Vlasov hurt Glowacki badly and Glowacki fired a hail mary desperation overhand punch that somehow landed flush and knocked Vlasov back, allowing Glowacki to recover. Good effort from Vlasov, but Glowacki moves on.

Nov. 10: Mairis Briedis (Latvia) UD12 Noel Mikhailin (Germany)

Alright, look. I watched almost every single semifinal matchup. This fight took place on a night where I had a wedding to attend, and came on DAZN after the way more relevant and interesting Tony Bellow-Oleksandr Usyk card. I meant to watch it on replay but only heard that it was A) a garbage fight and B) a garbage robbery decision, so I can’t bring myself to spend an hour of my life watching it. The word on the street is that Breidis, last year’s semifinalist and the man who gave Usyk his closest fight in last season’s tournament, didn’t look good and was gifted a questionable decision against his unknown opponent in a fight with a lot of grabbling and very little action. He moves on to face Glowacki in the next round, and if he doesn’t have his shit together, we could see him lose that one.

 

 

 

 

The Best Fights of 2018 + More Musings

I know you’re supposed to do this at the end of the calendar year but fuck it I’m inspired today so I’m doing this today. There’s a lot of boxing ahead of us – November and December looked STACKED – but here’s some of my random thoughts from what has been an interesting and awesome year to be a boxing fan.

STREAMING IS HERE TO STAY

I don’t have cable – I watch my TV through my Roku. This is the greatest time to be a boxing fan that I can remember. Between subscriptions to YouTube TV, DAZN, Showtime and ESPN+, I’m paying like $50 and can get any fight I want. I don’t have to find a dodgy Russian website illegal stream of fight cards that give my computer an STD, and I can watch all of the fights I want and replays in glorious HD.

HBO is out of the fight game, which is a shame in the sense that their production was the best in the business – but their streaming game was fucking terrible. Their app, HBO Go, didn’t offer fights live, and on top of that, didn’t get the replays up on the app until the Tuesday after fight night. Three days later! Compare with the Showtime app: live streaming for every fight card, the full fight card up on the app the morning after if you missed it live. It’s not close, and that failure to adapt (along with other factors) showed you how uncommitted the network was to the sport and how behind they were. That’s why Showtime has my monthly subscription money, and HBO doesn’t. On that note..

 

DAZN HAS BEEN REALLY FUCKING GOOD

Knocking on wood that this continues, but DAZN has been AWESOME. Great quality streams, awesome shoulder content around boxing, replays immediately, high production in their live fights. They are actually showing background pieces on undercard fighters instead of just talking about the main event fights and dismissing the action in front of you. Their content is compelling, they’re making waves in terms of the fighters they’ve signed (Anthony Joshua, Canelo Alvarez, the World Boxing Super Series) and it seems like they have at least one if not more fight cards every single weekend. Easily the best $10/month I’m spending right now as a fight fan. I don’t know how they’re making money, but here’s hoping things continue and they aren’t just putting on a pretty face for their first year in business here.

MY FAVORITE FIGHTS OF THIS YEAR

Feb 3 – Murat Gassiev KO12 Yunier Dorticos

(STW Score: Gassiev 105-104 Dorticos)

I had this fight closer than most, but this WBSS cruiserweight semifinal (also a unification bout) was great from start to finish. Just two high class, skilled dudes who can also punch going at it. I don’t think there was a clinch in the entire match. Dorticos was getting work done early but Gassiev invested to the body, which made a huge difference down the stretch as the Cuban seemed to gas badly in the last few rounds. Gassiev truly looked dominant towards the end there, and the stoppage was nasty and emotional. Dorticos shed some tears after the fight, and you truly felt like he left everything in the ring. This was, for my money, the best fight in the first season of the Super Series, which has been a phenomenal addition to the sport. Gassiev would go on to get swept on the cards in the final by Oleksandr Usyk in a virtuoso performance, but as far as action goes you couldn’t top this semifinal and I came away impressed with both guys. Dorticos is returning for the second season of the tournament, and I’ll be rooting for him.

 

Feb 24 – Srisaket Sor Rungvisai MD12 Juan Francisco Estrada

(STW Score: Sor Rungvisai 115-113 Estrada)

Super fun fight on the back of another hugely successful SuperFly card on HBO – the third one, like the third Godfather, was trash, but this one was a worthy sequel to the first. Just a high level superfly matchup, with the big, come forward Thai destroyer against the classy, experienced and accurate Mexican. It was action from the start, and Rungvisai showed real skill to go along with his power, which ultimately made the difference in the fight. It was back and forth with both guys having moments, Estrada at one point decided he was good to take punishment as long as he got his own shots in, which made it a fun fight. Some hard rounds to score here, especially down the stretch, but I think the Thai fighter got the deserved decision here.

March 3 – Deontay Wilder TKO10 Luis Ortiz

STW Score: Wilder 84-85 Ortiz

I’ve been rooting for Deontay Wilder for years now. I think having a big, scary looking American heavyweight champion who knocks everybody out is a great thing for the sport Stateside, and though he’s crude and not graceful in there I’ve long held out hope for his punching power and personality to make him a star. He’s been building on this and has held a world title for a couple of years, but he never really had that name on his resume that truly gave him respect from hardcore boxing fans and thus he never has gotten the big push that would make him a mainstream star. His best win, prior to 2018, was his title fight against Bermane Stiverne, a decision victory that looked less and less impressive with time as Stiverne got fatter and fatter (Wilder actually wound up rematching and stopping an out of shape and demoralized Stiverne in an unnecessary rematch in late 2017).

It wasn’t through lack of trying – Wilder had lined up fights in Russia with respected heavyweight Alexander Povetkin before the Russian popped for PEDs, and then the same thing happened with Cuba’s Ortiz, an old but respected power puncher, a big dude with major pedigree and skills. Frustrated at the lack of a name on his record, Wilder signed up yet again to fight Ortiz in 2018, and came out with his signature career win and respect to boot.

After a porous opening four rounds in which nothing really happened and nobody really got going (though Ortiz probably was nicking the rounds), things went down in Round 5 in a back and forth heavyweight WAR. Wilder nailed Ortiz in the fifth and dropped him, seeing the Cuban get up and survive albeit on shaky legs. In Round 7, things truly got real, as Ortiz hurt Wilder BADLY and the American looked dazed and confused and like he might go down. He stayed on his feet, but just barely – looked like he was one shot away from being ended right there and then. He took another round or so to recover, but then lands that great equalizer of his in Round 9 – a huge right hand that’s got Ortiz wobbly. In Round 10, Wilder lands that big right hand again, drops him twice and closes the show. I watched this in a room with some non-boxing diehards and they LOVED IT. Great for the sport and happy for Wilder, who takes on the gypsy king Tyson Fury in December next. Huge year for Wilder if he comes out of it with wins over Ortiz and Fury – possibly challenge Anthony Joshua for the best resume at heavyweight, and hopefully challenging Joshua in the ring in the biggest fight the sport can offer.

March 10: Oscar Valdez UD12 Scott Quigg

(STW Score: Valdez 115-113 Quigg)

LOVED this fight and the heart Quigg showed in this one. The young Mexican titleholder is an all-action, come forward fighter, but he’d never been challenged like this before. Quigg completely blew weight and came in HUGE for this ESPN-televised bout, and the weight discrepancy showed as Quigg was enormous in there and was really doing a ton of damage with his shots to the smaller Valdez. Valdez was game, even though at the end of Round 5 he got hurt bad and broke his jaw, gushing blood out of his mouth. Quigg just came forward and applied pressure, and Valdez answered back. By the middle of the fight, Quigg’s nose was broken along with Valdez’s jaw and Valdez’s corner wasn’t even removing their man’s mouthpiece in between rounds due to how much blood was leaking form his mouth. Fight of the year candidate in my opinion. Valdez showed crazy heart against a guy who could have been 2 divisions higher than him. The official scorecards were a little wide for my taste but overall damn impressive from the Mexican champ, even though he probably shortened his career by taking this one and hasn’t been in the ring since as he recovers.

April 7: Jarrett Hurd SD12 Erislandy Lara

STW Score: Hurd 116-111 Lara

Erislandy Lara is an extremely talented boxer that is either in absolutely terrible fights (he tends to be OK with boring points decisions when he has his opponent outclassed) or in awesome barnburners (his bout with Alfredo Angulo was low key extremely entertaining). In this one, Lara’s style meshed perfectly with Jarrett Hurd’s come forward terminator impression and it made for an awesome, compelling matchup. Hurd just comes forward and comes forward, and Lara had his hands full just trying to keep the huge American off him for the entire fight. Both guys had their moments and hurt each other, and the rounds were pretty close.

The championship rounds made the difference in this one. Hurd stayed busy and stayed right up Lara’s ass (figuratively), keeping him close by and mauling him while Lara tried to counter and show heart, fighting with a bad cut over one eye. With 30 seconds left, Hurd nails him with a right hand and drops him. Dramatic finish to this fight – with that knockdown, Hurd took the scorecards and the belts. Great Showtime matchup and great result for boxing (Lara as a champ had a less than inspiring reign). Hurd is one to watch moving forward – he’s huge for the division and absolutely relentless. Can’t see him in a lot of bad fights.

April 28: Isaac Dogboe TKO11 Jessie Magdeleno

STW Score: Dogboe 96-92 Magdeleno

Ghana’s Isaac Dogboe put himself squarely on the world scene with a big year this year, none bigger than this performance on ESPN where he came off the canvas after a first round knockdown to stop a tough, skilled opponent in Magdeleno. Both guys came out swinging and Dogboe really separated himself in the latter half of this one as a crazy little man who isn’t afraid of a firefight. One of the most exciting fighters to come on the scene in 2018,

 

May 12: Vasyl Lomachenko TKO10 Jorge Linares

STW Score: Lomachenko 86-84 Linares

Ukraine’s Vasyl Lomachenko has been touted by many as the top pound-for-pound boxer in the world, and a lot of that is due to the dominance he has exhibited in wiping away every opponent he’s faced over the past few years. Most of his fights aren’t even close, and his habit of getting seasoned professionals to get so discouraged that they quit on their stools was almost more impressive than if he had one-punch KO’d them. Linares gave him a true challenge though – despite Loma being much faster than Linares (no easy task, as the Venezuelan has fast hands himself), Linares truly held his own in this one, even dropping Lomachenko on his ass in Round 6 when the Ukrainian somewhat recklessly came lunging in. After a great back and forth and scintillating 10th round, Linares all of a sudden crumpled to the ground and couldn’t get back up. I literally thought he hurt his leg as I couldn’t see what happened live, but on replay you could see that Lomachenko landed a perfectly placed, nasty AF liver shot that just shut down Linares’ body immediately. Great, fun, high level chess match with an awesome ending.

 

June 23: Josh Taylor UD12 Viktor Postol

STW Score: Taylor 114-113 Postol

Josh Taylor, the great Scottish hope, is a really promising young super lightweight, a fun to watch and classy boxer who has turned heads in recent years and is one of the favorites in the upcoming WBSS season 2 tournament. Before he got into the tournament and got the respect of the boxing public at large, though, he had to get through tough veteran Viktor Postol.

Postol, a solid, tall and awkward fighter from Ukraine best known for falling short in a matchup against Terence Crawford, is a real challenge. He doesn’t have popularity and thus Taylor had much more to lose than gain in taking him on, and Postol proved to be really tricky in this one. It was a close fight, in which Postol did well when he kept a medium distance, whereas Taylor did better on the inside and at range. While Taylor won his rounds more impressively as the harder hitter, Postol stayed in the fight by controlling the tempo behind a consistent jab. Taylor got a huge knockdwon in Round 10 from a a big left hand counter shot, but the veteran Ukranian stayed in it and surprised Taylor with his aggression after being hurt. While maybe not the fight of the year, a high level chess match and great performance from a young prospect make this fight worthy of watching. On my scorecard, the knockdown made the difference and broke a 6-6 tie in rounds, but the judges disagreed as they all had Taylor winning widely. Watch it for yourself and decide.

 

July 28: Dillian Whyte UD12 Joseph Parker

STW Score: Whyte 114-111 Parker

After a long string of less than inspiring performances and horrendous-to-watch bouts, including a snoozer of a unification fight against Anthony Joshua in the spring, I had given up on Joseph Parker as a fighter worth watching. He’s skilled and talented but his spoiler style and lack of true power does not make for exciting TV. Well, this one was sloppy and fun and then some, as Whyte managed to draw Parker into more of a war than he was used to. Knockdowns, point deductions, action, drama and momentum swings – this fight had it all. Parker almost erased a big deficit by winning the last few rounds, including hurting Whyte in Round 12 and forcing the big Brit to barely hang on to survive to take a decision. Maybe not Lomachenko-level artistry on display in this one, but it sure was fun.

 

August 4: Eleider Alvarez TKO7 Sergey Kovalev

STW Score: Alvarez 55-59 Kovalev

I am biased on this one as I was there live in Atlantic City to watch it go down, but this fight was maybe the upset of the year and a total blast. Kovalev, the Russian destroyer who had only been defeated by one of the greats in Andre Ward, was expected to blow past longtime contender Eleider Alvarez on his way to a unification matchup with young puncher Dmitry Bivol, fighting on the co-feature bout this same night. Alvarez wasn’t having it. Though Kovalev won the first half of the fight on the cards, Alvarez was taking Sergey’s best shots and kept coming, gambling that Kovalev’s famed lack of conditioning would catch up to him if he didn’t finish the fight early. He gambled correctly. A huge shot in the 7th Round put Kovalev on queer street and though he tried to get up, Alvarez was accurate and merciless on the finish. Well worth a watch for sure, and it’s tough to think of a bigger upset this year than this one, especially as Alvarez was not thought of as a power puncher coming in.

September 14: Jose Ramirez UD12 Antonio Orozco

STW Score: Ramirez 116-110 Orozco

Look, this wasn’t the highest level of talent in a boxing match that you’ll ever see, and it wasn’t even really a close fight or ever in doubt. But what it was, was a tremendous display of action and balls. The two guys came out swinging and never stopped, and Ramirez had Orozco seriously dropped and hurt as early as Round 4. Somehow, Orozco survived to give a great account of himself. Not a fight that was close, but one in which I came out impressed with both guys. Orozco’s got a lot to be proud of in this loss, and I’d love to see either of these boxers fight again. Ramirez has talent and potentially could be seen in some higher level matchups – I don’t think he’ll ever top pound-for-pound lists but I do think he’ll be in some fun fights.

 

September 15: Canelo Alvarez MD12 Gennady Golovkin

STW Score: Alvarez 114-114 Golovkin

Ah yes, the big one. The biggest fight of the year was also one of the best, as Alvarez and Golovkin went toe-to-toe in their rematch and delivered on the sport’s biggest stage. Neither guy backed down, both landed huge shots, and it was a fight deserving of its billing. They are both greats and future Hall of Famers.

Some notes in terms of the scoring, here, since that seems to continue to be a hot topic of conversation. I’m a Golovkin fan boy (just look at these blog archives). I scored the first fight a draw, but thought if you had to pick a winner, you’d have to pick GGG. I wouldn’t have a problem if you gave the first one to GGG, I would have had a hard time seeing any more rounds for Canelo than the ones I gave him. In this second fight, I felt the other way. I also scored it a draw, but felt like Canelo was the deserving one here. Canelo changed the script and came forward all night, leading the dance and building up a big lead on the scorecards. Unlike the last fight, it was GGG who came on strong to close and make this a close fight. In my mind, a draw was a fair result the first time around (marred by the criminal 118-110 scorecards judge Adelaide Byrd gave Canelo) and a draw would’ve been the fairest the next time around, but I don’t have qualms in Canelo being given the decision by a hair here. Either way, we spend too much time talking about judging and scorecards, and not enough time talking about just how high-level, action packed and dramatic both of these fights were. These are two guys who left it all out there. Respect to both men here.

There’s 12 matches that I found compelling this year. If you missed any of them, they’re worth going back to see. If the last few months of the year lives up to its billing, 2018 will truly be remembered for a great year (and I’ll have to write an addendum to this in January).

Did I miss anything? Disagree with any of these? Let me hear about it.

 

 

Random Thoughts 2018

My output on this blog has dropped considerably in the past couple of years (I’ve posted, like, twice a year the last three years) mainly because life got in the way. I started this blog in my mid twenties when I had moved to a new city where I didn’t know anybody and had a lot of downtime by myself, and it was great therapy and a chance to have a writing outlet outside of my job. I never had pretenses that anybody was reading it, and I didn’t really write it for anybody else. As I’ve gotten older (I can no longer call myself a “20-something”), advanced in my career and gotten more responsibilities, I haven’t had the time to sit down and spend an hour rambling about boxing or the last book I read, or get drunk off whiskey and write about watching NBA League Pass all night.

That doesn’t mean I don’t still love writing, boxing or books (I do), and I still try to have a non-work related creative outlet here and there, but the hours of the day seem to have slipped away from me recently. Every so often I get reminded that this space still exists – today, somebody randomly came through and liked my post from November of last year, which brought me back through here – and I’m happy that I spent time writing about things that interested me. I think it’s important to do something just for you sometimes, and this blog kind of is that. I don’t get paid to write here, none of my friends or family know I write this, and I get just ramble on about shit that is totally irrelevant to anybody but myself. And that’s kind of nice.

This blog was never a hidden, personal journal for me.  It was always something kind of without a point – and that was the point. It’s been kind of fun to explore what I wrote years ago and read through it – it’s a little like having a beer with a past self. So, knowing Future Me might be reading this somewhere down the road, I’m going to indulge for a second.

Since I’ve started writing in this space, I’ve moved cities. I’ve changed jobs and developed a pretty successful, pretty public career in which my work gets seen by a huge amount of people. I manage a team and have worked my way into being a respected person in my field. I’ve ended one long-term relationship end, which was bittersweet in the sense that I became much, much happier at the end of the relationship but I lost a lot of people that I cared about from my life forever. I’ve had another long-term relationship begin and prosper, and that’s given me a true taste of the every-day happiness I’ve been chasing for a long time. My parents have moved to the other side of the world. Some friends have gotten married and remain happily a part of my life, other friends have lost touch completely. I gave into the hints my hair had long been giving me and shaved my head. I’m thinking about getting married and having kids in the next handful of years. I’ve taken an improv class and made myself get uncomfortable in front of other people. I paid off my student loans a week before my 30th birthday. I tried to learn about investing and put a small amount of money in the stock market. In the past few months, for the first time, I saw numbers in my personal bank account actually start to go up instead of staying the same. I’ve wrote short social media films that have been seen by millions of people, and done things that I’m proud of. I’ve had some rough times, but I’ve put my head down and pushed through them.

In short, I’ve grown up a lot in the past few years. Yeah, I’ve still watched a lot of boxing and I’ve read a lot of books in the last couple of years.

I’m fucking excited for the future. I’m with the woman of my dreams in a way that I don’t question for a single day (other than wondering what I did to get so lucky). I have so much more world to explore, and I see fatherhood as something really around the bend. I want to write something and make something that I’m proud of, and have it succeed and not have to do with the platform I’m given through my job.

I’m excited for what’s ahead. Future Me – I know life has ups and downs always, but I hope in the grand scheme of things that things went well. Watch this space.

World Boxing Super Series: Quarterfinal Recap

Boxing needs more tournaments. There’s no question about it – the lack of a governing body for the sport results in most boxing matches sort of feeling random. Fighters operate as individual businesses, with four major belts (and a million more minor ones) in each division, not obligated to fight anybody really, various networks and promoters warring with each other and looking out for only their own best interests. It’s the biggest problem in the sport. The sports’ biggest fights can come too late or not at all – Mayweather-Pacquiao was served to us five years too late, Canelo Alvarez waited for Gennady Golovkin to age before he was comfortable taking him on, and the two clear best heavyweights in the world (Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder) are pussyfooting around each other and will no doubt fight at least one B-level contender again each before stepping in with each other.

That’s what makes the tournament format so enticing for boxing fans – in a single elimination, you can look ahead to matchups without guessing who is going to be next in line. That’s why so many boxing fans were excited when the World Boxing Super Series was announced early in 2017 – it took some of the best fighters in two divisions (cruiserweight and super middleweight), seeded eight fighters, and had them fight each other in a single-elimination style tournament to sort who the best man is.

Listen, it’s not come without it’s faults. The WBSS was unable to find a real U.S. broadcasting partner for the quarterfinal round – most of the fighters are European and likely their asking price was higher than American networks were willing to pay for unknown fighters. The super middleweight tournament is missing a lot of the top fighters in the division (though they nailed the cruiserweight pool). That said, the quarters were really interesting and are setting up some great matchups. Let’s take a look back at the quarterfinal round.

 

THE CRUISERWEIGHTS

 

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Oleksandr Usyk (Ukraine) TKO10 Marco Huck (Germany)

STW Scorecard: Usyk 89-81 Huck

Usyk, the betting favorite in the cruiserweight bracket, is a tall, skilled up-and-coming boxer that has potential to be the dominant force in the cruiserweight division overall. The undefeated Ukrainian is dangerous as he moves better than most everybody in the division, has the length to bother most guys and is an incredibly well-schooled fighter. He’s not a fighter with dynamite in his fists but he does get stoppages mainly on volume and accumulation on punches, which results in a lot of late stoppages. Huck is an old warhorse of the division, a former titleholder on the wrong side of 30 and having been in one too many wars – still, an experienced opponent and an interesting first opponent for the cruiser favorite.

Usyk started the match off behind the jab, staying on his bicycle keeping Huck away with his movement. Though Huck had his moments early in the fight, Usyk’s huge advantage in length really made a difference as his tentpole jab continually bobbleheaded Huck. In the 8th round, Usyk hurt the veteran German with a big shot that snapped Huck’s head back violently. Huck then wrestles him to the ground in a desperation move, and while Usyk is on his knees, Huck tries to go for the dirty punch, causing him a point deduction and getting Usyk really angry. For the next two rounds, Usyk fights mad – and you won’t like him when he’s mad. In the 10th Usyk knocks a clearly hurt Huck against the ropes and for about 30 seconds just unloads a barrage of nonstop punches as Huck just tries to survive. The referee steps in and stops the match there, perhaps a tad early, but Huck was so far down on the cards and with really no way to win the fight.

 

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Mairis Briedis (Latvia) UD12 Mike Perez (Cuba)

STW Scorecard: Briedis 116-111 Perez

I’ve always liked Perez – the former heavyweight is a tweener in size in that he’s small for a heavy but big for a cruiser, but he was always a skilled, strong puncher. He seemed genuinely bothered by the tragedy that occurred following his match with Magomed Abdusalamov in 2014, and his career seemed to stall a bit following that fight. Breidis, a cruiserweight titleholder and a big name in the division, was fighting at home in Latvia.

This was a sloppy match, with a ton of grappling from both guys, particularly from Perez. It made some rounds hard to score. Breidis did a nice job of getting one or two quick shots in, and then they would clinch, get seperated, and then go again. Not a lot of clean shots landed at all, and the ref was all wrong in the match – getting involved when he doesn’t need to, not getting involved when he does. Perez was clearly frustrated coming downt he stretch. Both fighters were docked points during the match (Perez in the third for a head butt that opened a decent cut, Briedis in R10 for excessive holding), and it wasn’t pretty or a classic by any stretch of the imagination. Still, Briedis earned his chance to move on and will face Usyk in a very interesting semifinal matchup.

 

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Yunier Dorticos (Cuba) KO2 Dmitry Kudryashov (Russia)

STW Scorecard: Dorticos 10-9 Kudryashov

In this fight, which was randomly held in San Antonio, you had guaranteed fireworks going in. Two guys that know how to punch, two KO artists, getting in the ring together, you just knew they weren’t both walking out. Kudryashov came in the much more limited of the two in skill, but with a shot just due to his crushing power. Dorticos had the edge and skill but had big power himself, so the question was what would happen when you put them both in the squared ring across from each other.

Well, we learned pretty quickly. After a relatively cautious opening round, in which Kudryashov looked strong but slow and Dorticos finding some success with some hooks on the side, the second round turned into an immediate firefight. Dorticos found something here and just started unloading – the Russian really didn’t move his head at all, and Dorticos pounced on that. In the middle of the round, Dorticos landed a nasty right hand to the side of the head that dazed his opponent and followed it up with another one that just finished him. He went down hard, was wobbly as shit and near crosseyed and could not beat the count. Great knockout.

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Murat Gassiev (Russia) KO3 Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (Poland)

STW Scorecard: Gassiev 20-18 Wlodarczyk

Gassiev is a young power puncher in the division with loads of promise and nasty power. Wlodarcyk is an older guy who has been fighting at the top of the division for years, but had been pretty inactive in the past couple of years. This fight was not close.

Gassiev impressed from the start. After a somewhat cautious opening in which Gassiev still separated himself, the Russian began landing more significant shots and controlling the action by just applying consistent pressure. Wlodarczyk really has nothing. In R3, Gassiev walks him against the ropes, sneaks in a powerful short left uppercut and then follows that up with a left hook to the liver. Wlod goes down like a mannequin, face down. Total wipeout. Gassiev now faces Dorticos in the next round in a guaranteed fireworks matchup.

THE SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHTS

 

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Callum Smith (England) UD12 Erik Skoglund (Sweden)

STW Scorecard: Smith 114-113 Skoglund

Well then. This was a fight that Smith was supposed to win, as the big Brit was seeded first and thus had perhaps the clearest path to the final in a bit of a weaker tournament. That said, he underwhelmed here in a close unanimous decision victory, and displayed some serious weaknesses.

Both guys started off pretty cautious – Smith landing some bigger, more effective shots but Skoglund being the busier man. Neither guy really lands too much here. Smith takes an early lead, though a close one, towards the beginning. Disappointingly, not a lot is separating these two but Smith probably punches a little harder as the bigger man. Skoglund has some success mid rounds and scoring behind his jab – the Swede is boxing nicely but it’s apparent that he doesn’t have the power to hurt Smith, hwo really isn’t doing enough for me. Have Skoglund taking a bunch of rounds in a row here but they are admittedly close. Smith’s nose is bleeding and that seems to bother him as he’s fighting cautiously and with a look of worry on his face.

In the 11th Smith hurts Skoglund with a right hand and the wobbled Skoglund has to take a knee. That opens Smith up as he sense his foe is diminished but Skoglund manages to survive the round. In the 12th, Smith came out frustratingly conservative, though he did edge the round. He wins the bout, but is far from impressive here.

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Juergen Braehmer (Germany) UD12 Rob Brant (USA)

STW Scorecard: Braehmer 119-109 Brant

This was probably among the most unknown of the first round matchups. Braehmer is an experienced veteran, but he’s older than shit, and has been inactive recently. Brant is a little-known young, untested fighter out of Minnesota, who talked a nice game and touted big-name sparring partners and a trainer ahead of this fight, his big chance to make an impact on the international scene.

Well, we got the least interesting (and probably most predictable) version of this fight, as Brant took himself to Germany and showed himself to be far below the level of Braehmer. Braehmer was the better fighter in every way, and Brant was unwilling to lay it all out there in hopes of a hail Mary, giving the German an easy near-shutout decision win. Brant blows his shot and likely will sink back to obscurity/journeyman status, while Braehmer gets to extend his career a little further as he faces the vulnerable Callum Smith next bout up.

 

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Chris Eubank Jr (England) KO3 Avni Yildirim (Turkey)

STW Scorecard: Eubank Jr. 20-17 Yildirim

Chris Eubank Jr. has superstar potential in this sport. The son of the famed former British boxing champion has the looks, the trash talk and the power to potentially become a big name in this sport. He came up short in a title shot a couple years back against Billy Joe Saunders (a disputed decision in a fight I actually scored a draw) and since has gone back to the drawing board and built up a reputation for stopping guys and building his name.

Yildirim was a complete unknown out of Turkey, and the most he contributed to making this fight interesting was having his manager make headlines by going off in an embarrassing fashion at the pre-fight presser. The fight itself was a total blowout. Yildrim just started off by following Eubank around with his hands plastered to his head while Eubank bounced a consistent jab off his forehead upstairs, ultimately scoring a knockdown with 30 seconds left int he first round.

The second round was just two guys winging punches at each other, in a fun display that Eubank consistently got the better of. In the third round Eubank just came out fucking swinging. He was a little wild with his looping shots but Yildirim didn’t have the skill set to counter him. He kept throwing these crazy hard power shots and eventually caught him with a right-left combo right int he face and knocked him down hard. The ref stopped it immediately which was a little weak as he didn’t even try to let him get up but Eubank was another class for sure.

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George Groves (England) KO4 Jamie Cox (England)

STW Scorecard: Groves 29-28 Cox

I’ve always liked George Groves, though he’s had a strange career. After making it to the big time by fighting two huge stadium fights against Carl Froch (both competitive, exciting losses), his career’s been up and down. He flashes major skillsets and has won a belt in the division but at times seems really unsure of himself and someone who can get in his own head. Cox came into this fight a total unknown, at least to me.

This was a fun one. Groves, as usual, is a decent fighter though just sloppy and unsure enough to give his opponent some openings. A ton of punches are thrown here – Cox not really doing damage but he’s really game in there and threw about five billion punches in round 2. Most of them are missing but Cox definitely recognizes that he can only win with a knockout so that’s what he’s going for.

In the third round Groves begins to separate himself and show his class, especially when the fight goes on the inside. Cox has no idea what to do when the fight gets there other than hold ineffectively. Finally, in the fourth round Groves drops Cox for the predictable KO as Cox’s ‘knockout or bust’ strategy turns up bust and the world gets to so Eubank Jr-Groves, a major British fight and perhaps the biggest single bout in terms of name recognition across the two tournaments.

 

WBSS SEMIFINAL MATCHUPS

Cruiserweights

Oleksandr Usyk (Ukraine) vs. Mairis Breidis (Latvia)

Yunier Dorticos (Cuba) vs. Murat Gassiev (Russia)

Super Middleweights

Callum Smith (England) vs. Juergen Braehmer (Germany)

Chris Eubank Jr. (England) vs. George Groves (England)

 

Weekend Recap: HBO’s SuperFly lives up to the hype

2017 has been an incredible year for boxing. Knockout, big matchups, mainstream fights – it’s been everything the previous couple of years wasn’t. Let’s take a look at this past weekend, starting with the much-hyped HBO ‘SuperFly’ card, which lived up to all of the excitement it promised.

HBO’s card featured three fights in the super flyweight division, and included five of the division’s top fighters. It was an impressive card that promised action, and boy, did it deliver.

Carson, California (HBO)

Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (44-4-1 40 KO) KO4 Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez (46-2 38 KO)

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Boxing is truly a cruel sport. Nicaragua’s Chocolatito, one of the few fighters in the smaller weight divisions to truly break through in the U.S. thanks to the backing of HBO, was a mainstay on the pound-for-pound rankings in the past couple of years. He had risen from a minimumweight fighter in the mid 2000s to take titles in four weight classes, coming as high up as 112 pounds. That said, he been showing potential signs of aging throughout the past couple of years as his power stopped carrying up in weight. He went from stopping tough opponents like Edgar Sosa and Brian Viloria as he started fighting on HBO to struggling a bit with McWilliams Arroyo to pulling out a close, contested decision against Carlos Cuadras. These were all good fighters and tough opponents, but Gonzelaz didn’t look the dynamo that had people putting him at #1 in the sport.

Last March, Gonzelz defended his title against Thai challenger Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, and he found himself in unfamiliar territory. Sor Rungvisai was bigger than him, tough, and walked through most of his punches. Gonzalez went down in the first round, suffered head clashes that made him bleed profusely, and he ultimately lost a close but disputed decision (I scored their first fight a draw, for what it’s worth).

Heading into the immediate rematch on Saturday night, Chocolatito was the favorite, even though the Thai fighter had the belt. In a stunning turn of events, Sor Rugvisai blew out Chocolatito from the opening bell. Gonzalez had strange body language from the get go, looking depressed in the corners between rounds, even though he was competitive through three rounds as the fighters met in the middle of the ring and traded punches.

It all went to shit for Chocolatito in Round 4. Sor Rungvisai caught him with a nasty combo in the first minute of the round, which folded the Nicaraguan champion and sent him down to the canvas hard. This was no flash knockdown – Chocolatito peeled himself off the ground but his body language told the whole story. He was badly hurt.

To his credit, he went out like a warrior. When he got up, he went straight to his Thai opponent and tried to trade his way back into it. Results were predictable – Sor Rungvisai hit him with a right hand that was so full power that every vein in his arm was bulging out as he threw it – and with that, Gonzalez was done, his eyes looking like they were fighting back tears of disappointment as he lay sprawled on the cavs looking straight up in the air. He didn’t rise for a couple of minutes as the doctor checked him out, a truly brutal way for the champion to go.

Let’s give Sor Rungvisai his due – he’s the rightful champion, and looked strong, confident and powerful in there. He dominated Chocolatito from the opening bell. But let’s pour one out for a great career in Chocolatito.

Naoya Inoue (14-0, 12 KO) TKO6 Antonio Nieves (17-2-2, 9 KO)

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Japan’s Naoya ‘Monster’ Inoue is a titleholder who has made waves overseas by steamrolling through quality opposition. At just 24 years old, he’s already on some people’s pound-for-pound list, and has put together a string of dominant performances in recent years. The only recent fight of his to go the distance was his May 2016 unanimous decision win over the tough David Carmona in a fight where Inoue injured his right hand and fought multiple rounds basically one handed. Saturday night was his U.S. and HBO debut, the first time American boxing fans had a chance to see him on a non-YouTube stream with yelling Japanese commentators.

Inoue didn’t disappoint, as he looked absolutely dominant beating up his limited opponent, to the point the Nieves spent the 5th and 6th rounds just running and trying to survive. You could tell that Nieves didn’t want to be there and though he was tough, the fight probably went a couple rounds too long. I don’t think we learned much about Inoue – he’s already beaten better competition than this – but it was a nice introduction to a guy I hope we get a chance to see more of.

Juan Francisco Estrada (36-2, 25 KO) UD12 Carlos Cuadras (36-2-1, 27 KO)

STW Scorecard: Cuadras 114-113 Estrada

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In the opener of the SuperFly card, the two Mexican fighters fought an entertaining, fun and close battle that may have been the fight of the night. Though I scored it by a point to Cuadras, all three judges gave the fight to Estrada by that same slimmest of margins (114-113) and I have no problem at all with the decision, as multiple rounds were very hard to score. The two fighters, both of whom gave Chocolatito hell in previous fights and walked into the night looking for a rematch with the Nicaraguan star, proved to be a great style matchup. Cuadras, the bigger and more solid of the two, started off strong and really dominated the first few rounds of the fight with his activity and volume punching. Estrada stayed patient and began sneaking in hard, snapping shots in between Cuadras’ combinations, and started turning the tide and having success in the middle rounds of the fight. After a back and forth couple of rounds, Estrada dropped Cuadras HARD in the 10th as Cuadras got caught napping leaving an exchange. That knockdown proved to be the difference in the cards and I can’t argue with that giving Estrada the win.

I will say – I had the fight even going into the 12th round,  with all of the momentum favoring Estrada. I fully expected him to continue his dominance but he seemed to get tentative in the round and didn’t close as strongly on a clearly weary Cuadras as I’d have liked to see, and Cuadras snuck in some decent shots in the final minute of the round. I wobbled between scoring it even (and thus, scoring the fight a draw) but guilt in doing that got the best of me so I nicked it to Cuadras.

The winner of this fight in theory gets a shot at Sor Rungvisai’s belt. Regardless of who they fight, these guys are fun as hell to watch and I look forward to seeing more of either of them.

Berlin, Germany (World Boxing Super Series)

Oleksandr Usyk (13-0, 11 KO) TKO10 Marco Huck (40-5-1, 27 KO)

Boxen: Profis

I am super excited about the World Boxing Super Series – which is staging two tournaments in two different divisions (super middleweight and cruiserweight) – in an elimination-style format. It has high-level, quality boxers participating, and the shame is that it doesn’t yet have a U.S. broadcast partner, so American boxing fans are forced to try to find online streams to see these fights. Here’s hoping they figure this out.

This was the first fight, a quarterfinal matchup between Ukraine’s Usyk and Germany’s Huck. Usyk may be the tournament favorite in the cruiserweight divison, a incredibly tall, skilled boxer who may not have thudding power but lands so precisely and sharply that he tends to stop guys on accumulation alone. Huck, a veteran and former champ in the division, came into the fight the obvious underdog and on the clear downslide of his career but still is a feisty veteran.

The fight played out about as expected – Usyk came out behind the jab, boxing and keeping Huck away from him using movement and that long jab. Huck was competitive in R3 until Usyk jumped all over him and did some damage. Huck got a nice shot in about halfway through R4 but Usyk came back with a nice combination that rocked Huck’s head back. Usyk was just too good and his arms are way longer – his size was making a big difference.

In the 8th, Usyk snaps Huck’s head back and hurts him badly, sending him reeling. Huck then wrestled the Ukranian to the ground and while there on his knees, he goes for a dirty chopping punch to the back of his head. The punch misses, but it was such a cheap shot that the ref took a point away immediately. The usually measured Usyk then starts fighting pissed off and starts really doing damage. In R10, Usyk knocks a clearly hurt Huck against the ropes and for about 30 seconds just nonstop throws punches as Huck merely tries to survive. Ref steps in and stops it – maybe a tad early, but Huck was so far down on the cards and really had no hope to win, so no problem here with the stoppage. Usyk moves on in the tournament and will fight the winner of Mairis Breidis and Mike Perez.

Las Vegas, Nevada (Showtime)

David Benavidez (19-0, 17 KO) SD12 Ronald Gavril (18-2, 14 KO)

STW Scorecard: Benavidez 114-113 Gavril

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On Friday night in a special edition of Showtime Championship Boxing, we got another look at one of boxing’s growing prospects in Arizona’s Benavidez, a 20-year old super middleweight who hits like a truck. After an impressive showing in May where he knocked out veteran Rogelio ‘Porky’ Medina in an absolute firefight, Benavidez was riding the hype train all the way to this match, which was for the vacant WBC title.

His opponent was Romania’s Gavril, an unheralded boxer with a solid record fighting under Floyd Mayweather’s TMT banner, who was matched with Benavidez after original opponent Anthony Dirrell pulled out. Most commentators thought the young American would wipe the floor with Gavril, but that didn’t prove to be the case at all.

Benavidez got off to a strong start, as he entrenched himself in the middle of the ring with Gavril circling around him. Gavril had himself a nice second round, outlanding and scoring well. Then Benavidez took over for a few rounds with effective power shots. He really swings hard and hits with serious power. Gavril started bleeding pretty hard around R4 as Benavidez turned it up. I had Benavidez up through six though a lot of rounds were close and Gavril gave a good account of himself.

In round 8, Benavidez started looking very tired and started fading. His punch form started deteriorating and his punches didn’t look like they were as powerful as earlier in the fight. He seemed to be wading through deep waters for the first time in his young career, as he had found an opponent who he couldn’t put away early. R10 was fun and close with Gavril edging it until Benavidez hurt him at the end, and in R11 Benavidez started summoning some more energy and hurting Gavril, who was gassing and trying to hold for the first time in the fight.

In the final round, Benavidez was winning with effective combos on an exhausted Gavril and then with 45 seconds left he got caught lazily coming in and chasing a combination with a counter shot he walked right into and he dramatically went down. Super, super dramatic end to the fight. It was a close one, and a tough test for the young prospect, but I do think he deserved the decision.

J’Leon Love (23-1-1, 13 KO) TD Abraham Han (26-3-1, 16 KO)

STW Scorecard: Han 77-76 Love

J’Leon Love, once a relatively highly touted TMT ‘prospect’, is a shitty fighter who’s best trait is that he looks kind of like Tupac Shakur. In his first fight in over a year he fought journeyman Han and got outfought for much of the fight as he just wasn’t active enough or good enough to look any kind of good. In the 8th round, the two came together for one of the worst head clashes I’ve ever seen, as a monstrous cut opened on Han’s head and he just started pouring and pumping out blood, and was really hurt. That ended the fight and it went to the scorecards. Two of the judges scored it a draw while one had one of the worst scorecards in recent memory, a washing in favor of Love. The TMT fighter was lucky to escape with a draw here, but showed nothing really to make him a watchable fighter.

On this note, boxing should consider their technical stoppage rules. Currently, if the fight has to be stopped due to an accidental headbutt like this one, judges are required to score the round. In this one, it happened in the first minute of R8, and nothing of note had happened yet. I scored the round 10-10 for this reason, but it looks like all judges did score the round, and that affected the outcome. Shitty way for a guy to take a draw like Han did. I’d be good never seeing Love again.

Caleb Plant (16-0, 10 KO) UD10 Andrew Hernandez (19-7-1, 9 KO) 

STW Scorecard: Plant 100-90 Hernandez

Caleb Plant seems like a nice guy with a heartbreaking backstory, but he just isn’t an impressive prospect to me. He always seems to be in with subpar opposition and he doesn’t exactly blow the doors off the guys he’s in with – every Plant fight seems to be the same. Plant was levels better technically in this fight, fighting a dude who is both not good and who took the fight on a week’s notice. Hernandez just got blown out, and he toughed out some pain, but Plant never stepped on the gas pedal, showed crazy power, or really looked like he’s anything other than a good technical fighter with a low ceiling. Just not that impressed with him in general, and do not think he’s a world-level fighter.