Fighting Words: Young Fighters Shine On Showtime; Brook and Russell Jr. Dominant

In boxing, and in life, there is no such thing as immortality. The top dog will not always be the top dog–time catches up, and youth and power will eventually overtake experience. Always.

Boxing’s history is littered with people waving their hands over their head and freaking out over the future of the sport as the top superstars get old and begin slowing down or retiring. The sport was to die after Mike Tyson. Then Roy Jones Jr. Then Oscar De La Hoya. Now, boxing’s two biggest draws and stars, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, are still at the top of the mountain but getting long in the tooth. Their twilight doesn’t seem so far away.

That said, there are numerous young guns out there, up and coming, salivating for their chance to be that star. The sport will find them, as it always does. Who it will be, we don’t know yet–Canelo? Lomachenko? Wilder?–but the young talent in the sport is strong, and it will always persevere. Last night on Showtime, two young fighters with their name on the list of up and comers made emphatic statements as they continue on the long road that leads to the top.

Fight Recap: Kell Brook RTD4 Jo Jo Dan

In Sheffield, England, hometown 28-year old IBF welterweight titleholder Kell Brook (34-0, 23 KO) looked spectacular in a one-sided beatdown of challenger Jo Jo Dan (34-3, 18 KO), mopping the floor with an overmatched, helpless and amateur-looking Dan in four rounds before Dan’s corner mercifully stopped the bout after the fourth round. Dan, a tough fighter with limited power but quite a bit of experience, didn’t belong in the same ring with Brook from the opening bell.

Brook, in his first fight since taking the title from Shawn Porter in a rough and ugly affair, was also returning to the ring after getting stabbed by a machete while on vacation in one of the strangest stories I’ve heard in quite some time. Something about Brook’s explanation of the incident (summary: Brook went to some strange man’s house at 3 AM after being out drinking on vacation, alone, and the guy abruptly went nuts and stabbed him with a machete) doesn’t quite add up, but I digress.

Brook looked strong and outclassed Dan in every single way; he was stronger, faster, more skilled. Every big power shot Kell through landed flush, and he dropped Dan twice in the second and fourth rounds, leaving the challenger flopping on the floor, dazed and frustrated, and struggling helplessly to his feet. Given that Dan is a decent welterweight, it clearly showed Brook to be a class or two above.

Who’s in that class with Brook? Well, Kell called out Amir Khan after his fight, a matchup that would certainty be a major event in Britain and a fascinating match wherever you call home. Brook also claimed he wants to fight the best (the Mayweather-Pacquiao winner, perhaps) but that seems to be a pipe dream for now. At the moment, Brook seems to be continuing to build his name, but his skills and incredible in-ring composure point to good signs for the future and someone who has the potential to be a top pound for pound fighter down the line.

Fight Recap: Gary Russell Jr. TKO4 Jhonny Gonzalez

In the nightcap on Showtime, much-hyped former featherweight prospect Gary Russell Jr. (26-1, 15 KO) exceeded all expectations by flooring and outclassing the always-tough, veteran champ Jhonny Gonzalez (57-9, 48 KO), swiping Jhonny’s WBC title in the process.

Gonzalez is no world-beater, but he is a tough veteran who had the belt after knocking out former pound-for-pound ranked champ Abner Mares in 2013. He isn’t particularly fast, or has world-beating skill, but he does have one-punch knockout power and is always dangerous, and Russell Jr. impressed by wiping the floor with him and getting him out of there within the first third of the fight.

Russell Jr. is a fighter with immense talent (he has arguably the fastest hands in the sport) who has deservedly taken criticism for a lack of quality competition on his record, as he fought a murderer’s row of nobodies and club fighters for years after being named the 2011 Prospect of the Year. In his first step-up fight against a similar world-level fighter, he was beaten decisively by Vasyl Lomachenko, resulting in fans calling him a hype job and dismissing him as a legitimate top contender.

Russell Jr. proved at least some of his critics wrong last night, as he was too much to handle. His speed is still on another level (Gonzalez looked like he was fighting in water for much of the fight), his power showed up last night and when he saw his opponent hurt he wasn’t afraid to go for the finish and get it. He still has work to do–Paulie Malignaggi, commentating for Showtime, astutely observed that Russell Jr.’s speed is great but he only knows how to throw at that one speed and doesn’t vary his punches, meaning world-class fighters can start timing his shots.

That said, the 26-year old fighter gave a great account of himself and looks to be a player in the suddenly stacked (and young) featherweight division, a group of fighters that features the previously mentioned Lomachenko, rising star Nicolas Walters, and others. He is one to watch, so long as he keeps up his level of competition.

Fight Recap: Jermell Charlo UD10 Vanes Martirosyan

Sometime the Wolf Score: Charlo 94 – 96 Martirosyan

In a highly technical affair that featured at least seven rounds that could have gone either way, Jermell Charlo (26-0, 11 KO) kept his perfect record intact as he saw the scorecards go his way. I had it scored 6-4 in rounds to the always game Vanes Martirosyan (35-2-1, 21 KO), but don’t have a problem with a 6-4 card the other way. One judge gave 7 rounds to Charlo, which I think is a little much, but think as the more marketable fighter seeing the scorecards go Charlo’s way isn’t a huge surprise.

Anyway, Jermell Charlo (the more technical of the two twin Charlo brothers) showed his technical, fighting effectively off the back foot and behind a stiff jab, while Vanes chose to attack the body and get 1-2 pot shots in there on his faster opponent where he could. Almost nothing separated these two fighters–neither ever looked particularly hurt, except in the 8th round when Vanes took an accidental headbutt that nearly closed his eye, and it felt like they could fight for 20 rounds and each man would take ten.

Nevertheless, it’s Charlo who gets the win on his record and moves on, while Vanes likely entrenches himself into gatekeeper status.

Charlo, too, is a prospect, along with his brother, who is one to watch in the future. I’m not sold on him yet–his brother has more knockouts and an arguably better resume–but you can’t argue that the 24-year old is oozing with potential, another young lion aiming himself to the front of the pack.

He, like Brook, Russell and the other young fighters building their name, may fail and wind up also-rans, and most do. But one or two of them may wind up true champions, pay-per-view stars, legends in their own time. They are the future of the world’s oldest sport, and the future appears to be in good hands. It’s why we watch and why we invest so much time and passion into a sport that has never loved us back.

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