Boxing Update, February
World Boxing Super Series Super Middleweight Semifinal
A battle of the Brits highlighted the first World Boxing Super Series semifinal match with George Groves winning a decision victory on February 17th over Chris Eubank, Jr., retaining his WBA Super Middleweight Title in the process.
The fight was a grinding affair, with Eubank balancing periods of puzzling inactivity with with wild, lunging strikes which Groves mostly avoided or countered on the way to tying Eubank up. One early encounter led to a clash of heads and a cut on Eubank’s forehead which seemed to make him even more hesitant to engage. There were a couple of slips by Eubank which I thought were downs, particularly a lead hook by Groves off a Eubank jab in the second, where replay clearly shows Eubank’s right knee buckle and touch the canvas. At any rate, Eubank was his own worst enemy in this fight, fighting a very tentative fight early on and getting behind early on the scorecards. By the time he seemingly realized this in the final couple of rounds, he started wildly pressuring Groves which led to an exciting conclusion to an otherwise lackluster fight.
Groves separated his shoulder in the final round, which could delay or jeopardize his finals matchup with Callum Smith.
HBO “Superfly” II
HBO’s “Superfly” II card aired on February 24th and highlighted two lower-weight title fights.
The first, between Filipino Donnie Nietes and Argentinian Juan Carlos Reveco, was for Nietes’s IBF Flyweight Title and saw the champ stop Reveco in the 7th. Nietes landed a staggering right hand as the bell sounded in the 6th, leaving Reveco stumbling back to his corner. Nietes’s action in the seventh was merely a formality, as Reveco was still on dream street from the earlier right hand. His corner recognized the peril their fight was in and threw in the towel at the 53 second mark in the 7th round.
Up to that point, Nietes had controlled the action and was well ahead on the scorecards. To me, it’s always impressive when a fighter is controlling the action but instead of coasting, looks for the finish, which is exactly what Nietes did here.
The second fight may be the fight of the year for me, so far. Thailand’s Srisaket Sor Rungvisai successfully defended his WBC super flyweight title against Mexicos’ Juan Francisco Estrada, winning a majority decision. This fight was very close, both on the scorecards and on the stat sheet (Srisaket landed 194 punches compared to 189 for Estrada). It was also a great stylistic match up, with Srisaket’s size and powerful combinations going up against the quick, technical counter-punching of Estrada.
Srisaket fights somewhat unconventionally, rarely utilizing his jab but unleashing punishing strikes, particularly big hooks and punches to the body. It’s almost Tyson-like. Srisaket didn’t appear comfortable early on, especially after Estrada finished up round 2 with a flurry of punches that connected solidly to the head of Srisaket. However, Srisaket quickly found his rhythm and seemed to be pulling away on the score cards, if ever so slightly. It seemed that whenever Estrada managed to land a hard blow, Srisaket landed a harder one, but Estrada came on strong in the 8th and 9th, arguably winning both rounds with Srisaket perhaps running out of gas.
The last three rounds, especially the 12th and final one, were explosive, with both fighters letting it all hang out, trading punches like a video game right up to the final bell. Srisaket won on two cards while one judge ruled it a draw. Certainly, the fight was competitive and exciting enough to merit a rematch between these two great fighters.
Title Fights in the Land of the Rising Sun
Two title fights in Japan finished the month of February off.
The first, on February 28th, pitted American Daniel Roman against Japanese native Ryo Matsumoto for Roman’s WBA Super Bantamweight Title. Roman won a decisive victory, cruising to a unanimous decision over Matsumoto. Matsumoto had an eleven fight stoppage streak as well as a significant size advantage — holding four inches over his opponent — but Roman never let him get on track, winning at least 10 of the 12 rounds in the fight.
The second “title” fight on March 1st was a farce. WBC Bantamweight Title holder Luis Nery was stripped of his belt when he failed twice to make weight for his scheduled defense against Shinsuke Yamanaka, who we won the belt from in August of last year. After his victory, Nery tested positive for banned substances, with the dubious claim that it resulted from “tainted meat.” Nevertheless, the WBC couldn’t decisively prove that it didn’t, so Nery was allowed to keep the title.
Fast-forward to the present day and Nery is once again the subject of controversy. Despite failing to make weight and being stripped of his title, Nery dominated Yamanaka, finishing him in the second round and putting a sad — and tainted — bookend to what will probably be the last meaningful fight of Yamanaka’s career. If there’s a silver lining to be had here, it’s that Nery was not eligible to win his belt back but that was little consolation to Yamanaka, who had dedicated the fight to his newborn daughter.
Upcoming Boxing Matches
***Card and dates subject to change. Click on the matchup for preview. Television access listed where available. International match ups not shown on American television can often be found on YouTube soon after the completion of the fight.***
Bolded match ups are considered “must see.”
March 3, Showtime
Heavyweight (200+ lb): (3) Deontay Wilder (United States) vs. (4) Luis Ortiz (Cuba)
March 10, ESPN
Featherweight (126 lb): (6) Scott Quigg (United Kingdom) vs. (7) Oscar Valdez (Mexico)
March 31, Showtime
Heavyweight (200+ lb): (1) Anthony Joshua (United Kingdom) vs. (7) Joseph Parker (New Zealand)
April 7, Showtime
Super Welterweight (154 lb): (1) Erislandy Lara (United States) vs. (3) Jarrett Hurd (United States)
Middleweight (160 lb): (5) Billy Joe Saunders (United Kingdom) vs. (9) Martin Murray (United Kingdom)
April 14, ESPN PPV
Super Bantamweight (122 lb): (2) Jesse Magdaleno (United States) vs. (8) Isaac Dogboe (Ghana)
April 14, ESPN PPV
Welterweight (147 lb): (1) [Super Lightweight] Terrence Crawford (United States) vs. (2) Jeff Horn (Australia)
Light Flyweight (108 lb): (1) Ken Shiro (Japan) vs. (4) Ganigan Lopez (Mexico)
Flyweight (112 lb): (2) Daigo Higa (Japan) vs. (8) Cristofer Rosales (Nicaragua)
Bantamweight (118 lb): (4) Zolani Tete (South Africa) vs. (5) Omar Andres Narvaez (Argentina)
Featherweight (126 lb): (1) Carl Frampton (United Kingdom) vs. (10) Nonito Donaire (Philippines)
April 28, HBO
Middleweight (160 lb): (3) Daniel Jacobs (United States) vs. (4) [Super Welterweight] Maciej Sulecki (Poland)
May 5, HBO PPV
Middleweight (160 lb): (1) Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (Mexico) vs. (2) Gennady Golovkin (Kazakhstan)
Cruiserweight (200 lb): (1) Oleksandr Usyk (Ukraine) vs. (3) Murat Gassiev (Russia)
Featherweight (126 lb): (5) Lee Selby (United Kingdom) vs. (8) Josh Warrington (United Kingdom)
May 19, Showtime
Light Heavyweight (175 lb): (1) Adonis Stevenson (Canada) vs. (3) Badou Jack (Sweden)
June 9, Showtime
Featherweight (126 lb): (1) Leo Santa Cruz (Mexico) vs. (4) Abner Mares (Mexico)
MMA Update, February
February was a relatively slow month in MMA but there were still some fights of note.
The first occurred on February 10 at UFC 221 in what was scheduled to be a bout for the UFC Interim Middleweight Title. Unfortunately, Yoel Romero, looking drained and depleted at the weigh ins, was unable to make the 185 pound weight limit. As such, he was not eligible to win the belt.
His opponent, Luke Rockhold, was confident heading into the fight and maintained that confidence into the first round, peppering Romero with jabs and low kicks. Surprisingly, Romero looked well-rested after his weight cut debacle and did not appear to be suffering too many ill effects. The second round started with a Romero right hand that hurt Rockhold, who has a propensity to fight with his chin out. Against a fighter with the raw power of Yoel Romero, that has the potential for disaster. Rockhold recovered, however, and went back to his game plan of keeping Romero at bay with jabs and low kicks, taking the fight into the third round. Arguably even at 1-1, Rockhold once again implemented his strategy of jabs and low kicks but this time he was caught with a grazing left hand while backing up. The punch was more powerful than it looked and Rockhold dropped to the ground where Romero proceeded to follow up with a hammering left hand to knock Rockhold out for good.
In women’s MMA news, there were two appealing match ups in the month, both on the February 28 FOX card.
The first was a coming out party for Marion Reneau, as she defeated Sara McMann by second-round triangle choke. McMann was in control early on and handily won the first round, nearly finishing Reneau in the waning seconds of the round. McMann attempted to continue her dominance in the second, but her aggressiveness cost her. She first ate a right hand for a flash knockdown and when attempting for a takedown, put herself right into a Reneau triangle hold. There appeared to be several instances where McMann could have escaped or countered but Reneau held on and choked McMann into unconsciousness.
The second women’s MMA bout was a great fight between Jessica Andrade and Tecia Torres. Torres did a good job early on of hanging with the stronger, more aggressive Andrade in the first round but she hurt her chances of victory by moving straight backwards when Andrade came charging forward. Even if Torres were to have moved laterally, it’s debatable whether or not she would have had the gas tank to last, as Andrade was just relentless in her pressure. Torres may have arguably won the first round with her technique and speed but Andrade turned it into a grappling match for the second and third rounds. Torres was just drained by the end of the second and couldn’t avoid Andrade’s strikes on the feet and whenever the fight went to the ground, she had to work extra hard to reverse or stand back up.
What made this such a good fight was Torres showing the heart of a lion(ess?) by continually willing herself to try and escape Andrade’s takedowns, even though it’s disappointing to me that she could have done so much more with a couple of tweaks in her game plan on the feet.
Upcoming MMA Matchups
***Card and dates subject to change. Click on the matchup for preview.***
March 3, UFC 222 (PPV)
Featherweight (145 lb): (3) Frankie Edgar (United States) vs. (4) Brian Ortega (United States)
April 7, UFC 223 (PPV)
Lightweight (155 lb): (2) Tony Ferguson (United States) vs. (3) Khabib Nurmagomedov (Russia)
Women’s Strawweight (115 lb): (1) Rose Namajunas (United States) vs. (2) Joanna Jedrzejczyk (Poland)
Women’s Strawweight (115 lb): (5) Karolina Kowalkiewicz (Poland) vs. (10) Felice Herrig (United States)
Flyweight (125 lb): (5) Ray Borg (United States) vs. (9) Brandon Moreno (Mexico)
April 14, UFC on FOX 29 (FOX)
Lightweight (155 lb): (7) Justin Gaethje (United States) vs. (8) Dustin Poirier (United States)
Flyweight (125 lb): (7) Wilson Reis (Brazil) vs. (10) John Moraga (United States)
April 21, UFC Fight Night 128 (FS1)
Lightweight (155 lb): (5) Edson Barboza (Brazil) vs. (6) Kevin Lee (United States)
May 12, UFC 224 (PPV)
Middleweight (185 lb): (5) Ronaldo Souza (Brazil) vs. (6) Kelvin Gastelum (United States)
Light Heavyweight (205 lb): (4) Volkan Oezdemir (Switzerland) vs. (6) Glover Teixeira (Brazil)
Women’s Bantamweight (135 lb): (1) Amanda Nunes (Brazil) vs. (4) Raquel Pennington (United States)
June 1, UFC Fight Night (FS1)
Bantamweight (135 lb): (5) Marlon Moraes (Brazil) vs. (6) Jimmie Rivera (United States)
June 9, UFC 225 (PPV)
Flyweight (125 lb): (2) Joseph Benavidez (United States) vs. (8) Sergio Pettis (United States)
Women’s Strawweight (115 lb): (4) Claudia Gadelha (Brazil) vs. (7) Carla Esparza (United States)
July 7, UFC 226 (PPV)
Heavyweight (205+ lb): (1) Stipe Miocic (United States) vs. (1) [Light Heavyweight] Daniel Cormier (United States)
Ongoing Fight of the Year Rankings (MMA/Kickboxing)
***Rankings based on excitement, competitiveness, technical skill, and activity, but not necessarily in that order. I won’t rank anything that I don’t believe to be worth watching, so average or lackluster fights will not place. This is not meant to be comprehensive; I will only be ranking those fights which I have seen. The rankings may also change throughout the year based on reevaluations or second viewings.***
Bolded fights are “must watch.” Italicized fights are considered “highly recommended.”
1 Omar Moreno vs. Casey Greene Glory 50
2 Drew Dober vs. Frank Camacho UFC on FOX 27
3 Shane Burgos vs. Calvin Kattar UFC 220
4 Jessica Andrade vs. Tecia Torres UFC on FOX 28
5 Michael Johnson vs. Darren Elkins UFC Fight Night 124
6 Lucie Pudilova vs. Sarah Moras UFC Fight Night 126
7 Thiago Santos vs. Anthony Smith UFC Fight Night 125
8 Mike Perry vs. Max Griffin UFC on FOX 28
9 Li Jingliang vs. Jake Matthews UFC 221
10 Renan Barao vs. Brian Kelleher UFC on FOX 28
11 Doo Ho Choi vs. Jeremy Stephens UFC Fight Night 124
12 Jeremy Stephens vs. Josh Emmett UFC on FOX 28
13 Daniel Cormier vs. Volkan Oezdemir UFC 220
14 Thiago Alves vs. Curtis Millender UFC Fight Night 126
15 Yancy Medeiros vs. Donald Cerrone UFC Fight Night 126
16 Gian Villante vs. Francimar Barroso UFC 220
17 Dustin Ortiz vs. Alexandre Pantoja UFC 220
18 Michael Prazeres vs. Desmond Green UFC Fight Night 125
19 Sittichai Sitsongpeenon vs. Christian Baya Glory 50
20 Luke Rockhold vs. Yoel Romero UFC 221
21 Thomas Almeida vs. Rob Font UFC 220
22 Tyson Pedro vs. Saparkbek Safarov UFC 221
23 Derek Brunson vs. Ronaldo Souza UFC on FOX 27