This Week in Boxing: 6/15 – 6/21/2015

 

I just realized last week’s review of Hearns/Leonard 2 got deleted somehow. Sorry about that, but with my notes being deleted as well, I couldn’t edit the article any further as I didn’t remember the action well enough to describe it again. Moving on…

 

The Week That Was

Perhaps the most notable thing to happen in boxing this week was the announcement that Sergio Martinez was retiring. It’s sad for boxing, but he needed to do that. His body was breaking down on him, specifically his knees, both of which were in such poor shape he could hardly stay on his feet when he got hit. Martinez did not make it to the top of boxing until late in his career, but I found his attitude towards approaching fights to be quite refreshing. He took on almost every challenger that people wanted to see him fight, regardless of the notoriety of that fighter, or how dangerous the opponent was perceived to be. While he was stripped of his sanctioning body titles, he was still the middleweight champion, as recognized by anyone with any intelligence at all. I find it unfortunate that his last fight turned out to be that fight against Miguel Cotto. That fight went so poorly for him, but he had a great career and was constantly in entertaining fights. In my opinion, the Argentinian will be enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame once he’s eligible. Here’s a relevant video that showcases many of the fights in his career.


As discussed in last week’s article, last weekend there were three fight cards of note, in exotic locations like Chicago, New York City, and Birmingham. One of those doesn’t fit in quite like the rest, but hey, it’s best to make fights where one of the fighters comes from. In typical Premier Boxing Champions/Al Haymon fashion, their card on Friday showcased two excellent fighers in gross mismatches against people who did not belong in the ring with them. I really do think things like this are terrible for the sport. There was a lot of advertisement and a concerted effort to get people to tune in, but the people who made these fights knew exactly what they were, and exactly how people would respond to watching them. They just didn’t care. The PBC concept isn’t going to work out because there just aren’t enough exciting fighters in this stable. The more I think about it, the angrier I get.

In the first and only televised undercard bout, Artur Beterbiev finished Alexander Johnson in the seventh round. This was Beterbiev’s first time going past four rounds, and his response to such a situation was to knock Johnson down twice in the fifth. In the seventh, he knocked Johnson down twice more, the second of which led to the stoppage after Beterbiev landed a huge left hook. To say this was a mismatch was an understatement. Fortunately, Beterbiev stated after the fight that he wants a title belt. Those are only held by Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev. Stevenson is the only one of those that would fight under the PBC label, and that would be a hell of a fight. Despite Beterbiev’s lack of professional experience, he did fight as an amateur for years, and claims that he’s fought in a few hundred amateur fight. I believe it. As a professional, he’s certainly not looked like a regular fighter with nine fights under his belt. One way or another, he should be no more than two fights away from a title fight. I’m not sure whether or not he’d win against somebody that good as he does exhibit some limited qualities, like a lack of a jab, and ineffective closing movement. He does have great power though, and 9 KO’s in 9 fights is no joke!

In the main event, Erislandy Lara defended his WBA Super Welterweight Championship by scoring a unanimous decision (120-107 x3) over Delvin Rodriguez. In what should be his last title shot, Rodriguez looked out of his depth and could not win a round. Lara also knocked him down in the sixth round. Lara went on to call out the best in the weight classes above and below his after the fight, but his performance was not such that would entice one of those guys to fight him. First of all, Lara has had big fights and has proven himself to be entirely unmarketable due to how he fought in those contests. He has no killer instinct and takes no risks. That’s just not what people want to see. It’s arguable that he beat Canelo Alvarez, but he didn’t do so in a way that was distinct nor did he participate in an engaging affair. That’s not going to get him big fights. The same thing applied here. He was clearly better than Rodriguez in the first round, and was peppering him with power shots, yet he never tried to finish him. I do think that Gennady Golovkin needs to fight someone better than the opponents he has been fighting, but Lara needs to do more to earn it. It should also be mentioned that Lara’s association with Al Haymon does not benefit him, as the guys he wants to fight, like Miguel Cotto and Golovkin, probably wouldn’t do business. What I would like is for fighters who don’t realize that to finally wise up and dump Al Haymon. If they want to fight the best, it’s not going to happen on these PBC shows!

On the undercard, Artur Szpilka and Eleider Alvarez both dominated their weak opponents. The Anthony Peterson fight was scheduled as his opponent did not make weight. His career has gone down the toilet since his DQ loss to Brandon Rios, that’s for sure.

 

In a Showtime card from Alabama, we had two world title fights that were supposed to be mismatches. One of them did not turn out to be one.

The first bout televised on Showtime was a mismatch, as Jose Pedraza picked up his first world championship, by defeating Andrey Klimov via unanimous decision (120-108 x2, 119-109). It’s a good thing the fight wasn’t close as two of the judges appeared to be quite inexperienced. In any case, Pedraza picked his belt up with ease, and Klimov didn’t have any offensive weapons to bother him. Pedraza used effective body punching and good range control in order to keep the light hitting Klimov from using a jab and boxing from the outside in order to win rounds. Pedraza didn’t push for the finish despite his dominance, but he looked quite good. I am very interested in seeing him against better competition, but I’ll keep my hopes low. Nice to see yet another Puerto Rican world champion.

After a very shaky third round, Deontay Wilder collected himself, and defended his share of the heavyweight crown with a stoppage of Eric Molina in the ninth round. Wilder exhibited solid power, and he did drop Molina four times in total, but he was exposed a little bit. He showed very poor defense, and left his chin out there a few times. In the third round, Molina rocked him, but didn’t follow up with a flurry of punches that could have put Wilder on the canvas. He should have, as Wilder was clearly hurt. Instead, Wilder came back the next round and knocked him down once, then in the fifth knocked Molina down twice. I thought the second of those was going to be the end, but it wasn’t. I’m interested to see how Wilder’s next matchup looks. I believe he’ll fight before WBC mandated talks with mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin, but I don’t think he’ll face a top opponent. Maybe the aforementioned Artur Szpilka will be next. The WBC ranks him #9, so he’d be eligible for a title fight. Povetkin is going to be a serious challenger for Wilder, and I doubt Wilder’s going to drop his belt to avoid him, so I can’t wait for that fight. Wilder wasn’t exposed in this fight as much as he was pumped up as being too good before it. If you get hit clean by a heavyweight, you might go down. I’m not sure if he has a weak chin or if this was just a case of a good punch landing. We’ll find out over the next few fights.

On the undercard, Dejan Zlaticanin stopped Ivan Redkach in the fourth round of their WBC lightweight elimination fight. First, he knocked him down with a big left hand, then closed the fight out with a huge flurry of punches, many of which hit Redkach clean. Redkach did complain about the stoppage, but he was under the top ring rope when the fight was stopped. It was a good stoppage. The referee did make a mistake when telling Redkach that he could have a point deducted for holding in the first round. So, Redkach probably thought that he couldn’t hold. Zlaticanin is signed up with Al Haymon, and the WBC Champion Jorge Linares is signed up with Golden Boy. Golden Boy is suing Haymon. No idea if that fight will go down.

 

To finish things up, we have a recap of the card on HBO, which had two very interesting fights between undefeated fighters.

In the first of those fights, Felix Verdejo extended his undefeated record by taking a unanimous decision (100-88 x2, 99-89) from Ivan Najera. The crowd was pumped up for this fight, and Verdejo gave them a lot to be excited about. He floored Najera with a beautiful uppercut in the fifth round, and in the seventh he dropped him again with a left hook. Najera tried hard, and showed a good chin. At 22, we may see more of him in the future. The story is Verdejo, though. He is also 22 years old and been put on the fast track to stardom by HBO and Top Rank. To say that HBO was trying to put this guy over would be an understatement. They were full bore in love with everything he did in the fight. With good reason too, he landed most of the power punches he threw, showed great accuracy, and was able to vary his angles. Best of all is that he was able to perform that well while having an injury to his hand. Hopefully that injury won’t do anything to hinder his career. I don’t know how long he’ll fight at lightweight, but there are guys he can continue to face on his way up and do well against. He’s also a draw, as the majority of the fans in attendance at this card were there to see him. My guess is that Verdejo will be pushed towards the WBO title at this weight class in the short term.

The main event here was scheduled to be a featherweight title fight, but it turned out that Nicholas Walters came in one pound heavy, missing weight. On the night of the fight he weighed ten pounds more than Marriaga, and it certainly showed. Walters beat Miguel Marriaga by unanimous decision (119-108, 118-109, 117-110). I find all of those scores to be within reason, and I had it the second of those scores. Marriaga was knocked down in the ninth round, but I don’t think he was hurt. I thought Walters fought a very professional fight, but he did get hit more than he would have wanted to. Offensively, he was hitting Marriaga with everything, and landed a lot of nice body shots. He did receive a warning as a few of them may have been low, but in the end it was irrelevant. I don’t think this will be the last title shot Marriaga gets, as he did look like an accomplished fighter, he just couldn’t get the job done. The title was on the line for him. I think Walters will have to move up due to missing weight, but 130 isn’t the best weight class, and there’s not a lot of star power there. Top Rank may match him with Vasyl Lomachenko anyway, and they probably should. The broadcast team, specifically Roy Jones Jr., was talking about Walters possibly facing Verdejo. I think there’s no chance of that happening as the risk-reward is too great. Verdejo is the draw, not Walters. Walters is the more accomplished and polished fighter. He would make a good lightweight, but I’m not sure that’s the goal. We’ll see what happens, but that was a very good performance from a very good fighter.

 

The Week Ahead

 

The most prominent card this week is a PBC show on NBC, which starts at 8:30 PM Eastern, and features a main event where two former champions collide. It is being advertised as the “Battle of Ohio” and it is being held in Las Vegas.

12 Round Catchweight (144 lb.) Fight: Shawn Porter (25-1, 16 KO’s) vs. Adrien Broner (30-1, 22 KO’s)

I hate catchweights and I strongly dislike that this fight is being held at one. It’s a blatant attempt for Broner to gain an advantage, and it makes no damn sense. Al Haymon is the manager of both these guys, and he told Porter to take a catchweight fight? I can’t be the only one who sees the problem with this. It is arguable whether or not Broner needs that advantage. He’s shown little pop at welterweight, and he’s shown an inability to take shots from a big puncher at middleweight. It’s the opposite of how he looked as a lightweight. I hope Porter can lose the extra three pounds easily, because if he can, he’ll have the power to get to Broner. I think that Broner is the better fighter and Porter is the better welterweight. Makes for an interesting matchup. Both men lost their share of the welterweight title, and that’s the only loss for both men. Porter looked better in his loss to Kell Brook than Broner did in his loss to Marcos Maidana. I think Brook is better than Maidana. Porter looked better than Broner did when fighting Paulie Malignaggi. This does make it sound like I’m going to pick Porter, but I’m really not sure. The Brook fight showed that Porter can have difficulty in facing a boxer. The Maidana fight showed that Broner can have difficulty in facing a puncher. This is just such a good fight, the caliber of fight people wanted to see under the PBC banner. I hope there’s no controversy regarding Porter missing weight or the scorecards being blatantly wrong, as given this card being on national TV, that would not be good.

Prediction: Porter by decision. I think he’s too much for Broner. Will press him too much, bully him, and force Broner to fight going backwards. That benefits Porter. Broner does have the edge if he can keep the fight on the outside and if Porter is weight drained. We’ll know how drained he is at the weigh in. I hope he doesn’t look that dry or I’ll be regretting this pick. It appeared to me in the past that he does carry a little extra weight, and I think he can drop it. This is the first fight in some time where I haven’t been sure of my pick. I have also heard that there was a rehydration limit put on Porter, so this pick is very risky on my part. That shouldn’t even be allowed, as dehydrated fighters can get injured in a slew of ways, including death.

Entertainment Grade: B-. I don’t want to go overboard here, because Broner is capable of winning a very ugly fight. If Porter is able to cut the ring off and close the distance, this could be a hell of a lot of fun. Broner is a controversial guy who talks a big game, I don’t think he can back it up against top welterweights, and Porter is one.

10 Round Welterweight Fight: Roberto Garcia (37-3, 23 KO’s) vs. Errol Spence Jr. (16-0, 13 KO’s)

Spence is stepping up in competition once more, as he’s been doing in every fight, and this time he’s facing somebody who has seen it all. Garcia has an entertaining style, he fights really hard and will look to impress his will on the young fighter. Spence is a former Olympian, and he’ll be there to fight with Garcia. He will not back up. This could be a great fight, it’s a perfect opener to the show. I don’t know if Spence will become an elite fighter, hell, he hasn’t fought anyone where we could get an indication of that being the case. It would be really nice for him to build up a career though. Garcia has fought much better fighters than Spence has, and only lost to one of them (Antonio Margarito). I think he’ll be able to keep the fight close at the very least.

Prediction: Spence by decision. Sometimes prospects can’t handle the experienced fighter, but I think Spence will be able to. He has more power, or at least he does against lower quality opposition! There are some weight related issues that may cause this fight to be cancelled, we’ll see how that goes.

Entertainment Grade: B+. Not willing to go so far as to say this fight will be a war, but it should be a fun fight if it happens.

This fight is not going to happen due to Garcia missing weight by a supposedly very large amount. Too bad.

 

Also on Saturday, on a card that will take place in Montreal and air on Fox Sports 2 at 10 PM Eastern, we have a three fight card with only one that matters.

Vacant IBF Middleweight Championship Fight: Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam (31-1, 18 KO’s) vs. David Lemieux (33-2, 31 KO’s)

This is yet another interesting fight. N’Dam has challenged for a world championship before, but he was knocked down SIX times by Peter Quillin in that fight. That same fight was scored closer than you’d think, though. N’Dam did win rounds, but his chin wasn’t holding up very well. One problem here is that Lemieux is an even harder puncher than Quillin. He does have two blemishes on his record though, one being a stoppage against Marco Antonio Rubio. I have read that it is possible the winner of this fight will unify their belt with Gennady Golovkin’s, which would be nice. Golovkin has also faced Rubio and finished him, but that future fight would be his toughest test. Lemieux has never stepped up to fight somebody of this quality before either. It’s easily his toughest fight, but becoming a champion isn’t supposed to be easy. He’s just a powerful fighter and that power should definitely carry him through fights like these. However, he can be hit. I’ve seen him fight a few times, and in all of those he took punches. It’s just a matter of whether or not N’Dam hits hard enough and boxes well enough. He might, because he outboxed Peter Quillin, despite the knockdowns. I’ll definitely be watching this fight live, won’t be able to wait to watch a recorded version. I’m excited to see it! One funny story headed into the fight, is N’Dam’s camp incessant, and possibly legitimate complaining about the purse bid and the business aspect of this match. N’Dam’s team has called the whole thing a scam. The purse bid was extremely low, only $102,000. Golden Boy knew that N’Dam’s promoter wasn’t going to be at the bid.Does that sound like a scam to you?

Prediction: I’m going to pick Lemieux by late TKO. I think N’Dam could find himself ahead on the cards by the time of the stoppage, but power is power. If you’ve been down six times against Quillin, this guy might knock you out and finish you.

Entertainment Grade: A-. This should be an extremely entertaining fight, and it’s one I think HBO wanted to purchase the rights to. They didn’t, but it’s good that it’s still on TV.

 

On BET, we have a card with one feature fight that’s an extreme mismatch, but I’ll take the chance to rant about it anyway. It’s on Saturday at 10 PM Eastern as well.

12 Round Catchweight (172 lb.) Fight: Andre Ward (27-0, 14 KO’s) vs. Paul Smith (35-5, 20 KO’s)

This is a sham of shams. Smith and Ward are both super middleweight fighters, but this fight is being held at a catchweight. On top of that, Smith has lost to every single good fighter that he’s fought. This is the best fighter he’s fought. He has at least taken rounds from Arthur Abraham, but he’s still not a good opponent. Ward is going to dominate this guy, and worst of all, he’s just boring. I’m probably not going to watch this fight at all. Ward hasn’t fought since November 2013, so he’s rusty. I think he’s taking this fight and one more before challenging for a title again, which I’m not looking forward to. A point fighting style mixed with holding is not for me at all. Maybe Ward will finally finish somebody.

Prediction: Ward by decision. Yawn.

Entertainment Grade: D. This shouldn’t even be on TV, and that’s why HBO didn’t pick it up even though they have Ward do commentary on their shows at times.

 

Sunday, we have a PBC card on CBS, that starts at 4 PM Eastern. Weird time and a very weird day. This show is taking place in the same arena as the other PBC card, and I believe tickets are being sold on a buy one, get one free basis.

10 Round Super Lightweight (140 lb.) Fight: Rances Barthelemy (22-0, 13 KO’s) vs. Antonio DeMarco (31-4-1, 23 KO’s)

Barthelemy is a former titlist at 130 pounds, and DeMarco is a former titlist at 135 pounds. I think this fight is intended to go the same way Broner-DeMarco went. In that fight, DeMarco got ripped to pieces by a better boxer, and took some hellacious punishment. Barthelemy is also the rare case of an Al Haymon fighter who is signed to a promoter, in this case Warriors Boxing. Barthelemy is a good boxer-puncher, but given that he struggled to finish higher competition at 130 pounds, I have no reason to believe he can do it at 140 pounds. In addition to that, this is only a 10 rounder. I’m interested to see how Barthelemy deals with a bully. If he fights going backwards, it’s going to be a very boring fight, which fits the pattern of many fights to be made with PBC fighters. We’ll see what happens. By no stretch is this a main event caliber fight, I’ll be interested to see what the TV ratings are.

Prediction: Barthelemy by decision. The fight isn’t long enough for him to put a hurting on DeMarco that would warrant a stoppage.

Entertainment Grade: C+. I’m just not that interested in this. In all likelihood, the fight will be one sided.

10 Round Welterweight Fight: Sammy Vasquez Jr. (18-0, 13 KO’s) vs. Wale Omotoso (25-1, 21 KO’s)

I expect the talk about Vasquez’s military background to be heavy both before, during, and if he wins, after this fight. He’s a marketable fighter, it’s as simple as that. This is by far his toughest fight, though. Omotoso’s only loss was to Jessie Vargas, and that loss was definitely in question. This is an interesting fight in large part due to the lack of opposition both fighters have faced. I think Omotoso has better power, he did knock Vargas down after all. This is simply a good fight. Tough to say who will win, but it’s an even matchup of prospects that should tell us a lot about both guys.

Prediction: Vasquez by decision. When Omotoso fought Vargas, he was unable to pull the trigger, and it cost him the fight. Both guys have something to prove and it could go either way.

Entertainment Grade: B. It’s just a good matchup, and I don’t care if they’ve lacked competition in their careers. This is how you find out if somebody can cut it or not.

Predictions to Date: 6-0.

 

This Week’s News

  • In addition to the retirement of Sergio Martinez, Mikkel Kessler has also officially announced his retirement. Kessler was the best Danish boxer for so long, I wonder if anyone will be able to match his accomplishments. He had not fought since May 2013, when he lost to Carl Froch.
  • WBC Super Middleweight (168 lb.) Champion Badou Jack will be defending his title against George Groves on August 22nd in Las Vegas, according to the WBC. I bet the aforementioned Froch feels a little salty about this. He had wanted to fight in Vegas for his whole career, hadn’t, and now the guy he beat twice will be fighting there.
  • The TV ratings were terrible for last week’s Showtime and HBO fights. I’m somewhat surprised that was the case for Wilder’s fight.
  • Speaking of Wilder, he claims that he’ll fight Wladimir Klitschko in 2016. We’ll see.
  • Seems possible that Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares will be locking horns in a fight for either late August or early September. Hope that fight goes down given that both guys haven’t faced quality opposition in quite a while, and arguably in the case of Santa Cruz, never.

 

This Day in Boxing History

Max Schmeling KO 12 Joe Louis

 

On June 19th in 1936, Joe Louis and Max Schmeling met in a fight that was intended to set up the next challenger for James Braddock’s heavyweight championship. Schmeling was a former champion, who had lost twice since losing his heavyweight championship in a controversial decision against Jack Sharkey. Schmeling was considered to be on the decline, and reportedly Joe Louis did not take training for this fight seriously. This fight was to take place at Yankee Stadium, and the place was completely sold out. The estimated crowd was over 60,000, which sounds like an unfathomable figure to see a heavyweight fight in the United States now. In the days before the bout, Schmeling claimed that he had figured out exactly how to defeat the undefeated Louis.

Both fighters were very cautious in the first two rounds, with Schmeling adopting a confusing defensive stance and working the jab as Louis looked to land the more effective power punches. In the third, Schmeling opened up and landed some power shots, but Louis continued to push the pace. Shockingly, in the fourth round, Schmeling hit Louis with a big right cross, and another flurry of punches caused Louis to hit the canvas. He sprung right up to his feet, but that was the first time he was down in his career. Louis fought back hard in that round, but he took a lot of clean punches, and Schmeling was completely in control. The longer the fight went, the more Louis was hurt, and his face was busted up. The tone of the fight had completely changed from earlier on. In the fifth and sixth rounds specifically, Louis appeared to be in big trouble at one point or another of the round. People in the crowd could not believe what they were seeing. As Louis continued to look more and more labored due to a lack of proper training, Schmeling would take over more and more. In the 12th round of the 15 scheduled, Schmeling hit Louis with a combination to the head, and followed that by just clobbering Louis, who looked ready to go. He went down after a heavy right hand to the chin, and that was the end of the fight. The referee counted him out, and Louis did not get up. This was considered to be an immense upset, the likes of which nobody expected.

Despite the bout being intended for the winner to fight for the world championship, that’s not how it turned out. Because of Schmeling’s German nationality, although he was not a Nazi, people in power did not want him to get that title fight. It was assumed that if he did get that shot and won, the belt would then be kept away from American opponents and hoarded away in Nazi Germany. To make sure that didn’t happen, Louis was the one who went on to challenge James Braddock for the championship, and he knocked Braddock out in the eighth round. As a result of that, a rematch of this fight was made, and it took place nearly two years to the day of the first. That’s something we’ll talk about another day.

 

Hope you guys enjoy the fights this week! Not a lot next week, so maybe I’ll set some time aside to write about one of the many subjects that are agitating me.

 

Written by Sage Cortez

Sage is a boisterous Los Angeles sports fan. Unsurprisingly, like many other loudmouth LA fans, he also likes the Raiders and a range of combat sports.

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