I can’t get too excited over Miguel Cotto signing a multi-fight deal with Golden Boy and going straight into a fight for the vacant WBO super welter title. At 36 (Cotto not me unfortunately) I have to be honest and say I see the great Puerto Rican as yesterday’s man. In his last fight he lost a wide unanimous decision to Saul Alvarez by 10, 8 and 7 points on the three cards and is 18 months older now. The fight with his selected opponent Yoshihiro Kamegai will probably be an entertaining one as much for the Japanese fighter’s style as anything. The WBO’s manipulating of their ratings for this fight are a disgrace. Cotto’s last fight was his loss to Alvarez in November 2015 but despite 18 months of inactivity he has climbed to No 1 spot in the WBO ratings. For the Cotto fight to be a “big” fight Golden Boy’s selected opponent Kamegai also needs to be rated. No problem after six months of not being in the WBO ratings Kamegai suddenly finds the magic ratings elevator and steps out at No 12 in March this year. Not enough. In the last WBO ratings in May he has climbed to No 5 and they have time to issue a couple more ratings before fight time on 26 August so who knows where Kamegai could rise to by then…
The eventual aim is a Cotto vs. Juan Manuel Marquez fight perhaps in December. Marquez had a bout scheduled for July in Mexico with no opponent named yet and there is no contract in place for a Cotto fight. Added uncertainty was thrown into the mix with 43-year-old Marquez reporting a shoulder injury in training. The extent of the injury is not yet clear but it may delay his return which could throw the whole Cotto vs. Marquez schedule out.
Two world championships fought on the same bill in Sheffield. Two injured fighters two different decisions. Kell Brook suffered another orbital fracture and decided not to risk his vision. George Groves suffered a fractured jaw in the third round and knowing this could be his last chance to win a world title fought on despite the pain. For me both fighters made the right decision under the circumstances in which they found themselves. Both were courageous decisions in their own way. Yes Groves should be praised for the courage he showed in continuing but also Brook for the good sense he showed so good luck to them both. Groves will now face a lay-off for surgery and then hopefully will be back with a whole range of options waiting for him.
Errol Spence was very impressive in beating Brook. For many fans he was a champion in waiting and is now a major player in the welterweight division.
It is strange that American fighters such as Spence and Gervonta Davis never really reached the heights in the amateur world. Gervonta won a National Golden Gloves title but not much else. Spence won a hatful of titles at domestic level but his best in the wider world was quarter finalist at the World Championships and the 2012 Olympics and he failed to qualify for the Pan American Games. Neither Terrence Crawford , Gary Russell or Keith Thurman hit the heights as amateurs but now they are world class pros. Fighters such as Vasyl Lomachenko, Anthony Joshua, Andre Ward, Deontay Wilder, Olek Usyk have succeeded as both amateurs and professionals so I guess amateur credentials are important but they don’t tell the whole story.
I think that Gilberto Mendoza’s response to the controversial scoring in the Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam vs. Ryota Murata fight was disgraceful. Putting the scoring to one side for a moment. Because of the furore and remembering the huge value in the form of sanction fees that Japan represents to the WBA he still owed a loyalty to his judges who the WBA themselves appointed. Instead he threw Gustavo Padilla and Hubert Earle to the dogs and stabbed them in the back – yes both – to appease the critics. He should have made it clear that he saw a need to review the scoring and would do it expediently and dealt with Padilla and Earl in private. But instead of giving them any chance to discuss their scores he effectively disowned them. What sort of message does that throw out to the other WBA judges about scoring against the home fighter and about how loyalty lies with those who pay the sanction fees and not with their own people. I personally scored Murata the winner but I had as much of a disagreement with the 117-110 for Murata as I did with the 115-112 for N’Jikam. So here’s the lesson for WBA judges – vote for the home guy or if you find that impossible at least make the scores close. I checked Padilla’s record of judging in various WBA title fights going back to 2014 and there was not a single instance where he was out of line with the scores of the other two judges. I also checked the record of Earle and there was not a single instance where his score stuck out from the others. The WBA expects loyalty from its judges and they have the right to be treated with respect.
Every positive test is a black eye for boxing and normally I would see no upside in that. Shannon Briggs positive test is the exception. His whole “comeback” has been a succession of farcical “action” in the ring and ridiculous posturing and disgraceful behaviour out of it. The great WBA elimination series has fallen apart but then I never took is seriously anyway. Now the WBA are left with Fres Oquendo seeking an opponent. He is No 4 in the last published WBA ratings, one behind Briggs. Oquendo is 44-year-old and has not had a fight since a disputed loss to Ruslan Chagaev in July 2014 but due his taking the WBA to court they can’t remove him.
Who says boxing is a young man’s game. The top four in those WBA ratings are Luis Ortiz 38, Alex Ustinov 40, Briggs 45 and Oquendo 40 and then Wlad Klitschko 41. In addition Lucas Browne, the former holder of the WBA secondary title returns to action after serving bans for two positive tests. He gets an easy one for his return facing Matt Greer ( age? 40 naturally) who has lost his last nine fights Browne is a mere lad at 38. Perhaps we need yet another division named either “The Zimmer frame division” or the “Where did I leave my teeth division”. Never mind weighing in, just show us your pension book.
Good to see a resurgence of big time boxing in France. They had a class show topped by Cedric Vitu on 18 May featuring high class fights all the way down the
card and Olympic heavyweight champion Tony “The Artist” Yoka had his first pro fight in Paris. His opponent Travis Clark is no threat but no one wants to take a chance with Yoka as Canal + has bought into him so he is the hottest property in French boxing right now. In addition to Yoka unbeaten bantam Nordine Oubaali, a 2008 and 2012 Olympian, fought Alejandro Hernandez for the WBC Silver bantamweight title and 2016 Olympian Souleymane Cissokho also appeared.
On 10 June former WBA champion Souleymane M’Baye continues his comeback as he takes on Karim Aliliche for the French welter title. When you add Sweden’s welcome return to pro boxing, Norway about to have a pro show, Mikkel Kessler passing all his medical tests and ready to return and give an added boost to Danish boxing and Singapore dipping its toe in the water and above all the biggie of over 40,000 tickets sold for Manny Pacquiao vs. Jeff Horn in Brisbane, a place where synchronised swimming usually gets more coverage than boxing, the sport is alive and well.
It is possible that Roman Gonzalez will get his return with Thai Srisaket in California on September 9. The Nicaraguan lost his WBC title to Srisaket on a majority decision in March. If that comes off then there is the possibility of the Japanese “Monster” Naoya Inoue defending his WBO super fly title against McWilliams Arroyo on the same show. If Gonzalez and Inoue win that would set up a great fight between Gonzalez and Inoue.
Two former victims of Gonzalez fists will meet for the interim WBC super fly title with purse bids due for Carlos Cuadras vs. Juan Francisco Estrada on June 8. That’s a tight division with unbeaten Kal Yafai holding the WBA title, Jerwin Ancajas the IBF title and Johnriel Casimero, Kazuto Ioka, Juan Carlos Reveco and Rex Tso all in the mix.
Brit Billy Joe Saunders faces a tough title defence on July 8 in London. His challenger Avtandil Khurtsidze is a rough brawler who pressurises for 100% of the time and has lost only one fight since 2005. Saunders needs to win and win well. With Gennady Golovkin putting the WBA, IBF and IBO titles on the line against Saul Alvarez on September 16 (Alvarez has stated he has no interest in fighting for the WBC title although that will automatically be on the line for Golovkin) and his No 1 challenger Ryota Murata probably going for the mandated return fight with Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam for the secondary WBA title his options are shrinking. If the WBO moves Murata out of the No 1 spot then the logical replacement is No 2 David Lemieux although a win over mandatory challenger Khurtsidze would put Saunders in a voluntary position. The Khurtsidze fight is only his second in the last 19 months so he needs another fight this year.
On June 17, under the Tyrone Zeuge vs. Paul Smith fight for the secondary WBA super middle title, unbeaten German Stefan Haertel takes on Patrick Mendy. This will be Haertel’s first fight under new trainer the 75-year-old legendary Ulli Wegner.
Heavyweights will top the bill in Gdansk on 24 June as Tomasz Adamek tries yet again to make an impact at heavy. Now 40, the former WBC light heavy and IBF cruiser champion takes on 41-year-old Solomon Haumona. This is Adamek’s first fight since being knocked out by Eric Molina in ten rounds in April last year. Haumona’s last fight was a fourth round stoppage defeat against Joseph Parker for the WBO heavy title in July. On the undercard Mateusz Masternak faces Ismayl Sillah at cruiser and former WBO cruiser champion Krzys Glowacki faces American Brian Howard in his first fight since losing his title to Olek Usyk in September.
Former IBF super lightweight champion Eduard Troyanovsky returns to action July 1 in Moscow against Italian Michele Di Riocco. It will be the Russian’s first fight since his shocking 40 second kayo by Namibian Julius Indongo in December which cost him his IBF title. Former undefeated European champion Di Riocco is having his second fight since losing to Ricky Burns for the vacant WBA title in May last year.
Also on July 1 a good match for the vacant European light heavyweight title sees unbeaten Dominic Boesel (24-0) tackle former IBF title challenger Karo Murat.
The proposed IBF final eliminator between Omar Narvaez and Puerto Rican Emmanuel Rodriguez has finally been consigned to the dustbin. After numerous postponements Narvaez will now face Russian Nikolai Potapov for the vacant interim WBO super fly title with the winner getting a shot at champion Zolani Tete. There is nothing wrong with Tete. He is fit and well but an interim title means another sanctioning fee for the WBO. Strangely for the WBO with this decision they have effectively screwed Puerto Rican Rodriguez who will now await the outcome of the IBF title fight between champion Lee Haskins and Ryan Burnett on June 10.
I am going to set up a Ministry of Nicknames with stringent rules on the use of extravagant or misleading nicknames which to me amounts to misleading the public. You get guys with the nickname of “TNT”, “Power” , “KO Kid” ,”Dynamite” , “Assassin, Destroyer” etc. with kayo percentages of 2%. You get guys with the nickname of “Baby”, “Kid” “Junior” etc. who will never see 40 again. However it goes both ways. Guys with nicknames such as “Big Baby”, Bumblebee”, “Boo Boo”, “Chocolate Hills and “Mamma’s Boy” ( all true honest) just don’t seem to understand that a nickname is supposed to strike fear into the heart of an opponent. Come on get on board guys. Oh yes you can’t use the nickname “Sugar” under any circumstances unless you are Ray Robinson or Ray Leonard. I will be watching you.