FOR me it is a case of good news/bad news for Amir Khan. The good news is that he is getting the high profile he has been trying to land. The bad news is that it is against Saul Alvarez. He has unsuccessfully pursued Floyd Mayweather Jnr and Manny Pacquiao and found himself with very few palatable options. There are a couple of tough fights at welter against Keith Thurman and Kell Brook. Thurman would not be a career defining fight. Brook would be a huge fight for Britain, perhaps even bigger than Carl Froch vs. George Groves, but right now Brook does not have the level of profile in America to make it a career defining fight. He almost certainly will build that profile higher but beating Kevin Bizier won’t get him there so he is at least a couple of fights from that level. The only name at super-welter right now is Miguel Cotto, but Cotto was beaten by Alvarez and has no title to put on the line. That leaves the middleweights and the two highest profile fighters there are Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin. And taking Golovkin would be madness.
Against Alvarez Khan has speed and skill on his side but size and style are problems. Even with Alvarez coming down to catchweight, and even if there is limit put on his re-bulking between the official weigh in and the fight, Alvarez would still have a huge strength edge. My mind goes back to the Marcos Maidana fight where the Argentinian started too slowly but pressed hard enough to have Khan in deep trouble at the end. Alvarez will be “Maidana plus plus” and he hits a hell of a lot harder than Danny Garcia. Khan has gone for the big risk and if he brings it off it will be one of the greatest performances by any British fighter so good luck to him.
I feel a bit sorry for Argentinian Jorge Heiland in all this. He was in the WBC No 1 mandatory challenger spot with the from April until September when he was dropped to No 2 and had to watch Alvarez zip past him to take over the No 1 spot. After Alvarez beat Cotto Heiland was made No 1 again and now Khan has zipped past him to the title fight and he gets nothing. Justice would have been served if the winner of Alvarez vs. Cotto had been instructed to fight Heiland and even more so now that the WBC No 1 welter has jumped two divisions to by-pass him. In boxing money carries more weight than justice always.
It will be good to see Andre Ward back in the ring and going straight for the IBF No 1 rated Sullivan Barrera. This will be the second fight in over two years for Ward and his first since beating Paul Smith in June 2015. I think Barrera is flattered by his IBF No 1 rating as he has been in only one scheduled ten round fight and one scheduled twelve round fight neither of which went the distance. I would be more convinced if the IBF had not played games with their ratings and elevated Karo Murat from No 15 to No 9 in a period when did not fight and then decided that the winner of a fight between No 9 Murat and No 7 Barrera should be for the No 1 spot. Make sense of that if you can. The main thing is that with Ward throwing his hat in the light heavy ring it is no longer just Sergey Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson but Kovalev-Stevenson and Ward (who is not rated by the IBF yet) and any two from three would be a good fight.
Russian Robert Stieglitz is very much an outsider in the light heavy stakes but is still a name so could yet figure in some good fights now he has moved up from super middle. He fights in Pilsen, Germany, on March 5 but no opponent yet. The nominal main event will feature German heavyweight hope Tom Schwarz (15-0) but again it is vs. TBA.
The annual Star Boxing Awards held in Moscow nominated the Boxer of the Year and Fight of the Year together with other awards. Man of the Year went to Sergey Kovalev, Boxer of the Year was Denis Lebedev, Fight of the Year was Lebedev vs. Youri Kayembre Kalenga, KO of the Year was Alex Povetkin’s first round win over Mike Perez, a Courage in Boxing award went to heavyweight Magomed Abdusalamov still fighting to recover after the injuries suffered in his fight with Mike Perez in November 2013, Achievement of the Year Award went to Eduard Troyanovsky who won the IBO and IBF super light titles, former WBC flyweight champion Yuri Arbachakov received a special Star Boxing Award and the Legend of Boxing Award went to Viktor Ageev. Arbachakov was an outstanding amateur winning gold medals at the European and World Championships in 1989. He lost just 26 of 186 fights as an amateur. He turned pro the following year in Japan and won the WBC fly title in his 13th fight become the first Russian boxer to win a world title. He was champion for over five years and made ten defences losing the title in November 1997 to Thai Chatchai Sasakul, his only profession defeat, and he retired immediately after that loss. He has since worked in various roles in boxing in Russia. Ageev was European amateur champion in 1965 and 1967 and Russian champion in 1963, 1965, 1966 and 1967. After retiring he was President of the Russian Federation, a member of the WBA Executive and the first vice President of the PABA.
Shortly after the presentations Lebedev was informed that his new mandatory challenger would be the Cuban Yunier Dorticos. As usual with the WBA they have not nominated interim champion Beibut Shumenov as mandatory that would make too much sense.
Troyanovsky’s next opponent will be Japanese fighter Keita Obara. He is the IBF No 3 but since he has not beaten a rated fighter he cannot go to No 1. The proposal was that he fights Walter Castillo the No 8 (6) for the mandatory spot but Castillo declined the fight so Obara remains No 3 and gets the title shot.
It was amusing to see the written sighs of relief when the WBA said they intended to work towards having just one heavyweight champion. If you believe that I can supply a net and you can go and catch the fairies at the bottom of your garden. The phrase “turkey’s voting for Christmas” comes to mind. Right now they “only” have three heavyweight champions, real champion Tyson Fury, secondary champion Ruslan Chagaev and interim champion Luis Ortiz. That gives them three sanctioning fees and they have never been known to turn down money. Follow the old saying, my friends – judge by what they do and not what they say. That also begs the question of why just one champion at heavyweight. They have three champions in each of seven more divisions and two in the other eight divisions. Turkey’s and Christmas again.
Going back to the WBA heavyweight titles after a number of names being bandied about it is now to be Luis Ortiz vs. Tony Thompson. Not actually that bad a fight although Thompson is 44-years-old, has not won a fight for a year, and is not listed in their ratings. So what’s the point of having ratings? What is incredible is that their rules under Appendix B “Guidelines on Ratings” has 24 pages of text and detailed charts on how the ratings are to be applied and not one says “because the promoter picked him”.
British light heavy Bob Ajisafe will have to go to Rome on March 12 to fight Mirko Ricci for the vacant EU cruiser title. The Italian promoter won the bidding with a purse offer of 24,350 Euro (that’s approx $23,500 or £18,000). There was no bid from any British organisation. The tall 30-year-old Commonwealth champion from Leeds struggled to find fights having only one each in years 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. He was seen as a awkward unexciting fighter but he turned that around with some wins in great fights in a televised tournament so hopefully can collect another title.
In other purse bidding the winning purse for the fight for the vacant EBU middle title fight between Matteo Signani and Dmitry Chudinov was 68,000 Euro from promoters RoundZero and the EU bantam title fight between champion Giodi Scala and Frenchman Omar Lamiri was won by Europrom with a bid of 11,000 Euro. It is interesting to see how much of a difference there is in the perceived value of the fights with the second highest bid for the Ricci vs. Ajisafe fight being almost half of the winning bid at 13,550, for the Signani vs. Chudinov 35,358 Euro and the bantam was 7,530 Euro.
Still on money Promociones Zanfer won the purse bidding for the WBO super feather title defence by Roman Martinez against Miguel Berchelt with an off of $251,000 (£174,000). The Puerto Rican company Puerto Rican Best Boxing (PRBB) who work with Martinez did not put in a bid but instead protested to the WBO that Berchelt should not be the mandatory challenger as he had never fought a rated opponent. A fighter made mandatory challenger by the WBO without beating a rated opponent surely that can’t be true! The real reason for PRBB being upset is that they were working on a Martinez vs. Omar Salido return fighter after they had drawn in a Martinez title defence in September.
In another bit of bidding involving a Puerto Rican, promoter Sampson Lewkowski put up the only bid for McJoe Arroyo’s IBF super fly title defence against Filipino Jerwin Ancajas. His bid was just $25,000, less than 10% of the winning bid for the Martinez vs. Berchelt fight, and Arroyo gets 85% of the purse so he will be defending his title for $21,250. The PRBB, who are also involved in this item, have described the bidding outcome as irrelevant describing it as “pro forma” but I am sure Lewkowski and the IBF don’t see it that way. PRBB are waiting for their knight to come along on his charger to solve this problem. That’s Al Haymon to mortals such as you and me. By coincidence previously $25,000 was the sole bid, this from Golden Boy, for South African Zolani Tete to defend against Arroyo but he relinquished the title rather than fight for $21,250. In the past his long time promoter Branco Milenkovic would have either put in a higher bid or through his participation have forced Lewkowski to bid higher. However the boxing authorities in South Africa were aiming to take control of all broadcasting rights which effectively made it impossible for Milenkovic to participate. Tete is now handled by Loyiso Mtya, who was former CEO of Boxing South Africa at the time of the grab for broadcasting rights, but he resigned last year amid allegations of corruption, fraud and mismanagement.
Not all title fights go to purse offers and Golden Boy and Di Bella Entertainment have come to an agreement over the Jorge Linares defence of his WBC light title against Dejan Zlaticanin. The Montenegrin is only 5’4” (163cm) tall but what he lacks in height he more than makes up for in sheer aggression. He is not pretty to watch but even worse to fight against.
On another money matter Antonio Tarver is in trouble. The former IBF, WBA and WBC light heavy champion appeared in court in Hillsborough County Florida over non-payment of child support. It appears he is $780,000 behind in payments. The court has already taken his Range Rover and this week he has to surrender his Mercedes with the court also aiming to take his world championship belts and his Olympic bronze medal. Tarver’s mother is claiming that the Mercedes and the belts were given to her by Tarver so should not be taken. You can be sure that the court will make Tarver pay up one way or another and this is a fight he can’t win.
With the defence of his WBA secondary title against Thomas Oosthuizen falling through Juergen Braehmer has switched opponents and instead will face Kazak-born, German-based Eduard Gutknecht on 12 March in Neubrandenburg, Germany. Gutknecht has done nothing of note since being stopped in five rounds by Dmitry Sukhotsky in 2013 and is not currently in the WBA ratings so it will be interesting to see where he suddenly pops-up in the WBA top 15 in their next ratings.
Just where Oosthuizen goes from here I have no idea. His career has been one long episode of irresponsible behaviour and stupidity and it was inevitable that his trainer Harold Volbrecht and promoter Rodney Berman would one day reach a breaking point with Oosthuizen and they have. Volbrecht recounted that “I pull him (Oosthuizen) out of bars. I bail him out of police stations, I get him out of street fights… I don’t know how often I’ve had calls at midnight to bail Tommy out”. The last straw came when Oosthuizen’s manager had to tell Berman that Oosthuizen was not in any condition to face Braehmer forcing Berman to cancel the fight. Still unbeaten the former super-middle and light-heavyweight champion has talent and has had opportunities denied so many other boxers so it is a disgrace to see him flushing his career down the toilet-or up his nose.
Polish media is doing a build up to the Tomasz Adamek vs. Eric Molina on April 2 with cruiser Mateusz Masternak facing Eric Fields on the same show. Someone must like Adamek as without fighting he has gone from No 23 in the WBC ratings of 7 October to their current ratings where he is somehow No 10! Masternak is having his first fight since losing a very close decision to Tony Bellew in December. Already confirmed for the show is heavyweight Marcin Rekowski (17-2) vs. Andrzej Wawrzyk (31-1), cruiser Michal Cieslak (11-0) vs. Francisco Palacios (23-3) and veteran welter Rafal Jackiewicz vs. Michal Syrowatka.
More Polish news has Artur Szpilka undergoing surgery on his injured left hand this week and former European champion and WBC title challenger Albert Sosnowski returning to the ring on 18 March against Hungarian Andras Csomor in Zyradowie. The 36-year-old “Dragon” lost to fellow Pole Marcin Rekowski in his last fight in May 2014 and Csomor was halted in two rounds by Dereck Chisora in January.
There is a dispute about who will be the next opponent for WBO light-flyweight champion Donnie Nietes. The promoters of Nietes announced that it would be former IBF and WBO minimumweight champion Raul “Rayito” Garcia. Garcia’s team totally deny that any such fight has been agreed. It is unusual for the champion’s team to announce a fight and then have it totally denied. If it was to be Garcia then the WBO would have to do some shuffling as Garcia has not fought for 14 months and is not in the WBO ratings.
There is a show in Riga, Latvia, on 21 February. Top of the menu will be Mairis Breidis (18-0) vs. South African Danny Venter (20-7) for the vacant IBF Inter-Continental cruiser title. Aslanbek Kozaev will take on Georgian Nikoloz Gviniashvili and Russian Sergei Ekimov (14-0) will meet Arturs Kulikauskis. Second fight back down at cruiser for Breidis after going up to heavy to flatten Manuel Charr in August. Welter Kozaev won his first 26 fights but is now rebuilding after losses to Ray Robinson and Taras Shelestyuk. Light-heavy Ekimov is looking to be more active after only one fight in 2015.
WBC minimum champion Wanheng put his title on the line against Japanese fighter Go Odaira in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand on 2 March. It will be the fourth defence for the 40-0 Wanheng. Odaira was stopped in seven rounds by Katsunari Takayama for the vacant IBF and WBO title in December 2014 and after a win in March has been inactive for ten months.
Action in France will see a big show in Levallois Perret on 12 March with two EBU title fights and a WBC International fight. Top will be Russian Igor Mikhalkin (17-1) defending his light heavy title against substitute opponent Patrick Bois (14-4-1). It will be the third defence for Mikhalkin, all against French challengers. Bois is by no means a strong challenger even as a substitute, but it saves the show. Cedric Vitu (43-2) puts his EBU super welter on the line against Spaniard Ruben Varon (43-8). It is Vitu’s second defence. Varon went the distance with Felix Sturm in a WBO title fight back in 2003and will be making his third challenge for the EBU title. Lightweight Yvon Mendy defends his WBC International title against Samir Kasmi in an all-French contest. Mendy pulled off a major shock to win the title when he floored and outpointed unbeaten Luke Campbell. EU champion Kasmi should not provide too tough a test. No home advantage for Guillame Frenois (39-1) as the Frenchman will have to go into the lion’s den to challenge Spaniard Juli Giner (18-1-1) for the EBU super feather title on 1 April. Giner showed his quality when winning the title in November when he floored and stopped champion Romain Jacob. Jacob was world rated and 23-0 at the time.
Heavyweight Tony Averlant has home advantage for the defence of his WBFed light heavy title. He faces challenger Daniel Wanyoni in St Quentin France on 19 February. Second defence of his WBFed title for Averlant and he should have no trouble beating Wanyoni. Last year Wanyoni was outclassed and knocked out in four rounds by Bob Ajisafe and lost a six round fight to Hungarian Richard Baranyi. Frenchmen Johann Duhaupas, Hadillah Mohoumadi, Chris Rebrasse and Nadjib Mohammedi will all have travel for their assignments. Duhaupas meets Robert Helenius in Helsinki on April 2. It looks a good match and with the WBC Silver title on the line a win could put the winner in line for a title shot as there are three world champions now. Mohoumadi and Rebrasse both travel to Liverpool for the show there on 2 April. Mohoumadi puts his EBU title on the line against Callum Smith and Rebrasse faces Rocky Fielding. Smith is No 1 with the WBC and Mohoumadi No 7 so this is a risky fight for Smith. Fielding is having his first fight since losing inside a round against Smith, his only pro loss, Rebrasse has lost to Smith and George Groves in his two visits to Britain so will hope to make it third time lucky. Final bit on the French letter light heavyweight Nadjib Mohammedi has a place on the undercard to Manny Pacquiao vs. Tim Bradley. This will be his first fight since bring kayoed in three rounds by Sergey Kovalev for the IBF/WBA/WBO light heavy titles in July 2015. He faces undefeated Ukrainian 2012 Olympics bronze medal winner Olek Gvozdyk.
I saw where the WBC had given a green belt to the Pope. A nice gesture but one that was just an adornment and not a belt the Pope is ever likely to wear. Suddenly there is an opening for another belt. Australian sources reported that Anglican priest Father Dave Smith is returning to the ring after a break of 20 years. Smith’s motives are of the highest as he is looking to raise money for charity. He has done magnificent work over the years with disadvantaged youths and intends to continue doing so. He has kept in shape boxing in amateur bouts and back in 2012 went into the Guinness Book of records for the most rounds boxed continuously in the ring when he fought 120 rounds over an eight hour period. So we could have WBC for World’s Best Catholic and one for WBA World’s Best Anglican. No that would not work. In no time at all we would have interim Pope’s and Anglicans in recess. Let’s just leave two great men doing great things for humanity.
Something that strikes me as strange is that a cut arising from a clash of heads is seen as an accident and grounds for a technical draw or technical decision, but if a fighter dislocates a shoulder or tears a ligament in his knee it is not viewed as an accident and he loses. That can’t be right so I am starting a one man campaign to get the rules changed. Anyone seen my soapbox?