MANNY PACQUIAO’S back and all’s well in the world – well, not quite. However Pacquiao’s win over Lucas Matthysse was the best result for boxing. The Filipino great is still a major player. Hopefully we can forget talk of a return with Floyd Mayweather Jr and, although I would not rule it out, I just can’t see Pacquiao wanting to go over old ground against Jeff Horn. Errol Spence, Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia would jump at the chance and fight Pacquiao anywhere, anytime. If it could be made Terrence Crawford would be a big fight but not a good choice for Pacquiao. Just too tough an ask for Pacquiao at 39. Pacquiao is talking about two maybe three more fights including one at the end of this year. If you look past Spence, Thurman, Garcia and Crawford then you are looking at lesser names such as Shawn Porter, Adrien Broner and Jesse Vargas with Amir Khan hoping to get into the mix but the WBSS super-light tournament cuts down his options from that division. He is being urged to retire whilst still a champion – OK it’s a secondary title – but there is no talk of that from Pacquiao.
The only caveat about the fight at the weekend is the difficulty over judging how much was down to a refreshed Pacquiao and how much was down to a insipid Matthysse. The Argentine put up only marginal resistance. What we got was not the Matthysse who beat Lamont Peterson, John Molina and Roberto Ortiz inside the distance and fought a war in outpointing Ruslan Provodnikov but the one who was knocked out in 10 rounds by Viktor Postol. None of the three knockdowns was really convincing before Matthysse did his own no mas.
What a great weekend for boxing in the Philippines. Obviously Pacquiao’s victorious return hogged the headlines and to a degree it was a pity that it overshadowed two other outstanding performances by Filipino boxers. On Friday Vic Saludar challenged WBO minimumweight champion Ryuya Yamanaka in Kobe, Yamanaka’s home city, and won a clear unanimous decision. Vic probable looked a safe opponent. Over the previous thirteen months he had lost on points to 8-1-2 Toto Landero, beaten 6-2-2 Mike Kinaadman, 14-8-4 Lito Dante and then Kindaaman again. Nothing to scare Yamanaka there but a “low risk” fight exploded in their faces. On Sunday under Pacquiao vs. Matthysse Jhack Tepora floored and stopped Mexican Edivaldo Ortega to win the interim WBA feather title. Going into the weekend their only world champion was IBF super flyweight king Jerwin Ancajas so a huge boost for boxing in the archipelago of over 7,000 islands.
Things could get even better with Toto Landero challenging Simphiwe Khonco for the IBO minimum title in South Africa on Sunday and Froilan Saludar, the elder brother of Vic, challenging Sho Kimura for the WBO flyweight title in China on 27 July. Additionally minimumweight Mark Barriga could soon be fighting Mexican Carlos Licona for the IBF title as it is expected that Hiroto Kyoguchi will vacate the title. They will have another champion for sure because Donnie Nietes and fellow-Filipino Aston Palicte meet in Cebu City on 18 August for the vacant WBO super fly title. When Jerwin Ancajas outclassed Jonas Sultan in defence of his IBF super flyweight title in May it was the first world title fight between two Filipino boxers for 93 years – now it is two in three months.
Nietes will be aiming to become a four-division champion and if he wins he will be 17-0-1 in 18 world title fights and is currently 30-0-3 in his last 33 fights. Donnie comes from a fighting family. His uncle Dan is a former Philippines champion and now a judge, Uncle Junie had a brief pro career, Uncle Gerson Snr was a good level amateur and cousin Gerson Jr is a former amateur boxer and now trains Donnie alongside ex-Philippines champion Ala Villamor.
The World Boxing Super Series have managed to pull together interesting lists for their next two divisions. The bantamweight contestants will be Mikhail Aloyan, Ryan Burnett, Nonito Donaire, Naoya Inoue, Jason Moloney, Juan Carlos Payano, Emmanuel Rodriguez and Zolani Tete. At super-light we have Ivan Baranchyk, Terry Flanagan, Ryan Martin, Regis Prograis, Kiryl Relikh, Josh Taylor, Eduard Troyanovsky and Anthony Yigit. Both good lists but for me it is the bantams that really excite with four title holders in the competition whereas only Relikh is a champion at super-light. I was informed that Prograis had relinquished the WBC interim title before he fought Juan Jose Velasco at the weekend and that their fight was for the WBC Diamond title.
It would have been interesting to see WBA No 4 Mario Barrios in the mix at super light. The 23-year-old from San Antonio, who turned pro at 18, is 21-0 with 13 wins by KO/TKO He faces a good test on 28 July when he meets Jose Roman who is 24-2-1
Floyd Mayweather’s record of 50 wins in 50 fights being the highest unbeaten total for any retired world champion is under threat. On August 28 in Thailand Wanheng (Chayaphon Moonsri) will face an as yet unnamed challenger in defence of his WBC minimumweight title. Wanheng is 50-0 and will be making the tenth defence of his title. Of course for his achievement to get him in the record books he will have to retire with a 100% record so you can be sure the challenger will be very carefully chosen.
Since the parties representing Kid Galahad and Toka Kahn Clary have been unable to come to an agreement over their IBF title eliminator the IBF have called for purse bids by 31 July. Galahad is No 3 with the IBF (positions 1 and 2 are vacant) and Clary is No 9.
Boxing has never been a major factor in Singapore sport but the emergence of Muhamad Ridhwan is sparking some interest. The 30-year-old “The Chosen Wan” has already won WBA Asian, UBO World and IBO International titles and now he is looking to add a more prestigious one. On 29 September in Singapore he faces Namibian Paulus Ambunda for the vacant IBO super bantam title. Ambunda, 37, a former WBO bantam champion, held this IBO title until losing it to Moises Flores in 2016.
It was nice to see veteran Moruti Mthalane regain the IBF flyweight title at the weekend. He vacated the title a few years back after a farcical purse bidding process left him with the prospect of defending his title in Thailand for a derisory amount of money. South Africa will be hoping for another title win on Sunday when Simphiwe Khonco defends the IBO minimum title against Toto Landero (holds a win over Vic Saludar). The fight is part of a show to honour the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth and Khonco’s promoter Rodney Berman has released Khonco so that he could top the bill for the promoter of that show.
It must have been depressing for the Boxing South Africa team to have gone to the trouble of arranging for the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport to give a clinic on this very important subject of doping when only eleven licensees turned up. You can’t help people who won’t help themselves.
Thursday July 19 marked the sixtieth birthday for Azumah Nelson, arguably the greatest African fighter of all time. The “Professor” a former All-Africa, World Military and Commonwealth gold medal winner was WBC champion at feather and super feather. He beat Wilfredo Gomez, Marcos Villasana (twice), Juan Laporte, Mario Martinez (twice0, Calvin Grove, Gabe Ruelas and Jesse James Leija. British fans are unlikely to forget his one round demolition of Pat Cowdell and his dramatic last round stoppage of Jim McDonnell. He drew and then stopped Jeff Fenech in two great fights with the win in 1992 being rated by Ring Magazine as Upset of the Year and his 1995 stoppage of Ruelas was Ring Magazine Comeback of the Year. Azumah only lost two fights over his peak years. After only thirteen fights he came in as a very late substitute against the great Salvador Sanchez in 1982. He was up on one of the three cards before being stopped in the fifteenth round in what was tragically Sanchez’s last fight. His other loss was when he moved up to lightweight in 1992 to challenge Parnell Whittaker and lost a close unanimous decision. Azumah was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 2004. Equally important is the donations he has made to many orphanages in Ghana and the Azumah Nelson Foundation to help the youth of his country. He has been a great ambassador for boxing and for Ghana and the WBC have made arrangements to honour Azumah.
Still on Africa I was advised this week of the death of Langton Tinago. The Zimbabwean “Schoolboy” died on July 17. For many years Langton was the man in boxing in Zimbabwe. Over a 20 year career from 1967 to 1987 he had 110 fights ending with a 86-20-3,1ND record. He was national champion at lightweight and welterweight and had three spells as Commonwealth champion at super featherweight and lightweight and scored wins over Ken Buchanan, Willie Booth, Chris Sanigar and Australia Graeme Brooke. He fell on hard times after he retired but was a much revered figure in Zimbabwe boxing.