WHAT a weekend that was for major fights. It had a bit of everything. Carl Frampton is now a holder of two major belts and that gives him options. The WBA have said he must fight Guillermo Rigondeaux in his next fight. There is a justice in that after the way Rigondeaux was stripped of the title so that Scott Quigg could be elevated to full WBA champion-and you can be sure that if money did not change hands to get Rigondeaux to go quietly there will have been a promise of a fight with the winner. Frampton vs. Rigondeaux is not a very attractive fight and not nearly as big a money fight as some others out there for Frampton. As he is also IBF champion he may choose to say thanks but no thanks to the WBA and look for a bigger IBF fight either in Belfast or in the USA. Quigg seemed have picked the wrong fight plan-or perhaps Frampton took his plan away from him. However for fighting with a fractured jaw for eight rounds he deserves a big fight when he returns. Terrence Crawford showed real class in his fight with Hank Lundy. There was no way Lundy was in with a chance of winning but Crawford fought the perfect fight outboxing Lundy and then finishing the fight in champion style. I can’t see anyone beating him at super-light, certainly not Adrien Broner, and if he moves up I would take him to beat Tim Bradley, Kell Brook , Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia. Kiko Martinez deserves a bravery award. He also had no chance of winning against Leo Santa Cruz and the way he just kept ploughing forward after being knocked down twice in the first round was amazing. At times Santa Cruz was being forced backwards around the ring wondering just what he had to do to stop the little Spanish tank, but like Crawford he finished with style. Frampton vs. Santa Cruz would be a fight to savour. I hope Julio Ceja and Hugo Ruiz do it for a third time as they are both such big punchers that whoever gets home the first big shot could be the winner.
Manny Pacquiao seems to have too much going on out of the ring for a man preparing for a big fight. He has had social media and other sources attacking him over his statement regarding gays and lesbians, a rival politician Walden Bello has filed a petition saying that holding the Tim Bradley fight during election campaigning violates the law in the Philippines requiring Senate candidates getting equal media coverage including TV and radio time. The petition points out the wide coverage of the lead up to the Bradley fight and proposes the fight be postponed until after the election. The third item out there is a ridiculous sounding claim by a waiter in Los Angeles claiming damages for not receiving a percentage of the income from the Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather fight. It appears that the waiter approached a CBS executive who was dining at the restaurant where he worked and offered to set up a meeting between the CBS Executive and Freddie Roach who was one of the waiter’s friends and from that meeting eventually evolved the agreement for the fight. The waiter is claiming $8.6 million in damages for breach of contract although there is no mention of a written contract. I am sure Pacquiao will not let any of these things distract him. As for his statement regarding gays and lesbians it is obviously a strong part of his religious beliefs that same sex marriages are wrong. After 1000 years of being hounded and criminalised you can understand the gay and lesbian community reacting strongly to such a statement from such a public figure particularly the crude wording Pacquiao used. Pacquiao should have dodged the question but as he chose not to then he was giving an honest although atrociously worded opinion. In theory free speech allows people to say what they want on any subject but when we endorse free speech there can also be a subconscious addition saying –providing I do not consider what you say to be offensive-which is where free speech, honesty and political correctness tends to come into conflict. As far as general acceptance of gays it has not advanced as far as it might seem. When a boxer announces he is gay it is world news and as long as people feel the need to “come out” there is still that feeling it is something they should hide. The storm will pass and soon Pacquiao will be measured as a boxer and not as a philosopher or an expert on religious dictates. He is already acknowledged as a great fighter and hopefully that is what the media and Pacquiao will focus on from now until 9 April.
The controversial decision given to Felix Sturm over Fedor Chudinov kicked off a spell of navel gazing by the media in Germany. Most saw the result as yet another black mark against boxing in Germany following a series of controversial decision in fights featuring Sturm and to a lesser extent Arthur Abraham. The concern is that the boxing industry will take the view that you can’t get a fair deal in a big fight in Germany even with neutral judges. CompuBox statistics showed a clear picture of Chudinov throwing and landing more punches both in jabs and power punches and yet none of the three judges saw Chudinov as the winner and all three came up with scores that were close to identical with two scoring it 115-113 and the other 114-114 so all three saw pretty much the same fight.
Sturm has been involved in a number of controversial decisions over the past five years. He was awarded a split decision over Matthew Macklin, a split draw with Martin Murray, lost split decisions to Daniel Geale and Sam Soliman, although that was changed to a No Decision after Soliman was alleged to have tested positive for a banned substance but recent revelations over the BDB approach to testing hardly inspires confidence in that test result. Sturm also lost a wide unanimous decision to Soliman in a return fight, got a split draw with Robert Stieglitz and lost a split decision to Chudinov in their first fight. That only adds to the mystery because there is not a consistent pattern of all of the close verdicts going to Sturm. The judges in last weekend’s fight were from France, Italy and Panama and between them they have judged more than 800 fights and from examining their past decisions there is no pattern of inconsistency or of giving preference to the home fighter from any of them. Sturm has been in 18 WBA title fights so his fights have been very lucrative for the Venezuelan-based outfit yet the Latin American judge Ignacio Robles from Panama was the one who did not give the decision to Sturm but had it as a draw. So we have a situation where a tried and trusted computer scoring method shows Chudinov landed 297 punches and Sturm 184, Chudinov scored with 71 jabs and Sturm 41 and Chudinov scored 226 power punches and Sturm 143 and despite all of that two experienced neutral judges saw Sturm the winner and the best the third had for Chudinov was a draw. It defies logic but then the only logical way to score a fight is the way it is done by the computer-actual punches landed- instead we rely on a “beauty” contest where three experienced men form their opinion of what they have seen in each round and it is obvious from the figures above that although they mostly get it right sometimes they come up with an illogical result. I have often seen the judges scoring questioned but I have never seen the accuracy of the CompuBox figures questioned. If boxing was invented tomorrow the scoring would be done by computer but that will never happen. One advantage the German/home corner has in Germany is that if it is not open scoring then they are fed the round by round scores. This is done either by the score being hand-carried to the corner or even by a telephone link and naturally it relies of someone who is authorised to sit close to the supervisor and has access to that information. It can make a big difference to tactics if one corner knows whether their fighter need to up his work or can coast and play safe. It is not supposed to happen and when one referee spotted it happening he threatened to halt the fight, but it still goes on.
The fall-out from the fight continues with Chudinov’s team showing that some of the surface coating had come off the gloves during the fight. With Chudinov showing swellings around both eyes there was a suggestion of some tampering but that had a sense of clutching at straws to it. Let’s just hope the WBA order a return. The feeling in Germany is that Sturm will fight on but the fight he and the German public want is a unification fight with Arthur Abraham. A defeat for Abraham in his WBO title defence against Gilberto Ramirez would take a lot of the shine off it but it would still be big. If the Abraham vs. Ramirez fight ends in a controversial decision I think I will change to writing about wellie-throwing (that’s rubber rain boots to the non-British readers).
When money talks memories fade. It is not that long ago that Miguel Cotto rubbished the WBC belt by refusing to pay them a sanctioning fee for the fight with Saul Alvarez. Now the WBC super-welter title is vacant and there are said to be discussion between the WBC and Cotto about him getting to fight for the vacant title. Cotto needs a title, the WBC will always welcome a big fight figure so all is forgotten and friends again boy this can be a cynical business-but you knew that already.
Perhaps there is hope. The Arizona State Commission has agreed to let Roy Jones have his licence for his stupid $100,000 challenge for anyone who can beat him on the night. Jones has said that he has already started receiving videos etc. from those who want to challenge him and he will soon select who gets to fight him on the night. However the Arizona Commission are spoiling the fun they are insisting they will vet the candidates and apply the same criteria as they usually do as to whether or not a fight is acceptable. The way Jones has been going recently I don’t know whether his nickname should Barnum or Bailey.
The cancellation of the Keith Thurman vs. Shawn Porter show was also a blow to Ireland’s Pat Hyland. He was to have challenged Gary Russell Jr for the WBC feather title. Ah well, it saved the WBC from having to elevate Pat into the top 15 after the fight was announced instead of before. I guess it could still come off at another date.
I won’t be getting excited if the Shane Mosley vs. Antonio Margarito fight does come off. For me it is a championship fight between two very questionable fighters. Margarito got caught with his “concrete” gloves and Mosley withdrew his suit $12 million defamation case against BALCO boss Victor Conte. Conte alleging that Mosley had admitted under oath to a grand jury that he bought EPO from Conte and had been provided a detailed calendar from Conte on its use prior to the fight with Oscar de La Hoya.
The Errol Spence vs. Chris Algieri welterweight fight is set for April 16 in New York on the Krzys Glowacki vs. Steve Cunningham WBO cruiser title fight show. Spence vs. Algieri looks a good fight Spence is No 2 with the IBF and former WBO champion Algieri No 6 with the WBO. With Kell Brook defending against No 1 Kevin Bizier Spence has more to lose and a win for Algieri could get him a shot at another version of the welter title.
The IBF eliminator between Joseph Parker and Carlos Takam will be a real test of Parker’s credentials. So far the young New Zealander’s opposition has been a mixture of older boxers on the way down or younger boxers who never made it high enough to need to slide down. That is no better and no worse than most promising fighters face as they climb. Takam is a step up from there. Although 35 the French-based Cameroon fighter has faced a much higher level of competition in Mike Grant, Mike Perez, Tony Thompson and Alex Povetkin. He is also a puncher with 25 wins by KO/TKO. Parker will have height/reach and youth and Takam will have experience so a good eliminator. Parker has chosen to take this fight which if he wins puts him in line to fight the winner of Charles Martin vs. Anthony Joshua even though he is No 1 with the WBO so already in line to fight Tyson Fury or Wlad Klitschko.
Good to see Ashley Theophane finally getting a world title shot as his career has been a bit inconsistent. No surprise that after not fighting for four months Theophane gets the WBA ratings elevator and is slipped in at No 15 just in time to qualify for the title shot.
Anthony Mundine has recently been in England. The Australian former WBA super middle champion came to Britain for a hip operation which involved a shaving of the bone instead of a hip replacement. The 40-year-old says he feels like a new man and now he hopes that negotiations for a fight with Danny Green will be wrapped up soon. He beat Green way back in 2006 and a return would draw big down there.
Later this year a biopic will go general release in the US entitled “Hands of Stone”. The company releasing it bought the rights after the film was shown at the Cannes Film Festival. Actor Edgar Ramirez plays Roberto Duran and Robert De Niro will play trainer Ray Arcel. A rags to riches story with quite a few twists for boxing fans.
I feel sorry for Jorge Linares. His broken arm means that the WBC has decided they don’t want to miss out on any sanctioning fees so have quickly moved to put together mandatory challenger Dejan Zlaticanin and No 2 Emiliano Marsili. The fight will be in April and likely in Italy.
On the money front the winning bid for Lee Selby’s IBF feather title defence against Eric Hunter was by Selby’s team at $302,000 so Selby gets $275,000 and home advantage and Hunter gets $45,000. It should be a good fight as “The Outlaw” Hunter had turned in some good performances over the last two years.
It will be comeback night on 19 March in Houston. Former champions Juan Diaz and Mike Alvarado are schedule to appear in different fights but no opponents mentioned yet. Former IBF/WBA/WBO light champion Diaz, now 32, will be having his first fight since September 2014 when he walked away with a run of 5 wins. Alvarado, 35, a former interim WBO super light champion walked away in January last year after losses in tough fights against Ruslan Provodnikov, Juan Manuel Marquez and Brandon Rios.
Another fighter returning to action id former WBC cruiser title challenger Francisco Palacios. The 38-year-old “Wizard” is returning to fight in Poland against Michael Cieslak under the Tomasz Adamek vs. Eric Molina fight on 2 April. It will be the third fight in Poland for Palacios but he is batting 0-2 there having lost twice on points to Krzys Wlodarczyk in WBC title fights. Cieslak is 11-0 and if Palacios has anything left this will be a big test for the Pole.
I am a lover of the International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF) in Canastota and have often found myself wondering around the rooms where the various belts/photos/dressing gowns etc. are on show. It really was a blow to realise that someone had stolen four of Carmen Basilio’s belts and two that belonged to Tony Zale. No sign of them being recovered yet but let’s hope they turn up soon. The IBOF has offered a reward of $5,000 for the arrest and conviction of those concerned and Mike Tyson has offered some memorabilia of his own career for information leading to their recovery. It is particularly poignant in Basilio’s case as the great onion farmer/world champion was actually born in Canastota and his trophies were the original impetus towards the setting up of the IBHOF.
Recognition for sportsmen comes in all shapes. French flyweight Thomas Masson used to have to get up at 4.00am to do his job as a garbage collector but since winning the French and European flyweight titles he now has a job in the sports department at the local town hall. Much better, he has a voluntary defence of his EBU title on 5 March against Spanish EU champion Angel Moreno which looks a pretty even match.
The AIBA proposal to open the Rio Olympics to professional boxers is just greedy and disgraceful. There is not enough time for it to feature at Rio even if it applies to second or third level fighters. The top professionals will either have fights coming up or planned for later in the year and there will be TV, management and promotion contracts in place for them already. When names such as Tyson Fury and Floyd Mayweather Jr are being thrown about it becomes farcical. If top level pros are going to fight at the 2016 Olympics then the whole set-up would have to change. Can you imagine a draw that would pit Fury against a genuine amateur from one of the countries where very limited money is made available for proper training or preparation? It also begs the question of what happens to the current on-going Olympic qualifying tournaments. If you are going to put in a layer of professional fighters (other than the AIBA’s own professionals) then the Olympic timetable would not be able to accommodate the additional contests.
All pretence of amateurism at the Olympics was shattered a long time ago when the American “Dream Team” of millionaire basketball players was allowed to compete and there are very few true amateurs competing now but there are also countries who cannot afford “elite” athlete schemes to pay athletes to be full-time funded.
I feel sorry for African boxers. It is a different world for many of their boxers. In Kenya the National Olympic Committee of Kenya had to step in and provide funds so that their fighters could get some residential training together as a team to prepare for the African Qualifiers in Cameroon next month. Even then it was admitted it was being done on a reduced budget and they would not have sparring partners as there was no money available to provide them. Uganda has had similar problems and Ghana, which has produced so many great fighters, is struggling. Their national body could not afford residential training for their team of Olympic hopefuls as they could not meet the cost so they were camped elsewhere. The cost? Just $257. That’s the struggle some bodies face and what chance would a fighter preparing under those restrictions have against world rated professional boxers. Effectively the AIBA is aiming to kill the Olympic dream for young aspiring boxers all over the world.
The position is similar to a degree for professional boxers in Africa, The WBC No 2 cruiser Olanrewaju Durodola is back in Nigeria waiting to face the winner of Grigory Drzod’s defence against No 1 Illunga Makabu. Meanwhile he relies on support from the Nigerian police for training facilities and there are no sparring partners down there. Down in South Africa an Eastern Cape heavyweight prepares to challenge for the national heavyweight title trains in his garage. It is a different world for these guys.
Still on African news WBA No 4 lightweight Xolani Ndongeni returns to action on 1 April. Big things are expected from the 20-0 fighter from Duncan Village. Richard Commey is the top rated lightweight with the IBF at No 3 with posts 1 & 2 vacant so some way down the road it could be Ndongeni vs. Commey in a world title fight. Also progressing well is Ghanaian Isaac Dogboe. The 21-year-old “Brave Son”, a former British ABA champion and 2012 Olympian retained his WBA Pan African and WBO African titles with a points win over fellow-Ghanaian Michael Pappoe on 20 February at the Azumah Nelson Sports Complex in Kaneshie. All three judges scored the fight 120-107 for Dogboe. Nelson has described Dogboe as a future world champion but the youngster has a long way to go yet.
Another Ghanaian former world champion Nana Yaw Konadu a two-time WBA bantam champion is opening a boxing foundation in the country. His organisation will be looking to uncover some fresh talent and is basing itself away from the capital Accra in Sunyani. He is saying that the opening bout at the foundation will between himself and David Kotie. Konadu is 52-year-old and Kotei is 65 is a former WBC feather champion, so I am sure it is just an exhibition.
Last piece on Africa again stresses how hard it can be for fighters from there. Zimbabwean Charles Manyuchi, the WBC International champion and No 9 welter last fought in his home country in 2012 and was fortunate to get a contract with an outfit in Zambia. With their support he won the WBC ABU and International titles. He let his contract with the Zambian outfit lapse and went home to Zimbabwe in triumph but of course there is no boxing in Zimbabwe right now so back cap in hand to Zambia. Sometimes geography beats talent.