OF all the fighters in boxing, it is WBO middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade who finds himself at the biggest disadvantage entering the ring. Because for Andrade, just winning impressively time and again has not proven to be enough to get the big matches he deserves. So what is a man to do? Win in such spectacular fashion every time out, that’s what. Then eventually the public will demand that the big names take him on.
Andrade, from Rhode Island, has finally come to understand this. Shedding his sometimes-cautious approach, he rushed across the ring and dropped challenger Luke Keeler seconds into their fight in Miami on Thursday (January 30). Keeler got up, then took a knee before arising again at referee Telis Assimenios count of nine. We waited for the spectacular ending to unfold, but the plucky Irishman survived the round. But southpaw Andrade was loading up on every blow, his left glove sometimes being brought up from below the hip to give the punches maximum force.
Late in the second, another left hook dropped Keeler, his head hitting the lower rope. The man from Dublin, got up dazed, the bell coming to his rescue. Surely this new version of Andrade would soon deliver the conclusive ending that would make the highlight reels.
But then things reverted to form. Keeler, though never winning a round the rest of the way, was able to hold Andrade off and even have some brief moments of success, before the champion found the big punches at the end of the ninth round to force a stoppage at 2:59.
Keeler complained, but he at least could be proud of having extended the fight longer than expected after those two heavy knockdowns.
On balance it was a successful night for Andrade, but he did let a golden opportunity to make a statement slip away.
On the stellar undercard at the Meridian at Island Gardens (Matchroom promoted), world titles changed hands in back-to-back contests.
In what was undoubtedly the fight of the night, if not year thus far, Uzbekistan’s Murodjon Akhmadaliev won a split 12 round decision over defending IBF and WBA super-bantamweight champion Daniel Roman.
You will rarely see a match that will equal the skill level, intensity and resiliency displayed here. The ultimate difference was the heavier hands of the southpaw challenger who rocked Roman, from Los Angeles, on numerous occasions, most notably at the end of the fifth round. But Roman always shook off the punches and came forward behind an effective jab while firing punches of his own.
Most of the rounds were close, making it hard to score. A draw would not have been unfair, but I had Akhmadaliev up 115-113, as did judges Carlos Sucre and Nelson Vazquez. Rodolfo Aguilar went 115-113 for Roman. Frank Gentile refereed.
It was second time lucky for Joseph Diaz, who had lost out in his previous attempt at a world title. On this night, the Californian annexed the IBF super-featherweight belt by a unanimous decision over Philadelphian Tevin Farmer in a battle of southpaws.
Diaz faced adversity when he was cut from a headbutt over the left eye in the second round, but it turned out to be a non-factor. His pressure and timing throughout the match threw off Farmer’s rhythm. Some were concerned how the champion’s body language looked. He blinked his eyes at times and looked a little more tired than usual, at one point checking the time left in a round not long after it had gotten underway. In fact, after the fight Farmer was taken to the hospital for observation.
However, it was far from one-sided, with judges Richard Green and Alex Levin scoring 115-113 (same as me), and John Rupert 116-112. Samuel Burgos refereed.
Farmer was the faster of the two, but it was Diaz who was able to reach the target more. On the inside he clubbed Farmer to the body with his free hand while they were locked in clinches and boxed with a bit more confidence throughout. Afterward, Farmer said he plans to invoke the immediate rematch clause that was put into the contract.
Considering that Amanda Serrano will be matched with Katie Taylor this Spring, you would think that it would have been prudent to give her maximum exposure instead of burying her on the undercard of a scheduled six-round fight. For those who viewed it, Serrano, from Brooklyn, looked superb, dropping Sao Paulo’s Simone Da Silva in the second round, then overwhelming her in the third to force a stoppage at 53 seconds. Referee Burgos should have stepped in a little sooner in my view.
Touted prospect Anthony Sims Jr’s toughest test to date ended in a disappointing 10-round split decision loss to former world title challenger Roamer Alexis Angulo of Miami.
Sims, from Illinois, ran around the ring all fight making the proceedings dreadful to watch. Angulo, who had a point deducted in the fifth round for holding by referee Christopher Young, followed Sims around, landing a blow now and then, but rarely cut the ring off. Sims looked to have done enough, but his cautious approach turned off judges Gloria Martinez and Rocky Young, each scoring 96-93 Angulo. Green had Sims up 95-94.
The makeshift arena where this show was held had been built specifically for Super Bowl weekend and is scheduled to be torn down the day after the big game.
In speaking face to face with Eddie Hearn at the press conference, I was slightly startled by how tall he is. Hearn looks smaller on television.
And speaking of the press conference that was held in downtown Miami, two days before the show, Roman would have won a contest for best-dressed man. The now former world champion was the only one with suit and tie on, while the rest dressed nice but casual.
Bernard Hopkins was ringside representing Golden Boy Promotions for whom new champion Diaz boxes.
It is far removed from the glory days when Muhammad Ali trained at Miami’s 5th street gym, but the tradition continues. The gym is still in business, but at a different location than before.
Demetrius Andrade (159 1/2lbs), 29-0 (18), w rsf 9 Luke Keeler (159 1/2lbs), 17-3-1 (5); Jake Paul (192lbs), 1-0 (1), w rsf 1 AnEsonGib (188lbs), 0-1; Joseph Diaz (130lbs), 31-1 (15), w pts 12 Tevin Farmer (130lbs), 30-5-1 (6); Murodjon Akhmadaliev (121 1/2lbs), 8-0 (6), w pts 12 Daniel Roman (121 1/2lbs), 27-3-1 (10); Roamer Alexis Angulo (167 1/2lbs), 26-1 (22), w pts 10 Anthony Sims Jr. (168lbs), 20-1 (18); Alexis Espino (165lbs), 5-0 (4), w rsf 3 Vincent Baccus (165lbs), 4-2-1 (3); Austin Williams (160lbs), 5-0 (4), w rsf 4 Donald Sanchez (159 1/2lbs), 5-3 (3); Amanda Serrano (131lbs), 38-1-1 (28), w rsf 3 Simone Da Silva (131 1/2lbs), 17-15 (6); Otha Jones 111 (135lbs), 5-0 (2), w rsf 2 Juan Santiago (132 1/2lbs), 16-18-2 (9); Movladdin Biyarslanov (137lbs), 6-0 (5), w rsf 3 Nicolas Velazquez (137 1/2lbs), 11-8 (3); Avril Mathie (119 1/2lbs), 5-0-1 (3), w rsf 4 Angelina Hoffschneider.
Jake Paul vs. AnEsonGibb
The morning after the bill in Miami, I received an email message from a friend I respect greatly, one who has been involved in boxing in various capacities. This is what he wrote: “That YouTube reality BS fight was an embarrassment to the sport and card as a whole. Hearn is acting like a pimp cheapening the sport by catering to this. If this is the path, why stop here? Get Kim Kardashian to fight her stepfather Bruce Jenner, now a transgender, and bill it as a female fight. They would draw a MUCH bigger audience then these clowns with next to zero talent.”
That same morning, I received this message from our esteemed editor Matt Christie. “If you want to remark on the utter lunacy and poor quality of that YouTube ‘fight’ in your report, please do.”
Okay, so here goes:
Two days before the event, Paul and Gibb were given their own press conference at the CMX Cinema Brickell City Center in downtown Miami, while all the other combatants shared one right after. The YouTubers were treated as if they were the main event of the star-studded show.
And in some ways, they were.
As a result of their fight, DAZN reportedly gained a ton of new subscribers. And if that revenue stream contributes to them putting on better quality boxing events, who can argue about it not being a good thing?
Besides, other sports have done things similar. People scoffed when Michael Jordan took up baseball. They said he was an embarrassment to compete at that, yet sold-out crowds greeted Jordan whenever he played.
Arriving at the press conference early, I noticed there was not a notable media presence. As a result, I tried to make myself obscure not wishing to be asked to speak to one of the contestants. I had no interest in them or their fight, regarding it much as others did, as a big joke and nothing more.
However, once in the arena, this senior citizen had a transformation. After sitting through some mismatches and a 10-round snooze fest between Angulo and Smith, the place came alive when the YouTubers got ready to roll. Although it was approaching midnight, my fatigue was replaced by the smile on my face.
Yes, the match, if we should call it that, was of terrible quality. Gibb rushed at Paul, getting low and charging hard, but was lacking in defense and durability. Gibb was dropped three times by ordinary right hands and stopped in the first round. It ended quick and painlessly for us and them. Certainly, it was no worse than sitting through the many mismatches we have become accustomed to.
When the show was finished, I took the shuttle back to the Nautilus Hotel on Collins Avenue, where the fighters and different boxing luminaries were housed. As the shuttle started to move, my eyes wandered to the seats a couple of rows ahead of me. Sitting obscurely among the passengers was a forlorn figure who seemed at peace with himself and the surroundings. He did not speak with anyone, nor they with him. Just another face in the crowd, not the co- star of the show he had been an hour or so before. Gibb had moved on. Perhaps it’s best we do to.