YET another case of good goes bad for boxing. The Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev fight was a big one that came together quickly and easily with two of the world’s top fighters facing each other. With Kovalev being such a big puncher and Ward such a clever tactician it was never going to be a toe-to-toe slugging match but a battle of tactics. Ward would have been dumb to stand and trade with Kovalev and Ward isn’t dumb. He fought a clever fight but it was disappointing to see just short bursts of activity and no infighting/ body punching (where are the Latino fighters when you need them) and a bit too much holding. Having said that it was an entertaining fight even if it did not live up to its promise. I had Kovalev winning by a narrow margin, a margin thin enough for me to understand how others felt Ward had done enough. All of that got lost in the boxing media/ social media howls of rage at Kovalev being robbed and instead of reflecting on a good fight and a good night for boxing we get screams of the sport being crooked, the officials being corrupt and people being driven away by decisions “such as this”. Accept this is boxing. I can think of no other sport where often no one knows who is winning until the end and where there is no definitive visible measurement of intermediate success. There is no touchdown, no goal scored, no crossing the finishing line first, no jumping furthest or highest, no slam dunk. In the end it is down to how the three judges have perceived the fight and more often than not they don’t even agree amongst themselves. There is no right or wrong just opinion and perception so there is always going to disagreement and controversy so accept it or walk away because there is sure to be other decisions you will disagree strongly with-that’s boxing.
One of the problems Ward now faces is that he has three titles and will have three mandatory challengers and the IBF have already said he will have to face the winner of Artur Beterbiev vs. Erik Skoglund. The WBA are likely to soon jump in with their No 1 Dmitri Bivol (who!).
It is not all bad news. This weekend we Have Vasyl Lomachenko against Nicholas Walters, Terry Flanagan vs. Orlando Cruz. Next weekend Denis Lebedev vs. Murat Gassiev and Eduard Troyanovsky vs. unbeaten Julius Indongo, Billy Joe Saunders vs. Artur Akavov and on 10 December Terrence Crawford vs., John Molina, Joseph Parker vs. Andy Ruiz, not too enthusiastic over Anthony Joshua vs. Eric Molina, Jermall Charlo vs. Julian William, Jesus Cuellar vs. Abner Mares and on 17 December goodbye fight for Bernard Hopkins. There is talk of a return between Jesse Magdaleno and Nonito Donaire. Of course you also have Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao – only kidding folks – I hope!
The fight against the use of banned substances in the sport is still only being tackled in a half-hearted manner. The WBC have taken great strides through their “Clean Boxing” programme but for my money they fumbled their first big test. When Bermane Stiverne tested positive for a banned substance he should have immediately been banned for two years or at least his fight with Alex Povetkin for the interim WBC title should have been scrapped. The fine agreed was substantial but it is not too big a blow for Stiverne as the purse for the Povetkin fight will be much higher than the fine and if he wins it will have been money well spent. Now their interim title fight will be between two fighters who have tested positive for using banned substances and that is not the message the sport wants to send out.
We also have the reported second positive test for Australian Lucas Browne which is still under investigation. You have the strange situation where Browne signed up to the WBC programme but was lined-up to fight Shannon Briggs for the secondary WBA title (what rubbish even rating Briggs) but effectively a WBC process has almost certainly led to the cancellation of a WBA title fight. Now that is a first. Of course there is no guarantee the WBA will accepted the WBC drug programme finding in the same way the IBF has ignored Erik Teper’s positive test.
It just goes on. With Kubrat Pulev relinquishing the European heavyweight title Pole Mariusz Wach will fight another rated contender, probably European Union champion Agit Kabayel, but Wach reportedly reportedly tested for a banned substance when he lost to Povetkin for the WBC Silver title last November and the ban on Igor Mikhalkin has been lifted by the EBU reportedly due to the controversy surrounding Melodonium so it is a mess that boxing is not structured to handle and does not have the money, resources and in some cases the will to tackle. If the International Olympic Committee is still handing out bans for tests taken at the 2012 Olympics what chance is there of boxing ever getting control of the situation.
What a mess the WBA heavyweight division is in. No 1Luis Ortiz withdrew from an eliminator, No 2 Wlad Klitschko is going to fight Anthony Joshua for the IBF title although the WBA will gladly sanction it for their title, Browne is No 3 so in limbo at the moment, no one mentions No 4 Alex Ustinov a 39-year-old 6’ 7 ½” Klitschko clone but without any of Klitschko’s ability , No 5 is Briggs a 44 year-old who two independent ratings both place him at No 36 and who himself has a use of banned substance episode in his past and No 6 Fres Oquendo a 44-year-old who has not had a fight since July 2014 but a judge in the USA has said he must be in the mix after a disputed loss in 2014 to a fight who has now retired.
Next big fight for us is on Saturday when Vasyl Lomachenko puts his WBO super feather title on the line against Jamaican Nicholas Walters. Naturally Lomachenko is a big favourite with Walters having had just one fight in the last 17 months and being inactive since his draw with Jason Sosa in December. Now that Sosa has stopped Javier Fortuna and beaten Stephen Smith that draw does not look quite as disappointing result for Walters. I fancy Lomachenko but what I would really like is a good fight and no controversy.
I see Bob Arum is at it again. Just as he talked before the Manny Pacquiao vs. Jesses Vargas fight of what Pacquiao would do next he is already talking about Lomachenko vs. Pacquiao. Get this one out of the way first Bob otherwise it sounds as though you are talking down Lomachenko vs. Walters as a fight.
Tony Bellew has been looking at his options with a fight against David Haye or the winner of the Denis Lebedev vs. Murat Gassiev in his sights. However the WBC have other plans and have given a deadline of the end of the year for negotiations between Bellew and his mandatory challenger Mairis Breidis or the fight will go to purse offers. Having issued that instruction it will be hard for them to back-off and let Bellew fight Haye or the WBA champion so it may be a case of fight Briedis or be stripped.
The agreed rematch between Carl Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz now set for 28 January at the MGM in Las Vegas which gives us something to look forward to in the New Year. Santa Cruz recently spent time sponsoring Childhood Cancer Awareness as his father has an ongoing battle against cancer. Hopefully nothing will happen that would distract him from the return bout and that his father can fight off this dreadful illness.
The promoters of the Joseph Parker vs. Andy Ruiz WBO title fight have set the PPV price at NZ $59-59 (US $ 42). Australian Jeff Horn will fight former IBO champion and IBF title challenger Ali Funeka and Ghanaian Isaac Dogboe faces Argentinian Julian Evaristo Aristule in a WBO super bantam eliminator, but not a final eliminator. Also on the show is unbeaten Junior Fa who has a win over Parker when they were amateurs. The show is heavily sponsored by the Samoan Government due Parker’s Samoan heritage so both New Zealand and Samoa will be acclaiming him if he wins.
Liborio Solis had lodged a formal protest over his loss to Jamie McDonnell in the fight on November 12 for the secondary WBA bantam title. I watched the whole fight and although Solis made a great start he faded badly and McDonnell was a clear winner.
With top class fighters such as Manny Pacquiao, Donnie Nietes and Nonito Donaire backed up by other class performers such as Marlon Tapales, Arthur Villanueva Jason and Albert Pagara, Rey Loreto, Randy Petalcorin etc. you might think boxing is in a healthy state in the Philippines. However there are serious concerns due to the drop in boxers and promotions being licensed over the last two years with a figure of a 50% drop being mentioned. Boxing in the Philippines comes under the banner of the Games and Amusement Board (GAB). The chairman of the GAB has held a meeting with matchmakers and managers and a number of changes have been proposed aimed at tackling the slump. My concern is that the main suggestions actually reduced some of the measures put in place to safeguard boxers. It is proposed to reduce the mandatory rest period between bouts from 45 days to 30 if the fighter’s last fight resulted in a decision. That overlooks the possibility that a fighter may have taken more punishment even though not being stopped. They also propose to allow boxers not in the GAB ratings to fight abroad and to rate 20 fighters in each division instead of the current 15 making it easier for an agent to “market” a fighter abroad which could lead to Filipino boxers being overmatched. Obviously something needs to be done to halt the dropping numbers but I am not sure these are the right measures.
A big show in Saint Denis, France on 17 December sees Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam challenging Alfonso Blanco for the interim WBA middle title. Usual bit of WBA skulduggery involved with N’Jikam suddenly leaping into their ratings issued on 1 November even though he had been unrated in the ratings issued 15 September and had not fought since July. Two other fights on the show will feature Yuriorkis Gamboa against Frankie De Alba in the Cuban’s first fight in a year and Michele Soro facing German-based Nigerian Nuhu Lawal. So far just five fights in five years for Gamboa. What a waste of such talent. After fight on the secondary circuit in Germany Lawal gets two high profile fights in just over six weeks following his contest with Martin Murray this month but WBA No 3 Soro is a tough fight for him.
In case you missed another bit of WBA cynicism their elevation of Keith Thurman from secondary champion to super champion was just a ruse. If Thurman had been only secondary champion then the fight with Danny Garcia could not really be a unification fight so let’s move everyone up one spot and that will leave an interim title vacant so another sanctioning fee.
British Olympic bronze medallist Anthony Ogogo is reported to have undergone surgery to repair a broken eye socket he suffered in his first pro loss against Craig Cunningham last month. It will be a long road to recovery for Ogogo who has been unlucky with injuries. I was surprised to read that a specialist said he had suffered the injury prior to the fight which I just can’t believe.
Good to see Mason Menard getting another high profile outing. The Rayne fighter spent nine years building an impressive looking record without ever fighting outside Louisianan and it could have been perceived as being content to be a big fish in a small pond and lacking ambition. He has certainly stepped out of that role this year with a third round kayo of Eudy Bernardo in Verona and a ninth round kayo of 19-2 Bahodir Mamadjonov in Rochester. He steps up to the plate again on 10 December against three-time WBO title challenger Ray Beltran. A win sends him onwards and upwards.
Great to see Haitian fighters rallying round to help their fellow countryman. The Jacques Deschamps promotion last week which featured Evans Pierre, Wilky Campfort, Azea Augustama and WBC Silver and IBU female champion Melissa St Vil was a way of showing sympathy for the damage wrought to places and people by Hurricane Matthew and also showing that they had not forgotten their roots. It is an illustration of the way that boxers rally around when there is a cause that they can relate to. It was the first fight in her own country for the Brooklyn-based “Little Miss Tyson” Melissa.
With both Katie Taylor and Clarissa Shields joining the professional ranks will give the profile of female professional boxing a huge boost. Already fighters such as Jessica Chavez and Isabeth Zamora Silvain from Mexico, Erica Anabelle Farias in Argentina, Delfine Persoon in Belgium, Susi Kentikian in Germany, Armando Serrano in Puerto Rico, Jelena Mrdjenovich in Canada , Cecilia Braekhus in Norway and so many others are bigger draws than many male fighters in their country but somehow it just died away in the United Kingdom.
Two other boxing positives . Rodney Berman’s show in East London on Sunday was staged in honour of his long time partner Mzimasi Mnguni. They started working together in1988 and took a number of South African fighters to world titles. Mnguni had been badly injured in a car accident and then suffered a couple of strokes and he was very moved by Berman’s gesture.
And on a lighter note. A charity boxing show in Barry Wales has raised £18,000 for the Children’s Hospital for Wales Noah’s Ark Appeal. The contestants were all from the local police force including both male and female officers. I would think that the local villains would have been first in the queue for tickets so that they could watch the police fight amongst themselves but all for a good cause and on Saturday night the police would be back out on the streets stopping fights instead.