PICTURE the scene: three heavyweights and three featherweights are located in or around a boxing ring and two, just two, from each weight class will eventually square off and fight.
The wise move would be to put the two best together, sort the men from the boys, separate the wheat from the chaff, and find out the identity of numero uno. Yet this is boxing, a sport in which logic rarely impacts decision-making, so what we get instead is this: the two least qualified boxers of the six – as well as the least known – jump in the ring to box the two most qualified, most popular, and arguably the best.
That’s what’s on offer this Saturday night (August 18) anyway, when Tyson Fury boxes Francesco Pianeta while Deontay Wilder sits ringside and watches, and Carl Frampton boxes Luke Jackson while Josh Warrington sits and watches. Like some bizarre swingers party, this swapping of partners is a test of patience not only for the fighters involved but for everyone watching, too, those teased by the prospect of Wilder vs. Fury and Warrington vs. Frampton yet told, for now, to look and not touch.
More than a slow build and a frustrating bit of foreplay, it’s a risk. After all, should Pianeta somehow topple Fury in the heavyweight fight, Wilder’s trip from Alabama was all in vain. Similarly, if Jackson gets the job done against Frampton, there will have been no point in Warrington studying the Irishman’s form from close range.
These upsets shouldn’t happen, but that doesn’t mean they won’t happen. This is boxing, remember. Upsets are the reason we keep coming back, the reason we can never be certain, the reason dispirited and disfigured fighters rise from their stool and come out for round 12. What’s more, they are the reason there’s interest in Saturday’s bill in Belfast, despite the fact the real fights, the ones we’re waiting for, are only being run as trailers at this point.
Wilder vs. Fury and Warrington vs. Frampton wouldn’t be the first examples of fights falling through because someone slipped up and sprained their ankle on their way to the ball. Nor will Fury losing to Pianeta or Frampton losing to Jackson rank among the biggest upsets of all time.
Who, though, is the more likely of the two imports to play spoilsport and ruin everybody’s fun on Saturday night?
The case for Francesco Pianeta:
Francesco Pianeta is a 33-year-old Italian based in Germany who has now been a professional for 13 years.
Before he faced Wladimir Klitschko in 2013, his first and only stab at a version of the world heavyweight title, Pianeta had constructed a solid enough resume, built on the likes of Johann Duhaupas, Scott Gammer, Michael Marrone and golden oldies like Frans Botha, Matt Skelton and Oliver McCall. He was considered unproven and out of his depth by the time he reached the summit – which is to say, a sixth-round stoppage defeat to Klitschko – but not necessarily a bad fighter. His 28-0-1 record looked impressive enough on paper, the only smudge a draw with Albert Sosnowski, and he carried plenty of momentum.
Since then, however, Pianeta has joined the ranks of other heavyweights touched by Klitschko – nay, destroyed by Klitschko – and then resigned to a life of mediocrity. There have been ten fights in the intervening years and his record, post-Klitschko, stands at 7-3. Good wins are hard to come by, but it’s the defeats, against the likes of Ruslan Chagaev (KO 1), Kevin Johnson (TKO 7) and Peter Milas (UD 10), that shine a light on how Pianeta has seemingly regressed and been sucked dry of all ambition.
The Chagaev one was a shocker. Decked in the first by an overhand left, Pianeta struggled to regain control of his legs and escape, and then strangely flopped to the floor, his senses still scrambled, with only a few seconds to go in the round.
Chagaev, while a quality fighter on his day, was hardly viewed as a puncher. Indeed, the same can be said for Kevin Johnson, the one-armed American who loves a jab, rarely throws a right hand, yet still managed to stop Pianeta last October. That, in many ways, was a defeat every bit a shocking for the Italian, and perhaps further indication his punch resistance is on the wane.
In terms of what he offers Tyson Fury on Saturday night, don’t expect much. He presents a sizeable target – he’s six-foot-five – and a southpaw stance, neither of which should give Fury too much difficulty, and will no doubt be intent on surviving. He’s an improvement on Sefer Seferi, the 39-year-old Albanian with whom Fury shared a boxing ring in June, but will still fall some way short of what’s required to make a competitive fight.
The hope, I guess, is that Fury goes rounds, is asked a question or two, and is made to at least think his way through the fight and remain switched on at all times. If Pianeta can achieve this, demand he’s taken seriously, he will have done something Seferi couldn’t, and will therefore be deemed an ideal opponent for Fury ahead of the real fight, the one against Wilder, in November or December.
Will he win?
No. He has more of a chance than Seferi, admittedly, but Pianeta, 35-4-1 (21), has shown nothing in the five years since the Wladimir Klitschko defeat to suggest he still has ambition as a heavyweight, let alone the ability to conquer Tyson Fury.
His basic, upright stance will ensure he’s in punching range for a round or two, which should lead to a bit of excitement, but Fury must be fancied to get the job done before the halfway mark.
Tyson Fury 1/41
Francesco Pianeta 25/1
The case for Luke Jackson:
Luke Jackson has a few things Francesco Pianeta lacks. For one, he is undefeated at 16-0 (7), which means he is unfamiliar with the concept of defeat as a pro; oblivious to it, unaware of how it feels. Two, and just as crucial when analysing Saturday’s fights, Jackson has yet to fight outside his native Australia, has beaten a string of unheralded opponents, and is himself a bit of a mystery.
Unlike Pianeta, then, Jackson doesn’t suffer as a result of his experience and ups and downs. He is, by comparison, a bit of a blank slate.
This, of course, could go one or two ways. Either Jackson is of a similar standard to Pianeta, only has yet to test himself and discover his limitations, or, as the Aussie believes, he is unbeaten for a reason and simply waiting for his opportunity to show the world the true extent of his talents.
Dealing with the facts, here’s what we know so far: thirty-three years of age, and a pro for five years, Jackson captained Australia at the 2012 Olympics and won a bronze medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Games. In the words of Frampton’s trainer, Jamie Moore, he was a “decent amateur, not an exceptional one”. Moreover, it wasn’t until Jackson turned 28 that he decided to turn pro, which, Moore believes, could be indicative of a lack of ambition and drive.
As a pro, meanwhile, Jackson’s record lacks well-known opponents, much less decent ones. He lifted the Australian featherweight title in 2015 with a win against Will Young – the 4-3 Queensland native, not the Pop Idol winner – and has also picked up WBA and WBO Oceana featherweight titles in fights with John Mark Apolinario (18-6-3) and Silvester Lopez (27-11-2) respectively.
I have no idea how serviceable or limited these three men happen to be, but what I can be certain of is that not one of them will have prepared Luke Jackson for Carl Frampton and what he can expect to face in Belfast on Saturday.
Will he win?
No. While Pianeta will presumably be out of his depth and overwhelmed, perhaps stopped early, there’s a far greater chance Jackson survives a few rounds on pluckiness alone – that and the fact he’s a featherweight, not a heavyweight – but it’s difficult to see him doing much more than that.
Frampton, 25-1 (14), has lost only to Leo Santa Cruz (a man he has also defeated) in a stellar nine-year professional career and is usually a cut above everybody he meets. He has the skills, power and experience, at a level Jackson has yet to reach, to get the job done on his terms, effectively when he wants, and could even be motivated to secure the win early and emphatically given the animosity that has spruced up an otherwise routine, uneventful and predictable tune-up fight.
Carl Frampton 1/33
Luke Jackson 20/1