I AM reeling from absorbing too much good news in such a short space of time.
Suddenly the Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao fight has moved from possible to probably probable (my native caution kicked in there). We had a glimpse of the long term plans of Al Haymon to put boxing back on main stream TV in the USA with NBC. We had a heavyweight title fight which produced a new champion with the potential to really threaten the dominance of Wlad Klitschko and we had the WBC, IBF and WBA discussing standardisation of procedures for weighing, dope testing and unification fights.
Mayweather vs. Pacquiao has so many barriers to overcome. You have the fighter’s respective purses, their egos, promotional ties, drug testing standards, spurious offers of dubious practicality, fight dates, opposing sanctioning bodies and above all you have the respective paymasters in Showtime and HBO. It is beginning to look as though all of these obstacles have been overcome with exception of the last. Last, but not least. There are egos involved here as well with both parties naturally wanting the lead role and the biggest share of the pie. They will both have minimum conditions of satisfaction which will have to be agreed and met before they will work together on the biggest money fight in the history of boxing and neither is going to want to look weak in the negotiations so this is no minor bump in the road. There is plenty of fan pressure on all parties but there is also a whole load of money involved so it is still a probable probable until all of these hurdles are cleared.
For a while Haymon seemed to be gathering fighters for the sake of it with no clear plan, a bit like gathering friends on Facebook just for the sake of having them until you get to a point that you can only communicate with a small percentage with the rest just names. You had to question what Haymon was going to do with such a large stable of fighters. Well it looks as though his plan was to assemble an impressive list so that he could do a deal with NBC and get them much more exposure than they would get on cable. Haymon has a 20 fight deal for a prime-television show entitled “Premier Boxing Champions” which will kick-off on March 7 in Las Vegas where Keith Thurman defends his secondary WBA welter title against Robert Guerrero, Adrien Broner fights John Molina at light welter and Abner Mares is also on the show. Guerrero gets the title fight after tasting some of the marvelous “WBA Ratings Elixir”. A miracle ratings booster which has allowed him to go from being unrated in their November ratings to No 4 in their December ratings. You can’t get this elixir in food supplement shops. Supplies can only be purchased from the WBA on payment of a sanctioning fee. Other sanctioning bodies have similar arrangements.
His second show will see Danny Garcia the WBA/WBC light welter champion against IBF champion Lamont Peterson with April 11 in New York currently the favourite date/venue. However it does not look destined to be a unification match as it is being made at 143lbs.
Back to Haymon. If this works then it will be good for TV fans in the USA and there might even be the possibility of onward sales to other countries. The only problem I can see is that these shows cannot match the purses earned from cable. With another two or three good wins a fighter such as Thurman has the potential to become a pay-per-view draw which would put a lot more money on the table. Nevertheless if it gives some of the young prospects in Haymon’s stable exposure and a chance to build their reputations than boxing will benefit.
I was a harsh critic of the means by which Deontay Wilder was maneuvered into a title shot without facing any fighter of quality, but I guess it is a case of the end justifying the means. Wilder showed that he was for real and opened up the possibility of a unified heavyweight title. He is talking of a fight with WBC No 5 Tyson Fury. With Wlad Klitschko defending his titles against Bryant Jennings on April 25 at the MSG then the winners of these two fights could be fighting to unify the heavyweight title later in the year. There has also been talk of an Alex Povetkin vs. Mike Perez fight with the winner of that joining the end of the queue which would mean that almost all of the top heavyweights will have been accommodated, but Povetkin vs. Perez has not been firmed up. A re-birth of the heavyweight division? Maybe not yet but a good start.
Purses for the fight saw Stiverne getting $900,000 and Wilder $1 million which seems the wrong way around. Other purses for the title show saw Leo Santa Cruz take down $750,000, Jesus Ruiz $50,000; Amir Imam paid $45,000 and Fidel Maldonado $50,000.
One big positive out of the Wilder win is that it put to bed the Don King proposal of a Stiverne vs. Mike Tyson fight in Moscow in May. The frightening thing is that the way this sport is run someone would have been keen to put it on.
Shannon Briggs was being considered as an opponent for Klitschko when Jennings looked to be pricing himself out of the fight with a demand for $2 million. Briggs was reported to be asking for $800,000 but the fight could not be sold so luckily that idea died and Jennings reduced his asking price
One heavyweight who won’t be figuring is Cuban Luis Ortiz. He tested positive for a banned substance when winning the interim WBA title with a first round stoppage of Lateef Kayode in September. The Nevada Commission completed the review of his test this month and banned him for eight months from the date of the test and fined him $8,000. The WBA stripped him of the title but Nevada’s relatively short ban and a fine that is only 10 per cent of his purse seems no more than a slap on the wrist and is not what I would term a strong deterrent compared to those handed out by other sports.
A pity that the Miguel Cotto vs. Saul Alvarez fight fell though. Cotto did not feel it was right for him. Perhaps he is hoping that the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight does not come off and he gets the call to fill against either fighter. If Mayweather vs. Pacquiao does fly then Cotto has left himself with very few options with Gennady Golovkin probably the only big money fight for him.
Not too many people can say they beat Usain Bolt but WBA featherweight champion Nicholas Walters managed that. He came out ahead of Bolt in the voting as Sportsman of the Year in Jamaica. The only other boxers to have won this award are Bunny Grant, Percy Hayles and Mike McCallum. Coincidences? Bunny, who won it in 1961, was managed by Jacques Deschamps. Nick is managed by the son also Jacques Deschamps. Quality is in the blood.
It was a good night for boxing at the awards as former WBC Female super bantamweight champion Alicia Ashley picked up the Chairman’s Award. Walter’s has been appealing for gyms to be set up in Jamaica and named after famous Jamaican boxers such as Lennox Lewis, Mike McCallum, Richard Clarke etc. to nurture the next generation of Jamaican boxers.
Vasyl Lomachenko has been named as a possible opponent for Walters in the future but that won’t happen soon as the WBO champion is recovering from a hand injury and will probably not be fit to fight until April at best.
It looks as though Jermain Taylor’s career will be coming to an abrupt halt. The IBF middleweight champion is facing further charges and a judge revoke his bail for violating the terms of his original release on firearms charges. These are serious crimes he is alleged to have committed and if found guilty he could be looking at a long prison term.
Former WBA super bantamweight champion Loris Stecca is also in trouble. The Italian had been detained on charges alleging attempted murder with aggravating circumstances dating back to 2013. His lawyer has successfully arranged for Stecca to be released to house arrest.
Another fighter in trouble is Ghanaian Braimah Kamoko with the Ghana Boxing Authority reportedly summoning him to appear before their disciplinary committee over a couple of alleged assault cases so if the charges are proven he could face a ban and/or a fine.
Still on Africa but on a more positive note boxer Charles Manyuchi won the Sports Person of the Year award in Zimbabwe. The WBC International welterweight champion has not fought in his own country since 2012 and is based in Zambia. He stated that “In Zimbabwe we don’t have promoters, we don’t have equipment and we don’t have people with the love of sport in terms of boxing” A sorry state and one that won’t be changing anytime soon in Zimbabwe. It is amazing what African fighters achieve when you consider the hardships they have to overcome.
Going back to Ghana I received details of a couple of fights I missed reporting (incredible though that may seem). On December 27 in Accra Emmanuel “Gameboy” Tagoe (23-1) halted Tanzanian Sidiki Momba in six rounds to win the WBA Inter Continental title in his first fight for 16 months. Momba retired with an arm injury but Tagoe was already well on his way to victory. After losing his first pro fight Tagoe has won 23 on the bounce and if he stays active can be a real threat. He is managed by Asamoah Gyan one of the greatest football stars in Ghana. He played for Ghana in the 2006 Olympics and the 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cups and also played for Sunderland in the Premier League. He is an enthusiastic supporter of boxing who is plowing his own money into the sport to support fighters such as Tagoe.
The other show was also in Accra on January 3rd where veteran Ayitey Powers halted Benin’s Anicet Amossou in four rounds. Amossou was down twice before the fight was stopped. Former Commonwealth title challenger Powers needed the win after 7 losses in a row. His age is given as 34, but local sources give it as 38. On the same show light heavyweight Emmanuel “Kwahu Tyson” took his record to 21-1 as he wiped out Nigerian Basil Ossigwe in just 18 seconds, bantam Isaac Sackey drew with Benin’s Fatiou Fassimou, Habib Ahmed (18-0) decisioned Atoli Moore at super middle and lightweights Ben Lamptey (8-0) and Justin Savi drew over eight rounds. Savi from Benin is a former WBC Silver featherweight champion.
January 31 sees a good scrap between former WBA and IBF super-feather champion Juan Carlos Salgado and Jairo Lopez and Dante “Crazy” Jardon looking for a needed win against Patrician Moreno. This will be at the Arena Coliseo in Mexico City. Many more years ago than I care to remember, or admit to, I went to the famous little Mexican cockpit with Mickey Duff and Harold Lederman. The atmosphere was terrific but I was not too keen to notice the wire barrier above out heads to catch any bottles, furniture and debris that might shower down from the balcony. The main attraction was a newcomer from Acapulco Marcos Villasana. I was impressed but Mickey dismissed him and reckoned that Jimmy Flint would knock him out if they met. I think a large dollop of bias crept in there.
The initiative started by Mauricio Sulaiman is continuing with the WBC, WBA and IBF sitting down to devise bringing into line their respective procedures and processes for weigh-ins, drug testing and other health and judging matters. They are also continuing to try to work out a method of arriving at having just one world champion in all divisions and are looking at the criteria that would apply to unification fights. Title unification is going to be the most difficult aim to achieve. If I can paraphrase an old joke. The sanctioning body representative find an old lamp and when they rub it a genie appears and gives them one wish. They decided it would be great to have a bridge from California to Hawaii so they could drive there for their vacations. The genie says that’s totally impossible and tells them to make a second wish. They say they want a universally recognized champion in all 17 divisions. The genie says how many lanes do you want on the bridge? It is going to be that difficult.
One thing they have standardised is the nomenclature for the weight division which henceforth the three bodies will call: Heavyweight, Cruiserweight, Light heavyweight, Super middleweight, Middleweight, Super welterweight, Welterweight, Super lightweight, Lightweight, Super featherweight, Featherweight, Super bantamweight, Bantamweight, Super flyweight, Flyweight, Light flyweight and Minimumweight.
February 7 in Frederikshavn, Denmark Joey Gamache trained Micki Nielsen faces Brazilian Julio Cesar Dos Santos for the vacant WBC International cruiser title. Nielsen is 16-0 and will be looking to crack the world ratings with a win. On the same show Dennis Ceylan (12-0-1) will be looking to clean up his record by beating Spaniard Cris Montilla who held him to a draw in April. Swedish hope Anthony Yigit tackles Kim Poulsen for the vacant WBC Baltic super lightweight title.
Promoter Ahmet Oner is looking at a show in Budapest on 27 February for the return match between Tony Thompson and Odlanier Solis. Thompson won a split decision last March in a dire, boring fight which did neither fighter much good so Oner will be hoping for a better fight and a win for Solis.
Orlando Salido will defend his WBO super feather title against former champion Roman Martinez in San Juan on 11 April. Martinez will be trying to become champion for the third time.
As a result of the terrorist attacks in France the EBU super middleweight title defence by Frenchman Hadillah Mohummadi against Spaniard Mariano Hilario has been put back to 14 March in St Quentin en Yvelines. The following month on April 24 in Calais unbeaten local hero Rene Jacob faces a tough defence of his EBU super feather title against former champion Ermanno Fegatelli.
Italian Michele Di Rocco makes a voluntary defence of his EBU light welter title against Dane Kasper Bruun on 28 February in Milan. Europe has its own brand of elixir as Bruun had announced his retirement after losing to Anthony Yigit in April but now he has un-retired. I guess smelling salts are still banned but a snort of Euros seems to have worked their wonder on Bruun.
Somebody did a good bit of work for my fellow Scot Willie Limond. Without even the sniff of a sanction fee Willie jumped from No 26 to No 15 in the December WBC ratings despite not having fought since June. No mention of a title shot so it looks like someone got off their backside, went to the WBC Convention and did some hard lobbying. That usually works.
Statistics from Argentina showed that their fighters took part in 73 contests outside of the country with 18 wins, 51 losses, 3 draws and one no contests which shows how hard it is to win on the road, unless you are Lucas Matthysse. The figures are not surprising as no promoter imports a foreign fighter to beat his local draw card. Out of curiosity I had a look at how Latvian fighters fared overseas but only had time to look at the four heaviest divisions and Latvian’s were 21-63-1 which does not look too bad until you take out the 14 wins by world rated Mairis Breidis which leaves the others at 4-63-1! No surprise as they often come in as late substitute and are overmatched. What did surprise me is that there are 147 active professional fighters in Latvia. Much more than I thought.