The WBA have been shuffling again. With Andre Ward having relinquished their Super super middle title they have promoted the holder of their secondary title Fedor Chudinov to Super Champion. As far as I can see he does not meet any of the criteria for that promotion but hey presto! It leaves the secondary title vacant and on 19 January interim champion Vincent Feigenbutz fights Giovanni De Carolis for the now vacant secondary title and that will leave the interim title vacant with another sanctioning fee raked in eventually. Just so cynical the way it is manipulated. Chudinov’s fight with Felix Sturm on 20 February will now be for the WBA Super super middle title. Not a bad reward to Sturm for not having won a fight since December 2013.
Strange about Ward. He relinquished the WBA super middle title on 12 November but in the WBA ratings published 10 December he had disappeared completely-fallen down a hole? However he has a date with Sullivan Barrera the current WBA No 6. Ward at light heavy would open another avenue so that some of the focus could come off the Sergey Kovalev-Adonis Stevenson will they/won’t they game as a Ward fight against either would be a big fight. With Ward working closely with the WBA Kovalev would seem to have the inside track.
So sad to hear of the death of Howard Davis Jr. Such a hugely talented boxer outstanding as an amateur with his gold medal at the 1976 Olympics where he took the Best Boxer award ahead of such other talented team mates such as Sugar Ray Leonard. He won 25 of his first 26 pro fights but the loss was the all important decision against Jim Watts for the WBC lightweight title. He came real close in 1984 losing on split decision against Edwin Rosario in Puerto Rico in a second shot at the WBC title. He kept fighting drawing with Meldrick Taylor in a fight between two classy stylist but lost to Joe Manley and Hector Camacho in non-title fights before having his final chance at a title being knocked out by James McGirt in 1988 for the IBF super light title. He lost his last fight to unbeaten Dana Rosenblatt who was the only non-world/future world or past world champion to beat him. I always felt that the loss to Jim Watt was a turning point for him. It was a fight he could have won and was expected to win but the impact of losing affected him beyond that fight. He went on to train and promote in mixed martial arts and died tragically early at 59. RIP Howard.
The bouts in Japan at the end of the year featured fighters who had benefited from the ratings magic carpet. That’s the one that sends a fighter flying high with no visible means of support (or justification). The WBA excelled themselves as usual. Luis de la Rosa who fought Ryoichi Taguchi for the vacant WBA light flyweight title was unrated by the WBA in their ratings issued on 8 October but by the 10 November he had suddenly appeared at No 7 not having fought since March! In the case of the WBO I thought that their stupid approach of giving a rating to someone who wins one of their regional titles was the reason for Filipino Vic Saludar’s suddenly appearance at No 8 in their July ratings. But the dates did not match as he did not beat Rizky Pratama (record 6-3) to win the vacant WBO Asia Pacific title until September and his July rating did not have the designation “ Asia Pacific” at that time. He had fought in February but rating a guy who has not fought for 5 months would be a stretch even for the WBO so it could only be his win in July over Michael Kaibigan. The Kaibigan fight was over eight rounds and Mr Kaibigan’s record was 3-2-2. I deny anyone to come up with an honest reason for Saludar’s No 8 rating in July. Incidentally the win over Pratama (6-3) saw Saludar climb to No 4.
On paper Venezuelan Jose Uzcategui looks a reasonable opponent for James De Gale based on his destruction of previously unbeaten Julius Jackson in two rounds. However that result was not part of the IBF plan. In order to become the mandatory challenger Jackson, rated No 5 but with slots 1 and 2 vacant, had to beat a rated fighter but he had not done so and could not climb to No 1. Ah the plot begins with Uzcategui suddenly getting the magic carpet treatment appearing from nowhere in the IBF ratings to No 7 in their ratings published on 5 August even though he had not fought since February. Perfect Jackson beats Uzcategui qualifies for No 1 all sorted, but no one explained to Uzcategui. Nowhere to No 7 when he has not fought for almost 5 months. Brings back memories of Robert W, Lee Snr. Why is the FBI never around when you need them?
Thai Amnat Ruenroeng is an example of how boxing can change a man’s life. Ruenroeng took up boxing whilst serving his third term in jail. He was allowed to fight in amateur tournaments whilst still in jail and was released one day after winning the national title. From there he never really looked back winning many titles as an amateur then turning pro and winning the IBF flyweight title. He defended the title three times last year with wins over Zou Shiming, Johnriel Casimero and Myung Ho Lee and the Sports Authority of Thailand elected him as Athlete of the Year. Without boxing he would probably still be in jail or dead in an alley somewhere. Give the sport its due and Ruenroeng the credit for literally fighting his way out poverty and crime.
Ike Ibeabuchi is another former prisoner looking for salvation through boxing. The Nigerian-born heavyweight fought in the USA as an amateur before turning professional and scoring 20 wins, 15 by KO/TKO. After a spate of unsavoury incidents he spent time in a state facility being treated for a bipolar disorder until he was considered fit to stand trial. He entered what is known in the USA as an Alford plea whereby the defendant does not admit the charges but accepts that the evidence presented by the prosecutor had would be likely to persuade a judge and jury to find the defendant guilty beyond reasonable doubt. The sentences he received ran concurrently but whilst in prison he studied and obtained two degrees . On release had to spend some time detained by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement department. Now free he wants to continue his career. He is 42 ,will be 43 next month, and has not fought for almost 17 years. Manny Pacquiao’s team are looking to help him get a fight on the Bradley show but there are a whole serious of test he will have to take before he gets a licence
Plenty happening with Nonito Donaire. Evgeny Gradovich pulled out of his 23 April fight for Donaire’s WBO super bantam title preferring to take a fight in Spain to be sure he could make 122lbs comfortably enough. He is replaced by Hungarian Zsolt Bedak who has a 25-1 record. Don’t get too excited “Mr Left Hook” was stopped in ten rounds by Wilfredo Vasquez Jr for this same title in 2010. He was out almost three years and since then has fed on a diet of second rate opposition but importantly won the WBO European title that saw him shoot up the ratings. I guess it keeps the sanctioning fees rolling in. Jesse Magdaleno is another one with his eyes on Donaire and he is going to fight Filipino Edward Mansito on 13 february. Magdaleno has made 122lbs in the past but was 127lbs in his last fight so he too will be making sure he is comfortable at the weight before his inevitable challenge to Donaire.
Plenty of purse offer outstanding and negotiations on-going effecting British boxers. The EBU indicates that negotiations are ongoing for Ryan Farrag’s defence of his EBU bantam title against Karim Guerfi, purse offers are due 18 January for James Dickens defence of his EBU super bantam title against Kiko Martinez, 18 January is also the deadline for purse offers for the return fight between champion Ruben Nieto and Lenny Daws for the EBU super light title, purse offers are due Friday (8 January) for Hadillah Mohoumadi defence of his EBU super middle defence against Callum Smith and by 21 January for Robert Helenius vs. Derek Chisora. The only current interest in the EU titles is Enzo Maccarinelli nominated as official challenger for the light heavy title but with no co-challenger nominated. Of course all of or any of the above could be cancelled if negotiations are agreed before the purse submission dates. In addition Brit Kevin Satchell challenges Frenchman Thomas Masson for the flyweight title in Arras on 5 March. My old dad ran around there in a tank in 1940 giving the Panzers a nasty shock at Arras before getting his feet wet at Dunkirk.
At a higher level than the EBU the management of Kell Brook and Kevin Bizier have until 12 January to conclude negotiations for Brook’s title defence or it will go to purse offers.
It will be an interesting time for the Smith clan from Liverpool with Stephen challenging Jose Pedraza for the IBF super feather title on 26 March in New York. With brother Liam holding the WBO super welter title I am struggling to remember if any two British boxing brothers have held world titles at the same time?
Top rank and few hundred million Chinese will be hoping that Zou Shiming can win a world title in 2016. He kicks off his campaign with a fight against Brazilian Natan Santana Coutinho on 30 January in Shanghai.
Last year was a banner year for Filipino outfit ALA Promotions as they spread their wings with shows in the USA and Dubai. They kick this season off with a show in their home base of Cebu City on February 27 with hot prospect Albert Pagara facing former IBF super fly champion Juan Carlos Sanchez . They also have a joint promotion with Top Rank in Manila featuring the previously mentioned Donaire vs. Bedak fight and also in planning is a defence of his WBO light fly title for Donnie Nietes in May. I am old enough to remember way back when Filipino fighters were really just used as fodder for the records of other Orient fighters. There are still plenty of journeymen/travelling losers but also some of the greatest fighters in the world today and there is enough money available to pay fighters to come to the Philippines to help build their fighters instead of the other way around.