By Eric Armit
Fighters progress at different rates and that was shown on the big show at the weekend where Errol Spence was making a defence of his IBF welterweight title and Marcus Browne was fighting in a ten round support fight. Both were members of the US Olympic Team in 2012 which failed to win a medal. Spence was the only one to make it to the quarter-finals and the US had to rely on Claressa Shields to put an American on the podium. Spence is a world champion and Browne despite his 21-0 record is probably a year away from a title fight and his name has yet to come up when discussing challengers for Sergey Kovalev, Adonis Stevenson, Dmitry Bivol and Artur Beterbiev.
Despite not winning a medal the US men’s team have done well so far as professionals. Rau’shee Warren and Spence have won world title and Terrell Gausha, Mike Hunter and Dominic Breazeale have challenged for world titles. Jose Carlos Ramirez fights Amir Imam for the vacant WBC super light title in March and Joseph Diaz is the No 1 rated feather with the WBC so is in line to challenge Gary Russell, who incidentally qualified for the 2008 Olympics but passed out in the dressing room before his first fight. That only leaves Jamal Herring who was the oldest member of the Team and with a 16-2 record it does not look as though he will progress further. That’s not a bad return so far for a Team who were flops in 2012.
The British Team in 2012 produced two gold medals from Anthony Joshua and Luke Campbell, silver from Fred Evans and a bronze from Anthony Ogogo. As professionals Joshua has won a world title and Campbell has challenged for one. Not a great return but team members Josh Taylor and Andrew Selby are both closing in on world title shots. Fred Evans has just recently turned pro but Ogogo and team captain Thomas Stalker have struggled as pros.
By failing to make the weight Javier Fortuna threw away his chance to win the IBF lightweight title and rightly so. What I have problem with is that Robert Easter could have lost his title by being defeated by a man who is over the weight limit for the lightweight division. That is against natural justice and when that happens it is purely a commercial consideration. The TV Company, the promoter and the sanctioning body all have a commercial interest in the fight going ahead and the stupidity of having a lightweight title fight when one fighter weighs over the limit for the division is brushed under the carpet. I wonder what would happen if a fighter who lost his title under these circumstances went to court where those involved could try to explain to a judge how it can be a title fight if one guy is inside the weight limit and the other outside. It is right that the guy who does not make weight can’t win the title but somehow the guy who is champion and made the weight can lose the title. Money rules all of the time.
OK here comes the big news-both Wlad Klitschko and Vasyl Lomachenko have taken dives-honest. Ok it was in a frozen pool in the Ukraine. It appears to be a tradition on epiphany, the celebration of how the star led the three Kings or Wise men to visit baby Jesus, so panic over. Wlad won on points staying in the water much longer than Vasyl.
No name yet for Lomachenko’s opponent on 28 April. The problem is that Lomachenko’s opponent has to be a big name but apart from Miguel Berchelt there are no names at super feather and at light Easter has just defended his title and would not be a draw, Terry Flanagan has moved up and Jorge Linares defends his title against Mercito Gesta with only the WBA title on the line as Gesta is not in the WBC top15. Sometimes a fighter can be too good for his own good.
According to French sources Tony Averlant is to be the next opponent for unbeaten Anthony Yarde with the WBO European and WBO Inter-Continental titles on the line with Bradley Skeete facing Hungarian Laszlo Toth and Daniel Dubois also on the card. It will be an interesting fight if Yarde vs. Averlant does come off as the 6’2” Averlant has won 8 of his last 9 fights and only been beaten twice by KO/TKO, but there is no confirmation of the match so it might just be some French kite flying.
In what may be another bit of French kite flying it was claimed that the WBO are about to put Olympic gold medallist Tony Yoka in their next heavyweight rankings. This after three fights against Travis Clark rated No 201 by BoxRec, Jonathan Rice No 149 and Ali Baghouz No 329. Could even the WBO be so cynical as to jump on that bandwagon? Don’t bet against it.
Good to know that Roy Jones is finally going to put away his gloves. Surely one of the most talented fighters of all time it has been a real shame to see him blemishing his legacy by fighting on long past the time when there was any sensible reason to do so. He should have retired after beating Antonio Tarver in 2003 when he was already an eight-time champion over three divisions and 49-1 with his only loss a disqualification. He could have been inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 2008 (You have to have been retired for five years to get on the ballot paper) but hopefully after he beats Scott Sigmon in Pensacola on 8 February he will focus on promoting and get to Canastota in 2023.
As Jones prepares to bow out Felix Sturm prepares to return. The former holder of the IBF, WBA and WBO middleweight and WBA super middleweight titles has said he will fight this year but no date or venue. In February 2016 Sturm tested positive for a banned anabolic steroid following his victory over Fedor Chudinov in a defence of his WBA super middle title. The investigation into the positive test dragged on and Sturm announced in October 2016 that he was vacating the WBA title due to an elbow injury. The WBA dropped the matter and because the WBA did not open proceedings against Sturm the German BDB Federation decided not to move against him. Sturm left Germany for Bosnia, he is of Bosnian descent, but it is not known if he intends to fight there or back in Germany.
The Inglewood show on 24 February just got even more interesting as Donnie Nietes will now defend his IBF flyweight title against Juan Carlos Reveco. The show already has Srisaket defending the WBC super fly title against Juan Francisco Estrada, Brian Viloria tackling Artem Dalakian for the vacant secondary WBA fly title and Carlos Cuadras facing McWilliams Arroyo in what is virtually an eliminator to see who gets to fight the winner between Srisaket and Estrada. It will be good to see Nietes get some high level exposure. The 35-year-old Filipino is unbeaten in 32 fights going back to 2004 when he lost a split decision to an Indonesian in Indonesia. He is a three division champion and is 16-0-1 in 17 world title fights. The 37-year-old Viloria is no spring chicken and this will be his 15th world title fight
Yet another black eye for boxing as Japanese fighter Kenichi Ogawa’s pre-fight test before his contests with Tevin Farmer for the vacant IBF super feather title proved positive for a synthetic testosterone in both the A and B samples. His post fight test was clean but the Nevada Commission have issued a suspension which will be in place until a hearing which could be in March. Farmer’s team had already protested the controversial decision given to Ogawa and if the Nevada Commission confirms the suspension after the hearing then it seems certain that Ogawa will be stripped off the tile.
Back in Japan the Kameda brothers are aiming to return to action. Koki, a three division champion has not fought since losing to Kohei Kono in a challenge for the WBA super fly title in October 2015. Brother Tomoki, a former undefeated WBO bantamweight champion who lost twice to Jaime McDonnell in challenges for the secondary WBA title is also said to be fighting on the show.
You can’t blame Anthony Mundine for calling out Jeff Horn after his win at the weekend. Mundine has been remarkably able to shift between divisions from super welter to cruiser but has never been less than 153lbs. He has put any thought of Horn fight aside for the moment as he and old foe Danny Green are heading for South Africa to take part in an “I’m a Celebrity-Get Me Out of Here “ show. Locking Tony and Danny together in a room could have interesting consequences.
Horn fights Terrence Crawford in New York on 14 April as Crawford attempts to win his sixth world title and become a three division champion. A win for Horn would be an even bigger surprise than his win over Manny Pacquiao and I fear for Jeff’s title.
On the same night in London Billy Joe Saunders will put his WBO middleweight title on the line in an excellent match-up against Martin Murray. With his outclassing of David Lemieux Saunders has greatly increased the possibility of a fight with the winner of Gennady Golovkin vs. Saul Alvarez but Jermall Charlo, Daniel Jacobs, Ryota Murata and Demetrius Andrade are also in the queue. It would be dangerous to look beyond Murray who has had four world title shots and must know there won’t be another one if he loses to Saunders. On the same show Terry Flanagan faces a difficult task to become a second division champion as he takes on unbeaten Maurice Hooker for the vacant WBO super light title. Two high class contests.
Spaniard Kiko Martinez seems to have been around forever-that’s because he turned pro at 18 and has been fighting for 13 years. The former IBF feather champion has ducked no one. He is 7-4-1 in his last 12 fights with the losses being to Carl Frampton, Scott Quigg, Leo Santa Cruz and Josh Warrington. He is back in the picture now being lined-up to challenge fellow Spaniard Marco Vidal for the European feather title and it is a fight he could win.
Imre Szello is looking to remain unbeaten and get some revenge for Hungary when he takes on Denis Grachev in Budapest on February 16. Grachev took a split decision over former undefeated WBO light heavy champion Zsolt Erdei in 2013 spoiling Erdei’s chance of joining the elite band of world champions who have retired winning all their fights. Erdei was 33-0 at the time but ended up 34-1. So near yet so far.
The ink was hardly dry on the contract for Juan Carlos Ramirez to fight Amir Imam for the vacant WBC super light title than an interim title fight was agreed. Ridiculous really. In this one on 9 March in Miami Regis Prograis will tackle Viktor Postol. The winner will go on to fight the new champion. Again an abominable misuse of the word interim. Send the WBC a Thesaurus so they can come up with something different such as “a good excuse for another sanctioning fee”.
Don King-yes he is still around but only on the fringes-won the purse bidding for the WBC super welter eliminator between Pole Maciej Sulecki 26-0 and Vanes Martirosyan with the winner promised a shot at Jermell Charlo. Something stinks here with Martirosyan not having fought since losing to Erislandy Lara in May 2016. Twenty months inactivity and he climbs from No 3 to No 2 in the ratings.
By Eric Armit
I am not much of a one for looking back particularly when 2018 already holds so much to look forward to. By the end of the year for the first time since the WBO entered the scene in 1989 and Francesco Damiani won their initial heavyweight title we have the prospect of fighter holding all four versions of the title. The Anthony Joshua vs. Joseph Parker fight which now seems set for 31 March in Cardiff will unify the IBF, WBA and WBO titles. It then must be the next logical step that the winner of 3 March fight between Deontay Wilder and Luis Ortiz for the WBC portion will want to go against the winner of Joshua vs. Parker. With all due respect to Parker and Ortiz (but a bit less of that respect to drugs cheat Ortiz) the fight the public will hope for is Joshua vs. Wilder. There is no way that either of these two fighters could walk away from that fight not just because of the money but also out of pride and even at this stage of their careers the legacy.
For me that Joshua vs. Wilder match would be the fight of 2018 but if that is not enough we will also have Gennady Golovkin vs. Saul Alvarez II, the all-British super middleweight fight between George Groves and Chris Eubank Jr and a super flyweight extravaganza in Inglewood on 24 February.
To get us in the mood we will also have on 20 January in New York Errol Spence vs. Lamont Peterson for the IBF welter title and Robert Easter defending his IBF light title against Javier Fortuna. On 27 January there is a double bill featuring Jorge Linares defending his WBA lightweight title against Filipino Mercito Gesta and Lukas Matthysse vs. Teerachai (Tewa Kiram) for the vacant secondary WBA welter title and on the same night in Riga we have Olek Usyk vs. Mairis Breidis in the first of the WSSB cruiserweight semi-finals which will also unify the WBC and WBO titles. The second semi-final in Adler, Russia on 17 February between Murat Gassiev and Yunier Dorticos will unify the WBA and IBF titles clearing the way for a fight unifying all four versions of the cruiserweight title later in the year. On 3 February in Corpus Christi Gilberto Ramirez defends his WBO super middle title against Habib Ahmed and Jerwin Ancajas defends his IBF super fly title against Israel Gonzalez. One week later in London Zolani Tete puts his IBF bantam title up against Omar Narvaez in and on the same night in San Antonio Mikey Garcia challenges Sergey Lipinets for the IBF super light title and Rances Barthelemy and Kiryl Relikh punch it out for the vacant WBA super light title, There is Danny Garcia facing Brandon Rios on 17 February and Victor Ortiz clashing with Devon Alexander on the same night.
If that sounds good don’t forget that only covers the next 6-8 weeks with Sergey Kovalev vs. Igor Mikhalkin on March 3 in New York. Carl Frampton vs. Nonito Donaire in April, Amir Imam and Jose Carlos Ramirez ready to fight for the WBC super light title on 17 March (if Terrence Crawford relinquishes the title) and Felix Verdejo returning to action on the same show and with the certainty that Vasyl Lomachenko, Terrence Crawford, Tony Bellew vs. David Haye are all sure to provide other big nights. It looks a great year ahead so let’s look forward not back. To paraphrase Roy Scheider in Jaws-you’re going to need a bigger diary!
Having said that for me the WSSB which started last year is the best thing to happen to top level boxing in years.
Apart from the world scene there are some good European title fights coming also. A busy night on 27 January will see Alessandro Goddi 33-2-1face unbeaten Pole Kamil Szeremeta 16-0 for the vacant middleweight title, Yves Ngabu puts his cruiser title on the line against Geoffrey Battelo in Belgium and in an all-Spanish affair Mark Vidal defends the featherweight title against Sergio Blanco. When they fought for the vacant title last July after eleven rounds Blanco was in front on two cards only for Vidal to snatch the win by a knockdown in the last round. Purse offers are due on 15 January for Karo Murat defending his super middleweight title against Serhiy Demchenko and on 29 January for a clash of unbeaten flyweights between Vincent Legrand 26-0 and WBC No 2 Andrew Selby. The unbeaten Welsh fighter is in line for a shot at the WBC title so taking on the freakish 5’8 ½” (174cm) French southpaw is a risk. On the same day purse offers are due for the vacant welterweight title between Ahmed El Mousaoui and hot Spanish hope 24-0 Kerman Lejarraga. Ukrainian heavyweight Alex Dimitrenko gets one last chance to revive his career as he challenges unbeaten European heavy champion Agit Kabayel. No date or venue yet and in what will be a huge fight for Swedish fans Sauerland Event have yet to name the date or place for Otto Wallin vs. Adrian Granat for bragging rights in Scandinavia and for the vacant European Union title. The purse was reported to be approx. $100,000 to be split 50/50.
Despite losing his IBF light fly title Milan Melindo has said he will not be retiring. It was good to see that Ryoichi Taguchi who unified the WBA and IBF light flyweight titles by beating Melindo intends to honour the IBF stipulation that Hekkie Budler must get the next show at their title.
The little men might be as well keeping an eye on what’s coming up behind them. Australian Jason Moloney, the WBA No 9 bantam, is coming up fast. The undefeated Moloney is taking on Namibian Immanuel Naidjala in Melbourne on 24 February with the vacant Commonwealth bantamweight title and Moloney’s WBA Oceania title on the line. Moloney is 15-0 and Naidjala lost on points to Tomoki Kameda for the WBA title a while back so a good match Twin brother Andrew, also 15-0, will be defending his Oceania title on the same show. He is No 6 super fly with the WBA
Despite turning down an offer to fight Khalid Yafai on the super fly extravaganza Roman Gonzalez is not contemplating retirement. His plan is to ease back with a fight in Nicaragua in April and see how that goes before making any further plans. He will shortly be moving to Costa Rica to start his training.
The WBA have been correctly slated for ranking British boxer Joe Fournier at No 11 in their light heavyweight ratings. He won their vacant International title scoring a second round knockdown on his way to a sixth round stoppage of Dominican Wilmer Mejia on December 17. This despite the fact that Fournier is clearly shown on BoxRec to have tested positive for a banned substance at a fight in Belgium in June 2016 and being given a two year suspension which was reduced to 18 months. That means his suspension does not end until June 2018. Despite the posting on BoxRec Fournier fought four times in the Dominican Republic between June and December 2016 when he was under suspension. In addition two sources advised me that they had informed the WBA last month that Fournier was under suspension. The WBA actions are disgraceful but there is another question-who is licensing Fournier? The British Board would respect the Belgian positive test result and not permit Fournier to fight in Britain but someone has chosen to licence a boxer despite knowing he is suspended and the WBA do not licence boxers so they are not the only culprits here.
Lou DiBella has announced his signing of former super lightweight champion Julius Indongo but that has brought an immediate response from Namibian promoter Nestor Tobias who claims that his contract with Indongo includes an extension if Indongo won a world title-which he did last year. Could be a legal battle looming.
If students find out that they have a substitute teacher coming in for the day it can either be a matter of indifference or an opportunity to have a bit of fun and rag the newbie. I don’t think these students felt indifference and I am sure there was no ragging as their substitute teacher just happened to be a certain Wladimir Klitschko. Ok sit up straight kids and listen because Wlad was there to give them some inspirational advice on overcoming fear and adopting a positive approach to life’s challenges. It appears that the day was a big success but I couldn’t help wondering whether Wlad’s challengers over the years would have benefited from some advice on overcoming fear and adopting a positive approach to tackling the big Ukrainian.
News of another former champion saw a statue being erected in Fazana, Croatia to Mate Parlov. Parlov was there for the unveiling. Parlov was an outstanding amateur. He lost to Chris Finnegan in the quarter-finals of the 1968 Olympics but won the gold in 1972 and gold at the World Amateur Championships in 1974. As a pro he was European and WBC light heavyweight champion and beat Miguel Angelo Cuello, John Conteh and Tony Mundine. He lost his title to Marvin Johnson but then moved up to cruiser and drew and then lost to Marvin Camel in fights for the vacant WBC title before retiring. The greatest boxer ever produced by Croatia.
Axel Schulz is a former Wlad challenger who is still in demand. Schulz has been taken on by a major German TV company to do expert analysis for them and will kick off his new job during the coverage of the interesting fight between Vincent Feigenbutz and Ryno Liebenberg in Ludwigsburg on 17 February. It is an important fight for both men. Feigenbutz is rebuilding after losing on an eleventh round stoppage against Giovanni de Carolis for the secondary WBA super middle title in 2016. He has compiled six wins since then and is rated in the top 15 by all four bodies so can’t afford a slip up. Liebenberg went through a 1-5 spell with all five losses to world rated opponents. He stopped the rot with a win in October but this one could be too tough for him.
Two of the biggest stars in Chinese boxing, Zou Shiming and Rex Tso have both come through rocky periods. Since losing his WBO flyweight title to Sho Kimura in July the medical news has all been bad for Zou. He had suffered a variety of orbital fractures and his vision was affected by cataracts, vitreous opacity and other symptoms and surgery is needed. Despite that news Zou Shiming is adamant that he will recover and fight on.
In Tso’s case he has been in some very hard fights. He took a lot of punishment before beating Kohei Kono on a technical decision in October when the fight was stopped due to a large hematoma on the left side of Tso’s head. The only thing he has said about plans to return is that right now he has none so it is not known when or if he will fight again.
Isaac Dogboe’s win over Cesar Juarez has made a huge impact in Ghana and it is being used as a springboard to get the Government and sponsors to back boxing there. Dogboe has gone against the trend in as far as he first made a big splash when he competed at the 2012 Olympics in London and then won the English amateur title. He then scored his first six wins in fights in England, Switzerland and the USA before returning to Ghana to continue his career and won his title there. Generally boxers from Ghana have had to go elsewhere to get a title shot but there has been enough backing in Ghana for Dogboe to win the interim title. If he wants to fight the real WBA super bantam champion Jesse Magdaleno he is going to have to go to the USA but on a visit to the offices of the President assurances were given that the government was ready to support and solicit funds to aid Ghanaian potential champions in 2018. In the meantime it is situation normal for some Ghanaians. As I noted previously Habib Ahmed travels to Corpus Christi to challenge WBO super middle champion Gilberto Ramirez on 3 February whilst Raphael Mensah is reportedly to be in line to challenge WBA super feather champion Alberto Machado and Richard Commey will hope to build towards a second world title shot when he tackles 22-0 Angel Luna in San Antonio on 10 February.
These articles are submitted by guest writers and sites. They aren't submitted by the usual folk behind Asian Boxing and don't fall in line with our editorial stance, giving a fresh view on various boxing issues from the Asian boxing scene.