So it is two down and one to go. We now know who will be the finalists in the WBSS cruiser final and we almost know who will be in the super middle final. The decision on the super middles will depend on a medical report on George Groves shoulder injury. Hopefully there will be a concession available to put the super middle final date back if necessary to allow Groves to compete but there will be TV dates and other financial considerations. It had been said that if Groves could not fight then Chris Eubank Jr would take his place but the bad gash suffered by Eubank must also make him doubtful for the final. If he is not available then I am not sure who would step in but it would have to be stronger opponent than Nieky Holzken. The Dutchman gave a good account of himself but was never a danger to Smith. I would hate to think that Sauerland would look to slip in Juergen Brahmer but don’t rule that out. Subject to it being Smith vs. Groves and Olek Usyk vs. Murat Gassiev then the WBSS could count itself as a 100% successful on its selection of participants as these are the pairings that most people wanted and expected to be in the finals. I am sure there were others that the WBSS would have liked to pick but not everyone was willing to hand their fighters over to the WBSS. One thing you can be sure about is that when the smoke clears the sanctioning bodies will already be looking for ways to split the titles again.
WBSS was subject No 1. Number 2 was the mini super fly extravaganza last weekend with Srisaket, Juan Estrada and Carlos Cuadras in action. The outcome there just muddied the waters. Srisaket’s win over Estrada was controversial and there is talk of a return with the WBC saying it would not stand in the way of such a fight. Then you had Cuadras, who was fighting McWilliams Arroyo as a warm-up to being next in, line for the winner of Srisaket vs. Estrada getting beaten. There is the potential in this division for a WBSS-type tournament with Srisaket, Estrada, Cuadras, Arroyo who has to be in the picture now, WBA champion Khalid Yafai and WBO champion Naoya Inoue and IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas and even Roman Gonzalez could be in the mix. It won’t happen because there are too many different promoters/ TV companies involved who won’t work with each other.
No 3 is the heavyweights. Deontay Wilder and Luis Ortiz meet on Saturday, WBC No 1Dillian Whyte and Lucas Browne meet on the 24 March, Anthony Joshua fights Joseph Parker on 31 March, WBA No 1 Alex Povetkin fights David Price on the undercard to Joshua vs. Parker and Tony Bellew and David Haye have their return on 5 May. Jarrell Miller, whose name is being bandied around as a possible opponent for Joshua post Parker, fights Johann Duhaupas on 28 April so the heavyweights are really getting things sorted with the three champions and their No 1 challengers all in action-and that’s without Tyson Fury throwing his hat in the ring. Oh dear I am forgetting the secondary WBA title fight between Manuel Charr who has lost to Povetkin and Duhaupas and was knocked out by Mairis Breidis against Fres Oquendo who last fought in July 2014. Even Charr’s team do not want this fight. They bid $101,000 for it against the $600,000 bid by Oquendo’s team but of course Oquendo’s team have had four years to save up the money to make the bid.
To put that money into context Danny Garcia was paid $1.25 million for the non-title fight with Brandon Rios and Rios $500,000. For those interested in money-and who isn’t-on that show David Benavidez was paid $400,000 and Ronald Gavril $125,000. By comparison with those figures the super flyweight flurry was relatively cheap at Srisaket $250,000, Estrada $100, 000, Brian Viloria $50,000, Donnie Nietes $40,000, Juan Reveco $30,000 and Cuadra and Arroyo $25,000 each. When you consider the quality of fighters such as Srisaket, Estrada and Nietes it appears there grounds for a legal challenge. Never mind equal pay and discrimination against women how about equal pay for the little men suffering from discrimination on the grounds of weight?
With regard to Gonzalez promoters in Nicaragua are said to be trying to set up a Nietes vs. Gonzalez fight in Managua at the new Alexis Arguello Arena in June.
It is not just the cream of the heavyweights (or cheese in the case of Charr vs. Oquendo) that are going to be in action over the next three months. Charles Martin returns on the Wilder vs. Ortiz undercard against Curtis Harper, Andy Ruiz returns against Devin Vargas on 10 March, Robert Helenius fights Yuri Bykhautsou in Estonia on 17 March, Hughie Fury faces Sam Sexton for the British title on 12 May, Agit Kabayel is to defend his European title against Alex Dimitrenko. Otto Wallin and Adrian Granat clash for the vacant European Union title on 21 April in what must be the biggest fight in Sweden since professional boxing returned there and Eddie Chambers is said to be returning after two years out. Coming through are Daniel Dubois, Tony Yoka, Oscar Rivas, Adam Kownacki, Simon Kean, Tom Schwarz, Filip Hrgovic. Nathan Gorman, Trevor Bryan, LaRon Mitchell and Junior Fa. All unbeaten. If you are a heavyweight and you are not fighting in the next three months fire your manager!
So Manny Pacquiao feels insulted to be offered a fight against Mike Alvarado on the undercard to Jeff Horn vs. Terrence Crawford. I can quite understand that considering all the Pacquiao has achieved but what other options are there out there for him. He is talking about fighting Lucas Matthysse in Kuala Lumpur on 29 April or 5 May which is feasible but probably tougher than Alvarado. Pacquiao really needs to be thinking of how he wants to end his career he needs to remember how Floyd Mayweather went out with a whimper fighting Andre Berto so let’s hope he has a better plan than that.
Frank Warren’s show at the O2 on 14 April is looking a high quality night. Apart from the all-British WBO middle weight title fight between Billy Joe Saunders and Martin Murray and Terry Flanagan vs. Maurice Hooker for the vacant WBO super light title there is also a good English super middle title fight between two unbeatens Darrell Williams and Lennox Clarke with Anthony Yarde, Daniel Dubois and Ohara Davies against TBA’s.
Luis Nery is a disgrace. Not only is he a drugs cheat but he even defrauded the promoters and TV on Thursday by failing to make weight. The disgrace is that he was 5lbs over at the first weigh-in. He managed to lose 2lbs but was still well over the limit and rightfully stripped of his title. After all that you can be sure that when he rehydrated he would have a big advantage over Shinsuke Yamanaka who may even have weakened himself to make the weight. The Japanese had paid for a fight between two bantamweights and they did not get that. The WBC also has to explain what happened with trial weights. If Nery was 5lbs over at the first weight how much over was he a week before that?
I feel sorry for Artem Dalakian. He is rated No 1 and wins the vacant WBA flyweight title by beating No 2 and within a couple of days is told he has to defend against No 3 by quoting a rule they rarely follow. As if that is not bad enough the guy he has to fight, their No 3, was knocked out Juan Reveco in 2014 and has never fought anyone remotely near the ratings since then. Over the past 12 months he has won five fights and his victims had combined record of 5-16. More WBA rubbish
Lee Haskins is looking to rebound from his crushing loss against Ryan Burnett which cost him his IBF bantam title. Lee is now to meet Frenchman Omar Lamiri for the vacant EBU title with date and venue to be advised. Another British fighter with European business on his calendar is Thomas Ward who has to defend his European title against Frenchman Samir Ziani with again date and venue to be advised.
Probably the most interesting of the British vs. Europe fights is the one in Bilbao on 24 March where WBA No 3 Bradley Skeete 27-1 faces the local hot prospect WBA No 7 Kevin Lejarraga 24-0 19 wins by KO/TKO for the vacant European welterweight title. A real hard one to pick a winner.
An all-European title fight on 24 March in Marseilles will see Frenchman Arsen Goulamirian 22-0 take on Belgian Ryad Merhy 24-0 for the vacant secondary WBA cruiser title. Another piece of WBA convoluted madness. They made Denis Lebedev champion in recess so that they could upgrade Yunier Dorticos to super champion so the fight with Murat Gassiev could be a unification fight. Gassiev won so he is now their super champion and Goulamirian vs. Merhy is for the secondary title and poor old Denis Lebedev is left sitting in the corner like little Jack Horner (old British nursery rhyme character).
It is not that long ago the Felix Verdejo was considered to be the lightweight champion of tomorrow. An injury and other problems derailed that expectation for a while. He hopes to get his title train back on track when he returns to action on the Top Rank show in New York on 17 March against Mexican Antonio Lozada on the undercard to the two WBC title fights of Juan Carlos Ramirez vs. Amir Imam form the vacant super light title and Olek Gvozdyk vs. Mehdi Amar for the interim WBC light heavy title. It will be the first fight in 13 months for Verdejo. Lozada was considered a good prospect himself when he was 23-0 with 20 wins by KO/TKO. He is still an impressive looking 38-2 but some of the shine has rubbed off. Just to show how farcical the sanctioning bodies can make our sport on 9 March Regis Prograis fights Julius Indongo for the interim WBC super light title and just eight days later Ramirez fights Imam for the full title and what worries me is that they do not even see how stupid this makes them look. Try explaining that to a non-boxing fan and try making sound sensible. Never mind that try explaining it to a boxing fan and making it sound sensible.