Last weekend saw the 49 year old Bernard Hopkins foll back the clock as he managed to over-come the significantly younger Beibut Shumenov and unify the IBF and WBA "super" titles at Light Heavyweight. Less than a week later another fighter over the age of 40's looks prove that age is just a number as Panama's controversial 41 year old Guillermo Jones (39-3-2, 31) returns to Russia his second straight fight.
In his last bout Jones controversially defeated Russian hard man Denis Lebedev (25-2, 19) to supposedly unify the WBA regular and WBA "in recess" titles. Things however didn't quite end up like that as the win was later ignored by the WBA following irregularities with Jones's drug test. This saw Lebedev reinstated as the WBA regular champion and now, 11 months later, we get a rematch as the men go to war again.
The first fight, last May, was genuinely amazing. Both men had to give and take in a back-and-forth way that saw Lebedev effectively punching himself out whilst landing massive bombs on Lebedev who appeared to be a division bigger than the Russian. Eventually a combination of exhaustion and Jones's punches took their toll and a badly swollen, bloodied and battered looking Lebedev was stopped.
The bout saw Lebedev praised for his insane amount of heart, it saw Jones, prior to the drug tests, praised for his skills despite being 40 years old, it saw both men praised for the action and excitement whilst the referee, doctor and Lebedev's corner were all criticised for putting the Russian's health at risk. The overall feeling was that Lebedev would never be the same, Jones was capable of unifying the division and we'd had an absolute classic.
Unfortunately all the praise of Jones was questioned when his drug test came back as dirty with many suggesting his energy and immense size advantage had been down to drugs. Whether Jones's performance was, or wasn't, due to performance enhancing substances is likely to be debated many times in the future one thing that won't be debated is just how much we're looking forward to the rematch.
Of course 11 months is a long time. For Jones it was 11 months of ageing, 11 months of getting naturally older and 11 months of collecting rust. Sometimes a break from the ring can do a fighter the world of good but Jones has now fought just 11 rounds in well over 2 years and just 17 rounds in 3 years and just 28 rounds in 5 and a half years.
Whilst the lay off for Jones was about ageing we'd presume that the 11 month lay off for Lebedev was more about recovery. His face was a genuine swollen mess at the end of the last bout and he really needed time to recover before even thinking about returning to boxing. His right eye was a swollen, disgusting, discoloured mess, whilst the left side of his face was cut both above and below the eye. The break from the ring wasn't so much desired as needed.
In their first fight Lebedev threw everything at Jones, including the kitchen sink, but never managed to dent the Panamanian who proved his toughness was first class. Genuinely the chin on Jones had to be made out of titanium. He took huge shots and never took a step backwards. Unfortunately for Lebedev he wasn't the only one with heavy artillery and Jones landed straights and uppercuts almost at will as he deformed Lebedev's face. Although Lebedev will never be described as a "pretty boy" he ended looking a bit like a gargoyle.
Unfortunately for Lebedev his return to the ring leaves us with a lot of questions. Firstly will he be the tough, powerful, gutsy fighter he once was or will the "loss" to Jones last year have taken too much out of him? Will his face swell up like it did last year? Will it swell up even easier than it did last year? What has the 11 months really done for Lebedev's health? And most importantly does he believe he can beat Jones?
For Jones there is also questions. Was he cheating? If so is he going to be able to replicate his performance from last year with out the substance he is reported to have taken? Is father time going to be too much for Jones at last? Did Lebedev manage to take anything out of Jones last time out?
From where we're sat there is no way Lebedev will be the fighter he was a year or two ago. It's a real shame but there is no way a fighter can take that much punishment and be the same man afterwards, he was effectively put through a human grinder. With that in mind we expect to see Lebedev against have his face swelling, cutting and seriously damaged. The shots of Jones might not be concussive but they are heavy and damaging and this will be, unfortunately, the key to this bout with the reach and length of Jones helping him land shots at will on the brave Russian.
We'd love to see Lebedev win, he's one of the most exciting fighters out there, but unfortunately we don't it happening, especially not after what happened last year. Lebedev is still going to be caught by the heavy straights, the venomous uppercuts, the clean hooks and the hard jabs that completely destroyed his face last year and will again this year.
Courtesy of Steffaville
The Cruiserweight division over the past few years has been one of the sports most entertaining divisions despite often being over-looked. Fighters Marco Huck, Steve Cunningham and Yoan Pablo Hernandez have really put the division in to the limelight thanks to entertaining battles time and time again.
For many the best Cruiserweight on the planet, isn't one of the names mentioned above but is in fact Russian hard hitter Denis Lebedev (25-1, 19) who makes the second defense of his WBA title this Friday when he faces Panamanian Guillermo Jones (38-3-2, 30).
Lebedev, pictured above with Enzo Maccarinelli, is a short Cruiserweight (as seen quite evidently in the picture), though he's also a stocky, powerful fighter who can often negate his size disadvantages. Aggressive he's strong and hurtful, though also has very solid over-all skills, good patience (a little too good at times) and a fantastic finishers instinct.
Having faced a relative who's who in recent years, including James Toney, Roy Jones Junior, Maccarinelli, Huck and Alexander Alekseev it's fair to say that Lebedev is a proving quality. Sure he's managed to get a reputation of scalping big names who past it (Jones and Toney) but fights with Huck, Alekseev and Maccarinello were all against solid contemporaries.
The fight with Huck has been the most "interesting" of Lebedev's career so far. Although he "lost" a decision (a highly controversial one) to Huck, Lebedev showed not only his powerful punching (which apparently broke a rib of Huck) but also his solid boxing as he forced Huck to box almost entirely off the ropes. Out-manning Huck is never an easy task but Lebedev made it look genuinely simple.
Aged 33 Lebedev isn't a spring chicken but for a Cruiserweight he's still got a few years at the top and despite his face looking "weathered" he hasn't really been in many wars.
In Jones we have a very interesting challenger who has a career full of ups and downs.
Aged 41 Jones has been a professional since 1993 and has seen his body change from that of a lanky Welterweight kid to full grown Cruiserweight man. Although still very tall for the weight it was always amazing that he could ever have made Welterweight like he did in the early 1990's.
When fighters move up in weight we tend to see them scoring few stoppages but for Jones the move up hasn't really been shown to effect his power. At Welterweight, Light Middleweight and Cruiserweight he has been shown to hit hard enough to keep fighters honest with out necessarily being concussive (at least at world level).
At his best Jones was a very talented fighter who had exceptional skills and lived up to his name of "El Felino" (The Cat). He was quick, elusive, tough when he needed to be and hit with very clean but yet sneaky shots. His victories over Wayne Braithwaite, Firat Arslan and Valery Brudov were all solid victories and in fact he could well have also had notable victories over Steve Cunningham and Johnny Nelson had the judges favoured him like many fans did.
It was however, a long time ago that Jones was in his prime and what he has left is a really a big question. At his best he could certainly have held his own with the top Cruiserweights from throughout history though with just 2 fights in the last 4 years it's fair to say that he is not still at his best.
Prime for prime it'd be hard to go against Jones who will take a 5" height advantage and a notable reach advantage in to the ring, now however the logical view is Lebedev to win.
With his power, strength, explosiveness and excellent inside game it wouldn't be the biggest shock if Lebedev managed to stop Jones late in bout. The aging former champion, who actually enters on the back of 7 straight victories (6 by stoppages), is probably going to be made to look his age here.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.