Not many fights really deserve slating and, whilst we might not always agree with referees decisions, they rarely seem to be clueless. Unfortunately the fans in Macau got both a stinking world title fight and a referee who seemed to have a penchant for homo-erotic holding.
Whilst we understand that styles can make or break fights a fighter really shouldn't be allowed to deliberately break a fighter. It's even worse when the referee appears to be part of the reason for a fight failing to break out though that's exactly what Ernie Sharif did.
We had, like fans around the world, been looking forward to seeing Miguel Vazquez (34-3, 13) defend his IBF Lightweight title against Denis Shafikov (33-1-1, 18). Whilst we were looking forward to the contest before hand we were left feeling disgusted and abused by the fight which had more breaks and more hugging than we'd ever expect to see in a world title fight.
The fight started predictably with Vazquez using his footwork and jab to keep Shafikov at range. If you'd seen Vazquez before you'd have seen him do that to various other opponents as he showed off what he can do at his best. Unfortunately, however, for the sake of entertainment, Shafikov managed to cut the range. Vazquez's solution for when the distance was cut was to hold...and hold...and hold. He really had no other idea on what to do when he wasn't at long range.
Holding up close can be acceptable as long as it's not a fighters sole way of coping with a fighter up close. Unfortunately Vazquez had no other gameplan up close other than to hold and the referee, who should have been doing his job and deducting points merely allowed him to get away with it then tell them to break. This tactic, whilst effective in ending any momentum that Shafikov could get going, was allowed far too often and in a number of rounds it appeared that Vazquez was holding more often than he was punching.
What made the efforts of the referee even more frustrating was that he was often warning for other things caused by the holding but yet never acting on the warnings. For example hitting behind the head whilst holding, or Vazquez pushing Shafikov down. In most of those few times where the referee did act like he card he made a point of warning both men and not just the one responsible for the holding.
Although Shafikov's pressure did seem to be having an effect in round 4 it was neutralised so effectively by the holding in the following rounds that the fight was never in doubt. If anything the fight merely become unexciting, actionless and frustrating to watch. Even the crowd, who had been excellent throughout the show, seemed to make it obvious they didn't care with one fan shouting "stop wrestling" in the otherwise silent venue.
The holding hadn't just riles us up but also Miguel Diaz, who was in the corner of Shafikov. Diaz, a very respected trainer, made his view of the referee known and on 4 separate occasions he let his view of the referee be known. Unfortunately for Diaz and his man the referee didn't seem set to deduct points for repeated holding.
By round 8 the holding had ruined any sense of a fight and many, including ourselves, were just waiting for the final bell. It was obvious that Shafikov would have needed a knockout to get a win, though he may have found that any knockout blow he landed would have been ruled illegal anyway.
The only real surprise at the end of the bout was that two of the cards ha the fight close with one judge having it 115-113 and one having it 116-112, the third judge may have gone too far the other way with a 119-109 card but there was only one winner at the final bell.
Although Vazquez retained his title he certainly didn't make any new fans and may well find himself struggling to get any sort of fights in the future. He's talented but so negative and fight destroying that we can understand fans refusing to have anything to do with him. As for Shafikov he probably won't get another title fight in the tough Lightweight division which is a shame considering he did try and make a fight even if Vazquez and referee Sharif did prevent him from doing so.
(Picture courtesy of Toprank)
Upsets and shocks are part of this sport, they are part of why we love boxing and part of the reason why we follow the sport despite the suspect politics and bizarre decisions made by judges, referees and officials. Unfortunately for us, as Asian Boxing, we are on the reverse side of an upset today.
This past Saturday saw Filipino Rey Loreto score a stunning stoppage of Nkosinathi Joyi. Today however the upset came against China's Xiong Zhao Zhong (22-5-1, 12) as the diminutive Chinese fighter lost his WBC Minimumweight title to the unheralded Osvaldo Novoa (13-4-1, 8).
Zhong, who went in to the bout widely regarded as a top 10 fighter in the division, was expected to defeat his visiting opponent who was fighting outside of Mexico for the first time. Unfortunately however Novoa turned out, just like Loreto, to be much better than his record indicated.
The fight actually started well for Zhong who seemed to do enough to just take the opening round. Unfortunately that was the best he could do as Novoa managed to up the pressure, get inside and rough up Zhong with his strength and power. From then on it seemed like Zhong was fighting against the tide. Novoa's natural size, reach and power seemed to be taking it's toll on Zhong who always looked like a freakishly strong 105lb fighter.
When the WBC open scoring kicked in after round 4 there was no denying Zhong was in trouble. All 3 judges had the fight 39-37 in favour of the Mexican who had clearly won everything other than round 1 as Zhong had struggled to even make a dent in his physically imposing Mexican rival.
Unfortunately for Zhong things never got any better as Novoa found another gear and battered the Chinese fighter in round 5 eventually prompting forcing Filipino based referee Bruce McTavish to call a halt to proceedings with Zhong unable to weather the storm any longer.
For Zhong this likely the end his career at the world level. This sort of a loss won't do him any sort of favours when looking over his career and unfortunately will leave many feeling he really was little more than a WBC puppet. Sadly however Zhong just ran into a stronger, more complete and determined fighter who wasn't to be beaten on this night.
For Novoa it seems certain that he'll be one to watch in the future. He's exciting, aggressive and highly dangerous. Whilst we'd not doubt that Katsunari Takayama would love to fight him we can't imagine many others will be queuing for a fight with him.
Incidentally the #1 contender for Novoa is Thailand's unbeaten Wanheng Menayothin, my my what a fight that could be...
When we talk about the most exciting and most well liked fighters it's fair to say that Gennady Golovkin (29-0, 26) is amongst them. He's a star when he fights anywhere in the world and that was shown again tonight when he returned to Monte Carlo in Monaco and had fight fans from more than 100 countries watching him in action.
Whilst the big issue about the fight was that US TV weren't covering the contest that didn't prevent the fight from being a big event globally and with Golvokin's exciting style that was never a doubt, despite the fact he was facing a massive underdog in the form of Osumanu Adama (22-4, 16).
Adama, fighting in his second world title fight was given no chance, yet the fight was still viewed as a major contest. Unfortunately for Adama those writing off his chances were completely right with Golovkin taking control of the fight from the opening round.
The power of Golovkin was on show early as he shook Adama onto his heels with the first jab he landed. It was clear that Adama was tough but he had felt the power of Golovkin and knew he'd rather not have too much of it. As a result of feeling the power Adama got on his bike and went into reverse gear trying to take the sting off Golovkin's shots. This worked for much of the first round before he was dropped right on the bell.
Adama continued to try and do everything off the back foot and lost round 2 with out doing too much to fight back. Thankfully, for the sake of entertainment, Adama managed to find some confidence and fought back well in rounds 3 and 4, actually leaving Golovkin's nose bloodied in the process.
Despite showing some bravery and fighting back Adama was unfortunately unable to ever get the respect of Golovkin who kept coming forward landing hard shots upstairs and downstairs. Even the biggest shots of Adama seemed to bounce off Golovkin who just kept coming forward and landing his hard shots.
It was obvious that sooner or later Adama would be made to pay for his growing confidence and that almost happened towards the end of round 5 when Golovkin seemed to punch Adama across the ring. The champion, realising that Adama was starting to break down went on the offensive straight away to start round 6. Adama, doing all he could to survive spat out his gum shield and got a warning for it as it was obvious he was starting to feel the heat. The spitting out of the gum shield hardly helped Adama who was dropped soon afterwards.
Amazingly Adama showed the courage to get up again but he was starting to look like a beaten man and in the opening stages of round 7 he was down again, this time from a jab. Adama got up again and tried fight back but a left hook buckled his knees and this time the referee decided enough was enough.
Whilst Adama had shown bravery and heart he had been beaten up. The stoppage, when it came, may not have been the best but in all honesty Adama wasn't in the fight, he had little to offer and was way down on the cards and starting to look like a man who was breaking down. It wasn't a great stoppage but it was one that seemed inevitable and one that only served to save Adama from further damage that he really didn't need to take.
Golovkin is now expected to return to US soil to fight in April as he continues to be one of the busiest fighters at the world level, that fight wi
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.