Sometimes we expect something special and in the Cruiserweight division we do tend to get something special more often than not. Sadly this weekend's WBC Cruiserweight title fight between Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (49-3-1, 35) and Grigory Drozd (39-1, 27) really failed to live up to expectation and in many ways was one of the most frustrating bouts we've seen this year with rounds that had more holding than punches and for a number of rounds it was referee Ian John Lewis who was more active than the two fighters combined.
The fight started slowly, an expected feature of any Wlodarczyk fight where he has often been caught sleep walking through a number of early rounds with out doing much. This made it easy for the judges to have Drozd 4-0 up after 4 rounds based on what little work the Russian fighter actually did, which in all honesty wasn't a great deal though was eye catching when he let his hands go.
Having taken the first 4 rounds with relative ease Drozd added round 5 to the bank as he again out worked the Pole who was being even lazier than usual. It was frustrating to watch Wlodarczyk continue to sleep walk through fights, throwing an occasional and wild right hand that seemed more likely to hit a fan or the referee than to actually with Drozd who was surprisingly light on his toes for such a muscular fighter.
Sadly from 6 to mid-way through round 8 the bout went from frustrating boxing to a series of hugging, clinching, wrestling, spoiling and absolutely nothing resembling boxing as Drozd showed a lack of an inside game and Wlodarczyk showed a lack of desire. They were, to put it politely, some of the worse rounds we've seen this year with round 6 in particular standing out for a lack of action, a lack of punches and a lack of anything exciting. For rounds 6 and 7 to have been fought that way in a world title bout was genuinely embarrassing to the sport and it was a shame Ian John Lewis didn't do his job and warn both fighters for the holding, pushing, spoiling and general lack of action.
It was during all the holding that Drozd suffered a small cut, a replay at the start of round 8 showed the accidental nature of the cut which never threatened to end the bout. In round 8 however it was Wlodarczyk who suffered a cut from the crisp punching of Drozd. The shot that cut the Pole seemed to be a very good one and sent Drozd to a knee where he took his time to recover his senses and used his experience. From then on however there was very little from the Pole who seemed to accept his title was going to Drozd.
Drozd did picked up the pace in round 9 and seemed to have Wlodarczyk ready to go though backed off. From then on it seemed like Drozd was happy to unload his shots but never go full out for the stoppage. It wasn't so much that he was carrying Drozd but instead he seemed too scared to go for the kill, as if he had little belief in his own ability to take a shot. Whilst we wouldn't suggest Drozd was iron chinned Wlodarczyk was throwing nothing to make the Russian worry and at the end the bout petered out into a relatively clear and straight forward decision for the Russian.
Presumably this win for Drozd will set up some very interesting possibilities. He could fight unification bouts with Denis Lebedev, Marco Huck or Yoan Pablo Hernandez, he could also try to avenge his sole loss to Firat Arslan, or fight the winner of the up coming contest between Tony Bellew and Nathan Cleverly. We suspect however that he may take an easy voluntary before looking at a more interesting contest down the line. On the back of this victory however he will need to show more killer instinct if he's going to have a memorable reign as this was tiresome in parts, brilliant in others but overall not a memorable fight to watch.
Whilst we do tend to focus on the smaller weights we need to admit we love the Cruiserweight division which has given us some of the best fights over the last few years. One of those great fights, albeit one that left us with a feeling of anger, was last year's sensational contest between Guillermo Jones and Denis Lebedev (26-2, 20). That bout saw Jones defeating the Russian fighter though failing a post-fight drugs tests that saw Lebedev continue to have a loss on his record though get reinstated as the WBA world champion.
More than 16 months after the Jones/Lebedev fight we finally got to see Lebedev, the WBA Cruiserweight champion, back in action as he took on the previously unbeaten Polish challenger Pawel Kolodziej (33-1, 18).
The fight started slowly with Kolodziej using height and reach to keep Lebedev on the outside. It was a tactic that worked in some ways though slowed the bout to a near standstill at times. Unfortunately for the challenger it was also a tactic that wasn't going to work for long unless he had something extra in the tank. He didn't.
Part way through round 2 Lebedev connected cleanly, for the first time, and Kolodziej seemed stunned as if he was surprised by Lebedev's power. From then out it seemed to be a case of waiting for the follow up shot which came only moments later flooring the challenger hard.
Kolodziej, to his credit, managed to get up from the knockdown though had no idea where he was or what his body was doing and referee Guillermo Perez Pineda did the right thing stopping the bout with the Pole in no fit state to continue. Had he allowed the bout to go on the Pole would have been down almost immediately with Lebedev's power being too much.
Whilst this was a welcome return to the ring from the Russian fighter we do still wonder about the damage done in the Jones fight. Lebedev never got out of first gear, he didn't need to, and he never took any sort of a shot. We do wonder what happens when he does take a shot and when he does need to fight through adversity again. Hopefully he'll be the fighter he once was, but this bout told us next to nothing about what Lebedev has left.
Some fights look like fireworks as soon as they are made whilst others look very interesting. We'll admit we didn't expect fireworks in this weekend's final notable bout, the WBO interim Super Featherweight title fighter between Thailand's Terdsak Kokietgym (53-5-1, 33) and Mexico's Orlando Salido (42-12-2-1, 29) though what we ended up getting was a truly phenomenal contest with the men trading knockdowns and inflicting career shortening damage on each other. In fact the only negative on the bout was the referee who did his best to make the fight controversial.
The fight started well for Terdsak who surprisingly dropped Salido inside a minute to give us a very shocking start. Unfortunately that klnockdown was quickly cancelled out when Salido had a knockdown ruled in his favour from a blatant low blow. How the referee ruled the shot legal is a mystery though it was one of many mysteries that the referee left us with on a night he may wish to forget.
In round two we again saw Salido dropped, this time it was a hard knockdown and the Mexican took his time to get up and by the time he was upright the bell had gone to end the round giving him a minute to collect himself. That minute did Salido the world of good and he had his best round up to that point in round 3, the first round of the fight with out a knockdown. It was a Salido round and it was the first time the fans seemed to believe that their man was taking charge of the bout. The success from Salido grew and in round 4 he dropped Terdsak for a second time whilst also landing a lot of body shots which seemed to take their toll on the Thai.
Salido seemed to feel that Terdsak was their for the taking and went to work immediately in round 5 whilst neglecting his defense in the process. He paid for that by being dropped for the third time in the bout and giving us the 5th knockdown in as many rounds. Sadly for Terdsak that was his last major moment of success as Salido got up, dusted himself off and went back on the offensive applying constant educated pressure that Terdsak had no real answer for, barring an occasional uppercut.
In round 6 we again saw the referee try his best to add major controversy as he stopped the men with Salido on the offensive. It appeared he'd stopped the bout though 10 seconds later he made it clear he hadn't stopped it, though we're unsure what he was doing. Maybe he thought he'd heard the bell or maybe he thought the men in the ring were stealing the show and he wanted to get some of the limelight. Whatever it was was inexcusable from the official.
Although Salido may have felt he had had a victory robbed from him in round 6 it didn't stop his offensive work and in round 7 he scored his 3rd knockdown. Terdsak took a follow up attack surprisingly well though it was clear he was tiring, partly by the pace of the bout, partly from Salido's body shots and partly from the low blows which were landing round after round with no warning from the referee. Yes the referee who tried to steal the show managed to miss numerous obvious low blows.
The 8th round saw more offensive work from Salido who was really starting to come on strong and break down Terdsak who lost the clearly and the same applied to round 9. Sadly the referee missed more low blows, including a monster of a shot to the "gentleman's area" in round 9 that really deserved a break for the Thai who won't be having any "intimate moments" any time soon.
In round 10 it appeared that Terdsak had gone all in. He tried to fight head-to-head with Salido but the Mexican had a much better shot selection and work rate and it showed as he clearly won the round and left Terdsak looking like a tough but very beaten man.
Terdsak became a beaten man in round 11 as Salido unleashed a vicious assault that stunned Terdsak and then dropped him hard. The referee, for the first time in the fight, did the right thing and waved off the action immediately to give doctors a chance to get to Terdsak. Thankfully the Thai seemed fully responsive though appeared to be exhausted as much as anything.
The fight, which featured a total of 7 knockdowns might have been the last big bout of the weekend but was possibly the most exciting. It was, of course, a hard loss for Terdsak who may now consider retirement though he'll know that fans will be talking about this one for the rest of the year. For Salido his "reward" appears to be a rematch with Mikey Garcia, a man who dropped him repeatedly when the men met as Featherweights 20 months ago. That could be another painful night for "Siri".
For those who didn't catch the show we must advise you also watch the under-card war between Ramon Garcia Hirales and Javier Mendoza. It was another sensational contest on one of the best shows of the year.
(Image courtesy of Notifight.com)
Today we had the third Flyweight world title bout inside a week and although it was the least interesting bout on paper it turned out to be the most competitive as Amnat Ruenroeng (14-0, 5) narrowly retained his IBF Flyweight title with a split decision over mandatory challenger McWilliams Arroyo (15-2, 13).
The fight, like many, started slowly with both men trying to feel out the other. This slow pace suited Ruenroeng down to a tee as he pecked away with his jab and made the most of his long reach and quick hands. It wasn't so much that Ruenroeng won the round however as Arroyo did little to try and win it.
After the slow opening round the bout slowly warmed up as Arroyo picked up the pace and forced Amnat to revert to a counter puncher through rounds 2,3 and 4. These were very competitive rounds though they all seemed to be the champions rounds, marginally, courtesy of the flashier and more eye catching combinations that he was landing after Arroyo landed heavier but single shots. It was a case of "what do the judges like?" though on quantity it was certainly the champion who appeared to be opening up a notable lead.
The momentum shifted notable in round 5 as Ruenroeng began to look tired and and the determined challenger began having more and more success it was another close round though one that certainly seemed like an Arroyo round with Ruenroeng holding more and throwing much less. The shift towards Arroyo continued in round 6, his best round, as he dropped Ruenroeng hard just moments after being pushed over himself. On replay the knock down appeared slightly dubious though it was clear that Arroyo had the power to hurt Arroyo even if the show did look to be landed behind the head. Prior to the knockdown we had seen both men trading combinations in the stand out round of the fight.
Despite being badly hurt in round 6 Ruenroeng bounced back in round 7 and looked like a man possessed, or like a man who had had some Kratingdaeng, and took the fight to Arroyo from the bell. Unfortunately it wasn't long before Ruenroeng began holding and spoiling the work of the challenger who looked determined though frustrated due to the tactics of Ruenroeng which won't have won him international fans though will have pleased those who came to see their man retain his title.
From round 8 onwards both men began to look notably tired and struggled to get much clean and sustained offensive work between them. Arroyo went looking for hayemakers whilst Ruenroeng tied him up, wrestled him and generally tried to steal rounds in what was becoming a messy fight between tired men. For Arroyo however this seemed to help him as Ruenroeng's work rate continued to drop and he was trying to steal rounds on one or two bursts whilst Arroyo brought pressure throughout, most of was thwarted though the negativity of Ruenroeng didn't do him favours with the judges.
Going into the championship rounds it appeared that Arroyo would need another knock down to have any chance of winning. That however never came as a tired Ruenroeng did enough to holding him self up, stall the action and, several times, take Arroyo down with him, including what appeared to be a professional wrestling move at one point.
By the final bell both men appeared exhausted and didn't seem to know who had won. Fans on twitter seemed to feel Ruenroeng had done enough and although the judges w-ere split they too agreed that the Thai had just done enough to retain his belt with a split decision winning courtesy of scorecards that read 115-114, 114-113, 113-114. Cards that suggest they had several 10-10 rounds and acknowledging the possible lack of a clear winner in several rounds.
On the back of this performance Naoya Inoue will likely be hoping to get a fight with Ruenroeng later this year though Zou Shiming's team may also have seen the flaws with Ruenroeng that could give them hope of taking the IBF title early next year. Arroyo, for all his power and determination, didn't look like a world champion in the making and Ruenroeng didn't really resemble much of a world champion, with his holding and spoiling, in what was certainly a competitive but second tier world title bout at Flyweight. The two men who were in the ring here are a clear level below both Roman Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada, though in fairness Gonzalez and Estrada are elite level fighters in the best division in the sport.
(Image courtesy of http://www.kiatkreerin.com)
Boxing's lowest weights might be ignored by many fans for whatever reason but time and time again they deliver the best fights, the most action packed contests and some of the most enjoyable rounds that exist in boxing. Today we saw another war in the lower weights as Akira Yaegashi (20-4, 10) attempted to defend his WBC Flyweight title against Nicaraguan sensation Roman Gonzalez (40-0, 36). Unfortunately for Yaegashi he was up against a man who was just a bit too good and too powerful.
The fight started like many, with a relatively quiet round as both men tried to figure the other out. It wasn't as quiet as many opening rounds but was certainly not an action packed round with both men having too much respect to throw caution to the wind too early. From then on however the bout got better and better, heating up from the second round and getting better as it went on.
In round 3 we saw the crazy side of Yaegashi as he tried to take the fight to Gonzalez and seemed to be on course to winning the round before being dropped late. Despite the knock down being a big one Yaegashi got up at 6 and went back to taking the action to Gonzalez who obliged him for the remaining 20 seconds or so. From then on the bout took a pattern that was some what repetitive but thoroughly entertaining. It saw both men standing in front of each other and taking it turns to unload on the other. For Yaegashi it was a case of using his fast hands to land relatively light but sharp combinations up top whilst Gonzalez stood his ground and mixed up heavy shots to the bead and body with the uppercuts punctuating the combinations.
The flurry and action from both was beautiful to watch with neither man backing down and neither man refusing to throw back through rounds 4,5,6 and 7. Even when one man was back up it wasn't long before he turned the tables and fired back in rounds that were close, competitive and action packed. It wasn't a brawl, but it was calculated aggression from both who combined skills with their assault.
Sadly for Yaegashi he began to look exhausted in round 7 and although he refused to back down his assaults were becoming less and less telling. He was beginning to break down and his face, which is always susceptible to swelling, was beginning to show signs of the battle he was in. Gonzalez was slowing himself though was becoming more dominant due to Yaegashi's problems.
Although the Japanese fighter had looked tired in round 7 he ended round 8 looking completely exhausted and Gonzalez seemed to be able to smell blood. The toe-to-toe action was becoming less frequent with Gonzalez gradually beating up Yaegashi who was forced on to the retreat just to stay up right. Gonzalez, like a hunter, knew his pray was wounded though couldn't see off Yaegashi who relied on his toughness and heart to see the bell. Although Gonzalez hadn't managed to take Yaegashi down the referee went down towards the end of the round, just as it seemed that Yaegashi was canvas bound. It was a clear slip from the referee though still mildly amusing.
In round 9 Yaegashi came out like a man possessed and unloaded a long series of shots on Gonzalez. It was as if the Japanese fighter knew it was now or never and that he wasn't going to last much longer. It was his last charge towards victory though he hit a brick wall and Gonzalez fired back. The men exchanged combinations though Yaegashi quickly became ragged and his work coming undone quickly. This time Yaegashi had run out of steam too early in the round and Gonzalez knew it as he turned it on and a vicious combination sent down Yaegashi. The Japanese fighter seemed to think about getting up though the referee knew better and stopped the bout. It was as if both men knew there was only going to be one result if Yaegashi did get up, and that was that he was going to go back down.
Sadly for Yaegashi this brings his reign as WBC Flyweight champion to an end after 3 successful defences. It did however come to an end at one of the sports truly elite fighters and a man who seemed to show all the traits of a great. Not only is Gonzalez a fine fighter, he's also a fine young man, a credit to boxing and the human race and as shown in the post fight celebration, a truly respectful fighter. A fighter who encompasses the lost mentality of being a good sport as well as a great sportsman.
The fight wasn't our favourite bout of the year though it certainly deserves to be put on a short list for FOTY alongside the recent contest between Katsunari Takayama and Francisco Rodriguez Jr, both of whom have been Gonzalez victims in the past, and the OPBF Flyweight war between Koki Eto and Ardin Diale. In fairness however both of those fights did lack the skill level shown in here even if they were slightly more action packed.
(Image courtesy of http://boxingnews.jp)
When we see boxing fans talk about super talents we always make sure to mention WBC Light Flyweight champion Naoya Inoue (7-0, 6) who claimed a world title in just his 6th bout by stopping Mexican veteran Adrian Hernandez in 6 rounds earlier this year. In that fight Inoue announced himself on to the world stage in impressive fashion as if to tell the world "I'm a future legend"
Today Inoue effectively waved good bye to the 108lb Flyweight division as he successfully defended his title beat up the game but limited Samartlek Koietgym (17-5, 5) to record his first defence.
Inoue was in charge from the opening round and it was incredibly clear that the two men were in completely different leagues to each other. Samartlek, to his credit, refused to be intimidated and tried to fight back, even landing some flush power shots of his own, though all they seemed to do was bounce off Inoue as if they were nothing. In some ways it was disappointing that Inoue wasn't showing off his defensive ability though in other ways it was a case of the Japanese youngster showing how exciting he can be when he's on seek and destroy mode, similar to how he was against Jerson Mancio.
As the bout progressed Inoue became more and more aggressive, dropping Samartlek in round 4 and then beating him down over the following, one sided, rounds. He went from landing thudding single shots that snapped back Smartleks head to full blown combo's of power shots that were as genius as they were sickening. The head and body of Samartlek were targeted with the "Monster" switching between the two at will and punishing Samartlek every time the Thai threw a shot in anger.
The combinations just got better and better from Inoue who finally forced the referee to step in round 11 after landing, flush, with a monstrous right hand. It was the straw that broke the camels back and although Samartlek was on his feet he was in a major hole on the scorecards and taking a really vicious beating. It was clearly a mercy stoppage but it was the right thing to do considering how many flush shots Samartlek had been eating and how little he had been firing at Inoue.
Prior to the fight Inoue had made it clear that he had been struggling to make the 108lb limit and it now seems certain that he will vacate Light Flyweight to begin his campaign at Flyweight. At 112lbs we expect to see Inoue tighten up his defence though there is no doubt he's going to be a real nightmare to anyone at Flyweight. Hopefully no Flyweight looks at this performance and thinks that they saw the best of Inoue, they really didn't. What they saw was a man looking to excite fans, not show off how truly exceptional he is.
(Image courtesy of http://boxingnews.jp)
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.