On Saturday night we had a WBA Light Heavyweight title bout, that saw defending champion Dmitry Bivol (16-0, 11) [дмитрий бивол] successfully defend his title against heavy handed American challenger Joe Smith Jr (24-3, 20). On paper this looked like it could have been a potentially tricky assignment for Bivol, but he managed to really just neutralise the dangerous challenger in what was a clear but unexciting win for Bivol.
Smith showed ambition from the off, and came forward, trying to set the pace but quickly found Bivol's footwork and movement to be too much. Bivol would land, get out of range and watch Smith miss. For the first 3 rounds it was clear that Bivol was too good, too sharp and too smart for Smith who had been made to look second best through the early stages.
Thankfully for Smith he did change things in round 4, when he began to let his hands go a bit more, and up the intensity. It worked and Smith would land one of his more notable shots, seemingly shaking Bivol for a moment with a right hand. The danger of Smith loomed but Bivol was too smart through the middle rounds to really come face to face with the danger. In fact the only real damage in the middle rounds was in round 7 when Smith's knees buckled big time from a huge left hand of Bivol's, though to his credit Smith withstood the follow up attack.
By round 10 it seemed clear that Smith was needing to land something huge, and he actually managed that, right on the bell to end round 10, when he sent Bivol stumbling to his corner. It was too late in the round to follow up on, but did show that the power was there for the American. The shot seemed to leave an effect on Bivol who was less with it in round 11, but never looked in any trouble as he continued to control the bout late on.
In the end there was no questions about the judges scorecards, with the judges turning in scores of 119-109, twice, and 118-110, all in favour of Bivol. It was a clear win for the champion, but a bit of a dull one, and it does seem like Bivol is becoming less and less interesting, a real shame. There is however a feeling that he will be heading down in weight and it may be that facing smaller men than Smith will allow Bivol to put on more entertaining performances than this.
Every so often a supposed mismatch ends up being less of a mismatch than expected, in fact instead of a mismatch we get a Fight of the Year contender as the perceived under-dog fights as if their career depends on their performance.
That was the case tonight when Chinese fighter Can Xu (16-2, 2) [徐灿] played his part in a bout with Jesus M Rojas (26-3-2-1, 19), for the WBA "regular" Featherweight title. The bout was a thrilling, pulsating and action packed 12 round war from two men who's style gelled perfectly.
Rojas was expected to win with ease. Most had predicted him to walk through Xu, score an easy early victory and defend his title without any issues. It seemed Rojas also expected that as he put intense pressure on Xu from the open bell. Xu backed off, but unloaded combinations when there space to work with, whilst Rojas worked hard on the inside, trying to make the fight a war.
As the rounds went on Xu's confidence grew and Rojas became less and less intense. The first 5 rounds were insane, all action, incredible intensity. The 4th may well go down as one of the best rounds of the year. But from then on the pace slowed, Rojas seemed to be the one feeling the tempo, and round 6 was a fantastic one for Xu who seemed to begin backing Rojas up.
Xu would go on to back Rojas up again in rounds 7 and 8 as the tempo really seemed to effect Rojas, who was only able to keep a high intensity for a minute or so in a round, rather than the 3 minutes he was pressing in earlier rounds.
Those rounds going to the Chinese fighter made things very interesting, though Rojas did do much better in round 9 as he stopped the rot. That a momentary respite for the Puerto Rican champion as Xu charged again in the final 3 rounds, again pressing, forcing Rojas back and stopping the champion from getting his breath.
Through the 12 rounds there was clear momentum shifts, Rojas easily the dominant fighter in the early stages, Xu in charge in the later rounds. The amount of leather both threw was insane, and it seemed an incredibly close fight as we went to the judges.
The first score read was 118-110, a score that didn't reflect the fight, the second was 117-111, and that didn't reflect the fight, and the third was 116-112. The third card was arguably, at best. Surprisingly however they all went for Xu, who scored a major upset here with a unanimous decision.
Rojas should feel aggrieved by the scores. It was a close fight, it could have gone either way, but it was not a 9-3 or 10-2 type of fight.
For Chinese boxing history was made, with Xu being the first Chinese fighter to win a world title above Flyweight, even if it is only the "regular" title, and we suspect he will be returning to China to fight in front of a huge audience in his first defense. A rematch with Rojas would be very welcome, we suspect it'll be a much easier bout than that for the new champion!
To end the a busy Saturday of boxing we saw WBA "regular" Welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39) easily defend the title for the first time, as he defeated American Adrien Broner (33-4-1-1, 24) in a lopsided decision.
From the opening round Pacquiao looked the sharper, quicker, more intense fighter. Despite that he did only look a shadow of the fighter he once was. There was very little output from Broner, who did his usual thing of throwing little and tried to look flashy with what he did throw. The difference in activity and output saw Pacquiao taking the first 3 rounds, with his jab being the key to his success.
Broner would show glimpses of what he can do in round 4, landing a number of good right hands, countering well and showing that he could time Pacquiao. It was a round that really showed what the American was capable of, though was a short lived and brief show of what he could do. In round 5 Pacquiao settled himself again, and by the end of the round Broner was looking like a clown as he missed with some wild shots at the bell.
Despite landing body shots through the first 5 round, the number of them picked up in round 6 as Pacquiao began to really bang the body of Broner. The American had done well in avoiding left hands up top, but struggled to avoid them to the body in what was the start of really clear Pacquiao dominance. The Filipino would hurt Broner in round 7, with a left hand, and show glimpses of his incredible combinations as he tried to take the American out soon afterwards. Broner, managed to hold, spoil and survive, but was clearly feeling the shots.
Body shots continued to land from Pacquiao in round 8, though it was in round 9, when Pacquiao landed a brilliant left hand. Once again Broner's toughness and defenses saw survive the storm, but it was clear he had been hurt, again.
As the fight went into the championship rounds it was clear Broner needed to find something else. In fairness to him he did have a good 10th round, making things more competitive as he began to box off his jab and landed one or two eye catching right hands. It was one of his most productive rounds, and arguably one of the few you could give to him.
Despite being competitive in round 10 Broner essentially did nothing in the final 2 rounds, once again going back into a defensive shell and trying to avoid a fight, rather than do what was needed to turn things around.
By the final bell there was no real question as to who won, despite Broner celebrating and being caught on camera stating that he had out boxed Pacquiao, and the judges cards were never in question. All 3 scored the bout to Pacquiao, with scores of 117-111 and 116-112, twice. The only thing surprising about the scores were how close they were, and it seemed like the judges gave Broner a sympathy round or 2.
After the bout Pacquiao stated he'd like to face Mayweather, if Mayweather is returning to boxing. That bout has been rumoured for a while and would be a smart decision for both men, as it would be a financially lucrative contest that would keep both men away from the young lions in the division. Talking about those young lions, none of them would be worried what either Pacquiao or Broner has to offer, and in fairness there is clearly bigger fish out there bigger fish to fry for the likes of Terence Crawford and Errol Spence.
The Light Flyweight division is one of the most interesting right now and today we saw interesting changing of the guard as the WBA Light Flyweight "Super" title was ripped from the hands of South African Hekkie Budler (32-4, 10) by Japanese sensation Hiroto Kyoguchi (12-0, 9) [京口 紘人], who became the first man to score a stoppage over Budler.
From the opening round Kyoguchi pressured the champion. That pressure wasn't successful early on, with Budler countering well, and making Kyoguchi pay for his technical mistakes. It was however pressure that began to pay off as early as round 2, when Kyoguchi began to land on the body of the champion with regularity. That regularity seemed to take a toll on, even if Budler was himself landing plenty of solid blows of his own.
In round 3 Kyoguchi continued to find the body of Budler, and also found success with more and more headshots, Budler seemed to have felt the power of Kyoguchi and was less willing to take risks, but used his speed, reach and footwork well to fight at range, a range heeded to be out. Sadly for Budler round 4 was his last with any notable success, as he seemed to grit his teeth, sadly the body shots seemed to take away some of his movement and he was being given more and more punishment, being stung notably in the later stages of round 5. From then on it was essentially more and more dominant from Kyoguchi.
The shots from Budler sounded like they were slapping blows, rather than real punches, whilst Kyoguchi was digging in his shots, really trying to hurt the champion. Something he did visibly in round 7, to both head and body. The consistency of Kyoguchi's work seemed to be slowly beating the fight out of Budler who was taking an increasing amount of head shots as the bout went on, especially uppercuts to the head. Budler's legs were still their but they were no longer getting him out of danger.
By the end of round 9 it seemed less a case of whether Kyoguchi would win, and more a question of whether he would stop Budler, who had been beaten up, battered and taken a lot of punishment. That question was answered at the end of round 10, a round that had seen Budler really dig into his reserve of toughness. That toughness was too much, and he was pulled from the bout between rounds 10 and 11, with his corner deciding enough was enough.
Despite a competitive start Budler began to look like an old fighter by the middle rounds, a combination of the body shots from Kyoguchi and his long career. When that happened Kyoguchi just broke his man, round by round.
For Kyoguchi this wasn't an amazing performance, it was a solid one though, but it was a fantastic result as he became the first man to stop the South African veteran, and a 2-weight world champion in just 12 bouts! A potential unification fight with Kenshiro looks on the cards and would be a massive fight for Japanese boxing. This also saw him gain revenge for stablemate Ryoichi Taguchi, from whom Budler took the title from earlier this year.
In 2016 we saw the WBA Minimumweight title being won by Knockout CP Freshmart (19-0, 7) [น็อคเอาท์ ซีพีเฟรชมาร์ท] as he over-came Nicaraguan fighter Byron Rojas (25-4-3, 11) in a mandatory title fight. Today the two men met again, this time with Rojas as the mandatory challenger to Knockout's title. Sadly however the bout was an unmemorable wrestle-fest, much like their first, with fouls, holding, lunging, and very messy work through out, much like their first bout which started well but became one of the most gruelling 12 round watches of recent memory.
Rojas started this bout looking sensational. He looked sharp, huge and powerful as he established his work very early, fighting at a high work rate and almost coming out like a fighter who knew he had to make an early impression. By round 2 however that work rate had slowed, and it allowed Knockout to get inside and work away up close, going to the body of the challenger, and even hurting him with a body shot.
Sadly round 3 was the start of the bouts messy down fall, with Rojas struggling to create distance, and Knockout doing everything he could to get inside, leading with the head, going low and generally spoiling. It made life difficult fro Rojas who was unable to create space, and often unable to free himself from the holding of Knockout.
Rounds 4,5 and 6 all followed a similar pattern, with a lot of holding and messy action, neither man clearly distinguishing themselves from the other. It seemed, perhaps, that Knockout was edging them, but a strong case could be that he was also the one responsible for the lack of action with Rojas at least looking to fight, rather than wrestle. Sadly for Rojas his frustrations became clear in round 7 when he suffered a cut to his right eye and seemed to argue with the referee. It seemed Rojas had also gotten annoyed by the style of the fight.
Knockout Finally started to have eye catching success in round 8, and that success lead to more success in rounds 9 and 10 as he began to let combinations go, and slurry the Nicaraguan, who looked tired, and frustrated. It seemed like Knockout wanted to go for the finish, and make a statement. In round 11 however Rojas began to land clean shots, including a massive right hand that would have taken down a lesser man, that was the start of a good round for Rojas who seemed to also do enough to take the final round, as Knockout cruised through the last 3 minutes.
At the final bell Knockout rush to celebrate in the corner whilst Rojas seemed to know he wasn't getting the decision. Something that was confirmed when the cards were read out as 115-113, 117-111 and 116-112, all to Knockout who retained his title, but once again bored fans.
For a fighter with such a great moniker Knockout really has failed to deliver excitement in recent bouts, and we do wonder how good he really is. On this performance he's better than Rojas, but not by a lot, and he's certainly not an exciting fighter to watch
The penultimate HBO card saw Kyrgyzstan born Russian Dmitry Bivol (15-0, 11) [дмитрий бивол] headlining, as he successfully defended the WBA Light Heavyweight title against former champion Jean Pascal (33-6-1-1, 20), who proved to be much gamer than expected.
The opening moments of the fight saw Pascal coming forward, but it was short lived ambition from the 36 year old Haitian-Canadian, who seemed to stop in his tracks when he was caught with a right hand late in the round. Although Pascal wasn't out and out hurt the shot it did seem like his confidence and desire disappeared almost instantly.
In round 2 Bivol began to land more consistently, using his excellent and busy jab. That jab was then used to set up all of Bivol's work, as he methodically broke down Pascal with clean shots to head and body. Pascal, to his credit, did have some moments but they were few and far between early on as Bivol slowly and carefully chipped away at him, seemingly scoring a knockdown in round 4, though it was ruled a slip.
In round 8 Pascal suddenly came alive, catching Bivol with a wild shot and following it up with hard, looping sloppy hooks. He seemed to Bivol who, for the first time, look a little worried, before holding and regaining his composure. It was Pascal's only chance, and it cost him as he seemed to put everything in to the follow up, which Bivol survived, before returning fire with interest.
The start of round 9 was delayed due to the tape on Pascal's glove, giving him additional time to recover his gas before the round began. That extra rest proved to be useful for Pascal who seemed again had moments in round 9 as he upped the tempo, at least for burst, and found the range for his jab and his hook in what was another good round for the challenger.
Bivol seemed like he had had enough of Pascal in round 10 as he upped the pace and began unloading straight shots on to the head of Pascal. Pascal dug in deep and survived the onslaught before pushing Bivol back. Bivol picked up the pace again in round 11 as Pascal was made to look slow through the round, due to Bivol's movement and output, both of which picked up during the round.
Going into the final round it seemed clear that Pascal needed a KO to win. He had done enough to take a round or two, but wasn't even close to being level on the scorecards. Despite Pascal needing a KO it was actually Bivol who was pressing the action in the final round, and it seemed like Pascal was happy to just see out the final bell, something very few expected from him.
At the end of the bout there was no doubting the winner, Bivol had been a clear winner. He had however taken far more shots than he'd have wanted, and ended up with a nasty bruise under his left eye, and had clearly not had the result he was wanting. Sadly for Bivol this is the second bout where he's failed to really shine this year, and although still unbeaten there is clear work to be done before he attempts to unify.
For those interested in the score cards, they were 117-111 and 119-109, twice for Bivol.
Few gave Filipino icon Nonito Donaire (39-5, 25) any chance in his WBSS quarter-final bout against the unbeaten #1 seeded Ryan Burnett (19-1, 9). Amazingly, though bizarrely, Donaire managed to get the win to advance to the tournaments semi-final and become the WBA Bantamweight “super” champion.
We mentioned “bizarrely” because the end of the bout was indeed bizarre, with Burnett injuring himself and needing to retire from the bout between rounds 4 and 5.
The fight started competitively, much more so than expected. Burnett had the edge in speed, something that everyone expected, but Donaire looked dangerous and had moments in the opening round. It was Donaire who pressed forward, though did have to eat some solid single shots from Burnett, who looked tiny compared to the Filipino.
The second round saw Burnett look better than he had in the opening round, looking sharper and crisper, with a brilliant right hand landing clean early in the round. Though Burnett looked good he was cornered at one point in the round and it seemed like Donaire's pressure was having some effect, and he was pulling Burnett into his fight.
In round 3 Donaire had success in cornering Burnett more often and his pressure really did show through, as he caught Burnett on a pretty frequent basis. Burnett still looked the crisper fighter, and he landed a really 1-2 mid way through the round, but he was cornered late and forced to eat some solid shots as Donaire let his combinations go.
Donaire continued to press in round 4, and despite falling short with a number of shots the pace began to slow and suit him. Burnett, really was slowing massively and doing little. Even when Donaire fell short there was little coming back from the champion. Sadly towards the end of round 4 Burnett turned his body, and went down in agony with what seemed like a back injury. He got back up but was a damaged fighter and Donaire knew it as he looked for a finish.
Burnett's toughness saw him see out the round, but rightfully he was pulled from the bout between round 4 and 5, and then left the ring on a stretcher.
We hope the injury is something that won't keep Burnett out of the ring for long, he's a really talented young fighter and it would be a huge shame if this effects his career long term. For Donaire it's a huge win and sets up a semi-final with Zolani Tete in the new year. If he gets through that and Naoya Inoue can get past Emmanuel Rodriguez we may end up with a huge WBSS final for Asia.
In one of the biggest shocks of 2018 we saw Ryota Murata (14-2, 11) lose the WBA “regular” Middleweight title, as he was soundly out pointed by mandatory challenger Rob Brant (24-1, 16). In a bout that was Murata's worse performance as a professional, which seemed to be a case of the Japanese fighter looking towards the future and over-looking the man he had in front of him. The lure of a big money bout with Gennady Golovkin at the Tokyo dome seemed to be on his mind through out, whilst he, and his team, likely though Brant had no chance to upset the apply cart.
From the opening round it looked like Brant had the ideal game plan, he was using a very sharp jab, a high level of activity and smart movement. His shots weren't hurtful on a single shot basis, but the first 2 rounds he unloaded with so many shots that he left Murata bloodied from the nose and swollen around the left, and in a hole. Murata's usually tight guard was being split time and time again by Brant who unloaded with such volume that shots were getting through, whilst Murata did little in return. Murata merely smiled through the shots, and did little to fight back.
In round 3 we saw Brant slow dramatically, and Murata had one of his best rounds as he connected to the body of the challenger. It was about the only round Murata won as he began to be out worked through the rest of the bout. He had moments, but seemed to fight like a man with only a single gameplan, and it all seemed to come down to landing a knock-out blow with a big right hand. The movement, and continual busy jabs from Brant, prevented Murata from really getting his distance or timing. Instead the Japanese champion only ever really managed to land single shots, whilst eating combinations in return.
By the middle of the bout Murata's right eye would be marked badly, to go with the swelling around the left and he was looking very much like a man who was getting worked over. His guard was being penetrated time and time again, and that was when he even had it up. All too often he was caught with his hands down by the fleet footed Brant, who avoided being cut off by the lumbersome and clumsy foot work of Murata.
Going into round 8 it seemed like Murata would need a knockdown at the very least, a knockdown that never looked likely. Instead it was Brant that seemed more likely to get a knockdown as he rocked Murata several times. It was too easy for Brant to land hard straight shots as Murata became more predictable and easier to counter. The body shots and inside work we'd seen from Murata in the past just weren't there with any consistency, there no jabs being thrown to set up his right hand and instead he was throwing the right hand in hope of landing clean. Given the fact he could never really set his feet against the agile Brant he never had any chance of landing the right hand cleanly.
As we hit the championship rounds Murata was needing a KO, and he know it. The need for a KO didn't make him change his tactics at all. Instead he kept lumbering forward, as Brant seemed to get his second wind, and at times in both rounds 11 and 12 Murata was hurt. He had moments in both rounds, but they were few and far between as Brant easily and clearly out worked him.
Going to the scorecard there was no doubting the winner, with the judges delivering cards of 118-110 and 119-109, twice, in favour of Brant.
We need to wonder what really went on in camp for Murata. His game plan was totally off, it seemed like he under-estimated Brant whilst focusing on the rumoured Golovkin bout and he totally under-delivered. Brant fought to the perfect gameplan, but it was a gameplan that wasn't ever put under-threat due to Murata's inability to switch styles, his failure to deal with Brant's jab and his lack of activity.
With his 33rd birthday coming in January we're unsure what Murata has left in his career, but it's obvious that if he's to return in 2019 he needs to seriously think about what he wants from the sport. This is his first legitimate loss, with the other being a really bad robbery against Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam, but it's hard to see what he has. He took a lot of punishment here and looked old, slow, clumsy and incredibly out of sorts. His popularity may be able to secure a rematch but his reputation has been badly damaged by this performance.
For Brant the door has opened for some big money matches, and we suspect there will be a number of fighters chasing a bout with him. This was a great performance but we suspect the leading contenders will see him as a lesser fighter than he looked here, against a man who looked terrible.
The World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) Season 2 began today and actually kicked off with a tape delay bout in the Light Welterweight division. The bout saw WBA champion Kiryl Relikh (23-2, 19) facing off with former IBF champion Eduard Troyanovsky (27-2, 24) in what looked like an excellent match up on paper. Sadly the bout didn't quite manage to have the fireworks expected of it, though still managed deliver a competitive and compelling contest between two well matched fighters. Just not one that quite managed to deliver the explosive action we had anticipated.
The first round was a close one with Troyanovsky getting his jab into the face of Relikh who looked to come in and make the fight a more active back and forth. It was a risky strategy from the Belarusian but one that showed his belief in his own durability. Relikh's belief in his physical strength saw him often being the man who pressed the action, but there was always a worry that Troyanovsky would land a brutal right hand, something he has done in the past even when being out boxed.
Relikh's insistence on coming forward was clumsy at times but saw him landing some solid left hands whilst Troyanovsky managed to land the heavier looking shots, particularly his jab and his counter shots. It looked like both men were dangerous, and both had the potential to stop the other, but neither man could ever quite land their cleanest and hard shots.
As we entered the middle rounds things began to get a touch sloppier, but the bout was hard to take your eyes off with Relikh continue to march forward, looking to land heavy shots but taking the occasional hard single shot from the big punching Russian challenger.
With Relikh applying all the pressure Troyanovsky was essentially fighting as a back-foot counter puncher, with a low output but landing clean hard punches as Relikh came in. Relikh's pressure had a break through in round 9 as he pinned Troyanovsky on the ropes and unloaded. Despite being under heavy pressure Troyanovsky countered well, landing a huge uppercut and a massive hook, but couldn't discourage the champion who kept marching in.
The final rounds saw the intensity drop but for the most part Relikh continued to be the aggressor, that was until the final minute, when Troyanovsky's power really hard it's first break through, hurting Relikh who backed off. It was the clearest round for Troyanovsky, thanks to a perfect 1-2 that really stunned Relikh and allowed him to take control. By then however it was too little too late.
The general feeling was that Relikh had always been the aggressor. Troyanovsky made great use of his jab through out, but was often looking the less hungry fighter and in the end this proved to be the difference, with Relikh taking the unanimous decision, with close card of 115-113 from all 3 judges.
After the fight Relikh was unhappy with his own performance, stating he hunted too much for the KO. Troyanovsky, who went 12 rounds for the first time in his career, seemed proud of his performance and a case could have been made the if he was just a year or two younger he'd have take the win here.
It's not often that Japanese fighters, fighting in Japan, get a chance to show case themselves. Today however we saw the WBSS turn their focus to Yokohama and the world got a chance to see WBA "regular" Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15) [井上 尚弥] show how devastating he is. The Japanese sensation was taking on former "Super" champion Juan Carlos Payano (20-2, 9) in what was a WBSS quarter final bout and Inoue's first defense of the WBA title.
Sadly for fans expecting a real show case of Inoue's skills, speed, and movement this wasn't the bout to show them off. Instead this was a 70 second blow out that saw Inoue really only land 2 punches, a brutal 1-2 that dropped Payano for the count.
The bout started with both men jostling for position. Inoue applied some pressure with his footwork from the off. Payano rushed in as he tried an attack but failed to land anything. A few seconds later Inoue threw a hard jab and followed it with a right hand, that dropped Payano hard. The Dominican wouldn't beat the count, and never looked like he was close to it.
With the win Inoue pogresses to the semi-final of the WBSS and shows that he really is the “Monster” with back-to-back opening round wins at Bantamweight.
Whilst Payano had never been stopped before there is an argument that he wasn't really a great opponent. He was 34 years old, had fought just once in the last year, had been dropped twice, and had never faced a world class puncher like Inoue. That however shouldn't take away from how impressive Inoue was, how destructive he looked and how he set two new Japanese records, extending his current stoppage run to 7 fights at world level and scoring his 11th stoppage win at world level, breaking records that he had previously tied with Yoko Gushiken and Takashi Uchiyama, respectively.
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.