By Eric Armit
The richest fight in boxing history is slowly edging its way across the starting line. Just a few I’s to cross and T’s to dot (Yes I know it is supposed to be the other way around but this is boxing so nothing is normal). There’s good news and bad news. The good is we have an idea of the day the deed will be done with a date somewhere in the spread between the last two weeks in July and the first week in August. The bad news is that it will almost certainly be in that great fight city of Jeddah. Not London, not Las Vegas, not New York. A city where human rights are ignored, women are treated as second class citizens at best, imported labour lives in squalid conditions with virtually no rights and alcohol is banned-and those are its good points! Putting those niceties aside from my visits to the area when working in the oil industry the only exercise you indulged in was rushing from one air-conditioned building to the next before the sun frizzled you up. Oil dollars will have bought the richest fight in boxing history and only 0.0000001% of boxing fans will be able to say “I was there” but it is better than no fight at all. I just hope we get a great fight-but if not there is always the return match-and don’t rule out a return of the return if it is 1-1 after the first two fights. Wonder where the 2022 fight will be staged!
Suddenly boxing is experiencing some seismic changes. Eddie Hearn is ending his association with Sky Sport and uniting with DAZN and taking his Matchroom fighters with him although Sky will continue to have an involvement in the fights of Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury. DAZN is planning to make the Saul Alvarez vs. Billy Joe Saunders fight available in the UK through its app. An indication of the competition it aims to bring to the UK market. Whilst that will be a blow to Sky Sport Boxing it leaves a gap for another promoter to enter into a partnership with Sky Sport. Frank Warren has an ongoing contract with BT Sport and there is another player entering the field.
Wasserman, a huge global sports agency, has bought the Sauerland organisation and it too is targeting the British boxing scene looking to use its massive wealth to sign up British boxers. Sauerland had looked to have taken its eye of the ball in Germany losing some key fighters and not announcing any star signings. There was also no mention of the future of the WBBS so it remains to be seen if it has a future after the way the cruiserweight tournament limped to a finish.
The farcical position with the WBA myriad of heavyweight titles continues. On 15 May in Hamburg Mahmoud Charr will defends his WBA title “champion in recess” against Chris Lovejoy the boxer with one of them most ludicrous records for any title challenger in any division at any time. However that is not certain as Don King has said he has an exclusive promotion contract with Lovejoy and is threatening to stop the fight. He did the same when Lovejoy was to have fought in Britain. The promoter in Hamburg is going ahead with the title defence and if it is not possible to use Lovejoy then he will ditch Lovejoy and replace him with another fighter. It has been over three years since Charr last fought and Lovejoy is not currently in the WBA rankings. He has had just one fight in the last two years and his last five opponents had records of 3-10-1, 2-18-0, 0-3-0, 6-52-2 and his last opponent in January was Misael Sanchez who was 12-16-7 and Box Rec had him at 433 in the World. The question is that since the WBA already have a Super, Secondary and Gold champion and Charr is champion in recess what title does the winner of the Charr vs. Lovejoy then hold?
Andy Ruiz is said to have dropped 60lbs in training for his fight with Chris Arreola. Of course the question is what weight he started at. He had gone from 268lbs to 283lbs for the two Anthony Joshua fights so if he has dropped 60lbs from the 268lbs he could make Bridgerweight but it would be nice to see him restore some pride.
They have only recently come on the scene and already I don’t like Triller. For their Fight Club night where Teo Lopez will defend his lightweight titles against George Kambosos they will be featuring a fight between Evander Holyfield and Kevin McBride for their Legends Golden Belt. McBride is in the hat because he beat Mike Tyson fifteen years ago but he is now 47 and like Holyfield has not fought for almost ten years. I don’t understand how boxing people can be attracted to something like this but the disease keeps spreading where it is either a case of “All Your Yesterdays” or media starlets with less ability than a six round prelim fighter but get paid more than a world champion. Only in boxing!
Plenty going on the bantamweights. Naoya’s next opponent will be Filipino Michael Dasmarinas but no date set yet. WBC champion Nordine Oubaali defends against Nonito Donaire on 29 May and John Riel Casimero will defend his WBO title against Guillermo Rigondeaux on 21 August. It can’t be a unifier since Rigondeaux only holds the secondary WBA title. Waiting in the wings are Ghanaian Manyo Plange and Melvin Lopez who meet in a WBA final eliminator on 3 July.
You would think that promoters would give the WBA a chance to manipulate their ratings before announcing a fight. Carlos Canizales will put his secondary WBA light fly title on the line against Mexican Esteban Bermudez on 28 May. Bermudez is not yet in the WBA ratings but on his form in his last two fights beating a guy who had never had a fight and getting a technical draw against a fighter with an 11-10-2 record he meets the stringent WBA standards easily. I am trying to come up with a sandwich board for the WBA with their logo on saying “buy your rating here”.
Cuban Erislandy Lara is aiming to become a two-division champion. On 1 May in Carson he faces Thomas LaManna for the secondary WBA middleweight title. Lara is currently the holder of the secondary WBA title at super welterweight and should beat LaManna but even if he does it will still only hold a secondary title which does not count in my view.
That guy has topped the ratings again. This time in his political career. Senator Pacquiao topped a survey on the Filipinos' preferred senatorial candidates for next year's national elections with 58.9 percent backing from those polled backing Manny with Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno second on 53 percent. Presidential candidate next Manny?
Five years late and still awaiting the results of a fresh investigation launched by the International Boxing Association (AIBA) into the conduct of judging and refereeing at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games as part of a series of reforms approved by the governing body's Board of Directors. All 36 referees and judges used for the boxing tournament at Rio 2016 had been suspended by AIBA over corruption concerns and would not be allowed to officiate at Tokyo 2021 or any qualifying events. The results of the original investigation were never published.
It was good to see that the Georgia Commission has changed the result of the fight between Regis Prograis and Ivan Redkach to a TKO for Prograis. The theatrics by Redkach writhing in agony on the canvas from a “low” blow kidded the officials into deciding to go to the cards and Prograis was declared the winner on technical decision even though the large screen replays showed not only that the punch passed outside of Redkach’s left elbow but also that it only brushed Redkach’s side.
After Zou Shiming won his second Olympic gold medal and turned pro in 2013 it was being shouted from the rooftops that China was going to be the next super power in boxing. No one is even whispering that now. There are few professional fighters and most of those are still at the novice stage and without the tournaments to help them develop their skills they cannot succeed. China has one title holder Can Xu who holds the secondary WBA lightweight title and one No 1 in Meng Fanlong at light heavyweight with the IBF but no one seems to be pushing his case for a challenge to Artur Beterbiev. Heavyweight Zhilei Zhang had his limitations exposed by Jerry Forrest in their drawn fight. Hong Kong’s Rex Tso was tipped to be a star when he won his 22 fights but his wide open style saw him taking too much punishment and he wisely retired in 2017 (ed's note - Tso currently fights in the amateur ranks). Box Rec lists 21 Chinese heavyweights but other than Zhang only one of them has had more than five fights. There are 17 light heavyweights listed and the most active fighter has had only seven fights. It is a similar picture at flyweight with 25 listed with only four having had more than ten fights and the most experienced on 15. No investment-no returns.
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features