By Eric Armit
The world changes around us. For the first time a clash between two female boxers will head a card at the iconic Madison Square Garden. There are other firsts associated with the fight between Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano such as the first guaranteed seven figure purse for female boxers, which will be further increased by pay-for view, such as Taylor having scored a win over Serrano’s sister Cindy, such as Serrano being in the Guinness Book of Records for the most world titles won in different divisions (seven) by a woman, such as Taylor being in the first sanctioned woman’s boxing match in Irish history when still only 15 and so much more. Who would have thought as they sat watching Ali vs. Frazier I and II that for the Garden, which over its various reincarnations has staged so many great fights, one of the most significant fights in its history would be between two female boxers. It is a huge event for female boxing probably the highest profile female fight to date so let’s hope it helps interest in female boxing climb to an even higher level.
It is always good to see a young fighter break through and Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez certainly did that. Just 22 he came in at short notice to fight Carlos Cuadras for the vacant WBC super fly title. He had only 15 pro fights behind him with Cuadras having had 44 with eight of those being title fights of which he had lost only one. What was even more remarkable is that Rodriguez was really a light flyweight. In his last six fights he had weighed 109 ¼ , 109, 111, 109 ¼ , 110 ½ and in last fight before meeting Cuadras in October 109 ¼ with the WBC having No 6 in the light flyweight division before allowing him to jump him two divisions to fight for their super flyweight title. Risky but it worked out more the okay.
Good to see Errol Spence will be back in the ring on 16 April facing Yordenis Ugas with Spence’s IBF and WBC titles and Ugas putting up his WBA title. So another step along the way to a unified division. Terrence Crawford is in the wings with his WBO title but with Spence vs. Ugas for April he will have to wait another eight months at least for any unification effort and of course the No 1’s with the IBF, WBA and WBC will be pressing their cases for a shot at Spence or Ugas so no certainty of a unification fight for Crawford. I am still waiting to find out who was whispering in Crawford’s ear but when he played the race card I though Don King must be back on the scene or perhaps it was Crawford having studied the Don King playbook.
Briefly on the subject of change. The Scottish government has made it clear that it will bring in legislation with regard to gender defining. Without going into a great detail one of the proposals is that a person will be able to redefine their gender not through an invasive regime of medical tests etc. but through a simple declaration-based system. There are certain condition to be followed i.e. living as their new gender for a limited period of time prior to their declaration being effective but for sport it does open the possibility of a male/female athlete/boxer changing gender and certainly in Scotland providing the declaration process has been followed it would probably be illegal to stop that person competing as a male/female whichever is appropriate. If it becomes law-and looks certain to do so in Scotland-then that will be a situation the British Boxing Board will have to study carefully and although right now it is a Scottish/British matter it is anticipated that Trans gender athletes is something that many more countries will have to find non-invasive non-degrading ways to recognise and accommodate.
How embarrassing it must have been for the IBF as they toted their heavyweight eliminator around trying to find someone interested in fighting “favoured” Filip Hrgovic. Hrgovic’s team had been challenging anyone to fight him in an IBF eliminator and Tony Yoka took them up on that challenge but instead has had to go through with an already contracted fight against Martin Bakole. With Yoka being No 6 in the IBF ratings and Bakole No 15 if their fight takes place before Hrgovic vs. Zhilei bout the winner would qualify to fill one of two top spots in the IBF ratings which in theory with Luis Ortiz already filling the no 2 place would slam the door in Hrgovic’s face. Unbeaten Australian Demsey McKean was also in the frame to face Hrgovic but he reportedly declined so the job has gone to No 13 Zhang Zhilei. I used the word “embarrassing” and “favoured” because Hrgovic has climbed to No 3 with the IBF without every facing any fighter in the IBF top 15-and in fact is rated No 37 by BoxRec. The real disgrace will be if Hrgovic does beat Zhilei-ranked No 13-then climbs to No 1 above Ortiz –who beat then No 2 Charles Martin-then that will have the stink of blatant manipulation.
It is intended that Hrgovic vs. Zhang will be a supporting role under Oleksandr Usyk vs. Anthony Joshua II. Yoka vs. Bakole is now scheduled for May 14 at the Accor Arena in Paris. The original plan was for 15 January but with the pandemic restrictions would cut the possible attendance figures but the hope is that those will be lifted by the May date and that the attendance will be much higher as the Accor Arena has a 20,000 capacity.
News of another eliminator, this time for the WBO, Tim Tszyu has decided to put his No 1 position with the WBO at risk in a fight against Terrell Gausha at the Los Angeles Crypto.com Arena on 19 March. Gausha is not currently in the WBO top 15 but don’t bet on that not changing. Risky for Tszyu but he may have decided he needs to up his profile in the USA to strengthen his case for fighting the winner of the Jermell Charlo vs. Brian Castano four-title unifier. Right now Tszyu is just one of four different No 1’s who will all want a shot at the new champion.
Also treading on Tim’s heels in a different way is his younger brother Nikita who is scheduled to make his pro debut as a middleweight on March 12 in Brisbane. Nikita gave up boxing about five years ago to work as an architect but Tim’s success has rekindled Nikita’s love of boxing.
The fight for the secondary WBA cruiserweight title between champion Ryad Merhy 30-1 and Evgeny Tischenko 9-1 in Ekaterinburg Russia on 26 March will also feature a good super welterweight match between Magomed Kurbanov 22-0 and former WBO interim super welter title holder Patrick Teixeira 31-2. Kurbanov is No 2 and Teixeira No 4 with the WBO so the winner will be treading on the heels of the Tszyu vs. Gausha winner.
Felix Sturm remains a draw in Germany but at 43 and with some of his legal troubles still not totally resolved who knows for how long the former two-division champion can carry on. His next fight will be an attractive “seniors” match with 39-year-old Hungarian Istvan Szili (25-2-2) in Dortmund on 26 March in an IBO eliminator with Sturm having his eyes on another title.
It is going to be Pacquiao vs. Maidana on 26 February in Las Vegas. Manny and Marcos never met as pros but they will be fighting “by proxy” on the 26th. Manny is the manager of IBF super flyweight title holder Jerwin Ancajas and “El Chino” of the challenger Fernando Martinez who competed for Argentina at the 2016 Olympics and 2015 World Championships. I go for A Filipino double. Martinez has benefitted from some IBF rankings parachuting as he jumped into the ratings in November 2021 after in August beating 19-21-2 Gonzalo Garcia in his only fight that year.
Just for curiosities’ sake approximately how many active male boxers do you think there are right now? By active I am talking about having had at least one fight in the past twelve months. Eight thousand? ten thousand?, fifteen thousand, twenty thousand ? Well if you went for twenty thousand you were the closest. Of course it is a snapshot as every day some boxers return to activity and some slip outside the twelve month measure. My snapshot found 20,808 listed as active boxers. Next test. Which three divisions have the most active boxers? Well my snapshot showed 1,960 lightweights, 1,916 super lightweights and 1,839 welterweights. The least? Not surprisingly the minimumweight division with 181 followed by light flyweight with 316 and flyweight with 573. How about female boxers how many and which divisions are the most/least populated? How many? Five hundred, eight hundred, one thousand, one thousand five hundred? Well the last figure is marginally closest with 1389 by my count. Most populated figures head south for the Female boxers with 178 flyweights, 158 featherweights and 145 bantamweights. Those ladies of larger disposition do not seem to be as keen on boxing as the least populated are light heavyweight 7, heavyweight 12 and a great big zero for cruiserweights! It is with grateful thanks to my friends at BoxRec that I compiled these figures.
As I said just for curiosity. What it proves beyond any doubt is-THAT I HAVE TOO MUCH TIME ON MY HANDS!!
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