After a few weeks low level action for Asian fighters this coming Saturday sees things step up in a big way with 3 world title bouts taking place on the same day, including a female world title fight in Japan and a Bantamweight world title fight in the US. Of those title bouts the most interesting comes from the UK as unified Light Welterweight champion Josh Taylor (16-0, 12) defends his WBA and IBF titles against little known Thai challenger Downua Ruawaiking (16-0, 13), also known as Apinunm Khongsong.
On paper this is really well matched between two men with almost identical numbers on their record. In reality however the bout is widely regarded as a mismatch with the 29 year old champion being regarded as a very clear favourite, and the Thai challenger being an almost unknown, despite entering as the IBF mandatory title challenger. Despite that this is certainly not a gimme and could be a very interesting bout, at least for a few rounds.
The talented Josh Taylor has been a rare fast-tracked British fighter, who knew he was good, believed in himself and avoided the often tedious record padding that many British fighters have. In just his 11th bout he stopped former world champion Miguel Vazquez, becoming the first man to stop the tricky Mexican. Less than a year after being Vazquez he had notched a solid win over Viktor Postol and began his campaign in the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS), stopping Ryan Martin. By the end of 2019 he had managed to win the WBSS as well as unifying the IBF and WBA titles and take the unbeaten records of Ivan Baranchyk and Regis Prograis, build his reputation massively.
In the ring Taylor can box, brawl, bring and fight on the inside, despite what Andre Ward may think. He can sometimes be too willing to engage on an inside war, when sometimes he would fair better at mid-range. He's a very talented boxer, has solid hand speed, spiteful power, great work rate, good stamina, impressive physical strength and proved his toughness in a war with Prograis last time out. The real question with Taylor is how many hard battles does he had in him, and he's already had a few, and whether out of the ring issues will become a bigger issue than they have so far. Those out of the ring issues include being arrested in December and splitting with his long term trainer in January.
At 24 years old the Thai challenger is a youngster and is very much a man who has gotten his shot due to a single big win in an eliminator, rather than a string of strong wins. After turning professional in 2016 he was matched relatively softly, with his best wins coming over Adam Diu Abdulhamid and Sonny Katiandagho. Having won 14 in a row the Thai finally stepped up in 2019 and shone as he knocked out the teak tough Akihiro Kondo in an IBF world title eliminator, to earn this shot. That was a result that saw many in Asia sit up and take note of the Thai, especially given Kondo's notorious tough chin that had seen him last 12 rounds with the heavy handed Sergey Lipinets.
Downua has not fought anything close to the level of competition that Josh Taylor has fought to, though he has passed the eye test, for the most part. He's a big, rangy guy at the weight, who's listed at 5'10" though often looks bigger. He looks very relaxed in the ring and like a man with a lot more experience than his record suggests. His hand speed is relatively solid and he does like using straight punches at range, with his jab being one of his key weapons and he does have nice foot speed and movement. Sadly he can be seen dropping his hands and backing up in straight lines at times. Offensively he looks good, both at range and up close, with his KO of Kondo coming from an uppercut, but he does make a lot of mistakes defensively. Mistakes he has been able to get away with due to the low level of competition he's been in with.
We do see Downua posing some questions of Taylor, especially given Taylor's change in trainer, and likely a change in style. For 3 or 4 rounds the length, movement and jab of Downua will make things frustrating for the Scottish star. When Taylor finds his timing however we suspect Taylor will put his foot on the gas and begin to break down the Thai and score a stoppage over the Thai in the second half of the fight.
Interestingly this is likely to be one of Taylor's last fights at 140lbs with talk being that he will seek a 4 title unification next year and then potentially move up in weight, to join the ranks at Welterweight.
Prediction - TKO8 Taylor
This coming Saturday isn't a huge day for Asian boxing, but there is stuff to get excited about, and for boxing fans in general the pick of the shows takes place in California.
That card has a trio of "world title bouts" on it, one of which will see Russian based Uzbek Batyr Akhmedov (7-0, 6) fighting for the WBA "regular" Light Welterweight title. The unbeaten Akhmedov takes on fellow unbeaten fighter Mario Barrios (24-0, 16), in what should be a very explosive contest between two hard hitting and fast improving fighters. Whilst the WBA "regular" title isn't really a world title, it does give us some great match ups and this one of those.
Akhmedov, also known as Batuhan Gozgec, was born in Uzbekistan, competed at the Olympics for Turkey and is based in Russia. He's a fighter with a mixed background, but a strong background all the same, having competed at the Rio games and been a very strong amateur with WSB experience as well. Although he was successful in the unpaid ranks his style always seemed like it would be better in the professional ranks, and that was seen when he began his professional career. In just his 4th professional bout he dominated the solid Ricky Sismundo and quickly added other notable wins over Ismael Barroso and Viktor Plotnikov. Those 3 wins alone helped secure him a high world ranking and got him in the world title mix.
In the ring Akhmedov is a hard hitting boxer-puncher, who has real spite on his shots. He's not the most defensively sound fighter, but he's also not someone who takes too many risks, until he feels he's softened his opponent up. Like many Easter European and Central Asian fighters he does have very solid amateur credentials, but also a bit of flair to his boxing, wanting to catch the eye of fans. When he gets someone hurt he really goes all out to take them out, and has brutal power in both hands. His main issues is when he does turn on the jets he does leave himself a bit open as he gets often left hand happy.
At 24 years old Barrios is just coming into his prime, but his career feels like it's been a slow burning one since his professional debut in 2013. The American showed some early promise, but was originally fighting at Bantawmeight. Since the early days his frame has filled out and he's become a strong and powerful Light Welterweight, settling at a weight that seems to be the best for him. At one point there was question marks about his power but since going through the weights and physically maturing. The development of his power has seen him scoring 8 straight stoppages, but his competition has, at times, been rather limited, under-sized or small. For Barrios the bout really is a huge step up.
Watching Barrios in action we can see how his frame suits the move up to 140lbs more than it did at the lower weights. He's a big kid, with a tall, rangy frame and adding muscle to that frame has certainly been best for his career. Even at 140lbs he looks big, and we do wonder how he made 122lbs. He's more patient than Akhmedov, and looks for openings, trying to to box himself into bouts. He's got quick hands, nice range and good power, though of course we've not seem him being caught by a legitimate 140lb puncher yet, and that is a big question he will need to answer here.
Barrios is certainly the more rounded, pure boxer, he's the one who will fight behind his jab, the one who will move and use the ring. Akhmedov however is a tank, he'll come forward, throw from some unusual angles and look to get his thunderous power into play early on. That power may turn out to be too much for Barrios, who really hasn't been caught by a legitimate power punching Light Welterweight.
We expect Barrios to start well, but sooner or later he will taste the power of Akhmedov, and from then on we suspect he'll be ground down by the Uzbek-Russian who will eventually get the stoppage, and secure the biggest win of his career.
Prediction - Akhmedov TKO9
The second set of WBSS tournaments begin this coming weekend in Yokohama.
The first bout in the competition is mouth watering clash at 140lbs as we get pressure fighter against puncher with Kiryl Relikh (22-2, 19) facing off with Eduard Troyanovsky (27-1, 24). On paper this has the potential to be a very explosive encounter, with both fighters being aggressive, both fighters looking for earlier finishes and both men wanting to advance in the WBSS. Not only is this a WBSS bout but also a contest for the WBA Light Welterweight title and a chance for both men to shine in front a Japanese audience in the arena.
Relikh, a Belorussian 28 year old, is the defending champion and the betting favourite. He's an aggressive pressure fighter dubbed the “Mad Bee” because of his aggression. He was a very good amateur before turning professional in 2011. As a professional his career was a bit of a slow burner, with no massive backing in Belarus for boxing. Despite the slow burn he was developing well in his homeland and stayed busy during the formative years of his professional career. He would begin to get chances outside of Belarus in 2014 and linked up with Ricky Hatton. Hatton would guide Relikh to his first major international fight in 2016, a narrow and ultra-competitive loss to Ricky Burns. Despite being a loss it put Relikh on the boxing map and has since lead to two bout with Rances Barthelmy. The first of them was a very controversial loss for the Belorussian who avenged the defeat in clear fashion when the two men had their rematch earlier this year.
In the ring Relikh lives up to his “Mad Bee” moniker. He's incredibly busy, buzzing around his opponents and throwing a lot of heavy leather. He's not a big hitting single punch KO artist, despite his 19 stoppages, but he's a busy fighter with every shot taking it's toll on his opponents. His work rate is a bigger issue than his power and at 28 years old he is just getting fitter and stronger. Sadly though is defensively not the tightest and he was dropped in the first bout against Barthelmy. So he can be hurt, especially to the body, and can find himself taking shots that her perhaps doesn't want to take. It's actually, also, worth noting that despite his average bout being just over 4 rounds he has got great stamina to do 12 rounds, which he's done in his last 3 bouts.
At 38 years old Troyanovsky is an older fighter but he hasn't had too much wear and tear. In fact if anything the Russian has done really well in avoiding taking any sort of prolonged damage due to the fact he is a frightening puncher. His 24 stoppages in 27 wins has seen him average just 3.4 rounds a fight and has seen him score some sensation victories, including his memorable stoppage win over Japan's Keita Obara in 2016. He's been a professional since 2009 and made an impact after just a year of being a professional, stopping veteran former world title challenger Matt Zegan in December 2010. He would later score notable mid-level wins over the likes of Walter Estrada, Jose Alfaro and Aik Shakhnazaryan before fighting unbeaten IBF champion Cesar Rene Cuenca in 2015. He would stop Cuenca in 6 rounds then defend his belt against Cuenca and Obara the following year before suffering an upset loss in 40 seconds to the unheralded Julius Indongo. Since then he has bounced back with notable wins over Michele Di Rocco and Carlos Manuel Portillo.
Whilst Relikh is a pressure fight Troyanovsky is a pure puncher. His boxing skills are very limited but his power is really a game changer and even talented boxers need to be wary of him connecting, just once. At 38 years old he is still very dangerous due to his limitations. There isn't much speed or defense but he's not a fighter you should take risks against. If he clips you you're either going down, or going to be serious buzzed as he tries to finish you off. Despite hitting hard his ability to take a shot is questionable. Whilst his loss to Indongo did come to a peach of a punch, he has been rocked a few times, in fact Obara seemed to hurt before being stopped himself. Coming in he will know that this will be his last chance, and a loss here likely spells the end of his career, at least as leading contender in a division that has warmed up a lot in the last 12 months or so.
It's clear that Relikh will look to get inside, grind down the older man and take him out whilst Troyanovsky will be trying to load up his big right hand and take him out with a single shot. We suspect Relikh will be fully aware of how Troyanovsky sets up his power and will be tactically avoiding it, whilst grinding down the dangerous challenger. There is always going to be a sense of risk for Relikh, but we suspect he will come out on top in the middle rounds, with Troyanovsky's 38 year old body simply being worn out and beaten down.
Last year we saw Kazakh born Sergey Lipinets (13-0, 10) claim the IBF Light Welterweight title, as he out pointed Japan's Akihiro Kondo in a tougher than expected bout. The competitiveness of the contest took a lot of shine from Lipinets' rise to a title, which had otherwise been brilliant with wins over the likes of Cosme Rivera, Kendal Mena, Haskell Rhodes, Levan Ghamichava, Walter Castillo and Leonardo Zappavigna, stopping all but Rhodes. This coming Saturday Lipinets will be looking to get back to his destructive best, and record his first defense, but will be facing the biggest test of his career so far, multi-weight former world champion Mikey Garcia (37-0, 30).
The Kazakh born Russian, who is now based in the US, looked great on his rise through the ranks. We've already listed most of his opponents, and for a fighter with just 13 fights that is stiff competition. He looked tough, aggressive, very hard hitting, exciting and explosive. Those traits however failed him somewhat against Kondo, who took his biggest shots and marched forward, as if to ask for more, before timing Lipinets and dragging him into deep water in later rounds.
Despite the bout with Kondo being a disappointment in many ways for Lipinets it did manage to have some positives. It showed he could win a big one, he could grit out a tough fight, go 12 rounds and despite not being as good as we thought he was, he's still a world champion. And we've all seen fighters get better after winning world titles, with some fighters really finding themselves after winning a world title and refusing to let it go.
In the ring Lipinets is a bit basic. He's got some touches of flash, but overall it's his power and toughness which has shone. He appears to take a very good shot, and have series power of his own. He's not the quickest, but he does have that surprising speed and timing that really does seem to be common with a lot of those fighters who have come through the Eastern European ranks, but he stills has some traits from being a kickboxer and can regularly be found low hands, and a stance that looks little off, and could be taken advantage of by a talented fight.
In Mikey Garcia we have one of the sports best technical fighters. He controls the ring brilliantly behind a really smart boxing brain. He sets the tempo, he knows how to back off and come forward behind his jab and footwork, he knows how to use the ring, and has the frightening power that makes all fighters respect him. That power has managed to carry up from Featherweight, where he won his first world title back in 2013, to Lightweight, where he iced Dejan Zlaticanin last year. When opponents can take his power, as Adrien Broner could, he boxes behind his jab and right hand, staying away from risks to rack up the points and take the decision.
When we're looking for flaws with Garcia we are sometimes looking to pick holes in tiny little things. For example Garcia has looked effective up close, but has still shown some great touches when he's had to fight an opponent in his face, his stamina hasn't looked flawless, but few will force him to fight 12 rounds, and he has been dropped, though recovered well from the knockdown. Few have managed to catch him clean, but it's possible that his chin is his weakest asset, but even then there is little real proof of it.
During his career Garcia has beaten a strong line up of opponents, including He's over-come Orlando Salido, Juan Manuel Lopez, Rocky Martinez, Juan Carlos Burgos, Dejan Zlaticanin and Adrien Broner. Sadly though a 30 month break from the ring during his prime denied him some career defining bouts, including a proposed contest with Yuriorkis Gamboa. Lipinets is less proven than a number of those though is probably the naturally biggest, and hard hitting, fighter Garcia will have faced. Garcia will need to be aware of Lipinet's power and strength, but should feel at ease with his speed and skills.
We suspect that Lipinets will fight different to how he did against Kondo. Kondo is naturally the same size as Lipinets, is teak tough and would walk through a lot to get his own shots off. Garcia on the other hand will be looking to suck Lipinets into coming to him, and as the bigger fighter Lipinets will be looking to use his physicality to pressure Garcia. In a boxing contest this bout will be a huge mismatch, Garcia is too good, too smart and too quick. But Lipinets' power, strength and aggression could be a nightmare for Garcia, especially if the champion can get Garcia out of his comfort zone.
We favour Garcia to come out on top, keeping his wits and fighting his fight, but there is certainly a hint of danger here for excellent Californian fighter, who will need to avoid the power of Lipinets as best he can.
This coming Saturday is an interesting day for fight fans, and potentially the bout of the day is a bit of a hidden gem, as Kazakh born Russian Sergey Lipinets (12-0, 10) faces off with Japanese warrior Akihiro Kondo (29-6-1, 16) for the IBF Light Welterweight title. The bout is on US TV but the reality is that American fans won't be massively familiar with either man, and will instead be tuning in for some of the bigger names on offer, such as Deontay Wilder and Shawn Porter. Despite not tuning in particularly for Lipinets Vs Kondo the bout does have a good chance of stealing the show.
Of the two men the one more well known by Western fans will be Lipinets. This will be his 9th bout on US soil and follows notable wins over the likes of Cosme Rivera, Haskell Rhodes, Levan Ghvamichava and Leonardo Zappavigna. During those bouts Lipinet's has shown his exciting, heavy handed and calculated style. As with many of the rising Central Asian fighters Lipinets is well schooled and hits like a hammer, with every shot he lands being thudding. He's not a man the quickest or the most slick but he's got under-rated nuances, both offensively and defensively.
At time Lipinets can look a little slow and even one paced, though it seems like he's sometimes taking his time to read his opponent, and then slowly cranks it up after he's gotten a good look the man in the opposite corner. When he does up things he looks really good and throws some really varied body shots, with his left hook to the mid-section completely destroying the teak tough Ghvamichava last year.
Although unbeaten and talented Lipinets hasn't always had things his own way. He lost a number of rounds against Zappavigna before stopping the Aussie last December, and it does seem like the way to beat him is on points. Crowding him up close and stopping him from getting extension on his shots is key to beating him, as is out working him, without taking too much punishment. That is however easier said than done and when Lipinets lets his shots go they are damaging, and although Zappavigna had some success he was left cut, and beaten up at the end, being ground into submission.
Unless you're a Japanese fans there is a good chance you won't have seen Kondo, or even know that much about him. The is despite the fact that the 32 year old is an 11 year professional with 36 bouts and reigns as the Japanese Lightweight and WBO Asia Pacific Light Welterweight champion. Whilst you may not have seen Kondo he has been a notable part of an intriguing Japanese scene at 135 and 140, which has seen him twice face off with Yoshitaka Kato and Nihito Arakawa. Other notable foes to have faced Kondo include Patomsuk Pathompothong, Ricky Sismundo, Jimrex Jaca and Ryuji Migaki.
Like Kato and Arakawa it's fair to say that Kondo is teak tough, a proper hard nut like many Japanese fighters are. He's yet to suffer a stoppage loss, and has gone 10 or more rounds in 5 different bouts. He has shown his toughness, energy and warrior mentality, though has come up short a number of times, losing by split or majority decision 4 times, a technical decision once and a razor thin loss in one other bout. He can be out boxed and out brawled, but he's always coming to fight, and does hit harder than his record suggests, especially in recent years ith 5 straight stoppages coming into this bout.
Kondo has stated that he will be looking to use his speed here, though the truth is that he's not that quick, and the reality is that he's likely to be dragged into a war sooner rather than later. When that happens we'll see how tough Kondo is at this level, and how willing he is to take the power of Lipinets. If he can take one to land one then we could be in for something very special.
We suspect that Lipinets' better skills and heavier hands will be too much for Kondo in the middle rounds, but until we get that far we're expecting to see an all action bout. Kondo will likely try to box and move early on before getting dragged more and more into a war, before we finally get a show stealing fire fight. When that happens we expect Lipinets to come out on top, but not until the fans have had something to remember.
We don't see many Japanese fighters making their name above Super Featherweight, this Friday however we get the chance to see Light Welterweight Keita Obara (16-1-1, 15) challenge unbeaten Russian Eduard Troyanovsky (24-0, 21) for the IBF title, in a mandatory title fight.
The Russian won the title last November, stopping the then unbeaten Cesar Rene Cuenca for the belt in 6 rounds. That was Cuenca's first defense, following his title win against Ik Yang, and the Argentinian was simply unable to ever get Troyanovsky's respect. A rematch this past April followed a similar patter with Troyanovsky stopping Cuenca in 7 rounds, to record his first defense.
In the ring the Russian is a somewhat limited boxer blessed with frightening power. He can be out boxed and out moved, with his 36 year old legs not being the most sprightly, however he does cut the ring down well and if a fighter can't get his respect he doesn't mind taking one to land one. He key strength however is his power and it is vicious, with his last 14 wins all coming by T/KO, and in fact he has stopped 20 of his last 21 opponents.
Although powerful the champion is 36 years old, his work rate isn't great and he certainly hasn't got a high energy level or lighting speed. Also at 5'8” he's not naturally a big fighter at 140lbs. He's just very strong and very powerful
For Obara the bout will be only his second bout outside of Japan, with the first being his very controversial draw with Walter Castillo, in what was an IBF eliminator. In that bout he showed his skills to an international audience and clearly deserved the win over 12 rounds, most of which were clearly won by the Japanese fighter. Prior to that bout Obara had claimed the Japanese and OPBF title and had ran up 15 straight wins following a loss on debut back in 2010.
Like Troyanovsky the key strength of Obara is his power which has been responsible for 15 of his 16 career wins. He keeps that power late into a fight, as seen in his 12th round TKO win against Shinya Iwabuchi, but doesn't actually depend on the power and is instead a decent all round boxer who has solid boxing skills to go with his power. He's not defensively the best but he isn't clumsy when it comes to protecting himself.
Obara's sole loss came on debut when he ran out of stamina, after actually dropping his opponent. It was a humbling loss and one that has seen him really work on his flaws. In many ways it was the perfect loss and has lead to him becoming a better fighter faster in his career. Since that loss no one has really troubled him and he has rarely shown what he can truly do. Here we're expecting him to show his best and, hopefully, come home with the title.
The key for Obara will be using his size, speed and movement to not only get the respect of Troyanovsky but also to land the heavy leather needed to beat the Russian. For Troyanovsky the key is patience waiting for the opportunity to land his fearsome power shots. If Troyanovsky can land clean then there is a really serious chance he will be able to stop Obara, if he can't stop him we suspect the score-cards will favour the Russian. With that in mind we suspect that Obara will be looking for a stoppage, probably in the second half of the fight, making the most of the fact Troyanovsky has little experience going beyond 7 rounds.
The odds are in favour of the Russian but we suspect Obara will score the upset here, with the bout being unlikely to go the distance either way.
Despite it's huge size China has been one of boxing's great under-achievers with just a solitary world champion, Xiong Zhao Zhong. Whilst a lot of that success, or rather lack of, has been down to the way China failed to embrace professional sports until recently we've yet to see the big wave of Chinese fighters in or around the top of the sport. Whilst we have seen Chinese fighters fall short recently, with both Zou Shiming and Ma Yi Ming proving to be a long way from being world class.
Up next for Chinese boxing is the enigmatic Ik Yang (19-0-0-1, 14) who looks to claim the vacant IBF Light Welterweight title as he takes on fellow unbeaten Cesar Rene Cuenca (47-0-0-2, 2), from the boxing hotbed of Argentina.
Unlike Ming and Shiming it's fair to say there is something a little bit special about Yang. It's hard to say “what” is special about him, but there is certainly something that stands out about him. It could be the fact he seems to fight like a wild man with taunting and shots from very unorthodox angles, it could be peculiar defense or his personality but he's a special fighter and potentially the figure of Chinese boxing movement over the next few years.
In the ring Yang is a showman who brings a languageless charisma to the ring. Whilst there he can box and he can fight. Although crude he brings a bang and real excitement, something Chinese boxing has lacked at times, despite the success of Rex Tso. Although perhaps lacking something upstairs it does seem like Yang knows how to play an audience and how to get the media to pay attention to him. In fact in Yang's Macau debut, back in June 2012, he actually stole his show with his boxing and got rave reviews by many who saw him in action.
Since making his Macau debut more than 3 years ago Yang has become a staple in the area with 4 fights there, including his excellent win over Patomsuk Pathompothong in March. It was that win that opened the door to the “Wildman of Chinese boxing” to get his world title fight, though at the time it wasn't clear who he'd be fighting, or when.
Since Yang's win over Patomsuk we've seen American fighter Lamont Peterson get stripped of his title, and open up a fight between Yang and Argentina's infamous Cuenca, a man with a 4.08% stoppage rate.
Cuenca boasts one of the long unbeaten runs in the sport. At 49 fights he has actually gone more fights with out a loss than Floyd Mayweather Jr, however he has never competed close to the level of Mayweather. In fact in his 49 fights it's hard to find too many recognisable opponents. His most notable foes are probably Albert Mensah, Carlos Wilfredo Vilches and Jose Alfaro. Good fighters in their own right, but not sensational fighters by any means.
Cuenca's most recent bout was his contest with Mensah back in May 2014. That bout was an IBF eliminator and it showed a lot of what Cuenca is about. He's a fight who uses a lot of quick and intelligent movement whilst using his jab as his key weapon. He's got good timing and is technically well schooled though his lack of power is real issue and he often looks a little predictable fighting almost entirely behind his southpaw jab, though he does have a sharp straight left. It's also notable that he seems to slap a lot of his punches and rarely puts his weight fully into a shot.
Something that is notable about Cuenca's past fights is that they often take place in large rings allowing him to make the most of his movement. What's notable is that he won't have that same privilege in Macau. Instead he'll be dumped into a relatively small ring where space will be at a premium and where he'll be forced to use a lot more energy to stay away from his foe.
Watching Cuenca is actually really interesting for his movement with is genuinely very intelligent. However he's now 34 and hasn't fought in a year. Those things will almost certainly effect his energy, timing and sharpness, all of which he depends on when he's at his best. If he runs out of steam or can't control a wild man like Yang he could find himself in a lot of trouble, especially late on.
We're expecting to see a less than sharp Cuenca in action and we're expecting to see him put into a ring that isn't friendly to his style. If we're right then the Argentinian will find himself forced to fight more than usual. Although technically a much better boxer than Yang we're expecting to see Cuenca bulled about, rushed, and tagged by caveman like shots from the Chinese fighter who will always look the busier man. Given Cuenca is quite negative but appears to be tough we're expect to see him make schedule but lose a wide decision with the judges not buying in to his hit and run strategy.
It's not often that we can say this but there is a world title fight this coming weekend that seems to have flown under-the-radar despite the fact it features two unbeaten men. That fight will be a WBA Light Welterweight clash between the highly regarded challenger Anton Novikov (29-0-0-1,10) and the defending champion Jessie Vargas (24-0, 9)
The bout has been over-looked for a lot of reasons. Firstly it's not the best fight on it's own show, that's the potential thriller between Brandon Rios (31-2-1, 23) and Diego Gabriel Chaves (23-1, 19). The Rios/Chaves bout is the shows main event and could be the most exciting bout of the month with two men who have power and like to have a fight. Another reason the bout has been over-looked is the other world title fight on the same night which will feature the big punching Sergey Kovalev (24-0-1, 22) and Black Caparello (19-0-1, 6), for our money Kovalev is one of the most exciting men in boxing.
The final reason is connected to the previous reasons in many ways. Rios, Chaves and Kovalev are all exciting men to watch, they all bring action and they all score stoppages. Novikov and Vargas, for all the talent they have, don't stop people. Between them they have a paltry 19 stoppages in 54 bouts. They are the definition of "distance" fighters.
Being distance fighters isn't a bad thing, far from it, but in this case they are relatively boring distance fighters.
Novikov is a very tidy and wonderfully well schooled fighter who throws nice combinations and does a lot of things that are very good. But really lacks power and is defensively sound enough to defend himself when he's forced on to the back foot. He is a man who lives up to his nickname of "The Ice Pick" in many ways including the repeated way he can land with out doing a lot of damage though his is sharp with shots, he reels them off very nicely. In fact from watching him he is only "power" way from being real world class.
Vargas is, in many ways, similar to Novikov. He also lacks power, is well schooled and does a lot of things nicely. He does however move more than Novikov and throws fewer shots, though what he does throw are flashy and eye catching shots that seem to often look like slaps as opposed to punches.
For the challenger this is his first step up and his first really major fight. To US audiences, who are getting this shown to them, he's a bit of a mystery man despite having fought in American several times. Sadly what his US bouts showed is that he really lacks power and they have failed to really generate any buzz around him. It's hard to market a light hitting Russian in the US.
Whilst Novikov has failed to be marketed well Vargas was once advertised as the heir apparent to Floyd Mayweather Jr, an advert that really needed taking to the trading standards commission for false advertising. As soon as the Mayweather link was taken away fans bored of Vargas who was more talented in sending fans to sleep than opponents.
With both men having less than exciting styles and a lack of power we're expecting this one to go the distance and sadly we're expecting it to be a dull one with Novikov chasing Vargas and Vargas landing shots on the move. The by Vargas will likely be better than the limited success Novikov gets and the American will probably defend his belt but leave very few fans excited about him.
We're sorry to say this but of all the bouts this weekend this is probably the most difficult one to care about. It looks likely to be a dull one. We hope we're wrong but if it's a stinker don't blame us.
(Image courtesy of Boxrec.com)
Every so often in this great sport we get a must watch fighter who seems to transcend the typical fan base extend of him. One such fighter fighter is Ruslan Provodnikov (23-2, 16), the current WBO Light Welterweight champion.
Provodnikov, dubbed "The Siberian Rocky" for his all action style, is everyone one doesn't expect in a Russian fighter. The text book goes out of the window, the up right stance and educated boxing takes a back seat and instead what we get is a free swinging and somewhat wild looking warrior who does everything in the ring that fans enjoy even if trainers and corner men might not be huge fans. He's happy to take one, or two, or even three in an attempt to launch his own attacks. He's happy to set his feet and swing, he's also happy to chase an opponent in an attempt to cut them off and break them down.
Often with Provodnikov the action isn't pretty. It's not clean cut and smooth. Instead it's violent, rough, tough and bruising. It's as if the fighter has implanted the harsh Siberian landscape on his fighting style and doesn't mind showing it. After all if he survived in the harsh weather at home then he can survive in any ring with any opponent.
Although Provodnikov's style has always been eye catching and his performance on ESPN were often non-stop excitement it wasn't until last year that he managed to come to the attention of the wider boxing public with his great effort against Timothy Bradley. He lost the bout but became an instant fan favourite and his follow up bout with Mike Alvarado saw his popularity grow immensely whilst he also won his first world title.
That title, the WBO Light Welterweight world title, will be defended for the first time this coming Saturday when Provodnikov enters the ring for the first time as a world champion and takes on the unbeaten Chris Algieri (19-0, 8) in a fight that looks like a show case bout on paper for the champion, though promises to be really exciting.
Whilst Provodnikov will be, and deserves to be, the favourite, he's going to be fighting an unbeaten fighter who has a lot of self belief and is a strong man himself. Not only is Algieri strong but he's an intelligent fighter who uses his defence well, as shown in his latest fight against Emmanuel Taylor, moves well and has a very nice variety of punches. There is perhaps a lack of a "special" quality though there is a lot like about Algieri who looks like a fighter who can fight at the top level and hold his own.
Algieri is being shot down by a lot of people online who haven't seen him in action though if they made an effort to watch him they'd realise that he was a very credible challenger for Provodnikov. Sadly though only a handful of opponents are truly suitable for fans who, if they remember correctly, expected Provodnikov to be thoroughly out classed when he fought Bradley before having his break out performance.
What we're expecting is a fun to watch fight that will see Algieri boxing well early on before being dragged into a war with the Russian monster. Sadly for Algieri, though happily for the fans, this is where the fight will pick up and swing towards the defending champion who will begin to wear down the challenger who will fade and eventually be stopped after putting up a brave effort.
Despite feeling like Provodnikov will manage to break down Algieri in the middle rounds there is a chance that the Russian will have under-trained or over-looked his opponent. He was linked to much bigger fights and if the disappointment of fighting the little known Algieri plays on his mind he may well fail to impress. Provodnikov needs to make sure he gets in there and takes care of business in the hope of opening a big door for the end of the year. Bouts against big names are out there if he continues to win and so he needs a big victory here and hopefully that is what is in his head going in to this fight.
(Courtesy of barclayscenter)
If Manny Pacquiao's rematch with unbeaten American Timothy Bradley is this weekend's main course for boxing fans then one of the best looking starters is the WBA Light Welterweight clash between unbeaten champion Khabib Allakhverdiev (19-0, 9) and unbeaten challenger Jessie Vargas (23-0, 9).
The fight, obviously lacking the high profile names of the Pacquiao/Bradley fight, is one we're expecting could be highly entertaining, arguably the most entertaining bout of the weekend, despite the fact neither man is blessed with amazing speed, skills or power. In fact both are pretty basic in what they do but their flaws, their issues and their relative lack of a stand out skill should mean they make for a special contest.
Of the two men it's Allakhverdiev who is the big betting favourite. The unbeaten champion from Russia is defending his belt for the second time and is on a run of decent results with victories over Nate Campbell, Ignacio Mendoza, Kaizer Mabuza, Joan Guzman and Souleymane M'baye. Of course they aren't murderers's row but they are all credible fighters and some of them, the Guzman one in particular, really were eye catching performances by a man looking to establish himself as one of the elite Light Welterweights.
When we talk about Allakhverdiev we talk about a man who seemingly can do it all at times. He can box, he fan fight and he can brawl. The flaw with him however is that he sometimes doesn't seem to know what he should be doing when. Against Guzman for example he had success in out working and out powering the Dominican though late in the bout tried to fight on the back foot with counters rather than taking it his opponents. Against M'baye he often looked disinterested, as if he knew he could stop the French veteran whenever and as a result looked poor for long spurts of the bout.
At his best Allakhverdiev is a genuine to 6 guy at 140lbs. He's a nightmare for pretty much anyone and versatile enough to give very good fighters a lot of trouble. At his worst he's mentally susceptible to turning off, giving rounds away and getting himself in to unnecessary trouble.
In unbeaten challenger Vargas we have a man who was once tipped by Floyd Mayweather Jr to be a star. That claim however seems to have been one of Floyd's most outlandish and looking from the outside in Vargas has nothing "star" like about him. He's bland, boring, lacks power and doesn't have anything that makes us want to watch him unless his opponent is an exciting type of fighter.
From his 23 fight career Vargas has had only a handful of mildly memorable bouts. One of those was his clash with Trenton Titsworth, which saw Titsworth stealing the show as he kissed Vargas and was deducted 2-points for "kissing" and for doing it "deliberately"-we kid you not, one was his fight with Josesito Lopez, which saw many feeling Lopez had been robbed due to Vargas's Mayweather links at the time, and finally his bout with Wale Omotoso, which saw both men going to war in what was a really good fight.
Vargas is a somewhat talented pure boxing with nice speed, nice heart and guts. Three very admirable traits. Unfortunately he lacks anything to really differentiate himself from 90% of other promising young fighters.
Against a fighter coming to fight with him, as Omotoso and Lopez did, Vargas can be dragged in to a dog fight. It's that that we're hoping to see here with Allakhverdiev hopefully coming with the intention of setting an aggressive pace, forcing Vargas to fire back and in the process give us 12 good, solid and entertaining rounds of action.
If the fight is fought as a boxing contest we think Vargas, a 2-1 underdog,could manage to do enough to spring the upset. If the bout is a battle though we can only see a successful defence from the Russian who will need to be at his best here in what is his toughest fight so far.
(Picture of Khabib courtesy of boxrec)
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.