The first man to book himself a place in the Season 2 WBSS finals was Filipino star Nonito Donaire (40-5, 26), who's much vaunted left hook showed it's self just moments ago, as he left American Stephon Young (18-2-3, 7) flat on his back. Not only did he book his place in the WBSS Bantamweight final, but also retained the WBA "super" Bantamweight title.
Young, a late replacement for South African Zolani Tete who had to pull out due to a shoulder injury, was taking a huge step up in class and it showed early on as he fought really apprehensively, almost looking scared of Donaire. It wasn't until very late in round 2 that he even seemed to realise he had to throw punches back at Donaire, landing a good combination and a solid straight left hand in the final seconds of the round.
Donaire didn't really seem bothered by Young's shots, even when they landed clean, as he just walked the American down. The game plan seemed to be clearly about pressuring Young, and he aggressively stalked him, looking to land his hook and straight hands. The pressure from Donaire opened up chances for him to land, and in round 3 he seemed to clearly hurt Young, who had no answer to the pressure of Donaire.
The Filipino wasn't just walking down Young but was reading him at the same time, and was getting closer and closer to landing a thunderous left hook. That hook finally landed clean in round 6, when he detonated on the chin of Young, who dropped lack a sack of potatoes. The referee could have counted to 100 and Young wouldn't have beat the count, it was a truly fantastic shot and left Young out of it.
This win secures Donaire a bout against either Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15) or Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0, 12), who meet in May to decide the second finalist. After today's win Donaire revealed he would rather face Inoue.
In 2017 we saw Thailand's Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-5-1, 41) [ศรีสะเกษ นครหลวงโปรโมชั่น] announce himself to an international audience as he beat Roman Gonzalez in a close decision to reclaim the WBC Super Flyweight title that he had a lost a few years earlier to Carlos Cuadras. A second win over Gonzalez followed for the Thai who was proving he was no one hit wonder. Last year we saw him again shine on US soil, winning a FOTY contender against excellent Mexican Juan Francisco Estrada (39-3, 26). Just moments ago we saw the rematch between Srisaket and Estrada, and we ended up with one of the most disappointing and odd fights of 2019.
Srisaket, known for being a huge punching Thai southpaw, came out in the orthodox stance, and wasn't fighting to his strengths. Instead of pressing the action he was boxing with the master boxer, and being made to look silly by a sharp, accurate and quick Estrada. Srisaket was being picked off, made to look clumsy and silly and really being schooled in the first half of the fight. Even when Srisaket did turn southpaw there was no concentrated effort to fight in the stance, turning righty against after just a few moments.
Whilst Srisaket did have moments, landing some solid right hands and some notable body shots, he was being out landed, out boxed, out moved and out thought. It seemed as if his entire gameplan was wrong, and yet he was sticking to it, not reverting to what had got him so much success through his career.
By round 7 Estrada was starting to bully Srisaket, and it looked like he could end up forcing a stoppage if he wished. Thankfully for Srisaket he began to wake up, began to realise he had to show more intensity and had to try and keep his title.
Sadly it wasn't until round 10 that Srisaket actually made an effort to fight southpaw. When he elected to to do that he began to have success, landing his power shots and making life very uncomfortable for the Mexican. A low blow in round 11 left Estrada in agony and Srisaket kept the pressure on from there, drawing out the machishmo from Estrada who stood and fought rather than boxed smartly. It made the final couple of rounds exciting, but by then it was clear Srisaket needed a knockout, and he hadn't looked like getting one in over 20 rounds of being in the ring with Estrada.
The final couple of rounds helped Srisaket close the gap on the scorecards, but he was clearly second best, and Estrada took the decision with scores of 116-112, and 115-113 twice. We struggle to see how any judge could have it 115-113, in fact even 116-112 feels closer than it should have been.
The big question after the fight has to be "Why did Srisaket fight orthodox?" He has had success through his career as a southpaw, had success today when he fought lefty and clearly should have fought as a southpaw again. There may be a chance, down the line, for a third meeting, but on this stupid performance it's hard to see many pushing for it to be made immediately given the depth of the division. There are more attractive options out there for Estrada than a third meeting with Srisaket, especially a Srisaket set on proving a point.
Strangely, given how sharp Estrada looked, it may not have actually mattered had Srisaket fought southpaw through the fight or not.
PBC is, at times, brilliant, with some great match making, competitive fights and big names facing off. Sometimes however the whole PBC series is a mess with mismatches, over-payment to certain fighters and other fights being included on shows due to favours, and not actually getting the TV exposure they deserve.
We saw a case of that last night when PBC failed to televise a thrilling, up and down war between John Riel Casimero (27-4, 18) and Ricardo Espinoza Franco (23-3, 20) for the WBO "interim" Bantamweight title.
The bout, which had only had it's title confirmed this past week by the WBO, looked like an amazing match up on paper. It had a talented Filipino looking to become a "3-weight champion" and a big punching Mexican, who was in great form. It had the ingredients to be one of the best bouts of the weekend and looked wonderfully competitive, unlike many of the bouts which did actually get television coverage.
Whilst we could sit and bemoan things that we didn't get, we would love to congratulate the fans who were able to catch the fight from the crowd, as they got a treat. A treat they had had to watch for, a treat that has been worth staying at the venue for.
The Mexican fighter started fast, taking the early rounds with his aggression, forcing Casimero to soak up the heat. The Filipino veteran, a true road warrior, showed his experience boxing on the back foot, holding when he needed to blunt the threat of Espinoza and countering well. As the Mexican's intensity fell it was going to give Casimero openings and that happened in rounds 5 and 6 as Casimero began to have more success. The power of Casimero, which has always been thudding to say the least, paid off in round 6 when he dropped the Mexican with a hard right hook towards the end of the bell.
Espinoza began to pick the pace back up after the knockdown, knowing he had to swing momentum back in his direction. That however came at a cost, and the Mexican was needing to work harder and harder to try and take Casimero down.
Heading into the final round it seemed like an ultra close one. There was seemingly little to pick between the men. Espinoza had been the aggressor, but the knockdown and smart counter boxing of Casimero had been winning him rounds. It seemed like both knew it was close, but a big combination early in the final round from Casimero took the judges out of the bout, dropping Espinoza for the second time. That, along, should have been enough, but Casimero didn't want to take any risks, and jumped on Espinoza after he beat the count, forcing the referee to stop the action.
The scores going into the final round, for those interested, were 105-103, 103-105 and 104-104, meaning it really was amazingly well balanced heading into the final 3 minutes.
With the win Casimero claims his third "world title", and sets himself up for the winner of the WBSS, meaning a potential clash with Zolani Tete, Nonito Donaire, Emmanuel Rodriguez or Naoya Inoue, though he is one of a growing queue to get a shot at the eventual tournament winner.
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.