There were tons of events that went on this past weekend outside the United States. Fights with title shot implications, prospects taking a step up, and your typical controversial scoring from the hometown judges.
Our biggest event this past weekend, was a WBO Super middleweight title eliminator between Robin Krasniqi and the guy who just lost that exact title, Arthur Abraham. Abraham, came into the fight, 37 years old, and knowing his back was against the wall, that this would be his last chance to keep his name relevant at 168 pounds. Being undersized for the division, Abraham decided to be active with his punches and throw with intent for most the fight. Krasniqi got a good start, as Abraham is known to give up the first couple rounds. However, in rounds 2 and 3, Abraham realized he could take the best shots Krasniqi had to offer and not be phased by it. He began marching down Krasniqi, covering up as he got near him and then throwing jabs, hooks, overhands and landing everything with intent. Towards the middle of the fight, Krasniqi showed his heart, but was wilting away at the punches Abraham threw at him. There were a few occurrences where Krasniqi didn’t have his legs under him, even being told by the ref later in the fight, he wasn’t going to let Robin get hurt, but he managed to hear the final bell. The scorecards were all over the place 115-114, 117-111 and 118-110, all in favor of Arthur Abraham, who sets himself up with Gilberto Ramirez, in a rematch for the WBO Super middleweight title. Ramirez defeated Max Bursak last night in California by sleep inducing unanimous decision. It will be interesting to see if Abraham can do anything in the rematch to force back his title, one tactic would be, to have the fight in Germany, where the judges will certainly side with the hometown guy. Another thing Arthur can do, is to be active. In their first fight, Abrahams activity was almost nonexistent and he gave up his belt on shut out scorecards from the judges
In undercard action, Adam Deines stopped Lukasz Golebiewski in round 3 of an 8-round bout. Deines improved to 11-0-1 and Golebiewski dropped to 8-1. Tom Schwarz stopped out matched Adnan Redzovic in the second round to pick up the vacant WBO Intercontinental heavyweight title. After the bout, Schwarz dedicated his first regional title victory to his grandfather who got him into boxing as a child, and had just recently passed. Lastly, before the main event, we were treated to a special attraction bout, with Mohammed Rabii, who won a bronze medal in the 2016 summer games, had to worker harder than expected over 6 rounds, to defeat Jean Pierre Habimana by unanimous decision, with scores being 58-56. Rabii will have to retool his game plan going forward if he wants to have a successful career.
Avtendil Khurtsidze went into enemy territory and could impressively stop Tommy Langford to gain the interim WBO middleweight strap. Avtendil chased Langford down, laughing off Langford’s punches. Everything Khurtsidze threw, was thrown with intention. In the 5th round, after chasing down Langford, Avtendil caught Tommy Langford with a big left hook that put him down hard, Langford arose in bad shape, and the ref stopped the fight. Avtendil already has his next fight set, as he will challenge Billy Joe Saunders for his middleweight strap in London, on July 8th.
In Liverpool, there was a crossroads battle, as Martin Murray, who was returning to 160lbs, won a majority decision, on scores that had a lot of people questioning, over veteran battle horse, Gabriel Rosado. 114-114 sounded fair, 116-112 for Murray was understandable, but one judge had it 119-109 for Murray which was not to be believed, causing Gabe Rosado to mouth off to the judges after the scores were read, in disgust over the situation. In other action, Rocky Fielding won a split decision over John Ryder, to pick up the British super middleweight title.
In Poland, Krzysztof Zimnoch stopped the past his prime, Michael Grant, in two rounds, who is sadly still fighting even though his best days were in the late 90s when he was a title contender. Zimnoch was a better fighter in every way, hurting Grant with a big combination of punches, Grant went down, got up but was greeted by a left and a right from Zimnoch, that put him away for good.
Lastly, in Sweden, Otto Wallin picked up the biggest win of his career so far, as he stopped Gianluca Mandras, of Italy, in the 5th round. Wallin, in the process, picked up a regional strap. Mikaela Lauren won a 6-round decision over late replacement American, Kita Watkins.
We are a few weeks away from another stay busy fight for Kubrat Pulev, as he returns to his home country of Bulgaria once again, to face the American Veteran, Kevin “Kingpin” Johnson. Pulev is 24-1 with 13 KOs. Kevin Johnson is 30-7-1 with 14 KOs. Johnson has been looked at as a gatekeeper in the heavyweight division. He has only been stopped once in 38 fights, when he was stopped brutally by Anthony Joshua in May of 2015. Clearly, Kubrat Pulev is looking to keep busy until another opportunity arises for him at a world title. This fight will be for the WBA Inter-Continental heavyweight title. Pulev has been a big draw since only recently fighting in his home country. He has fought most his fights in Germany, since he is Promoted by Sauerland Events. Pulev will need to make a big statement against Johnson. He cannot just win a 12-round decision, he will need to look to stop him inside the distance if he wants to be taken seriously. With the card, less than two weeks away, there has only been one other scheduled boxer confirmed to appear, and that is Kai Robin-Havnaa. He is a Norwegian cruiserweight moving up the ranks with a 9-0 record, 8 of those wins coming by knockout.
It was officially announced this week that Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko would air on premium American TV, one network airing the fight live, with the other airing later that evening on a tape delay. It was a nerving situation to big fight fans, who are clamoring to see this fight, with the fight less than two weeks away, there was basically no confirmation if or who would air this fight. With this being such a mega fight in the Heavyweight division. It could not go unaired for the American audience. The fans are glad things were worked out and that they will have access to watch one of the biggest fights of 2017. Obviously, the winner will be the top of the heavyweight division. Deontay Wilder will be ringside, and will want to call out the winner, but as we’ve seen in the past, calling out and fighting are two different things. Let’s all hope Wilder sticks to his guns this time and challenges the winner, because he has avoided the top guys since he started his career. Managing to get to 30-0 against below par opposition, which then somehow, allowed him a title shot which he won against Bermane Stiverne. Since then Wilder has faced good heavyweights, but not the best. Hopefully the money will be too big for Wilder to turn down the winner of Joshua/Klitschko!
We had a star-studded card from Scotland this past weekend as Julius Indongo came into the SSE Hydro and completely outclassed Ricky Burns to a points decision victory. Ricky Burns had hit a wall at lightweight beginning in 2013. After losing his title in 2014 to one of the pound for pound best, Terence Crawford, he had one more fight at lightweight, losing a split to Dejan Zlaticanin, he decided to move up to super lightweight and campaign there, having mostly positive results against lower opposition. Burns was hoping Indongo was the kind of guy, who might have won with a lucky punch, when he won his title in December against Eduard Troyanovsky in enemy territory, in Russia. Saturday in Scotland, where Indongo, was again on enemy territory, proved he’s one of the best in the 140-pound division. Unifying titles and making a run for a possible fight with Junior welterweight king Terence Crawford. It was a great performance that may make Ricky Burns think about his future as a professional boxer.
We were treated to a shock upset when Robbie Barrett, who was expected to be brought in for Scott Cardle, to make a routine defense of his British Lightweight title, lost a majority decision. Cardle knocked down Barrett in the second and fifth round of the bout, but Barrett had too much heart to let the fight get away and fought on like he a true fighter to win on the cards, 115-113, 114-112 while the third judge had it a draw, 114-114. Barrett improves to 15-2-1, while Cardle suffered his first loss of his pro career, dropping to 21-1-1.
Josh Kelly made his pro debut under the Eddie Hearn umbrella yesterday as well, getting his first victory in the paid ranks, defeating tough Jay Byrne over six rounds.
Lawrence Okolie moved to 2-0 when he defeated polish journeyman, Lukasz Rusiewicz in the first round. Okolie is an imitating force in the cruiserweight division with blitzing power. He is 6’5 and has good speed. He will return in two weeks on the Joshua vs. Klitschko undercard at Wembley Stadium before 90,000 fans on the undercard for his third pro bout.
Meanwhile, interim WBA light heavyweight champion, Dmitry Bivol made his stateside TV debut, in the main event of a Shobox card in Maryland, facing Samuel Clarkson. Clarkson has been known to be the underdog upset fighter, beating guys, who are supposed to come in and beat Clarkson to get to that contender phase of their career, but losing their dreams when Clarkson defeats them and brings them back to reality. Bivol showed he is the real deal, knocking down Clarkson twice in the first, and putting him away in the fourth. This was a very impressive performance for the Kyrgyzstan born, Russian based light heavyweight, who, afterwards called for a fight with Nathan Cleverly, who has a secondary WBA light heavyweight title. Bivol, who now has 10 fights under his belt, is moving along very well and very fast. A fight with Cleverly is very interesting and a winnable fight for Bivol. If he can keep this up, future fights with Beterbiev, Barrera and other top contenders will be on his horizon.