The World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) has been a huge success and has given the sport a face lift. Not only have the fights been entertaining and evenly contested but the format could well be the future of boxing.
When the competition was announced most boxing fans were excited by the super-middleweights rather than the cruiserweights but it has been the latter that have produced the goods.
Both semi-finals were fantastic with Oleksandr Usyk (14-0, 11KOs) defeating Mairis Briedis (23-1, 18KOs) by a unanimous decision a few weeks ago and Murat Gassiev (26-0-1, 19KOs) stopping Yunier Dorticos (22-1, 21KOs) in the twelfth and final round a week later.
This weekend the super-middleweights will attempt to match the cruisers when George Groves (27-3, 20KOs) takes on Chris Eubank Jr (26-1, 20KOs) at the Manchester Arena in England.
This will be followed by the only undefeated super-middle left in the competition Callum Smith (23-0, 17KOs) who travels to Arena Nürnberger Versicherung in Germany for a tough challenge against veteran Jürgen Brähmer (49-3, 35KOs) next Weekend.
The fight that has really captured the imagination of the British public is Groves verses Eubank Jr. When the draft gala took place on July 8, 2017 in Monte Carlo, this semi-final was considered to be the most eagerly anticipated.
With the fight only a few days away here is my breakdown of both fighters and my final predictions.
Chris Eubank Jr
Brighton-based Eubank Jr has been a professional for just over six years and in that time he has fought 24 fights at middleweight and 3 at super-middle, totalling 157 rounds with a knockout ratio of 74%. All of his opponents have a combined record of 426-154-26.
In my opinion the 28-year old was overmatched before his only loss to Billy Joe Saunders in 2014. Although the likes of Ivan Jukic, Stephen Horvath and Robert Swierzbinski may have had records that looked decent on paper they were just Europeans with padded records. I believe his biggest test before that loss to Saunders was against tough journeymen Bradley Pryce and Ruslans Pojonisevs, who both went the eight round distance with Eubank giving him valuable experience.
After missing out on the WBO middleweight title his opponents definitely improved. There were two TKO victories over Dmitri Chudinov and Tony Jeter before Gary Sullivan retied in his corner on the Joshua-Whyte undercard. The well documented victory over Nick Blackwell followed before a last stint as middleweight against Tom Duran.
Before the jump to super-middleweight there was a potential showdown with Gennady Golovkin being rumoured but this never materialised due to the lost-pen-gate. In the end Eubank defeated Renold Quinlan in ten rounds to capture the IBO title.
In the summer of 2017, Eubank Jr was ordered to fight Arthur Abraham with the winner taking his place in the WBSS. In Eubank Jr’s most impressive performance he won by unanimous decision and cemented his place in the 8-man bracket tournament.
In the draft picks, it was Chris Eubank Sr that chose undefeated Avni Yildrim for the quarter-final match-up but the Brit had too much power when he sent the Turkish fighter to sleep in two rounds in one of the highlight reel knockouts of the year.
The 29-year old has had 30 fights at super-middleweight, fought a total of 186 rounds and has a 69% knockout ratio since his professional debut in 2008. His opponents have a combined record of 523-143-22.
Before the James DeGale fight in 2011, Groves defended his commonwealth title against Kenny Anderson winning by TKO who was undefeated at the time. Then only at 12-0 he won a majority decision in a close fight against 10-0 at the time DeGale.
Groves continued to challenge himself when he stopped the durable Paul Smith in only two rounds before beating another tough opponent in Glen Johnson by UD.
The Hammersmith-based fighter then won a title eliminator against Noe Gonzalez Alcoba on the undercard of Froch-Kessler 2 to set up the first fight with the Cobra.
After a beautifully timed right hand counter Groves laid Froch out in the first round but after nine rounds referee Howard Foster stopped the fight prematurely in Froch’s favour with Groves ahead on all three judges’ scorecards. The second bout was a complete shut out with Froch winning by KO in the eighth at Wembley stadium.
Groves defeated Christopher Rebrasse by UD before his third shot at a World title against another top level opponent Badou Jack. Unfortunately it was not to be as Jack won by a split decision. Next up was Martin Murray but Groves was too big and too strong for the St Helen’s man.
At the fourth attempt the Londoner finally captured the WBA world title against Fedor Chudinov with a sixth round stoppage. Groves picked and beat another undefeated fighter in Jamie Cox in the quarter-final of the WBSS to set up this mouth-watering semi against Eubank Jr.
George Groves is half an inch taller at 5’11’’ ½ but Eubank Jr has the slightly longer reach by half an inch at 72½’’. To be honest this will not make a difference, if anything Groves will have the reach advantage because of the way he throws his jab.
The Saint is a big super-middleweight that has fought the very best in his division with only one clear defeat against Carl Froch in the second fight. Eubank Jr on the other hand has only fought three times at this weight and is a small super-middle. Granted he defeated a top level fighter in Arthur Abraham but the German is clearly on the downslide.
I can see Groves popping off that jab and connecting at will for the first part of the fight with Eubank Jr throwing combinations in bursts. I don’t think Eubank would have ever felt power like Groves’ which may influence the slightly younger fighter to back off which could cause him a lot of problems.
The corners could play a big part in the fight which could work in Groves’ favour. Eubank Jr can be very obnoxious towards his trainer Ronnie Davies which could harm his chances whereas Groves and Shane McGuigan do seem to have a better rapport which for me give them the edge.
If Eubank Jr can be in the fight come the middle rounds then he could well be in a position go on and win. It is well documented that Groves struggles in the latter stages of fights and Eubank Jr has proved he does have a decent gas tank.
The game plan for the Eubank’s should be to fight on the outside with combination flurries working the head and body while keeping away from that jab, with the intention of taking Groves into the championship rounds.
Groves on the other hand will need to keep connecting with his jab and throw those unpredictable shots from the waist in hope of establishing a healthy lead early on. Once in the championship rounds he should attempt to go for the stoppage but he needs to be careful not to exert too much energy.
Due to his experience and size I am going for a George Groves to edge a majority decision but it would not surprise me if ‘The Saint’ stops Eubank Jr.
After watching young protégé’s in the last few weeks continue their rise through the ranks it has got me thinking about the all-important ‘journeyman’.
Now for the younger generation that don’t care too much about the journeyman, let me tell you something they are hugely important for the development of our talented prospects and for boxing as a whole.
We need good quality journeymen that have already fought the top level fighters we see today, taking on the next generation. If you look at every fighter’s record you will see a journeyman in there somewhere or even in some cases a few times. Now I’m talking about the very best in the business that would have fought one early in their careers.
In Britain for instance we are running out of good solid journeymen. We used to have 20 or 30 but now we have more like a handful that are durable enough to withstand punishment and not get stopped.
There are a few factors contributing to the dying art of the journeyman over here in Britain, obviously I can’t comment too much on what’s happening in the States but here are my reasons;
1. The current crop are not good enough to give our prospects a decent fight so promoters are hand picking unheard of European fighters.
2. More fights are being televised which is by no means a bad thing but the trouble is fans are fickle and do not want to see a prospect fighting a guy they know has no chance of winning, hence why these European fighters are stepping in their place with padded records. Their records may look good on paper but when you look closely enough their opponents have been terrible.
3. Respectable figures in boxing are making disrespectful comments at journeymen. Former referee Ritchie Davies said in a recent interview last year:
“Journeymen are very brave but unfortunately some of them are very naive. Having 100 fights and winning five or six – where’s your dignity? Getting up there to be a loser just because you’re getting a few quid. I don’t understand it.”
For me that is a complete insult which was clearly directed at Johnny Greaves. What is there not to understand? These guys are not only fighting for the love of the sport but for their families and to make a living. Not every boxer will earn thousands or even millions in their careers so if a feller wants to make a pound note off losing in the ring then good luck to ‘em.
What it takes to be a journeyman
It takes a different mind-set to decide that you want to be an ‘on the road fighter’. These guys fight every week for a decent amount of dosh but need to box clever as the last thing they want to do is win. Winning can ruin your career as a journeyman as it’s bad for business; I mean let’s face it that is exactly what it is. It’s not about winning but it’s not about throwing the fight either, it’s about having a good decent scrap against an up and coming fighter while teaching them some ring craft and getting paid. These guys are professional boxers with skill who could have possibly gone on to collect a couple of belts but the chances are they would not have earned as much money.
Being a journeyman is tough as they need to be super durable and ring smart so they can avoid serious punishment, as the chances are they will be called upon in a week, saving another show at short notice because an opponent has got injured.
They must be thick skinned as they will suffer abuse from the home crowd as they are always cheering on the opponent with the dream of becoming the next big star. The guy that wants to be spotted by a major promoter and maybe one day see their name up in lights on a massive night in Vegas.
Sometimes however the road warrior will pick up an unlikely victory because they haven’t been matched right by the promoter or they have been unexpectedly caught with a knockout punch. These boxers are there to hit back and some can hit harder than their boxing record may reflect.
On more occasions then not they will lose but they will last, which is the most important thing. A successful night would be to last 4, 6 or even 8 rounders, make the other fighter demonstrate their skill-set, not get cut and entertain the home crowd. Continue in that fashion and they will have a fight every week for no less than a grand.
The successful journeymen
Two of the most successful British journeymen are the aforementioned Johnny Greaves (4-96) who was the Londoner that always lost well and ‘Mr Reliable’ Kristian Laight (12-263-8) who will finish his career very soon. Johnny is now a trainer and is currently working with Sonny Whiting (5-25-2) dishing out typical advise like; “You know the drill, son. You’re gonna move about, don’t get hit, get paid and let’s go home.”
On the international seen we had Marion Wilson (12-41-4) ‘The Creep’ from Maryland, USA who was never stopped in 57 fights and the most naturally-gifted journeyman of all ‘The Drunken Master’ Emanuel Augustus (38-34-6). If you ever get the chance to watch Augustus then check out his fight with Micky Ward on YouTube.
But one guy that was a journeyman but has had a dramatic change of fortune is the talented Lolenga Mock (42-14-1) who is still fighting today at the ripe age of 45-years old and looking for a world title shot in the super-middleweight division. The ‘Lumumba Boy’ as Mock likes to me known is the chap that floored an up and coming David Haye and is now on an 11 fight win streak.
A different bread of journeymen
You see, what we are getting now are the other fighters who have been slightly successful, captured a credible title or two and maybe beat a big name during their career. The fighters that end up losing a few but are solid and durable and will give anyone a competitive fight. These guys are the ones who are the next step on the professional ladder after an unbeaten fighter gets to 10/15 professional fights. I’m talking about your Carson Jones (40-13-3) and Breidis Prescott (30-12) who have both become stepping stones for the next generation of fighters and was both present at fights in the last few weeks.
Then we have other fighters that are heading the same way like Dereck Chisora (27-8) and Kiko Martinez (38-8-1) who on their day can defeat any one of the top level fighters in their retrospective weight divisions but have now just become a name on someone’s record rather than a potential contender.
Look no further than Chisora-Whyte on December 2016 and Warrington-Martinez last year. Many felt that Chisora should have got the nod ahead of Whyte in thrilling encounter. The same goes for Martinez when he lost a close decision against Warrington.
What this shows is that even when these guys do end up in very close fights the judges will always favour the other opponent. If it had of gone the other way then Warrington and Whyte would not be headlining in big fights this year. No doubt we will probably see Chisora face Joe Joyce (1-0) and Martinez take on Reece Bellotti (12-0) and even if it’s tight there will only be one winner otherwise it’s bad for business.
On Saturday night at the O2 Arena in London Lawrence Okolie (8-0, 6KOs) from Hackney defeated Brixton-born Isaac Chamberlain (9-1,4KOs) in the battle of East vs South London.
Failed to deliver
Okolie, 25 did win empthatically by knocking down Chamberlain twice and outpointing a disappointing Chamberlain in almost every round. Unfortunately for me the fight failed the deliver as a spectacle and it showed just how far both fighters are off the pace in the cruiserweight division.
Of course, it is still early days in both their careers and no doubt they have gained valuable experience by fighting each other but look no further than the Sochi Stunner to show just how far behind they are in the cruiserweight division.
Pressure of the occasion
The writing was on the cards for Chamberlain from the very first round when he went down from the first Okolie right hand. Obviously concerned by the ‘Sauce’s power the 23-year old kept reducing the gap to prevent further punishment.
The poor start continued for ‘Chambo’ when he was deducted a point for excessive holding in the second round.
The 6ft 5inch frame of Okolie was proving difficult for Chamberlain to get past. Even when Isaac made his opponent miss he was unable to get off any punches. Maybe the pressure of the occasion was too much to handle or maybe he was just resinded to the fact that he just wasn’t good enough on the night?
It became more of a wrestling match at times to the dissatisfaction of the 8,000 strong crowd who started the vent their frustration at the lack of action.
Okolie wins comfortably
In the sixth round Chamberlain was caught with a chopping right hand that forced him to touch the canvas which prompted another count by referee Steve Gray.
Chamberlain did manage to win the ninth but only because Okolie was also deducted a point for holding. The last round was probably the most entertaining because both fighters finally managed to take a step back and let their hands go.
In the end it was Lawrence Okolie that won by unanimous decision with scores of 98-89, 96-90 & 97-89. I agreed with the third judge 97-89.
I own London
After the fight Lawrence Okolie was delighted with his victory, he said: “In the build-up to this, it was east London versus south London but I consider myself London.
Right now in the cruiserweight division, I own London, now let’s go for Britain.
“I answered questions in there. Isaac is a good fighter and he tested me in different ways. This is a benchmark and I want to push on from this”.
On the undercard Ted Cheeseman (13-0, 8KOs) won a unanimous decision against the durable Carson Jones (40-13-3, 30KOs). It was a good performance from the Bermondsey boy but improvement is needed if he is to fulfill his potential.
Light heavyweight Joshua Buatsi (4-0, 3KOs) who like Lawrence Okolie is under the management of Anthony Joshua produced a polished performance against Jordan Joseph (7-2-1,2KOs).
If the 24-year old can continue to improve at this rate it won’t be long before the British boxing faithful start calling for another London rivalry against Anthony Yarde (14-0, 13KOs).
The World Boxing Super Series served up another great night of boxing in Sochi, Russia. Murat Gassiev (26-0,19KOs) produced a stunning performance against Yunier Dorticos (22-1, 21KOs) to win the semi-final and add the WBA belt to his IBF world cruiserweight title.
The undefeated Russian will now take his place in the final against WBO and WBC champion Oleksandr Usyk on May 11 at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Bright start from Dorticos
Dorticos also known as ‘The KO Doctor’ established a healthy lead, winning three of the first four rounds. The Cuban born 31-year old stalked Gassiev using his jab and right hand cross to good effect. Granted he was caught with a few eye catching shots but his aggressive style caused Gassiev problems.
Gassiev starts to take control
From the fifth round onwards it was all about the 24-year old Russian who was fighting on the back foot well but started to take the centre of the ring. The right hand and left uppercut combination continued to find the target in the fifth and sixth.
Gassiev started to target the body in the seventh as the solid Cubans cast iron chin seemed to be impossible to crack. The eighth was a close round which I gave to Dorticos for good use of his jab.
Into the championship rounds we went and the Russian took complete control hitting the Cuban with some beautiful combinations. The left hook and uppercuts where landing flush but Dorticos just kept moving forward.
It was the eleventh round when the cracks started to show when Gassiev landed with a three punch combination that shook Dorticos to his heels but somehow he managed to survive the round.
17 seconds to go
In the final round the Sochi crowd favourite finally landed a wonderful looping left hand bang on the chin and put Dorticos down hard. The resilient Miami-based fighter managed to beat the count but was put down again with an emulation of punches.
An exhausted and bewildered Gassiev could not believe it when Dorticos beat the count again but with 17 seconds left Gassiev finally knocked his resilient opponent through the ropes to end the fight.
My two pennies worth
The World Boxing Super Series has been a huge success and the cruiserweight division has served up two stunning semi-finals. The final will be an entertaining watch but I’m not convinced with the venue in Saudi Arabia?
For me after witnessing the atmospheres in both Russia and Latvia it does not make sense the have the final away from Europe. I hope I am wrong but this could be a mistake.
On the undercard I have to mention Mikhali Aloyan’s (4-0, 0KOs) victory against Alexander Espinoza (15-1-1, 7KOs) it really was 10 terrific rounds of boxing.
We have an action packed Weekend of boxing ahead domestically and internationally. Here are my fight breakdowns and predictions.
First off we have the World Series of Boxing which kick-starts Season 8 tonight, Feb 2. The British Lionhearts travel to Paris for what should be a fierce match up against the France Fighting Roosters. British Lionhearts to win 2-3.
On Saturday night we have undefeated cruiser-weights Issac Chamberlain (9-0, 4KOs) and Lawrence Okolie (7-0, 6KOs) facing each other in the main event being billed as “British Beef”.
I really can’t split these two orthodox fighters in a South vs East London rivalry. The Hackney-born East Londoner Okolie 25, has a slight height advantage with an Olympic and world series of boxing background but his opponents in the pro ranks have not been as experienced with a combined record of 39-46-1 and he has only boxed 15 rounds.
The Brixton-born South Londoner ‘Chambo’ is 23-years old and has had two more professional fights which could make the difference, his opponents have a combined record of 56-123-9 and has boxed 43 rounds.
I think it will be a good fight and a lot will depend on if Chamberlain can survive the early onslaught but if he can then I think Chamberlain will get the nod on points or maybe a late stoppage. Otherwise I think Okolie will win by a knockout or stoppage early in the fight.
If I stick my neck on the line I am going for a 5th or 6th round KO for ‘The Sauce’ in an entertaining domestic fight.
The Big Cheese..
Also on the bill is another talented youngster from Bermondsey, South-East London called Ted Cheeseman (12-0, 8KOs). The super welterweight steps up a level to fight Carson Jones (40-12-3, 30KOs). Keep a beady eye on this kid as he has looked impressive so far and has all the tools to reach the top. I expect the 22-year old to put in a great performance and look good against a tricky and experienced opponent. Cheeseman to win by UD.
Also on the card we have Reece Bellotti in a good match-up against Ben Jones plus Gamal Yafai, Joshua Buatsi, Charlie Edwards, Felix Cash, Nick Webb, Sean McGoldrick, Danny Dignum and Paul Butler.
Moving onto the World Boxing Super Series, semi-finals we have the biggest fight of the weekend, Murat Gassiev (25-0, 18KOs) vs Yunier Dorticos (22-0, 21KOs).
I cannot see this fight going the distance which is a good thing as the last thing we need is the judges getting involved. Both fighters have a combined total of 39 KO’s but it is the younger, home fighter from Russia who has fought the most rounds at 108 against Dorticos’ 61. Gassiev’s opponents have a combined record of 390-252-24 against the Cuban’s 339-216-22 who has a better KO percentage at 95%.
Gassiev impressed me when he became the first man to stop Poland’s Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (53-4-1, 37KOs) in the quarter-finals. Therefore I am going for the 24-year-old to win by knockout in rounds 4 or 5. But it really could go either way and it wouldn’t surprise me if Dorticos came out the victor.
Lastly we have Giberto Ramirez (36-0, 24KOs) vs Habib Ahmed (25-0-1, 17 KOs). The African champion will be fighting out of Ghana for the first time in his career and I believe he will be out of his depth against the unbeaten Mexican. I predict that Ramirez will get his first stoppage since November 2014 and look impressive while doing so. For me, this fight is just a stepping stone towards a fight in Australia against Rohan Murdock (20-1, 15 KOs) in the summer.
Enjoy the fights this Weekend!
2017 is going to be remembered as one of the best years in boxing history and it’s been a pleasure to witness. It’s incredible to think that it was over 6 months ago when I made the comparison with another great year 1997.
I sent my views into the Billy C show at the end of July and wrote an article ‘Magnificent 7 in 2017’ that highlighted the great fights we were being treated to.
After picking out my best fights from both years here is my ‘round by round’ break down on how 2017 fared against 1997.
January – Round 1
James Degale against Badou Jack ended in a majority draw with the IBF & WBC super-middleweight titles on the line in one of the fights of the year.
Leo Santa Cruz beat Carl Frampton in a rematch by majority decision to win back the WBA featherweight title. It may not have been as good as the first encounter but that was due to a change in style by Santa Cruz that left Frampton’s camp bewildered.
Immanuwel Aleem beat Ukrainian Evhen Khytrov by TKO in round 6 to win the vacant WBC silver middleweight title. The second round saw 200 punches thrown; there are only 180 seconds in a round.
Super featherweight Miguel Berchelt became the WBC champion when he defeated Francisco Vargas. The referee stopped the fight in the 11th round after a bloody Mexican war.
In the WBC “Fight of the Year”, Daniel Zaragoza retained his super bantamweight title in an upset win against undefeated Irishman Wayne McCullough who had moved up in weight.
Scorecard: 10-9 to 2017
February – Round 2
Two undefeated super bantamweights fought it out for the vacant WBC title in Hull, England. Gavin McDonnell may have had home advantage but it was the Mexican Rey Vargas who took the belt by majority decision.
In one of the shocks of the year American Rau’shee Warren lost a split decision against unknown Zhanat Zhakiyanov. The Kazakh who is trained by British fan favourite Ricky Hatton pulled off an upset and won the WBA bantamweight title.
Lennox Lewis won the vacant WBC heavyweight title in a rematch against Oliver McCall. The referee stopped the fight after McCall refused to box and began crying in the ring. It was one of the strangest fights in boxing history that’s for sure.
In the last fight of his career Mike McCallum lost a unanimous decision in a rubber match against James Toney.
Scorecard: 9-10 to 1997
March – Round 3
Keith Thurman defeated Danny Garcia by split decision to unify the WBC & WBA welterweight titles in an intriguing match-up. If ‘One time’ hadn’t stepped off the gas in the later rounds it would have been a unanimous decision.
Tony Bellew moved up in weight to beat an injured David Haye in one of the most peculiar fights this year. It was definitely a bit WWE but not as much as another fight that happened in August which I will not mention.
Gennady Golovkin retained his WBA, WBC & IBF middleweight straps in a close fight against Daniel Jacobs. Many people felt ‘The Miracle Man’ won the fight but for me Triple G did enough to get the nod.
On the same bill Wisaksil Wangek became the first man to defeat Roman Gonzalez by a dubious majority decision. The four weight world champion was 46-0 before his loss but the Thai put an end to all doubters when he knocked out Chocolatito in the rematch later in the year.
Jorge Linares was too strong in the rematch against a valiant competitor in Anthony Crolla when he retained the WBA and The Ring lightweight titles in Manchester.
Before being voted into the International Hall of Fame in June 1997, a 40-year-old Sugar Ray Lennard returned to the ring for the last time against Puerto Rican Hector Camacho. Although both past their best at this point it was the younger man that came through victorious with a fifth round stoppage.
Roy Jones Jr suffered his first loss at the hands of Montell Griffin who was also undefeated at the time. Although the six-time world champion was ahead on the scorecards Jones was disqualified for hitting Griffin while taking a knee in round 9.
One of the greatest African boxers of his time Azumah Nelson lost to Genaro Hernandez by in a controversial split decision losing the WBC & Lineal super featherweight titles. The Ghanaian was almost disqualified when he punched the Mexican-American in the throat by accident.
Scorecard: 10-9 to 2017
April – Round 4
Anthony Joshua moved to 19-0 retaining his IBF and capturing the vacant IBO & WBA heavyweight titles when he stopped future Hall of Famer Wladimir Klitschko in round 11. It was Billy C Boxing’s fight of the year as well as mine. There is no question that the ‘Battle in the Capital’ was one for the ages. Take a bow gentleman.
After his defeat to Keith Thurman in one of the fight s of 2016 Shawn Porter was pitted against Andre Berto in a final eliminator. In a scrappy but absorbing fight the former IBF champion earned another world title fight against the unified welterweight champ.
Óscar De La Hoya was 23-0 when he took on WBC & Lineal welterweight champion Pernell Whitaker. Once again ‘Little Pea’ as Whitaker was known lost a dubious unanimous decision, although it wasn’t a blatant robbery like the Ramirez or Chavez fights.
One of the greatest Mexican boxers of all time Marco Anthonio Barrera lost for the first time in 1996 to American Junior Jones by disqualification. Five months later and the Baby Faced Assassin lost again but this time by a controversial decision losing his a chance to recapture the WBO super bantamweight title.
Scorecard: 10-9 to 2017
May – Round 5
IBF welterweight champion Kell Brook defended his title against Errol Spence Jr at his beloved Bramall Lane, Sheffield after returning from a damaged eye socket he suffered at the hands of Triple G. Unfortunately for Brook he lost his title in front of a 27,000 strong crowd when the referee stopped the contest in the 11th round. It was later announced that ‘The Special One’ had damaged his other eye socket during the fight.
After five successful defences of his IBF light-welterweight title undefeated Kostya Tszyu suffered his first professional loss against American Vince Phillips. Ring magazine named the fight as their upset of the year.
Scorecard: 10-9 to 2017
June – Round 6
After the very controversial first victory in favour of Andre Ward in November 2016 Sergey Kovalev promised to put the wrong right. Unfortunately for the heavy hitting Russian he was stopped in round 8 after a bitterly disappointing performance. What will be remembered is two of the best in the light heavyweight division fought again but the fight itself wasn’t much of a spectacle.
WBA heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield defended his title against Mike Tyson after winning the strap in their first encounter back in November 1996. The rematch was eagerly anticipated but will always go down in the history books as “The Bite Fight”. Tyson was disqualified for biting off part Holyfield’s ear, known as the helix and spitting it onto the canvas.
Scorecard: 9-10 to 1997
July – Round 7
Eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao defended his WBO welterweight title in Australia against home favourite Jeff Horn. It was a hard fought fight that once again ended in controversy after all three judges scored in favour of Horn.
In a battle of the multiple division world champions Mikey Garcia produced a polished performance at the 140Ib catch weight against Adrien Broner. The undefeated American showed why he is one of the best ‘pound for pound’ fighters in the world right now and made Broner look mediocre at best.
In his fifth defence of the IBF middleweight title Bernard Hopkins managed to stop undefeated Glenn Johnson in the 11th round who had an unblemished 32-0 record.
The long-awaited unification bout between super-flyweight champions Danny Romero who held the IBF version and Johnny Tapia who had the WBO finally took place. In a close fight it was Tapia who came out victorious by UD.
Scorecard: 9-10 to 1997
August – Round 8
On a historic night in Lincoln, Nebraska Terrence Crawford fought Julius Indongo to determine the undisputed light welterweight champion, the first time all the titles had been at stake in a single fight since Bernard Hopkins vs Jermaine Taylor in 2005. In front of his home crowd Crawford showed the world why he is considered one of the best ‘pound for pound’ fighters in the world when he knocked out Indongo in round 3.
Five months on from his first professional defeat Roy Jones Jr was on a seek and destroy mission against Montell Griffin in the rematch. It took just over 2 minutes in the first round for Jones Jr to knock out Griffin and retain the WBC light heavyweight title.
Scorecard: 10-9 to 2017
September – Round 9
After years of marinating as we like to say on the Billy C Boxing show Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and Gennady ‘Triple G’ Golovkin finally gave the boxing faithful what we all wanted. In a close fight which I feel Golovkin won by a couple of rounds the judges scored it a disappointing majority draw. Not quite the fight we all hoped for but a classic nether the less.
At the ripe age of 39-years-old WBC super-bantamweight champion Daniel Zaragoza was knocked out in the 11th round by 21 year-old Erik Morales. This was the first World title in the legendary Mexicans glittering career.
After both fighters recorded earlier victories in the year; Óscar De La Hoya as recent as June and Hector Camacho defeating a now retired Ray Lennard, it was time for a Mexico vs Puerto Rico tear up. Of course it was undefeated Mexican-American De La Hoya that retained his WBC and lineal welterweight titles with a UD victory.
Scorecard: 10-9 to 2017
October – Round 10
Ryan Burnett (my British fighter of the year) picked up the IBF bantamweight title in June with an accomplished performance over Lee Haskins. The Belfast boy wasted no time in becoming a unified champion when he defeated the WBA champion Zhanat Zhakiyanov. Both would have been forgiven for taking on an easier defence of their titles but this isn’t how these two roll.
The late great Arturo Gatti made his first defence of his IBF Junior lightweight title against former champion Gabriel Ruelas. In typical Gatti style the fight had 5 fantastic rounds of boxing which ended with a beautiful left hook from Gatti that TKO’d Ruelas. Awarded ‘fight of the year’ and ’round of the year’ by Ring Magazine.
With the WBO super-middleweight title vacant Joe Calzaghe, who was supposed to fight Steve Collins took on Chris Eubank. After the Welshman knocked Eubank down in the first round he went on to win by UD and pick up his first world title.
Lennox Lewis retained his WBC heavyweight title for the second time in 1992 when he knocked out Polish number one contender Andrew Golota in the first round.
Scorecard: 9-10 to 1997
November – Round 11
The first encounter back in April was a contender for domestic fight of the year which ended controversially, but in the rematch Liam Smith produced a professional performance to beat Liam Williams by a majority decision.
After the ‘Bite Fight’ incident earlier in the year Evander Holyfield avenged his defeat against Michael Moorer. After knocking down Moorer 5 times referee Mitch Halpern stopped the fight between the eighth and ninth rounds. Once again Holyfield unified the WBA and IBF heavyweight titles.
At the age of 48, and his last professional fight George Foreman was given the opportunity to fight an ‘elimination bout’ against Shannon Briggs for the right to face WBC champion Lennox Lewis. Unfortunately the heavyweight legend lost a controversial majority decision against his younger opponent.
Scorecard: 9-10 to 1997
December – Round 12
Vasyl Lomachenko or ‘No Mas Chenko’ produced another quality performance against Guillermo Rigondeaux who moved up two weights to fight Loma. This was the fourth time in a row that the Ukrainian forced one of his opponents to quit, as Riga retired on his stool after round 6.
Not too many pundits or boxing fans gave WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders a chance against the heavy hitting Canadian David Lemieux. The Brit won by a landslide with a superb performance on Lemieux’s home patch.
In one of the fights of the year domestically Conor Benn was dropped twice in the first round by Cedrick Paynaud. Benn responded well and managed to knockdown the Frenchman in rounds 5 and 6, to win by the referee’s scorecard.
With back to back victories against Barrera, Junior Jones defended his WBO super bantamweight title against 1988 Olympic gold medallist Kennedy McKinney. Jones lost his title by TKO in the fourth round.
In what is my fight of 1992, Naseem Hamed finally made his US debut against former champion Kevin Kelley. The flamboyant Hamed was put down three times but managed to comeback strongly and win by knockout in round 4 and retain his WBO featherweight title.
Scorecard: 9-10 to 1997
2017 = 114
1997 = 114
So there you have it a draw! The 2017 crop flew into a four round lead after the first six rounds but 1997 came back strong with some excellent fights at the back end of the year.
Not all were spectacular but what we did see last year was the best fighting the best so let’s hope that 2018 can be even better but it will take some doing.
Eddie Hearn confirms that the fight between IBF, IBO and WBA champion Anthony Joshua and WBO holder Joseph Parker is very close.
Hearn also indicated that the New Zealander will not be able to handle the pressure which is a strong indication that the fight will be in the UK & not Saudi Arabia or Nigeria as being mentioned. When Hearn talks about pressure surely he means fighting AJ and the weight of the home crowd?
Talking with a local English newspaper Hearn said: “Can Parker deal with the pressure? That’s only something we will find out on the night,”
“He will never have or never will experience anything like this.”
“Only the special fighters are capable of experiencing it and rising above it and actually performing.”
“I don’t think Parker will crumble but will he lose his head? Quite possibly.
“If he doesn’t and he can execute his game plan, then he may be a very special talent.”
“I think Parker is a lot better fighter than he has looked in his last couple of fights, everybody in boxing knows that.”
“But can he execute that performance under this sort of pressure?That’s what everybody’s asking, because we know AJ can.”
Eddie Hearn also wanted to cleared up his reason for including a rematch clause in the contract;
“A rematch isn’t for [Joshua’s] protection.”
“If he wins, he’s going to make an absolute fortune in the rematch. If it’s a good fight and Joe loses, we’ll do it again no problems.”
“It’s a carrot to show [Parker] what’s possible – it’s an incentive to get him to take the fight.”
“If he beats AJ, then the first fight he will want after is a rematch because it’s the biggest fight in boxing. If he does win he’s also going to be the biggest star in the sport,”
Joshua told the BBC: “Negotiations are tough, but, in terms of the love of the sport, I won’t let that get in the way from achieving my goal because legacy is important to me and I think we’re achieving something,”
“To hold all the belts has never been done before, so I won’t let negotiations get in the way of securing my legacy and what I could achieve in the sport.
“I think we’re 95 per cent of the way there with completing with Joseph Parker.”
The WBA have now made Alexander Povetkin it’s mandatory challenger after his recent win over Christian Hammer.
I know this my not come as a shock to anyone but I think this will definitely throw a spanner in the works for any potential rematch being discussed or any other big fights in the summer. Especially if Joshua is keen on collecting all the world heavyweight belts.
This is why I think AJ needs to forget about unifying the division and give the fans what we want and that’s Wilder or Fury. He talks legacy, well he needs to push the big fights not concentrate on the belts, if anything he should ditch the dam WBA belt!
The WBA is a joke! A good example of their money grabbing antics and their complete and utter ignorance to us as boxing fans is, since 2011 when the WBA decided to recognise two world champions instead of one, the WBA have made sh*t loads more dosh in sanctioning fees, hence why they will never have one champion. Just look at their top 15:
Officially today Eddie Hearn finalised a fight between two of his prized Cruiserweight’s Lawrence Okolie (7-0, 6KOs) and Isaac Chamberlain (9-0, 4KOs).
The bitter London rivals will go head to head at the O2 Arena on February 3 2018 and look to settle a score that has been building up for months.
The pair have been at war on social media with Brixton’s Chamberlain confronting Hackney’s Okolie when they were both ringside at York Hall.
Okolie said: “I think it’s going to be a bloody, brutal fight.
“I said when I first turned professional I’m not here to mess about, I want to take risks and push on. Chamberlain has done a lot of talking and on February 3 we’ll see if he can back up his words.
“It’s one for the fans in a thriving domestic division. People will finally see me come out of the cage.”
Chamberlain said: “It’s been a long time coming. I’m pleased we have finished and signed off on all the negotiations, now that is done we can focus on the fight. It’s a great fight for British boxing fans.
“Nothing has been given to me and I still have that underdog mentality – everything I want I have to go and get it, I’ve earnt my stripes.
“That’s made me a lot stronger fighter and that’s going to show on February 3. I want to knock him out. I’m going to knock him out. I’m going to train so hard, I’m going to knock him out cold.”
The pair will head a stacked card including Natasha Jonas (4-0, 4KOs) and Watford’s Reece Bellotti (11-0, 10KOs) who will defend his Commonwealth featherweight title against Ben Jones (22-6-1, 10KOs)
One fighter to watch out for is super welterweight Ted Cheeseman (12-0, 8KOs) who will step up his level of opponent against Carson Jones (40-12-3, 30KOs)
Also on the bill is Okolie’s Rio Olympic team-mate Joshua Buatsi (3-0, 2KOs) who returns from injury, Ohara Davies (16-1, 13KOs) & Felix Cash (7-0, 5KOs)
I am somewhat surprised that Eddie Hearn has finally gave into the demands of both fighters who have been very vocal about squaring off against each other. Especially considering that neither have gone past 10 pro fights yet.
Saying that I am looking forward to a great fight. There is absolutely nothing wrong with losing, the only damage it could do is derail their careers for 18 months or so.
If anything it shows the younger generation that the ‘O’ means absolutely nothing and good young fighters can fight each other instead of having a protected record.
With so many different versions of world titles in boxing today there are seven fighters that can consider themselves as the best super middleweight in the world. But as Sal ‘Rocky’ Cenicola would say, “Who will be the cream that rises to the top.”
Degale loses IBF title
The super middleweight division was blown wide open after James Degale’s (23-2, 14KOs) shock defeat to Caleb Truax (29-3-2, 18KOs). Although Degale held only one version of a number of titles many would have considered the Londoner to be the best super middleweight around, especially after Babou Jack (22-1-2, 13KOs) moved up to light heavyweight.
Now the former IBF champion will need to lick his wounds and re-group for 2018 if he is to climb back up the ladder. That being said Truax has already hinted at a rematch although it’s going to cost Degale a good few bob.
The World Boxing Super Series added the super middleweight division to its format so we could identify a clear champion. Unfortunately once the series is complete there will only be one unified champion. And that’s if you consider the IBO strap to be a recognisable capture?
In the semi-finals we have WBA super champion George Groves (27-3, 27KOs) up against IBO champion Chris Eubank Jr (26-1, 20KOs) in Manchester on February 17 2018. This fight has definitely caught the imagination of the British public considering it sold out in 7 minutes.
In the other semi-final Jürgen Brähmer (49-3, 35KOs) is up against Liverpudlian Callum Smith (23-0, 17KOs). There may not be any titles up for grabs in this one but it will be an intriguing match-up. The 39-year-old German will hope he can roll back the years against the dangerous Brit 12-years his junior.
Ramírez route mapped out
The WBO champion Gilberto Ramírez (36-0, 24KOs) will put his title on the line against Habib Ahmed (22-0, 17 KOs) on February 3rd. The African champion will be fighting out of Ghana for the first time in his career when he heads to Texas to fulfil his dream.
Top Rank’s Bob Arum who promotes Ramírez is in no rush to negotiate any unification bouts, not at least until the Mexican has fought Ahmed Habib, Rohan Murdock (20-1, 15 KOs) in Australia with a homecoming return to Mexico after.
The WBC has one recognised champion in David Benavidez (19-0, 17KOs). The American slugger got off the canvas to beat Ronald Gavril (20-2, 14KOs) by split decision back in September to pick up the vacant title.
The Romanian will get another shot at the title in 2018 as a rematch is currently being scheduled in. If Benavidez was to be successful again Al Haymon who is directing his career was hoping to negotiate a unification fight with Degale sometime next year. That has now been blown out of the water thanks to Caleb Truax’s victory.
The Regular & Interim Champions
Tyron Zeuge (21-0-1, 11KOs) is the WBA ‘Regular’ Champion and hasn’t fought since beating Callum’s brother Paul Smith (38-7, 22KOs) back in June 2017. To his credit the German was due to defend his title against Isaac Ekpo (31-3, 24KOs) on December 2nd but unfortunately the fight was postponed due to Zeuge being ill. Team Sauerland who promotes the 25-year-old is hopeful the fight can be rescheduled for March 2018.
The IBF ‘Interim’ Champion Andre Dirrell (26-2, 16KOs) won his last fight by a controversial disqualification against Jose Uzcategui (26-2, 22KOs) on May 20. The fight was ruled as a disqualification after the 26-year-old Venezuelan punched Dirrell once the bell had sounded. After an appeal the ruling was upheld by the Maryland State Athletic Commission.
The IBF governing body did not agree with the commission’s decision and ordered a rematch which should take place in Los Angeles on January 27 2018. One person that will not be present at the rematch or any other future fights will be Dirrell’s uncle and trainer Leon Lawson who punched the 26-year-old Venezuelan in the face after the controversial first bout.
What to expect in 2018
With some many sanctioning bodies, promoters and fighters involved it would be unrealistic to think that come the end of 2018 there will be one undisputed super middleweight champion.
The IBF should be in a position to remove the interim title by the summer with a the winner of the Dirrell-Uzcategui fight in January taking on the current real champion Caleb Truax. This is of course if the American does not wish to accept a rematch with James Degale.
In an ideal world a summer showdown between the winners of each fight should happen. Then the possibility of a unification match-up with Benavidez, if of course he still holds he WBC title could be a realistic option.
The World Boxing Super Series will come to a close by the summer with a unified WBA and IBO champion. Unification fights at the end of 2018 will depend on who wins the Series. But if the WBA think logically then whoever still holds the regular title would be the ideal opponent for the Muhammad Ali trophy winner.
If Gilberto Ramírez can retain his title against Habib Ahmed in February then the Mexican will almost certainly travel to Australia to face Rohan Murdock as being mapped out by Bob Arum. This is by no means a certain victory for the 26-year-old especially taking on Murdock who has flown under the radar of late in his own back yard.
Again if successful then of course he will return to Mexico for his homecoming fight against who ever has the bottle to face him on home soil.
I am playing devils advocate here and a lot can happen in the next 12 months but one thing is for sure the cream will not rise to the top come the end of 2018. But we should have a lot less champions that can call themselves the best super middleweight in the world.
What do you think? Who is your best super middleweight at the moment? We would love to hear your views at BillyCBoxing.com