Whatever your perspective on the pathetic Mayweather vs McGregor circus, no one can argue that this past week was one for boxing to be proud of. An undefeated former champion and future Hall of Famer, likely the most successful fighter in boxing history in regards to career earnings, exchanging vulgar insults and profane diatribes with a man who has absolutely no qualifications to compete as a boxer at the elite level, cannot be regarded as a high water mark for the sport we love, quite the opposite. Fact is, if you’re a serious boxing fan, it’s all rather embarrassing.
So, thankfully, it was a relatively busy weekend for fight fans and the ring action that took place on Friday and Saturday did, to some extent at least, wash away the rancid taste of those four completely pointless and absurd press conferences, as we saw a number of significant matches go down. Let’s get to it.
On Friday in Los Angeles, previously undefeated super featherweight prospect Roger “The Kid” Gutierrez (15-1-1) was upset by Nicaraguan journeyman Rene Alvarado (26-8) as the more experienced fighter simply out-hustled and out-worked the hot prospect from Venezuela before laying down a serious butt-kicking starting in round three. When a bad cut opened over Gutierrez’s right eye in the fifth it was evident this was just not the younger man’s night and his corner stopped the match after round seven.
Another journeyman scored another unexpected win, this time in Mexico City, when Josue Veraza (19-8-2) knocked down former world title challenger Romulo Koasicha (25-7) in the second round and then cruised to a one-sided points victory. Nice to see the opponents get the win for a change; these are the guys the sport should appreciate to put all this Mayweather-McGregor nonsense into proper perspective. Real warriors competing in hostile territory, fighting to put food on the table, boxers with some dignity and pride. Anyway, I digress.
On Saturday, Chris Eubank Jr. (25-1) notched perhaps the most impressive win of his career thus far as he won almost every round against former two-time world champion Arthur Abraham (46-6) at London’s Wembley Arena. At this stage of the Armenian’s career, Abraham simply lacks the reflexes and speed to deal with Eubank’s natural quickness and sharp punches. The victory makes Eubank eligible for the fledgling World Boxing Super Series.
On the London undercard, IBF featherweight champion “Lightning” Leo Selby (26-1), whose mother had unexpectedly passed earlier in the week, defended his title with a 12 round unanimous decision over former champion Jonathan Victor Barros (41-5-1). Selby was too sharp and slick for Barros and the champion put an exclamation mark on his excellent performance by flooring Barros with a left hook in the final round. The judges all gave Selby the win by margins of seven or more points.
In a classic crossroads fight between two welterweight contenders and ex-champions on Premier Boxing Champions, Omar Figueroa (27-0-1) blew away Robert Guerrero (33-6-1) in three rounds at New York’s Nassau Coliseum, scoring a total of five knockdowns in the process. This was Figueroa’s first fight in 18 months and he looked awesome. Then again, Guerrero looked completely shot.
Omar had voluntarily taken a lengthy vacation from pugilism to let his body heal and at this point it appears the layoff did him good. Here’s hoping we see him challenge one of the top guys at 147 in the very near future. Anyone for Figueroa vs Shawn Porter? Meanwhile, Guerrero has had so many chances, I really don’t want to see him in a major fight ever again. Hopefully “The Ghost,” who is a rather creaky 34 years of age and has only two wins since 2013 (against five defeats), decides to retire. He’s done.
We saw two major fights at light heavyweight yesterday, the first on the PBC undercard featuring an impressive performance from Marcus Browne (20-0) who demolished previously unbeaten Seanie Monaghan just 40 seconds into the second round. Monaghan went down from a straight left hand in the opener and Browne just kept landing shots until the referee stopped it. On the same card, heavyweight Adam “Babyface” Kownacki (16-0) scored a significant upset when he stopped former heavyweight title challenger Artur Szpila. A barrage of blows sent Szpila down in round four and while he beat the count, Kownacki wasted no time in taking advantage of his stunned opponent, landing punch after punch until the referee halted the match.
Also on the PBC undercard, Jamal James (21-1) hung tough, battled hard and got a well-earned decision win over a tough and competitive Jo Jo Dan (36-5) in an entertaining welterweight scrap. The 6’2″ James boxed to an early lead before Dan came on in the middle rounds, landing some heavy shots in rounds six and seven and making James work for his money. It was an entertaining and competitive battle and while the judges’ cards were definitely too wide (99-91, 98-92, 97-93), James deserved the points win.
HBO offered boxing fans an excellent card from the Inglewood Forum with three major bouts. Sullivan Barrera (20-1) and Joe Smith Jr. (23-2) squared off in a match-up of top light heavyweight contenders. Smith, who holds knockout wins over Andrzej Fonfara and Bernard Hopkins, appeared to once again be a threat when he dropped Barrera with a left hook in the opening round, but after that Barrera settled down and completely outboxed his powerful foe, going on to take the unanimous decision by margins of five and six points.
WBA super featherweight champion Jezreel Corrales (22-1) was fortunate get past tough Robinson Castellanos (22-12) as he was knocked down twice in round three. The champion fought back, scoring his own knockdown in the seventh but it was headbutts that really decided the outcome. A clash of heads at the start of round ten inflicted a terrible cut on the challenger and after the ringside doctor declared the injury too severe to let the match continue, the judges’ scorecards decided the outcome with the champion getting the majority decision. Not the most satisfying of outcomes and there’s no doubt that Castellanos deserves a rematch.
Finally, in the main event, WBC super featherweight champ Miguel “El Alacran” Berchelt (32-1) completely outboxed top contender Takashi Miura (31-4) to successfully defend his title by wide scores after 12 rounds. Many fans had anticipated an all-action firefight between these two given the thrilling wars both had put on against Francisco Vargas, but instead Berchelt put his superior boxing skills and sharp jab to work, staying one step ahead of his gutsy but limited challenger and winning almost every round. Berchelt did go in the trenches in the final stanza, but by then the outcome had been long decided.
“I have proven that I am the best by taking on the two toughest champions in the division with Vargas and Miura,” declared Berchelt. “I am ready to fight anyone.”
Unlike Floyd, who is only ready to fight a boxer with a record of 0-0. — Robert Portis