With two big cards happening in Brooklyn, NY and London, England, it was a lively weekend for pro boxing with several fights of major significance and a dash of controversy here and there. Time for your run-down of the major outcomes and significant matches, in no particular order and with some editorial comments from the always opinionated Mr. Portis.
Jason Sosa vs Javier Fortuna: Not upset of the year, but still, this was a major surprise. Javier Fortuna (29-1-1) is a top rated super-featherweight; Sosa is not. The two fought in Beijing of all places and Fortuna was having things his way for nine rounds, staying one step ahead of the challenger at all times and scoring a knockdown in round five. But then, out of nowhere, the tide turned, and the underdog who needed a knockout to win came to life. He dominated round ten, scored a knockdown of his own, and then battered Fortuna and decked him a second time. The champion beat the count but the referee wisely halted the match; Fortuna was in deep trouble.
Sosa was largely unknown prior to his draw with Nicholas Walters, a match many saw as 2016’s Robbery of the Year. Give Sosa credit; he capitalised on that stroke of good luck, got a title shot, and now he’s a world champion. Maybe not the year’s biggest upset, we’ll see, but just maybe the Cinderella story of the year.
Big fight card in England and here’s my thoughts on the three fights that really mattered.
Chris Eubank vs Tom Doran: Seems everyone is crapping on Chris Eubank Jr. (23-1) for his showboating and for calling out Golovkin after beating an overmatched Tom Doran (17-1). Hey, people, this is a boxer who almost killed someone his last time out. Anyone think that maybe, just maybe, as he was pounding Doran with heavy hooks and uppercuts, he was having flashbacks to the Nick Blackwell fight? That he had to assume a mental perspective which allowed him to be cold and ruthless so he could get the job done?
Why isn’t anyone instead talking about his mental toughness? Some boxers are never the same after they put a man in the hospital. And I for one applaud his proclaiming that he wants to face Golovkin next. You can’t have it both ways, people. You can’t crap on Alvarez for ducking Golovkin and then say Eubank’s an arrogant prick for calling out the same guy. Anyway, the bout itself was pretty much a mismatch. Doran has tremendous heart as he demonstrated when he picked himself up from the canvas five times, but this was basically a tune-up for Eubank who is set now for bigger matches, a showdown with Golovkin a major possibility. Say what you want, if someone is going to give Golovkin a truly tough battle it’s going to require some bravado and Eubank has got that in spades.
George Groves vs Martin Murray: Speaking of bravado and cockiness, too bad Eubank can’t bottle some of that stuff and give it to Martin Murray. I would like to announce that I am now off the Murray bandwagon for good. I had admired his gallant effort against Sergio Martinez back in 2013 and thought he showed a lot of guts when he faced Golovkin last year, but every time he’s in a big fight, to some degree or another he freezes up. He has all the physical gifts and ability and had no business losing to Arthur Abraham and now he spends most of his match with Groves just standing there and soaking up punishment so he can lose a unanimous decision. Why he can’t let his hands go I will never understand. It’s a big win for Groves who may get a rematch with Badou Jack in the near future.
Anthony Joshua vs Dominic Breazeale: More and more, Anthony Joshua looks like the next exciting and dominant heavyweight champion, something the sport of boxing desperately needs. No one thought Breazeale had much chance of pulling off the upset, but even so, Joshua exhibited impressive patience and precision this time out, as he took his time and took his opponent apart step by step. Once Joshua had Breazeale where he wanted him, he battered and decked him before the referee called a halt in round seven. Not much else to say, especially since Breazeale ‘earned’ this shot at Joshua after he lost every round to Amir Mansour before winning the fight because Mansour almost bit his own tongue off. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing Joshua vs Mansour next.
Over in Brooklyn, another stacked card, and man, ya gotta love these major promotions with undercards that are worth watching. I hope everyone at Top Rank is paying attention. Even with the Abner Mares match scrapped, this was still a good show.
David Benavidez vs Francy Ntetu: No one was talking much about this match, but Francy Ntetu and David Benavidez gave fight fans an excellent tilt with plenty of back-and-forth action, that is until the referee pulled off one of the most inexplicable stoppages I’ve ever seen. In round seven Benavidez landed a right hand, the two fighters clinched and referee Shada Murdaugh appeared to be separating the boxers when in fact he stopped the action and awarded the match to Benavidez. No one could understand why he did what he did and to my mind an immediate rematch is in order. This was a competitive fight and it is completely unfair for Ntetu to take a defeat under these circumstances. I still have no idea what Murdaugh was thinking and as far as I know, no one else does either. Maybe he had a plane to catch?
Jarret Hurd vs Oscar Molina: Hurd looks to be the real deal and I can’t wait to see him take a major step up in opposition as there are plenty of good matches waiting for him in the super welterweight division. He showed some fine skills in dominating the tough Molina before forcing a stoppage in the final round. Molina made it a competitive match, but overall the bout was one-sided as Hurd was just too sharp. A solid performance from the undefeated prospect.
Keith Thurman vs Shawn Porter: A highly competitive and exciting battle, exactly the kind of fight we needed from two of the very best welterweights in the world. I scored it a draw, but I would be the first to admit there were some very close rounds, so it’s also refreshing to not have to bitch about any of the judges’ scorecards, all of which gave it to Thurman by two points. This for me was one of those fights where I really missed the 15 round distance. Call me greedy, but we could have had something truly epic if those warriors had three more rounds to do battle in. If for any reason they can’t make Keith Thurman vs Kell Brook, then please, let’s do Thurman vs Porter II. Yes, it was that good a fight, and competitive enough that many sincerely believe “Showtime Shawn” deserved the decision. Just a great battle, one of those rare fights that elevates the status of both boxers. — Robert Portis