The Weekend That Was

It was a lively weekend of fight action with several dynamic performances, so let’s get to the big recap! Friday night, Shobox delivered plenty of excitement with unbeaten 21-year-old knockout artist Jaron “Boots” Ennis. Ennis, a four-time national amateur champion who was born and raised in Philadelphia, put on a show for his hometown fans in the “City Of Brotherly Love,” but welterweight Ennis showed no love for his fellow Philadelphian Raymond Serrano, as he scored three knockdowns en route to a second round stoppage.

Ennis smacks Serrano in Philly: ready for bigger game.

This marks the fifth time in 2018 in which Ennis laid his “Boots” down hard on his opponent, stopping all comers in four rounds or less. With this impressive display, fans are surely looking forward to soon seeing Ennis face stiffer challenges in one of boxing’s most loaded divisions. 2019 could be a big year for Ennis.

Also on Friday night, ESPN showcased the return of Oklahoma’s Alex Saucedo, who was coming off of one of 2018’s best fights of the year against Lenny Zappavigna. The unbeaten Saucedo challenged newly crowned WBO junior-welterweight champion Maurice “Mighty Mo” Hooker and got off to a good start as he floored the champion with an overhand right in the second.

Hooker and Saucedo weigh in.

But Hooker got back to his feet and weathered the storm to stun Saucedo late in the round, tempering the hopes of the fans who filled the Chesapeake Energy Arena hoping to see their hometown hero pull it off. Each man had their moments in the middle rounds, until a nasty cut on Saucedo’s left eye appeared to swing the momentum in Hooker’s favor. In the seventh, Hooker hurt Saucedo badly with a right hand and scored a knockdown before the referee saved Saucedo from further punishment at 1:36 of the round.

Hooker just landed big shots on Saucedo.

This marks the second consecutive fight on the road for Dallas native Hooker, who won the vacant WBO title overseas when he dethroned Terry Flanagan in Manchester. It certainly seems like a little homecoming is in order for the new champion, but “Mighty Mo” is nevertheless eager to unify the belts with WBC champion Jose Ramirez as the two champions squared off in the middle of the ring during the post-fight interview. Both are on the outside looking in with the ongoing World Boxing Super Series tournament, but the winner of a potential unification between Hooker and Ramirez could serve as the ideal encore for the tournament winner.

Rios was just too much for Alvarez.

On Saturday night, DAZN made its way to Mulvane, Kansas with a stacked card that included Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller, Claressa Shields, and the return of Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios. Rios, who has been inactive since Danny Garcia flattened him last February, took on Canelo Alvarez’s older brother Ramon, and did what he does best: bring the fight and take two to give three. It was a crowd-pleasing battle, but Rios’s pressure proved too much and the referee mercifully called a halt in round nine as Alvarez had become a stationary target. While Brandon’s first win in 17 months does little to put him back into title contention, it may well lead to more televised appearances. But with the 32-year-old “Bam Bam” having had so many grueling battles, this writer wonders if that’s such a great idea.

Shields remains undefeated.

In the co-feature bout of the night, the pound-for-pound best female fighter in the sport, Claressa “T-Rex” Shields, put on a one-sided display against Hannah Rankin, adding a third belt to her collection at middleweight. Shields had originally been scheduled to face fellow-unbeaten champion Christina Hammer on the same night, but the bout fell through due to an undisclosed medical condition on Hammer’s part. While facing the 5-2 Rankin was not the challenge Shields originally planned for, “T-Rex” looked sharp and controlled the action throughout, setting herself up for a future Hammer fight, or maybe even a match at 154 against the women’s welterweight champion, Cecilia Braekhus.

Dinu looked sharp in the first two rounds.

In the main event of the night, Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller scored a fourth round knockout of Romania’s Bogdan Dinu to win the regular WBA heavyweight title that Manuel Charr was stripped of due to PED use. While the title in and of itself doesn’t mean much, holding the secondary WBA belt might put pressure on WBA super champion Anthony Joshua to get in the ring with the “Big Baby,” who has been calling out the best in the division for some time now. Miller, who came in at 315 pounds, struggled to find Dinu as the Romanian outboxed Miller in the first two rounds behind a stiff left jab.

“Big Baby” too big and powerful for Dinu. Is Joshua next? 

Miller eventually found success by walking down Dinu in the third, landing several hard body shots before flooring Dinu with a shot that was below the belt. Although the punch was ruled low by referee Bill Clancy, it appeared to take a little juice out of Dinu’s stride, as the Romanian wasn’t able to utilize his footwork to the same effect as he had in the opening two rounds. Miller scored his first official knockdown in the fourth with a Tyson-esque right uppercut-left hook combination. Dinu got to his feet, but was floored for the count shortly after, and “Big Baby” Miller was crowned the WBA regular champion at 2:45 of the 4th round.

Could 2019 bring us Miller vs Joshua?

At 6’4’’ and 300-plus pounds, Miller is certainly one of the most physically imposing heavyweights in the division. While his weight will inevitably draw questions about his conditioning in terms of facing some of the best heavyweights in the division, Miller’s style is not terribly energy consuming. His size and constant pressure puts the burden on his opponents while Miller languishes in close. However, it remains to be seen how Miller responds to punches from the likes of Luis Ortiz, Dillian Whyte, Deontay Wilder, and Anthony Joshua, as the “Big Baby” showed last night that he is certainly there to be hit. Here’s hoping we see him against an opponent both big enough and skilled enough to truly put him to the test.             — Alden Chodash 

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