The Weekend That Was

In case the sport of boxing wasn’t brutal enough inside the ring, Maurice “Mighty Mo” Hooker and “Showtime” Shawn Porter showed just how taxing it could be outside of it with both struggling with the scale ahead of their big fights last night.

Hooker, a 5’11 Texas native who won the WBO super lightweight title from Terry Flanagan last June, went to the scale four times before he finally made weight, an effort that left “Mighty Mo” dangerously dehydrated. Nevertheless, Hooker made easy work of undefeated yet unheralded challenger Mikkel LesPierre, a full-time Mount Sinai hospital employee who brought little besides heart into his first championship fight. Hooker dominated through 12, hurting LesPierre several times and eventually flooring the game challenger with a riveting left hand liver shot in round nine. Official scores were 120-107, 119-108, and 118-109 in favour of Hooker.

Has Hooker outgrown 140?

It remains to be seen why Hooker was forced into such an intense battle on the scale. One argument is that Hooker, at 29, has simply outgrown the division, but it should be noted that “Mighty Mo” successfully made weight in his first attempt in his previous two outings against Alex Saucedo and Terry Flanagan. Another argument is that the quality of opposition Hooker was facing may not have motivated him to the same level in training camp as would have been if he were unifying the division against the likes of Regis Prograis or Jose Carlos Ramirez. If Hooker is indeed no longer able to make 140, he will have his work cut out for him at 147, both in and out of the ring. Not only is 147 one of the most talented divisions in the sport (if not the most talent rich), but the best at the weight are all tied to ESPN and PBC, and not “Mighty Mo’s” network of DAZN.

Porter came close to losing his belt.

In “Showtime” Shawn Porter’s first defense of the WBC welterweight title he took last year from Danny Garcia, Porter had to cut his hair and strip down to retain his belt on the scale, originally coming in a half pound above the 147 pound limit. Inside the ring, Porter struggled to fend off hungry Cuban challenger, Yordenis Ugas, who took the fight to the champion and had Shawn utilizing extensive lateral movement for much of the fight. While the fight was very close through 12, Porter looked disappointed in himself when the bell to conclude the contest rang, in direct contrast to an upbeat Ugas who celebrated prematurely. However, when the scores were announced by Jimmy Lennon, Porter was fortunate to escape with a split decision win, the cards reading 117-111 for Ugas, and 116-112 and 115-113 for “Showtime” Shawn.

Ugas (right) gave Porter almost as much trouble as the scale.

So with Porter barely escaping on both the scale and in the ring with the WBC belt he worked so hard to obtain, his future prospects against the likes of Errol Spence Jr. suddenly don’t look so great. While Porter has evolved from the bully-type volume puncher that took the IBF title from Devon Alexander in 2013, he has been vulnerable in the past against stronger fighters, in particular Kell Brook, Keith Thurman, and Yordenis Ugas. It’s questionable as to whether Porter is good enough on the back foot to be able to unify the division, but it will certainly be entertaining to watch him try.

In the main event of the DAZN card in Verona, New York, WBA light-heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol scored a one-sided, yet entertaining unanimous decision victory over Local 66 labourer, Joe Smith Jr. While Smith may be technically limited, his power is well understood even at the top of the 175 pound division, and Bivol clearly showed respect for the Long Islander in the early going as he used his jab and lateral movement to neutralize the challenger.

Bivol was too skilled for Smith.

What was beginning to look like an anti-climactic Bivol paint job became much more interesting at the end of round ten when a right hand had Bivol hurt and walking back to his corner on unsteady legs. Smith searched hard for the knockout in the following round, but Bivol professionally shut down the challenger’s efforts, regaining his composure and even threatening to score a stoppage of his own in the closing seconds of the fight. All three judges saw Bivol the victor by wide point totals.

Bivol might not be the fearsome puncher many pictured him to be following knockouts of Trent Broadhurst and Sullivan Barrera, but he’s still one of the most cerebral and naturally gifted fighters in the light heavyweight division. However, Bivol has mentioned possibly moving down to 168 in the future and doing so might allow him to regain the knockout puncher status that has recently eluded him. But while he might not be the biggest puncher at the upper-echelon of the light heavyweight division, he’s an excellent technician who appears to be developing with each and every fight.

On the DAZN undercard, Israil “The Dream” Madrimov scored a second round KO of Frank Rojas with a beautiful left hook that had Rojas carried out on a stretcher. The junior middleweight prospect improved to 2-0 with 2 KOs and has stated he wants to fight for a title within the next year. While his two pro opponents have a combined record of 34-4 (29 KOs), Rojas had little to offer and appeared to be little more than a sitting duck for Madrimov’s heavy artillery. “The Dream” might not be ready for a title shot anytime soon, but he is certainly a hot young prospect to watch.

Monaghan remains a threat at 175.

Also on the DAZN card, British former light-heavyweight title challenger Callum Johnson scored an impressive third round KO of light heavyweight contender Sean Monaghan. Johnson was stopped last year in his title shot against IBF champion Artur Beterbiev, but nonetheless made matters interesting by knocking the Russian champion down and giving the fans a spirited effort in defeat. With the victory over Monaghan, Johnson might not be far from another high profile fight at 175, and while he’ll more than likely be on the B-side, he has demonstrated that he has the power and the ability to be a live underdog against some of the bigger names at the weight.

It was an interesting night of fights from both sides of the country, as Shawn Porter and Dmitry Bivol retained their titles in Carson, California and Verona, New York, respectively. It was a victory for the fans considering the amount of quality, high level caliber action available to the viewer without an HBO or Showtime subscription.

 — Alden Chodash 

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