It’s still only February but 2018 has had plenty to offer boxing fans thus far, in large part thanks to the World Boxing Super Series. Two cracking cruiserweight battles and then yesterday a huge all-UK showdown in Manchester, England. Plus, Victor Ortiz and Brandon Rios both in action on the same night. Sadly though, not in the same ring. Anyway, here’s your round-up of the major matches:
Ray Beltran W12 Paulus Moses: Back in 2013, Beltran challenged Ricky Burns for the WBO lightweight title. After 12 rounds, most agreed that Beltran, despite suffering a broken jaw, was the obvious winner, but the judges scored it a draw. In 2014 Beltran again got a chance for the same title but this time the man in the opposite corner was Terence Crawford who scored a legit points win over the rugged Mexican.
The following year he got a third chance to win the WBO belt, but he failed to make weight. Undeterred, Beltran put some wins together and on Friday he got a fourth chance to win that same elusive WBO lightweight title. But Namibia’s Paulus Moses made sure Beltran earned it as fight fans got an excellent and hard-fought 12 round battle on Friday night. It was close, but the consensus was the judges gave it to the right man as all three scored it for “Sugar” Ray Beltran who, at 36 years of age, finally wins a world title.
George Groves W12 Chris Eubank Jr.: Anticipation was high for this all-England clash to decide one of the finalists in the super middleweight WBSS tournament. In the end, experience and skill won out over youth and power as Groves boxed effectively and neutralized Eubank’s offense, which was rather tame to begin with. The younger man simply wasn’t busy enough to generate any kind of momentum and it was Groves who clearly held the upper hand until the late going.
Eubank came on strong at the end, but it was far too little and too late. Groves suffered a separated shoulder in an action-packed final round but he remains in line to face the winner of next week’s Callum Smith vs Juergen Braehmer match.
Yordenis Ugas TKO7 Ray Robinson: After nearly eight long years as a professional fighter, Ugas can now say he defeated Ray Robinson. It’s not the version one would hope to beat, but in 2018 that’s what we have. This version of Ray Robinson couldn’t help but keep pulling straight back with his chin up or guard down enough to keep getting clipped. First Robinson took a seat in the opening round from a southpaw left, then again from a combination in round seven. When Ugas swarmed, it was more than Robinson could handle and the bout was called off. It won’t be easy for Ugas to stand out in a saturated welterweight division, but he needed the win and he got it.
Devon Alexander D12 Victor Ortiz: What seemed more like a “loser gets out of our faces before we just can’t stand it anymore” match-up going in turned into a better fight than most would have anticipated. While Ortiz didn’t do quite enough to earn the draw, he didn’t fold up at the first sign of trouble and he didn’t resort to fouling. That’s a fairly low bar to set, but he’s the one who set it.
For his part, Alexander was poised and moved well, given that he was fighting for only the third time in as many years. He punched in combination, flashed a bit of his old hand speed, and actually executed a gameplan. The draw works nicely in terms of enabling neither guy to lose much face and thus remain a viable opponent in the near future. But in fact Alexander deserved better as this looks to have been a case of judges getting seduced by a fighter doing better-than-expected, and equating that with winning rounds.
David Benavidez W12 Ronald Gavril: Their first meeting back in September was highly competitive and, in the eyes of some, controversial. But the rematch was neither of these things. As he told our own Patrick Connor last week, Benavidez was determined to leave no doubts and prove conclusively that the was the better fighter and he did just that, dishing out a savage beating on the incredibly tough Gavril for 12 solid rounds.
The fact Gavril made it to the final bell was testament to the soundness of his heart and chin because “El Bandera Roja” really gave him a pounding. It was an impressive performance which served notice to the other top fighters at 168 that the young Benavidez may indeed be ready to stake his claim for the top of the super middleweight mountain.
Danny Garcia TKO9 Brandon Rios: There can be no arguing that Garcia remains one of the more aggravating fighters in boxing. He is very talented, possesses good hand speed, throws combinations sometimes, but he not only freely admits he’s fine with not challenging himself, he consistently under-performs. Garcia managed to make a faded, albeit inspired version of Rios actually look good at times, even if only out of a lack of game plan or direction. Rios even had a moment or two in the middle rounds, catching Garcia with thudding punches several times. It was a right hand that did Rios in, however, and when he slowly rose from a generous ninth round knockdown, he was in no shape to continue. If track record means anything, there should be little optimism for Garcia facing anyone significant in the near future, while Rios earned a permanent vacation with his gutsy showing.