Another weekend of boxing is in the books and we got your recap of the major action starting with an impressive performance at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater on Friday night from Devin “The Dream” Haney. It was an exhibition of skills that left this correspondent firmly convinced that the undefeated lightweight is a cross-over star in the making.
Coming off a Knockout of the Year candidate victory over Antonio Moran earlier this year, Haney looked to take his career to the next level by making himself a mandatory title defense for arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, Vasiliy Lomachenko. However, Haney had to get past Russia’s unbeaten Zaur Abdullaev (11-1), who was expected to at least offer some degree of challenge and resistance for the fighter they call “The Dream,” but this was not the case.
It did not take long at all for the 20-year-old Las Vegas-based prospect to show why he’s regarded by many as one of the best young talents in the world today, if not the best. Haney showed tremendous poise as he dissected Abdullaev from the opening bell, landing sharp, crisp punches virtually at will. In the fourth the match turned into a one-sided rout with the Russian’s face visibly busting up; it would later be revealed that both his nose and cheekbone were broken and at the end of the round Abdullaev’s corner wisely halted the contest.
Afterwards, Haney didn’t hesitate to once again demand a chance to face Lomachenko, the champion he has persistently been calling out for some time now. “I think I said his name wrong,” said Haney. “It’s ‘No-Machenko’! Because he doesn’t want to fight me! This is the WBC mandatory so ‘No-Machenko,’ c’mon man! Let’s get this fight going!”
Of course, it won’t be that easy. According to promoter Lou DiBella the winner of the upcoming match between Richard Commey and Teofimo Lopez will face Lomachenko next year. Haney understands and accepts that but at the same time is not content with staying idle until “Hi-Tech” is available, declaring he’s ready to compete as early as November 9 on the KSI-Logan Paul undercard if that can be arranged.
“I went in there and took hardly any punishment. Of course I had a hard training camp, but I want to get back in the ring as soon as possible.”
For his part, Eddie Hearn loves the idea: “I think it’s the absolute perfect audience for Devin Haney. Millions of young people watching around the world [who] want to see something that makes you go ‘wow.’ Luckily we have something that makes you go ‘wow.’ And that’s Devin Haney.”
Indeed many in attendance on Friday night were saying “wow” when watching Haney do his thing against Abdullaev. His dominance reminded some of when Floyd Mayweather Jr. made his pay-per-view debut against Arturo Gatti in 2005 in a match that was woefully one-sided but at the same time an impressive spectacle in sheer dominance, even for mainstream sports fans. It remains to be seen how Haney’s talent translates against upper-echelon opposition, but the early returns suggest he is here for the long run and could soon be a major draw.
The co-feature bout of the Hulu card perhaps stole the show, which is a theme when The Fight City covers female boxing. In a much-anticipated bout that more than lived up to the hype, Amanda Serrano regained the WBO featherweight title via unanimous decision against an extremely game and courageous Heather Hardy.
But the match almost didn’t make it out of the opening three minutes when Serrano got off to a fast start and appeared a punch or two away from scoring a first round stoppage. Referee Michael Ortega nearly stepped in to save Hardy from a fusillade of blows in the first two minutes.
To her credit, Hardy survived and managed to work her way back into the fight, even winning some of the middle rounds by out-dueling one of the best female boxers in the world. But the workmanlike effort and the cleaner punches of Serrano carried the match by a significant margin, and she hammered out a victory by wide scores on all three judges’ cards. Your friendly scribe scored the bout 98-91 for the winner, with a well-deserved two point round for Serrano in the opener.
Following the win, Serrano was quick to call out Katie Taylor, the star female champion promoted by Eddie Hearn. “Doesn’t matter where it’s at or what weight,” declared Serrano, “I’m gonna win!” And in the post-fight press conference, Hearn expressed confidence that he could make the match at 135 pounds by early 2020. “Amanda signed for that fight before this fight. [I believe it will happen] more like February or March.”
Hearn and DiBella even speculated on the possibility that the match could be a headline attraction at the Garden. “That fight will sell out in advance,” said DiBella. “That fight will bring out the entire Irish population of New York and the entire Puerto Rican population of New York.”
Because women’s boxing, while growing in stature, attracts significantly less money, megafights like Taylor vs Serrano don’t sit on the shelf and “marinate” for years on end. When Eddie Hearn and Lou DiBella sit together and say the fight will likely happen by March, it’s hard to doubt them. And despite the persistent naysayers, it’s indisputable that female boxing delivers the kind of fast-paced, quality action fans desire.
Also on the Hulu Theater card, former cruiserweight title challenger Michael “The Bounty” Hunter scored a twelve round unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Russian heavyweight Sergiy Kuzmin. Hunter boxed well throughout, keeping Kuzmin at range with the jab and landing some vicious punches downstairs, even scoring a knockdown in the fifth with a left hook. Kuzmin recovered and actually had some of his best rounds after that, but despite absorbing some big shots from the Russian, Hunter did not appear fazed and cruised to the win.
Also of note, lightweight Christian Bermudez made his pro debut with a second round knockout of Jonathan Conde. The Brooklyn favorite survived some shaky moments in the first round, but nonetheless regrouped and took Conde out with a big left hook in round two. And finally, 2016 Olympic gold medalist Daniyar Yeleussinov scored an emphatic first round stoppage over Reshard Hicks. Yeleussinov, a tall southpaw welterweight under the tutelage of veteran trainer Derik Santos, is now 8-0 with four knockouts.
Moving on to Saturday, previously undefeated heavyweight Oleksandr Teslenko suffered an upset TKO loss to Shawndell Terell Winters (12-2) in Brampton, Ontario on the latest United Boxing Promotions card. The highly touted Teslenko is now 16-1.
Meanwhile some rather strange stuff went down in Carson, California for the Golden Boy card that was supposed to be headlined by rising lightweight star Ryan “Kingry” Garcia (18-0). But Garcia’s scheduled adversary, Avery Sparrow (10-1), was arrested by police the day before the show on an outstanding charge and Garcia then refused any and all substitute opponents, though with just one day’s notice, who can blame him?
Instead of Garcia vs Sparrow, the main event of the night was Jaime Munguia (34-0) taking on Patrick Allotey in defense of his super welterweight title. Coming off a less-than-impressive points win over Dennis Hogan in April that some felt should have gone the other way, the undefeated Mexican was hoping for a more conclusive result, and while this was something of a mismatch, Munguia at least got the stoppage win. Allotey competed reasonably well in the first two rounds but Munguia’s greater size was just too much and in round three the unheralded Ghanaian visited the canvas twice. A third knockdown in round four prompted Allotey’s corner to signal surrender and the bout was stopped.
Also on the Golden Boy card, lightweight Romero Duno of the Philippines, who reportedly was offered to Garcia as a substitute opponent for Sparrow, impressed again with a seventh round stoppage of Ivan Delgado (13-3-2) to bring his record to 21-1. Even though Delgado was the bigger man, Duno had the edge in strength and power and by round six his punches were breaking the California native down. In the seventh it was all Duno as he battered Delgado from one side of the ring to the other and at round’s end Delgado’s corner stopped the fight.
Following the win Duno wore a t-shirt emblazoned with the words “Ryan Garcia Stop Running!” and Garcia has since stated that if the money is right, he would be happy to battle Duno next.
Turning now to the big Top Rank card in Las Vegas, super bantamweight title-holder Emanuel Navarrete (29-1) looked sharp and destructive again with a fourth round stoppage of Juan Miguel Elorde (28-2). To his credit, the gritty Elorde gave fans some excellent action as he came right at Navarrete and let his hands go. It was fast and fun but Navarrete was just too strong and powerful, his left hook doing serious damage and scoring a knockdown in round three. In the fourth a left followed by a heavy right had Elorde in serious trouble and the referee wasted no time in stopping the bout. Navarrete is putting together an impressive run of title wins with back-to-back victories over Isaac Dogboe, a knockout of previously undefeated Francisco De Vaca, and now a dominant battering of Elorde.
Also on the undercard of Fury vs Wallin, a truly significant duel of super lightweight contenders saw Jose Pedraza put his high ranking on the line against Jose Zepeda and, in a mild upset, it was the southpaw Zepeda who prevailed by unanimous decision. It was not a particularly exciting battle, but credit to Zepeda for consistently beating Pedraza to the punch. “Sniper” appeared sluggish and Zepeda took full advantage and now is in line for a third shot at a world title.
And in the main event, the Tyson Fury roadshow continued, this time with a Mexican theme, so perhaps it was fitting that “The Gypsy King” had to dig deep and battle “Mexican style” to stay undefeated against previously little-known Otto Wallin (20-0). Fury was boxing in his usual herky-jerky style but a bad cut opened up in round three and completely changed the tone and tempo of the bout. Wallin did his best to worsen the gash and had some success thanks to an accidental headbutt in round five, followed by an intentional attempt to further open the cut with his glove in round six.
Throughout the match Wallin, while never seriously threatening Fury, gave the man some regard as the lineal heavyweight champion of the world all he could handle as he connected with body punches and worked well at times on the inside. But he was hurt in round seven by Fury’s right hand and “The Gypsy King” had control over the next few rounds, thus cementing a points win. Still, Wallin was never intimidated and never gave up. The southpaw more than held his own and even stunned Fury in the final round with a pair of flush left hands.
In the end the judges scored the bout with room to spare for Fury, but the man who says he will battle Deontay Wilder for a second time this coming December was fortunate the match wasn’t stopped due to the severity of the cuts above his eye. This was a blood-bath and it’s somewhat surprising that the ringside physician wasn’t more concerned about Fury’s injury.
“I got caught early on and I couldn’t see out of my left eye. But I’m a gypsy warrior!” declared Fury.
“I didn’t get the scorecards but I did everything I could,” said Wallin, who showed he deserves consideration as a legit heavyweight contender. “I tried my best … [N]obody can question my heart and question that I’m a good fighter.”
Hopefully all the talk of a Fury vs Wilder rematch proves to be more than just that, while it also appears likely we haven’t seen the last of the big Swede who gave “The Gypsy King” a bloody good fight. Should Fury continue his winning ways, don’t be surprised if we see Fury vs Wallin II down the road. — Alden Chodash