The Mexico City extravaganza truly delivered on Friday night (23rd October). It included another contender for fight of the year as Juan Francisco Estrada successfully defended his WBC world super-flyweight title against Carlos Cuadras.
The rematch turned out to be a ‘barnstormer’ with the champion dropped in the third and recovering to score two knockdowns of his game opponent later in the fight. He eventually overwhelmed former champ Cuadras to register an eleventh round stoppage after 2:20.
The 30 year old Mexican, Estrada raised his record to 41-3, 28 KO’s. As well as being WBC champion he is also recognised as The Ring magazine champion at 115lbs/8st 3lbs and pound-for-pound #9.
Nicaraguan living legend Roman ‘Chocolalito’ Gonzalez, a four-weight ‘world’ champion, also successfully defended his WBA world super-flyweight version against Israel Gonzalez with a unanimous points decision in a boxing masterclass. The judges returned scores of 118-110, 116-112 and 117-111.
The Nicaraguan (50-2, 41 KO’s) dominated the fight to set up a potential ‘superfight’ between himself and the younger Estrada. They met eleven years ago with Estrada seeking to avenge a narrow defeat this time around.
Finally, on an excellent card Julio Cesar Martinez destroyed Moises Calleros in a second round stoppage to defend his WBC world title at flyweight. Martinez moves to 17-1, 12 KO’s and at twenty five his future looks all ahead of him.
The focus this week switches to London, England with the delayed heavyweight showdown between Ukrainian Olexandr Usyk and Londoner Dereck Chisora.
Promoted by Matchroom this will confirm whether we can treat Usyk, the London 2012 gold medallist and former undisputed cruiserweight world champion, as a genuine heavyweight contender or, the second coming of Chisora continues towards another world title shot. The build up and hype this week should be fascinating for an event televised on Sky Box Office (PPV) in the UK.
There are also major cards in the US with the Las Vegas debut of Naoya ‘The Monster’ Inoue at bantamweight (118lbs/8st 6lbs) and the contest between Gervonta Davis and Leo Santa Cruz at lightweight (135lbs/9st 9lbs). Former WBC world junior-lightweight champion Regis Prograis also returns to action. More to follow in the Friday Faceup.
The dust has finally settled from an eventful last weekend. New unified world lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez delivered his pre-fight prediction and now basked in the glory, and former champ Vasiliy Lomachenko has returned to the Ukraine to lick his wounds to hopefully come again. There’s been talk of a pre-fight shoulder injury to Loma, probably believable, but nothing should detract from Lopez’ accomplishment and standout performance.
The Loma-Lopez fight televised in the US on the ESPN subscription channel reputedly took in 4 million viewers. Many will have been new to the sport and seen a 23 year old fellow American (with Honduran heritage) register a victory that showed his superstar and sporting crossover potential. Also in so doing, will have seen him prevail in a very competitive and riveting fight, which in moments, also showed the undoubted class of Lomachenko, the Ukrainian future hall-of-famer.
Boxing as a consequence, certainly on the world stage, is currently in a good place.
We’ve also had announcement in the UK of Matchroom Boxing securing the SSE Arena, Wembley for a number of big back to back heavyweight weekends, with stellar support cards in the run up to Christmas. Added to this, the further build up for big fights across the globe and British world title contenders preparing in earnest for title shots and eliminators in the US over the next few weeks (Kell Brook and Luke Campbell respectively).
To cap a good week we have some fantastic world championship events lined up this weekend.
Top of the list is the Matchroom Boxing and Zanfer co-promoted triple ‘world’ title card from television studios in Mexico City tonight (23rd Oct). This features WBC super-flyweight title holder Juan Francisco Estrada (40-3, 27 KO’s) against compatriot and former champ Carlos Cuadras (39-3-1, 27 KO’s). It’s a rematch three years on that is sure to be a toe-to-toe contest.
The 115lb/8st 3lb division is red hot at the moment with some stellar names still vying for superiority.
One such name is in the chief support with the return of Nicaraguan future hall-of-famer Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez (49-2, 41 KO’s) defending his WBA super-flyweight title against Mexican Israel Gonzalez (25-3, 11 KO’s).
WBC champ Estrada is considered by Ring magazine as being #9 pound-for-pound fighter in the world and one of his few defeats was against four division world champion ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez nearly eight years ago. If both come through tonight as expected, then look out for a long overdue and mouthwatering rematch between the two. Mexico v Nicaragua.
The card is finally topped off with the WBC flyweight title contested between champ Julio Cesar Martinez (16-1, 12 KO’s) and Moises Calleros (33-9-1, 17 KO’s). As ever, any fight between two Mexicans in the lighter weight classes is sure to be a humdinger.
The event is unfortunately unavailable mainstream in the UK but will be televised on the DAZN streaming service in the US.
On the domestic front it’s a quiet weekend before the big events in the lead up to Christmas.
On Friday we asked could the young gun back it up ? Whether he could dethrone an elite champion regarded by some as the pound-for-pound best, and whether the kid could do it in only his 16th professional outing. By the early hours of Sunday morning (UK time) we had our answer….an emphatic ‘Yes’.
Brooklyn’s Teofimo Lopez took centre ring from the opening bell and for the first six rounds registered a near shut out against Ukrainian great Vasiliy Lomachenko.
We waited for what we expected to be the inevitable; after an initial cerebral assessment of the style and skills of his opponent, a seasoned Lomachenko onslaught in the second half of the fight.
Having navigated the dangerous early rounds against a strong and aggressive pup we expected ‘Loma’ to work out his younger foe, turn on the gas and take Lopez into the “deep waters” he promised pre-fight.
We expected the Brooklynite to be gassing by now as his early pressure and firestorm started to fizzle out. But what we saw was more of the same for another two, then three rounds. Lomachenko ‘The Matrix’ was himself being unraveled by pure aggression, power and desire to win. It was the Ukrainian three-weight champion who appeared to be gassing.
Lopez was outgunning his senior opponent by approximately two powerpunches to one. Still controlling the pace of the fight and loading up on the Ukrainian. The eighth round was marked by an accidental clash of heads as Loma tried to force the pace, and effectively get into the fight. He looked to win rounds nine through eleven and with three minutes to go you thought, and in someway for Loma’s legacy still hoped, this is it, we’re in for a dramatic finish, another ‘Chavez-Taylor’ circa 1990.
But, Lopez knew, Loma knew…tonight was not the night for another drama show. A further crack of heads and warning from the referee and the finishing bell came. ‘The Takeover’ had happened.
The 23 year old Lopez had done it, he’d delivered. Minutes later scores of 116-112, 119-109 and 117-111 unanimously confirmed the new undisputed world lightweight champion of the world.
Lomachenko (14-2, 10 KO’s) left the ring alone before post-fight interviews began, marching to his dressing room and later to be quoted as being very dissatisfied with the decision of the judges, believing he’d won the fight.
Lopez (16-0, 12 KO’s) basked in the joy of the moment as they wrapped the IBF and WBA belts around his waist and threw the WBC ‘Franchise’ and WBO belts over his shoulders. Also added, but not in view, was the prestigious Ring magazine championship, further cementing ‘The Takeover’.
In the post-fight interview the new champion was a model of composure “I had to dig deep man, I’m thankful, I’m grateful”. Asked how he managed it against his experienced foe “You’ve just got to keep pushing him….just keep putting the gas on him”.
“Take me to 140…I know I can fight”….
He went on to name check WBC-instated champion Devin Haney as an “email champion” and fellow young gun Shakur Stevenson as further emphasis that ‘the Takeover’ had begun across boxing.
Every decade or so a boxing match comes together between an experienced champion respected throughout the sport for his class and achievement against a brash and talented newcomer. The most obvious example would be a young Cassius Clay taming ‘The Bear’ in February 1964. Charles ‘Sonny’ Liston being known for his ferociousness and experience but still succumbing to the mind games and youthful skills of Clay (aka Muhammad Ali).
These matches are mouthwatering in their build up because no matter how experienced a boxing scribe or so called ‘expert’, there’s that element of doubt whether it is just bravado by the contender, or, if they can actually back it up. This tends to bring an added fascination to the contest and ultimately results in big bucks wagered at the betting booths, generally on the young contender.
Tomorrow (Saturday 17th) in the MGM Grand ‘Bubble’ in Las Vegas, Nevada we have such a contest.
Ukrainian double-Olympic and multi-world champion Vasiliy Lomachenko (as recognised by the WBC/WBA and WBO) will put his lightweight (9st 9lb/135lbs) belts on the line against Honduran Brooklynite and IBF world champion Teofimo Lopez.
Although both are recognised as world champions by their respective beltmakers, the difference in experience and age is striking. The imponderables created by this make the fight fascinating.
Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs) at 32 years is closer to the end of his boxing career than beginning, compared to the 23 year old Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs) who is almost just starting out. ‘Loma’, although short in professional fights amassed an amateur record of 396-1, with his sole defeat being avenged twice.
Vasiliy has been boxing since childhood in the tough remnants of the former-Soviet system and, in any argument as to the greatest amateur boxer of all time having won gold medals in back to back Olympic Games of Beijing and London, plus numerous World and European championships. He smoothly transferred into the professional ranks by winning the WBO world featherweight title (9st/126lbs) in his third fight, unprecedented in modern boxing history. Then, within two years picking up the WBO 130lb title and more recently winning and unifying lightweight titles.
Lopez has similarly been boxing since an early age but has limited amateur pedigree despite representing Honduras in the Rio 2016 Games. Being from Brooklyn, New York alone is however usually an endorsement of any fighter and his progression in the paid ranks to date has been excellent.
Teofimo won his IBF title in only his fifteenth professional outing and has steadily built a big fanbase amongst the Hispanic and wider boxing community. Most striking has been the extreme confidence he’s shown in hunting Lomachenko down at every opportunity to secure the match, basically goading him into the contest. The pre-fight build up has focused on this animosity Loma now feels towards his opponent and that could mean bad news for Lopez.
The Ukrainian starts as the betting favourite as he vies to be recognised as pound-for-pound the greatest fighter in the world and further cement his legacy.
The Undisputed finds this a must-see contest but extremely difficult to call the way it will go and the eventual winner. Lopez is a natural lightweight in comparison to the smaller Lomachenko who has moved his 5 foot 7 frame through the poundage over his eight years as a professional. He may be coming to the end of his weight limit and that could be be a bad sign on the night against a big, youthful 135 pounder. However, the smart(ish) money is on Lomachenko winning narrowly on points or more nervously on Lopez winning by early KO.
This writer feels that the superior experience and technical ability of the Ukrainian (almost impossible to hit pivoting from side to side out of any stance and sliding in and out of range) will win through, and that he may be riled enough by Lopez’ pre-fight braggadacio to stop the Brooklynite late somewhere between rounds nine and eleven.
It is without doubt the best matchup since the COVID-19 pandemic hit us, and at year start one of the fights we were desperately hoping would be made. Bob Arum’s Top Rank have moved mountains to secure and promote the fight in the current climate and potentially it could be fight of the year.
Unfortunately it is not being televised on terrestrial or traditional satellite channels in the UK but can be purchased for £9.99 on the FITE streaming channel as a pay per view event. Transmission starts around midnight Saturday but don’t expect the main event to start anytime before 03.00 BST. When it does, it will be worth the wait and expect fireworks !
In a weekend that began with former undisputed world middleweight champion Alan Minter laid to rest in his beloved hometown of Crawley it was only fitting that his old British title should be contested in east London.
They turned out in their thousands on Friday (9th) to salute ‘Boom Boom’ Minter as his funeral cortege went through the Sussex town, much as they did some 40 years ago to celebrate his return with the world titles dramatically won in Las Vegas. Family and friends, including British boxing ‘royalty’ such as former world light-heavyweight champion John Conteh attended the day to celebrate Alan’s life, and send their respects to one of our boxing legends who will be sadly missed.
The Undisputed would like to further add to the condolences and best wishes to all those affected by this sad loss.
The following night in Stratford, east London, Welshman Liam Williams (23-2-1, 18 KO’s) successfully defended his British title with a one round blow out of Andrew Robinson (24-5-1, 7 KO’s).
In what was expected to be a competitive contest between two fighters who’d been out of the ring for some time, the fight sprung to life after an early unintentional clash of heads, seeing both men cut in the opening minute. The flow of blood from the top of the champion’s head, though not affecting his vision, served to immediately fire the Welshman up.
Not wanting to risk the prospect of a mandatory challenge to WBO world middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade being lost or delayed further he set upon the 36 year old Midlander.
A strong assault, accentuated by a heavy right hand followed by a sickening left hook to Robinson’s torso, finished the contest. The challenger rose on the count of nine but referee Marcus McDonnell had seen enough and waved the contest over at 1:28 secs.
In the post-fight interview conducted on BT Sport the champion said “I wanted it to go a little further…obviously we clashed heads and I saw the blood, and thought I need to end this now”. His promoter Frank Warren later confirmed that Queensberry Promotions have been given a short period by the WBO to negotiate with Andrade (promoted by Matchroom Boxing) and if an agreement can’t be reached it will go to purse bids. This process will eventually define the promoter and when and where the fight will happen. After some tough negotiating this is likely to be in early 2021, assuming no further COVID related restrictions apply.
Despite the tightening of restrictions in many parts of the UK starting this week, in particular in Scotland and northern England, promoter Warren was also able to confirm his part of a packed programme of fights, albeit behind closed doors, before the Christmas break.
The next few months will see Daniel Dubois v Joe Joyce (Nov 28th) as the pick, a show featuring Tyson Fury (to be confirmed, although very unlikely to be against Deontay Wilder), Carl Frampton possibly challenging Jermell Herring for the WBO junior-lightweight title and a range of other Queensberry shows.
In addition, Matchroom Boxing have secured the following dates for their top British world ranked/based fighters: Olexandr Usyk v Dereck Chisora (Oct 31), Terence Crawford v Kell Brook (Nov 14), Alexander Povetkin v Dillian Whyte II (Nov 21), Luke Campbell v Ryan Garcia (Dec 5), Anthony Joshua v Kubrat Pulev (Dec 12).
It promises to be an excellent finish to a very unsettled and broken fistic year.
This Saturday (10th Oct) sees WBO world middleweight mandatory contender Liam Williams top the bill in Stratford, east London behind closed doors. The match against domestic rival Andrew Robinson is a mandatory defence of the Welshman’s British title.
The 28 year old Williams (22-2-1, 17 KO’s), similar to his contemporaries, has been inactive due to COVID-19 restrictions and will have to shake off a fair amount of ring rust after 13 months out. This is shared by his opponent Robinson (24-4-1, 7 KO’s) who at 36 has been a professional for nine years and fought in good company. The man from Redditch in mid-England is known for his toughness and resilience and will offer the champion a competitive contest.
No mandatory defence of any title is a ‘given’ but Williams career is back on an upward trajectory after a high profile loss to former WBO world champion Liam Smith at light-middleweight. The Welshman, a former British and Commonwealth champion at 154lbs has registered six stoppages since and should come through late in the fight and set up a world title shot against WBO champion Demetrius Andrade in the heavier 160lbs division.
Look out for a good card with a Commonwealth title fight at 154lbs between champion JJ Metcalf and Jack Flatley and talented youngsters Lyon Woodstock (super-featherweight), Nathan Gorman (heavyweight) and Willy Hutchinson (super-middleweight) featuring. Also stepping out is Maidstone’s young protege and Ring magazine ‘Prospect of the Month’ Dennis ‘The Menace’ McCann.
The Queensberry Promotion will be shown live in the UK on BT Sport with the card starting at 19:00 BST.
It was supposed to be a quiet weekend of boxing with little activity other than a super-lightweight dust up in the US and a Matchroom Boxing promotion in the unlikely setting of Milton Keynes, England involving a comebacking light-heavyweight prospect. It was expected to be threadbare compared to the previous weekend.
Well…what we got was a nailed on contender for fight of the year, if not fight of the decade in the US, and a severe ‘gut check’ for the comebacking light-heavyweight. Plus, a world title win for a fighting woman from Northampton, England.
The Ivan ‘The Beast’ Baranychyk versus Jose ‘Chon’ Zepeda fight in the Top Rank ‘bubble’ was quite simply sensational. Toe to toe from the opening bell, eight knockdowns and a devastating stoppage to end the fight after 2:50 of the fifth round. The victor Jose Zepeda (33-2, 26 KO’s) secured a mandatory position to fight again for the WBC super-lightweight title against Jose Ramirez (the other fighter holding the 140lb titles not held by Scotland’s Josh Taylor).
The US-based fighter with Mexican heritage said post-fight “Both of us are climbing up (the ladder) and somebody had to stay….I knew I was tough, I didn’t know how tough !”. Asked of his future prospects he replied “I would love to do it again (with Ramirez)“. A rematch is a natural or tilt at Taylor’s titles.
The Russian, Baranchyk (a former Taylor victim and IBF champion) achieved so much in defeat, but the suddenness and impact of the left hand that felled him and the ten minutes spent prostrate on the canvas after the fight does not bode well for his future career. Baranchyk drops to 20-2, 13 KO’s and will have to rebuild again. Catch the fight while you can on Youtube. Anyone watching won’t be disappointed.
Back in the UK things were a bit more serene but the Joshua Buatsi versus Marko Calic contest for the fringe WBA international light-heavyweight championship was a cracker. Shown live on Sky Sports late on a Sunday night Matchroom Boxing took a bit of a gamble but the fight was very competitive and excellent viewing.
The London-based Buatsi (13-0, 11 KO’s) after a well quoted 402 days out the ring prevailed in his first toe to toe contest after 2:09 of the seventh round. He came through difficult moments, with a strong performance from the Croatian-Calic who worked well off the jab, nailing the Brit with strong right hands and registering a nasty swelling under Buatsi’s left eye in the third round, temporarily affecting the latter’s composure.
Over six attritional completed rounds Buatsi eventually dominated working off a strong jab and focusing on sickening body shots to the 6 foot 3 Croat. Midway through the seventh Calic took a big right hand, dropping on one knee to take an eight count. On the resumption, clearly distressed, his corner waved the towel for the referee to finish the bout.
This marked Buatsi’s sixth defence of the ‘international’ title and post fight was fully aware of the competitiveness of the contest. “He told me his jaw was broken…he was tough, competitive…credit to him”. Asked on his future “I want to keep moving forward…if the eye goes down, I’m more than happy to come out December”.
The big fight out there is a domestic dust-up with fellow Londoner Anthony Yarde. Sunday’s fight will stand him in good stead for that challenge.
The Milton Keynes bill was also notable for the victorious Chantelle Cameron who gained the WBC women’s world super-lightweight title in a convincing win over Brazilian double-Olympian Adriana Arauju. The Northampton lass boxed superbly throughout in a shut out victory winning by 100-90 on all three scorecards. She jabbed and moved her way to victory but also leading with heavy shots to the body and head of her opponent. Post-fight, in the glow of victory she told Sky viewers “This means the world to me” and looked ahead to lucrative bouts “100%” in the women’s code. An excellent chief support and performance to cap a surprisingly stellar boxing weekend.
After the bonanza of last weekend with world title action across the globe we return to some sense of normality given the current health restrictions and limitations posed.
Pick of the weekend action is the Matchroom Boxing promotion on Sunday night (4th) featuring an international light-heavyweight (12st 7lb/175lbs) contest between Rio Olympic bronze medalist and world ranked Joshua Buatsi (12-0, 10 KO’s) and experienced former elite amateur Marko Calic (11-0, 6 KO’s).
This fight between two undefeated boxers is an intriguing ten rounder with both having not boxed for around a year and the younger Buatsi (27) facing a 33 year old Croatian who is tall for the weight at 6ft 3″ and has fought at heavyweight.
The Croydon, London based Buatsi has the higher knockout ratio but although being an Olympic medalist did not fight consistently at the elite amateur level as Calic did. This largely explains the age difference between these two combatants with similar pro-records.
Buatsi is currently the fighter on the upward trajectory with a world ranking (#3 WBA and IBF) and lucrative domestic dust up with Queensberry Promotions’ and fellow Londoner Anthony Yarde on the horizon. As Buatsi is first to acknowledge – one step at a time.
Both fighters on Sunday enter the contest confident in their own abilities with Buatsi giving his opponent full respect over fight week. When asked by Adam Smith (Sky) in Friday’s final press conference about his long layoff, he responded “I’m 400 days out and counting….I can’t wait”.
Calic confirmed “I’m ready…I prepared myself well…I’m ready for everything”. He then added this is “My biggest and toughest test to date….we find out on Sunday”.
The hard punching Buatsi hasn’t done anything wrong as a pro but it remains to be seen how far he can go. Sunday night should give us an indication and also how much the layoff has impacted. Look for the Ghanaian born Londoner to break his opponent down sometime from rounds 8 to 10.
The event will again be behind closed doors in the unlikely setting of Milton Keynes, England and will be televised live on Sky Sports Arena in the UK (19:00 BST start) and DAZN in the US.
It also features as chief support the women’s vacant WBC super-lightweight (10st/140lbs) title fight between Chantelle Cameron from Northampton, England and Brazilian Adriana Araujo over ten two minute rounds. The shorter Araujo has an elite amateur record and is an aggressive come forward fighter with the monniker of the ‘Pit Bull’. Look for Cameron to use her height and skill advantage to box to a narrow points victory.
The card also features a number of other competitive contests including English middleweight title action between champ Linus Udofia and John Harding Jr, a pro-debuting John Hedges at super-middle and the return of Croatian heavyweight Alen Babic (4-0, 4 KO’s).
In a continuing difficult period British promoter’s Matchroom Boxing, Queensberry Promotions and Golden Contract have done well to get the show back on the road over the last few months and this Sunday marks a further return to some normality.
Finally, The Undisputed’s best wishes go out to Eddie Hearn (CEO of Matchroom Boxing) who has tested positive for COVID-19. We wish him a full and speedy recovery.
World champion Josh Taylor thought he was in for a tough night. All of the signs were he was, certainly in the pre-fight stats and pundit predictions, and even in the early exchanges. The mandatory challenger to Taylor’s IBF world 10st title Thailand’s Apinun Khongsong entered the ring undefeated with a 81% knockout record and clearly looking confident and in shape.
Within the opening 20 seconds the challenger finished an exchange with a straight right hand that immediately got Taylor’s respect and emphasized the imminent danger ahead. The Scot carefully reverted to boxing out of his southpaw stance, with a look of intense concentration on his face.
A minute or so later after another torrid exchange the Thai again finished off with strong right hand that Taylor undoubtedly felt, the danger signs were clear….the Thai could bang.
Then, just as the fight was beginning to warm up another exchange pushed the Thai back onto the ropes and to the shock of the few at ringside and millions watching on BT Sport the Thai was on the canvas, writhing in agony and gasping for breath. Replays showed Taylor had landed a perfectly timed and placed left hook to Khongsong’s ribcage. “The punch sank in, I felt it right away….I knew it was a real good shot” Taylor would go onto say in the post-fight BT Sport interview.
Asked on the power of this opponent, the champion responded “I could go as far to say, that’s the heaviest puncher I’ve been in with, I knew he was heavy handed”.
Therefore, to the relief of him, his camp and new promoters Bob Arum’s Top Rank, getting his opponent out in 2:41 of the opening round was ‘manna from heaven’. In doing so, the Prestonpans southpaw solidifies his undefeated (17-0, 13 KO’s) record and sets up a mouthwatering prospect of a unification fight with WBC/WBO champion Jose Ramirez (also undefeated). “I want Ramirez 100%. I believe I will whip his ass, all day long” the Scot would say.
It was short, but a perfect nights work for Taylor and will resonate around the world and through the division. The ‘Tartan Tornado’, if we ever doubted it, is the ‘real deal’. This was mighty impressive and he didn’t really break sweat.
Less said about the IBF’s world rankings the better, but Khongsong despite his impressive resume was simply not up to the task. Or maybe, he just got caught by the perfect shot of an elite fighter. The challenges ahead will undoubtedly be tougher and we will see whether Taylor can fulfil his massive potential. At the moment the world is his oyster.
Briedis king of the cruisers
In an excellent match Mairis Briedis became the undisputed world cruiserweight champion and winner of the World Boxing Super Series and with it the Muhammad Ali Trophy and Ring magazine championship by outpointing US based Cuban Yuniel Dorticos in Munich, Germany. The judges returned scores of 117-111, 114-114, 117-111 in the Latvian’s favour.
In a fight intensely fought, but with no knockdowns it was a richly deserved victory. The drawn card was way off the mark and Briedis although not forcing the action, fought well off the backfoot and landed the heavier blows throughout. Dorticos forced the pace, holding the centre of the ring through most of the fight but was ineffective going forward. His inferior conditioning and languid style resulted in him looking to run out of gas in the championship rounds.
Briedis (27-1, 19 KO’s) is now the elite man at 200lbs and after a lengthy career winning several ‘world’ sanctioning body titles it is possible that at 35 his motivation may now be tempered. A move up to heavyweight, similar to his conquerer in WBSS Series One (Olexandr Usyk) may be possible, although unlikely, but he would be a welcome addition to an already talent-stacked division.
Charlo Twins remain top dogs
To complete an action packed weekend the Charlo twins (Jermall at middleweight and Jermell at light-middleweight) turned in excellent performances to win their respective fights in Connecticut, USA.
Both had impressive victories with the heavier Jermall (31-0, 22 KO’s) defeating Ukrainian Sergiy Derevyanchenko unanimously on points to defend his WBC middleweight title, and Jermell (34-1, 18 KO’s) unifying the light-middleweight title with an eighth round stoppage win over former IBF/WBA champion Jeison Rosario. In doing so, Jermell retained his WBC title and also won the Ring magazine championship.
Finally, also on the London card former WBC flyweight champion Charlie Edwards won in his comeback bout at bantamweight with a unanimous points victory over Kyle Williams. This capped an excellent weekend of action involving world ranked fighters.
With many parts of the world in various stages of lockdown and the United Kingdom facing an extension of current restrictions some temporary respite is provided for avid followers of the ‘Noble Art’.
Despite events continuing to be behind closed doors, the weekend presents a jamboree of contests across the globe of real quality and world significance.
First up at the famous York Hall in east London on Saturday 26th and arguably ‘cream of the crop’ is the contest between Scotland’s Josh Taylor (16-0, 12 KO’s) and Thai contender Apinun Khongsong (16-0, 13 KO’s) for the IBF and WBA world super-lightweight titles. Both 140lb (10st) fighters have almost identical records with high knockout ratios, but the Scot has fought and been victorious at the higher level and starts as a strong favourite.
Taylor enjoyed a stellar 2019 winning the IBF title and then adding the WBA strap and Muhammad Ali Trophy in beating Regis Prograis in October for the World Boxing Super Series title. The contest, again between undefeated fighters, was one of the fights of the year.
The heavy handed Khongsong (number one contender for the IBF title) comes to the UK with a largely unknown reputation but any undefeated KO artist from the Thai hotbed of boxing is not to be underestimated. Taylor has spoken with caution throughout fight week of the danger and consequence of overlooking his opponent as he looks for a unification and potential megafight with WBC and WBO champion Jose Ramirez.
The Scot will be on his guard but confident all the same. Look for his amateur pedigree (2012 Olympian and 2014 Commonwealth gold medallist) and professional toughness at the highest level to be the difference. Our pick is he will carefully navigate the early rounds out of his southpaw stance to then press the fight and win by a late stoppage.
The full Top Rank/Queensberry Promotions card will be televised live in the UK on BT Sport (transmission begins 19:30 BST) and the main event promises much. It will also feature England’s former WBC flyweight champion Charlie Edwards (15-1, 6 KO’s) making a comeback in the heavier bantamweight class (118lbs/8st 6) against compatriot Kyle Williams.
Elsewhere around the world the pick of the world title action is:-
Yuniel Dorticos (24-1, 22 KO’s) against Mairis Briedis (26-1, 19 KO’s) for the Muhammad Ali Trophy and World Boxing Super Series title at cruiserweight (200lbs/14st 4). Dorticos’ IBF world title will also be up for grabs. The winner will also be recognised by Ring magazine as the undisputed champion – widely considered the highest honour in the sport.
The fight takes place in Munich, Germany and will be televised live in the UK on Sky Sports (22:00 BST). It is likely to clash with the Taylor-Khongsong ring entrances so set your recording devices or take your pick for the live action.
In Connecticut, USA the American Jermell Charlo will face Jeison Rosario for the unified (WBC/WBA and IBF) world titles at super-welterweight (154lbs/11st). All three titles are currently split between the two contestants and again the winner will also be recognised by Ring magazine as the undisputed champion. It is extremely rare for this prestigious title to be up for grabs in two divisions over the same weekend, making it even more special.
Twin brother Jermall Charlo will earlier face teak tough Sergiy Derevyanchenko for the WBC world middleweight title. The Russian narrowly failed to gain the IBF title at 160lbs (11st 6) on two occasions in wafer thin losses to elite middleweights Daniel Jacobs and Gennadiy Golovkin and this will surely be his last shot at the title.
Both these fights should be real ‘pick ems’ and could go either way. Look for the Charlo twins to prevail though as they move onto bigger challenges in their respective divisions.
The event will also feature stellar undercards involving numerous champions and world title contenders. John Riel Casimero the recent conqueror of British based South African Zolani Tete defends his WBO world bantamweight title for the first time against Ghanaian Duke Micah. Look for Casimero to emerge victorious.
All in all world boxing truly is back this weekend – with a bang !