GGG Champ again

New York, 5 Oct 2019

Gennadiy Golovokin 40-1-1 (35KO’s) gained the IBF & IBO Middleweight titles in a very competitive fight at Madison Square Garden tonight defeating Sergey Derevyanchenko 13-2 (10KO’s) by unanimous decision. Scores were 114-113, 115-112, 115-112.

After suffering a knockdown in round one and cut in the second, Derevyancenko rallied to push Golovkin all the way down the stretch. GGG was affected by the body attacks of the Ukrainian on numerous occasions but rallied in the championship rounds to regain some of the middleweight straps. Clearly ageing at 37, GGG now seeks the third defining fight with Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, which on this showing may look closer than before. GGG looked more beatable in this fight than in previous outings, including the second Alvarez fight.

Derevyancenko aquitted himself well but has now dropped two world title challenges and will undoubtedly seek a rematch.

Dynamite !

London, 27 Sept 2019

Young Londoner Daniel Dubois (13-0, 12 KO’s) showed again his heavyweight potential with an emphatic first round stoppage of previously undefeated Ghanaian Ebenezer Tetteh (19-1, 16 KO’s) at Kensington’s Royal Albert Hall last night.

Dubois was onto a nervous Tetteh from the ‘get go’ as the African struggled with his mouthpiece at the opening bell.

Dubois was on him immediately and in the two completed minutes never let his opponent off the hook. First with a right hand he dropped Tetteh and then succession of lefts and rights sent him to the canvas again before the referee waved off the fight at 2:10. Some at ringside felt the stoppage was premature but more of disappointment than substance. There was no significant protest by fighter or corner.

This was a mighty impressive performance and the Londoner has sent a further message out to the heavyweights who lay in wait after the Ruiz/Joshua/Wilder/Fury shakedown. The former Ring Magazine prospect has once again looked the genuine article in topping a London bill. The problem now for promoter Frank Warren is manoeuvring his charge through the choppy waters of the heavyweight division whilst giving him the necessary exposure and ringtime to develop for the long term.

Joe Joyce, Olympic silver medallist and undefeated pro (10-0, 9 KO’s) was ringside and couldn’t have failed to be impressed. Having recently aligned to Queensberry Promotions (& Ringstar Sports) that looks a natural match to make. Joyce at 34 has to move fast and the titles held by the 22 year old Dubois (now British & Commonwealth) and his WBO world ranking will be an attractive proposition.

The night put the heavyweight division on alert that Daniel ‘Dynamite’ Dubois is waiting in the wings and with his explosive power moving fast.

Double Olympic champion Nicola Adams (5-0-1, 3 KO’s) struggled to hold onto her WBO female flyweight title with a hard fought draw against Maria Salinas (21-7-4, 7 KO’s). The Mexican challenger was aggressive throughout and to many ringsiders looked to have won. Adams controlled the early stages of the fight to then fade in the later rounds but likely secured the draw in a strong final round. Scores were 96-94 Salinas, 97-93 Adams, 95-95. A rematch looks inevitable and would be well received.

Knockout of the night was from Archie ‘Sharpshooter’ Sharp (17-0, 9 KO’s) defending his WBO European super-featherweight title. A devastating left hook flattened Declan Geraghty (19-5, 4 KO’s) at 2:14 of the 4th round. There was also an impressive pro-debut from Maidstone, Kent’s Sam ‘Midge’ Noakes at lightweight. Fighting like a human dynamo and showing his solid amateur pedigree (ABA champion) Noakes caused the referee to stop the fight before the 4th round due to a cut sustained by seasoned veteran Chris Adaway (9-60-4, 1 KO).

The Heavyweights are coming !

Robert Harding 23 Sept 2019

After a disappointing 2019 when all the elite heavyweights have successfully plotted to avoid each other and sign to major promoters and streaming platforms, notwithstanding making millions of pounds in the process, 2020 looks like becoming the year when the big fights are made and the heavyweights take centre stage once again. The old adage ‘when the heavyweight division is hot, so goes boxing’ could never be more apt. True, we have many standout elite fighters in the lighter divisions, some who will enter the Boxing Hall of Fame in years to come (Lomachenko, ‘Canelo’ Alavarez, Pacman , GGG and Terence Crawford spring to mind) but the heavyweight division is where it’s at.

Yes, we had a great fight in 2019 with the Joshua – Ruiz Jnr upset and several outings of Tyson Fury, first as Apollo Creed and then in homage to Mexican independence but; after a stellar end to 2018 the casual boxing fan and indeed the committed follower is waiting for the big fights to happen. Their abundant patience and attention can only be held for so long.

First up this Friday (27th) at the Royal Albert Hall it’s the time for the prospects and contenders. In a Frank Warren Queensberry promotion, young Londoner Daniel Dubois will take on Ghanaian Ebenezer Tetteh in a potentially explosive confrontation. Both fighters undefeated with high knockout ratios and both hungry for titles. The destiny of the vacant Commonwealth Heavyweight Championship will be up for grabs and provide a platform for the winner to push on into 2020.

Similarly, we will see Ukrainian unified cruiserweight champion Aleksandr Usyk continue with his small steps into the heavyweight waters, New Zealander Joseph Parker fight Derek Chisora on October 26th and we also await the Dillian Whyte alleged positive drug test decision/appeal to shake out before year end.

The earliest mega heavyweight fight in the new year looks likely to be Wilder – Fury II, initially penned in for Feb 22 but now likely to be in the early spring due to Fury’s horrific cut of last week and Wilder’s rematch with Cuban monolith Luis Ortiz on Sept 28th. Assuming Wilder comes through unscathed it’s looking like around Cinco de Mayo weekend in Las Vegas. This is a fight that most fans are looking forward to after the drama of December 2018.

The events in Saudi Arabia on December 7th in the Ruiz Jnr – Joshua rematch will determine the destiny of the majority of the alphabet titles. Most likely leading to the winner of this coming into 2020 with the momentum to take on the Wilder-Fury victor in the second half of the year, avoiding any interim hiccups. The brawl for it all will take some pulling together by promoters, tv networks and the eventual host venue but this is how the sun looks like setting on the heavyweight division in 2020. A mouth watering prospect lays ahead.

The Morning After

Lomachenko v Campbell – 5 Things we learned

  1. Loma is human: – The Ring pound for pound king showed flaws despite the unanimous points decision (119-108, 119-108, 118-109). Most noticeably his susceptibility to body attacks, proneness to take unnecessary shots and difficulty when facing a long rangy mover with a strong jab. Nevertheless, the fact he came through difficult moments to overcome his talented foe with gusto proves his undoubted class.
  2. Campbell is an elite fighter:- the Brit’s stock rose considerably following a gutsy but talented performance. He boxed well at range also fighting on terms on the inside. He managed to give Lomachenko arguably his toughest fight as a pro and came through almost being stopped in the 5th and dropped in the 11th. That he was able to rally at times and give Loma a lot of problems proves he deserves a third world title shot.
  3. Lightweight is Loma’s limit:- Having captured titles at Feather, Super-feather and Lightweight, it looks to be the final weight class we will see the pound for pound elect at. There are big fights in the higher weight classes – Crawford, Spence, Pacquiao – but Loma is a noticeably small lightweight. Bob Arum confirmed post fight that Loma would unify and then campaign in the lower weight classes where there are great fights to be made (e.g. Gervonta Davis).
  4. Pound for Pound is still up for grabs:- Though this was an excellent performance from Lomachenko, as the scores would suggest (although Campbell deserved maybe a couple of more rounds), there are now more questions than answers on P4P supremacy. If Loma goes on to capture the IBF title and unify the division for the first time in over 30 years his status should be solidified, but further stella performances from Crawford, Canelo, Inoue and GGG would mean a case can be made for either. It is not now a done deal.
  5. The British fans are the best:- Another sell out event at the O2 Arena with a brilliant atmosphere and excellent undercard. Matchroom Boxing continue to deliver at this venue, considerably supported by Top Rank and Sky Sports Box Office. Lomachenko was given incredible support throughout fight week, from both London’s Ukrainian population and equally British boxing fans. On the night this mix of nationalities made a great spectacle. Loma said post fight that the “British fans are the best” and promised to return. He will be more than welcome.

Cubano Fistiana

A Cuban experience

The sun breaks through the cracks between buildings on the cobbled and potholed road as I walk through the backstreets of Havana. A man in search of the national institution and centre of excellence of Cuban boxers – the Rafael Trejo Gimnasio de Boxeo. A place that’s produced and honed multiple Olympic and World Champions.

Asking along the way in broken Spanish for ‘el Trejo’, everyone knows – old ladies selling chillies, men selling bananas – where the Trejo is. Resisting being beckoned into make-shift bars for a Cubano cigar or Mojito I continue on my pilgrimage to this institution.

Knowing what time workouts are due to start I begin to speed up. 11am prompt I arrive at the gym. The time a Briton in this part of the world would have done their roadwork and be resting before the sun reaches its peak. In Havana, now the gym starts to come alive, ladies first, juniors; then the men. At this time of the day Cuban fighters come to work. This is what separates them from the eastern European and US fighters when it comes to the final round and when the medals are handed out.

I get to the entrance, the lady on the desk says “uno mas hora (one more hour). She points me to ‘the boss’ in her office – a Cubano madam who has seen champions and contenders come and go, too many years I care to mention. The first lady repeats “Come back in an hours time and pay her”. I disappear and take in the sun, but for now resist that Mojito.

I return in exactly an hour as directed, to the buzz of the gym as eight fighters get ready for their workout.  I pay my Cuban peso and enter the roofless outside square. The Trejo is a place to behold, a home of champions and hopefuls.

Fighters go through their paces at the Trejo

I watch for an hour and more as these young, and not so young hopefuls go through their routine. A bit of jogging, light shadowboxing and fooling around, and then; full on sparring. All as the sun continues to rise and beats down on the sparingly sheltered ring. This environment is what separates this nation from their contenders…what makes the Cuban amateur boxing programme the envy on the world.

They come from villages across this crocodile shaped island to La Habana, the mecca for Olympic selection and the dream of travel to far flung places; and to some, eventual defection to the US. The dreams of many fulfilled by very few. For every Stevenson, Savon, Balado and Gamboa there are hundreds who return to their villages to a normal Cuban life.

A Cuban hopeful dreams of Olympic glory

But it is the love of the flag, el Commandante (Fidel) and the state that drives them in their early boxing lives. A successful fighter (aka gold medallist) is well looked after. Three times Olympic Champion Teofilo Stevenson’s legendary status was enhanced by his refusal to defect and take the millions of dollars on offer to fight Muhammad Ali. The ‘ultra-hero’ and model of state dedication to all Cubans of a certain vintage. Teofilo was well looked after and revered throughout his career as the flagship of the state system.

And so, as we close in on another Olympic cycle the honour of the nation is at stake again. Now a much more competitive playing field with the break up of the Soviet Union and eastern block. Cubans though again will be the ones to beat. The sheer depth of quality, desire and drive coupled with their state run coaching programme will ensure they are primed to deliver in Tokyo next summer.

An hour after leaving the Trejo I carefully navigate the Havana backstreets after that Mojito I denied myself earlier.  I come across a fighter I saw train in the gym.  He recognises me and shows me photos of his young children, he tells me he’s a two times World champion. I struggle to recognise his claim or a name to confirm my familiarity. I know a reason why he is showing me pictures but money is not mentioned. I know he seeks recognition outside his island and any pesos coming his way would be welcome. I don’t know his story or understand due to the language barrier, but I know his dream will be Olympic glory and the riches that may ensue.

The new Joel Casamayor maybe, but one thing I know he will do it first for the family and village honour; and foremost Cuba Libre.

A typical gym in Trinidad, Cuba

Robert Harding 30/8/19

Lomachenko v Campbell latest

30 August 2019 14:10 BST

Pound for pound king eyes fellow Olympian Luke Campbell

Ring magazine pound for pound king and multiple Lightweight Champion Vasiliy Lomachenko weighed in at 9st 8lbs 8oz with British challenger Luke Campbell tipping the scales at a lean 9st 8lbs 4oz. Both fighters comfortably within the Lightweight limit. Noticeable was the height differential and completely different physiques which will provide for an intriguing fight at Greenwich’s O2 Arena tomorrow night. Lomachenko is a heavy favourite to retain his WBA and WBO titles and capture the WBC version.

The Loma Phenomena

The number one lightweight and arguably pound for pound fighter in the world landed at the historic York Hall, Bethnal Green, East London tonight. And so he did ! In front of an unprecedented public turnout Vasiliy Lomachenko shadow boxed, used his famous baseball cap and ball training method and juggled in front of Londoners waving Ukrainian flags and chanting “Loma, Loma”.

Eyes on the Prize – Lomachenko performs his circus routine

Returning to the city of his second Olympic gold medal and the same venue he won in 2014 in the World Boxing Series as an amateur Loma again captured the hearts of London boxing fans. Just days away from the defence of his lightweight titles against Britain’s Luke Campbell on the Matchroom and Top Rank promotion at the Greenwich O2 Arena the Ukrainian champion has shown that he has many fans in the UK and Campbell will not have all the support on the night.

In an intriguing fight between two former elite amateurs and London 2012 gold medalists the sell out fight will give the opportunity for Loma to showcase his unique and considerable skills or, provide the opportunity for the Brit to win a professional title, and in doing so, shock the boxing world. The stage is set but tonight showed that in the eyes of the British fight fans Lomachenko has truly arrived and is one for them to cherish on their shores on Saturday night.

Robert Harding – 28/8/19