The Monday LunchBox

The regular weekly feature to also raise awareness of the registered boxing charity Ringside Rest and Care.

With only four weeks to go, we today look at the big fight on 7th December in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. The Undisputed will be there providing daily on site updates and coverage of the fight.

In the meantime here is a special feature previewing the event dubbed the ‘Clash on the Dunes’ and looking specifically at the challenger ahead of the big championship rematch:-

Andy Ruiz Jr v Anthony Joshua II.

Poster courtesy of Matchroom Boxing

The Hourglass of a Fighter

Over the long bars of New York City, in the casino snugs of Las Vegas, and onto the historic pubs of London’s east end a fighter’s greatness is always firstly defined by his record. Whether he kept the ‘O’ , but if not, always underlined by the phrase “But yeah…who did he beat ?”. More pointedly, “Who did he lose to ?”

Did the fighter come back from a devastating defeat to prove his greatness ? All the true greats of the sport have come back, from Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson, through Ali and Foreman, to Sugar Ray Leonard, Duran, Tyson and Lennox Lewis in the modern era. Lennox not once, but twice. This is the challenge that Britain’s Anthony Joshua now faces. A path well trodden by boxing’s modern greats.

Anthony Joshua, the so called ‘saviour’ of the Heavyweight division and boxing per se, the new kid on the block, who looks and talks like a million dollars, a marketing and PR man’s dream. The same ‘AJ’ who hit the canvas four times in Madison Square Garden this June before being rescued from further punishment.

This is the challenge that now faces the Brit, to come back when all has been temporarily lost – the ‘O’, invincibility and also the street cred’ that goes with it. Until that horrific night in MSG there were few doubters of Joshua’s legitimacy of being ‘the’ Heavyweight Champion, now the vultures of doom are circulating above his head.

To get back on the path to greatness Joshua must take the first small step through the shifting sands of Saudi Arabia. He must avenge his sole defeat to Mexico’s Andy Ruiz Jr. The so called ‘no hope’, the Mexican-American monolith with fast hands and as it proved equally concussive power.

Joshua’s ‘legacy’ is now like a carefully constructed sandcastle; with the tide now lapping at its base and the defences being undermined by naysayers. Can he come back ? What is required to do so ?

His chosen option was to take the immediate rematch and the rumoured $100 million dollar combined purse offered in Saudi Arabia. Will this hastily arranged chance of redemption be his ultimate undoing ? On December 7th in Diriyah in the suburbs of Riyadh we will know the answer.

But what an opportunity for the Brit, a chance to avenge that sole defeat but also to make the step to greatness. Also, to truly become Heavyweight Champion of THE World, (or at least the WBA, IBF and WBO versions of it). Three quarters of the journey to be ‘The Man’.

The rematch represents an opportunity for AJ to project himself as a fighter who has the courage to step in the ring within six months against an opponent who took all that was dear to him. An opportunity to project himself in the world’s consciousness as a modern day heavyweight who can truly cross continents and cultural boundaries. Not just the traditional trans-Atlantic route and bouncing of the title from the UK to US but, across the sands of Arabia and the Middle East.

Muhammad Ali was loved and revered for taking the heavyweight championship around the world. Firstly, by astonishingly regaining the title from George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire (now DR Congo), then taking it to outposts like Manila, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta. A TRUE Heavyweight Champion of the World. This didn’t make the man’s legend, but certainly enhanced it. Joshua now has the opportunity to transcend the sport, not through marketing but, achievement.

So what must he do to achieve this ? Many experts in the boxing business predict a repeat of the June proceedings. He’s taken the rematch too soon, he should stay away from Ruiz, his style and speed is no good for him. But credit Joshua for taking the rematch. He could have easily had a few tune up bouts before facing his nemesis, but he wants those titles back; and fast.

To achieve this, Anthony must have first got his mind right – got his psyche back into fighting mode. Look upon the whole MSG experience as bad night at the office. He must have critically assessed and analysed with his trainer Robert McCracken where he went wrong – poor pre-fight camp, complacency, lack of Plan B – whatever the primary cause was (probably a combination of all) the training camp for the rematch must have been extensive and thorough. We must now assume with an 12-10 week training camp and four weeks remaining that the majority of this work has been done.

He must also have developed a Plan B, and more so, a Plan C. If Ruiz doesn’t buckle to his inevitable display of frustration and power in the first three minutes AJ must adopt a cautious but not over exertive mindset. Not fatigue himself physically and emotionally by a failed attempted early KO. Train for twelve rounds in both body and mind.

Critically, Joshua must tighten his defence whether that means fighting more at range, but certainly tucking up in close. Holding and clinging on for life if necessary. Ruiz will be confident he can do the same again, so he is a dangerous foe.

Boxing history is littered with the results of rematches being more emphatic than the first. Robinson v LaMotta, Ali v Liston, Tyson v Holyfield. But; British heavyweights have shown that they can turn the tide – Lennox Lewis’ humiliation of Oliver McCall and KO of Hasim Rahman in rematches show it can be done. You have to regroup and change your game plan, remove the doubts and maybe unleash that ‘street’ toughness and mentality that Joshua showed in London 2012.

What we do know is if he can be successful ‘the castle’ can be rebuilt and the tide towards unification and mouthwatering prospect of the winner facing Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury will approach like a tsunami. Bring it on !

Nicola Adams OBE

The Undisputed could not fail to mention the sad retirement from boxing last week of two-time Olympic Champion and female role model Nicola Adams OBE. The Leeds legend will always be remembered as a pioneer of women’s boxing and the first female Olympic champion in London 2012. Nicola sadly had to retire following an injury sustained in her September professional world title fight with Mexican Maria Salinas. She revealed she suffered a torn pupil and this led to a fear of losing her sight. She has chosen the wise option and we wish her all success and happiness in the future.

Billy Joe preserves his ‘O’

Los Angeles, 9 Nov 2019

WBO super-middleweight title holder Billy Joe Saunders 29-0-0 (14 KO’s) defended his world championship with an 11th round stoppage of Marcelo Esteban Coceres. In a lacklustre performance the Hoddesdon, Herts man prevailed to retain his undefeated record and then called out Mexican legend Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez after the fight. This was Coceres first defeat in a 30 fight career so a noteworthy victory for Saunders. His new promoter Matchroom Boxing will try to manoeuvre him into a unification or big fight next.

The Drama in Saitama

Inoue explodes a right on Donaire. Photo by Naoki Fukuda

Saitama, Japan – 7 Nov 2019

In a sensational fight Japan’s Naoya Inoue sealed a 116-111, 117-109, 114-113 unanimous decision against Filipino multi-weight champion Nonito Donaire to secure the World Boxing Super Series title at Bantamweight and with it the Muhammad Ali Trophy.

In a bout that will no doubt be a clear contender for fight of the year the Japanese star also added Donaire’s WBA world title to his own IBF version.

It was an epic contest with Inoue 19-0-0 (16 KO’s) cut early over the right eye and power punches rocking both fighters throughout. The taller Donaire 40-6-0 (26 KO’s) boxed in an upright stance with a strong jab trying to walk his man down with powerful attacks. Inoue boxed well, but was more open and wreckless, loading up to the head and landing his wide powershots, retaining a high guard to protect his right eye from further damage.

The explosiveness of punches bounced off both fighters throughout the contest as they left themselves open to attacks to seal victory. Inoue ‘snaking in’ with jabs and follow up powershots and the ‘Filipino Flash’ marching forward. The 9th round was action packed with Donaire going to work on the Japanese and visibly shaking him with a big right hand cross mid-round. Inoue however showed his chin matches his ‘Monster’ powerpunching reputation, as he held momentarily and came through the round.

The pivotal round was the 11th. Inoue caught Donaire with a perfectly placed left hook to the body mid-round forcing his opponent to touchdown. The only knockdown of the fight.

How Donaire dragged himself up on the count of nine and got through the remaining half of the round was miraculous, drawing on his vast championship experience and true grit.

This would be only the third time Inoue had failed to secure victory by KO.

Both fighters showed their mutual respect in the build up, at several stages during the fight, and embraced exhausted at the final bell. Later, promoter and WBSS supremo Kalle Sauerland rightly dubbed the fight the ‘Drama in Saitama’.

Although Inoue took all the straps and Ali Trophy, which almost dwarfed him post-fight, Donaire in defeat will for sure be a first ballot entry to the International Boxing Hall of Fame if he now decides to retire.

The Japanese star and Ring Magazine pound for pound #4 will now target France’s WBC champion Nordine Oubaarli who defeated Naoya’s younger brother on the undercard. The older sibling, despite showing defensive flaws for the first time, will start as a big favourite.

Great matches at 118lbs and beyond await for ‘The Monster’ and further spectacular nights are in store for his increasing worldwide fanbase. On this evidence it’s impossible not to be excited by this new explosive star in the lower weight classes.

The Monster v The Flash

Naoya Inoue and Nonito Donaire matchup
(photo courtesy of WBSS)

With the Rugby World Cup now over, the excellent World Boxing Super Series blows into Saitama, Japan tomorrow (12:10 GMT) when Japanese knockout sensation Naoya ‘The Monster’ Inoue 18-0-0 (16 KO’s) takes on veteran multi-weight champion Nonito ‘The Filipino Flash’ Donaire 40-5-0 (26 KO’s) in the Bantamweight (118lbs/8st 6lbs) final.

The Asian boxing world will be captivated by this elite match-up, which the respective records would suggest, promises to be an explosive affair. Inoue enters the fray as The Ring magazine’s Bantamweight champion and ‘pound for pound’ #4 in the world. High praise indeed. Donaire, close to the twilight of his career has won ‘world’ titles from flyweight to super-bantamweight and has invaluable experience and ring smarts.

But, Inoue has proven so far to be something special. No more than in his semi-final victory in Glasgow, Scotland when he destroyed previously undefeated Emmanuel Rodriguez in less than five minutes.

In a fight that is broadcast live on Sky Sports Action look for Inoue to stop his opponent in rounds 7-10 sending Donaire into retirement, handsomely paid, and a place in the International Boxing Hall of Fame guaranteed. For Inoue, his legacy will only just be beginning and major fights await through the divisions.

The Monday LunchBox

The weekend round-up to also raise awareness of the registered boxing charity Ringside Rest and Care for ex-boxers who suffer from their craft and/or have fallen on hard times.

Krusher Crushed !

Las Vegas, Nevada (2nd Nov)

A spectacular 11th round two punch combo from Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez 53-1-2 (36 KO’s) was enough to secure the WBO Light Heavyweight title from Russian champ Sergey Kovalev 34-4-1 (29 KO’s). It also made him a four weight ‘world’ champion from Light-middleweight (11st) to Light heavyweight (12st 7lbs). He currently holds titles at Middleweight and Super-middleweight, through to his latest coronation.

There was much play of him equalling Henry Armstrong’s record of holding world titles at three weights simultaneously, but this is speculative hyperbole given the splintering of current world title belts.

The official cards at the time of the 2:15 min stoppage read 96-94, 96-94 to Canelo and 95-95 even. However, that didn’t tell the story of the fight with Kovalev providing the superior boxing skills and workrate throughout. His excellent jab with strong power punches behind gave Kovalev on your editor’s card a clear five round lead.

As the fight moved into the championship rounds it was looking increasingly likely an upset was in store, although the cards would amazingly suggest otherwise. A real case of the marquee and hometown fighter receiving generous advantage. Canelo although landing power punches, just couldn’t keep up with Kovalev’s workrate, and was looking increasingly desperate until BOOM ! A left hook pushed the Russian to the ropes and Canelo followed up with a big right hand cross, scrambling Kovalev’s senses and leaving him slumped for the referee to stop the fight immediately. The suddenness of the finish was both devastating and impressive. Credit to Canelo for turning the fight around.

The event was marred by inexplicable delays of up to an hour for the fighter’s entrances whilst a UFC fight was concluding (also broadcast by DAZN) and then a drawn out anthems period.

Kovalev in the post fight interview referred to a stamina problem in the later rounds “A little bit I didn’t recover from the last fight” and Canelo payed particular reference to El Dia de Muertos (the day of the dead), coinciding with fight night. “I want to honour the dead – the day of the dead in Mexico”.

When asked about a third Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin fight, he was consistent with his view that it no longer presented a challenge to him, then adding “If it represents business, then why not ?”. On this evidence it would appear the probability is back on and certainly on GGG and Canelo’s recent outings, you would favour the Mexican, but moving back down from 175 to 160lbs may significantly even the odds.

Manchester, England (2nd Nov)

Queen Katie

Ireland’s London 2012 Olympic Champion Katie Taylor 15-0 (6 KO’s) succeeded in winning her second professional world title by convincingly outpointing WBO super-lightweight champion Christina Linardatou 12-2 (6 KO’s). Taylor entered the contest as the undisputed Lightweight champion, and her first fight at the higher weight category was nothing short of brilliant. Despite a nasty early swelling over her right eye Taylor’s superior boxing skills and ring generalship were too much for her Dominican-Greek based opponent. Final scores read 96-94, 97-93 and 97-93 to Taylor.

Katie stands as an icon in her country, and in our sport should now rightly be recognised as a future Hall of Famer. Her charisma, fanbase, boxing ability and accomplishments to date should now receive full acclaim. In the post fight interview, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn made considerable reference to this and that is only rightly deserved. Look for Taylor to seek further challenges within and outside the lightweights.

Anthony Crolla wins and confirms retirement

Former WBO Lightweight Champion Anthony ‘Million Dollar’ Crolla 35-7-3 (13 KO’s)rounded off a successful and popular career by gaining the decision in his final fight. It was arguable whether the 98-92, 97-93 and 95-95 majority decision in Crolla’s favour was fully deserved, and his opponent Frank Urquiaga 13-2-1 (1 KO) left the ring immediately on the cards being announced, but no one could deny Crolla his final moment in the ring.

Adored by his hometown fans; following the fight Crolla admitted he’d done the best he could, thought he’d done enough and that it was great to go out with a win. Happy retirement Anthony.

The Friday Faceup

Welcome to a new weekly feature that looks at the big stories of the fight weekend ahead.

The Cinnamon Kid v The Krusher

This Saturday (2nd Nov) in Las Vegas sees Mexico’s latest boxing megastar Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez 52-1-2 (35 KO’s) challenge Russia’s Sergey Kovalev 34-3-1 (29 KO’s) for his WBO Light Heavyweight (12st 7lb) title.

Nicknamed ‘Canelo’ for his cinnamon coloured hair, Alvarez is the biggest draw in boxing at the present time; able to earn millions of dollars per fight, pack out arenas and sell shedloads of pay per view (box office) across the US, Mexico and worldwide. Kovalev on the other hand is a ‘blue collar’ elite fighter from the Russian outpost of Chelyabinsk.

Both fighters, although from very different parts of the world, have come up the hard way. One from the barrios of Guadalajara, competing and fighting in the Mexican style, the other from the harsh eastern bloc showing the archetypal technical skills and competitive excellence.

Kovalev has been defeated in world title fights on three occasions (twice to Andre Ward), and Canelo (the current Ring magazine Middleweight champion) experienced just one defeat to Floyd Mayweather Jnr, although arguably also to Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin in their first fight.

What can we expect ? Canelo is attempting something few fighters have achieved, to capture a title two divisions up from his more natural 11st 6lb weight. Look to see him utilising his speed and mobility, but also mixing it on the inside. Kovalev will either go looking for Canelo from the opening bell, or more likely adopt a cautious approach in the opening rounds, using his superior weight and power deeper into the fight. Age may also be a key factor, Canelo at 29 and Kovalev 36, but this should only be down the stretch in the championship rounds (10-12).

Look for the Mexican to win a competitive fight on a unanimous decision.

Crolla’s curtain call

In Manchester, England the hometown hero and former WBA lightweight champion Anthony ‘Million Dollar’ Crolla 34-7-3 (13 KO’s) will bring an end to his highly successful career against Peruvian-Spaniard Frank Urquiaga 13-1-1 (1).

The extremely likeable Crolla has fought the best in Jorge Linares and Vasiliy Lomachenko and providing his emotion is contained should prove too much for his opponent.

On the same Matchroom Boxing promotion, broadcast live on Sky Sports and DAZN, female world champion and Irish legend Katie Taylor will attempt to capture a world title at a second weight. She challenges Christina Linardatou at 140lb for the WBO super-lightweight title in what should be an excellent match.

The Monday LunchBox

Welcome to a weekly feature to enjoy with your lunch but also raise awareness of the registered boxing charity Ringside Rest and Care for ex-boxers who suffer from their craft and/or have fallen on hard times.
The ecstasy of victory and humility in defeat

Prograis v Taylor – Five things we learned

  1. The fight was a modern classic – despite no knockdowns and neither fighter in serious trouble, the sheer intensity of exchanges, technical excellence and fight’s ‘ebb and flow’ made this one of the finest in a British ring for many a year.
  2. Josh Taylor is the real deal – if we didn’t know already, him entering the ring with the IBF super lightweight title, we do now. He showed emphatically his boxing ability, desire to dish it out, and more, his ‘cojones’ and resilience to come through difficult moments in a fight, and prevail. He is arguably in poll position to become Scotland’s finest fighter of all time.
  3. Regis Prograis is a class act – the New Orlean arrived in London three weeks before fight night, fulfilled all media commitments, charmed all who he came into contact with (Taylor aside !) and on fight night delivered a brilliant performance that just fell short. What followed the decision further raised his stock by the humility shown.
  4. The WBSS and Matchroom continue to deliver – The second edition of the World Boxing Super Series continues to deliver an engrossing elimination tournament and great fights. Most notably one recognised champion. The Brits have done well, snaring two Muhammad Ali Trophies, and launching stars Callum Smith and Josh Taylor. Add in Alexsandr Usyk and you’ve got what Kalle Sauerland called “The caviar of boxing”. Matchroom Boxing’s co-promotion of this on Saturday night was nothing short of exceptional.
  5. The 117-112 scorecard was a shocker – Where that came from was beyond most observers. This was such a close fight and could arguably have gone either way. That the Prograis camp did not contest this is a reflection on their professionalism and class.

Derek Chisora continues to deliver

The Finchley man got the business done in a 4th round stoppage of David Price and continues to further enhance the domestic heavyweight picture, whilst knocking on the door of World titles. The cancelled fight with New Zealand’s Joseph Parker is a natural next challenge. Win that, and a world title shot awaits.

Lee Selby is back

The Barry stylist is back at lightweight and comfortable. His decision win over Ricky Burns showcased his repertoire of skills and that having captured a world title at featherweight he is comfortable fighting two divisions up. Look for him to feature on upcoming Matchroom cards and be manoeuvred into a mandatory world title position.

Visit Ringside Rest and Care for more information https://ringsiderestandcare.com/

Taylor takes it all

London, 26 October 2019

Scotland’s Josh Taylor won a hotly contested fight on majority decision to capture the World Boxing Super Series super-lightweight title at a packed O2 Arena tonight. By defeating New Orleans Regis Prograis he retained his IBF title, captured the WBA title and snagged the Ring Magazine championship at ten stone (140lbs).

In a competitive fight throughout, both fighters had their moments but no knockdowns resulted. The judges returned scores of 114-114, 115-113 and 117-112. The latter card being slightly wide of your editors 114-113 (Taylor).

Both fighters complimented each other on their performance in post fight interviews, with Prograis declaring “The best man won”. Taylor was equally magnanimous in victory. The fight and after event was a credit to both boxers.

Prograis loses his WBA title and undefeated record but gained so many more fans in defeat. Taylor moves on to other challenges, possibly a WBC unification, but many will pay to see the rematch.

Further updates to follow.

Fight on !

25 October 2019 13:40 BST

We have a fight. Both boxers weighed in successfully for the much anticipated World Boxing Super Series super lightweight final tomorrow evening at London’s O2 Arena.

New Orleans WBA Champion Regis Prograis had an initial scare weighing a pound over the 10 stone (140lbs) limit, but after shedding his underwear checked in at 9st 13lbs 15oz. Scotland’s IBF Champion Josh Taylor made the limit at first attempt (9st 13lb 13oz).

Following the weigh-in the verbal exchanges continued with Prograis saying “It’s gonna be a bloody night for sure…someone’s gonna get stopped” motioning in Taylor’s direction. The Scot took the dais and responded “I made it okay, he looks like he’s on his feet dead”. Following up with “He’s gonna go back to America with his tail between his legs !”

Tune in on Sky Sports Box Office or DAZN for what promises to be a mouthwatering fight between two undefeated fighters at the peak of their powers.

As Michael Buffer said “Someone’s O’s gotta go” !

Lift off !

24 October 2019 12:45 BST

The gloves are really off. In a prickly final press conference in London this lunchtime the animosity between the two main eventers – Regis Prograis and Josh Taylor continues into the last two days. Although respect of what each fighter brings to the table was acknowledged, Josh Taylor in particular showed no let up from his verbal condemnation of his American opponent.

First up though was Prograis, covered by dark sunglasses, continuing to suggest that Taylor had fought no one like him and that he’d been shaken before against previous opponent Ivan Baranchyk, and asking what was he going be like against him. Emphasising his comfort in England after spending close to three weeks here he insisted “He can’t beat me…when I hit you and I hurt you that’s it”.

Taylor in response was unrelenting in his contempt for his opponent, saying he never thought he was going to shut up and asking why he was hiding behind his sunglasses. Exuding supreme confidence, sprinkled with a few expletives, he insisted he was going to “rip the belts off him” and “knock him out cold”.

If the pre-fight boasts and hostilities are lived up to, and given the undoubted pedigree of both fighters, this promises to be a contender for fight of the year. Catch it Saturday at the O2 Arena or live on Sky Sports box office or DAZN in the USA.

The brawl for it all

21 October 2019

Fight week is here ! Six days to go until the Super-Lightweight collision between New Orlean’s Regis Prograis 24-0-0 (20 KO’s) and Edinburgh’s Josh Taylor 15-0-0 (12 KO’s) at London’s O2 Arena in the World Boxing Super Series final.

Both ten stone (140lb) fighters are primed, supremely confident and up for grabs are all the ‘straps’. The coveted Muhammad Ali Trophy climaxing the finale of the Super Series, their IBF, WBA & WBC Diamond titles, and also prestigious The Ring magazine championship.

The full card will be broadcast in the UK on Sky Box Office and available in the US and worldwide on DAZN streaming site. Use links to visit The Championship Rounds Preview section on this website for an earlier preview and watch for further updates here throughout fight week.