Five things we learned
Reflections on an interesting weekend of championship boxing:-
- Lyndon Arthur is the ‘real deal’ – The Manchester light-heavyweight came in as a big underdog to retain his Commonwealth title in Westminster, Saturday against Londoner Anthony Yarde. The ‘smart money’ was on Yarde’s power to see him through after an excellent showing last year in losing to the then WBO world champion Sergey Kovalev. Working off an excellent left jab and largely unused right hand Arthur controlled the pace of the fight, keeping the advancing Yarde at bay to eek out a split decision against his more hyped foe. Scores were 117-111 (Yarde) with two judges returning 115-114 to the champion. In the post-fight interview Yarde felt aggrieved believing he’d pressed the fight throughout, but the Mancunian was the better man on the night. This was Arthur’s ‘come out’ victory and despite calls for a rematch this launches him into contention for the WBO world title.
- Errol Spence Jr is back – ‘The Truth’ from Texas showed no ill effects from his horrific car accident last October when retaining his WBC and IBF world welterweight titles in Arlington, Texas Saturday. From the opening bell the Texan took the fight to Philadelphia’s former double-weight world champion Danny Garcia, controlling an always competitive fight. Never in trouble, but always pressured by his opponent, Spence showed flashes of his undoubted class in winning a unanimous decision 116-112, 117-111, 116-112. Garcia acknowledged post fight he’d lost to the better man on the night. WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford was in attendance at the AT&T Arena and social media soundings for a unification fight between the two undefeated champions will now amplify significantly.
- Billy Joe Saunders needs a big fight – The British southpaw successfully defended his WBO super-middleweight title against fellow Briton Martin Murray in London, Friday. The undefeated champion (30-0, 14 KO’s) dominated the fight out of his southpaw stance with the final scorecards confirming it – 120-109, 120-109, 118-110. Saunders has been a WBO ‘world’ champion since 2015 at middle and now super-middleweight and having failed to secure a summer fight against Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and known for succumbing to distraction between fights desperately needs to secure a marquee fight. Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn acknowledged this post-fight and will look to secure a challenge against the winner of the upcoming Alvarez v Callum Smith unification fight.
- Anthony Yarde is technically limited – the London puncher stalked Lyndon Arthur for the majority of the twelve rounds, but was devoid of the ability to navigate the Manchester man’s left jab. His only real success came in the last round when a big right shook the champion, but it was too little too late. Yarde’s record now drops to 20-2, 19 KO’s and he’s come up short in his two major tests. Against Kovalev he emptied the tank too early when having the Russian in trouble, and on Saturday he paced himself more but this only resulted in him surrendering the decision on a lack of sustained action and success. The Londoner’s power is unquestionable but his strategy and ring smarts will need to improve to achieve his full potential.
- Martin Murray can retire a contented man – The 38 year old super-middleweight from St Helens, NW England can reflect on an excellent career having fought at the elite level for over a decade and challenging for a version of the world title on five different occasions. In all attempts at winning a world strap he’s given an excellent account of himself, arguably losing to Sergio Martinez in his Buenos Aires backyard and controversially drawing against Felix Sturm, again in the German’s home country. His title challenges have mainly come on the road and when finally securing domestic chances it’s been late in his career. His record of 39-6-1 (17 KO’s) also contains the stellar name of Gennadiy Golovkin and former ‘world’ champions Arthur Abraham and George Groves. Add to this the adversity he faced earlier in life after being incarcerated on a couple of occasions and what he’s achieved since has been exemplary. Following his defeat to Billy Joe Saunders he refused to be drawn on announcing his retirement, but when he does, can reflect on being a credit to himself, his family and the sport of boxing.