Inside the Jab

Bantamweight king Naoya ‘Monster’ Inoue.

Monster mashes the Flash

Think Thomas Hearns destroying Roberto Duran, think Donald Curry icing Milton McCrory, now witness Naoya Inoue dismantling Nonito Donaire.

All second round KO’s, all against fighters with a quality resume, all equal in their spine-chilling finality.

The ‘Monster’ nickname was no more apt than in the Saitama Arena, Japan lunchtime today (UK time). ‘Filipino Flash’ Donaire entered the ring with a record of 42-6 (28 KO’s), ‘world’ titles in four different weight classes and appearing in his 22nd world title fight. After a bright opening he left the ring bludgeoned and befuddled four and a half minutes later.

Pound-for-pound #3, as ranked by The Ring magazine, Inoue was fighting in his homeland again after his opponent had extended him twelve rounds in a toe-to-toe battle just under three years ago at the same venue. A contest that was awarded The Ring’s 2019 fight of the year. We expected something similar, but knew it would be very hard to equal.

What we got was an annihilation, and a stoppage so destructive that the argument now is the ‘Monster’ is #1. The pound-for-pound debate will rage on but we know, if we didn’t already, that Naoya Inoue is a generational talent and undoubtedly the best bantamweight in the world. His march to the Hall of Fame has started and who knows where it will take him ’til he resides there.

The Japanese is 29 years old and having moved through three weight classes already, is prepared to move up further, as he alluded to post-fight. But, let’s enjoy him first among the 118 pounders. In his native country he’s a national hero who transcends his sport, now his 67 inch reach is spreading across the continents. Twice on the cover of The Ring already and more to follow.

Inoue came to the ring to the soundtrack of Kill Bill, ably supported by a national celebrity soloing on a lead guitar in ring centre. The screech of the guitar as the main notes resonated almost signalled the onset of the carnage we were about to witness. Donaire followed to the ring with something melodic but more tranquil. A sign ?

After the anthems, pre-fight instructions and ding of the opening bell, the Filipino started quickly but both fighters knew the power each had in their arsenal so despite landing solid shots, were tense. The round was about to reach a cautious conclusion, then BOOM !

A powerful right hand counter detonated on the side of Donaire’s head. He hit the deck immediately, shocked, but still with enough energy and composure to lift himself to his feet. Canadian referee Michael Griffin continued the count, Nonito stood up, rocky, but on nine the bell for the end of the round sounded simultaneously. A 10-8 round in the Japanese’ favour.

The corner of the WBC champion frantically tried to get stability and semblance into Donaire’s legs. The second round bell rang and the Filipino tried to meet fire with fire. A mistake.

Within 1:24 mins of the round Donaire had been wobbled twice and as the Japanese loaded up and landed repeatedly he landed a vicious left hook to score the second knockdown. The referee waved the fight over immediately. The destruction was complete and a multi-weight champion had been systematically taken apart by a potentially great fighter and new star in the sport.

‘The Monster’ had indeed mashed his opponent inside four and half minutes. The Undisputed expected a Inoue victory, maybe spectacular, but not this early. Within seconds of the stoppage Inoue was a picture of composure, adourned with the multiple belts of the sanctioning bodies.

In his post fight interview the Japanese said he felt Donaire’s power “In the very first round I received the left hook from Nonito and that punch made me wake up…I just decided to finish the fight”. And finish it he did, in an emphatic history making performance.

Donaire, now 39 years old, dropped to 42-7 (28 KO’s) and having won multiple ‘world titles has his name in the Hall already, when he finally calls it a day. Always a devastating puncher and box office, he will be missed. But today was the performance of the year so far and the ‘Monster’ will do far more mashing over the next few years. Hold onto your seats, a star has arrived !

The event was co-promoted by Top Rank Inc and is immediately available on their YouTube site.

The Monday LunchBox

The Dream fulfilled.

A new lightweight king was crowned in Melbourne, Australia when Devin ‘The Dream’ Haney comprehensively outboxed George Kambosos Jr over twelve rounds on Saturday night.

The contest took place in the city’s Marvel Stadium and the American put in a superhero performance. He kept his opponent and the capacity crowd subdued for most of the contest taking control from the opening bell and working off a solid jab with excellent ring generalship to gain an impressive win. All three judges were in agreement returning scores of 116-112, 116-112 and 118-110. The Undisputed scored the contest 117-111 in Haney’s favour.

Despite the pre-fight hostilities the contest, though always interesting, never really took off. The Australian entered as a unified champion after his shock defeat of Teofimo Lopez last year, but couldn’t get any success or control inside the dominant jab of the slick Haney. The Aussie spent most of the fight countering off Haney’s near perfect straight left stick and, although having some success in the mid rounds, could never really maintain a pace and intensity that allowed him to corner his opponent for sustained periods.

Haney (28-0, 15 KO’s) showed the full extent of his boxing IQ by dictating the pace of the fight with his slick skills. A couple of times he got nailed with solid shots from the advancing and upright home fighter, but the American was able to ride them comfortably.

In his post-fight interview Haney explained “The gameplan was to hit and not get hit…I fought a good, smart fight”. This summed up his approach and how the contest went.

The former champ was accepting in defeat saying “I give him full respect for the victory” but added “I thought the fight was very close”. He ended saying “Let him have his moment” pointing to and knowing the rematch clause built into pre-fight negotiations. On this result there won’t be a clamour for the rematch as it was a classic case of styles making fights and Haney on this showing would likely prevail again. Kambosos suffered his first defeat and drops to 20-1, 10 KO’s but will come again.

The Las Vegas based American is now the legitimate world lightweight champion adding all the sanctioning straps to his WBC title. He adds the prestigious Ring magazine championship which was also on the line.

The 9st,9lb (135lbs) division is stacked with talent and strong challenges await from Gervonta Davis, Ryan Garcia and former champion Vasiliy Lomachenko amongst others.

In Cardiff, Wales former elite amateur Joe Cordina spectacularly took the IBF world junior-lightweight (9st,4lb/130lbs) title from Japanese Kenichi Ogawa with a stunning second round knockout. The massive right hand he registered on the former champion’s jaw is an early contender for punch and knockout of the year. As soon as it detonated and the Japanese slumped to the canvas the fight was over.

In a fight that we predicted the hometown challenger would win narrowly he completely obliterated those early thoughts with his stunning KO. This was by far the standout performance of Cordina’s career and it sets him up for unification fights further down the line. The 30 year old ‘Welsh Wizard’ rises to 15-0, 9 KO’s and former champion drops to 26-2-1, 18 KO’s.

A fantastic bantamweight contest is set for tomorrow in Saitama, Japan when pound-for-pounder Naoya Inoue meets Filipino Nonito Donaire for a second time. Their first meeting, also in Saitama, was The Ring magazine 2019 fight of the year with the Japanese, Inoue winning a hard fought unanimous decision.

Inoue (22-0, 19 KO’s) goes by the moniker of ‘The Monster’ due to his destructive power and intensity and should be too much this time for multi-weight and current WBC champion Donaire (42-6, 28 KO’s). The ‘Filipino Flash’ performed exceptionally well in the first contest but almost three years on, now aged 39, is close to the twilight of his career. The younger man at 29 should register the KO this time, likely in the last third of the fight. It will though be exciting whilst it lasts.

The contest is promoted by Top Rank Inc. and will be available on Top Rank’s YouTube channel with ring walks expected at 12:30pm BST. It is also available on ESPN+ in the US and Amazon Prime in Japan.

This weekly feature is to also raise awareness of the Ringside Charitable Trust.

The Weekender

Promo courtesy of Top Rank Inc.

In a huge fight tonight in Melbourne, Australia all the world lightweight (9st,9lbs/135lb) straps are up for grabs when homeboy George Kambosos Jr. faces American Devin Haney.

The 28 year old Kambosos (20-0, 10 KO’s) is a unified champion and recognised as The Ring magazine champion having beaten previously undefeated Teofimo Lopez in a stand out victory last year. Haney (27-0, 15 KO’s) brings his WBC title to the ring. It’s a brilliant clash of styles with the aggressive Australian facing a slick, well schooled American. The fight will be staged in the Marvel Arena before a capacity 60,000 crowd.

Kambosos has been a road warrior in recent years finally getting his shot at the titles in the US and seizing with both hands. Lopez was tipped to be the next big star in boxing on beating Ukrainian pound-for-pounder Vasiliy Lomachenko, but Kambosos tore up the script winning a deserved split decision in The Ring’s upset of 2021.

The Australian, self proclaimed ‘Emperor’ with Greek heritage, is now a major celebrity in his sports mad homeland and hoping to build on the outstanding fistic legacies of fellow Aussies Jimmy Carruthers, Lionel Rose, Jeff Fenech and adopted hero Kostya Tszyu.

On the prospect of making his first defence in front of his compatriots Kambosos said “It’s great to be be back home. Five years of hard work…I had to go through every bit of adversity. I had to earn my belts…the hardest way…I know the stadium will be buzzing with my support…It’s a great moment for Australian boxing and I am very excited”.

Haney, 23, enters the contest extremely confident in his own abilities, buoyed by his undefeated record and recent impressive victories. He has a win over multi-weight champ Jorge Linares and last time out beat Joseph ‘Jojo’ Diaz in a comprehensive points victory. In a fight week press conference he said “There’s nothing he can do in the ring that’s better than me, and I will show that on fight night. I take nothing away from him. I think he’s a good fighter, but I just think I’m on a whole different level”.

Big overnight news was Kambosos’ failure to make the stipulated weight at first attempt, being .36 of a pound over, and returning to the scales 75 minutes later to finally successfully weigh in. Kambosos claimed this was a tactic to unsettle his opponent, but this is unlikely and could be a factor if weight draining has become an issue for the unified champion. Haney weighed in 134.9lbs at his first attempt.

The Australian has all the tools to win on the night with sound boxing skills backed up by respectable power. We liken this fight to Barry McGuigan v Bernard Taylor in the mid 1980’s, with the American having the superior skills but being overwhelmed by the Aussie’s early intensity and a rabid, vocal home support down the stretch. We just give Kambosos the edge with the benefit of this support carrying him home to a wafer thin points victory.

The contest and solid support card is co-promoted by Top Rank Inc, DiBella Entertainment and the fighter’s promotional companies and is available live in the UK on Sky Sports from 02:00 BST Sunday. It is being shown in the USA on ESPN (9pm ET).

Earlier Saturday night (UK time) from Cardiff, Wales will be the world IBF junior-lightweight (9st,4lb/130lbs) title fight between Japan’s Kenichi Ogawa and Wales’ challenger Joe Cordina.

The 34 year old champion has an excellent 26-1-1 (18 KO’s) record and will be looking to cash in on his title as he enters the back end of his career. He’s mostly fought in Japan, but with a couple of fights stateside, should not be intimidated by the expected hostile local crowd in the Motorpoint Arena.

For Cordina (14-0, 8 KO’s), now 30 years old, it’s a ‘put up or shut up’ fight. He’s been a pro for a six years since representing Team GB in the Rio Olympics and, although still retains an undefeated record, this will be his first step up to an elite level. The Welshman said pre-fight “I’m at that world level. I’ve sparred plenty of world champions and I’ve been in with some tough guys…I’ve also got a great boxing brain…I can think my way around the fight and get that win on Saturday”. Ogawa has promised a very aggressive approach and to be victorious on the night.

Cordina has the youth, skills and world experience as an amateur to make this a difficult night for the Japanese. If he can work behind his solid defence for the earlier part of the fight, we see him making the fight extremely competitive and ultimately just eeking out a victory in another close fight won by the hometown fighter.

The contest and card are promoted by Matchroom Boxing and available on the DAZN streaming platform.

The Monday LunchBox

Ionut Baluta celebrates his win over Brad Foster.

There was some excellent action in British rings over the weekend.

Friday night saw a Queensberry Promotions international super-bantamweight contest between Romanian Ionut Baluta and Briton Brad Foster. The aggressive Baluta (15-3, 3 KO’s) forced the pace throughout and although Foster (14-2-2, 5 KO’s) boxed well he was unable to prevail with scores returned in favour of the Spanish based eastern European 98-94, 97-93, 97-93.

We saw the fight a lot closer with most rounds difficult to score, a question of whether you liked the calmness and ring generalship of Foster compared to Baluta’s advancing aggression, but we accepted the man who made the fight was rightly declared the victor.

On a deep card with good victories for female puncher Raven Chapman, debuting Sean Noakes, Michael Burke Jr and Andrew Cain the night showcased some of the best talent emerging from the UK.

Liverpool’s Andrew Cain (10-0, 9 KO’s) is on an upward trajectory at super-bantamweight. It only took him 2:02 of the opening round to land a double left hook right uppercut combination to halt usually tough Mexican Luis Moreno. Cain is reputedly looking at opportunities for titles at either super-bantam or the lighter bantamweight division, able to fluctuate between the two. On this form, in which he was punch perfect, the future looks bright.

Undefeated Maidstone, Kent bantamweight Dennis ‘The Menace’ McCann (10-0, 6 KO’s) was in attendance and a fight between him and Cain would be a mouthwatering prospect.

There were also good wins for Joshua and Charles Frankham in front of a passionate family following.

Saturday night at the London O2 Arena saw an excellent all British affair between world ranked light-heavyweights Joshua Buatsi and Craig Richards. The undefeated Buatsi (16-0, 13 KO’s) won a hard fought twelve round unanimous decision 116-112, 115-113, 115-113 in one of the fights of the year to date.

Richards (17-3-1, 10 KO’s), hot off a world title loss to Dmitry Bivol, put in another excellent performance but just fell short on the scorecards. The Undisputed scored it 116-112 in favour of Buatsi.

The 29 year old Buatsi now takes pole position for a world title shot at 175lbs (12st,7lbs) being highly ranked by all governing bodies. With the depth of British contenders at the weight there are also lucrative domestic contests with Anthony Yarde, Callum’s Johnson or Smith and Lyndon Arthur amongst others. His Matchroom Boxing promotional company will be looking to seal a world title fight next.

Much will depend on the route that current unified champion Dmitry Bivol takes after his recent defeat of former pound-for-pound king Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and the imminent contest between Artur Beterbiev and Joe Smith Jr. The 175lb division is one of the hottest in the world currently, bringing back memories of the glory days of the early 1980’s.

This weekly feature is also to raise awareness of the Ringside Charitable Trust.

The Friday Faceup

Promo courtesy of Queensberry Promotions.

Some good action is expected at east London’s York Hall, Bethnal Green tonight with the return of Britain’s Brad Foster against Romanian Ionut Baluta at super-bantamweight (122lbs/8st,10lbs).

Foster (14-1-2, 5 KO’s) is the former British and Commonwealth champion and on the comeback trail after losing his titles to Jason Cunningham last October. The Midlands man is in tough with Baluta (14-3, 3 KO’s) who’s fought in good company, losing against world title challenger Michael Conlan last time out.

The 24 year old Foster is a good stylist and should have enough to come through a tough test. Most likely on points.

The Queensberry Promotions card also features Liverpool super-bantamweight Andrew Cain against Mexican Luis Moreno, female boxer Raven Chapman at featherweight and, includes the debut of welterweight Sean Noakes from Maidstone, Kent.

The event will be shown live in the UK on BT Sport 2 from 7pm.

Tomorrow (Sat) in the O2 Arena, North Greenwich is the all British light-heavyweight contest between world ranked Joshua Buatsi and Craig Richards. This is a fight with serious consequences on a world level.

Both are south Londoners with Buatsi (15-0, 13 KO’s) moving into a position for a world title shot and Richards (17-2-1, 10 KO’s) comes off a points defeat to now unified champion and current pound-for-pounder Dmitry Bivol. This is a ‘pick-ems’ fight which could go the distance but we expect Buatsi’s power to tell and him prevail around the tenth round.

The event will be shown live on the DAZN streaming platform.

The Monday LunchBox

Denzel Bentley (left) piles it on against Linus Udofia.
Photo: Leigh Dawney/Wasserman Boxing

In an action packed Wasserman Boxing promotion in Greenwich, London (Fri 13th) Denzel Bentley regained the British middleweight title with a hard fought split decision victory over Linus Udofia. Scores were 116-112, 114-115, 115-113.

In gaining his second notch on the famous Lonsdale Belt towards winning it outright, having first won the title in 2020, the Battersea puncher emphatically returned from his shock April 2021 defeat to Felix Cash.

The contest was a barnstormer which ebbed and flowed over the twelve round distance. Bentley started slowly, pot shotting with big punches as Udofia looked the more composed and compact. The ex-champion came through difficult moments early on before landing a big right hand in the third causing Udofia to hold on mid round. Although Bentley (16-1-1, 13 KO’s) looked the more ragged, at times swinging wild looping shots, his power was the more evident whenever he landed.

Udofia (17-1, 9 KO’s), from Luton, kept the centre of the ring through much of the fight with a tighter defence and controlling it’s pace, but the strong shots from Bentley were clearly having a cumulative effect. The Londoner finished rounds seven and eight strongly and controlled the fight from therein.

It was a backwards and forwards contest with no knockdowns, but held before a boisterous crowd made excellent entertainment for those also viewing on Channel 5. The Undisputed had a final score of 115-113 in Bentley’s favour and it was a worthy victory for the local man. The exciting puncher now moves onto a third British title win and possible international recognition.

The event was the promoter’s new venture with the free to air television channel and it was ably supported by an eliminator for the same title between Ryan Kelly and Brad Pauls. This was the fight of the night as the Cornishman Pauls eeked out a decision victory to become Bentley’s mandatory contender. In his post-fight interview Pauls gave credit to his challenger “He gave me the toughest fight of my life. Hats off to Ryan Kelly”.

Pauls goes to 16-0 (9 KO’s) and Kelly drops to 16-4 (8 KO’s). The contest drew widespread applause on referee Marcus McDonnell’s prompt at the start of the final round. Well deserved.

The knockout of the night was Brighton’s junior-welterweight Harlem Eubank in poleaxing Sean ‘Masher’ Dodds with a perfectly timed left hook 2:24 into the second. The gifted Eubank (14-0, 6 KO’s) continues the family fistic heritage being the son of Chris Eubank Sr and joining brother Chris Jr high in the British rankings. On being interviewed he said “I feel like I’m driving to the top of the division”. Few would argue on this performance.

There was a minor controversy on the night with the late withdrawal of Albanian Xhuljo Vrenozi who was due to fight Sunderland’s Josh Kelly in the chief support. The comebacking Kelly apologised to his fans on stage as it was announced the Albanian had allegedly locked himself in his hotel room and refused to leave to fight. This was disappointing but didn’t detract from an excellent card.

Up in Manchester the BOXXER cruiserweight elimination series was won by Ellis Zorro (14-0, 6 KO’s) from Lewisham, London. He won the £40,000 winner take all prize with three composed and assured performances over the event. He was the calmer over the duration, refusing to be sidetracked by verbal challenge from his opponents and made the most of his solid skills to win first prize.

Zorro won all his fights on points, beating Jay Farrell and Jamie Smith and Ricky Reeves in a competitive but low key final (30-27, 29-28, 29-28). As well as the first prize he also gained a new BOXXER multi-fight contract and looks a good addition to their ranks.

On being interviewed after the final he committed most of his prize towards funding speech therapy for his young daughter who suffers from autism. Another nice touch from a class act.

The weekend also saw good action worldwide with the picks being world ranked heavyweight Martin Bakole (18-1, 13 KO’s) dominating Tony Yoka (11-1, 9 KO’s) in Paris to win a majority decision. Also, in the US, American Jermell Charlo (35-1-1, 18 KO’s) defeated Brian Castano (17-1-2, 12 KO’s) in Carson City, California. The impressive Charlo scored a tenth round TKO on 2:33 secs and becomes the first undisputed men’s 154lb champion. He dropped the tough Argentinian twice en-route in a very entertaining and competitive fight.

This weekly feature is also to raise awareness of the Ringside Charitable Trust.

The Friday Faceup

Promo courtesy of Wasserman Boxing.

A solid weekend of action is scheduled in British rings.

Tonight at the Indigo at the O2, the smaller venue inside the big tent at Greenwich, is the vacant British middleweight title fight between Linus Udofia (17-0, 9 KO’s) and Denzel Bentley (15-1-1, 13 KO’s).

Former champion Bentley, from Battersea south London, after impressively winning the title from Mark Heffron then lost unexpectedly in his first defence to Felix Cash last year. The undefeated Udofia has only fought at domestic level so far, but has very strong fundamentals working off a solid jab. It should be an extremely competitive fight with the odds marginally favouring the bigger punching Bentley.

Chief support will see the return of Sunderland’s Olympian Josh Kelly (10-1-1, 6 KO’s) in his first contest at junior-middleweight (11st/154lbs). He faces Albanian Xhuljo Vrenozi (18-4, 3 KO’s).

The much hyped Kelly came up short last year against world ranked David Avanesyan in a first attempt at the elite level and now begins a rebuilding job. His skills are unquestionable, and under the guidance of respected trainer Adam Booth, he will be carefully prepared for this step back into the paid ring and look to relaunch his career.

Kelly on the night should be far too good for his opponent and, provided he can put the demons to one side, should win impressively and move on.

The evening’s Wasserman Boxing promotion marks their first UK televised show in a new deal with Channel 5 and is available across the terrestrial network.

Tomorrow sees the attention shift up to north to Manchester with the next event of the popular BOXXER Series. This time it’s the turn of the cruiserweights (200lbs/14st,4lb) at the Victoria Warehouse, with eight fighters competing for the £40,000 purse in a winner-take-all elimination contest. The random draw made yesterday is:

Ellis Zorro (11-0, 6 KO’s) v Jay Farrell (9-2, 5 KO’s)

Jamie Smith (3-0, 2 KO’s) v Jack Fay (1-0-1)

Ricky Reeves (2-0, 1 KO) v Anees Taj (5-1, 4 KO’s)

Sheldon McDonald (3-0, 1 KO) v Ryan Cotterell (1-0)

Four fighters will advance to the semi-finals and then onto the final. The respective records show Zorro to be favourite, but on the night expect fireworks either way.

The event will be on Sky Sports Action from 19:00 UK time.

Enjoy your fight weekend.

The PressBox

Tokyo Olympic silver medallist Ben Whittaker.

Yesterday (Weds) in east London the final GB Tokyo 2020 medallist Ben Whittaker turned professional with the BOXXER promotional company in association with Sky Sports.

During last year’s delayed Games he captured the hearts of British supporters with his charisma and humour on his march to the final. Despite gaining a well earned silver medal he never became the Mayor of Wolverhampton (his hometown) which he pitched for, but optimism is high as he finally enters the professional ranks.

In a well attended press conference the 24 year old entered the stage after an intro and promotional video and then summed up his pleasure in finally signing professional terms “Well, they always say save the best ’til last and here I am !”.

BOXXER founder and CEO Ben Shalom went onto explain how sought after Whittaker’s signature was and his delight at him fighting under his promotional banner. “He was the one every promoter was circling around…He’s a generational talent, but also a personality…the perfect signing”.

He will be managed by Anthony Joshua’s 258 Management company.

Joined by internationally respected trainer SugarHill Steward who represents Detroit’s Kronk Gym and will be Whittaker’s trainer on him turning pro, the fighter went onto add “I know I wanna be a world champion. I want people to say remember Ben Whittaker, he was the best we had”.

His head trainer added he “is an extremely talented boxer, like a Roy Jones…an electrifying personality and talent…I believe Ben Whittaker has that whole package, to be a superstar”. When asked by The Undisputed to expand on what he saw and how he’d develop him, Sugar Hill added “Speed and skill and he can create things in the ring…we will be getting him to sit down on his punches and develop that knockout power”.

Ben Shalom explained how he would be matching Whittaker’s desire with his company “He wants to be moved properly, promoted properly” and he clearly saw BOXXER and Sky Sports as the vehicle to achieve that. It’s known that his signature has had many suitors and not come cheap, but having done the necessary groundwork and looked both stateside and across the UK, the Whittaker/Steward combination looks set for a good and exciting start. They completed the media event with a workout in the ring before all in attendance.

No date for Whittaker’s debut has been announced, but he explained his flexibility and intentions regarding weight categories, “I would love to hold 168 and 175lb (titles) together…I can jump in either/or”. Given his six foot frame it’s likely 175 (light-heavyweight) will be the weight finally settled on. This is arguably the most stacked division in British boxing, but one of ageing champions. In three years time the Wolverhampton man should be well set to compete for a championship and ultimately move on to achieve his ambitions. He has all the skills and charisma to be the standout from the Tokyo Games.

In our conversation with a BOXXER representative mid-event their intentions were clearly evident to develop a standout athlete and personality, not simply a talented boxer. Caution was explained on the potential pitfalls ahead, but the platform had now been provided for the fighter to excel.

Watch this space.

The Monday LunchBox

Dmitry Bivol jabs his way to light-heavyweight success.
Photo: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The King is dead, long live the King.

Dmitry Bivol’s sensational victory over Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in Las Vegas at the weekend brought an end to the Mexican’s domination of the pound-for-pound rankings, certainly in the eyes of The Ring magazine and most observers. The tall Russian successfully defended his WBA light-heavyweight title for a ninth time and in so doing staked his own claim for the unified world title and his own position in the mythical P4P rankings.

Despite the identical scores of 115-113 returned by the three judges on the night, this was as dominant a performance in an elite championship fight seen this year. Bivol controlled the tempo of the contest from the opening bell with an aggressive approach, commanding the centre of the ring and repeatedly peppering Alvarez with his solid jab. At times the Mexican’s head resembled the puppet Punch, as Judy hammered him with a fairground stick. The constant rat-a-tat-tat led to a reddening of Alvarez’ face very early in the contest and this became the theme for the remaining eleven rounds.

The difference in size and strength was evident as Canelo tried desperately to make an impact in the fight. He had rounds of success hammering the Russian to the ribs and arms and trying to get on the inside for a sustained period, the ninth being his best. But, bar a few solid hooks to the chin that Bivol absorbed, the winner was clear. The Undisputed gave Canelo a maximum of four rounds with a score of 116-112 in favour of the Russian.

Bivol (20-0, 11 KO’s) was brilliant and now sits on the cusp of either a direct rematch with Alvarez or, an opportunity to unify the 175lb world titles by meeting American Joe Smith Jr or his Russian compatriot Artur Beterbiev. The latter holds the WBC and IBF titles and was considered the best in the division. Smith Jr is the WBO title holder and will meet Beterbiev on June 18.

Bivol already holds a win over Smith who is considered a big underdog going into the Beterbiev contest. However, Saturday showed – always expect the unexpected.

The loss was the second registered on Canelo’s record (57-2-2, 39 KO’s) with the first being way back in 2013 to Floyd Mayweather Jr. Still, as the biggest name in the sport the options remain endless for him. The smart money, given Bivol’s dominance on Saturday, would be for the Mexican to step back down to 168lbs and have the long awaited career defining trilogy fight with Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin. All of a sudden that seems more competitive than many were saying before the weekend’s events. Golovkin will surrender nine years in age but Canelo’s time at the top now seems on the decline.

Dmitry Bivol is now firmly on the elite world scene and big fights await.

This regular feature is also to raise awareness of the Ringside Charitable Trust.

The Weekender

‘Canelo’ returns to face tall Russian champ Bivol.
Photo courtesy: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom

After the brilliant weekend of action in the USA seven days ago with standout victories for Katie Taylor and Shakur Stevenson it’s the turn of widely accepted pound-for-pound king Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. He faces Russian Dmitry Bivol in Las Vegas on Mexican ‘Cinco de Mayo’ weekend for the WBA light-heavyweight title.

Alvarez (57-1-2, 37 KO’s) is a money making machine and top of everyone’s hit list. To face him means instant millionaire status, but his standing in the sport is such that he calls the shots, in the view of some ‘cherry picking’ his way to the boxing hall of fame. That would be unfair, as the 31 year old is an exceptional fighter with a record that would stand with any of his legendary Mexican predecessors.

The man from Guadalajara has won versions of world titles from light-middleweight (154lbs/11st) up to light-heavy (175lbs/12st,7lbs) – four divisions in total. This has seen him involved in some of the greatest events in the modern era, including two standout fights with Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin and a defeat to Floyd Mayweather early in his career.

In Bivol (19-0, 11 KO’s), he faces a well schooled fighter coming out of the Russian system with a significantly bigger frame having campaigned at 175lbs for the whole of his professional career. Quite why the 31 year old Russian (albeit born in Kyrgystan with Moldovan and Korean parentage) is allowed to fight for millions of dollars in the current world political climate is dumbfounding, but through his fistic endeavours he’s earned the right. Bivol stands 6 foot 1 with a strong jab and power, and will pose significant early problems to the much shorter Canelo.

The Russian has few significant victories under his belt despite boasting a good knockout record. At championship level he’s tended to dominate but outpoint his opposition. His finest victory coming against current WBO champion Joe Smith Jr. This is though a big chance for him to make a statement and set up a unification fight against fellow Russian Artur Beterbiev, considered the divisional king.

For Alvarez, this is a further opportunity to cement his legacy and settle the arguments about his legitimacy as the greatest Mexican fighter of all time. This is a generational debate and to really put his ‘flag in the sand’ he needs to win impressively here and then step back down to 160-168lbs to settle the score with his old adversary Golovkin. Look for the teak tough Canelo to navigate his way through the early rounds and win the fight with a unanimous points victory. Then, we can hopefully look forward to a GGG trilogy fight in September.

Both fighters made the specified weight last night – Alvarez 174.4lbs and Bivol 174.6lbs.

The fight is promoted by Matchroom Boxing and will be televised on the DAZN streaming site with UK coverage around 05:00 BST.