Reflecting on a busy boxing Weekend – Stiverne, Mathews, Eubank, Kessler and more

The big fight of the weekend saw Haitian Bermane Stiverne take the vacant WBC heavyweight title in an exciting slugfest against Mexican-American Chris Arreola in Los Angeles.  The heavyweight division is gradually returning to life.  In the past couple of years we have been treated to all-out action classics like Povetkin-Huck, Perez-Abdusalamov and now this one.  

Longstanding divisional champion Wladimir Klitschko immediately called out the new champion, as he has often stated his desire to hold all four main title belts.  However, in case no one has noticed, the eternal Don King, promoter of Stiverne, now has a finger back in the heavyweight pie. The man who for years dominated the division by having every top heavyweight signed to his promotional team is back in business.  Who would have thought it?

Of course, King will be anxious to milk Stiverne for as much as he can.  It will therefore need K2, Klitschko’s promotional outfit, to put forward a shed load of money to tempt Stiverne into the ring with Wlad.  In any event, the WBC has unbeaten Deontay Wilder as its mandatory challenger to Stiverne and such a fight is bound to draw massive interest in the U.S., as hopes are building that Wilder may finally be the answer to their prayers for an American heavyweight champion.  Klitschko may need to stick around for a good while as Wilder builds his profile towards a superfight with the Ukrainian – assuming, of course, that Wilder is the real deal.

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On the subject of King, his light-welterweight prospect Amir Imam scored another impressive victory on the undercard to the heavyweight title fight in L.A.  Amir had previously displayed stunning knockout power in taking his record to 13-0 (12).  On this night though, he showed that he is a fine boxer too, easily defeating former Cuban amateur star Yordenis Ugas, winning almost every round.  The Cuban just could not get past the long, snapping jab of Imam, who looks likely to reach contender status within the next 12 months – if King can keep him busy!  Even prior to this fight, due to two previous defeats Ugas had joined the growing ranks of disappointing Cuban defectors, which already includes Yordanis Despaigne, Yan Bartelemy, Alexei Collado and Luis Garcia.

In the U.K., Derry Mathews was involved in yet another hard fight, taking the British lightweight title from Martin Gethin on a crazy split decision.  Mathews boxed as well as he ever has in the first eight rounds, heavily outscoring the champion in round after round.  Gethin perhaps paid for his inactivity (he had been out of the ring for 12 months).  Derry slowed dramatically in the last third of the fight, but even then Gethin was unable to exert the sort of pressure that was needed to turn the fight in his favour.  Except we had not taken into account that Britain has some of the worst judges in the world.  Dave Parris’s announced scorecard of 116-112 for Gethin was unbelievable.  Even the deciding scorecard of 116-114 for Mathews put in by Phil Edwards was too close.  

These judges were within a whisker of robbing Derry of another famous victory.  With his career in the balance it does not bear thinking about if they had somehow contrived to steal this fight from him.  I would point out that it was Mr Parris who recently had John Murray 88-83 ahead in his fight against Anthony Crolla at the time of the stoppage.  Most sane observers had it by one point either way.  Parris also had George Groves only one point ahead at the time his fight with Carl Froch was stopped, when Groves had clearly dominated proceedings.  Why is he being allowed to continue judging when he is clearly in need of a refresher course, at the very least.

The chief support to Mathews-Gethin featured that posing, puffed-up, pantomime villain, Chris Eubank Jr.  What he was up to on the night was anybody’s guess.  Firstly, BoxNation viewers were told that his fight had been delayed because Master Chris had left his boots at the hotel.  When he did eventually appear he put in a bizarre performance in which he scored seven knockdowns before stopping his pathetic Polish opponent in the seventh round.  It was clear that Eubank could have ended this at any stage of the fight but for some reason he decided on torturing his opponent. Steve Lillis, in his analysis after the fight, was fuming.  He rightly pointed out that the fans on site had paid to be entertained, not to witness a sparring session.  

In the post-fight interview, which included his preening father, who had utilised the long-unseen monocle whilst his son was in the ring, things got even stranger.  Eubank Jr. rubbished all potential domestic opponents mentioned, whilst his father ridiculously stated that Jr. could only be beaten by Andre Ward in the middleweight and super-middleweight divisions.  He presumably therefore believes that Jr. is already good enough to beat Golovkin?  Why on earth then is he continuing to fight journeymen who are barely good enough to put in with good pro debutants.  Eubank Jr. has fast become the man to hate on the British boxing scene.  This may well be the plan.  It’s working!  One wished that Shannon Briggs would show up and start throwing shoes in their direction.

Also in Britain, Mick Hennessy’s excellent super-bantamweight Kid Galahad had an easy walkover victory against Aussie Fred Mundraby, which brought Kid his third major title (Commonwealth) inside his first 17 fights.  Mundraby was completely outclassed and, not only that, was just a blown-up flyweight.  Galahad is heading towards the world rankings and needs to be put in with stiffer opposition than this.  Unfortunately, this spectacle appeared on terrestrial television’s Channel 5, and was poor fayre indeed to display before casual fans.  The undercard fight was even worse, featuring a deadly dull eight rounder in which Hughie Fury extended his unbeaten run.  He failed to impress on any level.  At least the commentary team admitted at the end of the show that Mundraby had been a poor opponent – they all seemed suitably embarrassed.  On this note, boxing sage Al Bernstein made a rare mistake.  He stated prior to the main event that Mundraby was attempting to become only the second Aboriginal to win a world title, following in the footsteps of Lionel Rose.  Anthony Mundine, Robbie Peden and Daniel Geale would beg to differ. Sorry Al!

Just a couple of late snippets – Mikkel Kessler announced that he is to continue with his boxing career.  It is hard to see him in rematches with either Andre Ward, who beat him easily, or Carl Froch, who also beat him clearly in Mikkel’s last fight in May 2013.  Surely the perfect match would be with Sauerland stablemate Arthur Abraham, for the latter’s WBO super-middleweight title.  Both men are way past their best but are probably at a similar point in their careers.  Both remain huge names in European boxing and I am sure that the expert German promoters would have no problem making heaps of money for all concerned.  It would kill off one of their big names, but it would also extend the life of the winner.  I, for one, hope this happens.

A final word for Matthew Macklin, who is starting to look like the nearly man of British boxing.  He was looking forward to an outstanding match-up with Aussie Daniel Geale before the show was cancelled due to an injury to main-eventer Mike Perez.  It now seems likely that Geale will instead be the next opponent for Gennady Golovkin.  Macklin looked in decline against Lamar Russ in his last fight and it is beginning to appear that he will never fulfil his dream of winning a world title.



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