With Anthony Joshua’s victory over Andy Ruiz sanity is restored to the heavyweights-or what passes for sanity. How dare a tubby little Mexican version of Lou Costello upset the established triumvirate of Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury? Now we are back to the status quo where the fate of the long lost title of heavyweight champion of the world will be finally decided when the winner of Wilder vs. Fury II meets Joshua-perhaps next year, perhaps in 2021, perhaps never but that’s the way the heavyweight division has been pretty well since Fury beat Wlad Klitschko in 2015. Wilder vs. Fury II is set for 22nd February and Joshua will fight again in May. Kubrat Pulev would be the sensible choice for that fight as Olek Usyk would constitute a much higher risk and Joshua needs another fight so that he can sort out whether he is the new Muhammad Ali or the old Sonny Liston.
If Joshua goes for Pulev then I can’t see the WBO waiting whilst Joshua fights Pulev and then later in the year fights the winner of Wilder vs. Fury II. That would mean the WBO mandatory challenger Usyk would have to wait until 2021for a shot at the title. I believe that the WBO would strip Joshua rather than wait that long-without a sanction fee coming in. The WBA will also have an interest in what happens but if they stripped Joshua for facing the IBF mandatory challenger they would be left with Manuel (Mahmoud) Charr, holder of their secondary title who has not fought since November 2017, and interim champion Trevor Bryan who has not fought since August 2018. If they matched those two for the title the sanctioning fee would probably be higher than the takings from the fight. They still have Fres Oquendo in their ratings and Fres has not fought since 2014. They should be renamed the World Non-Boxing Association.
Joshua took some stick over his safety first tactics from unbiased critics such as that master of the restrained word Deontay Wilder. From an entertainment point of view Joshua vs. Ruiz was dire. It was too one-sided and Joshua was almost too cautious but for Joshua this was never about entertaining it was about adopting the tactics that would ensure victory. He was simply taking care of business and instead of ridiculing him, after the relatively disappointing PPV figures for his defence against Luis Ortiz; Wilder should be thanking him as the multi-million dollar fight with Joshua is back on the table.
I am not too convinced by the slim-line Joshua. At times he looked more vulnerable. I feel a little sorry for Ruiz-but then I didn’t pay a few thousand dollars for a ringside seat. He deserved every word of praise he received for beating Joshua and I can understand how the sudden fame went to his head but some of the blame has to go to his team it is their job to keep him focused and in good condition that is what they are paid for so they have to take a share of the blame.
Did anyone notice that there were three fighters who had beaten Anthony Joshua in action last week? On 5 December in California Mihail Nistor turned pro with a third round kayo of Chris Mariscal and on the show in Saudi Arabia Mahammadrasul Majidov scored his second victory as a pro when he stopped Tom Little in two rounds. Nistor stopped Joshua in three rounds in the quarter-finals of the 2011 European Championships and Majidov took a 22-21 win over Joshua in the final of the 2011 World Championships and of course there was Andy Ruiz.
With Dillian Whyte having been cleared of any doping offence that puts the ball back in the court of the WBC. They have re-instated him at No 1 so once again they have a fighter who has been No 1 in their ratings since November 2017 without getting a title shot. In the time since Whyte was made No 1 Wilder has made four title defences- Fury II will be the fifth. They have fobbed Whyte off with an interim title which is just a way of dodging the issue that being No 1 with the WBC is meaningless-when they want it to be. In contrast they have this month mandated Nordine Oubaali to defend against Nonito Donaire with Donaire only having been in their No 1 position for one month and with Oubaali having beaten his mandatory challenger last month. One rule for the high profile high sanctioning fee Wilder and a different one for Oubaali.
The hoped for unification fight between WBC super fly champion Juan Francisco Estrada and WBA champion Khalid Yafai is going to have to be postponed as Estrada has suffered a hand injury which will require surgery. Estrada has had trouble with both hands. Hopefully a new date will be set.
Having relinquished the WBO super welter title Jaime Munguia will have his first fight at middleweight on 11 January with Gary O’Sullivan as his opponent. The WBC has installed him at No 3 but I think the young Mexican will find life much tougher in the new division. He always seemed a big super welter but guys such as Gennady Golovkin, Jermall Charlo, Daniel Jacobs and Sergey Derevyanchenko could soon cut him down to size. Obviously Munguia’s dream fight would against fellow Mexican Saul Alvarez but a dream it is until he proves himself at middleweight.
Kevin Lerena will be defending his IBO cruiserweight title on 8 February in South Africa. His challenger will be Firat Arslan. If Arslan should win he will have won the title at the age of 49 years and 133 days. Bernard Hopkins record stands at 49 year and 49 days. Age is just a number but that’s not what my old bones tell me every morning.
There is a big show in South Africa this month. The Xaba Promotions show in East London features six title fights. Gideon Buthelezi defends the IBO super fly title against Romanian Alex Marin, veteran Nkosinathi Joyi will face Filipino Joey Canoy for the vacant IBO minimum title, Athenkosi Dumezweni puts his WBC Silver super fly title on the line against Argentinian Fernando Martinez, unbeaten Sibusiso Bandla faces challenger Siyakholwa Kuse in a South African minimum title defence and Sabelo Ngebinyana defends the national super fly title against Landi Ngxeke. There are two other ten round fights adding up to a potential 80 rounds of boxing so value for money there.
Just thought I would remind you that the WSSB cruiser tournament is dragging its way to a finish. More than a year after the tournament kicked off there is still no date set for the final between Mairis Breidis and Yuniel Dorticos. The sanctioning bodies have shown their displeasure by effectively making it a one title fight. Breidis has been stripped off the WBO title for ignoring an instruction to give Krzys Glowacki a return match so the champion with a title on the line will be IBF champion Yuniel Dorticos. They need to wrap the tournament up before the IBF decide to strip Dorticos. Not every WBSS tournament is as high quality as those won by Josh Taylor and Naoya Inoue.
The stripping of the WBO title from Breidis has opened the door for Britain’s Lawrence Okolie. The WBO have ordered Okolie and Krzys Glowacki to meet for the vacant title and their respective teams have been given until next week to agree terms. Okolie was to have defended the European title against Tommy McCarthy but I guess McCarthy will now face another opponent.
Still on the cruisers Denis Lebedev has decided not to retire-or to stay in his recess-and he will meet Thabiso Mchunu for the WBC Silver title on 21 December in Krasnoyarsk, Russia. Lebedev had announced his retirement after beating Mike Wilson in November last year.
Artur Beterbiev’s crushing win over WBC champion Olek Gvozdyk cuts no ice with the IBF. That was a unification fight so Gvozdyk was not a listed challenger by the IBF and so Beterbiev must now face his No 1 challenger Meng Fanlong which won’t be an easy sell as Fanlong has a very low profile with his fight in Delaware in October being a six round support fight.
Looks like Demetrius Andrade can’t buy a big fight. No Saul Alvarez or Gennady Golovkin for him. Instead he will defend his title against Luke Keeler. The Irishman scored a good win over Luis Arias in August but Arias was not rated so going from No 7 to No 2 for beating an unrated fight is a steep climb.
That pales into insignificance alongside the rating of Francisco Horta who was crushed in four rounds by WBO super bantamweight champion Emanuel Navarrete last weekend. When the champion is a ferocious puncher with 26 wins by KO/TKO in his 31 fights how do you justify slipping someone into your ratings when they have had had only one fight since October 2018 and in that fight only won a majority decision over a guy with an 8-3-2 record? The answer is that you can’t. Does it matter? I guess not but again if Horta had suffered a serious injury the approval of the fight would not have stood up to scrutiny and boxing would have suffered not just the WBO. Let’s face it as far as the general public is concerned IBF, WBA, WBC or WBO it is all boxing.
A clash of “oldies” will see Jean Pascal putting his WBA light heavy title on the line against Badou Jack in Atlanta 28 December on the same card as the Gervonta Davis vs. Yuriorkis Gamboa fight for the vacant WBA secondary light title. Pascal is 37. Jack is 36 and Gamboa is 37-who says this is a young man’s sport?
An interesting European title fight to look out for early next year will see unbeaten Joe Joyce clash with former WBO cruiserweight champion Marco Huck on 11 January in Hannover for the vacant heavyweight title. Huck moved up to heavyweight after losing to Olek Usyk in 2017 and of course “Juggernaut” Joyce outpointed Bryant Jennings in his last fight in July. With Joyce having remained an amateur for so long even though only one year younger he has had just ten professional fights to the 48 of Huck and in fact Huck has been in more world title fights, 18, than Joyce’s total pro experience but Joyce will start the favourite.
Roman Gonzalez will return to action on the undercard to Ryota Murata vs. Steve Butler fight in Yokohama on 23 December. He will face Filipino Diomel Diocos (14-5-3) which should not be too difficult a task and on the same show Kenshiro Teraji defends the WBC light fly title against Randy Petalcorin. It is still amazing how Gonzalez went from high in the Pound for Pound rankings to yesterday’s man in the space of two fights.
A referee has a tough job. Not only is he there to make sure the rules are observed but he plays a vital role in ensuring a fighter does not take too much punishment. In recent fights I have seen a case where with a boxing being given a standing eight count in a corner the ringside doctor climbed onto the ring apron and walked to that corner waiving his hands for the fight to be stopped. He was actually standing next to the boxer when the referee completed the eight count ignored the doctor and let the fight continue. On another occasion Robert Helenius had Argentinian Mateus Osorio trapped in a corner throwing punches at Osorio who was totally outclassed. Helenius stepped back and indicated to the referee the fight should be stopped. The referee took no action so Helenius went back to punching a cowering Osorio and then against stepped back appealing to the referee top stop the fight but the referee again took no action. There have also been numerous occasions where a referee has asked a boxer to lift his gloves after an eight count and if the boxer does not do so then the referee lifts them himself and sometimes the attention a referee pays to a boxer when asked to step to the side is perfunctory rather than carefully focused. The danger here is that in the event of the fighter suffering serious injury those actions or non-actions could come back to haunt the referee and those who appointed him. The New York State Commission recently paid $22 million in settlement of claims against them arising from the serious injuries suffered by Magomed Abdusalamov in his fight with Mike Perez back in 2013 and there are still actions outstanding against the referee Benjy Esteves. I don’t envy referees having to make those split second decisions where the possible consequences of getting it wrong can be so tragic and catastrophic.
Despite all of the threats from the WBC there are some professional boxers who have their eyes on the 2020 Olympics. World rated Pole Mateusz Masternak is competing in the Polish championships with the aim of qualifying to fight in Tokyo and Belgian female boxing star Delfine Persoon has applied to have her amateur status reinstated so that she can have the chance to fight for an Olympic medal. I am sure many others will follow as a gold medal must be a very alluring target. Professionals performed poorly in both the qualifiers and the Games in Rio so it will be interesting to see who decides to risk a ban and go for gold and how they perform this time.
It seems you can’t keep the Fullmer clan out of boxing. Gene, Don and Jay put West Jordan Utah on the map and the family’s involvement is still around with Chet and Cody refereeing and judging on a recent show in Utah. In another example of the family business I spotted that the son of Arturo Gatti recently had his first fight-he is ten years old.
Hungarian boxing is reeling from a major blow with the countries No 1 promoter Felix Racz falling out with the governing body there and stating he does not intend to promote in Hungary again. Racz has staged over 100 promotions and been the major figure in professional boxing there in recent years but he feels that professional boxing is getting no help with the emphasis being on bringing along amateur boxing.
And the show goes on as the WBC Asian Boxing Council “proudly” announce the introduction of WBC AustralAsia titles and on the show in Saudi Arabia the WBC held their inaugural WBC Middle East title. This will just go on and on with more and more titles even though the number over all of the bodies had passed the 1,000 mark. It is not about what is good for boxing but what is good for the pockets of the sanctioning bodies. They are all to blame in varying degrees.