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A big month for the heavyweights

So Vitaliy Klitschkio has gone and thanks to the momentous events in his native Ukraine in the past few weeks, he is never likely to return as he throws his hat into the elite political spectrum there.  However, that still leaves brother Wladimir, who holds three of the recognised four major belts in world boxing.  Wlad appears to have the desire remaining to stay in the sport for another couple of years yet, and will almost certainly try to unify all four belts and thus add to his standing in the history of the sport in years to come.

With a mini-vacuum appearing at the top of the division though, it is no coincidence that we are suddenly seeing a spate of action featuring many of the contenders as they jostle for mandatory positions to challenge either Wladimir or whoever takes the vacant WBC title in the coming months.  During the next month we have four fights to look forward to which all involve top-20 heavyweight contenders.  I mean genuine contenders too, not the made-up ones we see in the alphabet rankings.  All four fights could conceivably go either way and after the dust has settled we will have a clearer picture of the layout of the division.  I will go through these fights chronologically.

This coming Saturday sees two dust-ups, the first involving the unknown quantity of the division, Deontay Wilder, 30-0 (30), making his first step up in class when he meets Malik Scott, 36-1-1 (13), in Puerto Rico, on the undercard to Danny Garcia’s defence of his world light-welterweight titles.  This fascinating contest, promoted by Golden Boy, who look after Wilder, will be televised live on Showtime in the U.S. and on BoxNation in the U.K.

Mexican Warriors do battle at the MGM Grand

The start to the boxing year has been very slow.  Get ready for fireworks this Saturday though, as the best card of the year so far takes place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, televised in the U.S. by Showtime and in the U.K. by BoxNation.  It has been put together by Golden Boy Promotions.

The spotlight falls on the light-middleweight division which, unlike its more salubrious neighbours directly to the north and south, middleweight and welterweight, does not have a clear leader.  At middleweight, Gennady Golovkin rules the roost and, of course, it is Floyd Mayweather who stands head and shoulders over the welterweights.  At light-middle though there is something of a vacuum.  It was to be Mexican starlet Saul “Canelo” Alvarez who dominated this division for years to come.  However, in his last two fights, against Mayweather and prior to that Austin Trout, he has looked decidedly ordinary.  His dominance in the division is under serious threat and I would put forward three other names who could argue for the top position, those being Erislandy Lara, the shamefully under-rated Demetrius Andrade and Carlos Molina, who all hold championship belts with various of the governing bodies.

On Saturday, two of these four are in action on the same card, Alvarez and fellow Mexican, Molina.  Both face extremely interesting and dangerous challenges from, respectively, Mexican Alfredo Angulo and young American Jermall Charlo.  Let us start with the main event though, which features the first shot at redemption for Saul Alvarez, 42-1-1 (30).  A couple of years ago, the great debate centred around who would be the Mexican star to grab the majority of the fans in their home country – would it be Alvarez or the son of the legend, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.  For various reasons both have become tainted since then.  Chavez, with his out of the ring shenanigans, including drug-taking, failure to make weight and general lack of respect for not only his fans, but everyone involved in the sport.  For Alvarez, it is his in-ring performances which have dulled his lustre.

Coyle and Campbell headline in Hull

Thanks to Britain’s Olympic bantamweight gold medallist, Luke Campbell, the Yorkshire city of Hull is becoming a mini hotbed for the sport with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom promoting in the city this coming Saturday, 22 February 2014, for the third time inside seven months.  Campbell is, of course, on the card as is Eddie’s hot young lightweight Tommy Coyle, also from Hull.  The bill is being staged at the Ice Arena.

The main event features Coyle, who coincidentally has emerged from the shadows of the lightweight division at the same time that Campbell was becoming famous at London 2012.  Hearn now has a two-pronged attack with which to tempt the local boxing fans to his shows.  Coyle, 17-2 (7), faces Argentinian Daniel Brizuela, 25-2-2 (8), in a fight which is billed for the IBF International lightweight title.

All about Welsh Boxing

It is all about Wales this week.  Matchroom ran their first show of the year at the weekend in Cardiff, and it proved to be as entertaining as it promised beforehand on paper.  Then early this week we got the news that former WBO cruiserweight champion Enzo Maccarinelli, from Swansea, had been awarded the opportunity of winning a championship belt in a second division, as he challenges German Juergen Braehmer for his WBA light-heavyweight crown this coming April.
 
Eddie Hearn’s show gave terrific entertainment to the patrons attending on the night and also to Sky Sports viewers, who enjoyed five and a half televised hours of the show.  In the main event, Lee Selby predictably proved too much for veteran Rendall Munroe, who was never a factor in the fight, being outpunched in every round until the referee stepped in to stop the fight in the sixth round.  The stoppage may have been a bit premature, but the eventual outcome of the fight was never in doubt.  Selby is a fringe world contender in a very strong featherweight division, but boxes with great confidence and, with the support of promoter Hearn, will surely receive a title fight sooner rather than later.
 
The highlight of the show, and without doubt what will be one of the highlights of the year, was the magnificent British lightweight title eliminator between the two Welsh fighters, Gavin Rees and Gary Buckland.  Both of these amazing warriors fought themselves to a standstill before Buckland was awarded the split decision after 12 of the best rounds that will be boxed anywhere in the world this year.

Juergen Braehmer headlines for Sauerland

The last Sauerland Event show of the year takes place on Saturday, 14 December, in Neubrandenburg, Germany.  The headline act on the show is German light-heavyweight Juergen Braehmer, who fights for the vacant WBA light-heavyweight title against little known American Marcus Oliveira.

It is a testament to the influence of this show’s promoters that the WBA recently advanced existing champion Beibut Shumenov to the position of “Super Champion”, despite him not having defended the belt for almost 18 months, thereby making their “regular” title available for Braehmer to take.  That is the plan anyhow. The man who will be attempting to thwart that plan, Oliveira, 25-0-1 (20), was the safest option out there.  He is totally inexperienced at this level and theoretically should not create much of a roadblock for Braehmer.

Talking George Groves, Rocky Fielding, Anthony Crolla, Scott Quigg and more

Another weekend, another controversy in our great but tainted sport.  Of course, I am referring to the Carl Froch “victory” over George Groves, as he retained his IBF and WBA super-middleweight titles at the Manchester Phones 4u Arena on Saturday night.

Most of the blame for the controversy and a lot of the attached vitriol has been aimed at Howard Foster, the British referee who stopped the fight too early in most viewers’ eyes.  Foster, though, does have an argument for vindication, particularly in light of the recent injuries that have befallen several boxers around the world in the last few weeks.  He could say that this was perhaps in his mind as he separated the two fighters for the final time.

George Groves comes of age: Froch vs Groves

One of the most sensational fights seen in a British ring for years took place at the Phones 4u Arena in Manchester on Saturday night, with Carl Froch, 32-2 (23), somehow overcoming a points deficit to successfully come through another defence of his WBA and IBF super-middleweight titles against brash young British rival George Groves, 19-1 (15).  To say he pulled the fight out of the fire though is to only tell part of the story.

The Froch who participated in this fight seemed to bear no resemblance to the beast that had laid waste to Lucian Bute and outslugged great Dane Mikkel Kessler in two of his most recent fights.  Froch had appeared strangely subdued throughout the build-up, with Groves constantly getting the better of the verbal exchanges and appearing to be supremely confident in the lead up to the fight.  Still, regardless of this, the general view was that Froch was just trying to stay calm and not let Groves rile him and get inside his head, which was clearly the younger man’s plan.

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