By: Jonah Dylan
After a weekend that featured barely any fights, it was – in theory – nice to see so many fights this past weekend. Yes, the fights weren’t necessarily great, and we didn’t have any superstars in action, but at least it was something. At least there were choices if you didn’t like what you were watching. Whether or not it was particularly important, a lot of stuff happened. So let’s talk about it.
1. We’ve been underrating Daniel Dubois. A lot.
First of all, seeing two legit undefeated prospects fight each other was great, and it’s something that almost never happens, especially in the United States (speaking of heavyweight prospects, Jermaine Franklin is nowhere near Dubois and got away with an absolute robbery decision against Jerry Forrest on Friday night). Dubois was favored against Nathan Gorman, but we didn’t really know much about either guy, and there were a lot of people who picked Gorman to win the fight.
It was never really close. Gorman was cut in two places and you could tell it was bothering him, but Dubois didn’t just use his power. He boxed Gorman and consistently hit him with clean shots before finishing him in the fifth round. Before this fight, both Dubois and Gorman had been doing pretty much the same thing and fighting washed up guys who had no business being in a boxing ring. Now, Dubois has a legit win on his record, which is more than most prospects can say.
It’ll be really interesting to see what Frank Warren does with Dubois moving forward. No one is suggesting he’s ready for top-level guys yet, but this was a major step-up and he could see himself in the world title mix sooner rather than later. I’d like to see him in with a top-10 guy in the near future.
2. Shakur Stevenson is ready for a title fight
Or, as ready as he’ll ever be. Watching him knock out no-hopers is a useless exercise at this point. After Stevenson dominated a respectable opponent in Christopher Diaz, it was clear his time as a prospect had come to an end. If the point of Saturday’s fight was just to headline and fight at home, fine. But there’s no reason for him to do it again.
So who should he fight? Leo Santa Cruz is with PBC, and Gary Russell has already made his annual appearance and probably won’t be heard from until next April or May. That leaves Josh Warrington and Oscar Valdez.
Warrington just escaped with a very close decision in an ugly fight with Kid Galahad, but on the surface he might have some difficulty finding opponents in the near future. He’s with Frank Warren and his fights stream on ESPN+, so it’s realistic that Warren and Bob Arum could get together to make this fight. It’d be a really interesting style matchup for Stevenson, who throws lots of combinations and has elite speed. Warrington has almost no power but just overwhelms guys with his work rate. Stevenson would probably be favored here, but Warrington has been the underdog for two of his three world title fights, and that hasn’t been a problem.
Valdez hasn’t committed to staying in the featherweight division, and honestly I think he would rather fight Carl Frampton than Stevenson. As I’ve said before, it makes no sense to me why Frampton would get a title shot before Stevenson, considering he just lost a clear decision to Warrington in December. He’d probably lose to Valdez, too. Stevenson-Valdez would be a little less interesting than Stevenson-Warrington, if only because Valdez has been fighting with an extremely cautious style since breaking his jaw and will probably be moving up after the fight regardless. Let’s make Stevenson-Warrington in the UK and see what happens.
3. It’s tough to figure out what to make of the junior featherweights
Rey Vargas outpointed Tomoki Kameda on Saturday to keep his WBC strap, but the fans weren’t exactly thrilled with Vargas’ cautious performance. He’s a really interesting fighter. On one hand, he can always use his height and reach advantages to win decisions, but once in a while he chooses to engage and hasn’t been perfect, like when he got dropped in the second round of his last fight. On Saturday, Kameda wanted a war, but Vargas didn’t give it to him and stayed calm on the outside.
This makes me think Vargas against WBO titleholder Emanuel Navarrete would be a very intriguing matchup. In both fights against Isaac Dogboe, Navarette used his height and reach to land a barrage of uppercuts and stop Dogboe from ever getting close to him. I feel like we really don’t know anything about Navarrete until he fights someone else, but a fight down the line with Vargas would be a fascinating matchup.
Then there’s unified WBA/IBF titleholder Daniel Roman. You probably have to consider him the best in the division due to his win over T.J. Doheny in their FOTY contender in April, but I’m not sure where he goes next. He has to make a mandatory next but has said he’d like to unify against Vargas, which would be a quality fight for three belts. I’d rather see Vargas test himself against Navarrete, but Navarrete is with Top Rank and probably won’t be going anywhere near any DAZN guys for a while. Then again, this is what we said about Jose Ramirez, so maybe it’s possible. One can hope.
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