By: Jonah Dylan
The boxing world is finally back to some semblance of normalcy. This weekend we had watered-down cards on multiple networks, horrible judging and extremely questionable refereeing. Oh, and a nonsense belt from the WBA. If that doesn’t represent the official return of boxing, I don’t know what does.
Still, there’s a lot to get into. Let’s get to it.
1. Jessica McCaskill just casually flipped the boxing world on its axis
McCaskill came into her fight with Braekhus as a clear underdog. That’s not to belittle McCaskill, who was already a unifed champion at super lightweight. It says more about Braekhus, who was considered one of the top pound for pound fighters in the world and had made 25 defenses of her welterweight title. She was undefeated and had been the undisputed champ for years.
McCaskill fought like she knew what she was up against, outworking Braekhus and taking the fight to her to earn a hard-fought majority decision win in a DAZN main event. Braekhus hinted at retirement after the fight, but a rematch could certainly be in order if she wants to fight on.
As for McCaskill, she’s set up for another shot at Katie Taylor, assuming Taylor wins her rematch with Delfine Persoon this Saturday. McCaskill lost to Taylor in 2017 but is more than deserving of another crack at the undisputed lightweight champion. I’d still like to see Taylor fight Amanda Serrano (adding that to the list of fights ripped from us by boxing politics) but McCaskill-Taylor or McCaskill-Persoon would both be very compelling matchups.
McCaskill’s win also comes in the midst of a great period for women’s boxing. In just the past month, women have taken over the spotlight in the sport. Terri Harper-Natasha Jonas was one of the best fights of the year, Mikayla Mayer earned another impressive win in a main event and Braekhus and McCaskill engaged in another great fight on Saturday. It all leads to easily the best fight on paper, a rematch between Taylor and Persoon this weekend.
Taylor beat Persoon by controversial majority decision to become the undisputed champion on the Joshua-Ruiz I card, and fans have been clamoring for a rematch ever since. The wait is finally over, and the winner will have a litany of major fights waiting in the near future.
2. Israil Madrimov is still really, really good
Madrimov went the distance for the first time in his career, and while he earned a decision win, it wasn’t without speedbumps. He looked gassed in the middle rounds, and Eric Walker made him pay for it. Walker is a really solid fighter and wasn’t getting enough credit coming in, so his performance wasn’t particularly surprising. Anyone who watched The Contender is familiar with Walker and how tough he makes it on his opponents.
Madrimov is clearly a work-in-progress. And that’s okay. He’s only had six pro fights, and Saturday’s bout with Walker was the first time he really had to overcome adversity in a fight. He puts everything he has into every one of his punches and doesn’t seem to care what’s coming back at him when he throws. Against an opponent with heavy hands, that could be a recipe for disaster.
But he also hits really hard, which is what makes him so exciting and what makes him hard to pick against. Even in a tough fight, Madrimov should’ve had a knockout when he sent Walker to the ground in the 9th round and the referee ruled that his shoulder had caused Walker to hit the canvas. Walker didn’t look like he was in any shape to continue, but the referee gave him five minutes to recover and he was able to finish the rest of the fight.
It’ll be interesting to see how Madrimov gets matched in his next fight. He’s coming off a win over the best opponent of his career and should theoretically be in line for a title shot. Does his team want to give him more time to develop, or are they ready for the big fights? That decision could have implications for the rest of his career.
3. David Benavidez
Yes, David Benavidez. There’s a lot to unpack. On one hand, Benavidez’s talent is undeniable. He has elite power and is very advanced for his age, and there isn’t a lot inside the ring that’s given him any trouble. Outside the ring is a different story.
Benavidez was stripped of his WBC super middleweight title in 2018 when he tested positive for cocaine. He won it back against Anthony Dirrell on the Spence-Porter undercard with an impressive performance that was probably his best as a pro. Then, scheduled to make his first defense against Roamer Alexis Angulo, he lost the title on the scales.
He knocked out Angulo in a fight no one predicted would be competitive, title or no title. We learned nothing, except that Benavidez has trouble making 168 pounds. He’s big for the weight class and a move to 175 is no doubt in his future, but he’s continued to talk about fighting fellow belt-holder Caleb Plant.
The reality is there’s nothing holding up a fight between Plant and Benavidez other than the notion that it needs to “marinate.” Neither of the fighters have been in competitive fights since they won their respective titles, and there are no obvious other fights out there. If Benavidez is going to stay at 168, he should fight Plant. If he’s not going to fight Plant, I’d rather see him move up to light heavyweight. The weight class is wide open underneath Artur Beterbiev, and Benavidez would be a welcome addition.
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