By: Ste Rowen
Ever since the inception of the super-middleweight division, American and British boxers have dominated it’s rankings and outstanding bouts. From Sugar Ray Leonard to Andre Ward, Joe Calzaghe to Callum Smith, super-middle has been one of the great divisions for boxers on either side of the Atlantic, and although we never got James Toney vs. Benn or Chris Eubank the final year of the teens, the 10’s, the tenties? Whatever the proper name for this decade is, it could be about to signal the biggest conflict between the US and Great Britain since the 1700’s.
After the roaring success of the World Boxing Super Series which concluded last September, there was a worry that the division might hit a lull in excitement. Worry no more. Where 2018 was the year of the cruiserweights, or more specifically, the year of Usyk, 2019 is set to be the year of the 168lbers.
Caleb Plant was the first to make his mark on the division this year when, thirteen days into 2019, the Tennessee-native dominated IBF champion, Jose Uzcategui, dropping him twice en route to a comfortable twelve-round decision. He joined titlists Callum Smith (WBC & Ring) as well as then WBO champ, Gilberto Ramirez.
Despite conflicting reports it appears Ramirez has vacated and is making the move up to light-heavyweight which has opened the door for another Brit to enter the title scene. At the time of writing, Billy Joe Saunders will fight Shefat Isufi in April for the WBO 168lb belt.
If Saunders wins, as is expected he will enter the super-middle scene just after his past adversary, Chris Eubank Jr pulled off a career-best performance to defeat former world title holder, James DeGale.
Last Saturday, Eubank dominated DeGale across twelve rounds. It was very reminiscent of Plant’s performance vs. Uzcategui. Chris dropped DeGale twice en route to a unanimous decision win, which turned out to be a little too close on the official scorecards – Howard Foster, it’s time to call it a day – But despite the cards, the IBO champion’s performance and general fighting style and intrigue means nobody will forget him when talking about the biggest fights that can be made in the division.
A couple of hours after Eubank pulled off the slight upset over British rival, DeGale, brother of a former DeGale opponent, Anthony Dirrell was announcing himself back into view with a split – and slightly controversial – decision win over Avni Yildrim.
The curious career of Dirrell continues. His only pro-defeat has come at the hands of Badou Jack back in 2015, and despite proving himself to be just above fringe level multiple times, including a 1st round KO of former champion, Caleb Truax; inactivity has seriously hampered the Michigan boxer. But with the top 10 looking as it currently does, it’s gonna be difficult to find a fight that won’t define the top super-middleweight’s careers.
So let’s assume that Ramirez has moved up to light-heavy and Billy Joe Saunders will fight and win the vacated WBO – sorry Shefat. I’ll publicly apologize if you beat Saunders in April – then the 168lb scene is set to draw it’s battle-lines in a dysfunctional US vs. UK way.
On one side of the Atlantic: Caleb Plant, the unbeaten IBF champion; alongside Anthony Dirrell, WBC titlist with just one defeat on his record and almost forgotten.
On the other we have: Callum Smith, WBA and Ring king, arguably the only man who has a legitimate claim to being #1 in the division; Then Chris Eubank Jr, holder of the minor IBO belt but more importantly the victor over DeGale; and Billy Joe Saunders, the unproven entity at 168 but it feels safe to assume he’ll fit in nicely considering his style of technical boxing.
But don’t forget the US wildcard: former WBC champion, David Benavidez lurking in the background, itching to gain back his title and claim supremacy. David at just 22-years old lost his belt outside the ring and based on the evidence of his past performances, a switched-on Benavidez is a world class fighter.
In the 90’s the division was on the verge of a Roy Jones Jr/Toney/Benn/Eubank round robin that never occurred. When you look at the world champions and challengers right now, it will be just as much of a disappointment in two years if we’re not talking about the Smith/Plant/Eubank/Dirrell/Saunders/Benavidez wars of 2019.
Somebody give Kalle Sauerland a call for a WBSS Super-Middleweight 2 ASAP.
By: Ken Hissner
This writer remembers reading about Brazil’s Eder Jofre seeing a dead chicken ran over by a vehicle in the middle of the road. He never ate meat again.
Jofre was 46-0-3 before this World Bantamweight champion was defeated. He added the WBC and WBA belts to his World belt. He had rematches with Argentina’s Ernesto Miranda, 15-3-1, who was living in Spain when they drew twice. He defeated Miranda twice when he was 40-3-4 for the South American Bantamweight title. Miranda ended his career with 99 wins. All four fights with Miranda were in Brazil. He drew with Manny Elias, 44-17-1, in November of 1965 between his only two losses to Flyweight champion Japan’s WBA, WBC and World champion Fighting Harada which both defeats were in Japan.
It took almost five years to defeat Elias, 51-21-2 in their rematch. It was in May of 1970. The first Harada fight ended in a split decision in Nagoya, Japan, in May of 1965. The rematch took place after the Elias draw in Nippon, Japan, in May of 1966.
Jofre’s third draw was against Uruguay’s Ruben Caceres, 11-1-5, in May of 1958 in Uruguay in Montevideo, Uruguay. In their rematch in July of 1959 Jofre knocked out Caceres in 7 rounds.
Jofre would only have his second bout outside of Brazil in August of 1960 when he defeated Mexico’s Jose “El Huitlacoche” Medel, 43-16-3, by 10th round knockout in a NBA Bantamweight eliminator at the Olympic Auditorium in L.A. In November he won the vacant NBA Bantamweight title knocking out Eloy “Emeterio” Sanchez, 25-12, in 6 rounds at the same facility. He had defenses against the former European champ then the Italian champ Piero Rollo, 53-6-6, stopping him in 9 rounds. He knocked out the OPBF champion Japan’s Sadao Yaoita, 43-9-2, in 10 rounds. He stopped the British champion Johnny Caldwell, 25-0, in the 10th round.
Jofre would travel back to the US in his next fight and win the Bantamweight World title stopping Mexico’s Herman Marques, 19-8-1, living in Stockton, CA, in the 10th round at the Cow Palace in Daly City, CA. Then give Medel a rematch knocking him out in 6 rounds.
Then Jofre would go to Japan for the first time knocking out Japan’s OPBF champion Katsutoshi Aoki, 33-1-1, in 3 rounds. Then travel to the Manila, in the Philippines, stopping Filipino Johnny Jamito, 33-2-2, who couldn’t come out for the last round after being knocked down in the previous round.
Next Jofre went to Bagota, Colombia, knocking out Bernardo Caraballo, 39-0-1, of Colombia in the 7th round. Next up was the first loss to Harada losing his title. After the second loss to Harada he moved up to featherweight. It took fifteen fights for him to win the WBC World Featherweight title by majority decision over Cuban Jose “Pocket Cassius Clay” Legra, 131-9-4, living in Spain, over 12 rounds in Brazil. Legra would have two fights after this losing to Nicaragua’s Alexis Arguello in his last fight by knockout.
In Jofre’s next two fights which were non-title he knocked out possibly Chile’s greatest fighter in Godfrey Stevens, 71-7-3, in 4 rounds. Then American Frankie Crawford, 38-17-5, was defeated over 10 rounds. In his first defense he would end the career of the former WBC champion Vicente “El Zurdo de Oro” Saldivar, 37-2.
Jofre would win six non-title fights before his final bout being a title defense defeating Mexican Octavio Gomez, 55-15-7, over 12 rounds. His final record was 72-2-4 (50) in October 8th 1976 at the age of 40. At age 82 Jofre is still seen at the fights in Brazil
More Boxing History
Why Is America Missing Out On Joshua-Klitschko?
By: Sean Crose
A public workout was held Wednesday. In Wembley Stadium. In front of a significant, loud and very energetic crowd. With Michael Buffer introdrucing the fighters before they actually, you know, worked out. This, friends, was something special. And little wonder. For the first time since Mayweather-Pacuiao, the days are winding down to a legitimate superbout. For, in case you haven’t heard, rising British Star Anthony Joshua will be throwing down against former longtime champion Wladimir Klitschko on Saturday in a battle for heavyweight supremacy. They fact that the two men will be fighting in front of 90,000 people – that’s 90,000 people – gives some indication as to just how big this match is.
While the fight is indeed finding itself onto sports’ pages in the states, it leaves this Yank feeling a bit sad that Joshua-Klitschko isn’t getting the attention it deserves here. Not sad for the fighters. Not sad for boxing. Sad for my countrymen. No kidding, I feel a bit down about this. For one of the single biggest sporting events of 2017 – if not THE single biggest – is happening this very weekend and few Americans are even aware of it. Oh, the fight will be there for us Amerians to watch – live on Showtime and later Saturday night on HBO – but how many of us will even know it’s on? And why are so many of us missing out on a major international sporting event?
First off, it helps if we face facts here. Boxing isn’t that big in the states anymore. Not when the name of Floyd Mayweather isn’t somehow involved. Boxing has done much of this to itself, of course, thanks to ridiculous management and a plethora of poorly judged fights. The American media has much to do with it, as well, however. The truth is, those who are supposed to get “the scoop” aren’t interested in the scoop when it comes to professional boxing (unless, again, Mayweather is involved). It’s hard for people to know about a major fight if the general media isn’t really discussing it…or it isn’t informing people of the sheer scope of the event.
Yet it’s not just the media who is to blame here. Americans interested in boxing can be an oddly indifferent bunch. “They both suck,” an individual training a young man on the pads in a local gym told me today. He was speaking, of course, about Joshua and Klitschko. Without giving another second of his time, the giver of that flip comment went back to work. Perhaps he just didn’t want a pain in the ass reporter in the gym…but I know of others with their fingers on the pulse who aren’t exactly jumping up and down over this bout, either. Is it because an American fighter isn’t involved? Maybe, but Alabama native Deontay Wilder is waiting in the wings with what seems to be intense interest. Wouldn’t that make American fans at least somewhat intrigued? Apparently not all of them. Unfortunately, America’s jaded boxing fans may have become way too hard to impress…suffice to say, we can forget about word of mouth spreading any kind of interest in this weekend’s bout.
Then, of course, there’s the issue of this weekend’s American television broadcasts Showtime has been doing a wonderful job with it’s boxing programing lately (while HBO seems too disinterested in boxing to even let subscribers know how disinterested it is), but this fight would have been perfectly suited to air on network television Saturday afternoon. It would then have gotten stray eyeballs from general sports, fans who would undoubtedly be impressed by the sheer size of Saturday’s event (it’s hard to keep 90,000 people from being noticed) and hopefully from the action inside the ring itself (both fighters can hit, after all). Sadly, though, the world’s newest superbout will be aired on the channels that give us “Shameless” and “Game of Thrones.” People will tune in, of course, but not as many as could or should have.
If anything, Joshua-Klitschko shows that boxing is far from dead. Too bad the American public isn’t being given the chance to realize it.
American Boxers Fighting Out of Japan Back to 1961!
By: Ken Hissner
Japan is a hot bed for boxers with quite a bit of activity on the small island. In the past such boxers as America’s Steve “Flasher Ishibashi” Smith was one of those boxers to win Japan‘s National Title.
Japan produced 209 boxing events in 2016. Already in 2017 they have had 46 events with 20 scheduled into June. Some prominent boxers have come from Venezuela but not in the numbers of American’s who primarily were serving in the US Military in Japan when turning professional.
Having turned professional in April of 1971 Smith was 8-2 while fighting out of Japan including two bouts in Australia and South Korea while living in Japan. In his eleventh bout he won the Japanese middleweight title knocking out champion Cassius Naito, 24-3-2 in February of 1973.
In Smith’s next bout after becoming Japan’s champion he was knocked out by Billy “Dynamite” Douglas, 26-6-1, who was brought in from the USA. He would go onto win five of his next six fights in Japan including re-winning the vacant Japanese middleweight title in April of 1974. This would be when Smith decided to return to the city he was born in Philadelphia, PA.
In October of 1974 Smith would make his USA debut on the undercard of the Emile Griffith and “Bad” Bennie Briscoe undercard. He defeated out Nick Peoples, 6-17-1, at the Spectrum. He would soon meet up with the tough competition of future world champion Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, 10-1, in January of 1975 at the Spectrum and Philly’s Stanley “Kitten” Hayward, 30-10-4, at the legendary Blue Horizon in April losing both by stoppage. In October he would travel to Paris and was stopped by Jean Mateo, 26-3-1. He would return to Philadelphia scoring three consecutive wins including over Bobby Payton, 10-0, and Willie Warren, 41-26-1. He would then run out his career in four bouts on the road including a stop in Johannesburg, South Africa. He lived in Tokyo, Japan.
The first to this writer’s knowledge was George Carter, 20-11 (10), of Lakeland, GA. He would debut in Japan on May of 1961 defeating Japanese veteran Hachiro Tatsumi, 77-24-6, over ten rounds. He would fight out of Japan with occasional bouts in the USA until the end of his career in July of 1972.
After Carter won two of his first ten round bouts in Japan he went to Philadelphia in January of 1962 and was defeated by one of their best future boxers in Dick Turner, 10-0-1, at the legendary Blue Horizon. After winning one of two bouts in Massachusetts Carter would return to Japan losing two bouts including one to South Korean Olympian and future world champion Ki-Soo Kim, 9-0-1, in January of 1964.
Carter wouldn’t fight again until the end of 1966 losing in Japan then going to Korea in a rematch with Kim who was then 25-0-2. After being inactive for almost a year he would go onto win seven of his next eight bouts in Japan. In February of 1970 he won the Japanese super welterweight title defeating future WBC & WBA super welterweight world champion Koichi Wajima, 13-1, only to lose the Japanese title two months later to Wajima by split decision.
Carter would go onto win four out of five all knockout wins earning an April 1971 Japanese middleweight title bout with champion Turtle Okabe, 16-8-4, winning the title over ten rounds. He would go onto win his next four bouts including two title defenses before going to Australia and losing to world contender Tony Mundine in February of 1972. Some five months later back in Japan Carter would lose what would be his career final bout in July of 1972. He lived in Kawasaki, Kanagawa, Japan.
Kevin Palmer, 24-1-1 (15), out of New York City debuted in Japan in February of 1993 living in Yoksuka, Kanagawa, Japan, until his final bout in August of 2001. He would go 8-0-1, then winning the vacant Japanese middleweight title stopping Naotaka Hozumi, 6-0, in the tenth and final round.
In Palmer’s second defense he defeated Yoshinori Nishizawa, 10-8-4, whom he had drawn with previously. In September of 1996 he won the OPBF middleweight title defeating Jung-Mo Kim, 17-1-1, over twelve rounds. He would go onto win his next ten bouts including five title defenses before losing his first and last bout in a rematch to Naotaka Hozumi, 17-2-1 in August of 2001.
Another American boxer who found success in Japan was Frederick Roberts, 38-7-2 (20), from the Bronx, NY, fighting as Rick Yoshimura. He would lose his first two bouts in New York starting in 1983 before moving to Akishima, Japan, in November of 1987 going 15-3 winning the Japanese super lightweight title and dropping back to lightweight taking that title. He would make twenty-two defenses including a draw. In February of 2001 he would fight to a draw for the WBA lightweight title to Japan’s Takanori Hatakeyam, 24-1-2, over twelve rounds. He would not get a rematch and went onto losing his last two bouts with the final one in October 2003.
Carlos Elliott, 26-3 (22), out of Huntsville, AL, debuted in Japan in 1983 until 1991 winning the Japanese super welterweight title in 1985 and the OPBF title in 1987. In his fourth bout he knocked out Chung-Jae Hwang, 26-2, in South Korea. He would lose in an attempt to win the Japanese welterweight title and another loss in Indonesia. He was 25-1 in Japanese rings. In his final bout he February of 1991 he would lose to Gilbert Dele, 26-0-1, for the vacant WBA super welterweight title in Guadeloupe. He lived in Hachinohe, Aomori, Japan.
Charles Bellamy, 26-3-2 (17), from New York City, fighting as Charlie Ota debuted in Japan in 2006 going onto with both the Japanese and OPBF super welterweight titles in 2010. While living in Hachioji, Tokyo, Japan, he had two fights in New York. In March of 2012 he defeated Gundrick King, 16-7, at MSG, and in November of 2013 defeated Mike Ruiz, 17-7, in Brooklyn.
Following the Ruiz fight in May of 2014 Bellamy lost to future and current WBC super welterweight champion Jermell Charlo, 23-0, in Montreal, CAN, over twelve rounds. In his next fight in December he would lose by split decision to Yuki Nonaka, 26-8-2, in an attempt to regain his Japanese super welterweight title in December. He would go onto win one bout in 2015 and one in 2016 before fighting to a draw in his last bout in January of 2017 to Yuki Beppu, 14-0.
Paul “Takeshi” Fuji, 34-3-1 (29), of Honolulu, Hawaii, would debut in Japan April of 1964 winning five bouts before returning to Hawaii winning another five bouts. Upon his return to Japan he won the vacant Japanese super lightweight title in June of 1965.
In November of 1965 Fuji would return to Hawaii gaining a win before losing to Johnny Santos, 27-2, over a two week span. In September of 1966 he won the OPBF super lightweight title. In April of 1967 he won the WBC and WBA super lightweight titles knocking out Italy’s Sandro Lopopolo, 39-4-5, in Tokyo, where he was residing. He made a defense in November of 1967 knocking out Germany’s Willie Quatuor, 57-6-5. In November of 1968 he lost his WBA title to Argentina’s Nicolino Locche, 89-2-14, in Tokyo. He would go 3-0-1 before retiring in May of 1970 in his final bout.