By: Hans Themistode
The Cruiserweight division has never been a glamorous one, but the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) is determined to change that notion.
After a long COVID-19 induced delay, the final matchup between IBF belt holder Yuniel Dorticos and former titlist Mairis Briedis is finally taking place in the next few weeks on September 26th. Their contest will have no fans in the arena and the site has not yet been fully determined.
For the two hard hitting big men, they’ve quickly separated themselves from the pack the moment Oleksandr Usyk elected to move up to the heavyweight division in 2019. During the time of his reign which spanned from 2016-2018, Usyk (17-0, 13 KOs) dominated the 200 pound landscape. The Ukrainian native became the first man to hold all four belts since Evander Holyfield did roughly 30 years prior.
Before Usyk finished his Cruiserweight collection however, he was given the toughest contest of his career against Breidis (26-1, 19 KOs) in the semi-final of the WBSS in 2018. Usyk, 33, managed to narrowly scrape by with a majority decision win under his belt on the night.
Since Usyk has forgone the Cruiserweight landscape to entertain the monsters at heavyweight, Briedis has emerged as the man to beat. He immediately picked up a secondary title in the WBC Diamond belt following Usyk’s departure.
The Latvian native also took home the WBO title with a third round knockout of former belt holder Krzysztof Glowacki. That win however, was marred in controversy as the referee intervened in their contest and essentially cost Glowacki the matchup.
Although ring rust is always an issue when dealing with a fighter in their mid 30s, Briedis’ opponent on the night in Yuniel Dorticos will also have to shake off the cobwebs.
The 34 year old IBF belt holder hasn’t stepped foot inside of the ring since his 10th round destruction of formerly undefeated contender Andrew Tabiti. The win wrapped up a long hunt for another world title for the Cuban defect.
Dorticos (24-1, 22 KOs) first title run was abruptly dashed away from him in early 2018 at the hands of Murat Gassiev. The two produced a terrific back and forth matchup but unfortunately for Dorticos, his chin cracked under the pressure as he was knocked out in the 12th round.
Now, after both men suffering a pair of devastating lows and championship highs, they’ll meet in just a matter of weeks to decide who will walk away with the Muhammad Ali trophy and the consensus number one spot in the division.
By: Hans Themistode
When a fighter decides to move up or down in weight, almost every single time it is out of necessity. Either he has gotten older and he has filled out his body more which essentially makes cutting weight more difficult, or the competition has simply gotten too stiff and it’s now time to move down.
In the case of Sergey Kovalev, his reasoning seems to stem from having nothing left to prove at the Light Heavyweight division. He may have been knocked out in his last ring appearance against Canelo Alvarez, but before that, he was a three time world champion and at one point held three of the four major belts in the division.
There wasn’t a single pound for pound list that did not include the name Sergey Kovalev near the top of it. Now, at the age of 36, Kovalev is clearly not the fighter he once was. The nickname that fans had grown accustomed to calling him, the “Krusher” no longer fits him.
Many believed that Kovalev would take the career high payday he received from Alvarez and ride off into the sunset. Yet, that doesn’t seem to be happening anytime soon.
Kovalev wants one more title run. Matchups against WBA belt holder Dmitry Bivol and unified champion Artur Beterbiev would still generate buzz, but that isn’t the direction Kovalev is heading towards.
The former unified champ is tired of killing his body to make weight and instead, has opted to move up to the Cruiserweight division.
Outside of the Heavyweight division, the jump from 175 to 200 is the largest in terms of weight in the entire sport of boxing. Kovalev has always been a great fighter at 175, but he wasn’t never a big man. He has a slender build but does still seem to have great power.
Kovalev is incredibly audacious in his decision to move up in weight, but it could lead to his detriment. The extra pounds that Kovalev would be afforded could be to his benefit, but when listening to how his trainer Buddy McGirt wants to approach his new weight class, it could leave you scratching your head.
“He’s going up to cruiserweight,” said McGirt. “We’ll start training in about a month. As long as we go to 185 [pounds], we’re good. No more than 185,” McGirt said. “He can come in at 180 and beat those guys. He’ll be light, and that’s OK. I think he’ll be better at that weight.”
Only time will tell if Kovalev’s move up in weight was a sagacious one.
By: Hans Themistode
Oleksandr Usyk (16-0, 12 KOs) is looking to make a big splash in the Heavyweight division.
After mowing down the competition at Cruiserweight, Oleksandr Usyk is ready to move on. While Usyk campaigned in the division he fought all of the top names.
Undefeated up and coming WBO champion Krzysztof Glowacki was outclassed. One of the longest reigning champions in Marco Huck was easily dispatched by stoppage in the tenth round. Mairis Briedis and Murat Gassiev had their once spotless records stained once they entered the ring against Usyk as well.
All four major titles in the division were wrapped around his waist at this point. He ended his career at Cruiserweight with a eighth round knockout win over Tony Bellew.
There was effectively nothing and no one left for Usyk to face so the move to Heavyweight was a well warranted one. Originally, he was scheduled to make his debut at his new weight class on May 25th against Carlos Takam. A bicep injury however, during his training camp forced him to the sidelines.
Now that he is fully healed, he is penciled in for a return in October. Unfortunately for Usyk, he has been unable to secure an opponent as of now.
So who exactly should welcome Usyk into the world of giants?
The Heavyweight division isn’t short on big name fighters, but many of them are occupied at the moment. The biggest names in the division including WBC belt holder Deontay Wilder, Lineal Champ Tyson Fury, unified champion Andy Ruiz and former unified champion Anthony Joshua are all currently booked in high profile fights.
The contenders, including Luis Ortiz, Alexander Povetkin and Hughie Fury are all busy as well.
So where exactly does that leave Usyk? Unfortunately for the former undisputed Cruiserweight champ, it leaves him in limbo.
Usyk has never been known for taking a soft touch. With such few options at the moment there is one name in the division that would make perfect sense for him. Kubrat Pulev.
Since getting stopped by Wladimir Klitschko in 2014 in his first attempt at a world title, Pulev has gone on to win seven straight fights. He is currently the IBF number one contender as well.
A fight between the two makes perfect sense. Not only would Pulev provide Usyk with a significant challenge, but it would also pave the way for the victor to take on the winner in the rematch between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz.
Usyk could of course opt for a soft touch but that has never been his style. Whomever he decides to take on in his Heavyweight debut will allow him the opportunity to announce his presence to the rest of the division.
By: Shane Willoughby
Ahead of his bout with Mairis Briedis this Saturday, Krzysztof Glowacki has now been awarded the WBO Cruiserweight belt, after Oleksandr Usyk relinquished the belt.
Glowacki beat Maxim Vlasov last November by unanimous decision to become the WBO interim champion but with Usyk moving to heavyweight, he has now been elevated and is now a two time world champion at the division.
The Polish fighter held the WBO title for a year before losing it to Usyk in 2016. Since then he has picked up some impressive wins including a convincing win against Vlasov.
With the Glowacki now a champion again it makes his fight with Mairis Briedis even more interesting. The WBO and WBC belt are both on the line not to mention a place in the final of the World boxing Super Series for the Muhumad Ali trophy.
The now WBO champion will be looking to keep hold of the belt longer than he did before. However, Briedis is by far one of his toughest tests and in front of his home crowd in Latvia he will have extra motivation.
Either way, Glowacki has already made history becoming the only Cruiserweight champion from Poland. But with a win, other Briedis he can return to Poland as a unified champion and a national hero.
By: Michael Kane
The big fights keep on coming for UK boxing fans.
Tony Bellew has moved back down to cruiserweight and will face undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, all of Usyk’s belts will be up for grab, the WBO, WBC, IBF as well as the Ring magazine belt.
The fight is to take place at Manchester Arena on November 10th.
Bellew, who was the WBC cruiserweight champion, is looking to end his career off in some style, with reports this is to be his last fight. The 35 year old moved up to heavyweight to face David Haye twice and stopped Haye for the second time in March this year.
Bellew told BBC Radio 5 Live, “He’ll see someone that will never give in, ever. He is one of the most feared men in boxing. This is the ultimate test for me.”
He added: “I’m taking this with my eyes wide open, I know I’m facing the best cruiserweight in the world, the best since Evander Holyfield in my opinion, an amazing fighter who can do everything and I’m happy to go in there against him and once again prove the whole world wrong. He’s a monster they all say I can’t beat but it’s not my first time at the rodeo. I’ve heard it all before. Let’s just see if he can answer all the questions I’ve had to answer throughout my career.
“Can he get off the floor? Can he come back from a nasty cut? Can he fight through bad injuries? Can he come from behind on the scorecards? Can he provide a one-punch knockout when it’s needed? All these questions I’ve answered on umpteen occasions.
“What I can promise is I will not be in awe of this man. I will not allow him to rattle five-, six-, seven-punch combinations. He will see someone that will never give in, ever. I’ve fought people far quicker, far more powerful. What I haven’t fought is someone who puts all the things together as good as he does. He can’t show me something I haven’t seen before.
“The world says I can’t beat him, can I outbox him? Probably not. Can I chin him? Absolutely. I’m the quickest cruiserweight he has ever fought and when I hit him he’s going to know I am the hardest cruiserweight he has ever fought.
“There ain’t a man I’ve ever shared a ring with who hasn’t felt the same thing ‘how in God’s name has that skinny fat freak just hit me so hard’. And he’s going to feel the same.”
Usyk, 31, become the first man to hold all four cruiserweight titles after winning them as part of World Boxing Super Series, Usyk entered the competition with the WBO then added the rest by beating Mairis Breidis in the semi final for the WBC and then added the IBF and WBA crowns by beating Murat Gassiev in the final.
Usyk, said to Sky Sports, “ I’ve been preparing for this fight for a long time and i’m delighted that we’ve got the venue and the date finalised. I cannot wait to fight in the UK.”
By: Oliver McManus
Off the back of our British Boxers to Watch feature, I spoke to 4 and 0 Cruiserweight prospect Chris Billam-Smith about his career thus far and what the future has in store for him – boxing on Cyclone Promotions shows, the Bournemouth-born fighter has a 100% knockout percentage having defeated (seeing as it’s only four names, I’ll list them all) Russ Henshaw, Aleksandar Todorovic, Jan Hrazdira and Lazslo Ivanyi to the plaudits of the boxing community.
Chris, pleasure to speak to you, first year in the pro ranks – how do you think it’s gone?
It’s been great. A great opportunity me to work with a great team and great people. I had a busy 11 weeks from September to December with 4 fights which is also great, so I’m a lucky man.
You’ve fought four times in three months, are you looking to keep that sort of regularity going into 2018?
A bit more rest would be good! I’m sure it will slow down a bit now as going into 6 and 8 rounders before hopefully fighting for a title towards the end of the year. Whatever the title may be.
What do you make of the quality of fighter you’ve faced? They’ve certainly not been walkovers but you’ve dispatched with them emphatically.
Well you know how the business works. These are guys I’m supposed to be beating so I’m not getting ahead of myself. I’ve just been accurate and timed shots well. But tougher tests will come and I look forward to them especially domestically it’s becoming an exciting division.
You’re nicknamed The Gentleman, where does this come from?
It was Shanes shout. We had a few nicknames chucked about in gym CBSExpress was a close 2nd but Shane said because of my manners and the way I conduct myself. I have my father to thank for that as he is a gent.
How would you describe your fighting style?
I’m not sure really I’ll let you guys (the media)* describe it how you wish. All I know is I’ll be in some great exciting fights.
*for what it’s worth, this is how I described his style; “the youngster already showcasing a full range of skills that are destined to take him far – a prolific body puncher, his right hand hook is ferocious to say least and enough to send anyone crumpling to the canvas.”
Do you think you’re amateur experience helps you transition easily into the paid ranks?
Yeah because as an amateur I was a boxer through and through and boxed as an Elite from my 15th fight after I won the novices so I was always used to boxing good opposition.
You’re promoted and trained by the McGuigan’s who also promote Chantelle Cameron and Josh Taylor – how exciting is the future for Cyclone?
Very exciting. Especially as bit Chantelle and Josh Taylor are on the verge on winning world titles. It’s a great atmosphere in the gym. And we’re all grafting away and loving the big nights.
You’ve sparred both Isaac Chamberlain and Lawrence Okolie – from your experience, who wins that fight?
I sparred Okolie as an amateur so both him and I would’ve improved since then, but Chamberlain I have sparred more recently. I really can’t pick them as Chamberlain is hard to hit clean so will that nullify Okolie’s power? But Okolie isn’t all just saw power he is good at setting shots up too. It is a great fight and one I look forward to watching. If I had to make a decision is edge towards Okolie but no result will surprise.
I’ve heard you say you think more free to air boxing would help the sport, how has it benefited your career?
It’s been great. I’ve boxed in Scotland and Leicester so quite a long way from home and the ones who haven’t been able to travel have been able to watch me On TV. I’m getting a great backing and I’ve been stopped by strangers saying nice things to me so it’s great that not only me, but the sport as a whole is getting more exposure.
And finally then what are your plans for 2018, are you looking at any particular title fights?
Keep winning, keep the stoppages coming, keep enjoying myself and improving and get a title before the year is up. It doesn’t matter which one at this stage as it’s still early but I’m ready to get one as soon as obligations like fight in a scheduled 8 rounder are met.
Cheers for speaking to us at Boxing Insider, all the best!
Thank you guys for the interview. All the best
Many thanks, then, to Chris for taking the time out to speak to us ahead of what promises to be an exciting year and, indeed, career in general.
Let me just say that his nickname, The Gentleman, could not be a truer summarisation of his character – a truly humble man, full of manners, and a delight to speak to.
A really exciting fight that I’d like to see the youngster in would be a match-up with Wadi Camacho, potentially for the Southern Area championship, which would provide him with a good opportunity to test his array of skills against a domestic fighter who has stood the test of time.
By Eric Lunger
Murat Gassiev (25-0, 18 KOs) knocked out Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (53-4-1, 37 KOs) last Saturday night at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, and in doing so he may have positioned himself not only to unify the belts in the Cruiserweight division, but also to take part in a potential fight of the year in January against Cuban slugger Yunier Dorticos (22-0, 21 KOs).
With a successful show in Newark, the cruiserweight division is taking up column space in boxing blogs, and rightly so. While cruiserweight is often seen by American fans as a stopping point on the way to heavyweight, the World Boxing Super Series tournament has highlighted the elite-level talent at the 200-pound limit. WBO champion Oleksandr Usyk has dazzling footwork, hand speed, and the mesmerizing angles of the 2012 Ukrainian Olympic team – yes, the coach of that team was Anatoly Lomachenko, Vasyl’s father. Murat Gassiev gets better each fight, with a savvy coach in Abel Sanchez and a training partner named Gennady GGG Golovkin. Mairis Briedis is a tight, technical boxer out of the eastern European mold and currently holds the WBC belt. Yunier Dorticos brings the traditional slick boxing of the Cuban school, combined with fearsome KO potential lurking beneath every combination. And the winner of the tournament will unify the IBF, WBC, and WBO titles, as well as raise the newly inaugurated Muhammad Ali Trophy.
I had a chance to chat with some of the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) production team after the bout, and they were ecstatic. Ecstatic about the knockout, ecstatic about the energy in the arena, and they were ecstatic about the prospect of Gassiev taking on Dorticos as the semi-final (not even the final!) of the tournament.
Abel Sanchez, Murat’s coach, characterized the upcoming bout this way: “Dorticos has proven that he is a heavy puncher, Murat is too. It is a fight, I think, between the best two punchers in the tournament. It’s the way it should be — the best fighting the best, and this tournament his given us that.”
There are many reasons to be excited about this fight. It has fight of the year (FOTY) potential, knock out power from both guys, Big Bear Lake via Russia, Miami via the Cuban system. And Gassiev vs. Dorticos is a genuine 50-50 fight. If your friend tells you that he knows who is going to win that fight, sorry – your friend is lying or a fool. “It is probably the best match up in the sport right now, pound for pound and punch for punch,” said Ringstar Sports CEO Richard Schaefer.
Venues and dates for the Semifinals have not yet been announced, but look to January of 2018 for more action in the cruiserweight division.
The World Boxing Super Series Begins
By: Matthew N. Becher
Over the past weekend, the newly created World Boxing Super Series held its very first draft, for its very first tournament. The premise of the new tournament is an open competition for any professional boxer that is ranked in the top 15 of the major sanctioning bodies systems.
In theory the best fighters would face off against one another, until the last man was standing, thus making him the #1 boxer in that weight class. Simple. That is the easy part, the hard part is getting the best fighters to all participate in such a tournament, with everyone having different promoters and so forth. Fortunately, it seems to have worked out for the initial Cruiserweight Tournament.
The seeding of the tournament went as follows. The top 4 fighters were ranked 1-4 by the WBSS, with the four belt holders getting the top rankings.
1: Oleksander Usyk (WBO)
2: Murat Gassiev (IBF)
3: Mairis Briedis (WBC)
4: Yunier Dorticos (WBA)
Then from 1-4, the fighter was allowed to pick or draft his opponent from a group of 4 boxers, for their first round fight. (An exception was made for Gassiev, who had a mandatory against Krzysztof Wlodarczyk. That fight was picked for him)
The first round of the tournament looks like this.
Oleksander Usyk (12-0 10KO) v. Marco Huck (40-4-1 27KO)
Murat Gassiev (24-0 17KO) v. Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (53-3-1 37KO)
Mairis Briedis (22-0 18KO) v. Mike Perez (22-2-1 14KO)
Yunier Dorticos (21-0 20KO) v. Dmitry Kudryashov (21-1 21KO)
Literally the best of the best in the Cruiserweight division will be competing against each other, until one is standing with all the belts, the inaugural Muhammad Ali Trophy and possibly a $1 million dollar bonus for advancing though semifinals and the championship round.
The tournament is slated to begin in early September and rap up by Mary of next year. The location of the fights have yet to be determined and will be placed in locations that match up well for each fight.
“To unify a division and spotlight a division that has clearly been underappreciated, even though the fights in the ring are always among the most exciting in the sport, irrespective of the division, that those four champions, if you look at the record – they are all undefeated. Most of their wins, the vast majority have come by knockout. So these are all big punchers, undefeated. I’m really excited,” said Richard Schaefer, the Chairman of the Americas for Comosa, who helped put this field together alongside fellow promoter Kalle Sauerland (the Chief Boxing Officer for Comosa).
This is a very exciting tournament for boxing and especially for the roll out of the new World Boxing Super Series. With formats like this, expect many division to start falling in line and possibly getting to see the best match up against the best in the near future.
Cruiserweight Josh Himes Aims To “Empower The Everyday Fighter” Among Us
By: Sean Crose
“Taking it easy,” says cruiserweight Josh “The Handsome Hitman” Himes when asked what’s next in his boxing career. He’s recently won his eleventh bout, Himes has, along with the United Boxing Federation All America cruiserweight title, via a unanimous decision victory over Armin Mrkanovic. The bout was held in a state penitentiary in West Virginia (those who think good boxing can’t be found in prison need only look up the name James Scott). Fight locations and important wins aren’t the only interesting things about Himes, however. Sharp and likable, Himes, along with his wife, the singer Brynn Marie, have begun Fight2Fight, a nonprofit organization designed to, as Himes puts it, “empower the everyday fighter.”
“We’ve somehow connected with forty seven countries,” he says. “It’s been a blessing.” As Himes’ rep Tiffany Bearden states: “F2F believes that everyone is a fighter, whether you are fighting for health, faith, fitness, career, freedom or against addiction.” In other words, the organization isn’t just for boxers. For boxers aren’t the only ones who have fights on their hands. F2F is, according to its website, “encouraging everyone to come together in support of each others’ daily battles.” Needless to say, Josh and Brynn encourage people to inform them of their own fights through the F2F site: https://www.fight2fight.com/contact/
Perhaps not surprisingly, the people behind CBS’ upcoming game show Candy Crush (which begins airing July 9th) are having Josh and Brynn on as contestants. They’ll be easy to spot wearing F2F shirts. Fittingly enough, Candy Crush is to be hosted by Mario Lopez, himself an enormous boxing fan who Josh describes as a “super nice guy.”
Of course “super nice guy,” isn’t the sort of thing one would expect to hear come out of the mouth of a pro fighter, but Josh is unique. It’s not a matter of blowing smoke to claim the man has the kind of winning personality that could make him accessible to a wide audience. Most nice guys may finish last, but most nice guys don’t have winning records on BoxRec. Nor have they plowed through three opponents in a row in a matter of months. Josh, simply put, can be as nice as he wants.
And frankly, that’s a good thing, especially in a sport where the whole “bad boy” bit grows tiresome. The history of boxing is loaded, to be sure, with decent people who proved to be tougher than the tough guys (George Foreman immediately comes to mind). Josh makes it clear that he’s not interested in playing the role of villain. In fact, he likes his own unique brand of counterpointing. It’s the path he’s taken, after all. Besides, as Josh himself says: “I’ve prided myself on that path.”
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HBO World Championship Boxing Preview: Lomachenko vs. Sosa, Gvozdyk vs. Gonzalez, Usyk vs. Hunter
By: William Holmes
On Saturday night in Oxon Hill, Maryland the Theater at the MGM National Harbor will be the host site for the next installment of HBO World Championships Boxing.
Three bouts will be televised, including a junior lightweight title fight between Vasyl Lomachenko and Jason Sosa in the main event of the night, a light heavyweight fight between Oleksandr Gvozdyk and Yuniesky Gonzalez, and a cruiserweight title fight between Aleksandr Usyk and Mike Hunter.
The non-televised undercard will feature boxers such as Mike Reed, Patrick Harris, and Jesse Hart.
The following is a preview of the three televised bouts.
Oleksandr Gvozdyk (12-0) vs. Yunieski Gonzalez (18-2); Light Heavyweight
The opening bout of the night will be between Oleksandr Gvozdyk and Yunieski Gonzalez in the light heavyweight division.
Both boxers have deep amateur backgrounds. Gonzalez was a member of the Cuban Amateur Team and had a record of 345-27. Gvozdyk represented the Ukraine in the 2012 Summer Olympics and won the bronze medal.
Gvozdyk has never tasted defeat and will be about three inches taller than Gonzalez. Gvozdyk has also been incredibly active the past two years and four times in 2016 and four times in 2015. Gonzalez fought twice in 2016 and three times in 2015.
Gvozdyk has never tasted defeat and stopped ten of his opponents and currently has six straight stoppage wins. Gonzalez lost twice and went 2-2 in his past four fights.
Gvozdyk has already beaten the likes of Isaac Chilemba, Tommy Karpency, and Nadjib Mohammedi. Gonzalez doesn’t have the resume of Gvozdyk and has beaten the likes of Maxwell Amponsah and Jackson Junior. His losses were to jean pascal and Vyacheslav Shabranskyy.
Gonzalez is a good test for Gvozdyk and this is a rare fight where we see two notable international amateur stars face off in the ring early before their twentieth professional fight. But Gvozdyk is the better skilled boxer and has the bigger wins, he should emerge victorious.
Oleksandr Usyk (11-0) vs. Michael Hunter (12-0); WBO Cruiserweight Title
Oleksandr Usyk is one of the Ukraine’s most prized prospects and he will be stepping into the ring with a former United States Olympian.
Both boxers are undefeated in their professional careers. Usyk has stopped ten of his opponents and Hunter has stopped eight. Usyk will have a slight one inch height advantage but Hunter will have an inch and a half reach advantage.
Both boxers have deep amateur backgrounds, but Usyk experienced a lot of success on the international stage while Hunter experienced success on the national stage. Hunter is a former US National Amateur Champion and represented the United States in the 2012 Summer Olympics but failed to medal. Usyk was a gold medalist in the 2012 Olympic games.
Usyk has defeated the likes of Thabiso Mchunu, Krzystzof Glowacki, and Pedro Rodriguez. Surprisingly, all of his wins thus far in his career have come against opponents with winning records.
Hunter has yet to face any significant opposition and has defeated the likes of Isiah Thomas and Phil Williams.
This should be an easy win for Usyk, despite the fact his opponent has a good amateur background.
Vasyl Lomachenko (7-1) vs. Jason Sosa (20-1-4); WBO Junior Lightweight Title
Vasyl “Hi-Tech” Lomachenko is considered by many to be one of the best, if not the best, pound for pound boxer in the world. He fought for a world title in only his second professional fight and is a two time Olympic Gold Medalist and a two time World Amateur Champion.
His opponent, Jason Sosa, has more of a Rocky upbringing in the sport of boxing than Lomachenko. Sosa has no notable amateur achievements on the international stage and was born and raised in poverty stricken Camden, New Jersey. He won a world title with an upset stoppage victory over then WBA Super Featherweight World Champion Javier Fortuna and is now in the biggest fight of his life.
Lomachenko will have about a one inch height advantage on Sosa but will be giving up about an inch and a half in reach. Lomachenko’s lone loss was a disputed split decision loss to an overweight Orlando Salido early on in his career. He has since destroyed every other opponent he has faced.
He has already defeated the likes of Nicholas Walters, Roman Martinez, Suriya Tatakhun, Gary Russell Jr., and Jose Ramirez before he even competed in his tenth professional fight. Lomachenko has stopped five of his opponents.
Sosa has fifteen knockouts to his credit and one stoppage loss. His lone loss was to Tre’Sean Wiggins in 2010, early on in Sosa’s career. He has defeated the likes of Javier Fortuna, Stephen Smith, Jerry Belmontes, Michael Brooks, and Angel Ocasio. Sosa did have a disputed draw with Nicholas Walters, but many felt he lost that fight.
Jason Sosa is a good gritty boxer that consistently puts on entertaining bouts. He has the heart of a champion, but Lomachenko is on a different level than Sosa and that should be immediately apparent.
It’s hard to envision a scenario where Sosa gives Lomachenko problems and this should be a relatively easy bout for Lomachenko.
HBO World Championship Boxing Preview: Bernard Hopkins vs. Joe Smith Jr., Usyk vs. Mchunu, Diaz vs. Garcia
By: William Holmes
On Saturday night a legend in the sport of boxing and one of the greatest, if not greatest, fighter that the city of Philadelphia has ever produced will, allegedly, be fighting his last fight in his illustrious career.
Bernard Hopkins will step into the ring to face Long Island, New York native Joe Smith in a light heavyweight showdown in the main event of HBO World Championship Boxing. This bout will take place at the Forum in Inglewood, California.
HBO and Golden Boy Promotions will be televising three bouts on Saturday night. The opening bout of the night will be a WBO Cruiserweight Title bout between upstart champion Oleksandr Usyk and Thabio Mchunu. The co-main event of the night will be between Joseph Diaz and Horacio Garcia in the featherweight division.
The following is a preview of all three televised bouts.
Oleksandr Usyk (10-0) vs. Thabiso Mchunu (17-2); WBO Cruiserweight Title
Oleksandr Usyk is one of the best prospects to come out of the Ukraine and is a former Olympic Gold Medalist in the 2012 Summer Olympics and was a Gold Medalist in the 2011 World Championships. He won these medals while competing as a heavyweight and was able to capture the WBO Cruiserweight World title before his 11th professional fight.
His opponent, Thabiso Mchunu, does not have the amateur pedigree of Usyk but held several regional titles as a professional.
Usyk holds the edge in height, reach, and power. He is four inches taller than Mchunu, he will have a five and a half inch reach advantage, and has stopped all of his opponents except for one. Mchunu only has 11 stoppage victories and eight of his opponents were able to go the distance.
Both boxers are southpaws but Usyk is a better technical boxer than Mchunu and should be able to handle it well.
Usyk has defeated the likes of Krzysztof Glowacki in Poland, Pedro Rodriguez, and Andrey Knyazev. He has fought three times in 2015 and once in 2016.
Mchunu has beaten the likes of Boniface Kabore, Garrett Wilson, and Eddie Chambers. His losses were to Illunga Makabu and Zack Mwekassa. He fought once in 2015 and once in 2016.
Usyk is a boxer to keep a close eye on as he has a high ceiling and has fights televised on HBO early on in his career. Mchunu should be a good test for him, but it’s a test that Usyk is expected to pass with flying colors.
Joseph Diaz (22-0) vs. Horacio Garcia (30-1-1); Featherweights
Joseph “Jo Jo” Diaz is one of Golden Boy Promotions’ best prospects and is expected by many to be a future star in the sport of boxing.
Diaz is two years younger than Garcia and will be giving up one inch in reach. They both stand at 5’6” tall.
Diaz has the better amateur background and competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics for the United States. He has been very active and fought five times in 2015 and three times in 2016. Garcia has not been as active and fought once in 2016 and three times in 2015.
Diaz, a southpaw, has thirteen stoppage victories and three of his past four fights ended in a stoppage victory. Garcia has twenty two stoppage victories and has gone 4-1-1 in his last six fights.
Diaz has slowly been facing stiffer competition and has beaten the likes of Jayson Velez, Ruben Tamayo, and Rene Alvarado. He does have a loss in the World Series of Boxing to Braulio Avila by points, but that’s considered to be a part of his amateur record.
Garcia hasn’t beaten many opponents that are well known outside of Mexico. He has beaten the likes of Jonathan Perez and Raul Hidalgo, but he also has losses to Hozumi Hasegawa in Japan and Erik Ruiz in his last bout.
Garcia has gone 2-1-1 in professional fights that take place outside of Mexico and it seems a near certainty that his record outside of Mexico will worsen to 2-2-1 on Saturday.
Bernard Hopkins (55-7-2) vs. Joe Smith Jr. (22-1); Light Heavyweights
Bernard Hopkins first professional fight took place in 1988, one year before his opponent Joe Smith was born.
Hopkins has claimed that Saturday will be his last professional fight, but many wonder if he will uphold that promise if he wins in convincing fashion.
Hopkins turned pro after being released from prison in 1988 and lost his debut fight to Clinton Mitchell. But his career after that loss has been stellar and clearly hall of fame worthy.
Hopkins is 51 years old and will be 24 years older than Joe Smith when they step into the ring. However, Hopkins will have a one inch height advantage and a two inch reach advantage.
Currently, Smith probably has the edge in power. He has stopped eighteen of his opponents while Hopkins has stopped thirty two. However, Hopkins’ last stoppage victory came in 2004 against Oscar De La Hoya.
Hopkins has fought nearly everyone that had a name in the middleweight division and has a very impressive list of boxers that he has defeated. He has beaten the likes of Joe Lipsey, John David Jackson, Glen Johnson, Keith Holmes, Felix Trinidad, William Joppy, Oscar De La Hoya, Antonio Tarver, Winky Wright, Kelly Pavlik, Roy Jones Jr., Jean Pascal, Tavoris Cloud, Karo Murat, and Beibut Shumeno.
He has losses to boxers such as Sergey Kovalev, Chad Dawson, Joe Calzaghe, Jermain Taylor, and Roy Jones Jr.
Joe Smith Jr. became well known with his shocking upset TKO over Andrzej Fonfara in his last bout. His only other well known victory came against Will Rosinsky. His lone loss was early on in his career to Eddie Caminero in only his seventh professional fight.
The biggest concern about Hopkins is his age and his recent inactivity. Not only is Hopkins fifty one years old and close to mandatory retirement age, he also hasn’t fought since 2014, over two years ago and was forty nine years old at the time. Joe Smith has faced six different opponents since Hopkins last fought and fought three times in 2015 and twice in 2016.
They say father time is undefeated, but it appears Hopkins is intent on beating father time. This writer isn’t sure Hopkins will beat father time in the long run, but is fairly confident he can beat Joe Smith, even if he’s over the age of fifty.
Gassiev Outpoints Lebedev to Win IBF Cruiserweight Belt
By: Eric Lunger
Last night at the Khodynka Ice Palace in Moscow, Denis Lebedev (29-2, 22 KO’s) faced fellow Russian Murat Gassiev (23-0, 17 KO’s) with Lebedev’s IBF World Title at stake.
Lebedev, currently trained by Freddie Roach, picked up the IBF belt by defeating Victor Ramirez (22-3-1, 17 KO’s) in May of this year by second round TKO. Lebedev, 37, came into the fight with two losses on his record, one to Marco Huck in 2010, a split decision loss in Germany, and one to Guillermo Jones in May of 2013, a TKO in which Lebedev took a brutal amount of punishment to his right eye. Gassiev, 23, is another on the seemingly inexhaustible list of Eastern European/Russian fighters gravitating to Big Bear, CA, and Abel Sanchez’s Summit Gym. In May of this year, on PBC, Gassiev scored a scary first round knockout against Jordan Shimmell (20-2, 16 KO’s). While Abel Sanchez has compared Gassiev to training partner and friend Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, the Lebedev fight was new territory for the young prospect. It was both a homecoming to Russia and a big stage against an experienced and dangerous southpaw, who has been in the trenches a long time. It also presented an interesting stylistic clash, with the 6’ 3” Gassiev employing a classical orthodox style and working behind a straight jab. Lebedev, on the other hand, is a 5’ 11” southpaw who will throw a lead left while circling to his left. His defensive fundamentals are solid, and he is very comfortable countering off the back foot.
Given the power of both fighters, no one expected a reckless brawl, and indeed, the bout proved to be twelve rounds of tactical boxing. Both fighters stuck closely to their game plan: for Lebedev, to let the taller Gassiev come forward into the left hand counter; for Gassiev, to walk Lebedev down while using his jab to set up the power straight right. I saw the early rounds as fairly even and difficult to score. Gassiev holds a high guard, which accentuated the height advantage. Lebedev was surprisingly versatile: he could jab effectively to disrupt Gassiev as he came in, and he also effectively countered Gassiev, often beating him to the punch with a shockingly fast lead left. Lebedev’s movement was also remarkable. Ducking and slipping under Gassiev’s right, Lebedev was smooth and poised on his feet, even elegant at times.
Nonetheless, the challenger’s activity and varied attack, especially in the fourth, put him ahead, in my view, but the rounds were very close. Gassiev was always coming forward and always jabbing, while Lebedev was countering and fighting off the back foot. It is natural, in such a fight, to assume that the walking-forward fighter is winning the round. I think we saw this phenomenon in the Kovalev-Ward fight as well. That said, I had Gassiev up three rounds to one, after the fourth. In the fifth, the challenger caught Lebedev with a stunning, flush left hook to the liver, scoring an immediate knock down. The champion recovered quickly and thereafter kept his elbows close to his body, not wanting Gassiev to score there again.
Despite his continued aggressiveness, Gassiev was not able to break down Lebedev’s defense in any meaningful way during the middle rounds of the fight, but neither did Lebedev ever put Gassiev in much trouble. I felt the later rounds of the fight, however, should have gone to the champion. The young challenger started to lose steam, with Lebedev deciding to walk through a lot of shots to score his own combinations. Abel Sanchez could be heard in the corner after round ten, essentially telling Gassiev to move after throwing and not let Lebedev score so easily. In the eleventh and twelfth, Gassiev still came forward but could not cut off the ring, allowing Lebedev to score against a target that was consistently right in front of him.
At the final bell, Gassiev did not have the expression or body language of a fighter who thought he had won. It took an inordinate amount of time to get the score cards, but the challenger squeaked out the win by split decision (113-114, 116-112, 116-111). A very tough fight to score, and I can see two of those cards as reasonable, but the five-point spread was too wide. In a bout this close, that one liver shot in the fifth was probably the difference. Denis Lebedev fought a brave, smart and gutsy twelve rounds, but he lost his belt on one defensive lapse.
Tony Bellew Vs Ilunga Makabu – Fight Report
Jordan Seward reports ringside at Goodison Park
Tony Bellew (27-2-1)17ko turned his dream into a reality by knocking out Ilunga Makabu (19-2)18ko in three rounds to capture the WBC World Cruiserweight title.
After two failed attempts at a world title it was third time lucky for the Everton man, but it could have been all so different. The Bomber had to rise off the canvas like a true champ, Rocky Balboa esque if it were, after a heavy knockdown in the first round.
As Everton FC echoed around the ground the two engaged, sizing each other up. Bellew marched onto the front foot with the fans urging him on. The 33-year-old was noticeably the bigger man and had Makabu tied up on the ropes early on in the first, switching from upstairs to down at will. Then, the noise came to a sudden halt. The man from the Democratic Republic of Congo silenced the arena as he landed one single left, flush on the chin which sent Bellew rolling over. The home crowd were stunned, but their man dragged himself up off the deck to beat the eight count.
Bellew came into the second round tentative, even a jab seemed to wobble his legs. As the round went on he came into it more, edging forward and had Makabu on the ropes again landing right hooks to the head and lefts to the body. In the third round the Bomber showed his own power, backing Makabu up with a left hook. He had his man on the ropes and was patient, picking each shot carefully.
Makabu was well out of his comfort zone and looked like a sitting duck, but replied with a solid looking left of his own. The 33-year-old walked through it and landed a left to the body sending his opponent back to the ropes again. The initial left hook had rocked him. An uppercut, a chopping left and a couple of right hooks later, Makabu was out cold. Only the ropes held up his sagging body as the referee waved it off.
Tony Bellew sank to his knees in celebration, he done it, a world title in his home city. It wasn’t quite the script he had planned for sure, it was more like a Sylvester Stallone one in truth, but nonetheless the result was the same. The win ended Makabu’s 19 fight win run and is Bellew’s seventh win out of seven fights since moving up to Cruiserweight.
After the fight the new WBC World Champion said “This was a terrible camp, I had no idea how I was going to beat Makabu. But there is not a man on this planet that want’s it more than me and I scare myself, the lengths I’m willing to go, I was willing to die tonight. There was no way I was losing at Goodison Park; my career would have been over.
“When I went down I wasn’t hurt, but he broke my nose immediately and he punches like a truck believe me, but there is so much punishment I can take and give at Cruiserweight. Losing was not an option, it didn’t go according to plan but everything I have ever dreamed of came true and I cannot believe it. I am the best Cruiserweight in the world and now I want Denis Lebedev and I want to unify the division before the end of the year”.
By Johnny Walker
Russia’s Denis Lebedev knocked out challenger Shawn Cox today in the second round to retain his interim WBA cruiserweight world title at Crocus City Hall, Myakinino, Russia.
Lebedev (24-1, 18 KOs) was caught early in round one by a left cross to the chin from the big-punching fighter from Barbados. The Russian was knocked back on his heels, but recovered well and fought back strongly to even up the round.
That was pretty much it for Cox (16-2, 15 KOs), who was completely outclassed by Lebedev in round two, with the Russian scoring almost at will.
A hard left cross to the chin ended this battle of southpaws at 2:40 of round two, with referee Giuseppe Quartarone counting Cox out.