UFC Fight Night 149: Oleynik vs Overeem in St. Petersburg, Russia
By: Jesse Donathan
“If he dies, he dies.” These are the haunting words of Ivan Drago from Rocky IV and the classic image of how Russian fighters are still portrayed in the United States today. Ruthless, formidable opponents who represent a direct threat to the western way of life. And just like on the big screen, Russian fighters are on the cusp of making big waves in the arena of combat sports in real life. Enter UFC Fight Night 149 which goes down Saturday night, April 20, 2019 at the Yubileyny Sports Complex in St. Petersburg, Russia on ESPN +. The headlining event will feature two longtime mixed martial arts veterans pitted against one another in 41-year old Moscow native Alexey Oleynik (57-11-1) versus the 38-year old Dutchmen Alistair Overeem (44-17).
Alexey “The Boa Constrictor” Oleynik is a very dangerous man. A heavyweight with an impressive arsenal of submission hold victories, Oleynik has the skillset to submit opponents from a variety of different positions including his back where fighters are often considered to be at their most vulnerable. Oleynik is a seasoned, crafty veteran who has been in the cage with some of the worlds best stand up fighters, feared strikers who are respected the world over for their particular brand of violence and Oleynik has come out on top against virtually all of them including former K-1 kickboxing and mixed martial arts legends Mark Hunt and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic.
And with a submission victory over the likes of the great Jeff Monson, a two-time ADCC Submission Wrestling World Champion, Alexey Oleynik is a fighter who has been there and done that. Having defeated some of the worlds best grappling and striking experts in the field of mixed martial arts sporting competition. Oleynik is a true mixed martial artist with a wealth of experience against the very best the sport has to offer across a variety of disciplines.
Alistair “The Demolition Man” Overeem is a fighter who possesses the ability to defeat virtually anyone on the planet on any given night. Not someone you want to tangle with, Overeem is a dynamic striker who at various points in his career has looked virtually unstoppable against a deaths row of striking experts. A popular and controversial fighter, Overeem once failed a performance enhancing drug test with an eye popping 14:1 testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio.
To put that into perspective, in an April 5, 2012 mmafighting.com article titled “Alistair Overeem’s T/E Ratio was 14:1 in Failed PED Test” author Mike Chiapetta writes, “The average male produces a T/E ratio around 1:1. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) uses a 4:1 standard for positive tests, and the NSAC uses a 6:1 as its cutoff.”
Overeem is a former K-1 World Grand Prix Champion, an elite mixed martial artist who is also the former Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion and interim DREAM Heavyweight Champion who has went on to smash some of the biggest names in the sport today including Mark Hunt, Junior Dos Santos and even WWE superstar Brock Lesnar. If you’re a fan of strikers who look for the finish, Alistair Overeem is a fighter whose record is littered with a trail of unconscious bodies in its wake. On any given night, against any fighter on the planet Alistair Overeem possesses the ability to defeat him in convincing, devastating fashion.
While enjoying a reputation as a feared striker, Overeem is also a crafty submission artist in his own right with a legendary guillotine choke that can easily introduce his opponents to the sandman if they are not prepared to deal with the tricks the seasoned veteran has up his sleeve. Unfortunately for Overeem, in what comes with the territory when you live and die by the sword, “The Demolition Man” is susceptible to being stopped by strikes to those crafty enough to exploit the holes in the veteran mixed martial artists game.
On paper, this is a classic striker versus grappler matchup. Though this is mixed martial arts and anything can happen, the keys to victory for each fighter are relatively clear cut and dry. By looking at their respective records alone it is clear that Oleynik is going to want to take this fight to the mat where he can utilize his submission grappling ability to put Overeem in a compromising position. Unfortunately for Oleynik, he is going to have to close the distance with Overeem in order to drag the Dutchmen to the canvas. Which is going to put “The Boa Constrictor” in striking range with the former K-1 champion though it isn’t like Oleynik hasn’t been here before.
It will be essential for the Russian to keep his hands up, conscious of his own head position as he looks to bring Alistair to the mat for fear of being caught in the Dutchmen’s own web of sticky submission techniques. The good news is that it won’t be hard to find Overeem in the cage, but the bad news is Oleynik is going to have to weather the storm from a straight up killer in order to make it a grappling contest.
Conversely, “The Demolition Man” should avoid going to the ground with Oleynik at all costs, keeping the Russian at the end of his punches, kicks and knee’s. Overeem is going to need to conduct a symphony of destruction while conscious of closing the distance with the Russian submission ace. Overeem needs to be an athletic, dynamic and mobile striker who makes his opponent pay for coming into striking range while maintaining sufficient enough range to minimize Oleynik’s grappling based offensive attack.
There are no mysteries in this fight, the only unknowns are which fighter is going to be able to impose his will over the other first. This is a fight where fighter IQ and the better game plan will mean the difference between victory and defeat. “The Boa Constrictor” will either catch Overeem in an ambush like assault or “The Demolition Man” is going to blow Oleynik right out of the water in a classic grappler versus striker matchup that will only continue to fuel the debate on which style of fighting is best.
A Crossroads Fight For Crawford and Khan
By: Oliver McManus
In less than 48 hours time Madison Square Garden will play host to the latest “super-fight” to grace the extravagant parlour synonymous with glamour boxing. Super fight is, perhaps, a little generous for the billing of Terence Crawford vs Amir Khan. Certainly there is a distinct favourite with Crawford fetching odds anywhere between 1/12 and 1/25 (-1200 / -2500 for those in the States). Make no mistake, however, this is not a mismatch such as in Rocky Fielding’s audacious bid to retain his WBA ‘Regular’ belt against Canelo Alvarez – that was, as they say, “daring to be great”. Khan and Crawford have, to a relative extent, already proved their credentials.
This will not be an analytical breakdown of how the contest may go, nor glossing over the legacies that either fighter has carved out for themselves. Indeed there’s plenty of pre-existing works out there – No Filter Boxing by BT Sport, a sterling example. Rather these are just my musings, splattered onto the internet.
Crawford for me is one of the most criminally underrated boxers of the current generation. It seems a lifetime ago that he was back campaigning at lightweight – a division in which he claimed the WBO belt, initially, with a win over Ricky Burns. To think that was five years ago just boggles the brain but since then he’s claimed world titles at super lightweight and, his current division, welterweight. Of course he’s benefited from the WBO’s position on “super mandatories”, securing him an instant world title shot in each new division, but he’s still had to win the titles.
Not once could you say he’s struggled, either, certainly not when becoming undisputed with a resounding knockout victory over Julius Indongo. Materialistically that was the biggest fight of his career but, of course, Indongo was a flash in the pan when it came to his success. It’s safe to say that Omaha resident has never shied from a challenge but Amir Khan should be his stiffest opponent of his brief spell at welterweight and, arguably, since Viktor Postol in July 2016.
The question of Crawford’s position on the pound for pound list is a topic that is, rightly, hotly contested. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to have him poised at the top, given how untouchable he has looked throughout three weight divisions but, then, the same could be said for Naoya Inoue. It comes down to who he’s faced and Crawford’s resumé just doesn’t carry the same heft as that of Canelo, Vasyl Lomachenko or Oleksandr Usyk.
There are plenty of exciting fights available around the 147lb division and even a fight with, an ageing, Manny Pacquiao would be an intriguing contest. Throw in Errol Spence, Mikey Garcia and the crop that ESPN are starting to bring through – Egidijus Kavaliauskas and Kudratillo Abdukakhorov – and suddenly a pathway becomes clear.
Khan, for all his flaws, never seems to get the credit he deserves. The domestic media coverage of this contest has been notable by its absence with Matchroom Boxing, the official co-promoters for the show, seemingly flogging Khan as a dead-horse back to the American market. The ongoing “now or never” saga with the Kell Brook fight brings inevitable frustration to any boxing fan but regardless of what either protagonist says, the fight will always be there as one final payday. How interested the viewing public will be is a different question altogether.
To an extent the level of scorn directed at Khan is understandable, for a plethora of reasons that all vary in relevance. Look at his actual boxing record and it’s hard to brush him aside as easily as some may wish – he has competed with success from lightweight to welterweight and jumped at the chance to topple Canelo Alvarez. Likewise with Crawford, his desire to prove himself as a potential hall-of-famer is unquestionable but Khan has actively pursued, and been involved in, these bouts with far more vigour.
The fact that he was caught short by Canelo, in resounding fashion, was an unfortunately abrupt ending to an otherwise competent boxing display in which he was more than holding his own. It’s fair to say Khan has never been outboxed by any of his opponents, never beaten for work-rate or stamina, but his four losses have came via a combination of defensive frailties and heavy hands from his opponents.
Living in a “Mayweather-era”, as it is colloquially dubbed, often proves a disservice to many fighters actually willing to take a risk. Look back throughout the decades and all the best fighters from Ali, Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard, have taken losses because the fear of taking a beating simply didn’t exist. Khan, in that respect, is a fighter from the history books and this fight against Crawford simply reiterates that.
It is, in all reality, his last chance at re-capturing a bona fide world title and I find it hard to ever do away with the chances of the Bolton-fighter as a result of his natural fighting ability that has earned him his stripes as an amateur professional. He made the more prosperous start to proceedings against Canelo and you’d favour him to do the same on Saturday but will he be able to sustain that pressure before Crawford figures him out?
Disregarded, almost, the point of derision. Amir Khan has got to go down as one of the best British fighters since the 1990s and I say that with gritted teeth for cannot claim to have ever warmed to him.
His latest challenge might well be one too many bites of the cherry but, equally, it could be the sweetest yet.
Broadway Boxing To Air Live On UFC Fight Pass
By: Sean Crose
The subscription service known as UFC Fight Pass has officially made a deal with DiBella Entertainment, and, in particular, that entities’ Broadway Boxing program. “On Wednesday, April 10, at 8:00 ET / 5:00 PM PT,” a press release reads, “UFC FIGHT PASS will exclusively live stream the Broadway Boxing event from Times Square’s Sony Hall in New York City. Ukrainian welterweight contender Ivan “The Volk” Golub (15-1, 12 KOs) will headline the event defending his WBC USNBC title in a scheduled 10-round bout.”
Veteran fight promoter, and DiBella Entertainment head, Lou DiBella, made it clear that he was quite happy with the partnership with UFC Fight Pass. “DiBella Entertainment is thrilled that this Broadway Boxing will be streamed on UFC Fight Pass, the premier streaming service for MMA and combat sports,” he said. “UFC Fight Pass’ commitment to offer first class boxing to its subscribers is great news for fight fans. We believe that this is the beginning of an exciting and creative collaboration.”
DiBella also had good things to say about Broadway Boxing’s maiden voyage on the streaming service. “April 10th’s card at Sony Hall is representative of what has made Broadway Boxing the longest running and most highly regarded grassroots boxing series in America,” he said. “”It features top welterweight contender Ivan Golub, who should be undefeated, as he continues to fight his way toward a world title, dynamic world champion Alicia ‘The Empress’ Napoleon, in a nontitle fight, and the ‘Big Uzbek’, Bakhodir Jalolov, who we believe is the scariest young heavyweight in the world and a future world champion. Former amateur stars Hurshidbek ‘Hershey’ Normatov, Joe Williams, Brian Ceballo and Khalid Twaiti round out the card in competitive bouts.”
Golub, who fights out of Brooklyn, has scored two huge knock wins on Showtime’s esteemed Shobox program. He also won the WBC’s United States’ Welterweight Title by besting Lanardo Tyner by unanimous decision last August. He’ll be defending that title against the 11-4-1 Californian, Manuel Alejandro “El Chino” Reyes. Reyes had won eight straight before dropping a unanimous decision to Mykal Fox in an attempt to win the vacant United Boxing Federation All America Welterweight Title last November.
For fifteen years, Broadway Boxing has been one of the longest airing staples of the fight game, focused on introducing up and coming fighters to the New York scene beyond. UFC Fight Pass has been streaming fights for the Ultimate Fighting Championship since 2013, airing content from the world of MMA as well as other combat sports.
Book Review: The Fight by Norman Mailer
By: Stephanie Kent
In The Fight, we follow Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Norman Mailer during the suspenseful weeks leading up to 1974’s “Rumble in the Jungle” matchup between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. Even the most casual of fight fans are familiar with the historic bout, but Mailer unveils a behind-the-scenes story that’ll have readers convinced the fight could go either way by the time the heavyweights step into the ring.
The Fight begins with an ode-like chapter on Muhammad Ali, and what it’s like to behold him in person as he trains. From the start, the book paints a picture of a frustrated Ali, bored with training, lacking his usual luster. Held up beside 25-year-old champion George Foreman’s camp, the Louisville Lip immediately assumes the role of underdog in this telling.
Mailer writes about himself as a central figure in The Fight. The character Norman is respected by both fighters; by Ali who fancies himself a poet, and Foreman, who’s rumored to be working on a debut book himself. As a member of the press corps, he gains incredible access to the athletes. In one epic chapter, Mailer joins Ali for a run, surprised at the easy pace and short length of the roadwork (the ageing, hungover Mailer even manages to keep up for the first half!). Mailer uses this insider access to look at the fighters — their sparring sessions, their apparent strategies, even their confidence levels — side by side. All signs point to defeat for Ali.
The play-by-play of the fight is the most exciting chapter in the book. After a hundred pages detailing sparring, mindset, and training regimens, Mailer watches in awe Ali’s audacity to throw lead right hands in the early rounds. He marvels at the rope-a-dope, and shares the crowd’s mania when Foreman hits the canvas in the eighth round. These pages are some of the best boxing writing in history.
Reading The Fight in 2019 (which was first published in 1975) is both joyful and challenging. In our era of too many belts, professional boxing is reckoning with itself; it’s thrilling to read of a time when the whole world would stop to watch a boxing match. On the contrary, much of the prose feels dated in 2019. It’s impossible to write of 1970’s Kinasha an the fight itself without writing of race, but Mailer writes it in big, broad strokes that resonate naive at best and offensive at worst in the current social climate.
Most who pick up The Fight already know how that it ends with a victorious Muhammad Ali. The gain in reading it in the twenty-first century doesn’t come from the suspenseful telling, or the lesser-known encounters Norman Mailer had during his time in Zaire. The Rumble in the Jungle had all the makings of an incredible tale: a fallen hero, over-the-top sidekicks, adoring fans with a catchy war cry (Ali, bomaye!). As such, it’s worthwhile to revisit this myth-like boxing story, an enduring one that’s thrilling to consume forty years later and paints a picture of what boxing might once again become.
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2018 Fight of the Year – Kosei Tanaka MD12 Sho Kimura
By: Jake Donovan
From early in his career, Japan’s Kosei Tanaka was mentioned in the same breath as countrymen Kazuto Ioka and Naoya Inoue as the type of prodigious talent who warrants your undivided attention whenever he steps into the ring.
A mere 12 fights and three division titles into his career, the 23-year old from Nagoya has not only lived up to the billing but doing so while twice entering the record books. The latter entry—a 12-round majority decision victory over Sho Kimura to win the flyweight title last September—gets to make the rounds as the BoxingInsider.com 2018 Fight of the Year.
Tanaka (12-0, 7KOs) knew better than to expect a clear and easy path to his third major title in as many weight classes. A war with then unbeaten 18-0 Ryuji Hara in just his 4th pro fight was designed to brace the Nagoya-bred boxer for a historic run. His very next fight was a 12-round win over Julian Yedras to win the strawweight title in just his 5th pro fight, surpassing Inoue (six fights) and Ioka (seven) as the quickest in Japan’s history.
By the time he was lined up to face Kimura, he’d already claimed titles in two weight classes and survived the scariest moments of his career. Tanaka—just four months removed from turning back the challenge of then-unbeaten Angel Acosta—twice came off the deck to eventually stop Thailand’s Palangpol CP Freshmart in the 9th round of their Sept. ’17 war, vacating his junior flyweight title soon thereafter.
A win over countryman Kimura would give Tanaka yet another record-breaking achievement, joining Vasiliy Lomachenko in becoming the quickest in boxing history to win titles in three weight divisions. Lomachenko’s off-the-canvas stoppage win of Jorge Linares last May put the Ukrainian wunderkind in the annals of boxing history.
On the surface, Tanaka’s task seemed slightly less daunting. In countryman Kimura, he faced a defending flyweight titlist who was knocked out barely a minute into his pro debut before going unbeaten in his next 20 starts.
Among the lot was a rousing 10th round stoppage of Shiming Zou, a three-time Olympic medalist from China who was also fast tracked to the title stage. Kimura’s win at the time was considered a major upset, although his title reign has proven that the feat was no fluke.
Ironically, no greater proof came than in the 12 rounds of war he was willing to storm through versus Tanaka in his damnest effort to retain his title. The bout was Kimura’s third attempted title defense, having scored stoppage wins over former lineal champ Toshiyuki Igarashi and formidable contender Froilan Saludar leading into the September affair.
Tanaka initiated a slugfest from the start, scoring a barrage of body shots and right uppercuts in hopes of wearing down the defending titlist. There would be no such luck, as Kimura came roaring back after the first two rounds to launch a body attack of his own.
The tactic prompted Tanaka to slightly switch gears, doing his best to create some distance between the two whereas Kimura was determined to force an inside brawl. Both would ultimately have their way, with momentum swaying almost as often as punches were flying.
By the time the epic title fight reached the championship rounds, Kimura’s eyes were nearly swollen shut while Tanaka supported a mouse under his right eye. One last blitz from the challenger seemingly put the fight out of reach, but Kimura wasn’t quite ready to concede his crown.
The 12th round was nothing short of breathtaking, a slam dunk choice for Round of the Year up until Tyson Fury’s inexplicable rise from the canvas after what should’ve been a knockout blow delivered by Deontay Wilder in their heavyweight battle last December in Los Angeles.
Equally as stunning was Kimura’s ability to punch non-stop in the final round of his last fight as a defending titlist. Both boxers were dog tired by the time they touched gloves to start the 12th, but it was Kimura who initiated the action throughout the stanza. Tanaka seemed reserve to return fire only when necessary, but was forced to dig deep to find his own second wind when it was clear that the champ wasn’t about to ease off the gas.
Kimura was fighting on pure will, at one point even punching himself into a circle following a wild swing and a miss. Embodying their spirited affair was a sequence where the two simultaneously threw and landed right hand shots on three straight exchanges.
The final bell came with a two-way sigh of relief and a hearty embrace between the two warriors at ring’s center, where nearly all of the action took place with barely a clinch along the way. Judge Don Trella was stumped to declare a winner, his 114-114 card trumped by that of scores of 116-112 and 115-113 in favor of Tanaka.
With the win, Tanaka joined Lomachenko as the quickest in history to become a three-division champion. At 23 years of age, he was the third youngest ever to do so, right behind Tony Canzoneri and Wilfred Benitez.
Lomachenko led arguably the greatest amateur career ever while considered by many as pound-for-pound the best boxer in the world today. Canzoneri and Benitez have long ago gained enshrinement in the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
That’s already some incredible company for Tanaka to serve alongside, in addition to career-long comparisons to countrymen Inoue and Ioka, both of whom became three-division titlists a little bit deeper into their respective careers.
On September 24, he enjoyed some incredible in-ring company with Kimura—a historic night properly recognized by BoxingInsider.com as 2018 Fight of the Year.
Six of the Best – Unofficial FOTY 2018 Candidates
By: Ste Rowen
Isn’t it funny how quick the year goes when it’s packed with fights the fans want to see? Though with a few exceptions, the best have fought the best, therefore 2018 is wide open for fight of the year. Here we run through just six of the potential winners, starting with…
1. Murat Gassiev vs. Yunier Dorticos – February
It was arguably the most exciting World Boxing Super Series semi-final to call. Gassiev had cut down veteran, Wlodarczyk whilst Dorticos had vanquished the much feared, Kudryashov in the quarters.
The Cuban boxed brilliantly through the first half of the fight, testing the iron chin of Murat multiple times, but Gassiev remained stable where his fellow Russian, Kudryashov, had come apart. Having regained earlier lost rounds, the Russian began to overcome Dorticos’ best moves, which forced Yunier to put it all on the line in search of a knockout, which in turn led to the openings.
In the final round the IBF champ proved his quality, firstly with a perfect left-hook counter that sent Yunier down; then the second knock down with 60 seconds to go and finishing him off with a final 30-second assault that sent the Cuban through the ropes, and Gassiev into the WBSS final.
2. Sor Rungvisai vs. Juan Estrada – February
February gave us another FOTY candidate as WBC super-flyweight champion, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai took on Juan Francisco Estrada on ‘Superfly 2’ in Inglewood, California. In his first fight after dispatching of legend, Roman Gonzalez for the second time, Thailand native, Srisaket came out swinging in his usual rough and ready style whilst Mexican, Estrada went in search of neat openings. Within two minutes of the 12 rounds, a brawl had broken out in the ring.
The action was uncompromising as the two superfly warriors failed to let up for almost all of the 36 minutes they were in the ring. Much like GGG/Canelo 2 (we’ll get to that), Rungvisai and Juan Francisco were at times, able to punish the other, but unable to drop their foe. The action was non-stop throughout, but the Mexican threw much more than he landed in the final three rounds, although the final 60 seconds of the 12th is awards worthy on its own.
It all led to a majority decision in favour of champion, Sor Rungvisai. It’s probably a result of this bout that both boxers have taken two relative walk-over fights to end the year and hopefully setup a rematch for 2019.
3. Deontay Wilder vs. Luis Ortiz – March
One of the biggest criticisms labelled at WBC champion, Deontay Wilder is that his reign as champion has lacked named fighters, or dangerous opposition, then along came Luis, the supposed bogeyman of the heavyweight division, and the ‘Bronze Bomber’ showed the world his best to let everyone know he wasn’t just here to take part.
Ortiz proved he wasn’t all hype in the early rounds as he landed numerous counters and not even a slip could deter him from attacking. At the end of the 5th, despite being on the back-foot, Deontay wobbled and eventually dropped his Cuban foe with a pin-point right hook, that halted the momentum Ortiz had built up. Towards the end of seven, Ortiz landed simultaneous shots that forced the American to lean heavily and nullify his opponent’s onslaught, rather than execute his own.
The WBC champ somehow survived Luis’ blitz for another two rounds before a knockdown and finish in the 10th. The first was sloppy, and more of a push, but the conclusion was conclusive as the ‘Bomber’ just unleashed hook after unanswered hook before the Cuban eventually fell.
4. Jorge Linares vs. Vasyl Lomachenko – May
It started beautifully and ended brutally. With the WBA & Ring Magazine titles on the line, in his first fight at lightweight, Lomachenko looked to dethrone the Venezuelan in Jorge’s 5th defence of the title.
The Ukrainian enigma in Vasyl undoubtedly overtook the early to middle rounds of the fight. Linares was probably coming up against the only boxer who could outdo him for style. The sheer speed of the fight proved difficult even for the most hardened of boxing fans to keep up with.
Though Loma was on top, in the 6th Jorge hit his opponent with a flash knockdown that briefly turned the tied of the bout. Vasyl regained his momentum and eventually got the champion out there, before the final bell with a cruel body shot in round 10, to finish an early candidate for fight of the year.
5. Alex Saucedo vs. Lenny Zappavigna – June
A world title eliminator that became a classic. Alex Saucedo and Lenny Zappavigna went to war immediately. ‘Zappa’ seemed to have the speed whilst Saucedo of Mexico had the thudding accuracy. Not even the greatest boxing writers can do the action justice from round 2 to 5.
Whilst on the offense in the third, Lenny was dropped by a swift hook to hit the canvas for the first time. Testament to the Australian for not only surviving the round but also firing back with fearsome intent.
And then the 4th happened, a full two minutes where it felt like Lenny started and didn’t stop throwing up until the bell rang for the end of the round. It was Saucedo surviving this time, but survive he did, flicking a switch to steadily dominant proceedings into the 7th where the opposition corner threw in the towel to end their fighter’s ordeal.
6. Gennady Golovkin vs. Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez 2 – September
What more can be said about the repeat of Golovkin and Canelo’s 2017 Fight of the Year contender, this time with added needle – not that it needed it – due to Alvarez’s failed drug test at the end of last year.
It was a sensational 12-round back and forth. Both fighters pushed themselves forward and both were forced back. The magnitude of the event was matched with the relentlessness of the action.
Who won? Well, unlike the first fight where it seemed most picked GGG, this time round it was a lot closer, but it was the Mexican who took the split decision in a fight that had almost everything.
So there is, this writer’s, top six fights of the year. Special shout outs to Sho Kimura vs. Konsei Tanaka and Dereck Chisora vs. Carlos Takam that just missed out on this list, but don’t worry, FOTY is essentially meaningless in the grand scheme of things.
Just go watch them again to really appreciate your favorite fights of 2018.
Conflict of Interest: Impropriety in Combat Sports
By: Jesse Donathan
“You can’t hide your lyin’ eyes
And your smile is a thin disguise
I thought by now you’d realize
There ain’t no way to hide your lyin’ eyes” – Lying Eyes, The Eagles.
In perhaps one of the most widely disputed judge’s decisions in recent boxing history, the Tyson Fury vs Deontay Wilder twelve round show down for Wilder’s World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight championship of the world was officially ruled a split draw by the three judges ringside. With the final scores of 115-111 (Wilder), 114-110 (Fury) and 113-113 being the final tally in a widely controversial decision that will be the subject of debate for years to come. The real winner of the Fury vs Wilder fight was the casino of course, who managed to keep the bets placed on both Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder due to the judge’s controversial split draw ruling. With minimum payout to the certain minority with the foresight to see a potential draw occurring well before the final bell sounded, the inevitable question needs to be asked, what should be done to fix the widespread judging controversy in combat sports?
Boxing sage Teddy Atlas appeared on episode 1173 of the Joe Rogan Experience in September, 2018 and addressed the issue of infrastructure in boxing.
Boxing has no real accountability, no structure across the board, no, no real, you know, lateral structure and conformity. Nothing unilateral. Because you have different states that have different commissions and they’re supposed to be tied together but they all act differently. And there is no national commission, there’s no body, there’s no dictator, there’s no czar, there’s no NBA commissioner, there’s no NFL commissioner, there’s no MLB commissioner that overlooks and police’s the whole sport. And, there’s no separation of church and state so to speak, where the people making the money in the sport are separated, truly separated from the people supposedly administrating the sport. There’s no separation. They, I mean, promoters actually, that are making the money and have obviously a horse that is running in the game so speak that night, that they want that fighter to win, they pay the judges.
“At championship fights, promoters are required by sanctioning bodies to pay ring officials’ fee and expenses” writes Bill Brubaker in his 1993 Washington Post piece “Tokens of Appreciation Beg Question of Ethics.” This is the modern equivalent of stating the Ultimate Fighting Champion is required by the Nevada State Athletic Commission to pay the referee and judges fees and expenses to put this into perspective. And points to a synergetic effect where the church meets the state as Teddy Atlas described it as the various wheels of the machine are working together where there should be significant compartmentalization to protect the legitimacy of the sport from the perception of impropriety. “Is it a conflict of interest? No, I don’t think so,” said Jose Suleiman, World Boxing Council president” according to the 1993 Washington Post report.
Atlas would go on to say, “the alphabet organizations, they are corrupt. Um, they are. I mean, it’s not Teddy Atlas saying it, its everybody saying it.” Rogan, seemingly in agreement, quickly interjected, “There’s very few people who are going to say they are not corrupt.” Looking back, these words may seem prophetic to some but unfortunately express the frustration of a systemic problem plaguing combat sports for generations now. On the Fury vs Wilder judge’s decision, boxing icon and former heavyweight champion of the world George Forman is quoted as stating, “in my humble opinion, no one lost, no one won it was a draw. I’d love to see a rematch. I’d be a judge. The best judge money could buy.”
Legendary mixed martial arts referee Big John McCarthy is quoted as having stated on his podcast “Let’s Get It On!” concerning the topic of referee compensation, “but to sit there and say I would do it for free anyway… I probably would. Now I don’t want to tell a bunch of promoters that but I love the sport of MMA” according to a 2015 sportsjoe.ie article titled “Big John McCarthy reveals the ridiculously low sum he’s getting paid for refereeing McGregor vs Aldo” by sports writer Darragh Murphy. McCarthy went on to say, “as far as how much we make, they put it out there. Nevada pays more for a championship fight than any state pays any official so that $1,900 is the most you’re going to see. Thank you very much, Nevada. It’s very nice of you to give us that much. I appreciate it.” In reviewing the Washington State legislator’s website (http://apps.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=36-14-120), we find guidelines laid out in WAC 36-14-120 pertaining to the compensation of event officials by promoters. “The following minimum fees shall be paid by the promoter of the event to the event officials,” reads the first header on the state government website which is followed by a compensation evaluation chart.
Searching for more definitive answers on the matter of combat sport ring official compensation, we look to the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s website where a noticeably vague description of judicial compensation is revealed on subject.
1. A judge is not paid a salary or provided any benefits.
2. A judge is compensated at the conclusion of each event. The range of compensation varies depending on the particular contest.
3.There is no guaranty of a certain number of assignments or a specific amount of compensation in each fiscal year. Assignments to specific contests are at the discretion of the Executive Director and NSAC and are based on experience, recent performance, reliability, professionalism, and difficulty of assignment.
Of particular interest with the information the NSAC does provide; however, is the “recent performance” assessment of how the judge’s performed their duties at specific events. While the website does not explicitly state what constitutes a satisfactory performance, we do know that judges work off a set of criteria in order to score the performance of the combatants in the ring or cage. In an October 7, 2013 Fox Sports article “The Many Problems with MMA Judging,” written by former Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter Kenny Florian, we find that the judges score fights based on a specific set of evaluation tools known as “The 10-Point Must System,” which works off a specific set of in combat criteria including “clean strikes, effective grappling, Octagon control and effective aggressiveness.” Florian goes on to describe these and other judging criteria as a “tricky scoring system” and “a lot for judges to take in.”
While the judges are ultimately left holding the bag when the controversy erupts from their final scoring tallies, the subjective nature of their performance in relation to their compensation is ultimately based off their “experience” and “recent performance” evaluations by the Nevada State Athletic Commission themselves. Perhaps the obvious needs to be stated; the judge’s performance in evaluating fights is based off the judge’s experience working for their employers, and scoring fights how those who sign the paychecks feel the judges should be performing their duties and scoring fights. And therein lies the problem with judging the winners and losers of fights. While the public is viewing the fight through the lens of who clearly won the fight from a spectator and sporting etiquette perspective, the judges are scoring fights based off a specific criterion as prescribed to them by the commission. The two points of perspective should never be confused with one another, because one is centered around the concept of justice, right versus wrong, and the other is centered around satisfying the expectations of the employer, otherwise known as the commission or sanctioning body.
According to a 2017 mmamania.com article from Jesse Holland titled, “NSAC offers no comment on ‘theoretical conflict of interest’ after Fertitta employee joins athletic commission,” it was reported that Staci Alonso was appointed to the NSAC in December 2016. “Then came word that Alonso was the executive vice president at Station Casinos, which just so happens to be owned by Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, who sold Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) to WME | IMG for roughly $4 billion dollars.” Lorenzo Fertitta himself is a former member of the Nevada State Athletic Commission according to an August 8, 2012 Washington Post article titled, “Fertitta brothers turn Ultimate Fighting Championship into a Juggernaut” by Matthew G. Miller for an eye-opening revelation on the relationship between the casino, promoters and the commissions themselves.
A December 1, 2018 Forbes article by Peter Kahn titled “How to Bet Deontay Wilder Vs. Tyson Fury: Ultimate Bettor’s Guide and Latest Betting Odds” is quoted as stating:
At the time this article is published, according to the boxing odds at youwager.eu, Deontay Wilder is a -159 favorite and climbing to defend his title (wager $159 to win $100) while Tyson Fury is a +141 underdog (wager $100 to win $141) to dethrone the champion, Wilder. The betting story behind this fight has been early money coming in on Fury. This has created the value for Wilder leading up to fight day. Expect this line to move for Wilder and I wouldn’t be surprised if the closing line was closer to -175 by the time the bell for round one rings.
With Wilder being the casino’s favorite to win, the casino obviously stood to lose a great deal in the event of a Fury upset. There were certainly quite a few boxing pundits who viewed the odds on Deontay Wilder being the favorite to win as ultimately translating into the possibility of a Tyson Fury upset being an enticing proposition to roll the dice on. With the fight ruled a draw, the casino only paid out to those who bet on the unlikely event of a draw and kept the money from all other bidders. The winner of the bout wasn’t the competitors, and it certainly wasn’t the fans, but it can be safely said that the casino came out the best of them all with untold financial gains between the various betting houses.
Fixing the widespread controversy in combat sports will ultimately depend on shining a light on the issue and keeping it under constant surveillance while leaders in the industry like the Teddy Atlas’s of the world campaign to bring additional oversight and accountability to combat sports. When familiar and sympathetic faces are transitioning from commissioner to promoter, or casino and promoter to commissioner a theoretical conflict of interest may arise that simply refuses to die in the face of regular and overwhelming controversy. The question of what should be done to fix the widespread judging controversy in combat sports has a simple, yet complex answer; completely overhaul the system itself. A proposition easier said than done in the age of big money and lobbyist in the sports entertainment industry.
The Anatomy of the Fight Game
By: Jesse Donathan
“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done. Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hit, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you are because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that!” – Rocky Balboa
So, you want to change the world? First, you need to understand how the world actually works before you can attempt to change anything. For the long-time fight fans reading, you will already know that when you look up the definition of corruption in the text book, boxing and mixed martial arts are the first two examples that you are going to find cited. No, not really but I am not far from the truth either. When an unholy alliance between sporting competition, entertainment and the world of high stakes financial risk and reward come together corruption is the word resting on the lips of the weary. Welcome to the sports entertainment industry.
If you follow combat sports long enough, you are going to inevitably run across instances where a fight wasn’t refereed or judged in a manner you ultimately agree with. Often times fight fans will struggle to explain away these perceived injustices with statements like the referee is incompetent or wondering out loud to one’s self what fight the judges were actually watching. But what if incompetence, less than 20/20 vision or even stupidity have nothing to do with their controversial decisions? What if we are giving everyone involved too much credit? And their true motives and intentions are far more sinister than most realize?
Highlighted in the 2016 documentary “Dirty Games – The Dark Side of Sports” investigative journalist Benjamin Best interviews former Leon Spinks boxing manager Charles Farrell whom with great insight explains how the fight game actually works.
You fix fights to make betting money. You fix fights to get a fighter a championship. You fix fights to maneuver a fighter up the ranks toward a championship fight. You fix fights to win, in order, again, to position someone strategically. You fix fights to lose, in order to get paid and in order to make, you know, betting coups. The way you fix fights varies greatly. You fix fights by buying judges. That’s, you know that’s one of the easy ways to do it. You fix fights by having the referee working for you, so that, if there’s any way that the ref can stop a fight in your guy’s favor, he does. You fix fights by colluding with the fighters, generally the loser. Its almost always the loser. Winners almost never know the fight is fixed.
As an avid follower of combat sports for many years, the words of Charles Farrell are hauntingly familiar as an endless array of examples immediately come to mind matching the multitude of fight fixing examples cited. The insight into the combat sport method of operation is invaluable in evaluating modern day match making, the weaponization of oversight, controversial decisions both in and out of the ring and unfortunately, the very nature of the sports entertainment industry itself.
Farrell would go on to elaborate on the unspoken but widely understood language used in the fight industry to fix a fight.
One of the things you’re cognizant of when you are fixing fights is that you’re doing something illegal. Something that theoretically can wind you up, you know, wind you in jail and get people angry at you. So, you never really say anything. You know, nothing that’s culpable. So, there’s a code and if you’re in boxing for awhile you know the code. Everybody knows the code.
Just like the fans, the various promotions and organizations alike have their favorite fighters too. Whether its out of respect for their combat capabilities, financial incentive or marketability some fighters make more “cents” than others. Is it possible some fighters are protected while the lions are matched up together and killed off? Is it possible decisions are made based on financial incentive rather than proper sportsmanship etiquette? The answer to that question would ultimately reflect whether or not there was any plausibility to the idea these combat sports entertainment industry bodies employ a particular strategy, road map or bias in their everyday operations or whether they operate with a strict set of criteria with only the best of intentions.
As Farrell goes on to explain, there isn’t a level in the combat sports entertainment industry that isn’t potentially on the take or in on the fix. Even the loser of the fight is potentially the key to it all.
You will go into a gym where there is either a trainer or a manager and you are looking for somebody your guy can beat. This is how these guys make their money, and its interesting that people who lose in boxing generally speaking, if they’re professional losers they can make more money than the winners. Winning costs money, losing makes money. That’s not true obviously at an elite level, but in almost every other level, it’s the case.
It occurs to me that in order to have a professional loser, the loser must also maintain a high enough profile in the victory department to be of satisfactory use when the time comes to lose and lose big. This could easily mean some of the sports biggest stars are in fact professional losers, coddled by various levels of the sports entertainment industry and strategically used when the time is right in order to achieve the maximum desired effect. Some of these fighters are likely useful idiots, unknowingly filling the role of superstar while in fact being food for the true lions. Others know exactly what they are doing.
Finally, Farrell reveals how the fix is ultimately signed, sealed and delivered. It reads like something straight out of a mafia flick.
So what you do is you say I’ve got a guy and he is “looking for work.” Looking for work is the first. Okay, so, it means that he needs to win. You know, and you want to keep him busy. The response to that is I’ve got somebody. And generally, the second phase is “but he hasn’t been in the gym too much.” Okay, so the subtext there is he is not in good shape, and, so you’re honing in on where this thing is gonna go and you say that’s okay, I’d like a guy to get in a few rounds. That means its going to be a knockout. At which point he goes, “well, you know, okay, I can do that, but really my guy isn’t in shape to go more than three or four. That’s okay.” So, you’ve just fixed the fight.
Now that you know how the world works, how do you plan to change it? If you plan to forget about it and move on to the next page perhaps it never really was that big of a deal to begin with. But if you do think it’s a big enough problem that warrants a solution the only real answer is to put a spot light on the issue and demand additional accountability and oversight. Do not take your foot off the pedal, there are no brakes! Ambassadors need to step forward and the message needs to be made clear. No justice, no peace! The next time you see a controversial decision, whether it be from a lone wolf judge’s score card or a questionable decision made by a seemingly incompetent referee keep in mind that not everything is the result of simple mistakes, stupidity or even watching the wrong fight entirely. There is big money to be made in the fight business and only the naïve believe moral and ethical behavior come before profit in the sports entertainment industry.
Follow Jesse on Twitter @donathan_jesse.
Artur Beterbiev vs. Joe Smith Jr. Title Fight Targeted For December
By Jake Donovan
The biggest knock on Artur Beterbiev in recent years has been his criminally infrequent fight schedule. His team has taken note and is now making up for lost time.
The unbeaten light heavyweight titlist from Canada by way of Russia will make the second defense of his title in late December, in a development first reported by RDS Canada. Beterbiev’s promoter, Yvon Michel has revealed the defense will come versus New York’s Joe Smith, landing on either December 15 in New York City or December 22 in Atlantic City.
Several moving parts will dictate when exactly the 33-year old knockout will next fight. The good news is that either date puts Beterbiev (13-0, 13KOs) back in the ring less than three months after his most recent start, a 4th round knockout of Callum Johnson on October 6 in Chicago, Ill.
Photo Credit: Artur Beterbiev Twitter Account
“It is almost certain that Artur will fight against Joe Smith,” Michel told RDS CA on Monday. “What is less certain is (the exact date). One thing is for sure; (Beterbiev’s) next fight will take place in 2018.”
Sports streaming app DAZN USA will carry the event, regardless. Whether it’s on December 15 or December 22 depends almost entirely on the streaming service securing the rights to the December 15 showdown between secondary super middleweight titlist Rocky Fielding and reigning World middleweight champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.
A press conference to formally announce the event—which will take place at Madison Square Garden in NYC—will be held on Wednesday in NYC. It has been widely speculated that DAZN will win the sweepstakes, although HBO—with whom Alvarez enjoyed an exclusive contact since 2014, but is now exiting the boxing business—very much remains a contender, in what could be (through its Pay-Per-View arm) its final boxing broadcast of a storied 45-year run as the industry leader.
Should DAZN win the sweepstakes, Beterbiev’s title defense will land as the chief support. Otherwise, he will headline a separate card in Atlantic City. Either scenario will mark the East Coast debut for the hard-hitting light heavyweight, who earlier this month traded knockdowns with Johnson before putting away the previously unbeaten Brit in a bout that served on the stateside debut of DAZN USA’s boxing series.
The win was Beterbiev’s first piece of ring action since a 12th round stoppage of Enrico Koelling last November in Fresno, California. He hadn’t fought in 11 months prior to that bout, having boxed just twice in each of the prior two years (2015 and 2016).
It’s been a frustrating past few years for the former amateur standout and two-time Russian Olympian, but an alignment with promoter Eddie Hearn—DAZN’s primary content provider—is already promising better days ahead.
“Artur Beterbiev (versus) Joe Smith Jnr for the IBF World title done for DAZN USA in December,” Hearn announced via his verified social media account on Monday. “(It’s) going to be a WAR! Date and venue announced very soon!”
Meanwhile, news of the title shot is still resonating with Smith since he was already training for another heavily rumored opportunity.
The full-time union worker and top-rated light heavyweight contender from Eastern Long Island was previously linked to a November 24 title challenge versus unbeaten Dmitry Bivol. That bout was due to headline on HBO, but is now just left as Bivol headlining the show although former champ Jean Pascal has since been suggested as the new opponent.
Regardless, it remains the first career title fight for Smith Jr. (24-2, 20KOs), who is best known in boxing circles for his knockout win over future Hall of Famer and retiring former two-division champ Bernard Hopkins in Dec. ’16. The feat came six months after he scored a shocking 1st round knockout of then top-rated contender Andrzej Fonfara, in a bout which aired live on free-to-air NBC in primetime.
The win over Hopkins was the first of two HBO appearances for Smith Jr., who seven months later returned to the network in a 10-round loss to perennial top contender Sullivan Barrera. The setback was not without its moral victory, as the now 29-year old New Yorker was celebrated for having fought through a broken Jaw for most of the fight.
Just one fight has since come from the healing process, a rust-shaking 1st round knockout of Melvin Russell this past June in Uncasville, Conn. It was enough to put him back in the title mix, not having to wait very long – or wasting any time in preparing for the life-changing opportunity.
“All I can tell you is that Joe Smith is training very hard,” Phil Capobianco, Smith’s manager told BoxingInsider.com on Monday. “He will definitely fight (for the title) before the end of the year.”
Vargas vs. Dulorme Post Fight Press Conference Quotes
In a night full of knockdowns from Chicago’s Wintrust Arena, Jessie Vargas and Thomas Dulorme fought to a majority draw after twelve rounds of back-and-forth action on Saturday night. DAZN’s first-ever boxing card from the U.S. also featured stoppages by Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller, IBF Light Heavyweight Titlist Artur Beterbiev and WBA Super Bantamweight Titlist Daniel Roman, as well as Jessica McCaskill capturing the WBC Female Super Lightweight belt.
Post-fight ringside and press conference quotes, as well as the main card’s results are below.
On the fight overall: “He was better than I expected. All credit to him – he’s a very good fighter. He comes and gives it his all in each and every fight. Unfortunately we went in with a draw. I was looking forward to the victory.”
On his 12th round knockdown by Dulorme: “It really caught me by surprise, I’m not going to lie. I was really confident in the 12th round, thought I had everything in control. I started with a punch and then I went on the attack, I saw him coming, backed up, he caught me with the punch and I was knocked down.”
On the two cuts over his eye: “I’m scarred for life, but it comes with the territory. I don’t complain. It was a couple head butts, and I knew he was going to do that frequently, unfortunately it did happen and there was nothing I could do to avoid it.”
On how he feels on this draw vs. the Broner draw: “This one was a good fight. The fans liked it. The last one brings a sour taste. This one I felt like I had the edge but I can’t complain about the draw. If that’s what the judges saw, all I can do it respect it.”
On his next fight: “I’m going to leave that up to my promoter Eddie Hearn and my advisors. Whatever they say goes. I’m looking forward to coming back real soon, but for now, it’s back to the drawing board.”
On his TKO win: “I noticed that my size in coming forward, he missed a couple shots and he was winded from just missing. And so I know he knows I’m this big guy, I’m not going to be a sitting target, I’m going to keep coming forward. Have fun, that was it, go to the body, and mix up the middle a little bit.”
On a potential fight against Anthony Joshua: “When it comes to boxing, there’s boxing and trying to maneuver. Eddie Hearn is still keeping him away from me right now, but I think the AJ fight is going to come through sooner rather than later. It’s gonna be crazy, I can’t wait.”
On what he’s going to eat post-fight: “If Adamek invites me for dinner, I’m going to eat some pierogis too, Polish style.”
On how he feels about his TKO win: “This is boxing. It’s one experience for me, my career. I’m happy. I’m happy for that fight. I win. I won by a KO. It’s good, I think so, no?”
On when he got knocked down briefly by Johnson: “It’s boxing. Everyone can one time down, but it’s important if I win. I just remember he hit me not too strong. I remember that.”
On who he wants next: “I like to first see some proposals. I’m happy to take a unified fight. I’m happy to again defend my belt, no problem. Everything. It’s my work. It’s my job.”
On his TKO win: “It was a great test, Gavin McDonnell is a hell of a fighter. I didn’t take anything away from him, he gave it his best, it was my night.”
On who he wants next: “I want to challenge all the champions, I want all the belts. Rey Vargas, Isaac Dogboe, and the new IBF champion Terence Doheny – let’s unify. I want to fight the best in my division, and they’re considered the best. Let’s do it.”
On if he would entertain a fight with Diego De La Hoya: “Let him get a belt, and then we’ll make it happen.”
12-round Welterweight Bout @ 147 lbs.
Jessie Vargas vs. Thomas Dulorme
Jessie Vargas (28-2-2, 10 KOs) and Thomas Dulorme (24-3-1, 16 KOs) fight to Majority Draw
115-111 for Vargas, 113-113 113-113
12-round IBF Light Heavyweight World Title Bout @ 175 lbs.
Artur Beterbiev vs. Callum Johnson
Artur Beterbiev (13-0, 12 KOs) def. Callum Johnson (17-1, 12 KOs) by TKO at 2:36 of Round 4
12-round Heavyweight Bout
Jarrell Miller vs. Tomasz Adamek
Jarrell Miller (22-0, 18 KOs) def. Tomasz Adamek (53-6, 31 KOs) by TKO at 51 seconds of Round 2
12-round WBA Super Bantamweight World Title Bout @ 122 lbs.
Daniel Roman vs. Gavin McDonnell
Daniel Roman (26-2-1,10 KOs) def. Gavin McDonnell (26-2-2, 5 KOs) by TKO at 2:36 of Round 10
10-round WBC Female Super Lightweight Title Bout @ 140 lbs.
Erica Farias vs. Jessica McCaskill
Jessica McCaskill (6-2, 3 KOs) def. Erica Farias (26-3, 10 KOs) via unanimous decision
98-92, 97-93, 96-94
Borrego-Krael Highlight Mayweather Promotions Fight Card
By: Sean Crose
Mayweather Promotions will host a card at Sam’s Club in Vegas this Saturday night featuring the 13-13-3 Cameron Krael as he takes on the 14-1 Jose Berrego in a ten round super lightweight affair. Krael, who goes by the nickname of “Suave,” will be coming back after suffering a split decision loss to Erik Bone last May at Sam’s Town. Originally from Hawaii, Krael grew up rough before honing himself into an action fighter and a part of the famed Mayweather stable. Only 24 years of age, the man is considered one of the gutsier fighters one can find in Vegas. With only three knockouts to his name, he’s not known as a heavy hitter, but he’s earned the reputation of bringing intense determination to the ring.
As for Berrego, the rising Mexican fighter has a single loss on his resume, a decision defeat to undefeated Juan Heraldez last year. Since that time he’s fought and bested Carlos Velasquez by stoppage in Louisiana. This will be Borrego’s second fight this year (the Velasquez bout was in May). If he’s able to get past the gritty Krael, Berrego will be one step closer to major fights and one step further away from his lone defeat.
Also on the card this Saturday will be Ava Knight. Known as “The Lady of Boxing,” Knight boasts a 15-2-4 record. Her opponent this weekend will be the 17-13-2 Nancy Franco. King, who has held the WBC world female light flyweight title, hasn’t lost since 2013. Her opponent, Franco, who lost a battle for the WBA World Minimunweight Female Title to Anabel Ortiz last year, is hoping to break a three fight losing streak. The fight will be six rounds and will go down in the flyweight division.
Lionell Thompson and Linell Bellows will appear on Saturday’s card, as well. Thompson, 19-5, is looking to come back from a unanimous decision loss to Edwin Rodriguez that he suffered in February of this past year. His opponent will be the 28-23-1 Derrick Findley. Their bout is scheduled for ten rounds in the super middleweight division. As for the 18-2-2 Bellows, he’ll be facing the 13-6 Christopher Booker in a ten round super middleweight affair. It will be Bellows first fight since besting Lamar Harris by TKO last July in Memphis.
Fans looking to see Saturday’s fights live will also have a chance to do a good deed. As Mayweather Promotions states: “We will be collecting non-perishable food items at the fight, in support of the Floyd Mayweather Foundation’s Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway.”We
How Relevant is Manny Pacquiao Now?
By: Charles Jay
After Manny Pacquiao’s fight this past weekend, ESPN commentator Mark Kriegel declared that with his victory, he had “changed the configuration of boxing again.”
My first thought was that I didn’t know if I would characterize it quite like that, but there is no doubt that he is very much alive to do what he’s done so well throughout the last decade or so of his career, which is to make money, both for himself and his opponents.
Whether he is a real player in the battle for supremacy in his weight division is an entirely different question to be addressed.
Time and again, the ESPN announcers asserted that everybody wants to fight Pacquiao. Well, sure they do, because (a) He is a viable pay-per-view entity in a sport that doesn’t have many of them, and (b) The risk-vs.-reward quotient might be very much in their favor.
In other words, they can pick up a big win, and a lucrative one, in a fight they probably should not lose.
Pacquiao improved his record to 60-7-2 with his 39th early win in a 7th-round knockout of Lucas Matthysse, who was the WBA “regular” champion at 147 pounds. How significant was this victory? Well, that’s a good question, because Matthysse came in as the kind of opponent who seemed designed to make Pacquiao look good. He was slow, plodding, not all that skilled, not good enough defensively, no match for Pacquiao’s speed, and thus in no position to counterpunch.
He also didn’t exactly come to wage war. His approach appeared to be geared toward loading up for one power punch – which he is capable of delivering – but was seemingly frustrated that it didn’t happen. No, we can’t get into a fighter’s head, and we can’t gauge how hard certain punches hurt, but he looked as if he was looking for a way out after being hit with a half-hook, half-jab in the fifth round (almost immediately after showing more resistance than he had previously) and then stayed on one knee when one would have thought he could get up, following a Pacquiao uppercut in the seventh.
I thought Teddy Atlas was on the mark when he said that Pacquiao got the job done, and did what he had to do, but did not have a whole lot in front of him (RIGHT in front of him, we might add, for whole fight). You can’t really fault him for any of this, and he did show a lot of energy.
And don’t underestimate the moral boost he may have gotten by scoring his first win inside the distance since the Miguel Cotto fight in 2009.
So the natural question is “Who’s next?”
Pacquiao was asked that in the ring after the fight. He couldn’t just say “I’ll have to talk to my promoter,” because he is, for all intents and purposes, his own promoter now. So he didn’t get specific.
I think the truth is, he doesn’t really know.
There are three champions of note in the welterweight division:
* WBO – Terence Crawford 33-0, 24 KO’s
* IBF – Errol Spence 24-0, 21 KO’s
* WBA – Keith Thurman 28-0, 22 KO’s
Crawford would seem the most likely opponent of those three, because of the connection that still exists between Pacquiao and Top Rank’s Bob Arum. And for that reason, there is also the possibility of Vasyl Lomachenko, who is currently the WBA’s lightweight champ. For a fight like that to happen, there would have to be a meeting somewhere in the middle as far as weight is concerned.
Some might argue this, but Pacquiao isn’t likely to advance his career against any of those three welterweight champs. There is some intrigue against Loma, since there is a built-in handicap, as the Ukranian began his career as a featherweight and would be making quite a leap. But at the same time, he is the kind of whirlwind that Pacquaio may have been once, but isn’t now. The punches he landed against Matthyssee aren’t nearly as likely to find their target against any of these guys.
There is that other possibility, which is a rematch with Jeff Horn, who beat him controversially in Brisbane a year ago. There still has to be something sticking in Pacquiao’s craw about that fight, enough so that one of the reasons he cut himself loose from Freddie Roach – allegedly – is that Roach did not complain about Horn’s rough tactics during the fight, instead waiting until after the bout to do so (where it didn’t do a whole lot of good), then adding some other commentary that was largely unwanted.
Horn lost rather decisively to Crawford, but he has credentials for this purpose because of the win over Pacquiao. And almost as soon as Pac-Man got out of the ring, Horn was calling him out. There was a rematch clause in the contract, which Pacquiao did not exercise immediately because of his duties as a senator in the Philippines. And Horn’s promoter, Dean Lonergan, thinks that Pacquiao’s performance this past weekend makes his guy’s win look all that much better.
Maybe so, but according to reports, including one coming out of the Los Angeles Times, Pacquiao might try to give it a go in the United States again to fight one of Arum’s guys. He’s got problems with the IRS, which will take some of his money, so I’ll believe it when I see it.
And besides, the big edge for Manny in any negotiations is that HE is the pay-per-view draw, and thus the gateway to big money. None of these five prospective opponents we’ve mentioned can say that they have carried a pay-per-view event. That means Pacquiao has the ability to dictate deal points like where the fight would be held, and Arum admitted as much. And his “independence” as a promoter unto himself might make his word final.
We know that Horn, at this moment, is in the midst of talks with Anthony Mundine, the ex-rugby player who has held a WBA super middleweight title and a WBC and WBA super welterweight title. This fight would presumably be at 154 pounds, and Horn would be expected to come out the winner. He’ll also make upwards of $4 million, because these guys can fill a stadium.
So he’s got the luxury of being able to grab a big payday even after a pretty one-sided loss, something a lot of guys don’t have. But even if that fight happens, I wouldn’t disqualify a subsequent fight with Pacquiao, in or out of Australia. Remember, none of the fighters who are bigger threats to Pac-Man are enough of a draw that they would necessarily steer him away from a fight with Horn, from a dollars-and-cents perspective. While Pacquiao-Horn II may not be of ultimate importance on the world stage, it will be extremely important to Manny’s constituency (pardon the pun), which would be pretty sizable.
And in every fighter’s mind, there is that thought of “getting the win back” when they think it was unfairly snatched from them.
This decision is very much in Pacquiao’s hands. He IS the promoter, isn’t he?
And you can bet those aforementioned world-beaters will be keenly interested in what he decides.
Considering how they’re are all thought to be emerging superstars, maybe Manny Pacquiao IS the most relevant guy out there – at least for the time being.
Pacquiao vs. Matthysse Fight Quotes
Future Hall of Famer and Filipino superstar Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao (60-7-2, 38 KOs) scored a seventh-round knockout victory against Argentine knockout artist Lucas “La Maquina” Matthysse (39-5, 36 KOs) to capture the WBA Welterweight World Title at Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Pacquiao scored a knockdown in round three with a left uppercut, and then forced Matthysse to take a knee in the fifth round with a shot to the temple. Pacquiao dropped Matthysse with another left uppercut in the seventh round, forcing referee Kenny Bayless to end matters at 2:43 of the aforementioned round.
“I was surprised because Matthysse is a very tough opponent and I knocked him down,” said Manny Pacquiao. “So that’s a bonus from being focused and patient in the fight and working hard in training camp. We [my team] did a good job in training. We controlled ourselves during training. It was a heavy training. Thanks to all my team for working hard for this fight.
“That’s another story and another discussion. Right now I’m happy to go back to my country in the Philippines and to celebrate my victory and of course with my fellow countrymen, doing my job as a public servant. We’re planning for that [returning this year]. But we haven’t decided yet. Right now my focus is to go back to my country and relax.”
“Fighting Manny Pacquiao [is the most difficult part about fighting Pacquiao],” said Lucas Matthysse. “He’s a great fighter. He’s a great champion. You win some, and you lose some. Today was my turn to lose, but I lost to a great fighter and a great legend in Manny Pacquiao. First I would like to rest and go back home. The hard work has been done. The fight has taken place. I lost, but I walk away with my head raised. I’m sorry to Argentina, but I’m fine. Thank you for all the love and support, and we’ll be seeing all my family and friends soon.”
Does Manny Pacquiao Have One Last Fight in Him?
By: Bryant Romero
Does the Great Manny Pacquiao have one last great fight in him? Promoter Bob Arum posed that question to fans on his twitter account and the boxing world will find out this Saturday in an unusual site for a Manny Pacquiao fight. Kuala Lumpur at the Axiata Arena in Malaysia is the site for Pacquiao’s next fight when he takes on dangerous puncher and current World Champion Lucas Martin Mathysse (39-4, 36 KOs) in what should be a thrilling fight between two fighters who’s best days may be behind them. Pacquaio (59-7-2, 38 KOs) is seeking his 60th victory in what has been a legendary but now declining career where he’s no longer the superstar he once was, but is out to prove that he was the true winner in his controversial loss last July to Jeff Horn and perhaps there is still a couple of great nights left in his incredible career.
Photo Credit: Top Rank Twitter Account
Not only is the site of the fight different compared to many other Pacquiao fight weeks, but the Filipino icon is the lead promoter of the event. Bob Arum and Top Rank are simply just distributing the fight in the United States and it will be shown on the ESPN + app, which has indicated that perhaps Pacquiao and Arum seem to be at odds with each other. Pacquaio continues to tell the boxing press that he’s no longer affiliated with Top Rank and is currently a free agent. Arum of course has downplayed the situation and maintains that his company still has a working relationship with Manny.
This bout of course was not without controversy as in the weeks leading up into the event there were concerns that the event would be cancelled altogether as Pacquiao and his team missed numerous deadlines for payments. It wasn’t until early this month that Matthysse and his team were assured the money will put in place for his purse for the fight and now the fight is a go with Manny only slight favorite to defeat La Maquina.
Many believe Pacquiao defeated Jeff Horn last summer, but just 4 months shy from his 40th birthday, a long layoff, and facing a big puncher. It could be anyone’s guess on what Pacquaio truly has left for the 69th bout of his career.
Pacquiao fired his longtime trainer Freddie Roach and perhaps it was the right move now that Roach is no longer one of top trainers in the game. Buboy Fernandez his long time friend is now is head trainer and Buboy feels we will see a hungrier more dangerous Pacquiao, which could spell trouble for Matthysse.
Obviously, the Filipino legend is nowhere near the fighter he was 8 years ago, but Manny is still a capable fighter with loads of experience, speed, footwork, and tremendous skills. Expect an impressive performance from Manny as he will notch his 60th victory and perhaps even end his knockout drought in a fun fight with Matthysse in Malaysia.
Jamal “Shango” James: The African God of Thunder…from the Tundra
By: Andrew Johnson
Jamal “Shango” James (22-1, 10 KOs) faces fellow welterweight Abel Ramos (18-2-2, 13 KOs) this Friday night in PBC on FS1’s main event (FS1 9:00 EST) at the historic Armory in downtown Minneapolis.
James is the WBA’s #4 welterweight contender and hopes to use the platform offered by the nationally televised event to legitimize his place among the top fighters at 147 lbs. Proud of his Minnesota roots, James wants to continue the recent momentum in Minnesota boxing that began with Caleb Truax upset of James DeGale last December.
Photo Credit: Mn Fight News
James, whose nickname means “African God of Thunder”, climbed up the rankings as a slick, defensive, counter-puncher with an impressive jab. At 6’2”, he reminds some fans of an early 1980s Thomas Hearns, but Shango employs a very different boxing strategy than the Motor City Cobra.
“The best thing I do in the ring is not get hit.” James told the media during Wednesday’s press conference. “I try to bring a little bit of the art back (to boxing). I am not a super big slugger, but I can still hurt you.”
He hurt Diego Chaves in his last fight and knocked out the rugged, Argentine veteran. James kept his distance in the fight’s early minutes with his long, weaponized jab, but brought the thunder late in the third round with a left hook to the body that put Chaves on the canvas and ended the fight.
Friday’s fight will be the first-time James has fought in Minnesota in over three years. He began boxing at the age of five when his mother brought him to Circle of Discipline gym in South Minneapolis. The trainers at the gym teach footwork and crisp punching to aspiring boxers, but also focus on faith and building character in youth whose backs are against the wall. After nearly 25 years of training at the gym, James embodies the holistic approach to the fight game preached by the Circle of Discipline.
“I am at a place in my life where I can give life back to others. I was able to bring a big event like this to Minnesota and we gave tickets to a ton of kids from low-income homes who may not have been able to afford it.” James told the Boxing Insider after the press conference. “We have given 100 tickets to high schools around the city and more to other organizations. I pray and hope that the more success I have, the more I am able to help my organization and community.”
If Jamal James wants a title shot in the next year, he needs to shine against Ramos on Friday night. Simply avoiding Abel Ramos’ punches and winning an uninspired decision may not be enough to make noise in a division full of marquee names and big money fights.
Ramos moved up to 147 lbs. for his last fight and won via TKO. He said that fighting at a heavier weight will allow him to bring new strength and endurance to the ring on Friday and is confident that he will defeat James in his homecoming and the return of boxing to the Armory.
There will be snow on the streets of Minneapolis, but the atmosphere inside the Armory should be electric as the hometown crowd receives Jamal “Shango” James and welcomes boxing back to a building that hosted legends like Sugar Ray Robinson and Joe Louis decades ago.