By: Robert Aaron Contreras
Recently, Tyson Fury’s out-of-competition shenanigans and in-ring disappointment seem to have ramped up the talk of “lineal championships.” But the only one actually on the line this week is the light heavyweight crown between Oleksandr Gvozdyk (17-0, 14 KO) and Artur Beterbiev (14-0, 14 KO), set for Friday, Oct 18, on ESPN.
Currently it is Gvozdyk with the lineage in tow. He staked his claim over Adonis Stevenson at the end of 2018. The 32-year-old former Olympian not only travelled to Quebec, Canada but ate a bevy of monster shots from Stevenson late in the fight, to overwhelm the longstanding beltholder in the penultimate round.
Photo Credit: Top Rank Boxing Twitter Account
Gvozdyk’s encore in March 2019 was another knockout—technically anyway—coming to fruition over Doudou Ngumbu. Ngumbu, an unorthodox banger, provided the champion no real challenge but indeed an unorthodox finish, injuring his leg in the fifth-round of the title tilt. Alas, the Ukrainian puncher remains undefeated—unmatched, at the top of top-heavy division.
Beterbiev will look to unseat him. Two months following Gvozdyk’s first title defense, Beterbiev matched his counterpart, finishing his own challenger in five rounds, but in more resounding fashion. The Russian bashed Radivoje Kalajdzic, who is no less a dynamite puncher. In close quarters Beterbiev’s crunching blows seem to be unstoppable.
The finish was Beterbiev’s second successful defense of his IBF title. He earned the crown over Enrico Koelling, who represented Germany in the 2012 Olympics. In Round 12, it was an overhand, cross-counter that sat Koelling on the seat of his pants where he was counted out for the only KO loss of the German’s 29-fight career.
Of the talented quartet of 175-pound titleholders, Gvozdyk vs. Beterbiev is just the unification to make. If that was not true before last weekend, Dmitry Bivol’s apathetic effort against an unheralded opponent solidified the case. Sergey Kovalev’s tangling with a middleweight does nothing to refute the matter either.
When the two best fighters in the class are pitted against each other, the trinkets and alphabet belts can seem like a moot point. But belts are currency in the fistic world. Stevenson, it should be recalled, would never had come out of hiding to face Gvozdyk if not for the Ukrainian warrior picking up the interim WBC strap.
Gvozdyk did not squander the opportunity. Fully living up to the golden era of Ukrainian boxing at hand, teaming up alongside countryman and Olympic teammates Vasyl Lomachenko and Oleksandr Usyk in their collective siege of the sport. Beterbiev would be the legion’s toughest scalp yet.
Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (16-0, 9 KO) vs. Luis Collazo (39-7, 10 KO)
Abdukakhorov is a boxer-puncher supreme and has in the past faced opponents very dangerous but never has he met a mainstream name like Collazo.
Abdukakhorov, 26, is undefeated in his career after fighting out of the hotbed that is Uzbekistan. He has competed once this year, decisioning the spark plug fighter Keita Obara. The points win was his fourth decision victory in his last five contests—including a dominant performance over touted Russian upstart Dmitry Mikhaylenko. But while he has slowly built a fine ledger, it has not come at the ferocious pace by which he exterminated Charles Manyuchi in the first half of 2017.
The knockout was stunning, quickly taking apart Manyuchi, who is known for making opponents miss, look silly, and unable to mount significant offense. But Abdukakhorov is something special.
As it turned out, it was a one-off, equal parts accurate punching and mental lapses from Manyuchi. It remains only his second TKO since graduating to the 12-round distance and the uptick in competition that comes with that. He is simply more of a tactical fighter. Especially considering his patient attack against Obara.
Collazo prefers the walloping brand of punching, overpowering the recognizable brawler Samuel Vargas earlier this year. The win extended the experienced New York native to three consecutive wins. A middling record made up the majority of his career since losing his world title to Ricky Hatton ages ago. Collazo dropped three more fights, two of which were championship bouts.
And coming off a punishing defeat to Keith Thurman, the stage seemed set for another loss to promotional favorite Sammy Vazquez. But Collazo would have none of it, overcoming two-to-one odds, and kickstarting his current win streak and unbelievably, at 38 years old, forcing his way into the title picture.
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: Waqas Ali
Former unified world cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk will be making his first debut as a heavyweight against Carlos Takam on May 25th at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, USA.
The bout will be aired live on the DAZN streaming service.
The 32-year-old Ukrainian fighter achieved stardom in the cruiserweight division – holding the WBO, WBA, WBC, IBF and the Ring Magazine titles simultaneously.
Without a doubt, Usyk is one of the best talents in boxing today and brings a variety of skills, styles and techniques that really cluster the meat of his talent.
He is praised by boxing writers, historians and hardcore boxing fans.
He currently boasts a record of 16 wins with 12 KOs.
His last fight was against Briton Tony Bellew in November 2018 whom he knocked out in round eight in front 20,000 fans at the Manchester arena.
Usyk does not deny the challenge and wants to aim high in order to achieve greatness in the heavyweight division.
“It’s a tough first fight,” said Usyk.
“But I need to test myself against world-class opposition on my new road to undisputed.”
His opponent Takam (36-5-1) has competitive opponents in the past such as Tony Thompson, Joseph Parker, Dereck Chisora and hard-hitting, Anthony Joshua.
Takam took Joshua to ten rounds with good shots thrown at him but lost in the end.
However, in regards to Usyk facing him in May, Takam feels highly motivated for the opportunity.
“I can promise that this will be a great fight and I will provide Usyk with a huge test on his heavyweight debut,” he said.
“I have huge ambitions of my own in the division and this fight will provide me with the chance to prove that.”
But can Usyk, a former Olympic champion and former undisputed champion succeed in a division that is known more for power and will than skill and mindset?
One must keep in mind that Usyk had actually fought in the heavyweight division previously as an amateur.
In 2013, Usyk defeated future Olympic Silver medallist Joe Joyce in a five-round battle without the use of handguards at the World Series of Boxing event.
He used his straight left hand to win points and provided exchanges too. As a cruiserweight, Usyk is known for his high activity level and astonishing footwork.
There was little activity rate in the bout with Joyce and more pot-shots were executed.
Many question if Usyk’s footwork will drastically change in 200 plus division and will the speed remain against the bigger fighters.
Fighters such as Evander Holyfield and David Haye both unified the cruiserweight division. Haye won the WBA heavyweight title and defended it twice. Holyfield went on to also unify the heavyweight division.
Roy Jones Jr, one of boxing’s greatest fighters of all time went from winning titles at middleweight, light heavyweight and at heavyweight.
He became the first fighter in 106 years to go from winning a title at middleweight all to the way to heavyweight.
By the numbers, Usyk throws an astounding 41 jabs per round which is double what the average heavyweight (20) throws.
Usyk has landed 19% of his total punches to the body.
In the power punching department, Usyk throws around 28 punches and connects at a rate of 42%. While the average heavyweight throws around 24 and connects at 40%.
Usyk opponents landed 29% of their power punches which is well below the cruiserweight avg (37%).
Takam relies on the power punch. 10 of his 13 landed punches are power shots. His opponents have landed 38% of their power shots.
The numbers indicate that Usyk does lead slightly ahead than what the average heavyweight throws and lands. However, this will all depend on next how well he does against the heavyweights. The activity level could in question. Sometimes when it comes moving up in weight, the activity level can go down. Fighters like Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury weigh a median of 17st 2lbs and a median height of 6 foot 7 whilst Usyk only comes in around 14 stone at 6 foot 3 inches. Even if Usyk comes in a stone up it will be a challenging and a hazardous process to take. Nobody can deny the talent that Usyk brings to the table and no doubt he has made the decision in fighting Takam in order to get a taste of the heavyweight division once again but on a professional level.
By: Waqas Ali
Oleksandr Usyk could be on the verge of stepping into the heavyweight division and facing either Cuban beast Luiz Ortiz or Russian Alexander Povetkin.
Usyk boasts a record of 16 victories and is the undisputed cruiserweight champion – holding the WBO, WBA, WBC, IBF and the Ring Magazine titles simultaneously.
Without a doubt Usyk is one of the best talent in boxing today and brings a variety of skills, styles and techniques that really cluster the meat of his talent.
According to Michael Benson via Fight News, Usyk’s promoter Alex Krassyuk stated that there is a “70% chance” of making a matchup against Povetkin or Ortiz.
Krassyuk also said that fighters such as Jarrell Miller and Joseph Parker turned down the option of fighting Usyk.
However, according to Parkers’ promoter David Higgns, he denied any rejection of Usyk and that they did not receive any communication from the Usyk camp.
Interesting to note the fact that when Dillian Whyte was asked about future opponents he would like to face, he did not mention Usyk.
“There’s five possible fighters [Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury, Jarrell Miller, Dominic Breazeale and Deontay Wilder] out there for me,” Whyte said to IFL TV.
When asked about Usyk specifically, he dismissed him as a potential opponent.
“He’s a good fighter, but no one knows who he is,” Whyte said.
“He speaks no English. What I’m saying is he’s not really a big fight for me. The hardcore boxing fans will watch it [Whyte vs. Usyk], but imagine trying to sell Usyk-Dillian Whyte to the general public.”
One theory of this dismissal could be the fact that Whyte (25W, 18KOs -1L) is looking for the rematch against Anthony Joshua who is the unified heavyweight champion.
But in particular Ortiz and Povetkin are the main head-to-heads for Usyk, should his camp announce his debut at heavyweight and pick one of them.
But what does each fighter bring to the table?
Povetkin, 39, has a record of 34 wins (24 KOs) and two losses. In his last ten bouts, he won eight and six of them were by stoppages. His height is at 6 foot 2 inches and a reach of 75 inches.
Though Usyk would gain advantage since his height is 6 foot 3 with a 78 inch reach.
Povetkin is a conventional fighter and does have effective that could the smaller Usyk problems. Both are Olympic Gold medal winners from their countries of Russia and Ukraine. It would sell well in either countries or even in the United States.
Ortiz, 39, also boasts a record of 30 wins, 26 by KO, one loss and two no contests. His knockout ratio stands at 79%.
In his last ten bouts, he’s won nine, eight by KO and only one decision. His reach is similar to Usyks of 78”. This would mean that the range and distance could be of an interesting contest.
He has exceptional punching power and the ratio figure speaks for itself. Lacks the footwork but can break the range every now and when it comes throwing the overhand right hes follows it up with the right.
The Cuban is also a southpaw and majority of Usyks opponents are orthodox. This would put Ortiz in the lead due to the fact that Usyk has not fought any competitive southpaws.
According to a poll conducted by @boxingroyalty1, out of over 1600 plus voters 50% picked Povetkin to fight Usyk and 38% chose Ortiz.
— Boxing Royalty (@boxingroyalty1) January 6, 2019
One thing about Usyk is his punches are sweet but sour to taste.
Based on the styles and variations of each fighter I would say that on a selling point it would be with Povetkin because a Russian and a Ukrainian could gather a mega crowd in their home lands. They would make more money than opposed to having Ortiz travelling to foreign lands to sell. It’s an unfortunate reality but I suspect that even Ortiz will acknowledge this. Boxing today is more to do with stage than skills. Like quality over quantity.
From a stylistic point of view, I believe Ortiz is the stronger and powerful one of the two. Just as I mentioned in the analysis, his knockout ration is high and he has more weapons to fire than Povetkin has. For someone who comes in at 240 plus on fight night could be a problem for Usyk. We saw what happened in the Bellew fight. He was countered multiple times. The comprehension of taking those punches at heavyweight against someone like Ortiz would be devastating.
With regards to Whyte turning down Usyk, as I mentioned in the analysis, Whyte in his mind shouldn’t fight Usyk because he realises that he has more chance of losing to him and therefore it will cost him his chance of rematching with Joshua again. Of course from a hardcore boxing fans’ point view it is preposterous to even deny him a fight. The fact that Usyk can’t speak English is irrelevant. Saul Alvarez can’t speak English yet he’s the most paid boxer and the biggest name in boxing today. Whyte said that the bout wouldn’t sell. No doubt it probably make as much money as it would a second fight with AJ but at least fight could elevate Whyte back in the main elites. Usyk fought Bellew at the Manchester Arena. A venue with a capacity of over 20,000 and the viewership for that was over 600,000. Whatever the case maybe, I recognise the reasoning’s for Whyte’s reasoning on declining Usyk.
By: Jake Donovan
For the past 30 years, there has been no debate that Evander Holyfield is the greatest cruiserweight of all time.
That was until Oleksandr Usyk wrapped up his 2018 in-ring campaign.
The 31-year old southpaw from Ukraine hasn’t enjoyed the benefit of fighting at home since his final fight as a contender in Dec. ‘15. Each of his last eight starts have taken place on the road, all but one being staged in the home country of his opponent beginning with his title-lifting effort over then-unbeaten champ Krzysztof Glowacki in Sept. ’16 in Poland.
Fighting on the road is hardly a new experience for the gifted cruiserweight, who spent a healthy portion of his 350-fight amateur career away from his native Ukraine. Included among the lot were two Olympic tours, advancing to the quarterfinals of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and capturing a Gold medal during the 2012 London festivities.
It’s only fitting that every championship he’s won as a pro has come against the backdrop of a partisan crowd.
In 2018, Usyk (16-0, 12KOs) entered the lion’s den three times—twice in unification bouts and wrapping up the year with a defense versus a former champ, all taking place in sold-out arenas in packed with his opponent’s fans rooting hard for a hometown win.
His journey began with a trip to Riga, Latvia last January to face then-unbeaten titlist and local hero Mairis Briedis. It was already his third time facing an undefeated opponent in their home country, as he was the first to beat Glowacki (in Poland) and American contender Michael Hunter in the United States.
In Briedis, Usyk would receive his stiffest test as a pro, certainly a far more difficult challenge than having stopped former titlist Marco Huck in Germany the prior September in the opening round of the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament.
The first five rounds were anything but a clear-cut indicator that Usyk would even win, much less go on to enjoy a Fighter of the Year-worthy campaign. He first had to adapt to the brisk pace forced by the house favorite, then contend with a clash of heads in the 5th round which left him briefly wobbled and with reddening around his left eye.
It ultimately served as a wake-up call.
Usyk took over the fight once the second half began, his second-to-none conditioning carrying him to victory. Save for a minor scare in round nine and a final round last-ditch rally by Briedis, the second half surge was enough for the visiting Ukrainian to advance to the WBSS finals.
That led to his twice traveling to Russia: first to take in the other semifinals bout between Murat Gassiev and Yunier Dorticos one week later; then in July, for his finals meet with Gassiev in a bout that would leave the winner as the first truly undisputed cruiserweight champion in the four-belt era.
As it turned out, the hardest part in making history was getting to fight night. The unification clash itself was delayed by more than two months due to Usyk requiring elbow surgery, thus killing plans for a May clash in Saudi Arabia. The postponement worked out in Gassiev’s favor, in that the fight was relocated to his native Russia.
Home country advantage was the only edge he’d enjoy that night.
Usyk quickly took the crowd out of the equation, somehow reducing an undisputed cruiserweight championship contest into a one-sided sparring session in pitching a virtual shutout. Even before the final decision was announced, the immediate question was what the newly crowned World cruiserweight king would do for an encore.
The answer? A third road trip on the year, of course.
For months, the idea was floated of Tony Bellew challenging the WBSS winner—particularly if it was Usyk, who even entered a co-promotional pact with the Brit’s promoter Eddie Hearn. The union led to the finalization of plans for a November 11 clash in what would be a sold-out Manchester Arena in Manchester, England.
Even if Usyk opted to sit out the rest of 2018 following his win over Gassiev, he’d still serve as a leading Fighter of the Year contender. For much of the first half of his clash with Bellew, the risk of a third fight in an optional defense seemed to outweigh the reward.
That was, until the defending champ was ready to take over.
Once again displaying his superior ring smarts and conditioning, Usyk overcame a rocky start—and surprising scorecard deficit—to emphatically knock out Bellew in round eight. A textbook left hand landed flush, putting the former cruiserweight titlist down and out, a knockout loser in what would be the final fight of his celebrated career.
As for Usyk, it was merely the final moment of an unrivaled 2018 in-ring campaign. He entered the year at least a distant second in discussions of the best active cruiserweight of all time (Holyfield) and the best active boxer from Ukraine (Vasiliy Lomachenko).
Answers that were once foregone conclusions now warrant considerable discussion. Everything about the year that was for Usyk changed that mindset—while fittingly also ending any debate as to whether anyone else deserved the honor of being named the BoxingInsider.com 2018 Fighter of the Year.
By: Oliver McManus
“Somebody’s 0 has got to go”, it’s possibly the most used phrase in modern boxing. Mind you, if David Diamante has his way it will soon become “let’s nix a nil” but the premise remains the same, two unbeaten fighters putting their records on the line in, hopefully, guts-and-glory encounters.
Don’t get me wrong, a loss doesn’t make you a bad fighter and beating an unbeaten man doesn’t, equally, make you a star player in the sport. As we’ve seen recently there have been a fair few damp squibs when it comes to unbeaten vs unbeaten – Andrade vs Kautondokwa, anyone?
Nonetheless there are plenty of mouth-watering fights in prospect and these are three fights I want to see, at world level, where someone’s 0 has got to go…
Anthony Joshua vs Oleksandr Usyk – Heavyweight
Where better place to kick off than in the heavyweight division? Anthony Joshua has had things pretty much his own way at the top of the game since winning his first world title – sanctioned by the IBF- in 2016. Since that capitulation of Charles Martin, Joshua has fought in six world title bouts and added the WBA, WBO and IBO straps to his collection.
With a touted fight against Deontay Wilder falling by the wayside – take whoever’s side you want on that thorny issue – Joshua is next out on April 13th, at Wembley, with an opponent yet to be scheduled in.
But I’ll be honest, the tag of undisputed aside, I’d much rather see AJ in with the man who holds all of the cruiserweight belts and, arguably, one of the best in the world pound for pound. Usyk seems to me, and many others, the toughest challenge that Joshua can face.
Technically he is sublime and he possesses the heavyweight power required to take Joshua into deep water but, let’s not forget, Usyk has amateur pedigree in the heavier division so it’s not like he’s inexperienced at the weight. Even having said that experience wouldn’t be an issue for someone of such natural quality as Usyk for his fight IQ and ring-ability transcends weight classes.
Coming off the back of a breezy fight against Tony Bellew in which, if we’re honest, he never looked out of control the natural step is for Usyk to go up to heavyweight. Joshua, we know, is searching for “legacy defining” fights and a bout against Oleksandr Usyk is about as big as they come.
The fight seems the most realistic, out of all the big heavyweight contests, with Eddie Hearn taking an active involvement in the promotion of the Ukrainian powerhouse so, fingers crossed, we could see a blockbuster event next year.
Winner of Errol Spence Jnr and Mikey Garcia vs Terence Crawford – Welterweight
Announced last week is the fight that, if we’re honest, made no real sense. Mikey Garcia was the man we all wanted to see fight Vasyl Lomachenko and Errol Spence was the champion looking to unify with Terrence Crawford.
The IBF Welterweight title will be on line come March 16th with Garcia looking to become a five weight champion in his 40th fight. A frighteningly skilled boxer, the California native has continually proved his credentials with a frightening knockout power.
In his last three fights Garcia has been extended the distance but has boxed with class throughout the 36 rounds, controlling the pace of the fight and manouvering his way out of danger with a comprehensive ease.
Errol Spence Jnr goes into the bout with an obvious weight advantage – fighting 12lbs heavier than the division in which Garcia actively holds a world title. 2 years the younger man, Spence burst onto the scene in 2016 with knockout victories over Chris Algieri and Leonard Bundu.
Having captured the IBF crown with a ferocious victory against Kell Brook, in Sheffield, the Texas-man has defended the belt twice in equally terrifying fashion. A non-stop work rate with continual punch output, if you let the champion unfurl his hands then you’re going to be in trouble.
And whilst the question of weight will loom over the bout until fight night, Garcia is a consummate professional and an outstanding athlete. For a man trying to prove his ability in the welterweight division, there could be no better way to silence the critics than claiming a world title in your first fight so that’s where Terence Crawford comes into play.
Errol Spence is the man that people wanted to see in a unification class with Bud, they would produce a scintillating fight. If Mikey Garcia is able to overcome such a challenge then he will have instantaneously justified getting a fight with the WBO champion.
All roads lead to unification, or so they… bring it on!
Artur Beterbiev vs Dmitry Bivol – Light Heavyweight
We’ll deal with the younger boxer first in Dmitry Bivol who ticked over towards the back of 2014 with a Bronze Medal at the 2008 Youth World Championships and a Gold Medal at the 2013 World Combat Games. A two time Russian national champion with a record of 268-15, his amateur pedigree was impressive but paled in comparison to his counterpart.
As a professional, though, the 27 year old really turned up the heat by claiming the first, major, belt of his career in just his fifth fight. The knockout power we all enjoy was evident from the first second of his debut but, with that, he’d find opponents looking to hold and just survive through the early phases. Not that that mattered, Bivol has always found ways of punishing his opponent.
Even when he has been stretched the distance – three times in 14 fights – the Kyrgyzstan-born man has always looked in complete control with an array of power punches as well as technical skill. Of course we’ll all remember his fierce one-punch knockout over, admittedly over-matched, Trent Broadhurst that saw Bivol claimed champion.
Successful defences against Sullivan Barrera and Isaac Chilemba have followed – he next fights Jean Pascal on the 24th – but surely the Russian will be eying up the options for unification come the turn of the year.
Beterbiev, on the other hand, turned pro in the middle of 2013 and initially built up a strong following in Canada – the elite amateur (World Champion & runner up, two-time European champion) had moved to Montreal in order to purse his professional ambitions.
At 5 and 0 he stepped up to face Tavoris Cloud – a former IBF champion – and dealt with the threat of the American, coming off a world title loss, in convincing fashion. The momentum from this bout seemed to follow as Beterbiev looked to fight better opponents at every opportunity possible.
A refreshing attitude of “fight who’s in front of me and knock them out” has ensured success with all thirteen of his wins coming via an early stoppage. A grizzly fighter, that’s the best way to describe it, Beterbiev never looks the fastest of opponents but, boy, does he have vicious punch power.
Typically standing with his hands at shoulder level, the 33 year old stands ready to pounce and is mature enough not to go out all-guns-blazing. The IBF champion won his title against Enrico Koelling last November and, in a fight that ended in the 12th, boxed patiently and calmly to do so.
Two unbeaten Russian powerhouses, slugging it out to unify light heavyweight world titles… what more could you ask for?
By: Ste Rowen
Over four weeks since the 14th June, the soccer world cup has swept Russia and the globe. Overshadowing every other sporting event that dared take place on the same day, week or even months.
Somewhat ironic then that the ‘actual’ biggest sporting event in 2018 will take place six days later and 10km from the climax of the world cup when, in the World Boxing Super Series final, Oleksandr Usyk takes on Murat Gassiev for no less than the WBC, IBF, WBO, Ring Magazine, the actual (no strings, interims or regulars attached) WBA belt, as well as the Muhammad Ali trophy and, arguably most important of all, cruiserweight supremacy.
The fight was originally set to take place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia but, like most fights billed for the Middle East, plans fell through weeks after Usyk was forced into postponing the original date due to a shoulder injury. It opened the door for the more logical option of Moscow to take its place.
The Olympiyskiy Arena has hosted the 1980 Olympics, the 2009 Eurovision song contest, and in September it will be the venue for the UFC’s first ever event in Russia, but on Saturday night, the arena will house an estimated 35,000 lucky, bloodthirsty boxing fans.
It’s been a long and explosive road to get to Saturday’s final in Moscow. Way back in the very first 200lb limit quarter final, on the 9th September 2017, when he only held the WBO belt, Usyk taunted and dominated Marco Huck to a 10th round stoppage.
For many, coming into the tournament the Ukrainian southpaw was the outright favourite already, but his September performance in Berlin solidified his number one status amongst a majority of fans. There was no let up from the champ that night in Germany, his movement even more demoralising for Huck than the punches he was landing, which seemed to be every time Oleksandr threw. So, when the referee eventually stepped in, with Marco still on his feet, there were little to no complaints at all.
42 days later, it was Murat’s turn to step into the ring for his quarter final. Due to IBF mandatory commitments, Gassiev had elected to fight Krzysztof Wlodarczyk, a good test for any newly crowned cruiserweight champion. The setting was the Prudential Center in Newark and it was to be a short night as, in the 3rd round, Murat landed a wonderful left hook upstairs/downstairs combination and left the Polish veteran fighting for breath, unable to rise to beat the count.
And so, onto the semi-finals, Usyk to face WBC champion, Mairis Briedis who’d earnt a 12-round decision over Mike Perez, in the only disappointing cruiserweight fight of the whole tournament. Gassiev was to take on then, WBA ‘Regular’ champion Yunier Dorticos who’d steamed through Dmitry Kudryashov in two rounds.
In the ‘WBSS Pre-Fight’ video for Saturday’s bout, Usyk said of his semi-final,
‘‘The first thing I remember is that it was a poor training camp. I could’ve done more work, I should have.’’
And there did seem to be something different about the Ukrainian that night, though many just put it down to a step up in competition. When he took on Mairis, it was the 5th time in a row the 2012 gold medallist had fought away from home (Saturday’s final will be his 6th), and though Usyk displayed the same attempts to dominant, as in his quarterfinal, this time his opponent wasn’t afraid to take punches, to land them. With the Riga crowd screaming him on, Briedis seemed to find another wind again and again, and though Usyk spent the majority of the fight as the aggressor, the Latvian timed his counter punches well enough to keep the fight close. The bout eventually went to the scorecards and was ruled a majority decision to Usyk, now the holder of the WBO and WBC.
A week on from the first semi-final, Gassiev and Dorticos fought an early frontrunner for fight of the year. Dorticos was unafraid of the Russian contingent on his back throughout the fight and started the brighter of the two, but unlike in his quarterfinal, Yunier’s 1-2’s wasn’t having the same effect on this Russian as they did against Kudryashov. As time drew on, it was clear that Murat’s early body attacks were having the lasting effect. In the championship rounds it seemed every punch ‘Iron’ threw shook up the Cuban and in the 12th Gassiev dropped Yunier once, then twice and with 17 seconds left in the fight, rifled Dorticos through the ropes and put an end to proceedings.
It was a fight that stood up alongside past greats such as Holyfield vs Qawi 1 or Haye vs Mormeck, and like the latter, Gassiev came out with two legitimate belts, as months later the WBA would rightfully upgrade the ‘Regular’ belt to the full champion strap.
‘‘Some experts predicted the final would be Gassiev vs. Usyk.’’ said Oleksandr, during his most recent training camp, ‘‘Now Murat and I will fight to be the undisputed world champion.’’
‘‘I’ve set myself on fire. I’m burning. That’s how I characterise my training camp.’’
‘‘We’re going to Moscow. I was not surprised… It doesn’t matter for me. The important thing is to fight, and I have somebody to fight.’’
Never one to give too much away before a fight, Gassiev is keeping a level-headed approach to the final,
‘‘Same as the last camps we do some different things in tactics for a southpaw and other things, nothing changes. Same running, physical exercise, sparring.’’
‘‘Toughest fight for me, for my career. He is number one in the cruiserweight division right now.’’
Ultimately, from hardcore to casual, fans want to see the best fight the best and in terms of the cruiserweights, that’s what we’re getting. For pure, unadulterated boxing, – skill, power, speed, P4P status – this upcoming WBSS final bout is arguably the best fight that can be made right now in this ridiculous sport.
Forget Wilder/Joshua, Spence/Crawford, Inoue/Tete… at least for now anyway.
Across 285 days, 8 fighters, 4 countries, and now 2 finalists.
Ukraine’s biggest vs. Russia’s best to give us an undisputed champion is what boxing, and the world, needs.
We should all be feel. Very feel.
By: Eric Lunger
As the final wrapping paper gets cleaned up from under the tree, and as we collectively vow – in varying degrees of enthusiasm and conviction — to get back to sensible eating and exercise, it’s time to take a glance ahead at the upcoming year in boxing, and count down the top five fighters to keep an eye on. This is a pretty eclectic list, and no doubt you have your own picks; I’d love to read which boxers you are watching for 2018 in the comments below.
Photo Credit: WBSS
Joseph Parker (Heavyweight). The Kiwi WBO champion had a great 2017, defending his newly-won belt twice. In May, he took care of business against Razvan Cojanu, a late-minute replacement in a not-so spectacular bout, but in September, Parker traveled to Manchester, UK, to take on the talented contender Hughie Fury. Parker (24-0, 18 KOs) answered a lot of questions that night, and won over some critics. Still, there are some commentators who feel that Parker is the odd man out in the top tier of the division, that he doesn’t really belong in the same rarified air as Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder, and Tyson Fury. But with his power, his hand speed, and most importantly, his meteoric learning curve each and every outing, Parker can be a real spoiler in the division. Will he get a shot at AJ in 2018? That is tough to envision, given Team Joshua’s current aversion to risk, but as the WBO Champion, unification of the belts has to go through Parker at some point.
Oleksandr Usyk (Cruiserweight). Usyk (13-0, 11 KOs) fought on the same Olympic team as Vasyl Lomachenko, training with Lomachenko’s father, and it shows in Usyk’s footwork and use of angles. Already WBO world champion, the Ukrainian southpaw is in the semi-finals of the World Boxing Super Series Cruiserweight tournament, slated to take on undefeated WBC champion Mairis Breidis in Riga, Latvia, on January 27. Supremely confident, Usyk is one of those few European amateurs who understands that the professional game is about more than just scoring points; a fighter needs to be exciting to watch if he wants to build his fan base. With knockout artist Murat Gassiev and Yunier Dorticos in the other semi-final in February, the WBSS tournament is exciting and dynamic, and Usyk has to be the favorite to unify all the belts and lift the Muhammad Ali Trophy.
Javier Fortuna (Lightweight) A southpaw from the Dominican Republic and former WBA World champion at junior lightweight, Fortuna (33-1-1, 23 KOs) has an important title shot this coming January against undefeated IBF lightweight champion Robert Easter, Jr. Fortuna is an underdog in this fight, to be sure, but the matchup will be competitive and entertaining. The Dominican standout is a risk-taker, and he can get caught. But he is also brilliant to watch, especially when he makes intuitive adjustments in the ring or decides to ramp up the performance aspect of his game. This will be no easy tune-up for Easter, and Fortuna should not be overlooked as a potential upset of the year.
Danny Garcia (Welterweight). Garcia (33-1, 19 KOs) has always been one of my favorite fighters. A guy with deep Philly roots, he’s had tough battles with the likes of Amir Khan, Zab Judah, Lucas Matthysse, Paulie Malignaggi, and Keith Thurman. Danny is an accurate counterpuncher whose risky style is based on one of the most dominant left hooks in the game. The split decision loss to Thurman last March had to be a bitter pill for the proud Garcia to swallow. How does a fighter who has accomplished so much in the sport find the motivation to rebound from a loss like that? We will find out where Garcia is mentally and physically this February 17 as he takes on Brandon Rios (34-3, 25 KOs) in a twelve-round welterweight clash.
Vasyl Lomachenko (Junior Lightweight). Obviously, the slick Ukrainian southpaw is on top of the boxing world right now, and is a factor in everyone’s pound-for-pound discussion, but the real unknown for Lomachenko in 2018 is: whom should he fight next? Who will give him a challenge? Who will draw a big audience? Miguel Berchelt (32-1 28 KOs), who holds the WBC belt, seems like the logical next opponent for “HiTech,” but a case can certainly be made for Francisco Vargas (24-1-2, 17 KOs) or even Gervonta Davis (19-0, 18 KOs). There has also been significant social media chatter about Lomachenko moving up to 135 to fight Mikey Garcia (37-0, 30 KOs), and what a fight that would be. Unfortunately, for now, Garcia has moved to junior welterweight to face Sergey Lipinets (13-0, 10 KOs) for the IBF title. Regardless, Lomachenko remains a fighter to watch in 2018.
By: Ste Rowen
On Saturday night the Baltic country of Latvia hosted its first ever world championship fight as the World Boxing Super Series came to town. However, neither the pre-fight hype, nor the electric atmosphere inside Arena Riga could turn this highly anticipated match-up into an exciting fight.
The third quarter final of the Cruiserweight World Boxing Super Series saw WBC World Champion Mairis Briedis step into the ring with former heavyweight contender Mike ‘The Rebel’ Perez, with Oleksandr Usyk awaiting the winner in the semifinals.
The early rounds set the tone for what descended into an ugly scrap. In round one ‘The Rebel’ seemed the busier fighter, throwing more frequently and forcing Mairis onto the backfoot.
Round two was when the Latvian started to lay the groundwork for his own game plan. This time Briedis seemed comfortable on the backfoot, initiating a jab and hold tactic that continued relentlessly throughout the fight. The bout looked like it would set alight in round three as Briedis was cut on his left eye by a head clash, which the referee ruled Perez to be at fault for and docked the Cuban a point. For a brief period, Briedis seemed apprehensive, even causing a second-head clash which seemed to effect Perez more than it did the champion.
From round five however, the Latvian regained his composure and dominated right into the championship rounds. His holding wasn’t pretty but it was a strong enough base to work off as he started to land more frequently. By round nine, and arguably earlier, Mike Perez, 22-2-1 heading into tonight, seemed all out of ideas and was caught by a big right uppercut underneath the chin which, although he seemed to recover quickly, definitely shook him up. Enough for him to incorporate Briedis’ tactics of holding long enough to avoid any further damage.
In round ten Briedis was finally docked a point for persistent holding after much protest and frustration from Perez but by then the Latvian had an air of superiority about him. Perez began to rush forward with no real effect and he needed a knockout going into the final round. It never looked like coming.
There was the question of whether Mike’s power would have the desired effect coming down in weight, but in truth we still don’t know if it can. Briedis frustrated Perez throughout, never taking a clean hit from the Cuban nor veering away from his own game plan. Jab-Hold with the occasional combination flurry or eye-catching shot was enough to see Briedis pick up a clear points win, 116-110, 115-111, 114-112.
It’s hard to watch Briedis, now 23-0-0. Tonight, along with his last outing against Marco Huck to win the WBC title, prove why, but up next is tournament, fan favorite, Usyk. It’s a match-up touted for early 2018 and as well as a place in the WBSS final, Usyk’s WBO and Briedis’ WBC Cruiserweight world titles will be at stake. There’s enough there for us to forget about how tonight played out and salivate over how good the upcoming semifinal should be.
Krzysztof Glowacki v Leonardo Bruzzese
The main undercard bout of the night saw World Boxing Super Series reserve, and former WBO World Cruiserweight world champion Krzysztof Glowacki, 27-1-0 before tonight, ease to a stoppage win over Italian Leonardo Bruzzese (18-3-0).
The Polish southpaw dominated from the first bell, landing almost every time with a perfect left hand. And the domination continued through the second. Bruzese, who had fought all but one of his fights outside of Italy, began to land slightly more but it wasn’t a problem Glowacki couldn’t deal with.
The Pole almost ended it at the end of the second and then again through rounds three and fourth. His punches consistently sending Bruzzese onto the ropes, with only a solid chin keeping Leonardo in the fight. But he was never truly ‘in’ the fight as Glowacki hammered at his opponent with precision, power and most tellingly, ease.
Krzysztof finally landed a punch with the desired effect, firing a left hook in round five which dropped Bruzzesse and then again soon after, forcing the Italian to drop down on both knees as the referee waved the bout off.
Glowacki would’ve been a worthy participant in the World Boxing Super Series with or without tonight’s win but what tonight shows is that he’s a clear number of levels above the fringe fighter status. Let’s hope he’s not called upon but if he is, people would be wise to not overlook him as a world class contender at the 200lb limit.
By: Eric Lunger
The Quarter-finals of the World Boxing Super Series tournament opened last night at the venerable Max Schmeling Halle in Berlin, where long time German Cruiserweight champ Marco Huck took on heavily favored Ukrainian WBO belt holder Oleksandr Usyk, the former Olympic champ and teammate of Vasyl Lomachenko.
In the opening round, Usyk showed incredible footwork for a 200 pounder, moving in and out, changing range and angles, even toying with changing stance.
Huck, no rookie, patiently waited for a chance to set his feet and throw a punch, but had little opportunity. Huck did manage to get inside once, where he held Usyk’s head with the left while throwing right hooks – a professional tactic, to put it charitably. Nonetheless, Usyk scored with jabs to the body and head. First round to Usyk, 10-9.
The second round saw better work from Huck, who started to time Usyk and land counter rights to the body. Usyk took over in the second half of the round, however, using his considerable reach to establish a double jab, for which Huck had no answer. Usyk pinned Huck against the ropes late in the round, but the veteran German knew enough to extricate himself at once. Usyk 20-18.
Usyk came out in the third determined to up his tempo and punch output, but Huck is not easy to intimidate. Despite some good counters and some offense from Huck, the Ukrainian champ dominated the round with his foot work and hand speed.
Moments before the bell and sensing some fatigue in his opponent, Usyk slipped to his right and landed a punishing left hook that seems to stun Huck. Usyk 30-27.
In round four, Huck came out aggressively and found a way through Usyk’s guard with a good left hook. But Usyk fired back immediately, following his jab and scoring with his left. Huck continued to look for his straight right, even to the point of leaning in, and was duly punished by Usyk, who pounced on the error. Nonetheless, a close round, maybe with the edge to Huck. Usyk 39-37.
In the fifth, the Ukrainian seemed to realize that Huck, though tough and still throwing punches, was not a threat, and Usyk began to let his hands go, looping big shots with both hands. Conditioning also became a factor in this round, as Huck slowed down in the last 30 seconds of this and the following rounds, while Usyk continued to pressure and put combinations together. Usyk 49-46.
The sixth round was defensive and calculating from both fighters, with the champion content to box behind a high guard, dancing and moving out of range of Huck’s short overhand right. Huck took what was offered and began to attack the body, but drew a warning from referee Robert Byrd for a low blow. The German ended the round with a good combination, however, drawing a grin and grimace of frustration from Usyk. Usyk 58-56.
Having essentially taken a round off, the Ukrainian champ came out in the seventh with higher energy and much more focus. While game and always willing to throw back, Huck had no answer for Usyk’s jab, reach, and hand speed. When Usyk put those three elements together, Huck simply covered up and had to weather the storm. In a reverse mirror image of the last round, Usyk ended it with an effective and emphatic combination. Usyk 68-65.
The eighth began with Huck dangerously letting Usyk come in and then throwing clever counters with both hands. Either Usyk had excellent sparring or he had studied Huck’s style carefully, because he never went for the bait. While Usyk dominated the round, he went down on a slip, and Huck followed him, landing a punch while Usyk was on his knees. Although Huck has been known as a “rugged” fighter, this appeared a reaction more than a foul, but referee Byrd deducted a point. Usyk 78-73.
The fight exploded at the bell to start the ninth, as though Usyk had decided to go for a knock out. Huck, to his gritty credit, blasted back, but was immediately warned for holding Usyk’s head down.
Amazingly, Huck then crawled back into the round, landing a sneaky right hook — probably his best shot of the fight. Usyk answered, but Huck showed the savvy and fortitude that fueled his thirteen strait title defenses. A very close round, I gave it to Huck. Usyk 87-83.
The tenth began tactically, with Usyk still fresh, bouncing on his feet, and Huck trying to walk him down. But suddenly Huck slowed down, momentarily resting on the ropes. Usyk pounced, landing a stinging left hook that staggered the tough German. A blizzard of blows followed, with Usyk’s white gloves pouring through Huck’s guard.
Taking punishment and unable to throw, referee Byrd stepped in to save Huck from further punishment.
Huck fought a tough, clever, and resilient fight, as he has throughout his career. But Usyk is a special boxer; he possesses a rare talent and makes this brutal sport look elegant and, at times, easy. With more to come in the World Boxing Super Series, Oleksandr Usyk will have future opportunities to redefine excellence in the cruiserweight division.
By: William Holmes
On Saturday night Top Rank Promotions will continue their relationship with ESPN by broadcasting a junior welterweight unification bout between one of their top stars, Terence Crawford, taking on fellow junior welterweight title holder Julius Indongo. This bout will take place at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Another bout to be televised will be in the light heavyweight division and will be between Oleksandr Gvozdyk and Craig Baker. The undercard will feature many familiar names, including Mike Alvarado, Bryant Jennings, Dillian Whyte, Shakur Stevenson, and Nicholas Walters. Don’t be surprised if some of these names make their way to the main broadcast.
The following is a preview of both televised bouts.
Oleksandr Gvozdyk (13-0) vs. Craig Baker (17-1); Light Heavyweights
Oleksandr Gvozdyk is another Ukranian prospect with a high ceiling and a deep amateur background, though he doesn’t have the amateur accolades of fellow Ukranian Vasyl Lomachenko.
Gvozdyk won the bronze medal for the Ukraine in the 2012 Summer Olympics. He also competed in the World Series of Boxing before turning pro and was undefeated there. He’s thirty years old and three years younger than his opponent, Craig baker. Gvozdyk also stands at 6’2” and has a long reach of 76”.
Baker competed in the 2008 US National Amateur Championships and the 2008 National Golden Gloves but did not place. His amateur background pales in comparison to Gvozdyk.
Gvozdyk turned pro in 2014 and already has an impressive list of defeated opponents. He has defeated the likes of Nadjib Mohammedi, Tommy Karpency, Isaac Chilemba, and Yunieski Gonzalez. He’s currently riding a seven fight stoppage streak.
Baker’s only notable victory was against Umberto Savigne. The one time he took a step up in competition he got knocked out by Edwin Rodriguez. Fourteen of his seventeen wins have come against opponents with records of .500 or worse.
Gvozdyk has the edge in speed, defense, amateur background, and even power. Baker has thirteen knockouts in comparison to Gvozdyk’s eleven stoppages, but Baker’s stoppage victories have come against subpar competition.
It’s doubtful this fight will be competitive. Gvozdyk should won handedly.
Terence Crawford (31-0) vs. Julius Indongo (22-0); WBO/WBC/IBF and WBA Junior Welterweight Titles
It’s rare to see all four major world titles up for grabs in one unification bout, but this anomaly will occur on Saturday night and should be applauded.
Both boxers are undefeated but Crawford is the heavy favorite.
Crawford will be giving up about two and a half inches in height and one and a half inches in reach. However, Crawford is five years younger than Indongo and appears to be the quicker boxer with the harder punch.
Crawford has twenty two stoppages on his resume and five of his past six fights resulted in a stoppage victory. Indongo only has eleven stoppage wins, but three of his past four fights resulted in a KO/TKO.
Crawford has been fairly busy recently. He fought once in 2017 and three times in 2016. Indongo has matched his activity and also fought three times in 2016 and once in 2017.
Crawford’s list of defeated opponents shows he is deserving of his pound for pound ranking. He has defeated the likes of Felix Diaz, John Molina Jr., Viktor Postol, Henry Lundy, Dierry Jean, Thomas Dulorme, Raymundo Beltran, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Ricky Burns, and Andrey Klimov.
Indongo fought mainly in Africa early on in his career and has not faced the level of opposition that Crawford has faced. He has recently defeated the likes of Ricky Burns and Eduard Troyanovsky, but has not defeated any notable opponents before those wins.
The one edge that Indongo might arguably have is amateur experience. He competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics and Crawford failed to make the Olympic team of the United States. However, Crawford is a former National PAL Champion.
Indongo’s height and reach may give Crawford some issues early on. He was able to surprise many when he defeated Eduard Troyanovsky and he had little problems defeating Ricky Burns. However, Terence Crawford is an elite level boxer and he has enough experience to solve the height and reach of Indongo.
Crawford should win by a comfortable decision.
HBO World Championship Boxing Results: Lomachenko Dazzles, Usyk and Gvozdyk Victorious
By: William Holmes
The Theater at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland was the host site for tonight’s HBO World Championship Boxing card featuring three Ukrainians in the televised portion of the card.
This fight was sold out with an announced attendance of 2,828.
The venue is a new one for boxing and there doesn’t look like there’s a single bad seat in the house and the casino, which opened in December, looked exquisite.
The undercard featured several young victorious high level prospects such as Michael Reed, Patrick Harris, and Jesse Hart.
The opening bout of the HBO televised card was between 2012 US Olympian Mike Hunter (12-0) and 2012 Ukrainian Olympic Gold Medalist Aleksandr Usyk (11-0) for the WBO Cruiserweight Championship.
Usyk, as the other Ukrainian boxers, had a very large and vocal contingent in attendance.
Hunter took the center of the ring and Usyk jabbed from the outside in the opening round. Usyk’s first big punches of the night were some straight left hands in the first round, but Hunter’s jabs kept it close and it could have been scored for either boxer.
Hunter had a good second round and was the more active of the two boxers, but Usyk was taking the punches of Hunter well. Usyk pressed forward in the third round and he had the head of Hunter snapping backwards with a lot of his punches that landed in the fourth.
The fifth and sixth rounds were clear rounds for Usyk as he appeared to be wearing Hunter down and landed several hard, clean, combinations that get the crowd to its feet and whistling.
Usyk connected at a high percentage in the seventh round and had Hunter back pedaling. Usyk landed some heavy blows in the eighth round and looked like he was close to sending Hunter to the mat.
Hunter tried to go punch for punch with Usyk several times in the ninth and tenth rounds, but he didn’t have the power nor the accuracy of the Ukrainian boxer.
Hunter was fighting well, but likely needed a knockout in the final two rounds to pull out the victory, but he didn’t fight like he needed a stoppage and seemed content with throwing his jab while never really going for the knockout blow.
Instead it was Usyk who had Hunter staggered and wobbly by the ropes in the final round as he went for the stoppage. Usyk was able to score a knockdown in the final round and he followed it up with a furious rally in an attempt to stop the bout. Hunter somehow stayed on his feet and threw just enough punches to keep the referee from stopping the bout.
Aleksandr Usyk wins the decision with scores of 117-110 on all three scorecards.
The next bout of the night was between Yuniesky Gonzalez (18-2) and Oleksandr Gvozdyk (12-0) in the light heavyweight division.
Gvozdyk and Gonzalez felt each other out by exchanging jabs in the first round and both boxers landed some punches, but Gvozdyk was landing more combinations while Gonzalez was looking for the knockout punch.
Gonzalez spent most of the second round chasing Gvozdyk around the ring while Gvozdyk landed some eye opening combinations.
Gonzalez opened up the third round by throwing everything into his punches but was very wild. Gvozdyk stayed patient and landed short straight right hands that had Gonzalez hurt and followed it up with a combination that sent him to one knee. Gonzalez was able to get back to his feet and ate several hard combinations from Gvozdyk. Gonzalez eventually succumbed to the pressure of Gvozdyk and was sent crashing to the mat.
Gonzalez’s corner jumped up to the ring apron and stopped the bout. Oleksandr Gvozdyk wins by an impressive TKO at 2:59 of the third round.
The main event was between pound for pound superstar Vasyl Lomachenko (7-1) and Jason Sosa (20-1-4) for the WBO Super Featherweight World Championship.
Lomachenko’s legion of supporters greatly outnumbered the fans of Sosa in attendance.
Lomachenko and Sosa fought a near even first round with both boxer showing good head movement and angles.
Sosa did well in the second round and Lomachenko had to complain to the referee about a possible low blow and a head butt. Lomachenko ended the second round strong with a flurry and may have stolen it with that flurry.
Lomachenko showed off his fancy footwork in the third round but Sosa was landing and throwing some good punches of his own.
Lomachenko had a very good fourth round and was landing some incredible combinations from unique angles. He also had Sosa hurt with a hard straight left hand.
By the fifth round Lomachenko was landing his punches at will and they were coming in lightning quick. Lomachenko was toying with Sosa in the sixth round and landed several good body blows.
Sosa, despite his best efforts, couldn’t find his target in the seventh round as the reflexes of Lomachenko just appeared to be too much for him.
Lomachenko battered Sosa in the eighth round and looked close to knocking him down when Sosa’s back was against the ropes. Sosa though showed incredible heart and grit and was able to survive the unbelievably accurate combinations of Lomachenko.
Sosa attempted to bait Lomachenko in the ninth round by willingly eating some combinations and unleashing an occasional bomb, but he was unable to land any punches.
Sosa, who had taken a beating the entire fight except for the opening round, looked like a beaten down man at the end of the ninth round. He would not come out for the tenth round.
Vasyl Lomachenko wins by TKO at the end of the eighth round.
Undercard Quick Results:
Egidijus Kavaliauskas (16-0) defeated Ramses Agaton (17-3-3) by knockout at 2:58 of the fourth round in the welterweight division.
Patrick Harris (11-0) defeated Omar Garcia (6-7) by decision with scores of 80-72 on all three scorecards in the super lightweight division.
Jesse Hart (22-0) defeated Alan Campa (16-3) by TKO at 0:44 of the fifth round in the super middleweight division.
Michael Reed (22-0) defeated Reyes Sanchez (26-10-2) by decision with scores of 99-91 on all three scorecards in the super lightweight division.
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 Results: Usyk and Diaz Victorious, Joe Smith Stops Bernard Hopkins and Sends Him Tumbling Outside the Ring
By: William Holmes
The legendary Bernard Hopkins ended his long and illustrious career tonight at the Forum in Inglewood, California.
Three bouts were televised by HBO and five of tonight’s six participants were making their HBO debut.
The opening bout of the night was between Oleksandr Usyk (10-0) and Thabiso Mchunu (17-2) for the WBO Cruiserweight Title.
Both boxers came out in a southpaw stance, but Usyk appeared to be the bigger and longer boxer. However, Usyk had trouble with the short height of Mchunu and stuck to mainly throwing his jab in the opening two rounds. Mchunu showed surprisingly good counter punching and was able to land some lead right hooks and stiff jabs and took an early lead.
At the start of the third round Mchunu landed seventeen punches to Usyk’s sixteen, but Usyk picked up his volume of punches and began to look very comfortable in the ring by the fourth round. His volume and accuracy was increasing.
Usyk landed a good right uppercut in the fifth round and was landing more power shots. He scored a knockdown in the sixth round after landing multiple combinations that forced Mchunu to take a knee. Mchunu was able to survive the round but Usyk domination and volume continued into the seventh and eighth rounds.
Usyk opened up the ninth round by landing some good body shots on Mchunu in the opening minute and it opened up some avenues for Usyk to land some power shots upstairs. Usyk landed another blistering combination and it forced Mchunu to take a knee. Usyk comes right at Mchunu when he gets back to his feet and a fierce exchange occurred with both boxers landing power shots, but it was Mchunu who goes down again and the referee stops the fight.
Oleksandr Usyk wins by TKO at 1:53 of the ninth round.
The next bout of the night was between Joseph Diaz (22-0) and Horacio Garcia (30-1-1) in the featherweight division.
Diaz, a southpaw, landed the first jab of the night and kept a safe distance and found his range early on. Garcia landed a good counter right but was met with a two punch combination from Diaz. Diaz landed more punches than Garcia in the opening frame, but Garcia was able to land some hard punches of his own.
Diaz had a strong second and third rounds and nearly doubled the number of power shots landed. He was landing crisp counter shots on a forward pressing Garcia and looked like an experienced veteran in the ring.
Garcia had a decent fourth round and caught Garcia with some right hand power shots when his back was against the ropes, but Diaz was able to slow Garcia down with hard hooks to the body and closed out the round well with quick combinations.
Diaz stepped on the gas pedal in the fifth round and was able to impress the crowd with his blistering hand speed. Diaz’s dominance continued into the sixth round and he was comfortably ahead on the scorecards.
Diaz simple outclassed Garcia by the seventh round and looked like he had no chance at winning the bout. He was able to land a few combinations on Diaz with his back against the ropes, but Diaz was able to fight out of the corner and quickly swing the momentum back to his favor.
Garcia needed a knockout in the final two rounds to win and he tried to press the action, but that knockout never came.
Diaz wins an impressive decision with scores of 100-90 on all three scorecards.
The main event of the evening was between Bernard Hopkins (55-7-2) and Joe Smith Jr. (22-1) in the light heavyweight division.
Smith missed with a wild right hook early in the first round and Hopkins immediately tied up. Hopkins connected with an early lead right but Smith counters with a right hand to the temple of Hopkins that appears to have momentarily stunned him. Smith was landing some hard shots on Hopkins as the round came to an end, and for the first time in his career Hopkins looked old inside the ring.
Smith pressed forward in the second round and Hopkins tied up when they got close, which led to a clash of heads that opened up a cut on the top of Smith’s head. Hopkins was able to land a sharp counter right hand this round, but Smith was the more active fighter.
The third round was a close round, but Smith was missing more of his punches than in the previous two rounds and Hopkins landed a few counter right hands.
Hopkins had a very good fourth round and even landed some combinations on the a seemingly increasingly frustrated Joe Smith Jr.
Hopkins started off the fifth round strong by tagging Smith with straight right hands as he chased Hopkins around the ring. However, Smith hard a good moment in the fifth round when he dug in some heavy hooks into the body of Hopkins and followed it with a right hook to the chin of Hopkins that elicited a roar from the crowd.
Hopkins missed with a wild left in the opening seconds of the sixth round and Smith landed a left to the body and Hopkins responded with a right uppercut to the chin of Smith. Smith pressed the action in the sixth round and was able to land some good shots.
Hopkins landed some clean counter punches in the seventh round but Smith was able to land some good punches to the body.
Smith had Hopkins backing up in the eighth round and landed a combination, including a stunning right hand, that hurt Hopkins and had him tumbling outside of the ring. Hopkins was helped to his feet by some people outside, but failed to get back into the ring after the count of twenty.
Hopkins was complaining that he was pushed outside of the ring to all who would hear him, but the fight was waived off and ruled in favor of Joe Smith Jr.
The crowd was not happy with the result, but Joe Smith Jr. wins by TKO at 0:53 of the eighth round.
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.