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A Look at the Junior Featherweight Division


A Look at the Junior Featherweight Division
By: Eric Lunger

While the heavyweight division is still in flux with Tyson Fury’s sudden withdrawal from the Klitschko fight, and while fans and commentators are still tying themselves into pretzels over the lack of unification in the middleweight division, there is a golden generation in the junior featherweight class. But unfortunately, though perhaps predictably, all four of the major belts are held by different fighters: Guillermo Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KO’s) WBA; Nonito Donaire (37-3, 24 KO’s) WBO; Jonathan Guzman (22-0, 22 KO’s) IBF; and Hozumi Hasegawa (36-5, 16 KO’s) WBC.

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Let’s take a look at these four stars and see where the division is headed. First off, I will make a confession: I am a huge Guillermo Rigondeaux fan. I know that some find him boring and dull, with a cautious defensive style. He is brilliant defensively, and he will pull some slips and upper body movements that will make you shake your head in disbelief. But he also has tremendous firepower in his left hand and will unleash it with unexpected ferocity. Watching Rigondeaux fight is like playing with liquid gelignite: it might explode at any moment. Unfortunately, Rigo can’t seem to get anyone into the ring with him. His last fight, this summer against James “Jazza” Dickens in Cardiff, Wales, was a disappointment. Rigondeaux and his team did a great job in the pre-fight build up, including an incredible display of athleticism during an open workout in downtown Cardiff, but the bout itself consisted of one round of Rigo measuring Dickens, and a second round in which the Cuban launched a devastating left that broke Dickens’ jaw. His corner waved the fight off.

So the question remains for Rigondeaux: whom to fight next? He only fought once in 2015. He has already beaten Donaire (in April of 2013) by unanimous decision. “Most feared and avoided in the division” is a cliché, but an apt one for Rigondeaux. Carl Frampton said as much after his Santa Cruz fight, bluntly stating that Rigo does not bring enough money to a fight to justify the risk. Rigondeaux has been picked up by Roc Nation promotions, so perhaps there is hope for fans that we might see him in the ring again soon.

Out of the four junior featherweight title-holders, Nonito Donaire is probably the best known. He has 40 professional bouts under his belt at age 33, so he has been around the block more than once. Impressive and articulate in interviews, Donaire knows where he is in terms of his career, and what he expects to get out of boxing over the next few years. He took a loss (TKO in the sixth) to Nicholas Walters in November of 2014, though in that bout he had moved up to the 126 lbs. limit, and Walters did look significantly bigger than Donaire in the ring. Since then, Nonito has been managed well, and has been put into position for an exciting fight on November 5 against Jesse Magdaleno (23-0, 17 KO’s), on the Lomachenko-Walters undercard. I am excited to see how Donaire handles Magdaleno’s speed and power. It should be a compelling bout.

Jonathan Guzman won the IBF belt (which Frampton vacated) by defeating Shingo Wake (20-4-2, 12 KO’s) in Osaka, Japan in July of this year. Guzman, from the Dominican Republic, has heavy hands and an attractive, fan-friendly style. He is aggressive without being reckless, comes forward consistently, and possesses excellent hand speed. Guzman handled Wake without any real trouble, though a head clash in the second round open a bad cut under Wake’s right eye. The damage was a factor in the rest of the fight and in the 11th round stoppage. Guzman is tentatively scheduled to defend his belt against Yukinori Oguni (18-1, 7 KO’s) in Japan on December 31st.

Finally, there is Hozumi Hasegawa of Japan. He is an interesting fighter with a long, professional record. Hasegawa won the WBC strap by defeating Hugo Ruiz (36-3, 32 KO’s) last month in Osaka. Hasegawa briefly held the WBC featherweight title, losing it to Jhonny Gonzalez in 2011, but he reigned as the WBC bantamweight champion from 2005 until 2010, making a remarkable 10 successful defenses in that period. For all that, Hasegawa has never fought outside of Japan. A southpaw, Hasegawa fights from range, using a pawing right jab to slap down his opponent’s lead, while looking to land his looping overhand left.

In the Ruiz fight, Hasegawa was better but not dominant. He scored a lot of straight overhand lefts from his southpaw stance, but Ruiz often presented a stationary target. Hasegawa out-pointed Ruiz, but the Japanese fighter was clearly hittable. He is certainly willing to trade and to take a punch in order to land one. The ninth round showcased some incredible action, with Ruiz managing to pin Hasegawa against the ropes and delivering a sustained attack. But, incredibly, the thirty-five year old Hasegawa found the strength to rally, launched his own flurry off the ropes, and blasted Ruiz back into the center of the ring. Ruiz’s corner did not allow their man to come out for the 10th, as Ruiz had sustained significant damage. Do yourself a favor and watch the ninth round again (preferably with Japanese commentary for atmosphere); you won’t be disappointed.

Clearly, Hasegawa is in his later years, career and boxing-wise, with Donaire not that far behind. But Guzman and Rigondeaux are in their prime, and either fighter could make a viable bid to unify the division. What would it take to get Guzman and Rigondeaux together in the ring? In the current atmosphere of fighters tending to avoid risky fights, it will take a lot. But we can dream, can’t we?

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Boxing Insider Notebook: Thurman, Porter, Lomachenko, Guzman, Chisora, Shumenov, and more…


Boxing Insider Notebook: Thurman, Porter, Lomachenko, Guzman, Chisora, Shumenov, and more…
By: William Holmes

The following is the Boxing Insider notebook for the week of April 26th to May 3rd, covering the comings and goings in the sport of boxing that you might have missed.

Photo Credit: Amanda Westcott/Showtime
Photo Credit: Amanda Westcott/Showtime

Keith Thurman/Shawn Porter Press Conference Quotes

Welterweight world champion Keith Thurman and former champion Shawn Porter recently held a press conference to discuss their upcoming matchup on June 25th, live on Showtime, from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Below are some quotes from that press conference.

KEITH THURMAN

“I made you wait. But it’s worth it. This is a tremendous fight. Arguably the best matchup of the year. We’re going to work our butts off to make it the Fight of the Year.

“Our two teams go way back. This is the most beautiful moment of my professional career and I’m about to compete with somebody I grew up with. I’m happy for my success and I’m happy for Shawn’s success. We come from the same boat. When you’re a young kid in the gym training and then you’re here today, that takes a special kind of person. Shawn and I are both that kind of person.

“We took six weeks off after my accident, with three days a week of physical therapy. I was relaxing at home. I didn’t like it. As a fighter, I wanted this fight as bad as the fans wanted this fight.

“This isn’t just the biggest fight of my career. But it’s the most anticipated fight of my career. Sometimes it pays to add some drama to the game. It wasn’t our intention, but I think it worked out.

“Barclays Center makes this a big fight. We get to promote here in New York City. New York is a fight town. My favorite fighter of all time, Mike Tyson, is from Brooklyn. This just happened to work out for the best.

“I anticipate most of the welterweight division being in attendance on June 25. The situation that division is in right now is that we’re all in a frenzy. Everyone wants the spotlight and everyone wants to be the top dog. We all have that opportunity.

“I want to have two titles by the end of this year. People talk about replacing Floyd Mayweather, but you can’t become the man without beating all the people in front of you. One fight at a time. I want to stay at the top by grabbing another belt. I’m going to show that I’m the big dog at 147 pounds.

“June 25, my friend is about to become my enemy. I’m going to treat him like any other enemy.

“Get your tickets. Get your seats. Get your popcorn. Whatever you need to do. This is going to be a fight you don’t want to miss. This is going to be a knockout you don’t want to miss. I love you Shawn, but I’m doing my best to put you to sleep.”

SHAWN PORTER

“I’m very excited about this fight. I’m blessed to have this opportunity. Not only to go for this title but to be a part of a record-breaking show at Barclays Center. This night is going to be memorable.

“Keith Thurman is bringing out the competitiveness in me to a level I’ve always wanted. It’s a level I expect. I have a guy next to me who is challenging me more than ever. Me and Keith Thurman are going to put on a show. Everything you talked about, you’re going to get it.

“It is amazing to be a part of something great like this. I’ve always considered myself to be a very good fighter and a very good athlete, but I’ve always wanted something like this and to have it is very humbling.

“I wasn’t surprised that Keith said he would knock me out. He has to pump himself up and be confident. When he looked at me I think he was trying to convince me that he was being real and I was looking at him to find out if he was convinced. He thinks he’s going to knock me out, I say he’s not. I’m going to do everything it takes to beat him and make it look easy.

“This is forming to be a big fight, one of those fights that we’ve looked forward to since we were kids.

“This is my second time fighting at Barclays Center. I’m 1-0 with a championship so now I’m looking for another one. I’ve been to some of the other fights at Barclays too and it is really an electric atmosphere. People are coming out to see something great and that’s what I’m going to give them.

“I’m not changing anything in camp because of how familiar Keith and I are with each other. I have to do it at the right time in the ring. We’re going to do everything we do to prepare for a world championship fight.

“Thurman is a little unorthodox at times so we’re prepared for that. It’s about going 12 rounds or less and looking good doing it. We’ve done a little sparring as pros but nothing as competitive as I’m expecting on June 25.

“I have a feeling Keith is going to say he’s knocking me out a lot. I want to know if he believes that. He’s a cutthroat kind of fighter. I know that. The hands will be up, the defense will be taken care of, and we’re taking care of business.”

Tickets to Martines v. Lomachenko/Verdejo and Zou US Debut On Sale

Three-time world champion ROMAN “Rocky” MARTINEZ and World Boxing Organization (WBO) featherweight world champion VASYL LOMACHENKO will go mano a mano for Martinez’s WBO junior lightweight world title and the boxing gem of Puerto Rico, FELIX “El Diamante” VERDEJO, will risk his WBO Latino lightweight crown, undefeated record and No. 2 world rating against JUAN JOSE MARTINEZ in the co-main event of a championship doubleheader Saturday, June 11 — one day before the famed Puerto Rican Day Parade — at The Theater at Madison Square Garden. The two bouts, scheduled for 12 and 10 rounds, respectively, will be televised live on HBO beginning at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT. The non-televised undercard will feature the U.S. debut of two-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time World Amateur Champion ZOU SHIMING from The Peoples Republic of China in a 10-round flyweight bout.

The five gladiators boast a combined record of 87-6-3 (53 KOs) — a winning percentage of 91% with over 60% of their victories coming by way of knockout.

“I feel very happy returning to New York to fight, and even more on a special date like the Puerto Rican Day Parade. I know that a lot of Puerto Ricans will be there and I’ll be ready, as always, to give it my all,” said Martinez. “About Lomachenko I can say that he is a boxer with a lot of accomplishments as an amateur and even though he became champion in just a few professional fights, it isn’t the same in amateur as in professional boxing and we are working hard to take the victory on June 11.”

“Thank you to Top Rank! Thank you to my manager, Egis Klimas!. And thank you to HBO for believing that I can headline its telecast in the main event of the evening,” said Lomachenko. “It is a big opportunity for me. It is a chance to set a new record by becoming a two-division world champion in the shortest period — my seventh professional fight — a record that currently stands at eight fights. On June 11, at Madison Square Garden, I’m going to do my best to reach a new career pinnacle.”

“I’m more motivated than ever for this fight on HBO and performing in front of my people in New York,” said Verdejo. “I recognize that my focus for my last couple of fights hasn’t been at its best. I feel that my last performances haven’t been close to what has been expected of me and that has motivated me to show my supporters that the Felix Verdejo they have been rooting for will be at The Garden on June 11 and for a very long time after.”

“This is the first time in boxing history which two fighters on this card each won two Olympic gold medals,” said Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum. “Vasyl Lomachenko and Zou Shiming accomplished iconic feats in the sport of boxing and Felix Verdejo himself is a former Olympian and one of the top amateur boxers.”

Sampson Lewkowicz Ordered to Begin Negotiating Guzman vs. Wake Fight for IBF Super Bantamweight Title

Promoter Sampson Lewkowicz has been given the go-ahead to begin negotiating a world-title fight between his fighter, Dominican Jonathan Guzman, and the promoters for Japan’s Shingo Wake.

The IBF ordered Lewkowicz, representing Guzman, the IBF #2 Super Bantamweight, and Kyoei Promotions, the IBF #1 Super Bantamweight, to begin negotiations immediately and have them completed no later than June 2 of this year.

Guzman (21-0) just defeated Daniel Rosas in Atlantic City while Wake (20-4-2) decisioned Thailand’s Mike Tawatchai last June.

The IBF rules state: “Any boxer who is contracted with a promoter, a network, or a state, tribal or national commission to take another fight, or who is ill, injured, under a legal impediment which could prevent the bout from taking place in the opinion of the IBF/USBA, or on suspension at the time the Championships Chairman and the President order a bout under this rule shall be considered unavailable. We would then move to the next available contender. Neither fighter can take another fight until this fight for the vacant title is concluded.”

In the event the camps cannot reach an agreement by June 2, the IBF will call for purse offers to be held to determine who will promote the bout, when and where it will be held. Per IBF rules, neither boxer may compete in another match until they face each other.

Pulev-Chisroa Title Clash Added to Crolla-Barroso Lightweight Title Telecast

This Saturday, a heavyweight contest between former world title challenger Kubrat Pulev and Dereck Chisora has been added to the telecast that will feature WBA Lightweight Champion Anthony Crolla defending his title against the hard punching Ismael Barroso that will be shown live on AWE-A Wealth of Entertainment.

The Pulev – Chisora European Heavyweight title clash will originate from Hamburg, Germany and will precede the Crolla – Barroso bout from Manchester, England.

“We are ecstatic to add this important heavyweight fight to our world title broadcast. The winner of this fight will be at the head of the line to get their second world title opportunity and these are big heavyweights, so we expect an explosive fight,” said AWE President, Charles Herring.

Rances Barthelemy to Face Mickey Bey on June 3rd

Undefeated lightweight world champion Rances “Kid Blast” Barthelemy (24-0, 13 KOs) will make his first title defense against former world champion Mickey “The Spirit” Bey (22-1-1, 10 KOs) in the main event of Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on Spike Friday, June 3 at the Hard Rock Live at the Seminole Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

Televised coverage begins at 9 p.m. ET/PT as unbeaten Puerto Rican prospect Emmanuel Rodriguez (14-0, 10 KOs) takes on hard-hitting Mexican Victor “Pitufo” Proa (28-1-2, 21 KOs) in a 10-round bantamweight affair.

“There were rumors that a fight between me and Mickey Bey was on the brink of happening prior to my fight against Denis Shafikov, so now that it is here, I know it was destined to happen,” said Barthelemy. “I’m not a rookie anymore. I’m not going into this worried or nervous about it being my first title defense at 135. I’m comfortable enough now to see every fight as just another challenge I need to execute my game plan the most effectively and with the least amount of errors.”

“Barthelemy won my title, I had to vacate it due to a hand injury, so all he is doing is keeping it warm for me,” said Bey. “Training camp is going great. I have been training hard for over a month. I have the best team in the business, with the most knowledgeable trainers. I’m looking forward to the challenge with him being undefeated and a two-time world champion. We both have a lot of skills, so it will make an entertaining fight for sure.”

“I want to challenge all of the bantamweight champions to fight me so they can see a real athlete in the ring,” said Rodriguez. “I have been training hard. This is a lifestyle for me. I have been training since December and on June 3, I am going to deliver a knockout.”

“I’m excited about this opportunity against a good young fighter,” said Proa. “I’ve been training hard and feel like this is my time. I’m going to come forward and see what this guy can do.”

WBA Interim Cruiserweight World Champion Shumenov Protests WBA “Regular” World Cruiserweight Title Fight

World Boxing Association (WBA) Interim cruiserweight world champion Beibut Shumenov (16-2, 10 KOs), the only Kazakhstan-native to hold world titles in two different weight classes, is disputing the WBA’s sanctioning of the WBA “regular” cruiserweight world championship fight, May 20 in Paris, between two lower-ranked WBA fighters, No. 2 Yunier Dorticos and No. 5 Youri Kalenga (recently upgraded to No. 3).

Last July, Shumenov defeated B.J. Flores by way of a 12-round unanimous decision to become the mandatory challenger for WBA “regular” cruiserweight champion Denis Lebedev, who was later elevated to “Super” champion.

Lebedev hasn’t fought a mandatory defense in one year, ironically, when he won a 12-round decision over Kalenga, who had earned his world title shot, like Shumenov, by becoming WBA Interim world champion. The WBA granted Lebedev an extension in terms of his due mandatory defense because of the Russian’s unification fight May 21 in Moscow against International Boxing Federation (IBF) title-holder Victor Emelio Ramirez.

“I’m very disappointed the WBA is sanctioning Dorticos-Kalenga for its ‘regular’ cruiserweight title, when I am the No. 1 ranked and current WBA Interim champion,” Shumenov said. “I repeatedly informed the WBA through emails, texts and verbally that I was ready to fight back in January. I preferred to fight Lebedev but I was willing to fight Dorticos or anybody else in the top 15. For the past few months, I’ve been laboring over what I believe is a very bad decision, letting two lower-ranked fighters, the No. 2 and No. 3 guys, fight for the WBA ‘regular’ title. I am shocked and bewildered and do not understand the WBA’s rationale to have either of these fighters declared the WBA ‘regular’ champion without first defeating either Lebedev or me, the Interim champion and No. 1 rank contender.

“I appealed the decision but, so far, the WBA has done little in response to my appeals other than delay and stall before finally ruling that I will fight the Lebedev-Ramirez winner months from now, yet, ignoring my appeal to stop the regular title status of Dorticos-Kalenga and still sanction a fight between them, its No. 2 and No. 3 rated fighters, for the WBA ‘regular’ title. This is unfair to fans, who deserve to watch the best fighting the best, especially when a world championship is at stake! We now have this odd situation where there will be three separate WBA cruiserweight fights in May, all for a different version of WBA world title I just don’t feel anyone should get the WBA ‘regular’ title without first defeating a champion or at least the top-ranked fighter in the division. The WBA knew I was and am ready to fight. Its decision makes no sense and, in my opinion, diminishes the prestige and meaning of the title. I have respect for Dorticos and Kalenga but I think the legitimacy of any world title resulting from a fight between the No. 2 and No. 3 ranked contenders, when the No 1 mandatory contender who already holds the WBA Interim champion is ready and available, to say the least, is highly questionable.

“The WBA told me and announced to the media that it was working to have only one world champion in each division. While I’ve been sitting out the last four months waiting to fight, the WBA has decided to allow six different guys to fight for three WBA cruiserweight world titles, practically on the same day, instead of crowning only one WBA cruiserweight world champion. I look forward to returning to the ring and my manager, Al Haymon, has advised me that I will fight in May and we will announce next week. I want to thank everyone for their support and I apologize to my family, friends, fans and my country, Kazakhstan, for this chaos the WBA has caused that has damaged and delayed my professional boxing career. I will move forward and continue to fight inside the ring, letting my attorneys and manager fight this unfair situation outside the ring.”

UFC Fighter Paige VanZant Says Tyson Fury Deserves an Ass Whooping

UFC fighter Paige VanZant recently told TMZ Sports that Tyson Fury’s sexist comments about women are completely disrespectful, and that he needs to get his ass kicked.

Fury stated in a December interview that “A woman’s best place is in the kitchen and on her back.” Wladimir Klitschko stated that Fury was a disgrace to the sport of boxing, and VanZant is following suit.

You can read more at http://www.tmz.com/2016/04/28/paige-vanzant-tyson-fury-wladimir-klitschko-sexist/

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