One Night in Moscow: Usyk Outclasses Gassiev
By: Ste Rowen
We have a new undisputed champion and king of the cruiserweights. Oleksandr Usyk outclassed the previously unbeaten, Murat Gassiev to claim supremacy of the 200lb division.
The ring walks, the atmosphere, but maybe not the fight itself. Everything we hoped would be tonight almost was. Usyk’s class showed but Gassiev’s quality went missing.
Photo Credit: World Boxing Super Series Twitter Account
The first bell rang and one of the most important fights of this decade began. Gassiev, in metallic-black shorts with a white stripe, seemed to be going with the same tactics as the beginning of his semi-final bout with Yunier Dorticos, allowing Usyk the centre ground and see what he had to give. Usyk, in the white, gold and blue of Ukraine, stalked Murat around the ring, patiently firing off the jab. The two clearly respected the other’s skillset.
It took a minute of the 2nd round for ‘Iron’ Gassiev to show his Ukrainian foe what he was about, landing a heavy head and body combination, which got the crowd going. Usyk was the more active of the two but it was clear, as most predicted, that Murat’s power was a massive influencer in the way Oleksandr was fighting.
It was thought by many that the Russian’s boxing aptitude was underrated heading into tonight, but it was undoubted, even from the early rounds, no other big man moves like Usyk. Heavyweight, Tyson Fury perhaps comes closest, but the Ukrainian has displayed this kind of fluidity consistently against the best of his division. Through rounds 3 & most of 4 it was on show again. It’s testament to Murat that he kept his composure and didn’t allow himself to show frustration early on. However, at the end of the 4th, ‘Iron’ landed a massive right hand from the waist that clearly shook the Ukrainian, enough for Usyk to come in close and hold until the bell.
Usyk proved he was prepared for his opponent’s power though, as he resumed his jab and move tactics into the next round and showed no signs of weariness from that right hand. Into round 7, and the WBC & WBO champion was into his rhythm now, comfortable with his razor sharp 1-2’s and move. Even if he lacked the power his opponent held, Usyk was fighting as if it was an Olympic event.
Gassiev needed to disrupt his rival’s flow. It was clear by the 8th, the Ukrainian was on top. The stablemate of Gennady Golovkin, even with the occasional, cleanly shot, right hook couldn’t force the 2012 Olympic gold medallist back.
By the start of the 10th Usyk was well on top. Murat just looked as if he had no answers, as if Usyk was a step too far. Oleksandr by now had added a nastiness to his shots, they seemed to be taking a little more out of ‘Iron’ than before. In between 9 & 10, Gassiev’s trainer, Abel Sanchez was heard saying,
‘’You’ve got 3 rounds…You’re not going to get the decision unless you put this man on the floor.’’
But what could the Russian do? The southpaw in Usyk was too elusive, too demoralising in every punch he landed. He tapped on Gassiev’s guard and then was gone by the time Murat looked up
In the championship rounds of the WBSS semi-final between Gassiev vs. Dorticos, Murat had the upper hand, it was by no means a formality but ‘Iron’ had the momentum and the lead. Tonight, in round 11, it was one-hitter-quitter time for ‘Iron’.
Does Murat only respect power? He knew Lebedev and Dorticos had it, as well as a world class chin that’s why when they met, Gassiev’s output was high and his boxing measured. Tonight? Not even close. Maybe the Ukrainian just has Gassiev’s number.
As round 12 was upon us, it was now or never, and Abel Sanchez was audibly telling his fighter that in the corner. Usyk never veered from the game plan, firing off fast paced three-punch point scoring combos. They weren’t testing Gassiev’s chin, they were testing his mentality, and with a minute left of the 12th, Murat looked done.
The final 10 seconds, an Usyk Ali-Shuffle, and then the final bell. How fitting for one of the greatest boxing displays in a long time.
The three were from the US and Belgium, we can trust these guys, right? Turns out we could, unlike some of tonight’s undercard bouts. There was no doubt, and the scorecards returned as 120-108, 119-109, 119-109 all in favour of the WBC, IBF, WBA, WBO, Ring Magazine and the Muhammad Ali Trophy champion of the world, Oleksandr Usyk.
Speaking post-fight, the now beltless Gassiev, and now 26-1 (19KOs), was complimentary to his opponent,
‘‘I want to congrats Usyk’s team. I want to thank all boxing fans. This is a very good experience for me…Every fighter is different, and you never know what will happen, you just do the best job you can do. In cruiserweight division you have a chance from first round to the last round. I listen to my corner and do my best.’’
Usyk, now 15-0 (11KOs), was obviously in a much more jubilant mood, loosely translated, the cruiserweight king said,
‘‘Thanks God. Thank you to everyone in my training camp. I was this good in the ring because of my team…The first thing I thought when my hand was raised, ‘Oh, Jesus Christ.’.’’
‘‘We need to take a rest, after that… I heard Tony Bellew is looking for a fight. Tony Bellew, are you ready? If he doesn’t wanna go down, I will go up.’’
Whatever happens next, for the first time in cruiserweight history, all four belts now belong to one man.
Cecilia Braekhus vs. Inna Sagaydakovskaya
Fighting for every belt conceivable in the women’s game, Cecilia Braekhus retained her undisputed status by defeating unbeaten challenger Inna Sagaydakovskaya via 10-round decision.
From the first bell, and as expected, Braekhus looked the more comfortable of the two boxers, Inna 7-0 (3KOs), wasn’t afraid to let her hands go and attempt to gain the early respect from the ‘First Lady’ but, the Norwegian was efficient with her punches. When Sagaydakovskaya threw – and missed – three shots, Cecilia landed cleanly with one.
In round three, with Braekhus on top, the undisputed champion slipped and as she was down, the Russian helped herself to a free shot. It did nothing but anger Cecilia. The overhand right from the Norwegian seemed to be landing every time. ‘Ice Queen’ Sagaydakovskaya, though persistent, was unable to stop the power punches landing.
By round 7, the ‘First Lady, trained by Jonathan Banks, was proving her class. The latest challenger to her throne was very game but ultimately a level below. Round 8 seemed to epitomise the fight.
The Colombian-born, Braekhus, went through the motions, making every shot, every manoeuvre seem simple, as the ‘Ice Queen’ struggled to find a way in and land a bout-changing punch.
Sagaydakovskaya’s conditioning is to be applauded. She was relentless in her offense, even in 2-minute rounds, and so obviously behind. Braekhus almost took her Russian foe out before the final bell as she put her foot down in the 10th, but even though she didn’t get Inna out of there early, it was mightily impressive from the welterweight.
The final scorecards weren’t revealed, but Braekhus was announced as the winner by unanimous decision and still, the WBC, IBF, WBA, WBO & IBO welterweight champion of the world.
Fedor Chudinov vs. Nadjib Mohammedi
Fighting for the WBA ‘International’ super middleweight strap, Fedor Chudinov scored a controversial 12-round split decision victory over Nadjib Mohammedi.
The two fighters made a tentative start to the bout, both choosing to fight off non-committal jabs, and it was close heading into round four, if a little too slow for the crowd’s liking. Chudinov seemed to have the edge though. His punches were having more of an effect on Mohammedi than the Frenchman’s were having on Fedor.
‘Flat footed’ is something that is continuously used to describe the Russian, and in little bursts of the fight, Chudinov was victim to brief, quick-handed assaults from his opponent that a more agile boxer would’ve avoided.
The bell for round 6 seemed to flick a switch in Mohammedi, who headed into tonight with a 40-5 (23KOs) record, as he came out swinging, trying to gain the initiative in a fight lacking sustained action. Whilst Chudinov did regain control of the pace of the fight, he continued to use his head as his best defence, and even through rounds 7 & 8, when the Russian was on top, Nadjib was landing point scoring counters which the judges should’ve noticed.
Mohammedi, who built his career fighting at light heavyweight, was unbeaten as a super middle and in rounds 9 & 10 he looked the brighter and more comfortable of the two. By now, Fedor had been resigned to wild, hopeful swinging. The championship rounds gave us more of the same from the Frenchman, specifically in the 10th as he teed off on his Russian foe’s face. There wasn’t even any urgency from Fedor as the bell rang for the 12th round, he was robotic in his movements – if the robot was slowly shutting down.
The fight went the distance, and it felt as if only ‘hometown’ judge’s cards stood between Nadjib and the victory. Sadly, this is boxing, and that’s exactly what we got. The judge’s scores came back as, 115-113, 111-118, 116-112, officially, a split decision victory in favour of Chudinov. Even Fedor, now 18-2 (12KOs) couldn’t disguise his surprise in having his arm raised. The Moscow crowd booed the result and then cheered Mohammedi as he protested in the ring.
The only semblance of justice now is for an immediate rematch to be called, don’t expect Mohammedi to return to Russia anytime soon.
Mairis Briedis vs. Brandon Deslaurier
World Boxing Super Series semi-finalist and former WBC cruiserweight champion, Mairis Briedis of Latvia scored a run of the mill 10-round unanimous decision victory over no-hoper Brandon Deslaurier.
Briedis, tonight’s main event injury reserve, went in for the kill straight away. His height and ring presence forcing Deslaurier onto the back foot immediately. It was clear from his physique and array of head and body punching that Mairis had taken training as seriously as if he was fighting in the final against Usyk or Gassiev.
Every now and then ‘The Gypsy Bomber’, Deslaurier landed a single punch that, for half a second, gave Briedis something to think about, but through to round 3, there was only one man winning this fight. More of the same continued into the 5th but, Brandon looked more comfortable now, fighting off the backfoot, maybe believing, at some point, the 3rd best cruiserweight in the world would tire.
He didn’t, and even though Deslaurier proved more resilient than he looked, into round 8, Mairis donning a pretty impressive handlebar moustache, was proving two or three levels above his French foe. Deslaurier is of course not even close to the challenge that Briedis faced when he took on tonight’s WBSS finalist, Usyk, but it does make you wonder, if the Latvian had started a little more liberally, a little less jab-and-hold at times against the Ukrainian, maybe he would’ve been fighting a very different kind of fight tonight.
The 10th and final round didn’t change either fighter’s tact. The former WBC champ beat and bullied the Frenchman around the ring, but it seemed as if he was holding something back. Briedis seemed happy enough with his performance by the final bell, and after all, the result was never really in doubt. The final scorecards were all of course, in favour of Mairis.
Now, 24-1 (18KOs), there are so many great matchups to look forward to for Briedis. Whether it be Usyk or Gassiev, fellow defeated semi-finalist Yunier Dorticos, or any of the other Ring Magazine’s top 10 200lb fighters. You have to seriously go out of your way to make a bad fight at cruiserweight.
In the non-televised bouts…
– The latest in a long line of rising Ukrainian prospects, Serhii ‘El Flaco’ Bohachuk, fighting at junior middleweight, moved to 10-0 (10KOs) with a stoppage victory over Georgian, Nikolozi Gviniashvili.
– In another 154lb bout, Konstantin Ponomarev, 34-0 (13KOs) heading into the bout, tasted his first professional defeat as he dropped a split decision to fellow Russian, and now 7-0 (6KOs), Sergey Vorobiev. 94-96, 97-94, 96-94 were the final scorecards after 10 rounds.
– The early surprise on the card, middleweight, Magomed Madiev, now 11-0-1 (4KOs) fought out a 10-round split decision draw with Argentine, Guido Nicolas Pitto. Mediev was expected to take the WBA ‘Asia’ and IBF ‘International’ belts up for grabs, but the final scorecards returned as, 96-94, 94-96, 95-95.
– Former junior amateur world champion, Vladimir Shishkin moved to 7-0 (4KOs). The super middleweight stopped Russian southpaw, Gasan Gasanov in the 5th round to claim the WBA ‘Continental’ strap.
– Denis Shafikov moved to 40-4-1 (20KOs) thanks to an underwhelming 10-round unanimous decision victory over Filipino journeyman, Jhon Gemino.
European Boxing Notebook: DeGale, Fury, Saunders, WBSS, and more…
By: Oliver McManus
A busy, busy couple of weeks has seen action across Britain aplenty but, for a while, there were relatively few major talking points. Nonetheless here is everything you could possibly need to know from the course of the last two weeks –
Chunky chases the dollar
James DeGale chose to relinquish his IBF super-middleweight title ahead of purse bids with his mandatory challenge Jose Uzcategui to chase fights that will define his “legacy in the division”. The 32 year old British boxer would have been up against a tough, powerful, Venezuelan in Uzcategui and the risk far outweighed the potential reward.
By ridding himself of the IBF title and, therefore, the mandatory situations he is now free to chase huge, money-making fights as he nears the end of his career. Without doubt the ideal location will be in the United Kingdom and DeGale never really managed to take off in America but, back home, there is the potential for some genuine mega-fights.
The winner of the World Boxing Super Series immediately springs to mind with Callum Smith and George Groves both providing stern tests and the appetite for a rematch with Groves has, arguably, never been hotter.
Billy Joe Saunders is another name that had been sounded out with potential for a clash to take place on September 15th but the finances of such a bout were believed to be a sticking point.
Watch this space, though.
Billy Joe Saunders mandated to defend against Demetrius Andrade
Talking of Billy Joe Saunders, the World Boxing Organisation has mandated their middleweight champion to defend his belt against mandatory challenger Demetrius Andrade – ranked number 2, the WBO’s number 1, Daniel Jacobs is facing Sergiy Derevyanchenko for the vacant IBF title – with purse bids expected before the end of the month.
Saunders was scheduled to face Martin Murray on two occasions already this year – April and June – before pulling out with injury both times and with Murray, now, reluctant to sign on for a third bout there was seemingly few attractive avenues for the champion to go down.
Against Andrade, Saunders would be up against a former super-welterweight champion and, you’d say, one of the hardest challenges of his career. We already know September 15th is the date being mooted for Saunders’ next fight, at the O2, and Andrade would provide quite a nice test in anticipation of a potential showdown with the winner of GGG-Canelo.
Saunders has already declared his willingness to take the fight as well as his confidence in beating the American but with Andrade signing with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing USA we could be set for one tasty purse bids.
WE HAVE A TOURNAMENT for 2018/19 with the World Boxing Super Series announcing the complete line-up for the Bantamweight division with no less than four world champions – the WBC are the only governing body not represented by a world champion (mainly because the belt is currently vacant) – in Emmanuel Rodriguez, Naoya Inoue, Ryan Burnett and Zolani Tete the belt holders to have signed up.
The other four fighters in the tournament are Jason Moloney (IBF Mandatory), Juan Carlos Payano (WBO #1), Nonito Donaire and, 4-0 Russian, Mikhail Aloyan.
Safe to say this tournament is shaping up to be the cruiserweight equivalent for 2018/19 and Emmanuel Rodriguez vs Jason Moloney will serve as one of the first quarter-finals having been called as a mandatory whilst Burnett, Tete and Inoue will be the other three seeds.
Fury looks to freeze Pianeta
The former heavyweight kingpin will be returning to the ring for the second time since his much awaited comeback kicked off and will face Francesco Pianeta at Windsor Park on August 18th, on the undercard of Carl Frampton vs Luke Jackson.
Fury will be looking for a far more polished and serious performance than the crowd at Manchester Arena witnessed on June 9th against Sefer Seferi with critics accusing him of not taking the sport seriously. Against Pianeta there is, on paper, a far more challenging opponent in the opposite corner with Pianeta a two-time world title challenger.
Those title challenges both ended with the Italian-born German getting knocked out, by Wladimir Klitschko and Ruslan Chagaev and the 40 fight veteran has had a less-than-impressive record over the past 12-18 months having lost to both Petar Milas and Kevin Johnson in depressingly convincing fashion.
Tyson Fury should, then, sweep past his latest challenge with relative comfort.
MTK Scottish card
MTK Global announced their first card as part of the new BoxNation broadcast agreement, to take place at the Emirates Arena on Friday 24th August in Glasgow with an absolutely stacked card of action set to take place.
Ronnie Clark, who sensationally upset Zelfa Barrett earlier in the year, defends his IBF European title against unbeaten prospect David Oliver Joyce – 7 and 0 – with the Irishman coming off the back of a sixth round TKO victory over Jordan Ellison.
Joyce has already proven his natural power with six wins via knockout and he’ll be looking to stamp his authority throughout the course of this, scheduled, 12 rounder. Clark is well aware of the threat posed by his 31 year old counterpart having declared the bout will be “amazing” to Irish-Boxing.com.
And, mark my words, this will be a war. There are no other ways of putting it.
On the undercard, local-legend, Willie Limond will return to the ring to take on MTK’s new signing in Darragh Foley over the course of 10 rounds with Foley fighting for the first time on British shores as a professional having been based in Australia up until now.
Rankin’ Rising up the Rankings
Hannah Ranking, the leading light in female Scottish boxing, will look to put behind her the previous issues in finding opponents when she travels to New York for her world title challenge on August 4th. Fighting Alicia Napoleon for the WBA Super Middleweight title, Rankin is in with a counterpart who has lost just once previously – to Tori Nelson – and is moving up YET ANOHTER weight category having last fought at middleweight and, prior to that, super welterweight.
British purse bids
As is always a busy period in the month, it was time for the BBBofC purse bids and seeing as there is so much to get through, this will be brief;
Cruiserweight – Matty Askin has been mandated to defend his British cruiserweight belt against up-and-coming Lawrence Okolie after the two have been verbally sparring across social media for weeks. The contest will go to purse bids on Wednesday, August 8th.
Light Heavyweight – Following a tempestuous fight for the English title back in February and months of expectation, a date was set for the rematch between Liam Conroy and Miles Shinkwin – slated for Friday, September 14th – but just days afterwards Liam Conroy decided to vacate the title and avoid the fight.
Middleweight – With the English middleweight belt being vacant promoter Errol Johnson reached an agreement with Reece Cartwright and Tyler Denny for the two to go toe-to-toe on Saturday, September 29th in Walsall for the title.
Super Welterweight – An agreement was reached by Eddie Hearn and the respective parties to stage Asinia Byfield vs Ted Cheeseman for the vacant British Super Welterweight title with the fight to take place on Saturday, October 20th in London; Adam Harper and Billy Bird will meet for the vacant English title on Saturday, September 22nd in Ipswich.
Super Lightweight – Robbie Davies signed a three-fight agreement with Eddie Hearn earlier in the month and his first fight will be on Saturday, October 13th in Newcastle for the vacant British Super Lightweight title and he’ll be up against Glenn Foot in a bruising encounter.
WBSS Preview: Oleksandr Usyk vs. Murat Gassiev
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.
Naoya “the Monster” Inoue to join WBSS Bantamweight Tourney
By Eric Lunger
Following up the success of the super middleweight and cruiserweight tournaments, World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) has announced a second iteration of the series, including a bantamweight division. Kalle Sauerland, the chief boxing officer at Comosa AG — which promotes the WBBS — recently announced that three fighters have committed to the tournament, and they happen to be three of the current world champions: Ryan Burnett (19-0, 9 Kos) of Northern Ireland (WBA Super), Manny Rodriguez (18-0, 12 KOs) of Puerto Rico (IBF), and Zolani Tete (27-3, 21 KOs) of South Africa (WBO).
Photo Credit: Naoya Inoue Twitter Account
Now Naoya “the Monster” Inoue (17-0, 15 KOs) of Japan, now a three-division world champion, can be added to that list, according to recent reporting by Sky Sports. Inoue may not be familiar to US fight fans; he has only fought once in the US, at the StubHub Center in September of 2017 against Antonio Nieves on the Rungvisai vs. Gonzalez II undercard. Nonetheless, Inoue’s rise to prominence has been meteoric. He won the WBC world light flyweight title in only his sixth professional fight, taking down Adrian Herandez by sixth-round TKO in April of 2014. Eight months later, he moved up to 115 lbs., and captured the WBO world flyweight title from Warlito Parrenas in a second-round TKO.
Inoue successfully defended that title six times over the next three years, and only one of those fights went the full twelve-round distance. Then, on Friday night, the “Monster” went up to Bantamweight to challenge the WBA (Regular) champion Jaime McDonnell (28-2-1, 13 KOs) from Yorkshire, England. The bout took place at the Ota-City Gym in Tokyo, Inoue’s home turf. McDonnell couldn’t last a round against Inoue (recap here: https://www.boxinginsider.com/headlines/inoue-stops-mcdonnell-in-one)
There were two striking things about the way Inoue dispatched McDonnell. First was how he calmly adapted to, and exploited, McDonnell’s game plan. Almost at once, it was quite clear that McDonnell wanted to slow Inoue down by jabbing to the body. By my count, McDonnell landed five jabs to the body before Inoue timed him (as McDonnell ducked in to jab) and delivered a crunching left hook to the champion’s temple, staggering the Englishman. That shot was the beginning of the end.
The second remarkable trait of the “Monster” was the precision of the finish. He knew McDonnell was in trouble, and he attacked with a full assault with both hands. An overhand right by Inoue was well-defended, so Inoue slipped slightly to his left and landed a left hook to the liver that dropped McDonnell immediately. It was the kind of punch that starts with perfectly planted feet, gins up its force in the rotation of the hips, and explodes onto the opponent’s body. It was dramatic, but it was precise footwork that set it up. To his credit and courage, McDonnell got up and beat the count. But he was still in distress. Almost calmly, Inoue pinned him to the ropes, landed a right hook to the body, left hook to the body, left hook to the exposed chin, and the referee jumped in to save McDonnell from further punishment.
It’s not like McDonnell fought poorly. Quite the opposite, he managed the distance, used his jab to keep Inoue’s pressure at bay, and he kept an efficient high guard. McDonnell is a fine fighter who successfully defended his WBA World title six times in four years. And McDonnell had never been stopped in his career. But Inoue is at another level, another step up in class. What will he do in this field of champions in the WBSS Bantamweight tournament? I can’t wait to find out.
World Boxing Super Series 2 Announces Three Weight Divisions for Next Tournament
By: Ste Rowen
The game changing World Boxing Super Series is returning for a second series and, at a press conference today Kalle Sauerland announced that the second instalment will involve 24 boxers across 3 weight divisions.
One of the 3 weight classes will be bantamweight. WBO and IBF champions, Zolani Tete and Emmanuel Rodriguez, newly crowned at the weekend, also attended the press conference, confirming their places in the upcoming tournament.
In a short statement, South African, Tete said,
‘Thank you to everyone for this opportunity. I’m very honoured…I believe it’s going to be one of the best sellers…People (in South Africa) are very excited. Hopefully their champion will bring all the titles home.’
Rodriguez also spoke briefly, via translator,
‘It’s great to be fighting against two other world champions for all the belts…God willing I’m going to win.’
Kalle also confirmed WBA champion, Ryan Burnett would be part of the tournament and read a prepared statement on Ryan’s behalf,
‘I have always wanted to be a world champion and to unify the titles against the best opposition out there. I feel I have proved this in my last 3 fights, and now the WBSS allows me to continue my dream against the other champions in the division.’
The draw to decide the quarter final schedule will take place in July, with the first bell to kick off the tournament sounding in September.
One of the other weight classes to be introduced to the WBSS will be super lightweight (140lb), with ESPN reporting that WBA titlist, Kiryl Relikh, Eduard Troyanovsky, Ivan Baranchyk, Anthony Yigit and Regis Prograis were five of the names set to fight in the 8-man tournament.
The third and final weight class is currently unknown.
It was also announced at today’s press conference that the dates for the finals of the cruiserweight and super middleweight tournaments, Oleksandr Usyk vs Murat Gassiev & George Groves vs Callum Smith, will be confirmed within the next 10 days. Usyk/Gassiev was set to take place this weekend in Saudi Arabia but had to be postponed due to an injury sustained to WBC & WBO champion, Usyk.
Concerning, the super middleweight final, Sauerland said that they weren’t going to wait around to put the final on,
‘The tournament is bigger than any fighter and that’s just the way it is. As a promoter you have to rule out august, so the final will happen in July.’
Rumours were circulating social media yesterday that Chris Eubank Jr, defeated in the semi-finals by George Groves, would replace the WBA champion in the final. Groves dislocated his shoulder in their September matchup, forcing him to undergo an operation, pushing the original final date back.
A Look Ahead Into the World Boxing Super Series
By: Oliver McManus
With the first incarnation of the World Boxing Super Series coming to a close in the near months, I thought it was only right to look back on the brain-child of Kalle Sauerland & Richard Schaefer but also to look forward at what could be for 2018/19.
To produce a real shake-up within the boxing industry, Sauerland and Schaefer (sounds like a nice German detective thriller) needed big names, big money, big arenas but, most importantly, big organization.
Now that last point may sound a bit weird but it’s arguably the most important because fans and fighters aren’t in the business of waiting for fights to be made and after a while the match-ups themselves lose their hype;
Take the Super Six World Boxing Classic which was rife with issues – I mean first up, that name is a mouthful – but the main issue was it’s confusing group stage format combined with the fact it took place over two years resulting in an unsaleable product.
I’m still struggling to work out how Artur Abraham lost two of his three bouts yet still made the semi-final AND how Glen Johnson only had one fight in the group stages… nine years on and I’m still confused!
Evidently, then, the WBSS needed to promise something far simpler and in a bracket-style format with 8 RANKED fighters per division taking place over 9 months – a simple, easy-to-follow format.
Therein lied the main attraction to this event and the fact that all four cruiserweight champions signed up made for mouth-watering encounters – the Super Middleweight tournament didn’t quite have the same level of razzmatazz with relative unknowns Avni Yildirim and Rob Brant signing up alongside, the only recognized world champion, George Groves with Jamie Cox, Chris Eubank Jr, Erik Skoglund, Callum Smith and Jurgen Brahmer making up the numbers.
Looking to innovate from the start the proceedings kicked off with a draw whereby the four seeded fighter got to pick from the four unseeded fighters to determine who would fight who – putting the power into the hands of the fighter. This produced a tasty clash between Groves and Cox whereas other fighters (Chris Eubank Jr, I’m looking at you) blatantly picked the easiest fight possible (against Avni Yilidirim) although to be fair that was Snr’s choice.
The fights throughout were of a high quality – especially in the cruiserweight division – but the promoters missed a trick in not having the defeated men fight on the following undercards. One of the most spectacular talking points of each fight night was, well, just how spectacular the Sauerland’s managed to make the arena’s and atmosphere’s through, mainly, just incredible lighting and packed crowds.
Unfortunately the whole series encountered the first snag when Brahmer withdrew from the semi-final against Callum Smith on the Monday fight night – too late to postpone the whole event, apparently – and unknown Dutchman Nieky Holzken stepped in to fight the British “Diamond” Champion.
Holzken put in a spirited performance and was far better than many expected in pushing Smith the full 12 rounds although, having said that, Smith was far from impressive but it reinforced the issue that if fighters got injured it through the whole tournament off course resulting in either heavy postponements or sub-par fights. Imagine if Holzken beat Smith – would he have gone on to face Groves (presumably, yes) or would Brahmer have been able to challenge him beforehand. Certainly from a legal perspective I’d suggest he’d have a solid case.
A questionable choice from the promoters was to hold the cruiserweight final between Oleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev – for ALL the belts – in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. By all accounts it’s set to be the first fight held in the Arab country but garners all sorts of controversy not least because it’s uncertain whether women will be allowed to attend but, also, it alienates much of the Usyk / Gassiev fan-based in addition to the main Western markets for ticket sales.
Let’s be clear though across the cruiser tournament we have been blessed with insane fights starting off with Mairis Briedis vs Mike Perez in the quarter-finals before two barnstormer semi-finals between Usyk-Briedis and Gassiev-Dorticos. You literally could not ask for more.
Rumours already abound the 2018-19 editions of the World Boxing Super Series with the main focus being on what weight division will be featured – it is my understanding that the Super Lightweight and Bantamweight categories will be the two picked by the Sauerland brothers.
Looking ahead at the 2018-19 version it’s unlikely the same level of prize money will be levied at the 16 fighters – a total of $50million was on offer for the two inaugural brackets – with the lower weight divisions seemingly courting less money but that’s not to say we will see any less superfluous action.
The WBSS have worked miracles already but should they managed to put together a Zolani Tete vs Ryan Burnett unification fight – who knows, maybe in Belfast – then they will have truly managed to pull off something special but it’s not just those two who could be in action, Jamie McDonnell, Paul Butler and Lee Haskins would all produce sumptuous match-ups.
Venturing into the super-lightweight division and it’s questionable whether all four champions would enter – far more likely to happen in the bantam division – but the likes of Terry Flanagan, Kiryl Relikh, Adrien Broner, Josh Taylor, Regis Prograis, Anthony Yigit, Jack Catterall and Julius Indongo are all realistic possibilities that would promise to entertain.
Speculation aside though there’s only two fights we need to focus on at the moment and that’s Usyk-Gassiev on the 11th May for the UNDISPUTED cruiserweight champion of the world and Groves-Smith in July, Manchester, for the WBA Super-Middleweight belt.
Let’s get it on.
WBSS Results: Callum Smith Advances with Win over Holzken
By: Bryant Romero
Callum Smith earned a place in the WBSS final and a showdown with George Groves with a tougher than expected win over a very game Nieky Holzken in Nuremberg, Germany. Holzken (13-1) was a late replacement who took the fight on 5 days notice following the withdrawal of Jurgen Braehmer (49-3, 35 KOs) who was originally scheduled to fight Smith.
Photo Credit: World Boxing Super Series Twitter Account
Holzken showed no hesitation in replacing Braehmer and came into the fight with tremendous confidence. The 27-year-old Smith (24-0, 17 KOs) was obviously disappointed that Braehmer had pulled out, but now he had to worry about an undefeated Holzken, which he didn’t know much about and admitted after the fight, he may have underestimated the Dutchman a little.
The undefeated Brit started the fight strong, establishing his distance while maintaining it and consistently popping the Dutchman with clean jabs. Holzken was game however, as he continued to apply pressure throughout the fight and at times displaying good head movement, slipping some of Smith’s jabs. Holzken would at times land some really good power shots, but his lack of activity and shaky defense at times would cost him a lot of the early rounds.
Smith was content with keeping the Dutchman at distance, while also outworking and outpunching Holzken throughout the majority of the rounds. As the rounds progressed to the middle rounds however, Smith started to show signs of fatigue and Holzken would start to make a push in the middle rounds landing some nice clean hard shots.
The 34-year-old Dutchman was competitive throughout the fight and surprised many with the type of moments he was producing in the bout. Some predicted he would get stopped within six rounds, but Holzken closed the fight very strong and got the better of Smith in the final round. Holzken fought very well, but Smith’s workrate, clean jabs, and outlanding Holzken throughout the majority of the rounds would prove to be the difference.
With the win, Callum Smith keeps his undefeated record intact and will now get the fight he’s wanted the most, which is a world title opportunity against WBA super middleweight champion George Groves (28-3, 20 KOs) in the WBSS final. The final is scheduled for June 2 in the UK, but with the shoulder injury to Groves following his win over Eubank Jr, the final could get pushed back to a new date.
WBSS Preview: Callum Smith vs Nieky Holzken
By: Bryant Romero
This Saturday in Nuremberg, Germany, the World Boxing Super Series returns for the second super middleweight semifinal with Callum Smith(23-0, 17 KOs) taking on late replacement Nieky Holzken (13-0, 10 KOs). The winner will advance to the finals of the tournament for the right to challenge WBA super middleweight champion George Groves, who is fresh off his unanimous decision win over Chris Eubank Jr. Smith was originally scheduled to fight veteran German Jurgen Braehmer (49-3, 35 KOs) who was forced to pull out earlier this week due to an infection, which made it impossible for Braehmer to compete fully fit for this Saturday.
Photo Credit: World Boxing Super Series
Smith will now be opposite of the ring of a very confident but unknown challenger in Nieky Holzken who has vowed to the boxing press that he is here to “take over the world boxing super series.” Holzken is a former world champion kick boxer with over 100 fights under his belt as a kick boxer. The Dutchman turned professional as boxer in 2013 and he is coming off an impressive second-round knockout of Viktor Polyakov just three weeks ago. The unbeaten Dutchman had originally been scheduled to face Dmitry Chudinov on the undercard, but will now get the opportunity in what will be seen as a major upset if he can beat the undefeated Callum Smith and advance to the finals of WBSS tournament.
Callum Smith is the number one contender for the WBC title at super middleweight and was on the verge of title shot before deciding to enter the tournament. He signed an agreement to face American Anthony Dirrell for the vacant WBC world title in America for which never occurred. The unbeaten Brit now finds himself in the semifinals of the WBSS tournament and is one win away from a very lucrative showdown and first world title opportunity against George Groves.
The decision to enter the tournament was the smart business move for Callum Smith, but now he finds himself in a tricky situation in dealing with the pullout of his original opponent in Braehmer and having to quickly adjust to a late replacement in Holzken who brings a much different style and fights from the orthodox stance.
The change in opponent, fighting away from home in Germany, the confidence that Holzken is displaying, and the fact that Smith knows nothing about his new opponent could be a recipe of a much more difficult night than expected at the office for Callum Smith. The bookies don’t give the Ducthman a prayer to win the fight, but stranger things have happen in boxing and perhaps we could be in for an interesting fight in this Callum Smith vs Nieky Holzken semifinal showdown.
Juergen Braehmer Out of Saturday’s Semi-Final
By: Ste Rowen
Juergen Braehmer has pulled out of this weekend’s World Boxing Super Series semi-final vs Callum Smith due to illness. The super middle & light heavyweight veteran said,
‘I have been battling a feverish infection since Sunday. Unfortunately, a fight in this state is out of the question.’
In to replace Braehmer is the unbeaten Dutchman and kickboxer, Nieky Holzen. Holzen currently holds a 13-0 (10KOs) record in a pro boxing career that started in 2013. This will be just the second time he has fought outside of the Netherlands professionally as a boxer, the other occasion was also in Germany. He was set to fight Dmitrii Chudinov before he received the call to make the step up to the WBSS, and he didn’t seem fazed by the prospect of facing Callum Smith,
‘I signed up as a substitute fighter so I’m in great shape and prepared for Saturday. I’ve watched Callum fight many times…He’s a good, solid fighter. We’re both big body punchers…Callum, you better be ready, because I am and I’m coming to beat you!’
Holzen has already fought this year, stopping the well-travelled Ukrainian, Viktor Polyakov, 13-3-1 (6KOs), in the 2nd round just 17 days ago.
Smith, 23-0 (17KOs), seemed slightly annoyed but unmoved by the change of opponent,
‘I gave an interview last week and said it’s great there have been no drop-outs…We got the call as we were boarding the plane. I am committed to fighting on Saturday and will fight whoever the WBSS puts in front of me.’
Up until last Saturday, across both the cruiser and super middleweight tournaments, the series has been lucky to not suffer any injuries. Now with Braehmer out and the uncertainty around George Groves’ shoulder injury, it will be a real test for the Sauerlands and Richard Schaefer, to keep the closing stages of the super middleweight draw exciting.
WBSS Preview: George Groves vs. Chris Eubank Jr.
By: Ste Rowen
On Saturday night in Manchester, an all-British world title fight takes place when WBA super middleweight champion, George Groves 27-3 (20KOs), steps into the ring with IBO belt holder, Chris Eubank Jr 26-1 (20KOs) in the much-anticipated World Boxing Super Series semi-finals.
Both boxers made easy work of their quarterfinal opponents back in October.
At Wembley Arena, ‘Saint’ George Groves knocked out fellow Brit, Jamie Cox in the 4th round with a clinical body shot that kept Cox down for the count and served as Groves’ first defence of his WBA belt, which he won back in April after stopping Fedor Chudinov.
In the pre-fight documentary, still available on the WBSS YouTube channel, Groves said…
‘I don’t like to waste shots so anything I do throw, believe me you’re gonna get hit with it… There’s absolutely nothing there for me to worry about because there’s gaping, gaping holes in that style, in that approach.
He’s a blown-up middleweight who’s come into this tournament to try and build his profile… If he managed to beat me he’ll be the next coming but if he fails he’s gonna have the biggest fall from grace that we’ve had in this country for a long time.’
Away from home and in the heated atmosphere of Stuttgart, Eubank knocked out, walking punchbag Avni Yildrim in the 3rd round of his quarterfinal bout, with a devastating right hook that finished the Turk off, after already forcing his opponent into briefly taking a knee in the first round following an uppercut.
Speaking on his own and his opponent’s capabilities, Chris was in confident mood…
‘It’s more than possible to push through that pain barrier and get up, and I’m sure that he’ll try and use that against me and I’m sure I’ll be prepared for it… It won’t go the 12 rounds, somebody’s getting knocked out. This chin doesn’t have an off button, his does.
I don’t have any hate for the guy, he’s just a guy with a belt that I need to get passed to win the tournament. I keep my emotions out of boxing. It’s nothing personal, it’s just punishment.’
It’s a difficult fight to conclusively call. It could come down to how well Groves weathers the storm in the early rounds and whether his chin holds up as well as it did against Chudinov. Along with being able to slip and counter off the ropes, if Groves is able to fire off the selection of shots we’ve seen in his 6-fight win streak since losing to Badou Jack back in 2015, Eubank will need to do more to protect himself when those huge swinging hooks go amiss.
Eubank may not be pillow-fisted, but he’s lacking that one-punch KO power. Even in his previous bout, the IBO champion constantly landed cleanly throughout the 3 rounds. It’s difficult to envisage a scenario where a seasoned pro like George Groves, gives his semi-final foe so many opportunities to take him out.
The second semi-final takes place next week in Nuremberg as super middle & light heavyweight veteran, Jurgen Braehmer, 49-3 (35KOs) goes up against 23-0 (17KOs) Callum ‘Mundo’ Smith. The winners will progress to a final that’s expected to take place in early June at London’s O2 arena.
On the undercard, and as long as there’s no late injury to either of the main event fighters, WBSS super middleweight injury reserve, Zach Parker, 14-0 (10KOs) will take on 16-6-2 (10KOs), Adasat Rodriguez.
Two British title fights will also be on the undercard as Ryan Walsh takes on unbeaten, Isaac Lowe; and Tommy Langford is up against Jack Arnfield for the middleweight belt.
Both Walsh and Lowe have a mutual opponent on their records in Denis Ceylan who Lowe fought to a disputed draw, in March 2017; Walsh was beaten on a split decision to Ceylan five months earlier.
It’ll be the first time Tommy Langford, 19-1 (6KOs) defends his British title since 2016, after a 1-1 record in 2017. He was comprehensively knocked out by Avtandil Khurtsidze back in April and ended the year with a routine comeback points victory over 11-36-1 Miguel Aguilar. Jack Arnfield is currently on a six-fight win streak including wins over John Ryder, and former junior middleweight world title challenger, Brian Rose.
Usyk Opens as 3-1 Favorite to Defeat Murat Gassiev in WBSS Final
By: Bryant Romero
The stage is set for the Crusierweight final of the Word Boxing Super Series. Oleksandr Usyk (14-0, 11 KOs) of Ukraine will take on Murat Gassiev (26-0, 19 KOs) of Russia for all the marbles of the cruiserweight division in an unusual location for a prize fight in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on May 11. Perhaps a change in location could be in the cards since its being reported that Russia is pushing hard to land the cruiserweight final. Though it would be fair to both finalists to fight on neutral soil, especially since Usyk has already had to fight on hostile territory on two occasions in this tournament.
The 31-year-old Usyk has opened as high as a 3-1 favorite to defeat Gassiev , according to the 5dimes sportsbook. Usyk is coming off a hard fought battle against Latavia’s Mairis Briedis (23-1, 18 KOs) in a good scrap between two undefeated champions. Usyk was legitimately tested for the first time in his so far brief pro career. The Ukrainian however, was able to separate himself though as the rounds progressed, showing a superior workrate, and consistently outboxing Briedis while coming forward. It was the most competitive fight of Usyk’s pro career, but he was the rightful and clear winner earning a majority decision on the scorecards.
It’s only early February but Gassiev on the other hand was already in a fight of the year candidate with Yunier Dorticos (22-1, 21 KOs) of Cuba. In an anticipated matchup between explosive punchers, it sure lived up to the hype as Gassiev and Dorticos produced a dramatic battle at the Bolshoy Ice Dome in Alder, Russia. Dorticos started fast giving Gassiev problems with his range, long jab, and workrate. The 24-year-old Gassiev however, was able to turn the fight around after a slow start and slowly but surely started to pick apart the shaky defense of the 31-year-old Cuban. Gassiev would score 3 knockdowns in the 12th and final round forcing a stoppage and sealing the victory, while unifying the IBF and WBA titles in the process.
Gassiev seems very mature beyond his 24 years of age but he will have an uphill battle with Usyk who brings in a very extensive amateur background, pedigree, and a much different boxing style compared to Gassiev’s last two opponents. Usyk’s boxing style has given him the comparisons of being a cruiserweight Lomachenko and he should be the favorite coming into this bout. However, the confidence Gassiev will bring into the fight after unifying two titles and under the guidance of his coach Abel Sanchez who also trains Gennady Golovkin, we could be in for a dramatic battle of this cruiserweight final. May the best man win.
WBSS Preview: Murat Gassiev v Yunier Dorticos
By: Ste Rowen
As the dust settles in Riga, following the unification clash between Oleksandr Usyk and Mairis Briedis, which saw Usyk take control of both the WBO and WBC titles. The hype is just getting going in Sochi for the second cruiserweight World Boxing Super Series semi-final, as Murat ‘Iron’ Gassiev faces off against Yunier ‘The KO Doctor’ Dorticos.
It’s a battle of the powerhouses with Russian, Gassiev’s record currently standing at 25-0 (18KOs), as opposed to his Cuban opposition’s 22-0 (21KOs).
Both fighters scored very different but equally as brutal knockouts in the quarter finals. Murat cut former world champion, Krzysztof Wlodarczyk in half to win a 3rd round stoppage in Newark. Dominating the early rounds before landing a left-hand finisher to the body which kept Krzysztof down long after the 10-count was up.
Just less than a month earlier, Dorticos made light work of heavy hitting Russian, Dmitry Kudryashov. He knocked out the, 21-1 (21KOs) at-the-time fighter in the second round by making him miss, then making him pay; dodging a left hook before firing off a right hand that sent the Russian’s eyes rolling into Christmas.
Speaking at a joint press conference immediately after Gassiev’s win over Wlodarczyk back in October, Dorticos was in a very confident mood,
‘I don’t really see anything that necessarily stands out. He’s defeating competition that is older than him. He fought a guy who has terrific history but at the end of the day his opponent tonight was old. Now he’s gonna fight someone that is similar to him.
Take a good vacation but I’m gonna prepare the right dosage for you of ibuprofen and anaesthesia for the next fight so the pain is less.’
Murat left his trainer, Abel Sanchez to give an assessment on his next opponent,
‘I think both guys have to be confident going into this fight. 25 guys now have tried with Murat and 25 guys have failed so I don’t see anything in Dorticos that is gonna pose problems. Yes, he can punch but so can Murat, let’s see who can take them.’
The 12,000-seat capacity Bolshoy Ice Dome will be the venue on Saturday. It’s the first time the stadium will hold a boxing event since it opened back in 2012.
Warmer climates await however for the winner, as the final will take place in Saudi Arabia in around four months time. Date and venue yet to be confirmed.
WBSS Results: Usyk Defeats Briedis
By: Ste Rowen
Wins for Usyk, Hrgovic and Otto Wallin, top a great night for former amateur standouts.
Olesksandr Usyk has taken one step closer to Cruiserweight supremacy after outworking the now former WBC champion, Mairis Briedis, to a unanimous 12-round decision.
The early rounds saw Bridies press as Usyk stood off, countering when it mattered. The Latvian made it uncomfortable for Usyk through four.
As the rounds progressed though, Usyk began to dominate behind his jab and his championship experience began to show.
The final round saw Briedis go all out as if he knew it was all or nothing, but Usyk kept his distance, and the Ukrainian did enough to keep the Latvian at bay.
The final score cards were, 114-114, 115-113, 115-113 for Usyk.
Speaking post-fight, Usyk said,
‘These were the most difficult 12-rounds I’ve had in my career.
On his possible finalist, Usyk said,
‘I will be watching this fight, and I wish the strongest man wins.’
He will now face either IBF champion, Murat Gassiev or WBA ‘Regular’ champion, Yunier Dorticos in the WBSS final in May.
On the undercard, highly rated, 2016 bronze medallist, Filip Hrgovic of Croatia, moved to 3-0 after scoring a TKO victory over Tom Little in the 4th round. Much like his fellow Super Heavyweight Rio Olympians, Tony Yoka and Jo Joyce; Hrgovic is being quickly accelerated through the heavyweight rankings and a stoppage victory over Tom Little, in just his third fight, underlines that point.
His victory tonight follows 1st round knockouts over heavyweight gatekeeper, Raphael Zumbano Love and 6-0, Pavel Sour.
Swedish southpaw, Otto Wallin moved to 19-0 (13 KOs) after taking out 6-5, Srdan Govedarica in the 3rd round with a body shot. After fighting just once in 2017 with a 5th round stoppage of 12-4 at the time, Gianluca Mendras; heavyweight Otto will be hoping to continue the steady progress he was making back in 2016, a year topped by his shutout points victory over the aforementioned, Zumbano Love. A showdown with fellow countryman Adrian Granat awaits later this year.
Boxing Insider Notebook: Garcia, WBSS, Hernandez, Carto, Beltran, and more…
Compiled By: William Holmes
The following is the Boxing Insider notebook for the week of January 16th to January 23rd; covering the comings and goings in the sport of boxing that you might have missed.
Mikey Garcia vs. Sergey Lipinets Rescheduled for March 10th
The highly anticipated showdown between undefeated three-division world champion Mikey Garcia and IBF 140-pound champion Sergey Lipinets has been rescheduled for Saturday, March 10th. The Premier Boxing Champions event was set to take place on February 10th, but Garcia’s quest for a fourth world title had to be rescheduled following a training injury to Lipinets’ hand. The fight will be live on SHOWTIME and will remain in San Antonio but move to the Freeman Coliseum.
Ticket information will be released early next week. Those holding tickets for the original date at the Alamodome will receive priority on seat exchange for the new venue. Tickets are priced at $250, $150, $75, $50 and $20 and will be available at Ticketmaster.com or by calling 210 556-6390. The event is promoted by Ringstar Sports and TGB Promotions, in association with Leija-Battah Promotions.
The remainder of the card will remain the same including the SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING co-feature, which will see two-division world champion Rances Barthelemy taking on Kiryl Relikh in a rematch of their thrilling fight last May, this time for the vacant WBA 140-pound world title. The doubleheader of title bouts in the wide-open 140-pound division sets the stage for a potential unification match.
The 29-year-old Garcia (37-0, 30 KOs), emphatically returned to pound-for-pound lists in 2017 by scoring a highlight reel knockout of Dejan Zlaticanin to win the WBC Lightweight World Championship in January and then dominating four-division champion Adrien Broner on his way to a unanimous decision in July. Garcia is a member of a renowned boxing family, and is noted for his sportsmanship and his commanding presence in the ring, honed by his brother and acclaimed trainer Robert Garcia.
Garcia, of Moreno Valley by way of Oxnard, Calif., returned to the ring after a two-and-half-year layoff in July 2016 without missing a beat by stopping former champion Elio Rojas. Garcia, who has held world titles at 126, 130 and 135 pounds, has stopped 19 of his last 22 opponents including Roman “Rocky” Martinez, Juan Manuel Lopez and Orlando Salido.
With a win, Garcia would become only the third fighter in modern history to become champion at 126, 130, 135 and 140-pounds, joining future Hall of Famers Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao*.
The unbeaten Lipinets (13-0, 10 KOs) captured a super lightweight world title in just his 13th pro fight by defeating Akihiro Kondo via a unanimous decision on November 4 on SHOWTIME. He is originally from Kazakhstan but moved to Russia when he was six years old. He currently lives in Beverly Hills, California, Lipinets and is trained by Buddy McGirt.
Nico Hernandez to Fight on February 10th
2016 Olympic bronze medalist and hometown hero Nico Hernandez has fully recovered from an injury that postponed his December 2nd fight to Saturdeay, February 10, versus Hungarian champion Jozsef “Little Red” Ajtai in the the eight-round main event for the vacant International Boxing Association (IBA) Americas flyweight title, headlining the “KO Night Boxing: Gold & Glory” card, at Hartman Arena in Park City, Kansas.
“KO Night Boxing: Gold & Glory” is a presentation of KO Night Boxing LLC., in association with Hartman Arena, and sponsored in part by Park City (KS), Twister City Harley-Davidson and Metro PCS.
The action will be taped live for future airing on CBS Sports Network.
The 22-year-old Hernandez (3-0, 2 KOs), fighting out of Wichita, suffered an undisclosed injury that forced him to withdraw from the Dec. 2nd fight. Neither Hernandez nor his promoter, John Andersen (KO Night Boxing, LLC), have revealed any details about Nico’s injury to avoid giving his opponent any possible advantage to target in the ring.
“I feel good, ready to fight,” Hernandez commented. “We wanted to make sure that I was injury free and I am 100-percent. I’m going to do whatever is needed to win this fight. Fighting for my first title means a lot to me. I didn’t think it would happen this fast. I want everybody to see that I can be competitive with the best in my division. A win February 10th will get me there a lot closer.
“My opponent like to runs a lot and he’s quick, so I need to have my legs under me. Other than that, though, I should be okay. He has fought some good guys. I can’t wait to get in the ring in front of my fans.”
Ajtai (19-9, 12 KOs), who is one year and six days younger than Hernandez, has already fought in five title fights. He also went the full 10-round distance, albeit in a loss by decision in 2016, to two-time Olympic gold medalist Shiming Zou, the former World Boxing Organization (WBO) flyweight world champion. Fighting in his opponent’s hometown isn’t a problem for Ajtai, who has vast road experience having fought as a pro in the USA, United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, Ukraine and Slovakia.
“Nico will not know where I will be in the ring,” Ajtai predicted. “When he looks to the left for me, I will go to the right; when he tries to find me on the right, I will be on the left. When he wants to rest, I will come forward punching; when he wants to punch, he won’t find me.
“I have a plan for this fight and I’m sure he does as well. But, in the ring, only one fighter’s plan can succeed. It’s going to be a good fight, but I can’t promise the public that Nico will be the winner.”
“I’m excited that Nico is 100-percent healthy for this fight,” Andersen said. “We couldn’t be happier to bring this great fight, and many more as we move forward, to the great city of Wichita.”
In the six-round co-featured event, Minneapolis welterweight Javonte Starks (13-2, 7 KOs), a former Future Stars National Champion as an amateur, takes on veteran Mexican fighter Cesar Soriano (28-36-1, 17 KOs), the former FECARBOX lightweight titlist.
Tickets for Beltran-Moses Are on Sale
World championship boxing returns the “Biggest Little City in the World,” Reno Nevada! No. 1 world-rated lightweight contender RAY “Sugar” BELTRAN, fighting for his first world championship belt and his green card to stay in the U.S. with his family, will headline an all-action card on Friday, February 16, in the Grand Sierra Resort’s Grand Theatre. Beltran (34-7-1, 21 KOs), from Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico, will be battling former world champion and current No. 2 world-rated contender PAULUS MOSES (39-3, 24 KOs), from Windhoek, Namibia, for the vacant World Boxing Organization (WBO) lightweight world title. The co-main event will feature undefeated NABF welterweight champion EGIDIJUS “The Mean Machine” KAVALIAUSKAS (18-0, 15 KOs), from Oxnard, Calif., by way of Kaunas, Lithuania, defending his title against former world champion DAVID “Ava” AVANESYAN (23-2-1, 11 KOs), of Pyatigorsk, Russia, in a 10-round battle of Top-10 world-rated contenders. Both title fights will be televised live and exclusively at 9 p.m. EST on ESPN and ESPN Deportes and stream live on the ESPN App at 7 p.m. EST. The championship event will also feature the return of 2016 Olympic silver medalist SHAKUR STEVENSON (4-0, 2 KOs), of Newark, NJ. Stevenson has a unique relationship with Reno, where he began each year from 2013 through 2015 by winning a national amateur title. Additionally, he won the gold medal and Outstanding Boxer award at the 2016 Olympic Trials. Stevenson has never lost in Reno
Two-time world heavyweight championship challenger and current Top-10 world- rated contender BRYANT JENNINGS (21-2, 12 KOs), of Philadelphia, PA, will also be featured on the undercard, in an eight-round bout. Jennings, who is a vegan, appears in “The Game Changers,” a documentary directed by Louie Psihoyos, the Oscar®-winning director of “The Cove.” “The Game Changers” tells the story of James Wilks — elite special forces trainer and winner of The Ultimate Fighter — as he travels the world on a quest for the truth behind the world’s most dangerous myth: that meat is necessary for protein, strength and optimal health. It premiered last week at the Sundance Film Festival.
Promoted by Top Rank®, in association with Let’s Get It On Promotions, tickets to the Beltran-Moses world championship event will go on sale Tomorrow! Wednesday, January 24, at 1 p.m. EST / 10 a.m. PST. Priced at $79, $54, and $29, including facility fees, tickets may be purchased online at www.grandsierra.com, at the Grand Theater Box Office, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. PT, daily, or charge by phone at 1-775-789-1115.
“There isn’t a more inspiring story in boxing than Ray Beltran’s,” said Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum. “It hasn’t been an easy road for Ray, but he has more than met the challenge time and time again. I can’t think of a better way to start Ray’s 2018 season than with this tremendous world championship fight. I am also looking forward to seeing the welterweight battle between Egidijus Kavaliauskas and David Avanesyan which should be nothing but fireworks. And no one lights up a night better than Shakur Stevenson, with his fast hands and bright smile.”
“I’m excited about this fight for many reasons. I’m fighting for myself, for my eighteen years I have worked to become a world champion, I am fighting for my family, my wife, and for my children to be proud of me,” said Beltran. “When you’re a champion, you are a champion forever. I am fighting for my team, the people who have been with me from the start. It’s easy when you are on your way up to have fans, but my true fans have been with me at my lowest, and stayed through my highs in life. This fight means everything to me, a victory will also seal my green card. For me to be world champion, and a citizen of this country, this is my dream. I respect my opponents always, but this is my destiny, and no man will get in the way of that. I’m ready to prove to everyone that I am the most dangerous lightweight in the world. I’m coming February 16th to take what was mine in Scotland, and when I leave Reno I am leaving as the WBO world champion.”
“I would like to thank God for this amazing opportunity. I have had a blessed boxing career and all thanks to everybody who supported me over the years. Thanks to my Promoter and mentor Nestor Tobias and to an amazing forward looking visionary sponsor in MTC who continues to push us to become only the best,” said Moses. “It’s been an incredibly positive week. I am honoured to have recently been inducted as a MTC Sports Legend, the highest sports honour in Namibia and now an amazing opportunity to fight Beltran who I highly regard, and of course an opportunity for me to become world champion again. I look forward to this fight and doing my country proud once again.”
“I don’t remember much about Avanesyan when we were in the amateurs. But he will, for sure, be my toughest opponent in the ring,” said Kavaliauskas. “I am very excited to show the best of me in this fight. Thank you, Top Rank and ESPN for giving me this opportunity — one step closer to getting a world title belt.”
“I am so glad and proud for the Mean Machine to climb to a new level. Thank you, Top Rank for giving the Machine an opportunity to make his debut on ESPN,” said Egis Klimas, who manages Kavaliauskas.
“This is a great opportunity for me to return to the top of the welterweight division,” said Avanesyan. “My trainer and I are working very hard on my conditioning, strength and strategy because we know what is at stake and we know Egidijus brings to the fight. And make no mistake, this is a fight.”
“I’m ready to kick off 2018 in my first eight-round fight. I’ve been wanting to go eight rounds for awhile now and I’m excited to finally get the opportunity in my first fight of the year.” said Stevenson. “I’m undefeated in Reno and won four national titles there in the amateurs, including the 2016 Olympic Trials, so I plan to keep that streak going on February 16.”
“Grand Sierra Resort is thrilled to host this exciting championship fight card and generate national TV exposure for the Reno-Tahoe region,” Christopher Abraham, VP of Marketing at Grand Sierra Resort said. “We are thrilled to work with such outstanding partners as Top Rank, ESPN and Let’s Get It On Promotions.”
Beltran, a native of Mexico who resides in Phoenix, AZ., enters this fight having won four of his last fights by knockout. A three-time lightweight world title challenger and a former sparring partner of eight-division world champion Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao, Beltran still trains at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, Calif. Beltran is fighting for more than just a world title. He is fighting to obtain his green card so that he can remain in the U.S. with his family under the Extraordinary Ability as a Professional Boxing (EB-1) Employment-Based First Preference category.. A world title victory will all but assure him of his permanent status. Recent career highlights include one-punch knockout victories over Mason Menard (32-1, 24 KOs) and Jonathan Maicelo (32-1, 24 KOs) on December 10, 2016 and May 20, 2017, respectively. In his most recent fight, Beltran solidified his upcoming world title shot by winning a gritty majority decision over former two-time interim World Boxing Association (WBA) super featherweight world champion Bryan Vasquez (36-2, 19 KOs), on August 5. Vasquez was world-rated No. 1 by the WBA when they fought. Beltran is currently world-rated No. 1 by the WBO and the World Boxing Council (WBC).
Moses captured the WBA world lightweight title in 2009, traveling to Yokohama, Japan to defeat defending champion and hometown favorite Yusuke Kobori via a unanimous decision. After one successful title defense — another unanimous decision victory, this time over Takehiro Shimada, Moses’ 15-monthn reign as world champion ended in 2010 at the hands of Miguel Acosta. Since losing a unanimous decision to Ricky Burns in their 2012 WBO lightweight world championship fight, Moses has strung together an impressive record of 11-1, 1 NC, including TKO victories over Cosmas Cheka and Crispin Moliati in his last two fights and a two-year reign as WBO International lightweight champion and his current 14-month reign as WBO Africa lightweight champion. Moses, a veteran who has fought professionally in Asia, Europe and Africa, will be making his North America debut.
World Boxing Super Series Semi-Finals Schedule
Super Channel, the No. 1 destination network for Canadian boxing fans, will air the upcoming semifinals of the popular World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) tournament, featuring world-class cruiserweight and super middleweight divisions action, live from various venues in Europe.
Super Channel acquired exclusive rights in Canada to air the entire WBSS tournament from MP & Silva, a leading international media company that provides media rights, digital, technology and sponsorship services.
“We are thrilled that the WBSS is returning to Super Channel for exclusive Canadian coverage of the highly anticipated semifinals,” said Troy Wassill, Director of Programming, Domestic Distributors and Sports. “I have no doubt that every single bout is going to deliver exciting, must-see action for boxing fans, as these world-class fighters compete to see who is going to go head-to-head for the coveted Muhammad Ali Trophy.”
WBSSis a revolutionary bracket-style elimination tournament featuring the world’s best boxers and a total of $50 million in prize money. The knockout format of the competition will see the best boxers ultimately compete for the Muhammad Ali Trophy, the greatest prize in boxing. The tournament is organized by newly-founded Comosa AG, a Swiss-registered company with principal owners Highlight Event & Entertainment, Modern Times Group and Team Sauerland. Comosa AG is working in partnership with boxers, promoters and managers around the world, and in alignment with the four major world boxing federations, to create a new global platform for the sport.
The first of its kind tournament, which is planned to take place on an annual basis, kicked off this past September with quarterfinals competition in two divisions, cruiserweight and super middleweight. An expert panel invited the world’s best boxers to compete, namely the top 15-ranked fighters of the four major federations: WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO. The winners of the two semifinals will advance to the championship round in both divisions this May.
Below find the WBSS semifinals schedule and a preview of the four matches and eight fighters who survived the quarterfinals:
January 27, Riga Arena, Riga, Latvia – WBO/WBC Unification
Oleksandr “The Cat” Usyk (13-0, 11 KOs), WBO World Champion, Ukraine – Ring #1 vs. Mairis Briedis (23-0, 18 KOs), WBC World Champion, Latvia – Ring #3
February 3, Bolshoy Ice Dome, Sochi, Russia – IBF/WBA Unification
Murat “Iron” Gassiev (25-0, 18 KOs), IBF World Champion, Russia – Ring #2 vs. Yunier “The KO Doctor” Dorticos (21-0, 20 KOs), WBA World Champion, Cuba – Ring #5
February 17, Manchester, Arena, Manchester, UK – WBA/IBO Unification
“Saint” George Groves (27-3, 20 KOs), WBA World Champion, United Kingdom – Ring #2 vs. Chris “Next Gen” Eubank Jr. (26-1, 20 KOs), IBO World Champion, United Kingdom – Ring #4
February 24, Arena Nurnberger Versicherung, Nuremburg, Germany
Juergen Braehmer (49-3 35 KOs), Germany – Ring #10 (Former WBO & WBA Light Heavyweight World Champion) vs. Callum “Mundo” Smith (23-0, 17 KOs), United Kingdom – Ring #3 (WBC Diamond Super Middleweight Champion)
Christian Carto to Face James Smith on March 2nd
Popular and undefeated bantamweight Christian Carto will headline a packed night of boxing when he takes on James Smith in an eight-round bout on Friday, March 2nd at The SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia.
The card is promoted by King’s Promotions.
Carto of Philadelphia has a record of 13-0 with 11 knockouts. The 21 year-old has established himself as one of the top prospects in Philadelphia, and the popular Carto continues to draw large and enthusiastic crowds to his fights.
Carto, who had a very active 2017 as he mustered seven victories and has a signature win over Alonso Melendez (14-1). Carto is coming off an eight-round unanimous decision over Luis Fernando Saavedra on December 1st at The SugarHouse Casino.
This will be Carto’s 7th appearance at The SugarHouse Casino.
Smith of Detroit has a record of 12-1 with seven knockouts.
The 27 year-old is a seven-year professional, who won his first 11 bouts, which was highlighted by a win over Olimjon Nazarov (14-2).
After suffering his lone defeat, Smith won his last bout as he stopped Yaqub Kareem on August 4, 2017 in Detroit.
In an eight-round all-Philadelphia super middleweight bout, Christopher Brooker (12-5, 5 KOs) battle Jamaal Davis (16-12-1, 7 KOs).
In an eight-round bout, Tyrone Crawley, Jr. (7-0) of Philadelphia takes on Anthony Mercado (10-3, 9 KOs) of Arecibo, PR in a super lightweight bout.
David Gonzales (8-2-2, 2 KOs) of Philadelphia will fight Victor Vazquez (9-3, 3 KOs) of Yonkers, NY in a super lightweight contest.
Undefeated Marcus Bates (8-0-1, 6 KOs) of Washington, DC will take on an opponent to be named in a eight-round super bantamweight fight.
Carlos Rosario (7-3, 4 KOs) of Pennsauken, NJ will square off with Seifullah Wise (3-4, 1 KO) of Philadelphia in a super featherweight fight.
Darius Ervin (4-1) of Los Angeles tangles with Jesus Perez (3-0, 1 KO) of Reading, PA in a super lightweight fight.
Jerrod Miner (1-1, 1 KO) of Philadelphia fights Rondarrius Hunter (1-2, 1 KO) of Atlanta in a four-round super flyweight bout.
Tickets are on sale for $100, $75, $50, and can be purchased at SugarHouseBoxing.eventbrite. com.
WBSS Preview: Oleksandr Usyk v Mairis Briedis
By: Ste Rowen
The World Boxing Super Series gets back underway on the 27th January as Latvia holds host to the first semi-final between WBC champion Mairis Briedis, 23-0 (18KOs) and WBO champion Olesksandr Usyk 13-0 (11KOs).
It will be Riga-born Mairis Briedis’ second consecutive fight in his home city after he dominated Mike Perez to a unanimous decision in his quarter final back in September.
Despite the awkward way the Perez fight played out, speaking at the first face-off between the two fighters, Briedis seemed confident that the bout would match up with the raucous atmosphere expected in Arena Riga,
‘It is one of my dreams as a fighter to be part of one of the greatest fights of all time. I hope this fight will be a hall of fame fight. It has all the ingredients to become a classic.’
On the raised stakes with each fight he’s a part of, Mairis replied,
‘I don’t think of anything outside of boxing so right now I’m doing my job… When the fight is done we will talk about other stuff that is not pure boxing.’
The enigmatic Usyk was in confident mood as always. It will be the Ukrainian’s 5th consecutive fight away from his home country and his 4th title defence since defeating then unbeaten Krzysztof Glowacki in Poland back in 2016.
‘There wasn’t an arena suitable to host this event in Ukraine but that’s not a problem… This is a unification bout; two world champions are facing each other so it doesn’t matter where the fight is taking place, it could even be on the moon. The most important thing is what’s happening in the ring.’
Asked about his travelling support, the WBO champion said,
‘Who knows? There is definitely interest in Ukraine and there is always fans when I am fighting abroad… 50/50 split.’
The 2012 Olympic gold medallist progressed to the semi-finals courtesy of a 10th round stoppage of Marco Huck. It was a particularly impressive victory coming off the back of two laboured wins over American, Michael Hunter and fellow southpaw, Thabiso Mchunu.
The second semi-final between Murat ‘Iron’ Gassiev and Yunier ‘The KO Doctor’ Dorticos takes place in Sochi, Russia a week later. All four remaining fighters go into the semi-finals unbeaten with a combined record of 83-0 (68KOs).
Reminder: If any of the fights are scored a draw across the three judges, a fourth judge will be called into play to settle who progresses to the much anticipated final, set to take place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in May this year.