The Second Series of the Cruiserweight WBSS Proves Belts Matter
By: Ste Rowen
There we were, now here we are. This time last year Yunier Dorticos had KO’d an unbeaten Kudryashov, Mairis Briedis had bored us through twelve rounds against Mike Perez, Murat Gassiev had cut Wlodarczyk down with a body shot that could be felt through the TV screen and Aleksandr Usyk had dealt with a boisterous Marco Huck.
Photo Credit: World Boxing Super Series Twitter Account
Hand on heart right now, could you say for definite whether there had been a knockout in the quarter-finals of the second series of cruiserweights in the World Boxing Super Series? Did you even know the cruiserweights were in the second series?
The problem is belts. As beautiful as it is to see one man draped in every single piece of boxing jewellery, as in the case of Usyk, the lack of belts or obvious rewards in the WBSS cruiserweight fights this year is so evident and is killing the hype.
So far this season big fights have been made and completed. Former WBC titlist and first season Super Series semi-finalist, Mairis Briedis has decisioned Noel Mikaeljan, former WBO champ, Krzysztof Glowacki dominated the Russian, Maksim Vlasov, Andrew ‘The Beast’ Tabiti, for all his talent, bored an Ekaterinburg crowd to a drab 12-round victory over Ruslan Fayfer and in the best of the bouts, Yunier Dorticos of Cuba slugged it out with former European champion, Mateusz Masternak.
The semi-finals are currently, Dorticos vs. Tabiti and Briedis vs. Glowacki, set to take place in early 2019. For the boxing purist, these are two exceptional fights to be made in a division living in the shadow of the Ukrainian supremo that is Usyk, who recently finished his ‘Fighter of the Year’ 2018 with a knockout of hopeful, Tony Bellew; but the 200lb limit division, and the second series of the Super Series is still steeped in talent even without the undisputed champ, and yet without the glitter on show such as, the WBC belt Briedis used to hold, or the WBO that Glowacki was once the champion of, the show is just lacking that key element that fans come out for, or watch on tv to see – The immediate reward. A champion lifting aloft a recognised, and respected title at the end of a fight.
For now, casual fans will overlook the second season of cruiserweights unless they’re on the same card as say, the bantamweight-semi-final of the newly crowned, WBA champion Nonito Donaire vs. WBO titlist, Zolani Tete. Maybe, by the cruiserweight’s final, there will be vacant belts left behind by Usyk moving up to the heavyweight division, but the keyword is ‘vacant’. And maybe it won’t matter that history will show the belts as vacant, but that was the beauty of the first series, and the perfection that lies in the bantamweight version of the Super Series, a feeling of finality. That when the final comes around and is won and lost, the man who lifts the Muhammad Ali Trophy above their head is actually worthy of having their name next to ‘The Greatest’. The current feeling with this season of cruiserweights is that this isn’t the case. Let’s hope for at least a knockdown in the semi-finals.
WBSS Results: Glowacki and Briedis Advance
By: Hector Franco
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – At the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, Illinois the World Boxing Super Series came to town to finish their final portion of the quarterfinals in their second season of the tournament.
The main event featured former WBO cruiserweight champion Krzysztof Glowacki (31-1, 19 KOs) taking on Russia’s Maksim Vlasov (42-3, 25 KOs). The fight would be for the interim WBO cruiserweight championship. The city of Chicago has one of the highest populations of Polish citizens in the United States, and plenty of Polish fans showed up to support Glowacki.
The southpaw Glowacki is not a complicated fighter as his intentions in a boxing ring is to turn the boxing match into a fight. It would be no different against Vlasov as the Polish fighter imposed his will on the Russian in every round throwing punches in combination and landing some brutal body punches. A knockdown was scored in favor of Glowacki in the third round after Vlasov fell to the canvas after an exchange. In a replay it did not look like a punch landed cleanly; however, referee Celestino Ruiz saw a punch thrown and thus scored it a knockdown.
The bout followed a similar pattern in each round with Vlasov giving a good account of himself in each round landing an occasional combination on the inside. Each round seemed like Glowacki was just one or two steps ahead of Vlasov giving him the edge in the majority of the rounds.
In the championship rounds, the fight picked up its intensity with both fighters picking up the volume of punches thrown. Despite Glowacki winning the vast majority of the rounds, each round took its toll on the Polish fighter leaving him looking exhausted after twelve rounds.
All three judges scored the fight in favor of Glowacki with scores of 118-110, 117-110 and 115-112. Glowacki will move on the tournament semifinals.
The second bout of the night that was part of the World Boxing Super Series tournament took place between tournament favorite Mairis Briedis (25-1, 18 KOs) and German contender Noel Mikhaelian (23-2, 10 KOs). The match was for the vacant WBC cruiserweight diamond title with the winner advancing to the semi-finals of the tournament.
From the start, the pace of the fight was established that it would be a tactical chess match. Former Cuban amateur coach Pedro Diaz who is best known for training the likes of Miguel Cotto and Guillermo Rigondeaux trains Mikhaelian. The German, Mikhaelian had been out of the ring for 14 months, however, showed little rust throughout the fight. There were many awkward exchanges between the two pugilists with plenty of grabbing, clutching and headbutts throughout. In the fourth round, Mikhaelian was deducted a point for hitting Briedis behind the head.
The first six rounds were nip and tuck with both fighters having their moments; however, Mikhaelian was able to showcase better timing landing right hands on Briedis who had trouble letting his hands go all night. The six foot three German’s jab was a consistent threat throughout the fight throwing off the rhythm and timing of Briedis.
Heading into the championship rounds, the fight was slipping away from Briedis with there not being many clear rounds in his favor. Unfortunately for Briedis in the 10th round, he was deducted a point by referee Guadalupe Garcia for hitting Mikhaelian while holding him in a headlock. The Latvian contingent in attendance became more and more silent as the fight continued.
In the last round, Briedis attempted a final assault on Mikhaelian that may have given him the round. After twelve rounds the judges disagreed with the majority of the viewing audience giving Briedis a controversial unanimous decision win with scores of 116-110, 115-111, and 114-112.
There is a reason that fights are fought in the ring and not on paper. Mikhaelian who was fighting for the first time in the United States was able to push to the limit the fighter most fans had pegged to come out the winner of the tournament. The decision may not have given the German another win on his record, however, with his showing he can expect more opportunities in the future despite the fight being a messy and ugly contest.
It will be interesting to see how the promoters involved in the tournament will handle such a controversial decision.
The main card began with a battle of up and coming cruiserweights with Germany’s Artur Mann (14-0, 8 KOs) facing Russia’s Alexey Zubov (17-1, 9 KOs). Zubov who fights out of Detroit, Michigan donned the infamous gold Kronk Gym trunks in a bout that lived up to the Detroit gym’s infamous gym wars. In the first round, Zubov was dominating by throwing an onslaught of punches on Mann who remained calm and waited for his opportunity to attack. Mann was able to land a right hand and uppercut that hurt Zubov who overstayed his welcome on the inside and was sent down to the canvas. Zubov arose from the knocked down and did not stray away from his game plan to attack Mann. Right as the bell rang to signify the end of the first round, Mann landed another right hand that once again dropped Zubov. The Russian fighter got up from the second knockdown to make it back to his corner.
With the recovery of a comic book superhero, Zubov came out in the second round as if the knockdowns in the first round never occurred. The Russian fighter kept going to Mann’s body and outworking him for the next several rounds. Mann, who was fighting for the first time outside of his native Germany, looked like the harder puncher, as he was able to hurt Zubov when he threw punches in combination specifically with the uppercut.
In the seventh round, Mann was able to time Zubov in the center of the ring with a beautifully placed right hand that put the Russian down once again. To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Zubov got up from the knockdown and continued to plow away at Mann.
The final three rounds were nip and tuck; however, the German fighter looked like the fresher fighter and was able to stun Zubov anytime he landed any punches. After ten rounds of action, Mann was awarded the unanimous decision victory with scores of 98-89 twice and once scorecard of 96-91.
Zubov is a fighter that is almost too tough for his own good, and hopefully, he will be able to recover and take an extended break from the ring following his fight with Mann.
Uzbekistan’s Shohjahon Ergashev (14-0, 13 KOs) made quick work out Zack Ramsey (8-5, 2 KOs) in the super lightweight division as he dismantled the Massachusetts native with a quick first-round knockout. Ergashev wasted no time getting to work landing a straight left on Ramsey as soon as the bell rang to start the match. The 26-year old Ergashev landed a body shot underneath the rib cage of Ramsey putting the fight to an end in the first round.
In the lightweight division, 22-year old Deshawn Boyd (2-0) took on Marcos Delgado (0-1) who was making his professional boxing debut. In the first round, Boyd landed a right hand during an exchange that put Delgado down. Boyd looked like the quicker fighter in all four rounds landing combinations at will. Delgado gave a good account of himself in the third and fourth rounds pushing Boyd back while applying pressure and letting his hands go in combinations. It would be to no avail as all three judges scored the fight in favor of Boyd with scores of 40-35 on all three scorecards.
Chicago native Owen Saldana (1-0) made his professional boxing debut as a cruiserweight against Florida’s Joe Miller (1-3). The fight did not last very long; Saldana was able to land a straight right hand that backed Miller against the ropes. Miller was unresponsive with Saldana unleashing a barrage of punches on him forcing the referee to stop the match. The fight was stopped at the 2:13 mark of the first round.
The broadcasts festivities began in the super lightweight division (140) with a bout between two veteran fighters. Chicago’s Genaro Mendez (13-4-1, 6 KOs) took on Lansing, Michigan’s Tyrone Harris (26-13, 16 KOs) in an exciting contest to start the event. The first three rounds were a give and take affair as both men landed effective punches. In the fourth round, Mendez landed a perfectly timed left hand pull counter that sent Harris to the canvas. Harris was unable to continue after the punch putting a halt to the bout. Mendez was awarded a technical knockout victory at the 2:08 mark of the fourth round.
While Mendez isn’t likely to receive a title shot opportunity with the victory he may be able to land a bout with an up and coming prospect in the 140-pound division.
Follow me twitter @MrHector_Franco
WBSS on DAZN Preview: Briedis vs. Mikaelian, Glowacki vs. Vlasov
By: Hector Franco
This weekend at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, Illinois the World Boxing Super Series will be in full effect with the quarterfinals of the Cruiserweight division portion of the tournament. In the main event, Latvia’s Mairis Briedis (24-1, 18 KOs) will be taking on Germany’s Noel Mikaelian (23-1, 10 KOs) for the WBC cruiserweight diamond belt. Join DAZN free for 30 days and live-stream fight night anywhere!
Fans may remember Briedis for his stint in the first season of the World Boxing Super Series. At the time of the tournament, Briedis was the WBC cruiserweight champion winning the vacant title from former cruiserweight champion Marco Huck in early 2017. Entering the tournament, Briedis was considered one of the tournament favorites including Oleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev. In the first round, Briedis won a clear unanimous decision over former heavyweight contender Mike Perez. The Latvian cruiserweight would then go on to face the eventual winner of the tournament in Usyk. Looking back at the level of dominance Usyk has displayed thus far throughout his career, Briedis was able to give the Ukrainian his toughest test falling short in a close majority decision loss.
Photo Credit: World Boxing Super Series Twitter Account
Briedis’ ability to give one of the best fighters in the sport a run for their money makes him this year’s tournament favorite this season. Briedis’ opponent, Noel Mikaelian, is not well known in the United States; however, his only defeat came at the hands of Poland’s Krzysztof Wlodarczyk who also participated in last season’s cruiserweight tournament. What will be detrimental to Mikaelian is that he has been inactive for the last 14 months with his last victory coming in September of 2017 against Isiah Thomas. The fight with Briedis will be Mikaelian’s first time-fighting in the United States and just the second time for the Latvian fighter.
For a first-round opponent, it may not get any tougher than having to face Briedis. For that reason, he will be the heavy favorite to advance to the semi-finals.
The main co-feature fight will be another quarterfinal tournament bout in the cruiserweight division featuring former WBO cruiserweight champion Krzysztof Glowacki (30-1, 19 KOs) taking on Russia’s Maksim Vlasov (42-2, 25 KOs). Glowacki is best known for his exciting, action-packed style that has provided fans with some of the best cruiserweight fights of this era. The Polish fighter’s 2015 bout with Marco Huck was one of the best fights of that year and showed that he could bounce back from being knocked down earlier on to come back to win by knockout. As is the case with a vast majority of top cruiserweights, Glowacki’s only blemish on his record stems from a bout with Usyk in September 2016.
Glowacki’s opponent Vlasov has fought as low as the middleweight division with his last defeat coming at the hands of current WBO super middleweight champion Gilberto Ramirez in 2015. Since then, Vlasov has won 12 fights in a row with ten of those victories by way of stoppage. The only other defeat on Vlasov’s record is against light heavyweight contender Isaac Chilemba. Needless, to say that while Vlasov has not faced the elite at cruiserweight the gap in competition between him and Glowacki is not as extensive as one would think.
The city of Chicago has one of the largest Polish immigrant populations in the United States, and as seen in his fights with Huck and Steve Cunningham, Glowacki will have a large contingent of supporters in the arena. Fans in attendance can expect an action-packed battle between Glowacki and Vlasov who are the same age (32) and will continue the international rivalry between Russia and Poland.
The fights will stream live on DAZN this Saturday, November 10th at 8:00 pm ET.
WBSS on DAZN Report: Taylor Stops Martin In 7; Burnett Succumbs To Injury
By: Ste Rowen
In a very strange turn of events in Glasgow’s SSE Hydro Arena, tonight’s favourite, Josh Taylor progressed to the semi-finals of the World Boxing Super Series whilst, bantamweight #1 seed Ryan Burnett fell foul of what appeared to be a back injury, forcing him out of his quarter-final with Nonito Donaire mid-fight and ultimately, out of the WBSS as a whole.
Tonight’s results mean Josh Taylor, now 14-0 (12KOS), continues on to face IBF world champion, Ivan Baranchyk in the semi-finals, whilst surprisingly, veteran Nonito Donaire progresses on to next face, Zolani Tete for both, a place in the Super Series final, and to unify the WBO and WBA bantamweight divisions.
The lights, the crowd, the action? Yes.
The noise was deafening as the first bell rang. Taylor sprung first, and every attack made the crowd jack-a-box out of their seats, even if it was just a cleanly landed jab. With Taylor though so far, there feels an inevitability.
Not in the – no matter what he does, he’ll get the cards in his favour – more the belief that, if he looks like he’s struggling, he’ll find his way out.
When people doubted him against Ohara Davies, he evaded Davies’ obvious hooks and punished him on the counter; when he switch-hit tonight, and swept to orthodox, Taylor dominated yet again. Into round 5, even the Abel Sanchez trained, Ryan Martin was no match for the ‘Tartan Tornado’.
There’s no other way to call the sixth, Taylor schooled the American all around the ring, it was left to the seventh to see if he could finish him off. Despite Martin looking bright early on, the ‘Tartan Tornado’ landed a perfect left hook that dropped Martin. Curiously, the American held the right side of his head as he went down. ‘Blue Chip’ clearly wanted no more of the Scot.
The referee waved off the bout as Martin remained indecisive over whether he wanted to carry on or not. The result means Josh Taylor moves on into the semi-finals to face IBF champion, Ivan ‘The Beast’ Baranchyk’. Taylor scored the decisive 7th round stoppage and post-fight he made no mistake in saying how easy he felt it was,
‘‘I knew I was gonna win the fight. I was expecting a hard 12 rounds…credit to Ryan Martin for putting up a good fight but, in all honesty, I never got out of second gear. I was relaxed, I was flowing, and the fight was easy for me.’’
‘‘I thought it would be a little bit tougher…I proved I’m ready for this next fight against Baranchyk. I’ll do the same again.’’
And thinking ahead to his semi-final against Baranchyk,
‘‘I think it’s gonna be an electric fight…He looks very strong, very explosive but, again I’m not gonna let him get close to me so he can lay off those big shots…Like tonight, he couldn’t get a shot off against me; my timing, my speed, my distance control. Everything was just so on song’’
‘‘Nobody in this division is gonna beat me.’’
Ryan Burnett vs. Nonito Donaire
The fourth and final Super Series bantamweight quarter-final was upon as WBA ‘Super’ champion Ryan Burnett matched up with Nonito ‘Filipino Flash’ Donaire for a place in the semi-finals to face WBO titlist, Zolani Tete.
Photo Credit: World Boxing Super Series Twitter Account
A legend, Donaire, was in the ring, and perhaps a future one entered there with him. Burnett was clearly a crowd favourite, even if the Hydro crowd sounded off their appreciation of the status the ‘Filipino Flash’ held.
The Irishman in white and black shorts forced himself onto the front-foot early doors, but neither fighter was able to establish himself early in the bout. Bearded Burnett, now 19-1 (9KOs), was willing to go toe-to-toe with the famously left-hook-happy Donaire. Clearly, the difficulties his fellow Belfast man, Carl Frampton had to come through didn’t faze Ryan. He was his own man, and without saying it aloud, he clearly disliked being labelled weak-fisted.
As round 3 ended, the Belfast man had both put his mark on his opponent and taken a fair few powerful shots himself.
Towards the end of the 4th, Ryan threw a right hand, took a knee and appeared to hold the right side of his back. He survived the round, but it signalled the end of the fight. Burnett had sustained a back injury, that meant the future hall of famer that is Nonito Donaire, now 39-5 (25KO), would progress to the semi-final stage to face Zolani Tete. A scary thought.
A perhaps much scarier thought is that Ryan Burnett, who has been plagued with a variety of issues throughout his career, will now struggle to return from what appears to be a back issue.
Either way, post-fight, Donaire made a point of acknowledging his opponent,
‘‘Ryan was a tough guy, but we felt very comfortable coming in there. Just see the adjustments that I was coming in and I think that it showed what I’m capable of in this weight class.’’
‘‘I’m grateful that I was able to test the weight…Now I’m a lot lighter, you’ll see the Filipino Flash more often.’’
‘‘It didn’t come out the way we wanted it to, but a victory is a victory and we’re so grateful for this opportunity.’’
On the undercard…
Zach Parker vs. Darryll Williams
Zach Parker, somewhat controversially, became the new super-middleweight Lonsdale belt champion with a split decision over fan favourite, Darryll Williams.
Williams was slick in his movement early doors and opted to smother Parker out of any chance he had of making a mark. Zach was audibly the crowd favourite. By round 3, the fight was well & truly on. Both fighters had tagged each other early & anticipation was high heading into the middle rounds.
Both Brits by now were looking for an in. Williams had put his mark on Parker again in the 4th but the southpaw in Parker regained composure as the fight headed into round 6.
The fight, though entertaining through to the 10th, was missing something. As if both boxers had another level to end the bout but weren’t willing to give away their party piece.
It was as ugly as it was entertaining & in the final round Parker, the favourite, evaded attack as if he knew he had the victory already.
The opening bout for viewers may have lacked a KO but it never lacked sustained action.
The scorecards after 12 rounds came back as, 117-112 Parker, 115-113 Williams, 115-114 Parker, crowning Zach Parker as the NEW British super-middleweight champion. The Glasgow crowd disagreed.
Paul Butler vs, Yoan Boyeaux
To the uninitiated, Yoan Boyeaux has an impressive record of 41-5, but delve deeper and you’ll see that the Frenchman’s only accomplished opponent until tonight is WBSS bantamweight favourite, Naoya Inoue; an opponent he was stopped by in 3 rounds.
So, it was down to the former IBF ‘Baby-Face’ champion to get rid of his opponent early. However, that wasn’t to be. The Liverpudlian, in the early rounds was economical with his punches but when he fired, he made it count and made an impression. Boyeaux had his moments, but perhaps that’s being generous. Butler, in white & glittering gold shorts fought his way to a 99-91 victory.
Viktor Postol vs. Siar Ozgul
WBSS injury-reserve for the super-lightweights, Victor Postol stalked and dominated his Turkish opponent all night and after the scheduled 10 rounds was up it seemed Viktor had, had a little too much fun. He was on early and the Glasgow crowd wanted a knockout, but Postol, like in his bout with tonight’s main event fighter, Josh Taylor, did not comply and the fight went the distance. The judge’s scorecard returned as 99-91 for the Ukrainian.
WBSS on DAZN Results: Prograis Defeats Flanagan; Baranchyk Stops Yigit
By: Ste Rowen
Tonight in The Big Easy, it was anything but easy viewing for the main event audience as, Regis Prograis battled his way to a unanimous decision victory over terry Flanagan; and, in more pleasant viewing, Ivan Baranchyk became the new IBF 140lb champion to score a 7th round technical stoppage over Anthony Yigit; both to progress to the semi-finals of their respective WBSS semi-finals.
Prograis now moves on to face Kiryl Relikh in the semi-finals; whilst Baranchyk faces the winner of next week’s matchup between Josh Taylor vs. Ryan Martin.
Both main event fighter’s southpaws, Prograis and Flanagan, were clearly weary of the other’s qualities as the two WBSS quarterfinalists fought off a steady jab through the early rounds into the 4th. ‘Turbo’ was in the fight but offering very little other than making it difficult for Prograis to initiate a substantial offense.
Photo Credit: DAZN Twitter Account
Both boxers seemed more mobile through the middle rounds, but there was only one man, home fighter Regis, who wanted to bring the excitement tonight. Flanagan seemed to have resigned himself to the occasional overhand counter. The Manchester native’s combinations weren’t quick enough to land on ‘Rougarou’.
At the end of round 6, Prograis gestured to his home crowd to pick up the atmosphere, a sure sign that the fight was lacking action. The American, in black and gold shorts, did his best to break out a fight but as the saying goes, it takes two to tango, and the away fighter had no desire to dance anything but his own moves.
With just over two minutes left of the 8th, Prograis dropped Flanagan. ‘Turbo’ took the 8-count and the onslaught that followed from the WBC ‘Interim’ champ, to survive the round. Now the crowd was making the noise Regis wanted to hear. But the 9th began as if the previous round hadn’t happened, ‘Turbo’ persisted with his earlier tactics, and Prograis reverted to a jab and hook manoeuvre.
Through 10 and 12, more of the same occurred as the American looked for a way in, but Terry nullified most shots that came his way, without firing back with his own arsenal.
It’s not hard to see what Flanagan’s plan was at the start of tonight’s bout, it is difficult however, to understand what ‘Turbo’ was looking to do in the championship rounds. The former WBO lightweight champion did very little in terms of attack compared to ‘Rougarou’ and by the final bell it felt as if the Manchester fighter came to survive rather than to win. Regis’ jab ruled the fight throughout and saw him to the final bell.
It was never in doubt as the crowd waited for the judge’s final scorecards. The announcer called, 119-108, 118-109, 117-110 all for Regis Prograis, who spoke after the fight,
‘‘I want to bring big time boxing back to New Orleans and guess what? I did it. We gonna do it again.’’
‘‘I boxed my ass off. Most people say I can’t box, I can’t do this, I can’t do that, I only got power, now I showed you I can go 12 rounds with a world class fighter…It doesn’t matter who the hell I fight, the Muhammad Ali trophy is mine.’’
Ivan Baranchyk vs. Anthony Yigit
Baranchyk ‘The Beast’ may have been born in Belarus, but the super-lightweight has made his home in the US, and tonight it seemed as though he’d made his home in New Orleans as he fell into his stride early on into tonight’s bout.
From the first bell both fighters went in search for the big, finisher. Yigit, the southpaw struggled to make as much as an impact as his Belarussian opponent who, on multiple occasions through the early rounds, impactfully jerked the Swedes head back.
Photo Credit: DAZN Twitter Account
Yigit was throwing well, but volume counts for nothing if it doesn’t land. Baranchyk was living to his pseudonym of ‘The Beast’ into rounds 2 and 3 as he landed with precision, rarely wasting shots, and though at times he was using his face as his best defence, Ivan’s chin stood up and allowed him to fire off hooks more efficiently.
It seems a little lazy to compare an eastern European fighter to Gennady Golovkin but, Baranchyk really does resemble an early day’s version of the Kazakh. Ivan seems to trust so much in his chin and accuracy that he’s prepared to go toe to toe, and jaw to jaw, with whatever opponent he faces.
Into round 4 there was now swelling below Yigit’s left eye. The pressure seemed beginning to tell, but the Swedish southpaw clearly hadn’t got the message as he rushed into attacks, attempting to restrain his foe’s outside game. It wasn’t working, and by the 6th, Yigit’s left eye looked ready to blow. Baranchyk was firing from all angles, and almost without meaningful reply by now, but he knew where the most valuable punches needed to land.
Through to the 7th, no one could question Anthony’s desire. As his eye only swelled further, the Swede, 21-0-1 (7KOs) heading into tonight, seemed to have no quit in him. Though surely only being able to see out of one eye. Yigit was prepared to go head to head with one of the 140lb division’s most dangerous boxers, meeting Baranchyk in the middle of the ring when, arguably, he should have been evading attack trying to tire his opponent out.
With a minute left of round 7, the referee, Phil Edwards, took a point from Baranchyk for what seemed to be pushing down on his opponent. Harsh considering when up close, Yigit seemed to be ducking. It didn’t matter though as, at the end of the same round, the ring doctor took another extensive look at the Swede’s eye and called an end to the bout, sending the Belarussian into the World Boxing Super Series semi-finals.
Yigit fiercely protested against the stoppage but it seemed the good doctor saved the Swede from himself. Yigit will walk away from tonight with credit in the bank and, a very worthy and attractive contender.
Baranchyk however, comes away from tonight as the IBF world champion and the second Super Series semi-finalist, set to face either Josh Taylor or Ryan Martin in the near future.
Speaking post-fight, the defeated Yigit was magnanimous in defeat,
‘‘Obviously, I am a fighter and you never want a fight to be stopped but maybe it was the right decision. People are telling me it looks pretty bad…Our game plan was to take him later on because we felt like he was gassing out…But they stopped the fight, so I couldn’t fulfil the game plan. He’s a hard hitter and he deserves this win.’’
The new IBF super-lightweight champion, Ivan, now 19-0 (12KOs), was complimentary towards his opponent,
‘‘It was a tough fight, but I win this fight. I win. He’s a tough guy but I love this. Anthony is a good guy, thank you…With him (Trainer, Pedro Diaz) I will win the Ali trophy.’’
WBSS Preview: Prograis vs. Flanagan; Baranchyk vs. Yigit on DAZN
By: Ste Rowen
‘‘You walk up the street and people ask you ‘Did you win your fight?’ and you have to say no for the first time. ‘‘
Defeat never comes easy for an undefeated fighter. Terry Flanagan, the former WBO lightweight champion was 33-0 (13KOs) when he stepped into the ring with Maurice Hooker, at Manchester Arena four months ago. Watch the fight Saturday night on DAZN.
The north west native known as ‘Turbo’ isn’t the prettiest boxer even at his dominant best – see his WBO defences since winning the belt against the likes of Derry Matthews, Mzonke Fana and what felt like a never-ending bout with Petr Petrov. But the one running theme through Terry’s fights seemed to be the feeling he was a level above each and every opponent he faced.
Photo Credit: DAZN Twitter Account
Then he took the step up to super-lightweight after failing to secure unifications with the likes of former champions, Anthony Crolla, Jorge Linares and current 135lb titlist, Lomachenko. Manager Steve Wood and promoter Frank Warren maneuvered ‘Turbo’ into a position to fight for the vacant 140lb strap, recently dropped by the undisputed, Terence Crawford, and after a delay caused by a hand injury for Flanagan, Hooker and Terry were set to meet on the 9th June.
On fight night in June, southpaw, Flanagan looked out of sorts while his American foe was composed and patient. ‘Turbo’ constantly led in with his head, which it was revealed after the fight, had the adverse effect and not just for the viewers. Terry apparently sustained a concussion from the clashing of heads and suffered through the final rounds as Hooker took pot-shots off the southpaw’s face to seal a unanimous decision win for the American.
Terry lost, but months later, managed to seal his spot in the Super Series and have an opportunity for immediate redemption. Now Flanagan travels to New Orleans to face another America. Unbeaten WBC champion and #1 seed of the tournament, Regis Prograis.
‘‘They’re expecting to wipe the floor with me but it’s not gonna be the case…I see the fight against Prograis as 50/50 with us both having our own strengths, but I just think my assets stop his and therefore I win. I think what I bring to the table neutralise his strengths and that is the difference. I expect to get the credit I duly deserve after winning this fight.”
“The world boxing series is a new chapter…I believe I’m the best fighter on the planet on my day and I’m looking to show that in this tournament.‘‘
Regis Prograis has had a quick rise into boxing stardom. A former standout amateur who always aims to please, Prograis is one of two current WBC 140lb champions – Jose Ramirez being the other – ‘Rougarou’ as Prograis is otherwise known by, has a record of 22-0 (19KOs) including impressive stoppage victories over Joel Diaz Jr, Hector Velazquez and arguably his biggest win to date, a 2nd round TKO of former unified champion, Julius Indongo.
“All my fights are explosive no matter who is in front of me. I always bring the fireworks.”
In all three of the mentioned bouts Regis displayed not just the power that makes him an obvious fan favourite and the tournament’s top seed, but outstanding boxing fundamentals. A thudding single jab, the continuous fluid head & body movement and the devastating efficiency with which once he senses the opportunity for an early finish, ‘Rougarou’ goes hard on the accelerator.
“Flanagan is a really tough dude, a former world champion. I want to fight top competition and that is why I picked him. I know I am good, but I never look at myself as the favourite…I am the number one in the world and everyone fighting me sees me as a big opportunity.”
Saturday’s venue is the Lakefront Arena in Prograis’ native home of New Orleans, and the way Regis is talking, it could be a long journey to nothing for Flanagan,
“I am the number 1 seed so of course there is pressure on me, but I feel a lot better than last time I fought in New Orleans, where it felt like work and the pressure weighed on me a bit. This time I think the pressure is out of the window. This time it is going back to being fun.”
“This is not just a boxing show, when I fight in New Orleans it is a big-time event.”
A fight in the semi-finals against WBA champion, Kiryl Relikh awaits.
Ivan Baranchyk vs. Anthony Yigit
Also on Saturday’s card is the 3rd super-lightweight quarter final between two unbeaten fighters, Ivan Baranchyk vs. Anthony Yigit with the vacant IBF belt on the line.
18-0 (11KOs), Baranchyk of Belarus has been progressing at the perfect pace ever since making his move the US. ‘The Beast’s’ first three pro bouts were in Minsk before he set flight to America and began to build his name against limited opposition. From 2015 Ivan’s quality of opposition rose, as did his performances as he picked up victories over the likes of a 17-1-2, Abel Ramos but more recently, a superb dismantling of Petr Petrov in March on the undercard of Prograis/Indongo.
The manner of the victory more than the win itself solidified Baranchyk’s status as future world title contender, and his attitude toward the sport backs that up,
“I’ve never known and couldn’t even imagine life without boxing…If there is no competition I simply just cannot live without it.”
Ivan may be known as the beast, but he’s more than willing to show his versatility as his pro career progresses,
“My boxing style is aggressive. I’m constantly attacking, fighting to the very end…I’m trying to learn the Cuban way of boxing as it is respected all over the world. Pedro (Diaz) is one of the best coaches in the world and I want learn everything from him.”
“Anthony Yigit is a good boxer, a good fighter…I know all his strengths and weaknesses. I’ve been waiting for him for a long time and on the 27th I will destroy him in the ring.”
The big talk from the Belarussian is unlikely to have an effect on his Swedish opponent, and fellow unbeaten fighter, Anthony Yigit. Speaking in the WBSS pre-fight documentary, the Swede, currently 21-0-1 (7KOs), isn’t short of self-belief,
“I’m a nice guy here but if you go into the ring with me I know you’re in my way of me reaching that goal of where I want to be. When I started boxing I believed I was gonna become a world champion…In Sweden we have nine million people and no world champion. I’m gonna be one in nine million.”
Yigit, a former 2012 Olympian where he was beaten by Ukrainian, Denys Berinchyk, has shown so far in the pro ranks that if he lacks anything, it’s probably power, but the Stockholm southpaw has no intention of losing to another man with ‘chyk’ in his name,
“When I saw Usyk lift the Ali trophy I said, ‘That’s where I wanna be’ and that’s where I’m gonna be! … People have been telling me they can see something in my eyes, something that wasn’t there before.”
Winner of this matchup will go on to face either Josh Taylor or Ryan Martin, who fight next week in Glasgow.
Check out the WBSS pre-fight documentaries for both of Saturdays bouts here; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYbJzjdzbAA
WBSS Recap: Rodriguez & Dorticos Earn Decision Victories to Progress to Final Four
By: Ste Rowen
In an intriguing night at Orlando’s CFE Arena, IBF champion, Emmanuel Rodriguez scored a competitive 12-round decision over Jason Moloney; while Yunier Dorticos of Cuba, earnt a tough, but dominant, unanimous decision over Mateusz Masternak, both to progress to the final four of the World Boxing Super Series.
Tonight’s results mean Puerto Rican bantamweight, Rodriguez will fight Naoya Inoue next, and Dorticos, former cruiserweight ‘Regular’ champion, takes on Andrew ‘The Beast’ Tabiti, in their respective WBSS semi-finals.
Photo Credit: World Boxing Super Series Twitter Account
First up were the cruiserweights. Dorticos and Masternak started off their bout with a lot of jabs thrown but very little intent by either until, towards the end of the 2nd round, ‘The KO Doctor’ Dorticos lay on an onslaught of 1-2’s, forcing his Polish foe further and further back. The Pole survived but the pace of the fight was being firmly set by the Cuban.
Masternak sustained two cuts in round 3, one below his right and another above his left, but the former European champion regained composure as the fight unfolded into the middle rounds of the scheduled 12. Yunier, now 23-1-0 (20KOs), was mixing up his shots well. The frequent body attack in the early rounds let the crowd know that the former WBA ‘Regular’ champion was thinking long term for this matchup.
‘The Master’ may have taken punishment early, but through the 8th and 9th, Mateusz was showing that he wouldn’t be intimidated by Dorticos’ power. Even when the European touched the canvas in the 7th due to a slip and maybe a hint of fatigue, he rose calmly and initiated his own string of attacks. Miami resident, Dorticos, with the Orlando crowd audibly in his favour, tagged Masternak with a short right hand in the final 10 seconds of round 9. Once again, Masternak displayed his resoluteness to survive and come out swinging into the 10th.
The final rounds gave us more of the same dominance from ‘The KO Doctor’ and counters from the Polish Master. Both fighters went tit-for-tat in the 12th but the blooded face of Masternak seemed to tell the tale by the time the final bell rang.
And so, we waited for the final scorecards which returned as, 116-112, 115-113 (x2), all for Yunier Dorticos. The KO Doctor had prescribed a unanimous decision, and spoke post-fight via translator,
‘‘I came ready, I was prepared for 12 rounds. I gave the fans the best of everything I bring to the table.’’
And his thoughts on facing Andrew ‘The Beast’ Tabiti in the semi-finals,
‘‘Tabiti, be ready, The KO Doctor’s back and it aint gonna be easy. The Muhammad Ali Trophy, this time around, is mine, so you better make sure you train.’’
The final two cruiserweight WBSS quarter-finals are happening three weeks from now in Chicago when former WBC champion, Mairis Briedis comes up against Noel Gevor, and former WBO titlist, Krzysztof Glowacki fights Maksim Vlasov.
Emmanuel Rodriguez vs. Jason Moloney
In a candidate for fight of a stacked weekend, IBF titlist, Emmanuel Rodriguez roughed and toughed it out with unbeaten contender, Jason Moloney to earn a split decision over 12 rounds.
The IBF champion led with a heavy jab, multiplied his attack with swift overhand shots and evaded significant attack from his Australian opponent. Moloney is no pretender, 17-0, the Australian is undoubtedly a bantamweight contender, but unfortunately for Jason, ‘Manny’ seems to be in a class of few fighters that includes WBSS semi-finalist, Naoya Inoue, who was in attendance tonight.
Though perhaps lacking the power of Japanese phenom, Inoue, Rodriguez, now 19-0 (12KOs) is clinical in his offence. When he throws, he lands. When he dodges, he counters. Into round 4, Moloney began to find a little rhythm. The Australian became more mobile and freed up his shots, but, though there wasn’t much wrong with the tactics, ‘Manny’ figured it out as the bout headed into the middle rounds.
Moloney was more active through to round 9, the messages he was getting from his corner of Rodriguez’ legs ‘going’ were more hopeful than truthful. As the two fighters fought out round 8, the IBF champion, making his first defence, looked mean, almost annoyed that Jason was still hanging in. By the finale of the 9th, as Jason returned to his corner, the left-uppercut/right hand combo towards the end of the round from the Puerto Rican, had clearly left a lasting impression.
The bout entered the final three rounds, and though Moloney, was going all out, he struggled to do anything more than test Manny’s stamina. The blood thirsty crowd were appeased, with all-out action in the final two rounds but heading into the 12th, it looked as if Moloney would need the stoppage if he was gonna be the man to face Inoue next.
The Australian undoubtedly went for it, but the story of the fight seemed to be reoccurring as Moloney had the volume of punching, but the champ had the accuracy. The final scorecards, 115-113 for Moloney and 115-113 (x2) for Rodriguez came back closer than expected, but Rodriguez said he always felt confident, post-fight,
‘‘It took Moloney to bring the best out of me, but I knew I won the fight. We knew the fight was close, but my corner told me I was in front so, that’s what happened.’’
And Emmanuel’s thoughts on his future Japanese foe,
‘‘He’s a top fighter. I know he likes to finish his bouts with a KO…It’s gonna be a good fight and I can’t wait for it.’’
Semi-finalist and Emmanuel’s next opposition, Naoya Inoue joined Rodriguez in the ring and said,
‘‘I would like to congratulate Rodriguez on winning his fight today. I’m really excited that I’ll be facing Rodriguez in the semi-finals probably early next year.’’
The 4th 118lb quarter-final bout takes place in two weeks, when WBA champion, Ryan Burnett fights Filipino Flash, Nonito Donaire at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro. The winner of that matchup progresses on to fight WBO champion, Zolani Tete.
World Boxing Super Series Preview: Rodriguez vs. Moloney, Dorticos vs. Masternak
By: Ste Rowen
In Orlando’s CFE Arena, a venue normally associated with basketball, World Boxing Super Series season one semi-finalist, Yunier Dorticos of Cuba faces Polish cruiserweight veteran, Mateusz Masternak for the right to face Andrew Tabiti in the next round of the Super Series tournament. Alongside the cruiserweight’s second, the 3rd round of WBSS bantamweights get underway as IBF champion, Emmanuel Rodriguez fights, Jason Moloney for the chance to face Naoya Inoue.
Yunier ‘KO Doctor’ Dorticos hasn’t fought since his Fight of the Year contender vs. Murat Gassiev last February. The Miami resident was brave, and emotional, in defeat eight months ago as he went tit-for-tat with then IBF champion Gassiev until ultimately, the Cuban was nailed with a wonderful counter left hook, shot from the hip, by the Russian and handing Dorticos his first professional defeat.
However, ‘The KO Doctor’ is far from down about that loss, if anything, going off the WBSS YouTube pre-fight documentary, Dorticos is more confident than ever,
‘‘Masternak? Master of nothing…Things are going to get really ugly for him.’’
‘‘I have to train to entertain…My style is aggressive, and I’ve always been aggressive… I respect my opponents as people, but I don’t respect them in the ring. I go out to get them.’’
Now 22-1 (21KOs), Yunier has no intention of changing his style this time around,
‘‘The defeat to Gassiev hurt, but when you get knocked down you get up again…Believe me, I am going to KO everyone in front of me this season…I’m here today because of a lot of sacrifice…No one ever gave me anything…’’
Mateusz ‘Master’ Masternak is 31 now but turned professional over twelve years ago. Perhaps defined mostly by his defeats, of which include the supremely talented, but injury-ridden Grigory Drozd and future Usyk opponent, Tony Bellew; Masternak does have victories over potential future hall of famer Jean Marc Mormeck, and twice winning against, his and Dorticos’ shared opponent, Youri Kalenga.
Currently 41-4 (28KOs), ‘Master’ recognizes the enormity of both the bout, and the challenge his opponent represents,
‘‘This is the most important fight of my career. It will determine whether I’m a world class boxer or a second league player…Dorticos is a great boxer. He made a great impression on the first edition of the tournament…But the odds aren’t stacked against me. If we do what we plan, we’ll be celebrating success.’’
It’s not just the Cuban juggernaut heading his way that Mateusz has to deal with. The Pole opened up about his struggle with long term spinal injuries but also, post-Bellew fight in 2015, problems with his vision,
‘‘Following the fight with Tony, I had crossed eyes…There was a problem when I turned my head, I had double vision. So, I saw two heads, so in order to be able to fight I had to change my boxing style.’’
‘‘I’ve been a professional boxer for 12 years, and my dream is to become the world champion. Never before have I been this close to achieving my goal.’’
The remaining quarter-finals to take place, both on the 10th November at Chicago’s UIC Pavilion, in the cruiserweight WBSS are;
Mairis Briedis vs. Noel Gevor
Krzysztof Glowacki vs. Maksim Vlasov
Emmanuel Rodriguez vs. Jason Moloney
In the third fight of the 118lb World Boxing Super Series, IBF champion, Emmanuel ‘Manny’ Rodriguez comes up against undefeated contender, Jason Moloney of Australia.
When Rodriguez, 18-0 12KOs) faced Paul Butler for the vacant IBF 118lb title earlier this year, it was all but confirmed that the winner would enter the World Boxing Super Series. Extra motivation perhaps then as, the Puerto Rican dominated ‘Baby Faced’ Butler over 12-rounds to claim his first world honours and dream of being THE man at 118lb.
Now the man tournament favourite, Naoya Inoue, named the ‘‘…best fight for me’’, has the opportunity to impress the audience and maybe, the Japanese ‘Monster’,
‘‘It’s now or never…I’m in this to win. We’re not here just to make up the numbers.’’
‘‘We’re going to be fully prepared for Jason Moloney. We know he’s unbeaten. He’s the mandatory challenger and hungry to be the world champion, just as I was when I had the opportunity.’’
‘‘I know I have the tools to beat Jason Moloney and anyone else that gets in our way.’’
Jason Moloney, twin brother of superfly contender, Andrew, earnt his path into the WBSS thanks to a technical stoppage over Kohei Kono. Currently the Ring Magazine’s 7th ranked bantamweight, the Australian cut Kono via a punch in round 3, which subsequently forced the end of the fight as the same cut, above the left eye, led to the referee waving off the bout at the beginning of the 7th, with Moloney clearly ahead on the cards.
Fighting outside of Australia for the first time, Jason, 17-0 (14KOs), is keen to prove his place in the tournament isn’t down to good luck,
‘‘I know I am the underdog in this tournament…People write me off because they haven’t seen much of me yet but, that excites me…It doesn’t worry me who we’re fighting. Stylistically I think I match up very well with Rodriguez.’’
‘‘The fans can expect an explosive, entertaining, all action fight. It’s my time to show the world what I’m capable of…If I fight to the best of my ability, I’ll win the fight.’’
The winner of Saturday’s 118lb matchup will take on Naoya Inoue at the semi-final stage. The fourth and final bantamweight quarter-final to take place will be between WBA ‘Super’ champion, Ryan Burnett and future hall of famer, Nonito Donaire, in Glasgow two weeks from this Saturday. The winner of that bout can look forward to a fight with WBO titlist, Zolani Tete, who grinded his way to victory over Mikhail Aloyan last weekend in Russia.
Josh Taylor Confident Ahead of World Boxing Super Series Debut
By: Michael Kane
The World Boxing Super Series rolled into Glasgow today for a press conference ahead of their November 3rd show at the SSE Hydro Arena.
Ryan Burnett (19-0, 9 KO’S) defends his WBA ‘Unified’ championship against former multiple division world champion and legend of the sport Nonito Donaire (38-5, 24 KO’s)
However all eyes today were on a boxer, in which Scottish hopes of another world champion rest on, Prestonpans Josh Taylor.
Taylor (13-0, 11 KO’s) takes on American Ryan Martin (22-0, 12 KO’s) in a quarter final tie, with Taylor defending his WBC Silver Super Lightweight Title.
Taylor will be returning to a familiar venue having fought his last two fights at the Hydro, beating Winston Campos by 3rd round TKO in March and then an unanimous decision over former world champion Viktor Postol in June. Taylor also won gold at the Commonwealth Games held in Glasgow in 2014 as an amateur.
When asked about appearing at the Hydro Taylor said, “Its brilliant, I feel the Hydro is now my home, I’ve had such great success there since 2014.
“My biggest victories as a professional have been in the Hydro as well, so it definitely feels like my home. Looking forward to get travelling, going around the world as part of this tournament and seeing different places.”
What does Taylor expect to face from Martin?
“I’ve only seen bits and bobs of him, I’ve studied enough of him to know what I need to watch for.
“I know he’s a very well rounded fighter, got fast hands, good defensively. Good variation of punches and knows his way around the ring. He’s obviously got power as well although his record doesn’t say, only got 12 stoppages in his 22 wins.
“I know he’s going to throw punches and be strong and I’ll have my hands full. I’m fully confident I’m going to come out on top.”
Taylor continued to say how he feels great in training and more settled.
“The way I’ve been performing in the gym, I’m more settled now, got myself my own place down in London. So I’m settled, happy and I’m firing in the gym.
“I feel this is the best shape and condition I’ve been in since I turned professional, so feeling really confident.”
Taylor went on to say how he feels invincible fighting in front of his own fans.
“I think it’s brilliant, I don’t think there is anybody that will beat me in front of those fans at the Hydro.
“The atmosphere they make, the noise they make and the support they give me, they throw every single punch with me. So there is no way anybody will beat me in the Hydro, definitely no!”
There are a host of quality Super Lightweight fighters in the tournament, Regis Prograis, former world champion Terry Flanagan and WBA champion Kiryl Relikh. Does Taylor fear any of them?
“I’m not really fussed about any of the opposition. I feel I can beat every single one of them that’s in this competition.
“With that being said, they’re all good fighters, with good amateur careers and very tough fighters. They’re all undefeated, I think. Yeah it’s stiff opposition but I’m fully confident I’m going to come away with the trophy.”
With the World Boxing Super Series being a tournament, Taylor already knows who he could face in the semi finals should he over come Martin. He will face the winner of Ivan Baranchyk v Anthony Yigit who are fighting for the vacant IBF world championship.
Does Taylor have a preference?
“I don’t care. I think Baranchyk will probably get through that and if so I’m confident I can win that.
“And if Yigit wins it I know I will win that fight as well. I’ve had experience of him in the ring as a professional and experience of him in the amateurs as well. So I’m fairly confident of winning that fight so I’m not bothered who I face.”
With all indications pointing to a packed Hydro Arena backing Taylor, few would bet against him beating Martin and making it to the semi final for a chance at his first world title shot.
The hopes of Scotland rest on his shoulders to add another world champion to a list that includes Benny Lynch, Ricky Burns, Jim Watt and Ken Buchanan.
WBSS Results: Tete & Tabiti Win Decision Victories
By: Ste Rowen
It was a night made for the travelling fighters in Ekaterinburg as bantamweight Zolani Tete and cruiserweight, Andrew Tabiti overcame Russian opponents, both in unimpressive decision victories, to progress to their respective WBSS semi-finals.
Zolani Tete, 27-3 (21KOs) heading into tonight, started the fight as we hoped he would, on the front foot looking to impress his power upon Mikhail Aloyan early. The Armenian-born Russian however is no stranger to Tete’s offensive approach thanks to Mikhail’s supreme amateur experience (2 world championship golds and Olympic bronze in 2012).
Photo Credit: World Boxing Super Series Twitter Account
With 20 seconds left of the 1st round, the WBO champion landed a long-left hand and followed it with a short right, forcing Aloyan, 4-0 (0KOs), to stumble to the ground and score an early 10-8 for Zolani. The knockdown setup a sprightly round 2, and although Tete seemed to remain on top, there was clearly a competitive fight to be had. At the beginning of round 4, Aloyan sprung a right hand and landed cleanly onto the chin of the champion, waking up the Russian crowd and shaking away any complacency Tete may have had as the fight headed into the middle rounds.
By the 7th it remained competitive but, Zolani’s jab looked as if it was seeing him through the rounds. Even when Aloyan had a brief, bright spot, the WBO champ’s jab looked as if it was regaining the momentum. At times, it threatened to fall under the category of awkward as neither seemed willing or able to engage on the inside, instead, tying each other up. Both southpaws fell to the canvas a few times as a result, and not because of a punch.
Rounds 9 and 10 continued much the same and in the final minute of the 10th the referee looked as if he took a point from the South African for consistently pushing away. Then just before the final bell for the round, the ring doctor was called over to check on a cut sustained above the right eye of Mikhail. He was allowed to continue into the championship rounds but very little changed in terms of the style of fight the Ekaterinburg audience was viewing. With 50 seconds left of round 11, Aloyan was deducted a point for holding.
They made it to the final bell and, politely applauded by an uninfused crowd, the final scorecards came back as 114-111 (x2) and 114-110 all for Tete, and still the WBO champion said post-fight,
‘‘It was a good fight. Aloyan proved he is one of the best, that’s why he went the full 12 rounds with me…The jab is always working for me. My corner is always telling me to use my legs, because my legs are also my defence so that’s what I’ve been trying to do.’’
And who does he hope to fight in the final four of the WBSS,
‘‘I’m wishing Ryan Burnett can win. I’ve always wanted to fight him. I believe he is going to win in his next fight and I will meet him in the semi-final.’’
Tete, as mentioned, now goes on to the semi-final stage to face either, WBA champion, Ryan Burnett or, Nonito Donaire, who fight on the 3rd November in Glasgow.
Andrew Tabiti vs. Ruslan Fayfer
Getting the second season of the cruiserweights underway, the two unbeaten fighters, Andrew ‘The Beast’ Tabiti, 16-0 (13KOs) and Ruslan Fayfer 23-0 (16KOs) both decided on a tentative start. Fayfer took a more offensive, come-forward approach but both boxer’s proved risk-averse through rounds 1-3.
It was clear which of the two trains out of Mayweather’s boxing gym, but Tabiti’s quick hands weren’t matched with volume. A number of times through the middle rounds, ‘The Beast’ landed a power shot, but struggled to follow it up before being tied up by the Russian or even put off by his own caution. By round 7, and by now as ugly as a fight can get, it was clear Ruslan was struggling too figure out his American foe. Pre-fight, the Russian said he was the more experienced of the two, but the lack of quality in his past opponents was telling.
Andrew’s punch-output had slowed right down by the 8th, Fayfer was forcing the pace of the bout but continued to struggle to land anything of significance, despite finishing round 8 on top. A similar pattern followed right through to the final bell. Fayfer rushed in, Tabiti evaded the attack, but neither gave the fans much to enjoy. With 33 seconds of the 12th, Ruslan was deducted a point for continuously leading with the head, it set a fire in the Russian to go all out but Tabiti was savvy enough to see the round out.
A was a fight so awkward, it was anyone’s to win. But it was ‘The Beast’ who took it, 116-111, 115-112, 114-113 all in favour of the Vegas fighter. Tabiti spoke to Barry Jones post-fight,
‘‘I love Russia, I love coming out here fighting, it was a wonderful experience. The guy was awkward, but he came and brought the fight. He seen I had the speed on him, so he wanted to make it awkward and dirty.’’
‘‘My game plan was to last the beginning of the fight and then later on try and kick it up.’’
And who would he prefer to fight in the semi’s,
‘‘I think Dorticos has the more credible name, so I’d like to fight him.’’
Tabiti now progresses to the semi-finals where he will fight either, defeated semi-finalist of last season’s WBSS, Yunier Dorticos or, Mateusz Masternak, who meet next week in Orlando.
WBSS Preview: Tete vs. Aloyan; Tabiti vs. Fayfer
By: Ste Rowen
After last weekend’s fights in Yokohama, the World Boxing Super Series for the bantamweights and super-lightweights is well underway. Naoya Inoue and Kiryl Relikh, progressed through to their respective weight-class tournaments and this weekend in Ekaterinburg, Russia the second bantamweight quarter-final between WBO champion, Zolani Tete and Russian, Mikhail Aloyan takes place for the right to face either WBA champ, Ryan Burnett or Nonito Donaire at the semi-final stage.
Tete, the South African responsible for the quickest knockout in world title fight history (11-second wipe-out of Siboniso Gonya) shot himself into the wider audience’s view after he defended his IBF super-flyweight title for the first time, against Paul Butler, stopping the challenger in eight rounds.
Photo Credit: World Boxing Super Series Twitter Account
Zolani decided against chasing unification, opting to have two homecoming bouts, returning to England 12 months on from the Butler win, and seek out the best at bantamweight. He would eventually achieve his aim of becoming a two-weight world champion after that same record-breaking Gonya KO meant Tete became the new WBO world champion, putting the rest of the division on notice.
Despite an underwhelming 12-round decision, first defence over Omar Andres Navaez, the South African southpaw, speaking at Thursday’s press conference, is confident he can score the knockout this Saturday,
‘‘As a world champion you need to adjust and adapt in each and every style that a boxer brings…Aloyan is one of the best fighters in the Super Series. I believe it’s going to be a good fight and definitely I’m gonna take him out…Whatever he is bringing, it won’t have any place to stay.
My focus is to become a unified world champion.’’
Zolani, 27-3 (21KOs) currently on a run of 11 straight wins, even set his future ambitions further than the WBSS,
‘‘After I win all the belts in the bantamweight division, we’ll move up to the next division.’’
Tete’s opponent on Saturday night has an interesting history. Born in Armenia but raised and fought for Russia in the amateurs, Mikhail Aloyan, 4-0 (0KOs), was an outstanding amateur picking up gold medals in the 2009 & 2016 World Championships. Aloyan briefly added the 2016 Olympic silver medal until tests came back positive for the stimulant, Tuaminoheptane and the Court of Arbitration of Sports ruled on stripping the silver from Mikhail.
Though the Russian maintains his innocence, he hasn’t let it affect his acceleration through the early stages of his pro career. Also a southpaw, the 2012 Olympic bronze medallist has fought twice as at super-fly and twice at bantamweight, winning minor titles in both divisions. The combined record of his last three opponents is 46-1-2 (19KOs) and curiously, all four have so far all been from Nicaragua.
Aloyan, wasn’t allowing Tete’s talk of knockouts distract him at the press conference,
‘‘The fact that this fight takes place in Ekaterinburg, means we have an opportunity to bring out the best of our performance.
He is a strong opponent because he is a world champion…I’m not as experienced as a professional but we will see what happens on October 13th.’’
‘‘I will not speak about my opponent’s weaknesses.’’
The second season of the WBSS cruiserweights also gets going at the Ekaterinburg Expo, as unbeaten, American prospect, Andrew Tabiti steps into the ring with fellow undefeated fighter, Ruslan Fayfer, 23-0 (16KOs).
Tabiti, 16-0 (13KOs) was last seen sharing the ring with career-heavyweight, Lateef Kayode. An opponent ‘The Beast’ dispatched with inside 5 rounds with a precision right hand uppercut. It put to bed any demons left behind Tabiti’s controversial decision victory over cruiserweight veteran, Steve Cunningham on the Mayweather/McGregor undercard last year.
On Thursday, Tabiti, fighting outside of the US for the first time, was in confident mood,
‘‘I’m coming to this man’s country and take what he has. I’m on my A-game, I hope he’s on his A-game. It doesn’t matter how many fights he’s had; the quality of opponent is not anything for me to be afraid of.
I’m just coming to knock this guy out, that’s the only thing I’m worried about.’’
Ruslan Fayfer, 23-0(16KOs), born and raised in Russia, has mainly fought his career out above the 200lb limit, but in 23 fights, has yet to fight an outstanding name. The 27-year-old was taking a reserved approach in front of the media,
‘‘The fact I have more fights than my opponent does give me the ground to say I do have more experience than him…I am not going to reveal anything, I will show everything during the fight.
Everything you should see, you will see on Saturday night.’’
Saturday night’s winner of the cruiserweight showdown will fight either Yunier Dorticos or Mateusz Masternak.
The other WBSS cruiserweight quarter finals are as follows;
Yunier Dorticos vs. Mateusz Masternak – 20th October 2018
Mairis Briedis vs. Noel Mikaelian – 10th November 2018
Krzysztof Glowacki vs. Maksim Vlasov – 10th November 2018
WBSS: Inoue and Relikh Progress To Semi-Finals; Kenshiro Stops Melindo In 7
By: Ste Rowen
Naoya Inoue scored a sensational 1st round knockout of former world champion, Juan Carlos Payano, sending him into the WBSS semi-finals and solidifying his status as the bantamweight tournament favourite.
70 seconds into the fight Inoue, in search of his 7th straight stoppage victory, landed a jab, dropping Payano’s guard and firing off a punch-perfect right hand to send the Dominican to the canvas and bringing the main event proceedings to an early end.
Before tonight Payano was 20-1 (9KOs) having lost just once in a decision defeat to Rau’shee Warren, tonight in Yokohama the southpaw was almost lulled into a false sense of security in the first 60 seconds, until ‘The Monster’ executed his game plan to perfection.
The victory means that Inoue will face either IBF champion, Emmanuel Rodriquez or Jason Moloney, which takes place on the 20th October, in the next round of the World Boxing Super Series.
Speaking post-fight, Naoya was in jubilant mood,
‘‘It’s an amazing feeling.’’
‘‘I am very happy I continue to fight like this, but this is just the 1st round, I will have a 2nd round so I will show the best fight next time too…I would love to fight against (Emmanuel) Rodriguez because he is the best fight for me.’’
Also, on the Yokohama card…
Kiryl Relikh, now 23-2 (19KOs), sealed his place in the super-lightweight WBSS semi-finals and defended his WBA title for the first time, after scoring a unanimous 12-round decision victory over Eduard Troyanovsky. All three judge’s scorecards returned as, 115-113.
The matchup was completely overshadowed by the Kenshiro and Inoue fights that followed it but, the WBA super-lightweight champion will just be happy to have come through a tough test. Relikh will now fight the winner of Regis Prograis vs. Terry Flanagan, which takes place in New Orleans on the 27th October.
With the WBC light-flyweight belt on the line, Teraji Kenshiro made his fourth consecutive defence as the ‘Smiling Assassin’ scored an impressive 7th round TKO over former world champion, Milan ‘Method Man’ Melindo.
The early rounds, of the scheduled 12, lacked sustained action, despite Melindo landing a single overhand right in the 2nd round, Kenshiro was boxing well enough to win the rounds and keep his Filipino opponent at bay. Milan began to pick up the pace from round 4, which in turn, brought the best out of the WBC champion. A battle of the jabs ensued, and both men attempted to fire off combinations more freely.
By round 6 it was clear the pace of the fight was getting to Melindo as the Japanese star’s shots seemed heavier and were having much more of a lasting effect on ‘The Method Man’. Then in the 7th, having already sustained a cut to his left eye, the referee called the ring doctor to check over the Filipino, seconds later the bout was waved off and Kenshiro moved to 14-0 (8KOs).
WBSS Preview: Inoue vs. Payano & Relikh vs. Troyanovsky
By: Ste Rowen
One week on from the end of the super middleweight World Boxing Super Series final and season one of the game-changing tournament, we get to do it all over again as season three, which this time includes three weight classes (Bantamweight, Super-Lightweight & Cruiserweight), gets underway in Yokohama’s 17-000 capacity arena. Sunday’s event in Japan will signal the beginning of both the bantam and super-lightweight tournaments.
Headlining the card is WBA ‘Regular’ champion, Naoya ‘The Monster’ Inoue vs. former WBA ‘Super’ holder, Juan Carlos Payano. Already a two-weight world champion and 16-0 (14KOs), Inoue has had a sharp rise in the ranks since turning professional at the end of 2012.
Photo Credit: World Boxing Super Series Twitter Account
Fans last saw the Japanese phenomenon in May when he destroyed seasoned pro, Jamie McDonell inside one round in what was Naoya’s first fight since moving up from super-flyweight, to add the WBA ‘Regular’ to his ever-growing trophy cabinet.
Speaking at Friday’s press conference, Inoue gave nothing away,
‘‘I believe in my own strengths. I have had a good camp and I’m in great shape…I am looking forward to fighting in front of my own fans…I have great respect for Payano. He has good technique…He is a two-time Olympian, so he is very experienced.’’
Juan Carlos Payano, 20-1 (9KOs) is no stranger to world title bouts. The Dominican southpaw briefly held the WBA ‘Super’ belt, currently owned by Ryan Burnett, before losing a rematch via majority decision to Rau’shee Warren. Since that 2016 loss Juan Carlos has scored three consecutive victors including a unanimous decision over unbeaten Filipino, Mike Plania.
‘‘I have the utmost respect for Inoue, he is a warrior like myself which makes this fight one of the most interesting bantamweight fights of this year. Expect the best from me on Sunday.’’
The other 118lb WBSS fellow quarter final matchups are as follows;
Ryan Burnett (WBA ‘Super’ Champion) vs. Nonito Donaire – 3rd November 2018
Zolani Tete (WBO Champion) vs. Mikhail Aloyan – 13th October 2018
Emmanuel Rodriguez (IBF Champion) vs. Jason Moloney – 20th October 2018
Firing the starting gun for the super-lightweight WBSS sees WBA champion, Kiryl Relikh step into the ring with former IBF titlist, Eduard Troyanovsky. Relikh, 22-2 (19KOs) stepped into the mainstream light when he lost two straight competitive, and some would say controversial, decisions to Ricky Burns and Rances Barthelmy, respectively. But, the Belarussian made up for one of those losses when, in March this year, he flipped the first fight with Barthelmy on its head and earnt a 12-round unanimous decision to not only hand his opponent his first loss but also pick up the WBA strap for good measure. At the pre-fight press conference, Relikh recognised the opportunity awaiting him,
Photo Credit: World Boxing Super Series Twitter Account
‘‘The Muhammad Ali trophy is my chance to show the world who I am and what I can do. I am sure that my fight will be great. It is time for me to prove that I am the real champion.’’
Kiryl’s opponent on Sunday is ‘The Eagle’ Eduard Troyanovsky, 27-1 (24KOs) fighting outside of Russia or Germany for the very first time as a professional. Troyanovsky, native to the Siberian region of Omsk, has loss just once in his 28 fights when he was knocked out cold in a shock loss to Julius Indongo, back in 2016.
Eduard waited 8 months before stepping into the ring again and though the wait was long, his return fights were short. July 2016, the Russian viciously KO’d Michele Di Rocco in the 4th round and, four months later, stopped Carlos Manuel Portillo in the 1st, with the same thunderous right hook which he dispatched Di Rocco with. ‘The Eagle’ expects his power to be on show again this weekend,
‘‘We are two fighters who can punch so it is going to be a really good fight. People can look forward to a fight that will probably not go all the rounds.’’
The rest of the super-lightweight quarter-finals are;
Regis Prograis vs. Terry Flanagan
Josh Taylor vs. Ryan Martin
Ivan Baranchyk vs. Anthony Yigit
‘Vacant IBF World Championship’
Adding to an already intriguing card, WBC light-flyweight champ, Ken Shiro fights Milan ‘Method Man’ Melindo. Shiro, of Japan, known as the ‘Smiling Assassin has so far notched up a record of 13-0 (7KOs) and won his WBC strap in just his 10th bout when he got a close decision over Ganigan Lopez, an opponent he stopped within two rounds earlier this year. Speaking to the ‘Japan Times’, perhaps the cheeriest world champion in boxing was optimistic of stretching his run to 4 defences,
‘‘I’ve already taken on world champions and built confidence in myself, so I would like to prove that I’m the strongest in the light-flyweight class.’’
His opponent on Sunday is 37-3 (13KOs) and former IBF titlist, Milan Melindo who’s hoping to quickly return to winning ways after losing a unanimous decision to Shiro’s fellow Japanese champion, Ryoichi Taguchi (who has since lost his IBF & WBA belts to Hekkie Budler). Speaking at a press conference in the Philippines last week, ‘The Method Man’ sounded more than happy to return to Japan,
‘‘I won a world title before in Japan, I can do it again. Plus, I love Japan. I like the fans and I love Japanese food.’’
WBSS On DAZN Results: Smith Stops Groves
By: Ste Rowen
Callum Smith stopped George Groves in the 7th round in world class fashion, to become the new super middleweight WBA and Ring Magazine champion, as well as the first ever World Boxing Super Series super middleweight conqueror.
Tonight’s venue was the 10,000-capacity seat arena within Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City, the first official event of its kind held in Saudi Arabia’s second largest city, but the unusual venue didn’t change the approach that usually starts George’s bouts.
Photo Credit: Matchroom Boxing Twitter Account
As always seems to be the case in Groves’ fights, the two fighters made a tentative start, both pawing away with the jab, attempting to find a weak spot early.
Smith, in the immaculate white and silver shorts, looked comfortable firing off the counter. The 2nd saw both fighters land eye-catching shots but it seemed the WBA champion’s work behind the jab made the difference.
With just over 1:30 left of round 3 though, ‘Mundo’ landed a counter-right hand that shook Groves, 28-3 (20KOs), enough to back him up and, for a brief moment, look shaky. Smith, 24-0 (17KOs) was unable to properly capitalise and ‘The Saint’ regained his equilibrium and end the round relatively well. Though Smith landed a crowd-pleasing right hand at the beginning of the 4th, George boxed smartly from there.
Smith seemed undeterred however, when his fellow Brit landed, Callum kept his head up and continued to maneuverer forward; even when, with 18 seconds left of the 5th, ‘Mundo’s’ feet were swept from underneath him after the two fighter’s legs became entangled.
Into 6 and 7 – despite another awkward fall that saw Smith on the canvas – it felt as if the WBC ‘Diamond’ champion was getting into his groove. He wasn’t just landing pleasing shots now, the Liverpudlian was forcing the tournament’s #1 seed further and further back.
With less than 1:20 left of round 7 Smith landed an almighty left hook that shook ‘The Saint’ to the ropes, unable to reply as ‘Mundo’ continued to land until he was forced to drop to his knee. The referee stepped in to call a conclusion to proceedings just as Callum landed one last right hand. A clinical finish from a man who is no doubt tired of being called un-proven. You can no longer label him that anymore.
With legends like Naseem Hamed and Evander Holyfield already in the ring, Rashida Ali, Muhammad’s daughter, presented Callum with the WBSS trophy to top off a lifechanging night for Callum Smith.
Now the main man at 168lb, Smith acknowledged the significance of tonight’s win.
‘‘It’s been a long time coming…I know how good I am, and I know I was good enough to become a world champion and become the best on the planet. I’ve had a slow couple of years and people kind of forgot me and forgot how good I was…I’ve reminded people how good I am.’’
‘‘It was a good fight. I felt I was ahead at the time of the stoppage. I feel I was beating him at his own game…I always knew I had the power to finish him, but I showed I could live with him, with my boxing ability as well.’’
‘‘Credit to George Groves, he’s a great champion. It was an honour to share the ring with him…I’ve never been satisfied but I think you’ve seen tonight how much this means to me. A lifetime’s work all rolled into one.’’
Groves was complimentary to the victor post-fight,
‘‘It was just not meant to be, full credit to Callum…He caught me with a body shot in the end, which is very embarrassing for me. I’ve never been caught with a body shot in my life, so I can’t believe he did it.’’
‘‘We knew he could punch. He’s got a higher reach on me as well, so I didn’t wanna go 50-50 with him and trade. I was making him miss and making him pay. He got the decisive shot in the end.’’
And when asked about his shoulder, previously injured in the WBSS semi-final,
‘‘I’m not here to make excuses, the shoulder worked. Callum, to his credit, was the better man on the night, and for someone like me, that’s tough to say…I’m not retiring, I don’t know what’s next, but it’s been a dogged year.’’
Now for only the 3rd time in the belt’s history, the Ring Magazine has an owner, the World Boxing Super Series super middleweight champion, Callum Smith.
On the undercard…
A bearded Chris Eubank Jr moved to 27-2 (21KOs) with a 3rd round technical knockout of JJ McDonagh. The southpaw from Ireland, McDonagh, bizarrely fell to the canvas in the 1st round after receiving what looked like a routine left hook to the side of the head. The Irishman regained his senses, but it put Chris up on the cards immediately. Eubank looked to have the upper hand, despite it being competitive, JJ pulled out at the end of round 3, seemingly a shoulder injury. In the corner between rounds 3 and 4, Eubank could be heard shouting to the opposite corner, ‘‘Don’t do it. Don’t do it.’’ Unfortunately for those watching, he did.
‘‘It was a good fight while it lasted but the going got too tough for him, so he quit.’’ Chris said post-fight. JJ McDonagh joined the interview and got himself riled up when Chris told him he could’ve fought on, leading the Irishman to say, ‘‘I’ll fight you right now with one hand.’’ A strange offer from a man who 10 minutes earlier, literally had the opportunity to fight him with one hand.
The 29-year-old was the main event’s injury reserve and although the tournament hasn’t unfolded the way he predicted, Eubank will no doubt have gained some new fans after two entertaining scraps with WBSS quarterfinalist, Avni Yildrim and tonight’s loser, George Groves.
Darren Surtees, an undefeated welterweight from County Durham scored a 2nd round knockout over 8-4, Kane Baker to improve his own record to 9-0 (6KOs). Baker was dropped in round 2 by a short-left hand, and then Surtees unleashed a volley of punches which ended in a left-hook which sent Baker falling into the ropes and eventually onto the canvas. Darren landed a cheeky right hand for good measure whilst his foe was on the way down.
The only representative of Saudi Arabia on the card, super lightweight, Zuhayr Al Qahtani moved to London when he was 12 and today, he moved to 5-0 (0KOs) after earning a 4-round decision over late replacement, Mohamed Mahmoud, whose now lost all six of his professional fights.
Al Qahtani looked slick as he landed quick-handed combinations, however it was Mahmoud who ended the 1st brightest, landing occasionally but clearly hard enough to upset Zuhayr’s flow. The fight continued to be entertaining, if a little stop-and-start due to holding and messy breaks but ultimately, ‘The Arabian Warrior’s’ performance was good enough to get the win.
Cruiserweight, Mikael ‘The Beast’ Lawal, 7-0 (5KOs) heading into tonight, added another W and KO to his pro record with a 3rd round knockout of journeyman-in-the-making, Tamas Kozma. The Hungarian, Kozma made the better start of the two but in the 3rd, Lawal landed a chopping overhand right to the back of the head, dropping his opponent to the canvas and ending the night early.
Heavyweight Kem Ljungquist of Denmark made light work of Mourad Omar by stopping the Egyptian after just two rounds, to move to 6-0 (4KOs). The Danish southpaw unrelentingly stalked the 4-1 fighter throughout the proceedings and just as the bell rang for the beginning of the 3rd, Omar told the referee he’d had enough and stayed seated to put an end to the bout.
WBSS: Groves vs. Smith Final Press Conference Quotes
By: Ste Rowen
Friday sees the super middleweight version of the World Boxing Super Series reach its crescendo as, George Groves takes on Callum Smith for the WBA ‘Super’, WBC ‘Diamond’ and Ring Magazine belts, as well as the crowning jewel of the tournament, the Muhammad Ali Trophy.
On Wednesday afternoon, the two fighters went face to face for the penultimate time, at the final press conference in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The WBA champion, Groves, was first up to speak,
Photo Credit: World Boxing Super Series Twitter Account
‘‘We had a great camp in the end. It took a long time to get back to full fitness, but everything has gone as good as it possibly could…Arriving here (Saudi Arabia), it’s not as bad as you’re told back home…After such a long training camp, such a long time I can’t wait to fight. I can’t wait to collect some new belts and the Ali Trophy.’’
On this being the ‘pinnacle’ of his career,
‘‘I’ve been in some really big fights as a professional, numerous world title fights. Recently became the WBA champion, recently became ranked #1 in the division and what’s up for grabs this time round for me is the Ring Magazine belt and obviously the Ali trophy as well.’’
‘‘It’s gonna become a very prestigious tournament not only to win, but to be associated with. I’ll make sure that I win it and win it well.’’
Smith, 24-0 (17KOs), was in confident mood,
‘‘Every fighter starts boxing to become a world champion and I was no different. I turned professional and I believed my abilities were good enough to take me to the very top and Friday night I get a chance to be there.
A win over George puts me as the best super middleweight in the world, a world champion and Ring Magazine champion. It ticks a lot of boxes for me. There’s a lot at stake but that’s why I turned professional, for fights like these.’’
And his game plan to take home the heavy haul of titles on offer?
‘‘We’ll have to wait and see. I believe it’ll take a big performance. World championships don’t come easy, you don’t give it away. People have to earn them, and I understand that, and I’ve had a very good camp, pushed my body to the limits. Tactically I feel we worked well with Joe and stuff’s come off in sparring that we’ll feel the benefit of on the night.’’
Shane McGuigan, who also trains Josh Taylor and Luke Campbell was complimentary of his fighter’s opponent,
‘‘You’ve got a guy who’s 6ft or 5’11, and then you’ve got another guy who’s 6’3 and completely different styles, but that all backdates the whole way through training camp what we’re working on and we’ve sparred a lot of big tall guys. A lot of guys that are good at catching and counters on the inside, work the body well. All these things that Callum does very well, and I believe he’s a much better fighter than Chris Eubank Jr and George will have to be better on the night.’’
‘‘George has got the experience and I think the experience is gonna tell in this fight.’’
Callum’s coach, and 2015 Ring trainer of the year, Joe Gallagher was just as complimentary as Shane McGuigan when talking about the opposite corner,
‘‘The whole nation in the UK was really pleased for him when he became world champion, but this is now Callum Smith’s opportunity, his chance to shine. One he has to take with both hands. George has power in both hands, hits well, head and body, as does Callum Smith. Shane is on a good run of form at the moment with his stable, he had a great win last weekend with Luke Campbell…They’ll come bouncing into this fight…I feel a bit like Dillian Whyte here by saying, ‘Let’s Go Champ!’ You have that type of mentality.’’
‘‘We are fighting the ranked #1 fighter in the world so, when we beat George Groves we are beating the #1 without a question of a doubt…We’re not considered the 3rd or the 4th best but, we’re considered the number 1 best.’’
Friday’s final will be Groves’ 7th world title fight, losing three of those bouts. If you discount the WBC Diamond belt – which you should – it will be Smith’s first ever shot at world honours.
The main event ring walks are expected to take place at 9pm UK time/4pm Eastern.