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John Ryder and Vergil Ortiz Sparkle on an Otherwise Pedestrian Card

Arne K. Lang

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John Ryder and Vergil Ortiz

“To fight in Las Vegas was amazing,” said John Ryder after his third round knockout of Bilal Akkawy on Saturday. It would have been more amazing if more folks were on hand to see it.

Perhaps it’s an indicator of upward mobility, but Mexican fight fans are behaving more and more like the fat cats that formerly turned out in droves for big Vegas fights, by which we mean that they are now arriving fashionably late. Canelo vs. Jacobs was a sellout, attracting an announced crowd of 20,203, but the arena looked to be 90 percent empty when the bell sounded for the Ryder vs. Akkawy squabble.

Ryder was originally scheduled to appear in the co-feature against Canadian knockout artist David Lemieux. When Lemieux had to pull out with a hand injury, Ryder was pushed down the totem pole. His bout with Akkawy was knocked all the way down to third-from-the bottom of an eight-fight card in which the opener went off shortly after 3:00 pm local time. At that hour, there were more folks milling outside the arena than had ventured inside.

In terms of exposure, the event’s promoter, Golden Boy, did John Ryder no favors. But it worked out okay. Ryder (pictured on the right) delivered a career-best performance.

Bilal Akkawy, although undefeated (20-0-1), was something of a mystery. From Sydney, Australia, he had limited U.S. exposure, having appeared only twice stateside in bouts slated for eight rounds. But he was Canelo Alvarez’s chief sparring partner, which in theory was highly beneficial, and he came highly touted from no less an authority than Hall of Fame trainer Johnny Lewis, the grand old man of Australian boxing, who dubbed him the hardest puncher, pound for pound, in Australia today.

Akkawy never got a chance to display his power. Ryder, nicknamed the Gorilla, beat him to the punch. In the third round, in a bout that started very slowly, Ryder, a southpaw, floored the Aussie with a splendid right hook and then pummeled him against the ropes when he arose on unsteady legs, forcing the referee to waive it off.

The next fight for Ryder, a Londoner, is expected to come against countryman Callum Smith who meets the ubiquitous TBA (purportedly Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam) on June 1 on the Joshua-Ruiz card at Madison Square Garden. The undefeated Smith holds a version of the WBA super middleweight title. At the moment, the other parcel belongs to Canelo who also owns two title belts in the division below it.

John Ryder vs. Callum Smith would be a big fight in England, but if we had a say we would prefer to see Ryder fight a healthy David Lemieux before taking on the title-holder. And although Lemieux would undoubtedly be favored, we wouldn’t bet against Ryder, 30, who appears to be in peak form. Since losing a controversial split decision to Liverpool’s Rocky Fielding in Liverpool, Ryder has won four straight inside the distance against opponents who were collectively 89-2-1 going in.

Vergil

The other smashing performance on Saturday’s show was turned in by 21-year-old Vergil Ortiz Jr. who knocked out former world title challenger Mauricio Herrera.

This bout was set up for Ortiz to win. At age 38, Herrera was shopworn. However, he hadn’t previously been stopped and here he was not only just stopped, but stopped in a brutal fashion.

Knocked down in the waning seconds of the second round, Herrera had a dazed look about him when the bell sounded for round three and Ortiz wasted no time applying the finisher. A right cross did the damage and Herrera was out cold before he was grazed by a left hook as he crumpled. The official time was 0:29 of round three. Ortiz, now 13-0, has never gone the distance, winning all of his fights by knockout.

Ortiz, who started boxing as an amateur at the age of eight, is from Grand Prairie, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, but has been training in California under Robert Garcia since turning pro under the Golden Boy banner. His performance came as no big surprise to TSS West Coast Bureau Chief David Avila who made this observation last December: “If (Ortiz) touches someone it seems to send 10,000 volts through their body. Their eyes roll and their muscles become paralyzed.”

You can call Virgil Ortiz Jr. the West Coast version of Teofimo Lopez, also 21 years old, albeit it’s an imperfect analogy as Teofimo fights one weight class down.

For Herrera, Ortiz came in at a career high 147 pounds. Standing 5’10”, he has the frame to grow into a junior middleweight, if not a full-fledged middleweight someday down the road, but he has indicated that he will be dropping back to 140.

There’s a delicious fight in the 140-pound weight class coming up later this month between Josh Taylor and Ivan Baranchyk, both undefeated, and an even more delicious match if the Scotsman wins, as expected, boosting Taylor into a showdown with Regis Prograis. Throw Ortiz’s name in the mix and the division takes on an even brighter tint.

Odds and Ends

Gennady Golovkin, who was ringside on Saturday, described the Canelo-Jacobs fight as “a little boring,” likening it to a sparring match. That echoed my sentiments as I watched the fight from my perch in the auxiliary press section.

The first round was a “feeling-out” round but then Jacobs, who let Canelo dictate the pace, took it to the extreme. Looking at my notes, I also labeled rounds two and three “feeling-out” rounds.

The first boos, I noted, were heard in round five. The crowd came alive in round eight, but the booing returned intermittently, reaching a crescendo in round 11. All the while, however, it struck me that Canelo was fighting a smart fight. Yes, he could have made it fan friendlier as the jabs that Jacobs landed had little sting to them, but his first priority was winning and early into the fight he could sense that he was building a comfortable lead.

The unsatisfying-ness may redound well to us fans going forward. By all accounts, the leading contenders for Canelo’s next go are WBO middleweight title-holder Demetrius Andrade (assuming he gets past Majiec Sulecki on June 29) or Triple-G. Of the two, a fight with Andrade – whose last four fights have gone the full 12 rounds – has the greater probability of mirroring the Canelo-Jacobs clinker.

For fear of alienating the fans, Golden Boy may let Canelo-GGG III go forward sooner rather than later. Hooray for that.

Photo credit: Tom Hogan / Hogan Photos / Golden Boy

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Looking at the Heavyweight Calendar (Odds Review)

Miguel Iturrate

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Joshua vs Ruiz

This past Saturday night saw Deontay Wilder’s WBC world heavyweight title defense against Dominic Breazeale go down on Showtime. The fight lasted just 137 seconds as Wilder floored Breazeale with a cannonball of a right hand to end the night early.

With Wilder out of the way, Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz Jr is up next. They meet June 1st at Madison Square Garden. Two weeks later, on the 15th of June, ESPN+ will deliver Tyson Fury vs Tom Schwarz, so fight fans will get a look at all three members of the “Big Three” all in a month’s time.

Wilder’s erasure of Breazeale this past weekend sent a message to the rest of the division as well as giving him a highlight reel to show during upcoming negotiations. Wilder entered a strong -1000 favorite at the sportsbooks for this fight.

Check out our pre-fight review of the Wilder vs Breazeale odds right here at TSS –

http://tss.ib.tv/boxing/featured-articles/57588-wilder-vs-breazeale-odds-review

Looking forward, the odds posted for Joshua and Fury’s upcoming tussles are even less competitive. Let’s take a look at what the books are giving us as we await the two big Brits fighting in the USA.

Madison Square Garden – New York City – Saturday, June 1, 2019

Heavyweight 12 rounds –

Andy Ruiz Jr +1500 Over 6½ +100

Anthony Joshua -3000 Under 6½ -130

Ruiz Jr is 32-1 overall with his lone loss coming at the hands of Joseph Parker in a failed WBO world title bid. That same WBO belt is now in the hands of Joshua as are the WBA and IBF belts.

Joshua was a big favorite over Jarrell Miller, his original opponent, who was denied a license in New York after testing positive for a buffet of steroids. Ruiz Jr took the fight with less than a full training camp, but you have to believe that he is going to come in highly motivated. Ruiz Jr has been caught at a different type of buffet, the all-you-can-eat kind, but even when in the best of shape his body type isn’t “poster boy material.” Miller was big and bulky as well, but he was a near 300 pounder whereas Ruiz Jr will come in between 250 and 260 pounds, which is right around Joshua’s size. Rather than slaying a 300-pound giant, he is facing a guy who is shorter and fatter than him, making it very hard for Joshua to look great on paper.

At +1500 will people bite on Ruiz Jr? He is more experienced than Miller and he is probably a better fighter overall and though he is facing a formidable champion, Joshua is not a finished product. Perhaps Joshua will be chasing an early finish, feeling the pressure of Wilder’s performance, and if so will he make a mistake that Ruiz can exploit? We are roughly 10 days from finding out.

MGM Grand Garden – Las Vegas, Nevada – Saturday, June 15, 2019

Heavyweight 12 rounds –

Tom Schwarz +1800 Over 9½ -105

Tyson Fury -3600 Under 9½ -125

Tyson Fury closes out the run of top heavyweights with a very deliberately chosen showcase fight against Tom Schwarz. Schwarz is 24 years old and 24-0 but he is a fighter who has come up on the regional German scene and as the old boxing cliche goes, there are levels to this game.

Former contender David Haye mounted a 2016 comeback, booking fights against Mark De Mori (30-1-2) and Arnold Gjergjaj (29-0). It took Haye precisely 6:42 to dispose of both of them, and though Fury is a completely different beast than Haye, the level difference between he and Schwarz may be even as striking.

Wilder has gotten through his “challenge” and if Fury and Joshua also emerge as winners as expected, it will leave several open questions –

– Will Fury vs Wilder 2 happen first, or will Wilder vs Joshua go down first? Could Joshua and Fury meet and freeze Wilder out?

And….

– Will we see any of these fights take place in 2019?

If Joshua or Fury stumble, it will only add to the chaos in the heavyweight division. But if the professional oddsmakers know anything, it isn’t likely to happen.

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Three Punch Combo: An Early Look at Inoue-Donaire and Under the Radar Fights

Matt Andrzejewski

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Inoue vs Donaire

THREE PUNCH COMBO — This past Saturday, Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16 KO’s) punched his ticket to the bantamweight final in the World Boxing Super Series when he impressively knocked out Emmanuel Rodriguez in the second round of their scheduled 12-round fight. The win sets up a showdown with veteran Nonito Donaire (40-5, 26 KO’s) who punched his ticket to the final with an impressive knockout of Stephon Young last month.

As expected, Inoue has opened as a monstrous favorite in the betting markets. While this suggests a one-sided wipeout, I have some other thoughts.

Inoue is pound for pound one of, if not the, hardest puncher in the sport today and put that power on full display in his destruction of Rodriguez in the semi-finals. But having enormous power does not make him indestructible.

In watching that fight against Rodriguez, there were clearly flaws on display on the defensive side of Inoue’s game. For one, Inoue does not move his head at all and as such can be hit. Rodriguez landed several clean punches on Inoue in the first round. And Inoue frequently keeps his hands low looking to bait opponents into throwing to set up counter opportunities. It has worked so far but could be something he pays for down the road.

Donaire is a smart and skilled fighter and though he is 36, his last few fights have shown that he still has plenty left in the tank. Moreover, he possesses one thunderous left hook and has always been at his best when fighting below 122. He has all the capabilities to expose Inoue’s flaws and a left hook that can alter the course of a fight as we have seen him doing plenty of times in the past.

Unlike a lot of people, I do not consider Donaire to be another layup for Inoue. There is real danger in this fight for Inoue if he does not make changes to his game. Donaire has starched big punching rising stars before and I would not discount his chances to expose the significant defensive flaws in Inoue’s game.

 Under The Radar Fight

Boxing returns to ESPN on Saturday with a card from Kissimmee, FL headlined by 130- pound champion Masayuki Ito (25-1-1, 13 KO’s) who is making the second defense of his title against former US Olympian Jamel Herring (19-2, 10 KO’s). While I think this should be an excellent fight, the co-feature, which is flying deep under the radar, should be even better.

In this fight, former two division world champion Jose Pedraza (25-2, 12 KO’s) makes his return to the ring after losing his lightweight title to Vasiliy Lomachenko in December to face Antonio Lozada (40-2-1, 34 KO’s). Given their respective styles, this fight at the very least will provide plenty of sustained action.

Appropriately nicknamed “The Sniper,” Pedraza at his best is a precision puncher. A boxer-puncher by trade, he uses subtle movement inside the ring to create angles that are used to land sharp power shots on his opposition. He is also a very good inside fighter and will shift around on the inside to once again set up just the right angle to land his power shots with maximum efficiency. But despite being a good inside fighter, Pedraza has a tendency to stay in the pocket a bit too long which leaves him open to getting hit.

Lozada is best known for his upset TKO win against one-time blue-chip prospect Felix Verdejo in March of 2018. However, he failed to build momentum off that win and is coming off a lackluster split draw his last time out to 12-7-1 journeyman Hector Ruben Ambriz Suarez.

Lozada certainly does not have the technical proficiency of Pedraza. He is slow and plodding. But what he does bring to the table is relentless pressure combined with a high volume of punches. He will press forward, recklessly at times, winging punches consistently hoping to wear down his opposition through attrition.  As such, he tends to get hit a lot and can be involved in shootouts.

Cleary, Pedraza is the more skilled fighter, but given Lozada’s all-offensive mindset as well as Pedraza’s willingness to stay in the pocket, the leather is all but guaranteed to be flying from the opening bell. Neither are big punchers either so I suspect we see a fight that goes rounds providing many exciting exchanges and one that could certainly steal the show on Saturday.

Another Under The Radar Fight

Also on Saturday, Fox Sports 1 will televise a card from Biloxi, MS featuring a crossroads fight between former 154-pound champion Austin Trout (31-5, 17 KO’s) and former US Olympian Terrell Gausha (21-1, 10 KO’s). But it is another 154-pound fight on the undercard that is receiving almost no coverage that I want to highlight. It pits Chordale Booker (14-0, 7 KO’s) against Wale Omotoso (27-3, 21 KO’s).

Booker turned pro in 2016 after a successful amateur career and has kept up a fairly busy schedule. He is coming off a dominating 8-round unanimous decision over veteran Juan De Angel in January and now is taking a big jump up in his caliber of opposition in facing Omotoso.

Booker, a southpaw, likes to press forward behind a stinging right jab. He possesses elite level hand speed and likes to use that jab to set up quick power punching combinations. Booker is also an excellent counter puncher and possesses a very potent right hook coming from that southpaw stance. He will often hold his left low to bait his opponents into opening up to set up counter opportunities. However, he has also been clipped by his share of left hooks fighting in this manner and this is something he will need to tighten up against Omotoso. So just how will Booker respond to Omotoso’s pressure and heavy handed body attack? Depending on the answer, we will either see Booker step up to the next level or get exposed. And that’s what makes this fight so intriguing to me

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Serhii Bohachuk KOs Mexico’s Freddy Hernandez in Hollywood

David A. Avila

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in Hollywood

HOLLYWOOD, Calif.-Super welterweight prospect Serhii Bohachuk got his first taste of upper tier boxing from Mexico’s Freddy Hernandez and gave him his best Sunday punch to win by knockout.

Bohachuk (14-0, 14 KOs) showed the excited Hollywood crowd he’s more than ready for former world title challengers like Hernandez (34-11, 22 KOs) or maybe even the current contenders with an exuberant display of pressure fighting at the Avalon Theater.

The smiling Ukrainian fighter has been steadily attracting fans to the 360 Promotions fight cards.

Trained by Abel Sanchez, the lanky and pale Bohachuk – whose nickname “El Flaco” fits perfectly – always moved forward against Mexico City’s Hernandez who has made a reputation of being crafty despite the strength of competition. With Bohachuk constantly applying pressure the Mexican fighter used the first round to touch and feel his way around the Ukrainian bomber.

In the second round a sharp counter right floored Hernandez who quickly got up and resumed the contest. It looked like the end was near until Hernandez caught Bohachuk with a solid right cross. It was a warning shot well heeded by Bohachuk.

Both fighters exchanged vigorously in the third round with the Ukrainian fighter’s youth a definite advantage. Hernandez was able to display his fighting tools more effectively in the third round but could it be enough?

Bohachuk was clearly the heavier-handed fighter but was finding it difficult to connect solidly against the Mexican veteran. But in the fifth round Bohachuk lowered his gun sights and targeted the body with a left hook that dropped Hernandez.  The fight was stopped by referee Wayne Hedgepeth at 1:40 of the fifth round.

Other Bouts

A battle of super featherweights saw Rialto, California’s Adrian Corona (5-0) rally from behind to defeat Florida’s Canton Miller (3-3-1) by split decision after six rounds.

Corona had problems with Miller’s speed in the first two rounds and was unable to track the moving fighter’s direction. But in the third round Corona began to apply more aggressive measures against Miller and was especially effective with lead rights. The momentum changed quickly.

Miller switched from orthodox to southpaw and it served to pause Corona’s momentum, but he seldom scored with solid blows. Though Miller landed quick soft blows, Corona was landing with strong shots and convinced two of the three judges that he was the winner by 58-56 twice. A third judge saw Miller the victor by the same score 58-56.

“It’s not my job to judge the judges,” said Miller. “It’s my job to just fight.”

Corona was happy with the victory.

“I could have put the pressure on him a little more,” said Corona. “It was a very technical fight and he put on a great fight.”

Other Bouts

George Navarro (6-0-1, 2 KOs) knocked out Cesar Sustaita (3-5) with a perfect overhand right that disabled the senses and forced referee Raul Caiz Jr. to halt the fight at 1:37 of the first round.

“I worked hard to prepare for this fight,” said Navarro.

A super bantamweight clash saw Humberto Rubalcava (10-1, 7 KOs) knock out Daniel Constantino (3-3-2) and win by knockout after a flurry of a dozen blows went unanswered. Referee Angel Mendez stopped the battering at 1:39 of the first round.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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