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The Most Underrated and Most Overrated Boxers: Part Two of Our Survey

In this month’s survey, we asked our regular cast of noted boxing buffs to identify the fighters — active or retired, living or dead — who in their estimation were most underrated and/or most

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In this month’s survey, we asked our regular cast of noted boxing buffs to identify the fighters — active or retired, living or dead — who in their estimation were most underrated and/or most overrated. The story yielded by the survey is running in two parts with respondents listed alphabetically. Here’s Part Two.

JIM LAMPLEY- linchpin of the HBO announcing team and 2009 Hall of Fame inductee: This is another premise which is so broad and elemental that the range of possible responses is almost overwhelming. Take the underrated category: how many modern fans even know who Barney Ross was? How many are aware there is a case to be made (not by me, but by others I respect) for Harry Greb ahead of Sugar Ray Robinson as number one all-time? We could go on ad nauseum, so to make this categorical I’ll just select two ultra-recognizable relatively recent names from the most visible division.

Underrated:  This is counter-intuitive in that he got overwhelming acclaim, but I am not sure to this day enough fans and followers truly understand and appreciate what George Foreman did. To win the legitimate heavyweight crown twice, twenty years apart, as two entirely different fighters and two even more entirely different human beings, is not just one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of boxing, it is one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of competitive sports. He is not the greatest of all heavyweight kings — take your pick between Ali and Louis — but he is to me clearly the most underrated, because his awesome physicality obscures the fact he beat Michael Moorer with his mind. I can never give him too much credit for that.

Overrated: This choice actually hurts, because I regard the fighter as a dear friend, and covering him was the pedestal on which I built my boxing commentary career. But many fans think of Mike Tyson almost exclusively in images of his early career knockout string against mostly deficient opponents, and ignore what happened when he reached the point of going in against live ammunition. His best win was over a blown-up light heavyweight. His supposed colossal upset loss to Buster Douglas was actually an on-merit style loss, foreshadowed by his route-going decisions against Mitch Green, Tony Tucker, Bonecrusher Smith, and his last round knockout of Jose Ribalta. And against his Hall of Fame contemporaries Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis, more style problems, zero and three, and in my view the likelihood he would never have been able to beat either one. Mike was a sensational talent but with certain limitations, and the extreme glamour of his early genesis ultimately makes him the most overrated heavyweight. Doesn’t mean I don’t love him, because I do. But only honest answers really count.

ARNE LANG – TSS editor in chief: At the risk of being branded a moron, Henry Armstrong doesn’t make my all-time Top Ten. True, he held three title belts simultaneously in an era when there were only eight weight classes. Jim Murray wrote that fighting Hammering’ Hank was like fighting a rock slide. But my goodness, he fought a lot of stiffs. During one stretch in 1939, he successfully defended his welterweight title five times in a span of 21 days. That boggles the imagination until one examines his opposition. Howard Scott, the second victim, had lost 10 of his last 11. Bobby Pacho, the fifth victim, finished his career with 70 losses. As for the most underrated, too many names jump to mind to single out just one guy.

RON LIPTON – world class boxing referee, former fighter, boxing historian, retired police officer: One of the toughest men I ever knew and sparred with many times, Jose Monon Gonzalez, came from an era where only real Lions and Tigers prowled the middleweight division. To me he was the toughest fighter to ever come out of Puerto Rico. The great boxing writer Mario Rivera also told me that. Jose was not the greatest but the roughest and most fearless fighter who fought you in the pocket all night long.  He beat Rubin Carter, Joey Archer, Florentino Fernandez, Rocky Rivero, Luis Rodriguez, Ted Wright, Cyclone Hart, Vicente Rondon, Don Fullmer and so many others. He had losses but usually went the distance trying to tear your guts out in the pocket all night long. He was like a Shawn Porter, all over you, making you fight hard or go down. He was always underrated and people who did that left the ring sadder and wiser most of the time.

Overrated? I take a pass on this one out of respect for all boxers.

PAUL MAGNO – author, writer, and boxing official in Mexico: “The Body Snatcher” Mike McCallum is vastly underrated by modern day boxing fans and even many old timers. He reached his prime at the tail end of the “Four Kings'” era and none of these guys (Leonard, Hearns, Duran, and Hagler) thought about even trying to engage the talented old-school boxer. McCallum’s phenomenal talent and immense skill were never tested against true ATG-level fighters until he was well past his prime and a division above his optimal weight– and, even then, he managed to hold his own.

As for overrated, I’ll incur the wrath of all Welsh fight fans here, but Joe Calzaghe was overrated during his career and is especially overrated now, at the cringe-worthy level, as the realities of his career fade into the past. Sure, he was a talented guy, but any honest assessment of his resume has to take note of the fact that he was, almost exclusively, hand-fed soft touches for 95 percent of his career. High-water mark wins against Mikkel Kessler, a deeply overrated Jeff Lacy, and past-their-primes Roy Jones and Bernard Hopkins over the course of a 15-year, 22-world title fight career do not fit the bill of legend-level accomplishment, And, yep, I still don’t think he really beat Hopkins.

ADEYINKA MAKINDE – boxing writer, law school lecturer, author: The most overrated boxer among the elite fighters of today I’d say is Sergey Kovalev. He is formidable with good balance and heavy-hitting power. Fight him at mid-range at your peril. But his fights with Isaac Chilemba and Andre Ward exposed his shortcomings: poor stamina, non-existent inside-fighting skills and vulnerability to body shots. (Editor’s note: this was written before Kovalev’s fight with Eleider Alvarez.)

The most underrated boxer from the past I would offer as Ezzard Charles. His losses to Jersey Joe Walcott and Rocky Marciano as well as the reluctance of the public to embrace him after the end of the Joe Louis era all served to detract from his sublime boxing skills.

MARK “SCOOP” MALINOWSKI – the “biofile” man: To pick the most underrated boxers present and past is very difficult because there are so many talents who didn’t get their just due or the big super fights they earned and deserved. The ones who spring to mind for me are prime Paul Williams and Antonio Margarito who I strongly believe would have both devoured Floyd at 147 but were denied their opportunities to become superstars. The boxing establishment was set up back then to protect Floyd, who was the installed and protected “face of boxing.” I also feel Buster Douglas is underrated by history. He boxed a masterpiece vs Tyson and could have beaten just about anyone from history that night. Today, the most underrated are Terence Crawford and Gennady Golovkin. Both are all time greats but have been avoided by their top name competition. One of the flaws of boxing today is that there are many very underrated talents out there who don’t get the TV exposure and big fights they deserve.

DAVID MARTINEZ – boxing historian and boxing site manager: Most underrated is Jerry Quarry with Randy Shields a close second. Most overrated is Chuck Davey with Sean O’Grady a close second.

LARRY MERCHANT – most underrated boxer: Riddick Bowe; most overrated ring commentator: me

ERNESTO MORALES (aka GENO FEBUS) – boxing writer and former fighter:  Wow, a tough one but I have to go with Ezzard Charles. He was only a natural middleweight beefed up to light heavy because his manager knew at 160 he’d never get a break. Then he was forced to move up again for the same reasons. Could you expect Zale’s Graziano’s, Cerdan’s, LaMotta’s ,Lesnevich’s, Mills’, Maxim’s managers risking their titles vs Charles?? Or Blinky Palermo and gang for that matter?? He would’ve had to pawn the rest of his career to get his deserved opportunities!! He wasn’t a light heavy when he moved up and was never a true heavy even in his best years in that division. Greatest LH of all time without ever winning that division’s title.

J RUSSELL PELTZ – the face of boxing in Philadelphia; 2004 IBHOF inductee: I believe Rocky Marciano was the most underrated and most overrated fighter of all time. Think about that!

FREDERICK ROMANO – author and former HBO researcher: For my money the most underrated is Ezzard Charles. Forget about his run as a heavyweight. After cutting his teeth on a host of top middleweights in his early years he went on to become an all-time great 175lb fighter. Ask Archie Moore. His race, style and disposition hindered him. Even a fading Charles was able to give Marciano his toughest title defense. As for the most overrated it is so tough to say because almost always an overrated fighter eventually becomes exposed and does not maintain that status. People are starting to talk about Floyd Mayweather Jr. as if he is up there with Ali and the like. No dice. A really talented fighter in his prime and at his best weight but he has become glaringly overrated. So, I will go with Floyd.

DANA ROSENBLATT – former world middleweight champion: Most underrated is Yaqui Lopez…….hands down!

TED SARES – TSS writer: most overrated is Cecilia Braekhus, the “First Lady of Boxing.” She is a knockout waiting to happen and Layla McCarter or Amanda Serrano   will oblige her. Most underrated is a tie between Ezzard Charles and Gene Tunney. The only loss Tunney (65-1-1) suffered was to Harry Greb in the first of their five meetings and he also beat Dempsey twice. Enough said. In my view, the super skilled Ezzard Charles fought the highest level of opposition of any fighter in boxing history.

“ICEMAN” JOHN SCULLY- former boxer, trainer, commentator; he’s done it all: In my opinion Rocky Marciano is both the most underrated and the most overrated boxer in history. His detractors have him as an easy to hit guy who beat nothing but senior citizens to achieve his status in the game. His supporters have him beating everyone in history by brutal knockout, including Godzilla and King Kong. In my opinion he is somewhere in the middle. Limited to a certain degree, of course, but he possessed one of the greatest wills of all time and he got the job done 49 times in a row, most of which were by crushing knockouts.

MIKE SILVER – author, writer, historian: How many heavyweights would get up time and again after absorbing the best shots of Joe Louis and Max Baer? My vote for most underrated goes to Primo Carnera. Despite the fixed fights and phony build-up he was a gutsy hard-working fighter who eventually absorbed enough skill and technique to defeat some decent boxers. Developed a good jab and footwork. Da Preem would be in the mix of top heavyweight contenders today and a good bet to win a belt.

The most overrated boxer was Roy Jones Jr. This terrific athlete was “great” for his time but when people began ranking him on a par with Sugar Ray Robinson (one well known authority even said he was better!), I had to draw the line. Roy’s athleticism and power dazzled but it covered up mediocre boxing skills and a glass jaw. In his prime these flaws could not be exposed by a middleweight and light heavy division that lacked depth. Roy’s innate gifts would have made him a stand out in any era but he was certainly no Sugar Ray Robinson.

ALAN SWYER- documentary filmmaker, writer, and producer of “El Boxeo”: The most underrated fighter in my estimation is Ricardo “Finito” Lopez. That he is not fully appreciated owes to two factors. First, he fought primarily as a strawweight, a division that’s often overlooked. Second, with the exception of two fights (against Alex Sanchez and Zolani Petolo), he did not box in New York, with the bulk of his matches fought in Mexico and Las Vegas. However, what more needs to be said about someone who retired undefeated as both an amateur and a pro, had 51 professional wins (38 by knockout), and tied Joe Louis and Floyd Mayweather for the most consecutive title bouts without a loss.

The most overrated boxer in my estimation is Saul Alvarez. Though clearly gifted, Canelo was anointed early on more for his red hair than for his talent. Promoted shrewdly by Golden Boy, fighting big names already on the downside of their career. Still, his fight against Alfredo Angulo featured a questionable stoppage, the scorecard for his bout against Erislandy Lara was controversial, and his effort against Floyd Mayweather was lackluster. Then came Alvarez-Golovkin, in which hype superseded the action in the ring.

GARY “DIGITAL” WILLIAMS- voice of “Boxing Along the Beltway”: My most underrated boxer is Simon Brown. He accomplished a lot in his career and I think the knockout loss to Vincent Pettway may have hurt his legacy. Brown won three world titles and pulled off one of the biggest upsets in history when he knocked out Terry Norris. I’ve always thought that Brown should be in the Hall of Fame.

My most overrated boxer actually is Mike Tyson. I give a lot of credit to Tyson for the excitement he brought to the sport. However, if you look objectively at his career, he was more successful with smaller heavyweights. When he went up against tall heavy’s like James “Bonecrusher” Smith and Lennox Lewis, he really did not perform well. Yes, he had a lot of issues outside the ring but he is not in my all-time greatest heavyweight list.

PETER WOOD – author, writer, and former fighter: The most underrated fighter is…Michael Spinks. Unfortunately, “The Spinks Jinx” is more remembered for his first-round KO loss to Mike Tyson and his unwarranted win over Larry Holmes. However, his ring achievements are too often overlooked. His ring record is almost perfect at 31-1…The Ring magazine named Spinks “the third greatest light heavyweight of all time” in 2002…He had a record of 14-1 (9 KO) in world title fights…He was 7-1 against former world titlists…He defeated Murray Sutherland (twice), Marvin Johnson, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Dwight Muhammad Qawi, Larry Holmes (twice).

The most overrated fighter is…Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. He’s too slow-of-foot, too juiced-up, and too protected.

Ted Sares is one of the oldest active full power lifters in the world and is currently competing on the New England circuit. A member of Ring 10, and Ring 4’s Boxing Hall of Fame, he was recently cited by Hannibal Boxing as one of three “Must-Read” boxing writers.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

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Boxing Odds and Ends: A Travesty of a Heavyweight ‘Title Fight’ Jake Paul and More

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It’s official. On Wednesday, Feb. 22, a formal press conference was held in Sofia, Bulgaria, to announce the forthcoming fight between Mahmoud Charr, formerly known as Manuel Charr, and Kubrat Pulev. They will meet in Bulgaria’s capital city on March 30 at a 12,000-seat arena.

Charr vs Kubrat bears the imprimatur of a world heavyweight title fight (WBA version). Charr is considered the champion, notwithstanding the fact that others have held the title since he first laid claim to it more than six years ago.

The WBA, as we know, recognizes two champions in some weight classes, a “super” champion and a “regular” champion. The “super” designation was created in 2000. It was designed to segregate title-holders into levels of accomplishment. In theory, a “super” champion has made five successful defenses and is recognized as a world title-holder by at least one of the three other major sanctioning bodies. “Super” champions are allowed certain liberties with respect to mandatory title defenses.

The bifurcation was greeted with hoots of derision. The Panama-based WBA trivialized the sport.

Mahmoud Charr

Mahmoud Charr was born in Beirut but has resided in Germany since he was a little boy. He won the vacant title with a 12-round decision over unexceptional Alexander Ustinov in Oberhausen, Germany.  It was a close fight. TSS ringside correspondent Phil Woolever had Ustinov winning 7 rounds to 5, but conceded that the verdict could not be called an injustice.

The title that Charr won was vacated by Ruslan Chagaev who won the belt from Fres Oquendo, lost it to Lucas Browne, and got it back by decree when Browne’s post-fight urine tests showed evidence of banned substances. But Chagaev never fought again. His fight with Browne was his last.

Charr’s first defense was to come against Fres Oquendo. Slated for March 23, 2019 in Cologne after being pushed back from September of the previous year, the match never came to fruition when Charr tested positive for two banned substances. Things get really muddled from here with Charr pushed to the sideline by legal battles complicated by Don King’s shenanigans. King arranged a fight in Florida between Charr and his fighter Trevor Bryan and succeeded in getting Bryan the WBA belt when Charr was unable to get a visa. The belt is vacant again after Bryan was knocked out by Daniel Dubois who, in turn, was knocked out by “super” champion Oleksandr Usyk.

There are more threads to this saga but let’s not go there. Suffice it to say that after defeating Ustinov, Charr was out of action for the next three-and-a-half years. He’s had only three fights since 2017 and to say that his opponents were men of low repute would be giving them the best of it. In his most recent assignment, in December of 2022, he scored a second-round stoppage over 46-year-old Swiss-Albanian slug Nuri Seferi. That brought his record to 34-4 (20). He has been stopped three times, most recently in 2015 when he was halted in five frames by future cruiserweight champion Maris Briedis.

Kubrat Pulev

Kubrat Pulev will have the home field advantage in Sofia. Charr will have youth on his side. He’s 39; Pulev is 42.

Pulev sports a 30-3 record. The losses came at the hands of Wladimir Klitschko (L KO 5), Anthony Joshua (L KO 9), and Derek Chisora (L SD 12). He last fought in December at the OC Hangar in Costa Mesa, CA, where he won a lopsided decision over Polish journeyman Andrzej Wawrzyk.

In a previous engagement here at the Hangar, a concert hall that seats a shade over 3,000, he TKOed Bogdan Dinu. That bout is remembered mostly for what happened after it ended. In an incident that went viral on social media, Pulev surprised Jennifer Ravalo, a self-styled journalist, with a kiss on the lips. That animated women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred and led to an 8-page spread in Playboy (of Ravalo, not Allred). The California State Athletic Commission fined and suspended Pulev and mandated that he undergo sexual harassment training. The suspension lasted 120 days.

The match between Charr and Pulev, says a blurb about it, is an “eagerly anticipated” clash between “two evergreen living legends.” We will let you provide the punchline, The winner is expected to fight Martin Bakole who was knocked out by Michael Hunter.

Jake Paul

Jake Paul, the enfant terrible of prizefighting, returns this Saturday on a card in San Juan, Puerto Rico, that will air on DAZN. Paul, an influencer who brought his big social media following with him when he took up fisticuffing, is coming off a first-round stoppage of Andre August, a no-name fighter from Texas. Saturday’s sacrificial lamb is a fellow from Dickinson, North Dakota (by way of Benicia, California) named Ryan Bourland.

Bourland, who is reportedly 35 years old but looks older, scored his signature win in 2018 when he avenged a previous defeat with a 10-round majority decision over Jose Hernandez. He has fought only one since then, TKOing a fighter with a losing record in a 6-rounder at a lodge on a remote Indian reservation in North Dakota. That improved his ledger to 17-2 (6 KOs).

Regarding Jake Paul, Thomas Hauser once wrote that he’s worked hard to become a better boxer and is “certainly better than a Golden Gloves novice.” There was a time when this reporter, perhaps naively, thought that Jake had the potential to become a legitimate top-15 cruiserweight, but his recent choice of opponents suggests that he is comfortable just spinning his wheels.

His bout with Bourland will play second fiddle to Amanda Serrano’s featherweight title defense against Germany’s Nina Meinke (18-3, 4 KOs). Although Amanda has a lot of mileage on her odometer, she is expected to have little difficulty with Meinke. In another bout of note, Puerto Rican campaigners Jonathan Gonzalez (27-3-1, 14 KOs) and Rene Santiago (12-3, 9 KOs) will meet in a 12-rounder with Gonzalez’s WBO light flyweight title at stake.

—-

Let’s conclude this write-up on an upbeat note. Hall of Fame boxing writer Bernard Fernandez, a frequent TSS contributor, informs us that his fifth and presumably final anthology is nearing completion with a likely release date of April or May. “Championship Rounds, Round 5” includes a foreword by Gerry Cooney and has drawn glowing reviews from the likes of Dave Kindred and Dr. Gordon Marino who both had an early peek at the manuscript. Kindred, a renowned sportswriter and author, was the subject of a 2021 piece on “60 Minutes.” Marino, a Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, has written extensively about boxing for the Wall Street Journal.

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Results from Orlando where Berlanga KOed McCrory in a Possible Prelude to Canelo

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Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom organization was at the Caribe Royale tonight, a non-gaming resort near Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Unbeaten super middleweights Edgar Berlanga and Padraig McCrory squared off in the main event.

The fight started slow, but it soon became apparent that McCrory, a 35-year-old father of three from Belfast, Northern Ireland, was a domestic-level fighter, notwithstanding his undefeated (18-0) record. Berlanga, whose last five fights had gone the distance, roughed him up with some dirty tactics before taking him out in the sixth round with a crunching right hand that sent the Irishman face-first to the canvas. As McCrory pulled himself upright on rubbery legs, the towel flew in from his corner. The official time was 2:44.

As well-documented, Berlanga opened his pro career with 16 consecutive first-round knockouts. Nonetheless, he was let go by Top Rank in what purportedly was an amicable divorce. This was his second fight under the Matchroom banner. Eddie Hearn signed him with an eye on scoring a big-money match with Canelo Alvarez. The red-headed Mexican superstar is committed to returning to the ring in May on Cinco de Mayo weekend in Las Vegas, but hasn’t yet locked in an opponent.

If Berlanga gets the nod, he would be a heavy underdog, but the Mexico vs. Puerto Rico angle (coupled with Berlanga’s new-found reputation as a dirty fighter) would make it an easy sell.

Co-Feature

In only his third professional fight, Cuban defector Andy Cruz was bumped into the co-feature. That was in recognition of his amateur pedigree. Among his accomplishments, he was 4-0 vs. Keyshawn Davis with the last win coming in the gold medal round of the Tokyo Olympics.

Cruz, 28, was expected to win as he pleased against his Mexican opponent, Bryan Zamarripa, and he did win all 10 rounds on all three scorecards, but in common with many great Cuban amateurs, he seemed to lack something in the power department. Zamarripa was 14-2 heading in.

Other Bouts of Note

In a 12-round welterweight contest that was devoid of drama, Uzbekistan native Shakhram Giyasov, an Olympic silver medalist who has lost precious few rounds as a pro, won a lopsided technical decision over well-recycled 34-year-old Mexican Pablo Cesar Cano.

Giyasov (15-0, 9 KOs) sent Cano (35-9-1) to the canvas in the third round with a body punch. At the end of round 11, as their feet were tangled, he pushed Cano to the canvas and the Mexican ostensibly suffered a broken ankle when he fell. That sent the bout to the scorecards where the decision (109-99 x3) was a formality. With the victory, Giyasov earned a shot at WBA belt-holder Eimantas Stanionis.

The 12-round bantamweight match between Antonio Vargas and Jonathan Rodriguez, two fighters of Puerto Rican descent, was framed as a WBA bantamweight title eliminator. Rodriguez, the underdog, floored Vargas in the opening stanza. He had scored a stunning first-round knockout of 27-1 Khalid Yafai in his previous start and it appeared that another upset was brewing. But the match quickly turned one-sided in favor of Vargas who put Rodriguez on the canvas in the very next frame (and had two points deducted for hitting him after the bell) and then put him down again at the end of round seven with a sweeping left hook after which Rodriguez’s corner properly pulled him out.

Vargas, a 2016 Olympian who had home field advantage in Florida, improved to 18-1 (10 KOs) and became the mandatory opponent for Takuma Inoue who won earlier today in Tokyo. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania’s Rodriguez declined to 17-2-1.

The opening bout on the TV portion of the card was a 10-round flyweight affair that looked like a runaway for showboating Yankiel Rivera until gritty Andy Dominguez made things interesting.

Rivera, who improved to 5-0 (2), was Puerto Rico’s lone representative in the Tokyo Olympics. In Mexico-born Andy Dominguez, he was fighting a former three-time New York City Golden Gloves champion who was also unbeaten (10-0 heading in). Rivera dominated the match but was caught napping in round nine and Dominguez, although all busted-up, hurt him and almost put him down. That was most lopsided round of the fight, but also the only round that Dominguez won in the eyes of the judges.

Photo credit: Ed Mulholland / Matchroom

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Junto Nakatani Turns in Another Masterclass on Saturday’s Tripleheader in Tokyo

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In a rather odd juxtaposition, several of boxing’s best little men were on display today at Japan’s National Sumo Arena in Tokyo. The best of the lot, Junto Nakatani, improved to 27-0 (20 KOs) while tearing away the WBC world bantamweight title from Tijuana’s Alexandro Santiago (28-4-5) who was making the first defense of the title he won in Las Vegas in May when he upset Nonito Donaire.

It was a one-sided beatdown. Nakatani, who had a 5-inch height advantage, won every round before ending the contest in the sixth. The end came at the 1:12 mark when Nakatani terminated the affair with his second knockdown. The first came earlier in the round, the result of a straight left hand. The finisher was a big right hook.

With the victory, Nakatani became a world title-holder in a third weight class. He’s an outstanding talent, worthy of pound-for-pound consideration, and would be favored in a unification fight with Takuma Inoue.

Inoue, the younger brother of pound-for-pound king Naoya “Monster” Inoue, did his part to bring the match to fruition with a ninth-round stoppage of Filipino veteran Jerwin Ancajas in the main event. Inoue (19-1, 5 KOs) was making the first defense of the WBA diadem he won with a wide decision over Venezuela’s mildewed Liborio Solis. That title was conveniently vacated by Takuma’s renowned brother.

This figured to be the most competitive match on the card and Ancajas (34-4-2) had his moments before Inoue ended the contest at the 0:44 mark of round nine with a four-punch combination climaxed by a shot to the liver. Heading in, Ancajas, who had a long title reign at 115, was 9-2-1 in world title fights and hadn’t previously been stopped.

In the first of the three title fights, 29-year-old Kosei Tanaka became a four-weight belt-holder in record time with a unanimous decision over Mexicali’s stubborn but out-classed Christian Bacasegua “Rocky” Rangel. At stake was the vacant WBO junior bantamweight title.

Tanaka, who previously held belts at 105, 108, and 112, started slow but the outcome was never in doubt after he knocked “Rocky” to the canvas in the eighth frame. The judges had it 119-108, 117-110, and 116-111. With the victory, Tanaka improved to 20-1 (11). In his only defeat, he was stopped by countryman Kazuto Ioka. He hunkers for a rematch but, if it happens, he might wish that it hadn’t. Ioka is long in the tooth – he turns 35 next month – but is very good and shows no signs of slowing down. Rangel (22-5-2) had won nine straight heading in, but against questionable opposition and was making his first start outside Mexico.

The Teiken Promotions card was presented in association with Top Rank and aired in the U.S. on ESPN+.

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