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Hollywood Fight Results plus Notes on Super Fly 3 and More

David A. Avila

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Hollywood debut

HOLLYWOOD, Ca.-In his Hollywood debut, Ali Akhmedov won by stoppage against Jorge Escalante in a cruiserweight fight on Wednesday evening in a bout filled with curious moments.

Kazakhstan’s Akhmedov (12-0, 9 KOs) showed the sold out crowd at the Avalon Theater that he has good skills and power in beating the elusive Escalante (9-2-1, 6 KOs) in the fourth round of the 360 Promotions main event.

Akhmedov was patient in his attack against Escalante who switched from southpaw to orthodox throughout the cruiserweight fight. Though it never seemed to confuse the Kazakh fighter who trains with Abel Sanchez, it proved to be enough of a tactic to keep Escalante in the fight.

The third round saw Akhmedov trap Escalante in the corner and connect with a right cross that buckled the knees of the San Diego fighter who held the ropes to stay up. The referee properly called it a knockdown as the bell ended the round.

Boosted by the knockdown Akhmedov slipped into a more aggressive attack as Escalante moved away and seldom exchanged. Though no blows were actually connected, referee Zach Young suddenly stopped the fight. It was a curious stoppage and left people puzzled at 1:43 of the fourth round.

Co-Main Event

Abraham Lopez (10-1-1, 6 KOs) handed Gloferson Ortizo (12-1-1, 6 KOs) his first defeat by unanimous decision in a super lightweight match that was closer than the scores indicated. Each round saw Lopez use quicker combinations to score, but by the third round Ortizo began finding the range for his big blows.

A clash of heads or a blow by Ortizo caused a cut over the right eye of Lopez but the Rowland Heights fighter managed to score the more impressive combinations, especially a clean left hook in the sixth round to win the fight. One judge scored it 60-54 the other two 59-57 all for Lopez.

“He was a straightforward kind of fighter and very strong,” said Lopez. “The blood was pouring in my eyes.”

Other Bouts

Brooklyn’s Brian Ceballo (4-0, 2 KOs) stopped Bakersfield’s Tavorus Teague (5-21-4) at the end of the second round to win by knockout. A right uppercut caught Teague perfectly during an exchange and he was unable to continue in the welterweight contest.

Adrian Corona (1-0) won his pro debut by unanimous decision after four rounds versus Teodora Alonso (0-2) in a super featherweight fight. There were no knockdowns in the four-round bout. The judges scored the fight 40-36 twice and 39-37 for Corona who fights out of Rialto, Calif.

Elvina White (3-0) got the win by unanimous decision although it seemed Jasmine Clarkson (4-12) out-landed her in the super lightweight contest. White landed the more powerful blows but was often hit by Clarkson’s combinations throughout the four rounds. The southpaw stance and Clarkson’s defense seemed to spell victory for the Texan but the judges saw it otherwise. All three judges scored it 39-37 for White. Scores in the media section were divided evenly.

L.A.’s Vardges Vardanyan (2-0) won the battle of southpaws with a battering of Riverside’s Cameron Christopher (0-1) in a super welterweight contest. Vardanyan was the busier fighter against Christopher who mostly concentrated on defense and paid the price.

Marco Deckmann (1-0) stopped David Damore (1-3) at 2:58 of the second round of a cruiserweight fight. Deckmann fired a four-punch combination that badly wobbled the knees of the Arizona fighter.

Super Fly 3

It was boxing’s version of a movie premiere as 360 Promotions introduced its high-powered stars of upcoming fight cards at the Avalon Theater on Wednesday.

A third installment of the Super Fly series was introduced including world titlist Donnie Nietes for next month at the Inglewood Forum on Sept. 8. Also, World Boxing Super Series super lightweight tournament competitor Ryan Martin was introduced.

HBO will be televising Super Fly 3 to continue the successful venture that started two years ago when Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez filled the stands in the first installment against Carlos Cuadras in September 2016. That initial fight card proved to the network that boxing in the smaller weights was alive and well.

“Chocolatito was the one that opened the doors for the super fly divisions,” said Tom Loeffler, president of 360 Promotions. “It’s become the gold standard for HBO now.”

For those fans around in the 1960s and 1970s, this was not a surprise. During that era fighters like Chucho Castillo, Lionel Rose, and Ruben Olivares packed local arenas including the same Inglewood Forum almost every time they fought.

In Super Fly 3, one of the participants will be Juan Francisco Estrada facing fellow Mexican Felipe Orucuta in a WBC super fly elimination bout set for 12 rounds.

“Juan Francisco Estrada is actually the only one to participate in all the super fly shows,” said Juan Hernandez of Zanfer Promotions that promotes Estrada.

Also, WBO titlist Donnie Nietes of the Philippines is making his second appearance when he defends against fellow Filipino Aston Palicte in a 12 round clash.

Another on the card will be Japan’s Kazuto Ioka challenging Puerto Rican McWilliams Arroyo for the WBC super flyweight Silver title.

“In Super Fly 3 I plan to take a big step toward being a super fly champion,” said Ioka without a translator.

Arroyo arrived and said he expects another great Puerto Rico vs Japan battle.

“They have a lot of good fighters in the smaller weights and so does Puerto Rico,” said Arroyo.

HBO’s Tony Williams is confident of the third tournament.

“It’s not easy getting fighters from other countries to participate,” said Williams the HBO executive. “Super fly series is one of our best successes.”

Ryan Martin

The super lightweight contender made his Hollywood debut several months ago at the Avalon and arrived to meet the press after learning he was selected to participate in the World Boxing Super Series tournament for super lightweights.

“I’m excited about this tournament,” said Martin who moved up from lightweight to super lightweight and has fared better. “I know Josh Taylor is a good fighter and strong. I’m in a division where they are all strong.”

The tournament consists of eight participants from around the world including fellow American Regis Prograis. The tournament takes place sometime in the near future.

Pension Recipient

The California State Athletic Commission gave retired boxer Greg Puente a pension check following the fight card at the Avalon. Commissioner Martha Shen-Urquidez gave the check to Puente for an amount of near $16,500.

Retired boxers who fought for a certain amount of rounds in California are eligible for retirement funds. A follow up story will be published explaining the requirements.

Or you can inquire through the CSAC.

Photo credit: German Villasenor

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Avila Perspective, Chap 125: Canelo and other 4-Division Title-holders

David A. Avila

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Mexico’s Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (54-1-2, 36 KOs) defends the WBA and WBC super middleweight titles against Avni Yildirim (21-2, 12 KOs) on Saturday Feb. 27, at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Florida. DAZN will stream the fight card.

For the second consecutive week a four-division world champion performs.

“I always imagined the best for myself but never to this magnitude,” said Alvarez, 30. “I want to keep making history.”

Last week four-division titlist Adrien “The Problem” Broner returned to the boxing ring after a two-year absence and defeated Jovanie Santiago by unanimous decision. It was a battle designed for Broner to shake off the cobwebs developed since his prior fight against Manny Pacquiao.

Fans forget Broner captured world titles in four divisions. It’s quite an accomplishment for any fighter to win world titles in multiple divisions. For a fan to deride or devalue either Broner’s or Canelo Alvarez’s accomplishment of four-division world titles means only one thing said one true expert:

“They don’t know s*** about boxing,” said the late great Roger Mayweather. His words and overall boxing wisdom remain strong in my memory.

One of my goals whenever I hit Las Vegas in the past was to visit two-division world champ Roger Mayweather. If you ever had a chance to converse with any of the Mayweathers you know what I mean; they have deep-rooted knowledge about the history of the fight game.

Once at the Top Rank Gym, probably around 2007, I was chatting with Mayweather in the office with another boxing writer who was discrediting Oscar De La Hoya’s accomplishments as a multi-division world champion.

Mayweather straightened up from his chair and looked dead in the guy’s eyes and said to the writer “you ever fight in the ring?”

The writer shook his head.

Mayweather waved both his hands at him and said his now legendary line “you don’t know s*** about boxing.” He further explained that anytime you win a world title is a big thing. And if you win world titles in multiple divisions well that’s super human. He called them special fighters. They don’t come along very often.

Roger Mayweather passed away last March 17. It was a great loss to the boxing world. I’ll never forget his words on multiple-division winners. Mayweather captured world titles in the super featherweight and super lightweight divisions. If you consider the IBO title legitimate, Mayweather also won the welterweight title.

I can imagine Mayweather telling today’s fans and writers that they don’t know boxing if they think winning world titles in four divisions is nothing.

Roger Mayweather was one of the smartest boxing people I ever met and one heck of a fighter who sold out venues like the Inglewood Forum. As trainer for “Money” Mayweather he was very under-rated in my opinion. And gone too soon.

More Broner and Alvarez.

The first world title achieved by Broner was the WBO super featherweight title by knockout of Vicente Rodriguez in November 2011. Then he moved up a division and defeated Mexico’s super tough Antonio DeMarco for the WBO lightweight title by stoppage in November 2012. Broner jumped up again in weight to challenge Paul Malignaggi for the WBA welterweight title and squeaked out a split decision over the Brooklyn fighter in June 2013. After losing to Marcos Maidana in December 2013, he dropped down to super lightweight and defeated Khabib Allakhverdiev for the WBA world title by technical knockout in the 12th round October 2015. He eventually lost a version of the title by decision to Mikey Garcia on July 2017.

At 30 years old, Canelo has now entered his prime years. He grabbed his first world title in March 2011 beating Ricky Hatton for the WBC super welterweight title. He lost that title to Floyd Mayweather in 2013. Not until November 2015 did he move up to take the WBC middleweight title from Miguel Cotto. Alvarez then fought Gennady Golovkin twice, and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. before moving up to win the WBA super middleweight title from Rocky Fielding in December 2018. Then Canelo moved up to light heavyweight in November 2019 and knocked out Sergey Kovalev.

Alvarez now has won four division world titles like Broner and is poised to defend the super middleweight titles against Yildirum on Saturday. Two months ago, Alvarez handed Callum Smith his first professional defeat while taking away his WBA title and adding the WBC. The Mexican redhead continues to make history.

“It’s really important for me to leave a legacy in this sport,” said Alvarez. “There are still many milestones I have to achieve.”

Four-Titles or More Club

Among those with four or more division world titles are:

Leo Gamez (1985-2005) minimum weight, light flyweight, flyweight, and super flyweight

Jorge Arce (1996-2014) light flyweight, super flyweight, bantamweight and super bantamweight.

Roman Gonzalez (2005-present) minimum weight, light flyweight, flyweight and super flyweight

Nonito Donaire (2003-present) flyweight, bantamweight, super bantamweight and featherweight

Miguel Cotto (2001-2015) super lightweight, welterweight, super welterweight and middleweight

Juan Manuel Marquez (1993-2014) featherweight, super featherweight, lightweight, and super lightweight.

Erik Morales (1993-2011) super bantamweight, featherweight, super featherweight and super lightweight

Pernell Whitaker (1984-2001) lightweight, super lightweight, welterweight and super welterweight

Roberto Duran (1968-2001) lightweight, welterweight, super welterweight and middleweight

Roy Jones Jr. (1988-present) middleweight, super middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight.

Five-Titles Club

Sugar Ray Leonard (1977-1997) welterweight, super welterweight, middleweight, super middleweight and light heavyweight

Tommy Hearns (1977-2006) welterweight, super welterweight, middleweight, super middleweight, light heavyweight

Floyd Mayweather Jr. (1996-present) super featherweight, lightweight, super lightweight, welterweight and super welterweight

Naoko Fujioka (2009-present) minimum weight, light flyweight, flyweight, super flyweight and bantamweight.

Six-Titles Club

Oscar De La Hoya (1992-2008) super featherweight, lightweight, super lightweight, welterweight, super welterweight and middleweight

Seven-Titles Club

Amanda Serrano (2009-present) super flyweight, bantamweight, super bantamweight, featherweight, super featherweight, lightweight and super lightweight

Eight-Titles Club

Manny Pacquiao (1995-present) flyweight, super bantamweight, featherweight, super featherweight, lightweight, super lightweight, welterweight, and super welterweight

Straw Stirrers

New WBC super featherweight titlist Oscar Valdez joined the unique list of fighters who are in position to dictate their respective weight divisions in a big way. I call them the straw stirrers or to mimic New York Yankee great Reggie Jackson’s famous quote “the straw that stirs the drink.”

Valdez’s knockout win over the heavily favored Miguel Berchelt last week to win the WBC world title was one of those moments that captivates the world on multiple levels:

First, Valdez was not supposed to win according to the experts. Second, his emphatic one-punch knockout win via the vaunted Mexican left hook was a moment that will be viewed more than a million times on YouTube.com. Third, the super featherweight division is crackling with talent and gate attractions like Jojo Diaz, Jamel Herring, Tevin Farmer, Carl Frampton, Leo Santa Cruz, Vasyl Lomachenko and Shakur Stevenson. And if Valdez seeks an even bigger payday he can move up one division where he will definitely find big money guys like Gervonta Davis, Ryan Garcia, Devin Haney, and the other straw stirrer Teofimo Lopez.

At the moment, Valdez holds the key to stirring the super featherweight drink.

Fights to Watch

Sat. 5 p.m. FOX Anthony Dirrell (33-2-1) vs Kyrone Davis (15-2).

Sat. 5 p.m. DAZN Saul Alvarez (54-1-2) vs Avni Yildirim (21-2).

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel

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Ten Heavyweight Prospects: 2021 Catchup

Matt McGrain

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I started this series in 2018, selecting ten fascinating heavyweight prospects and committing to follow them until such time as they were eliminated or entered the Transnational Boxing Rankings and this time, we have a few.

The series was updated in the summer of 2019 and this entry was delayed due to the most severe of circumstances, the COVID-19 pandemic that prevented not just boxing but so many other aspects of life. It’s nice to be able to catch up with these men once again in what was a twenty months as incident-filled as the preceding twelve.

THE COLOSSUS: ARSLANBEK MAKHMUDOV

FROM: Russia HEIGHT: 6’5.5 WEIGHT IN SHAPE: 250lbs AGE: 31 RECORD: 11-0 with 11 KOs

The enormous Arslanbek Makhmudov has been out just three times since the summer of 2019, slow going in more ways than one. Yes, inactivity is a consequence of a global pandemic that has hampered more than the prospects of exciting boxing prospects, but the selection of Makhmudov’s opposition has remained stubbornly unambitious.

That looked momentarily set to change in September of 2019 when Julian Fernandez, then 14-1, stepped into Makhmudov’s ring. While Fernandez has certainly never beaten meaningful opposition, he had been in with meaningful opposition, stopped in two by Tom Schwartz the year before. Makhmudov, who was a clean clear winner in his usual impressive style, nevertheless for the first time came off worse in the meaningless comparisons so often thrust upon heavyweight prospects, in that he took three rounds to do what it had taken the much more experienced Schwartz just two rounds to do.

More than this, the response of collective fighting news was disinterest. The fight was neither widely reported upon nor remarked upon and nothing is more discouraging to a promotions team than that. Perhaps in an attempt to increase coverage of their prospect, promoter Camille Estephan took the well-trodden path of digging up the bones of a once notorious contender and lobbing them at his charge. Samuel Peter was the victim and Makhmudov (pictured) disposed of him in seconds. Though the fight succeeded in generating column inches, it also did nothing for Makhmudov’s learning curve.

Doubly disappointing then was his first pandemic-opponent, Dillon Carman. Having boxed even fewer rounds than Makhmudov in 2019, Carman was also coming off two quick stoppage losses. Of course, he was butchered in the first. Since, Makhmudov’s team have been calling for Joe Joyce, Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury.  That is exciting and in the case of Joyce might even be serious, though Joyce’s people will have little problem sidestepping Makhmudov, who is a massive-punching problem nobody needs. Hopefully Estephan and his team will take note of the wide open space between a fighter like Carman and a fighter like Joyce and act upon it, fast.

SIX NINE: IVAN DYCHKO

FROM: Kazakhstan HEIGHT: 6’9 WEIGHT IN SHAPE: 245lbs AGE: 30 RECORD: 9-0 with 9 KOs

Ivan Dychko is in danger of becoming a cautionary tale.

Last time we discussed the towering Kazak he had failed in a seemingly serious campaign to replace the disgraced Jarrell Miller against Anthony Joshua based upon their amateur rivalry. Having missed the boat on that chance, grabbed so forcefully by Andy Ruiz, Dychko consoled himself by fighting someone named Nate Heaven.

Heaven, who retired in 2015 and has not won a meaningful fight since April of 2014, inexplicably unretired to absorb this beating, which he did, showing bravery all the while. Dychko looked organised and quick, heavy-handed and well-organised.

Since then: nothing.

Dychko has sparred with Wladimir Klitschko and Deontay Wilder, apparently without upset. He now seems to be hocking those wares to Tyson Fury. Meanwhile, he avoids the ring entirely. Dychko looks fabulous in training footage and is still spoken of highly by those who have worked with him, but that makes his inexplicable inactivity more, not less, frustrating. It should be remembered that Dychko spent eight months doing nothing before the pandemic hit and fought six rounds in twelve months before that. Dychko is a potentially splendid fighter going very much to waste.

THE QUIET ONE: DANIEL DUBOIS

FROM: Great Britain HEIGHT: 6’5 WEIGHT IN SHAPE: 239lbs AGE: 23 RECORD: 15-1 with 14 KOs

Great Britain continues to deliver on meaningful clashes between heavyweight prospects and the past eighteen months has delivered something of a blockbuster in the shape of Daniel Dubois versus Joe Joyce.

The reason the world is more likely to contain Dychko or Makhumudov than Joyce or Dubois could not be illustrated more keenly than it is by the fallout from this fight. Dubois has been routed by both social media and boxing reporters, very much along the lines of “did he quit?” and “was he exposed?”

But when two prospects meet, of course, some shortcomings and some failings are to be revealed.  By very definition, a prospect is not a finished article. It is true, also, that there was something depressing about Daniel’s apparent inability to defend a wounded eye that came to define his fight as he was jabbed into literal submission by a tougher, technically superior, much more experienced, older boxer. Worse was that he seemed so under-prepared for a potential change in the manner in which he might defend himself. His failings were not entirely his own.

Still, aged just twenty-three and with his heavy hands confirmed by fourteen knockouts, Dubois has plenty to rebuild with, most of all keeping in mind that his hands are just tools and his plans in the ring are mostly there to be disrupted. Watching him explain openly and honestly his decision to “take the knee” despite a clear understanding of the unfortunate cultural associations with our sport that has developed around any notion of surrender has been heartening and frankly impressed me.

Perhaps this a young man who actually will “learn from a defeat” rather than merely paying it lip service. It is that opportunity and where it might lead him that convinced me to leave him on this list, and we will drop in on him next February to see what has occurred.

THE BRUTE: SERGEY KUZMIN

FROM: Russia HEIGHT: 6’3.5 WEIGHT IN SHAPE: 245lbs AGE: 33 RECORD: 15-2 with 11 KOs

Last time we spoke of Sergey Kuzmin he was 15-0; this time he is 15-2. I’ll avoid platitudes such as “it’s a long road back for the thirty-three-year-old” on this occasion and just state Kuzmin will never be champion.

The scene for his downfall straddled the continents and boxing history as he was found wanting first in the immortal Madison Square Gardens, New York, and then Wembley, London. Tough to the last, Kuzmin was stopped by neither Michael Hunter, who he met in America, nor Martin Bakole, who he met in Great Britain. On each occasion though, he was thoroughly beaten.

His Waterloo came in the fifth against Hunter. Hunter, who had been making all the running, flashed Kuzmin in the fifth with an unexpected cannonball left. Generous onlookers may have found two rounds for the Russian but it was clear he did not belong in the ring with a fighter as good as Hunter. As if to prove it, he took a step down in his next contest against Bakole. Looking fleshy and tentative, Kuzmin dropped a clear and drab decision.

Boxing isn’t kind and it was possible to feel the world’s interest wane during the Bakole fight, or at least that part of the world that remained interested up until that point. Kuzmin tried to take control in the second round, got hit and seemed cowed. He has proved a disappointment; I predicted he would get as far as a legitimate heavyweight ranking. He did not get there, and it seems unlikely now he ever will. Either way, he passes from the realm of prospect to that of gatekeeper and will not figure on our prospect list this time next year.

THE AMERICAN: DARMANI ROCK

FROM: USA HEIGHT: 6’5 WEIGHT IN SHAPE: 240lbs AGE: 24 RECORD: 17-1 with 12 KOs

If I hoped for a ranking for Kuzmin, I was less convinced by Darmani Rock, whose promotional team seemed either to be very smart or very dumb in the glacial way they moved the youngster along.  Still just twenty-four they could even have continued to make him wait – instead, they took the plunge and the result was a disaster.

Michael Polite Coffie, a fascinating 6’5 southpaw, prides himself on his ability to learn and his military record both, although his time in service prevented him applying learning to boxing until he was rather late in life. Arguably though, he had already achieved more in his eleven professional fights than Rock had in his seventeen. It showed. Coffie, ripped where Rock was flabby, showed the supposedly more experienced man more looks in the first than Rock mustered in the three short rounds the fight lasted. In the third, Rock rattled out of the corner and fired with real aggression having been out-hit through the first two rounds. It was an exciting moment for our prospect-watch, one where we were to learn about a man we were interested in. Instead, Rock revealed a jaw that was anything but as Coffie cleaned him out before a minute of the round had elapsed.

Rock’s moment of truth came and went; Coffie is interesting. If he continues to fight and goes unbeaten, perhaps we will even sneak him in here this time next year. At 34 I think the former Marine will be a little too late to the game though.

MY FAVOURITE: FILIP HRGOVIC

FROM: Croatia HEIGHT: 6’6 WEIGHT IN SHAPE: 230lbs AGE: 26 RECORD: 12-0 with 10 KOs

“Technically proficient, quick of hand and thought, physically imposing and clearly in great shape,” I wrote of Filip Hrgovic in 2019, “[he] is confirmed as having everything he needs to be a champion in the heavyweight division except the important ones: chin and stamina. These still remain unconfirmed, although his adventures in the WSB suggest he owns a sturdy mandible at the very least.”

And that, pretty much, is where we still stand today. Hrgovic has been busy though, managing four outings, well above average for this list, it’s just that none of them really told us anything we don’t already know. He thrashed a molasses-like Mexican named Mario Heredia in August 2019, and turned in an impressive display. Using the left hand to open up opportunities for the right, Hrgovic scored with straights, bodyshots, narrowed it up to throw a short overhand on the inside, and most of all landed brutal uppercuts. Heredia was fearless but wilted under this attention. The brutally of those right hands escalated in the third and final round.

From here, Hrgovic went on to dispatch a wobbly Eric Molina in December, and also in three, before waiting out much of the pandemic and returning to the ring in September of 2020 against an ageing Greek with ten fights named Alexandre Kartozia, who offered even less resistance. In November he met the forty-year-old Rydell Booker and beat him up for an eye-watering five founds.

It’s not so much that his opposition is truly awful, more that you can’t shake the feeling that Arslanbek Makhmudov would have knocked them all over too – and in double quick time, too.  Either way, there is still an awful lot that is not known about Hrgovic that I would like to know before he fights for a title, which, to hear the fighter tell it, is imminent. Maybe Martin Bakole will tell us more. He has been chasing Hrgovic for a year now and seems convinced he can trouble him.

Either way, we won’t be hearing any more from Hrgovic in our prospect-watch; he breached the TBRB rankings in December of 2019.  He is a contender now, a prospect no more.

HAYMAKING: JOE JOYCE

FROM: Great Britain HEIGHT: 6’6 WEIGHT IN SHAPE: 255lbs AGE: 35 RECORD: 12-0 with 11 KOs

“From the supposed pick of the crop in Hrgovic to the man who beat him.”

Yes indeed; but Joe Joyce needn’t rest on the laurels in earned back in his World Boxing Series any more. He arguably owns the best win of any of the fighters on this list.

Nor was he the betting favourite when he met Daniel Dubois late last year in a match that for the boxing-loyal, fight-starved British public was something of an event. Joyce, a rarity in that he feels even bigger in the ring than his listed stats, spent ten rounds doing essentially the same thing, pushing out hard straight punches to allow metronomic scoring while occasionally getting hit with harder punches, as in the second, where Dubois seemed ready to clean him out. But Joyce is hard; the science to that remark, such as it is, is only in that it is an observable fact. While Dubois lashed him, Joyce calmly continued to deploy himself and by the eighth, although Dubois was in touch on the cards, there was a sense of inevitability about the Joyce victory, which came via TKO in the tenth round.

Joyce is probably a little better than I credited him for, though I always figured him the fighter on this list most in a hurry; that urgency will continue as David Haye’s prodigy has now turned thirty-five.  Britain is stuffed with heavyweights currently. Joyce is now third among them, an enviable spot, one that is now seeing him hunted by names.

He is also wonderfully positioned for a shot at a strap, and if he can keep it right, he might even be positioned for the many millions a fight with the emergent victor from any Tyson Fury-Anthony Joshua series.

Either way, Joyce will no longer be labelled a prospect the next time we come around. He will be replaced by a new man next year.

THE PUB BOUNCER: NATHAN GORMAN

FROM: Great Britain HEIGHT: 6’3 WEIGHT IN SHAPE: 250lbs AGE: 24 RECORD: 17-1 with 11 KOs

After the hurt that Joe Joyce put on him, it is forgotten that Daniel Dubois had previously won his own battle of the prospects, beating up Nathan Gorman in July of 2019.

“The Dubois fight is everything to Gorman,” I wrote in 2019. “There will be no unearned second coming should he lose, just a long and difficult slog back to where he is now followed by the real work…Gorman’s status next time we check in with him will be more dramatically affected by his next fight than every other man on this list.”

And so it was. Gorman was brave and he had certain but slight advantages that did nothing like enough to cover the distance in talent that lay between them. Cut in the second round, dropped in the third before being stopped in the fifth, he was clearly outmatched. Gorman will never be a legitimate contender to the world’s heavyweight champion.

That does not mean there isn’t money to be made and fights to be won. Gorman was back and winning late last year after a prolonged rest and goes again in March. Likeable and brave, Gorman remains on my watch list, for all that we won’t see him again on this list.

THE LITTLE GUY: OLEKSANDR USYK

FROM: Ukraine HEIGHT: 6’3 WEIGHT IN SHAPE: 220lbs AGE: 34 RECORD: 18-0 with 13 KOs

Oleksander Usyk is another fighter to be removed from our heavyweight prospect list, but for different reasons; Usyk made the TBRB top ten and as such is no longer eligible. Usyk is stalking belts, not status.

I’ve followed Usyk since before the beginning of his professional career and written about him for years. During all those years I’ve been clear about one thing: he will grab himself a heavyweight strap. In truth, everything truly meaningful is tied up with Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua so while I continue to stand by my ancient prediction, it is likely to come now only in the most unsatisfactory of fashions, perhaps upgraded from some ridiculous interim alphabet belt to “full champion” when Joshua or Fury refuses to match him but rather rematches the other for tens of millions.

My other prediction – that Usyk is serious trouble for Joshua and all but chanceless against Fury – may be undone on all fronts by the passage of time. Usyk is thirty-four and like the rest of us, is getting no younger.

During the time between lists, Usyk has beaten up journeyman Chazz Witherspoon for a seventh- round stoppage and out-pointed gatekeeper Dereck Chisora in an interesting fight seen by many as his first true test at the poundage. In many ways, Usyk did it the old-fashioned way, for all that he served his “apprenticeship” as an all-time great cruiserweight. The next eighteen months will tell us whether or not he can achieve major status at heavyweight.

AT THE SCHOOL OF MANNY STEWARD: VLAD SIRENKO

FROM: Ukraine HEIGHT: 6’3.5 WEIGHT IN SHAPE: 243lbs AGE: 26 RECORD: 15-0 with 13 KOs

Vlad Sirenko’s most recent opponent was a 7-8-1 Ukranian named Kostiantyn Dovbyshchenko who has now lost five of the last six but who nevertheless rattled Sirenko in Kiev last December.

On the face of it, this seems a disaster, but of all the fighters on this list, Sirenko is the one most deserving of time. Aged just twenty-six and with little to speak of in terms of an amateur career, Sirenko’s 15-0 is real; as are the numbers, so is his experience.

Despite this, when Dovbyshchenko opened an irritating cut on his right brow in the fifth round, Sirenko did not panic. He stuck to a tidy-handed, neat boxing style that got him across the line over ten and gifted him something the likes of Makhmudov and Hrgovic have yet to receive: a genuine test of his temperament.

Still, the scores were not wide and although Dovbyshchenko was a little better than his paper record allows – neat, tidy and mobile, and never stopped – Sirenko’s limitations were underlined. He can hit, but his power isn’t darkening; he is organised, but he often waits his turn – he is busy but cannot counter or punch well enough to truly discourage his opponent. In short, well-schooled quality on technical punching is what won him this fight. That is honourable, but it is not what should be separating him from journeymen. If he is unable to overwhelm or at least control such limited opposition with physical advantages, heavyweight waters will likely be too deep.

Still, he speaks so well about boxing that I want to believe he can learn about boxing. Sirenko, who is not shy at sharing his opinions, predicted Joyce’s victory over Dubois with calm certainty having previously sparred with both. It is only one example, but every time I hear him speak in excellent English, I am impressed with what he has to say. Connections to Manny Steward disciple James Ali Bashir and therefore to the Oleksandr Usyk camp are other reasons to be hopeful.

As is Sirenko’s abandonment of his South African base and relocation to Germany, under the auspices of Maxim Michailew who has so far preferred him to box in his native Ukraine. He has also made Sirenko one of the busier prospects on this list and that, too, bodes well for the future.

Sirenko though remains the most interesting prospect here listed, which is another way of saying he has the most to prove.

THIS TIME NEXT YEAR

It was strange re-reading former entries in this series before writing this one. That I would be writing another a year later seemed a given and if 2020/21 has taught us anything it is that nothing should be taken for granted. None of us could imagine an event so overwhelming as to make an absence of boxing seem meaningless, but it happened.

It hurt the prospect more than any other kind of fighter; even the true journeyman will tend to have other sources of income. For an elite prospect who has devoted himself to boxing, the end of the fight game was a disaster. That said, the fight fan may prosper; it could be that a sudden and unplanned break might press some reluctant promoters, managers and boxers into action.

Hopefully we will be back in around a year to find out why.

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Featured Articles

Joseph Parker vs. Junior Fa Has Marinated into a Kiwi Blockbuster

Arne K. Lang

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Joseph-Parker-vs-Junior-Fa-Has-Marinated-into-a-Kiwi-Blockbuster

The upcoming fight between Joseph Parker and Junior Fa at a 12,000-seat arena in Auckland is well-marinated. “Momentum is slowly building,” wrote New Zealand sports journalist Liam Napier way back in September of 2016. The promoters think the revenue from pay-per-view (it’s on DAZN in other countries including the U.S. and UK) may set a new benchmark for a fight in New Zealand between domestic rivals, breaking the record set in 2009 when heavyweights David Tua and Shane Cameron clashed in Hamilton.

There was a time when Joseph Parker was looked upon as the third-best heavyweight in the world behind only Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder. Back-to-back losses to Joshua and Dillian Whyte (and the return of Tyson Fury) knocked him down several pegs.

Parker (27-2, 21 KOs) has won three straight inside the distance since the setback to Whyte, but against soft opposition, namely Alexander Flores, Alex Leapai, and Shawndell Winters. This is the same Alexander Flores that would go on to get stopped in 45 seconds by Luis Ortiz. The veteran Leapai and the mysterious Winters were both 39 years old when Parker fought them.

Junior Fa (19-0, 10 KOs) has been inactive since November of 2019 when he won a lopsided 10-round decision over Devin Vargas. That bout was in Salt Lake City where Fa had something of a homefield advantage.

Parker vs. Fa was originally slated for Dec. 11, but Fa backed out because of a health issue, a blood disorder that made him sluggish and required surgery. The particular ailment — presumably it had a name — and the type of surgery performed were never revealed to the media. (Apparently New Zealand has very stringent health privacy laws.) However, the word is that Fa is completely recovered and fully fit to go 12 hard rounds if necessary.

Junior Fa is bigger than Joseph Parker, customarily carrying about 260 pounds on his six-foot-five frame, and although he’s less experienced at the pro level, he’s the older man by 27 months. Fa delayed the start of his pro career to start a family. During the hiatus, he worked for a company that manufactured doors and windows.

This will be their fifth meeting. They locked horns four times as amateurs and the series is tied at 2-2.

That’s part of the intrigue, to see who can break the deadlock. The ethnicity factor adds relish. Parker’s ancestry is Samoan, Fa’s is Tongan.

The two Polynesian groups have a lot in common – family members of Parker and Fa are actually members of the same South Auckland LDS church – but friendly relationships evaporate on the rugby field where the two nations have an intense rivalry that in some respects mirrors the fierce rivalry between India and Pakistan in cricket.

In the United States, Samoans and Tongans are identified with the sport of football. They are over-represented in the NFL by a very wide margin. The majority are linemen, but there are notable exceptions such as quarterback Tua Tagovailoa who started nine games last year as a rookie for the Miami Dolphins.

Tagovailoa, born in Hawaii to Samoan parents, will undoubtedly be rooting for Joseph Parker. To ratchet up his interest in the fight, we would suggest a side bet with Kalani Sitaki, the Tonga-born head football coach at BYU. Tua will be required to lay odds, not merely because Parker is a solid favorite but because he makes more money (although Sitaki is due for a big raise after guiding BYU to an 11-1 season).

Truth be told, it wouldn’t surprise us if this was a rather boring fight. Neither man has a big punch. A fair guess would be that this fight takes a similar tack to last weekend’s heavyweight fight between Otto Wallin and Dominic Breazeale with Parker, the more mobile fighter, playing the Wallin role.

However, Parker’s bout with Dillian Whyte was a very chippy fight in which Parker was on the deck twice but scored a knockdown of his own in the final round. Parker vs. Fa doesn’t have to be at the level to still be a very entertaining affair. And before one dismisses Fa’s chances, we would interject this note of caution: Underdogs, in case you haven’t noticed, have been on quite a roll lately.

This fight was in jeopardy of being postponed again. The authorities threatened to push it back if Covid restrictions were not loosened. Last week, all of New Zealand with the exception of Auckland was in Phase One. Auckland remained in Phase Two which prohibited gatherings of more than 100 people. But on Tuesday of this week (Monday in the U.S.), Auckland joined the rest of the country in Phase One. Facial coverings are still required on public transportation and everyone is encouraged to practice social distancing, but other mandates have been lifted. This event will potentially draw the largest attendance of any boxing show in the Covid-19 era although that may be quickly surpassed by the turnout for Canelo-Yildirim at the home of the Miami Dolphins where attendance will be capped at 20 percent of capacity.

If you plan to watch the Parker-Fa fight, set your alarm clocks. Owing to the time difference, the DAZN telecast will go at 1:30 a.m. ET which is 10:30 p.m. on Friday night for us westerners.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel

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