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3 Punch Combo: Two Fighters on the Fast Track, a Blue-Chip Prospect and More

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3 Punch Combo: Two Fighters on the Fast Track, a Blue-Chip Prospect and More

THREE PUNCH COMBO – Given the plethora of boxing available on a weekly basis on various platforms, it can be easy to overlook some events. For example, this past Saturday there was a stacked card in Ekaterinburg, Russia featuring several up-and-coming fighters. One fighter in particular, cruiserweight Evgeny Tishchenko, piqued my interest.

Tishchenko, 28, won the Gold medal in the heavyweight division for Russia in the 2016 Summer Olympics. He turned pro as a heavyweight in 2018 but has since moved down to cruiserweight.

Tishchenko entered the fight with a record of 6-0 with 4 knockouts. His opponent was veteran Marcos Antonio Aumada who entered with a record of 21-8. Aumada was actually a big step down in class for Tishchenko. Tishchenko’s previous four opponents had a combined record of 64-4-1 and he was coming off an impressive knockout win of then 20-0 Issa Akberbayev in November.

Not surprisingly, Tishchenko (pictured) made easy work of Aumada, stopping him in the third round of their scheduled ten round fight.

While the result was expected, I continue to be impressed with what I see from Tishchenko. Aumada kept a tight guard, but Tishchenko used excellent footwork setting up just the right angles to find ways to penetrate it. Tishchenko, who fights as a southpaw, also showcased a sharp right jab which created openings to land the straight left behind it.

In addition to the above, Tishchenko is an excellent counterpuncher. He put his counterpunching skills on display early in the third round with a quick sneaky check right hook that landed pinpoint on the chin of Aumada, knocking him down. Finally, the punching power is certainly for real as is the finishing ability. Once he had Aumada on the canvas, Tishchenko went to work, hurting Aumada several more times before landing a series of crunching body shots that brought the fight to an end.

With the exit of Oleksandr Usyk, cruiserweight is a wide-open division. Tishchenko is on the fast track and could soon ascend to the top of the division.

Eimantas Stanionis

FS1 will broadcast a card this Saturday from MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, MD that will be headlined by popular action fighter James Kirkland (34-2, 30 KO’s) who will take on Marcos Hernandez (14-3-1, 3 KO’s) in a scheduled ten round middleweight bout. While I will admit that I am curious to see how Kirkland fares in this contest, it is the scheduled ten round welterweight co-main event between Eimantas Stanionis (10-0, 7 KO’s) and Justin DeLoach (18-4, 9 KO’s) that really has my interest.

A highly decorated amateur, Stanionis, 25, represented Lithuania in the 2016 Summer Olympics. He turned pro in 2017 and has been on the fast track toward a world title shot.

In just his seventh pro fight in August of 2018, Stanionis put on an impressive performance in winning a lopsided eight round decision against veteran contender Levan Ghvamichava. That victory moved Stanionis from prospect to contender and in 2019 he continued his rise by going 3-0 with 2 knockouts.

Stanionis is a pressure fighter by trade. From his amateur days, he has developed a precision left jab that he will use to get within his opposition’s range. Once inside, Stanionis will use subtle footwork to shift around his opponents enabling him to land precision combinations. And as his record indicates, those combinations carry some power behind them.

An aspect of Stanionis’s game that I like is that he is relentless with his pressure and punching volume. He is constantly on the front foot attempting to overwhelm his opponent. But on the flip side, this can lead to some defensive flaws. In particular, Stanionis can leave himself wide open to be countered by a sharp puncher. And DeLoach just happens to be a sharp counterpuncher.

DeLoach, 26, was himself a highly touted prospect. During one stretch between 2016 and 2017, DeLoach strung off four straight wins against opponents with a combined record of 57-1-1.

However, since that stretch his career has hit a stumbling block; he’s dropped three of his last four. Now he finds his career at a crossroads and needs a win to avoid falling into that dreaded journeyman category.

DeLoach is a natural boxer-puncher by trade. He is athletic and possesses good hand speed. While he can work combinations behind the left jab, DeLoach has often been most effective as a counterpuncher.

The skill set for DeLoach is quite impressive but he has struggled against pressure fighters. Inside fighting is not his strength and his chin has abandoned him at times. Against Stanionis, DeLoach will need to keep the fight at range in order to remain competitive.

DeLoach is clearly a step up for the fast rising Stanionis and has a style that could cause Stanionis some issues. I think DeLoach will have his spots even if he eventually wilts to the pressure of Stanionis. I am always up for a fun action fight that features a nice contrast of styles and that is what I think we will see when these two meet on Saturday.

Brandun Lee

Boxing on Showtime returns with yet another installment of the popular ShoBox series this Friday from the Grand Casino in Hinckley, MN. The quadruple header features eight fighters with a combined record of 54-4-2. While I am looking forward to all four contests, I am most excited to see the main event where 140-pound prospect Brandun Lee (18-0, 16 KO’s) takes a step up in class in facing Camilo Prieto (15-2, 9 KO’s).

Lee, 20, earned numerous accolades in the US amateur program before turning pro in January of 2017. He has stayed quite active as a pro and has scored some highlight reel knockouts. There is definitely quite a bit of buzz about Lee in boxing circles and his apparent immense potential in this sport.

On the surface, Lee appears to have all the tools. He is very fluid in both how he moves around the ring and how he throws his punches. The left jab, which he often works behind, is both sharp and accurate. And his right hand carries some serious power. In his ShoBox debut last September, Lee used that jab-right-hand combination to score a scintillating knockout of Milton Arauz.

The biggest knock on Lee so far in his career has been his level of competition. Arauz was the 17th opponent Lee had faced and the first who entered the ring with a winning record. So, while the performances have looked great and Lee has taken care of business, the jury is still out as he has yet to be remotely challenged.

The best thing that can be said about Lee’s opponent Prieto is that he does have a winning record. This is not saying a lot but Prieto has a better resume than that of Arauz so that alone qualifies Prieto as a step up for Lee.

There is limited video available on Prieto but from what I can see he likes to move around the ring while flicking his left jab out. In spots he will rush in and look to fire off some combinations. And he does generally keep a very tight guard with good head movement. I know this is not a ringing endorsement, but he should be more of a live body than any of the previous opponents that Lee has faced.

This will be Lee’s first fight headlining a major televised card and I am very interested to see how he performs. It could be the start to a breakout campaign in 2020.

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Boxing Odds and Ends: The Heavyweight Merry-Go-Round

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There were few surprises when co-promoters Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren and their benefactor HE Turki Alalshikh held a press conference in London this past Monday to unveil the undercard for the Beterbiev-Bivol show at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on June 1. Most of the match-ups had already been leaked.

For die-hard boxing fans, Beterbiev-Bivol is such an enticing fight that it really doesn’t need an attractive undercard. Two undefeated light heavyweights will meet with all four relevant belts on the line in a contest where the oddsmakers straddled the fence. It’s a genuine “pick-‘em” fight based on the only barometer that matters, the prevailing odds.

But Beterbiev-Bivol has been noosed to a splendid undercard, a striking contrast to Saturday’s Haney-Garcia $69.99 (U.S.) pay-per-view in Brooklyn, an event where the undercard, in the words of pseudonymous boxing writer Chris Williams, is an absolute dumpster fire.

The two heavyweight fights that will bleed into Beterbiev-Bivol, Hrgovic vs. Dubois and Wilder vs. Zhang, would have been stand-alone main events before the incursion of Saudi money.

Hrgovic-Dubois

Filip Hrgovic (17-0, 13 KOs) and Daniel Dubois (20-2, 19 KOs) fought on the same card in Riyadh this past December. Hrgovic, the Croatian, was fed a softie in the form of Australia’s Mark De Mori who he dismissed in the opening round. Dubois, a Londoner, rebounded from his loss to Oleksandr Usyk with a 10th-round stoppage of corpulent Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller.

There’s an outside chance that Hrgovic vs. Dubois may be sanctioned by the IBF for the world heavyweight title.

The May 18 showdown between Oleksandr Usyk and Tyson Fury has a rematch clause. The IBF is next in line in the rotation system for a unified heavyweight champion and the organization has made it plain that the winner of Usyk-Fury must fulfill his IBF mandatory before an intervening bout.

The best guess is that the Usyk-Fury winner will relinquish the IBF belt. If so, Hrgovic and Dubois may fight for the vacant title although a more likely scenario is that the organization will keep the title vacant so that the winner can fight Anthony Joshua.

Wilder-Zhang

The match between Deontay Wilder (43-3-1, 42 KOs) and Zhilei Zhang (26-2-1, 21 KOs) is a true crossroads fight as both Wilder, 38, and Zhang, who turns 41 in May, are nearing the end of the road and the loser (unless it’s a close and entertaining fight) will be relegated to the rank of a has-been. In fact, Wilder has hinted that this may be his final rodeo.

Both are coming off a loss to Joseph Parker.

Wilder last fought on the card that included Hrgovic and Dubois and was roundly out-pointed by a man he was expected to beat. It’s a quick turnaround for Zhang who opposed Parker on March 8 and lost a majority decision.

Other Fights

Either of two other fights may steal the show on the June 1 event.

Raymond Ford (15-0-1, 8 KOs) meets Nick Ball (19-0-1, 11 KOs) in a 12-round featherweight contest. New Jersey’s Ford will be defending the WBA world title he won with a come-from-behind, 12th-round stoppage of Otabek Kholmatov in an early contender for Fight of the Year. Liverpool’s “Wrecking” Ball, a relentless five-foot-two sparkplug, had to settle for a draw in his title fight with Rey Vargas despite winning the late rounds and scoring two knockdowns.

Hamzah Sheeraz (19-0, 15 KOs) meets fellow unbeaten Austin “Ammo” Williams (16-0, 11 KOs) in a 12-round middleweight match. East London’s Sheeraz, the son of a former professional cricket player, is unknown in the U.S. although he trained for his recent fights at the Ten Goose Boxing Gym in California. Riding a skein of 13 straight knockouts, he has a date with WBO title-holder Janibek Alimkhanuly if he can get over this hurdle.

The Forgotten Heavyweight

“Unbeaten for seven years, the man nobody wants to fight,” intoned ring announcer Michael Buffer by way of introduction. Buffer was referencing Michael Hunter who stood across the ring from his opponent Artem Suslenkov.

This scene played out this past Saturday in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. It was Hunter’s second fight in three weeks. On March 23, he scored a fifth-round stoppage of a 46-year-old meatball at a show in Zapopan, Mexico.

The second-generation “Bounty Hunter,” whose only defeat prior to last weekend came in a 12-rounder with Oleksandr Usyk, has been spinning his wheels since TKOing the otherwise undefeated Martin Bakole on the road in London in 2018. Two fights against hapless opponents on low-budget cards in Mexico and a couple of one-round bouts for the Las Vegas Hustle, an entry in the fledgling and largely invisible Professional Combat League, are the sum total of his activity, aside from sparring, in the last two-and-a-half years.

Hunter’s chances of getting another big-money fight took a tumble in Tashkent where he lost a unanimous decision in a dull affair to the unexceptional Suslenkov who was appearing in his first 10-round fight. The scores of the judges were not announced.

You won’t find this fight listed on boxrec. As Jake Donovan notes, the popular website will not recognize a fight conducted under the auspices of a rogue commission. (Another fight you won’t find on boxrec for the same reason is Nico Ali Walsh’s 6-round split decision over the 9-2-1 Frenchman, Noel Lafargue, in the African nation of Guinea on Dec. 16, 2023. You can find it on YouTube, but according to boxrec, boxing’s official record-keeper, it never happened.)

Anderson-Merhy Redux

The only thing missing from this past Saturday’s match in Corpus Christi, Texas, between Jared Anderson and Ryad Merhy was the ghost of Robert Valsberg.

Valsberg, aka Roger Vaisburg, was the French referee who disqualified Ingemar Johansson for not trying in his match with LA’s Ed Sanders in the finals of the heavyweight competition at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Valsberg tossed Johansson out of the ring after two rounds and Johansson was denied the silver medal. The Swede redeemed himself after turning pro, needless to say, when he demolished Floyd Patterson in the first of their three meetings.

Merhy was credited with throwing only 144 punches, landing 34, over the course of the 10 rounds. Those dismal figures yet struck many onlookers as too high. (This reporter has always insisted that the widely-quoted CompuBox numbers should be considered approximations.)

Whatever the true number, it was a disgraceful performance by Merhy who actually showed himself to have very fast hands on the few occasions when he did throw a punch. With apologies to Delfine Persoon, a spunky lightweight, U.S. boxing promoters should think twice before inviting another Belgian boxer to our shores.

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Anderson Cruises by Vapid Merhy and Ajagba edges Vianello in Texas

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Jared Anderson returned to the ring tonight on a Top Rank card in Corpus Christi, Texas. Touted as the next big thing in the heavyweight division, Anderson (17-0, 15 KOs) hardly broke a sweat while cruising past Ryad Merhy in a bout with very little action, much to the disgruntlement of the crowd which started booing as early as the second round. The fault was all Merhy as he was reluctant to let his hands go. Somehow, he won a round on the scorecard of judge David Sutherland who likely fell asleep for a round for which he could be forgiven.

Merhy, born in the Ivory Coast but a resident of Brussels, Belgium, was 32-2 (26 KOs) heading in after fighting most of his career as a cruiserweight. He gave up six inches in height to Anderson who was content to peck away when it became obvious to him that little would be coming back his way.

Anderson may face a more daunting adversary on Monday when he has a court date in Romulus, Michigan, to answer charges related to an incident in February where he drove his Dodge Challenger at a high rate speed, baiting the police into a merry chase. (Weirdly, Anderson entered the ring tonight wearing the sort of helmet that one associates with a race car driver.)

Co-Feature

In the co-feature, a battle between six-foot-six former Olympians, Italy’s Guido Vianello started and finished strong, but Efe Ajagba had the best of it in the middle rounds and prevailed on a split decision. Two of the judges favored Ajagba by 96-94 scores with the dissenter favoring the Italian from Rome by the same margin.

Vianello had the best round of the fight. He staggered Ajagba with a combination in round two. At the end of the round, a befuddled Ajagba returned to the wrong corner and it appeared that an upset was brewing. But the Nigerian, who trains in Las Vegas under Kay Koroma, got back into the fight with a more varied offensive attack and better head movement. In winning, he improved his ledger to 20-1 (14). Vianello, who sparred extensively with Daniel Dubois in London in preparation for this fight, declined to 12-2-1 in what was likely his final outing under the Top Rank banner.

Other Bouts of Note

In the opening bout on the main ESPN platform, 35-year-old super featherweight Robson Conceicao, a gold medalist for Brazil in the 2016 Rio Olympics, stepped down in class after fighting Emanuel Navarrete tooth-and-nail to a draw in his previous bout and scored a seventh-round stoppage of Jose Ivan Guardado who was a cooked goose after slumping to the canvas after taking a wicked shot to the liver. Guardado made it to his feet, but the end was imminent and the referee waived it off at the 2:27 mark.

Conceicao improved to 18-1 (9 KOs). It was the U.S. debut for Guardado (15-2-1), a boxer from Ensenada, Mexico who had done most of his fighting up the road in Tijuana.

Ruben Villa, the pride of Salinas, California, improved to 22-1 (7) and moved one step closer to a match with WBC featherweight champion Rey Vargas with a unanimous 10-round decision over Tijuana’s Cristian Cruz (22-7-1). The judges had it 97-93 and 98-92 twice.

Cruz, the son of former IBF world featherweight title-holder Cristobal Cruz, was better than his record. He entered the bout on a 21-1-1 run after losing five of his first seven pro fights.

Cleveland southpaw Abdullah Mason, who turned 20 earlier this month, continued his fast ascent up the lightweight ladder with a fourth-round stoppage of Ronal Ron.

Mason (13-0, 11 KOs) put Ron on the canvas in the opening round with a short left hook. He scored a second knockdown with a shot to the liver. A flurry of punches, a diverse array, forced the stoppage at the 1:02 mark of round four. A 25-year-old SoCal-based Venezuelan, the spunky but out-gunned Ron declined to 14-6.

Charly Suarez, a 35-year-old former Olympian from the Philippines, ranked #5 at junior lightweight by the IBF, advanced to 17-0 (9) with a unanimous 8-round decision over SoCal’s Louie Coria (5-7).

This was a tactical fight. In the final round, Coria, subbing for 19-0 Henry Lebron, caught the Filipino off-balance and knocked him into the ropes which held him up. It was scored a knockdown, but came too little, too late for Coria who lost by scores of 76-75 and 77-74 twice.

Suarez, whose signature win was a 12th-round stoppage of the previously undefeated Aussie Paul Fleming in Sydney, may be headed to a rematch with Robson Conceicao. They fought as amateurs in 2016 in Kazakhstan and Suarez lost a narrow 6-round decision.

Photo credit: Mikey Willams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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Ellie Scotney and Rhiannon Dixon Win World Title Fights in Manchester

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England’s Ellie Scotney started slowly against the long reach of France’s Segolene Lefebvre but used rough tactics and a full-steam ahead approach to unify the super bantamweight division by unanimous decision on Saturday.

“There’s a lot more I didn’t show,” said an excited Scotney (pictured on the left).

IBF titlist Scotney (9-0) added the WBO title by nullifying Lefebvre’s (18-1) reach and dominating the inside with a two-fisted attack in front of an excited crowd in Manchester, England.

For the first two rounds Lefebvre used her long reach and smooth fluid attack to keep Scotney at the end of her punches. Then the fight turned when the British fighter bulled her way inside with body shots and forced the French fighter into the ropes.

Aggressiveness by Scotney turned the fight in her favor. But Lefebvre remained active and countered with overhand rights throughout the match.

Body shots by Scotney continued to pummel the French champion’s abdomen but she remained steadfast in her counter-attacks. Combinations landed for Lefebvre and a counter overhand right scored to keep her in the contest in the fifth round.

Scotney increased the intensity of her attack in the sixth and seventh rounds. In perhaps her best round Scotney was almost perfect in scoring while not getting hit with anything from the French fighter.

Maybe the success of the previous round caused Scotney to pause. It allowed Lefebvre to rally behind some solid shots in a slow round and gave the French fighter an opening. Maybe.

The British fighter opened up more savagely after taking two Lefevbre rights to open the ninth. Scotney attacked with bruising more emphatic blows despite getting hit. Though both fired blows Scotney’s were more powerful.

Both champions opened-up the 10th and final round with punches flying. Once again Scotney’s blows had more power behind them though the French fighter scored too, and though her face looked less bruised than Scotney’s the pure force of Scotney’s attacks was more impressive.

All three judges saw Scotney the winner 97-93, 96-94 and a ridiculous 99-91. The London-based fighter now has the IBF and WBO super bantamweight titles.

Promoter Eddie Hearn said a possible showdown with WBC titlist Erika Cruz looms large possibly in the summer.

“Great performance. Great punch output,” said Hearn of Scotney’s performance.

Dixon Wins WBO Title

British southpaw Rhiannon Dixon (10-0) out-fought Argentina’s Karen Carabajal (22-2) over 10 rounds and won a very competitive unanimous decision to win the vacant WBO lightweight title. It was one of the titles vacated by Katie Taylor who is now the undisputed super lightweight world champion.

An aggressive Dixon dominated the first three rounds including a knockdown in the third round with a perfect left-hand counter that dropped Carabajal. The Argentine got up and rallied in the round.

Carabajal, whose only loss was against Katie Taylor, slowly began figuring out Dixon’s attacks and each round got more competitive. The Argentine fighter used counter rights to find a hole in Dixon’s defense to probably win the round in the sixth.

The final three rounds saw both fighters engage evenly with Carabajal scoring on counters and Dixon attacking the body successfully.

After 10 rounds all three judges saw it in Dixon’s favor 98-91, 97-92, 96-93 who now wields the WBO lightweight world title.

“It’s difficult to find words,” said Dixon after winning the title.

Hometown Fighter Wins

Manchester’s Zelfa Barrett (31-2, 17 KOs) battled back and forth with Jordan Gill (28-3-1, 9 KO-s) and finally ended the super featherweight fight with two knockdowns via lefts to the body in the 10th round of a scheduled 12-round match for a regional title.

The smooth moving Barrett found the busier Gill more complex than expected and for the first nine rounds was fighting a 50/50 fight against the fellow British fighter from the small town of Chatteris north of London.

In the 10th round after multiple shots on the body of Gill, a left hook to the ribs collapsed the Chatteris fighter to the floor. He willed himself up and soon after was floored again but this time by a left to the solar plexus. Again he continued but was belted around until the referee stopped the onslaught by Barrett at 2:44 of the 10th.

“A tough, tough fighter,” said Barrett about Gill. “I had to work hard.”

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