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Charlo Brothers in World Title Defenses in Unique PPV Twin Bill in September

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PRESS RELEASE: New York – July 22, 2020 – SHOWTIME Sports and Premier Boxing Champions announced today a lineup of nine live boxing events featuring 18 undefeated fighters, nine world champions, and eight world championship fights including one world title unification bout. The schedule comprises 22 critical matchups from bantamweight to heavyweight and features some of the biggest stars in the sport today – Gervonta Davis, Leo Santa Cruz, Jermall Charlo, Jermell Charlo, David Benavidez and more. It is the largest collection of world championship boxing announced since the COVID-19 pandemic forced a stoppage of the sport.

The SHOWTIME boxing schedule begins on Saturday, August 1 and runs through the end of 2020. Initially, each live telecast will be presented without fans in attendance from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. Included in the schedule are four world title eliminators, three interim title fights and 13 bouts in all pitting top-10 ranked fighters.

There are two SHOWTIME PPV® events in the lineup presented by Premier Boxing Champions. The first in late September is a pay-per-view doubleheader featuring four world title bouts in back-to-back three-fight events on the same night all for one price. Doubleheaders are common in the NFL, NBA and MLB. There hasn’t ever been a boxing PPV doubleheader – until now. The second blockbuster PPV event in October is a unique clash with the winner earning world titles in two weight classes.

“We are proud to announce the strongest and most comprehensive schedule of fights in all of boxing,” said Stephen Espinoza, President, Sports and Event Programming, Showtime Networks Inc. “….this lineup delivers on our promise to provide boxing fans with the best talent, the most exciting fights and the highest quality presentation in the sport. We are thrilled to return to live boxing with this star-studded schedule of exciting, meaningful fights.”

Philadelphia’s 122-pound rising star Stephen Fulton Jr. will headline SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING® on August 1 (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) against talented, fellow undefeated contender Angelo Leo of the Mayweather stable in a marquee 12-round matchup for the vacant WBO junior featherweight world title. This will mark the first live boxing event on SHOWTIME since ShoBox: The New Generation on March 13 when the network presented what was to be the last nationally televised professional sporting event in the U.S. for several weeks.

The fight-by-fight schedule follows:

August 1

Main Event: Stephen Fulton Jr. (18-0, 8 KOs) vs. Angelo Leo (19-0, 9 KOs) – Vacant WBO Junior Featherweight World Championship

Co-Feature: Tramaine Williams (19-0, 6 KOs) vs. Ra’eese Aleem (16-0, 10 KOs) – Super Bantamweight Title Eliminator

Co-Feature: Joe George (10-0, 6 KOs) vs. Marcos Escudero (10-1, 9 KOs) II – Light Heavyweight Bout

About: Fellow Americans and undefeated fighters Fulton and Leo are legitimate top-10 junior featherweight contenders who will meet for the vacant WBO 122-pound world title. A southpaw from New Haven, Conn., Williams will clash with Las Vegas-based Aleem in an intriguing, 50-50 matchup between talented, undefeated prospects. Managed by All-Pro lineman Trent Williams, Houston’s George upset Escudero in an exciting ShoBox affair last November.

August 15

Main Event: David Benavidez (22-0, 19 KOs) vs. Roamer Alexis Angulo (26-1, 22 KOs) – WBC Super Middleweight World Championship

Co-Feature: Rolando Romero (11-0, 10 KOs) vs. Jackson Marinez (19-0, 7 KOs) – WBA Lightweight Interim Title

Co-Feature: Otto Wallin (20-1, 13 KOs) vs. Travis Kauffman (32-3, 23 KOs) – Heavyweight Bout

About: Undefeated Benavidez, 23, kicks off his second reign as WBC Super Middleweight Champion. In 2017, he became the youngest 168-pound champion in boxing history by defeating Ronald Gavril on SHOWTIME at just 20 years old. Angulo is coming off an upset win over heavily hyped and then unbeaten prospect Anthony Sims Jr. The power-punching “Rolly” Romero of the Mayweather stable, who has scored five first- or second-round stoppages in his last six fights, is an undefeated ShoBox alum ranked No. 10 by the WBA while Marinez is ranked No. 6. Wallin vs. Kauffman is an intriguing heavyweight matchup between the Swedish southpaw and the veteran Kauffman. Both fighters have survived bouts with the COVID-19 virus, made full recoveries and are anxious to get back in the ring.

September 19

Main Event: Erickson Lubin (22-1, 16 KOs) vs. Terrell Gausha (21-1-1, 10 KOs) – WBC Super Welterweight Title Eliminator Bout

Co-Feature: Tugstsogt Nyambayar (11-1, 9 KOs) vs. Eduardo Ramirez (23-2-3, 10 KOs) – WBC Featherweight Title Eliminator Bout

Co-Feature: Jaron Ennis (25-0, 23 KOs) vs. TBA – Welterweight Bout

About: Lubin, already a veteran at just 24 years old, has excelled since his shocking first-round loss to Jermell Charlo three years ago. Gausha is a former U.S. Olympian with just one loss. Both men are poised and hungry for a signature win and the opportunity to fight for a unified 154-pound title, which will be on the line the following week. Nyambayar and Ramirez are legitimate top-10 contenders. Nyambayar faced Gary Russell Jr. in February on SHOWTIME in the last SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecast before the COVID-19 shutdown. Ramirez, of Mexico, is coming off a stoppage of previously unbeaten Leduan Barthelemy. A graduate of the popular ShoBox: The New Generation series, Philadelphia native Ennis has fought twice on ShoBox and twice on SHOWTIME BOXING: Special Edition cards. Ennis is a former National Golden Gloves Champion ranked No. 12 by the WBO and No. 14 by the IBF.

September 26 – SHOWTIME/Premier Boxing Champions PPV Doubleheader

In One of the Main Events: Jermall Charlo (30-0, 22 KOs) vs. Sergiy Derevyanchenko (13-2, 10 KOs) – WBC Middleweight World Championship

Co-Feature: Brandon Figueroa (20-0-1, 15 KOs) vs. Damien Vasquez (15-1-1, 7 KOs) – WBA Super Bantamweight World Championship

Co-Feature: Diego Magdaleno (32-3, 13 KOs) vs. Isaac Cruz (19-1-1, 14 KOs) – IBF Lightweight Title Eliminator Bout

About: Houston’s Charlo will defend his title against WBC No.-1 ranked Ukrainian Derevyanchenko in one of the main events of this pay-per-view twin bill that boasts four world title fights. Charlo has held the WBC middleweight title since 2019 and reigned as the IBF junior middleweight champion from 2015 to ‘17. Charlo holds wins at 154 pounds against championship-level fighters including Cornelius Bundrage, Austin Trout and Julian Williams. Derevyanchenko has twice challenged for the IBF middleweight title in 2018 and ‘19, losing only to top-level opponents Daniel Jacobs and Gennadiy Golovkin. The 23-year-old Figueroa claimed the interim WBA 122-pound title with an eighth-round stoppage of Yonfrez Parejo last April, before successfully defending the title with a homecoming KO of Javier Chacon in Edinburg, Texas. After being upgraded to the “regular” titlist, Figueroa retained his belt after a 12-round draw against Julio Ceja last November. The southpaw Vasquez is coming off a stoppage win over Alejandro Moreno in February of 2020. Magdaleno vs. Cruz is an IBF title eliminator matchup of ShoBox alums currently ranked 10th and sixth, respectively.

The Other Main EventJermell Charlo (33-1, 17 KOs) vs. Jeison Rosario (20-1-1, 14 KOs) – WBC, WBA and IBF 154-Pound Unification Bout

Co-Feature: Mario Barrios (25-0, 16 KOs) vs. Ryan Karl (18-2, 11 KOs) – WBA Super Lightweight World Championship

Co-Feature: Daniel Roman (26-3-1, 10 KOs) vs. TBA – Super Bantamweight Bout

About: In the other main event of this two-part, six-fight pay-per-view telecast, Jermell Charlo will take on Rosario in just the eighth world title unification fight in the 154-pound division’s history. It is also just the second fight with three super welterweight world title belts up for grabs. In January, Rosario upset Julian Williams to win the WBA and IBF titles. Last December, Charlo regained the title by stopping Tony Harrison. At stake is supremacy in a talent-rich division. The 25-year-old Barrios from San Antonio has held the WBA (regular) super lightweight title since September of 2019. His opponent Karl hails from Houston and is ranked No. 9 by the WBA. A regular sparring partner of Erislandy Lara and Jermell Charlo, Karl is trained by Ronnie Shields. Roman is a former unified super bantamweight champion, having held the WBA (Super) and IBF titles from 2019 to January 2020. Roman’s 19-bout winning streak was snapped in January in a split-decision loss to Murodjon Akhmadaliev. Ranked in the top five by all four sanctioning bodies, Roman previously held the WBA title from 2017 to 2019.

October 10

Main Event: Sergey Lipinets (16-1, 12 KOs) vs. Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (15-0, 8 KOs) – IBF Welterweight Interim Title

Co-Feature: Xavier Martinez (15-0, 11 KOs) vs. Claudio Marrero (24-4, 17 KOs) – Super Featherweight Bout

Co-Feature: Malik Hawkins (18-0, 11 KOs) vs. Subriel Matias (15-1, 15 KOs) – Super Lightweight Bout

About: The 31-year-old Lipinets has won three significant fights in a row since his lone loss to Mikey Garcia, including a dominant stoppage that sent former word titlist Lamont Peterson into retirement. Uzbekistan’s Abdukakhorov is coming off his biggest win to date over former world titlist Luis Collazo and is yet to taste defeat since turning professional in 2015. With Abdukakhorov ranked No. 1 by the IBF and Lipinets ranked No. 3, the winner will be in prime position to challenge the unified 147-pound world champion Errol Spence Jr. Sacramento’s Martinez of the Mayweather stable is an exciting prospect who thrilled ShoBox viewers when he scored one of the quickest knockouts in the history of the series last November, while Marrero is a grizzled veteran who held the WBA interim featherweight title in 2017. Hawkins of the Mayweather stable is trained by Calvin Ford and a teammate of two-division world champion Gervonta Davis. Every one of Matias’ 15 career victories as a pro has come by way of knockout, with his only setback a unanimous-decision loss to Petros Ananyan back in February.

October 24 – SHOWTIME/Premier Boxing Champions PPV

Main Event: Gervonta Davis (23-0, 22 KOs) vs. Leo Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19 KOs) – WBA Super Featherweight World Championship/WBA Lightweight World Championship

About: This blockbuster main event will be contested at the super featherweight limit of 130 pounds. The winner of the match, however, will be in the unique position to earn world championships at 130 and 135 pounds on the same night. Two crowd favorites with massive followings will meet with Santa Cruz’s newly won WBA (Super) 130-pound world title on the line. The unbeaten “Tank” Davis is a two-division world champion and reigning WBA lightweight titlist at the age of 25. He emerged as a bona fide star in 2019 with sold-out main event bouts in Baltimore and Atlanta. “El Terremoto” Santa Cruz is a four-division world champion who avenged his only professional loss to Carl Frampton. The stage is set for one of the best matchups that can be made in all of boxing. Both men are all-action fighters. Davis boasts a knockout percentage of .957 while Santa Cruz is one of the busiest punchers in the sport. The winner of this fight will rightfully earn a top-10 spot on the coveted pound-for-pound list.

November 28

Main Event: Chris Colbert (14-0, 5 KOs) vs. Jaime Arboleda (16-1, 13 KOs) – WBA Super Featherweight Interim Title

Co-Feature: Richardson Hitchins (11-0, 5 KOs) vs. Argenis Mendez (25-5-3, 12 KOs) – Super Lightweight Bout

Co-Feature: TBA

About: The WBA interim super featherweight champion Colbert has fought five times in the past 20 months. Arboleda of Panama earned a split-decision win over veteran Jayson Velez in a WBA junior lightweight eliminator in February. New York City’s Hitchins of the Mayweather stable represented his parents’ home country of Haiti in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and Mendez is a former IBF Super Featherweight champion from the Dominican Republic.

December 12

Main Event: Nordine Oubaali (17-0, 12 KOs) vs. Nonito Donaire (40-6, 26 KOs) – WBC Bantamweight World Championship

Co-Feature: TBA

Co-Feature: TBA

About: France’s Oubaali will be defending the WBC bantamweight world title for the third time. Donaire is the No. 1-ranked contender and fighting for his eighth world championship. A four-division titlist and former pound-for-pound mainstay, Donaire fought brilliantly in what many picked as 2019’s Fight of the Year, a decision loss to Naoya Inoue. At age 37, Donaire is attempting to defy the belief that the smaller the fighter, the earlier the prime.

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The Top Ten Super Bantamweights of the Decade: 2010-2019

Matt McGrain

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It has been interesting to see how transient fighters are when they inhabit the smaller divisions. Up at cruiserweight, fighters spent on average 50% of the decade in their division to earn their spot among the top ten; here at 122lbs it is nearer 30%.

This results in a list of fighters with less purchase on the list, generally. Occasionally though, even at the smaller weights, a fighter will rack up a list of serious victories in a short space of time and hit the heights – and the divisional stalwart is also not unheard of. Here, one of each of these type towers over the rest of the decadal division but the numbers ten through three kick up a lot of interesting fights, and some very interesting fighters.

In accounting for these fighters, the term “one hit wonder” is used liberally. Here I am not seeking to denigrate either the fighter or his wider opposition; it merely denotes a fighter who has one win of real significance which is often accounted for in some detail.

This is another symptom of a generation of fighters happy to put on a mere four pounds to visit the next division up for their next big test.

10 – Rico Ramos

Peak Ranking: 2 Record for the Decade: 16-6 Ranked For: 18% of the decade

The tenth slot was a shootout between Kiko Martinez, who did a little more at the weight, and Rico Ramos, who did a little less, but who was defeated at the poundage only by Guillermo Rigondeaux; Martinez, meanwhile, was thrashed twice by Carl Frampton and once by Scott Quigg. The Scott Quigg tilts me towards Ramos, whose purple patch of 7-1 gets him over the line.

The jewel in his super-bantamweight crown for the period January 2010 until December 2019 was his come-from-behind knockout victory over Akifumi Shimoda, one of the top contenders of 2010 and 2011. Shimoda himself has a claim to the number ten spot based primarily upon his superb victory over Ryol Li Lee, but Ramos eliminated him when they clashed in Atlantic City in July of 2011.

Ramos, an American of Puerto Rican descent, had been boxing since he was eight years old but seemingly had no answer to the Shimoda jab which was opening up other opportunities for the Japanese; Ramos, circling to his right at the beginning of the seventh, brought Shimoda onto a left hand, but it was unheeded and Shimoda continued to boss the real-estate and find a home for his bodypunches. A right hand from Rico seemed to gather his attention though and having landed yet another left Rico finally had his man rooted to the spot, and circling, he landed a left hand as beautiful as any thrown in the 122lb decade. Shimoda was up at nine but immediately took a second header to the canvas.

Ramos was chased from the division by Rigondeaux, as noted, but certainly there is no shame there.

09 – Rey Vargas

Peak Ranking: 1 Record for the Decade: 34-0 Ranked For: 42% of the decade

Rey Vargas has traced an old-fashioned career arc, occupying a spot at super-bantamweight since 2015 and slowly creeping his way up the ranks to inhabit the number one spot, without, really, meeting anyone to justify that ranking. Sometimes longevity is its own reward.

His highest-ranking victim was Tomoki Kameda, and it showed when they met in July of last year; Tomoki had real success early and took a handy lead out of the first third of the fight. Vargas though is a freakishly tall superbantam at near 5’11 and he has the reach to match. From the fifth on, he deployed a controlling jab birthed by a pedigree amateur career that has been augmented by some serious professional experience. The double-uppercut right hand he landed in that round set him apart; the cards may have been a little wide but clearly Vargas was the right man.

He was the right man too five months previously when he was faced with another tough assignment in Franklin Manzanilla. Manzanilla, out of Venezuela, had scored an impressive victory over Julio Ceja in just four rounds in his previous fight and set some problems for Vargas with his rushes and fouling. Vargas found himself with cuts over both brows from “accidental” head-clashes as early as the eighth and Manzanilla had two points docked for hitting on the break and pushing. But Vargas showed some of his best boxing, dominating at distance with the jab and outlanding Manzanilla with fluid combination punching when they met at mid-range.

Vargas has a little more depth than these two fights – Azat Hovhannisyan and Ronny Rios have both made waves since he beat them – but they remain his fistic cornerstones, and despite some impressive boxing this makes him borderline for inclusion. His paper record and longevity in the ratings at 122lbs has seen me favour him over one-hit wonders like Jeffrey Mathebula and Akifumi Shimoda.

08 – Isaac Dogboe

Peak Ranking: 1 Record for the Decade: 21-2 Ranked For: 18% of the decade

Isaac Dogboe’s pressure appeared functional rather than thrilling before his big step up against Jessie Magdaleno in 2018. Magdaleno had been inactive but had also defeated no less a figure than Nonito Donaire in 2016 and was heavily favoured.

In the first round Dogboe was dropped while pressing Magdaleno too hard and he lost the third too, to a gorgeous Magdaleno counter left. But all the while his pressure was beginning to look a little more than workmanlike. He was adept at keeping Magdaleno moving and again and again Dogboe, out of London via Ghana, would fetch his man up against the ropes and let go. Still very much in touch on the scorecards after four, Magdaleno was being aggressively outgeneralled and was steadily losing touch with the fight. His solution was to come out at the opening of the fifth and attack; Dogboe promptly dropped him with a single left hook.

Dogboe so dominated Magdelano that night that the favourite found himself in need of a knockout by the ninth. The then world’s number one super-bantamweight showed no sign he might achieve it and in fact slipped further and further from his technical best, eventually reduced to sagging on the ropes and beckoning Dogboe in. It was a sorry sight and one the referee interrupted in the eleventh after Dogboe perpetrated the second knockdown of the round over his withering opponent.

It was an impressive and rather unexpected performance, albeit against an opponent who seemed to struggle a little with rust after a year out of the sport and it set Dogboe up as the world’s number one super-bantamweight.

Dogboe never added to his 122lb legacy though; his own nemesis was lurking in the wings.

07 – Emanuel Navarrete

Peak Ranking: 2 Record for the Decade: 31-1 Ranked For: 26% of the decade

Like Dogboe, Emanuel Navarrete fought the usual learning fights, stepped up to take on some journeymen and was then launched right into the deep end to face off with the world’s number one super-bantam. Dogboe-Navarrete was a fascinating contest in that it pitted a Johnny-come-lately against an even more recently arrived contender. Dogboe, as the man with the pedigree opponent on his ledger, was favoured.

Navarrete, who is tall with a reach that seems planetary, allowed Dogboe inside to do his work. It felt wrong and even dangerous until Navarrete landed a triple left hook, up and down, on the inside, to win the second round. From here he controlled the fight, impressive and dominant in out-fighting the smaller pressure fighter whose nightmare had come to visit him in the ring: a fighter he could not push back but rather who was pushing him back. The ninth through twelfth were a parade, the bigger man marching down the smaller pressure fighter in what amounts to the most disheartening position a pugilist of any kind can find himself.

Unfortunately for Dogboe he had a rematch clause. Navarrete, who now knew how Dogboe moved, thought and fought, beat him mercilessly in that rematch. The fight becomes difficult to watch around the eighth; Dogboe’s corner, brave to the near last, finally pulled him as he was blasted to the canvas in the twelfth and final round.

It seemed to me that something special had emerged in that fight, but the truth is we don’t yet know. Navarrete has fallen afoul of the ABC strap he wears in defending against underqualified challengers whose selection for their “title shot” is based upon matters other than fistic. So, the jury remains out on Navarrete, who nevertheless was impressive enough in his twin maulings of Dogboe to comfortably make the list.

06 – Jessie Magdaleno

Peak Ranking: 1 Record for the Decade: 27-1 Ranked For: 22% of the decade

Here, we meet the last of the one-hit-wonders on the list but Magdaleno possesses the finest of all of them: Nonito Donaire. Donaire, it is true, had had some of the glitter removed by Guillermo Rigondeaux, but in November of 2016 he remained the top contender to the legitimate title he had once held. Then Magdaleno came calling.

What most impressed me was Donaire’s near abandonment of his left hook. It was oft repeated that he had one of the “best left hooks in the sport” and if Bernard Hopkins had established the removal of such a potent weapon much ink would have been spent on his exaltation. Magdaleno was less fashionable and has remained so, but it was a wonderful technical achievement. Moving unhurriedly, seeking for single shots, he countered beautifully throughout with the right jab and right hook of his own, taking every opportunity to strike without – shades of Hopkins again – ever over-extending himself. The result was Donaire sheathing his own hook in obedience of the rule that you don’t hook with a hooker, while Magdaleno freely threw his own; to the body, especially, he was prestigious.

Donaire went to the straight right and a fascinating tussle ensued, summed up perfectly in the ninth where Donaire hurt Magdaleno on the ropes, only for Magdaleno to charge him and dominate the remainder of the round, putting him out of sight on the cards; Donaire closed with real strength as Magdaleno’s energy waned.

But the decision clearly belonged to Magdaleno.

It was not too long after this that Magdaleno ran into Dogboe. The reasonable question would be, if Dogboe beat Magdaleno how does Magdaleno come to be ranked above him here? It’s a fair question. The mathematics, for me, says that Magdelano’s defeat of Donaire is more impressive than Dogboe’s defeat of a rusty Magdaleno; I accept that this is arguable but balk at Magdaleno as low as eight given his wonderful performance against Donaire.

05 – Toshiaki Nishioka

Peak Ranking: 1 Record for the Decade: 4-1 Ranked For: 19% of the decade

Toshiaki Nishioka was the number one super-bantamweight coming into the decade and remained so until he was removed by the sumptuous power-punching of Nonito Donaire (and an over-excited referee).

How you feel about his overall standing here will depend upon how you feel about Rafael Marquez and his standing in October of 2011. Having lost three of his last six, including two of those wars with Israel Vazquez, Rafael was ostensibly on the slide, but the fight itself shows a fighter that, while no longer at his withering best, remained stoic and technically brilliant, very much a fighter that had to be mastered.

This, Nishioka did. To this day he maintains that Rafael is his most skilled opponent and he boxed with great care to control him, refusing to contest the inside and avoiding any over-commitment with the jab. Meanwhile he drilled Marquez with his trailing left, a wonderful punch that he throws with as much variety as anyone this century. Flying it quickly to the body was his stock in trade in the early going but he began to risk a wilder, wider, harder punch when he realised how wary Rafael had become. Rafael had success, not least in the second half of the eighth round where it seemed he might actually assume control of the fight, but Nishioka out-fought and out-worked the former lineal champion in the tenth and eleventh to put the decision to bed. It was a deeply impressive performance that cemented his status as the first number one super-bantam of the decade.

Nishioka’s other wins do little other than demonstrate his superiority over the field, especially his October 2010 contest with Rendall Munroe. Munroe brought guts but little else as the fight turned into something of a parade down the stretch; still, re-watching it was worth it for the feinted straight and uppercut through the middle that Nishioka used to tilt Munroe’s head back in the third.

Placing him at number five is a borderline call, but Nishioka was a clearer number one than anyone running eight through six. I am happy that should see him placed above, rather than below, the one-hit wonders.

04 – Leo Santa Cruz

Peak Ranking: 2 Record for the Decade: 24-1-1 Ranked For: 27% of the decade

Leo Santa Cruz departed 122lbs in 2015 with his undefeated record intact having made his impact on the first half of the super-bantamweight decade. His meaningful arrival at the poundage, the equivalent of a Mack truck pulling up inside a jewellery store, came in August of 2013 against Victor Terrazas. Terrazas, a tough, dangerous fighter was unsupported by the type of chin that would have made him genuinely world class. Nevertheless, the world’s number two contender was a serious proposition for Santa Cruz, and was coming off a nerveless, brutal battle with Cristian Mijares which he won by the narrowest of margins.

Terrazas started aggressively as Santa Cruz brought pressure, all high guard and work-rate. But, as we saw while looking at featherweight, Santa Cruz is much more than that. His punch selection is excellent, his sense for the backfoot superb for a front-foot fighter, his jab is thudding and accurate but he can box squarely enough – weight generally over his back leg, when he does so – to lead with the right without courting disaster. Terrazas was complimented during fight commentary for “making this an inside fight” – but an inside fight suits Santa Cruz just fine. He has reach and the technique to use it but is comfortable trying to land punches behind the elbows.

The two fought on even terms until they didn’t, when towards the end of the second Santa Cruz, tougher and better, opened up while the two stood head to head at the ropes. Terrazas emerged wounded and in the third, emerged giving ground. Dropped twice, he seemed broken in part by the psychological pressure, although it was the consistent, severe punching that did the damage.

Santa Cruz’s number two win was over Mijares, undoubtedly damaged goods, but still ranked. Santa Cruz couldn’t stop him, but what he did was in many ways worse: in a fight as different as that with Terrazas as could be imagined, he thrashed Mijares and rendered him a fistic irrelevance.

Santa Cruz was a very dangerous super-bantamweight.

03 – Carl Frampton

Peak Ranking: 1 Record for the Decade: 24-2 Ranked For: 35% of the decade

Carl Frampton slotted in right behind Santa Cruz at featherweight, but here he nips in just ahead of his great rival. A clash at 122lbs would have been helpful though – there is very little to separate them.

What does separate them is the additional work Frampton did at the very top of the division. He met no fewer than three top five contenders during his time fighting as Guillermo Rigondeaux’s understudy – the Cuban was champion throughout Frampton’s stay at the poundage – and soundly defeated all of them.

First up was Kiko Martinez, who Frampton had already defeated in a European title tussle but met again in 2014. Frampton, who probably entered his peak that night, couldn’t put the more experienced Martinez away as he had in their first fight but he did dominate almost completely with a healthy mix of jabs and bodyshots. Chris Avalos, who failed miserably when he moved up to featherweight but was a serious super-bantamweight, visited Frampton’s Belfast stronghold in 2015.  This was Frampton’s finest performance at the weight, his right hand excellent, despite the scruffy squabbling in the second his dominance near-complete.

Frampton’s final fight at 122lbs showed the toll weight-making was taking upon him. He was dominant over the first six against a reticent Scott Quigg, even breaking his jaw in the fourth, but the Englishman came on in the second half of the fight which was, in the end, very close.

Santa Cruz was more impressive in the victories he did have at 122lbs but it was Frampton, in the end, who scored the more numerous and more impressive victories.

02 – Nonito Donaire

Peak Ranking: Ch. Record for the Decade: 18-5 Ranked For: 25% of the decade

The decade 2010-2019 produced two legitimate super-bantamweight champions and it is fitting that these two lead the pack. Nor is it close – there is so much clear blue water between Nonito Donaire at #2 and Carl Frampton at #3 that they may as well be on different lists.

Donaire stepped up to 122lbs in 2012 and immediately tackled a divisional strapholder, the number eight contender, Wilfredo Vazquez; after taking a decision form him over the twelve, it was Jeffrey Mathebula, the number six contender who towered over Donaire but nevertheless gave up a similar decision. This second fight is crucial because against both he and Vazquez it is possible to see Donaire over-reaching, under-boxing, pushing far too hard for the knockout which he openly demanded of himself in the press. In the tenth round of his fight with Mathebula, Donaire was so completely out-boxed that in the eleventh and twelfth he limited himself to his more direct sphere of influence and in doing so dominated Mathebula completely, cracking one of his teeth in the process. You could almost hear the penny drop.

I consider that Donaire found himself at 122lbs that night and the result was Donaire’s 118lb form suddenly materialising in the super-bantamweight division. His next fight was against no less a figure than Toshiaki Nishioka, the most accomplished fighter in the division, a meeting between the two best super-bantams in the world and so the beginning of a new lineage at the weight. Donaire was the absolute pinnacle of cool as far as his inherent aggression would allow; he won every round and devastated Nishioka in the ninth round of a non-competitive rout propelled by his right hand rather than left hook. When he butchered Jorge Arce two months later, in December of 2012, he had completed the single best unbroken run of the decade at 122lbs and one of the better runs at any weight.

This being boxing, the end of that run was just around the corner.

01 – Guillermo Rigondeaux

Peak Ranking: Ch. Record for the Decade: 15-1 Ranked For: 92% of the decade

Donaire met with Cuban amateur legend Guillermo Rigondeaux in April of 2013 in a huge fight between the two best super-bantamweights in the world. It was also as one-sided as any top tier match of the decade as Rigondeaux, in absolute control for ten of the twelve rounds, picked Donaire’s wings off in a study of lethal economy.

Rigondeaux breaks rhythm. A combination of feints, very astute defensive dips and slips and single power-punches make establishment of offense against him agonising. Donaire, a fluid fighter who counter-pressures his opponents to the canvas, was particularly afflicted by the Rigondeaux malaise.  Rigondeaux threw infrequently; still he out-landed Donaire in every round but one.

The Cuban spent the years in which Donaire was tying together his superb 122lb run emerging from the pack and was just 6-0 when he tangled with number five contender Ricardo Cordoba. Rigondeaux dominated with ease until Cordoba snapped his head back with a jab, flashing him.  Rigondeaux responded in away entirely unacceptable to the American fight fraternity: he ran away.

Rigondeaux took a split decision and learned his final lesson: professional fighting in America calls for more fighting than amateur boxing does anywhere. Rico Ramos, then still unbeaten at 20-0, was the man to bear the brunt of this newly learned lesson as he was blasted to the canvas in the first round and tormented through the sixth when a body punch – and the better part of valour – kept him on the canvas.

So Rigondeaux was primed when he stepped into the ring with Donaire, for all that he was professionally inexperienced. Donaire was made to understand it and the litany of excuses he laid out after the fight – his shoulder was bad, he didn’t study his opponent, his was distracted by his wife’s pregnancy – could not disguise his out-and-out inferiority to Rigondeaux.

The argument as to who would be the decadal number one at 122lbs ended there, but there is more to recommend Rigondeaux as one of the longest serving lineal champions in boxing. In a division that sees fleeting commitment, even by its most prominent fighters, Rigondeaux’s devotion to super-bantamweight has been unusual.

He never became the superstar his management wanted to make him – too technical, too careful, too defensive – but there is no questioning his status as the best of the decade.

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Remembering “Doin’ Damage”

Ted Sares

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On June 3, 1997, Darroll “Doin’ Damage” Wilson met Courage “No Limit” Tshabalala at Philadelphia’s legendary Blue Horizon where no seat was a bad seat. The fight was a true Philly Classic, one of the most exciting fights of the year. The result was a surprise, but not as surprising as the upset that Darroll Wilson pulled off in March of the previous year when he fought the much bigger Shannon Briggs at the Convention Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Wilson vs. Briggs

Brooklynite Shannon Briggs (25-0) had achieved a reputation for being a guy who ended his fights early, as in first-round KO’s, but on this occasion, things kind of reversed themselves, as the gutsy Wilson (15-0-2 going in) survived a furious first round and then used his superior skills to shockingly take out “The Cannon” with a sharp left hook two rounds later.

Wilson, who lived close to Atlantic City in Mays Landing, N.J., had done considerable damage to his opponents until he met David Tua (24-0) in Miami and was KOd in the last second of an otherwise even first round by the streaking “Tuaman.” But losing to the short but super-powerful Tua was no disgrace. In fact, for Darroll, the best was yet to come.

 After beating limited Ron McCarthy, Darroll met the highly-touted Tshabalala (20-1). “Courage” had previously been shocked by Brian “Bam Bam” Scott (21-3) in the late Scott’s career definer in 1996, shattering the myth of the South African’s extraordinary power and alleged 72-1 amateur record (with 71 knockouts). Scott won using a fast and sharp combo, stopping him in the second round. Most of the 270-pound native of Kansas’s opponents had losing records which further amplified the shock factor– though Courage’s level of opposition was equally suspect.

Wilson vs Tshabalala (June 1997)

After Ed Darian Derian announced the fighters, the bell rang and Courage quickly decked Wilson with a power jab and then dictated matters for the rest of the round as he went on the stalk. The second round was uneventful until the last 15 seconds when Tshabalala opened up with a number of power shots. Wilson answered, but his answer came after the bell for which he received a firm warning.

Late in the third round, Wilson was hit clean by a perfect Courage right cross. He went down hard, got up, and then fell back down on Queer Street. Just as Referee Rudy Battle was about to signal the end of the fight, the round ended and Wilson was allowed to continue. Lou Duva, Courage’s manager, protested the call in his usual hyper/hysterical fashion but to no avail. Lou’s signature protests had acquired the feel of the little boy who cried wolf too often and this one was no exception.

Tshabalala came out fast in the next round trying to put away a still stunned Wilson, but the muscular Darroll did what he did against Briggs and, weathering the fierce storm, began to connect with his own shots. Both men went at it full-tilt boogie until the South African, exposing a stamina issue, finally went down, spit out his mouthpiece, and was counted out. He had nothing left. The Blue Horizon went bonkers.

Tshabalala had now participated in one of the upsets of the year and one of the most exciting fights of the year. Though a loser in both, he was nevertheless on everybody’s radar.

Bert Cooper (September 2002)

Darroll would go on to win some and lose some but against the very best opposition including David Izon, Frankie Swindell, Mike Rouse, Tim Witherspoon, Ray Mercer, and Oliver McCall. He ended his career in 2006 with a 27-10-2 slate and– before he took three years off–he scored another big win by stopping Bert Cooper (36-21) at the Blue Horizon in 2002. After this loss, Bert himself would take an eight-year hiatus from boxing, but for all practical purposes, he was done. (Cooper was a tragic figure with a deceptive record—a quintessentially sad boxing story– and the ups and downs of his life beg for a telling.)

As for Darroll Wilson, he always gave his best and on at least three occasions, he did some remarkable damage.

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com or on Facebook.

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Leo Upends Williams as Boxing Returns to ‘Showtime’

Arne K. Lang

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Showtime Boxing kicked off their late summer/fall season tonight with a three-fight card behind closed doors at the Mohegan Sun Casino Resort in Uncasville, CT. Tonight’s show is the first of nine live boxing events that the cable TV giant announced on July 22. The season will run through Dec. 12 with the concluding match a WBC bantamweight title bout between defending title-holder Nordine Oubaali and ageless showstopper Nonito Donaire.

Unfortunately for Showtime, there was a COVID-19 complication right out of the box. Philadelphia bantamweight Stephen Fulton, who would have been the “A” side in tonight’s main event, tested positive on Wednesday, forcing some shuffling. Tramaine Williams was bumped up from the co-feature to challenge Angelo Leo for the WBO world super bantamweight title vacated by Emanuel Navarette.

Angelo Leo hadn’t prepared for a southpaw and it took him a bit find his groove, but he found it and won a fairly lopsided decision over a previously undefeated opponent who was fighting in his home state. The scores were 117-111 and 118-110 twice.

Leo, 26, worked the body well and had more fuel in his tank as the bout progressed into the late rounds. In winning, Leo became the first world title-holder from Albuquerque since Johnny Tapia. Promoted by Floyd Mayweather’s “Money Team”, he advanced his record to 20-0. It was the first pro loss for New Haven’s Williams who fell to 19-1.

It figures that Leo will make his first defense against Stephen Fulton.

Other Bouts

In another 122-pound match that was also penciled in for 12 rounds, Ra’eese Aleem thoroughly outclassed late sub Marcus Bates en route to a 10th round stoppage. This was their second meeting and Bates, who entered the contest 11-1-1, was looking to avenge his lone defeat. In their initial go in Philadelphia in April of 2018, Aleem won comfortably on the scorecards. Bates recently explained that loss away by saying that he believed that someone tampered with his water bottle, giving Aleem an advantage.

Aleem, 30, steadily broke Bates down. The referee halted the one-sided match when Bates, who appeared to have sprained his right wrist, turned his back on Aleem after absorbing a hard left hook. Aleem, the pride of Muskegon, Michigan, improved to 17-0 with his 12th knockout.

In the opener, a light heavyweight match slated for 10 rounds, Houston’s Joseph George (11-0, 7 KOs) landed a bombshell of a left uppercut in the ninth frame to put away Marcos Escudero (10-2) who was well ahead on the scorecards when lightning struck.

This was a rematch. When they fought last November on ShoBox, Escudero outworked George, but George landed the crisper punches and prevailed on a split decision. Escudero, who is from Argentina but had his early pro fights in Florida, outworked George again (George likes to fight with his back against the ropes, a strategy he needs to reconsider) but as they say, it only takes one punch in this business, and Joseph George, who is managed by NFL all-pro tackle Trent Williams, brought the howitzer.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / Showtime

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