Saturday, 27 July 2013

Omar Figueroa v Nihito Arakawa

In a genuine fight of the year contender Omar Figueroa (22-0-1, 17) successfully claimed the WBC "interim" Lightweight title with a very hard fought 12 round decision over Japanese challenger Nihito Arakawa (24-3-1, 16).

The fight started at a hectic pace with Figueroa unloading hard shots in flurries whilst Arakawa tried to hold on and see out the first round. It was well known going in that Figueroa was incredibly dangerous in the opening round and it was obvious that Arakawa was trying to weather out the early storm.

Despite seeing out the opening round Arakawa was hurt in the second round and the referee controversially scored a knockdown from what appeared to be a push during a clinch. Sure Arakawa had been hurt prior to the knockdown but the call was certainly a questionable one from Lawrence Cole.

Despite the knockdown against him in the second round Arakawa had actually had some success being able to push Figueroa against the ropes. Unfortunately for the Japanese fighter he failed to really have any success with Figueroa on the ropes.

Arakawa would continue to push Figueroa on to the ropes in many of the following rounds as he tried to out-muscle the youngster. Despite being pushed around Figueroa kept exploding away from the ropes with amazing flurries of fast hurtful shots that landed time and time again. It was these flurries that were clearly the eye catching and classy work which allowed the American to rack up the rounds and hurt Arakawa.

In round 5 the bout saw another moment of note as a clash of heads lead to a cut on the nose of Figueroa. The cut, whilst correctly ruled to be from a head clash seemed to bleed profusely through out the bout leading to a line of blood that almost continually covered the centre of Figueroa's face and later on the shoulder or Arakawa who had out-done most predictions by even surviving to round 5. In fact actually you could have made a case for the round to have belong to Arakawa who had had genuine sustained success for the first time in the bout.

We saw controversy again in round 6 as the referee again gave a count against Arakawa despite the Japanese fighter again remaining on his feet. Yes once again he as hurt, but the count seemed to come whilst he was taking several rabbit shots. Oddly the count probably saved Arakawa from being stopped, as it arguably had done in round 2.

Although Figueroa had looked to have slowed in rounds 4 and 5 the knockdown call in his favour in round 6 seemed to rejuvenate him and he came out all guns blazing in round 7 trying to finish off the job. Although he could do it in round 7 Figueroa did have Arakawa stumbling around the ring in round 8 as it appeared the referee was going to give yet another standing count until Arakawa held on and cleared his head.

Having been in serious trouble in round 8 it was a surprise to see Arakawa having one of his best rounds in round 9 as both men traded shots. By now though Figueroa was clearly a slowing fighter and he seemed unable to sustain any attack for more than 20 seconds. Fighting in these short bursts made the rounds close though Arakawa seemed unable to ever hurt Figueroa despite him slowing in terms of work rate.

Despite being unhurt Figueroa did look very unhappy in his corner at the end of round 9. It was obvious that he was really tiring though so too was was Arakawa who, whilst still applying pressure and pushing Figueroa to the ropes, was unable to really land much of significance allowed the odd burst of punches from Figueroa to take the round.

Figueroa's tiredness continued to effect him in the final two rounds as Arakawa went searching for a stoppage and seemed to rattle the youngster a time or two with Figueroa managing to see out the storm. Although Figueroa had dominated most of the first 10 rounds it seemed as if Arakawa did have a slim chance of stealing the fight with a remarkable stoppage of a tired opponent.

Impressively Figueroa showed not only the heart to see out the hard times late in the bout but also the experience and boxing intelligence to do as Arakawa did in the opening round and hold on to see out round. For a man known for his explosive power it was probably as impressive that he knew how to see out the clock and survive.

With the WBC "interim" Lightweight title around this waist it seems like a waiting game for Figueroa who I expect will be upgraded to full champion when Adrien Broner decides on his next fight. This fight, whilst a clear decision win for the youngster will have done him more good than his previous 20-odd bouts as he was tested in ways almost nobody expected. He showed off his heart, his relatively impressive stamina and also his faults, he squares up a lot and doesn't have the greatest of technique, allowing him to correct things in the gym.

For Arakawa this was a painful night though a night in which he'll have made a lot of new friends stateside. He showed himself to be a tough as nails warrior who is high in action and will refuse to quit. Hopefully some other top Lightweights give him a chance even if he is a nightmare to fight due to his heart and toughness

Diego Gabriel Chaves v Keith Thurman

Unbeaten American Keith Thurman (21-0-0-1, 19) successfully claimed the WBA interim Welterweight by scoring his biggest win so far, stopping Argentinian Diego Gabriel Chaves (22-1, 18).

The fight started in exciting fashion as both men traded shots with the fight starting in the fashion many expected. The fireworks, whilst not relentless where certainly exciting and seemed to suggest there was no way that the judges would be needed.

The same exciting action continued through the first 4 rounds with Thurman gradually growing into the bout and getting more success. Originally he looked to be getting tagged a fair bit more than he'd have liked and his nose was actually bloodied at the end of round 3 though in round 4 he certainly took the round, arguably his first.

After an excellent round 5 that was brilliant to watch with both men landing huge head shots from both the bout suddenly took a major turn as both men started to box. The trading had taken a break as jabs became the order of the day with both men seemingly becoming aware of the other mans power. This tactical battle seemed to suit Thurman who was longer and faster than Chaves and was getting his jab off and moving well.

The boxing continued for a few rounds as Thurman started to take control of the bout slightly with his boxing and although the men started to trade up a big more in rounds 7 and 8 it seemed neither man could really take control of the trade sequences. It appeared every time one man had success the other would come back and land their own 2 or 3 punch combination.

In round 9 the bout took a huge turn with Thurman landing a lovely body shut that sent Chaves down. Although Chaves regained his feet and saw out the round it was obvious the body shot had left lingering effects and Thurman immediately went on the assault at the start of the tenth before sending Chaves down again and forcing a 10th round stoppage.

With Thurman now the interim champion and Broner the "regular" WBA champion a bout between them two would seeming to be the logical one.

Juan Francisco Estrada v Milan Melindo

In a riveting contest for the WBA "super" and WBO Flyweight Juan Francisco Estrada (25-2, 18) narrowly out pointed Filipino challenger Milan Melindo (29-1, 12).

The fight started relatively well for the defending champion who appeared to take the opening 2 rounds with his jab and combinations as Melindo slowly worked his way in to the bout with his sharp and accurate shots. It seemed that although Estrada was doing enough to win the rounds Melindo was making a strong case to claim them with his own work rate.

As we entered the middle rounds it seemed that Melindo was growing in confidence and went from making rounds competitive to arguably claiming several of them as the bout turned in to a high speed chess match. It appeared that if the bout continued to be a chess match then it was going to begin to totally turn Melindo's way with his technically superior skills. Despite the visible success for Melindo Estrada never seemed too bothered in trying to change the direction of the fight as he seemed to feel he was doing enough to bag the rounds. Looking back it appeared he was viewing the bout the same was as the judges.

To the neutral observer it was starting to look like the bout was up for grabs in the championship rounds with an upset clearly possible. Estrada tried to change that in round 11 as he took the fight to a tiring Melindo and dropped the Filipino late in the round. Although Estrada recovered his feet and made it to the bell it was beginning to look like he was all in and was going to have to run to see out the final round.

Estrada set out for round 12 the way he had ended round 11 and appeared to clearly hurt Melindo late in the round with the Filipino's legs buckling big time. Unfortunately for Mexican he couldn't finish off Melindo who showed guts and determination to see out the bell.

I myself had the bout very close and expected the decision to be either a very close unanimous decision or even a split. Instead the scorecards were all in favour of the defending champion who impressed the judges much more than he had impressed me, which was odd because I usually love watching Estrada. Saying that however it does appear that there is a lot more to Estrada than being a insanely fun to watch and teak tough brawler.

Evgeny Gradovich v Mauricio Javier Munoz

In a very high action contest "Mexican-Russian" Evgeny Gradovich (17-0, 8) defended the IBF Featherweight title.

Facing former WBC Super Bantamweight title challenger Mauricio Javier Munoz (26-4, 12) of Argentina it's fair to say that Gradovich had a fighter who was very similar to himself. Both men throw the boxing textbook out of the window preferring instead to wage wars and have genuine fights. When you have 2 fighters in the ring together you very rarely have a disappointing contest.

The bout started at the sort of pace fans of both men would have expected as they both threw leather for fun and took it in turns to be the man coming forward. It seemed that either both men were made of granite or neither man could punch but this didn't prevent the round from being thoroughly enjoyable from the off.

Although Munoz entered as a sizable under-dog he refused to act like an under-dog and as the fight went on he started to force the action more and more. Unfortunately for the Argentinian the more he forced the action the more he walked into a storm of counters from Gradovich. Whilst this was a painful looking experience for the challenger it made for great entertainment for the fans.

Through the middle rounds it was obvious that Gradovich had more to his game than just the come forward all action style that he is known for and he was showing off the other dimensions to his game when needed. Of course it was more fun to watch the high octane stuff but it was still good to see that Gradovich did have a plan B in his locker if he needed it.

In round 9 Gradovich managed to raise the crowd as he moved up a gear just as it seemed that Munoz's resolve was starting to drain. Amazingly just as it looked like he was fading the Argentinian seemed to wake up and found energy from somewhere as he again began to press the action and force the fight with Gradovich resorting to using his legs just as much as his hands.

Going in to the final 3 rounds the Gradovich corner were confident that their man was clearly in the lead with trainer Robert Garcia effectively telling his man to make sure he didn't get caught by anything big. He was of course getting caught, it's almost part of his style, but Munoz lacked the power to really trouble the Russian who was rarely blinking after Munoz tagged him.

Unfortunately for Munoz he was starting to struggle with the pace in the final round and seemed to be on the verge of being stopped though showed the toughness  and heart to see out the round.

Although neither fighter was notably hurt, other than Munoz in the final round, the fight did at times resemble a very fun to watch though oddly one sided contest with Munoz looking like a prototype of Gradovich. Both men throw lots and enjoyed coming forward though Gradovich was busier, more accurate and more technically gifted with his shorts being straighter and his defense, whilst not great, was better than Munoz's.

With the first defense of his title under his belt Gradovich will likely be looking for his next challenger. With Vasyl Lomachenko having now signed with Top Rank a bout between Lomachenko and Gradovich almost certainly needs to be though about somewhere down the line.

For Munoz it's unlikely that we'll see him in another world title fight I'm afraid.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Koki Kameda v John Mark Apolinario

WBA Bantamweight champion Koki Kameda (31-1, 17) successfully retained his world title with a very straight forward victory over the game but completely outclassed Filipino challenger John Mark Apolinario (17-3-3, 4).

It was obvious from the opening round that this was an opponent Koki felt confident against, there was no worry about Apolinario being able to hurt him and as a result Koki came forward, stalking his whilst trying to slowly grind down the challenger with his powerful straight left.

Whilst Koki wasn't really able to hurt his challenger early on it was clearly he felt like he was in total control and on the few occasions where Apolinario came forward as the aggressor his shots were taken on the guard as Koki took a step back and composed himself. It was calculating stuff from the champion who stalking with pressure and slowly but surely grinding down the challenger.

Through the middle rounds Koki started to have real success with his southpaw left which scarcely seemed to miss as he went through the gears. He was still fighting well within himself but was starting to get Apolinario who's own assaults were becoming ever rarer.

Going in to the championship rounds it was less a question of who was going to win, it was clearly Koki, but more a question as to whether or not Apolinario was going to be able to see the distance, was Koki going to hunt a finish or was he going to be happy with a lopsided decision.

In round 10 it appeared as though the stoppage was likely to come as Koki dropped the challenger with a counter right hook but the challenger showed off his toughness as he recovered immediately to his feet and almost charged over to Koki. Unfortunately whilst Apolinario was willing to run across the ring he was unwilling to let his hands go too much and did little more than actually survive.

Although the challenger saw out round 10 he was fortunate to see out round 12 as he was again dropped after Koki really went for the stoppage. It seemed as if Koki had decided to try and give the crowd what they wanted though he had tried too late and was forced instead to take a very wide decision.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Carlos Buitrago v Julian Yedras

The only male world title fight of the past weekend saw Nicaraguan prospect Carlos Buitrago (27-0-0-1, 16) claim the WBO "interim" Minimumweight title.

Buitrago, fighting outside of his homeland for the first time in his career traveled to Mexico and faced fellow unbeaten fighter Julian Yedras (now 21-1, 13). Although the conditions were new the style wasn't as the talented Buitrago showed off his skills from early in the bout as he started to put rounds in the bag with his superior skills.

Whilst Yedras was unable to really cope with the extra gears Buitrago seemed to have he showed his courage and refused to be stopped as he made a number of rounds close. It was these close rounds that allowed Yedras to have any success on the scorecards though they were too limited to help him, even at home.

When the cards came back reading 118-110, 118-111 and 116-113 there was no doubt who the winner was (the only doubt seemed to be how one judge had it close).

Unfortunately for Buitrago (who clearly won here) he showed off some of his flaws, notably the way he rushes his attacks at times and despite his experience he still needs more time to mature before being put into a major fight.

With Filipino Merlito Sabillo holding the "full" version of the WBO world title a bout between Sabillo and Buitrago makes sense though unfortunately for the Nicaraguan I think it'd be a year or two too soon for him. Instead Buitrago needs fights to help him develop and get ready for Sabillo, a bout with someone like Pedro Guevara or Mario Rodriguez would test his mettle and help him "get ready" for Sabillo.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Khabib Allakhverdiev v Souleymane M'baye

Russian "Hawk" Khabib Allakhverdiev (-) made the first defense of his WBA Light Welterweight as he traveled to Monaco and defeated Frenchman Souleymane M'baye (-), a former world champion himself.

The bout was a really slow starter with both men spending almost the entirety of  the opening round standing off each other waiting for the other man to open up. The same occured at the start of the second round until Khabib took the initiative late on and actually dropped M'baye with almost the first really concentrated attack.

Unfortunately rather than building on the success of the second round Allakhverdiev seemed happy to stand off in the following rounds as both men again waited for the other to make the first move. This actually seemed to favour M'baye who, despite being 38, still possess very good hand speed and he was able to land single eye catching shots on Allakhverdiev.

It wasn't until the the end of round 5 that the Russian really seemed to pick up the pace again, when he did he looked a level above the Frenchman who was forced to take shots on the ropes as the crowd finally came to life. It appeared that Allakhverdiev had an extra gear he go in to at any time time, though unfortunately he kept stalling after showing flashes of exciting action.

Allakhverdiev scored his second knockdown in round 8 as he again went on the offensive and sustained an attack. It appeared the end was nigh for M'baye but after getting back to his feet the Frenchman really took it to champion and let loose with a fantastic flurry. Unfortunately for M'baye he lacked the power needed to ever really hurt the Russian who is genuinely a guy.

Having seen M'baye fight back well from the knock down the Russian "Hawk" was in no mood to let the Frenchman establish himself in the bout and instead went on the hurt hurting the challenger in round 10 before launching a serious attack in round 11 that finally forced the referee to step in.

With this victory Allakhverdiev has further enhanced his reputation as a top Light Welterweight. The performance wasn't great but he did become the first man to genuinely stop M'baye (who's previous stoppage loss came due to a leg injury).

Personally I'd like that to be the end of M'baye and I'd then like to see Allakhverdiev facing a fellow top fighter, maybe someone like Zab Judah, next time out.

Robert Stieglitz v Yuzo Kiyota

WBO Super Middleweight champion Robert Stieglitz (45-3, 25) began his second reign as champion with a less than inspiring technical decision over Japanese puncher Yuzo Kiyota (23-4-1, 21).

The fight was a very slow burner with no more than a handful of clean punches landed through the first 4 rounds as the men wrestled almost continually. What little clean action did occur was solely single shots which were followed up by the fighters clinching and the referee needing to separate them. In fact for much of the bout the referee was busier than the two fighters combined.

It wasn't until round 5 that we actually had some notable action as Kiyota was deducted a point for hitting on the break, both men pushed the other down and Stieglitz landed a memorable right hand that sent Kiyota backwards but didn't seem to really hurt the Japanese fighter. This was a surprise to many who had assumed that Kiyota couldn't take a shot due to his opening round stoppage loss to Jameson Bostic a few back.

Kiyota's problem was that at range his hand speed was so much slower than that of Stieglitz who was able to land and up close he was being tied up. This saw him reverting to launching hail mary style right hands which often missed by a country mile but ended up with the men messily clinching.

Round 8 was arguably the closest with any real action as as Kiyota landed several hard shots of his own though unfortunately a clash of heads left him with a nasty cut above the right eye. The doctor looked at it between rounds 8 and 9 and decided it was fine to continue though it didn't take long for the challengers face to be covered in his own claret. With Kiyota's face becoming a bloody mess he was taken to the doctor in the middle of the round who said it was again fine to continue.

Unfortunately the doctor's opinion changed the following round with him deciding the cut had worsened partway in to the round taking us to the judges scorecards. Unfortunately for Kiyota the scorecards were widely against him with the point deduction in round 5 just making the gap even wider.

Whilst Stieglitz had looked tremendous in his previous outing (a stoppage over Arthur Abraham) he looked really bad here. Sure he won and that's the important part but every other fighter in the division will be circling him like a pack of vultures.

Merlito Sabillo v Jorle Estrada

Filipino Merlito Sabillo (23-0, 12) successfully defended his WBO Minimumweight title for the first time as stopped Colombian challenger Jorle Estrada (17-7, 6).

The bout started well for Sabillo who applied intelligent pressure whilst landing shots with both hands. Unfortunately it was obvious from the opening round that Estrada hadn't really come to fight but instead was there to make life difficult for Sabillo.

In the second round Sabillo began to target the body, an idea that seemed to be about slowing down the tricky Estrada. It was the body attack that appeared to hurt Estrada in round 3 as Sabillo continued to bag rounds with little real challenge. Unfortunately for Sabillo however Estrada showed his toughness and managed to ride out the storm in rounds 3 and 4.

Having realised that Estrada was there to survive more than win Sabillo started to try and box off the back foot, luring Estrada in. This tactic had mixed success with Estrada becoming wise and not really falling for it as much as Sabillo would have liked, though it did give Sabillo one or two chances to land something hard up top.

Although Estrada had promised a knockout in round 7 he did little to force it and whilst he did open up a bit more the pace of the bout seemed to completely dissipate in easily the least memorable round of the fight.

Thankfully Sabillo remembered where he was in round 8 and went back after the out matched challenger who was hurt late in the round but managed to see out the bell. The following round however Sabillo wouldn't be so kind to Estrada and this time he made his body shot really count sending Estrada down for the count on a shot that quite possibly left the Colombian with a broken rib or two.

Following the bout Sabillo was questioned about who he was wanting to make his second defense again though seemed to suggest that it was up to his promoters ALA as opposed to himself, hopefully it'll be a bigger test than Estrada who was poor from start to end.