Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Kazuto Ioka v Felix Alvarado

The first of 3 world title fights televised in Japan today saw WBA Light Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (14-0, 9) given one of his toughest bouts to date, as he took on Nicaraguan puncher Felix Alvarado (18-1, 15).

Although both men are, usually, very different fighters with Alvarado being an aggressive fighter who backs opponents up then quickly breaks them down whilst Ioka is a pure boxer-puncher they gelled perfectly here. Alvarado as everyone expected came forward though Ioka, for the most part, decided to stand his ground and fight fire with fire.

From the first round on wards the men stood in front of each other with Alvarado trying to take Ioka's head off with every shot. Ioka showed his intelligence and boxing ability by blocking and slipping before landing counters.

The fight started competitive with Alvarado having plenty of success as he rushed Ioka though as the fight went on Ioka began to time Alvarado more and more whilst also swelling his left eye and landing harder cleaner punches. It had been close through 4 rounds though through the middle stretch of the bout Ioka totally took over as Alvarado's lack of experience cost him dearly.

By round 9 Ioka had put the close start behind him and totally taken over. The steam had gone from Alvarado's attacks and his punches, which had been snappy early on were now pushed and slow, they were easier to counter and Ioka was in total control despite standing at close range to his Nicaraguan challenger.

With the champion dominating the middle and late rounds it was no shock that he retained his title comfortably on the scorecards, well 2 of them anyway with scores of 119-109, though I'm not sure what
Sergio Caiz was watching scoring it 115-113 for Ioka who was in charge for 8 or 9 rounds of the 12.

Takashi Miura v Dante Jardon

When I read about the fights announced for New Years Eve this year one of them really stood out, Takashi Miura (27-2-2, 20), the WBC Super Featherweight champion, against Mexican challenger Dante "Crazy" Jardon (24-4, 20). This bout, on paper, had fireworks and war written all over it. Both men were known for their aggressive styles, toughness and happiness to let their hands go.

Unfortunately my excitement for this fight had died off with in a round of the fight actually beginning as it was obvious the fighters were in different leagues to each other. Miura came out on fire and poor Jardon simply had no answer, at all. It was obvious that Jardon, for all his hype wasn't capable of holding his own with Miura.

The aggressive Japanese southpaw managed to hurt Jardon in pretty much every round as he unloaded at will to head and body breaking down and beating up his Mexican challenger.

Jardon's heart was the only thing keeping him in the bout and it saw him pull himself off the canvas in round 5 as Miura turned the screw and moved up a gear. If it wasn't for the toughness and heart of Jardon that would have been it. Instead of staying down and taking the count Jardon lived up to his name of "Crazy" and walked into more punishment as Miura continued to hammer away on him, dropping him again in round 8.

By the time we saw the WBC's opening scoring for the time, after round 8, the bout really was beyond hope for Jardon who was a mile behind on the cards, bloodied, beaten up and pretty much broken.

Thankfully the referee was happy to keep an eye on Jardon and after he was dropped in round 9 the referee immediately waved off the bout. Enough had been enough and Miura was simply too good. A shame considering I expected this to be a war rather than an assault, but well done Miura.

With wins over Gamaliel Diaz, Sergio Thompson and Dante Jardon this year it's fair to suggest that Miura has become the new "Mexi-killer" and a possible forgotten man in the "Fighter of the Year" conversation. Well done Takashi, great performance, great year and I hope to see more next year!

Takashi Uchiyama v Daiki Kaneko

Sometimes, albeit rarely, in our sport a fighter who loses manages to impress us all more than the winner of a fight. That happened earlier today as Japan's unheralded Daiki Kaneko (19-3-3, 12) gave a stirring performance en route to losing in his WBA Super Featherweight title fight with the unbeaten Takashi Uchiyama (21-0-1, 17).

The first started tentatively from both with the neither man doing a lot in the first 3 rounds but what was done was mostly from Uchiyama who landed the better, crisper and more eye catching shots. That changed however in round 4 as Kaneko tagged Uchiyama with a solid right that rocked the champion hard. By now it had become clear that Kaneko wasn't there to make up the numbers, but was instead there to prove his skills against one of the truly elite Super Featherweights.

Unfortunately for Kaneko his success in round 4 wasn't immediately followed up as Uchiyama saw out the storm then took rounds 5 and 6. Kaneko wasn't to just give up though and although he dropped round 7 he fought back hard in rounds 8 and 9 as he showed off that he was just as tough and strong as Uchiyama. The strength and power of Kaneko, which had been impressive, really stood out in round 10 as he dropped Uchiyama with a solid and clean left hand.

Although Uchiyama had been dropped, for just the second time in his career, he seemed more embarrassed about the knockdown than hurt and in round 11 he went to war with Kaneko in a round that showed the champion had his senses about him. Uchiyama showed his experience and skills in round 11 as he made Kaneko miss then countered him. It was a great round of action and one that helped to secure Uchiyama of the fight.

Having proven he wasn't done in round 11 Uchiyama looked to finish off Kaneko in round 12 and rocked Kaneko late in the round though the tough challenger saw it out to hear the final bell.

Rather disappointingly the judges didn't hand in cards that reflected just how competitive the fight was. I had it 115-112 to Uchiyama some how the judges all had it 117-110 to the champion, giving Kaneko just 1 round other than the 10-8 round 10. The right guy won but it was closer than the judges had it and a lot more interesting.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Omar Andres Narvaez v David Carmona

Some fights just click as soon as the men get in to the ring. Other unfortunately don't. Whether it's the individuals involved or the styles of the men some fights just fail to come alive. We had one of those forgettable contest late on Saturday as Argentina's excellent Omar Andres Narvaez (41-1-2, 22) took on a less than inspiring David Carmona (16-2-4, 8) in what was a hugely frustrating contest for both fans and Narvaez.

The first round set the tone for much of the bout as Carmona backed away repeatedly from Narvaez. It was obvious within about 30 seconds that Carmona lacked the belief that he could win, in fact he looked like he wasn't even sure he deserved to be in a world title fight. Unfortunately the negativity of Carmona made him very hard for Narvaez to get to and through many of the early rounds.

Through 4 rounds there was little to really report, Carmona had slipped twice but avoided much of a fight. Narvaez had chased a fight but was up against an unwilling dance partner. Thankfully though Narvaez was getting closer and closer and he was gradually getting more successful as his pressure began to pay off.

In round 6 Narvaez's pressure finally took it's toll as he managed to drop Carmona who was slow to get up From then on it seemed like it was only a matter of time with Narvaez's shots taking their toll on the challenger. Thankfully the corner of Carmona realised that their man had little to offer and in round 7 they waved the towel putting fans out of their misery.

For a man getting his first chance Carmona looked like a fighter who simply wasn't interested. A real shame considering the opportunity he was given.

Stuart Hall v Vusi Malinga

Although we all hate the politics of boxing sometimes they do lead us to some sensational contests. One such bout came earlier this evening as the IBF's decision to strip Jamie McDonnell of their IBF Bantamweight title lead us to about between Stuart Hall (16-2-1, 7) and Vusi Malinga (21-5-1, 12) for the vacant title.

Hall, fighting in his first world title fight, set off at a hectic pace using his speed and skills to land on Malinga and move out of the way of return fire to make Malinga look second rate. The tempo was amazing with from Hall who clearly took the first 2 rounds and then claimed the round 3 with a knockdown to have a clear lead built on the cards after just 3 rounds.

It wasn't until the end of round 4 that Malinga first had any real success as he arguably claimed his first round, though it was a swing round that could easily have gone to Hall. Through the middle rounds Malinga started to come back in to the fight and arguably claimed rounds 5,6,7, 8 and 9 as he made a great charge in an attempt to defeat Hall. Not only was Malinga pushing on but Hall appeared to be tiring quickly and his left eye was beginning to swell shut. By the end of round 9 the left eye of Hall was was swollen shut and he was beginning to to eat right hands almost at will.

Despite looking shattered Hall managed to get his second win and appeared to make a late charge taking the championship rounds with Malinga himself looking exhausted. Those rounds effectively sealed the fight for Hall who had dug in and done enough for the biggest victory of his career.

The performance, of both men had been excellent, the fight had great with action from both men, and unfortunately the one sour taste were the judges whose cards of 117-110 (twice) and 116-111 didn't fairly reflect the nature of the bout. They did get the right winner but their cards didn't show just how hard Malinga had made things for him.

Dmitry Chudinov v Juan Camilo Novoa

In the first title fight of the weekend we saw the now laughable WBA "interim" title on the line. The bout, which pitted Russia's Dmitry Chudinov (12-0-2, 8)  against Colombia's  Juan Camilo Novoa (22-6-1, 20) looked like an interesting contest between big punchers on paper though was a long way from being a bout that anyone would consider a "world title bout. In fact you'd be hard pushed to find anyone, other than the WBA, who rated either man in the top 20 Middleweights on the planet.

The fight started in an entertaining manner with both fighters standing toe to toe and taking it in turns to unload on the other. It was a clear round for Chudinov though it seemed as if neither man was going to be able to take the other out early.

As it turned the fight became a case of Chudinov grinding down Novoa who by round 3 was already starting to crumble. The Colombian's attacks became less and less regular and it seemed that we were on the way to the end of the fight.

The reprieve, if you can call it that, for Novoa came in round 4 when a clash of heads opened up a cut on Chudinov. Unfortunately the cut didn't seem distract the Russian just fire him up as he stepped on the gas and made it clear that he wanted to destroy Novoa.

Novoa did well to see out the remaining time in round 4 and then see out round 5 but by the end of the fifth he was looking like a done fighter. Chudinov sensed as much and made sure that Novoa wasn't going to see out round 6.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Beibut Shumenov v Tamas Kovacs

Some fights are just mismatches from the second they are signed to the final bell. We had one such bout this weekend as Kazakhstan's Beibut Shumenov (14-1, 9) faced WBA #14 ranked challenger Tamas Kovacs (23-1, 14).

Shumenov, the WBA Light Heavyweight "super" champion, had been inactive for 18 months, he could have gone in after 5 years out and still made light work of the limited Kovacs who looked out of his depth the first time Shumenov landed a left hook.

Kovacs had a bright 10 seconds to start the fight. From then on though it was all Shumenov who quickly shook off any ringrust, and got his 1-2's going freely. By the end of the first round you could tell one of these men was a championship level fighter and when Shumenov landed a left hook very late in the round you could tell that Kovacs wasn't even close to world level.

To his credit Kovacs did get up and came out for round 2, but things didn't get any better for him as he was dropped from a left uppercut as Shumenov assumed total control of the bout.

Thankfully, for the over-matched Kovacs, his suffering would be ended in round 3 when Shumenov detonated a straight right hand that sent Kovacs down for the 3rd time in the fight. This time the referee had decided enough was enough and called a halt to the fight.

The bout, as much of a mismatch as it was, seemed to be a showcase for Shumenov who now looks likely to be fighting someone like Bernard Hopkins in a much, much more meaningful and tough assignment. Yes this was pointless in terms of competitiveness but it's purpose was to give Hopkins, and Showtime, a man in the 175lb division that they could talk about especially considering rival network HBO have 2 in the form of Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev.

Adrien Broner v Marcos Rene Maidana

When a fighter talks themselves up, and when the American boxing media tells us someone is the next big thing...I tend to have a personal warmth when they get exposed. We had one such case this past weekend when Adrien "The Problem" Broner (27-1, 22) got exposed as a loud mouthed fraud by Argentina's Marcos "Chino" Maidana (35-3, 31) who really did blow open the myth that Broner was the next Mayweather.

Maidana set off like a man possessed and really dominated Broner in the opening round. It was the sort of start that Maidana would have dreamed of having as Broner's bravado and confidence seemed to suddenly vanish. If Maidana had dreamed of winning the round his dream got even better in round 2 when he dropped Broner after repeatedly hurting him. It was clear that this wasn't what the American press or Broner, or almost expected. Maidana was there to not just beat Broner but to beat him up.

It wasn't until round 3 that Broner did anything of note in terms of aggression and it was the aggression that just saw him taking the round. He was however threatened with a point deduction for pushing off with his elbow. Bizarrely that same warning came up several times as Broner continued to push Maidana yet no point was ever taken.

With Broner taking round 3 it wasn't beyond thinking that he was going to turn things around. That didn't happen however as Maidana used his very under-rated jab in round 4 to neutralise the speed of Broner. It was only the speed of Broner that he actually seemed to have above Maidana who had power, aggression and more importantly desire. Real desire.

The desire of Maidana was on full show in round 5 as he again hurt Broner who lazy through out. Although Broner saw out that particular storm it was clear that he had no answer to the left hook of Maidana, the jab of Maidana or the flurries of wide shots that Maidana was landing at will.

Although Maidana seemed to slow in rounds 6 and 7 he was still doing the eye catching work. Broner was landing more than he had early in the fight but wasn't landing a significant number of shots and what he was landing looked light and slappy when compared to Maidana's thudding shots.

By the end of round 7 Maidana, according to commentators, had landed 60 more punches than Broner. Broner had landed more in round 7 (22 to 20) but with many of his shots being singles with little sting on them it was still clear that Maidana had the fire in his belly. That fire saw him dropping Broner for a second time in round 8. Unfortunately for Maidana he effectively the knockdown from the books by being deducted a point for a headbutt whilst Broner was holding him. Although the headbutt was stupid Broner's reactions were stupid with him selling it as if he was a WWE "superstar". The fans, knowing what Broner was up to, soundly booed the American who had by now become public enemy #1.

Maidana had come in to the bout assuming he would need a knockout to win. In round 9 he really went for the knockout as he dominated and battered Broner across the the ring. It was as close to a 10-8 round without a knockdown with the American taking a battering and landing very, very little in return. By now it had become obvious, Broner wasn't a special fighter, Broner wasn't the next Mayweather and Broner wasn't some great in the making. Broner was merely the human punch that Maidana was abusing

As with all good punch bags Broner took the shots well and was forced to take them again in round 10 and 11 as Maidana did all he could to prevent the judges from robbing him. The crowd egged on Maidana with chants of "Chino" and by round 11 the fight looked in the bag. Maidana's confidence was through the roof and and he went for the finish again in the 11th.

Having lost the 11th Broner flirted with a point deduction again for a shot well after the bell. Lawrence Cole, who seemed to "know the score" regarding Broner's status as the next American star gave Broner yet another warning but nothing else.

In regards to competitive action round 12 was the most competitive. Broner seemed to be aware he was trailing and he went for a tired Maidana throwing the kitchen sink at him. Maidana, being a South American, showed his machismo and fight back rocking Broner several times with left hooks despite being physically knackered. Thankfully for Maidana Broner's attack never had him in any distress, preventing any sort of dodgy stoppage, instead Maidana saw out the final bell.

There was a fear after the final bell that the judges, which have stunk this year, were going to do the impossible and rob Maiana of his clear victory. Thankfully the judges didn't. They had it 115-110, 116-109, 117-109 all to the right guy and the new WBA Welterweight champion, Marcos Maidana

Keith Thurman v Jesus Soto Karass

Sometimes fights are decided merely on the tactics of the two men. A perfect game plan can, at times, neutralise a slight disadvantage in terms of skills. Unfortunately sometimes a bout isn't decided by a game plan but merely the natural traits of one man over another. We saw just that as WBA Welterweight "interim" champion Keith Thurman (22-0-0-1, 20) used his significantly better speed and movement to dominate the much slower, but game, Jesus Soto Karass (28-9-3, 18)

The fight started pretty well for Soto Karass who tagged Thurman in the first 20 seconds and seemed to rock Thurman. From then on though Thurman took over the bout and Soto Karass genuinely struggled just to land. Unfortunately Soto Karass was made to look 3rd rate as Thurman boxed rings around him, literally. Thurman boxed on the move landing any shot he wanted, upstairs or downstairs.

From rounds 2 through 6 it was all Thurman with Soto Karass landing very little in return. So dominant was the work of Thurman that he was really messing up the face of Soto Karass whilst looking completely untouched himself. In all honesty it seemed for vast parts of the fight that Thurman was untouched.

Not only had Thurman been racking up the rounds but he had also scored a hard knockdown 5. It appeared that Soto Karass was going to inevitably be stopped, especially if Thurman was going to keep unloading as he had been early on in the fight.

It wasn't until round 7 that Soto Karass managed to get any real success. This came one of the few times Thurman held his feet and got trapped on the ropes. Unfortunately for Soto Karass it was too little to win the round but it was finally some success for the Mexican who seemed to know that this was a 12 round fight.

Unfortunately for Soto Karass the bout didn't get to go 12 rounds and in round 9 Thurman exploded hurting Soto Karass who was effectively caught by the referee as the Mexican was finally stopped almost out of nowhere. It took just 1 big combination from Thurman to finish it but it had been a combination that he had struggled to land despite a dominant performance.

For Thurman this was a perfect bout. He had his stamina tested, his heart tested and then showed the finishing instincts that could help make him a star. Sure Soto Karass was made to order due to his lack of speed but this still a show case performance against a deserving challenger.

Leo Santa Cruz v Cesar Seda

When we talk about the most fun fighters in the sport right now it's hard to argue against anyone who says Leo Santa Cruz (26-0-1, 15) the WBC Super Bantamweight champion. Santa Cruz is usually an offensive machine who brings flat out pressure, relentless work rate and pure excitement. In the first defense of his Super Bantamweight title however Santa Cruz showed a different side to his boxing as he out pointed Puerto Rican Cesar Ceda (25-2, 17) by boxing as opposed to brawling.

The first 4 rounds of the bout so both men boxing. There was no flat out pressure from Leo though there was good boxing from both. Yes Leo was applying some pressure but it was much more controlled pressure than we are used to as he instead chose to fight at mid distance instead of turn the fight into a phone booth war. Through the first 4 it was difficult to separate the two men and scores of 40-36 either way would not have been that wrong.

Unfortunately for Ceda he couldn't even force Santa Cruz backwards. Instead Santa Cruz kept coming forward and landing shots upstairs and downstairs. Ceda, the faster man, was landing his own shots but every shot Santa Cruz landed seemed to be more notable and a lot of Ceda's shots were blocked or just flat out missed. The Puerto Rican was making things interesting but never managed to have the sustained success he needed to win any of the middle rounds.

What made things worse for Ceda was knockdown he had scored against him in round 5 that began Santa Cruz's run through the middle rounds, rounds of which he clearly won.

From round 5, a 10-8, through to round 10 Santa Cruz had piled up the rounds. Ceda had tried to win them but couldn't deliver the punches he needed to win them. It wasn't until round 11 that you could make a case for Ceda having won a round outside of the first 4. By that point, even being generous to Ceda, you had to have him needing a knockdown to get a draw, it was fair however to suggest he would need a knock out.

Ceda gave it a go in round 12 as the action heated up but Ceda simply didn't have the power to ever rocked Santa Cruz.

The fight was competitive but there was only ever 1 winner, this was reflected in the score cards which read 115-112, 116-111 and 117-110, all in favour of Santa Cruz who retained his WBC Super Bantamweight title.

This wasn't a typical Santa Cruz performance but it was still an impressive one and Ceda also covered himself in glory having put on a very competitive performance. Ceda would fit in with many of the top 10 in the division and will come again. He's improved markedly from his fight with Omar Andres Narvaez a few years ago, though will struggle with the real standouts in the division.

Juergen Braehmer v Marcus Oliveira

Politics and games are part of boxing, we all know that but sometimes it's a bit of a joke and we saw that tonight as Marcus Oliveira (25-1-1, 2), somehow ranked #1 by the WBA despite no real quality wins, fought for the "vacant" WBA Light Heavyweight title. The WBA, who had promoted Beibut Shumenov to "super" champion prior to this bout, should really be seen as a joke. Not only for upgrading Shumenov or for ranking Oliveira #1 but for having Juergen Braehmer (42-2, 31) fight Oliveira for the vacant title.

I have nothing against Braahmer, who is a world class fighter, but he should have been fighting Shumenov and not Oliveira.

In regards to the "games and politics" it didn't take long for us to get to the games as Don King refused to let his man enter the ring first and instead made us all wait for Braehmer to have his ring walk before Oliveira. This turned the already partisan crowd against his man. Unfortunately this seemed to lead to Oliveira freezing.

I say freezing because, in all honesty, the American did nothing for the first 8 rounds. His shots were massively off target, his foot work was poor and his mindset seem to be that of a survivor and not a fighter. It wasn't just disappointing but somewhat shameful that the #1 ranked fighter wasn't really fighting.Sadly things weren't helped by Boxnation trying to tell us what a warrior, and strong powerful fighter Oliveira was all the while he was stood being out boxed by Braehmer

Unfortunately, for those wanting this to finish early, Braehmer lacked the aggression to see off Oliveira in the early and middle rounds, though he did hurt him notably in round 7 with body shots, including a border shot that sent Oliveira down though was ruled low.

Braehmer's domination of the bout left everyone knowing Oliveira needed a stoppage in the final 4 rounds. Surprisingly in rounds 10 and 11 it was Breahmer going for the KO and he really seemed to really rock Oliveira at one point, as well as scoring the bouts only "ruled" knockdown, which was as debatable as the low blow/body shot from round 7.

It had been disappointing from Oliveira but then, suddenly, in round 12 the American came alive and hurt a tiring Braehmer. By then though it was too late, he needed to stop Braehmer not just hurt him and that was never going to happen I'm afraid.

Oddly despite the bout being 1 sided for 11 rounds the judges managed to be very nice to Oliveira with cards of 117-110, 117-110 and 115-112 making the bout look much, much closer than it was. Thankfully they did all have the right winner.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Sakio Bika v Anthony Dirrell

Not every fighter makes you want to watch them and in fact many fighters have found a way to turn a crowd against them. One such fighter was Anthony Dirrell (26-0-1, 22) who was given the opportunity of a life time this past weekend when he met WBC Super Middleweight champion Sakio Bika (32-5-3, 21). Bika, defending his belt for the first time was the betting under-dog, the older man, the more worn man, the slower man and also the lesser skilled man however he was also the determined man and the man who didn't want to give up his title.

We often talk about champions losing their hunger once they win a world title. What we ended up with in this bout however was a champion who was hungry and a challenger who seemed to have filled his stomach with disappointment.

The first round summed up much of the bout as Dirrell, who looked incredibly classy in spurts, did next to nothing. Bika's wasn't clean or effective but he was doing something. On my card you get points for doing something if the other guy is doing next to nothing.

Having basically taken the opening round off Dirrell then had a good second round and a great third round. At the end of the third it seemed obvious that Dirrell had the speed, power and skills to hurt, rock and possibly even stop Bika.

Sadly the momentum that Dirrell had been building was lost in round 4 as he took the round off and spent it trying to box as a south paw. It was frustrating to see someone with genuine natural talent let Bika off the hook but it was hoped that Dirrell would come back hard in round 5 and that's exactly what he did. It was in round 5 that Dirrell had his best round of the fight dropping Bika and coming close to stopping it Bika looking gone before the bell saved him

Amazingly despite looking completely done in round 5 Bika fought back well and took round 6 as he appeared to rock Dirrell. Out of nowhere it was Dirrell who was in trouble and it seemed that the fight suddenly swung in favour of Bika. The most interesting part of round 6 wasn't the fighting in the ring but Dirrell's resigned look after it. It seemed like the American just didn't want to be there anymore.

Despite looking sick of the fight and the rough and tumble style of Bika who was relentless in coming forward even if he was crude and messy Dirrell had some decent moments in round 7. It was a round that was up for grabs with Dirrell not doing much but Bika not landing much.

Round 7 was arguable the last you could have given to Dirrell who began to really just turn off. He was backing up incessantly, posing and looking ready to strike but actually throwing next to nothing. It seemed that either Dirrell didn't want to win or just didn't care about fighting any more. Bika though was too crude to land the bombs that makes a fighter quit, and instead the marauding fighter kept coming forward with little real success.

By the end of round 10 the good work of Dirrell's was long gone and it was hard to to make any case for Dirrell to be winning. At best it was 95-94 to Bika, at worst it may have been a round wider as Dirrell kept doing nothing. What wasn't helping the American was the awful work of his corner team who weren't shouting things such as "box 'im good", they seemed to be out of ideas when it came to firing their man up whilst Dirrell himself looked so uninterested that it was hard to believe he was in a world title fight.

Dirrell did get a break, of sorts, in round 11 as Bika's clumsiness saw him deducted a point for a low blow. Even with the deduction Dirrell didn't do anything to actually win the round resulting in a 9-9 round.

It seemed like Bika was in the lead, it seemed Dirrell's inability to fight like a challenger was costing him and in round 12 it really did cost him as he threw away a close round by be running around the ring with his hands up high. There was no way you could give him the round after he had been such an idiot.

Despite the fact I had it 114-112 to Bika I couldn't feasibly see a way to favour Dirrell and in fact I felt generous even having it that close. One judge having it a draw however wasn't out of the question as the cards came back with scores of 114-112, 113-113 and the frankly ridiculous 110-116 in favour of Dirrell. I had assumed the 113-113 card was "the bad one" until I heard the final card which genuinely made my stomach turn. How a judge had given Dirrell 8 rounds was and is still a mystery to me.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Guillermo Rigondeaux v Joseph Agbeko

Whilst we can laud pure boxing skills all day long boxing is a business and a main event should not be fought in front on a handful of fans. Unfortunately tonight we saw just that as Guillermo Rigondeaux (13-0, 8) defended his WBA "super" and WBO Super Bantamweight titles in front of a scattering of fans at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

Rigondeaux, one of the most talented fighters in living memory was expected to be involved in a fight as he took on Joseph Agbeko (29-5, 22) instead what we got was a glorified exhibition. An exhibition that became so uninteresting that only a few members of the press remained in their seat for the bout, and I believe a number of those may well have fallen to sleep.

For the first 6 rounds Rigondeaux landed singes, handcuffed Agbeko with a jab and refused to force the action. Sure it takes two to tango but Agbeko wasn't in a dancing mood. In fact the only thing Agbeko wanted to do was hide behind a tight guard and shuffle forward with little intention of throwing a punch.

By round 7 it appeared even the Cuban was bored. He began to let his shots go in twos and threes and although they were still taken on the gloves of Agbeko he was at least doing something. They weren't having an effect on Agbeko but they were scoring shots and in fact Rigondeaux was landing more than Agbeko was throwing. It was nothing short of a man exhibiting his skills against a human punch bag. Sadly he merely showing off his skills and not how destructive he could be, had he wanted to be destructive then we could have had some entertainment.

For the final few rounds Agbeko slowly began to let his hands go. He wasn't taking many risks but he was finally attempting to fight. This proved to be too little too late and Rigondeaux continued to land the only punches of note in what was one of the most straight forward and simple world title fights of the year.

There was never any doubt in the score cards which were 120-108, in fact if anything the shut out didn't represent the domination of Rigondeaux and it could well have been 120-102 due to how little Agbeko did in a number of the rounds.

Sadly the domination just failed to excite anyone. Thankfully however the fight didn't receive any boos, on the flipside of that, there was no one in the venue to boo the fight. At the end of the day that was only a faint positive as no one will be paying to see another fight like this. I'm afraid that Rigondeaux is giving himself no options. He's too good to fight such a restrained style, but he's too good to change his style. Unless he can find a rival his career is going to be one of the least exciting in history despite the fact he's ridiculously talent.

Devon Alexander v Shawn Porter

Every so often in this sport we get a challenger who is just so determined that they refuse to be denied of a victory. We saw one such fight earlier this year when Kiko Martinez broke down Jhonathan Romero with nothing short of sheer bloodymindedness.

we saw another fighter with that same desire to win earlier tonight as Shawn Porter (23-0-1, 14) took on IBF Welterweight champion Devon Alexander (25-2, 14) and literally took the fight to Alexander and refused to let Alexander fight back.

Whilst the first round was messy with Alexander getting his jab going and tying Porter up the second round saw Porter coming to life. By round 3 Porter was literally beating up the champion, he was getting inside, unloading on the champion and connecting with left hands. He not only connected cleanly on Alexander but several times he appeared to have Alexander ready to go down. The only thing keeping Alexander upright was the fact he held on to Porter at every opportunity getting a warning as a result.

Due to the domination in round 3 by Porter it wasn't out of the question to have given that round as a 10-8 to Porter who looked well on the way to forcing an early ending to the bout.

Porter's domination of the bout continued through the following rounds. Again he shook Alexander in rounds 4, 5 and 6. When Alexander try to hold he was merely pushed off and beaten up, when there was distance Porter was landing booming shots, often in combinations and by the end of the sixth Alexander was cut and looking like a man ready to lose his title.

By the midway point of the bout it seemed Alexander had just one hope, that Porter would punch himself out. Unfortunately for Alexander this did happen and instead Porter started beating Alexander with the jab. When this started to happen it was clear that Alexander had no way back in to this bout. He was being beaten on the inside, he was being beaten on the outside and he was just being beaten up.

For poor Alexander, whose right eye was cut, it wasn't just the headshots that Porter was connecting with but also body shots as he began to break up every part of Alexander. The only saving grace, if you can call it that, was that a headclash in round 9 opened up a nasty cut on Porter. Unfortunately the cut simply didn't bother Porter who continued to press the fight with relentless aggression.

Porter, who was well up going in to the championship rounds, seem to refuse to cruise the final rounds and instead continued to beat up Alexande as he made sure he took the decision.

Surprisingly, despite the dominance of Porter the three judges had the fight remarkably close with cards of 115-113 and two of 116-112. Sorry but those judges need question, Porter possible lost 2 rounds, not 4 or 5 as the judges had it.

Erislandy Lara v Austin Trout

Some fights we accept aren't going to be stylistically fun to watch despite being "major fights" in terms of the division. One of those fights happened this Saturday as Cuban Erislandy Lara (19-2-1, 12) and American Austin Trout (26-2, 14) collided for the WBA Light Middleweight title.

When you have counter-punchers facing each other you can often expect to see the boxing equivalent to chess. Technically it's brilliant boxing but as a spectacle it's awful. Unfortunately both Lara and Trout are counter punchers, neither looks comfortable when forced to lead off, neither seem capable of making a fight and neither seem to have a plan B when their counter punching isn't working. Unfortunately that spoiled, what on paper, was an interesting contest.

It took less than a round for the crowd to decided they didn't like what they were watching and they let their emotions be known as they booed the men in the ring. This booing almost seemed to effect Trout who began to fall for the tricks Lara was setting. Lara, kept his form and continued to frustrate, move and out box Trout who became more and more reckless. Trout, after 4 rounds, was forced to concede he wouldn't win a chess game and instead chose to try and walk down Lara. Trout's attempt to walk to Lara were foiled big time by Lara's movement which left the American chasing shadows.

Trout, as one would expect, seemed to become more reckless from the fact he was missing and being tagged in returned. His excellent boxing was vanishing as Trout began to put on a masterclass and after 7 rounds it appeared that we were seeing a genuine schooling of a very good fighter.

Having established a clear lead on the cards Lara seemed to turn off a little bit. He was still using his boxing skills to take the rounds but he was certainly letting the distance between the men close a bit more. It seemed that this was merely a ploy to allow Lara to load up on his shots a bit more and in round 11 we saw the power of Lara take effect as he sent Trout down hard with a hard left hand.

Although Trout got up from knock down it seemed like he was ready to go and Lara went for him rocking him again before the bell saved him.

With Trout having seen out the storm in round 11 it appeared that Lara would jump on him immediately to begin round 12. Trout's corner knew this and made sure he could buy his man some time by "spilling" water on the canvas. This was enough to let Trout's legs recover enough to let him see out round 12 but by then the fight was already over in regards to the scorecards.

The domination by Lara, via his gameplan, of Trout had been excellent it, it was hard to see anything other than a clear decision in favour of Lara and the judges all agree with that view. All the scores varied but they all got the right man.

Darren Barker v Felix Sturm

In probably the most disappointing title fight of the year Britain's Darren Barker (26-2, 16) effectively gave up his IBF Middleweight title as he was stopped by Germany's Felix Sturm (39-3-2, 18).

Sturm started fast winning the opening round with his work rate. Although Barker fired back it was obvious that Barker's game plan wasn't right and rather than boxing and moving he tried to trade with Sturm getting rocked later in the same round.

Barker tried to fight back more so in round 2 and started fast. Sadly it didn't take Sturm long to hurt him and this time Barker was sent down. It was obvious from the way that Barker got up that he wasn't fine and soon afterwards he was sent down again. This time Barker showed his agony and despite getting up it seemed it was only a matter of time.

With Sturm on the offensive again, just moments after the knockdown, Barker's corner threw in the towel. I'm afraid that to for a world champion to go out like this is a disappointment. Barker can blame his him problems, he can blame anything but at the end of the day he used the wrong tactics and was punished.

Although Barker was diagnosed with a hip injury I can't say I'm looking forward to watching the rest of his career after this.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Krzysztof Wlodarczyk v Giacobbe Fragomeni III

We all look a good rivalry in sport and some of the best ever rivalries have come from boxing. Ali-Frazier, Gatti-Ward, Corrales-Castillo, Graziano-Zale and Robinson-Lamotta just to name a few. Unfortunately one that isn't likely to ever make it to that list is Wlodarczyk-Fragomeni, despite the fact the two men have now fought three times for the WBC Cruiserweight title.

The men, who first fought to a draw in 2009 before Wlodarczyk won a rematch in 2010 and not names that will get your average boxing fan excited, them men, whilst entertaining aren't the most watchable and with them being European Cruiserweights most of the boxing world simply doesn't care.

As with their second meeting it was Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (49-2-1, 35) who came out on top stopping Italian veteran Giacobbe Fragomeni (31-4-2, 12). Although the result was the same as their second meeting there was something different about this fight, it was stateside.

The two men took the Cruiserweight division from Europe to Chicago, Illinois and gave the local Polish population a chance a chance to see their only reigning world champion. He didn't disappoint.

Using his his long arms, solid movement and speed Wlodarczyk slowly beat up the short but game Fragomeni. On the front foot Wlodarczyk was controlling with the jab, on the back foot he was pot shotting and landing as Fragomeni came forward.

The power of Wlodarczyk was telling and although he scored a controversial knockdown in round 4, punching Fragomeni whilst the two men were seemingly being broken up from a clinch. It was a mistake from Fragomeni to allow the the shot but it was still cheeky of Wlodarczyk  to throw up. It was this shot that seemingly opened up a nasty cut on Fragomeni's cheek. The cut was a bulls-eye for Fragomeni's jab and it was obvious that the Pole was going to peck away at it.

Unfortunately after round 6 it was that cut that saw the doctor stepping in and calling a really anti-climatic ending to the contest.

Sadly the poor ending and the style of the two men would have done little to make the American's want to see more of the Cruiserweight division. It's a shame as the division is one of the best in the sport, but of course not every fight is great.

I hoping that Wlodarczyk will return to Chicago in 2014 against a more testing opponent and we can have one of those memorable Cruiserweight fights that Europeans have been raving about in recent years. For now though, it is nothing more than hope.

Chris John v Simpiwe Vetyeka

In boxing every great run comes to an end one way or another. Whilst we always hope that greats can bow out with their head held high, a title over their shoulder and and their dignity, it's very rare we actually get to see that done.

Last weekend saw Paul Spadafora coming undone as he dropped a decision to Johan Perez. Going in to that bout Spadafora had a remarkable unbeaten record that read 48-0-1, he was going for win #49. Today saw Chris John of Indonesia also going for win #49 as he attempted to extend his 48-0-3 record and also maintain his standing as the WBA Featherweight super champion. Like Spadafora however, John suffered a major set back and fell to 48-1-3 (22).

John was facing Simpiwe Vetyeka (26-2, 16), a South African better known in Asia than most places. Prior to this year Vetyeka was known as the man who gave Hozumi Hasegawa a really, really hard nights work. This year however he's become the "Indonesian Assassin" with back to back wins over top tier Indonesian fighters.

Earlier this year Vetyeka stopped the teak tough Daud Cino Yordan. That fight had lead to this one, dubbed "Revenge". What was supposed to be a case of Chris John sticking up for Indonesia became a night to forget for the Indonesian and his people.

The fight started in forgettable fashion with neither man really do a great deal. John appeared to land the better punches but the only real damage of the fight seemed to be a small cut around John's left eye. Presumably that was just the re-opening of scar tissue that had occured in his previous bout, a 3rd round technical draw with Japanese fighter Satoshi Hosono.

The scrappy and forgettable action continued through rounds 2, 3 and 4. In fact so forgettable was the actual action that the key things I noted happening were John falling to the canvas twice in the second round, John firing off a decent looking ineffective attack in round 3 and a completely uncalled for "Chris John" chant in round 4. Yeah it was one of those fights.

Everything one man tried seemed to be neutralised by the other, every time something promised to ignite a clinch killed off the action, every time it appeared we'd have a fight things just ended up not happening.

Things changed in round 5. This was a round where John went from "world champion boxer" to a man looking old, and beaten up. Out of nowhere his balance had gone, his stance had gone and most worrying he didn't seem to know where he was. Twice he was knocked to the canvas and twice the referee botched calls. Instead of giving Vetyeka the knockdowns it appeared the referee wanted to see John hurt. The first, at the end of round 5, should have been stopped. John was gone.

Unfortunately the referee's botched calls in round 5 lead us on to round 6. Vetyeka, sensing that John hadn't recovered, went on the offensive. John tried to fight back but was sent down again as he started to look messy and like a desperate but beaten man. The referee again botched the knock down though by now the referee was looking ridiculous. Thanfully he knew it as he ruled the next knockdown as a knockdown and rightfully gave the first count to John, he could, and probably should, have given him 3 previously.

With John just seeing out the round the Indonesian camp appeared to do the right thing and their man remained in his corner being retired between rounds 6 and 7.

Akira Yaegashi v Edgar Sosa

When we talk about the best boxers on the planet right now we tend to talk about Floyd Mayweather Jr, Guillermo Rigondeaux and Andre Ward. The first two of those are particularly known for being able to use their legs to neutralise an opponent's aggression and pressisure whilst lading their own shots in return. Earlier today it appeared that Akira Yaegashi (19-3, 9) had been taking notes from both Mayweather and Rigondeaux as he put on a similar showing of boxing and moving as he defeated Mexican challenger Edgar Sosa (49-8, 29) and retained his WBC Flyweight title.

The fight, for the first two rounds, looked like a chess match. It was close, it was nip and tuck and neither guy made much of a statement as they felt the other guy out. By the third round however the fight was beginning to come alive as both Sosa moved up a gear and began to find his range with the right hand. This forced Yaegashi to do two things. Firstly he had to answer back which is exactly what he did, then he had to think of a way to neutralise it.

Rather than stupidly going toe-to-toe with Sosa we saw Yaegashi going on to the back foot, moving around the ring then cutting in and unloading before getting back out. It was negative and some what dull looking at times but he forced Sosa to come after him, circled away and then connected as Sosa struggled to cut the distance.

After 4 rounds we had began to settle into a pattern that would dictate much of the fight. Sosa would slow pressure Yaegashi, Yaegashi would skip around him. When Sosa was in distance and threw Yaegahi either returned the favour or avoided it and countered. At times it was was the sort of thing you'd expect to see from Mayweather, at others Yaegashi showed his warrior mentality and traded.

Whilst Yaegashi was losing the occasional round where Sosa managed to have that bit of extra success, it was clear that the Mexican was simply too slow with both his hands and feet to make this this close. The fighter's heart was still in Sosa but at 34 he was showing serious signs of slowing down and the wear and tear of a man having had a long and gruel ling career.

Going in to the final 4 rounds the WBC opening scoring had left us in no doubt that Sosa would need a KO. Unfortunately it seemed almost impossible. Unless Yaegashi had used up his entire there was no chance of Sosa forcing an early conclusion to the bout.

Rounds 9, 10 and 11 went on the same script as many of the previous rounds with Yaegashi boxing on the move. This changed however in round 12 as the men spent the final minute beating 7 shades out of each other in the longest action sequence of the fight.

With the decision already known before being announced due to the open scoring the question wasn't who had won but more, about the future. At 34 this could well be the end for Sosa who has a fantastic career, for Yaegashi this victory may well lead to a second contest with Kazuto Ioka and in all honesty, that's a fight I want to see all over again

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Katsunari Takayama v Vergilio Silvano

The first world title fight of a new week was in Japan earlier today as Japan's criminally under-rated Katsunari Takayama (26-6-0-1, 10) successfully defended his IBF Minimumweight title with a clear unanimous decision over Filipino challenger Vergilio Silvano (17-3-1, 10)

The fight started well for Takayama who rocked Silvano in the opening round and from then on Takayama didn't look back.

The Japanese fighter went from good to great as he went from rocking Silvano in the opening to out speeding him and out working in pretty much every subsequent round. He was like a buzzsaw moving in and out with punches connecting on the challenger at will in the first half of the fight, then like a machine circling the challenger in the second half of the fight. It was amazing to see Takayama's perpetual motion, he was honestly like the energeriser bunny.

To Silvano's credit he never looked hurt other than in the first round. Instead he stood there, taking the shots and trying to deliver his own in return. Unfortunate for the Filipino he spent much of his time hitting air as Takayama seemed to just move as Silvano was throwing his shots.

Although clearly up on the scorecards going in to the championship rounds Takayama refused to slow down. It seemed he was enjoying his day immensely, it was his first fight in Japan since 2009 and he was doing all he could to put on a show for the fans who had traveled to see him. Instead of cruising to the decision he continued on the offensive hitting Silvano with every shot in the book in a performance that showed why many view him as the #1 at 105lbs.

By the end of the contest there was no doubting who had won. It was a landslide and Takayama had hardly dropped a round on what was an excellent performance by a man who has often been forgotten by the boxing public.

Tomoki Kameda v Immanuel Naidjala

Prior to today Japanese boxing fans had never seen a WBO world title bout take place on their soil. That changed thanks to WBO Bantamweight champion Tomoki Kameda (29-0, 18) who became the first ever Japanese fighter to defend a WBO and the first man of any nationality to defend a WBO title on Japanese soil.

Kameda, defending the belt he won earlier this year in the Philippines, was fighting the previously unbeaten Immanuel Naidjala (17-1-1, 11). Like Paulus Ambunda, who Tomoki defeated for the belt, Naidjala was a tough and proud Namibian, though also like Ambunda he lacked the skills needed to really test Tomoki.

The fight started excellently for the defending champion who quickly established a lead with his busier and crisper work. Naidjala, after 3 rounds was being backed up, and tagged to the body time and time again. It seemed that Tomoki had a game plan based on breaking up body of Naidjala with the left hook which he whipped time and time again to the midsection.

By the start of round 6 it appeared that Naidjala was crumbling. The body shots kept coming, Tomoki kept marching forward and and the challenger appeared to have nothing to offer in terms of return fire. It was genuinely one way traffic, not a beat down but certainly all the action was going one way with Naidjala back pedaling and forced to cover up.

With Tomoki having established a clear lead going in to the championships rounds he appeared to turn off. Maybe he was tired from the work he had put in, maybe it was something mental but he suddenly stopped firing as he had done earlier on. This saw Naidjala coming back at him and seemingly taking 2 or 3 of the later rounds.

Those rounds for Naidjala were never going to be enough though and rightfully Kameda retained his title with a clear unanimous decision.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Johan Perez v Paul Spadafora

Long time unbeaten fighter Paul Spadafora (48-1-1, 19) finally suffered a loss as he was out pointed by Venezuela's Johan Perez (18-1-1-1, 2) who in turn claimed the WBA interim Light Welterweight title for the second time.

The fight started slowly with neither man getting much of an advantage in the early going. Despite this it often appeared that Perez was doing more than Spadafora and narrowly claiming the early rounds. It was unlikely that the judges agreed but it was hard to give any of the early rounds to Spadafora who was looking his age.

Perez stepped up the pace of the fight in round 4 and by the end of that round Spadafora's face was showing the signs of a fight. A small mouse and a cut was forming on his face and his defenses were being penetrated on a frequent basis by Perez who was slowly breaking down the former IBF Lightweight champion.

Spadafora managed to gain some success through the middle rounds with some lovely counters but he was still being out worked and seemingly couldn't manage to launch a full blooded attack of his own. The speed of Spadafora wasn't what it once was and it showed as Perez was capable of controlling the pace and distance with out seemingly needing to work for it.

By the end of round 9 it was clear that Perez should have been in the lead. It appeared that even Spadafora knew it as he put his foot on the gas and tried to turn the fight around. Unfortunately for American he lacked the ability, power or speed to make Perez worry and the assault turned back on Spadafora who appeared to have gambled big in the round.

Spadafora would again pick up the pace in round 12 but by then Perez was safe in the knowledge that he had done more than enough. Barring a horror show from the judges Perez was to take the title.

The Venezuelan's heart was likely in his mouth as the score  cards were read out reading 114-114, 115-113 and 117-111. Thankfully, despite the poor scores, Perez managed to get the decision and the title.