Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Thoughts On 4/15/2016 ShoBox Card

Showtime Sports’ popular ShoBox series has carved out a reputation as a proving ground for prospects in the sport of Boxing as they look to advance from prospect, to contender, to world champion. It is always interesting with each ShoBox card to see which fighters may stand out as a potential contender down the road. The series’ most recent edition took place on April 15th at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, NY.

This card featured a tripleheader in Boxing’s Bantamweight, Lightweight, and Cruiserweight divisions. The card kicked off with an eight round Cruiserweight bout between unbeaten prospects Alexey Zubov and Constantin Bejenaru. Although historically the Cruiserweight division is seemingly always lacking mainstream attention in the sport particularly here in the United States, this was an interesting fight between two fighters at similar stages in their development as each fighter entered the bout unbeaten in ten professional fights.

The nearly 6’2 Zubov had a significant height and reach advantage over the 5’10 Bejenaru, but the story of the fight was how well Bejenaru was able to pick his spots by using lateral movement to quickly get on the inside Zubov’s reach, throw punches in short spurts of combinations, and then get out at a safe distance where Zubov was not able to be effective. Zubov simply could not find a way to get the ebb and flow of the fight to move in his favor as Bejenaru was able to dictate how the fight was fought.

Zubov was able to score a knockdown of Bejenaru with a short right hand early in the seventh round, but simply was not able to sustain much of an offensive rhythm throughout the fight as Bejenaru went on to earn a convincing eight round unanimous decision. Although one should remember that these were two fighters who were competing in the eleventh professional fight, this should be viewed as a development fight for both fighters.

Even though Bejenaru won this fight convincingly and dominated the action in this observer’s eyes, he will likely look at his performance and look for ways to improve as most fighters do. As for Alexey Zubov, this loss could be a temporary setback for him and perhaps he will be able to improve on being able to be more offensive against an elusive target as Bejenaru was in this fight.

The second fight on this card took place in the Lightweight division between unbeaten prospect Eudy Bernardo and veteran Mason Menard. Bernardo, who entered the fight with a record of 21-0, with 15 Knockouts was stepping up in the level of his opposition against Menard, a fighter who had only lost one of thirty-one previous professional fights and who was ranked in the top fifteen in the World Boxing Association’s (WBA) Lightweight ratings.

A question that might be asked of an unbeaten prospect who has amassed an impressive record against limited opposition is how that fighter will perform as they step up in caliber of opposition. The story of this fight however, would not be about how a fighter would do against a different caliber of opponent than he had previously faced, but rather the condition of one of the combatants.

Much as was the case in the first fight of this tripleheader this was a case of a shorter fighter in Menard dictating how the fight was fought and bringing the fight to the taller Bernardo. Menard was able to apply pressure on Bernardo and drop him in the second round with a right hand to the head. Although Bernardo was able to get up from the knockdown, it would be what happened in the third round that would cause concern.

Menard connected with another flush right hand to the head of Bernardo sending him down to the canvas out cold as the fight was immediately waved off by Referee Benjy Esteves. Bernardo was taken from the ring on a stretcher and taken to a nearby medical facility as a precaution, but was reportedly awake and responsive.

Although Menard’s performance was extremely impressive and will likely earn him an opportunity against someone who is rated in the top ten in either the WBA or another sanctioning organization’s respective Lightweight ratings, the brutal knockout that took place in this fight is a reminder of the dangers associated with combat sports and it should not be overlooked how quickly precautions were taken and for Eudy Bernardo to be attended to by medical personnel at the venue where this card took place. We have seen far too many tragedies in the sport of Boxing and thankfully this fight did not have a tragic outcome.

The main event of this card was a battle for the vacant North American Boxing Association (NABA) Bantamweight title between undefeated prospects Nickolay Potapov and Stephon Young. This was a highly competitive battle where both fighters had periods of effectiveness. In many ways, this was the definition of what a close fight should be. Potapov was often the more busy of the two fighters, while Young was most effective landing one punch at a time, but those punches were often the harder and cleaner punches thrown by either fighter.

When it comes to close fights where there are many “Swing Rounds” it is intriguing to see how the three official judges will score a fight. Although as I have often said over the years that when it comes to close fights it will often boil down to what a judge prefers in their own criteria based on clean punching, effective aggressiveness, ring generalship, and defense, there really was not much to separate Potapov and Young in this fight as after ten rounds two of three official judges scored the fight a draw.

When all was said and done this card did provide a look at some potential prospects and also some fighters who suffered career setbacks and perhaps setbacks that were possibly career ending. It would not surprise this observer to see any of the fighters featured on this card taking part in a future ShoBox card in the future. Although much of the focus coming out of this card is obviously centered on the condition of Eudy Bernardo and naturally questions will be asked as to whether he will be able to resume his career after suffering a knockout loss in such brutal fashion, it will be interesting to see what the other fighters who were on this card can do going forward.

Whether or not fighters such as Potapov, Young, Menard, Bejenaru, and Zubov will be able to make the transition from prospect, to contender, to world champion remains to be seen. It will nevertheless be interesting to see how each fighter progresses as they attempt to advance in their careers.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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