Sunday, December 11, 2016

Heavyweight Championship Saturday Recap And Analysis

On Saturday, December 10th the Boxing world was focused on several key bouts throughout the entire sport. A highlight of the day however, was two fights for separate versions of the World Heavyweight championship that took place in two different countries. At the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England, undefeated IBF Heavyweight world champion and knockout artist Anthony Joshua made the second defense of his world championship against IBF number eight rated contender Eric Molina.

In previewing this fight this observer stated that the question I had as the fight approached was whether or not Molina, who was making his second attempt at a world championship, would not only be able to extend Joshua in a similar manner as he was able to do against undefeated WBC world champion Deontay Wilder in his one previous world championship opportunity, but more specifically whether he could make the fight competitive. The champion established the tempo of the fight from the outset working behind his jab and applying pressure on Molina.

Although Joshua’s approach could be best described as methodical, he was able to push Molina back to the ropes and really faced no resistance from the challenger. What was noticeably absent from Molina’s strategy beyond hardly throwing any offense was the absence of head movement as he more or less allowed himself to be backed up against the ropes by Joshua and did not seem to have an answer to avoid Joshua’s jab as he came forward.

Even though it was logical to think that perhaps the challenger was trying to create an opportunity where he could theoretically land counter punches as Joshua pressed forward as a reason for his sporadic offense, it became clear that Molina simply could not find a way to turn the tempo in his favor. The champion easily won the first two rounds based on his greater activity and effectiveness with his jab and right hand. It was in round three that Joshua would bring the fight to its conclusion.

Joshua connected with a flush right hand to the jaw that sent Molina down to the canvas in his own corner. Molina showed his mettle by getting up from the knockdown at the count of nine, but it was a formality as Joshua pressed forward with a barrage of offense which forced Molina to turn his head and subsequently forced Referee Steve Gray to stop the fight at 2:02 of round three.

It was as dominant and impressive a performance by a world champion as one could ask for. Since winning the IBF world championship in April of this year with a second round knockout over former champion Charles Martin, Anthony Joshua has in under one year established himself as one of the key players in the Heavyweight division.

Two undefeated Heavyweight contenders who were also looking to establish themselves atop the division did battle in the second World Heavyweight championship fight of the day at the Vector Arena in Auckland, New Zealand as WBO number one rated contender Joseph Parker met number three rated contender Andy Ruiz for the vacant WBO Heavyweight world championship, previously held by undefeated former unified world champion Tyson Fury.

Although it is sometimes natural when discussing a fight for a vacated world championship to focus on the circumstances and/or the politics of the sport which may have led to a championship becoming vacant, this was an encounter between not only two of the division’s top contenders, but also two fighters with exciting crowd pleasing styles. In previewing this fight this observer stated that the physics appeared to be in favor of Parker, who had a two inch height advantage as well as a two inch reach advantage over Ruiz.

Even though I stated prior to this fight that was logical to assume with a narrow height and reach advantage that Parker would look to keep Ruiz at distance where he would theoretically not be as effective, the tempo of this fight was established by Ruiz as he was able to apply pressure and force Parker to move. Several of the rounds in this fight were close due to both fighters having success in throwing and landing spurts of combinations.

Although there were points throughout the fight where Parker was able to get off first with his offense, I wondered if the difference in the fight in terms of the official scorecards would come down to the consistent pressure of Ruiz, who was also considerably effective when he was able to let his hands go. This was evident when the two fighters got into exchanges where Ruiz seemed to get the better of the action.

After six rounds, I had Ruiz ahead three rounds to two, with one round even on my unofficial scorecard. This was primarily due to the consistent aggression of Ruiz and bringing the fight to Parker. It was however, a tactical and competitive fight and it would certainly be no surprise to me to see differing scores as this fight progressed.

As the fight entered the second half the ebb and flow appeared to shift slightly in Parker’s favor. Although Ruiz never stopped coming forward and applying pressure throughout the entire fight, there were periods particularly from rounds seven through twelve where he did not throw punches consistently as he came forward and also failed to cut off the ring from Parker in an effort to neutralize Parker’s movement.

Despite Ruiz falling into periodic lulls of inconsistent offense in the second half of the fight, it remained a close and competitive fight due to how effective he was when he did let his hands go. At the end of the twelve round championship bout, I had Parker winning the fight by a margin of 116-113 in points or seven rounds to four with one round even. The announcement of a majority decision on the official scorecards was not surprising given the tactical, but quick pace that the fight was fought where both fighters were able to be effective. Judge Salven Lagumbay scored the fight even 6-6 in rounds or 114-114 in points, while Judges Ingo Barrabas and Ramon Cerdan turned in identical scores of 7-5 in rounds or 115-113 in points giving Joseph Parker the victory and establishing him as the first New Zealand-born boxer to win a World Heavyweight championship.

Prior to these two fights I alluded to a possibility of the two winners potentially facing off in a unification bout in 2017. It appears at least for the moment that will not be the case as it was announced shortly after Anthony Joshua’s knockout victory over Eric Molina that his third title defense will come on April 29, 2017 against former longtime champion Wladimir Klitschko in a fight that will take place at Wembley Stadium in London, England where the vacant World Boxing Association (WBA) world championship will also be on the line in addition to Joshua’s IBF world championship. This observer looks forward to sharing further thoughts on not only the outcomes of these two fights, not only the announced Joshua-Klitschko encounter, but what this could mean for the overall landscape of the division on Thursday, January 5, 2017.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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