Tuesday, April 18, 2017

April 14th-15th Weekend Thoughts

The weekend of April 15th featured some interesting bouts featuring rising prospects looking to advance to the next level of their respective careers as well as two world champions meeting in a highly anticipated Jr. Welterweight unification bout. One of the prospects who saw action was undefeated Light-Heavyweight contender Dmitry Bivol, who squared off with veteran Samuel Clarkson on April 14th in the main event of the latest edition of Showtime Sports’ popular ShoBox: The New Generation series at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, MD.

One of the questions that I always keep in mind when seeing a rising prospect is how that fighter will respond to the exposure that comes with being featured as a focal point on television. An obvious question that usually accompanies the question of how the fighter will deal with the exposure that comes with being featured on television is will the fighter be given a significant test as he looks to continue his progress toward contender status.

For Bivol, one could say he is a fighter who has already made the transition from prospect to Light-Heavyweight contender, despite only having nine professional fights prior to meeting Clarkson. Clarkson meanwhile entered the bout having won nineteen professional fights against three losses and came into the encounter riding a nine fight winning streak.

What appeared on paper as a fight that could present a test for Bivol simply did not prove to be the case as the undefeated Bivol quickly scored a knockdown of Clarkson in the first round with a right hand to the head. To his credit, Clarkson was able to get to his feet before being dropped for a second time with another right hand. At this stage in the fight, I thought it was only a matter of time before the bout would be stopped.

Although Clarkson showed his mettle by getting up from two knockdowns, it was apparent in this observer's eyes that he could not find a way to keep Bivol, who was very impressive in how he implemented a systematic attack, off of him. Clarkson however, was able to survive the round and the fight continued.

Bivol was able to keep Clarkson largely on the defensive and consistently backed him up due largely to the success he was able to have in placing his punches and using his right hand as the focal point of his offense. In round four it would be a counter right hand to the chin from Bivol that would drop Clarkson for a third and final time by Referee Harvey Dock who stopped the bout as a hurt Clarkson staggered to his feet. The victory for Bivol, his tenth career victory, also allowed him to maintain his position as one of two fighters with interim/regular champion status in the World Boxing Association (WBA) Light-Heavyweight ratings, a designation he earned in June of last year with a twelve round unanimous decision over Felix Valera in Moscow, Russia.

Even though some might argue that a fighter with only ten fights being in a position that Bivol currently finds himself in regard to the WBA’s Light-Heavyweight rankings might be an indication that a fighter is being moved along too quickly, it is important to note that Bivol was a decorated amateur with a 268-15 record. An argument could and perhaps should be made that much as was the case with two-division world champion Vasyl Lomachenko, who is 8-1, with 6 Knockouts as a professional, sometimes a fighter can be considerably more seasoned due to their amateur pedigree than the length of that fighter's professional record would suggest.

Although Lomachenko was able to win his first professional world championship in his third pro fight and was able to become a two-division world champion in under ten fights, Lomachenko has proven thus far to be a rarity in the sport . Bivol has shown thus far to be highly skilled and as a professional has successfully met and cleared every obstacle that has come his way. Even though, it is certainly not my intention to compare Bivol and Lomachenko, it is clear that Bivol is a force to be reckoned with in the Light-Heavyweight division. With a record of 10-0, with 8 Knockouts off of his stoppage of Samuel Clarkson, if Bivol continues to win, and more specifically turn in the kind of performances that he did against Clarkson, it will only a matter of when and not if Bivol will challenge for a world championship.

The undercard Bivol-Clarkson featured two encounters between undefeated fighters in Boxing's Jr. Featherweight and Welterweight divisions. In the 122lb. Jr. Featherweight division, undefeated  Glenn Dezurn scored a hard fought eight round unanimous decision over Leroy Davila to advance his record to  9-0, with. This was a competitive fight from start to finish where both fighters were able to have periods of effectiveness. Dezurn’s sharper offense and accuracy is what gave him the upper hand in this bout, in this observer's  opinion. Davila, who fell to a record of 5-1, with 3 Knockouts, was able to push Dezurn throughout the fight, but was ineffective in his aggression and that is what allowed Dezurn to get the better of the action in my eyes. The fight however, will likely benefit both fighters in terms of their overall development and it would not surprise me to see a return encounter between the two down the line.

In the Welterweight division, rising prospect Malik Hawkins scored second round knockout over Carlos Soto. Hawkins was credited with a knockdown in round one when Soto, who’s left eye was severely swollen from Hawkins’ right hands took a knee. After suffering significant punishment in round two, the condition of Soto’s eye prompted the fight to be stopped prior to the start of round three. Although Hawkins dominated this fight and did what he had to do in earning his eleventh career victory, he simply did not face much resistance from Soto who took the bout on short notice. It will be interesting to see who Hawkins fights next as he looks to continue his climb up the Welterweight division. The impressive performance by Hawkins will also likely open further opportunities for him to be showcased on television and it is possible that Hawkins progress will be seen on future ShoBox cards.

On April 15th the Boxing world turned its attention to the Hydro Arena in Glasgow, Scotland as WBA Jr. Welterweight world champion Ricky Burns met undefeated unified International Boxing Federation (IBF) and International Boxing Organization (IBO) world champion Julius Indongo in a bout to further unify the 140lb. Jr. Welterweight division in the main event of a card that was televised on AWE: A Wealth of Entertainment in the United States.

Despite being undefeated in twenty-one previous bouts heading into his encounter with Burns, Indongo was considered an underdog by some against the more experienced three-division world champion. It was Indongo however, who would validate his status as a unified world champion prior to the fight as he used his reach and combination punching to keeping Burns at distance.

What impressed me about Indongo’s performance was not only how well he was able to control the tempo of the fight, but specifically how he used angles with both his lateral movement  as well as in the way he threw and placed his punches. It was this approach that kept Burns from being able to execute his offense effectively and was made to miss frequently. What was perhaps the most impressive thing about Indongo's performance was he was able to gradually take the pro-Burns crowd, in Burns’s home country of Scotland out of the fight.

Burns’ inability to consistently close distance and only being able to land sporadically with his offense was simply the story of this fight. Although some might say that this bout lacked the excitement normally associated with a world championship unification fight at the highest level of the sport, a Boxing purist can appreciate the type of performance that Indongo put forth in this bout. A performance that allowed Indongo to earn a twelve round unanimous decision to add the WBA Jr. Welterweight world championship to his unified crown.

Even though some may question whether or not the loss to Indongo could signal the end of an illustrious career for the former three-division champion Ricky Burns, this observer believes that in this instance it was not eroding skills, which usually is a sign of a fighter on the decline, but rather the craftiness and speed of Indongo that was responsible for Burns’ ineffectiveness in this fight. Sometimes it is as simple as one fighter besting the other. Boxing history is full of stories of great fighters who at one time or another had a bad outing against a highly skilled fighter who might have been underestimated by some fans and experts before a fight takes place. It will be what Burns does coming out of this fight which may determine if this loss was a signal of a fighter in decline or a case of a great fighter having a bad night against a fighter who might also be regarded one day as a great fighter by fans and experts alike.

Although I look forward to sharing further thoughts regarding all of the fighters who fought on these two cards in the near future, the outcomes of these bouts, specifically the two main events have certainly created some interesting possibilities in regard to fights which could be made and will likely stir up discussion, opinions, and debate among Boxing fans as well as experts. Let the discussions begin.

“And That's The Boxing Truth.”

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