Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Thoughts On O'Connor-Claggett

The Jr. Welterweight bout between veterans Danny O’Connor and Steve Claggett was the latest for the active 140lb. division that is in the process of transition following former undisputed world champion Terence Crawford choosing to relinquish his crown and seek opportunities in the 147lb. Welterweight division. While a good portion of the recent bouts that have taken place in the division have been focused on the upper echelon in top contenders fighting to secure an opportunity to fight for a world championship, to former world champions fighting for world championships in the Jr. Welterweight division for the first time, to finally top contenders meeting each other for vacated world titles, O’Connor-Claggett was not among them.

Instead, the fight between Danny O’Connor and Steve Claggett shined a light on a portion of the division and by extension the entire sport of Boxing that does not always get the attention as bouts at or around the top of the division. A battle between two world-class fighters, each of whom had suffered some setbacks throughput their careers, and both looking to elevate their standing to get an opportunity to add their name among the top contenders in the talent deep Jr. Welterweight division.

When there is an encounter between two fighters that are evenly matched as this fight was it is interesting to see which fighter will be able to stand out from the other. This was as this observer said in previewing this bout what one could call a “Crossroads Fight.”

As I also stated in previewing this fight, it was logical to assume based on each other’s style in addition to the fact that neither was known for their punching power that this would be a tactical bout where it could come down to who was simply able to be the more effective fighter. Although there are times where what may appear to be logical on paper in terms of how a fight might be fought does not turn out to be anywhere near what takes place when two fighters get inside the ring, this was an instance where what appeared on paper prior to the fight materialized once O’Connor and Claggett stepped into the ring on March 17th at the House of Blues in Boston, MA.

It was an encounter where both fighters had their share of moments in many of the rounds. It was O’Connor however, who was able to be more effective due to his ability to be able to punch in volume and gradually outwork Claggett over the course of the fight.

In fights where two fighters are able to have periods of effectiveness in the same rounds, the challenge for those who are watching the fight as fans as well as the three official judges who are scoring a fight as I have often said over the years is to distinguish which fighter is able to have more success in their spots as compared to their opponent. Steve Claggett was very effective in putting pressure on Danny O’Connor from the outset, but a noticeable difference between the two fighters was that despite Claggett’s consistent pressure, O’Connor was able to not only outwork his opponent, but also counter punch effectively by taking small steps and catching Claggett as he was coming forward.

Even though the tempo of the fight was to a big extent controlled by O’Connor for the majority of the bout, Claggett nearly brought an end to the evening when he was able to catch O’Connor with a flush right hand to the jaw that sent O’Connor down in round seven. One thing that I noticed as I watched this fight that Claggett did not do much of, despite being effective in putting pressure on O’Connor was he was not really committed to throwing punches to O’Connor’s body. This allowed O’Connor to utilize his lateral movement in a way where he was making small movements throughout the fight, but was able to control distance, vary his attack, and get his punches off first in addition to making Claggett miss with some of his punches. Sometimes in Boxing it can indeed be the small differences that will determine who will get the upper hand and come out on top in a fight.

Despite being put in a position in the seventh round that likely caused some to remember O’Connor’s knockout loss in his second fight against Gabriel Bracero in October 2015, O’Connor to his credit was able to regroup and finished the fight strong in winning a ten round unanimous decision. With the victory, O’Connor also retained his WBC International Silver Jr. Welterweight championship.

As for where exactly O’Connor’s standing as an International Silver titleholder will elevate his position in the new World Boxing Council (WBC) Jr. Welterweight ratings remains to be seen. Although this was what most people think of when the term “Crossroads Fight” is used, the reality is a loss for Steve Claggett does not necessarily mean the end of his career, nor does it mean that he could not be considered a viable option for anyone in the Jr. Welterweight division. Even though Claggett did not leave the ring in this fight victorious, he did have an impressive showing and one might argue produced the highlight of what was an entertaining fight by scoring the knockdown of O’Connor in round seven. It will be interesting to see what Steve Claggett’s next move will be coming out of this fight.

Although a feature is in the works that will discuss the 140lb. Jr. Welterweight division on a wider scale that will be released here on the website in the coming months, fights like this only demonstrate why the division throughout its history has been known as one of the most competitive and deep in the entire sport. It may indeed be true that the upper echelon in Boxing’s seventeen weight divisions receive the majority of attention from Boxing fans as well as the bulk of television exposure, but the fight between Danny O’Connor and Steve Claggett is as good of an example as any Yours truly could use as to why one should take time to see what an entire weight class has to offer. It is also true that fighters who may not yet be in the upper echelon of contenders and world champions deserve exposure as well.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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