Monday, August 27, 2018

Dogboe, Beltran-Pedraza, What Happens Next?

Two world championship fights showcasing Boxing’s Jr. Featherweight and Lightweight divisions on August 25th at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, AZ which could impact each respective division going into 2019. In the first of these world championship bouts, undefeated World Boxing Organization (WBO) Jr. Featherweight world champion Issac Dogboe stepped into the ring to make the first defense of his crown, which he won in April of this year with an eleventh round knockout of Jessie Magdaleno.

The Ghanian-born, London, England-based Dogboe faced what appeared might be a stern test in the form of thirty-seven year old WBO number six rated contender Hidenori Otake of Japan. Otake, who had a respectable record of winning thirty-one of his thirty six previous professional fights coming into his challenge of Dogboe certainly had experience on his side having previously held the Japanese Jr. Featherweight championship as well as holding the Oriental Professional Boxing Federation (OPBF) Jr. Featherweight championship, a title where he had made three successful defenses prior to this fight. Despite Otake’s experience and ability to go rounds having scored knockouts in fourteen of his thirty-one career victories, one could have questioned whether he would be able to withstand Dogboe’s power over the course of the fight given that the recently crowned world champion had knocked out thirteen of his previous nineteen opponents registering a career knockout percentage of 70%.

What normally is of interest to this observer whenever a new world champion makes their first title defense, particularly a world champion who won their championship in impressive fashion as Dogboe had is to see if whether winning the world championship will somehow influence their approach going into defending the crown. While the term “Influence” may lead some readers to think that yours truly is referring to the fighter’s preparation going into the fight as sometimes can indeed be a topic of discussion prior to a fight, that is not what I am referring to in this instance. In this case the word “Influence” simply refers to the fighter’s intent coming into battle.

Obviously, the intent of any fighter who steps into the ring should be to perform well and aim for victory when all is said and done, but what I am referring to is more in regard to how the fighter approaches the task at hand, the combat. Whether said fighter will be tentative in their approach perhaps with the intent to not be as aggressive and to study what the opposition’s approach might be and gradually implement a strategy over the course of several rounds, or whether the champion will seek to make as big and loud of a statement as they did in winning the world championship.

Dogboe’s approach in this fight could be best described as “Systematic” in that once the bell rang to begin the bout, he simply went to work. No gamesmanship, no attempt of psychological tactics to get in the mind of his opponent, just simply going about his business, awaiting his opening, and taking advantage of that opening once it presented itself.

Using a body/head attack, Dogboe landed consistently to the challenger’s body with hooks and uppercuts to the head and through Otake’s high defensive guard. This eventually created an opening for the champion to drop Otake with a flush left hook to the head. Although the challenger was able to get up from the knockdown and got up from a second knockdown as a result of a follow-up barrage by Dogboe, Otake simply had no answer or way to weather the storm of the champion’s offense forcing Referee Chris Flores to stop the fight at 2:18 of round one.

There simply is not much one can say about a fight that lasts just over two minutes, but Dogboe’s performance in this fight was the type that both fighters, a fighter’s management, and a fighter’s promoter love. A statement making performance after an equally significant statement making performance in winning the world championship via impressive knockout.

What this means for Dogboe is not only has he demonstrated the traits that a network looks for when they are seeking to broadcast fights featuring fighters with entertaining styles, but also it is those types of performances that usually generate buzz and creates interest among the ultimate authority, the Boxing fan. While it may be too soon to name Issac Dogboe as Boxing’s next breakout superstar, he has established himself as a fighter to watch, who’s star is definitely on the rise. In terms of Dogbe’s future in the 122lb. Jr. Featherweight division, there are certainly potential options that could lead to possible unification of the division down the line. As for the near future, it would not surprise me to see Dogboe face a mandatory challenger as mandated by the WBO in his next title defense to fulfill the world champion’s annual mandatory defense obligation before possibly setting his sights on perhaps recently crowned International Boxing Federation (IBF) world champion Ryosuke Iwasa or even a potential move up in weight to the 126lb. Featherweight division.

The second world championship fight that took place on August 25th featured a recently crowned world champion who was also making his first title defense. WBO Lightweight world champion Ray Beltran. Beltran is a longtime veteran of the sport, who has not always come out on top in some particularly close fights throughout his career. This would change however, in February of this year when after forty-three professional fights, Betran defeated Paulus Moses to win the vacant WBO Lightweight world championship previously held by Terry Flanagan.

For his first defense as a world champion, Beltran would face WBO number two rated Lightweight contender Jose Pedraza. In a similarity to Issac Dogboe, I wondered how the thirty-seven year old Betran would approach this first title defense. After all, Beltran has experienced the highs and lows that come with a long and grueling career as a fighter. The champion had also faced struggles outside the ring as the Los Mochis, Mexico native endured a long battle to obtain citizenship here in the United States. Without going into the particulars of Beltran’s battle outside of Boxing, it was still logical to question what effect the highs, lows, and stresses the champion had gone through both in and out of the ring had taken on him. While fighters and by extension all athletes are gifted with their respective talents, they are all human as the rest of us and it would frankly surprise me if there wasn’t at least a little toll that had been taken on Beltran given everything he had been through.

In terms of the opposition that stood across the ring from Beltran, Jose Pedraza had established himself as a top contender in the normally talent-deep 135lb. Lightweight division. The challenger entered this encounter with Beltran having won his previous three bouts and had only lost one of twenty-five professional fights coming into his fight with Beltran. In Pedraza’s lone defeat he was stopped by undefeated world champion Gervonta Davis in January of last year in the 130lb. Jr. Lightweight division.

When two fighters square off, who each come into a fight having built significant momentum, it is always interesting to see which fighter will take the initiative. Sometimes in Boxing, a fight can be summarized in simple terms. This was a tactical battle where the story quickly became Jose Pedraza’s ability to use lateral movement, switch between a southpaw and orthodox stance, to time his opponent, and finally mix up his offense.

While the champion Beltran was able to have his moments periodically throughout the fight, his normal strategy of looking to apply consistent pressure and gradually break an opponent down over the course of a long fight did not work to his benefit in this bout. The challenger was the fighter who consistently got his punches off first, tied Beltran up and made it difficult for the champion to get off with his offense and/or evaded the majority of Beltran’s punches. Pedraza’s performance was highlighted by dropping the champion in the eleventh round with an uppercut. At the end of the twelve round world championship fight I had Jose Pedraza winning it nine rounds to three or 117-109 in points with a 10-8 round in the eleventh because of the knockdown. Official judges Robert Hoyle and Lisa Giampa turned in scores similar to this observer of 117-110, why the third official judge Ruben Taylor turned in a slightly closer score of 115-112 in points or seven rounds to five with a 10-8 round because of the knockdown against Beltran in round eleven. All three of these scores were unanimous awarding the fight and the WBO Lightweight world championship to the new champion Jose Pedraza.

While this card featured two fighters that appeared to be on the verge of some significant paydays, one of those fighters, Ray Beltran suffered a setback. While the old-adage of “Styles Make Fights” certainly can be applied to his loss to Jose Pedraza, Beltran is a fighter who has shown throughout his career that he can bounce back from bumps in the road. This is likely the beginning of the next chapter in the incredible story of Ray Beltran and it is certainly not out of the realm of possibility that he will remain in the world championship picture going forward.

As for Jose Pedraza, he appears to be in line for one such payday that would have been available to Beltran had he been able to retain the world championship that Pedraza now holds. A World Lightweight championship unification bout with three-division world champion and current WBA Lightweight world champion Vasyl Lomachenko, which could take place as soon as December of this year. Although it is likely that Pedraza would be considered an underdog if that fight is signed, the new WBO world champion has shown that he is comfortable in that role and if Lomachenko were to underestimate him, it could be a big mistake given what Pedraza showed he can do in his victory over Ray Beltran.

Two world championship fights in the Jr. Featherweight and Lightweight divisions. Issac Dogboe, a world champion who’s star is continuing to rise, Ray Beltran, a world champion who’s story now faces a new chapter after the loss of his world championship, and Jose Pedraza, the top Lightweight contender who had been rebuilding his career after suffering a loss rising up to become a world champion and now appears to be in position for an even bigger moment in his career. Three separate stories that the Boxing world and it’s fans will no doubt remain interested in going forward. The types of stories that Boxing tends to love. We will see what happens in the next chapter for each fighter.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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