Sunday, September 23, 2018

Joshua Stops Povetkin In Seven To Retain Heavyweight World Championship

Undefeated IBF/WBA/IBO/WBO Heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua successfully retained his crown with a devastating seventh round stoppage of longtime Heavyweight contender Alexander Povetkin on Saturday night at Wembley Stadium in London, England. As has been the case in his recent fights, the champion was put to the test by the challenger.

In previewing this fight, this observer stated that I felt it would serve Povetkin well to use lateral movement to establish himself as an elusive target while looking to out box the champion by executing his offense in compact spurts. This is precisely what the challenger did by using timing to execute his offense and head movement to evade much of Joshua's offense.

The challenger also appeared to break the champion's nose in the first round with a combination of punches highlighted by a left hook. Joshua went back to his corner at the conclusion of the round bleeding heavily from his nose. While clearly being put to the test early, the champion appearing to suffer a broken nose is not a position he is unfamiliar.

Some may recall in Joshua’s title defense against Carlos Takam in October of last year before stopping the “Game” Takam in ten rounds. Although the champion was able to have his moments throughout this fight, this was perhaps as significant a test as his battle with Wladimir Klitschko was in April of last year in the same venue Wembley Stadium. Unlike his encounter with Klitschko, where Joshua had to get off the canvas to win the fight, it appeared at least in my eyes that the danger in this fight for Joshua was being out boxed over the course of the fight by Povetkin. I felt Povetkin got the better of the action in five of the first six rounds due to his timing, movement, and combination punching.

Despite appearing to be facing a growing deficit to overcome on the scorecards, the champion would find the answer he needed to turn the fight in his favor in round seven. In a scenario that is as good an illustration as any as to why a fight can change in a moment, Joshua staggered the challenger with a flush left hook and dropped Povetkin with a right hand. Showing his mettle, Povetkin somehow made it to his feet, despite staggering to his feet and looking to nearly fall through the ropes in his own corner. Although the fight was allowed to continue, Joshua closed the show with a brutal right hand that sent the challenger down for a second time as Povetkin's trainer stepped on to the apron of the ring in an attempt to stop the fight. As the challenger fell to the canvas for the second time, Referee Steve Gray stepped in and stopped the fight.

Official time of the stoppage was 1:59 of round seven. Anthony Joshua advances to 22-0, with 21 Knockouts. Alexander Povetkin falls to 34-2, with 24 Knockouts.

Also on this card, in a rematch to determine a mandatory challenger in the World Boxing Council’s (WBC) Lightweight ratings, former world title challenger Luke Campbell scored a dominant twelve round unanimous decision over former European Lightweight champion Yvan Mendy. Campbell out boxed Mendy over the course of twelve rounds using a mix of lateral movement and combination punching.

The use a movement by Campbell, a former British and Commonwealth Lightweight champion simply kept Mendy from being able to land his punches consistently as he frequently was made to miss by Campbell. At the end of twelve rounds, Campbell won a convincing unanimous decision. Official scores were: 119-109, 118-111, and 116-112.

Unofficially, I scored this bout, ten rounds to two or 118-110 in points for Campbell. Although Mendy tried to apply pressure on Campbell throughout, he simply could not land anything significant to discourage Campbell from moving or to turn the momentum in his favor. The win for Campbell, the nineteenth of his career, avenges his first career loss, which came via a twelve round split decision to Mendy in December 2015. Luke Campbell advances to 19-2, with 15 Knockouts. Yvan Mendy falls to 40-5-1, with 19 Knockouts.

Campbell now moves into the mandatory challenger position in the WBC Lightweight ratings. The current WBC world champion in the 135lb. Lightweight division is unified WBC/IBF Lightweight world champion Mikey Garcia. It is unclear as of now as to whether Garcia, who successfully unified the WBC and International Boxing Federation (IBF) world championships in the division with a twelve round unanimous decision over previously undefeated IBF champion Robert Easter in July of this year will stay at 135lbs. or attempt to move up to either the 140lb. Jr. Welterweight or 147lb. Welterweight divisions. If Garcia does opt to vacate his unified world championship to move up in weight, it is not out of the realm of possibility that Campbell could either be named world champion by the WBC per his being the top contender in the division and having earned the mandatory title shot, or be put in a fight for the vacant championship against the next highest ranked available contender in the WBC ratings.

In a battle for the British Cruiserweight championship, undefeated prospect Lawrence Okolie scored an underwhelming twelve round unanimous decision over champion Matty Askin to win the championship. This was frankly an ugly fight to watch and a very difficult fight to score due to the styles of the two fighters not meshing well. There was a lot of in fighting and grappling throughout the fight and that made it difficult to distinguish which fighter was getting the upper hand. Despite being penalized three points throughout the fight for headbutting and holding, Okolie was able to win the fight on the scorecards.  Official scores were 116-110, 114-112, and 114-113 all in favor of Okolie. Lawrence Okolie advances to 10-0, with 7 Knockouts. Matty Askin falls to 23-4-1, with 15 Knockouts.

Unofficially, I scored this fight in favor of Matty Askin 116-111. This was due largely to the fouls committed by Okolie throughout the fight. If one takes the point deductions out of the equation this was too close to call, despite the scoring of the three official judges, which one could argue was influenced at least in part by those deductions on two of the three scorecards.

In the Heavyweight division, undefeated prospect Sergey Kuzmin scored a fourth round stoppage of former British, English, and Commonwealth Heavyweight champion David Price. Price, the 2008 Olympic Bronze medalist in the Heavyweight division took the fight on less than ten days notice. Despite this, the one-time rising prospect, who came into the fight off of a knockout loss at the hands of Alexander Povetkin earlier this year, did hold his own for the duration of the bout and appeared to get the better of exchanges when the two fighters traded punches. Price however, seemed to be fighting fatigue after three rounds and at the conclusion of the fourth round, the bout was stopped by his corner due to what was said to be a torn bicep.

Sergey Kuzmin advances to 13-0, with 10 Knockouts. David Price falls to 22-6, with 18 Knockouts.

One has to wonder where the thirty-five year old Price, whom a few years ago yours truly felt was among the top rising prospects in the Heavyweight division. Now having lost three of his last five fights and suffering knockouts in all six of his career losses, one might wonder whether this latest setback will signal the end of Price’s career. For the moment, Price indicated in a post-fight interview that he intends to continue his career once his injury has healed. As for Sergey Kuzmin, the victory over Price earned him a regional championship in the WBA’s Heavyweight ratings, which in simple terms means it will elevate his standing in the WBA rankings going forward.

In the opening bout of the evening, in the Welterweight division, undefeated prospect Shakhram Giyasov scored stopped previously undefeated prospect Julio Laguna in four rounds. Giyasov was the effective aggressor throughout the fight and consistently brought the fight to Laguna. The end came when a combination to the head of Laguna caused the fight to be stopped at :38 of round four.

Shakhram Giyasov advances to 5-0, with 4 Knockouts. Julio Laguna falls to 14-1, with 10 Knockouts.

Two previously announced bouts on this card a four round Light-Heavyweight bout between Dana Zaxo (2-0, 2 Knockouts) and Toni Bilic (1-14, 1 Knockout) as well as a four round Welterweight bout between Petar Alexandrov (2-3, 1 Knockout) and Chris Kongo (9-0, 6 Knockouts) did not take place. There is no word as of this writing as to why those two bouts were dropped from the card.

For Anthony Joshua the victory over Alexander Povetkin was his sixth title defense. With his mandatory title defense obligations fulfilled at least for the time being, Joshua will now wait for the winner of the December 1st encounter between undefeated WBC Heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder and undefeated former unified Heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury. Depending on the outcome of Wilder-Fury, Joshua is tentatively scheduled to return to the ring in April 2019, once again at Wembley Stadium. Given Joshua has routinely drawn massive crowds to his fights and the bout with Povetkin drew an estimated 80,000 spectators, it is logical to assume a bout with the Wilder-Fury winner, which would be for the Undisputed World Heavyweight championship could take place in the United Kingdom where Joshua is one of the sport’s biggest stars. What will also be interesting is to see if such an encounter will be televised globally on DAZN, the new digital streaming network, which for its first Boxing event secured rights to the Joshua-Povetkin card as part of its recent expansion into the United States.

The growth of Over The Top (OTT) digital distribution, the success of cord-cutting of consumers choosing not to subscribe to a traditional cable/satellite pay-TV provider, as well as the success of direct to consumer subscription-based digital networks like DAZN and ESPN+, the latter of which announced recently that it had already reached one million subscribers just five months into its existence should be an indication that the future of the sport in terms of how it is televised is the direct to consumer model as well as an indication that the sport has begun to move away from the realm of traditional pay-per-view for Boxing’s major events. For now, DAZN’s Boxing debut should be considered a success. A success that those who support the sport should support as the network sets its sights on growing not only their combat sports content, which for the moment includes Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), but continuing to expand their offerings to include their recently launched U.S. service. With both DAZN and ESPN+ in acquisition mode to acquire various rights for Boxing content as well as across all of sports and competing with other networks that distribute the majority of their content via traditional cable/satellite television, the ultimate winner will be the sports fan. An evolution in consumer choice that this observer looks forward to continuing to watch as it evolves.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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