Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Thoughts On Stiverne-Bryan

As the Boxing world continues to cope with the ongoing global COVID-19 epidemic, the first month of 2021 has largely been a quiet one for the sport in terms of action inside the ring. Sometimes however, what takes place outside the ring can be just as intriguing as watching two fighters engage in combat. A story that took up a significant amount of attention during the month of January concerned the scheduled Heavyweight encounter between top contender and former world title challenger Manuel Charr and unbeaten contender Trevor Bryan, which was scheduled to take place on January 29th at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, FL.


Like many fights in the recent history of the sport, the encounter between Charr, who held interim/regular champion status in the World Boxing Association’s (WBA) ratings and Bryan, a fighter that also held an interim designation in the organization’s Heavyweight rankings, was delayed by the ongoing epidemic and subsequent pause the sport experienced last year. The weeks leading up to the what was rescheduled bout can be best described as “A Saga “ with as many twists and turns as one would find in a scripted television drama series. While frankly such events were difficult to follow on a daily basis, which for the sake of the reader I will attempt to summarize the circumstances that included, but was not limited to accusations of the Charr camp towards promoter Don King, the promoter of the event of not wanting stage the event, issues regarding whether Charr would be allowed to travel to the United States from Germany where he is based due to the ongoing epidemic, medical testing protocols, visa issues, and finally an issue regarding the contract for the fight that evidently was unsigned, this ultimately resulted in Charr being removed from the fight and former WBC Heavyweight world champion Bermane Stiverne, who was to have fought on the undercard stepping in to face Bryan on a little more than forty-eight hours notice.


Only adding to the complicated puzzle that frankly had this observer befuddled and wondering daily in the days prior to the card as to whether or not any fights at all would take place in what was a King independently produced pay-per-view broadcast on the promoter’s websites, and finally also carried on digital combat sports network and pay-per-view platform www.FITE.TV, the WBA opted on the day of the fight to sanction the now Stiverne-Bryan bout as having an interim/regular champion status designation, while also designating Charr as “Champion in recess” and mandating that the winner would have to face Charr within a 120-day window after this fight took place.


With the plethora of issues, which yours truly has hopefully, done as good a job of explaining in as simple terms as possible for the reader, it was finally time to focus on a fight no one expected to take place on January 29th.  When any fight on any level of combat sports is made on such short notice, the only logical question one can really ask is what type of fight can one expect to see.


In this case, one fighter Bryan, who entered unbeaten in twenty professional fights had been inactive since August 2018 when he knocked out BJ Flores to earn his interim designation in the WBA rotation behind current unified IBF/WBA/WBO/IBO Heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua. While his inactivity was significantly increased by the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic as well aa circumstances of the on again, off again bout with Manuel Charr, it was logical to wonder what impact nearly three years of inactivity would have on him.  Despite his status as a former world champion, Bernane Stiverne had not won a fight since a 2015 ten round unanimous decision over Derric Rossy, so it was also logical to question what he would bring into this fight in addition to taking the bout on short notice. 


Although one might assume that they should not have expected much given the narrow window of time that this bout was made, what took place when the two 267lb. Heavyweights got in the ring was a surprisingly competitive fight under the circumstances. The one constant that stood out in this fight in my eyes was how effective Bryan was in being able to execute his jab in usually being the one to initiate the combat as well as mixing in short combinations to the body and head from time to time. Stiverne meanwhile seemed to be most effective either when he was able to land looping right hands to the head of Bryan and held his own in some heated exchanges of offense between the two fighters.


Trevor Bryan’s consistency however, stood out more as the fight progressed and as the bout entered the middle and late rounds, it became a question of whether Bryan would be content to box his way to victory or if he would try to get an increasingly fatigued Stiverne out of there if the opportunity presented itself. Despite the ebb and flow increasing in Bryan’s favor, Stiverne remained dangerous and appeared to stun Bryan with a few of the right hands he was able to land. 


In round eleven, Bryan connected with a flush right hand to the head behind several jabs that set off a barrage of punches that sent Stiverne down. After sending Stiverne down for a second time with another right hand to the head, the former world champion did manage to beat the count, but it was clear that he had nothing left to give in this fight and after a brief follow-up barrage by Bryan, the fight was stopped by Referee Frank Gentile.


The win for Trevor Bryan does in theory set the stage for the long delayed encounter between himself and Manuel Charr to take place later this year. This obviously will depend on both the ongoing COVID-19 global epidemic as well as a potential legal battle between Charr, promoter Don King, and the WBA. Developments, which we all will have to wait and see what will happen next.


As for promoter Don King, this card also marked his return to promoting after not promoting a Boxing card as a lead promoter since 2018. For the eighty-nine year old Hall of Fame promoter, this card also marked the debut of his foray into the digital streaming realm both through his own websites as well as FITE.TV. With three additional events targeted for later this year through King’s streaming platform, one can only hope that subsequent events will not have the same type of day to day drama preceding what will hopefully take place in the Boxing ring. Hopefully, COVID-19 will also not stand in the way of an opportunity for fighters who have been sidelined largely due to the ongoing global crisis to re-enter competition. While this observer cannot say what will happen next, the Boxing world will certainly be watching. 


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”


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