Wednesday, November 3, 2021

The Conclusion Of October 2021 In Boxing

 While the month of October 2021 will likely go down in memory of most Boxing fans and experts alike as being the month where the classic third encounter between undefeated two-time Heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury and former WBC Heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder, the month in the sport concluded with three Boxing cards that will certainly have the Boxing world talking moving forward. Readers likely recall the coverage provided by this observer of a card that took place on October 30th, one of three events that will be highlighted in this column, in London, England, which was headlined by a unification bout in the Women’s 140lb. Jr. Welterweight division between WBC world champion Chantelle Cameron, who scored a ten round unanimous decision over IBF world champion Mary McGee.


A bout that Cameron won convincingly, but one that saw plenty of back and forth action that elevated both fighters as well as showed the continuing significant progress that has been made for women in the sport. What was not touched upon in the coverage of that card, but has been seen in other content that is available in the archives here on The Boxing Truth® is that the bout between Cameron and McGee was the start of a tournament to fully unify the Women’s Jr. Welterweight division and Cameron will face the winner of the November 19th clash between WBA/IBO Jr. Welterweight champion Kali Reis and Jessica Camara where the vacant WBO crown will also be at stake, in 2022 to determine an undisputed champion in the division. While this will also mark the first time in this observer’s memory where all five major sanctioning organizations, the World Boxing Council (WBC), the World Boxing Association (WBA), The International Boxing Federation (IBF), the World Boxing Organization (WBO), and the International Boxing Organization (IBO) will be involved to determine an undisputed world champion in either men’s or women’s Boxing, the unification of this weight class seems to be more significant in terms of a shift in the entire sport as unification processes are taking place for both men and women competing in Boxing. Further thoughts on this particular subject later in this column.


The Cameron-McGee card also saw two quick knockouts in Boxing’s Heavyweight division. First, it was unbeaten prospect Johnny Fisher who scored three knockdowns in the second round of veteran Alvaro Terrero. While there was not much to say about this fight as Fisher is still in the early stages of his development against a fighter in Terrero, who frankly has been on the losing end of most of his fights, Fisher has been gradually developing and now with a record of 4-0, with 4 Knockouts, the question is what will he do next in his progress. Similarly, unbeaten Heavyweight Alen Babic, who followed Fisher’s bout with Terrero with a first round second round knockout of former two-time world title challenger Eric Molina, one might argue is at a similar stage as Fisher. A primary similarity between the two is both men have scored knockouts in every one of their bouts. Although Babic has more experience in scoring his ninth victory in his career over Molina, the possibility of the two potentially meeting in the future is certainly there.


As for Babic’s bout with Molina, it is not often that you see a fighter with under ten bouts in their career facing a fighter with Molina’s resume in being a longtime contender and former multi-time world title challenger. On this basis, I felt that Molina may be able to give Babic a test that he may not have been ready for. Babic of course, put a quick end to that possibility as he quickly dropped Molina with a short, but flush right hand to the jaw that sent him down. This was followed by two subsequent knockdowns that frankly gave an impression that Molina potentially was looking for a way out of the bout. While disappointing on one hand because of Molina’s experience, perhaps it was also an indication of Babic’s punching power that it discouraged a normally “Game” and veteran fighter from continuing on in the fight. Nevertheless, much like Johnny Fisher, the question for Alen Babic remains the same and unfortunately, his victory over Eric Molina left more questions than provided answers simply due to Molina’s performance or lack thereof.  It is therefore difficult to surmise where Babic is in his development simply because Molina did not provide much resistance in this bout.


While the questions surrounding these two Heavyweight prospects remain unanswered for the moment, a bout that took place in Madison Square Garden’s Theater in the Men’s Jr. Welterweight division may have indicated a potential challenger for current undefeated Undisputed Jr. Welterweight world champion Josh Taylor. Yours truly, is referring to the clash between former world title challenger Jose Zepeda and rising contender Josue Vargas.


This was a classic scenario of youth versus experience in Zepeda a former world title challenger and current top contender facing a fighter in Vargas who is nine years younger and who seemingly was on the way up towards a potential world title shot. Often fights like this are viewed as a necessity of young fighters as they look to position themselves to challenge for a world championship. Although sometimes there are fighters who emerge at that level in being in position to challenge a world champion without facing a top contender or two beforehand due to the politics that be in the sport, more often than not, a fight like this is what can at times be a final step before getting that opportunity.


Despite being in a scenario where he was facing a young fighter in Vargas, who also had a significant portion of crowd support being based in the Bronx and with the fight taking place in Madison Square Garden, Zepeda showed his experience as he was able to quickly land a flush right hand to the jaw of the twenty-three year old Vargas that sent him down on the canvas almost as quickly as the fight began. Due to the way Vargas went down from this punch, I believed that the fight should have been stopped even though Vargas showed his mettle by being able to get up on very unsteady legs. Simply put, the type of punch Vargas was hit with in addition to the way he went down to the canvas was such that it is extremely rare to see a fighter be able to come back from. While not necessarily something that can be viewed as comparable due to the obvious differences between the two combat sports, more often than not when a fighter in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) goes down after being hit in the way Vargas was, the fight is almost always stopped immediately.


This would not be the case in this fight as Vargas was given the benefit of the doubt and allowed to attempt to continue, but it would be seconds later that Zepeda would corner his opponent and unleash a barrage of unanswered blows that would force a stoppage of the fight in just under two minutes of the first round. It was a statement making performance by the thirty-two year old Zepeda who has now won five straight fights. Zepeda, who challenged then WBC Jr. Welterweight world champion Jose Ramirez unsuccessfully in 2019 now figures to be a likely candidate to challenge Josh Taylor for the Undisputed world championship at 140lbs. at some point in 2022. As for Josue Vargas, a loss like this will likely require some time for him to digest. Even though he did not take a long, drawn out beating in this fight, it was still the type of loss that can impact a fighter mentally and it is important to keep in mind that he is only twenty-three years old and while this should not be viewed as a career-threatening loss, it is something that he will need time to come back from. Vargas simply just got caught by a perfectly timed right hand and unfortunately for him, he was not able to recover, much less realize what was happening before the fight was over.


The final stop on the journey this column has taken us on as far as the Boxing action that closed out the month of October takes us to the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, NV, where two fights in Boxing’s 147lb. Welterweight division took place. In the first of the two bouts, undefeated top contender Jaron Ennis faced former world title challenger and longtime contender Thomas Dulorme. Much like the bout that took place in Madison Square Garden’s theater between Jose Zepeda and Josue Vargas, this was another scenario of youth versus experience.


Although the thirty-one year old Dulorme appeared to be on the downside of his career that had seen thirty-one professional bouts going into this fight, he still had the experience that I felt would be a good test for the twenty-four year old Ennis, who had scored knockouts in twenty-five of his twenty-seven career wins registering a career knockout percentage of over 89%. Unlike Zepeda-Vargas however, where experience won out over youth, this would be the reverse scenario, but ironically would end almost as quickly as Ennis would drop Dulorme with an overhand right that seemed to land behind the ear. Dulorme was able to get up, but in this observer’s view, made the wrong decision by attempting to trade punches with Ennis under circumstances where he probably should have held on to give himself a chance to clear his head and regain his legs. Dulorme’s decision would prove costly as, despite landing a punch of his own in an exchange following the knockdown, Ennis would send him down for the second and final time with a straight left hand leaving Dulorme struggling and ultimately unable to get up from the canvas. The fight was over in 1:49 of the first round.


For Ennis who is rated in the top five in the WBA, IBF, and WBO Welterweight ratings, this was a star-making performance and should put him in line to face the winner of the November 20th bout between undefeated multi-division world champion Terence Crawford, current holder of the WBO Welterweight world championship and former two-time Welterweight world champion Shawn Porter. With undefeated current IBF/WBC world champion Errol Spence sidelined due to an eye injury, and the WBA Welterweight world championship in the midst of the organization’s initiative to eliminate interim/regular championship designations, and to determine one WBA world champion per weight class, something that yours truly has been screaming for, for several years as part of his annual Boxing Wishlist that usually begins a new year here on The Boxing Truth®, it would make all the sense in the world for Ennis to face the winner of Crawford-Porter if the politics that be in the sport do not get in the way. With a record of 28-0, with 26 Knockouts, it is hard to come up with an argument as to why Ennis should not be in line.


As for the situation involving the WBA Welterweight world championship, coincidentally that is the final stop in terms of the coverage of cards in this column as the bout that followed Ennis’ knockout of Dulorme was to determine at least one slot in the WBA’s “Tournament” of sorts to determine one “world champion” in the division. While the need for such a concept was something that was the result of the World Boxing Association’s flawed policies and Yordenis Ugas is currently the WBA world champion, I will move on. This bout featured top contender Jamal James and undefeated contender Radzhab Butaev. James, who held interim/regular champion status in the WBA’s rankings prior to this fight seemed to have more experience than the unbeaten Butaev, who entered the bout rated number four in the WBA Welterweight ratings compared to James, who was the mandatory challenger for Ugas going into the fight per his designation. Beyond the rankings, Butaev only had thirteen pro fights coming into this encounter compared to James’ twenty-eight pro bouts so on the surface, you would think James would have the edge going in. In what was a competitive fight, Butaev would show he was the stronger of the two fighters and ultimately would score a somewhat controversial stoppage of James in the ninth round to become the mandatory challenger for Ugas. The reason the stoppage of the fight was somewhat controversial was James did not appear as though he was in dire trouble, but was on the receiving end of a barrage of punches that caused the referee to step in and stop the fight.


As is normally the case when it comes to the stoppage of fights that appear as though might have been stopped prematurely, this observer will always give the referee, in this case Referee Celistino Ruiz the benefit of the doubt because the referee is the closest person to the action and no matter how great technology continues to be as it is ever evolving, no matter how big  one’s television screen, tablet screen, or phone screen might be, or how good one’s view might be from a ringside seat or in a venue where a fight is taking place, the referee will always have an opportunity to see something that a fan, a television commentator/broadcaster, or those of us who cover the sport may not see simply due to the vantage point they have as being in the ring with the fighters. Although perhaps this fight could have gone a little longer, Ruiz should be given the benefit of the doubt in his call.


As for where this leaves things in the “WBA Mess”, Butaev will now be slated to face the winner of a proposed bout between WBA champion Yordenis Ugas and top contender Eiamtas Stanionis.  Ugas however, fresh off of his first title defense over Manny Pacquiao, a fight in which for the moment appears to be Pacquiao’s last as a fighter, has expressed his desire for a unification bout with Errol Spence once Spence is able to return to the ring. Unfortunately, we will have to wait and see where that goes before a bout with Stanionis, or a resolution of the “WBA Mess” as I call it will come to pass.


Although I could end this column by leaving the negative impression created by the WBA, it should not go unnoticed that the month of November begin with another unification bout for Women’s Boxing. This time, in the 130lb. Jr. Lightweight division as undefeated WBO world champion Mikaela Mayer will face IBF world champion Maiva Hamadouche on Friday, November 5th at the Virgin Hotel in Las Vegas, NV. While the battle for the Undisputed Men’s Super-Middleweight world championship between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Caleb Plant, which will also take place in Las Vegas on November 6th will receive more attention, it should not be overlooked that the women in the sport of Boxing seem to be moving towards unification of all weight divisions at a more consistent pace than their male counterparts. Hopefully, the steady and increased progress for women in the sport will ultimately continue to spill over to the men’s side of the equation where the politics of the sport does not interfere. If it does, Boxing will finally be defined by one word for both men and women that compete in the sport. “Progress.”


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”


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