Thursday, December 16, 2021

December 11th Thoughts And Previewing December 17th-18th In Boxing

By now, readers have had an opportunity to read and digest this observer's coverage of both Conor Benn's knockout of former world champion Chris Algieri and the continuing evolving story of Boxing's Lightweight division, which coincidentally took place on December 11th. It goes without saying however, that Boxing is one of the most global sports in existence and as such, it can be a challenge for one to adequately keep an eye on all the action that can and often does occur throughout the sport when so many cards and world championship bouts are scheduled for one day around the world. 


Even those of us who cover the sport and are used to what yours truly often refers to as marathons of Boxing cards that take place over anywhere from a one to three day period can still find it difficult to keep an eye on and subsequently cover everything that goes on, despite significant advances in technology that frankly makes our jobs easier. While December 11, 2021 was notable for the debut of Probellum, Boxing's newest promotional and managerial entity, something which will be discussed in greater detail after the new year here on The Boxing Truth®, there were two other notable events that took place on that day, which has not previously been covered in recent content that is available in our archives section that deserves some discussion and insight from this observer before a brief preview of what is to follow later in this column. 


First up is future Hall of Famer and current WBC Bantamweight world champion Nonito Donaire, who made the first defense of the world title he won back in May of this year by facing unbeaten top contender Reymart Gaballo in a bout that took place at the legendary outdoor arena in Carson, CA currently known as Dignity Health Sports Park. While the venue that has been a staple for Boxing for many years has gone through several name changes in its history, Donaire is one of the legends of the sport to have performed in the stadium. This latest performance by the thirty-nine year old four-division world champion was such that, despite a long career that has seen it’s share of wars, Donaire seems to have plenty of fight left in him as he ended the fight with Gaballo with one second remaining in the fourth round with a left hook to the body.


There is simply not much you can say to describe this fight beyond saying that one fighter simply caught the other with a flush shot that landed perfectly. Although it seemed as though the fight was just starting to heat up, when it comes to body punch knockouts, more often than not, it will be where the punch landed that will be the reason for a fight’s conclusion as these type of punches are known to essentially freeze the fighter that is on the receiving end of it. This is precisely what happened in this fight as the left hook that Donaire landed seemed to catch Gaballo on the liver and many fighters including, but not limited to Micky Ward carved out a reputation throughout their careers for their ability to end fights with body shots similar to the one Donaire was able to land in this encounter.


Despite a long and grueling career, Donaire appears to not be done carving out his Hall of Fame credentials as he appears to be nearing a rematch with undefeated unified IBF/WBA Bantamweight world champion Noya Inoue, who defeated Donaire in a unification bout in the finals of the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) Bantamweight tournament in 2019. As this column was in development, Inoue scored a knockout of top contender Aran Dipaen in the eighth round of a fight that took place on December 14th in Tokyo, Japan. With Donaire recently signing with Probellum, and the promotional entity’s global plans, it will be interesting to see if a rematch of what was an extremely competitive fight can be made in 2022. In all honesty, at this stage in his career, it’s the biggest fight that could be on the table for Donaire.


The last bout that took place on December 11th, which coincidentally will tie in perhaps heavily to the bouts that will be previewed that will be taking place on December 17th and 18th respectively involved undefeated WBA Light-Heavyweight world champion Dmitry Bivol, who scored a twelve round unanimous decision over Umar Salamov in Ekaterinburg, Russia. Bivol out boxed a very “Game”, but tactically outgunned Salamov over the course of the twelve round bout to earn a convincing decision victory in a fight that did not offer much in the way of highlights, but can be described as a workmanlike performance by the champion..


This victory for Bivol should be viewed as one that will allow him to stay active while trying to secure more lucrative opportunities in the 175lb. Light-Heavyweight division. Bivol has been a potential opponent for current Undisputed Super-Middleweight world champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, but with Alvarez looking to challenge for a world title in the Cruiserweight division in 2022, a bout between Alvarez and Bivol seems unlikely at least in the short-term. As for where that might leave Bivol as 2022 approaches, there are two Light-Heavyweight bouts that will take place on December 17th and 18th that could well produce his next opponent.


The first of these bouts will be fought in Montreal, Canada where undefeated unified IBF/WBC Light-Heavyweight world champion Artur Beterbiev will defend his title against top contender Marcus Browne in a bout that can be seen here in the United States on digital subscription sports streaming network ESPN+. When it comes to potential opponents for Bivol outside of Alvarez, Beterbiev might be at the top of the list. Not only because of his status as a unified world champion, but also the fact that he has knocked out all sixteen of his opponents going into this fight with Browne, As mouth watering as a potential encounter between Bivol, who also has knockout power, and Beterbiev is, Beterbiev must first face what could be a test in the form of top contender Marcus Browne. 


Browne, who will enter the bout with a record of 24-1, with 16 Knockouts, has previously held interim/regular champion status in the World Boxing Association’s (WBA) Light-Heavyweight ratings in his career and will be entering his first world championship fight in this bout. Browne is a solid boxer/puncher that is capable of out Boxing an opponent should the opportunity arise and also has punching power. While Browne is one of several fighters throughout the whole sport that has had an interim/regular designation in the WBA rankings in his career, it will be interesting to see how he will respond to fighting for a world championship against a fighter of Beterbiev’s caliber and reputation.


It is that reputation in my view as a “Knockout Artist” that Browne will need to be respectful of and the key to this fight for the challenger in my view will be whether or not he will be able to survive what will likely be early pressure by the champion and extend him into the middle and late rounds of this fight. At this stage in Beterbiev’s career, we do not know how he will respond to being taken into the deep waters of a fight or how he will adapt if an initial strategy does not work initially. If Browne succeeds in extending this fight or putting Beterbiev in a scenario or scenarios that we have not seen the champion put in before, some of the questions that have surrounded him may start to get answered in this fight.


One fighter who will probably be watching the Beterbiev-Browne bout with keen interest is undefeated former WBC Super-Middleweight world champion Gilberto Ramirez, who will return to action on December 18th in San Antonio, TX where he will face Yuneski Gonzalez in a twelve round bout that can be seen on digital subscription sports streaming network DAZN. Much like Bivol, Ramirez has also been name dropped as a potential opponent for Alvarez and like Bivol and Beterbiev, is undefeated in his career. Ramirez will look to position himself for a bout with either Bivol or the Beterbiev-Browne winner in this fight with Yuneski Gonzalez. 


In his last bout in July of this year, Ramirez scored a fourth round knockout of longtime contender and former world title challenger Sullivan Barrera. A similarity that Ramirez shares with Dmitry Bivol is that he is a boxer/puncher that is capable of doing pretty much anything from a skill/tactical standpoint. Ramirez’ opponent on this occasion Yuneski Gonzalez will bring a record of 21-3, with 17 Knockouts into the encounter compared to Ramirez’ 42-0, with 28 Knockouts. Gonzalez’ three losses however, all came when he attempted to step up in caliber of opposition, most notably against former WBC Light-Heavyweight world champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk, who stopped him in 2017. The question that I have as this fight approaches is whether or not Gonzalez will be able to make this step up against a fighter of Ramirez’ caliber and skillset. Despite being in the role of opponent, Gonzalez should be taken seriously and if he can step up and/or if Ramirez might be looking past him, he could possibly pull off a surprise here, but the focus will be on what he will be able to bring to the table in this fight. Gonzalez has won three bouts since his loss to Gvozdyk and has won those bouts by knockout so he has earned this chance to see if he can step up. If Gonzalez were to defeat Ramirez, he would almost certainly be entered into the discussion of potential world title contenders. Whether or not he will be able to do that remains to be seen.


December 18, 2021 will also feature two rematches in the Cruiserweight and Heavyweight divisions. First, Youtube star Jake Paul will face the man he defeated in August of this year, former UFC Welterweight world champion Tyron Woodley in Tampa, FL in an eight round Cruiserweight bout that can be seen in the United States on Showtime Pay-Per-View. Paul, who is unbeaten in four professional fights as a Cruiserweight was supposed to face fellow unbeaten Cruiserweight Tommy Fury, the brother of undefeated two-time Heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury in what would have been Paul’s first bout against a legitimate boxer after facing two Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters including Woodley, a former NBA player, and a fellow Youtube star in his pro debut in 2020. Fury however, was forced to pull out of the bout due to an undisclosed medical issue. Thus, Woodley, who did extend Paul eight rounds in August steps in to take an impromptu rematch on short notice. A fight that ended in a split decision victory for Paul, Woodley was able to briefly stun Paul with a hook to the head during the course of the fight, but the consensus was that he simply did not do enough to win the fight.


The bout has since been the subject of both speculation and criticism by both fighters and those of us in media for accusations of a supposed no knockout clause in the contract that many feel was a means to protect Paul as well as the issue of a fight between a novice against a former MMA world champion headlining a pay-per-view card.  This observer has said from the get go since the influx of youtube stars and other forms of “Celebrity” began interjecting themselves into the sport of Boxing that I would be objective and give the benefit of the doubt to those who are entering the sport.


In Paul’s case, he has shown some development in his bouts and in giving credit where it’s due, he did go eight rounds against Woodley last time out. One does have to wonder however, given the state of both the pay-per-view medium as well as the fact that said medium is gradually being phased out by a subscription-based model as to the wisdom of continuing to market Paul as a pay-per-view attraction when frankly, he is not anywhere near the status of a prospect, much less a contender. While his knack for promotion is something that does generate attention whether it be good or bad, it is hard to take someone seriously who does not box against actual boxers and is being pushed as a pay-per-view star having not gone up against legitimate boxers in addition to having a record where most fighters that are starting out are in the opening bouts on a card, not in a main event position.


Although the argument of both Jake and his brother Logan Paul are attracting new eyes to the sport and can interest a more casual observer might indeed be valid, it is only a matter of when and not if the novelty will wear off. It also can be seen as a red flag for a network like Showtime, that has refused to adapt to a subscription streaming model for their top tier pay-per-view level bouts through its parent company ViacomCBS’ streaming network Paramount+ and has seen inconsistent pay-per-view returns would resort to this type of attraction on a regular basis without insisting that Paul faces boxers that could provide a test. In short, one does wonder what standard there is as to what classifies a pay-per-view level fight in 2021 at least as far as Showtime and even Fox Sports, two of the networks in the sport that have as of now been resistant to adapt to a subscription streaming model is concerned.


While I continue to be objective, the only question here will be whether or not Woodley will be more aggressive this time out and whether the outcome will be any different. Given that this rematch comes out of necessity of Paul and Showtime wanting to maintain the December 18th date, not out of public demand, and the fact that Woodley has had limited time to prepare, no one can say what type of fight this will be.It is my hope however, that Paul and the others that have ventured into the sport after gaining name recognition in another field show that this is not a novelty and that their ventures in Boxing will include bouts against legitimate boxers.


The second rematch that will likely be viewed as the more legitimate of the two that will take place on December 18th will be a Heavyweight bout between former WBO Heavyweight world champion Joseph Parker and former world title challenger, longtime contender, and former European Heavyweight champion Dereck Chisora in a twelve round bout that can be seen on DAZN from Manchester, England.


In what was a very close and competitive bout in their first encounter in May of this year, Parker was able to withstand a steady pressure attack from Chisora and outwork him over the second half of the fight to earn a hard-fought split decision victory.  It will be interesting to see if this fight will be fought in a similar fashion because at his best, Dereck Chisora is a come forward pressure fighter and an argument can be made that what led to his defeat in the first fight was as much fatigue from what he was able to do in the first half of the bout as it was what Parker was able to get down over the second half. 


Chisora has been at or near the top of the Heavyweight division’s contenders for much of the last decade, but has not succeeded at the top tier of the division, despite his status as a former European champion and former world title challenger. With his forty-fourth fight in a fourteen year career that began in 2007 on the horizon, one might be wondering if this is Chisora’s last chance on the world level of the sport. As for Parker, if he should win this rematch, it is likely that he will try to positon himself amongst several top contenders and former world champions vying for a shot at the World Heavyweight championship. Although Parker’s status as a former world champion is something that theoretically gives him an advantage over other potential challengers, should Dereck Chisora win this rematch, we could be looking at a possible trilogy between the two. If fight two turns out to be as competitive as fight one was, this observer says “Why Not?”


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”


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