Monday, September 12, 2022

September 8-10, 2022 Weekend Thoughts


Originally, this column was to discuss what was one of the biggest weekends on the Boxing calendar in the year 2022 to date that planted the spotlight of the sport firmly on three world championship unification bouts in Women’s Boxing. Unfortunately, as many know, two of those bouts that were scheduled to take place on September 10th at the O2 Arena in London, England as the co-main events of an all women’s card, the encounter between undefeated Middleweight world champions Claressa Shields and Savannah Marshall for the Undisputed Middleweight championship of the world, and a Jr. Lightweight unification bout between world champions Mikaela Mayer and Alycia Baumgardner was postponed the day before the event due to the passing of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8th.


While the United Kingdom has entered a period of mourning as well as transition, there was one Women’s world championship fight that did take place as scheduled on September 8th in San Jose, Costa Rica, that like the two other postponed bouts, was a world championship unification bout. This observer is referring to the IBF/WBO Minimumweight world championship fight between world champions Yokasta Valle and Thi Thu Nhi Nguyen.


Historically, the 105lb. Minimumweight division, also known as the Strawweight division does not receive much attention here in the United States regardless of whether it is on the men’s or women’s side of the sport. While this in part can perhaps be attributed to the lack of American representation and exposure in the weight class, Boxing’s lightest division and the divisions that immediately follow usually produce fights normally fought at a very high pace, where there is often plenty of action. This fight was no exception, but should serve as an example of one fighter’s overall experience and skill as well as an example of one fighter’s heart.


Before a sizable hometown crowd at the Cuidad Deportiva Heiner Ugalde Yokasta Valle put on what was simply a masterful Boxing performance. Often when it comes to Women’s Boxing, the quick pace in which the fights are fought in addition to the two minute round length, does tend to produce very close fights most of the time when fights do not end via knockout or stoppage. Much like the numerous bouts I could mention, this fight was fought at a very high pace from the opening bell.


What made Valle’s performance in this fight masterful was how she used her experience and timing to not only dictate the tempo of the combat, but also showed discipline in doing so as her opponent Thi Thu Nhi Nguyen was more than willing to engage and to her credit did try her best to force Valle into a toe to toe battle. The difference, despite the high pace in which the fight was fought was both Valle’s hand speed as well as her discipline in maintaining distance and only letting her punches go when it was to her advantage. The sequence of the fight was a simple one to describe, Valle either stepping in with two to four punch combinations and then backing back out where Nguyen could only try to lunge forward in trying to reach her with a punch or Valle waiting for Nguyen to take the initiative and counter punching with combinations before re-establishing distance. While competitive this proved to be a lopsided fight in Valle’s favor as she would go on to sweep all ten rounds of the world championship bout on all three scorecards, it still was an entertaining bout to watch.


Now as the unified IBF/WBO world champion at 105lbs. I feel that Yokasta Valle is likely to move up in weight where perhaps she could be a future opponent for undefeated WBC world champion Kim Clavel in the 108lb. Light-Flyweight division. If Valle decides to try to completely unify the 105lb division about with current WBA champion Seniesa Estrada would be very interesting if Valle wants to continue trying to unify the division in her next fight. As for Thi Thu Nhi Nguyen, it is important to keep in mind that even though she was the WBO champion going into her fight with Valle, she was at a significant disadvantage in terms of experience entering the bout unbeaten in five fights as a professional going against a fighter in Valle who had twenty-seven professional bouts going into the unification bout.


While that is both a reflection of a sport that is very much still growing for the women who compete in it as well as a reflection for the moment of a weight class that is not too deep in terms of depth, Nguyen showed a lot of heart in this fight even as it became apparent that Valle had pulled ahead on the scorecards. Simply put, she never stopped trying and it was as much the disadvantage in experience as it was Valle’s overall skillset that was the difference in this fight. One loss does not define a career and it will be how Nguyen comes back from this defeat, the first of her career that will be the story for her going forward.


The circumstances that led to the postponement of the two remaining women’s world championship unification bouts that were scheduled to take place in London, England, did not mean that the Boxing action over the three-day stretch ended with Valle’s victory over Nguyen. On Friday, September 9th, The Canadian-based United Boxing Promotions the first of two Boxing cards as part of their recently signed deal with digital subscription sports streaming network DAZN from the CAA Centre in Brampton, Ontario.


The main event of the six bout card was a bout for the vacant International Boxing Association (IBA) Intercontinental Welterweight championship between undefeated prospect Josh Wagner and veteran Jorge Perez.


While this was a regional championship that was at stake in this bout, it is often the step young fighters try to make as a prelude to entering the world rankings in a given division. What always interests me whenever I see a prospect for the first time as was the case on this occasion with regard to Wagner is how they will respond to fighting on what in most cases is the first significant stage in their professional careers.


Regional championships also offer an opportunity for fighters who have suffered some setbacks to try to bounce back as was the case with Perez who entered the bout against the 12-0 Wagner having dropped his previous two bouts. While on the surface this would appear to be an ideal scenario for the young prospect by facing a fighter that had been experiencing a slump, it turned out to be a very competitive bout.


In many ways, this was a scenario of two types of fights being fought within one fight. When the combat was fought primarily in the center of the ring, it seemed that Perez would get the better of the action whereas when the fight was being fought in close, Wagner was the fighter who was dictating the action.


Part of what made this a close fight that was not necessarily the easiest one to score is Wagner was exceptional with his lateral movement throughout and while he was not always throwing and landing punches, which gave Perez a slight edge, it made it difficult for Perez to consistently land his punches cleanly, despite finding success in landing his left hook throughout the fight.


As the fight entered the middle rounds of the scheduled ten round bout, Wagner gradually began to change the ebb and flow of the combat. He did this largely by varying his jab in both the body and head of Perez as well as variations in how he threw the jab. This along with combination punching appeared to turn things in his favor.


Although the fight remained close going into the late rounds, the subject of scoring would not be an issue. In round nine, seemingly without warning, Wagner found the answer that would bring the fight to its conclusion. After stunning Perez with a hook to the head, a follow up barrage of punches would send Perez down. Perez was able to get up on unsteady legs and Wagner sensing he had his opponent in trouble pressed forward and dropped Perez for a second time with a short flurry.


Perez showed his mettle by getting up for a second time, but he had no answer to keep Wagner off of him at this point in the fight and after being hit with a few more solid punches, the bout was stopped. For Wagner it was his thirteenth win of his career and his seventh knockout. What impressed this observer about his performance beyond displaying well-rounded Boxing skills was the poise he showed once he knew he had Perez in trouble and the tactical approach in which he finished the fight by not giving his opponent the chance to recover. Wagner made as good a first impression as one could of expected of a young prospect in his first title fight as a professional. What may come next as he attempts to add his name amongst a very talent-deeo 147lb. Welterweight division remains to be seen.


After a very competitive main event on September 9th, United Boxing Promotions returned on September 10th at the same CAA Centre with another six bout card. In the main event of night two, undefeated current Canadian Middleweight champion Suhkdeep Singh moved down six pounds from the 160lb. Middleweight division to face Xhuljo Vrenozi in a bout for the IBA’s International Jr. Middleweight championship. As was the case with Josh Wagner the previous evening, this was the first time that yours truly had the opportunity to see Singh in action and the similarities between the two did not end with the fact that it was the first time I’d seen both compete, but they also entered their respective bouts unbeaten in twelve professional fights and were matched up similarly against two veterans. The slight difference for Singh was his opponent Xhuljo Vrenozi had split his previous four bouts going 2-2.


In terms of style, what stood out to me was the almost sniper like approach that Singh implemented his offense. It was a style with an emphasis on using his legs to both establish himself as an elusive target as well as manage distance. This along with periodically switching between an orthodox and southpaw stance kept Vrenozi from being able to land offense consistently, much less be able to get into a consistent rhythm. While not always the most exciting fight to watch, Singh’s discipline and ability to maintain control from start to finish is what stood out in the bout in winning a convincing ten round unanimous decision.


Although this was my first time to see Singh in action, I was impressed by what I saw and it will be interesting to see if he will remain at Jr. Middleweight or if he will move back up to the Middleweight division. Much like for veterans later in their careers, it will likely come down to what opportunities are available to Singh as a young unbeaten prospect and whether those opportunities make sense for him both physically in terms of weigh as well as financially and trying to progress his career forward.


Despite the marquee event scheduled for the weekend being postponed due to a tragedy, Boxing fans should not feel disappointed in the sense that they still got one Women’s world championship unification bout as well as what turned out to be a showcase for two rising prospects on the Canadian Boxing scene. As the Boxing works now turns it's attention to the highly anticipated third encounter between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin on September 17th, one can only hope that the exciting action continues.


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”





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