Saturday, October 15, 2022 turned out to be one of the
most anticipated days on the Boxing calendar in the latter months of the year.
What was largely to be highlighted by the return of former longtime WBC
Heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder, the day turned out to offer a little
of everything for any Boxing fan. This was due to the postponement of the
highly anticipated Women’s world championship unification doubleheader which
featured undefeated world champions Claressa Shields and Savanah Marshall meeting
for the Undisputed Middleweight championship of the world and an intriguing Jr.
Lightweight unification bout between Mikaela Mayer and Alycia Baumgardner
putting their respective world championships on the line in the 130lb. Jr.
Lightweight division as the co-main event being moved to October 15th
due to the original date of the card September 10th being moved one
month following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8th.
While some Boxing fans particularly on social media
voiced we’ll call it displeasure at the postponement, likely both out of
anticipation of the two world championship bouts, as well as not understanding
the significance of the circumstances throughout the United Kingdom following
the queen’s passing, and also for the fighters created a question of what
impact would the postponement have on them as the card was postponed a mere day
before it was to occur at London’s O2 Arena, both bouts lived up to every
possible expectation and one might argue were quite similar in how each fight
was fought in terms of how competitive they were. In the first of the two
bouts, Mikaela Mayer and Alycia Baumgardner engaged in a ten round give and
The general ebb and flow of the fight consisted of
Baumgardner seeming to land the cleaner, more effective punches, particularly
power punches in the early rounds. A weapon in her arsenal that turned out to
be noteworthy throughout the fight that I felt gave her an edge was how she was
able to land overhand rights. Mayer however, was able to change the way the
combat was being fought in the middle rounds. She was able to do this largely
by using her jab to control distance and create opportunities to throw and land
hooks and combinations behind the jab.
While the two minute round length in which fights in
Women's Boxing are fought often serve more as a detriment than an asset particularly
in regard to the task of scoring, what this created was the ideal scenario of a
close fight that could be scored either way and as I often have said through
the years, will often come down to what a judge prefers in their own criteria
based on clean punching, effective aggressiveness, ring generalship, and
defense. This was a car where I felt that Baumgardner landed the harder punches
and did just enough to fend off the rally that Mayer was able to put together
in the middle and late rounds to get the decision. At the end of the ten round
world championship bout, I had arrived with a scorecard of six rounds to four
or 96-94 in points for Baumgardner. It was not surprising to see scorecards
resulting in a split decision in favor of Baumgardner with two official judges
scoring a 96-95 scorecard in favor of each fighter with the third judge scoring
seven rounds to three or 97-93 in favor of Baumgardner making her the winner
and new unified world champion in the 130lb. Jr Lightweight division.
Often times on a full card of Boxing, a fight like this
which was exciting and highly competitive is enough to satisfy even the most
jaded of Boxing fans. The fans in attendance at the O2 Arena would be treated to
another great fight as Claressa Shields and Savannah Marshall took to the ring
to determine the Undisputed Middleweight championship of the world.
For ten rounds, the two world champions engaged in a toe
to toe battle that frankly could have been fought in a phone booth as there was
little to no separating between the fighters and that made it very difficult to
tell who had the upper hand. This was due to the moon-stop pace that the combat
was fought. As exhausting as it had to be for the fighters, it was also an
exhausting fight to watch.
Although it was difficult to determine who had the upper
hand, there was one subtle difference that proved to be the difference. Shields
threw every punch in combination and, despite getting tagged with some heavy
shots from Marshall throughout and seeming to allow Marshall to take control in
sports where she chose to sit against the ropes, the sheer volume of offense by
Shields proved to be too much for Marshall on this evening as Shields would
earn a convincing ten round unanimous decision to become the Undisputed
Middleweight champion of the world.
With the win, Shields put herself in a class by herself
as being the only fighter in history male or female to successfully become
Undisputed world champion in three separate weight divisions having previously
fully unified the Super-Middleweight and Jr. Middleweight divisions prior to
this fight. Although I would certainly like to see a rematch between Shields
and Marshall, I wonder if Shields will attempt to go up to the 175lb. Light-Heavyweight
division next. As is often the case for fighters that are able to move up and
down the weight scale and compete at the highest levels of the sport, the
question for Claressa Shields will likely be when and where she will find her
ceiling in terms of how far she can move up or down in weight and at which
weight she feels most comfortable. For someone who has also embarked on a
career in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), it’s clear that she is a
generational fighter and no matter what she does going forward in either sport,
we are seeing something that has not been done before and will likely see
Shields become a first ballot Hall of Famer when her career is over.
Following the Women’s world championship unification
doubleheader, the focus shifted to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY where
two former world champions looked to bounce back from setbacks. First, it was
former IBF Super-Middleweight world champion Caleb Plant in his first fight
since losing to Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in a unification bout last November facing
former WBC Super-Middleweight world champion Anthony Dirrell.
What was an at times ugly fight to watch due to
several instances of holding and clinching throughout the fight, Plant
showcased his movement and hand speed in spots throughout and generally seemed
to get the better of the action in this observer’s view. Plant however, would
surprise everyone by producing what may be viewed as a candidate for Knockout
of the Year at the end of 2022. Despite not being known for his punching power,
Plant produced a devastating knockout of Dirrell with a left hook to the body
followed by a left hook to the head combination that sent Dirrell down and out
on the canvas. Although Plant was stopped by Alvarez last year, many would say
that he accounted himself well in defeat and coming off of what was the first
loss of his career, he needed a statement-making performance to show that he
remains a player in the 168lb. Super-Middleweight division. Something that he
was able to accomplish in such a fashion that it could well lead to a rematch
with Alvarez down the line.
While under most circumstances a knockout like the one
Plant produced would be the center of discussion in the days following, the
Plant-Dirrell bout served as the co-main event for the return of former
longtime WBC Heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder, who was returning to
the ring following his second knockout loss to Tyson Fury in October of last
year as he faced former European Heavyweight champion Robert Helenius.
Although the premise of this fight centered squarely on
what version of Deontay Wilder would be entering the ring following two
knockout losses to Fury and to be more specific, what effects those two fights
had on him, frankly we did not get an answer to those questions, at least not
in this fight. Helenius began the bout willing to engage with Wilder and trying
to apply pressure on him. Wilder suddenly brought an end to the fight by
throwing a perfectly timed counter right hand that caught Helenius on the
button as he was coming forward sending the former European champion down on
his back. The fight was immediately stopped.
Simply put, there is not much you can say about a fight
that ends with one punch, but for the near completed round that Wilder and
Helenius shared the ring together, there appeared to be no ill effects for
Wilder. For his part, Helenius did appear to have a good fight plan and was
holding his own before simply getting caught in the closing seconds of the
While there are still questions that should be asked in
regard Deontay Wilder, the win of Helenius puts him in position to fight former
unified IBF/WBA/WBO/IBO Heavyweight world champion Andy Ruiz in what would be a
final elimination bout to determine a new mandatory challenger for the world
championship currently held by Tyson Fury. Ruiz put himself into position to
fight for the mandatory spot by scoring a twelve round unanimous decision over
former world title challenger Luis Ortiz in September. Although the unofficial
four-man WBC tournament to determine a mandatory challenger was not made
official, it seems like a bout between the former world champions Wilder and
Ruiz makes the most sense for both seeing as both are aligned with the Premier
Boxing Champions (PBC) group of promoters and on the surface that fact would
give the appearance that it is an easy fight to make.
Fury meanwhile has spent the last several months
following his successful fifth round knockout of Dillian Whyte in April,
retiring, then un-retiring, then retiring again, and un-retiring again, all the
while negotiating with fighters for potential fights. Fury has since signed to
face former world title challenger Dereck Chisora in his next title defense on
December 3rd. Although Fury has defeated Chisora twice before, one
may question whether Fury’s heart is truly on continuing his career or on other
ventures. Chisora meanwhile, is enjoying a bit of a resurgence and will be
getting his second opportunity at a world championship should the planned third
bout between the two come off as planned.
For both Wilder and Ruiz, the focus should be on getting
their own fight finalized for early 2023 and for the winner of that fight
trying to force a bout with the winner of the planned Fury-Chisora III bout. For
now, stay tuned for the continuation of the Heavyweight division.
Finally, the day of action on October 15th
concluded with the second encounter between undefeated Undisputed Lightweight
world champion Devin Haney and former Undisputed Lightweight champion George
Kambosos in Melbourne, Australia. A rematch that was contractually stipulated prior
to Haney defeating Kambosos for the championship back in May of this year.
In that fight, Haney out boxed Kambosos over twelve
rounds to earn a convincing twelve round unanimous decision to win the
championship. The question going into this rematch was a simple one. Could Kambosos
approach this fight differently in such a way that it might change the outcome
this time around? For part of the second encounter, Kambosos did try to force
the fight on Haney rather than trying to box him as he did in the first fight.
This included the former champion periodically being able to catch Haney with
flush hooks to the head throughout.
As the fight progressed however, Haney as he was able to
do in the first fight, was able to find his rhythm and proved to be too slick
and too quick for Kambosos, ultimately Boxing his way to a twelve round
unanimous decision to retain his championship in his first title defense. While
much of this fight seemed to be formulaic as it progressed, I feel that this
was a case of the old adage of “Styles Make Fights” as opposed to the
performance of George Kambosos.
From a stylistic standpoint, Devin Haney may simply have
a style that for a fighter with George Kambosos’ style proves to be a difficult
puzzle that he struggles to solve. Although Kambosos has now lost two fights to
Devin Haney, he is still a player in the 135lb. Lightweight division and could
well find himself challenging for a world championship five pounds up the scale
in the 140lb. Jr. Welterweight division down the line.
As for Devin Haney, his future could also be in the Jr.
Welterweight division in the near future, but it is likely that Haney may be
looking for a potential title defense against former unified three-division
world champion Vasyl Lomachenko. Lomachenko will return to the ring on October
29th when he faces unbeaten contender Jermaine Ortiz in Madison
Square Garden. Even though Lomachenko is a significant favorite going into that
fight, it is likely that Haney will wait until the outcome of that bout before
entering potential negotiations with Lomachenko for a potential bout in 2023.
While such days such as October 15, 2022 prove to be of
great value to Boxing fans due to the amount of bouts spread over multiple
cards offered, some may say that it is both a blessing and a curse from the
standpoint of the fan needing to decide what they will watch first, what they
might watch on delay, or what they are not interested in watching. Although in
the current age we live in where thanks to digital streaming, the option to
watch any sporting event on one’s own schedule has never been easier and will
likely only improve with time, a challenge for promoters and networks will continue
to be trying to get as many eyes on whatever bouts they are presenting as
possible in terms of live viewing. When you also factor in that two of these
cards, the Wilder-Helenius and Haney-Kambosos II cards competed head to head
against each other, with one on pay-per-view and the other on ESPN+ and the
main ESPN network here in the United States, in addition to the plethora of
other sporting events taking place including, but not limited to the MLB
playoffs, the beginning of the National Hockey League (NHL) season, and finally
College Football among others, you can see the dilemma such scheduling can
present for some Boxing fans who are likely fans of other sports as well.
While yours truly personally loves marathon Boxing days
like the one we saw on October 15th, and even though it might be
unrealistic to expect networks and promoters to try and schedule around other
sports, the reality is, it will continue to be an issue for some fans and
ultimately, make effect both viewership and buy numbers for the sport. It is
therefore something that even as technology improves and provides the
fan/consumer with more options that networks and promoters will have to combat
if they want their events to be successful.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
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