Monday, March 13, 2023

March 11, 2023 Boxing Thoughts

Saturday, March 11, 2023 in the sport of Boxing was largely highlighted by two main events that took place across Europe. The first of these main events would occur at the Liverpool Arena in Liverpool, England where undefeated Super-Middleweight prospect Diego Pacheco met veteran Jack Cullen in a scheduled ten round bout.

Although this represented the first time the American Pacheco was in the position of headlining an international card, and that came about due to an injury to former Super-Middleweight world champion Callum Smith, which moved Pacheco's bout with Cullen to the main event of a card promoted by promoter Eddie Hearn, the move to the headline position did not have a negative effect on Pacheco. From the opening bell, Pacheco's approach was one of almost surgical precision as he plotted a strategy with an emphasis on landing his right hand and immediately put Cullen under pressure. What stood out to this observer was the poise in which Pacheco displayed seemingly from the outset. 

While there were points where Cullen attempted to turn the tempo of combat in his favor, particularly by throwing jabs in double and triple variations, it did not phase Pacheco, who simply bided his time and looked to exploit any openings Cullen left him. This often resulted in Pacheco landing hard shots to the body and head of his opponent in short, but controlled bursts. In the fourth round, it would be one of those bursts, a short right hand to the head, left hook to the body combination that would send Cullen down on the canvas. As Cullen got to his feet an example of Pacheco's surgical approach was displayed.

Under circumstances where some fighters knowing that an opponent is hurt with rush in recklessly throwing a flurry of punches, Pacheco simply stepped forward, landing a flush right hand to the jaw that sent Cullen backwards against the ropes and down for a second and final time as Referee Steve Gray stepped in and stopped the fight. The fifteenth knockout in his eighteen career wins for the twenty-two year old Pacheco ultimately did not come following a stern test by his opponent. Nevertheless, Pacheco's performance should be viewed as one that should put the rest of the 168lb. Super-Middleweight division on notice of a potential emerging star in the division.

While the current holy grail of the division and all contenders as well as rising prospects is to work toward a potential challenge of current Undisputed Super-Middleweight world champion Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, Pacheco may not be quite ready to take what would be a major leap in the caliber of opposition to possibly challenge Alvarez at this point. The Boxing world however, is always looking for it's next star and if Pacheco remains active, continues to win, and more specifically, continues producing the type of performances that he has been consistently doing up to this point, it may not be too long before he is indeed in position to challenge for a world championship. For the immediate future, it would appear that an ideal fight that could be made for Pacheco would be an encounter with fellow undefeated prospect and "Knockout Artist" Edgar Berlanga, who coincidentally recently signed with Eddie Hearn's Matchroom Boxing after a successful run in his early career fighting under Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum's Top Rank, Inc. promotional banner.

While a fight between the two young prospects does not necessarily need to be made immediately and an argument can certainly be made for not making it and allowing both Pacheco and Berlanga to continue trying to move up the ranks against other opposition in the hope of not only drawing interest in a fight between the two, but also from a business standpoint attempting to maximize potential financial interests in that encounter, especially if either of them is able to work themselves into position as a top contender to potentially challenge Alvarez down the line, Boxing for better or worse has a long history of at times taking too long or I should say, the powers that be in the sport, to produce fights that have significant interest and demand from the public, which unfortunately, has led to the sport being the subject of ridicule and criticism from its detractors. In this case, both Pacheco and Berlanga are under contract to the same promoter and if Eddie Hearn, who has emerged as one of Boxing's biggest promoters over the last decade is wise, he will not let a potential encounter between Pacheco and Berlanga simmer too long before seizing the opportunity.

From Liverpool, England to Paris, France where the second main event took place at the Zenith De Paris. A "Crossroads Fight" in Boxing's Heavyweight division featuring longtime contender and former world title challenger Carlos Takam facing rising contender and former Olympic Gold medalist Tony Yoka in a scheduled ten round bout.

Although Yoka's status as a former Olympic champion was oddly omitted by this observer in previewing this fight as well as the aforementioned encounter between Diego Pacheco and Jack Cullen, this fight nevertheless had the sub-plot of two fighters looking to bounce back from defeat. In Takam's case, he was looking to rebound from two consecutive losses, while Yoka was looking to bounce back from his first loss as a professional. While that was the similarity between the two, this fight also appeared at least going into it to be an encounter between two fighters that were seemingly going in different directions in their respective careers with the forty-two year old Takam perhaps nearing the finish line of his career.

Despite this, it would be Takam who would take the initiative and bring the fight to the thirty year old Yoka. For ten rounds, Takam consistently pressed forward, throwing punches to the body and head of Yoka and backing his younger opponent up.  While this can be described as a workmanlike performance by Takam in a fight that did not have too many highlights, the story of the bout was one fighter simply outworking the other. Although he had some moments periodically throughout the fight, Yoka could not break the pattern in which the fight was fought, which consisted of Takam coming forward, throwing punches, and pushing him back. Furthermore, Yoka was simply not active enough throughout the fight to make the fight close in terms of scoring, in my view.

The view of this observer notwithstanding, Takam would still earn a victory via ten round split decision. Although I personally did not feel that the fight was close and felt that Takam won eight of the ten rounds largely based on him being the one forcing the fight, it is important to remember that sometimes three official judges, who have a better view than a crowd watching a fight, or even those watching via some form of television, and who also are positioned at varying angles, can at times see things differently than a consensus opinion of others viewing the same bout. In the interest of saving time and energy, I will simply say that I felt Takam won this fight clearly and the decision should have been unanimous. Nonetheless, for a fighter who has traveled around the world to compete and has seen some decisions in fights fought on an opponent's home turf go against him, not unlike this fight against Tony Yoka, at least this was an instance where Takam got a victory he deserved and the fight does not have an element of controversy in terms of the outcome.

Whether or not the victory for Carlos Takam will move him back towards a potential challenge for a portion of the World Heavyweight championship at this stage remains unclear and perhaps unlikely given the current landscape of the division and it's two undefeated world champions Oleksandr Usyk and Tyson Fury, who are in the midst of negotiations for an encounter for the Undisputed Heavyweight championship of the world, which may or may not be happening in the near future. It is nevertheless clear however, at age forty-two Carlos Takam still has fight left in him and will likely remain a difficult fight for any contender currently in the division. The only thing Takam can realistically do is try to remain as active as possible and try to make a strong enough argument for himself as a potential challenger if and when the situation between Usyk and Fury resolves itself. Although Takam is at an advanced age for a fighter, it is a compelling story of a longtime contender seeking one more shot at a world championship against all odds that the Boxing world loves to see, much like the endless search for the sport's next star.

"And That's The Boxing Truth."

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