Monday, November 27, 2023

Taylor Becomes Undisputed Champion In Two Weight Divisions, Benavidez Breaks Down Andrade

Thanksgiving weekend 2023 in the world of Boxing was highlighted by two marquee attractions on November 25th in the Women's Jr. Welterweight and Men's Super-Middleweight divisions. First, it was a highly anticipated rematch for the Undisputed Women’s Jr. Welterweight championship of the world as undefeated champion Chantelle Cameron attempted to score her second victory in a six month span by giving Undisputed Lightweight world champion Katie Taylor a second opportunity to become an undisputed world champion in two weight divisions.

In some ways, this rematch offered little upside for the defending champion beyond perhaps a good payday as well as a chance to prove that her victory over Taylor in the first fight was not a case of her catching Taylor on an off night. The second encounter would take place at the same location as the first fight, the 3 Arena in Dublin, in Taylor's home country of Ireland. As this observer pointed out in previewing this fight, despite Taylor having what amounted to a “Home Ring Advantage" in the first fight, Cameron was able to win under those conditions in what was a highly competitive and close fight. 

The second fight was also competitive, but the difference between the two fights became the approach of Taylor. At her best, Katie Taylor is a combination puncher that attacks in short, but explosive spurts and uses lateral movement to control the tempo of the combat. In the first fight in May of this year, she had success in spots with this approach, but was unable to nullify Cameron's pressure as she was frequently pushed back against the ropes and not able to use her movement to her advantage particularly during the second half of that fight.

This time around, Taylor used her movement as well as a consistent jab to control the combat along with mixing in the short combinations that have been her trademark throughout her career. The primary difference throughout much of this rematch was Taylor's ability to turn Cameron whenever she got close to the ropes, which kept the champion from being able to get her punches off with consistency and also made the pressure that Cameron applied less effective as compared to the first meeting between these two world champions.

Cameron also suffered a deep gash on her forehead as a result of an accidental clash of heads in the third round. Despite a gash that yours truly felt was severe enough to warrant a stoppage of the the bout, which if it had been before the completion of the fourth round, it would have resulted in a no contest, Cameron showed why she is a champion by fighting through what had to be severe pain as well as the punishment Taylor was able to dish out. She was also able to come on as the fight progressed as she had done in the first fight.

In a scenario that was similar to their first encounter, Taylor seemed to struggle over the second half of the fight. While this could be attributed to the high pace in which the fight was fought, as was the case the first time around, Cameron seemed to land the harder punches of the two as Taylor fought the effects of fatigue. Unlike in the first fight however, just as it seemed as though she did not have much left to give, Taylor also showed the heart of a champion by gutting it out, continuing to avoid being put on the ropes as much as she could and trading punches with Cameron till the final bell.

At the conclusion of the ten round undisputed world championship bout, I felt that Taylor had done enough to win, but the rally that Cameron was able to put forth during the second half of the fight, as was the case the first time around, resulted in a close majority decision. The outcome of the second fight would be different as Taylor would be declared the winner making her the latest fighter, male or female to join an exclusive club as being an Undisputed world champion in multiple divisions.

The stage appears to be set for a third fight between Taylor and Cameron in 2024. Although Katie Taylor’s future place in any Boxing Hall of Fame is more than secure and regardless of what happens in a potential third fight, that will not change, the question now becomes how soon would that third bout between her and Cameron take place. At thirty-six years old, Taylor has been through a lot of grueling battles throughout her career and several in the last several years. There is no question that Chantelle Cameron deserves a rematch because after all, she gave Taylor a rematch that she did not have to give, but both fighters deserve significant time to rest and heal before considering a third fight. 

This brings us to the second marquee attraction that took place on November 25th. A battle between two former world champions at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, NV as undefeated former world champions David Benavidez and Demetrius Andrade met in what amounted to an elimination bout to determine the next mandatory challenger in the World Boxing Council’s (WBC) Super-Middleweight ratings for current Undisputed champion Saul “Canelo" Alvarez.

The fight, which brought together arguably two of the most avoided fighters in and around the Super-Middleweight division due to the respective styles of Benavidez and Andrade, also holds the distinction of headlining the final pay-per-view produced by United States premium cable network Showtime, who will soon exit the sport after a thirty-seven year run as one of Boxing’s power players in broadcasting the sport. It was a main event that did not disappoint.

Benavidez is a fighter that typically starts slow, but gradually picks up his output as a fight progresses. For the first time in either fighter's career, they were faced with a scenario of facing a fighter with a style that was in some ways similar to their own, but one that they had not had to face themselves. Demetrius Andrade is a fighter that is very crafty, elusive, and has proven to be a difficult puzzle to solve. The first three rounds of this fight was largely dictated on Andrade’s ability to use angles, out throw, and land fast combinations on Benavidez.

Although this initially had the appearance of many of Andrade's previous fights where he seemed to be too quick and elusive and was beating Benavidez to the punch at this stage in the bout, what could not be ignored was the size difference between the two. Despite being similar in both height and weight, Benavidez appeared as though he had the body frame of a Light-Heavyweight or a Cruiserweight going against a fighter in Andrade, who won his first world championship as a 154lb. Jr. Middleweight. While this fight was fought in the 168lb. Super-Middleweight division, it appeared that Andrade might have hit his ceiling in terms of moving up in weight standing in the ring with Benavidez. 

It would not take long before the appearance of Andrade facing a naturally bigger fighter began to show itself in the fight as wherever Benavidez was able to land punches, it seemed to hurt Andrade. The turning point in the fight would occur in the fourth round when Benavidez connected with a right hand that landed high on the head of Andrade that sent the former two-division world champion down on his knees on the canvas. Although Andrade was able to get up from the knockdown, he was clearly hurt and the offensive rhythm that seemed to give him an early advantage in the first three rounds of the scheduled twelve round bout became less and less as Andrade went into survival mode in trying to get his bearings. In the process, Benavidez administered significant punishment to the body and head. 

At the conclusion of the fifth round Referee Thomas Taylor walked with Andrade back to his corner and told him that he needed to show him something. This coincided with Taylor having Andrade examined by a ringside physician between rounds five and six. Despite looking like a fighter that was in the process of suffering what was becoming a one way beating, Andrade was given the chance to continue. In round six, Benavidez continued to batter Andrade, knocking his mouthpiece out twice. Although Andrade tried his best to fight back, there was not much force behind his punches.

As he had done after the previous round, Taylor followed Andrade back to his corner after round six and informed him that he could not see another round like what had just occurred. After a brief exchange between Taylor and Andrade’s trainer and father Paul Andrade, the fight was stopped giving Benavidez a convincing stoppage victory over a fighter regarded as one of the most defensively sound fighters in the entire sport.

Whether or not this victory, as convincing as it was for Benavidez will finally result in him getting an opportunity to fight Saul Alvarez for the Undisputed Super-Middleweight championship of the world in 2024 remains to be seen. Unfortunately for Benavidez, it may depend on what happens with the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) group of promoters, who have promoted many of Benavidez’ bouts including his victory over Andrade as the PBC’s future remains uncertain as they continue to look for a new platform for their stable of fighters after losing broadcast homes with both Fox Sports and Showtime here in the United States over the last two years. With no new platform either traditional or streaming based announced to broadcast PBC promoted Boxing cards in 2024, as of this writing and Showtime and it's parent company Paramount Global preparing to exit Boxing before Christmas, it may be time for not only Benavidez, but all fighters currently competing under the PBC banner to not only explore other options, but to also come to the realization that if they want to compete on a regular basis, a problem that has become more and more frequent for fighters in the PBC’s stable in recent years as their network agreements have evaporated and both Fox Sports and Showtime have bowed out of the sport, the insistence on the pay-per-view model is not conducive to a successful career going into 2024 and is directly responsible for the state in which the PBC currently finds itself in. 

“And That's The Boxing Truth."

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