The build up to the hugely important and intriguing return match between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury has already started with exchanges of infantile threats and insults in what now appears to be par for the course for any big fight. Boxing and cage fighting are the only sports where this appears to be an essential part of the build up. You don’t get Roger Federer and Rafal Nadal swearing at each other and football, basketball, baseball, rugby, cricket etc. would never countenance such infantile behaviour. This is a fight that every boxing fan wants. It sells itself I question how many more tickets are bought as a result of this pantomime.
I can’t help but feel that Muhammad Ali has to carry some of the blame. He is the first I can recall who shouted and screamed about what he was going to do to his opponents-OK I am overlooking Tony “I’ll murder da bum” Galento- often exaggerating and clowning with tongue in cheek but any trace of parody has disappeared and now we seem to need vitriolic childish behaviour to sell one of the biggest 50/50 heavyweight return fights out there. Not sure what it says about boxing but there again I love listening to Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra but they would probably be considered too boring to reach the finals of one of today’s talent shows so perhaps as with music boxing has moved on and I am still rooted in the past..
Naturally with Wilder vs. Fury set and the Anthony Joshua return still visible in the rear mirror, interest in the heavyweights remains high. The IBF have given Anthony Joshua and Kubrat Pulev a deadline of 31 January to agree terms for Joshua’s mandatory defence. Andy Ruiz is aiming to returning to action in May or June. He is trying to talk up a fight with Dillian Whyte whilst at the same time there is talk of Whyte facing Alex Povetkin.
The Oleg Usyk vs. Dereck Chisora proposed match seems to have faded into the background and being replaced with Usyk vs. Joseph Parker for the vacant WBO title in the event that the WBO strip Joshua for fighting Pulev.
There was talk of Jarrell Miller returning on the undercard to Wilder vs. Fury but that would make a mockery of suspending boxers for positive tests as it would less than a year since he failed three tests. Yet another name to add to the heavyweight mix is Marat Gassiev who is moving up. It has been suggested he will fight on the undercard to Mikey Garcia vs. Jessie Vargas on 29 February but that has not been confirmed and Adam Kownacki returns to action with a fight against Robert Helenius on 7 March in New York
There will of course be huge interest in the proposed fight between Joe Joyce and Daniel Dubois for the vacant European heavyweight title. There are a couple of things to be ironed out on that. Marco Huck is the official co-challenger alongside Joyce but Huck is currently out with an injured hand so that should not be an impediment. Another item to be dealt with is that Dubois was not rated in the EBU ratings for 31 December. This is because he won the WBO European title in March 2019 and under the EBU ratings standards not even winning but also fighting for another sanctioning body’s European title results in an automatic one year suspension from the EBU ratings. That leaves the EBU with a choice of sticking by their standards in which case Dubois would not be eligible to be rated and therefore not able to fight for their title until after the end of March or ignoring their standards and making an exception because of the high profile enjoyed by a Joyce vs. Dubois fight. That’s an ethical question for the EBU to solve. One law for the rich-one law for the poor?
Last piece on the heavyweights features my old “favourites” the WBA. As low as they have gone they are still digging. They have done some unbelievably bad ratings in the past but they surpassed themselves this time. If you look at their heavyweight ratings you will find Christopher Lovejoy at No 12. He is 18-0 with 18 wins by KO/TKO but when you dig into his record his being rated at all is disgraceful. He suddenly appeared at No 10 in their ratings dated 30 September 2019. He had not fought since May-four months before being rated-and that May fight, his only fight in 2019, was scheduled for four rounds against a fighter with a 6-50-2 record who he outweighed by 68lbs. He had not fought since December 2018 when he beat a guy with a 0-3 record in fact in his ten fights since January 2018 his opponents have had combined records of 21-162-8. His bouts have all been scheduled for four rounds apart from two bouts scheduled for six rounds (against guys with 4-23-2 and 4-27-0 records) and one eight round fight against a guy with a 0-3 record(that last fight in 2018). Let’s not forget that as he is No 12 the WBA have made him eligible to fight Anthony Joshua. What a travesty-what a disgrace. Maybe they could use him as an opponent for their reigning interim champion Trevor Bryan who has not fight since August 2018 or Manuel Charr the holder of their secondary title who has not fought since November 2017.
I have to say I was surprised to see talk of Saul Alvarez fighting Billy Joe Saunders on 2 May. First let’s dismiss the “unification” question. Callum Smith is the WBA champion and Alvarez only holds the secondary WBA title so the fight can’t be a unification match. Secondly from a style point of view I am not sure that the tricky style of Saunders would make for an entertaining fight and thirdly Saunders looked very disappointing against ordinary Marcelo Coceres in November. Alvarez’s name would sell the fight. By May Saunders will have been a pro for eleven years and it would be good to see him get a huge purse as a reward for his efforts. It is also proposed that Jorge Linares tackles unbeaten Ryan Garcia on the same show.
Gennady Golovkin, the guy Alvarez should be fighting, has seen his IBF/IBO title defence against unbeaten 21-0 Pole Kamil Szeremeta put back to 28 March with Chicago a possible venue.
When a Chinese outfit won the bidding for Artur Beterbiev’s mandatory defence against Meng Fanlong with a purse of $1.9 million there was some talk of Beterbiev relinquishing the title. That problem has gone away as the Chinese failed to meet the timescale for putting up the required front money. Top Rank, who bid $1.3 million originally now have the rights to the fight with 28 March in Montreal a possible date/venue.
Can’t keep the Filipino’s out of the news. Manny Pacquiao had his first pro fight on 22 January 1995 so next week he will celebrate twenty-five years as a pro-and he weighed 106lbs in that first fight! And John Riel Casimero gets his reward for stopping Zolani Tete as he will face Naoya Inoue in Las Vegas on 25 April in a unification contest that will see Inoue’s IBF and WBA titles and Casimero’s WBO title on the table
The WBSS cruiser final will limp to its end on 21 March in Riga with Mairis Breidis getting home advantage against Yuniel Dorticos. I could not see any value in going over the cruisers for a second time and so it has proved.
Team Sauerland is putting on a show with Universum in Hamburg on 25 January. These two were great rival in the past and were the giants of German boxing. Universum went out of business but a reconstituted Universum is now back on the scene so in a shrinking market it makes sense for some form of co-operation. The main events will feature unbeaten German hopes super welter Abass Baraou who faces Mexican Abraham Juarez and super light Artem Harutyunyan against Argentinian Miguel Antin. Recently SES has grown in stature to a point where they also have a large part of the German market so it will be interesting to see how relations develop in German boxing.
It would be too much to expect the sanctioning bodies to adopt a united front to on anything and it is that way with pros fighting at the Olympics. Both the WBA and WBO have come out with statements supporting the idea whilst the WBC still sticks to their totally anti stance . The WBC has listed a number of genuine concerns around safety with which I sympathise. The problem is that it is happening with Argentinian former top amateurs Yesica Bopp, Erica Farias and Yamil Peralta the latest to declare their intention to try to qualify for Tokyo and the WBC’s concerns won’t be addressed any other way than through a dialogue with the IOC and those now administering the Olympic boxing.
Commonwealth fly champion Jay Harris gets his big chance when he challenges Julio Cesar Martinez for the WBC flyweight title in Frisco, Texas on the undercard to Garcia vs. Vargas . There has also been speculation over a title defence for WBA super fly champion Khalid Yafai against former champion Roman Gonzalez but that has not been confirmed and interim champion Andrew Moloney has threatened legal action over the proposal.
The WBO has designated Kosei Tanaka as super champion at flyweight.. I don’t recall them doing this before but I may have missed it but you can be assured more will follow. Just to fool us in their rules it says “ Current champion status is not required to qualify or continue as a Super Champion” so you don’t have to be a champion to be designated a Super Champion. I tried reading it upside down but it still does not make any sense!
Worrying to hear that former heavyweight champion Leon Spinks is hospitalised due to the prostate cancer he had been diagnosed with having spread to his bladder. He had been released from hospital in Las Vegas at the end of December but is back in there under treatment.
Jorge Rodrigo Barrios is another boxer who recently required hospital treatment. The 43-year-old former WBO super feather champion was stabbed numerous times by an assailant on 31 December but has recovered and left hospital. There is some confusion over the motive for the attack. Reports said his wallet and phone were stolen but also that the assailant, who has since been arrested, had shouted the name of the 20-year-old pregnant woman who was killed ten years ago in a collision with a car Barrios was driving. A death for which Barrios was found culpable and given a derisory sentence of less than four years.