Andrade Victorious, International Coverage, and Paul vs Askren

Demetrius Andrade won a clear decision over Liam Williams to retain his WBO Middleweight Title on DAZN.  Andrade won the fight by unanimous decision over Welsh challenger Liam Williams in Miami.  Andrade won with precision punching and scored damaging blows that dropped the challenger in the second round.  Williams attempted to get under Andrade’s skin throughout the contest with taunts and verbal assaults between rounds but was unable to drag Andrade into a war.  Despite Williams’ constant pressing he was the fighter who was rocked by punches and fell behind by the midway point.  Andrade did his usual coasting but still wound up winning a wide decision with the closest scorecard being 116-111 which should indicate the level of victory here. 

Andrade has been a boogieman figure of the middleweight division over the last several years.  He is a former American Olympian and two division world champion but has yet to face a truly elite opponent.  Several pundits like Chris Mannix feel he is the most avoided fighter in boxing and others on YouTube find him to be the best fighter in the 160 to 168 lb. span.  I will admit that he has struggled to secure the big fights at middleweight and his name is not coming out of the mouths of other top fighters or big promoters.  For Andrade’s credit he is fighting on DAZN the streaming service the has the rights to Gennady Golovkin and Saul Alvarez and did have a fight with Billy Joe Saunders fall through the week of the fight due to a positive test for performance enhancing drugs from Saunders.  However, his opponent selection and performance has hardly been enthralling.  In a perfect world Andrade would get the fights by virtue of his title belt and ranking, but boxing does not work that way.  It is a sport and an entertainment business where marketability and drawing power are very important.  Andrade dropped Williams early and got in control and dropped Maciek Sulecki early in their fight and coasted against a guy levels below him.  It leaves a bad taste in the mouths of fans who want to see exciting fights.  Canelo and Golovkin have lots of options for competition at 160 and 168 and Andrade just hasn’t stamped himself as a must see opponent.

Stylistically I feel he has the makeup of a fighter that has the design to beat the previously mentioned elites and Jermall Charlo.  However, I have not seen him put together a complete performance in a long time.  Whereas Saunders has a tendency to fight to the level of his opposition, Andrade has a tendency to take his foot off the pedal after building a big lead.  If there is anything Canelo has proven it is his ability to come out with his hand raised in close fights.  My examples are his victories over Trout, Lara, Golovkin and the 114-114 card he got against Mayweather.  He is a good ring general and scores effectively for the judges and has a scorer friendly style.  Some say corruption and money but I will leave that alone.  Charlo is another fighter who has been safe on the scorecards though he has only had a few close fights he has come out favorably and wide even in closer fights of his.  Golovkin is a workhorse in the ring and he does not coast and brings constant pressure.  My point is that Andrade is not going to be able to casually move around the ring with a low punch output and clinch inside and not get punished, especially to the body.  Maybe Andrade has been so mismatched in his career as far as opposition goes that we have not seen him taken to the top of his game.  He can get by in first and second gear and a great fighter will push him to another level.  He is a skilled counter puncher, has very good movement, can tie up inside, and is very hard to hit clean to the head.  I feel with these skill sets applied for three minutes of all twelve rounds he can defeat Golovkin, and Alvarez and Charlo but I just cannot make him a favorite in any of those fights until he shows me more.  At this stage he may beat Golovkin due to his age and visible slowing down but Charlo and Alvarez are right in the middle of their primes.  Charlo’s win over Derevyanchenko convinced me of his place and Alvarez has continued to improve in every fight since the first Golovkin match and is in my estimation the man from 160 to 168.

Andrade has mentioned going up to 168 to chase the big fights but also did call out Charlo in the post fight interview.  I am getting fed up 160 right now as Golovkin seems to just want to sit on his accomplishments and hope Canelo’s people call him for a fight and he is rumored to be facing Ruroto Murata in a major Japanese event on New Years Eve but that still leaves his calendar way open.  Charlo is facing an opponent below his class and everyone seems to be waiting for their turn at Canelo and protecting their record.  My point is Charlo, Golovkin and Andrade need to fight each other soon or move up because 160 is going to get very boring if the top guys continue to play it safe.

On the undercard Carlos Gongorra of Ecuador won by knockout in a 168 lb. follow up to his win over Akhmedov.  I said on here that the win and performance deserved a follow up feature from DAZN and they put him back on.  Though he was a level above his opponent he scored an impressive stoppage in a fight that showcased his offensive prowess.  He came forward unike the Akhkmedov fight and scored with uppercuts from either hand and his right hook.  He wore down Pearson in an effective manner and broke him down.  18-1 underdog Andrey Fedesov won a first round knockout at heavyweight over Majidov.  A crisp right hand down the middle dropped the 3-0 prospect and he rolled over his ankle.  He bravely tried to go on but went down moments later with an obvious injury.  The Oylmpic Bronze medalist got a very late start as a pro and recovering from this injury will be a huge set back.  For Fedesov this was a huge victory given he had been out of the ring for nearly three years and we will see what he can follow up with.

ESPN+ and DAZN showcase international boxing

The two aforementioned streaming services are must for boxing fans given the amount of cards they put on and the various countries they feature. This weekend they brought us to Monterrey, Mexico and Italy for some entertaining boxing that American cable and premium networks would not normally feature. From Italy, Francesco Patera advanced to 23-3 with a dominant unanimous decision in a six round contest over Nicola Henchiri. Ivan Zucco captured the Italian 168 lb. title when Luca Capuano’s corner refused to send him out after the sixth round. In the main event Fabio Turchi defeated Dylan Bregeon for the European Cruiserweight title in a close unanimous decision with all three judges scoring in favor of Turchi 115-113. In Monterrey there was a very entertaining back and forth fight between local favorite Brandon Azael Romero and Ariel Humberto Perez de la Torre boxing out of Guatemala and originally hailing from Cuba. Torre went down early in the fight and trailed after the fourth round when open scorecards were read but he bombed out Romero in the seventh round. Romero got off to an early lead with classy boxing from his southpaw stance but Torre kept pressing and working until he ultimately wore down his Mexican foe and got a statement victory. In the main event Miguel Vazquez advanced to 43-10 with a victory over Isai Hernandez when the contest was halted after two body shot knockdowns. Vazquez though past his best did a great job managing range and scoring with his jab and to the body. Hernandez had moments where he had Vazquez pinned up on the ropes but Vazquez’s defense was locked down. Unfortunately, early on Hernandez kept complaining of phantom rabbit punches and the referee broke up the action several times when Vazquez had him hurt and it killed the momentum. He would get rocked and then get a break by feigning fouls. Eventually Vazquez dropped him and ended the fight.

Triller and the circus show

I have been hesitant to write much about the many exhibitions, celebrity boxing, and MMA/boxing crossovers. I want to cover boxing in the way it matters overall to the sport at a serious level and the overall health of the sport. Boxing is a niche sport in the United States and has been for a very long time. I try to separate the sport and its history and championships from the crossover type of fights that are pay per view money grabs and insignificant to the sport as a whole. My opinion on these type of events is mixed as I draw positive and negative conclusions regarding these high profile, semi-professional events. I know the bouts are technically professional given they are boxing and being paid handsomely. For example, Askren made $500,000 according to DAZN which is more than he made in the UFC for high profile matches against Jorge Masvidal and Robbie Lawler. In fact, that $500,000 is more than his guarantee in both of those fights combined and that is only the base figure minus any PPV earnings. Paul to his credit received a base of $690,000 which according to a very in-depth 2019 study by Bloody Elbow indicates a purse in the elite echelon and more than some title bout payouts. I call them semi-professional because despite the financial figures and buzz in popular culture they are insignificant to the sport in a practical sense of championships and rankings. Or are they?

The Good: Boxing is a sport that has not been greatly popular in my lifetime. Boxing was more popular during my parents’ lifetime as they came of age in the 1970’s and was possibly more popular prior to that during my grandparents’ coming of age in the 1940’s and 1950’s. In high school, the only fight that had any significance was the Mayweather and De La Hoya fight. In college, the only fight of any significance was Mayweather vs Pacquiao. By significance I mean discussion between people in my age group. Boxing is hardly mentioned on prominent sports shows like Sportscenter on ESPN and outside of some knockout clips and compilations it is hardly discussed among younger Americans. Some say these fights denigrate the sport and undermine hardworking boxers. I would argue that it is unlikely the social media followers are confusing Jake Paul with being a serious title contender and that his actions in the ring operate in a separate universe from serious boxing. What the foray of young viewers into boxing may cause is an exposure to real boxing talent as Regis Prograis was on card Saturday night and he is one of the best fighters out there right now. If Triller continues to put real talent on these entertainment first type of cards maybe we will see some carry over into the boxing world if these viewers can recognize the real thing and be intrigued.

This is not new: Celebrity boxing has existed before and had plenty of air time in the 1990’s with famous to semi famous figures climbing in the ropes. Athletes like Mark Gastineau and Ed Jones boxed professionally and exploited the same type of ability to take their fame into the ring to make a quick few bucks and test their mettle. In many ways it is no different than Mickey Rourke fighting professionally and he even got some obvious looking dives to pad up his record. Boxing has always been a wild west type of sport without a draft or entry level talent grading much like there is in say the NFL. The sport is regulated by various commissions but here have always been gimmicky and crazy things that slip by the overseers like that time the West Virginia commission let Tommy Morrison fight with AIDS and Joe Mesi to fight with brain damage. I say this to indicate that boxing has done a lot to hurt its own reputation from devaluing world championship titles, to promotional and broadcast companies putting up so many roadblocks to the big fights and PPV fleecing in the form of glorified sparring matches for sixty dollars . Boxing had plenty of self inflicted wounds prior to the recent absurdity this past weekend. Boxing has always been a sport about drawing power. The fighter who draws eyes is the one who make the most dollars and the same is true in the UFC. There are plenty of elite fighters fighting in obscurity because they are not draws in the major markets. Female fighters make a fraction of what the men make as well. Because of a pro wrestling type of model the entertainers will always get the money and same is true in other industries. Do I like Jake Paul receiving a higher purse in three fights than some guys who have worked their entire life to get there, the answer is a resounding no! But, I am not here to pretend that this all started April 17, 2021.

The Bad: Where it is different, the circus seems to be on the verge of overtaking the legitimate part of the sport. Tyson and Jones had the highest grossing combat sports PPV of 2020.and we are seeing a lot of interest in these exhibition type of fights as Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto and Juan Manuel Marquez are all lined up to start boxing again. While I am less annoyed by the retiree fighters doing this I hope it is not a signal that “real boxing” will not fall victim to the extravaganza. Notably, Ryan Garcia is the first fighter I can think of with a fan base formed organically through social media. The popular fighters of the 2000’s and 2010’s like Pacquiao, Mayweather and Canelo all started boxing and headlining PPV’s while Twitter and Instagram were still relatively new and had not risen to the point where they are now. Garcia like Paul is an internet star who got his initial fame there. Garcia is a talented boxer who has taken his craft very seriously but he is becoming a fuck you money type of fighter without the fuck you money accomplishments. To put things in perspective, Floyd was an Olympic Medalist and two division champion after five years of professional boxing when he made $1.8 million against Jesus Chavez and in the same span Garcia headlined a PPV and made more money against Luke Campbell. Following the fight Garcia called out world championship caliber fighters in Devin Haney and Gervonta Davis only to turn around and sign to fight Javier Fortuna who is a lesser fighter than the above mentioned. Haney is the WBC Light Weight Champion and Garcia is the #1 contender and he is telling Haney he has to earn the fight by facing Teofimo Lopez. Now don’t get me wrong that is the fight to make in the division but where does Garcia get off telling champions what to do when he has no titles to his name? He makes all of these big call outs for attention and then fights someone much less in status or danger level. I fear that social media money is further going to water down our sport to the point where money is going to be dictated in popularity of followers to the detriment of legitimate title matches. At a time when there are already enough landmines to navigate to get a fight done this may only make things worse.

The fight: Paul dropped Askren with a hard overhand right in the first round and Ben rose to his feet on wobbly legs and was waved off after a long examination from the referee. There were cries of early stoppage and fix. I do not agree with these accusations of fix as the punch was hard and landed cleanly. As far as the early stoppage, sure they could have let it go, but Askren was done. I will say at a minimum that I have to respect Paul for his training and his work ethic to get in shape and dedicate to a real camp. And though he has not fought a real boxer, Askren is/was a professional fighter with lots of experience trading blows. Askren was retired and well above his weight class and again is another 0-0 boxer. If Paul stays in his lane fighting these type of fights I am generally ok with it but if it crosses into him getting rankings or undeserved title fights I will definitely draw the line as a writer if he does not climb in with an actual pro.

Ivan Redkach: I hope to never see him again on another boxing card. I was at the Barclay’s Center when he bit Danny Garcia and this last Saturday he pulled some shitty antics vs Prograis. A hard body shot sent him down to the canvas and he took his count while dramatically punching the ring. He then rose to protest a low blow and continued acting until the point he was stretchered out of the ring. The bout was ruled a technical decision only to be overturned to a knockout. I try to be as respectful and positive toward the fighters that climb in the ring for our entertainment but I cannot wrap my head around this guy. He quit, acted, and then took a stretcher out! For a low blow! I’ve never seen something so embarrassing!

USS Cunningham: In a final note I am happy to see the 44 year-old Steve Cunningham show his class by beating former UFC heavyweight Frank Mir by lopsided decision. Outweighed by roughly seventy pounds and out of the ring for over three years, Cunningham boxed beautifully to dominate Mir over six rounds. I will never forget his war with Adamek and his last round KO over Huck.

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