After a pretty dire series of events continued to put a damper on the boxing world, the last few weeks have been pretty spectacular. I last covered the heavyweight championship highlights that saw Oleksandr Usyk and Tyson Fury prevail in their high stakes match ups. In the previous two weeks I went without an update on the recent streak of fights including Newark, New Jersey’s very own Shakur Stevenson getting the biggest victory of his bright career. The sport also saw upsets from California as Mikey Garcia fell to Spain’s Sander Martin and Elwin Soto saw his title leave with Johnathan Gonzalez.
Shakur Stevenson Stops Jamel Herring in 10
I remember watching in anticipation the 2016 Olympic Finals when Stevenson walked into the ring looking to secure the USA’s first men’s boxing gold medal since 2004. I have been watching boxing for over twenty years and while I still get excited for many fights I had not felt the nerves and energy I felt for this fight in a long time. Ultimately, Stevenson failed in his quest dropping a decision but putting up an excellent effort and gave a heartfelt and tearful interview in the ring. Since debuting the twenty-four year-old has racked up a 17-0 record with nine stoppages and now adds a second title in as many weight classes with the win over Herring. Herring entered at 23-2 off the back of his biggest victory, a stoppage over Carl Frampton. Stevenson had shown great defensive skills and precision punching and posts fight night performances similar to Floyd Mayweather Jr as he rarely misses punches and goes rounds without taking a clean shot to the face. Observers who were hesitant to call him the best defensive fighter in boxing due to his level of opposition have now seen him at the top level. While the eye test revealed what he had prior, this performance against a veteran titlist vindicated it. Herring to put it bluntly was never in this fight. Despite returning to the corner with a smile on his face at the conclusion of the early rounds was never able to get anything going offensively. The judges had a near unanimous shutout with just one judge giving Herring a single round. Prevailing wisdom pointed to Herring needing to drag Stevenson into a brawl and get him out of his comfort zone. This never happened as Stevenson jabbed, countered and put his shots together skillfully in wearing down Herring round after round. In the aftermath, Stevenson called out the now heel of the division in Oscar Valdez who holds the WBC title but also failed a drug test. Stevenson has stated he believes promoter Bob Arum will protect Valdez from him and there are reports that Stevenson will be paired with Miguel Berchelt next. This vindicates his accusations as Berchelt is a recent KO victim of Valdez and though he is a top notch fighter, this is not the fight the fans are asking for.
DAZN’s California Fight Night Ends in Two Upsets
I know fans and pundits alike love to gloom and doom moan and groan about B-Side fighters not being able to get close decisions in the headliner’s backyard; but much like Oleksandr Usyk, Johnathan Gonzalez and Sander Martin disproved this accusation. Even more interesting is the way in which they both won with defensive performances that saw Gonzalez fight primarily off the back foot to win against a very aggressive champion in Elwin Soto. The twenty-four year-old Soto has been a staple on DAZN having won his WBO light flyweight title two years ago and defended it three times. Though he is Mexican he was the hometown fighter in Fresno, California and had the opportunity to garner more attention on the undercard of a Mikey Garcia fight. In addition, this was a Mexico vs Puerto Rico match up that is a deep seeded rivalry that has given fans some barnburners over the years. This fight reminded me a lot of Erislandy Lara vs Canelo Alvarez as Gonzalez adeptly out maneuvered Soto and picked him apart from the outside. Soto came hard charging but had little to no success cutting off the ring and landing his stinging punches, he has 13 KO’s in his 19 career victories. Gonzalez scored his best punch of the fight, a dart of a left hand with his back to the ropes in the twelfth and final round. The fight was a split decision but the right man won. Johnathan Gonzalez at 24-3-1 boxed a sound fight tactically as he nullified his opponent and made the best use of his quick feet and accurate single counters. The main event was another surprise as Spain’s Sander Martin out boxed a flabby and lethargic Mikey Garcia over ten rounds to secure a majority decision. The fight was contested at junior welterweight and was Garcia’s first fight since February of 2020 and just his second since his 2019 loss to Errol Spence. Martin entered with an eye catching 38-2 record but has not fought any notable opponents in either his victories or his defeats. Garcia lacked urgency as he was unable to get to Martin with any regularity as the Spaniard remained composed and stuck to the plan. With Garcia becoming a part time fighter and looking for super fights without putting in the work in between it is tough to see where he goes from here.
Philadelphia’s Jaron Ennis Continues his Welterweight Ascent
It does not feel that long ago when Errol Spence was an undefeated up and comer calling out champion Keith Thurman to no avail. The hunter has now become the hunted as Ennis at twenty-four has scored a third noteworthy stoppage with Juan Carlos Abreu, Sergey Lipinets and now Thomas Dulorme now falling victim inside the opening three minutes on Showtime. He is now 28-0 with 26 KO’s and called out both Terrence Crawford and Errol Spence. Both titleholders have failed to get in the ring with each other and now the young contenders like Ennis and Vergil Ortiz are on the move and ready to challenge for their titles. The young upstarts might just get a chance to spoil the much desired and lucrative unification bout that has been dangled in our faces for years without it coming to a reality in the ring. As it stands Ennis is ranked 7th in the Ring, 5th by the WBO, 3rd by the IBF, 6th by the WBC, 5th by the WBA. He is a dangerous puncher and a very skilled fighter to go along with that. I don’t think Spence or Crawford will be in a tremendous hurry to get in the ring with this kid.
Best of the Rest:
-Jose Zepeda scores a first round TKO over Josue Vargas at 140: Vargas dropped by a left hand early in round 1 and never recovered. Zepeda called out champion Josh Taylor.
-Jonas Sultan 17-5 of the Philippines wins a 94-93 on all cards over Carlos Caraballo 14-0 in a four knockdown fight from Madison Square Garden
-Jamal James stopped in 9 by Radzhab Butaev in Las Vegas to move closer to a Yordenis Ugas fight
-Undefeated heavyweight prospects Alan Babic and Johnny Fisher score early KO’s
-Chantelle Cameron defeats Mary McGee in women’s 140 lb unification fight
-Oscar Rivas UD 12 over Ryan Rozicky
Ryan Garcia pulls out vs Jo Jo Diaz in a WBC lightweight interim title fight. I never agreed with an interim title as champion Devon Haney is not injured. Garcia was the number one contender for Haney and has since shown no interest in challenging for the title. Fortunately it looks like Diaz and Haney will meet for the WBC title in December. For Garcia it is his second withdraw in 2021 and his career momentum has stalled since the KO over Luke Campbell.
-Dillian Whyte pulls out of his fight with Otto Wallin, a week away from his clash with Wallin, Whyte cited an injury. Given his WBC status and Fury’s victory over Wilder this is not a surprise. A shame for Wallin who I think had a great chance to pull the upset. Whyte is likely to face Fury in March with Joshua and Usyk set to meet in 2022.