Shawn Porter and Yordenis Ugas led the charge in a solid weekend of boxing action across the globe. There was a mixed crowd reception for Porter inside the Dignity Health Sports Park, including a few boos for the man who ultimately retained his WBC title. Initial tactical analysis from the commentary team on FOX was interesting as former world champion Lennox (sort of) clashed with top trainer Jose Goosen on what they were witnessing.
Lennox liked Porter’s footwork; Goosen mentioned his short arms were not conducive with a strictly boxing strategy and urged the champion to close the gap on Ugas. Lead man Chris Myers kept a lid on things, but neither was “wrong” – disagreements are natural and healthy in the scripted world of boxing production. It was quickly made apparent that Ugas (losing for the fourth time) is no fool, and Porter struggled with the jab and size of his challenger.
Porter’s struggles were not confined to ring. Trimming away the last few ounces of weight was also cause for concern as Shawn shaved a few inches off his hairline to get by. Bigger paydays are on the horizon for the Ohio man, so it was imperative he got past Ugas. The Cuban is seeking a rematch after a close contest. He was possibly hard done to, but won’t get a return opportunity, despite impressing enough to grab another TV slot.
On the same night, over in New York, DAZN were busy putting on a tidy enough card of their own. Joe Smith Jr, game and courageous as ever, was the perfect foil for someone like WBA light-heavyweight king Dmitry Bivol. The Russian has signed with DAZN and as far as styles go, well-balanced Bivol revels in the face of straight forward pressure and looks special.
Bivol started pushing the action and coming forward himself in the sixth round which is an ominous sign for any opponent. The champion seemed to be overwhelming Smith a bit in the seventh; showing varied dimensions to his game.
Frustrated, but never in any danger of quitting, fringe contender Smith attempted an unorthodox tide-changer in round nine. In a bid to rough up Bivol, the Long Islander employed a de facto wrestling move. It was the closest he ever came to unsettling one of the premier talents at the 175-pound weight class. By the second half of the fight, Joe was merely scrapping to survive.
Maurice Hooker got a decent win on the undercard. Speaking from a technical point of view, challenger Mikkel Lespierre was not as bad as first expected. It’s always interesting to see a boxer who implements slick moves, head rolls, flexible shoulders, and yet still gets hit a lot. James DeGale and Scott Cardle spring to mind on that front. LesPierre probably shouldn’t have been allowed to last the 12-round distance. Perhaps Hooker’s lack of true killer instinct will come back to bite him in the future. Not in this fight though, as LesPierre toiled to win more than a couple of rounds, but heard the final bell. Hooker against Jack Catterall would be an interesting fight if Catterall’s promoter Frank Warren can force the WBO into action.
Speaking of Mr Warren, boxing returned to the Royal Albert Hall on Friday night after decades away from the venue. It’s all about the fights, and matchmaker Jason McClory delivered a good one on paper. One solid card, top-to-bottom every two-three months is the way to go, rather than putting on weak cards more regularly.
Headliner Anthony Yarde is embarking on a curious career. He seems like a decent chap, with a physically impressive look, excellent power, and a growing fan base. However, for someone with such a lofty world ranking the stamina and chin boxes have yet to be checked. If you’re chasing down Sergey Kovalev, then those things would need to be sound, or you’re getting brutally exposed.
Is the relatively tame route to a title shot deliberate? Friday night victim Travis Reeves was a late replacement for the much better Mehdi Amar, so they were genuinely seeking a stronger foe than the one they ended up with. It looks overall like the team are intent on keeping Yarde ticking over, masking any deficiencies that they may or may not know about, before throwing him in for a world title and hoping for the best.
Daniel Dubois stole a march on domestic rival Nathan Gorman by knocking out Razvan Cojanu in round two. Dubois is more Herbie Hide than Lennox Lewis at the moment, but he is clearly improving – looking looser and more flexible with each passing bout. It’s easy to forget that Dubois is a relative baby at 21.
Gorman’s fight with Cojanu was somewhat dull as a spectacle. It’s fair to say that Gorman had taken the Romanian on a week’s notice (after Aussie Alex Leapai disappeared), and Gorman clearly has the skills to trouble Dubois. That is the fight that needs to be made at some point over the next 12 months. Dubois seemingly has the slight edge as a potential grudge match continues to build nicely into something the fans would like to see.