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Un-Orthodox boxing blog

The Axe Man arrives in America

Posted by Jack Sumner on October 29, 2014

In late summer every year, tropical storms threaten to wreak havoc on the West of the Atlantic, as devastating winds originating in the Caribbean sweep their way North to the United States. The damage is of course concentrated in the East, but this year, America’s West Coast felt the full force of a Category 5 hurricane. The eye of the storm hit the StubHub Center in Carson, California, on October 18th.

nonito-donaire-walters-3Jamaican featherweight sensation Nicholas Walters came of age with a sixth-round knockout of four-division champion Nonito Donaire, dropping the Filipino veteran in the third round and dominating en-route to the emphatic finish. That came with a gale-force overhand right that rendered Donaire semi-conscious and face-first on the canvas; he narrowly beat the count, but staggered into referee Raul Caiz Jr’s arms and the official wisely brought a halt to the contest.

Walters became the WBA “super” champion at 126lbs, having entered the bout as holder of the sanctioning body’s “regular” crown. But over-complicated boxing politics aside, there were more important reasons why the win was the most significant of the 28-year-old’s career so far. In his American television debut on HBO, the manner of Walters’ victory ushered in a new star in the talent-rich featherweight division.

Donaire had never been knocked down before, let alone stopped and certainly never physically dominated like he was by Walters. In the wake of the fight many observers pointed to the former champion’s age (thirty-two on November 16th) and his size disadvantage, but Donaire himself made no excuses when interviewed in the immediate aftermath. The former flyweight, who was arguably at his devastating best as a Fighter of the Year winner at super bantamweight, was incredibly gracious in defeat and full of honest praise for his conqueror.

“He knocked the f*****g sh** out of me!” Donaire told HBO’s Max Kellerman in his post-fight interview, “He’s an amazing fighter, amazing champion man, I take my hat off to him.”

“I thought that I’d be good in this weight class as I’m getting older, but I’m not going to take anything from Walters, I was at my best. I’ve never trained this hard, I’ve never, ever, ever trained this hard, I was away from my family because I knew the power he has and the type of person he is inside that ring. He overwhelmed me and knocked the sh** out of me.”

Walters is no doubt freakishly big at the weight, standing 5’7” and with a 73” reach that gave him a five-inch reach advantage over Donaire, which was evident from the continued dominance he enjoyed with the jab. The man from Montego Bay landed fourty-four jabs to Donaire’s four throughout the six rounds and used that leverage to set up his concussive power shots. In the final three rounds, Walters out-landed Donaire sixty-four to twenty in total punches. The writing was clearly on the wall after the first knockdown came towards the end of the third.

WaltersThat was scored with a short right uppercut that landed directly on the button and dropped Donaire to his knees, to register the first knockdown of the Filipino Flash’s fabled career. Donaire’s reliable chin withstood the onslaught that followed, at least for the best part of the next three rounds, but it was only a matter of time. With one second remaining in the sixth and with Donaire on the attack, Walters showed great reflexes to pull back and avoid his opponent’s vaunted left hook, before delivering the fight-ending right that landed behind the ear and literally chopped Donaire down.

It was an appropriate finish from a fighter who has become known as the ‘The Axe Man’, with a right hand that has been felling featherweights like Californian Redwoods. Now unbeaten in twenty-five fights, twenty-one of Walters’ victims have not survived the scheduled distance. Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, who co-promotes Walters with Leon Margules of Florida-based outfit Warriors Boxing, was understandably excited about the pop that his fighter possesses.

“I have never seen a featherweight with as much power as Walters,” Arum said. “I’ve seen featherweights with a lot of power but nothing with the concussive power this kid has. The one question I had was could he take a punch and he proved he could.”

Arum was referring to the one moment of vulnerability that Walters displayed in the fight, when at the end of the second round Donaire landed a left hook that momentarily staggered him. It was the kind of trademark shot that Donaire has frequently finished guys with, at least at lower weights, but by the time he returned to his stool Walters had already recovered and simply switched up a gear when the action resumed in the third.

“I got a little bit confident and he caught me with a good shot,” the Jamaican said. “Boom! I recuperated from the shot but it was a very good shot. He caught me clean. But I had a job to do and I got it done.”

Walters’ homeland has previous when it comes to producing fearsome punchers. Former three-weight world champion Mike ‘The Body Snatcher’ McCallum hails from the island and Jamaica was the birthplace of Canada’s Donovan ‘Razor’ Ruddock. For the past decade or more, Glen ‘The Road Warrior’ Johnson had largely carried the nation’s pugilistic hopes. That was at least until Walters arrived, and arrived now he has.

The featherweight division is stacked. A week before Walters cut down Donaire, Welshman Lee Selby scored an impressive stoppage of unbeaten Joel Brunker to become mandatory challenger with the IBF. Their champion, unbeaten Russian Evgeny Gradovich, defends his title against rising Puerto Rican Jayson Velez on November 29th, with the winner expected to defend against Selby in the new year. Formidable veteran Jhonny Gonzalez occupies the WBC crown in the midst of a career resurgence since icing the much-hyped Abner Mares inside a round, whilst Mares himself is now on the comeback trail and targeting a rematch. Then there’s the WBO titleholder, Vasyl Lomachenko.

Widely considered to be the greatest amateur boxer of all time, Lomachenko made waves in the sport last October when he turned professional and earlier this year challenged for a world title in only his second pro bout. He dropped a close decision to the teak tough veteran Orlando Salido, but the Mexican champion lost his title on the scales and Lomachenko would fight Gary Russell Jr for the vacant crown – dishing out a boxing lesson to the precocious American to become a titleholder in what was officially his third paid outing.

As the Ukrainian hotshot is also handled by Top Rank, Arum is plotting a collision course for Walters and Lomachenko now that he has the planet’s two most prominent featherweights within his stable. Fans have begun to salivate at the thought of the match-up, though if boxing fans know Arum, they know he’s likely to let it ‘marinate’ for a little while.

In the meantime however, there are plenty of appealing fights that can be made for Nicholas Walters. Argentinean Jesus Andres Cuellar – who likely sent Juan Manuel Lopez into retirement with a brutal second round knockout in September – could well be next as the WBA’s mandatory challenger, in what would pose to be exciting clash between two heavy hitters.

Walters

Whoever Walters is matched against, he’s a frightful prospect for any featherweight. His kind of power has not been seen at 126lbs since Prince Naseem Hamed in the nineties, he looks to have a reliable chin and possesses a solid defence backed up with great reflexes that lend to his ability to counter punch. For a relatively inexperienced fighter also, at least at the top level, he attacks very patiently and rarely falls victim to over-eagerness. To magnify all of that, his sheer size at the weight is perhaps his most frightening attribute.

Walters would have a massive eight-inch reach advantage over Lomachenko and has a significantly longer reach than any of his other top featherweight contemporaries. Ring Magazine’s Doug Fischer is on record as saying that Walters is the biggest featherweight he’s ever seen. The Jamaican is somehow able to boil a lightweight frame into a featherweight body and at the same time maximise his greatest assets.

Can Walters go on to rule at 126? Lomachenko would no doubt be the favourite, but Walters has laid a marker down as the most dangerous challenger to the Ukranian’s number one standing in the division. Whether the fight happens or whether the Jamaican star takes his heavy hands up through the weight classes, ‘The Axe Man’ has certainly arrived and has a bright future in the sport.

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Khan to headline triple-header against Alexander

Posted by Jack Sumner on October 21, 2014

Amir Khan will take on Devon Alexander in a showcase welterweight bout in December, as he looks to continue to earn a shot at pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather. Khan-Alexander will headline an exciting triple-header at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas on December 13th, with the card also featuring the Demetrius Andrade Jermell Charlo title fight and Keith Thurman against Leonard Bundu in an IBF eliminator.

Khan alexanderThe main event is a fight that’s over a year in the making, with Khan and Alexander originally scheduled to meet in December 2013. That fight fell through when Khan pulled out of the bout to pursue a clash with Mayweather this spring, in hindsight an unwise decision as Floyd ultimately elected to fight Marcos Maidana instead.

Khan (29-3, 19 KO’s) kept busy with a twelve-round decision over Luis Collazo on the Mayweather-Maidana undercard and impressed in his welterweight debut, dropping the veteran southpaw several times in a dominant display. The 27-year-old Brit looked more than comfortable at a higher weight and fighting for the first time in thirteen months, crediting improved punch resistance and the training methods of Virgil Hunter as factors in the win.

Alexander (26-2, 14 KO’s) rebounded from losing his IBF title to Shawn Porter with a ten-round victory over Mexican gatekeeper Jesús Soto Karass in June and equally for the St. Louis native, victory over Khan would see his name thrown in the hat for big fights. The welterweight division is as talent-laden as ever, with options aplenty for it’s top stars particularly in the Golden Boy stable. Khan’s team had considered bouts with Robert Guerrero and Josesito Lopez, before settling on Alexander.

Kell Brook remains a lucrative carrot for Khan if he defeats Alexander but fails to land the Mayweather fight, but the man who took the IBF strap from Porter may have obligations of his own in the new year. Brook is currently sidelined after being stabbed in the leg whilst on holiday following his world title victory, but will surely have an eye on Khan’s undercard come December. The winner of Thurman and Bundu will become mandatory challenger for Brook’s 147lb title and the match-up pits tough, unbeaten fighters together at different stages of their careers.

The 25-year-old Thurman (23-0, 21 KO’s) is one of the most exciting rising stars in boxing, an explosive knockout artist with power in both hands who has been putting a solid resume of fringe world-class opposition to the sword in the past couple of years. In Bundu he’ll meet a 40-year-old veteran with almost ten years professional experience in the ring, who’s chartered a much steadier climb to the top through years on the European welterweight circuit.

European champion Bundu (31-0-2, 11 KO’s) upset previously unbeaten British hope Frankie Gavin in his last outing, dropping the former world amateur champion en route to a decisive points win and adding Gavin’s Commonwealth title in the process. Thurman was last in action in April with a three-round demolition of Julio Diaz, in what was arguably his most impressive performance to date.

Perhaps the most intriguing clash on the December 13th bill however is the WBO light middleweight title fight between Andrade and Charlo, in what poses to be a highly technical affair between two young unbeaten fighters. Champion Andrade (21-0, 14 KO’s) made the first defence of his title in June against Brian Rose and thoroughly outclassed the Brit who succumbed to a seventh-round stoppage after two knockdowns and a continued onslaught.

Charlo (24-0, 11 KO’s), the 24-year-old twin brother of fellow unbeaten contender Jermall, scored his most notable victory to date with a unanimous decision over Gabriel Rosado in January and followed up with a decision over Charlie Ohta in May.

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Rematch a long shot for Smith

Posted by Jack Sumner on October 20, 2014

There was a time when it would have seemed unlikely that Paul Smith would ever earn a world title shot. A stalwart of the British super middleweight ranks, the Liverpudlian veteran had come up short in his two biggest tests, suffering stoppage defeats to prodigious talents James DeGale and George Groves. But following a career resurgence with four straight wins heading into this summer – including his impressive dismantling of Tony Dodson in their rematch last year – and a promotional switch to link up with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom outfit, the ‘Real Gone Kid’ received a long-awaited and well-deserved chance at the big time, with an opportunity to challenge Arthur Abraham for his WBO strap in Germany.

SmithSmith snatched that opportunity with both hands and put in the hardest training camp of his life for the battle on September 27th, before storming out of the blocks against the heavily favoured champion, edging the first two rounds at Kiel’s Sparkassen Arena. Abraham then found his feet and would command the middle sessions, landing the more telling blows, but remained typically inactive and the challenger rallied to finish strong down the stretch.

At the final bell, the proverbial knights in King Arthur’s corner could not have been certain that the home fighter had retained his crown. A draw was a realistic outcome from what had indisputably been a close fight, with either man able to lay claim to deserving the decision by a round or two. But as has often been the case on German soil, the judge’s scorecards did not accurately reflect the action that had taken place a few feet from their tainted eyes. Abraham was announced the victor by awfully wide scores of 117-111 (twice) and 119-109.

WBO president Paco Valcarcel even publicly condemned the scoring, assuring fans he would review the fight and insisting that Fernando Laguna – who favoured Abraham by ten rounds – “screwed up”. But the sanctioning body then announced that they would not force an immediate rematch, with Valcarcel taking to Twitter on October 17th to insist that despite the wide scores, the right man won the fight:

“Resolution on #AbrahamSmith to be notified on Monday. Rematch petition is DENIED. What caused controversy was margin of scores, not result.” – Twitter @Paco Valcarcel

The news came as a bitter blow to Smith, who was understandably aggrieved in the wake of the controversial defeat, yet the 32-year-old remained positive about his chances of securing a return bout:

“Gutted that the WBO aren’t making a straight rematch. I do believe I’ll get the rematch voluntarily, though. I’ve proved I belong up here.”- Twitter @PaulSmithJnr

That sentiment was echoed by Abraham, who informed media that he would be open to fighting Smith again, although it would ultimately be down to the promoters to work out a deal.

And that is where the problem lies for Smith, despite Kalle Sauerland also insisting he was keen on the Smith return. Given the fallout from the fight it’s the politically correct thing to say, but with bigger money fights on the table for the declining Abraham – who turns thirty-five in February – a second bout with Smith is unlikely to be a priority for a fighter with limited miles left on the clock.

November 8th sees an all-German super middleweight affair between Robert Stieglitz and Felix Sturm in Stuttgart, with the winner a mouth-watering target for Abraham’s next title defence. As German boxing’s biggest stars, interest in a clash between Abraham and Sturm has been widespread for years, with the prospect now a realistic one given that the latter has finally moved up from 160lbs. Abraham and Stieglitz have clashed three times already and done big business in Germany, where the public would love to see them meet again.

Money talks in this game and the likelihood of Smith getting another shot at Abraham is therefore slim, but due to his gutsy performance he has at least retained a high ranking within the WBO. A noteworthy victory to kick-start 2015 could propel him towards a second title shot later next year. Unfortunately though, he’d likely have to battle German judging again.

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Demetrius Andrade: “I want to fight in the UK!”

Posted by Jack Sumner on July 25, 2014

WBO light middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade made his first trip to British shores for Matchroom Boxing’s bumper ‘Collision Course’ bill on July 12th, in support of gym-mate Vladine Biosse who featured on the undercard against rising super middleweight prospect Callum Smith. Working the corner for Biosse, Andrade watched on as his friend provided a tough test for Smith, but ultimately came up short against the highly-touted home fighter, who handled the dogged Cape Verde native with great maturity and ran out a clear winner with a disciplined performance.

Jack Sumner Demetrius AndradeBut Andrade (21-0, 14 KO’s) – who last month dismantled Blackpool’s Brian Rose in his first world title defence in Brooklyn, New York – was the subject of huge attention from the boxing public during his short stay on this side of the Atlantic. The Rhode Island southpaw has a growing UK fanbase in the wake of his seventh-round stoppage of Rose and his popularity soared to even greater heights with the humility he displayed whilst posing for pictures and signing autographs with fans in Liverpool.

Following Biosse’s defeat to Smith, Andrade re-emerged at ringside to catch the rest of the action and was later joined by Biosse to watch Anthony Joshua destroy Matt Skelton and Tony Bellew set up his expected rematch with Nathan Cleverly. Almost as dedicated a boxing fan as he is a boxer, Andrade appeared to be enjoying himself at the Echo Arena and expressed his interest in returning to a UK venue in the future, hopefully on the other side of the ropes.

“I’m having a great time over here, the fans have been great here in Liverpool, I’d love to come back,” Andrade told Boxing Mad Magazine’s Jack Sumner. “You know, I’d love to fight over here, I’m gonna talk to the promoter Eddie Hearn and hopefully in the future we can make that happen. I’ll talk to Eddie and we can get it done.”

Andrade’s next fight will be back in the States however, as he chases the big names in his division and the likes of Canelo Alvarez and Erislandy Lara, who clashed in Las Vegas just a few hours later.

“I think October (I’ll fight again), I’m looking to get out before Thanksgiving. It doesn’t matter to me (who wins Canelo-Lara) I’ll fight either one, I’ll fight anyone.”

The thought of Andrade fighting in the UK is a mouth-watering prospect for British fans, with the unbeaten 26-year-old American possessing the potential to go on and become a true pound-for pound great of the sport. Appearances from US megastars are few and far between on our shores, but whilst talk of Floyd Mayweather fighting at Wembley before he retires, or Andre Ward leaving home to fight Carl Froch are unrealistic, you get the sense that Andrade is a man of his word and his desire to fight all-comers, anywhere, is genuine.

Though he came out on the wrong end of a one-sided decision after being hit with Callum Smith’s heavy hands for ten rounds, Biosse echoed the sentiments of his countryman and went a little further to explain the desire to fight (again) over here: “You know what, the boxing fans here in Liverpool are really knowledgeable, they know their boxing. I definitely want to come back here and fight again. They appreciate what’s going on in that ring.”

They also appreciated both Biosse and Andrade, who judging by the attention they got in Liverpool, would be welcomed back with open arms.

 

 

 

 

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COLLISION COURSE COMPLETE!

Posted by Jack Sumner on July 25, 2014

Tony Bellew and Nathan Cleverly finally set up a long-awaited grudge rematch, as both men won in Liverpool on July 12th to secure a sequel to their bitter first encounter three years ago. The former light heavyweight rivals – now fighting at cruiserweight – are expected to share a ring again in November, but fans inside the Echo Arena on the night were almost treated to the inevitable fireworks right there.

Bellew Clev barny

Immediately after Bellew stopped Julio Cesar Dos Santos in the fifth round with a big left hook, the home favourite turned his attentions to Cleverly, who sat ringside, had earlier dispatched Argentina’s Alejandro Emilio Valori. Having to be held back as Cleverly – who won their first fight on a contested majority decision – taunted him from outside the ropes, Bellew then attempted to join his Welsh rival in the front row but was prevented from leaving the ring.

Once tempers had simmered down, the two were then separated by promoter Eddie Hearn during Bellew’s post-fight interview, but continued to bait each other with a verbal tirade. Both men have now had two successful outings as cruiserweights and settled into the division, with the prize on offer for November’s victor likely a world title shot in 2015.

Dubbed as “Collision Course”, the Liverpool card was essentially a prelude to the mooted Bellew-Cleverly return bout, with Hearn crossing his fingers at ringside hoping both his charges came through unscathed. But he needn’t have worried too much, as neither man faced a great deal of adversity in one-sided showings against their overmatched opponents.

Cleverly took to the ring first and initially received a respectful welcome from the home fans of his sworn enemy as he made his entrance to face the Argentinian Valori. A nice touch from a crowd that appreciates it’s boxing, but once the action was under way, the former world champion perhaps received too much respect from his opponent.

clev valoriCleverly (28-1, 14 KO’s) was in the ascendancy from the opening bell and dominated the first round, then in the second, scored a knockdown when he caught Valori with a hurtful left hook to the body after backing him to the ropes. The 31-year-old visitor made it to his feet and survived the round, but was gasping for breath and breathing heavily and from there, the writing was clearly on the wall.

He was finally put out of his misery just over a minute into the fourth, when the Welshman landed another hard left hand that dropped him again, and referee Terry O’Connor had seen enough. After the fight, as a parting shot to Bellew, Cleverly quipped: “Win your fight, I’m coming for you.”

Bellew (22-2-1, 14 KO’s) perhaps faced a tougher test on paper in Dos Santos, who had never previously been stopped in twenty-nine professional outings. But once the fight got under way, the Liverpudlian was immediately in control and looked comfortable throughout the first two rounds.

Dos Santos wasn’t so easily discouraged however and came back with some of his own fire in the third, landing with a couple of hard right hands and alerting Bellew to the supposed punching power that his record of twenty-three stoppages suggested. But his success was short-lived and after Bellew enjoyed a better session in the fourth, the pair exchanged left hooks in the fifth and Dos Santos was made to pay.

BellewBellew sent the Brazilian crashing to the canvas and although Dos Santos rose to beat the count, his legs betrayed him and the contest was waved off at 1:17 of the fifth round. Cue Bellew’s emotional outburst at the watching Cleverly and the pantomime finish that perhaps spoiled his impressive performance in the ring.

Sandwiched between Cleverly and Bellew’s performances was the latest outing of British heavyweight hope Anthony Joshua (7-0, 7 KO’s), who continued his exciting knockout streak with a two-round demolition of former world title challenger Matt Skelton. The 6’6” colossus has yet to be extended past the second round in any of his seven professional outings, with the 47-year-old veteran Skelton unable to take Joshua as deep as many had hoped.

In the build up to the fight, Skelton had taunted the 2012 Olympic gold medalist by comparing him to predecessor Audley Harrison, who also lifted super heavyweight gold but ultimately underachieved as a professional. But Joshua took it all in his huge stride and when he manhandled his more experienced opponent along the ropes – and almost out of the ring – in the opening session, it was clear that Skelton’s pre-fight assertions had had little effect on Joshua’s psyche.

He was bossing proceedings and took the first three minutes comfortably, punctuating the round with two big straight rights that drew telling smiles from Skelton before the bell. Skelton had some sporadic success with big rights of his own but they did little but boost confidence in Joshua’s ability to take a punch. Then in the second, the 24-year-old giant backed Skelton to the ropes again and unleashed a combination that finished with a big right hook to the head, dropping the Bedford Bear face first on the mat for a count of nine.

He barely beat the count, but it was academic anyway as Joshua moved in for the kill, a jab pushing his victim into a neutral corner before referee Steve Gray jumped in to save a giraffe-legged Skelton from further punishment.

The undercard featured a number of British boxing’s other rising stars, with the most notable standout being Callum Smith, the youngest and arguably most impressive of Liverpool’s four famous fighting brothers. The unbeaten 24-year-old took on American contender Vladine Biosse, who in his last fight had provided a tough test for J’Leon Love and backed by light middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade, crossed the Atlantic with ambitions of his own.

Perhaps the only things that Smith (12-0, 9 KO’s) had been lacking to this point in his professional career were rounds and a decent test, with the much-touted prospect dealing with every prior challenge with greater ease than his handlers had expected. But Biosse pushed Smith for the full ten rounds of what proved to be an invaluable learning curve and one in which the young Brit excelled, a mature and disciplined performance seeing him run out a comfortable points winner.

Callum’s brother Stephen was also on the card, staying busy with a points win over Mexican contender Pedro Navarette, as he awaits a world title shot against WBC super featherweight champion Takashi Miura. Smith won 78-75 over eight rounds and didn’t look his sharpest throughout a drab affair, but that can be expected with his world title tilt almost guaranteed for later this year.

One fighter who did look sharp however was Rocky Fielding, who could be on a collision course of his own with Callum Smith, joining his fellow Scouse super middleweight in the win column with a fifth-round finish of former George Groves foe Noe Gonzalez Alcoba. In what was probably the most entertaining clash of the night as long as it lasted, the two traded periods of ascendancy and at times both looked on the verge of triumph, but it was Fielding who ended matters when a left hook floored Gonzalez in the fifth and a flurry of punches forced the stoppage.

Elsewhere there were wins for Olympians Luke Campbell and Anthony Ogogo, who both kept their unbeaten records intact in scheduled six-rounders. Campbell got rid of some ring rust in outpointing the awkward Craig Woodruff 60-54 in his first outing for five months, whilst Ogogo impressed stopping Wayne Reed in round five after dominating from start to finish.

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