Joshua and Selby impress in London and other news and notes from the week in boxing in The Mandatory Eight for October 14th.
1. Joshua KOs nine straight
Olympic super-heavyweight gold medalist Anthony Joshua rounded off his first full year as a pro on Saturday night with his ninth consecutive stoppage win. Joshua annihilated Russian veteran Denis Bakhtov in just two rounds in what was another supremely impressive performance from the big man. While Bakhtov is not a top contender and is probably coming towards the end of a long career, he’s a tough, competent heavyweight, and one I figured would at the minimum take Joshua some rounds to figure out. Joshua is already running ahead of the learning curve for a heavyweight, and the way in which he handled Bakhtov means it will be difficult to hold him at this pace for long. People are going to want to see AJ in big fights and soon, but he’s going to have to find somebody capable of giving him rounds first.
This guy has more upside than any heavyweight prospect to come along at-least since Wladimir Klitschko turned pro in 1996. There are two reasons I say that. The first is because as good as Joshua is now, I think he’s only scratching the surface. This isn’t somebody who has been around the sport his whole life. He was still relatively green when he won gold in London, and he’s continued to show rapid improvement in his early pro career. The second reason is his attitude. He’s kept his feet firmly on the ground. He’s humble – he’s still prepared to learn and he’s got the work ethic to go with it. At only 24, time is on his side too. If you’re somebody waiting for the next breakout star at heavyweight, this is the man to watch.
2. Selby secures spot as IBF mandatory
The other major news coming out of Sky’s London show is that Lee Selby is next in line to challenge the winner of November’s bout between Evgeny Gradovich and Jayson Velez for the IBF Featherweight title. Selby thoroughly dominated Joel Brunker, stopping him in the 9th round and handing the Aussie his first loss in 29 fights as a pro. This was an eye opening performance from the Welshman. Selby blitzed a pretty strong British domestic scene, but there has always been a question over what level he would max out. He has looked leagues above everyone he’s fought over the last three years, and now to blow away Brunker in the same way, it definitely means something. On that showing, I would favour him to take out Gradovich or Velez, and if he does that, there are some big fights out-there at featherweight.
3. Jermain Taylor: a champion once more
9 years, 4 losses and 3 knockouts after Jermain Taylor first beat Bernard Hopkins to became unified middleweight champion, the Arkansas man regained the IBF version of the title with an upset win over Sam Soliman on a special Wednesday night ESPN card in Mississippi last week.
What was an awkward, but otherwise even fight early, took a major shift in the 7th when Taylor put Solimon down for a count and Sam apparently aggravating an old knee injury in the process. The result instantly became academic, as Solimon, without his wheels beneath him, was a sitting duck – hitting the canvas again and again down the stretch and giving Taylor a runaway points victory on the cards. Whether the former champion overlooked Taylor, or if at 40 years old his body has just started to come apart, is anyone’s guess, but he was poor on the night. To Taylor’s credit, he’s now beaten a legitimate middleweight contender and this is likely his best win since he last reigned on top of the division.
Jermain is a fighter I’ve always liked. He’s had his troubles in and out of the ring over recent years, and this would be a nice note for him to go out on because I really don’t see it getting much better from here. Such things rarely happens in boxing though and they almost certainly won’t in this case. The offers are going to come in thick and fast. He will be seen as an obvious target for both young fighters on the way up and established names looking to find their way back into the title picture. Peter Quillin and Hassan N’Dam were named as potential future opponents in the post-fight, and both would enter as sizable betting favourites should a deal be reached to face the aging “Bad Intentions.”
4. The reappearance of Andre Dirrell
Another former Super Six participant on the comeback trail is Andre Dirrell. The Matrix was back out in the co-feature of the Wednesday night show; smashing Nick Brinson in four rounds. The Michigan southpaw took a while to find his rhythm, but once he did, he impressed; showing a real conviction and spite that he has sometimes been missing in the past. Dirrell’s career has been a frustrating one to follow over the last few years. There’s been so many hold ups and false starts that I had my doubts as to whether he’d ever make his way back into meaningful fights. The guy clearly has the talent, but he’s 31 now, so time is ticking. He looks and sounds as though he’s ready to jump back into the division’s deep end and there should be lots of fights out there for him. Who knows, if we can get Ward back active again too, we may yet get that Super Six fight we’re still owed.
5. Macklin/Heiland Dublin bill back on for November 15th
The Matthew Macklin versus Jorge Sebastian Heiland card initially scheduled as Sky’s Season opener on August 30th is now back on for November 15th. The sold-out show was temporarily scrapped when Macklin’s trainer Jamie Moore was injured in a shooting in Marbella on August 3rd, throwing the Irishman’s fight preparation into disarray. Macklin, who is currently back training with old coach Joe Gallagher while Moore recovers, brushed off the rust with an eight-rounder on the undercard of Arthur Abraham and Paul Smith in September, and is now looking to get back in the middleweight mix via this WBC title eliminator against Heiland.
The venue has changed from The National Stadium to The 3 Arena (formerly The Point) – moving the fight from the small halls to an arena show. The building, which has been host to UFC and WWE already this year, hasn’t staged a boxing card since Bernard Dunne last fought in 2009. The August date was a very quick seller, but this is a much bigger capacity venue, so demand will give a good indication of the appetite for live boxing in the Dublin market.
Undercard bouts announced so far are Gary O’Sullivan vs Anthony Fitzgerald, Khalid Yafai vs Luke Wilton and Michael Sweeney vs Ian Tims, while opponents are still to be confirmed for Luke Keeler, Patrick Hyland, Declan Geraghty and Sam Eggington. Tickets go on sale from noon Tuesday at www.matchroomboxing.com.
6. Degale opponent for November 22nd PPV
Carl Froch’s mandatory challenger, James Degale will take on Marco Antonio Periban in Liverpool on November 22nd while he waits for The Cobra to make his next move. Periban, a former title challenger, who ran Sakio Bika and J’Leon Love close in recent fights, is probably about the right level opponent Degale needs to build his profile ahead of a Froch fight.
Periban’s an established contender at the weight, so a strong performance for Degale on what will be a high profile show in the UK with Cleverly/Bellew 2 headlining, will boost interest in a match-up with Froch. For Froch/Degale to make sense, it has to be a major event, at least in the ballpark of the two Froch/Groves fights. Matchroom has already temp-booked January 31st as a potential date for that fight, and reports suggest Degale has already signed for the bout, so it’s a matter of convincing Froch it’s a battle worth fighting. Anything other than a statement win for Degale would be viewed as a catastrophe for the Beijing gold medalist.
7. Sauerland ink new TV deal
Sauerland promotion have confirmed a long-term deal to move their stable of fighters, which included Arthur Abraham, Mikkel Kessler, George Groves, David Price and Cecilia Braekhus, to the Sat.1 network starting in 2015. Right now, Germany is a huge part of the world boxing landscape. When it was announced last month that ARD wasn’t going to be renewing Sauerland’s output deal, it potentially spelled major trouble for the region’s leading promotional outfit, but the Sauerland brothers have landed on their feet with the new Sat.1 contract, which will guarantee a minimum of eight German events per year.
Sat.1 already has existing deals with SES and Felix Sturm Promotions. The addition of Sauerland effectively moves them to the top of the network heap for boxing in Germany. There are said to be plans already in motion for the network to start a 24/7 boxing channel and this deal significantly strengthens their hand if that is what’s in their future.
For Sauerland, this is huge. They recently lost one of their major stars in Marko Huck, who cited a fear of being tied to a promoter without TV coverage as reason for not re-signing. Failure to secure a new network could have seen several of their other major names follow suit – similar to what happened with Hatton Promotions in Britain. The arrangement with Sat.1 puts them back in the race and should mean they secure their current roster.
8. Garcia vs. Postol on ice
It seems Viktor Postol will not be getting the next crack at lineal light welterweight champion Danny Garcia after all. It was reported late last week that purse bids for the mandatory challenge were put on hold as a deal had been reached. However, it now has come to surface that the deal is not for Postol to get the next shot. Instead Garcia will be allowed to pursue other options for his next bout with an agreement to fight the Ukrainian at a later stage.
This comes at very little surprise. When I saw Postol breeze past Selçuk Aydın on the Marquez/Alvarado bill, I knew instantly he was a guy no top fighter would touch. He’s technically superb without being in any way spectacular, extremely accurate and just incredibly effective all round. It’s a style that exists to give opponents nightmares and when you combine that with low marquee value, it’s a recipe for being avoided.
While in theory, Garcia, should he win his fight in the interim, would have to face Postol further down the road, I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one. Danny has been sizing up a move to welterweight for a while now. This gives him the chance for one final outing at 140, then there is a ready made excuse for him to ditch the title and chase fights in the money division.