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The Mandatory Eight – The Calm

Photo credit: Naoki Fukuda (via Ring Tv)

Photo credit: Naoki Fukuda (via Ring Tv)
Photo credit: Naoki Fukuda (via Ring Tv)

News notes from one last quiet week in Boxing ahead of a packed end of year.

1. Fonfara chasing big fights

Andzej Fonfara (26-3), who in May gave Adonis Stevenson all he could handle, returned with a solid win on Showtime on Saturday night. Fonfara took a clear unanimous decision over Doudou Ngumbu (33-6) in an enjoyable TV main event to get back to winning ways as he continues his push for a rematch with Stevenson. Whether Fonfara has the goods to ever win a world title will remain to be seen. His weaknesses are evident; he’s far too easy to hit for one, but what he does have, is moderate skill, some power and a truckload of heart. Those things together can sometimes be enough. As a flawed fighter who sells a good ticket and has exciting bouts, there will always be interest both from networks and potential opponents, so the opportunities will be there for him at light heavyweight – whether it comes against Stevenson or somebody else.

2. Kameda fails to impress

In the Showtime co-feature, Tomoki Kameda (31-0), the youngest of the three Kameda brothers (each of whom have held world titles) had a more difficult night than expected on his return to US television. Kameda, who is 23, is looking to make his name in America, and had shown certain star qualities when he debuted in the market on the Canelo/Lara undercard back in July. There was a feeling within the sport that he could be the guy to lead the bantamweight division for the foreseeable future, but here, up against a tough veteran in Alejandro Hernandez (28-11-2), he struggled a bit en route to a split decision.

Some of the criticism sent Kameda’s way might be a touch unfair. It was a bout he clearly won. The scorecards themselves (115-113, 113-115 & 115-113) were unkind to him – even the two judges who gave him the fight had the margin far narrower than it had any right to be. However, after setting the bar high early, it was a flat performance against a limited opponent, and he sort of drifted out of the fight in the championship rounds following a cut.

It looks as though a unification bout with British bantamweight Jamie McDonnell (24-2-1) is next up for Kameda sometime early in 2015 – with McDonnell reportedly already having signed for that fight. Jamie is a very solid pro that’s proven at a world level, so that will be a real test for Kameda and should tell us some things about his upside in the division.

3. Huge Showtime bill in December

It’s been a dismal year for Showtime. It has. There’s just no two ways around it. Between the Golden Boy breakup, losing Canelo back to HBO and then missing out on Hopkins versus Kovalev as well, a year that started out with a lot of promise will end with them back as a distant number two in the premium cable boxing race.

They still have one big trick up their sleeve though, as the December 13th bill headlined by Amir Khan (29-3) vs Devon Alexander (26-2) is, for me, the strongest lineup they’ve run in 2014. Khan/Alexander is a high stakes fight at welterweight as neither of those guys can afford a loss at all right now. The two other main bouts (Keith Thurman vs Leonard Bundu and Demetrius Andrade vs Jermell Charlo) feature four undefeated fighters, all in need of the step up in competition, each in their toughest test so far. The show will also see the returns of Abner Mares and Victor Ortiz and those should be interesting to say the least.

4. Golovkin’s first opponent for 2015

Gennady Golovkin will be back out on February 21st in Monaco as he’s set to face-off with two-time world title challenger Martin Murray. This is a fight which has looked to be on the cards for a while now, and Murray is probably deserving of his shot having ran both Sturm and Martinez close in his past bids to become world champion in bouts many felt he deserved to win.

He’s a strong, physical middleweight, very well-rounded and super tough, but none of those attributes have really counted for much of anything when put against Golovkin so far. Murray is a big game player though. He will bring it on February 21st, but whether that’s enough to keep him in a fight with GGG, I don’t know.

It also looks as though HBO (having passed on Golovkin’s earlier Monaco bouts) will televise this one, and that speaks for their growing investment in GGG as one of their main attractions on the network. It’s the right call too. Golovkin has more buzz than anyone in the sport right now and they really shouldn’t be skipping out on any of his bouts while he has that type of momentum on his side.

5. Prospect watch

This guy, Jason Quigley (3-0), is a former Irish amateur standout now signed with Golden Boy. Last year before turning over to the pros, he won the European Amateur Championships at middleweight and then went on to take silver in the worlds, so he’s coming into the game as an A-level type prospect. The first round knockout here is from Thursday night’s FS1 show in Massachusetts.

At this stage and with this level of opposition, he’s not expected to be tested, so you can’t read too much into the result, but you can see there are some nice attributes there. His hand-speed and reflexes are super sharp, he appears to have power and his punch picking is excellent. He’s one to keep an eye on for sure. Check out the two punch combo used to finish this one off.

6. Cleverly/Bellew Ringside special

Sky’s Ringside show this past week was taken over by Nathan Cleverly (28-1) and Tony Bellew (22-2-1) ahead of their big cruiserweight clash on the 22nd. The choice to sell this fight on box-office has drummed up a lot of debate since it was announced. Sky have ran very few PPVs in recent times and when they do, it’s usually with Carl Froch on top. With this being a non-title bout, there’s been conflicting opinions among hardcore fans over whether or not the price tag is justified.

I have a feeling this could end up being a a big draw though. Bellew is one of the most natural fight sellers in the entire sport. It’s almost like when he talks, he can just go on autopilot and produce one quotable after another. The rivalry is there too. Currently it’s an exact 50/50, the odds makers can’t split them, and that’s generally a good indication of a fight that can sell. Sky are giving it the big show treatment – in addition to this special, they will also be doing the ‘Behind The Ropes’ all access programming and ‘The Gloves Are Off’ face-off interview as they did for Froch/Groves 2. The full Ringside episode is available to watch on their YouTube channel, so you can check that out below.

7. Prizefighter returns December 6th

It has been confirmed that the next edition of Prizefighter will run on December 6th with the tournament again featuring lightweights for what will be the third time in the competition’s history. Six of the eight combatants have been announced so far with the line up being led by former British champion Gary Buckland (28-5) and former European champion Stephen Foster Jr (33-5-1), who will both be joined by Cassius Connor (11-8-2), Lee Martin (6-1), Floyd Moore (10-5-1) and Michael Devine (11-1-1).

Buckland will likely enter as a solid pre-tournament favourite having won the Prizefighter trophy just one division down in 2010. The Welshman has only gone 1-2 since stepping up to lightweight though, first splitting a pair of close fights with Gavin Rees and then dropping a failed bid for the Commonwealth title to Richard Commey. Lightweight is arguably Britain’s most loaded division, so a win for any of these guys should be enough to secure a big fight domestically.

8. Hopkins/Kovalev – it begins

Quiet time is over. November is a huge month in the sport and the rest of the year is packed solid too. What better way to kick things off again than with Bernard Hopkins and Sergey Kovalev this weekend? This, for me, just in terms of intrigue, is probably the most fascinating styles matchup we’ve seen all year. There seems to be two prevailing view points taking over here; either Hopkins does it again and grinds out the biggest win of his career against the odds, or else Kovalev does what nobody has ever done before and knocks out Hopkins. Either way, it will be major news. We’re going to have a load more on this one later in the week as we build up to fight night Saturday.