It was an interesting weekend in boxing as an eclectic mix of former contenders, future prospects and in-their-prime women’s champions took center stage.
The big matchup of the weekend took place on Friday, when Showtime kicked off its four-woman tournament to determine the undisputed middleweight champion of the world. The first match was uneventful as Christina Hammer outclassed but couldn’t stop her opponent, Tori Nelson, eventually taking a wide unanimous decision and securing her spot in the finals of the tournament.
However, the second match of the night, which was supposed to be a showcasing of American Claressa Shields (now trained by John David Jackson), quickly became interesting as Shields was dropped with a sharp uppercut in the first round. Her opponent, Hanna Gabriels was not especially renowned for her power and couldn’t capitalize on the flash knockdown as Shields quickly recovered and went on to outbox Gabriels to a unanimous decision. To hype the finals of the tournament, Showtime brought Hammer into the ring to face off with Shields and, of course, a melee broke out.
Boxing faceoff scuffles are so commonplace in fight promotion that they are almost to be expected, and so often result in so little actual violence that they are always to be considered suspect. But, this seemed legitimate as Showtime’s Steve Farhood almost got hit by a punch. Either way, the common fight fan tends to get obsessed with the idea that animosity leads to great fights, despite decades of examples showing that not to be the case, so Showtime will likely get great ratings for the Shields-Hammer middleweight unification bout should they promote it properly.
When Billy Joe Saunders pulled out of his middleweight bout with Martin Murray, Roberto Garcia stepped up with only three weeks to change to take the challenge. While his bravery and gameness should be applauded, he ultimately could not do much against the more experienced against better fighters Murray and lost a unanimous decision in a fight that was far from aesthetically pleasing. With names like Saunders, and Daniel Jacobs around it is hard to envision a scenario where Murray, the former GGG knockout victim and onetime Sergio Martinez decision loser could get another shot at the middleweight title, but after the fight he expressed that was still his goal and he would continue working towards it.
Speaking of former contenders who faltered against much better opponents, former Terence Crawford victim Viktor Postol fought in Glasgow, Scotland, this weekend where he was dropped and beaten by the UK's Josh Taylor. While the fight was closer than the scorecards indicated (118-110, 117-110, 119-108), Taylor did deserve the victory and moved a step closer to getting a shot at a legitimately elite opponent, while Postol likely will be remembered only for his appearances in Bud’s career highlight reel.
In Mexico, Miguel Berchelt retained his WBC junior lightweight (130) title with an absolute destruction of Argentina’s Jonathan Victor Barros. Berchelt, who has tremendous punching power for such a light weight class, having stopped 30 of 34 opponents, had Barros hurt in the first round, and ultimately stopped him in the third. Following the win, Berchelt called out Mikey Roman, who also scored a victory this weekend with a second round knockout of Michel Marcano.
And finally, In LA, Vergil Ortiz knocked out former featherweight champion Juan Carlos Salgado with a body shot in the third round of their junior welterweight fight. With the win, Ortiz moved to 10-0 with all 10 wins coming by way of knockout. The fight was the headliner of Golden Boy Promotion’s card on ESPN, which should provide a solid launching pad for the promising prospect out of Dallas.
Next week is another slow week for boxing. However, there is a compelling matchup between former hockey enforcer/MMA fighter Steve Bosse and Jean Pascal. Now, Jean Pascal has faced guys like Sergey Kovalev and Bernard Hopkins, so this fight is inherently kind of embarrassing for boxing. Still, it is a stupid, May-Mac kind of fun, so it should be interesting to see what happens.
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