Dmitry Bivol Decisions Jean Pascal in Tiresome AffairDmitry Bivol’s matchmakers aren’t doing him any favors. After putting the undefeated Russian against the always dull but durable Isaac Chilemba, Bivol faced a faded Jean Pascal on Satuday night. Well past his prime, Pascal was never the most fan-friendly fighter in the world due to his low punch output and iron chin, and on Saturday he offered little fireworks that would leave viewers begging to see either him or Bivol in the ring again.
Over the course of a unanimous 119-109, 119-109, 117-111 decision loss, Pascal landed only 60 punches to Bivol’s 217. And while Jim Lampley’s rose-tinted glasses, or rose-tinted frames, declared Pascal as a counterpuncher waiting for an opportunity to strike, the truth is he was a 36 year-old, shot fighter who was trying not to get knocked out by a young up-and-comer. Occasionally Pascal would attempt a counterattack for about 30 seconds, only to retreat into a defensive shell looking to regain his energy after it became clear he had not hurt Bivol. The highlight of Pascal’s night may have been when he attempted a two fisted double punch that failed miserably and prompted ESPN’s Max Kellerman to start rambling about Krav Maga.
But, as in his fight against Isaac Chilemba, Dmitry Bivol could not produce the knockout of a faded formerly elite fighter fans were hoping to see. As a result, in his last two fights on HBO, Bivol went from being viewed as a monster puncher to just a good one, largely because he was matched up against two guys that are extremely difficult to stop. In its second-to-last broadcast ever, HBO did Bivol’s career no favors by pairing him with a fighter that made him seem boring. With Chocalatito now out of their Dec. 8 broadcast, maybe HBO can’t get out of the boxing game fast enough.
Murodjon Akhmadaliev Stops Zarate in Ninth to High PraiseConsidering he’ll never fight on their network again, the HBO commentary team sure was working hard to hype Murodjon Akhmadaliev. At various points in his fight, Akhmadaliev was compared to Vasyl Lomachenko, Prince Naseem Hamed and said to look like Roberto Duran (in facial appearance, but still). That ridiculously high praise seemed especially odd because although he was dominating the fight, Akhmadaliev was not outclassing Isaac Zarate in an insane, “destined for the hall of fame” type of way. Still, in just his fifth fight as a professional and his first on American television, Akhmadaliev took over the fight by the fourth round and eventually applied enough pressure and landed enough clean shots that the referee stopped the fight, despite Zarate having never touched the canvas. The TKO was the first time Zarate was ever stopped, and Akhmadaliev’s fourth stoppage in five fights.
Ganigan Lopez Beats Ricardo Rodriguez on TelemundoAfter his embarrassing ordeal with Ken Shiro, Mexico’s Ganigan Lopez returned to the win column by taking a surprisingly close ten-round decision over Ricardo Rodriguez, with the three judges scoring the bout 97-93, 98-92, 98-92 in his favor. Lopez was able to take the bout after being declared the leader on the judge’s scorecards which were read midway through the fight, utilizing an open scoring system that was a failed concept years ago. This was a huge win for Lopez, considering that at 37 years old the former WBC flyweight champion is rapidly running out of time to regain a world title.
Denis Lebedev Decisions Mike “White Delight” Wilson, Looks for Usyk FightIn the end, Denis Lebedev was simply too good for Mike Wilson. The fun American with the bloated but undefeated record and the ridiculous nickname put up a game effort, but was ultimately outclassed and lost a unanimous 119-109, 119-109, 116-111 decision in Monaco. Wilson deserves credit for making it to the final bell, but at the end of the day Lebedev was too experienced and too good for him. In fairness, at this point in his career only two men have been good enough to beat Lebedev, the one-loss Murat Gassiev and the former multi-sanctioning body titlist Marco Huck. After the fight, Lebedev put on his military uniform, which was supposed to be intimidating but just made him look like a male Cammy from Street Fighter.
The WBA has stated that it would like to see Lebedev and Usyk fight before March of 2019, but while this is a fight Lebedev is very much looking for, Usyk is by far the bigger star and is already being spoken of as a serious challenge to the best heavyweights in the world. It is unlikely that losing the WBA title (if the WBA even had the guts to strip him of it) would be enough of a deterrent to force Usyk into that fight.
Kal Yafai Wins Questionable Decision Over Israel GonzalezLooking to setup a fight with Roman “Chocalatito” Gonzalez, the UK’s Kal Yafai travelled to Monaco to face Mexico’s Israel Gonzalez. But if he thought he was going to dominate the fight and force Chocalatito to acknowledge him, things didn’t quite work out that way. While Yafai would ultimately win a unanimous 117-111, 116-112, 116-112 decision victory, not many people, including Yafai himself saw the fight that way.
Gonzalez angrily stormed out of the ring after the decision was read, while Yafai acknowledged in the post-fight interview that he was embarrassed by his performance and that the scorecard were too wide for how close the fight was. While few were calling the fight a robbery, after the fight few were overly excited about seeing Yafai face a fighter of Chocalatito’s caliber, knee injury or not. That won’t stop Yafai’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, from telling anybody that will listen that the fight should happen sooner rather than later, though. Because Eddie Hearn is all about making money, not about making good matchups.