‘Very feel’ and ‘very young’ this weekend
It was certainly an interesting weekend of boxing, in which high-profile cards took place on opposite ends of the world. And for one Oleksandr Usyk, it was a coronation of sorts, while we found out we should hold off on crowning Jaime Munguia, for the time being.
Fighting on the home turf of the hard-hitting Murat Gassiev in Russia, Usyk put on a “very feel” demonstration of boxing by totally befuddling the now-former IBF/WBA cruiserweight titlist Gassiev over 12 rounds, in a masterclass performance. What was thought to be a 50/50 fight ended up being a one-sided affair.
Usyk’s lateral movement and foot speed was simply too much for Gassiev, who was never able to truly get a bead on the mobile southpaw, who, for a man of his size, has an astonishing ability to hit on the fly, and sustain his mobility over the long haul. Gassiev might have “Iron” in his fists but he seemed to have lead in his shoes, as he was simply unable to ever corral Usyk, who pitched a near-shut-out.
What was most impressive about Usyk wasn’t his athleticism, and mastery of the ring but his durability. The times when Gassiev was able to touch Usyk, when others have crumbled, Usyk was steadfast, and seemingly unaffected. He’s as tough as he is talented.
This is not an indictment on Gassiev (who suffered his first professional loss). Against perhaps any other 200-pounder on the planet, he would most likely be considered the favorite. However against Usyk, he was unplugged.
With this victory, Usyk unified his WBC and WBO straps with Gassiev’s, captured the first Muhammad Ali Trophy, by winning the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tourney, and became only the second undisputed champion in that division (after the great Evander Holyfield). He also stamped himself as one of the very elite prizefighters in the sport.
This writer had opined that, while he doesn’t believe in pound-for-pounds lists (yeah, I still think they are mental masturbation), there is a small class of boxers that has separated itself from the pack.
Vasiliy Lomachenko, Gennady Golovkin, Terence Crawford, Mikey Garcia and Naoya Inoue immediately come to mind – in no particular order – and now Usyk must be included in this rarefied roll call.
And call him “Mad Max” because he’s boxing’s road warrior, starting with his first title-winning effort in just his 10th pro bout, in which he faced Krzysztof Glowacki in Poland. During the WBSS, he took on Marco Huck (TKO 10) in Germany, then Maris Breidis in Riga, Latvia (MD 12), and now Gassiev in Russia. This big Ukrainian has not only conquered the cruiserweight division; he’s conquered the world.
Usyk also had two appearances in America versus Thabiso Mchunu (KO 9) and Michael Hunter (UD 12) in which he actually played to mixed reviews, while on HBO. Boos were actually heard at the Forum, in Los Angeles, during the first round of his Stateside debut versus the South African. Yeah, tough crowd.
However it’s clear: Usyk, who turned professional after winning the 2012 Olympic gold medal, is the goods – and then some.
Later on Saturday night, at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Jaime Munguia made the first defense of the WBO junior middleweight title he won by bludgeoning Sadam Ali, back on May 12, over four rounds. Munguia won an entertaining 12-round decision over Smith, whose toughness should be lauded.
There are a lot of things to like about the 21-year-old “Baja Wrecking Ball.” He’s got a hell-bent-for-leather style; he’s got quite the engine and he couldn’t be in a bad fight if he tried. And judging by the loud and enthusiastic throng that showed up this past weekend, it’s clear that he is on his way to becoming a legitimate draw, and he’s a fun and telegenic fighter. (And yeah, I’m the Asian driver of the Munguia bandwagon.)
However for as entertaining as bout with Smith was, it was also a dose of reality. Unlike Ali – who was really a chinny welterweight, who happened to catch Miguel Cotto with one foot out the door and the other one on a banana peel – Smith is a solid, bona fide 154-pounder, who, if not special, is solid and sturdy. That Ali fight created a bit of a mirage. Smith showed the reality in which Munguia really resides. He is a developing fighter who still has significant holes defensively, and offensively is still unrefined, at times.
When asked what he’d like to work on with Munguia, moving forward, trainer Robert Alcazar told UCNLive.com, “Basically he needs to start more with the jab. He needs to be more busy with the jab, and he needs to put more combinations. I am sure that when we go back to the gym, we’re going to fix that.” Alcazar added, “He was trying to load up with every punch. That was a mistake.”
Munguia also needs to tuck his chin in a bit, and understand distance and spacing (which will help every facet of his game) but, for all his technical flaws, he also has some real intangibles. He has a fighting spirit that is unquestionable, and the aim for Alcazar isn’t to change him, as a fighter, but evolve him within his style. And now Munguia knows he can go a hard 12 rounds.
“That’s the best thing to happen with Jaime Munguia, to go the distance. To see what it feels like to go the distance,” said Alcazar, from a chaotic ringside scene, while his charge was being swarmed by well-wishers and fans. “It’s better to find out at this stage of his career.”
No, he isn’t ready for the Jarrett Hurds and Charlo Brothers of the world, at this point but it seems like his brain trust understands that, and will give him a series of developmental fights to hone his skills. This will be a fun ride with the one-man demolition derby from Tijuana – the question is, just how long will it last?
On this weekend, Usyk truly arrived, while Munguia showed he still has a way to go.
There was this exchange of tweets between promoter Lou DiBella and Robert Diaz, the matchmaker for Golden Boy Promotions, on Saturday night, as the issue of Munguia’s fight night weight (172 pounds) was discussed:
Yes, Jim, it’s incredible that a jr middle walks in 24 hours later as technically a cruiser. Also highlights big health and safety issues in boxing, calls into question whether there are too many weight classes, and supports the concept of a second “same day” weigh in. #boxing
— Lou DiBella (@loudibella) July 22, 2018
Then Diaz referenced the fact that DiBella had acted, in the past, as “promoter” for one Danny Jacobs, who shirked the IBF day-of weigh-in, for his bout against unified middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, and came in above the light heavyweight limit on fight night.
Wait a minute isn't this coming from the same guy who on paper promoted a middleweight who skipped same day weigh on for IBF world title fight? no mames guey 🤣🤣🤣
— Roberto Diaz (@Micheladatime) July 22, 2018
Yeah, Diaz came up in the sport in the camp of Marco Antonio Barrera but that was a counterpunch of Juan Manuel Marquez proportions.
I was ringside last Friday night, for Thompson Boxing Promotions, at the Doubletree Hotel, in Ontario, where junior lightweight prospect Michael Dutchover scored one of the eye-opening knockouts of 2018:
— Thompson Boxing (@thompsonboxing) July 21, 2018
Judges Michael Contreras and Jeff Sinnett should never work another fight again, after the shafting they gave Zhora Hamazaryan, who was flat-out robbed against Thomas Mattice, last Friday, on “ShoBox”…Jaron “Boots” Ennis just has the look of a guy going places. He’s been touted for a few years as Philly’s best prospect, in over a decade…The only thing tougher than Rafael Mensah, against Alberto Machado, was his corner. Geez….I think Miguel Cotto Promotions has a real prospect in 23-year-old junior featherweight Carlos Caraballo, 8-0 (8), who I saw at the Hard Rock, this past weekend…Hey, let Jimmy Garoppolo live!…50 Cent and Floyd Mayweather Jr. really are frenemies. What an emotional rollercoaster with those two…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.