Middle – and super middle – mayhem this weekend
Abraham and Smith both look to set the record straight
On Saturday night, Arthur Abraham, 41-4 (28), will defend his WBO super middleweight crown against Paul Smith, 35-4 (20), at the O2 World Arena in Berlin, Germany.
The fight will be the rematch of their one-sided (scoring-wise) yet somewhat controversial September showdown in Kiel. Despite Abraham winning by lopsided scores of 117-111 (twice) and 119-109, many fans (most of all, Smith) certainly felt a rematch was warranted, as the scores may not have reflected how close the fight was.
Despite some career setbacks, Abraham has long been one of the top middleweight and super middleweight champions in the game. He counts an impressive streak of 10 IBF middleweight title defenses during a three-year span from 2006-2009 among his many accomplishments at the world-class level.
This rematch with Smith will be the third title defense of Abraham’s second WBO super middleweight title reign. In recent interviews, both fighters spoke of believing they won the first fight and both are equally as sure they will win the second go-round.
“I’m a man of my word,” said Abraham. “I promised Paul that I would give him a rematch after our first fight in Kiel. I will honor that promise. However, Paul should be careful what he wishes for. I’ve already beaten him once and this time I plan to win in even more spectacular fashion. On February 21, I will knock him out!”
Smith looked good after turning pro in 2003 going a perfect 23-0 (13) in his first five years as a professional. But after losses to the likes of James DeGale and George Groves when he stepped into the deep waters, Smith looked like a fighter who might have had to accept that he had peaked at a domestic level.
However, he changed that impression when he acquitted himself very well against champion Abraham in his first world title try.
And, for Smith, Abraham was no easy assignment.
Going into their first bout, “King Arthur” was very confident, riding the wave of a four-fight winning streak. He also brought a lot of experience to the table having had faced Andre Ward, Andre Dirrell, Carl Froch and Jermain Taylor throughout his illustrious career.
Now heading into this fight, Smith is very certain he will clear up any controversy over the scoring and the outcome of the first bout.
“Arthur and his trainer said he would stop me in the first fight,” said Smith. “We all saw what happened there. It was only with the judges’ help that he beat me. I believe I won the fight. This time, I know I can beat him. I went into the first fight believing I could beat Abraham and this time, I go into the fight knowing I can beat him. I know what I am in with now and I am 100% confident I will win. I believe Abraham will be fitter this time and he will come to fight – and that is exactly what I am prepared for. I’m certainly fitter and better than last time too and I believe I have improved technically. The first fight was a chance to prove I belong at world level and although I didn’t get the decision, I felt I beat him and I can take a massive confidence boost from that.”
Saturday night, we shall see if “King Arthur” will continue his reign at super middleweight. Or will Smith prove to be yet another great performer to emerge out of Liverpool?
Golovkin vs. Murray: Mayhem in Monaco
Also on Saturday night, world middleweight champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin will face England’s Martin Murray in the first of four planned bouts for the power-punching German-based Kazakh through 2015.
Golovkin will defend his IBO and WBA world middleweight titles as well as the WBC interim middleweight belt.
England’s Murray, who has only lost one fight in 31 outings, will vie for his second major middleweight title, having won the WBA interim middleweight title back in 2012.
Golovkin, 31-0 (28), has scored 18 knockouts in a row, made 12 title defenses and is fast becoming one of the game’s “must see” fighters every time he steps into the ring.
And step into the ring, he does. GGG harkens back to a schedule akin to a young James Toney’s. Golovkin knows that until he can lure the other 160-pound marquee fighters into the ring for the big pay-per-view extravaganzas, fighting often is critical to keeping his name and profile in the spotlight.
As the wins pile up, he knows that, at some point, fans will demand the fights with the other champions in and around the middleweight class.
In a recent chat with ESPN, the champion reflected on Murray’s last outing and what will be in store for his opponent come first bell in Monte Carlo, Monaco.
“Murray is a strong guy and he had a good win,” said Golovkin. “Domenico Spada is an ugly opponent to fight. He has a style that is not the easiest to fight against but [Murray] did his job and won the fight. I think this fight with Murray is a good fight for us.”
However, the big fights and big pay cheques are attached to contracts with names like consensus champion Miguel Cotto, Saul Alvarez or 168-pound Mexican star Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
“We couldn’t get Chavez Jr., Miguel Cotto or “Canelo” to fight us next. We have to wait until after the Cotto-Canelo fight (in talks at the time) is done, so Murray is the best available opponent for me,” said Golovkin.
While Murray doesn’t have the perfect resume of the undefeated Golovkin, he does have an impressive record that shows he can hang with the best in the game.
In the spring of 2013, Murray fought then-world champion Sergio Martinez in Argentina and lost a very close decision. A couple of years prior, Murray had travelled to Germany to face long-reigning world champion Felix Sturm. While he was held to a draw, many felt Murray had done enough to beat the champion on his home turf.
Said “Murray, “I think [Golovkin]’s a top fighter. He’s crushed everybody he’s been in with but I’ve got the tools to beat any middleweight out there. I wouldn’t be taking the fight if I didn’t think I could win. A lot of his opponents have gone into the fight already beat. You won’t get that with me. I’m gonna go in there and stand up to him.”
You’ve gotta like Golovkin in any fight he’s in now. Murray is looking to surprise the masses and Golovkin is looking to maintain, so look for some middleweight mayhem in Monaco before this one is over.
* A report from the London Telegraph was circulating that the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao deal was done. In shocking news (insert tongue in cheek here), it turned out to be untrue! Showtime boxing exec Stephen Espinoza quickly issued a denial on Twitter.
* Nice to see boxing debut on CBS Sports Network this past week. In the main event, Derric Rossy beat previously undefeated Akhror Muralimov.
* Golovkin weighed in at 163 and Murray weighed in at 165 a week out from their anticipated world middleweight championship bout this Saturday. Both are on course to (easily) make weight.
* Orlando Salido and Rocky Martinez hit Puerto Rico this past week to announce their bout on April 11. “Siri” will make the first defense of the WBO junior lightweight belt he won last September when he knocked Terdsak Kokietgym out in 11 exciting rounds in a “Fight of the Year”-caliber pier sixer.
* Former three-division titleholder Abner Mares has been added to the March 7 card headlined by WBA interim welterweight titleholder Keith Thurman’s defense against Robert Guerrero.