The War Report: Real eyes (Week 9, 2017)
Keith “One Time” Thurman, a peculiar boxer-puncher fighting out of Clearwater, Florida, put himself in the forefront of the welterweight division by beating Danny Garcia via split decision, last Saturday night.
There was hope to realize a scintillating fight was about to unravel after an exciting opening round. There Thurman set an early precedent with his aggression and an overhand right to the chin offered a desperate moment from Garcia just two minutes into a contest between fighters in their primes and their titles on the line.
It would’ve been convenient for an exciting fight to take place, given the prime time slot it had on CBS but it ended in stark contrast to how it began. Thurman was on his bike for much of the final three rounds and, after having been the persistent puncher through the first third of the fight, he confidently put his fate in the hands of the judges. Refraining from upper body action and relying on his well-conditioned legs at the end of the fight, Thurman went on to win a reasonable split decision but there was no closing the show, as they say.
Thurman, 28, a book-reading, flute-playing, free-thinking, Prius-driving, spiritualist with a lisp, had a cerebral approach in and outside the ring with Garcia.
At last Friday’s weigh-in, Garcia, 28, whose motive is often gagged by his father, was compelled to try and make Thurman flinch when fixated with Thurman’s intense stare. With Angel breathing down his neck, perhaps the chirping from him forced Danny to try and intimidate but Thurman didn’t budge. The scene was actually quite impressive.
Just before the first bell sounded the next day, Garcia was looking down, while referee Michael Griffin laid out his final instructions. Thurman’s eyes didn’t have anything to lock onto in the moment but perhaps the real eyes realized a sincere disposition given off by Garcia before he went on to seize authority from the jump.
Not all premium match-ups guarantee a fight to remember and it was unfair to both men that their bout was compared with “Sugar” Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns I (“The Showdown”) throughout the entire promotion. Perhaps, one day, their handlers will learn that historic comparisons should only come after the fact and the only concern they should have is within their era of boxing. For detractors, it’d be an easy way to shit on the fight but it wasn’t terrible – especially because it was terribly important in order to help boxing to materialize.
Now the unified WBA and WBC welterweight titleholder, Thurman notches the biggest win for a 147-pounder since the retirement of Floyd Mayweather Jr. He’s the spiritual opposite of Floyd, which is refreshing, but it would be a missed opportunity if Keith became a guy who, at one time, used to knock people out as he embarks to become the face of this glamour division. His reign has only just begun, however, and Thurman is clear-headed enough to realize that, going forward, if – and only if – he brings excitement.
Fight of the Week
Tony Bellew TKO 11 David Haye (200+) | March 4 – London, England
It wasn’t a great fight by any stretch of the imagination but the atmosphere and resentment between Bellew and Haye heightened everything about this contrived circus of an event. Bellew, the current WBC cruiserweight titleholder, moved up to heavyweight for a chance at beating a domestic star of yesteryear and grabbing a sweet payday. Many believed Bellew could get seriously hurt, once Haye landed a flush shot, but the Liverpudlian didn’t let that happen.
An injury to Haye’s Achilles tendon had the 36-year-old hobbled at the start of the sixth round and it changed the entire dynamic of the fight. Quite frankly, it was a sloppy mess afterward but compelling, under the right context of the situation. It even seemed like a scene out of a movie. With a poorly-wrapped leg, Haye continued to fight through the injury and did well under the circumstances but Bellew enjoyed too much of an advantage. A flurry in the third sent Haye through the ropes onto the ring apron before it was waved off by referee Phil Edwards.
Juan Hernandez Navarrete TKO 3 Nawaphon Por Chokchai (WBC 112) | March 4 – Bangkok, Thailand
A stoppage from referee Thomas Taylor put an abrupt end to a firefight between two flyweights fighting for a vacant title. Navarrete, Mexico City, Mexico, was hurt in the second round and Nawaphon rallied with his home crowd behind him. Hernandez, 34-2 (25),came back to return the favor early in the third until Taylor stopped it with Nawaphon, 36-1 (28), still on his feet. It was fun while it lasted.
KO of the Week
Erickson Lubin TKO 3 Jorge Cota (154) | March 4 – Brooklyn, New York
Preceding a huge fight on a big televised stage, and with an awkward opponent in front of him, Lubin handled the situation perfectly, Saturday night on CBS, by landing a timely left hook to abruptly end things in the fourth round.
Lubin, 18-0 (13), a southpaw from Orlando, Florida, bent his knees before lunging in with a left hook that found Cota’s chin. Seeing has how his body flailed to the mat from the shot, it didn’t seem like Cota was going to get up but the 29-year-old Mexican managed to just beat the ten-count. With Cota, 25-2 (22), in front of him on weak legs, referee Albert Earl Brown made the judgment call before action resumed and it seemed to be the right decision.
Cota’s awkward counter-punching style was the main ingredient in the makings of a stinker in the preceding rounds but Lubin saved the TV opener with one punch. The fight was a WBC junior middleweight title eliminator and the win will eventually get Lubin a mandatory shot at the title. Jermell Charlo holds the green belt at 154-pounds.
Andrzej Fonfara TKO 10 Chad Dawson (175) | March 4 – Brooklyn, New York
In a fight he was seemingly losing, Fonfara, 29-4 (17), came back to win by stoppage starting late in the ninth round. Dawson, 34-5 (19), hinted at retirement soon after.
Fighters of the Week
Keith Thurman, 28-0 (22)
“I want to dedicate this win and all my accomplishments to my original trainer Ben Getty. Thank you for believing in me before anyone believed in me, so that I could be here on this stage in front of this arena right here. You gave me a life I could only dream of and we’re living it here right now. Thank you. Rest in peace.”
Tony Bellew, 29-2-1 (19)
The soft-bodied 34-year-old had a career resurgence, once winning the WBC cruiserweight title last year, and he adds to his lore a win no one saw coming. He was thought to be crazy for stepping in with Haye – his physical opposite – but Bellew out-boxed him in a gutsy performance. Unbeknownst to the 19,000-plus at the O2 Arena, and those watching worldwide, Bellew claims he broke his right hand early in the fight, adding to the intricacy of the storyline between rivals. A Sky Sports Box Office pay-per-view overseas, both men overcame pain to save the main event from utter disaster and, while he had an advantage fighting against a guy with one leg, Bellew will get himself another big payday by taking a chance.
Shinsuke Yamanaka, 27-0-2 (19)
Yamanaka, 34, defended his WBC bantamweight title for the 12th consecutive time after forcing a stoppage of Carlos Carlson, 22-2 (13), in the seventh round Thursday night in Tokyo, Japan. The Mexican challenger fell to Yamanaka’s devastating left hand. “God’s Left” is what they call him and he inches closer to Japanese boxing history. Yamanaka is now one win away from tying Yoko Gushiken’s national record of 13 straight defenses of the WBA junior flyweight title in the late 1970s.
Hostile Agent of the Week
From this past week
World title bouts
Keith Thurman SD 12 Danny Garcia (WBA/WBC 147 unification) | 116-112, 115-113, 113-115 | Thurman is now the unified WBA and WBC welterweight titleholder.
Shinsuke Yamanaka TKO 7 Carlos Carlson (WBC 118) | Yamanaka defends the WBC bantamweight title for the 12th time.
Juan Hernandez Navarrete TKO 3 Nawaphon Por Chokchai (WBC 112) | Hernandez wins the vacant WBC flyweight title.
Knockout CP Freshmart KO 5 Go Odaira (WBA 105) | Freshmart defends the WBA strawweight title for the third time.
Tony Bellew TKO 11 David Haye (200+)
David Allen KO 2 David Howe (200+)
Andrzej Fonfara TKO 10 Chad Dawson (175)
Erickson Lubin TKO 4 Jorge Cota (154)
Sam Eggington KO 8 Paulie Malignaggi (147)
Richardson Hitchens TKO 1 Mario Perez (147)
Sergei Lipinets TKO 7 Clarence Booth (140)
Ohara Davies TKO 3 Derry Mathews (140)
Mario Barrios TKO 6 Yardley Suarez (140)
Antonio Moran TKO 1 Richard Zamora (140)
Roman Andreev UD 12 Abraham Ndauendapo (135) | 116-112, 117-111, 118-111
Lee Selby TKO 9 Andoni Gago (130)
Alberto Mercado defeats Jayson Velez (130)
Kenichi Ogawa MD 10 Satoru Sugita (130) | 97-93, 96-94, 95-95
Brian Viloria UD 8 Ruben Montoya (115) | 78-75, 77-75, 78-74
Declarations of War
Fights made official this past week (In order of weight class)
Gilberto Ramirez vs. Max Bursak (WBO 168) | April 22 – Carson, California | “Zurdo” Ramirez, 34-0 (24), will finally make his first defense of the WBO super middleweight title after a lengthy recovery from an injury to his right hand. The 25-year-old Mexican beat Arthur Abraham a year ago to win the title. A 32-year-old from Kiev, Ukraine, Bursak, 33-4-1 (15), will make his American debut on a Top Rank Promotions pay-per-view.
Sergiy Derevyanchenko vs. Kemahl Russell (160) | March 14 – Tunica, Mississippi | This fight will be the main event of a Tuesday night Premier Boxing Champions card televised on FS1.
Avtandil Khurtsidze vs. Tommy Langford (160) | April 22 – Leicester, England
Andre Berto vs. Shawn Porter (147) | April 22 – Brooklyn, New York | Set to take place at the Barclays Center and the main event of a Showtime card, this welterweight match-up is sanctioned by the WBC as a title eliminator in order to face its new titleholder Keith Thurman. Berto, 31-4 (24), avenged his first defeat to Victor Ortiz by knocking him out in his most recent fight, while Porter, 26-2-1 (16), fell to Thurman on points. Both fights will be 10 months in the past, come fight night.
Lucas Matthysse vs. Emmanuel Taylor (147) | May 6 – Las Vegas, Nevada | Part of the Canelo Alvarez vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. HBO pay-per-view, Matthysse, 37-4 (34), makes his return to the ring, having not fought, since October 2015. He was knocked out by Viktor Postol that night. Taylor, 20-4 (14), is a solid 26-year-old opponent, fighting out of Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland.
Oscar Valdez vs. Miguel Marriaga (WBO 126) | April 22 – Carson, California | The main event of that precarious Top Rank pay-per-view is the card’s best fight. Valdez, 21-0 (19), looks to defend his WBO featherweight title for the second time against a competent Colombian in Marriaga, 25-1 (21), the WBO’s No. 1-ranked featherweight contender. The card will be hosted at the StubHub Center.
Jessie Magdaleno vs. Adeilson Dos Santos (WBO 122) | April 22 – Carson, California | Magdaleno, 24-0 (17), won the WBO junior featherweight title from Nonito Donaire last November and has begin given a soft first defense. Dos Santos, 18-2 (14), isn’t in the Top 15 of any of the four major sanctioning bodies’ rankings but that will probably change come April. It’s part of the Top Rank pay-per-view quadruple-header, which will also feature the pro debut of the 2016 Olympic silver medalist Shakur Stevenson.
This week’s boxing schedule
Friday, March 10
Showtime (10:00 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT) | MGM Grand Detroit – Detroit, Michigan
Claressa Shields vs. Szilvia Szabados (160)
Antonio Nieves vs. Nikolay Potapov (118)
Wesley Tucker vs. Ed Williams (147)
James Gordon Smith vs. Joshua Greer Jr. (118)
Estrella TV (10:00 PM ET / 7 PT) | Belasco Theater, Los Angeles, California
Christian Gonzalez vs. Romero Duno (135)
Alexis Rocha vs. TBA (154)
Niko Valdes vs. TBA (168)
UniMas (11:00 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. PT) | Lemoore, California
Andy Vences vs. Angel Hernandez (140)
Danny Valdivia vs. Douglas Ataide (154)
Telemundo (11:30 PM ET / 8:30 PT) | Mexico City, Mexico
Mauricio Pintor vs. Patricio Moreno (147)
Joselito Velasquez vs. Diego Guerrero (112)
Saturday, March 11
HBO (11:00 PM ET / 8 PT) | Turning Stone Resort & Casino – Verona, New York
David Lemieux vs. Curtis Stevens (160)
Yuriorkis Gamboa vs. Rene Alvarado (130)
CBS Sports Network (time) | Downtown Las Vegas Event Center – Las Vegas, Nevada
Rico Ramos vs. Erik Ruiz (126)
Flavio Rodriguez vs. David Thomas (147)
Max Ornelas vs. Felipe Rivas (118)
Notable fights not on TV
In order of weight class
Friday, March 10
Bakhtiyar Eyubov vs. Gilbert Venegas (147) | Detroit, Michigan
Luca Giacon vs. Robert Tlatlik (140) | Madrid, Spain
Tomoki Kameda vs. Pipat Chaiporn (126) | Tokyo, Japan
Jamie Conlan vs. Yader Cardoza (115) | Belfast, Northern Ireland
Saturday, March 11
Manuel Charr vs. Odlanier Solis (200+) | Bonn, Germany
Antoine Douglas vs. Pablo Munguia (160) | Charenton, Louisiana
Jack Culcay vs. Demetrius Andrade (WBA 154 eliminator) | Ludwigshafen, Germany
Frederick Lawson vs. Sakima Mullings (147) | Accra, Ghana
Michael Katsidis vs. Josh King (140) | Toowoomba, Australia
Yves Ulysse Jr. vs. Zachary Ochoa (140) | Verona, New York
Mason Menard vs. Carlos Cardenas (135) | Charenton, Lousiana
Richard Commey vs. Hedi Slimani (135) | Accra, Ghana
Diego De La Hoya vs. Roberto Pucheta (122) | Verona, New York
Duke Micah vs. Jonathan Aguilar (118) | Accra, Ghana
Rex Tso vs. Hirofumi Mukai (115) | Macau, China