The War Report: Searching (Week 8, 2017)
The American heavyweight – a glamour role in the country’s most prestigious division. Well, it was like that at one time. Long gone are the days when some of the best American athletes took to boxing, and we still see the effects of that today.
Deontay “Bronze Bomber” Wilder – America’s prominent big man and holder of the WBC heavyweight title – was the main attraction of the boxing world this past weekend and, once again, he proved to possess the great equalizer in his right hand after it stopped Gerald Washington. It was his fifth successful defense of his WBC title, since beating Bermane Stiverne on Jan. 17, 2015.
That night was Wilder’s best performance to date and it was the only time his eraser wasn’t a catalyst to the end result. A pumping jab and disciplined ring generalship earned him the convincing unanimous decision win after 32 fights without a serious test. Two years later, Wilder, 38-0 (37), was a shell of that man.
Wilder, 31, was out-boxed by Washington in the rounds leading up to the fateful fifth, and couldn’t have landed more than a handful of punches in the entire fight. Washington, 18-1-1 (12), the latest case of former college football player turned American heavyweight contender, didn’t have to live up to high expectations but exceeded them early on. Coming off surgeries to his right hand and bicep, Wilder was calm, despite a tentative start, however, but his first flush right hand put Washington away. Seconds after Washington arose from the the only knockdown of the fight, referee Michael Griffin could be seen itching to pounce in and call a halt to the fight. That’s exactly what he did at the 1:45 mark of the fifth round, with Washington on his feet and helpless against the ropes. A questionable stoppage by Griffin in the moment but one that wasn’t protested by Washington at all.
Any trainer would admit Wilder is technically immature, and that he would be exploited if matched against seemingly every great American heavyweight of the past. Sitting ringside in Birmingham, Alabama were Larry Holmes and Evander Holyfield, and it’s assumed they would think the same thing. Yet, missing these days are the journeyman heavyweights, stateside, that help groom the modern-day big man into a well-rounded fighter.
Searching for the next great American heavyweight is an alluring task, and, while, it still remains to be seen if Wilder can be that man, what the “Bronze Bomber” brings to the table will have to suffice, given the current era in which he fights. As flawed as he may be, Wilder can still bring excitement in the ring, and that’s just another equalizing factor that can overcome a fighter’s limitations. Not necessarily a bad thing as long as the matchmaking is in his favor.
Fight of the Week
Dominic Breazeale KO 5 Izuagbe Ugonoh (200+) | Feb. 24 – Birmingham, Alabama
After two rounds of Ugonoh shining in his American debut, a dramatic heavyweight slugfest was sparked early in the third. Ugonoh had just stunned Breazeale with a combination of accurate shots that culminated with a right to the head. With Breazeale backing up against the ropes, Ugonoh looked to go for the kill but a short counter right hand on his temple changed everything. He dropped to the canvas in an unexpected flash, and, even though he was smiling at his mistake, while on his back, barely beating referee Jeff Dodson’s count was worrisome.
Once time resumed, the worry continued as Ugonoh kept his hands down while on shaky legs. Breazeale managed to trap him against the ropes a few times but Ugonoh came back with a burst of combination punches to stun Breazeale. Another right hand to the head wobbled Breazeale, and the American reacted by trying to clinch. He did more than clinch, however, and, midway through the third, both men were on the canvas after Breazeale put all his weight on Ugonoh and ended up tackling him. Ugonoh managed to land a few more right hands to the temple, once they got back on their feet, but in the waning seconds of the third, Breazeale caught him with an overhand right that had him walking back to his corner stunned.
Ugonoh, a muscular 30-year-old Nigerian born and raised in Poland, was clearly spent and it seemed like he was taking the fourth round off but, two minutes in, he paid back the knockdown. An overhand right to the head hurt Breazeale, and, once again, he tried to clinch but his body just slowly dripped off of Ugonoh’s. Breazeale survived the round but returned to his corner still wobbly and his swollen right eye was now more apparent. The pendulum swung the other way in the final minute of the round but that would quickly change once again.
Breazeale landed a couple of flush right hands, 30 seconds into the fifth, and forced Ugonoh to a knee. He stumbled once beating the 10-count for the second time but Breazeale hurled relentless one-twos, once action resumed, and Ugonoh was dropped a final time just seconds later. With Ugonoh falling through the ropes and on the very edge of the ring, Dodson waved it off immediately at the 50-second mark.
It was an exciting heavyweight fight, and one seen by many as it opened the Wilder-Washington card on FOX, Saturday night. When it comes to trying to attract new fans of the sport, it really couldn’t have played out any better.
Francis Lafreniere SD 10 Uriel Gonzalez (160) | Feb. 24 – Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
KOs of the Week
Eleider Alvarez KO 5 Lucian Bute (175) | Feb. 24 – Quebec City, Canada
In a WBC elimination bout, not only did Alvarez, 22-0 (11), earn a mandatory shot at the WBC light heavyweight titleholder Adonis Stevenson but the Colombian-Canadian may have ended the Bute era with this knockout on Friday night. A counter right hand snapped Bute’s head back emphatically just before another right sent the 36-year-old to the canvas. Bute struggled to get up but did so before the referee’s 10-count; however, Marlon B. Wright made the conscious decision to wave off the contest. Dating back to January 2014, Bute, 32-4-1 (25), has only one win in his past five outings.
Jarrett Hurd TKO 9 Tony Harrison (IBF 154) | Feb. 25 – Birmingham, Alabama
Abrasive to the fact he had been out-boxed for six-rounds, Hurd, 20-0 (14), came from behind and wore Harrison down, until a final right hand in the ninth. Harrison, 24-2 (20), had already been wobbly for a round or two before the final shot sealed his fate. He got up within the 10-second count but spitting out the mouthpiece was a clear indication he was finished. Hurd, Accokeek, Maryland, won the vacant IBF junior middleweight title with the win. A late bonus of stakes in the Harrison-Hurd match-up after Jermall Charlo vacated the belt to move up in weight.
Interestingly, Hurd’s comeback KO win was reminiscent of Jermall’s twin brother Jermell, who won the vacant WBC junior middleweight title in comeback fashion when he knocked out John Jackson in the eighth round last May. Jermell looks to defend that strap for the first time in two weeks against Charles Hatley.
Ricardo Rodriguez KO 4 Carlos Narvaez (115) | Feb. 24 – Palm Bay, Florida
Luke Campbell TKO 2 Jairo Lopez (135) | Feb. 25 – Hull, England
Fighter of the Week
Dominic Breazeale, 18-1 (16)
“Coming off the loss to (IBF heavyweight titlist Anthony) Joshua, this win puts me right back in there,” Breazeale said after his thrilling victory over Izuagbe Ugonoh. “This is what I’ve always asked for. My team does an incredible job of getting me any fight I ask for and I wanted to fight an undefeated guy like Izu. He’s a big, strong, athletic guy.”
Breazeale’s 6-foot-7 frame is imposing but his physique was in stark contrast to the chiseled prospect out of Poland. Ugonoh’s boxing skills also seemed superior to start but Breazeale willed himself to another knockout win after tasting the canvas. A year ago, the same thing happened when he fought Amir Mansour and Breazeale came back to break his jaw with his right hand.
“Tonight, the story was about me having the heart of a lion, getting knocked down but getting right back up to finish this fight,” he exclaimed. “I was able to connect some big shots tonight, especially with my right hand. You see what happens when I put (Ugonoh) down and he never really recovered.”
Brezeale, 31, might be a useful player in the heavyweight division going forward. He’s logged in three heart-filled efforts in a row and won two of them in dramatic KO fashion. Breazeale still shows the bemused look of the football player-turned-American heavyweight prospect but the experience he’s getting will only make him better. He may not have that glaring pedigree to be compared with the Anthony Joshuas of the world but Breazeale could be the thing that’s been missing in the American heavyweight scene for years.
Something that helps cultivate the division stateside and makes fighters better after facing him. Something Wilder could’ve used as a prospect and Evander Holyfield and Larry Holmes had available when coming up. That something is the respectable American heavyweight journeyman.
The subject was touched on in a recent episode of the “Knuckles and Gloves” podcast titled, “The worst heavyweight challengers ever.”
In it, boxing historians Patrick Connor and Aris Piña shed light on how important journeyman heavyweights were in an era in which the division flourished.
Justin DeLoach, 17-1 (9)
DeLoach, August, Georgia, forced a second round stoppage of Christopher Pearson in the main of event of Friday night’s “ShoBox” card on Showtime. DeLoach, 23, started off last year with a tremendous knockout of Dillon Cook, and went on to beat two more undefeated foes in 2016. His momentum continues after this big win on a televised stage.
Dat Nguyen, 20-3 (7)
Delivering another B-side win in a televised main event was Nguyen, 34, who forced a sixth round stoppage of Miguel Flores Tuesday night on FS1. A Vietnamese-American fighting out of Vero Beach, Florida, Nguyen forced Flores to fight his fight, and his overhand right was the beginning of the end. Flores, 21-1 (9), got up from the shot that hit him square on the temple but Nguyen bullied him toward the ropes, while still hurt, and forced referee Laurence Cole to step in. Nguyen was a 25-1 underdog against the 24-year-old junior lightweight prospect, who was also fighting in his hometown of Houston, Texas.
Hostile Agents of the Week
Joshua Pagan’s goon
Just after Pagan was hurt by a left hook body shot from Jose Resendez in the sixth and final round, some blockhead jumped onto the apron of the ring and threw a right hand at the the 26-year-old dubbed “Lil’ Pacquiao.” There wasn’t any doubt Resendez had Pagan hurt in the moment and time was called by referee Frank Santore, just as the goon was dragged off the ring. A melee ensued of course but time resumed with a minute to go in the fight and, although Resendez forced Pagan to a knee in the final seconds, he was on the losing end of a split-decision (57-56 twice, 56-57).
It was a match-up of unbeaten junior lightweights in Palm Bay, Florida on Friday night and Pagan, 5-0 (1), was lucky he wasn’t disqualified for the ruffian’s actions. Not only was it a dramatic turn of events but Resendez, 5-1 (3), missed out on an opportunity to stop a hurt opponent.
— Dominic Breazeale (@TroubleBoxing) February 26, 2017
Details of the melee are in the article above. As bad as it may look for Wilder, this behavior certainly isn’t out of the ordinary for the best heavyweight in the United States.
Jerry Cantu (California judge)
Cantu, Westminister, California, turned in a scorecard of 97-92, in favor of Saul “Neno” Rodriguez Friday night in Temecula.
It was the deciding score of a split decision and Rodriguez, 21-0-1 (15) walked away with the victory, and with the look of a battered man. Oscar Bravo, 22-7 (10), was in disbelief after giving the lightweight prospect the fight of his life. Many fans were as well when that scorecard was read.
From this past week and in order of weight class
World title bouts
Deontay Wilder TKO 5 Gerald Washington (WBC 200+) | Wilder defends the WBC heavyweight title for the fifth time.
Jarrett Hurd TKO 9 Tony Harrison (IBF 154) | Hurd wins the vacant IBF junior middleweight title.
Cecilia Braekhus UD 10 Klara Svensson (IBF/WBA/WBC/WBO 147) | 100-90, 99-91 twice | Braekhus defends the undisputed female welterweight championship for the fourth time.
Rey Vargas MD 12 Gavin McDonnell (WBC 122) | 117-111, 116-112, 114-114 | Vargas wins the vacant WBC junior featherweight title.
Dominic Breazeale TKO 5 Izuagbe Ugonoh (200+)
Sergey Kuzmin TKO 2 Vaclav Pejsar (200+)
Demetrius Banks SD 8 Craig Lewis (200+) | 77-75 twice, 74-78
Andrew Tabiti RTD 6 Quantis Graves (200)
Eleider Alvarez KO 5 Lucian Bute (WBC 175 eliminator)
Dmitry Bivol TKO 4 Robert Berridge (175)
Caleb Plant UD 10 Thomas Awimbono (168) | 100-89 twice, 99-90
Harley Benn TKO 2 Dominik Zubko (168)
Francis Lafreniere UD 10 Uriel Gonzalez (160)
Alantez Fox UD 10 Kenneth McNiel (160) | 95-94 twice, 97-92
Justin DeLoach KO 2 Christopher Pearson (154)
Teofimo Lopez TKO 4 Francisco Medel (140)
Maurice Hooker UD 10 Cristobal Cruz (140) | 100-90, 99-91 twice
Darwin Price UD 8 Hylon Williams Jr. (140) | 80-72, 80-72, 80-72
Saul Rodriguez SD 10 Oscar Bravo (135) | 95-94, 97-92, 94-95
Luke Campbell TKO 2 Jairo Lopez (135)
Dat Nguyen TKO 6 Miguel Flores (130)
Tugstsogt Nyambayar TKO 10 Jhon Genimo (130)
Craig Poxton TKO 10 Boy Jones Jr. (130)
Brandon Figueroa TKO 4 Raul Chirino (126)
Ricardo Rodriguez KO 4 Carlos Narvaez (115)
Cristofer Rosales UD 10 Sebastian Sanchez (112) | 99-91 twice, 98-92
Jay Harris UD 12 Thomas Essomba (112) | 117-112, 115-114, 116-113
Tatsuya Fukuhara SD 12 Moises Calleros (105) | 116-112 twice, 113-115
Declarations of War
Fights made official this past week (In order of weight class)
Oleksandr Usyk vs. Michael Hunter (WBO 200) | April 8 – Oxon Hill, Maryland | The televised HBO co-feature of the main event between Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Jason Sosa (WBO 130), Usyk, 11-0 (10), will look to defend his WBO cruiserweight title against Hunter, 12-0 (8), a former U.S. Olympian who is ranked as the No.8 contender in the eyes of the WBO. Usyk, 30, just hired Lomachenko’s father as his full-time trainer, and the best friends will likely be a recurring duo going forward.
Oleksandr Gvozdyk vs. Yuniesky Gonzalez (175) | April 8 – Oxon Hill, Maryland | This light heavyweight match-up is the opening bout of the HBO tripleheader, making it a Ukrainian-inspired evening in the Washington D.C. area. Gvozdyk, 12-0 (10), is coming off a stoppage win over Isaac Chilemba last November, while Gonzalez, 18-2 (14), has notched two first round knockout wins, since enduring a loss to Vyacheslav Shabranskyy at the end of 2015.
This week’s boxing schedule (world title bouts are in bold)
Friday, March 3
Telemundo (11:00 p.m ET/8 p.m. PT) | Auditorio Blackberry – Mexico City, Mexico
Antonio Moran vs. Richard Zamora (135)
Saturday, March 4
CBS (9:00 p.m ET/6 p.m. PT) | Barclays Center – Brooklyn, New York
Keith Thurman vs. Danny Garcia (WBA/WBC 147 unification)
Erickson Lubin vs. Jorge Cots (WBC 154 eliminator)
Notable fights not on TV
Wednesday, March 1
Knockout CP Freshmart vs. Go Odaira (WBA 105) | Chonburi, Thailand
Thursday, March 2
Kenichi Ogawa vs. Satoru Sugita (130) | Tokyo, Japan
Shinsuke Yamanaka vs. Carlos Carlson (WBC 118) | Tokyo, Japan
Brian Viloria vs. Ruben Montoya (115) | Tokyo, Japan
Saturday, March 4
Tony Bellew vs. David Haye (200+) | London, England |
Andrzej Fonfara vs. Chad Dawson (175) | Brooklyn, New York
Sam Eggington vs. Paulie Malignaggi (147) | London, England
Sergey Lipinets vs. Clarence Booth (140) | Brooklyn, New York
Ohara Davies vs. Derry Mathews (140) | London, England
Mario Barrios vs. Yardley Suarez (140) | Brooklyn, New York
Roman Andreev vs. Abraham Ndauendapo (135) | Balashikha, Russia
Alberto Mercado vs. Jayson Velez (130) | Gurabo, Puerto Rico
Lee Selby vs. Andoni Gago (126) | London, England
Nawaphon Sor Rungvisai vs. Juan Hernandez Navarette (vacant WBC 112) | Bangkok, Thailand