Joe Smith Jr. Wins On ESPN, Both Late Replacement Struggle + News & Notes Of The Week
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photo: Mikey Williams / Top Rank Inc
Joe Smith Jr. Stops Steve Geffrard In Nine
WBO light heavyweight world champion Joe Smith Jr. made his world title defense against eight days notice opponent Steve Geffrard, stopping Geffrard in the ninth round.
Smith Jr. in his last two outings hasn’t looked refined, but what he does, he does well – Joe Smith Jr. can punch, and that can take you a long way. Geffrard had a high guard and kept his hands up, but against a big puncher like Smith Jr., that is only half of the battle.
Geffrard, who had sparred the best, seemingly never felt comfortable to exchange with Smith Jr., and opted for a high-guard and by the second half of the fight, Smith Jr. was punching with little worry of punches coming back at him. In short, this was the classic performance of fighting down to your level of competition.
For Smith Jr., he got a hometown world title defense, but to beat the best of the division and unify his world title with other champions he will need more.
In the end, Geffrard got a chance to fight on a big stage for a world title, and Joe Smith Jr. retains his title.
Abraham Nova, who is now a featherweight, stopped his last-minute opponent, William Encarnacion in the eighth-round, as he was joined going coming to the ring with a mascot and cheerleaders, as well as a day after his birth day fighting near his hometown.
Nova, as the great Yahya McClain pointed out, Nova has elements to his game that are similar to Bernard Hopkins, especially the way he fights on the inside. Nova, who is cornered by long-time friend, Mark DeLuca, called out WBO featherweight world champion Emanuel Navarrete after the fight.
The theme of the telecast was quite simply from my standpoint. We saw two brave opponents come in on short-notice and have a bit of gap in experience, conditioning due to the duration to train, and some might say even skill. The product was still entertaining, but it is safe to say the COVID-19 virus derailed the first Top Rank card of the year, as the first two bouts that were scheduled, a slug-out between Smith Jr., and Callum Johnson, as well as a trajectory fight between Abraham Nova and Jose Enrique Durantes Vivas turned into two showcase bouts, due to last-minute reshuffling.
Welterweight Jahi Tucker who I am very high on, showed why he has star-power in my opinion, as he plays to Top Rank’s internal social media ringside to ask the fans if his second-round TKO over Akeem Black was a bad stoppage. Black gave Joey Spencer a tough bout, that Spencer won, Tucker showed his offensive gifts, and looked in control the whole time. Tucker could have a very big 2022.
2020 U.S. Olympic Middleweight Troy Isley got six-rounds worth of work against a game Harry Keenan Cruz Cubano. Isley is still young in the pro game, and I saw him at times getting ahead of himself looking for the KO that never came, but this is one of those fights that should help Isley grow through experience. That being said his body shots were great, and he looks to be a fighter destined for the top of the division.
Terence Crawford has a contract dispute with his former promoter Top Rank Inc., , and a lawsuit that is set to follow for a hefty fee. For observers, the allegations that will evitably come out will be the most interesting in this lawsuit.
My thoughts on this are below…
Former two-division world champion Paulie Malignaggi made some tone-deaf comments about the George Floyd situation, and why he isn’t broadcasting boxing on Showtime. The comments reminded me of the tail-end of Jimmy The Greek’s TV career.
Jessie Vargas tested positive for COVID-19, and is out of his February 5th bout against Liam Smith. No word on if the February 5th, Matchroom/DAZN card will stay on this date.
The venue has been announced for Jaime Munguia making his homecoming to his native Mexico against D’Mitrius “Big Meech” Ballard, in a 12-round fight for Munguia’s WBO Intercontinental Middleweight title, broadcast on DAZN, February 19th, which will be at the Plaza Monumental de Playas de Tijuana in Tijuana, Mexico.
“I have a big responsibility to my hometown after fighting far from home for a long time. I’m coming back being a world champion at 154lbs., have become a figure in the boxing world, it’s a big responsibility and I know it. I prepared every day to make my hometown proud and have to really concentrate to not let in the distractions from home,” said Munguia. “I am very happy about the changes Erik Morales has made to my training. I have always been a defensive fighter, but I would always get stuck, it’s a mental thing. Erick has taught me to think more, breathe, relax, take my time and control the timing of the fight. His training has influenced my style by throwing more combinations making sure I use my jab. Plus he has a lot of experience in the ring as well and I trust his judgment.”
“It doesn’t bother me that we are fighting in Tijuana, as a fighter, generally speaking, it is expected to go into hostile environments, into enemy territory and take their belt, win the fight. Andre Ward did it, Errol Spence did it, Terence Crawford did it, Kambosas just did it, I can go on and on. It’s required of us, it’s required of boxers, it’s part of the journey. It’s just my time and my opportunity,” said Ballard. “I know that I am a big underdog in this fight, mostly because people don’t know much about me. But I have a lot of experience and have been in training camps with high-profile champions like Canelo. I am just ready to take what I know is mine.”
Tickets will be available for purchase at www.arema.com.mx and at their participating retailers.
Tony Yoka accepted in writing a bout with Filip Hrgovic in a final IBF Final Eliminator making the winner a mandatory challenger for the IBF heavyweight title currently held by Oleksandr Usyk.
Chris Eubank Jr. and Liam Williams, presented in association with Wasserman Boxing, will take place at the Motorpoint Arena Cardiff on Saturday, February 5. Sky Sports will televise.
The undercard will feature two-time Olympic gold medallist Claressa ‘GWOAT’ Shields versus Ema Kozin, Rhys Edwards, and Harlem Eubank as well.
COVID-19 TKO’ed promising heavyweight Arslanbek Makhmudov returns to the ring against Mariusz Wach this coming week, the bout is now rescheduled for February 19th.
Undefeated bantamweight prospect John “Scrappy” Ramirez becomes the second boxer signed to 3 Point Management, which also manages 43-0 Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez.
‘I feel good knowing I was the second fighter signed by 3 Point Management. Now, we have other fighters in our stable, and that brings more competition. I want to be the best and, even though we’re on the same team, I want to go out there and do what it takes to be the best fighter I can be. I’m with ‘Zurdo” every day I’m in the gym and I watch him,” said “Scrappy” Ramirez. “He makes everything look easy, effortless, and that’s beautiful. He put his trust in me and I want to show him it was a good decision. I take great pride in being the first fighter they signed.”
Undefeated lightweight contender Giovanni “El Cabron” Cabrera, a southpaw boxer-puncher from Chicago, has signed a multi-year promotional contract with Top Rank, and was developed by Brian Halquist Productions, and matchmaker Andy Nance. Cabrera, who is managed by Steve Feder and trained by Freddie Roach, will make his Top Rank debut Saturday, Jan. 29, on the Robson Conceição-Xavier Martinez undercard at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa.
Cheavon Clarke signs with Matchroom Boxing, Clarke is a cruiserweight.
Don King puts on a boxing card Saturday, January 29th in Warren, Ohio at the W.D. Packard Music Hall. The top of the card features WBC cruiserweight world champion Ilunga Makabu of South Africa facing Thabiso Mchunu. Canelo Alvarez has expressed interest in facing Makabu for the WBC cruiserweight world title
The WBA World Heavyweight champion Trevor Bryan will face Jonathan Guidry.
MMA In 500 Words Or Less
If ever a card was an example of the MMA-industrial complex, this Fight Night card was it. Void of true star power, it basically let you know the UFC brand is here, and the fighters will be whoever they deem fit, and do not dwarf the show itself.
Featherweight Calvin Kattar calmed the storm of Giga Chikadze, to stay in the upper echoleon of the division, as Chikadze looked the part of a star until he was taken down from Kattar in the first round. After that moment, Kattar put forth constant pressure that slowly broke down Chikadze as Kattar relegated Chikadze to the back-end of the top-10 of the division.
One big observation, Chikadze needs to improve his defense, and conserve his energy better if he wants to continue to be a main event fighter.
Kattar won a five-round decision.
Kattar feels like the next version of popular UFC Paul Felder, a blue-collar northeast fighter, who could build a strong following, being a likable tough and gritty fighter, and has personality to boot. Spreading the product so thin, doesn’t help Kattar, who with few events would probably feel like a major bigger presence in the sport.
Heavyweigth Jake Collier choked out Chase Sherman in the first-round, not much more to say about this one.
The #2 UFC women’s flyweight in the world, Katlyn Chookagian defeated Jennifer Maia by a three-round decision. The bout was a rematch of a fight, Chookagian won not that long ago, two-years ago, but Chookagian has occupied the Jon Fitch-space of MMA in recent memory, with her loss being to UFC champ, Valentina Shevchenko, yet beating everyone else in front of her. Chookagian also seemingly wins via a decision not unlike Fitch, which seems to stall her momentum, but I still see a huge upside in her in the future.
Training out of Sacramento, California, decorated kickboxer Viacheslav Borshchev who now trains out of Urijah Faber’s Team Alpha Male, TKO’ed Dakota Bush in one round, and looks like an interesting prospect, who could turn into a contender by the end of the year at the lightweight division.
UFC veteran, Court “The Crusher” McGee picked up a dominant win. He has been in the UFC for a long-time, and won The Ultimate Fighter when people watched that more frequently. I hope he gets slots on main event cards from here on out.