If the state of boxing can be measured by the number of quality bouts taking place each week, the sweet science is absolutely bursting with promise once more. Across the globe many significant fights took place this past week and continue in the weeks ahead.
All the way over to Italy is where the action started this week as Italian Silvio Branco claimed the WBA Light Heavyweight interim title by executing a one-sided boxing clinic against dangerous Manny Siaca. Branco, now 39 years old, was written off as a force at 175 pounds back in 2004 when he dropped consecutive fights to Fabrice Tiozzo (majority decision) and Thomas Ulrich (knockout). While Siaca boasted 18 knockouts in 20 wins and had defeated the likes of Anthony Mundine, Branco (55-8-2) peppered his opponent for much of the night to take a 119-109 decision on all cards. With six consecutive wins, all on his home turf, “Il Barbaro” now claims the interim title and sets up a likely rematch with Tiozzo, who is coming back off a layoff. The undercard in Milan saw former welterweight champion Michele Piccirillo (now 46-3-0), who lost last year to Ricardo Mayorga in his bid for the WBC 154-pound title, claim the European junior middleweight title with a TKO 11 stoppage of Luca Messi. The European bantamweight title was also up for grabs as local boy Andrea Sarritzu exacted his revenge over Ivan Pozo with a twelfth round TKO victory. The Spaniard Pozo had claimed the title by decision over Sarritzu on his home turf and now surrenders it in Sarritzu’s backyard. Sarritzu improves to 25-3-3. With the three Italians taking home titles on this night it is safe to say the fans enjoyed the evening.
Back in the US of A on Thursday night, middleweight Anthony “The Messenger” Thompson continued his development with an impressive stoppage of durable Mohammed Said. Thompson sent a message by breaking down and halting the Syrian native who had fought Antwun Echols to a Draw in his previous fight. Thompson was relentless in firing wicked hooks to the liver of Said whose body language said “no mas” after being dropped in the ninth round. Thompson, 22-1-0 (16 KOs), continues to be haunted by his lone loss by TKO in 3 rounds to Grady Brewer two years ago, but he is only 24 years old and continues to show improvement. The main event on OLN saw Kelly “The Ghost” Pavlik solidify his reputation as one of the heaviest hitters at middleweight with a methodical breakdown of Bronco McKart. Pavlik, also just 24 years old, manages to pack 160 pounds into his 6’3” frame and oozes power in the ring. Firing away with searing right hands and explosive uppercuts inside, Pavlik overcame a long layoff to be the first fighter to stop former junior middle title challenger McKart. The NABF middleweight champion registered his 25th knockout in 28 bouts and remains undefeated. OLN is a welcome addition to the list of networks who broadcast boxing, the more the merrier.
Showtime offered up four fighters in their Super Middleweight tournament Friday night which gave viewers a chance to see a few of these competitors for the first time. Things started off with Henry Buchanan taking a points decision over Lucas Green-Arias of Costa Rica which put Buchanan, now 14-0-0, through to the next round. After the bout Buchanan indicated he had injured his right hand and may not make the final. Waiting there will be Jean Paul Mendy who destroyed Dallas Vargas in less than two minutes. The Frenchman Mendy, 22-0-0, has largely gone under the radar in boxing circles but the 32-year-old southpaw looks ripe to get some exposure should he emerge from the tournament. The winner of the tournament will become the IBO super middleweight champion.
ESPN Friday Night fights offered a great bout as Sultan Ibragimov was put to the test by Ray Austin in an IBF heavyweight eliminator. Many felt it was just a matter of time before Sultan added his name to the growing list of Europeans who are controlling the heavyweight division. Austin, however, was not there to be an “opponent.” A solid 10 pounds lighter than his previous fight, Austin (23-3-4, 16 KO) fought mostly at a distance and picked off the Russian as he charged in. Ibragimov weighed in at a career high 231, 11 pounds more than his previous fight, and got more than he bargained for. It was a highly entertaining fight with both men having their moments as Austin was down in the 4th and returned the favor to drop Ibragimov (19-0-1, 16 KO) in the 10th. Linemakers had installed Ibragimov as a big -500 favorite in this bout, if a rematch is forthcoming one can expect that price to be significantly lower.
It seems that every weekend titles are up for grabs in Germany and this week was no different. Klaus-Peter Kohl stable-mates Zsolt Erdei and Thomas Ulrich did battle over Erdei’s WBO light heavyweight title in the main event. After twelve rounds of action the scores indicated the champion Erdei’s dominance as he took the decision 120-108, 118-108 and 116-112. Early on Erdei used his strength and speed against the taller Ulrich and then boxed his way over the later rounds behind an educated jab and movement. Ulrich (29-3-0) put pressure on late as the fight seemed to slip out of reach while Erdei pushed for the knockout. In the end the judges got it right as the Hungarian Erdei retains his title and moves his undefeated mark to 25-0-0 (15 KOs). Earlier, Alexander Dimitrenko kept his WBO Intercontinental heavyweight trinket by dropping and stopping Chad Van Sickle in two rounds while Sinan Samil Sam guarded his WBC International heavyweight title over twelve hard-fought rounds with rugged Saul Montana.
Cassius Baloyi had the fight taken to him and his IBF junior lightweight title taken from him as Gairy St. Clair invaded South Africa and left with the jewelry. St. Clair also picked up the IBO version in winning a unanimous decision over Baloyi. Guyana-born and Sydney, Australia-based, St. Clair is 38-3-2 with 17 KOs over his 12-year career. His only losses came by decision to Diego Corrales, Vivian Harris and Leonard Dorin so “Superman” St. Clair, 31, is surely one tough nut. Baloyi was a solid -300 favorite to retain the IBF belt he had won just two months early when he dropped Manuel Medina three times on ESPN to claim the title.
HBO entertained us on Saturday with Joshua Clottey and Richard Gutierrez banging each other high and low for twelve rounds in an IBF welterweight eliminator. Both fighters were deducted points for low blows in a fight that was sometimes dirty but most often action-packed. The two traded whistling hooks to the body and uppercuts to the groin as Clottey, 29-1-0, won the battle of attrition by majority decision. Gutierrez, out of Colombia and now 19-1-0, lost for the first time as a pro but was impressive even in defeat. It is worth noting that Clottey’s lone loss was by DQ against welterweight champion Carlos Baldomir. Apparently Clottey was disqualified for head butts while leading on all three scorecards when their bout was halted in the 11th round. In the main event, Vivian Harris lived up to his “Vicious” moniker by blasting away late sub Stevie Johnston in a junior welterweight bout. A small fighter, “Lil But Bad” Johnston was merely “lil” on this night as the bigger, stronger Harris rained down with accurate right hands onto his southpaw challenger. Johnston was gallant to last seven rounds and rose swollen and beaten from four knockdowns before the one-sided affair was finally halted. Always game and putting forth a he effort, the deck was stacked against Stevie on this night.
Finally, Roy Jones Jr. believes he is back after picking apart his tailor-made opponent Prince Badi Ajamu over twelve rounds on pay-per-view. Ajamu was ripe for the picking as he was not an aggressive fighter, doesn’t hit that hard, and was slower than Jones. The WBO NABO light heavyweight title now sits around Roy’s waist after all three judges turned in 119-106 marks after Ajamu was deducted three points for repeated low blows.
On a sad note, Brazilian cruiserweight/heavyweight Rogerio Lobo was shot to death during an armed robbery at his restaurant in Sao Paulo on Friday night. Lobo was 41-17-0 with 35 knockouts and was always game having fought many notable opponents such as Kali Meehan, Timor Ibragimov, Michael Moorer, Kelvin Davis, Owen Beck and Vincenzo Cantatore. Lobo fought on Wednesday of this week winning by knockout in the first round. He was 35 years old.