THE 2017 YEAR IN BOXING, A QUARTERLY REPORT — The first quarter of the year is complete. Here are a few nuggets and observations I have compiled from what has been an eventful three months.
On January 14th, an evenly matched bout between prospects Ievgen Khytrov and Immanuwel Aleem turned into something special. This was a back and forth war in which both fighters were hurt multiple times and each seemingly on the verge of getting stopped on multiple occasions. In the sixth round of this slugfest, Khytrov appeared to be overpowering Aleem and once again was on the brink of a stoppage win. But a hurt Aleem found a way to land a couple hard right hands that dropped Khytrov and once again shifted the momentum. A follow up barrage from Aleem ended the memorable shootout. In my mind, this fight is the clubhouse leader for fight of the year.
ShoBox had a tremendous first quarter. This underrated and somewhat underappreciated series continues to deliver for hardcore fight fans. Danny Roman emerged from relative obscurity in January in an impressive eye opening stoppage win against Adam Lopez. In February, there was a tremendous war between Ivan Baranchyk and Abel Ramos. Hot prospect Saul Rodriguez was pushed to the brink when he battled journeyman Oscar Bravo later that same month. In March, prospect Joshua Greer scored a highlight reel one punch knockout of James Gordon Smith. These were just some of the moments from what was a tremendous run for the series to begin 2017.
Finally, many in the sport, including myself, have jumped on PBC for not making quality competitive fights. However, the first quarter of 2017 showed vast improvement. I am not just talking big fights either. We saw a consistent level of quality matches lined up across PBC’s various venues. And good competitive matches produced some excellent fights like the aforementioned battle between Ievgen Khytrov and Immanuwel Aleem. It is time to give PBC credit and hopefully the first quarter of 2017 is a sign of things to come in the future from PBC.
Can Rival Factions in Boxing Make Jorge Linares-Mikey Garcia?
Jorge Linares scored a dominant win against Anthony Crolla on Saturday night in a rematch of their 2015 lightweight title fight. The win by Linares was much more decisive than it was six months ago against Crolla and many believe will set up a unification fight at lightweight with Mikey Garcia. However, this proposed fight may not be easy to make due to the current political situation in the sport. If the sides can come together, the implications of doing so may be a bigger story than the fight itself.
A few weeks ago, I did not see such a fight between Garcia and Linares as realistically possible. But a few things have happened since that cracked the door open. First, both Garcia and Linares seem to really want the fight. Garcia’s confidence is sky high following his domination in January of Dejan Zlaticanin. Garcia knows the time is now to make a move in his career as well and unifying the lightweight division would be a big step forward toward making the super fights with big paychecks down the road. Linares has always shown a willingness to fight anyone and much like Garcia the confidence of Linares is at a peak following his two wins against Crolla.
Also, recent announcements by Golden Boy Promotions and Richard Schaefer may work in favor of making this unification fight. Golden Boy promotes Linares while Schaefer has worked with Garcia in his previous two bouts. Golden Boy and Schaefer do not do business with one another at the present time. However, Golden Boy has a new television deal with ESPN while Schaefer recently announced a World Boxing Super Series with big potential paydays to the fighters that participate.
How does this work toward making a fight between Garcia and Linares? Well, Schaefer has been signing a lot of fighters and will need a platform like ESPN at some point to get his fighters exposure. Golden Boy will no doubt have fighters in its stable wanting to get involved in Schaefer’s proposed tournament. Business may force Golden Boy and Schaefer to put aside their differences out of necessity. They each know this but need a catalyst to force open the lines of communication. And that catalyst may just be a unification fight between two fighters who badly want to make it happen.
Hammering out a deal to make Garcia-Linares will not be easy given the frosty relationship between Golden Boy and Schaefer. But if the sides can come together, the implications could be huge. This could certainly open the door to Golden Boy making fights down the line with Schaefer. And with Schaefer’s close relationship with Al Haymon, could even open up the opportunity for Golden Boy to make fights down the line with Haymon fighters. The negotiations for Garcia-Linares should be watched closely and if it can be put together could set up a working relationship between Golden Boy, Schaefer and Haymon that will only benefit the sport moving forward.
Fighter Profile – Shinsuke Yamanaka
There are a lot of terrific fighters in this sport who are not that widely known. One such fighter is WBC bantamweight champion Shinsuke Yamanaka. Yamanaka, who has held his title since 2011, has defeated several name opponents and even begun to receive some mention recently in pound for pound lists.
Yamanaka owns a current record of 27-0-2 with 19 knockouts. The two draws on his resume occurred very early in his career. Yamanaka, 34, is an aggressive southpaw who fights in a very crowd-pleasing manner. He likes to come forward working behind his jab looking to create openings to land his left. The overland left is his best punch and he has the capability of hurting his opponents at any time with that punch.
Some victims on his resume include Vic Darchinyan, Tomas Rojas, Liborio Solis and Anselmo Moreno twice. After winning a close split decision against Moreno in 2015, they had a rematch last year in a fight that merited consideration as a contender for fight of the year. Yamanaka was hurt in the first round but bounced back to drop Moreno with a left later in the round. In the fourth, Moreno dropped Yamanaka with a right hook. Yamanaka would show tremendous recuperative abilities and eventually turned the tide in the sixth when he put Moreno back on the canvas with a hard left. Moreno never really recovered from that shot. He would make it out of the sixth but be put down a couple more times in round seven before the referee stopped the contest.
Though he doesn’t get a lot of publicity in the United States, Shinsuke Yamanaka is a very talented and exciting fighter who deserves much more recognition from fight fans. He is a fun fighter to watch and deserves at least some consideration when discussing the best fighters in the sport today.
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Photo credit: Marilyn Paulino