Morilla’s Spit Bucket – Melian Takes the Plunge, Forgotten Heavys and More

The Spit Bucket is your weekly source of random thoughts, opinions and comments about the Manly Art, compiled by TSS boxing writer Diego Morilla. Make your suggestions and comments and dare to give us your own short commentary on this week’s boxing issues by sending us an email at diegomorillabox@hotmail.com .

Melian Jumps Right in the Deep End of the Pool

There is usually very little to report when a former amateur star makes the jump into the waters of professionalism. And then there is the news of Alberto Melian’s debut.

Melian, a two-time Olympian (Rio 2016 and London 2012) and member of Argentina’s Condors in the World Series of Boxing (WSB) of AIBA, announced that he will be making his pro debut on December 16th in his native Argentina against none other than his countryman Diego Ricardo Santillan, an experienced former Argentine and South American champ who challenged Shinsuke Yamanaka for a world title and who has a 23-2 (15 KO) mark as a pro.

The news caused some uproar among the Argentine boxing cognoscenti, and Melian’s new manager Sampson Lewkowicz was heavily criticized for this unusual move. But in an exclusive call with our sister site Zona de Boxeo, the 27-year-old Melian was quick to point out that the entire thing was his idea.

“I told Sampson that I wanted to fight the best because I want to fight for a world title as soon as possible, and for that I want to fight the best fighters in Argentina and then travel abroad,” said Melian. “I even asked him to start with a six-rounder but he said it would be complicated.”

Melián has a few encouraging victories in his long amateur and semi-pro career at the WSB to back up his claims, including a win over Olympic champ Robeisy Ramirez of Cuba in the amateurs and France’s Khedafi Djelkhir in the WSB. But a pro debut against such an experienced fighter is definitely unheard of.

And the way in which the fight was negotiated was even more incredible.

“They started looking for opponents and no one wanted to fight me,” said Melian, “and then they told me Santillan took the fight but that he will be making more money than me, and that we were fighting at eight rounds. I immediately said yes, I loved the fight,” said Melian, in another display of an ambition that clearly transcends his monetary needs. – Diego M. Morilla

Haitian Yoga Gone Wrong?

The picture has already gone viral, and even though it is wrong to make lumber out of a fallen tree, it is there for everyone to see and, apparently, to poke fun at. We’re talking about Bermane Stiverne’s twisted resting posture after being knocked down by Deontay Wilder for the third and final time in their heavyweight world title fight last Saturday. His retracted feet, his eyes lost in the horizon, his head resting on the bottom rope and his entire body language suggest that Stiverne was simply demolished and pummeled into submission, but it was in fact just the product of a quick lens being clicked at the right moment, since Stiverne recovered relatively quickly after ending in that uncomfortable position due to an awkward episode of wrestling that included his opponent and referee Arthur Mercante Jr. What happened to “finding a soft spot to land” when you know you’re about to be knocked out? – Diego M. Morilla

Gamboa Gets One Last Shot in Contender Territory

It is always great to hear that former world champs in disgrace are getting a fresh start after a rough ride. But for former featherweight champion Yuriorkis Gamboa (27-2, 17 KO), not every chance is a good chance.

In his next bout, Gamboa will be facing Jason Sosa (20-2-4, 15 KO) in what is being mentioned as “one last chance” to jumpstart his career, even though he is a former unified titlist with a huge resume both as an amateur and as a pro. But that’s what you get when you change managers, promoters and weight classes with gusto during what should have been the most focused, profitable and rewarding part of your career, also known as your “prime.” Gamboa squandered it during a long spat of ill-advised managerial moves, and even though his losses were not devastating or discouraging and came against legitimate champions, it is also true that, in spite of all this, he is now one defeat away from becoming a fringe contender, or worse.

That defeat could come in his upcoming 10-rounder at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in the opener of the Kovalev-Shabrankskyy show on HBO, where, to add insult to injury, Gamboa will be replacing the man who beat him, Robinson Castellanos, who pulled out of this fight due to an injury.

Will he continue fighting after an eventual defeat? Most certainly, yes. But definitely not in televised HBO fights. Time to put up or scale back on your monthly expense sheet. Forever .– Diego M. Morilla

Forgotten heavyweights

All the talk lately in boxing has been about the inevitable showdown between Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder, a fight unlikely to transpire any time soon. Other heavyweights, other than perhaps Joseph Parker and Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller, have been knocked completely off the radar screen, or so it seems. And that includes two fighters who formerly held a version of the world heavyweight title.

No one is talking about Alexander Povetkin whose upcoming fight in Russia with Christian Hammer on Dec. 15 has been lost in the shuffle. The WBO has sanctioned the bout as a title eliminator with the winner becoming the mandatory challenger for their champion Joseph Parker.

A 2004 Olympic gold medalist, Povetkin won the WBA “regular” world heavyweight title in 2011 with a UD over Ruslan Chagaev and successfully defended the belt four times before being shorn of it by Wladimir Klitschko. That fight was terribly one-sided but Povetkin lasted distance and it remains the only blemish on his 32-1 record.

Years from now, however, it’s likely that Povetkin won’t be remembered as a former heavyweight titlist, but as a serial juicer. Bouts with Deontay Wilder and Bermane Stiverne were cancelled on short notice when Povetkin failed drug tests. He remains suspended by the WBC until April of next year, but the other organizations still list him in their rankings.

Remember Lucas Browne? On May 5of last year, the former MMA fighter with the bodybuilder physique from New South Wales ventured into Grozny, Chechnya, Russia, and became the first Australian to win a piece of the world heavyweight title, wresting the WBA diadem from the aforementioned Chagaev. And he did it the hard way, coming off the mat to stop Chagaev in the 10th frame. Through the nine completed rounds, Browne trailed by 6, 6, and 7 points on the scorecards.

What followed was a series of events that put Browne in the same box with Povetkin, scarred with the label of a serial juicer. He returned to the ring quietly in June of this year to fight a 40-year-old no-hoper from Missouri who had lost his nine previous fights. His second round knockout advanced his record to 25-0. There’s talk that he too is in line to fight Joseph Parker.

Browne and Povetkin are getting long in the tooth, as is Luis “King Kong” Ortiz, another who can’t seem to stay off the juice. Interestingly, all three were born within a five-and-a-half month span in 1979. – Arne K. Lang

Jose Carlos Ramirez Fights For a Cause That Hits Home

Eddie Hearn’s show at Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum is attracting more buzz, but the Top Rank show at the Save Mart Center in Fresno will almost certainly play to a larger crowd. The magnet is Jose Carlos Ramirez who opposes fellow unbeaten Mike Reed in the featured bout. Both fighters are stepping up in class. The winner moves on to fight for the vacant WBC 140-pound world title.

Ramirez, a 2012 U.S. Olympian, trained by Freddie Roach, is a big fish in California’s Central Valley, America’s breadbasket. His last two appearances at the Save Mart Center drew crowds of 13,000-plus.

The son of migrant farm workers, Ramirez endeared himself to his neighbors when he became a vocal advocate for the California Latino Water Coalition, a grass roots organization that fights for more equitable water rights for the area’s farmers. The years 2013-2016 were the driest four-year period in California on record. The historic drought led to the implementation of Draconian water use restrictions statewide that impacted everyone but slammed the area’s growers especially hard. A portion of the proceeds from Saturday’s Top Rank show will go to CLWC.

In the co-feature, two-time Olympian Artur Beterbiev (11-0, 11 KOs) meets Germany’s Enrico Koelling 23-1 (6 KOs) for the vacant IBF light heavyweight title. This looks like an easy test for Beterbiev, notwithstanding the IBF imprimatur as a world title fight. ESPN and ESPN Deportes will televise at 10:30 PM ET/PT and the fights will be streamed on the ESPN App.

If Jose Carlos Ramirez keeps winning, perhaps the city of Fresno will erect a statue of him. If so, he would be the second prizefighter to receive this honor and I’ll bet you can’t guess the first. (Spoiler alert: it’s Raffaele Giordano, aka Young Corbett III. In 1985, an 8-foot tall bronze statue of Giordano in a boxing pose was planted on M Street near the entrance to Selleck Arena in the Convention Center district.) – Arne K. Lang

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