THREE PUNCH COMBO: Starting with Saturday’s triple-header, HBO is beginning a run of four consecutive weeks of boxing. Saturday’s card features the return of Sergey Kovalev, one last opportunity for former Cuban amateur star Yuriorkis Gamboa, and a showcase for 175-pound contender Sullivan Barrera.
In the main event, Sergey Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 KO’s) faces Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (19-1, 16 KO’s) for a vacant 175-pound belt. This is the quintessential bounce back fight for Kovalev and one in which he should impress.
Shabranskyy has a glossy record but a chin made of glass. Two years ago, he was nearly starched by Paul Parker in round one before coming back to stop Parker who is not known as a big hitter. Last year, Shabranskyy was dropped multiple times by Sullivan Barrera and stopped in round seven. Shabranskyy has heart and a willingness to exchange so he will make for a crowd pleasing fight. But it will probably be quick as his chin won’t be able to withstand the raw power of Kovalev.
This is the perfect opponent for Kovalev following the loss to Andre Ward and there will be plenty of buzz back around Kovalev following this Saturday.
After a knockout loss earlier this year to Robinson Castellanos, Yuriorkis Gamboa’s (27-2, 17 KO’s) career as a relevant fighter seemed to be hanging on a thread. But with Castellanos forced out of this Saturday’s card a few weeks ago, Gamboa received the call to be the replacement to face Jason Sosa (20-2-4, 15 KO’s) in a key bout in the 130-pound weight class. Whoever wins could jump right back into contention for a bigger fight and bigger payday.
This is an interesting fight in that Gamboa is the much more athletically gifted fighter and has a big advantage in hand speed. But he is also so flawed and makes so many mistakes that a technically sound fighter like Sosa with pop can cause Gamboa serious problems. Also, keep in mind that though Gamboa was been involved in some clunkers (Darleys Perez, Rene Alvarado, etc.) the aggressive in-your-chest style of Sosa should prevent this from being dull. I expect some good action in a competitive fight but for the determined Sosa to expose the defensive flaws of Gamboa to get a late stoppage.
Finally, Sullivan Barrera (20-1, 14 KO’s) gets a showcase opportunity against Felix Valera (15-1, 13 KO’s). It is worth noting that Valera is one of two fighters to go the distance with rising 175- pound star Dmitry Bivol and that there’s talk that Barrera may go on to fight Bivol next. This smells of a measuring stick type fight with the people moving Barrera hoping he can get a stoppage of Valera to help set up the Bivol showdown in 2018. It is an odd fight for HBO to pick up as they usually shy away from showcase type bouts, but since they just televised a similar contest for Bivol, they may be hoping that Barrera puts on enough of a show to drive viewership for that proposed contest down the road.
This past Saturday, 118-pound belt holder Zolani Tete (26-3, 21 KO’s) starched Siboniso Gonya (11-2, 5 KO’s) in 11 seconds with one quick right hook. With this latest lightning fast knockout in mind, here are three similar quick knockout endings from the 90’s that some may have forgotten.
Bernard Hopkins vs Steve Frank, 01/27/1996
The previous April, Bernard Hopkins had finally won a middleweight title belt when he stopped Segundo Mercado in round seven of their rematch. Hopkins first defense was supposed to be against the dangerous and undefeated Joe Lipsey, but a week before the fight Lipsey was forced to withdraw and Steve Frank entered as the replacement. Frank came in with questionable credentials. He hadn’t defeated anyone of note and many experts expected a knockout win for Hopkins….but just not as quick as it happened.
When the bell rang, Hopkins threw out a quick jab to the chest of Frank which distracted Frank who never saw the right hand that followed. Frank went down and did beat the count. But after taking a little time looking at Frank, the referee waived the bout over. The elapsed time: just 24 seconds.
Jeremy Williams vs. Arthur Weathers, 03/19/1996
Jeremy Williams was a television staple in the 90’s. It is easy to see why. Williams was an exciting heavyweight with a big punch and did not enter the ring thinking about getting a decision. As he was marching toward a title shot, Williams took a stay-busy fight on the USA Tuesday Night Series in March of 1996 against veteran Arthur Weathers.
Weathers had been knocked out several times prior and the expectation was for a quick night. However, nobody thought it would end as quickly as it did. Seconds into the contest, the two met at center ring and, as Weathers threw an overhand right, Williams landed a flush right uppercut that put Weathers on the canvas. Weathers was clearly out and the referee quickly waived off the contest with the official time of the knockout at 10 seconds of round one.
Jimmy Thunder vs. Crawford Grimsley, 03/18/1997
Jimmy Thunder met Crawford Grimsley in March of 1997 in what was a classic crossroads fight between two heavyweights who desperately needed a win to get back into contention. Both were coming off decision losses in big fights. Thunder dropped a split decision to John Ruiz two months earlier. Grimsley had gone the distance with George Foreman in November of 1996, losing a unanimous decision in a bout where he gave a better account of himself than most expected.
Most experts pegged this as a tossup fight and expected a competitive battle. When the bell rang, the two came out to meet each other in the middle of the ring with Grimsley throwing out a left jab. Thunder was in the process of launching his own overhand right and the punch caught Grimsley flush. Grimsley collapsed to the canvas and was out though the referee issued a full 10 count. The official time was 13 seconds of the first round.
Some Random Thoughts
The importance of a young fighter staying active cannot be overstated. However, many times we see young fighters all too inactive in the early portion of their career, thus stalling their development and marketability. Those moving the fighter will argue it is just not possible to keep a young fighter active for a variety of reasons, but the case of Diego De La Hoya (20-0, 9 KO’s) provides evidence to the contrary.
Oscar De La Hoya’s nephew will be fighting for the fifth time in 2017 when he faces Jose Salgado (35-4-2, 28 KO’s) on December 14th. Not all these bouts were on television and not all the contests were all that hyped. But De La Hoya’s team managed to find a way to keep him active and guess what has happened? He has gotten better and is coming off the best performance of his career in dominating undefeated Randy Caballero, a former champion. So it is possible to keep a young fighter active and the benefits to a fighter’s career are well worth the trouble in finding dates.
This week, a PBC card on FS1 was formally announced for December 15th from Lancaster, CA , that will feature four televised bouts. Of the four, three are intriguing.
Jamal James (21-1, 9 KO’s) takes on Diego Chaves (26-2-1, 22 KO’s) in a true 50/50 contest that should stylistically play out to be a fan friendly fight. The same goes for the contest between John Molina (29-7, 23 KO’s) and Ivan Redkach (20-3-1, 16 KO’s). And there is an interesting battle between two upcoming 126-pound prospects in Stephen Fulton (11-0, 5 KO’s) and Adam Lopez (8-0, 3 KO’s). I love these types of bouts and am very much looking forward to all three.
What is confusing is the final bout between Jessie Vargas (27-2, 10 KO’s) and Aaron Herrera (33-7-1, 22 KO’s). Herrera is a journeyman who has been stopped on several occasions and this is no more than a tune-up, shake off the ring rust bout for Vargas. But it is somehow the main event. Look, I understand Vargas is coming off a layoff and needs this type of bout. However, this mismatch doesn’t deserve to be on television, let alone be the headline attraction. This is where PBC keeps making decisions that leave boxing pundits scratching their heads.
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