Fractured relationships and splintered audiences didn’t stop prizefighting from surpassing all expectations in the year 2017.
The sport of pro boxing kept moving forward like a rogue wave on the Pacific Ocean. Once again California led the way for staging pro boxing cards and once again had more cards than any other state in the union.
Up and down the long shaped state pro boxing cards took place every single week. When you include Nevada, Arizona and Texas there were more than enough boxing cards to showcase boxing’s elite talent in the west.
Most Impressive Performances
All of these top boxers participated or reside on the West Coast. Here are some of the best performances that took place in the west in the past 12 months:
Mikey Garcia – scored a third round knockout of Dejan Zlaticanin in Las Vegas to win the WBC world lightweight title and add a third world title in a third weight division. After losing more than two years from earning money in the boxing ring, Garcia got a win last year, then in January of this year, put on an exhibition of precision punching and footwork with a knockout of the titleholder that has to be seen several times to be appreciated. That footwork and concentration is amazing to watch. Too bad not all boxing fans saw it live. It was another one of those planned events by a promoter to disrupt another planned event at the same time in California.
Miguel Berchelt – The Mexican from Yucatan started off with a bang by out-punching Francisco “Bandido” Vargas in a bloody war that ended in stoppage in Indio, California. Then he surprised many by showing another dimension to his fighting style by out-boxing Japan’s great Takashi Miura at the Inglewood Forum in July. He can punch, he can box and he can out-think opponents. The super featherweights are one of the toughest divisions in boxing. Can a showdown with Berchelt and Lomachenko be in the near future?
Leo Santa Cruz – avenged a loss to Carl Frampton in another 12-round thriller with the Irishman to take back the WBA world featherweight title in January in Las Vegas. He also added another victory against fellow Californian Chris Avalos at the StubHub on October 14. The lean Mexican fighter from East L.A. continues to fight in a style that normally doesn’t help a boxer last long. But at 29, he still seems to have spring in his legs.
Takashi Miura and Mickey Roman — they slugged it out for 12 rounds in one of the better brawls of the year in Indio, Calif. Miura proved too strong, especially with his relentless attack to Roman’s body. Finally, the body shots by Miura ended the fight and snapped Roman’s 18-fight win streak.
Oscar Valdez – defeated Miguel Marriaga at StubHub Center in April and found himself in another tough battle in Arizona against Filipino Genesis Servania last September. He traded knockdowns with Servania but won by decision to keep the WBO featherweight world title.
Sullivan Barrera – The 35-year-old Cuban has very little time to crack that world title barrier. His win over Joe Smith at the Inglewood Forum in July was a good start. Now he has his sights on one of the titleholders, whether its Sergey Kovalev or Adonis Stevenson, that is his choice or his poison. But time is running out unless he discovered Bernard Hopkins’ secret fountain of youth.
Mauricio Herrera – the popular Riverside boxer clashed with Jesus Soto Karass in a welterweight fight that had their fans screaming in Indio, Calif. It was one of the best fights of the year and about as evenly matched as can be. Herrera (pictured on the left) edged out Soto Karass for the majority decision win after 10 rounds. Fans lingered after the fight still excited about the action.
Vasyl Lomachenko – fought Miguel Marriaga in Los Angeles on Aug. 5 and won by stoppage at the Microsoft Center. The easy victory showed the difference between him and others near his weight class. Now a super featherweight, the only fights worth watching are bigger and better opponents. A meeting with Berchelt could be a very good fight but fans do not know Berchelt at the moment. They barely understand the boxing style of Lomachenko.
Miguel Cotto scored the last win of his career against Japan’s Yoshihiro Kamegai at the StubHub in Carson. The Puerto Rican great did not have an easy time against Kamegai who kept on charging despite the incredible amount of blows coming his way. The fight card took place on the same night as Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor in Las Vegas. In spite of the dueling fight cards, the Cotto fight card sold out the StubHub.
David Benavidez – the youngster scored two knockout victories one in Las Vegas, Nevada and another in Laredo, Texas before shooting for the WBC super middleweight world title against Ronald Gavril in Las Vegas. Despite hitting the floor from a punch, Benavidez hung on and became a world champion at age 20. The Arizona native is now 21 and headed for a rematch against Gavril in Las Vegas. It should be a good one.
Naoya Inoue – The hard-hitting Monster from Yokohama is no longer a secret on this side of the Pacific Ocean. The Japanese slugger made once-beaten Antonio Nieves look two levels below as he battered the fighter until the referee ended the one-sided affair.
Wisaksil Wangek (aka Srisaket Sor Rungvisai) – defeated Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez by knockout in the fourth at the StubHub Center in September. Now he has a meeting with Juan Francisco Estrada, one of the other winners of the “Superfly” fight card. This is a guaranteed firefight.
Juan Francisco Estrada – Defeated Carlos Cuadras in a great fight at the StubHub in September. A knockdown in the 10th proved the difference. Now he fights Wangek and there should be a guarantee attached to this matchup for possible Fight of the Year candidacy. It’s a sure thing, as sure as there is in boxing.
Ryan Garcia – blitzed Miguel Carrizoza in less than a minute in Las Vegas and proved he’s not the usual prospect. It was not a surprise for those who have followed his pro career now in its second year. The tall super featherweight has power in both hands and speed galore.
Jesus M. Rojas keeps beating guys he’s not supposed to beat. In Las Vegas, the Puerto Rican slugger knocked out Claudio Marrero in the seventh round to win the interim WBA featherweight title. Marrero, a very skillful and speedy featherweight, kept sticking out his jaw to mock Rojas. The Puerto Rican connected and put the Dominican to sleep. What an ending. A rematch of this fight should be made.
Gennady Golovkin and Saul Alvarez finally met after years of talk and following 12 rounds of tense action fought to a draw in Las Vegas. Weeks before the fight I predicted on television that this would be a very close fight and that fans would debate the winner. In this case a draw definitely draws debate.
Diego De La Hoya – clashed with Randy Caballero in a battle of undefeated super bantamweights in Las Vegas. Ironically, both fighters trained mere miles away from each other in the Coachella desert. De La Hoya proved to be a notch quicker than Caballero and won by unanimous decision after 10 rounds. The cousin of Oscar De La Hoya should be fighting for a world title in 2018.
Abner Mares – beat Andres Gutierrez by technical decision in 10th round at StubHub Center on Oct. 14. He keeps a portion of WBA featherweight title to set up showdown with Santa Cruz. Mares can slug, box or win by one punch if necessary. Lately, the 32-year-old, now training with Robert Garcia in Riverside, has chosen the wiser route.
Mickey Roman and Orlando Salido exchanged powerful blows for several rounds in Las Vegas. Many were surprised that Roman was able to floor Salido more than once in their super featherweight clash and stop the Mexican warrior. Salido announced his retirement after the fight but then reneged on the retirement announcement. That’s boxing.
That’s a summary of the best fights that took place west of the Rockies. The year 2017 featured some big moments and brought forth a number of young prospects that are ready for world title bids.
A few major fight cards are already planned for January and February in 2018. First, lightweights clash at the Inglewood Forum on January 27 as Jorge Linares defends his lightweight world title against southpaw Mercito Gesta. On February 10, Mikey Garcia moves up another weight division to challenge Sergey Lipinets for a super lightweight world title in San Antonio, Texas. Then, boxing returns to Inglewood on Feb. 24 as the second edition of the “Superfly” tournament showcases Wisaksil Wangek (or whatever name he prefers) against Mexico’s Juan Francisco Estrada for the WBC world super flyweight title.
Photo credit: Tom Hogan/ Hogan Photos/ GBP
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