THREE PUNCH COMBO: Boxing award season has concluded for 2017 with awards being given out in several categories. My favorite each year is the Breakthrough Fighter of the Year as we see someone step up and do something special that catches the eye. For 2017, the TSS award for Breakthrough Fighter went to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai for his two wins against pound for pound darling Roman Gonzalez. In 2018, look for a fighter from the great fight city of Toledo, OH, to rise to the occasion and break out in a big way. Robert Easter Jr. is my pick for the 2018 Breakthrough Fighter of the Year.
Easter Jr. (20-0, 14 KO’s) won a belt in the 135-pound division in 2016 with a close split decision over previously undefeated Richard Commey. Easter has since defended that belt twice in his hometown of Toledo and is slated for his third defense on January 20th against Javier Fortuna at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Fortuna is a solid guy but this is a fight where I expect Easter to really start to show his goods as he heads toward a breakout year.
Easter, who fights from the orthodox stance, is a tall fighter for the 135-pound class, standing 5’11,” and as such has developed a stiff left jab that he often works behind. But not only can Easter work from the outside, he can also fight very effectively on the inside. He has become very adept at setting up precision angles to land sharp accurate punches with his very quick hands. Easter is also an excellent counter puncher with great natural reflexes. And he possesses legitimate one punch power as evidenced by his knockout of Argenis Mendez in 2016.
To become a breakthrough fighter, Easter needs a big fight. With his association with Al Haymon and now Showtime showing interest, I think Easter gets that big fight in 2018, whether it is against Jorge Linares, Terry Flanagan, Mikey Garcia or someone else. Yes, Easter has had some tough fights but those experiences will help him hone his skills as well as his confidence inside the ring. In 2018, I see Easter putting all the natural talent together and once he gets that big fight will put on one spectacular performance.
Who Is Tori Nelson And Can She Compete With Claressa Shields?
The first significant fight card in the United States for 2018 will take place this Friday when two-time Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields (4-0, 2 KO’s) defends her 168-pound title belts against fellow undefeated foe Tori Nelson (17-0-3, 2 KO’s). Shields is the A side here and is building toward a big fight later this year with 160-pound belt holder Christina Hammer (22-0, 10 KO’s) who is fighting on the undercard. But going overlooked is Tori Nelson who herself has held world title belts. Just who is Nelson and can she test Shields?
Nelson turned pro in 2010 at age thirty-three and little more than a year later would win a title belt in the 160-pound division. Three years later, Nelson would find herself in a semi high-profile bout against the popular but faded Mia St. John. In that contest, Nelson would dominate and earn her first knockout victory, stopping St. John in the second round.
The competition that Nelson has faced has not always been the stiffest but she does have some credible wins on her resume. One is against Aleksandra Magdziak Lopes who has been a staple on the New England circuit for years. In that contest in 2013, Nelson outclassed Lopes in cruising to a wide unanimous decision. More recently in 2016, Nelson won a ten round unanimous decision against the then undefeated Alicia Napoleon.
This week, I watched some YouTube clips of Nelson and here are some of my observations: She is fairly fundamentally sound and the most polished opponent for Shields to date. Nelson holds her hands high and generally in proper position. She exhibits good head movement, making her a difficult target to hit clean. An orthodox fighter, Nelson is an aggressive boxer-puncher and likes to press forward behind the left jab which she throws often with precision timing. Her best punch is the right hand which she will work behind the jab. She is obviously not a knockout artist but her right hand often does enough to discourage her opponent from letting her punches flow freely.
There are also some glaring weaknesses. She is not the quickest fighter and footwork is an issue. She often times finds herself out of position and squared up in front of her opponents. Though her right is generally thrown correctly, her left is often looped and can be easily countered. And though Nelson started her career at 160, she fought the majority of it in the 140’s and will be making a big jump to face a more natural 168-pound fighter. The size difference along with her lack of power could be problematic for Nelson against Shields.
My final take is this: Nelson will put forth a good effort. I see her pushing Shields in spots and giving Shields far and away her toughest fight to date. But the size and skill of Shields will ultimately be too much for Nelson to overcome in what will be a more competitive and entertaining fight than what most are expecting.
Futility In Boxing
On New Year’s Eve, my beloved Cleveland Browns achieved football futility by going 0-16 and joining the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only other NFL team to lose 16 games in a season. Adding to my misery, there was a parade this past Saturday in downtown Cleveland to “celebrate” the rare “accomplishment.”
In boxing, achieving a winless mark after 16 professional fights is an equally daunting task. Most fighters would call it a career long before reaching such a mark. But it has happened recently. In searching through the BoxRec database, I was able to find at least three active fighters who started their career 0-16.
Yohangel Romero (0-26)
Yohangel Romero could be the poster boy for modern day futility in boxing. He is not only winless in his first 26 professional fights but was knocked out in 24 of those contests. Hailing from Venezuela, Romero is only 22 and shows no signs at the moment of giving up on the sport, having fought seven times in 2017. Thus far, all his bouts have taken place in either his native Venezuela or neighboring Columbia. He has fought as high as 141 pounds and as low as 117. Romero reached the 0-16 mark on September 16th, 2016, when he was knocked out by Placido Ramirez. One name on his resume that some fans may recognize is that of former world title challenger Daulis Prescott who holds two knockout wins against Romero.
Miguel Urdaneta (0-25-1)
The Venezuelan/Columbian circuit also produces another fighter on this list of futility in Miguel Urdaneta. After 26 pro bouts, he has yet to record a victory. Similar to Romero, Urdaneta has fought his entire career in either his native Venezuela or Columbia fighting as low as 115 pounds and as high as 137. On December 8th, 2015, Urdaneta reached the 0-16 mark to start his career with a knockout loss to Luis Diaz Pestana. The lone positive mark on his record is a split draw in 2016 to Jose Miranda. Finally, the only recognizable name on the resume (and it’s a stretch) is Luis Eduardo Florez who has fought on television in the United States and has a bout scheduled with Anthony Peterson on January 20th.
Alan Beeman (0-16)
I could probably continue to pick on the South American circuit but will instead turn to the United States for the third fighter on the futility list. And that is Rhode Island native Alan Beeman who just hit the 0-16 mark with a knockout loss to debuting Kelvin King on November 18th, 2017. The 29-year-old Beeman turned pro in 2012 and has only managed to go the distance twice in his 16 defeats. Beeman fought at 156 pounds in his last fight and has fought as low as 124. In 2016, he came close to notching a win when he dropped a four round majority decision to 0-15-1 Anthony Dave. The most recognizable name on his resume is that of prospect Kevin Rivers Jr. who stopped Beeman in the first round of their scheduled four round tilt.
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