By Paul Mason (@KOBoxingSets)
This weekend saw cards in, amongst other places in the world, Belfast, Germany and Las Vegas as big time boxing was on a global scale. Here, I digest the weekends talking points (and there were many of them!).
Ward v Kovalev – Case For A Trilogy?
The main Course of Saturday Evening (5am Sunday Morning if you were in the UK) saw the WBA (Super) IBF, and WBO Light Heavyweight Titles on the line at the beautiful Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, in the rematch between Oakland, California’s unbeaten Andre Ward, and the man who he so narrowly defeated last November, Russian Sergey Kovalev. The rematch was fought in much the same vein as the first fight. I had Kovalev four rounds to three up going into the eighth round, but again the scoring was open to interpretation. The eighth was the clincher for Ward, as he staggered Kovalev with a hard and sent the Russian teetering on the ropes. This was where the controversy started, as Ward then seemed to land three straight body shots, two of which looked low. Referee Tony Weeks stopped the fight, which at the time, looked premature. But perhaps the telling factor is that there seemed to be no immediate complaint from Kovalev, and he looked tired. Controversy however, always sells, and all of the talk after the fight was the low looking shots and the seemingly premature stoppage, prompting complaint from Kovalev and in the proceeding time after the fight, his promoter Kathy Duva. A third fight may not be as straightforward to make. Post-fight, Ward gave some bold thoughts on his next move, suggesting he wants more World Titles and isn’t afraid to go to Cruiserweight, and even Heavyweight. It’s hard to see which current Champion in the Cruiserweight division would make Ward any money, and the majority of the Champions are based in Europe. Bizarrely, HBO’s Max Kellerman suggested IBF Heavyweight Champion Anthony Joshua, and Ward’s trainer, Virgil Hunter, has since been banging the drum for this as a future match up. It seems as though team Ward want Kovalev to do the dirty work for them if Ward is to stay at Light Heavyweight. There was talk of Kovalev fighting the WBC Champion, Adonis Stevenson, in order for the undisputed Title to be on the line in a third fight between Ward and Kovalev. This could however, be a long drawn out process, and an immediate third fight would surely make the most financial sense for both at this point.
The Curse Of Guillermo Rigondeaux Goes On
We were again robbed on the same card of getting to see the gifted Cuban Amateur stand-out Guillermo Rigondeaux in action. After coming to the UK to fight James “Jazza” Dickens last year, fans only got to see less than three rounds of action, when Rigondeaux broke Dickens’ jaw with the first meaningful punch of the fight. Saturday was even more frustrating ,as Rigondeaux put his WBA (Super) Super Bantamweight Title on the line against the WBA regular champion, the unbeaten Mexican Moises Flores. Just when “Rigo” seemed to be opening up at the end of the first session. He landed three shots whilst holding Flores’ head, and as referee Vic Drakulich began to try to separate the fighters, the bell went to signal the end of the round. Rigondeaux connected with a left hook after the bell, and Flores then fell to the canvas in a delayed manner and was knocked out. It certainly looked suspect, as it wasn’t a heavy fall, and he seemed to be looking around at the referee and ringside. Cue five to ten minutes of mayhem and confusion. Drakulich was unsure of what had happened, and the Nevada State Athletic Commission and fellow referee Tony Weeks were unable to help him come to suitable conclusion. Initially, it looked like it would the verdict for the fight would either be either a disqualification or ruled a no contest. But when pressed for a decision, Drakulich decided to award Rigondeaux a first round KO victory. Weather Flores could have continued or not is now irrelevant, as the knockout punch clearly landed after the bell had sounded. Reports are now circling that the result will be changed to a no contest, which is not ideal for the 36 year old Rigondeaux. He would have liked the result to stand and to move on quickly to bigger and more lucrative things, but he is now likely to have to go over the same ground again to fight Flores in a rematch. It’s frustrating to see Rigondeaux caught up in this, just as it looked as though his career would start to move.
Third Time Unlucky For Smigga
It wasn’t to be again at World Championship level for Liverpool’s Paul Smith. Smith was in his third World Title tilt, after two unsuccessful attempts to wrest the WBO Super Middleweight Title from Arthur Abraham in 2014 and 2015. This attempt was heavily scorned by pundits and social media alike (myself included), as since losing to Abraham in the September 2015 rematch, Smith had beaten three journeymen, a world away from World class and not at the Super Middleweight limit, but this somehow enabled him to meet Tyron Zuege, the WBA Super Middleweight Champion on Saturday night in Wetzlar, Germany. Other than a small pocket of success in the third round, Smith was never really in the fight, and went down to a unanimous points loss, 119-108 on all three judges’ scorecards, and had to take a count from what looked like a slip in the twelfth and final round. This is likely to now be the end of the road for “Smigga”, as he is unlikely to now want to drop back down to domestic level. It’s been a lucrative career for Smith, who also travelled to Oakland after the Abraham rematch, in a losing effort against Andre Ward. Ultimately though, when he made the step up, he was defeated in bouts against Steve Bendall, James Degale and George Groves, as well as Abraham (twice), Ward and Zeuge. Smith still works as a pundit for Sky Sports and has outside interests, so the likelihood is that he will indeed call it a day.
Belfast BoxNation Show
There was also some cracking action on the Frank Warren BoxNation bill from Belfast on the weekend. The main event saw decorated Amateur Paddy Barnes win the WBO European Flyweight Title in his third professional fight, in a closer than expected tussle with Silviu Olteanu. Barnes came though via majority decision (one judge scored the contest a draw) and gains an important ranking with the WBO as a result. Fight of the night came at Super Featherweight, where former Prizefighter Champion, Jono Carroll won the IBF European Title in a battle of unbeaten fighters against John Quigley. Liverpudlian Quigley was down twice in the second, but got up to force Carroll, all the way over the 12 rounds, Dubliner Carroll took the win on split decision. Elsewhere, Welshman Craig Evans secured a unanimous points victory over Irishman Stephen Ormond to retain his WBO European lightweight title. It was ain a scrappy fight that swung in favour of the champion in the later rounds. Ormond was down twice at the end of the final round from two left hands to the body.