By Paul Mason
A busy weekend of action both sides of the pond, saw televised cards over Europe and the USA. Here are a few of my learnings from the action witnessed.
Okolie & Chamberlain Fail To Provide Fireworks
In a much anticipated and built up contest, Laurence Okolie and Isaac Chamberlain took main event status on Saturday in front of over 8000 fans at the 02 Arena, London. In hindsight it was slightly harsh to expect them to cook up an instant classic, as they only had 16 paid contests between them. In a messy, clinch and hold filled bout, Okolie proved too much with his superior weight advantage and skillset for Chamberlain. “Sauce” scored two knockdowns, albeit flash, to comfortably outpoint his London rival over ten rounds, picking up the WBA Continental Cruiserweight Title in the process.
It was a lot to ask for two novices headlining an Arena to produce a shootout, and this is far from the way the fight panned out. For Chamberlain though, he loses nothing more than a bit of local pride in defeat. He is still one for the future, and will rebuild on future Matchroom cards for sure.
Okolie’s ambition after the fight was impressive. He aims to take on Welshman, and former British Title challenger, Craig Kennedy on the Anthony Joshua v Joseph Parker bill in Cardiff at the end of March. Weather that can be negotiated remains to be seen, but this would be an intriguing test for the likeable man from Hackney.
“The Big Cheese” Takes Care Of Jones
Bermondsey’s Ted Cheeseman came through a stern test of his credentials at the 02, widely outpointing perennial gatekeeper Carson Jones at Super Welterweight. Jones had good form when coming to England already, beating unbeaten prospect Ben Hall on his last visit, and also knocking out Brian Rose in the first round (outpointed in a rematch), and pushing Kell Brook to the limit, before being stopped in a rematch. This was a great piece of matchmaking, and one would hope that this is a sign of things to come from Matchroom. Their hot prospects are now coming to the sink or swim stage of their careers, and it was good to see a match up like this made. In his last outing before Cheeseman, Jones was more than in the contest against Antonio Margarito, before bizarrely, the fight was stopped when it looked like Margarito’s corner had retired him, but the fight went to the cards and the Mexican got away with a hometown decision.
So this was definitely a live test for Cheeseman, and after a few rocky early moments, he moved through the gears to record an impressive win. With the British Title now vacant, and Joe Pigford withdrawing from an eliminator against Asinia Byfield, Cheeseman would definitely be in the mix. James Metcalf has now been offered the Byfield eliminator, with the winner to fight Liam Williams. A fight with the Welshman looks unlikely at this point as he will no doubt have loftier ambitions, giving Cheeseman a chance to challenge in the near future.
Gassiev Wipes Out Dorticos To Book Place In World Boxing Super Series Final
Russian Murat Gassiev thrilled his home fans in Bolshoy Ice Dome in Sochi on Saturday night by adding the WBA (Super) Cruiserweight Title to his IBF belt, spectacularly stopping the previously unbeaten Cuban, Yunier Dorticos in the twelfth and final round. Gassiev was consistently the more aggressive man, and found himself rewarded for his patience by knocking Dorticos down three times in the final session.
This now sets up a thrilling finale to a great tournament and concept. Gassiev will now take on the Ukrainian, and WBC/WBO Champion, Oleksandr Usyk in the final. What’s mouth-watering for the fans is that all four major belts will be on the line, and the top two Cruiserweights in the World facing off for the richest of prizes. The winner would be the first man to call himself the true undisputed Cruiserweight Champion.
The tournament has been a massive success so far. Swiftly concluded, and especially in the case of the Cruiserweights, one Champion will be crowned for the whole division, which can only be a good thing.
“The New Pacquiao” Marches On
Filipino buzz saw Jerwin Ancajas further enhanced his fast growing potential by defending his IBF Super Flyweight Title in his US debut on the weekend. Fresh from blasting the too brave Northern Irishman, Jamie Conlan to defeat in Belfast late last year, Ancajas systematically overwhelmed Israel Gonzalez in Corpus Christi, Texas on Saturday night.
Gonzalez was down once in the opener, and twice in round ten. This was the fourth defence of a Title he acquired by outpointing the previously unbeaten McJoe Arroyo in his native Philippines in September 2016. All four defences have been by stoppage, and he is quickly gathering a cult following. The comparisons to his countryman Manny Pacquiao have been inevitable in coming, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him move through the weights in search of pound for pound greatness. It will be interesting to see how far he can go, but his immediate future is to fight his fellow Filipino, Jonas Sultan.
Ancajas’ current weight class is stacked with talent. With the current Champions in the division, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (WBC), Britain’s own Kal Yafai (WBA) and Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue (WBO) the opportunities at the weight are endless. Add to the mix already established former Champions and contenders like Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, Carlos Cuadras and Juan Francisco Estrada, and you have an explosive division full of talent.
Ramirez Still One Of The Key Players At Super Middleweight
Much avoided Mexican Gilberto Ramirez again impressed in the same bill as Ancajas, stopping the undefeated, but outgunned Habib Ahmed inside six rounds to retain his WBO Super Middleweight Title. This moved Ramirez to 37-0, and one would now hope that he will target the winner of the World Boxing Super Series after maybe one more defence. Promoter Bob Arum has stated that Ramirez will fight again in May, so expect a simple defence.
Although he may be able to get to one of the other Champions not in the tournament as soon as possible. It remains to be seen whether Britain’s James DeGale can secure a rematch with Caleb Truax after his shock IBF Title defeat in December. David Benavidez rematches Ronald Gavril for the WBC Title on the 17th February, and Ramirez may well go down this route instead.
Freesports TV Does It Again
Friday night saw Freesports TV broadcast live from Sheffield, and the two televised bouts were classics. Following on from their first broadcast, which was the up and down thriller between Liam Cameron and Sam Sheedy, Josh Wale defended his British Bantamweight Title in a war with Bobby Jenkinson. Wale eventually overwhelmed Jenkinson and forced the stoppage in the ninth.
The other bout was an English Super Flyweight Title bout between the unbeaten Sheffield man, Loua Nassa, and Guernsey’s Brad Watson. Nassa was much fancied, and cut Watson while opening up a lead in the first half of the fight. Watson came back tremendously though, and decked Nassa with a thunderbolt of a right hand in the sixth. He ended matters in the final round with the same monster right, with the referee having to step in to save further punishment.
It was another rousing success for the channel and promoter, Denis Hobson. It’s good to see another channel and promoter providing quality cards and giving the fans what they want to see, 50/50 fights. Long may it continue.