By Paul Mason
Another bumper weekend of action, on both sides of the Atlantic saw some great talking points. I myself was disappointed to not be able to attend the Matchroom show at the Fly DSA Arena in Sheffield due to the effects of the Beast from the east and Storm Emma disrupting my travel plans! Here are the main talking points as I dissect the weekends happenings.
Brook Blasts Out Rabchenko To Return To Form
Kell Brook got the job done in two rounds on his return from tough back to back defeats. In front of an adoring home crowd in Sheffield, Brook blasted out the usually durable Sergey Rabchenko, and put the Super Welterweight division on notice.
Brook caught Rabchenko with a crunching left uppercut before a straight right put the Belarussian on the floor. Rabchenko attempted to rise to his feet but was unsteady as he was counted out by referee Steve Gray, who waved off the fight, confirming victory for Brook.
Brook’s win will catapult him up the rankings in his new weight class, and will now raise a couple of questions. Will he want to go straight in for a version of the World Title? And does he want to fight Amir Khan next, should the Bolton man get past Phil Lo Greco in Liverpool on April 21st?
Jermell Charlo, the WBC Champion, has already indicated he would be happy to fight Brook. It’s possible that Brook v Khan could turn into this decades Ricky Hatton v Junior Witter, a fight where both fighters seem on a collision course, but end up going down different paths. We should know more following Khan’s April date in Liverpool as to weather a huge late summer stadium clash can be arranged. If Khan can win in explosive fashion just as Brook did, it should be able to happen.
McDonnell Repels Yafai Challenge
Many (myself included) thought the contest between Gavin McDonnell and Gamal Yafai would be a changing of the guard of sorts, and Yafai would be too strong and fresh for McDonnell to handle. However, the Doncaster man turned in a brilliant display to nullify the previously unbeaten Yafai, picking up the WBC International Bantamweight Title in the process.
McDonnell took over from the middle rounds onwards to deny Yafai victory, winning convincingly on the cards with cleaner and crisper shots landing against the wilder and erratic Yafai down the stretch.
McDonnell will now want to scale the heights to World honours once again, after coming up short in a challenge for the WBC Title last year against Rey Vargas in Hull. For Yafai, it’s definitely a learning curve for the Birmingham man, and he will come again I’m sure.
Allen Redemption Ends In Heartbreak
For the likeable David Allen, Saturday night saw more heartbreak in his rematch for the Commonwealth Heavyweight Title with Jamaica’s Lenroy Thomas. A badly cut eye in the very first round scuppered Allen’s chances of redemption for a messy, maul fest defeat against Thomas at Bramhall Lane last June. Allen protested at the time, but a day after, his eye had shut completely, requiring eight stitches, vindicating the ringside doctors and referees decision.
It remains to be seen whether promoter Eddie Hearn can entice Thomas over to the UK once again for a third fight. One would imagine he would have to pay over the odds to do it, but both fighters seem keen to do it again, so hopefully this can be arranged for when Allen’s cut fully heals.
Taylor Continues To Impress
Josh Taylor continues to go from strength to strength, and re-affirmed his status as arguably Britain’s hottest prospect on Saturday night. Taylor was due to fight veteran former three weight World Titleist Humberto Soto at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow, but the Mexican suffered a cut during sparring for the fight. In came Winston Campos, but the Nicaraguan was no match for the talented Taylor.
“The Tartan Tornado” had his man down twice in the second, and finished the job one round later to again impressively demolish another decent opponent.
Talks have only been about going straight in at World level for Taylor, such is the ambition. He isn’t seemingly interested in picking up the British Title, currently held by Jack Catterall, and has already held the Commonwealth belt. Maybe a stop gap fight for the European Title against Sweden’s Anthony Yigit may appeal. Yigit recently pulled out of a proposed fight on Showtime in America due to illness.
Now that Terence Crawford has moved up to Welterweight, the options are opening up again at Super Lightweight World level. The vacant WBC Title is up for grabs next Saturday between Jose Carlos Ramirez and Amir Imam. The IBF Title is on the line this Saturday as Sergey Lipinets defends against rising pound for pound star Mikey Garcia in an intriguing contest. The WBA Title is currently vacant, while Manchester’s Terry Flanagan moves up from Lightweight to take on American Maurice Hooker on April 14 on a Frank Warren show at the O2 Arena, London. If Flanagan comes through, a fight with Taylor would be a great sell. A lot hinges on the pull that Taylor’s current promoters, Cyclone have at the negotiating table.
Wilder Comes Through Stern Test
Deontay Wilder overcame Cuban Luis Ortiz on Saturday night to successfully defend the WBC version of the World Heavyweight Title. Wilder started slowly, but knocked Ortiz down in the fifth round. Fast forward to the seventh though, and Ortiz had the man from Alabama tottering all over the ring and deep in trouble. Wilder showed tremendous heart to come back and finish off the fading Ortiz in the tenth in an up and down thriller reminiscent of a certain Anthony Joshua against Wladimir Klitschko in April last year at Wembley Stadium.
Post-fight, a lot of observers analysing a potential Joshua v Wilder showdown will obviously see Wilders mid fight wobble as a weakness, and make Joshua a warm favourite should the fight be able to be negotiated. The way I see it is that Ortiz was one of the best, if not the best available contender to the Heavyweight throne not currently holding a belt. Add this to him being avoiding for a long time during his career, and awkward, and I feel this makes Wilder’s win all the more impressive.
Yes Wilder is wild at times and is accused of “slapping” but he slaps hard and is passing every test put in front of him so far, just like Joshua.A fight between him and “AJ” would be a mouth-watering prospect. Add a returning Tyson Fury to the mix, and the Heavyweight scene just got interesting again.
Kovalev Krushes Another
Sergey Kovalev continues to manoeuvre towards a fight with either Adonis Stevenson or Badou Jack later this year. Kovalev defended his WBO Light Heavyweight Title by stopping Igor Mikhalkin in seven rounds inside Madison Square Garden, New York. Kovalev was back to his usual, brutal best, bullying and damaging Mikhalkin into submission.
Thoughts now turn to the WBC Title clash on May 19 in Canada between Stevenson and Jack. Kovalev has voiced his disdain for Stevenson on a number of occasions, but I’m sure won’t be adverse to fighting Jack instead should he prevail.