The crazy boxing world through the educated eyes of Eric Armit
I OPENED my new pack of cornflakes this morning and to my amazement there were no Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao plastic figures. How could that be? Every boxing web site seemed to be dedicating 99 per cent of its content to any word, gesture, wink, or nudge by either Floyd or Manny and speculating on who would win. It seemed that everybody was being interviewed to give their opinion. The police were finally called when they began canvassing the opinion of three-year-old kids down my street and then they had to rush away to break up a fight between Floyd and Manny adherents at the local care home for the over 100’s. I waited for five years for the fight to get signed and I survived that but I am not sure I can survive another 7 weeks of saturation coverage by every type of media imaginable (quick is it one puff of smoke or two for Manny to win?). I am looking forward to it. I hope it will be a great fight. I hope someone wins clearly. As someone reminded me due to a previous omission by myself, I hope both fighters emerge healthy but for this week from this point forward this column is going to be a “Floyd vs. Manny Fee Zone”. If any of you want your Floyd-Manny fix this is the time to go read somewhere else.
With Al Haymon’s PBC show getting very good viewer figures and boxing returning to terrestrial viewing channels in Britain the profile of the sport is on the up again. Italian TV has been experimenting with some shows to see how the figures come out before making a long term commitment which is again encouraging. There will always be the need for cable to generate the really big money but terrestrial exposure can help build the following that can take a boxer to those heights. It was very encouraging to see that CBS Sports are going to show the Dennis Hogan vs. Tyrone Brunson fight from a Casino in Hinckley Minnesota. The fight will get a much higher profile than it ever would without CBS. It’s a good level match between two boxers who are practically unknown outside the sport so can help build a following for them and for boxing.
I have reservations about the way Haymon has been gobbling up fighters of shapes and sizes but if a man is willing to put his own money on the line to develop his boxers than I am all for him.
It is difficult to know where Haymon’s influence ends. Recently there was talk of Hong Kong’s Rex Tso getting a shot at WBA super flyweight champion Kohei Kono. However the WBA have issued Kono with an instruction to start negotiations for a defence against No 2 rated Koki Kameda which would seem to scupper the plan for Tso. It is rumoured that the Kono vs. Kameda fight will actually take place in the USA in June with Haymon involved in the arrangements.
Still on the Orient Katsunari Takayama will defend his IBF minimum title against Thai Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr in Osaka on the same show where Juan Carlos Reveco puts his secondary WBA flyweight title on the line against Kazuto Ioka. It seems that Takayama will relinquish his WBO title and focus on a fight with Hekkie Budler to unify the IBF and WBA titles.
A look at the WBO ratings in that minimum division illustrates just how twisted their”reasoning” when it comes to ratings. The current No 1 challenger is Mexican Julian Yedras. He lost to Carlos Buitrago in July 2013 and did not fight for a year. He dropped gradually down the WBO ratings to No 15 before disappearing completely in the June 2014 ratings. His first fight in a year, in July 2014 saw him beat over six rounds a guy with a 7-9-3 record who was 0-6-2 in his previous eight fights and somehow that jumped Yedras from nowhere to No 8. In a six-round fight in October he beat a guy with an 8-11-1 record who was 2-6 in his last 8 fights and that saw the WBO elevator take him from No 8 to No 3. In January, without fighting again he made it to No 1. So nowhere to No 1 for beating two guys with negative records and that’s the Alice in-wonderful world of the WBO for you.
I do owe an apology to one sanctioning body. I blasted the WBA for sanctioning the fight between Lewis Pettitt and David Kvaratskhelia for their super bantam Inter-Continental title. It was not a title fight so I need to apologies for that bad mistake. No excuse.
Vlad Hryunov, the promoter of Dmitry Chudinov says he has an agreement with Frank Warren for a return fight with Chris Eubank Jr. He used the word agreement and not the word contract so that is probably wishful thinking as Warren has other plans for the new WBA interim champion.
With Billy Joe Saunders having relinquished the European middle title mandatory challenger Michel Soro was left without a dance partner for a short while. The EBU have filled the gap with Italian Emanuele Blandamura who was knocked out in five rounds by Saunders for the vacant title in July. With Soro (25-1-1) and Blandamura (23-1) it is another high quality EBU pairing. Michele Di Rocco is another Italian involved in a European title fight. He will make a voluntary defence of his super light title on May 30 with no opponent named yet. Negotiations are ongoing for Di Rocco to make a mandatory defence after this fight against Brit Lenny Daws. Andrea Di Luisa is a third Italian soon to be in European action. He makes a voluntary defence of his European Union super middle title against Kevin Thomas Cojean on 18 April.
Some controversy has arisen in Poland over drug testing. Two major fighters Dawid Kostecki and Tomasz Adamek have come out with comments over some unofficial reports. Kostecki was sidelined for a while due to some prison time but returned to the ring in November in Krakow where he lost on points to Andrzej Soldra. Although Kostecki says he has had no official notification it is alleged now, four months after the fight, that he tested positive for anabolic steroids. Kostecki denies this and is awaiting official notification so that he can respond to whatever is written. Tomasz Adamek appeared on the same show and again there are rumours of a positive test. This is strenuously denied by Adamek’s lawyer who says that they have not seen the written evidence but they understand that what is being put forward is that the result for Adamek was an atypical result by a non-accredited procedure which indicates only that further analysis or research is required which is not a positive test. Obvious both of these incidents need clarification and also why it has taken four months for these reports to be floating about.
There should be no medical impediment to Lucas Browne getting his shot at secondary WBA champion Ruslan Chagaev. Early in his career it was alleged that Chagaev had tested positive for hepatitis B and before his fight with Wlad Klitschko in 2009 the
American Association of Professional Ringside Physicians expressed concerns over the fight going ahead. These concerns were dismissed by the then Universum Box Promotion physician who stated. “After contracting Hepatitis B many years ago, Ruslan Chagaev has never been sick due to Hepatitis B. He is just a healthy carrier of the hepatitis antigen with consistently normal liver enzymes. Infection doesn’t necessarily mean illness. According to international expert opinions, Ruslan Chagaev is regarded as non-infectious”. So no problem there.
Both Amnat Ruenroeng and Zolani Tete retained their IBF titles in fine style recently but have both been promptly ordered back into business. Ruenroeng had been ordered to start negotiations for his defence against mandatory challenger Filipino John Riel Casimero which looks likely to end up in the Philippines in May. Tete has to start negotiations for a defence against his mandatory challenger Puerto Rican McJoe Arroyo and with the way things are in South Africa right now he will almost certainly have to travel.
Boxing in South Africa seem to lurch from crisis to crisis and scandal to scandal. A while back I read of the outcome of an exciting tournament. It was a Premier Boxing League (PBL) contested in four divisions flyweight, bantamweight, featherweight and lightweight. Some of South Africa’s top boxers took part. The winner of each of the four divisions was to receive prize money of R200, 000 and the overall winner would get R200, 000 for winning his division and R1, 000,000 for being outright winner. The eventual winner was Xolisani Ndongeni with Makazole Tete, Toto Helebe and Macbute Sinyabi each winning the R200,000 for topping their divisions. A great competition. Then I added up the prize money and converted it to dollars. Ndongeni was approx $96,000 richer and each of the three other division winners $16,000 so I am looking at approx $145,000 in prize money which is unbelievable money for boxing in South Africa as things are right now. Just my suspicious nature? I hope so as six weeks after the competition not one boxer has received R1. The man running the PBL says that as boxers have a bad habit of wasting their money the prize money has been paid into trust funds for them and that the boxers were told this would happen. The boxers and their managers deny this and seemingly with no help coming from Boxing South Africa (BSA) or the Sports Minister they have taken to social media sites demanding their money. I have a bad feeling about this one.
Money is a problem for boxing throughout Africa. Ghana has produced some of the greatest fighters to emerge from Africa but as with many countries on that Continent Football is king. The Chairman of the Ghana Boxing Authority (GBA) has been appealing for some financial support from the Government as football has soaked up the grants over the past two years and there is not enough activity in Ghana for the GBA to be self financing. Considering the various problems of financing boxing in Ghana it is truly amazing what that country has achieved in the sport.
Emmanuel Tagoe is a case in point. The 27-year-old “Gameboy” will have his first fight in 19 months when he faces Filipino Joebert Delos Reyes on the “Legendary Fists” show in Accra on March 27 for the WBA International title. After losing his first pro fight Tagoe has won 22 fights in a row and collected four different titles. The plan is for the fight to be shown in 50 different African countries (yes there are in fact 54 sovereign States and 10 non-sovereign territories) so plenty of exposure. On the same show George “Red Tiger” Ashie (25-4-1) former Commonwealth Boxing Council champion is fighting Filipino Ronald Pontilla.
Still on Africa it was being reported from Namibia that a couple of Africa’s top fighters over the past ten years former WBA secondary lightweight title holder Paulus Moses and former IBF super feather champion Malcolm Klassen would be clashing on March 20. Only problem is that Klassen is scheduled to fight Xolani Mcotheli in Kempton Park South Africa this Saturday. How about we let the promoters fight it out between themselves. My money’s on Rodney Berman so I have my doubts about the Namibia show which was to also feature Vikapita Meroro and Bethuel Uushona.
The death of French amateur boxer Alexis Vastine was a tragedy for his family and for French boxing. His parents had lost their daughter Celia in a car accident in January so to lose a second child in such a short space of time is an unimaginable agony for parents. He was an outstanding amateur winning bronze medals at the World and European Junior Championships; a silver medal at the European Championships was twice World Military Champion, represented France at three World Championships and felt deeply his elimination at the semi-final stages of both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. He was determined to go that step further and get a gold medal in Rio but that will never be. My deepest commiserations to the Vastine family.
You have to be from my era to understand the reverence with which Gabriel “Flash” Elorde is held in the Philippines. The great Hall of Fame fighter was world super feather champion for seven years and successfully defended it ten times. He was OPBF champion at two weights and Philippines champion at three weights. When he turned pro in 1951 the Philippines was still in the very early stages of its recovery from being ravaged by war and needed someone to give them pride in their nation. Elorde was the man that did that. He fought names that are still big today and also those that big in those days. He was in with Tanny Campo, Sandy Saddler, Ike Chestnut, Paolo Rosi, Teddy Davis, Sonny Leon, Vicente Rivas, Solomon Boysaw, Harold Gomes, Joey Lopes, Giordano Campari, Johnny Bizarro, Carlos Ortiz, Frankie Narvaez, Ismael Laguna, and Percy Hayles. I’ll stop there because he had 118 fights. He only lost 4 by KO/TKO. After a stoppage loss early in his career the only three other times he failed to last the distance were against Sandy Saddler for the world featherweight title (who he also beat) and twice against Carlos Ortiz. That’s why ion the Philippines each year they have the Gabriel “Flash” Elorde Memorial Awards and Banquet of Champions. This year it will be on 25 March and the Elorde fighting tradition is still strong. As part of the night two of his grandsons will be boxing. Juan Miguel (17-1) will face Indonesian Rasmanudin in a fight which they hope to get sanctioned as for the vacant WBO Asia Pacific super bantam title and Juan Martin Elorde (16-1-1) who will be defending his WBO Asia Pacific super feather title against Hirotsugu Yamamoto. Flash died of lung cancer in 1985 at the age of 49 but as you can see he is still a hero in his homeland.
Argentinian Walter Rojas has an interesting record for a guy who has had 31 fights including a world title fight. Rojas was stopped in one round by Nkosinathi Joyi for the vacant WBA minimum title in 2012 and the same thing happened when he faced Brit Kevin Satchell at the weekend. Of his 31 fights 29 have ended inside the distance. Thirteen of his fights have ended in the first round and he is 10-3 ahead on those. Eight have ended in the second round and he is 6-2 ahead there and 4-1 ahead in fights ending in the third round. Only 5 fights have gone to the fourth round and all ended there so in his career not one of his 31 fights has lasted more than 12 minutes. Just as well he is not paid for quantity.
I would have finished this quicker but I had four people knock on the door canvassing my opinion. Two wore Floyd badges and two wore Manny badges-and I live on the east coast of Scotland! I told them I supported East Fife which sent them all away scratching their head. Only another seven weeks to go…