World Fight Review by Devon Currer
Lamont Peterson returned to the ring on Saturday the 23 February in defence of his IBF junior welterweight belt to stop the experienced Kendall Holt midway through the eighth round. This return marked the end of a hiatus that has lasted a little over a year after he, like so many others these days coughed up a positive drugs test following his controversial split decision win over Amir Khan in December of 2011.
Peterson 31-1-1; 16 tested positive for synthetic testosterone and was stripped of his WBA belt that he pick-pocketed off Khan but was mysteriously able to hang onto his IBF version. After a slow start Peterson simply overawed Holt and caused Tony Weeks to step in after a right hand knockdown and subsequent tirade of shots that caught Holt helplessly on the ropes. Should Peterson hand in a negative test following this fight, it gets me to thinking how hot the junior welterweight division is looking right now.
You have three legitimate world titlists at the top of the junior welterweight pile in the unified champion Danny Garcia (WBA and WBC belts), Lamont Peterson (IBF) and Juan Manuel Marquez with his WBO strap. The fighters that lie in wait make this division the most exciting in boxing right now with a mixture of barbarian, puncher, true grit, the speedster, the brute and the danger down below.
The Barbarian - Lucas Mathysse has garnered cult status among the hardcore fight fans with his ruthless style of pressure punching and highlight reel knockout victories over some notable names. His record reads 33 wins, 31 knockouts and only 2 losses in his professional career so far. Those 2 losses came controversially against Devon Alexander and Zab Judah, both by split decision. At 30 years old, he is entering his prime and with a prime time TV win over Mike Dallas Jnr back in January made the USA take note of how formidable an opponent he makes. He currently holds the WBC Interim title.
The Puncher - Marcos Rene Maidana, like fellow Argentinean Mathysse is a thoroughbred puncher. Although he has campaigned at welterweight in his past three fights where he currently holds the WBA Intercontinental title, a drop back to the junior welters makes for mouth watering fights. All action and never being hard to find in the ring is the reason for many an opponent’s avoidance of his name when talking to the press. He holds notable stoppages wins over Victor Ortiz and Jesus Soto- Karass (both fight of the year contenders in their respective times) and points victories over Demarcus “Chop-Chop” Corley and Mexican legend Erik Morales. With his skill set currently honed by Roberto Garcia his record reads 33 wins with 30 knockouts and 3 losses. The records and KO ratios of the marauders from Argentina read alarmingly similar.
True Grit - This is likely the best description of current WBC world champion Danny Garcia. His perfect 25-0 record can no longer be subjected to talk of padding. This Philadelphian has notable wins over Nate Campbell, Kendall Holt and Erik Morales (twice) which thrust him into the limelight in the USA. The true grit comparison came to me with his signature win thus far against Amir Khan back in July of 2012. After taking punishment from the faster and heavier handed Khan where he endured a cut over his right eye in the second he turned the tide by catching Khan in the third with a full blooded left hook behind the ear rendering Khan in wonderland. He followed that up with an assault on the badly damaged Khan in the fourth, dropping him twice en route to a TKO victory. This was a fight that on paper he was not supposed to win.
The Speedster - This heavy handed speedster from Lancashire in England and was a former world champion under the guidance of Freddie Roach. With wins by stoppage of the usually durable Paul Malignaggi and the KO of Zab Judah, Amir Khan certainly packs the punch that can keep his name mentioned among these junior welters. The problem lies with his ability to hold a good shot. His record reads 27 wins with 3 defeats and 19 knockouts. His two defeats came by the very short route (a first round blowout at the hands of Colombian banger Breidis Prescott) and that fourth round TKO loss to Garcia at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on that July night in 2012. He won an all out war against Marcos Maidana and lost a highly controversial split decision against Lamont Peterson (the fight was close with Peterson failing the post fight drug test). When he boxes and sticks to the game plan he is devastating with his greatest asset – blinding speed. His problem is that he can get drawn into a fire fight but this problem for him also makes highly entertaining fights for viewers. With his change in trainer from Freddie Roach to Virgil Hunter and a renewed emphasis on defence, he is still a name to watch out for in the junior welterweight division.
The Brute - Born in Texas and currently residing in Oxnard, California, this 26 year old is the most exciting name in the mix today. Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios has carved a perfect record of 31-0 with 23 knockouts. What sets him apart from the pack is his ability to absorb damage with a ghostly smile on his face while constantly walking forward and reminding his opponent of his presence with short hooks and uppercuts. He is a phone-booth blood and guts fighter and granite chinned. His style makes for all wars when paired with similarly skilled fighters. The reason I use the term “similarly skilled” is because of Richard Abril. Abril fought Rios back in April of 2012 and lost a highly controversial decision to Rios. The fight was made at lightweight and “Bam Bam” had trouble making the weight limit 135 pounds (61.24kg) after which he declared his desire to move up to the junior welterweight division. Abril boxed him from the outside and showed that boxers do enjoy advantages over Rios but the boxer who wants to hand Rios his first loss has to be particularly strong in physique but more importantly heart. Rios’ signature win came last year in my Fight of the Year candidate against Mike Alvarado in an all out war battled over 7 rounds. The second instalment in this rivalry has already been signed for 30 March 2013 and I for one cannot wait! Bob Arum has indicated that although the fight is currently for and interim title, Juan Manuel Marquez might vacate his full WBO world championship to stay at welter weight and I would not be surprised if Rios v Alvarado II is for that WBO belt.
The Danger Down Below - Brash and big talking feature prominently in the description of this 2 division world champion. He is the resident king of the lightweight division at the moment holding the WBC world title and proclaimed last year that he can beat anyone from 135-147 pounds (61.24kg to 66.68kg). I certainly hope this is a veiled commitment to move up to the junior welterweight ranks where the competition is far stiffer than what he has been disposing of in the lightweight and junior lightweight divisions. Adrien Broner has the marketability to be the next Floyd Mayweather of boxing, as some scribes are referring to him as. This fast and heavy handed braggart has rattled off a perfect 26-0 record with 22 big wins coming by way of knockout. He certainly has the frame to move up a division.
The five fighters I have discussed form part of a weight division that is drenched in talent and possibility. The others being the likes of “Dinamita” himself – Juan Manuel Marquez, Tim Bradley, Devon Alexander, Kell Brook, Andre Berto, Humberto Soto. Although they are welters and junior welters, there are matches that can be made. There is only one match that I am really interested in seeing but the likelihood of it happening is rare at the moment and that is due to two reasons - that they both hire the services of Roberto Garcia as head trainer. The second is the promotional cold war between Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions. The mere notion of Brandon Rios versus Marcos Maidana certainly quickens pulses and can easily be tagged as fight of the year elect. Even if one of them leaves Garcia the stalemate between rival promoters robs the public of what could be one of the best fights that can be made right now. I hold hope for it to happen in the next 4-5 years as the age gap is about 3 years with Maidana closing in on 30 in July of this year – both fighters are very much in their primes now though and it would be an absolute travesty if politics were to get in the way of this war being waged. How does an all-Argentinean fight between Lucas Mathysse and Marcos Maidana sound? This is a fight that can certainly be made with both fighters with Golden Boy and both television approved names and it can’t be too far off.
Mathysse versus Rios is yet another slugfest dying to be made but unfortunately is affected by the frosty relations between the rival promoters. If Danny Garcia wants to throw his name among the three I have just mentioned, we would finally get an answer as to just how good the Philly-fighter really is. The prospect of Amir Khan against Rios and Mathysse might not be too appealing to his handlers at the moment as I am sure that punchers would not be on the to-do list for the Englishman but perhaps if he manages to regain his confidence and shores up his defence, he could be the right kind of guy to hand Rios his first loss – it would take one gargantuan effort.
The news of the year so far that has overshadowed everything else in the sport comes from the man who calls Las Vegas his sandbox – the one and only Floyd Mayweather. In typical Mayweather style he has seemingly held the boxing world to ransom with his closely guarded secret talks involved in his choice of dance partner for the fight on Cinco de Mayo weekend of May 4 at the MGM Grand. This week, the opponent was revealed to the world in the form of undefeated former IBF super featherweight champion Robert Guererro.
The bombshell that Mayweather dropped seemingly overshadowed the announcement of opponent when he revealed that he had accepted an offer to sign his fights over to Showtime. The deal runs for a period of 30 months whereby Floyd has agreed to be involved in six fights. Whether or not that will actually happen remains to be seen as Floyd is essentially agreeing to significantly up his workload – he has only fought four times in the last 5 years and only 8 times in total since 2005.