If you didn’t catch part one, make sure you check it out!
The Light Heavyweights
It has been an interesting few weeks for Light Heavyweight boxing. In fact it has been an interesting quarter across the scene for the division in 2019 all told. Let us take a look at some of the highlights of the year thus far.
The Cream of the Crop
From the 18th to the 30th of January an apparent smear campaign against Sergey Kovalev began with floods of news reports regarding a felony assault charge that was brought against him in June 2018. They started to reappear just weeks before his much anticipated rematch with Eleider Alvarez was scheduled. A more sceptical person would say that this was mere coincidence, the more conspiratorial of you out there will say it was done to throw him off his game, however since the fight which took place over 6 weeks ago now, we haven’t heard any more about it.
Did this campaign fluster the ‘Krusher’? Not in the slightest. With a new trainer and team around him and a desire to prove he still has something to give, Feb 4th saw him regain his WBO Crown in convincing fashion. There may not have been a knock-out blow delivered but what was on show was a masterful display of boxing that saw scorecards of 120-108, 116-112 and 116-112 for a Unanimous Decision victory and a position back at the top of the pack.
Since that win and the victory of Dimitry Bivol earlier this month there has been talk of the two coming together later this year with Kovalev stating “I’m ready, what about you?”
Dimitry Bivol put on an absolute masterclass against Joe Smith Jr just a few weeks ago. Since being elevated to WBA (super) Champion in 2017 following Andre Wards destructive (and controversial) finish of Kovalev. When he retired he left the belt and the division wide open, his win over Broadhurst with a first round KO has been followed by victories over former champion Jean Pascal, former challenger Isaac Chilemba and highly ranked fringe contender Sullivan Barrera.
Although he has not fought this year, Oleksandr Gvozdyk is set to defend his WBC title against Doudou Ngumbu in Philadelphia at the end of this month. Gvozdyk is a 2012 Olympic Bronze medallist and the latest of a string of high quality fighters to come out of Ukraine and make their presence known in the upper echelons of world boxing, following in the footsteps of Oleksandr Usyk and Vasyl Lomachenko.
He made a name for himself with a victory over long standing WBC champion Adonis Stephenson in October last year. That fight ended with Stephenson being rushed to hospital and it has been a slow and steady trip back for the once most feared champion in the division.
Finally, we come to Artur Beterbiev. Now signed to Matchroom & DAZN Beterbiev is the only current reigning world champion with a perfect record. He has 13 victories and 13 straight knock out wins. Again capitalizing on the downfall of Sergey Kovalev he won the vacant IBF title in 2017 and defended that title in a competitive bout against British fighter Callum Johnson in Oct of last year. Although not as active as he should be, his next bout is scheduled for May against Bosnian born Radivoje Kalajdzic whose only loss so far has been against top ranked contender Marcus Browne.
Outside of the World Champions there is an entire pool of talent waiting for their chance to stamp their name on the division and rise above the rest. We have mentioned some of these names already, the hottest prospect on that list being Marcus Browne.
Currently ranked number one across two of the four governing bodies and coming off a unanimous points victory against Badou Jack on The Undercard of Pacquiou vs Broner in January, Browne has cemented himself as the leader of the pack amongst an absolutely stacked division of contenders.
Badou Jack on the other hand suffered the most horrific of injuries, possibly the worst cut ever seen in a boxing ring during his fight with Browne. He was lucky to be able to see the fight through to its conclusion. Jack is a solid Light heavyweight and must be one of the unluckiest boxers on the circuit at the moment. Two draws in his last four, and some closely scored points decisions have seen Jack perhaps not get the recognition he deserves as a top class operator. A place in the WBSS could change that.
Sullivan Barrera looks set to fight Beterbiev in May and a loss there I think would put him out of contention for entry in to the series although depending on how that fight goes – If he can take Beterbiev into deep waters – there may be recourse for him to return and still be a player at the top end of the weight class.
Eleider Alvarez, although lost his last fight in a one sided boxing lesson to Kovalev, still has something to say as a high level operator. If Kovalev retires from the sport this year (which is a strong possibility), then he could be looking for redemption at world level.
Callum Johnson and Joe Smith Jr are both solid Light Heavyweights and their recent outings will tell you that no matter who they are up against it is not going to be an easy nights work for the opposition.
From the UK we have the likes of Joshua Buatsi and Craig Richards, who although good prospects may be a little out of their depth in a tournament displaying the talent that is on offer elsewhere. The same can be said for 14-0 Lyndon Arthur who impressed this last Friday with a TKO stoppage of Gonzalo Romero. Although he has been outspoken about his chances against stablemate Anthony Yarde, it is hard to see him being able to take such a big step up at this stage.
The Curve Ball
The World Boxing Super Series has been known to throw the fans a curve ball or two when it comes to the names they choose to fight for the Mohammed Ali Trophy. They love a young unbeaten contender, and little known but highly touted prospects. Here we will have a look at what curve balls could be thrown at us should this weight class get chosen for the coming season.
Callum Smith, winner of the first Ali Trophy at Super Middleweight, has the world at his feet right now. With talks of Golovkin coming up from Middleweight for a big money fight (now he has just signed with DAZN), Dimitry Bivol (also on the same platform), moving down from Light Heavy, Chris Eubank Jr staking his claim with a win over now retired James DeGale, Britain’s own John Ryder as mandatory challenger and let us not forget Caleb Plant who recently dethroned Uzcategui to become the IBF Champion. It would seem that all roads lead to Callum Smith and he is not short of options.
Smith however is huge at the weight and could quite easily make the move up to Light Heavy in the quest to become a two weight world champion. What better way to do that than be part of the same tournament he himself has already won and gave him his platform to begin with?
Personally, I would like to see a unification fight against Caleb Plant. This is a mouth-watering prospect and then see him make the move up to face bigger and harder challenges. This would be my pick for curve ball of the tournament.
One time middleweight world title challenger whose only loss was to Gennady Golovkin, Dominic Wade returned to the ring after a three year absence with two victories in February against rough and tough Martin Rios and journeyman Josue Obando.
Although now listed as a Super Middleweight he weighed in at 173lbs for Rios and could look to skip this division altogether. Wade was a head-turning amateur back in the day but with trouble outside the ring and discipline problems inside, entry to the WBSS would be coming way out of left field if it happens, but not an impossibility.
My last potential prospect to look at is Adam Dienes. The unbeaten German southpaw and current WBC international champion is now 17-0. He has looked good in his last few outings and is slowly making his way up the rankings rated number six with the IBF and eleven with the WBO. Dienes would be a great addition to a Light Heavyweight tournament and no doubt he would not pass up the opportunity to shine on a big stage.
Now this is where it gets interesting. The WBO have mandated a fight between current WBO champion Kovalev and number one ranked contender Anthony Yarde. In all honesty, I don’t know how many fights Kovalev has left, two perhaps at the most. With Bivol potentially stepping down in weight, Beterbiev and Gvozdyk both with fights lined up, it seems unlikely that unification would be on the cards next.
So Yarde is the most likely opponent. But what if he loses to Anthony Yarde? Where can a career Light Heavyweight and two time world champion go if he loses his next fight to an unproven and green contender? I think this year will see the retirement of Sergey Kovalev. If he beats Yarde then we may see a unification match in the summer. Win, lose or Draw though that will be the swansong of a great career and the perfect way to bow out gracefully with nothing left to prove.
Should that scenario play itself out then former Super Middleweight Champion Gilberto Ramirez will be in line for a shot at the vacant title as per WBO rules that will instate him as their number one contender once he finally makes the move up from Supermiddle.
As for Anthony Yarde, we are finally going to see what all the hype is about. A fight against Kovalev propels him from small hall headliner to world stage in one fell swoop. It would dispel the fears of current fans who think his career thus far has is not lived up to the hype and expectation that surrounds the Queensbury stable fighter. And it would make for a convincing argument against any of the other names at the top of the division.