Our resident boxing writer Diego Morilla serves up a full weekend wrap-up of the most relevant boxing events in the worldwide scene. Every fight that matters is right here, in one place, and at one click away. Follow Morilla on Twitter at @MorillaBoxing
San Antonio, Texas, March 1st
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. UD 12 Bryan Vera, super middleweights
In baseball, this would have been called an “automatic strike”: when you’re down 3-0 in the count, you really need to put that pitch in the smack middle of the groove if you really want to stay in the game. And this is what former WBC middleweight champ Chavez Jr. (48-1-1, 32 KO) did in his rematch against Vera (23-8, 14 KO), a fight that Chavez desperately needed to win. Instead of going for the corners of the strike zone or trying to knuckleball his way out of the situation, Chavez pitched an almost-shutout to bounce back from a 1-1 record in a disastrous 2013 that included a boxing lesson capped by a terrific comeback in the second half of the last round against Sergio Martinez, a suspension for alleged use of marijuana (his second) and a controversial victory against Vera last October, and he did it looking confident and in shape (another much welcomed rarity). Vera was the usual tough-as-nails contender that clawed his way towards championship territory with a handful of gritty victories, but in the end, Chavez felt the pressure of producing a redeeming performance, and he achieved his goal very convincingly. The 114-113 scorecard was way off mark, with the other two (both at 117-110) aptly reflecting Chavez’s dominance.
The winner goes on to: In what could become one of the best fights of the year, Chavez may be facing current 160 lb Gennady Golovkin sometime in the summer.
Orlando Salido SD 12 Vasyl Lomachenko, WBO featherweight title
The word “upset” fails to paint the picture here. It’s more like “poetic injustice” or “an eye for an eye”, if you ask me. A veteran champ who muscled his way towards a championship belt by taking on all comers and waiting for his chance for years, Salido (41-12-2, 28 KO) probably felt a bit disrespected when he was faced against unbeaten two-time Olympic gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko (1-1, 1 KO) in the latter’s second pro fight. And he reacted by throwing respect to the wind, as well. Salido showed up 2.5 lbs overweight at the weigh-in (he would have more than 11 lbs on his opponent at fight time, and this also cost him his title, which is now vacant), used every dirty trick he could get away with (with a bit of help from referee Laurence Cole) and outhustled Lomachenko through the most part of a street brawl of a fight capped by a desperate comeback attempt by the challenger in the last two rounds. A split decision with scorecards of 115-113 and 116-112 for Salido (115-113 for Lomachenko in the other one) rewarded Salido for his solid effort and probably taught a lesson to the challenger and his team on how NOT to underestimate a foe with such a huge amount of experience, desire and grit.
The winner goes on to: Going “back to the drawing board” after barely two fights in one year as a pro sounds discouraging, but that’s the bed Lomachenko made for himself, and he’ll have to lay in it. And for quite a while, too.
Juan Diaz UD 10 Gerardo Robles, lightweights
The “Baby Bull” is back! A former unified lightweight champion and one of boxing’s most brilliant promises, Diaz (39-4, 19 KO) was destined for stardom with his bilingual charisma and his destructive power inside the ring, but eventually he would be discouraged after a few losses against veterans like Nate Campbell, Paulie Malignaggi and Juan Manuel Marquez (in two terrific wars), and his other interests in life drew him away from the sport of boxing. In the fourth fight of his comeback stage after a two-year hiatus, he was his usual aggressive self, taking an authoritative decision against Robles (18-13, 9 KO) in ten entertaining rounds with scores of 99-91 (twice) and 100-90. Still physically sound at the young age of 30, Diaz could become a factor again pretty soon in the division that made him a star.
The winner goes on to: I’d say he should look forward to two more fights before he enters the championship sweepstakes in a division loaded with exciting prospective matchups.
Magdeburg, Germany, March 1st
Arthur Abraham SD 12 Robert Stieglitz, WBO super middleweight title
A trilogy ends with an exclamation point, indeed. Abraham (39-4, 28 KO) and Stieglitz (46-4, 26 KO) had one victory a piece against each other. They met in 2012 (UD12 for Abraham) and then again in 2013 (TKO4 for Stieglitz), and they never failed to entertain and put on a terrific performance. And this fight was up to those standards, as they threw caution to the wind and battered each other from round one, with the fight becoming increasingly emotional towards the end. The eleventh round featured some serious fireworks, and Abraham cemented his claim to superiority by sending Stieglitz to the canvas in the final round. The judges awarded cards of 113-112 for Stieglitz and 115-110, 114-111 for Abraham, who reclaimed the WBO belt that was in play in all three of their encounters.
The winner goes on to: Abraham is in a tough spot: too young to retire, too old and battered to mix it up with the elite. His retirement should be a few more paydays away.
Naucalpan, Mexico, March 1st
Fernando Angulo TKO 9 Pablo Cesar Cano, welterweights
A surprise ending for an entertaining bout. Angulo (27-9, 16 KO), an Ecuador-born Venezuelan now living in Argentina not related to his Mexican namesake Alfredo, has been a fringe contender for quite a while, and he became known for being sent back down to the second tier of the division after every attempted trip to the proverbial next level, with his closest brush with success being his failed try at the WBA lightweight title against Juan Diaz back in 2006. Now training in Lucas Matthysse’s camp and looking reinvigorated, Angulo outmuscled and outboxed former junior welterweight challenger Cano (27-4-1, 20 KO) in nine grueling and punishing rounds for both of them. The fight was up for grabs in the ninth when the referee stopped the bout due to cuts, a common occurrence in Cano, who was disfigured in his challenge of Erik Morales in 2011 and went on to be defeated also by Paulie Malignaggi and Shane Mosley.
The winner goes on to: It won’t be hard for a beatable 33-year-old contender to find a well-paid offer in such a talent-ladden division. We hope he’ll make the most of it, again.
Glasgow, Scotland, March 1st
Terence Crawford UD 12 Ricky Burns, WBO lightweight title
A dream come true for a deserving contender. Crawford (23-0, 16 KO), a crafty southpaw with respectable experience, had a dream trip to Scotland, where he kept his unbeaten record alive in dethroning a local hero in Burns (36-3-1, 11 KO) after 12 very entertaining rounds. The first few rounds were pure back and forth action, but Crawford moved in for the kill in round 5 and never surrendered control of the fight after that. A few outbursts by Burns sent the crowd into unjustified occasional fits of frenzy, but the scores were unanimous at 115-112 (twice) and 117-111 for the winner and new champ. Sweet victory from a fighter that we need to see more often, and a terrific effort from the classy Burns as well.
The winner goes on to: Options abound for both fighters, but a rematch after an in-between tune-up bout would not be the worst idea ever.
Anthony Joshua KO 1 Hector Avila, heavyweights
British Olympic gold medalists in the heavyweight division have a checkered past, ranging from the heights of Lennox Lewis (yeah, he did the job for Canada but ended up cashing it out in England) to the depths of Audley Harrison, but now they appear to have a real contender in Joshua (5-0, 5 KO), who appears to be every bit as good as advertised. This time, Joshua continued his development by destroying an overmatched Avila (22-16-1, 14 KO), who had taken Dereck Chisora almost the full 10-round distance. A barrage of punches from all angles was all it took to convince Avila that he was in with the wrong customer, and the fight was stopped barely two minutes into the first episode. Terrific showing by a fighter who is being managed very wisely so far.
The winner goes on to: After putting his first scheduled 6-rounder behind him, Joshua should be headed into eight or 10 rounder territory by the end of the year.
Johannesburg, South Africa, March 1st
Hekkie Budler KO 1 Karluis Diaz, WBA strawweight title
Budler (26-1, 8 KO) is a popular fighter in South Africa, and he had very little problems defeating a seriously undeserving challenger in Diaz (21-5, 14 KO), a Colombian fighter with limited experience at the top-level. Budler wanted to make a show for his people out of this defense, but he ran out of time when his hard jabs and straight rights started to land with frightening ease on Diaz. As the first round was coming to an end, Budler landed an explosive straight right that put Diaz out for the count. Hopefully we’ll get to see more of Budler next time.
The winner goes on to: The division is in desperate need of a mayor player, and Budler can become that man if he continues to deliver exciting performances.
Bristol, England, March 1st
James DeGale TKO 11 Gevorg Khatchikian, super middleweights
A thoroughly entertaining fight that featured some progress from a very promising fighter. DeGale (18-1, 12 KO) was supposed to be a major player in British boxing by now, but his plans were derailed when he dropped a decision to George Groves in 2011 in an all-British bad blood grudge match that may have come a tad too early for both of them. Since then, DeGale, a smooth-boxing southpaw with tons of talent, has accumulated a solid winning streak against above-average opposition, and he made it 8-0 with this stoppage of previously unbeaten Khatchikian (20-1, 8 KO) in a great performance. Despite being caught off-guard a few times, DeGale was superior throughout the contest, and when Khatchikian visited the deck two times in the eleventh round, the fight was finally stopped.
The winner goes on to: With no shortage of very qualified opponents at 168 lbs in Great Britain, DeGale will probably develop his career there in lucrative matchups against some of his finest countrymen.
Verona, N.Y., February 28th
J’Leon Love TKO 10 Vladine Biosse, super middleweights
An early crossroads fight between two young contenders is something to behold, and this was no exception, as unbeaten super middleweight contender J’Leon Love (17-0, 10 KO) had to dug deep inside his bag of tricks to overcome the challenge of Biosse (15-3-2, 7 KO) with an emotional stoppage. Love was all over his foe since the very beginning, hitting him with all kinds of combinations, but Biosse refused to go down, fighting back with a limited but very spirited effort. The accumulation of punishment became evident by the late rounds, and although there was no clear reason for a standing 8 count, referee Benji Estevez administered it anyway and then proceeded to declare a halt to the bout less than a minute into the 10th and final round.
The winner goes on to: With an unbeaten record, an attractive style and some serious management connections, expect Love to shine (oh, yeah!) in an undercard a PPV event anytime soon.
Derek Edwards TKO 1 Badou Jack, super middleweights
Meanwhile, in another part of town… well, someone else with the same amount of talent and connections as the winner of the main event didn’t quite make the cut this time. In a mind-boggling upset, Edwards (26-3-1, 13 KO) shocked the boxing world by allowing previously unbeaten and former Olympian Badou Jack (16-1, 9 KO) to last barely a minute into a fight that Jack was supposed to win handily. No excuses for anyone. Edwards landed a right to the temple and Jack went down. Upon rising, he received the same dose, and this time he nosedived towards the canvas to rise a couple of seconds on linguini legs. The chronometer marked 1:01 of the first round, and Jack’s future (including a mandatory elimination bout against James DeGale) went straight down the drain, at least for now.
The winner goes on to: The way to recovery from a disaster as big as this is usually so long and winding, even Paul McCartney would think twice about even attempting it. We’ll see how it goes, but it may be time for Jack to finally hit a different road.
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