Eric Armit, who is a Director of the CBC and its former Chairman, is renowned worldwide as an authority on boxers records and also as a satirical and cynical observer.
Eric Armit writes in his capacity as a boxing journalist and not as a director of the CBC. His views and comments are his own and have not been the subject of prior discussion or consideration by his fellow directors, nor form official CBC policy.
Looking at the divisions as we start 2013, it could be the year we see the end of the domination of the heavyweight division by the Klitschko brothers-but only if they both retire. I have not yet seen anyone capable of beating either brother in 2013.
Difficult to get excited over the cruiserweights with no really outstanding champions. Things are bad when the WBC Nos 1 and 2 are 43-year-old Giacobbe Fragomeni and 46-year-old Silvio Branco. It could also be the year when Marco Huck’s luck runs out. He only just retained his WBO title with a controversial draw with Ola Afolabi and an even more controversial win over Firat Arslan.
The light looks a bit flat. WBC champion Chad Dawson was easily beaten by Andre Ward and WBA champion Beibut Shumenov and IBF titlist Tavoris Cloud do not stand out from the crowd. WBO champion Nat Cleverly’s plans to invade America were thwarted by the lack of a real test and even at 47 Bernard Hopkins would still not be a rank outsider against anyone at 175lbs.
The Super Six galvanized the super middleweights and winner Ward showed class in disposing off Dawson. Unfortunately his shoulder injury will sideline him for a while. The Super Six effect is still with us as Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler have got the taste for big fights and with Arthur Abraham and Lucien Bute still in the mix and Kelly Pavlik, Robert Stieglitz, Edwin Rodriguez, Adonis Stevenson, George Groves and a revitalized James De Gale active it could be an exciting year in the division.
The middleweight division’s dominant figure is Sergio Martinez. The other three titles are held by Gennady Golovkin, Daniel Geale and Peter Quillin, who will all be looking to make their mark in 2013. With former champions Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Felix Sturm, Dmitry Pirog and Jermain Taylor all looking to regain titles and Brits Matthew Macklin, Martin Murray and Darren Barker active it should be an exciting year.
At light middle and welter it all depends on what Floyd Mayweather does. At light middleweight Floyd’s only big fight would be with Saul Alvarez. Despite WBA secondary champion Austin Trout’s win over Miguel Cotto he is not yet major league. Cornelius Bundrage and Zaurbek Baysangurov are just not marketable. Vanes Martirosyan, Erislandy Lara, Demetrius Andrade and Keith Thurman could all challenge in 2013 although the last two need more exposure to tough opposition.
At welterweight there really is nothing to interest Mayweather. You have to feel sorry for Tim Bradley. Despite a win over Pacquiao he is seated well down the table and is unlikely to land a big fight. The winner of Devon Alexander’s IBF title defence against Kell Brook could figure. Roberto Guerrero is a marketable commodity but he needs a big fight to get his name on Mayweather’s dance list, and I will be surprised if Paul Malignaggi is still WBA champion at the end of 2013. The unknown factor is Manny Pacquiao, but as he has never weighed more than 143lbs he is unlikely to figure in welterweight fights-if he continues.
I will look at the other divisions in my next Snips piece.
One of the most worrying aspects of 2012 has been the number of high profile fighters who have tested positive for banned substances. It was only last year that any attempt was made to apply a form of testing anywhere near as rigorous as those adopted by other sports. Some of those who tested positive had actually volunteered to be tested. To me this shows that they did not anticipate that the standard of testing would be so efficient and expected to get away with cheating. It makes you wonder just how much cheating is going on and whether those positive tests are the exceptions or just the tip of an iceberg. It was typical of boxing’s attitude to drug tests that the guilty were either let off with a smack on the wrist, or the “inconvenience” of the positive test was ignored. The sanctioning bodies could have given a lead but instead have preferred to bury their head in the ground. I wonder if they realise that when you stick your head in the ground you leave your backside sticking up in the air and boxing, and it will the reputation of boxing that gets it in the posterior.
I spent a week at the WBC Convention in Cancun, but it was not a working trip, just a chance to see old pals and get some sunshine. I am afraid that one lasting memory will be the shambling zombie-like figure of Muhammad Ali. It is heartbreaking to see how far the great man has deteriorated. He had to be helped to walk and for most of the time his eyes remained empty orbs registering nothing of what was going on. It is admirable that boxing still recognizes his greatness but to me it was a sorry spectacle which deprived Ali of his dignity.
I had plenty of opportunity to see that great right hand shot from Juan Manuel Marquez as Mexican TV showed it over and over. Interestingly I also saw a film of a sparring session as Marquez prepared for Manny Pacquiao. It showed a sparring partner throwing a right with Marquez stepping outside of the punch and throwing a right to the chin on the inside. The sparring partner went down in a carbon copy of the exchange that ended the Pacquiao fight. Coincidence? Maybe.
I sat in on a couple of sessions of the ratings committee. Around the table at the time were Bob Yalen, Dean Lohuis, Ed Pearson, Frank Quill, Claude Jackson, Daniel Van de Wiele and Luis Medina plus others. They have probably the most experienced and knowledgeable team of any sanctioning body, but they have a hard job, one which can never satisfy everyone, they lack strong support from the Executive against challenges to their ratings, and they have limited control over what happens to the ratings out of Convention.
A big year for Jamaica saw Usain Bolt rule supreme at the Olympics and Nicholas Walters become the first Jamaican to win a world title on home soil. Bunny Grant, Percy Hayles and Richard Clarke had all come up short. “Axe Man” had Colombian Daulis Prescott down in rounds 4, 5 and the seventh and last round. A big win for Walters, and for his manager Jacques Deschamps. Now Walters has a range of good opponents and paydays out there and a title to get him to the table. Deschamps did a great job of guiding Walters to the title and to getting the fight in Jamaica. However, typical self-serving WBA approach, whilst stating that the promotion “exceeded all expectations” they praised their president Gilbert Mendoza and his son Gilberto Junior for choosing Jamaica for the venue and for their vision. What that adds up to is them accepting the best offer for the fight and appointing a supervisor-just how much vision does that require?
WBA featherweight champion Chris John has announced that he is ready to fight Juan Manuel Marquez in Singapore. Nice try Chris. However, Marquez holds all of the cards. He is probably the hottest property in boxing right now so there is no way he is going to agree to fight in Singapore when there are much bigger matches available nearer home. When they fought in 2006 it was in John’s backyard and the Indonesian beat Marquez by four points on one card and six on each of the other two. The scores were skewed by two point deductions against Marquez. John has held the WBA title since 2003 and has defended the title 17 times. “The Dragon” missed his big chance when he failed to impress US TV audiences in two fights with Rocky Juarez in 2009, and has never been asked back.
Nigerian Lateef Kayode has announced that he is moving up to heavyweight. He was disappointed that, after drawing with Antonio Tarver for the IBO cruiserweight title, he did not then get a shot at the title which was declared vacant after Tarver gave a positive drugs test. Instead the IBO decreed that Danny Green should fight Shane Cameron for the title. A strange decision bearing in mind that Cameron’s only other fight in 2012 was at heavyweight.
European heavyweight champion Kubrat Pulev was named Sportsman of the Year in Bulgaria. Well deserved following his inside the distance wins over Mike Sprott, Alex Dimitrenko and Alex Ustinov. The last two had combined records of 59-1 and it is fair to say that since his pro debut the quality of Pulev’s opposition, whilst including some of the usual suspects, has been better than most of his peers. The 31-year-old “Cobra” is No 1 with the IBF so a title shot should come his way in 2013.
WBO strawweight champion Moises Fuentes will defend his title against Filipino Donnie Nietes in the Philippines on February 22. The 31-year-old Nietes, a former undefeated WBO strawweight champion, and current WBO light flyweight champion, has a 31-1-3 record. His only loss was a split decision in Indonesia when his opponent came in 6lbs overweight. He is unbeaten in his last 22 fights. The 27-year-old Fuentes is 16-1 and his loss to Juan Hernandez in 2011 was also a split decision against an opponent whom came in overweight. It will be the fourth defence for Fuentes. Although he will be giving away home advantage, he is coming off a stoppage win over Ivan Calderon in October and is trained by Jorge Barrera, the brother of Marco Antonio Barrera, and MAB will be helping with his preparation.
Daniel “Bad Boy” Rosas is another Mexican preparing for a title fight. The 23-year-old from Mexico City will challenge Omar Narvaez for the WBO super fly title at the end of February or early March. Rosas is 15-0-1. The draw was with Jose Cabrera for the interim WBO title in October 2011. He has been fighting at super bantam in 2012, but is still No 1 with the WBO. Cabrera got his title shot against Narvaez in April but lost a wide points verdict. No venue announced as yet.
According to sources in Namibia Paulus Ambunda will be challenging Thai Pungluang for the WBO bantam title in Namibia on March 2. “The Rock”, 32, is WBO No 1 and unbeaten with 19 wins, but the opposition has not been top drawer. Pungluang won the WBO title in October by crushing AJ Banal in the Philippines and is 43-1. The only fly in the ointment is that the team putting on the fight in Namibia has been appealing for sponsorship and when they use the phrase “rely on divine intervention from above” it seems it is not quite cut and dried.
If you want to get ahead in boxing-lose. Frenchman Jean Marc Mormeck’s last fight saw him put up an abysmal showing in losing in four rounds against Wladimir Klitschko for the IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight titles. His punishment for this abject surrender is a No 4 cruiserweight rating with the WBC and a shot at their title against Krzys Wlodarczyk. The fight is to held in Equatorial Guinea. Strange that the WBC should rightly rage against apartheid in South Africa but be happy to condone a fight in Equatorial Guinea. According to Wikipedia, Equatorial Guinea “has one of the worst human rights records in the world. Consistently ranks among the "worst of the worst" in Freedom House’s annual survey of political and civil rights and about which the Trafficking in Persons Report 2012 states "Equatorial Guinea is a source and destination for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking." The report rates Equatorial Guinea as a "Tier 3" country, the lowest (worst) ranking: "Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making any attempt to do so”. I guess that the WBC finds this more acceptable than the evil of apartheid.
On the subject of South Africa I am beginning to wonder just how long it is before boxing grinds to a halt there. Boxing South Africa (BSA), the body appointed by the Government to run the sport, are in danger of running it into the ground. A recent act of madness had them insisting that they will allocate TV dates and collect the TV Rights fees and not the promoter. That’s one way of driving all of your promoters out of business. No promoter, or TV company, will pay large money unless they are guaranteed rights to future fights. Not surprisingly one of the two major promoters in South Africa, Branco Milenkovic went to court over this stupidity and, since the BSA failed to respond to his action in a timely manner, the BSA was fined R100,000 of tax payers money. They have now surpassed themselves and made it illegal for promoters to sign a fighter exclusively under their banner. Anyone with any knowledge of how professional boxing works knows that no promoter is going to put any money into promoting a boxer if the fighter can walk away after every fight. When a boxer starts out, if he looks promising, a promoter is likely to give a signing bonus and protect his investment by tying the boxer to a contract for a minimum number of fights. In the early stage of his career the boxer effectively has his career financed by the money brought in by the big names in the team. He is earning and learning, but is probably not making a profit for the promoter. This is an investment a promoter is willing to make as he gambles that the fighter will himself develop into a star name. Where is the incentive for a promoter to develop a young fighter without that possibility of future earnings? The argument from the BSA is that if boxer suffers periods of inactivity under a promoter who has an exclusive contract he is not free to seek action elsewhere. Whilst that is valid, if boxing is at a low ebb, as it is in South Africa, there is limited money available for shows. One option would be to find fights for the boxer outside South Africa, but again why should a promoter or an overseas TV company make that investment knowing that the fighter can walk away any time he wants to. The lack of money in South African boxing has already forced Milenkovic to look overseas for action for his fighters and Rodney Berman is also starting to look elsewhere and putting on shows outside South Africa. If the BSA continues with its stupid, anti-promoter agenda, its revenue from fights will cease. These wonderful policies come from a body which has absolutely no idea of the commercial side of promoting and an abysmal record of handling their own money-well not theirs actually since it comes from the South African tax payers to the Government and then to BSA. At a meeting this month with the parliamentary sub-committee for sport an MP remarked “If Boxing South Africa (BSA) was a citizen of South Africa, it would be behind bars because it had broken all the rules.” Additionally the auditor-general reported that BSA's liabilities during the previous year had exceeded assets by R2.7 million and left the organisation with an accumulated shortfall of more than R6 million (approx $700,000). Would you buy a second hand car from these guys?
A good European title match on its way. On January 26 in Aulnay Sous Bois France Julien “Brigadier” Marie Sainte fights Ukrainian Max Bursak for the vacant European middleweight title. Sainte, who will be fighting in his home town, is 34-2 with his last loss being to Brit Tyan Booth in 2009. Since then he has won 16 in a row, although the opposition has not been strong. Bursak is 25-1 with his only loss being to Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam. A competitive match, as are most EBU title fights.
Another Frenchman, Jonathan Profichet, will have to travel to Maribor in defence of his WBO European light heavyweight title. He fights a return with Denis Simcic who he halted in one round for the title in September in Germany. This time Slovenian Simcic will have home advantage. It is almost impossible to predict the outcome of fights involving the 27-year-old Profichet. He has a mediocre14-8 record but somehow manages to mix bad losses with good wins. In his last two fights he kayoed in seven rounds Hakim Chioui (27-1-1 going in with the 1 being a previous seventh round kayo loss to Profichet) and a one round stoppage of Simcic (28-1). Anything could happen in this one.
Lebanese-born Rola El-Halabi returns to action on January 12. It is newsworthy because of the remarkable recover the 27-year-old German-based former WIBF and WIBA champion has made. In the dressing rooms before an April 1 2011 fight in Berlin her stepfather, enraged at El-Halabi’s decision to drop him as her manger, shot her in the hands, feet and knees and also wounded two security guards. El-Halabi spent two months in a wheelchair and underwent nine operations so her courage and determination has allowed her to overcome the near tragedy
Larry Donald returns to the ring against Jason Gavern on 9 February. By fight time he will be 46 and been inactive for over five years. There are so many mediocre heavyweight around that he sees himself as having a chance to get into the ratings and get a title shot. In his last three fights in 2005 he looked unlucky to only get a draw against Ray Austin and lost a majority decision to Nikolay Valuev in a WBA eliminator then in 2007 lost every round in a ten round fight against Alex Povetkin. It may rankle that in a 14 year campaign, despite wins over Bert Cooper, Tyrell Biggs, Tim Witherspoon and Evander Holyfield, he never once got a world title shot.
In the ratings game the WBC will have to “adjust” their ratings for the Adrien Broner vs. Gavin Rees fight as Rees was No 21 in their last ratings. Rees gets a promoter inspired spot into the top 15 in the next ratings. The WBA have Brit heavyweight Richard Towers at No 14, but have apparently never heard of Tyson Fury or David Price. Curious, but then this is the WBA.