This was a great weekend of boxing where we saw two fights that can be added to the short list for the fight of the year. We also saw a massive upset which in my opinion will likely end up being the upset of the year.
Stephen Fulton versus Brandon Figueroa was a terrific fight that was fought at a frantic pace for all twelve rounds. The majority of the fight took pace on the inside ,Brandon Figueroa’s preferred territory, with both fighters exhanging hellacious punches. Figueroa threw excellent shots to the body but was caught cleanly by the crisper punches of Fulton on the inside and when he was coming in trying to get inside. Figueroa had a lot of success and in my eyes hurt Fulton a few times during the fight but in the end Fulton’s cleaner work which regularly snapped Figueroa’s head back won him the fight. I thought Fulton won 7-5 but it was a fight where a draw or Figueroa win wouldn’t have been bad results. A few swing rounds where Fulton did good work but looked slightly hurt late with Figueroa putting the pressure on is what made the fight one difficult to score. I really think its one of the better fights I’ve seen this year and should be in contention for fight of the year.
With Fulton now a unified champion he has a plethora of exciting fighters he could take on next to further cement his already impressive legacy at super bantamweight. Raeese Aleem (19-0 with 12 KO’s) would be my first choice for his next fight as Aleem is in my eyes a top 5 super bantamweight who possesses both a lot of skill and power. Aleem has been a pro for ten years but has only recently got the opportunities to prove himself on the world stage. Aleem won an entertaining fight versus the rising Eduardo Baez, who was fresh off a few upset wins versus undefeated prospects, on the undercard of Fulton this weekend so their names are linked and they are on the same schedule fight wise. I think the fight would be highly entertaining and very competitive, a win for Fulton would enhance his legacy as it would be another win over a dangerous unbeaten contender in their prime. With both on the same TV network i don’t see why this fight can’t happen.
Fulton has other options at super bantamweight such as Daniel Roman and Murodjon Akhmadaliev which would still be great fights. I like the Daniel Roman fight but would prefer the Aleem fight because i’m a bit worried that Roman is starting to slide as a fighter due to a hard career. I don’t think he’s close to being washed but I do think hes likely on the decline and I’d prefer to see a prime Fulton versus Aleem, a battle of unbeatens is also something hard to beat. Akhmadaliev is a fight I’d love to see for Fulton as the winner would be the undisputed champion but I don’t see it happening as Akhmadaliev is swarmed with mandatories and is also on another network, this time being Dazn. While Eddie Hearn says he’d be fine with having Akhmadaliev fight on another network I personally feel that won’t happen as he’ll offer more money for the undisputed fight but Fulton won’t take it because hes tied to another platform and Akhmadaliev won’t accept an offer from Fulton’s side due to Hearn offering more money on Dazn. Fulton has the potential to carve out an all time great run at super bantamweight in my opinion and could make the hall of fame if he keeps taking on this level of competiton.
For Figueroa the obvious choice is to move up to featherweight and attempt to get a world title shot. He won’t enjoy the size advantage he’s used to at super bantamweight but he will still have success in what is a fairly weak division in my opinion. A fight with the winner of Eduardo Ramirez versus Miguel Marriaga makes sense for his debut at the weight before moving into position to fight for a world title. Gary Russel Jr will be busy fighting back to back mandatories and the other champions are either busy or will be hard to get fights with so it may take a few fights for Figueroa to get a title shot.
On the undercard of Fulton versus Figueroa there was a good fight between Raeese Aleem and Eduardo Baez. Aleem fought a good fight and won a majority decision which I felt he deserved. I don’t think that was his best performance but I still want to see him fight Stephen Fulton next. Eduardo Baez proved hes around world level and a fight between him and Aaron Alameda, who also fought on the undercard, would be entertaining and a significant fight for both. Gary Antonio Russell won a majority decision over Alejandro Santiago who I felt deserved to win but the judges disagreed. Santiago has had a lot of bad luck with decisions throughout his career and it would be nice too see him get another opportunity off of a good performance like this. Russell is a competent fighter but admits himself he needs more fights before challenging the elite bantamweights such as Naoya Inoue. Kevin Johnson scored another upset win versus the previously unbeaten 17-0 Rock Dodler Myrthil. The towel was thrown in the 9th round by Myrthil’s corner which I think was a good decision. I expect and think Johnson deserves a bigger fight after beating two unbeaten fighters back to back. He’s rebounded well from his two losses and is another good addition to the super lightweight mix around world level.
Teofimo Lopez versus George Kambosos Jnr was a great fight which surprised me as before the fight I thought that Lopez would stop Kambosos in six or seven rounds. Kambosos upset the script by knocking Lopez down in the first round and then out-boxing him to win a split decision and become a unified world champion. Kambosos showed a huge amount of guts to survive the 10th round where he was dropped and more importantly to then dominantly win the 11th round when many fighters would have just tried to survive to the end of the fight rather than dig deep and roll the dice. I enjoyed seeing Kambosos win as he and his father seem like nice people and the win means everything to them. Teofimo will move up in weight now but should also get rid of his dad in the corner and take this as a humbling experience. He didn’t respect Kambosos and payed the price for rushing in with no game plan. He can rebuild at super lightweight where Top Rank his promoters have lots of options for him. George Kambosos can fight whoever he wants whether that ends up being a homecoming fight in Australia or huge fights against Devin Haney or Gervonta Davis. As he said on fight night, hes the emperor and the man to beat at lightweight.
On the undercard Azinga Fuzile and Kenichi Ogawa faced off for the vacant IBF super featherweight world title. Fuzile started off well and controlled the pace on the back foot but after getting caught and put down with a right hand in the 5th didn’t seem willing to engage. Ogawa was fairly dominant from that point onwards and stalked Fuzile with intelligent pressure, not allowing him any opportunities to land the one big counter he was looking for. Ogawa dropped Fuzile twice in the 12th round to secure a victory on the scorecards and become champion. He was emotional afterwards saying he wanted to bring the belt back to his children in Japan. I was disappointed in Fuzile as I think he’s a good fighter but he couldn’t get much going in this fight and credit has to go to Ogawa for that who put on the best performance of his career. Ogawa seems like a big puncher but I expect a lot of super featherweights will be confident of beating him. Hearn who now promotes Ogawa has said that he’ll make fights with Joe Cordina and Zelfa Barrett next. Both would be good fights but Barrett has to get through his hard final eliminator fight first. For Fuzile I think he should take a break for a few months and assess what went wrong, he’s only young so a few confidence building fights versus faded gatekeepers or respected journeymen would be fine.
Raymond Ford stopped Felix Caraballo in the 8th round and successfully defended his WBA continental featherweight title. Ford picked Caraballo with fast hands and combinations to the head and body. Caraballo landed a few right hands and pressured Ford on the ropes occasionally but Ford never seemed bothered. A body shot hurt Caraballo in the 8th and after Ford followed up with a flurry of punches the ref stepped in. If the fight hadn’t been so one sided and Caraballo hadn’t taken so many punches then I doubt the ref would have stopped the fight. I think it was the correct decision as Caraballo is to tough for his own good. Ford should keep active and keep improving as he’s still only eleven fights into his career. Four fights against a raised level of competition next year would be great before a big 2023. I think he has a lot of potential if moved correctly and is also entertaining to watch.
Zhilei Zhang remained unbeaten by stopping the overmatched Craig Lewis in the second round. I’m glad Zhang is healthy after he suffered Kidney failure in his last fight and i certainly don’t begrudge him a soft touch for his comeback fight. At 23-0-1 and 38 years of age it’s beyond time he stepped up and fought better competition. He called out Filip Hrgovic post fight which is a good sign and I think its likely we see that fight next.
I think this weekend reminded me of why I love boxing and how good the sport can be when it’s at it’s best. Boxing is on a great run at the moment and has reignited the passion which I lost for a while due to all the cancellations of fights. I should be back to consistent writing now that i’m no longer as busy as the last few months and you can expect more interviews with fighters as opposed to just breakdowns of fights