An ugly night in Phoenix, some sweet revenge in California and a fight that has to happen in 2020. Let’s go 12 rounds on a busy boxing weekend.
A big night in Phoenix ends ugly
There was plenty of buzz for Friday’s matchup between Daniel Jacobs and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Jacobs, a former 160-pound champion, was moving up in weight. Chavez, despite a career filled with disappointments, remained popular—more than 10,000 tickets were sold in Talking Stick Arena—and there was hope that his reunion with trainer Freddie Roach would bring the best out of him.
On Thursday, Chavez blew the weight, coming in at 172.7 pounds, well above the 168-pound super middleweight limit. On Friday, Chavez showed some life early, winging haymakers at the smaller Jacobs. In the sixth round, Chavez appeared to injure his nose. He returned to the corner, refusing to sit down. He immediately told Roach he couldn’t continue. The referee waved off the fight. The pro-Chavez crowd reacted angrily, hurling everything from beer cups to shoes into the ring. Security covered Chavez with ring cards as he raced towards the locker room.
As my DAZN broadcast partner, Sergio Mora, a Mexican-American former champion, suggested, for Mexican fans, the worst thing you can do is quit. And from the looks of it, Chavez quit.
Is this the end for Chavez Jr.?
Chavez Jr. has had a few second chances. In 2012, he was blown out by Sergio Martinez, but retained his following thanks to an action packed 12 round that saw Chavez nearly knock Martinez out. In 2015, he moved up to light heavyweight to face Andrzej Fonfara. He got dropped in the ninth round and quit on his stool before the tenth. In 2017, he was shut out in an all-Mexican showdown against Canelo Alvarez.
Promoters—eager to test his popularity—continue to give him opportunities.
Saturday, though, may have been his last one. I talked to Chavez in the bowels of the arena after the fight. He insisted he didn’t quit. He said Jacobs repeated elbows and head butts broke his nose, which caused him to have trouble breathing and forced him to swallow a lot of blood. He called for a rematch.
“I apologize to the fans,” Chavez Jr. said. “I’d love to have a rematch. I got headbutted, he fought a dirty fight, and didn’t even take a point away. He would have been able to continue doing the dirty work.”
He won’t get a rematch, and after that performance he may not get another high level fight. There’s an argument to be made that Chavez has never been very good. He was brilliantly matched by Top Rank early in his career. He won his middleweight title by outpointing Sebastian Zbik. He defended it against Peter Manfredo, Marco Antonio Rubio and Andy Lee. Every time he has stepped up in competition, he has been soundly defeated.
At 33, I expect Chavez to give it another go. He can claim a legitimate injury. He underwent surgery to repair his nose immediately after the fight. But this wasn’t a one-time event. Chavez is simply unreliable. He can no longer make 168-pounds, and he isn’t big enough, strong enough or fast enough to compete at light heavyweight. Perhaps another promoter will look to squeeze a few more bucks out of Chavez Jr.’s career. But they will do so at their own risk.
What to make of Daniel Jacobs?
Jacobs fought well against Chavez Jr. He moved around the ring, was steady with his jab and it was a collection of punches, not a head butt, that broke Chavez’s nose, earning him the knockout. But Jacobs also looked small in the ring. Part of that was Chavez, who looked like a cruiserweight on fight night. But while Jacobs felt fresher not having to squeeze down to the 160-pound middleweight limit, he won’t have a size advantage against any top super middleweight.
In the ring, I asked Jacobs how he felt fighting at super middleweight.
“To me it wasn’t my debut at super middleweight,” Jacobs said. This was at cruiserweight. His jab was so heavy, physically he was a bigger man. I tried my best to be elusive and box, but he was a heavy man. I tried to counter his punches … it took me two or three rounds [to adjust], honestly. I don’t know what he had left. I don’t know if he had something up his sleeves, but I just wanted to be acclimated. I made sure I could take punches, see if he wanted to brawl. But for now I’m comfortable with the victory.”
Jacobs is in a good position. Politically, he can get big fights at super middleweight. Callum Smith, widely recognized as the top super middleweight, is available, as is Billy Joe Saunders, another ex-middleweight titleholder who recently grabbed a 168-pound belt. Expect Jacobs to take another second tier super middleweight fight early in 2020—David Lemieux, who recently ended a nearly year-long layoff, would be a fun matchup—before jumping into the world title mix.
“I want to fight the biggest in the division,” Jacobs said. “I want Jermall Charlo and GGG [Gennadiy Golovkin] again. There’s Billy Joe Saunders and a lot of other champions.”
Jermell Charlo gets his revenge
Jermell Charlo doesn’t like Tony Harrison. Harrison doesn’t like Charlo. Harrison handed Charlo his first loss, taking a debated decision win last December. The bad blood between the two was real, increasing the anticipation for the rematch between two high level junior middleweights on Saturday.
And the fight delivered. Charlo drew first blood, knocking Harrison down in the second round. Harrison settled down though, hammering Charlo with body shots and walking him down throughout the middle rounds of the fight. Entering the eleventh round, most of the ringside media had Harrison with a slight lead.
But the championship rounds have not been good to Harrison. Willie Nelson and Jarret Hurd both knocked him out late in their fights. Harrison tires, he gets sloppy, which is exactly what happened in the eleventh round against Charlo. A blurring left hook sent Harrison down the first time. Four hammering uppercuts followed by a straight right hand put him down again. Harrison showed heart, rising both times well before the ten count. But Charlo, smartly, hunted Harrison after the second knock down, unleashing a barrage of punches that forced referee Jack Reiss to step in.
Charlo gets back on track
Charlo is an impressive fighter. He avenged his lone defeat and now can look ahead to big things at 154-pounds. Again, politically, Charlo is in the right spot. PBC promotes most of the top junior middleweights, a list that includes Hurd, Julian Williams and Erislandy Lara. There’s also a potential trilogy with Harrison, which Charlo suggested down the line could be a pay per view. There’s a real opportunity now for Charlo to become a major star.
The California commission needs to look hard at the actions of referee Ray Corona.
Start to finish, Fox’s three-fight show was terrific. But it wasn’t without controversy. In the opening bout, Karlos Balderas, a 2016 U.S. Olympian and a heralded pro prospect, took on Rene Tellez Giron, a 20-year old, once-beaten Mexican fighter. In the third round, Giron clipped Balderas with a hook that sent Balderas to the canvas. He barely beat the count. When he got to his feet, Corona ordered Balderas to put his hands up and come forward. Balderas dropped his hands and stumbled backwards, the corner keeping him on his feet. Corona asked Balderas to put his hands up again. Balderas did, taking a shaky step towards the referee. Corona allowed it to continue.
This was a horrific decision by Corona. Balderas was badly hurt and not only failed to respond to instructions, but stumbled backwards when he got them. This should have been an easy stoppage. Was Corona influenced by how much time was left in the round? The bell rang immediately after the fight resumed, with Balderas nearly falling face first into his corner. But that should not matter. By any competent interpretation, Balderas had been knocked out.
Fortunately, Corona’s decision didn’t change the outcome: Giron dropped Balderas with another left hook in the sixth round, and Balderas couldn’t beat the count. But Corona owes the commission—and Giron, frankly—an explanation as to why he allowed Balderas to continue. In boxing, we pay a lot of lip service to fighter safety. Letting a badly hurt Balderas continue doesn’t seem to be showing much concern for his safety.
Location, location, location
The atmosphere’s were decidedly different in Phoenix and Ontario. In Phoenix, promoter Eddie Hearn took advantage of Chavez’s popularity to attract a huge, fired up crowd. In Ontario, the building was roughly half full and had little energy. The decision to place Harrison-Charlo II in Ontario was perplexing. Harrison is from Detroit, a product of Emanuel Steward’s famed Kronk gym. Charlo is Texas-based, and has fought primarily in New York in recent years.
So what was this fight doing in California?
The lack of effort promoters put in to developing a ticket-buying fan base is a major problem in boxing. Every high level fighter should have a home base. Terence Crawford is a huge draw in Omaha. Jose Ramirez sells out in Fresno, Calif. Errol Spence is becoming a big attraction in Texas. It’s good for the fighters to fight in a high energy environment. It’s good for television to have a raucous crowd in the background.
Opponents benefit, too. Consider: On Saturday, Keith Idec, a writer for Boxing Scene and a friend of the SI Boxing Podcast, and I had dinner at a local bar after Harrison-Charlo. A pair of Mexican-American fans approached us. One of them told us about some friends who attended Jacobs-Chavez. He said these friends expressed frustration with Chavez’s performance on Friday. But they gushed about Daniel Jacobs, a fighter they didn’t have much interest in before but will follow now.
There is a benefit to selling tickets, even if the gate isn’t spectacular. Promoters would be wise to understand that.
Errol Spence speaks
It has been more than two months since unified welterweight titleholder Errol Spence survived a horrific car crash in Dallas. Spence has not been seen or heard from since the single car crash. He reappeared in Ontario on Saturday, where he was interviewed on the Fox broadcast. Some highlights:
· Spence said he walked away from the crash without any significant injuries. “Really I was just sore, my whole body was just sore, it was a miracle from God,” Spence said. “It really protected me during the accident because anybody else probably would have been killed. It was just a blessing from God that I was able to make it safe and that I was able to return back to boxing next year.”
· He says he plans to return to the ring in May or June—and he wants a tough test. "I already started training last week, and I'm feeling good,” Spence said. “I hit the mitts and everything and ran, too. I'm feeling good, so I can continue training. I've been working with my coach [Derrick James], running and training. I was back last week. I wasn't sore or anything. I just felt like I took a long time to rest, so I feel real good … Now I think I'm rejuvenated, and I'm ready to get back in the gym and train hard and hopefully fight one of the top fighters. I don't want a tune-up fight. I want to fight [Manny] Pacquiao or [Danny] Garcia if he wins his fight. I want to fight Danny Garcia. I was supposed to fight him in January, but I had my accident. That's the guys I'm looking to fight.”
· Spence added that he has no restrictions at all when it comes to training. “I've been cleared,” Spence said. “They did all types of scans on me. They think it's a miracle. I can't explain it. All I got to do is thank God that I'm here. I'm healthy, I can touch my kids and kiss them, and I'm here with my mother and my father and I can give the fans what they've been wanting. They've been wanting me to come back, and I'll definitely put on a great show when I do come back. The second time around, I'm not going to take anything for granted."
Look, there’s no point in playing doctor. A look at Spence reveals that his face is still healing from the injuries. But the truth is we will have no idea if Spence can get back to being the same elite fighter until he gets back in the ring. He says he doesn’t want a tune-up fight, but don’t be surprised if PBC lines him up with a softer touch, maybe one of his mandatory challengers. That car crash was horrifying. Spence is lucky to be alive. Easing his way back into boxing may be the smarter move.
Will we finally get Andrade vs. Charlo?
There are few more obvious fights that need to be made than a middleweight matchup between Jermall Charlo and Demetrius Andrade. Charlo and Andrade are very good. Both are unbeaten. Both have a middleweight title. Both have had major problems securing top opponents. Charlo is coming off a knockout win over Dennis Hogan. Andrade will defend his title next month against Luke Keeler.
Both fighters have clamored for a shot at Canelo Alvarez and Gennadiy Golovkin, the top money fighters at 160-pounds. Neither, though, are likely to get it. They simply don’t represent enough reward for the risk. Charlo-Hogan had an average audience of 249,000 viewers on Showtime. DAZN doesn’t release its streaming numbers, but it is safe to say Andrade is not driving subscriptions.
How do they up their value?
Fight each other.
This really should be so easy. Sure, there are political problems. Charlo is a PBC fighter who fights on Showtime. Andrade works with Matchroom and is on DAZN. On Thursday, Eddie Hearn told me he made a “massive” offer to Charlo to fight Andrade in May. It was a one-fight deal, Hearn said, without any future obligations. Hearn added that if Showtime was willing to make Andrade a comparable offer, he would be happy to send Andrade across the street.
This is a no-brainer. Charlo-Andrade is a major fight. It would unify two belts in the 160-pound division. And the winner would have a strong case that they have earned a shot at Canelo or Golovkin. What else can they do? Showtime featured Chris Eubank Jr. on the undercard of Charlo-Hogan. If matched with Charlo, it’s another ratings disaster. Sergiy Derevyanchenko is willing to fight Charlo, but that’s as risky as an Andrade fight without the reward.
Derevyanchenko, it should be noted, has no interest in facing Andrade.
Phone calls need to be made. Emails sent. Two elite middleweights in their primes need to stop wasting their time looking for someone else.
Anthony Joshua to return in April?
While Joshua is still working to figure out how he can keep all his titles—both the IBF and the WBO are calling for Joshua to make mandatory defenses of their belts—the expectation is Joshua will face IBF mandatory Kubrat Pulev in April in the UK. Ideally, Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn can work out a deal with Oleksandr Usyk, the WBO mandatory challenger, to take an interim fight—Derrick Chisora’s name has been floated—before a Joshua showdown before the end of the year.
Golovkin to return in March
Meanwhile, Golovkin, two months removed from a rugged fight against Derevyanchenko, is being penciled in to return in March against Kamil Szeremeta, the IBF’s top contender. The hope is that if Golovkin can win impressively, a much discussed third fight against Canelo Alvarez can be made for September.
Speaking of Canelo …
All quiet on his next opponent. Alvarez is expected to fight at 168-pounds next, after vacating the 175-pound belt he won in November. Hearn promotes two of the top super middleweights—Smith and Saunders—and expects Alvarez to choose to face one of them. Hearn has not had any contact with Alvarez’s promoter, Golden Boy, but there are strong rumblings that Saunders, a former middleweight, will be the choice.