Billed as an all-action, competitive brawl, it was far from it. After the initial success from the visibly larger Joe Smith Jr. who imposed his size physically early on, doubling/tripling up on his jabs, Bivol slowly took over from round 3 onwards and was comfortable by round 6. I had it as 118-110 to Bivol in a clear one-sided domination. Bivol was in supreme form, with his usual first-rate measuring of distance by effectively using his front foot as a yardstick and using his feints to evade punches. The highly intelligent Bivol is levels above tough/rugged fighters like Joe Smith Jr., only a fight against Oleksandr Gvozdyk will put his ring smarts to the test, an equally intuitive competitor.
One thing to note is, Bivol is not a big light heavyweight, and in fact I’d argue he’s a little undersized for the weight. This observation stems from his recent fights versus Barrera, Pascal and Smith Jr. His power is not as destructive as initially thought. He has enough respectable power for the light heavyweights to take notice, but not the kind of power that will put these light heavyweights on to the canvas straight away. Nevertheless, Bivol had enough in his arsenal to hurt a durable contender Smith Jr. on three separate occasions throughout the fight and looked for the KO in the last round with punches in quick succession against the ropes.
The call by Bivol for a fight with 168lbs WBA super middleweight world titlist Callum Smith, logically now makes sense taking common physicality into consideration. That would be an intriguing matchup.
Another superb matchup on PBC, Porter versus Ugas pits against each other two decorated amateurs, with Porter translating this successfully into the pro game. Ugas is an archetypal Cuban fighter that is highly technical and very slippery. Last time out, Porter executed the perfect game plan. Disregarding his habitual bull-dog/brawling style, he used outboxing to beat the two-division belt-holder Danny Garcia in a close fight.
This fight was no different. It started off very cagey with minimal activity with both fighters trying to feel each other out and gauging each other’s movements. Porter tried setting traps for the counter right, inviting Ugas in and typically bounced in and out, starting his attacks with a jab and finishing off with over-hand right but with limited success, as Ugas consistently countered him with a jab and right. Ugas was landing the more accurate, cleaner and effective punches which was criminally overlooked during the PBC broadcast on Fox. However, what became apparent was unconventionally the taller fighter in Ugas was landing more blows to the body.
Fans and media alike are quick to shout robbery. This was a really close fight and difficult to score, and was quite clearly the type of fight that could be scored for both fighters. I had it as 115-115 draw, but felt like Ugas was unlucky not to get the nod, it maybe due to Porter being the busier fighter showing effective aggression which may have swayed the judges.
Since destroying Frank Buglioni in a domestic dust up, and giving a very good account of himself against Artur Beterbiev in his first world title shot, dropping Beterbiev to the canvas in the process, Callum Johnson’s stock continues to rise.
He continued his run of form with another brilliant performance against highly-rated contender Sean Monaghan (29-3-0). He blasted Monaghan in a 3rd round KO. Without giving Monaghan room to breathe, he used his jab as a measuring stick to land his powerful right hook, dropping him twice in round 2 and then came out in round 3 and finished with a inexorable barrage of punches.
Make no mistake about it, Johnson is a tough world level contender, has proven himself by moving up from domestic/European to world level and his power will always be game-changer in future matchups.
The super lightweight division is a stacked division with most of the talent currently competing in the World Boxing Super Series, a great initiative and all-round excellent advertisement for the sport where the best truly fight the best.
Outside of that tournament, Maurice Hooker is building up a quite a credible resume. The Dallas, Texas native has fought 4 undefeated fighters back-to-back. This includes, former world titleholder Terry Flanagan and highly-rated contender Alex Saucedo. With his long, gangly, arms that remind you of Street Fighter Dhalsim. He put LesPierre on the canvas in the 9th and he simply was too much en-route to unanimous decision victory.
Hooker uses his reach advantage to his maximum, keeping opponents at bay with his jab to the body and up top, then following this up with multiple straight rights and left and right hooks. A boxer-puncher, Hooker is not afraid to get into a slug-fest, as proven in his last brutal wars vs Saucedo and Flanagan.
140lbs is a division that Hooker may very well grow out of. With recent weight issues, it’s a mystery how Hooker makes weight, a feat in itself. He may well be more suited and strong at 147lbs. For now. Hooker is real top dog at 140lbs and dangerous opponent for anyone such as Taylor, Prograis and Ramirez.
Standing at 6ft 5, with an 85” reach and weighing 240lbs, he towered above his veteran 46yr old, 6ft 1 opponent Amir Mansour. Ajagba made very easy work of his overmatched for and did not even break a sweat. He made use of his mammoth reach, reminiscent of the former undisputed heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis who himself had an 84” reach. As each shot Ajagba landed, Mansour you could really feel how much it hurt Mansour, hence why he did not come out for the 3rd round.
Efe Ajagba, a former 2016 Olympian, is one of the brightest heavyweight prospects along with Yoka and Hrgovic. He really needs a step up in competition to challenge him, as Amir Mansour posed 0 threat. With his large physical frame, reach and power he sure is someone to keep a track of.
There is an influx of Uzebekistani boxers coming through to the pro game from the successful Rio 2016 Olympic boxing team: Murodjon Akhmadaliev, Shakhram Giyasov, Hasanboy Dusmatov, as well as other talented prospects/contenders such as: Shohjahon Ergashev, Qudratillo Abduqaxorov, to name a few.
Israil Madrimov is yet another name part of the gifted crop of Uzbek boxers, boasting an incredible amateur career with gold medals in both Asian Games (2018) and Asian Championships (2017). He was in action on the Bivol vs. Smith Jr. DAZN card. Bearing a physical resemblance to GGG, he somewhat shares a similar boxing style, except he is a bit more fluid. Madrimov is agile, less tight defensively and isn’t afraid to utilise his head to evade punches whilst switching stances unlike GGG. He does, however, employ the same Central Asian/Eastern European traditional thudding jab, followed up by a devastating straight rights that are landed with pin point accuracy, which he was catching Vladimir Hernandez in his pro debut multiple times. Madrimov finished proceedings last night against Frank Rojas with brutal 2nd round KO, showcasing his power by sitting down on his punches during a flurry of combinations. The KO victory was completed with some flashy backflips to celebrate. He’s got star quality written all over him. One could argue he is a bit raw defensively, but the way his career is being fast-tracked (combined records of opponents faced: 34-2-0), he could be well on his way to world title contention in the next few years.
Uzbekistan, much like Ukraine right now, has a bright future ahead to say the least and Madrimov is surely the one to watch for the future!