by Cliff Rold
When the Boxcino tournaments began, there was a simple question in play: would either the Lightweight or Middleweight brackets give us a contender?
The answer is increasingly yes.
While the press ratings at TBRB, Ring, or ESPN might not rate either tournament winner in their top tens just yet, all four combatants in action this week are rising through the ranks of the World Boxing Association. Expect the World Boxing Organization to follow suit.
Those are the bodies that can ultimately enforce mandatory challengers. Wednesday, it was announced that the tournament winners would be awarded the NABA and NABO belts. While those aren’t titles that merit much attention generally, the implication is significant. The NABA belt is tied to the WBA; the NABO is tied to the WBO.
Following up with Marc Abrams, the press representative for Banner Promotions throughout the Boxcino tournament, it was asked how close it was felt the winners this Friday would be to a mandatory challenger spot. The response was that promoter Arthur Pelullo expects the winners to be in position to fight for a title within the next six to eight months.
Sanctioning body ratings reflect an element of merit. They also reflect those who are willing to fight for the regional and larger belts of particular sanctioning bodies on their way up. That’s not an endorsement of the way sanctioning bodies do business, a subject with ample room for debate. It’s recognition that the way they do has real impact.
It gives Friday’s finalists a lot to fight for (ESPN2, 9 PM EST/6 PM PST).
We have a pair of well-matched bouts with the winners in doubt and two preceding rounds of tournament action to create an investment in the finalists. Six months ago, these matches might have gone largely unnoticed. The tournament format has given them added allure, as have the performances of the competitors so far.
The more entertaining bracket so far, from start to finish, has been at Lightweight. This isn’t a distinct period in the Lightweight division. None of the titlists has really emerged to capture the imagination and it feels a long way from the mid-2000s round robin that produced arguably the greatest Lightweight Championship bout ever fought (Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo I).
Friday’s tournament winner will exit with three straight wins in a bracket that delivered well on action and provided all with substantial television time. Will the finals maintain the action standard established to date?
Lightweight Final: Petr Petrov (34-4-2, 16 KO) vs. Fernando Carcamo (17-5, 13 KO)
After seeing both these men in the first two rounds, this is an easy fight to look forward to.
Petrov, currently rated #12 by the WBA, entered the field off a decision loss in his lone 2013 outing, and had previously been stopped by Marcos Maidana. In his two Boxcino contests, he’s stood out as a polished, sturdy pro. He knocked off the unbeaten Fedor Papazov in the opener, a crisp contest for all six rounds. He stopped Chris Rudd in four to get to the final. The Maidana loss is the only time he’s been knocked out, and getting knocked out by Maidana is no sin. Already 31, Petrov has been fighting like a man who knows this is the best shot he’s ever going to get and he’s making the most of it.
The same can be said of the 23-year old Carcamo, rated #11 by the WBA currently. Carcamo was stopped in three by Robert Rodriguez in 2012 and lost his next bout by decision. Since then, he’s won seven in a row, six inside the distance. Given his age, one can wonder if Carcamo is just hitting his stride. In the opener, he walked through the undefeated Samuel Kotey Neequaye and dropped Miguel Gonzalez in the first round before grinding out a majority decision win in the semi’s.
Carcamo has a height advantage (5’11 to 5’7) while the overall experience edge goes to Petrov. Rudd had height on Petrov as well but without the pop Carcamo threatens with. Will the more precise Petrov bring Carcamo down to size?
And the way these two have been fighting, does this go the full scheduled ten rounds? Of the two finals, the Middleweights look the more likely to go the route.
Middleweight Final: Brandon Adams (14-0, 9 KO) vs. Willie Monroe Jr. (17-1, 6 KO)
The 24-year old Adams, already rated #6 by the WBA, was one of the early favorites in the field. With very little amateur background to speak of, he’s cultivating his craft as he goes and continues to improve. The Middleweight field wasn’t as balanced as the Lightweights, evident in their less compelling quarterfinal round. Adams sailed against worn veteran Daniel Edouard, dropping him in round four and forcing stoppage before the fifth. He got a better test, and the tournament got better, in the semifinals. It probably should have been unanimous but Raymond Gatica managed to earn a card in a split decision win for Adams. Now, Adams faces a fighter who quietly may be the most impressive of the Middleweight lot so far.
Monroe, 27, is the nephew of former Philadelphia Middleweight contender Willie “The Worm” Monroe. His namesake once defeated Marvin Hagler, a feat this Monroe has a long way to to go in hoping to emulate. He’s certainly showing there is something in the genes. He showed chops in outpointing the wild Donatas Bondorovas in his opener and was superb in outboxing early tournament favorite Vitaliy Kopylenko in the semifinals. Monroe uses his feet, quick hands, and technique to win where brute power lacks.
Of the two, Monroe is the more polished while Adams appears to be the better athlete. Over the long term, Adams may have more upside as he continues to develop. Friday isn’t about the long term. It’s about ten rounds and we’ll see if Adams can continue to rise to the next challenge offered him.
Middleweight isn’t in the same state of flux Lightweight is. There is a clear champion (Sergio Martinez). There are also three solid beltholders in Gennady Golovkin, Peter Quillin, and Felix Sturm, with many already tabbing Golovkin as one of the best in any weight class.
Golovkin holds the WBA belt, Quillin the WBO. If this is where the Adams-Monroe winner will look for opportunities after Friday night, the Boxcino final is only the beginning of some rugged mountain climbing to come.
Regardless of who wins in either final, this is the end of this chapter of their professional journeys. Saturday morning, they will wake up with a whole new beginning to look forward to.
Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao has been dead since 2010. This week’s maintenance of the status quo put flowers on the grave…How does one measure the magnitude of a fight? It’s a fun question because by measure of tickets sold and total global audience, next week’s Carl Froch-George Groves rematch might be the biggest fight of 2014. By measure of money, it won’t be. Boxing has always measured the prize in prizefighting first…Adonis Stevenson-Andrej Fonfara will probably be better than the odds. Fonfara is a real contender…Boxcino isn’t the only place where rising lights are in action. Keep an eye on Julian Williams this weekend on the Stevenson-Fonfara undercard. He’s proving a serious comer at Jr. Middleweight…The fight of the week, period, might not be in boxing. Oberyn Martell versus The Mountain on Game of Thrones is coming. Some of us read the book. No spoilers here.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com