by Cliff Rold
It’s always about tomorrow.
Even the biggest nights in boxing history only really lasted from bell to bell. Sure, there can be time for reflection, but the real rush is in the anticipation for, and culmination of, a bout. When it’s over, the question is always the same:
Friday night at the Edgewater Casino in Laughlin, Nevada (ESPN2, 9 PM EST/6 PM PST), four six-round bouts will set the stage for a pair of tomorrows. The real hope has to be what comes after those tomorrows are complete.
It is the beginning of what have been named the “Boxcino” tournaments, two eight-man single elimination tournaments in the Lightweight and Middleweight division. These aren’t the first tournaments boxing fans have had to look forward to. Unlike the HBO Heavyweight tournament in the 80s or the Super Six Super Middleweight tournament a few years ago, this one isn’t looking to crown a champion.
It’s looking for someone who might be a champion later.
In that sense, it’s more akin to the ShoBox Super Middleweight tournamernt in the 2000s. Ultimately, that tournament didn’t end up bearing much fruit. We got a title challenger long after it was over in co-winner (by way of a draw with Anthony Hanshaw) in Jean-Paul Mendy. One could be forgiven if, the night Mendy was stopped by Lucian Bute in 2011, most had forgotten that tournament altogether.
Will we get better here?
Maybe we’ll get something closer to “The Contender?”
While it wasn’t always must-see TV, the reality show that ran for four seasons across three networks had its successes. Season one produced two eventual titlists (Winner Sergio Mora and Ishe Smith), season’s two and three both produced one (Cornelius Bundrage and Sakio Bika, respectively), and season four winner Troy Ross came close at Cruiserweight a couple times.
If either of the “Boxcino” tournaments can reach the same heights, the format is well worth it.
Focusing this week on the Lightweight field, there could be room for optimism. This week’s quarterfinals will feature four six-round contests and matches a solid range of veterans and prospects, none of them older than 30 years of age.
The two to watch are the pair of undefeated competitors in the field. Boxing loves it’s ‘0’s’ and if someone emerges from the field unscathed, there is a very real chance of a contender having emerged.
It’s the right division for a fresh face.
Lightweight has seen better days.
The last few years at 135 lbs. have been a hit or miss selection of fights and fighters. New talent like Terrence Crawford and Omar Figueroa speak to a brighter future, and Jr. Lightweight titlist Mikey Garcia may rise in weight soon to invigorate the class (and perhaps the career of the stalled Yuriorkis Gamboa). Ricky Burns is a draw abroad and fun to watch but seems to be a little better at the gate than in the ring. This Saturday, undefeated Russian Denis Shafikov has a shot at a belt against Miguel Vazquez and could emerge as a force.
Like the ‘Boxcino’ tournament, Lightweight is currently more about what is next tomorrow than what is today.
The undefeated competitors in “Boxcino” are 28-year old Russian Fedor Papazov (14-0, 9 KO) and 30-year old 2008 Ghanaian Olympian Samuel Kotey Neequaye (21-0, 15 KO). They are, wisely, not matched with each other. Just as wisely, they are not matched in the same bracket.
The table is set for a possible showdown of unbeatens in the final. They are each two wins away.
So is everyone else in the field. Here is how the tournament lays out.
Yakabu Amidu (21-4-2, 19 KO) vs. Chris Rudd (12-1, 8 KO): Rudd enters off his first loss, an eight round majority decision against William Jackson. Amidu lost two straight in 2013 before a draw with former and future 130 lb. title challenger Juan Carlos Burgos. Amidu also has a stoppage loss to current WBO Lightweight champion Ricky Burns on his ledger. Amidu is the far more experienced of the two and represents a big step up in competition for Rudd.
Papazov vs. Petr Petrov (32-4-2, 15 KO): Petrov was stopped in four by current WBA Welterweight titlist Marcos Maidana in 2011 but won his next three in a row before a decision loss in his last start to undefeated Dejan Zlaticanin. This all-Russian clash will be a sound test of where Papazov is and, with only six rounds to play with, the veteran across the ring will be a stern test.
Neequaye vs. Fernando Carcamo (15-5, 12 KO): Carcamo has won five in a row by knockout, including an impressive win over former US Olympian Vicente Escobedo. He could test the chin of the African. There isn’t a notable edge in experience in this fight like there are in both of the bracket one contests. Carcamo has been a pro only a short time longer and doesn’t have the same depth of amateur background. However, the most recognizable name on Neequaye’s resume might be aged trial horse Dorin Spivey. If he can clear the hurdles ahead, Neequaye’s oppositional experience will improve in the month’s ahead.
Miguel Gonzalez (22-3, 16 KO) vs. Miguel Mendoza (21-2-2, 21 KO): Pencil this in as potentially the fight of the night. Mexico’s Mendoza has been stopped in one of his two losses at the hands of Filipino former title challenger Rey Bautista. Gonzalez has never been stopped and enters off two straight wins, including a decision over former Lightweight titlist Miguel Acosta. With both men knowing they have a short track to work with, we could really see the leather fly here.
So, will any of this give us a new star at Lightweight? It’s impossible to say before the fights begin but that chance that it could is good enough. For now, we have four interesting fights to look forward to and a tomorrow of semi-finals to follow. That’s enough to cover this Friday’s first bell to last.
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 protected]