By Cliff Rold
After building some early brand in slower winter weeks, the third offering in the Boxcino tournaments comes in one of the most crowded weeks of the boxing year to date. After complaints about a lack of action as the snow fell, we now have a weekend with more than a half dozen notable televised cards, three of them on Friday alone.
Sandwiched between a Fox Sports offering earlier, and ShoBox card later, the Boxcino eight-round semifinals at Middleweight (ESPN2, 9 PM EST/6 PM PST) will try to build something the parallel Lightweight tournament seemingly had from its first bell:
The quarterfinals were perfectly viewable boxing, but whereas the action at 135 provided some across the board drama, the Middleweights sort of fizzled. Three fairly one-sided knockouts and a steady boxer’s duel set the stage for superior matches this time around. Two of the three undefeated men who started the field remain and both appear to have a good chance to go all the way.
There is a room for fresh blood at 160 lbs. The division isn’t bad right now but it’s not exactly hot either and it’s top heavy. World Champion Sergio Martinez isn’t getting any younger and is playing the businessman these days, looking for the most dollars against men who aren’t proven Middleweights. Peter Quillin is stuck watching most of the top names in the division fighting on other networks. Gennady Golovkin may have to move up to find his biggest chances for a splash. Felix Sturm is in Germany and likely to stay there.
Below them, it’s a drop.
What will we see in the semi’s Friday that might speak to tomorrow?
Brandon Adams (13-0, 9 KO) vs. Raymond Gatica (14-2, 9 KO)
Adams might not have had the easiest draw of the opening round but he may have had the most worn. Daniel Edouard was almost a contender once upon a time but, entering off a three-year layoff, that time seemed very long ago indeed. Only 24, it was what would be a solid routine development win for Adams under any other circumstance. Given the exposure the tournament allows, it gets to be a little bit more here. Gatica scored what could be considered an upset of undefeated Sena Agbeko, a solid follow up to a questionable decision loss in his previous fight against Fernando Guerrero. Gatica had Guerrero down in the first round of that contest and kept it close to the end. We know he can crack a little bit and he’s seen tougher competition to date than Adams. Could another upset be in the offing? We’ll know a lot more about the value of Adams’s “0” by night’s end. Of the two matches set for Friday, this looks like the better action clash on paper so either way all should be entertained.
Vitaliy Kopylenko (23-0, 13 KO) vs. Willie Monroe Jr. (16-1, 6 KO)
Kopylenko had the appearance of the most complete fighter in the field last time out. It helped that he had a pliant foe in Cerreso Fort but sometimes a showcase is there for a reason. He has a tougher go this time out but how much tougher remains to be seen. Monroe has good bloodlines as part of a fighting family and showed those chops well against Donatas Bondorovas in the first round. Bondorovas tried to mix it up in spots but Monroe boxed wisely and, at 27, showed that this might be a fighter with room to grow over the course of the tournament. He’ll need to grow a lot in one night to proceed to the final. There is a notable gap in overall quality of competition between both men on paper and it favors Kopylenko. Countering that is a speed gap in favor of Monroe. Kopylenko goes good to the body and places shots well, but Monroe is more agile and could force the Ukrainian to follow him, creating counter opportunities. This could develop into a stiff chess match as the rounds tick by but Monroe will have to watch the clock. If he’s looking to play the long game, eight rounds could work against him.
Regardless of whether either or both of the fights proves memorable, it’s clear the Middleweight tournament is improving as it moves along. Will it end with a genuine new contender? We’ll have a better idea when the final is set.
This scribe digs tournaments…This whole Mikey Garcia drama is interesting but it would be more so if the threat of inactivity really meant anyone would be missing anything. 130 lbs. and, to a lesser degree 135, are both just sort of blah right now. What’s the worst that happens? One less one-man show on HBO? Maybe this can free up some cash to get Juan Francisco Estrada-Giovani Segura on HBO…A boy can dream…And now Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. might not make it to a showdown with Gennady Golovkin? Well, at least that’s one less pay-per-view…A week from now, Bernard Hopkins might be one step closer to 50 years old and halfway to collecting four sanctioning body titles at Light Heavyweight. The first man ever to unify the WBC, WBA, IBF, and WBO belts in any division (Middleweight) did it in 2004. That he would even have a chance to do that again, two classes up, a decade later is absurd…For all the hemming and hawing about a bad undercard before Pacquiao-Bradley II, the overall show ended up being pretty good with the first two fights of the night being well watchable. Sure, it would have been nice to see at least one more marquee-ish match, but there was surely nothing dismal.
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]