By Michael Rosenthal
The good news this past Saturday is that we saw a number of good fighters in action, including middleweight star Daniel Jacobs, new IBF 175-pound titleholder Artur Beterbiev and former U.S. Olympian Jose Ramirez.
The bad news is that the major fights weren’t competitive. The television networks, which presumably strive to entertain fans, have had better nights.
Here is a look at the biggest winners and losers.
Daniel Jacobs: Call it a showcase. Call it stay-busy fight. Call it a prelude to something meaningful. What you can’t call it was much of a fight.
Jacobs, fighting for the first time since he lost a close decision to Gennady Golovkin on March 18, outclassed then-unbeaten Luis Arias to win a near-shutout decision on Saturday night in Long Island, New York.
“The Miracle Man” said he was rusty after eight-plus months out of the ring but he didn’t look it, as Arias, taking a giant step up in opposition, had no clue how to cope with Jacobs’ all-around ability. The scores were appropriate: 118-109, 120-107 (my score), 119-108.
The only criticism might be that Jacobs was unable to stop a far inferior opponent in front of his fellow New Yorkers, especially when you consider his punching power. Gotta close the show. That’s called marketing.
Give Arias some credit for surviving; he’s tough. Jacobs also played it a little too carefully. A few more risks might’ve resulted in a more satisfying conclusion.
Bottom line, though: Jacobs looked as sharp as ever. At 30, he appears to be at the peak of his powers. Now he just needs another big-name dance partner.
He said he’ll be at ringside for the December 16 fight between WBO middleweight titleholder Billy Joe Saunders and banger David Lemieux outside Montreal. Jacobs should get the winner in what would be his second opportunity to fight for a real 160-pound title, after the Golovkin disappointment. (Jacobs held the secondary WBA “regular” title.)
He’d probably beat either Saunders or Lemieux. He boxes at least as well as Saunders but has much more power and he is a level about Lemieux, who can crack but has limitations.
The more-compelling challenge could lie ahead, as he seeks a match with the winner of the proposed rematch between Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez. I wouldn’t pick Jacobs to beat either of them but they would essentially be 50-50 matchups.
Indeed, Jacobs might emerge as the best middleweight in the world. That’s why glorified workouts against the likes of Luis Arias (18-1, 9 KOs) are so unsatisfying.
BIGGEST WINNER II
Artur Beterbiev: The deficiency in Beterbiev’s performance – albeit a relatively minor one – was illustrated in the fight that followed his Saturday night in Fresno, California, between Jose Ramirez and Mike Reed.
The first few minutes of the Ramirez-Reed fight generated more energy than the entire 11-plus rounds of Beterbiev-Enrico Koelling.
I like Beterbiev – a lot. The former Russian amateur star has refined technique, a terrific jab and game-stopping punching power. Hence his professional record: 12 fights, 12 knockouts.
Some might call him overly robotic, however. He fights more like a one-speed machine than a hungry, passionate warrior. That’s fine if all you care about is winning. The periodic boos during the Koelling fight were an indication that fans want more.
That doesn’t mean he or anyone else should fight recklessly. It only means that he should take the fans into account if he wants to become a bona fide attraction.
Beterbiev patiently and efficiently broke down his German opponent and finally stopped him in the final minute of the final round. One reason it took so long is that Koelling (23-2, 6 KOs) fought cautiously. Another is that Beterbiev didn’t really turn up the heat until the end even though he was never going to be hurt by his light-punching foe.
It was a good victory. It simply could’ve been better.
Of course, he’ll have more and better opportunities to demonstrate what he’s made of. Other 175-pound stars such as Dmitry Bivol, Olexander Gvozdyk, Badou Jack, Sergey Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson are potential opponents.
If Beterbiev can fight his way through such a gauntlet, it won’t matter much if he isn’t the greatest crowd pleaser. But he’ll make more fans – and money – if he generate cheers instead of boos.
Ramirez, from the small town of Avenal, has attracted fans in the San Joaquin Valley in part because of his support of farmers and field workers in the agriculture-rich central California. The fact he’s an exciting fighter is a bonus. The well-schooled junior welterweight contender, clearly intent on putting on a show for the 13,838 packed into Save Mart Center, attacked the Reed (23-1, 12 KOs) with abandon from the opening bell and finished him only 1:43 into the second round. The grateful crowd went nuts. And this could be only the beginning. Ramirez is now set to fight Amir Imam (21-1, 18 KOs) – who stopped Johnny Garcia (19-6-1, 11 KOs) in four rounds on the Fresno card – for the vacant WBC title in early 2018. Imam, quick and skillful, is no pushover but I’m picking the more-dynamic Ramirez to win his first world title at only 25 years old. That certainly would please the folks in the Fresno area. … Another big winner was the gifted Josh Taylor, who became the first to stop skillful veteran Miguel Vazquez in a competitive fight Saturday in Edinburgh, Scotland. Taylor, facing his toughest opponent yet, outboxed and then finally stopped the once-feared Vazquez (39-6, 15 KOs) in the ninth round. Taylor (11-0, 10 KOs) is on the verge of becoming a star. Vazquez, a lightweight titleholder for four years, appears to be nearing the end of his career. On a sidenote: Taylor, who lives outside Edinburgh, offered in the ring afterward to take Vazquez out for a beer. That sort of gesture goes a long way with the fans. … Liam Smith (26-1-1, 14 KOs) defeated Liam Williams (16-2-1, 11 KOs) by a majority decision in their rematch Saturday in Newcastle, England, to remain a viable 154-pound contender. Smith won their first fight after Williams, cut badly, couldn’t continue. Williams is one of the biggest losers of the weekend. He’ll have to battle if he hopes to become a contender. …
Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller (20-0-1, 18 KOs) looked impressive in his ninth-round KO victory over Mariusz Wach (33-3, 17 KOs) on the Jacobs-Arias card to remain the heavyweight title picture. Beyond that, the victory means next to nothing. Wach is a tough guy but no measuring stick, at least when you’re discussing how Miller might fare against Anthony Joshua or Deontay Wilder. Plus, Wach injured his right hand during the fight. He wasn’t even at his best. Miller moves well for a guy of his girth, throws a lot of punches and has some power. That said, let’s withhold judgment at least until he faces a next-level opponent, someone like Alexander Povetkin, Dillian Whyte or Dominic Breazeale. … Cletus “Hebrew Hammer” Seldin (21-0, 17 KOs) probably won’t accomplish great things in boxing; he is a late starter with limited skills. He has a lot going for him, though – a good story (Jewish fighter from Long Island), real punching power and charisma. And he now has a victory over a pretty good opponent. Roberto Ortiz (35-2-2, 26 KOs) was a step up in opposition – his only loss had come against Lucas Matthysse – but he ended up in the same place as most of Seldin’s opponents, on the wrong end of a knockout. Seldin, doing damage with his big overhand right, scored a third-round KO in front of his hometown fans on the Jacobs-Arias card. I think it’s safe to say that Seldin’s run will be entertaining as long as it lasts. … ESPN was wise to hire author Mark Kriegel to join its broadcast team, as he adds a level of depth unusual to televised boxing. He is smart, quick and knows the sport. His interesting banter with analyst Teddy Atlas on the Beterbiev-Koelling card gave you an idea of what Kriegel brings. And it will get better as they get used to one another.