By Cliff Rold
Boxing followers can only respond to what’s on paper. Sometimes, the conventional thinking that forms around certain fights is wrong.
Jack Johnson-James Jeffries and Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao are examples of battles hyped in their time as the “Fight of the Century” that turned out to be duds of the day. Donald Curry-Lloyd Honeyghan and Mike Tyson-Buster Douglas were just stops along the way to the possibilities of Curry-Marvin Hagler and Tyson-Evander Holyfield until they weren’t.
Not every great match made turns out to be.
Not every perceived mismatch really is.
This Saturday, we have two perceived mismatches on tap. At Heavyweight (NBC, 8:30 PM EST/5:30 PM PST), Deontay Wilder (34-0, 33 KO) will defend his WBC belt for the second time against Johann Duhaupas (32-2, 20 KO). At Flyweight (BeIn Espanol, 11 PM EST/8 PM PST), WBA/WBO titlist Juan Francisco Estrada (32-2, 23 KO) will attempt his fifth title defense against former WBA titlist Hernan “Tyson” Marquez (39-5-1, 28 KO).
On paper, these look ugly.
Even hardcore boxing people scratched their heads wondering who Duhaupas was when the fight was announced. Somehow, the WBC rates Duhaupas eleventh . It’s remarkable considering there doesn’t appear to be anyone in the current top-forty he’s beaten. If a name was overlooked, they are well down the list.
The high WBC rating of Duhaupas should shock no one. Prior to his title win over Bermane Stiverne, this author noted :
Deontay Wilder has risen through the ratings of the WBC by sheer numbers. A check of the most current WBC ratings at Heavyweight show that Wilder is undefeated against their top forty Heavyweights.
That’s not a big deal.
It’s easy to be undefeated against the top forty guys in the WBC ratings when you haven’t fought any of them. That’s not a misprint. Wilder is rated number one by the WBC and hasn’t faced one guy rated in the 39 slots below him.
At least Duhaupas lost two fights ago to their tenth rated contender, Erkan Teper.
It must have been a really impressive loss.
That’s sarcasm for those who don’t always pick it up.
The fight is on YouTube. There was nothing impressive about it. He enters off a win over former title challenger Manuel Charr. No one knew how Charr got rated as highly as he did back when he got a shot either.
Ratings from sanctioning bodies are not, in any way, an inherent meritocracy. This is just the latest example.
To show this isn’t just picking on the WBC, the rankings for Tyson Marquez by the WBA and WBO are even more head scratching.
Marquez is an accomplished professional. Unlike Duhaupas, he is a known name by those who follow the lower weight classes. His wars with Luis Concepcion, Brian Viloria, and Giovani Segura were all memorable and he holds some status as a former 112 lb. beltholder.
Enough to be rated third by both sanctioning bodies, or even at all, heading into this Saturday?
Consider the facts. Marquez is 5-3-1 in his last nine bouts. All of the losses (to Viloria, Segura, and McJoe Arroyo) were by stoppage. He has not fought at Flyweight since the Segura loss in November 2013. The loss to Arroyo in June 2014 was a title eliminator at 115 lbs. In three fights since, he has fought as high as 119 ½ lbs. and never below the Jr. Bantamweight limit of 115.
How can any organizations third rated fighter not have fought in the division in almost two years and not within at least one division in over a year? Further, how can we be sure a fighter who hasn’t made 112 lbs. in almost two years can safely make the weight for a fight with one of the best fighters in the world in any division?
Marquez’s two most recent wins came against stay busy opposition. The fight before that was a meandering draw against a Ricardo Roman who entered at 9-5-2. In the fight with Segura, Marquez’s legs were a mess from early on. The guts he showed in making a war of it were commendable. It was still a ton of punishment. He was never even in the fight with Arroyo and hasn’t looked anywhere near the form he had going into the fight with Viloria.
Estrada-Marquez will likely draw a lot of eyes in Mexico and plenty of curiosity here. Having a name, a brand, matters. So does looking past the name and seeing the likely reality. This doesn’t even have the hopeful look of a crossroads fight.
Could perceptions be wrong about either of these bouts?
In the case of Wilder, there is still a hesitancy to see anything as a mismatch. Put another way: is Wilder really good enough, has he really proven enough, to perceive this as a genuine mismatch?
His has been a carefully constructed career. Struggling in spots with a rugged but suspect fighter like Eric Molina in his first defense renewed cynicism about Wilder. He has a mandatory looming with experienced veteran Alexander Povetkin so a stay busy defense isn’t that out of the norm.
Duhaupas, at 6’5 and without a knockout loss on his mark, has enough size to have a ‘what if a big one lands’ kind of chance. He’s painfully slow, but he should stand up awhile and maybe that’s the only thing that matters. In 34 bouts, Wilder has gone only 79 rounds. Povetkin has gone 177 in 30 bouts against several world-class fighters like Wladimir Klitschko, Marco Huck, Eddie Chambers, Ruslan Chagaev, and Carlos Takam. Since a loss to Klitschko in 2013, he’s won three straight by knockout.
Any experiences Wilder can garner before that test should be welcome and is needed.
In the case of Estrada-Marquez, it’s much harder to envision even a puncher’s chance scenario. Since a competitive loss to Roman Gonzalez in 2012, Estrada is 5-0 and appears to be moving into the full flush of prime. One fight after his unification win over Marquez, Viloria was outboxed and outfought by Estrada. Two fights after the Segura-Marquez war, Estrada completely undressed Segura.
Marquez will put up a fight. He always does. But he enters an old 27 with a lot of miles and no sign of improved defense. Triangle theories don’t always work in boxing. This is a case where they might be telling us quite a bit.
History tells us anything can happen in a boxing ring. Sometimes the fight everyone was certain would go as planned turns into a time capsule to remind us how little we know.
On paper, both of these title contests look like mismatches.
It would be shocking if they didn’t play out to expectations.
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]