By Anthony Cocks
Boxing Downunder returned with a bang this past week with a series of big fight announcements featuring world-rated fighters and the first major fight card of the year.
Of course the biggest fight announcement last week came from Jeff Horn’s camp, who have agreed to terms with Top Rank to defend the WBO welterweight title against former WBO lightweight titleholder and undisputed junior welterweight champion Terrence “Bud” Crawford 32-0 (23) on 21 April.
“As far as we’re concerned, it’s pretty much a done deal,” Horn’s trainer Glenn Rushton told AAP. “But no deal is done until it’s done, so we just have to cross t’s, dot I’s and actually get this thing locked down.
“We have certainly agreed on all the key terms and from our side, it’s a go. Now Bob [Arum]’s got to tidy up some loose ends.
“We have total confidence in Bob and Top Rank that he’ll get this all locked up and we’ll have a contract in our hands by the end of next week.”
It was widely expected that the Horn camp would wait on the result on this week’s Anthony Mundine vs Tommy Browne middleweight clash with a reported AUD$2 million offer on the table to fight Mundine should he be victorious.
“We weren’t saying no, but there were too many ifs,” Rushton said. “What if he loses to Tommy Browne? What if he gets injured? What if he doesn’t come up with the money? What if he doesn’t withstand the preparation?
“Then we’ve missed the opportunity with Crawford.
“There’s a lot of moving parts in boxing, it’s a funny business and just weighing everything up, it’s a matter of making the right decision and I believe I’ve made the right decision in going this way.”
If “The Hornet” can defeat Crawford –widely regarded as one of the top three boxers pound-for-pound on the planet – then Rushton, who has been likened to a cross between Tony Robbins and Chuck Norris, must be regarded as one of the premier trainers in the world.
“We’ve always said we want the big fights and they don’t come any bigger than this one,” Rushton said.
“Here we are now, standing in front of another goliath.”
Horn, who became a father for the first time with the birth of his daughter Isabelle to wife Joanna just before the New Year, was last in action in November when he stopped England’s Gary Corcoran in the 11th round of his maiden WBO welterweight world title defence.
In other big fight news, Lucas Browne 25-0 (22) bit down on the mouthpiece and signed to fight WBC #1 heavyweight Dillian “The Body Snatcher” Whyte 22-1 (16) after protracted negotiations between the Big Daddy camp and Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn finally came to fruition. The fight will headline a card at the O2 Arena in London on 24 March with the WBC Silver heavyweight title that Whyte won against Robert Helenius last October up for grabs.
DDP Sports have matched their WBO #4 junior middleweight Dennis “Hurricane” Hogan 26-1-1 (7) with WBO #5 Jimmy Kilrain Kelly 23-1 (9) for the WBO Inter-Continental title in a fight set to take place at the Convention & Exhibition Centre in Brisbane on 7 April. In just their second promotion DDP have managed to secure their second top 10 ranked opponent for their star fighter Hogan, who now appears to be on the fast-track to a world title shot. The WBO strap was claimed by Sadam Ali in an upset when he defeated perennial world champion Miguel Cotto last December.
WBA #9 and IBF #12 bantamweight Jason “The Smooth One” Moloney 15-0 (12) will be back in action when he takes on his best opponent to date in former world title challenger Immanuel “The Prince” Naidjala 23-4-1 (13) of Namibia for the Commonwealth 118-pound title at the St Kilda Town Hall in Melbourne on 24 February.
Not to be outdone, his twin brother Andrew – who is rated WBA #6 and IBF #10 – will be squaring up against Filipino IBF #5 and WBC #11 Rene “The Commander” Dacqual 20-6-1 (6) for his OPBF super flyweight title on the Hosking Promotions show.
Neither Naidjala nor Filipino Dacquel have been stopped in a professional fight. Both of the big hitting Moloneys will be looking to change this. Keeping with the brothers theme, lightweight Qamil Balla and featherweight Ibrahim Balla are also expected to fight on the card.
There were a number of other significant bouts signed over the Aussie summer.
The biggest news of the off-season was the signing of the Anthony Joshua 20-0 (20) versus Joseph Parker 24-0 (18) heavyweight unification bout scheduled to take place at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales on 31 March on a Matchroom Sports-promoted card. The 28-year-old Olympic gold medallist will put up his WBA and IBF world titles against the 26-year-old Kiwi’s WBO strap.
Parker’s manager at Duco Events, David Higgins, did a superlative job as he cajoled, embarrassed and harassed Joshua’s team into giving them the percentage of earnings they insisted they were entitled to as fellow world titleholders. It is believed the end number is around 33-34% of the overall revenue, expected to equate to approximately NZD$12 million for Team Parker.
Never underestimate a Kiwi.
Higgins and Parker travelled to Old Blighty this week to sign the contract and conduct a media conference with Hearn and Joshua to officially announce the fight.
“You did say you wish to unify, there is that old saying be careful what you wish for, but we pay you respect for being a man of your word,” Higgins told Behind the Gloves last week.
“We have a hypothesis,” he continued, “that Joshua is like the English football team. Built up and hyped up, but never steps up when it gets to the top level.”
Next month super middleweight Bilal Akkawy 16-0-1 (14) will get to match his vaunted power with the experience and ring savvy of former world champion Giovanni De Carolis 24-8-1 (12). The 33-year-old Italian won the WBA title with an 11th round TKO of Germany’s Vincent Feigenbutz in their rematch two years ago. De Carolis drew with current champion Tyron Zeuge, another German, in his first title defence before being on the receiving end on a 12th round knockout in their immediate rematch.
Super middleweight contender Rohan “No Mercy” Murdock 21-1 (15) will travel to Corpus Christi, Texas to face American southpaw Frankie Filippone 24-6-1 (8) on 3 February at the Bank of America Center. The fight will take place on the undercard of WBO super middleweight champion Gilberto Ramirez 36-0 (24) versus Habib Ahmed 25-0-1 (17) in what be the Mexican’s third world title defence. Ramirez’s last opponent, Jessie Hart 22-1 (18), will also be featured on the show. Should Murdock be successful, Top Rank plan for him to fight on another Ramirez undercard in Mexico to continue building his profile before matching the two fighters towards in the second half of 2018.
WBC #8 and WBA #13 light heavyweight Blake Caparello 26-2-1 (10) will take on WBC #12 Isaac Chilemba 24-5-2 (10) for the vacant WBC International title on 16 March at the Melbourne Pavilion in Melbourne on a Big Time Boxing promotion. The 30-year-old Chilemba, who has been training under the legendary Roy Jones Jr since 2016, went twelve rounds Sergey Kovalev 18 months ago. The same year he was stopped on his stool in eight against Oleksandr Gvozdyk after breaking his right hand. Southpaw “Il Capo” has also faced Kovalev, knocking him down in the first round of their August 2014 showdown, but the favour was returned threefold in the following round with the fight stopped at 1:47 of the second round. Caparello’s only other loss was to current IBF interim 168-pound champion Andre Dirrell by 10 round unanimous decision in April 2016.
On the same card Commonwealth junior middleweight champion Anthony Buttigieg 13-0 (3) will be making the first defence of the title he won from fellow Aussie Rocky Jerkic last March when he takes on England’s Adam Harper 8-0.
MUNDINE MOVES PAST BROWNE, SIZES UP HORN
Fighting as a middleweight for the first time in three years, Anthony Mundine 48-8 (28) needed just two rounds to demolish Tommy Browne 35-7-2 (13) and promptly called out WBO welterweight champion Jeff Horn in his post-fight interview at the Star City Hotel & Casino in Sydney, Australia on Wednesday night.
Browne started well enough, backing up Mundine in the opening round and clearly landing the harder, more eye-catching shots.
But late in the second round the 42-year-old former WBA super middleweight champion wobbled Browne with a right cross and finished proceedings with a compact left hook just before the bell. Official time of the stoppage was 2:59 of round number two.
“Jeff Horn, we want you, baby,” said Mundine, who claimed the vacant WBO Oriental middleweight title with the victory. “I don’t know if you can handle this. I think Australia, the Australian boxing public, would love that domestic fight.
“He can fight [Terrence] Crawford after me. I think we all want that, let’s get it done.
“I whipped Danny Green and I’ll whip Jeff Horn.”
There has been a reported offer of AUD$2 million for WBO welterweight champion Horn to face Mundine is an above-the-weight fight that is expected to do big numbers domestically. But Horn’s trainer Glenn Rushton revealed to AAP last week that they have opted to face WBO mandatory contender Crawford in the United States instead.
The 34-year-old Browne, who twice challenged for world titles in 2005 against WBC featherweight champion In-Jin Chi and his WBA counterpart Chris John, lost his brother Davey Browne Jr in 2015 after he suffered injuries in a regional title fight and never recovered.
Mundine had lost three of his last four bouts going in to the fight with his most recent victory coming against Belarussian Siarhai Rabchanka on points in 2014.
On the undercard blue-chip prospect Jai Opetaia 14-0 (11) retained his Australian cruiserweight title with a third round TKO of rugged Ben Kelleher 7-1-2 (4) to claim his 10th straight win by stoppage.
The stylish southpaw was catching Kelleher with some big left hands when the fight was stopped in the third round after the 30-year-old Queenslander injured his right hand.
Opetaia was disappointed with the nature of the victory.
“He’s a bloody soldier,” said Opetaia, 22, after the fight. “I hate to win a fight like that. If you want to do it again, we can do it again.
"I can pretty much guarantee if he didn’t break his hand, I was going to knock him out," Opetaia continued. "I got him with a couple of left hands and I shook him so it was just a matter of time.
"During this lead-up I had no sparring because I sparred once and I hurt my left hand. I tried to protect it in the lead-up to the fight.
"Everyone is telling me to take my time and I’m only 22, it’s too young. But I don’t want to waste time, I want to get in there.
"I reckon I’ve got the skills now to mix it up with the best.”
WBO #15 lightweight Kye “Mr Frenzy” MacKenzie 19-1 (16) dropped Emiliano Martin Garcia 16-2 (13) of Argentina twice en route to a stoppage at 1:06 of round four. MacKenzie was coming off a November win over New Zealand southpaw Nort Beauchamp 15-2 (3) on points over 10 rounds.
The only misstep MacKenzie made was immediately after the fight when he attempted a celebratory backflip in the ring. Fox Sports, who televised the show live, broadcast the 25-year-old Sydneysider landing on his face as he mistimed his acrobatics. The crowd at ringside erupted with laughter.
Team Frenzy would like to see their boxer matched with world ranked George “Ferocious” Kambosos, Melbourne rival Qamil Balla or Commonwealth 135-pound champion Sean “Masher” Dodd of England next.
Talented junior middleweight Troy O’Meley 5-0 (2) went the six round distance for the first time in his short career winning by split decision over Dillon Bargero 3-4 (3) in a fun and fast-paced brawl. Both boxers were cut from an accidental clash of heads.
Also on the card heavyweight Ben Sila moved to 2-0 with a three round unanimous decision over former professional rugby league player Richie Fa-aoso on debut. The fight was contested over three two-minute rounds.
“Star of the Ring II” promoted by Matt Rose’s No Limit Boxing Promotions was the first fight card to be held in Australia for 2018.