Weekend Briefing: Devin Haney, Luis Ortiz, Layla McCarter Win

There weren't as many cards and not quite as many networks, but Devin Haney, Luis Ortiz and Layla McCarter all strutted their stuff in one way or another this past weekend. You could go read about all of them separately, if you'd like. Or you could let Patrick Connor guide you through the weekend on the weekend briefing.

Devin Haney lands a right hand on the mug of Yuriorkis Gamboa (Courtesy: Matchroom Boxing)

Two weekends in a row boxing either spoiled us or simply caught up, filling the gigantic hole in the schedule for much of the year. It wasn’t just a whole lot of fights on various networks, but good fights. Of course that momentum can’t be sustained for long.

If ever there were a weekend where reading some recaps and sum-ups could actually replace watching (most of) the major fights, this past weekend would probably be it. At best, it’s a weekend that suffered compared to the previous one. Still, it might be nice to have the news consolidated into one article.

Well stop your grinnin’ and drop your linen, because that’s precisely what the Weekend Briefing is for.

The weekend started with the surprising news that Saul “Canelo” Álvarez is a free agent, effective immediately, per a social media post from his manager Eddy Reynoso. That means DAZN likely won’t be airing Canelo fights anytime soon, thus the middleweights they signed ostensibly as challengers for the middleweight champion are left to find other diversions. Subscribers hoping for someone to parachute in and reassure them on DAZN were left longing as young talent played it safe, and heavyweights all over reminded everyone just how silly the division can be.

DAZN – Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Hollywood, Florida

Devin “The Dream” Haney may or may not be the WBC lightweight champion. In 2019, the WBC introduced the idea of a “franchise champion,” which the sanctioning body explained with some nebulous word salad that essentially meant they figured a way to get even more sanctioning fees from fighters. Teófimo López is the franchise champion at lightweight after defeating Vasiliy Lomachenko, yet Haney just defended the WBC belt with a 12 round unanimous decision win over Yuriorkis Gamboa in the DAZN main event. One, López, clearly has a notably stronger ledger than the other and sanctioning organization meddling means needless complication.

In any case, Haney, 21 and fighting out of Las Vegas, is likely an upper level lightweight on raw ability alone. Now 25-0 with 15 knockouts, Haney stayed out much of 2020 due to a shoulder injury and COVID-19’s boxing slowdown. Stopping Gamboa would have earned Haney some trash talk leeway, and instead he approached a cobwebbed opponent tentatively for the majority of 12 rounds.

Devin Haney defeated Yuriorkis Gambo, defending the WBC lightweight title in the process, and these highlights are about as good as any (Courtesy: DAZN)

At 38, Gamboa is a good 10 years and two divisions past his best. The Guantánamo, Cuba native, now 30-4 with 18 knockouts, didn’t show much spring in his step against Haney. He pawed with his jabs and cuffed with hooks, occasionally landing a tricky counter left hand, but Gamboa appeared even more helpless than he did nearly a year ago against Gervonta Davis. That Haney couldn’t or wouldn’t do a whole lot against Gamboa is at best aggravating, and possibly concerning, if you’re factoring it into how you believe Haney would do against other top lightweights.

If Haney’s punching power is simply leveling off as opponents get better or more experienced, that’s normal. Absent power, however, a fighter needs speed and trickery Haney didn’t quite display to pull beyond opponents who can punch. Haney dominated on the score cards without impressing much of anyone but the DAZN commentating crew, poking holes in his claim to be the best at 135 pounds. Gamboa, on the other hand, ought to consider finally signing those Juan Manuel López or Brandon Rios fights.

Also on the card, Filip Hrgović, heavyweight from Zagreb, Croatia who fought in the 2016 Olympics, tabbed a 5th round stoppage of Rydell Booker, likely best known for a decent cruiserweight run prior to dropped a decision to James “Lights Out” Toney back in 2004. Hrgović showcased heavy hands against his old sparring partner Booker, who appeared handcuffed by age, inactivity and excess weight. Any suggestion the victory signified much beyond staying busy was quickly dashed when, immediately after earning the stoppage, Hrgović yelled to Booker, “You’re too old!”

Unbeaten Chinese southpaw Zhilei Zhang, a 6’6″ 2008 Olympic silver medalist, smacked around Devin Vargas before opening up with a right hook-left hand combination that sent Vargas down and messed up his knee. At 37-years-old, there isn’t much time to spare for Zhang, who is advised by Lane Brothers Boxing, a company run by Terry and Tommy Lane, sons of former referee Mills Lane.

FOX – Microsoft Theater, Los Angeles, California

Merian C. Cooper was an American filmmaker and pilot who co-wrote the 1933 version of the film “King Kong” and created the character. After seeing an airplane fly over the New York Life Building, then the world’s tallest, Cooper envisioned a gorilla climbing the structure and wrote the story backwards.

It took longer to research those facts and scratch them out than for Luis “King Kong” Ortiz to score a 1st round bicep knockout of Alexander “The Great” Flores. Yes, a bicep knockout. Ortiz, a southpaw, struck out to connect with a right hook and reached too wide, hitting Flores instead with his upper arm. Flores, 18-3-1 with 16 knockouts and from Rowland Heights, Calif., apparently isn’t keen on those kinds of punches and went down. Though Flores got up, he was deemed to be in no shape to continue.

Alexander Flores found out the hard way Luis Ortiz is… armed and dangerous. We’ll see ourselves out. (Courtesy: Premier Boxing Champions)

The fight was so short, the opponent so without hope that nothing was learned, not much gained. Ortiz, Camagüey, Cuba, might carry respectable power, he may have an incredible amateur pedigree, but he probably sends his great-grandchildren bags of Werther’s Original and salt water taffy. He’s 41 and has a record of 32-2 with 27 knockouts and 2 No Contests, and Ortiz will abruptly get old in the ring too before long.

Unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua went even-up with Andy Ruiz, Jr. and semi-lineal champion Tyson Fury wavers between excellent and uninspiring. Despite their foibles, with most of the good heavyweights tied up it’s difficult to see where Ortiz can find a direct path to a title shot in a timely fashion. At this rate he might consider petitioning the WBC to create a senior circuit championship.

LC Promotions (Facebook) – Deportivo Cri Cri, Cuernavaca, Mexico

Though under the radar compared to the other fight news, women’s GBU and IBF welterweight champion Layla “Amazing” McCarter returned after more than 18 months out of the ring to defeat Beatriz Aguilar via 8 round unanimous decision in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico. McCarter, unbeaten in over 13 years at 43-13-5 with 11 knockouts, used experience to out-maneuver an aggressive but unpolished opponent.

Aguilar, Tlalnepantla, Mexico with a record of 6-4-1 with 1 knockout, was a relatively safe opponent for McCarter given the layoff. McCarter was supposed to have headlined a canceled 2 Pound Sports card in Portland, Ore. last April and called out Cecilia Brækhus and Claressa Shields before COVID-19 pushed everything south. Appearing rusty, McCarter nevertheless used good foot work and found a rhythm at times. Getting to the point, it’s high time for a big payday.

Layla “Amazing” McCarter poses after defeating Beatriz Aguilar in Cuernavaca, Mexico (via Luis Tapia)

That was a heated few weeks of boxing. But it couldn’t last forever. Actually it couldn’t last three weeks. But still, there are meaningful fights at least through early December, and the way boxing cards are being thrown together, canceled and stitched back up, we could even be in for more than that.

In the meanwhile, check out the Knuckles and Gloves Boxing Radio podcast on apps like Apple, Spotify and Google.

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