It’s not always easy skipping around, reading fight report after fight report on the heels of a busy boxing weekend. We have lives to live and time always seems to be running out. Wouldn’t it be swell to have a single article catch you up?
Say no more, and read the Weekend Briefing.
We’re nearly one month deep into 2018, but already the year has potential. This past weekend gave us a cruiserweight bout in Usyk-Briedis that will surely be a “Fight of the Year” contender in December, though Lucas Matthysse and Jorge Linares were less-than-thrilling on HBO.
itv – Arena Riga, Riga, Latvia
The fight took place in Latvia, involving Mairis Briedis, Latvia’s first ever world champion, and roughly 10,000 spectators showed up for what was called the country’s biggest sports event. In a world more kind to Briedis, he would have been given Oleksandr Usyk‘s WBO cruiserweight belt to go with his WBC version. Instead the judges chose to recognize Usyk’s heavier artillery in this stirring bout.
Usyk, who won Olympic gold for Ukraine in 2012, improves to 14-0 with 11 knockouts, but the combination of unifying belts in a deep division and vanquishing a very good fighter in a gripping affair add up to much more than an undefeated record. Briedis falls to 23-1 with 18 knockouts despite doing his country proud.
Both men walked away with their faces bruised and nicked up, but with reputations mostly intact. It was the kind of fight where neither fighter loses much credibility, if any at all. Despite the southpaw vs. orthodox angles, the action was never sloppy or messy, the combat always respectful.
That HBO chose to pass on this World Boxing Super Series semi-final in favor of an inferior product is truly unfortunate. Instead American fight fans had to find illegal streams or suddenly become tech wizards to watch Usyk-Briedis live. Many of cruiserweight’s best aren’t American. That hasn’t stopped HBO from investing in the lower weight classes, however, and cruiserweight is one of the best divisions in boxing, even if historically it has been viewed as merely a pit stop on the way to heavyweight.
HBO – The Forum, Inglewood, California
The first fight card of the year for HBO probably could have been a stronger offering than Lucas Matthysse‘s continued comeback and Jorge Linares’ tedious decision win, as previously stated. But both fighters go way back with Golden Boy Promotions, and in that context, it all made sense.
For Matthysse, facing the relatively unknown yet unbeaten Thai scrapper Tewa Kiram represented an opportunity to seize one of the alphabet belts the Argentinian has been after since turning pro in 2004. When Golden Boy lost a substantial portion of its stable to Premier Boxing Champions a few years ago, Matthysse was one of the few Al Haymon-associated fighters who stuck around. It’s understandable, then, that the promotional outfit might go a little out of their way to procure a belt for their old charge.
It almost all went out the window when Matthysse, now 39-4 with 36 knockouts, couldn’t seem to find a rhythm against the Thai, who largely stayed out of range. Kiram looked to be much larger than Matthysse, who is a relative newcomer to welterweight. For seven rounds we got no answer to the question of whether or not Matthysse’s puncher power could salvage the night for him, but in round 8 he finally caught up and decked Kiram with a combination. Upon rising, Kiram succumbed to a stiff, but wholly unremarkable jab, oddly slumping to the canvas after throwing his own punch.
It just didn’t look right.
Kiram’s record now stands at 38-1 with 28 knockouts, but purposely or not, he helped confirm that Matthysse’s best days are likely indeed well behind him.
The rift between Golden Boy and PBC continues on in 2018, meaning Matthysse is unlikely to mingle with anyone from the other side of the tracks anytime soon. Short of going after Pacquiao, one has to wonder what the long term goal for Matthysse is.
In HBO’s co-feature, skilled Venezuelan lightweight Jorge Linares outclassed Mercito Gesta over 12 rounds, earning a unanimous decision with minimal trouble. Despite starting quickly and finding a groove in the first two rounds, Gesta failed to adjust when Linares found a home for his right hand in round 3. From that point forward, Gesta probably didn’t win a single round.
Though Gesta isn’t a bad fighter, this is his second failed attempt at winning a lightweight belt in which he fell extremely short. The Filipino’s accomplishments just haven’t matched his trumpeted potential, and at 30-years-old, his record stands at 31-2-2 with 17 knockouts. Linares, who could line up fights with Mikey Garcia or Vasyl Lomachenko in the near future, moves to 44-3 with 27 knockouts.
2018 is still pretty new and we’ll have to see how this whole thing goes, but so far we’re in good shape and there’s plenty of boxing on the schedule.
In the meantime, click here to check out of the most recent episode of Knuckles and Gloves Boxing Radio.