Callum Smith is your new favorite fighter!
OK, maybe not, but Callum Smith's one-round demolition of Rocky Fielding on Friday certainly answered the promotional tagline for the fight: "Who's Fooling Who?"
Smith, a high level prospect with plenty of hype, was more or less born into this. At 25, he's the youngest of Britain's fighting Smith brothers, behind Paul, Stephen, and Liam, and the going idea for a while now is that of the lot, he is the most talented.
He certainly proved he's the elite domestic British super middleweight of the moment, as Fielding, who clawed his way onto the scene starting with an upset Prizefighter win in 2011, just couldn't take his power shots. Fielding (21-1, 12 KO) is hardly an elite fighter, but he's been good enough to win Commonwealth gold at 168 pounds, and stopped rugged veteran Bryan Vera in two rounds this past June.
Smith (18-0, 13 KO) tore through Fielding, and won the vacant British title in the process. BoxRec's formula now has him ranked 4th in the world at 168 pounds, and while that's likely premature, he's putting the division on notice. At 6'3", he's tall for the weight, has power in both hands, and has shown closing ability thus far as a pro. There are still steps for him to take, but it wouldn't be unreasonable to say that he'd have a good shot at beating, for instance, Fedor Chudinov, who holds the WBA "world" belt right now, or that he could could be rightfully expected to more than hold his own against a fighter like Anthony Dirrell, an ex-titleholder still in his prime, and considered a legitimate contender.
If Smith isn't a top 10 super middleweight yet, he's not far off. This is not the division it was in the days of the Super Six. There's plenty of talent still, but much of that talent is past its peak days, and it may not be long before Smith is the latest British fighter to become a titleholder in this division.
Timothy Bradley and Teddy Atlas are peas in a pod!
Timothy Bradley is a crazy person. I mean that in the best way. While Bradley has good boxing skills and has never been a big puncher, he's taken to fighting like he's a devastating pressure puncher in recent years, which has resulted in some terrific fights and some dangerous moments even in victory.
Teddy Atlas is a crazy person. I mean that in the best way. You can say a lot about Atlas, some good, some great, some critical, but he is a man who has lived and breathed boxing for decades now. He knows the sport, he knows fighters, and when he connects with one, it can be special.
Bradley might be the exact right fit for Atlas' intense approach. Tim Bradley is a fighter known for training extremely hard, always showing up in great shape, always ready to go a full 12, hard rounds. If he doesn't go without socks, Tim Bradley is an elite level fighter who is smarter than he fights and dumber than he needs to be. (Again, meant in the best way. I love watching Bradley fight for these reasons.)
Bradley (33-1-1, 13 KO) showed some patience and ring IQ in his first fight with Atlas, taking his time and picking Brandon Rios apart en route to a ninth round stoppage on Saturday night, in an HBO main event. There were moments Bradley may have stayed in the pocket a bit too long and given Rios his only chance at victory, but they were much fewer than usual, and for the most part, Bradley executed what Atlas' script called for with great efficiency and prowess. He used his feet to keep Rios out of his kitchen, but didn't totally give up the aggression that he needs to be his best. No one is saying Tim Bradley should try to become a slick boxer, because that's just not who he is. But his game did need some refining, and sometimes fighters just need a new take in training camp. He'd been with Joel Diaz for a long time. Atlas may be a breath of fresh air and a new set of eyes if nothing else.
Whatever it is, they worked together nicely on Saturday, and they're 1-for-1 after a seven-week camp.
Brandon Rios retires!
If I were placing bets on this, I would say that Brandon Rios will be back sooner than later. But who knows? Rios retiring from boxing at age 29 may be the type of thing so unexpected that it actually sticks.
Rios (33-3-1, 24 KO) was outclassed by Bradley. He had also been outclassed by Manny Pacquiao a couple of years ago, but this was different, because Bradley didn't just exhibit superior skill, he also broke Rios' will to continue, stopping the gritty brawler in the ninth round.
Rios says his body just didn't respond in camp or during the fight the way that it used to, and acknowledged that he's had a lot of wars and tough battles that have put extra miles on his body. He struggled to make weight, which is nothing new, but he clearly did try to get there. He always has, even when missing weight. Rios doesn't miss weight but look in good shape. Rios misses weight, or struggles, and you can tell because his face is thin and sunken on the scales. That was the case this time, too. He put everything he had into making 147 pounds. He got there, but he was dead in the ring.
That a competitive second round is the closest Rios came to being in the fight with Bradley tells us that he had no energy and was mentally out of the fight once he figured out that it just wasn't going to be happening for him. Against someone content to jab or cruise, he might have made it all 12 rounds. But Bradley tested his mettle, and finally sunk his battleship with body shots.
If Brandon Rios doesn't have the mentality to take big amounts of punishment and solider through it to deliver his own attacks anymore, then what's the point of him fighting, other than money? And how much money will there be if he continues to go in there and get beaten up? And how much money is worth that, anyway? Rios has never been thought of as an intelligent fighter, to be blunt, but he sounded very self-aware when talking about his decision to hang it up. Rios has made his money by taking three to deliver five, or at least taking three to deliver two. He couldn't do that with Bradley, and if he doesn't have that same reckless, fearless attitude anymore, if that was sucked out of his soul on Saturday, then he shouldn't keep fighting. His style makes it necessary that he be willing and able to get beaten up. It has made him some good money and made for some exciting fights. It may also lead to an early retirement, if this decision holds.
Brandon Rios has a family, has a lot of life left to live. I'm certainly in no position to tell him what to do with his career or why, but as an outsider observer who has enjoyed following his career, I'd say his instinct to retire is probably correct. He's the sort of fighter who was always walking a tightrope, and once you fall, you've fallen. That's it.
Ruslan Provodnikov beat up a person in Monte Carlo!
Hey, good for you, Ruslan! Hopefully we'll see Ruslan back on American TV (Showtime is where he's headed) soon and against someone who should be in the ring with him. Say what you will about Shane Mosley, and I've said plenty bad as far as his career prospects go, but even Mosley would have been a more legitimate opponent than the dude Ruslan smashed this weekend.
ShoBox prospects from last Friday!
ShoBox had a four-fight bill this past Friday night. The first two fights were crap. It happens. Not everyone is going to pass "the test," even in victory. O'Shaquie Foster failed his outright, as the favored prospect lost to Samuel Teah in the opener, and looked absolutely lousy in doing so, which he admitted after the fight. But he could be back, too. It's not the end of the world. Keenan Smith won his fight, but his performance against Benjamin Whitaker left a lot to be desired from a fan's perspective.
The latter two bouts, though, showcased a pair of solid prospects, who did their jobs very effectively. Ukrainian welterweight Taras Shelestyuk improved to 13-0 (8 KO) with a 10-round decision win over Russia's Aslanbek Kozaev, and I liked how Shelestyuk looked in that fight. He's not a blue chip prospect -- for one thing, he's 29 -- but he's already a very solid fighter, well-rounded and well-schooled. Kozaev had a lot of energy for the first few rounds, but that was sapped by Shelestyuk's accuracy and output. Kozaev was outgunned.
In the main event, middleweight Antoine Douglas went to 19-0-1 (13 KO) with a four-round wipeout of Australian veteran Les Sherrington. Sherrington was dropped five times, as he hit the canvas pretty much every time Douglas connected really cleanly. He was able to get up and fight on, but he just didn't take the shots from Douglas well. Douglas, 23, has only one blemish on his record, a draw with Michel Soro. Soro can fight. This is a young fighter worth watching, and could be a new building block for Showtime's boxing brand in due time.