We had three big winners in world title fights on Saturday night, one a surprise, the other two not so much.
The shocker was Julian Williams taking the WBA and IBF 154-pound titles from Jarrett Hurd on FOX, while over on ESPN, Miguel Berchelt and Emanuel Navarrete retained their 130- and 122-pound belts, respectively, with dominant stoppage victories over Francisco Vargas and Isaac Dogboe.
So what’s next for Saturday’s winners?
“J-Rock” might be headed right back to the man he just conquered, Jarrett Hurd, who says he plans to exercise his contractual rematch clause and try to get the belts back.
Williams (27-1-1, 16 KO) fought brilliantly on Saturday. He’d said before in interviews that he’d added strength training to his camp, and that combined with an excellent game plan and just old fashioned skill, stamina, and toughness led him to his first world titles.
Basically nobody thought Williams was going to win except Williams and his team, and that’s why it’s a real upset, and that’s why it’s such a great story. This is a 29-year-old fighter who took a loss in 2016, got stopped, and a lot of people all but wrote him off as ever being able to reach this level. He did, in a fantastic fight that showed just how good he really is now, how deep he’s dug in the last three years.
If he faces Hurd (23-1, 16 KO) again, maybe at home in Philadelphia, he’ll have to prove it again. There will probably be people who pick Hurd in the rematch if it comes around. I don’t think I’ll be one of them. Hurd’s limitations and flaws have always been there, and been sort of obvious, but he bulled through them in the past. Williams showed he won’t be so easily bulled.
If it’s not a rematch with Hurd, then a possible unification fight with the winner of the June 23 rematch between WBC titleholder Tony Harrison and Jermell Charlo was brought up in the post-fight interview.
Let’s say it’s not Hurd or the Harrison-Charlo II winner. There are other options. Erislandy Lara is still out there, as is WBA “world” titleholder Brian Castano.
Other than that, I dunno, you can probably set your watch to Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan calling Williams out with a promise to smash him.
But please not the Austin Trout-Terrell Gausha winner. No offense to those guys, but please, no thank you.
Berchelt (36-2, 32 KO) is pretty much universally regarded as the top man at 130 pounds right now. The WBC titleholder is right in his prime at age 27, he fights in an exciting style, and he’s on a 15-fight win streak that dates back to 2014, 14 of those wins by stoppage.
The ESPN broadcast all but set up a unification between Berchelt and the winner of the May 25 fight between WBO titleholder Masayuki Ito and Jamel Herring. When asked what he wants next, Berchelt said he wanted to unify, specifically stating that he wants to fight the Ito-Herring winner.
There’s no secret why that is: the Ito-Herring winner will be a Top Rank guy, just like Berchelt. IBF titleholder Tevin Farmer and WBA titleholder Gervonta Davis are both more highly-regarded than Ito or Herring, but Farmer is with Matchroom/DAZN and Davis is with PBC.
Berchelt say he wanna prove that he’s the best 130 fighter and say he want the winner of Ito-Herring. But didn’t say Farmer or Davis they be fooling these fans.— TEVIN FARMER (@TevinFarmer22) May 12, 2019
So it is what it is, basically. Berchelt against the Ito-Herring winner looks like it’s what we’ll get. It’s not a bad fight — it’ll be a title unification, after all — but it’s not the best fight, either.
Remember back in December when Emanuel Navarrete was just some dude coming to New York to fight Isaac Dogboe on the Lomachenko-Pedraza card? He’d never fought outside of Mexico, never beaten a real contender. He was supposed to be an opponent as Dogboe wrapped up his argument for 2018 Fighter of the Year.
He beat Dogboe up in December and won a decision. He beat him up worse on Saturday and stopped him this time.
So now what for the 24-year-old WBO titleholder?
Navarrete (27-1, 23 KO) is supposedly set to go forward working on a co-promotional deal with Top Rank and Zanfer, so you can expect to see him on ESPN platforms for a bit.
Unification is not likely. WBC titleholder Rey Vargas is set to face Tomoki Kameda on July 13, and unified WBA and IBF titleholder Daniel Roman has to face WBA mandatory challenger Murodjon Akhmadaliev.
That leaves us dealing with the WBO rankings. As of their latest update, the top 15 contenders are (BoxRec rankings in parentheses so you get more of a real sense what we’re dealing with):
- Albert Pagara (31)
- Juan Miguel Elorde (63)
- Thomas Patrick Ward (49)
- Marlon Tapales (18 at featherweight)
- Diego De La Hoya (11)
- Isaac Dogboe (4, but I suspect you can eliminate this one)
- Arnold Khegai (37)
- Yenifel Vicente (57)
- Luis Lebron (107)
- Jeo Santisima (59)
- Jose Velasquez (67 at bantamweight)
- David Agadzhanyan (189 at super featherweight)
- Tyrone McCullagh (92)
- Wasiru Mohammed (197)
- Hiroaki Teshigawara (12)
So having a look at the usual farcical sanctioning body rankings we have here, there’s not a ton to get excited about.
Diego De La Hoya, a Golden Boy fighter, is the best option on this list in some ways, and maybe that’s a doable deal, but if I’m Top Rank, would I make a TV fight with De La Hoya (21-0, 10 KO) dependent upon him making the 122-pound limit?
Diego missed weight and had to cancel a Dec. 2017 fight with Jose Salgado, and then he was hospitalized last November trying to cut down to 122 the week of another ultimately canceled fight.
I’m not saying any of this to be a wiseass about De La Hoya not making 122. He’s 24 now, he’s probably simply grown out of the division. He insists he can still make it, but he also weighed in at 127¼ for an April tune-up bout in Mexico, the first fight he’d had in 10 months. The last time he tried to cut to 122, it put his health at risk. If I’m Top Rank, I don’t know that I can trust his claim that he can do it enough to sign him up for a world title fight on ESPN or ESPN+ or ESPN2 or ESPN3 or ESPNews or anything.
The best BoxRec ranking outside of De La Hoya is Hiroaki Teshigawara (19-2-2, 12 KO), the 28-year-old OPBF regional champion. All of his pro fights have been in Japan — in fact, they’ve all been at the famous Korakuen Hall.
Arnold Khegai (15-0-1, 10 KO) is an interesting fighter, a 27-year-old Ukrainian who has largely fought in Russia.
But the name that jumps off this list for me, and I’m not saying this will be the fight, is Tyrone McCullagh (13-0, 6 KO), a 28-year-old from Derry, Northern Ireland, nicknamed “White Chocolate.”
The reason his name jumps out is that McCullagh is an MTK Global fighter, and MTK Global work with Top Rank for U.S. broadcasts through ESPN+. He’s got the WBO European title and just fought on May 3, so the timing lines up. And we all know Bob Arum loves to stick an Irish fighter in New York.
Now it could well just be Pagara or Elorde or Ward or Tapales, one of the top four, all I’m saying is don’t ignore McCullagh down that list. I’m also saying that Navarrete is not likely to be getting a top-flight matchup next time out.