Matchroom Boxing, DAZN and Sky Sports all pitched up on the East Coast on Thursday for a Super Bowl appetite-whetter inside the Meridan at Island Gardens, Miami.
As they piggy-back on one of the biggest events of the sporting calendar, what stood out in the Magic City?
Oh, and a shoutout to the British viewers. Whether you squeezed the card in before work this morning, stayed up, got up, or ignored, Thursday fight nights across the pond are a real ballache.
Diaz a cut above turbulent Tevin
At the third time of asking, 2012 U.S. Olympian “JoJo” Diaz became a world champion in the junior lightweight division. Outpointing, outhustling and outworking Tevin Farmer by scores of 116-112, 115-113 and 115-113, the 27-year-old rallied after a horrific cut in the second round to claim the IBF strap.
Diaz was too big and too strong for Farmer who walked the champion down delivering spiteful combinations of hooks throughout the contest; Farmer was dragged into a fight he was never able to win, failing to negate the challenger’s power by getting tight in the pocket.
Farmer didn’t look right during the fight, with concerns raised over his blinking, twitching and peculiar eye and head movements. Lou DiBella tweeted early this morning that the defeated champion was released from hospital having undergone a precautionary CAT scan, the results of which were normal.
He looked considerably off the pace throughout the contest, with my conscious cleared slightly by watching the fight this morning, aware of his health before sitting down for the 12 rounds. If I were watching live, it would have been impossible not to be alarmed at Farmer’s erratic, out of character movements.
Hearn is convinced that Farmer will invoke the rematch clause, but with the 30-5-1 Philly fighter looking dry at the weight, a move to pastures new at 135 pounds may provide a healthier alternative.
”I respect Tevin Farmer, he gave me this title shot,” Diaz said post-fight. “I know he’s gonna want a rematch and I’ll be more than happy to run it back.”
Akhmadaliev unifies in his eighth pro fight, makes history for Uzbekistan
In outpointing Daniel Roman over 12 engaging rounds at super-bantamweight, Murodjon Akhmadaliev made history by becoming Uzbekistan’s first-ever unified world champion, as well as joining Leon Spinks as the fastest man to unify world titles (in eight fights).
There is no knowing how far Akhmadaliev can go as a professional, but the signs are positive for “M.J.” as the 25-year-old ticked box-after-box of questions surrounding this step up so early in his career.
Bouncing in and out of range, crafting angles to attack the competent Roman, Akhmadaliev’s footwork was a joy to watch as the Uzbek pivoted into position to attack with his thudding work. His fast hands in defence also impressed, as Roman found his typically vicious body attacks nullified by Akhmadaliev’s tight guard in dropping the elbows. Akhmadaliev would fire back his own venomous bodywork in an arrogant riposte to Roman’s key artillery.
Roman did get through on a number of occasions, but Akhmadaliev answered the questions surrounding his gas tank in emphatic style as he continued to trade with the Californian in the remaining seconds of the fight. Roman dominated the final three minutes, but the challenger was confident he had done enough to get the nod.
Akhmadaliev is one to keep a close eye on. He clearly loves a tear up and will be willing to dance with anyone at 122.
Roll up, roll up, as the circus returns
“Glad the circus is over,” 22-1 up-and-comer Mykal Fox tweeted on Thursday night. Wishful thinking from “The Professor.”
OK. I’m going to reluctantly climb down from the high horse I was parading around on for a little while.
Now, this isn’t to say that I have changed my mind regarding the YouTube boxing circus. I haven’t begun to imagine accepting these fights as anything more than they are — money-grabbing, ego-boosting, subscriber-pushing shitshows — but after two YouTube fights have penetrated the boxing mainstream over the past few months, the feelings of disgust, contempt and anger have faded.
These feelings have been replaced directly with cringing embarrassment, as the likes of KSI, the Paul brothers and their cronies (what’s the collective noun for a group of YouTubers?) have actually begun to believe their own fabricated hype.
At first, there was an overriding feeling that these guys knew they were there for a quick dip into boxing’s infinite well of money. Still, after Jake Paul stopped a dude called “AnEsonGib” in the first round last night, it was clear from the reactions of his team, and of his probable next foe KSI, that they are all beginning to take this a little too seriously.
Eddie Hearn has claimed that he’ll chuck “two or three” of these YouTube fights on cards throughout the year. With each fight breeding new rivalry, there is enough interest and enough cash to feed this current crop of “celebrities,” but soon, it’ll dry up.
The boxing business is as shady as it gets, selling its soul to the devil time-after-time, so to claim that the sport is “better” than inviting these kids onto shows every few months is dripping in hypocrisy. These sort of spectacles come and go in cycles, and despite this cycle still showing miles on the clock, it won’t be long until everyone logs off.
DAZN seem to be the biggest pushers in the YouTube boxing market, with Eddie happy to oblige. It’s something that seems more appropriate in the WWE world, but for now, all we can do is hold our nose.
Trash-talking, weigh-in shoves, and call-outs were here long before the YouTubers and will remain a cringe-worthy necessity of our sport long after they have packed up their laptops. A few fights down the line and the entitled party-crashers will become bored of their boxing shenanigans, picking up the next shiny toy available.
Follow Lewis Watson @lewroyscribbles