The results are in for stage two of the first round of the Bad Left Hook March Mania fantasy boxing tournament!
In this set, we voted on the matchups at cruiserweight, 168, 154, 140, 130, 122, 115, and 108.
Voting for the semifinal matchups of these divisions will open on Tuesday, Mar. 24 at Noon ET, and last until Thursday, Mar. 26 at Noon ET.
(1) Mairis Briedis def. (8) Lawrence Okolie (251-48)
I actually voted for Okolie here, but I was in the minority. Still, I think this is the best support any eight-seed got, and if it’s for the reasons I went with the upset call, it’s that Briedis hasn’t really been impressive in any fight since his competitive loss to Oleksandr Usyk in 2018. He looked flat in a tune-up after, arguably got lucky to get a win over Noel Mikaelian, and then had that catastrophe of a fight with Krzystof Glowacki. I don’t much like watching Okolie fight, but I think his height, length, and ability to spoil and nullify would give him a really good chance at beating Briedis. But the top seed moves on all the same, because not many people agreed with me there.
(4) Ilunga Makabu def. (5) Kevin Lerena (196-71)
The all-Africa matchup goes to Congo’s Makabu over South Africa’s Lerena. Makabu is marvelous fun to watch pretty much every time he takes to the ring. He has some vulnerability for sure, but I think mostly it’s against guys with bigger power than Lerena has shown. (Yes, Lerena has stopped three of his last four, but AGAINST WHO? AGAINST WHO? AGAINST WHO? AGAINST WHO? AGAINST WHO? AGAINST WHO? AGAINST WHO?)
(3) Krzysztof Glowacki def. (6) Noel Mikaelian (224-49)
A far more interesting matchup than the voting split would tell you, in my opinion. Mikaelian gave Briedis hell and plenty of people thought he should’ve won. Glowacki might also would’ve beaten Briedis, I guess, except the whole thing turned into the fuckin’ Latvian kumite. Another upset I voted for that not many agreed with, and once again the higher seed goes to the semifinals.
(2) Yuniel Dorticos def. (7) Arsen Goulamirian (267-15)
I did not vote for the upset here, though that result wouldn’t exactly stun me in real life. Dorticos is a powerful puncher and I like watching him fight, but he’s fairly limited. Cruiserweight is a lot like a couple other divisions we’ll get to in a moment, super middleweight and junior middleweight, where there’s real talent but no actual clear ruler, what with Usyk moving up to heavyweight. It’s one of those divisions where I’m not terribly confident my top-ranked fighters are actually particularly better than the guys at seven or eight.
Semifinals at a Glance
Briedis-Makabu, which would probably be a war, and Dorticos-Glowacki, which could also be a war. Cruiserweight’s fun. I mean it’ll never really catch on in America because nobody can figure out how to market Heavyweight Junior to American fight fans, and we so rarely have any notable American cruiserweights, but it’s a fun division.
(1) Callum Smith def. (8) Anthony Dirrell (276-31)
Maybe some just didn’t watch Smith
lose to win a decision over John Ryder last November, and you think those 116-112 and 117-111 scorecards were legit. Maybe they still hold out hope that Liam, But Tall is finally the Smith family’s pound-for-pound representative. Or maybe they just don’t believe much in Dirrell at 35, which I guess is fair enough. Anthony is 6’2”, so Smith wouldn’t just be towering over him like he does most guys, and he’s a tough, experienced fighter. I think he’s a tougher fight for Smith than the voting split represents, but when asked to put down the vote, I also voted for Callum, so I get it. I mean there’s never a time when the majority are predicting a really notable upset. That’s why they’re upsets.
(5) Billy Joe Saunders def. (4) Caleb Plant (169-142)
One of the two extremely close calls in the entire first round set of votes, and both made sense. This one is tough. Saunders really hasn’t looked great at 168 pounds, beating extra fringe contender Shefat Isufi and Marcelo Coceres, and he had to rally to beat Coceres, or at least he reasonably thought he did (BJS was actually up on two cards through 10 rounds). But Plant still has questions, too; he won his belt over a likable but limited Jose Uzcategui, and his defenses against Mike Lee and Vincent Feigenbutz have been comical mismatches against two guys who were nowhere near actually being contenders. The slight majority went Billy Joe here. I actually don’t remember where my vote went, but I do know this is one I thought more seriously about than most of the votes. I could really see this going either way, and it’d tell us a lot about both guys.
(3) Canelo Alvarez def. (6) John Ryder (295-20)
John Ryder’s a real solid fighter. John Ryder deserved the nod over Callum Smith in November, in my opinion and that of many others. John Ryder would not beat Canelo Alvarez. But I do think he’d give it a genuine, honest effort, and not stay in there playing pat-a-cake just to say he made it 12 rounds with the big star.
(2) David Benavidez def. (7) Daniel Jacobs (172-136)
A closer vote than most, but Benavidez wound up pulling away. Tough call to make here. Benavidez has youth, legit power at 168, and better skills than sometimes thought of at first, I think. A lot of people focus on the power. And yeah, he had a tough first fight with Ronald Gavril, but that was almost three years ago, too, and then he won the rematch quite convincingly. It’s not the worst thing that a very young fighter went a tough 12 and got better for it. Jacobs has the huge experience edge, but he’s not a natural 168, and he’s never become that, like, dominant top-level guy, either. Youth is served for the voters, and the Miracle Man is out of the running.
Semifinals at a Glance
Smith-Saunders in an all-UK matchup that might get interesting, weird style matchup there, I think, and then Canelo-Benavidez on the bottom half. The obvious actual favorite here overall is three-seed Canelo, probably, because he’s Canelo and also he’s proven to be consistently top tier for years now, which the others have not. But Alvarez is popular in the actual world so not always popular with hard core die hard boxing heads on the internet, while those same people will love Benavidez until he potentially becomes an actual drawing card with a hard promotional push, so who knows? But I do like both fights for totally different reasons.
(1) Jermell Charlo def. (8) Patrick Teixeira (276-22)
Teixeria, who is actually my No. 10-ranked fighter in the division, got the “automatic in” pass by virtue of holding one of the four major belts. And now Charlo sends him backing in decisive fashion. Teixeira’s not a bad fighter or anything, but he won a vacant belt over a guy who was also pretty unproven. Charlo is more proven and better than Teixeira, and I doubt the result here would’ve been any different if it were Michel Soro or Kell Brook instead of the Brazilian.
(4) Jarrett Hurd def. (5) Erislandy Lara (182-124)
I went with Lara here. Hurd barely scraped past him in their 2018 Fight of the Year meeting, winning a split decision thanks to a 12th round knockdown, and we may have seen the very best of Hurd. His loss to Julian Williams in 2019 was very real, and he came back in January of this year looking uninspiring with his attempt to change from pressure brawler to boxer-puncher. Lara is still Lara, and if Hurd tried to box him? Please. That’s got 10-2 Lara written all over it. But unless he’s gone dumb, Hurd would at least eventually revert to type, and then he’s got the shot. It was a 50/50 fight the first time and I think it still is if Hurd fights like the Hurd of old the whole way. I also suspect there was some sense of duty to vote for the guy who won the actual fight between these two.
(3) Julian Williams def. (6) Brian Castano (165-116)
Another good matchup, another where I voted for the seeding upset, but in all honesty Castano beating Williams wouldn’t be much of an upset right now. You could reverse these seeds and it’d be reasonable enough with this division right now. But J-Rock goes on to the semifinal, probably because more people have watched him fight as much as anything to do with their ability levels or the matchup.
(2) Jeison Rosario def. (7) Tony Harrison (146-137)
THE closest call of the entire first round comes in a 2-7. Rosario is young and on the rise, coming off the big win over Williams in January, while Harrison is a veteran, but not an old guy at 29, and lost his last fight in December. Tony can box, there’s never been any question there, but he’s always had a bad habit of fading late. Let’s say that’s what happened here.
Semifinals at a Glance
Charlo-Hurd once appeared to be The Fight at 154, but things have changed since then, sort of like a smaller version (in every way) of Joshua-Wilder at heavyweight. The Rosario-Williams rematch is probably going to be less competitive in voting than Rosario-Harrison was.
(1) Josh Taylor def. (8) Eduard Troyanovsky (287-7)
Yes, this is the result. I have so little to say about a Taylor-Troyanovsky fight. Come on, guys, cut me a break here. Taylor would beat the brakes off Troyanovsky.
(4) Maurice Hooker def. (5) Ivan Baranchyk (166-116)
I was again against the majority here, but not by a lot. Hooker didn’t do great with the pressure of Jose Ramirez last year, obviously, and Baranchyk is all come forward action. However, Baranchyk is also not as clever, crafty, or skilled in his pressure as Ramirez was against Hooker, and the Texan very well might find the Belarusian predictable enough to deal with it fairly smoothly and take a wide decision. There are legitimately no tricks with Baranchyk, what you see is what you get, and it’s not hard to imagine Hooker boxing and out-foxing him to victory.
(3) Regis Prograis def. (6) Viktor Postol (286-11)
No surprises here. Postol remains a solid veteran presence in the division, but it’s kinda clear this division is entirely about the top three guys, maybe the top four. Postol’s had a shot at Taylor and lost, he’s currently got a shot coming at Ramirez he’s expected to lose, and if he fought Prograis he’d be expected to lose that one, too. Postol had his one shining night with Lucas Matthysse, and that was almost five years ago. He’s been outclassed against more well-rounded fighters than Matthysse twice since then, and that’d be the expectation here, too.
(2) Jose Ramirez def. (7) Kiryl Relikh (273-5)
Another no-brainer, really. Relikh, like Postol, is a fine enough contender, but the Ramirez is part of the class of the division. There’s not a ton I could imagine Relikh doing with Jose; he might nick some rounds and take it to the cards, but I don’t think he has the style to be a real problem for Ramirez.
Semifinals at a Glance
Taylor-Hooker figures to go pretty convincingly to the Scot, I reckon, with due respect to Hooker. But Ramirez-Prograis could really go either way. Prograis was really close with Taylor in their fight last year, and there’s an argument to be made that belts aside, Prograis perhaps is still the second-best fighter in the division right now, not Ramirez. But Ramirez has his obvious argument, too.
(1) Miguel Berchelt def. (8) Rene Alvarado (260-6)
Really no mystery here, either. Berchelt has firmly established himself as the top guy at 130 at this point, though the division is definitely beefing up. Alvarado is a really game fighter on a good run of form right now, and he’d definitely give this a go, but he’s always struggled against truly high-level opponents.
(5) Oscar Valdez def. (4) Joseph Diaz Jr (148-115)
These two had a terrific amateur fight representing the US (Diaz) and Mexico (Valdez) when they were young, and even though Valdez has tried to go to more of a boxing-first style lately instead of his old warrior style, I expect this would be a hell of a fight like that one was, because Valdez has been trying that new style on guys who aren’t near the level of Diaz. He hasn’t been forced to really fight a whole lot, in other words. I think this is a toss-up call and Valdez edging the total vote on a split of 56-44, which is seriously close for these opening round matchups, seems fair enough. Obviously Diaz had his supporters, Valdez just has more.
(3) Jamel Herring def. (6) Tevin Farmer (164-103)
Former titlist Farmer also had his supporters in this one, but as one of the voters put it, I think there’s a larger sense among many that the clock has struck 12 on Tevin as a top-tier fighter. That could wind up being wrong, but Herring is taller, a southpaw, good fundamentals, and has looked really good since linking up with Brian McIntyre and moving down to this division. The WBO titleholder moves forward.
(2) Leo Santa Cruz def. (7) Carl Frampton (221-65)
Both of these guys are new to 130, and they have fought twice in the past at 126, with Frampton winning a majority decision in 2016 and Santa Cruz winning the 2017 rematch, also via majority decision. They were very well matched then, but Santa Cruz has stayed pretty much on form, while Frampton, a couple years Leo’s senior, has seemed to fade just a bit. He’s still a contender, but he hasn’t looked outstanding since those two fights, and he was beaten fairly soundly by Josh Warrington late in 2018, his last really serious fight. Santa Cruz getting the wide win doesn’t strike me as odd at all, despite how competitive these two have been against each other in real life.
Semifinals at a Glance
Berchelt-Valdez, which Top Rank are planning to do this year, and Santa Cruz-Herring, which could be a really interesting matchup given how fresh Leo is at 130, and everyone has a weight cap as far as being really, really top tier fighter.
(1) Rey Vargas def. (8) Brandon Figueroa (215-32)
Figueroa’s a fun young fighter on the way up, but Vargas is an established titleholder with a very consistent performance level, and it’s a good level. He’s not a dominant champ or anything, but he’s been proving himself the longest in this weight class. The kid is out.
(4) Daniel Roman def. (5) Ryosuke Iwasa (204-34)
This would be an outstanding fight, but no arguments with the result. I think it’d look similar to Roman-Doheny in terms of action, with Roman getting the same result, a victory in the end. He’s still a really good fighter despite his most recent outing being a loss, where he lost to another really good fighter, who might be a bit more than really good, and that was very competitive, too.
(3) Murodjon Akhmadaliev def. (6) Isaac Dogboe (200-48)
Poor Dogboe going in against another buzzsaw. You hate to see it. Akhmadaliev would likely feast on the lovable Ghanaian, who hasn’t fought since his back-to-back defeats against Navarrete. MJ probably always would’ve been a really tough style matchup for Dogboe, but right now? Potentially brutal.
(2) Emanuel Navarrete def. (7) Stephen Fulton Jr (216-24)
I think this has a good chance of being way more competitive than the split here, and style-wise think Fulton would have a decent shot at the upset. But people have seen a lot of Navarrete and haven’t seen much of Fulton yet, so the result doesn’t really surprise me. Fulton’s a quality rising contender, though, you should check him out.
Semifinals at a Glance
Vargas-Roman and Navarrete-Akhmadaliev, two good fights, the latter of which would be a bitch of a Twitter hashtag to keep typing out during live coverage. Both are competitive matchups, would be welcome in the real world, and Roman would be Vargas’ toughest test on paper to date, arguably same for Navarrete and MJ in respect to one another.
(1) Juan Francisco Estrada def. (8) Francisco Rodriguez Jr (241-6)
Rodriguez is a good fighter, Estrada is a really, really good fighter. This is closer to Estrada against Dewayne Beamon than Estrada against one of the other titleholders or serious contenders in this division. An easy win to move on to the semifinal.
(4) Kazuto Ioka def. (5) Jerwin Ancajas (125-105)
Japan’s Ioka edges Filipino Ancajas in what would be a good unification matchup. Ancajas’ buzz has really died down since 2018, when he started looking a little pedestrian in title defenses, and he scaled back the competition in 2019 to look more exciting in victory against tailor-made opposition. Ioka, meanwhile, has looked consistently good since his 2018 return from a brief retirement; he did lose a fight to Donnie Nietes in Macau, but maybe should not have. Ioka advances.
(3) Roman Gonzalez def. (6) Andrew Moloney (239-11)
Moloney’s good, but Chocolatito Fever is BACK, baby! The Nicaraguan moves on with the wide victory over the Aussie, which is fair considering Gonzalez just pummeled Kal Yafai and last time we saw Andrew, he was going tooth-and-nail with Elton Dharry in Melbourne. (It was a good fight, worth watching if you have free time and missed it, which most did.)
(2) Srisaket Sor Rungvisai def. (7) Kal Yafai (243-13)
Sriasket wasn’t exactly the smartest fighter last time we saw him, losing to Estrada in their rematch, but when he wasn’t fighting a bizarrely dumb game plan, he was still making it a really competitive fight, which is sometimes lost in the memory of his goofy attempts to fight from an orthodox stance for way too long (or at all). He’s a powerful, thudding puncher who would probably put the hurt on Yafai, whose reputation isn’t shining at the moment after the loss to Chocolatito.
Semifinals at a Glance
Estrada-Ioka, a really good matchup that Ioka wanted to make recently but didn’t come through, and a third meeting between Srisaket and Chocolatito. Srisaket won the first two (one with controversy, one with anything but) and maybe is just a truly awful style matchup for Gonzalez, but Gonzalez has a lot of fans.
(1) Kenshiro Teraji def. (8) Tetsuya Hisada (189-13)
Hisada’s a good vet, but Teraji is part of a strong 1-2 in what is a very talented division overall, and would be expected to handily win here. So on moves the final top seed.
(4) Felix Alvarado def. (5) Elwin Soto (129-61)
A somewhat more competitive voting, but not particularly competitive, with Alvarado taking a little north of a 2-to-1 outcome. This could be a hell of a fight, and I think it’s probably closer to 50/50 in reality, but someone has to win and someone has to lose. Well, in real life you can also draw, but you get me.
(3) Carlos Canizales def. (6) Sho Kimura (151-35)
These guys met last year, Canizales won in the real world, he wins in the fantasy world, no surprise whatsoever. Kimura is a good fighter, but Canizales is just better than him head-to-head.
(2) Hiroto Kyoguchi def. (7) Edward Heno (172-10)
The other half of the division’s strong 1-2 is Kyoguchi, and he moves on with his own wipeout win over Heno of the Philippines, who gave Elwin Soto a real good challenge in his last fight.
Semifinals at a Glance
Teraji-Alvarado and Kyoguchi-Canizales are both good fights, good matchups, and I’d love to see either. The gut feeling I have is the two Japans fighters move on pretty convincingly, but we’ll see.