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March Mania fantasy boxing tournament final results: Some controversy, some upsets, some predictability

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We’ve got one massive controversy, such as it were, in the finals of the BLH March Mania tournament.

British boxer Anthony Joshua wins back his world heavyweight titles in Saudi Arabia Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images

For the last little while, we’ve been running fantasy boxing tournaments, eight men per division, all divisions in the sport today, current fighters only.

Mostly it’s been pretty mundane, in all honesty. Higher seed wins, higher seed moves on. No real upsets, no crazy votes.

Until now. So let’s just get right into it.

Heavyweight: (2) Anthony Joshua def. (1) Tyson Fury (510-437)

This fight had a total of 947 votes cast, with the next-highest total coming for the super middleweight final at 528 total votes. So obviously we got some ballot box stuffing here, and here’s the thing: I don’t care. It’s an internet vote, weird shit happens. I’m mildly surprised weird shit didn’t happen any sooner. This is funnier to me than anything. Honestly, I kinda hoped some seven- or eight-seed would have this happen early and make a run.

My guess is this got shared somewhere and everyone popped in, voted on the heavyweight fight, and didn’t care to bother with the rest, mostly. And it results in an Anthony Joshua upset win over Tyson Fury.

I will from now on be referring to Anthony Joshua as the LINEAL!!!!!!!! champion, since this holds about as much weight as that constantly broken line has in over 100 years.

Did I vote for AJ? No, because I voted for who I really would pick to win any given matchup, and I don’t think AJ can beat Fury. I don’t think anyone can beat Fury if Fury is on his game, and the idea was that everyone came into every fight on their game. What’s Anthony Joshua gonna do, out-box Tyson Fury with his new, measured approach? Tyson Fury’s not a 6’1” guy who can’t lift his arms because he ate too much pizza.

But it is what it is. All hail the king, Anthony Joshua.

Cruiserweight: (2) Yuniel Dorticos def. (1) Mairis Briedis (258-226)

Official weigh-in ceremony for cruiserweight boxers Gassiev and Dorticos Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images

A competitive vote for what people expect to be a competitive real life fight, currently scheduled for May 16 in Latvia but, well, that might not happen. This fight’s already “not happened” way more than it has happened. It’s been set as the WBSS cruiserweight season two final since they both won their fights on June 15 last year in Riga. It kept not happening for the rest of 2019. It didn’t happen on Mar. 21 of this year. It may not happen May 16, as basically everyone is shutting down the sport through May at this point.

But at some point, it’ll happen, unless one of them retires or decides he can’t make cruiserweight or something. Which isn’t impossible, I guess. And the fans are favoring Dorticos, albeit not by a ton. I’ve repeatedly talked about how vulnerable Briedis seems in real life, as he got a questionable decision over Noel Mikaelian and won a bizarre fight against Krzysztof Glowacki that probably should’ve been a no-contest or something.

However, I actually think this is a decent matchup for Briedis. Dorticos has big power and is a good fighter, but he doesn’t do anything particularly well other than punch. There’s not a huge, detailed game plan to get into for fighting Dorticos, though the same can be said the other way, too, and when the time comes (spoiler!) my staff pick will be Dorticos, and Dorticos was my vote here.

Light Heavyweight: (1) Artur Beterbiev def. (2) Dmitry Bivol (391-127)

Light heavyweight world title unification boxing bout Beterbiev vs Gvozdyk in Philadelphia, US Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images

Bivol is a hell of a good boxer, but Beterbiev just stomped his way through this tournament the way he has his real fights for the most part. There remained some skeptics about his overall ability until he did to Oleksandr Gvozyk what he’d done to others last year; since then, those skeptics seem to have joined the Beterbiev hype train, and enthusiastically so.

And who can blame them? Beterbiev is a mauling, bruising puncher who wears opponents down with relentless aggression, is willing to take shots to give shots, and isn’t entirely unskilled, either, having been a good amateur.

If we get this fight — and here’s hoping we do, it’s a great matchup — then it’s clear where the fans’ hearts and minds largely lie going in.

Super Middleweight: (3) Canelo Alvarez def. (1) Callum Smith (426-102)

Canelo Alvarez v Sergey Kovalev Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images

The only guy to win without being a top-two seed, but even then that’s kinda bullshit, because Alvarez is the most proven overall fighter in this field by quite a bit, and we know he can fight at 168 or even 175. He was a three-seed because he’s only had one real life fight officially in this division, but this is where he plans to campaign, so we put him in here instead of 160, where he’d have been the No. 1 seed and probably won that tournament quite handily, too.

Liam, But Tall may have gotten more support if this vote had come prior to last November, when he got a gift decision over John Ryder, whom Canelo trounced in the opening round of the fantasy tournament. I would say back then, “I think Canelo’s just a lot better than this guy,” and folks would go, “I dunno, Smith is SO tall,” but brother, if being SO tall can’t give you a clear and legitimate real win over John Ryder, you’re not competing in the fantasy realm against Canelo Alvarez.

So we’ve all accepted that, which is good. And we might see this fight now that Billy Joe Saunders has decided to Billy Joe Saunders his career up again.

Middleweight: (1) Gennadiy Golovkin def. (2) Sergiy Derevyanchenko (391-132)

Gennady Golovkin v Sergiy Derevyanchenko Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

We saw these guys fight last October, and it was a terrific fight, bruising and physical, well-fought on both sides, with Derevyanchenko falling just barely short on the decision after 12 rounds. The vote goes widely to GGG, but I doubt anyone sees the fight not being competitive if it were to happen again.

There is reason to lean toward Derevyanchenko here. He’s 34, but there are less miles on him than on Golovkin, who turns 38 in about a week, more than their age gap might suggest. And GGG is, while still a terrific fighter, past his absolute peak. It’s also inarguable that he built a reputation dominating mostly the truly overmatched, and hasn’t been such a destroyer when faced with Derevyanchenko or Canelo Alvarez or Daniel Jacobs, the real best opponents of his career. Combine Gennadiy’s age with Derevyanchenko’s quality, and you’ve got a tough call even with GGG having won their real fight.

It’s also possible Derevyanchenko could fight better a second time, and GGG can’t. But it’s also possible that after having another fight with Johnathon Banks in his corner, GGG and Banks would be working together better, and might have the plan in place better in a second chance with Derevyanchenko. So GGG takes the vote, and I have no problem with that.

Junior Middleweight: (1) Jermell Charlo def. (2) Jeison Rosario (369-131)

Tony Harrison v Jermell Charlo Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

Rosario was kinda cruisin’ for a bruisin’ here, as he narrowly beat Tony Harrison and Julian Williams to get to this final against Charlo. The latter’s competitiveness was one of the few “rematches” that actually had decent support for the “other guy,” and I mean, we just saw Rosario beat Williams down two months ago. Granted two months ago now feels like three years ago.

Belief in Rosario’s staying power seems pretty low, in other words. Time will tell for the 24-year-old Dominican, but his win over Williams in January was a legitimate major upset, the current front-runner for Upset of the Year, and until he’s proven himself with at least one more notable win, he will keep having skeptics.

You might say, “Well, what’s so great about Jermell Charlo’s record?” but most people don’t ask that question, because Jermell Charlo has been hyped since he was a kid gloves prospect, and generally people believe more in the fighters they’ve heard more and been told more about. Marketing works, y’all. Look how much we talk about Devin Haney.

Welterweight: (2) Terence Crawford def. (1) Errol Spence Jr (370-156)

Terence Crawford v Jose Benavidez Jr. Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images

You might blame this outcome on the Spence car crash and the mystery surrounding what he’ll be like when he comes back, but as best we could, we tried to remind people to think of him in the best shape possible, etc.

But it’s not a normal boxing thing, so some people struggled with that in the first couple rounds, too. That said, Spence did still make it to the final pretty comfortably before getting washed here by ol’ Nebraska Bud, so I mean, it might just be that people really think Terence Crawford is the better fighter.

I voted for Crawford; I realize it’s my rankings we used for seedings (admittedly flawed but no more flawed than any other rankings you’ll find), but head-to-head I think this is a fascinating matchup and I just barely edge it to Crawford in my head. I wouldn’t bet you one single American earth dollar on that outcome with any confidence whatsoever, but my vote was for Terence, too, as most obviously were.

Junior Welterweight: (1) Josh Taylor def. (3) Regis Prograis (369-133)

O2 Arena Boxing Photo by Paul Harding/PA Images via Getty Images

A vocal few thought Prograis did enough to beat Taylor last October, but two of three judges gave it to Taylor and the third saw it even, and nobody had any serious problem with that decision.

Matched up again in fantasy, Taylor gets a convincing win on the vote total, but I do figure people would expect another great, competitive fight. Taylor has also changed things since then, signing with Top Rank, which broke off his relationship with trainer Shane McGuigan, whose dad Barry is Josh’s now-former promoter.

There’s a chance we’ll see this fight again someday, either at 140 or 147. As things stand now, I’d love to see it again. It was a rare fight that wasn’t hyped up heavy by people who pay attention to boxing all the time, and still managed to live up to that hype, which is maybe harder than anything, to impress the more knowledgeable audience when they’re coming in with high expectations.

Lightweight (1) Vasiliy Lomachenko def. (2) Teofimo Lopez (445-77)

Vasiliy Lomachenko v Luke Campbell - WBC, WBA, WBO and Ring Magazine Lightweight World Title Fight Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

The second-widest outcome of all the final matchups, and the widest when you don’t take into account fights we’ve actually seen before in real life.

Loma and Teofimo were tentatively set to meet on May 30. It’s a fight everyone wants to see, but it feels like the vast majority out there think that despite his power, his natural lightweight stature, and the fact he is a really good, young, rising star in the sport, Teofimo is going to be out of his depth right now with Lomachenko if/when they get it on.

It’s understandable; Lomachenko has seen just about everything there is to see between the amateurs and his 15-fight pro career, while Lopez is still a true young gun, and there ain’t many in the history of the sport, amateur and pro, as accomplished or skilled as Lomachenko. Some feel that Lomachenko needs to fight Lopez now, before Lopez gets even better and Loma fades a bit, and since this is “now,” then he wins.

Junior Lightweight (1) Miguel Berchelt def. (2) Leo Santa Cruz (351-128)

BOXING-MEXICO-FEATHERWEIGHT LUIS PEREZ/AFP via Getty Images

Santa Cruz has had the greater spotlight over the years, but confidence is high in Berchelt at 130, where he’s been smashing guys up for a few years now. Leo is new to this division, and as much as he’s accomplished at 118, 122, and 126, the vote goes clearly to Berchelt.

I agree with it, too. Berchelt is a natural 130, he’s a big puncher, and he sets up his big shots well, he’s not crude about it. He keeps distance when he needs to, and then he strikes. He can also bang on the inside, if Leo gets the fight in close.

Basically, I think there’s a great chance this becomes a war quickly, and I’m always gonna go for the fighter with the heavier artillery in that case.

Featherweight: (2) Gary Russell Jr def. (1) Josh Warrington (298-193)

Gary Russell Jr v Tugstsogt Nyambayar Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Russell got to the final by beating Shakur Stevenson on a vote of 191-190, a single vote’s difference. So it was questionable if he’d even be particularly competitive with Warrington, who cruised over Kid Galahad in the semifinal, despite having terrible trouble with Kid Galahad in real life last year.

Instead, Russell takes about a 61-39% split of the vote here, winning fairly handily. I’ve said a few times throughout the voting I didn’t think people were taking style matchups into consideration as much as they could have, but here it seems a lot of people probably did. Russell is not really a fan favorite or anything; he’s been getting shit from fans and media alike for being too inactive and, often, his level of opposition over the last five years.

So what this tells me is that people really, truly just believe he’s a better fighter head-to-head than Warrington, who is a likable sort and a good fighter with a real fan base, albeit a regional real fan base. And I agree with them. There’s a reason people give Russell so much guff; we want to see more of him, and in better matchups, because he’s very good.

Junior Featherweight: (2) Emanuel Navarrete def. (1) Rey Vargas (252-187)

Emanuel Navarrete v Francisco De Vaca Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

A toss-up matchup to me. Vargas is consistently good, but Navarrete really might have more to his game than Vargas does. Vargas hasn’t been truly tested in his title defenses, really, as he’s been largely able to simply out-box opponents.

And maybe he’d do the same to young Navarrete, too, but Navarrete seems to have a rare level of determination about him, and a growing confidence in his ability. You wouldn’t be able to count him out. Navarrete’s best wins are still over 5’2” Isaac Dogboe, and the nearly 5’11” Vargas ain’t that favorable style matchup, but Navarrete’s got great reach (actually a bit longer than Vargas’, officially) and fights hard.

Also, realistically, as big a decider here was probably the fact Navarrete has gained significant buzz in the last year fighting on ESPN shows and the Wilder-Fury 2 pay-per-view, while Vargas has been on B-level Golden Boy shows on DAZN.

Bantamweight: (1) Nayoa Inoue def. (3) Nonito Donaire (467-38)

Naoya Inoue v Nonito Donaire - WBSS Bantamweight Final Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

And here’s the widest outcome of the finals, about a 92-8% split in the votes. As great a fight as this was last November, the unanimous pick for 2019 Fight of the Year, nobody disagreed with the outcome, and I don’t think anyone believes that the aged Donaire can possibly do any better than he did in that fight.

In fact, there’s reason to believe that might’ve been his true last stand as a top-tier fighter, one more epic night, sort of like we saw with Erik Morales when he was stunningly competitive against Marcos Maidana in 2011, many years past Morales’ best days. People expected Maidana to batter Morales, but Morales gave as good as he got that night, just as Donaire did with Inoue last year.

If this rematch did happen, I’d pick Inoue without a second of hesitation. And it conceivably could, too. If Inoue were to beat John Riel Casimero whenever they fight, and Donaire beats Nordine Oubaali whenever they fight, there could be some real call for a rematch. Even if Inoue goes up to 122 at some point, Donaire could be a viable opponent, as Nonito has fought as high as 126.

Junior Bantamweight: (1) Juan Francisco Estrada def. (2) Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (270-208)

Srisaket Sor Rungvisai v Juan Francisco Estrada Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

In a competitive vote, fans have Estrada winning a fantasy rubber match with Srisaket. The two of them pretty much cruised to the final round, and then it got real with the voting.

Srisaket edged their first fight in early 2018, winning a majority decision. The rematch in Apr. 2019 went to Estrada, but narrowly (115-113, 115-113, 116-112), and there’s always been the feeling if maybe southpaw Srisaket hadn’t fought in a puzzling orthodox stance for, like, half the fight, the outcome could’ve been different.

So there’s good reason to believe Srisaket could beat Estrada again, but also every reason to believe Estrada would win another fight. I think either way it would be close once more; they’re well-suited for one another and their strengths and weaknesses match up for good fights.

Flyweight: (2) Julio Cesar Martinez def. (1) Kosei Tanaka (234-166)

Vasiliy Lomachenko v Luke Campbell - The O2 Arena Photo by Steven Paston/PA Images via Getty Images

A minor upset, I think, but one I understand for a few reasons.

  1. A lot of people just haven’t seen Tanaka, even the second-tier diehards, which is really by far the bulk of the diehard American fan base, and most of our visitors are American. Yeah, they’re watching DAZN fights, even the UK shows in the US afternoon. No, they’re not getting up at 4 am to try and watch Tanaka somewhere. I realize you can watch him later on YouTube or whatever, but most of them aren’t doing that, either.
  2. Martinez is a really fun fighter quickly picking up fans every time he fights.
  3. Even if you’ve seen plenty of both, it’s not hard to make the case that Martinez’s all-action pressure style would overwhelm Tanaka, who has had some struggles in a couple of his outings at 112 (last year’s win over Jonathan Gonzalez, his 2018 win over Sho Kimura).
  4. There remains a stereotype that for the most part, top Japanese fighters do well in Japan, mostly against other Japanese fighters and second-rate imports, but struggle against actual top-level opposition.

I think I voted for Tanaka, but it was a few days ago and right now all the days are blending together, so I don’t quite remember. But this one is 50/50 to me, too. Easy to make a case either way.

Junior Flyweight: (1) Kenshiro Teraji def. (2) Hiroto Kyoguchi (216-128)

BOXING-JPN Photo by KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images

Another 50/50 matchup, in my view, and a fight I’d love to see actually happen. Same with Tanaka-Martinez, for that matter.

As far as exposure to the majority of the voting base here, Teraji has had a bit more than Kyoguchi. Not a ton, mind you, but some, and that can make all the difference.

This fight also had the lowest total votes of any final matchup.

I think this would be a fantastic, high-level boxing match that gets a minor amount of American buzz and little more. Hopefully DAZN or ESPN+ would try to get a feed, or a Japanese promoter would put it on YouTube live.

Minimumweight: (1) Wanheng Menayothin def. (2) Knockout CP Freshmart (228-144)

BOX-THA-PAN-WANHENG-ESTRADA-MINIMUMWEIGHT LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP via Getty Images

Got slightly more votes than Teraji-Kyoguchi did, but not by a lot, and the second-lowest total overall. I fully respect people just not voting for matchups they don’t know much about, by the way. This is not a complaint. We said from the start you should just vote for what you want to vote for, you weren’t expected to do them all if you didn’t want to do them all. Again, it is just a stupid internet tournament meant to give us some bullshit to talk about in a lousy time.

I also think of all the final matchups, this is the one most likely to just flat-out stink. TBE Wanheng is not the most exciting guy himself, but Decision CP Freshmart can be truly dull to watch. This would quite possibly be one of those “chess matches” that the pugilistic intellectuals argue is good, but most people would dismiss as an utter bore.

Congratulations to all the fake winners, and thank you for voting for the fake fights!