We had a solid weekend of championship boxing, nothing that blew the doors off on the MEGA-EVENT level or anything, but some good fights, good performances, and plenty to think about coming out of what we saw.
Herring’s win over Carl Frampton was dominant, and I don’t think it’s just down to the fact Frampton was too small at 130, or that Frampton is just a bit past it in general. Those are facts, I’m not hyping this as a crazy Superman win for Jamel, but he was really good in that fight.
Herring (23-2, 11 KO) was sharp, smart, and worked his game plan very effectively, and the plan that Brian McIntyre and Co. came up with was right about perfect. Not only did Jamel use his superior height and reach, but he was throwing (and landing) consistent check hooks at moments they knew Frampton would have to reach to try to get inside instead of just tying up, and when they fighters did tie up, Herring was clearly determined not to let Frampton rough him up in there, and Carl definitely tried.
So what now? Unification with WBC titlist Oscar Valdez (29-0, 23 KO) is attractive to Herring, and should be for Top Rank, not only because it’s a good fight that should make a little money, but because it also allows everyone to keep playing the waiting game with Shakur Stevenson, while boasting a WORLD TITLE UNIFICATION instead of Stevenson fighting either of them right now.
Stevenson (15-0, 8 KO) appears headed for a June 12 return against Jeremiah Nakathila. If Herring doesn’t fight Valdez, the WBO probably will order him to fight the winner of that one, as Stevenson and Nakathila are currently the No. 1 and No. 2 contenders by WBO rankings.
Herring did not say Stevenson’s name on Saturday. It’s very easy to think his camp don’t want the Stevenson fight. I’m not telling you Jamel wants to “duck,” I’m saying business-wise, they might see other, better options for where he is in his career. You can call it what you want, but I’m not calling it a “duck.” I have too much general respect for Jamel to see it that way, particularly if he takes a good fight otherwise. If not? Then maybe I reevaluate it. And anyway it’s not decided either way in any official capacity, but it has to be said he didn’t say Stevenson’s name and doesn’t seem that interested in that direction.
If it comes down to not getting Valdez and having an order to fight Shakur next, Jamel has mentioned going back up to 135, where he might be able to get an immediate order from the WBO for a fight with Teofimo Lopez, who also might move up in weight sooner than later, so it could wind up with Herring fighting for a vacant belt at 135. And that itself could wind up being a notable fight with, say, Vasiliy Lomachenko.
There are a lot of possible roads for Herring, and none of them are bad. He’s in a really good spot in his career as far as big fight options go.
Akhmadaliev looked every bit the best junior featherweight in the world Saturday, taking Ryosuke Iwasa apart en route to a sixth round stoppage. Like most, I didn’t think the stoppage came at a good time, but the result was looking inevitable.
Akhmadaliev (9-0, 7 KO) still has the WBA and IBF belts at 122. He’s said he’d like to further unify, and fights with Stephen Fulton Jr (WBO) or Luis Nery (WBC) could be made, but I wouldn’t count my chickens on either. Both Fulton and Nery are PBC guys, and Nery doesn’t really seem like he knows exactly what he wants to do right now. There had been talks of Nery fighting Brandon Figueroa, and maybe that still happens, but Nery leaving trainer Eddy Reynoso may suggest otherwise for the time being.
Figueroa has the WBA’s “world” (“regular”) title, and is also with PBC. There is a WBA mandatory challenger in Azat Hovhannisyan, who is with Golden Boy and thus could make a fight with Matchroom’s Akhmadaliev easily; that could be a situation where it’s just the easiest thing for everyone involved to do, as Hovhannisyan also probably isn’t going to fight Figueroa. Akhmadaliev-Hovhannisyan isn’t the worst idea, but it wouldn’t exactly light the world on fire.
Otherwise, I don’t know. A lot of the division’s better fighters are with PBC. Danny Roman, the guy Akhmadaliev beat for both belts, fought his last bout with PBC. Ronny Rios is with Golden Boy and has fought his way back into contention. Hiroaki Teshigawara and Marlon Tapales are both highly-rated with the IBF, though their No. 1 and No. 2 spots are vacant.
The 38-year-old Nietes (43-1-5, 23 KO) hadn’t fought since New Year’s Eve at the end of 2018 in Macau, where he scored a very debatable decision win over Kazuto Ioka, but he got back in Dubai on Saturday and picked up a solid points win over a decent veteran guy in Pablo Carrillo.
Nietes is coming back into a 115-pound division that is just as stacked as when he left a few years back. He did have some rust on Saturday, but he warmed to the fight in the final four rounds or so, I thought, and looked sharper as it went on. Defensively, Carrillo hit him some, but mostly Nietes still looked good in there. Reflexes weren’t shot, chin isn’t busted, still moves well and was able to slip out of potential danger easily enough.
It’s hard to figure what’s next for him. Nietes is now with MTK Global, signing with them last fall, and isn’t otherwise tied to any major promoters. MTK’s team work with everyone easily enough, so promotional issues shouldn’t prevent any fights.
The top guys at 115 are Juan Francisco Estrada, Chocolatito Gonzalez, Kazuto Ioka, and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. Three of the four of them are tied up in WBC bullshit at the moment, where Sor Rungvisai is going to fight Carlos Cuadras for the vacant WBC belt, and Estrada will do a third fight with Chocolatito, Estrada having been “promoted to” the status of “WBC franchise champion” in order to avoid a third fight with Sor Rungvisai, who had been promised just that.
Ioka doesn’t really have anyone particularly interesting lined up, and I’m guessing he wouldn’t hate a rematch with Nietes. Ioka thought he won that fight in 2018, many people did. (It wasn’t a robbery, but it easily could have gone to Ioka.)
I’d expect Nietes to take another fight or two with decent but not hugely threatening opponents, though. If he can get through one or two more fights and feel good, feel like he’s back and further shake some rust, then I think he’ll go for another belt. Right now, he’s a good veteran wild card to add to an already good division.
Obviously, with the 34-year-old Frampton announcing his retirement — and he said pre-fight he would retire if he lost, it wasn’t a spur of the moment decision after a fight — there is nothing next for him in the ring, at least not immediately.
No boxing retirement is ever truly set in stone. Fighters get itches to compete again, and Carl’s going to have four or five years where that itch wouldn’t be insane to scratch. Will he do it? You never can tell. But I think right now he’s totally sincere — he’s had his career, and it was a damn good one, and now he wants to spend time with his family.
There will absolutely be work for Frampton in boxing if and when he wants to do it. I think he might make for a very good trainer if he wanted to go that route. I have seen him do some pundit work and thought he was good at that.
Mostly for now, I just wanted to add this section on to congratulate “The Jackal” on a tremendous career and say that he was truly one of the great gentlemen and ambassadors for boxing during his 12 years as a professional fighter. We wish him all the best, health and happiness as he steps away from the sport.