Another weekend in boxing has come and gone, and this time, we even got some actually interesting things to talk about when all was said and done!
Jose Zepeda vs Regis Prograis
The basics: Regis Prograis mostly dominated en route to an 11th round stoppage win over Jose Zepeda, taking the vacant WBO 140 lb title.
Thoughts: We got a reminder of just how good Regis Prograis is. The last three years of his career have been iffy decisions from him that are spun on TV broadcasts into being “everyone avoided me,” and maybe there is some truth to that, but the boxing business works in the stupid way that it does. At any rate, Prograis now has a belt again and something for everyone to chase, and he took it in emphatic fashion. Zepeda’s a good fighter. Prograis was a lot better than him.
Next for Prograis: The WBC have told Jose Ramirez that he would have a shot at the Zepeda-Prograis winner. That is Prograis. There are ways that fight doesn’t happen, and the biggest one is Ramirez opting not to take it. Prograis is with Probellum and Ramirez with Top Rank, but I think the fight can get done, “politics” should not alone block anything here. If the fight goes to purse bid, then either side will have the chance to win it. Top Rank would have to put legitimate money down to get it for ESPN, because we’ve seen what can happen with a Prograis purse bid. MarvNation, the official winners of the bid, overpaid for Zepeda-Prograis, but all the same the fight got done and the fighters got nice checks for it. Would Prograis go fight on a Top Rank card? I think so. Would Ramirez and Top Rank allow him to go fight on a MarvNation/Probellum/whatever show? I think the chance is pretty good if the money is right. Ramirez has, for whatever reason, never been a big ratings draw on ESPN. If it’s not Ramirez, then make sure you keep an eye on the Teofimo Lopez vs Sandor Martin fight on Dec. 10, because that is also a WBC eliminator.
For Zepeda: He’s a damn good fighter. Worse fighters than Zepeda (35-3, 27 KO) have won world titles, some in multiple weight classes. Zepeda has had the “misfortune” to be in an actual good division. Yet we have had the fortune to have Zepeda take actual good fights in that division and go for the top level. He came up clearly short against Prograis, barely short against Jose Ramirez. There are coming talents like Teofimo Lopez and Ryan Garcia, but will they really measure up at 140? Remains to be seen. A fight with Richard Commey could be a great Top Rank on ESPN+ main event some week they need to fulfill obligations — look, those cards are going to exist, the least they could do is make them Zepeda vs Commey type fights.
From the undercard
- Yokasta Valle: Valle (27-2, 9 KO) now has the IBF and WBO belts at 108 lbs, lifting them from Evelyn Bermudez in a fun fight. She also still has the IBF and WBO belts at 105 lbs, so Yokasta has options, and that’s a good thing for her. She’s got prizes people will want in two divisions. The absolute ideal would be for her to face Seniesa Estrada at either weight; that’s a fight Golden Boy should have tried really hard to make before Estrada jumped to Top Rank. Valle believes Estrada doesn’t want the fight.
- Bakhodir Jalolov: Jalolov (12-0, 12 KO) met no resistance from Curtis Harper, other than a wild headbutt Harper threw at one point, before Jalolov put him away in the fourth. Jalolov is 28 and a really developed fighter, he should step up the competition just a bit next time out. Maybe a Sergey Kuzmin or Jerry Forrest type. Jalolov believes he’ll be ready for the top level within two years, so 2023 is a good time to start actually moving up.
- Charles Conwell: Conwell (18-0, 13 KO) really needs to get his career moving again next year, too. His win over Juan Carlos Abreu was ruled a majority decision, but I thought he clearly won the fight; this seems like one where the fight was fought in spaces where two judges (95-95 and 96-94) had angles that obscured a lot of what you could see better on TV, perhaps. The other judge had it 98-92, which I thought was much closer to reality. But Abreu was an opponent at the level Conwell’s been sitting for a while now. He has skills, and at the very least he needs to get truly active again. There seem to be two paths for Conwell right now: Serious contender or Terrell Gausha 2: The Sequel to Terrell Gausha.
Dillian Whyte vs Jermaine Franklin
The basics: Dillian Whyte beat Jermaine Franklin by majority decision in London. We had it 114-114 on our unofficial card, and the judges had a 115-115 card and two 116-112 Whyte tallies.
Thoughts: Whyte wasn’t at his absolute best, perhaps. He went back to the old mohawk hairdo to try to conjure some youthful mojo, but this was definitely a 35-year-old Dillian Whyte who is probably past his absolute best days. Franklin did much better than most expected, or maybe Whyte did worse. Maybe a mixture of the two.
Next for Whyte: Whyte will be an attractive potential foe for a lot of people. It could be the Anthony Joshua rematch. They already sort of hyped that a bit yesterday, and it could come next summer; Matchroom plan to have AJ back in March, which sounds like it’ll be sort of a “tune-up,” and then look for a bigger fight in the summer, which could be Whyte. Those two met in late 2015, which is ancient history at this point, and Joshua stopped him in seven. It was a good fight with great atmosphere. Is Whyte elite? Nah, but he’s dangerous against most opponents. We’ll see if he stays with Buddy McGirt, which could be a good pairing or maybe just doesn’t mesh to the level Whyte needs at age 35, but if he gets another new trainer it’s sort of like square one again, too.
For Franklin: Jermaine fought smart, never once was overwhelmed, only got notably hurt really late in the fight. He’s always been a solid boxer; when he disappointed in Showtime appearances, the question was not whether he was competent or not, it’s whether he had extra gears or anything special. He has a good jab, has some nice hand speed, he knows what he’s doing in there, he can be quite clever — think of him, perhaps, as a poor man’s Andy Ruiz. But he’s also short for the division and doesn’t have exceptional skills that seem likely to put him over the top, nor is he a particularly big puncher. The question now will be whether this was “just” a great stylistic matchup, and how much further he can go. As much as he answered some questions, there still will be some, which is surely really frustrating from his perspective. But I’d look forward to seeing him again. I doubt he gets a rematch against Whyte, but now that he’s got managerial issues and all that settled, he should be able to find some decent fights. But he’s right in that Michael Hunter area now. Hunter also probably should have lost to Jerry Forrest.
From the undercard
- Fabio Wardley: Wardley (15-0, 14 KO) was looking a bit out of his depth for a round against Nathan Gorman. He was being out-boxed, even busted up a bit, looked a bit clueless. And then he found Gorman with right hands and beat him down, forcing a stoppage in round three. This was the second time Gorman (19-2, 13 KO) had some people thinking maybe his boxing experience would win out over a more powerful foe, and both times he got smashed to bits, first by Daniel Dubois in 2019 and now by Wardley. He’s a decent domestic level heavyweight, but it’s pretty clear at this point why his level of opposition other than those two has been what it’s been. As for Wardley, he’s in a weird spot for a promoter — he continues to run people over, but going higher than this, he will meet people who don’t crumble within three completed rounds, even at European title level. So if you’re Eddie Hearn and Co., you have to start weighing how much better you think Wardley is capable of getting. Either he basically sits at this level and you hope he improves, or you risk him against better opposition that he simply might not be able to handle. So you have to ask, will he ever be good enough to win at those levels? Is it worth the waiting? We’ll see! I have no skin in the game either way.
- Sandy Ryan: Ryan (5-1, 2 KO) is a case where a loss really, really, truly, actually might have been the best thing to happen to a fighter. When Erica Faris beat her in March, she was apparently pretty down about it. But she bounced back, took a rematch five months later, won, and now picks up a good win over Anahi Esther Sanchez. Like Wardley, Ryan’s in kind of a tough spot at 140, where Chantelle Cameron rules the roost and Ryan, like, actually might be the No. 2 fighter in the division without Kali Reis active. But what do you do there? Do you fight Cameron, which is a crazy leap? Do you take a few more fights against, say, Christina Linardatou, Victoria Bustos types first? Jumping to 147 isn’t even that big a play, because Jessica McCaskill is still undisputed there, and while she doesn’t have Great Boxing Skills, she proved against Cameron at 140, even in defeat, that she’s relentless, it’s a whole other challenge. The Linardatou/Bustos type path for two or three more fights probably makes the most sense, and Linardatou in particular may be a good challenge.
- John Ryder: We mentioned it briefly on Saturday, because basically there’s only so much to say about the actual fight, but it’s potentially a really big deal. Ryder (32-5, 18 KO) got a stoppage win over Zach Parker (22-1, 16 KO) after four rounds (technically, they’ll say 0:01 in the fifth) when Parker suffered a broken hand. It gives Ryder the interim WBO super middleweight title, and a very clear path to being Canelo Alvarez’s opponent in May. Canelo wants a “tune-up” sort of fight when he returns, and not to disrespect the hard-working Ryder, but he fits that bill relative to Canelo’s status, he’s a Matchroom fighter, and it would be easy to get done. There’s not a deal that would be offered that I think Ryder would turn down for a chance to fight Canelo. Right now, I’d consider him the clubhouse leader to be in there with Ol’ Saul on May 6.
- Nina Hughes: Flying way under most radars on Saturday, Nina Hughes took the WBA bantamweight title from Jamie Mitchell in Dubai on scores of 96-94, 96-94, and 97-93. Mitchell (8-1-2, 5 KO) had beaten Shannon Courtenay to win the belt in Oct. 2021 in Liverpool, then defended in February of this year in Phoenix against Carly Skelly, but the 40-year-old Hughes (5-0, 2 KO) ended that reign and has become a world boxing champion after turning just under a year ago at the age of 39.