Christian Mbilli stayed unbeaten, but he had to really earn in a tough fight tonight with Carlos Gongora in Montreal.
Mbilli was hurt in the fight, but ultimately did more damage and out-worked his Ecuadorian opponent, securing cards of 97-93, 98-92, and 99-91 for the unanimous decision win. Bad Left Hook’s unofficial card was 97-93 for Mbilli.
Gongora (21-2, 16 KO) still looks like a relevant player in the 168 lb division, which isn’t too deep with quality operators at the moment, admittedly, and Mbilli’s performance tonight solidifies him as a serious contender. Canelo Alvarez, of course, rules the roost at 168 as undisputed champ, and we have the big Benavidez vs Plant fight on Saturday night, too, but after those guys and David Morrell Jr, Mbilli (24-0, 20 KO) has as good a case to be ranked in the top five as anyone right now.
The 27-year-old Mbilli, from Cameroon originally, based in France, and a familiar fighter in Quebec, ate a good amount of counter left uppercuts from Gongora in the early going, but by the fourth round looked to be in real control, mixing a consistently effective body attack with some clever shots up top, something that was a little tougher for him in the first two rounds.
Gongora’s funky, awkward nature started to wilt a bit in those middle rounds, but he was still effective in spots himself, and had Mbilli hurt badly in round eight, before Mbilli steadied himself and roared back, making for a Round of the Year candidate.
That momentum Mbilli had to close round eight carried over into the ninth and 10th, though, and he put the cherry on top of a really good performance. If the fight had been scheduled for 12, you get the feeling referee Steve St Germain may have stepped in late in round 10, as Gongora was eating a lot of hard shots and looking pretty unsteady.
Canelo presents a sort of “good problem” being undisputed champ, as that creates a logjam for top-level fights in its own way, particularly if he beats John Ryder in May as expected, then fights Dmitry Bivol again in September, which seems to be the plan right now. So Mbilli may find it hard to follow this fight with something as good, honestly, but he’s in that mix at 168 now for sure.
Mbilli vs Gongora highlights
(ESPN Ringside will hopefully have some better highlights up soon.)
- Simon Kean TKO-7 Eric Molina: Couple of big heavyweights. Neither guy is exactly world level or anything, and the fight — well, it wasn’t particularly good, but I’ve seen worse heavyweight fights. I’ve seen worse heavyweight fights for world titles. This was probably (and hopefully) it for the 40-year-old Molina (29-9, 21 KO), who has looked bad in four recent stoppage losses dating back to 2019, and hasn’t really been competitive against a credible opponent since he fought Dominic Breazeale in 2017. I really did not like watching Molina these last few years, but I’m choosing to remember whenhe really was a very solid, very game fringe contender type who wasn’t afraid to fight anyone. He fought Anthony Joshua, he fought Deontay Wilder, and he got in the ring with plenty more tough guys, and he did all of that despite being knocked out in 1:45 in his debut back in 2007. Kean (23-1, 22 KO) is 34 and is what he is, a regional favorite who will move some tickets for cards, and honestly he’s usually more fun to watch than this. Both guys fought a little tentative, but they would explode for big punches now and then, too.
- Steve Claggett TKO-7 Rafael Guzman: Claggett was really sharp here. Now, listen, I respect the local commentary being excited about a Canadian guy they like, and I thought, again, Claggett was very sharp. But calling for him to get a world title fight off the back of beating a 27-year-old dude with a really empty record, who was coming off of a draw in Tijuana, is maybe a bit bold. But Claggett (34-7-2, 24 KO) really is a warrior and a solid fighter, and this is five straight wins for him, all by stoppage, and he’s moving toward making his case, at least. Guzman (26-3-2, 16 KO) gave the effort, but he couldn’t land much clean on Claggett, who landed clean enough to get Guzman’s corner to stop it after the seventh round.
- Luis Santana TKO-3 Francisco Arturo Ramirez: Ramirez was kinda in this and then he definitely wasn’t. By the end of the second round his whole vibe had shifted, and Santana (9-0, 3 KO) put him away about midway into the third round, with Ramirez’s (11-5, 6 KO) stopping the fight after a knockdown. Some good work from Santana, a 25-year-old lightweight.
- Leila Beaudoin UD-6 Laura Avendano: Beaudoin goes to 9-0-1 (1 KO) as she tries to keep moving up the ladder at 130. Avendano (6-1, 2 KO) wasn’t as good as her record might make her seem, and she also missed weight by a ton, but the fight went on anyway and it made no difference.
- Wilkens Mathieu UD-4 Jose Gonzalez: Look, this wasn’t any fun to watch, as it was 18-year-old prospect Mathieu “going rounds” on purpose in his second pro bout, improving to 2-0 (1 KO), but it’s work that could be valuable. The 36-year-old Gonzalez (1-3-1, 0 KO) hung in there and gave the odd shot back, too, this is the sort of thing that’s good for young fighters to do in a live fight setting, not just in the gym. So no, not exciting, but not without purpose. Mathieu is fighting at 165 lb catchweights early; right now he doesn’t look like he has the physique for 168, but there’s no reason to get all the way down to 160 immediately, either, they’ll probably work him down to that when fights get more serious over the next few years.
- Jhon Orobio TKO-1 Alejandro Medina: Easy work for Orobio, a 19-year-old Colombian making his debut. He started doing damage as the first minute of the fight was winding down, and it was stopped at 95 seconds. Medina (2-2, 2 KO) didn’t go down, but he was just getting knocked around the ring and it wasn’t going to get any more competitive.
- Vanessa Lepage Joanisse UD-4 Princess Hairston: These two weighed in right around 185, which means this is a fight without a division. You can call it heavyweight or light heavyweight, whatever, but those weights barely actually exist in women’s boxing. But here’s the good news: Both of these fighters came to fight and gave a good effort. It wasn’t dull and that’s all you can really ask. Joanisse (4-1, 1 KO) hadn’t fought since a 2017 loss to Alejandra Jimenez, reportedly she got up to about 315 lbs, and this was a huge thing for her to drop 140 lbs and come back to the sport. She started just a bit slow, but pretty well dominated Hairston (2-2, 2 KO) after that.