By Gleb Kuzin
What we’ve learned and what to expect next
Gabriel Rosado TKO4 Glen Tapia
Though many saw this fight as close to 50/50, it went the exact way it was supposed to go. Gabriel Rosado has further cemented his status as gatekeeper for the top 10 at 160. Glen Tapia, now riding a 4 fight losing streak, has proved that he is nowhere near that level. He was and remains a domestic level fighter with a gas tank for about 4 rounds of action.
Ryan Burnett UD12 Zhanat Zhakiyanov
Going in, this fight carried a strong level of concern over the eventual fairness of the judges’ scorecards. Zhanat Zhakiyanov fights in a similar style to his trainer Ricky Hatton, and the prospect of winning a decision in the enemy’s backyard of Belfast was seen as a difficult proposition. It turned out, there was no need for a robbery. Burnet effectively clinched, took advantage of every tiny opening ZZ left him, and demonstrated all around maturity in his performance.
Usually in a matchup between a boxer and a brawler, you expect the boxer to use his superior skills to keep the fight at distance. However, Burnett fought Zhakiyanov’s fight and not only looked competitive, but stayed one step ahead the whole time, outlanding ZZ both to the body and the head. Burnett never needed to fight his type of fight as he was perfectly comfortable fighting on the inside. It was a great performance for Burnett, and a strategically important one as well with rumors of Naoya Inoue stepping up, Luis Nery’s PEDformance against Yamanaka, and Takuma Inoue’s title ambitions.
Demetrius Andrade UD12 Alantez Fox
It seems that Demetrius Andrade wasn’t impressed enough with his shiny new HBO contract to actually put on a show. Maybe he reasoned that his ratings on the undercard of Corrales-Machado would be terrible, so why even bother trying. But maybe he’s just not as good as people want him to be. He fought an easy fight doing effective work throughout the 12 round distance. That’s all you can say about his performance. He tried a few things, figured how to land effective combinations, and he stuck to it for 36 minutes. Does he think he did enough to make people want to see him more often than once every 15 months? If he does, he’s mistaken.
Andre Ward made an interesting point regarding Andrade’s ambitions at 160. “Does he want to do enough to finish people inside the distance?” The answer is no. He has pop in his punches, he knows how to deliver them in combinations, but he doesn’t want to risk landing punches in a situation where he can get countered. The competition in the middleweight division had finally grown enough to challenge the King and the Ginger, but Boo Boo had not proven that he’s part of that crowd. At least not yet.
Alberto Machado KO8 Jezreel Corrales
When Corrales beat Uchyama the first time, he impressed; when he fought him the second time, the hype began to cool down; when he fought Castellanos, many thought he deserved to lose the decision. In a fight, he looks like a rather unstable individual, struggling to remain professional, and showing a great deal of disrespect towards his opponents. The main question after Saturday night is: was Corrales mediocre from the beginning or did the spotlight affect him negatively? Either way, it doesn’t matter anymore. He got his ass beat.
He walked away from a unification fight with Miguel Berchelt to take this one, didn’t bother to make weight, dyed his hair the same color as Canelo, threw low blows, complained and victimized himself to the referee, and then he clinched and wrestled for dear life to the delight of the Puerto Rican partisans supporting Machado. Corrales got what he deserved this night. Alberto Machado was not supposed to win this fight, but now he has become the weakest champion at 130. What’s ahead of him now? A classic Puerto Rico vs Mexico rivalry? Perhaps, that’s his only chance for a payday.
Murat Gassiev KO3 Krzysztof Wlodarczyk
Murat Gassiev came in and did exactly what he needed to do and what everyone expected from him. He knocked out his opponent early and dramatically, again earning a spot on the shortlist for best KOs of the year. He dominated the fight and put on a good show for the fans, and in the process he kept the momentum going for the WBSS. But what he did on a technical level is more impressive than the raw Kavkazian strength he possesses. There are two things that signify his style more than power:
Ring Generalship – It’s not just about effective movement and distance management, but also knowing how to trade the time and energy one spends to trap the opponent against the ropes. It takes maturity to understand what kind of shots you can land to make the chase worth it. Murat does. Every time Murat would let Wlodarczyk off the ropes, it was calculated.
Precision – Gassiev knows how to land his bombs. The knockout demonstrated it perfectly. He came in close, surprised Wlodarczyk with a short uppercut, made him pull his hands up to land the punch really meant to land — a powerful left hook to the body. For the second time in a row, Gassiev proves that he knows how to adjust his timing in order to land big; he knows how to set up effective punches.
How will he fare against Dorticos? Expect him to be the betting favorite, but in a fight between two knockout punchers you can never be sure what’s going to happen. And this is what WBSS about. The best fighting the best.
Daigo Higa TKO7 Thomas Masson
Daigo Higa came into the ring intent on continuing his knockout streak in a dominating performance, and that’s exactly what he achieved. His left hand is arguably one of the best in boxing. He throws 3–4–5–6 left hooks and uppercuts in a row and makes it look easy. He has patience and ring IQ to fight smart and pick his opportunities, but when he gets inside he is relentless. Daigo Higa deals in the art of boxing.
That said, there are some red flags regarding Higa’s readiness to face the diverse situations that are waiting for him at the top of the division. Higa occasionally looked bothered with the fact that his combinations didn’t put Masson away. He overexerted himself in those moment, which allowed the Frenchman to squeeze in some combinations.
Nipicks aside, what is really impressive is how Daigo Higa managed to finish the fight: he broke Masson’s eye socket. With an absolutely impressive and fan friendly style of fighting, Daigo Higa has the power to break bones. If he wasn’t so good looking, he could have already been named the flyweight Mike Tyson.
Ryota Murata RTD7 Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam
After the first round of the rematch, the primary question was: why did Ryota Murata look so bad in his first fight with Hassan N’Dam? What prevented him from going to the body so often? What prevented him from pushing the pace? What prevented him from letting his hands go? This is the type of fight he should’ve always been fighting in for every single fight of his pro career. Ryota Murata has never once impressed boxing fans since he left the amatuer ranks, and this weekend he finally got to perform. But is it too late for him?
He thoroughly dominated N’Dam inside and outside, overpowering the frenchman, making him really work to keep his desired distance. He adjusted quickly, bringing something new every round, making N’Dam question his gameplan. From start to finish, Murata did not lose control once, leaving N’Dam to do all the work.
Unfortunately, he has not done enough to erase the memories of his mediocre performances of the past. However he has done enough to create an intrigue for the fans wondering “How would Ryota Murata do against the middleweight elite”. And while Canelo Alvarez is waiting for Gennady Golovkin to get old, the fans would love to see the things unveil outside the throne room. Murata is good for that.