Sherdog Boxing: The Weekly Wrap

By James Kinneen Aug 16, 2019

The Andy Ruiz-Anthony Joshua rematch was reportedly slated to land in Saudi Arabia on Dec. 7. Ruiz had been fighting the idea of having the rematch in the United Kingdom, so it seemed like -- human rights issues aside -- the move meant everything was going to work out fine. However, Ruiz decided to put up a fuss about the fight being in the Middle East, as he wants it in the United States and thinks that he should get to make that decision as champion.

Strangely, Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn held a press conference that Ruiz did not attend and claimed the fight was signed, essentially arguing that the rematch clause allowed him to select the venue. While Ruiz keeps reiterating that he should get to call the shots as the A side, Hearn has other ideas.

“His choice is to have a legal battle that could put him out of boxing for years, or to defend his belts for a lot of money against a guy he has already beaten,” he said. “There isn’t any doubt he will take the fight.”

Ruiz promoter Frank Warren disagrees with his assessment and makes a compelling case against it, pointing out that if the United States Department of State has warned tourists not to travel to Saudi Arabia, it would be difficult to take away a fighter’s titles for not wanting to compete there. The sounds like a valid argument and would put the sanctioning bodies in an uncomfortable position should Ruiz make it.

While Joshua should be focused on making sure the Ruiz rematch happens, he has instead been trading barbs with former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis. He called Lewis “a clown” -- which led to a Yahoo headline declaring that “Joshua Continues Embarrassing Himself.” Lewis remains a beloved figure in the boxing community and fought the best of the best of his era, meaning Joshua stands to gain little by targeting him.

Prograis-Taylor Possibly Cancelled, Future of WBSS in Doubt

It was reported that Regis Prograis was suing the World Boxing Super Series and trying to bail on the 140-pound tournament final against Josh Taylor because the WBSS was not paying him on time. The WBSS denies he has pulled out of the fight with Taylor, and ESPN’s Steve Kim and The Athletic’s Mike Coppinger are reporting that those who run the WBSS think they can salvage the fight for late October, likely Oct. 26 on Dazn.

The WBSS desperately needs this fight to happen. You will recall that multiple fighters -- Prograis and Ivan Baranchyk -- threatened to pull out of the tournament as it was happening before ultimately rejoining the competition. Worse still, before the tournament began, everyone went crazy that Jose Ramirez opted not to join the draw and screamed that it was a huge mistake. While the WBSS has seen nothing but turmoil for the fighters involved, Ramirez now has two belts, the WBO and WBC, and finds himself sitting pretty for a unification bout against either Prograis or Taylor. If Ramirez ends up looking even better for not joining the tournament and Prograis makes any more negative comments about it, the WBSS’ situation could soon turn dire.

Fury-Wallin Official for Sept. 14

The match between Tyson Fury and Otto Wallin was made official for Sept. 14 in Las Vegas. In search of a way to sell the fight, Top Rank CEO Bob Arum resorted to pointing out that Ingemarr Johannsen was Swedish, too. Fans scoffed at the idea -- Johannsen was an Olympic silver medalist, so he did not come out of nowhere the way Wallin did -- and took a look at some of Wallin’s fights on YouTube. What they found was that his power was so potent that he could drop an opponent with a punch that misses by six inches; or perhaps his Swedish competition was not up to par.

On the Fury-Wallin undercard, Jose “The Sniper” Pedraza will face Jose Zepeda at 140 pounds. After losing his lightweight title to Vasiliy Lomachenko, Pedraza rebounded with a win over Antonio Lozada in May. Zepeda aims to bounce back from a decision loss to Jose Ramirez and a no-contest with Eleazar Valenzuela in his two previous outings.

Smith Newest Boxer to Try Bareknuckle Fighting

Best known for his stint on “The Contender,” Ishe Smith made it known that he would be the next former professional boxer to give bareknuckle boxing a shot. Smith is 41 and owns a professional boxing record of 29-11 with 12 knockouts. He has lost six of his last 10 fights, but there are recognizable names on his resume, including Daniel Jacobs, Julian Williams and Erislandy Lara.

After the Paulie Malignaggi debacle, it is hard to put any credence in an old boxer who been in there with -- but lost to -- the best taking the bareknuckle world by storm. Still, Smith acknowledged that if he fought in traditional boxing, he would be the B side and would have needed knockouts against whatever up and comer with whom he was paired. There are worse things than letting him blow off some steam by fighting bareknuckle.

Rumor: Cancio Eyes Alvarado Rematch

A gas worker by day and boxer by night, Andrew Cancio will reportedly face Rene Alvarado in a rematch this fall. Cancio stopped Alvarado in December 2015, but both men have since gone on a tear. Cancio beat Alberto Machado twice and now holds the WBA super featherweight title. Alvarado, on the other hand, has won seven fights in a row since a 2017 loss to Yuriorkis Gamboa. Xu Can and Manny Robles may fight for a third time on the Cancio-Alvarado 2 card.

Golovkin-Derevyanchenko Nearly Set for Oct. 5

It may not be a great fight, but most believe it will net Gennady Golovkin the IBF middleweight championship. Supposedly, GGG-Sergiy Derevyanchenko is all but official for Oct. 5 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Why does it matter? As hesitant as Saul “Canelo” Alvarez has been to face GGG a third time, one of his go-to excuses has been that he does not want to fight Golovkin again until he has a belt. Perhaps that was behind Oscar De La Hoya’s declaration about being confident GGG-Canelo 3 will happen -- eventually.

Times Declares Boxing Dead … Again

The Los Angeles Times published an editorial that made the tired argument about boxing being dead. Why? Because GGG-Canelo 3 is not happening yet, because Fury and Deontay Wilder are not fighting soon enough and because nobody in the United States cares that Joshua-Ruiz might happen in Saudi Arabia. Since fans in America do not seem to be upset, they must not care about the fight.

Obviously, it is frustrating that the fights people want to see are not happening, but before you lament how little people care about boxing, ask yourself this: Can you name 10 Major League Baseball players? NHL players? Golfers? If you watch a show like “PTI” or “Around the Horn,” how many segments are there on hockey? Who are they about?

The truth of the matter is that while boxing has continually shot itself in the foot, the sports landscape -- and to a large degree the entertainment landscape -- has changed significantly. Football and basketball are so dominant that virtually every athlete with a household name comes from those two sports, and if not for local team media coverage, almost every other sport could be considered a niche. With more and more ways to follow every team in your favorite sport, the idea of a sport being “mainstream” is becoming less and less relevant. Are there any non-NFL or non-NBA games you would feel confident bringing up at the watercooler, because everyone at your office would have watched it?

Boxing is not dead; it is just retaining a small but devoted fanbase, just like every sport other than basketball and football.
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