BOXING FEATURED

A Knockout Weekend for Deontay Wilder, Naoya Inoue

By David Greisman

 

Deontay Wilder Lands a Bomb on Breazeale for First-Round KO

 

Deontay Wilder started this fight pretty much the way he ended his last fight — by landing the most powerful punch in boxing today, his vaunted right hand, putting his opponent down hard on his back, struggling to stand before the referee reached 10.

But while Tyson Fury somehow opened his eyes and got back on his feet in the 12th round of his fight with Wilder last December, the same couldn’t be said of Dominic Breazeale this past Saturday. Breazeale was put down with a huge right hand in the first round. He tried to get up and eventually did, but he was too hurt to get up in enough time.

Wilder defended his heavyweight title with a sensational highlight-reel knockout. It took one punch in one round. That is how dangerous, how capable Wilder is. But we knew that already. We knew that Wilder would land on Breazeale. We just didn’t know when it would come — and what it would look like once it did.

 

It came early. That’s not much of a surprise. Breazeale proved to be an easy target. His reputation precedes him. Breazeale has a history of starting slow and coming on strong. He’s quite capable of taking a lot of punishment and then roaring back. He went down against Amir Mansour and then came back for the stoppage win. He traded knockdowns with Izuagbe Ugonoh before finishing him off.

But there’s a difference between what a fighter can get away with against the tough-but-limited likes of Mansour and Ugonoh, and what happens when someone like Breazeale steps in the ring with one of the top heavyweights in the world.

Breazeale was bravely beaten down for seven rounds by Anthony Joshua in 2016. He didn’t last anywhere near as long against Wilder.

Given the two fighters involved, and the bad blood between them, this fight was destined to be fun for as long or as little as it lasted. That’s indeed what it was.

Wilder had Breazeale reeling about halfway into the first round, landing a right hand that sent Breazeale retreating into the corner. Wilder followed him there and continued to throw, only to get caught with a big overhand right from Breazeale. Suddenly Wilder was tying up, taking a momentary break from the action.

Breazeale wasn’t going to go down without a fight. But he was still about to go down.

 

Wilder soon led with a jab and began throwing his right hand before the left even landed. The jab did its job, distracting Breazeale from the big blow that was coming with tremendous speed and power. Breazeale didn’t help his cause with leaky defense — his right hand remained at the side of his head, and he dropped his left hand to his waist to begin to launch a counter hook, leaving himself even more exposed.

 

Wilder’s quicker, straighter punch landed first, right on the chin. Breazeale crumbled to the mat, collapsing onto his left side, momentum carrying him so that he wound up flat on his back, his arms out at his sides, seemingly out. Breazeale began to roll over by the count of eight. He was on all fours at nine. He was still on his knees at 10, rising but failing to beat the count.

 

This was the ninth defense for Wilder of the heavyweight title he won more than four years ago. He’s now 41-0-1 with 40 knockouts.

 

Wilder remains dangerous no matter who he faces. Fighters who have shown an ability to take punishment, like Breazeale, still can’t stand up to his power — literally. Fighters who’ve boxed well and made him miss, like Fury, couldn’t make him miss the entire fight. Fighters who’ve hurt Wilder, like Luis Ortiz, couldn’t put him away and wound up getting stopped.

It will take someone who can box well and make Wilder miss, who has a strong chin for when Wilder does land, and who can score on Wilder as well.

That’s a lot to ask.

But that’s why there are still fights we want to see Wilder in, particularly a rematch with Fury or a collision with Anthony Joshua. There’ve been negotiations for both, but no deals made.

There’s a possibility that Wilder could face Ortiz again. While it’s not at the top of our wish list, their battle in March 2018 was quite enjoyable.

Breazeale is now 20-2 with 18 KOs. This is another setback, but hopefully he’ll be back on TV again soon. The guy just makes for good fights. Put him in with someone else with his style and on his level. Not everyone can be great. But they can still be in great fights.

 

Naoya Inoue Clobbers Rodriguez, Heads to WBSS Finale Against Nonito Donaire

 

The best fighter you might never have heard of before has once again justified all the hype about him.

 

This isn’t hyperbole. Most people understandably have Terence Crawford and Vasiliy Lomachenko atop their lists of the best boxers, pound for pound, in the world today. They might also have some other names we’ve heard of, names deserving of recognition and acclaim.

Naoya Inoue competes in a division too few pay attention to: bantamweight, where the weight limit is 118 pounds. He is a Japanese fighter in a sport where technology has allowed us to watch more of what’s happening around the world, though we still tend to pay more attention to what goes on in certain parts of the globe.

 

There’s been hype around Inoue since 2014, when the 20-year-old prodigy won a world title at 108 pounds in his sixth pro fight, then finished the year by jumping all the way up to 115 pounds to add another title there. He’s talented. He’s powerful. He’s obliterated nearly everyone who’s stepped in the ring with him and still dominated the rest.

And he’s continued to do so in a third weight class.

Inoue took out contender Jamie McDonnell in two minutes last year. He entered the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) tournament and blew away titleholder Juan Carlos Payano in just 70 seconds. And he came into the semifinals this past Saturday night for a unification bout with capable, undefeated titleholder Emmanuel Rodriguez.

Rodriguez made it past round one. He didn’t last much longer.

Inoue knocked Rodriguez down three times in round two, scoring a technical knockout, adding another world title to his collection, and entering the tournament finale looking every bit like the “Monster” nickname bestowed on him. His last three wins have taken him a total of seven minutes and 21 seconds.

Here’s the thing: Rodriguez actually started the fight well! He found a home for his right hand early and was pushing forward. Inoue soon began to land as well, particularly with his sensational left hook, but also with good right hands. Rodriguez was taking these shots fine and was standing in with Inoue. It was Inoue who surged as the round went on, landing more frequently and with more force as the first came to an end.

Rodriguez soon got a taste of just how much power Inoue has, and just how great Inoue is.

Early in the second round, Inoue threw a right to Rodriguez’s body. Rodriguez attempted a left hook counter but got caught with a left hook to the head instead. He went down, popping back up quickly with a bloody nose.

 

The next knockdown came from shots downstairs, a left hook to the right side of Rodriguez’s body followed by a right hand near the same spot. Inoue placed his punches with precision and sadism, putting Rodriguez in severe pain and then adding to it. Rodriguez winced and hit the canvas. He looked to his corner and shook his head as he beat the count. He knew how this fight was going to end. And he knew it was going to end soon.

Inoue knew it as well. He let loose with another onslaught, finishing with a left hook to the body and a right hand to the head, then repeating the combination. Rodriguez dropped, looking to his corner again as the referee counted, rising nonetheless at the count of seven. The referee looked at Rodriguez, however, and wisely decided that the fight didn’t need to go on any longer.

Rodriguez went from being the one landing on Inoue, to trading willingly with Inoue, to wanting no more of Inoue, all in the span of less than five minutes.

 

He’s now 19-1 with 12 KOs. He is a good fighter, beating Paul Butler to win a world title a year ago and then defending it against Jason Moloney in the quarterfinal round of the WBSS. And yet Inoue looked like a wrecking ball going through tissue paper.

Inoue will of course be the clear favorite going into the finale. He’ll face Nonito Donaire, whose left hook is also his best weapon. Inoue, who’s now 18-0 with 16 KOs, is the younger, fresher fighter. He’s 26; Donaire is 36. He’s never lost. Donaire has shown signs of decline over the years, losing to Guillermo Rigondeaux, Nicholas Walters, Jessie Magdaleno and Carl Frampton.

But Donaire can’t be discounted. The former four-division titleholder has looked rejuvenated since coming back down to 118 after competing in recent years at 122 and 126.

He’ll still be the underdog. And for good reason.

 

“He is the Monster. That is something I’m going to need to figure out,” Donaire said in an interview after the fight. “He’s a great fighter with great power and great intelligence. Just great everything.”

 

Inoue is indeed great. That’s why you should pay attention to him. And don’t stop paying attention either, because if recent results are any indication, his fights can be over in an instant.

 

Josh Taylor Outclasses Baranchyk, Will Face Regis Prograis in WBSS Finale

 

Josh Taylor had a heck of an act to follow, fighting after Naoya Inoue’s sensational performance on Saturday night.

 

Then again, he was the star of the main event, a homegrown talent from Scotland fighting in front of his loving fans in Glasgow, there to cheer on the 140-pound contender as he fought for his first world title.

And Taylor was up for the challenge. He outboxed Ivan Baranchyk early, outbattled him in the middle rounds, scored two knockdowns and came out with the unanimous decision victory, a world title, and a spot in the World Boxing Super Series junior welterweight tournament finale.

 

Taylor, the taller and longer fighter, used both of those attributes to his advantage in the first few rounds, often making Baranchyk miss and miss wildly. Baranchyk kept coming, kept loading up on his shots, believing that he need only land one great punch in order to make a difference.

 

Taylor took most of them fine, though — except for a right uppercut Baranchyk landed in Round 5. Suddenly Taylor was in retreat with about 40 seconds to go. He quickly steadied himself and began to fire back, landing a southpaw right hook to end the round.

Then Taylor showed his own power in Round 6. Baranchyk had ducked a Taylor left hand and came back up to throw a right hand, except Taylor’s right hook landed first. Baranchyk got up immediately, only to visit the canvas again as the result of a Taylor barrage, including left hands to the body and head.

 

The bell rang to end the round. Baranchyk got up, listened to the rest of the count, and appreciated the respite.

Taylor targeted Baranchyk’s body in Round 7, looking to take the fight out of him. Round 8 was on the slower end. It seemed as if Taylor’s body work, and the length of the fight, could’ve been taking the steam out of Baranchyk. Yet Baranchyk kept coming, digging in and landing when and what he could. Taylor continued to do better, though, showing that he was a class above a rugged, determined, powerful opponent.

 

The judges recognized that. One had it 117-109, or nine rounds to three with two additional points deducted from Baranchyk for the knockdowns. The other judges had it 115-111, or seven rounds to five.

 

Taylor moves to 15-0 with 12 KOs. In his past three fights, he’s defeated former titleholder Viktor Postol, kicked off the WBSS by stopping contender Ryan Martin, and picked up a world title.

 

His next fight will be tough.

 

Taylor will face Regis Prograis, an undefeated titleholder who like Taylor was one of the favorites at the beginning of the tournament.

“I feel I’m the best. He feels he’s the best,” Taylor said in a post-fight interview. “He’s done the job. It’ll be a good fight. I believe I’ll win, and I think he believes the same.”

 

“This kind of was in the making,” Prograis said. “I felt like I was going to fight him. I’m pretty sure he felt like he was going to fight me the whole time. Now it’s happening.”

 

Baranchyk falls to 19-1 with 12 KOs.

David Greisman
About the Author:

David Greisman. David Greisman is an award-winning boxing writer based out of Washington, D.C., who has covered the sport since 2004. He is the senior staff writer and "Fighting Words" columnist for BoxingScene.com and a reporter for The Ring magazine. Greisman is the author of the book "Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing." Follow on Twitter @fightingwords2

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