Opening Bell: Setting the stage
Former heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and interim featherweight titlist Carl Frampton both took care of business in mismatches on Saturday to set the stage for much bigger fights.
Despite the unattractive matches, a crowd of some 30,000 turned out to Windsor Park in Frampton’s hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland, for expected one-sided fights that were just that, as each ran roughshod over long-shot opponents.
England’s Fury (27-0, 19 KOs), 30, of England, who returned in June following a 2½-year layoff due to myriad personal problems after he won the title in a huge upset of Wladimir Klitschko, blanked human statue/Italian southpaw Francesco Pianeta (35-5-1, 21 KOs), 33, by a score of 100-90 from referee Steve Gray.
The 258-pound Fury, 18 pounds lighter than for the June comeback, boxed well and did as he pleased other than get the knockout. Overall, he landed 107 of 620 punches (17 percent), per CompuBox, while Pianeta was pathetic, landing 37 of 228 punches (16 percent).
In the main event, Frampton (26-1, 15 KOs), 31, beat up Australia’s Luke Jackson (16-1, 7 KOs), 33, dropping him with a left to the body in the eighth round and badly rocking him in the ninth before his corner threw in the towel at 1 minute, 21 seconds.
With their victories secured, the table was set for the big fights later this year that will be much more interesting than Saturday’s, which were mere infomercials for the big ones promoter Frank Warren announced (though dates and venues are forthcoming).
While Frampton will challenge featherweight titlist Josh Warrington (27-0, 6 KOs), 27, of England, who won a belt in May from Lee Selby and was ringside, in a U.K. mega fight, Fury’s next fight is a world event, news of which led Saturday night’s SportsCenter.
The 6-foot-9 Fury, still regarded as the lineal champion, will come to Las Vegas and challenge 6-7 titlist Deontay Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs) in a Showtime PPV bout whose hype began with Fury’s ring walk music — “Sweet Home Alabama,” an homage to Wilder’s beloved home state. After the fight, Wilder came into ring and both he and Fury were interviewed. Each boasted he’d win by KO.
There was little need for Fury to talk about Pianeta. It was all Wilder-Fury.
“Oh, we’re ready now. This fight will happen. It’s on! This is on! This fight is official. It’s on, baby,” Wilder roared.
Wilder couldn’t get unified titlist Anthony Joshua, Fury’s countryman, into the ring to unify, but Fury accepted the fight quickly. It goes to show you that when fighters and their teams want to make a fight, it can be done quickly and rather easily.
“You know, we are two men that will fight anybody. This man has been trying to make a big fight with the other chump,” Fury said, referencing Joshua. “They called, I answered. I said send me the contract, they sent the contract, I said yes. And now he gets his chance to fight the lineal heavyweight champion of the world. I got my rounds here tonight, 10 rounds, but one thing I promise when I go to Las Vegas is I’m knocking you the f— out!”
Wilder responded, “I can’t wait to fight you because I am gonna knock you out. This I promise you. Every victim that has stepped in the ring, I done knocked them out in devastating fashion. You’ve never been knocked out, but you’re gonna feel the experience, what it feels to get hit by the ‘Bronze Bomber.'”
It was a great way to kick off a huge promotion. Let’s hope the fight lives up to the hype.
Comeback of the weekend: Bryant Jennings
While Philadelphia super middleweight contender Jesse Hart (25-1, 21 KOs), 29, blew through Tacoma, Washington’s Mike Gavronski (24-3-1, 15 KOs), 32, knocking him down twice in the third round for the easy knockout – as expected – in the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN co-feature to set up a possible world title rematch with Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez, heavyweight contender Bryant Jennings had a tougher time in the main event in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The 6-3, 225-pound Jennings (24-2, 14 KOs), 33, of Philadelphia got dropped hard by a clean right hand to the head in the fourth round but stormed back to stop former title challenger Alexander Dimitrenko (41-4, 26 KOs), 36, in the ninth round of a fun fight.
Jennings dropped the Russian twice in the eighth round, and when he dropped him again in the ninth with an uppercut, referee Allen Huggins immediately waved it off at 1:56. It was a bit of a premature stoppage, and Dimitrenko protested. Nonetheless, it was a good rally for Jennings.
The next step: Jennings, who lost by decision in a 2015 world title shot against Wladimir Klitschko, wants another title shot. He’s blocked at the moment because the guys with the belts, Joshua and Wilder, have other plans. So perhaps a title eliminator could be arranged, or possibly a fight with Top Rank stablemate and fellow contender Andy Ruiz Jr. is in the cards.
Best fight of the weekend: Cancio-Zenunaj
It may have been lost amid the attention given to higher-profile bouts involving Carl Frampton, Tyson Fury and Bryant Jennings, but the Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN main event Friday in Indio, California, delivered nonstop action as junior lightweight Andrew Cancio (19-4-2, 14 KOs) outslugged Dardan Zenunaj.
Although Cancio, 29, of Blythe, California, outpointed Zenunaj, 31, a Kosovo native fighting out of Sherman Oaks, California, by scores of 99-91, 99-91 and 96-94, the latter seemed a more appropriate tally in the very competitive fight. Cancio, who won his second fight in a row since a ninth-round knockout loss to Joseph Diaz nearly two years ago, dominated the first four rounds as he battered Zenunaj. But Zenunaj, who lost his second in a row, never gave in, continually pressured and came on strong in the late going in a terrific fight both men should be proud of.
They lit up the CompuBox statistics as Cancio landed 356 of 994 punches (36 percent) and Zenunaj landed 278 of 1,062 (26 percent). The combined punches landed (634) and thrown (2,056) are the most for any fight tracked by CompuBox this year.
Fights you might have missed
Saturday at Belfast, Northern Ireland
Flyweight Cristofer Rosales (28-3, 19 KOs) KO4 Paddy Barnes (5-1, 1 KO), retains a world title.
Rosales, 23, of Nicaragua, made his first defense in spectacular fashion on the Carl Frampton-Luke Jackson undercard, against three-time Olympian and two-time bronze medalist Barnes, 31, who was fighting in his hometown. Despite all of Barnes’ amateur accolades, Rosales was too much for him in the pros as he ended the fight with crushing right to the body that left Barnes down for the count and writhing in pain at 3:00 of the round.
Saturday at Los Mochis, Mexico
Bantamweight Carlos Cuadras (37-3-1, 27 KOs) Tech. Dec. 7 Ricardo Nunez (29-8, 23 KOs), scores: 89-63, 68-63 (twice).
Former junior bantamweight world titlist Cuadras, 29, of Mexico, shook off a two-fight losing skid to top foes Juan Francisco Estrada and McWilliams Arroyo on the first two Superfly cards by taking a technical decision against former two-time flyweight title challenger Nunez, 30, of Panama. With Cuadras bleeding badly from cuts over both eyes following accidental head butts in the third and sixth rounds, referee Christian Curiel determined that Cuadras was unable to continue in the seventh and sent the fight to the scorecards. Cuadras was fighting for the first time since a stint earlier this year in a rehab center for drug and alcohol abuse treatment.
Saturday at Chihuahua, Mexico
Junior middleweight Carlos Ocampo (23-1, 14 KOs) KO3 Jesus Rojas (11-5-2, 10 KOs).
On June 16, mandatory challenger Ocampo got knocked out in the first round by welterweight world titlist Errol Spence Jr. in a massive step up in class. Ocampo, 22, of Mexico, fought for the first time since by moving up one division and facing a soft touch in countryman Rojas. They swapped a lot of punches until Ocampo put him away with a left hook to the body at 2:14 of the third round.
Friday at Worcester, Massachusetts
Middleweight Jose Antonio Rivera (42-6-1, 25 KOs) TKO7 Larry Smith (10-38-1, 7 KOs).
Former junior middleweight world titlist Rivera, 45, came out of a seven-year retirement for a fight in his hometown co-promoted by his company and he won his fourth fight in a row by taking out late replacement Smith, 39, of Dallas. Rivera began training for a comeback in February and shed 35 pounds. He took it to Smith, banging his body and hurting him in the sixth round. Smith, who said he broke his hand in the fifth round, retired in the seventh round because of the injury.