By Derek Bonnett: Whatever happened to fighters earning their way to a title shot? Sure, some fighters get there quicker than others, but usually, once they do, they seem worthy of it. Examine the featherweight division for instance. Right now, top prospects Miguel Angel Garcia and Matt Remillard do not deserve world title shots based off their emerging resumes and lofty rankings. So what are they doing? They are scheduled to fight one another on March 26 to push themselves into more serious contention. This is a commendable move from both sides.
Just a few pounds lighter, Rico Ramos, another promising young star, is testing himself this Friday, February 11, against seasoned veteran, and world title challenger, Alejandro Valdez. That’s a big step up for Ramos, a twenty-three year old super bantamweight. Ramos has already passed tests against Kermin Guardia, Cecilio Santos, Reynaldo Lopez, and Heriberto Ruiz. Should Valdez win, then he too puts himself back in contention deservingly. Yet, in the month of February alone, myriad fighters who have done far less than Ramos or Valdez will be receiving shots at one of the top titles in their respective weight classes.
Sammy Gutierrez is a seasoned 105 pound holder of the interim WBA minimumweight championship. Gutierrez, 26-5-2 (17), has squared off with former champion Raul Garcia (three times), reigning IBF champion Nkosinathi Joyi, and, former two-time 108 pound titlist, Omar Nino Romero. As far as experience goes, Gutierrez’ is top notch. Yet, his first defense of the title he captured with a third round stoppage of Luis Carillo will come against unknown Filipino Renan Trongco. Trongco’s numbers are far from impressive at 8-2 (5). Okay, so numbers don’t mean everything, but under the microscope things only look worse. Trongco’s nine opponents, he fought Jonathon Ricoblanca twice, own a mere three victories. Three of his opponents were making their professional debuts and none of them had over six bouts of experience. Only one opponent entered the ring with a winning record and that was a mighty 1-0 (1). Trongco is 8-0 since losing his first two bouts by decision. Somehow, the WBA is recognizing this farce as a worthy title defense for Gutierrez on Saturday, February 12.
Jan Zaveck is another worthy, but far from great, title holder taking the easy route in his next defense in spite of having already beaten capable fighters such as Rafal Jackiewicz and Isaac Hlatshwayo. Zaveck makes the third defense of his IBF welterweight title on Friday, February 18 against the less than scintillating Paul "The Truth" Delgado, 25-9-1 (4). Delgado fought an impressive five times in 2010, but four of them were six round wins over complete nonentities, mostly with records hovering above .500. Unlike Trongco, Delgado has fought name opposition at various points of his career. However, these all ended in defeats to Paulie Malignaggi, Demetrius Hopkins, Dimitry Salita, and Ionut Dan Ion. It must be noted that Delgado is more than four years removed from this type of opposition and has lost to far lesser fighters along the way. The only "truth" I see here is that this fight sucks and so do the standards of the IBF.
Felix Sturm is an established world champion. Many of us remember him fighting on even terms with a near prime Oscar De La Hoya only to be shafted on the scorecards back in 2004. Ever since then, we’ve been waiting for him to live up to what we thought we saw that night in early June. Sturm’s second WBA middleweight reign has been respectable and began with a rematch win over Javier Castillejo and includes defenses against Sebastian Sylvester, Khoren Gevor, and Giovanni Lorenzo. Sturm has defended his current championship a total of eight times. His ninth defense will come against Hearns. No, not the Motor City Cobra, that would at least spark a novelty interest. Nope, Sturm will meet The Hitman’s son, Ronald Hearns, on February 19. Hearns has fought one capable opponent in his entire career, Harry Joe Yorgey, and that bout ended in ninth round TKO defeat for "The Chosen One". Since that 2009 loss, Hearns has won five bouts. His five opponents had a combined record of 86-87-8. In spite of this, the WBA sees Hearns as "super contender" for their "Super Champion". Even if he was "The Only One" at middleweight, Hearns would not deserve this title opportunity. Shame on Sturm for continuing to make us wait for a meaningful fight and shame on the WBA for letting him.
I thought last year’s Upset of the Year was Gilberto Keb Baas’ majority decision over Omar Nino Romero. Going into that fight Keb Baas was 33-20-4 (21). Keb Baas didn’t seem to belong in that WBC title fight himself, but he did have a few decent wins on his record, most notably a fifth round stoppage of Romero early in their careers. So, if revenge was the motive, the bout was almost justifiable for a voluntary defense. In the end, Keb Baas proved he did belong there. So now, the Cinderella Man at junior flyweight makes his first defense on February 26 and, apparently, he’s looking to extend his reign as long as he can. Jose Antonio Aguirre is the scheduled opponent and he is a former world champion. However, he is 2-8 in his last ten fights. His most recent victory in 2010, over a 4-5-1 fighter, came after a two year layoff. No one can argue Aguirre’s experience, but sanctioning his next bout as a title fight is disgraceful, an adjective the WBC knows quite well.
There is a name in boxing for these types of bouts Gutierrez, Zaveck, Sturm, and Keb Baas will be competing in this month; it’s called non-title fight. Not every bout in February has to mirror Nonito Donaire’s challenge of Fernando Montiel, but there should be a higher standard for bouts deemed world championship fights. All fighters follow their own paths and some earn their way to a world title shot. Garcia, Remillard, Ramos, and Valdez are going about it the right way; they are honoring their sport. Trongco, Delgado, Hearns, and Aguirre are just lucky.
For further boxing discussion contact Derek Bonnett on Facebook or at email@example.com.
February 10, 2010