By Derek Bonnett: It’s been awhile. In fact, it’s been since July of 2012 that I felt compelled to write a volume of Title Shots Here! Getcha’ Free Title Shot! That’s not to say there haven’t been an undeserving "contender" or three over the last two years that hasn’t conveniently popped into the rankings of an organizing body just prior to a title fight being announced. There certainly has, but a contender or three isn’t a problem in a two-year period of time. Well, guess what boxing enthusiasts? In recent weeks, five have popped up on the radar and they are all set to come off in a relatively short period of time. So, once again, enthusiasts of professional fisticuff must ask: What did he do to deserve a title shot?
The WBC are huge offenders this time out with three of the five bouts in question. The WBO and the IBF check in with one apiece. The WBA is not without their own involvement here though as they have five interim title fights scheduled in the next three weeks. I will not be putting those under the microscope though as the interim belt only equates to number one contender status. Why that requires a belt is best left for a whole other article entirely.
Here we go!
In just a couple of weeks, on Friday, September 5, Samartlek Kokietgym will be vying for the WBC light flyweight title against recently crowned champion Naoya Inoue. The bout will be Inoue’s first title defense of a reign I expect to be chockfull of success. For Inoue ranks among my hottest new stars in boxing as he dethroned Adrian Hernandez in just his sixth professional contest. Okay, a step down is understandable, but why the number thirteen ranked Kokietgym, who is unranked by the three other organizations?
Kokietgym, who has also fought under the name Chaiyonggym, has faced no one close to resembling a contender or world class opponent since 2012. In that bout, he was dropped three times before losing a unanimous decision to Randy Petalcorin. Kokietgym was 8-4 (3) after that contest. In the interest of finding a silver lining, I can point out that Kokietgym has gone 9-0 (2) since Petalcorin. However, now I can going to break out my magnifying glass and looked in the substance of that win-streak. Two of those opponents are listed as unknown with zero information regarding their professional credentials. As a follower of world boxing in the lighter divisions, I know this is not uncommon in various parts of the world. However, as someone with a brain, I also know that "unknown" couldn’t possibly be someone resembling a contender because then the information would be "known". A third opponent, identified only as Sandeep was 0-1 at the time of his encounter with Kokietgym. The twenty year old fall guy is now 0-5 against mostly popular Thai names. The remaining six opponents have a combined record of 62-86-7. Kokietgym has fought thrice in 2014, but his two most recent outings were six round decisions over boxers with losing records.
How this translates to a title shot would be an interesting explanation to hear. As of August, Kokietgym was rated number thirteen, but back in May he could not be found in the WBC rankings at all. It appears those two six-rounders in June and July had a huge impact on Kokietgym’s career as a contender. As I said earlier, I expect Inoue’s title reign to be memorable, but this defense will do little to contribute to that.
A more recognizable champion in Leo Santa Cruz will be meeting and equally questionable challenger on Saturday, September 13. Santa Cruz, champion at super bantamweight, will be meeting the WBC number thirteen rated contender...at bantamweight. Sure Santa Cruz has recently defeated four fairly decent names in the 122-pound division, but this next fight will be underneath Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s highly anticipated rematch with Marcos Maidana. Surely a big stage such as this would warrant a bigger name than Manuel Roman. Especially since Santa Cruz’ name is being mentioned in P4P discussions at a reasonable rate.
Roman, 17-2-3 (6), was once considered a promising flyweight prospect. However, this bout will be ten pounds north of that. Additionally, Roman has never fought a scheduled twelve round bout and in is 1-1 in ten round scheduled contests. The most recent ten round affair for Roman was a defeat and over two years ago by fight night. Roman two most recent conquests came in eight and six round bouts which he won by decision. He will enter a bout with Santa Cruz most recently tested by six rounds of action against a 15-10 fighter with a history of sandwiching two losses between wins since 2011.
Roman may not be a bad fighter, but he is a fringe bantamweight contender with two losses, three draws, and four split decision victories amid his seventeen wins. Way back (three weeks ago) in July, Roman was rated twenty-ninth by the WBC. At time between then and now, Roman has climbed all the way up to thirteen. Incidentally, he has not fought since May so those couple of months out of the ring really paid off for him! Add this all together and you get a man fighting for a world championship four pounds above his current division.
Next up, we have another young champion poised to make his first defense, but this time it will be against a former world champion, who has carried a good name at the world class level in the past. Mexico’s Carlos Cuadras, 25, will put his WBC super flyweight title on the line against former WBC flyweight champion Sonny Boy Jaro on Wednesday, September 20.
Jaro, 1-9 outside his native Philippines, will be traveling to Mexico for his fifth world title bout. Previously, Jaro is 1-3 in world title fights with his lone victory being a huge 2012 Upset of the Year type KO of Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. Now, that win packs a good punch and could conceivably carry a fighter onto big things. However, following this victory, Jaro was dethroned and defeated twice more in his immediate next three fights. His most recent defeat came at the hands of a 14-14-3 fighter just last year. Jaro has rebounded in 2014 with three victories, but they came against a trio of fighters with losing records; their combined resume read 29-33-1 and two were dismissed in the first round.
The victories earned Jaro a place back into the top fifteen. From May until August, Jaro has been ranked as high as number eleven, but he currently holds the WBC’s number twelve spot. No other organizations currently rank him at 115. Jaro, 32, currently has a dossier of 37-13-5 (27). While nowhere near the worst fighter profiled in Title Shots Here! Getcha’ Free Title Shot!, his best days seem behind him and a legitimate contender he is no more.
On Saturday, September 24, Arthur Abraham will be defending his WBO super middleweight championship on home turf against Paul Smith. Smith is rated favorably by the WBO at number five and tenth by the WBA. At 35-3, Smith’s resume is very handsome on paper. He even possesses some win over regional contenders along the way, but the question is why is he getting his title shot now? What has he done lately?
The two most salient names on Smith’s recent resume are George Groves and James DeGale. Had he beaten either of them, his name would not have caught my attention. However, in 2010 he was KO’d by DeGale in nine. No substantial wins immediately followed. Then, in 2011, he was drilled in two rounds by Groves. Since then, Smith has compiled four wins with one of them being a rematch sixth round TKO victory over Tony Dodson last year. Smith previously won a decision in 2010. The other three are straight up trial-horse level fighters with combined numbers of 21-67-5. His two most recent efforts were scheduled for eight and six rounds. Now, the Dodson rematch did win him a vacant British super middleweight title, but does that really merit a top ten ranking having been KO’d by Groves so recently?
Smith’s rating has been an interesting one in 2014 as he began the year at number four. His most recent outing was a six round points win over a 10-52-2 fighter. From March through April, he has risen to the number three position in the division. In May, when he posted a second round KO of a 7-3-2 fighter, for some reason he dropped to number six, but all was well because come June he was right back at number five where he remained through July. Coincidentally, DeGale was rated ahead of Smith at number two in June following his career best win over Brandon Gonzales in May. However, DeGale has since dropped to number four without any clear explanation. Hmmm?
Lastly, newly crowned, old man, champion, Sam Soliman will be traveling to my home state of Connecticut, USA for his first title defense of the IBF middleweight title he ripped away from Felix Sturm. On Saturday, October 4, Soliman will be taking on a recognizable name in Jermain Taylor, the former middleweight champion who has had spotty activity since a pair of last round KO losses to Carl Froch and Arthur Abraham. To what does Taylor owe his title shot?
An almost two year hiatus from the ring followed those back to back losses before Taylor resumed his career in the last month of 2011 with a win over Jesse Nicklow. In 2012, Taylor won a decision over the respectable Caleb Truax. Two more wins have followed, but none in 2014. Taylor’s last win came in December 2013 when he stopped faded veteran J.C. Candelo. In each outing, Taylor failed to impress and looked every bit a faded, former world champion, after a layoff.
Fortunately, the end result of that was that Taylor at no time appeared in the IBF’s top fifteen in 2014. That is, until this summer when a rumor began that he might be next in line for Soliman. So, for not fighting for six months, Taylor then became ranked at number fifteen, where he still sits. Bad rankings have been something boxing fans have come to accept from the organizing bodies, but bad and downright manipulated are two very different creatures.
I don’t know why I get myself so riled up! Of these five farces, four are ones I will most likely sit down to watch. The Soliman-Taylor bout, I will most likely cover for SecondsOut. Maybe I am rationalizing my viewership, but it seems to me that there is a difference between watching a farce blindly and going into the whole mess knowingly. That is, after all, the whole intent of this column. It would take something pretty awful for me to pass on boxing, but I would never just accept any old match-up and play ball. Line these five challengers up for non-title bouts and I have no issues. The trouble is that these champions get title defense credit for these contests and, therefore, the sanctioning bodies get to collect their percentage. Boxing truly is a business first, foremost, and always in the eyes of the alphabet companies.
For further boxing discussion contact Derek DBO Bonnett on Facebook. Be sure to LIKE SecondsOut.com on Facebook.
August 19, 2014