Title Shots Here! Getcha' Free Title Shot!, Vol. 6

Austin Trout  just one of 3 WBA champs
Austin Trout just one of 3 WBA champs
By Derek Bonnett: It’s been since August that I last poked my nose into the business of bogus world title challengers and I regret to say it’s not because they haven’t been happening. No, the flow of manipulated match-ups runs strong. I have been glad to hear from multiple SecondsOut readers in the interim regarding the various contests which they feel are embarrassing excuses for world championship boxing. They have refused to be fed the publicists’ propaganda attempting to convince us of the contrary and continue to recognize a free title shot when they see one.

There are always going to be mismatches in boxing, but let’s leave them to the distinction they warrant: non-title bout. Great match-ups on paper often turn into one-sided affairs. However, an inexperienced fighter on paper rarely provides dividends exceeding the expectations of the fans when matched with a high performing elite in the game or, to say the least, a world champion. Sometimes we overlook the true merit of a long-shot challenger or their big fight turns out to be his coming out party; those are the pleasant surprises in the sport of boxing though, not the norm. As fans, we have to monitor the quality of the product being sold to us and cannot resist the urge to say no to the often dubious alphabet bodies currently running the show.

I am putting them all on notice in the month of November. While there is plenty good happening, the IBF, WBA, WBC, and WBO are making a pretty penny off of some truly undeserving world title bouts featuring inexperienced challengers and a once quality names long past his due date.

Austin Trout is a promising young 154-pound contender, but since the WBA currently has three versions of their "world title" variety available - Super, Regular, and Interim - the twenty-six year old from Las Cruces, New Mexico is deemed a world champion. Trout, the Regular title holder beneath Miguel Cotto (Super) and above Anthony Mundine (Interim), holds an unbeaten record of 23-0 (13). He’s posted respectable decision wins over Rigoberto Alvarez to win his title and David Lopez to make his first defense. So far, there’s not much to complain about since both men are legitimate fringe contenders. However, the young champion should be looking toward bigger and better things. On November 11, Trout will meet Australia’s Frank Loporto in a WBA 154-pound title fight. Loporto, thirty-three with a 15-4-2 record, has done very little to warrant such an opportunity. Loporto’s record is littered with red flags denouncing his merit as a world title challenger. In 2006, he split a pair of split decisions with Paul Tapley, who finished their series with a record of 11-8-1. Also haunting Loporto’s resume is a draw with Lee Oti, who was 9-8 when he entered the ring in 2008. The only significant victory on Loporto’s resume is a 2010 decision over Daniel Dawson, a fellow Aussie, who happened to have nicer looking numbers on his ledger. It is undoubtedly a career defining win for Loporto, but Dawson had already been exposed as a product of good management rather than a fighter of any real substance in failed bouts with Daniel Geale and Sergiy Dzinziruk. Since then, Loporto has feasted on trial horses without much to lose. Venkatesen Harikirshnan, who was TKO’d in four rounds, left the ring 8-4-1. Aswin Cabuy, who also had enough by the fourth, fell to 11-23-1 following the bout. These opponents are not world championship caliber preparation for anyone.

As of October, Loporto held the WBA’s number fourteen ranking at light middleweight. Ten of the WBA’s top fifteen contenders are not ranked by SecondsOut. If Loporto is being served up to Trout to peak Australian interest in a bout between Anthony Mundine and the Regular champion, so be it. However, call it what it is: a tune-up fight. Otherwise, Trout should earn world championship credit against the worthy names in the WBA rankings such as Pawel Wolak, Erislandy Lara, and Carlos Molina.

I love to see a good old name against a fresh face anytime, particularly if it is on the undercard of a PPV bout with a hefty price tag. However, the fresh face should be inexperienced and looking to cut his teeth against the guile of the grizzled veteran. Joel Casamayor is as grizzled as they come and had the name Danny Garcia, Mauricio Herrera, Jessie Vargas, or Ruslan Provodnikov been arranged beside his on the billing the formula would work out just fine. Instead, we see Timothy Bradley, who is easily among today’s top ten performing fighters. Bradley is coming off of wins over Luis Carlos Abregu and Devon Alexander since 2010. His last start was in January of this year, so maybe he is a little rusty. Maybe he needs to get sharp against a faded foe like Casamayor, but he doesn’t deserve WBO world title credit for it at 140 pounds. Casamayor has had one significant bout at junior welterweight in which he was outclassed for ten rounds by Robert Guerrero. Since then, he has fought once in 2011 earning a split decision over Manuel Leyva, a Mexican fighter with no previous world class boxing experience on his resume. In his bout immediately following, Levya was iced in one round by a lightweight.

It seems pretty clear that the forty-year old Cuban defector has little left to offer in the ring. In fact, his last hurrah probably occurred back in 2008 when he was stopped by Juan Manuel Marquez. Yet, Casamayor magically appeared in the WBO’s October rankings at number ten after previously being unranked. Currently, the 140 pound class receives consistent recognition for being one of boxing’s top divisions, but in that talk is no mention of Casamayor. I would go so far as to say, that the junior welterweight division has the most impressive class of young prospects in the game. Garcia, Herrera, Vargas, and Provodnikov may lack the name value of Casamayor, but they certainly have more in the tank to provide Bradley with something more suitable for a world championship bout on November 12. Only three of the WBO’s top fifteen at 140 are currently rated by SecondsOut.
On November 11, Billy "The Kid" Dib will be defending his IBF featherweight title for the first time. I have always had a soft spot for Dib since he was the first international prospect I covered as a writer with regularity. I excitedly travelled to Atlantic City to watch his first world title challenge against Steve Luevano in 2008. The bout stunk and Dib stopped impressing me over the next three years; however, I was very happy to see him become a champion by defeating Jorge Lacierva, even though I picked against him in that one based on his previous showings. Dib has earned a second chance, but his November 11 title defense, titled "It Now Begins", against Alberto Servidei, 36, is far from inspiring and the IBF has some explaining to do regarding Servidei’s jump from fourteenth to eighth in the world between September and October. Something tells me it doesn’t stem from Servidei’s six-round decision victory over Richard Szebeledi, 11-19 (2) as of last month. Servidei’s dossier looks the part of a worthy title challenger at 31-0-2 (7). However, the similarities between world class fight records and Servidei’s end at the visual spectrum. Only fourteen of his opponents possessed winning records and some of them were just barely so like Francesco D’Arcangelo, who was 9-8-5 at the time of their 2003 contest. As recent as June 2010, Italy’s Servidei faced no-hope opposition like Cristian Niculae, 2-62 (1), at the time of their encounter, and presently stands seven losses richer.

The soft-punching, untested Servidei looks to be cannon fodder for Dib’s first world title fight. It has often been accepted that a world champion take on a softy for their first defense, but Dib needs to make up for lost time. He already has enough softies on his resume and he needs more Laciervas and better. Regrettably, the IBF does not provide for many meaningful title fights at 126 since their top fifteen is thin at best with the most credible names being Rey Bautista, Daniel Ponce De Leon, and Mikey Garcia. Somehow, none of these three rank in the top four. Servidei-Dib may not even resemble a non-title fight, but more of a glorified sparring session.

It could be argued that Chris John has not met a top flight professional fighter since Juan Manuel Marquez in 2006. I’ll give him credit for taking on Rocky Juarez twice in 2009 and Hiroyuki Enoki in 2008. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize that these men went a combined 1-7 after their encounters with The Dragon, or The Tiger, if you prefer. Chris John has been sitting on his WBA (Super) featherweight title for a long time and has amassed fourteen title defenses, but his eight year reign has evoked more criticism than praise as he has avoided virtually every one of his contemporary elites. Thankfully, the WBA ranks Miguel Angel "Mikey" Garcia as his number one contender, but it is unlikely the two will ever meet up for John to pass the torch. Instead of meeting Garcia, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Orlando Salido, Juan Manuel Lopez, Jhonny Gonzalez, Billy Dib, Celestino Caballero, Jonathon Victor Barros, or virtually anyone else ranked in any legitimate top fifteen list of featherweight contenders, Indonesia’s most celebrated fighter looks to keep his unbeaten record intact and his title secure by taking on Ukrainian Stanyslav Merdov in Australia on November 30. Merdov’s record resembles that of Servidei’s with the exception being that he is not above losing to trial horse fighters like Mykyta Lukin, who entered the ring at 8-17-2 before their 2009 bout. Lukin won a decision. Merdov has only beaten nine winning fighters in amassing a record of 32-7 (24) and none of them resemble anything remotely world class in experience. He’s contested for European titles, but the level of opposition of even those fights fails to impress and certainly does not warrant a world title shot.

My guess here is that this bout’s purpose is to hype a unification bout with Dib given the number of rumors circulating about the potential 2012 clash. However, nothing is guaranteed with the oft-injured, oft-ill, oft-reluctant John, who recently turned thirty-two. Don’t get me wrong, John looked excellent in dominating Daud Cino Yordan earlier this year. He is hanging on to his number two SecondsOut ranking by a thread, but he still merits that type of consideration. Merdov recently became ranked eleventh by the WBA in October, but has not fought since January of this year. His ranking is more likely due to his consideration for a title shot against John as opposed to his five bout win-streak. It is unlikely that we will ever see John in the fights boxing fans truly want to see him in at 126 pounds.

As usual, things could be a lot worse in the realm of professional prizefighting, but let’s be optimists here: they could be a hell of a lot better. The success of professional prizefighting is dependent on quality match-making. The business side of boxing benefits from world title fight mismatches and recycled marquee names, but the overall view of the sport suffers. How often must we explain to non-fans that boxing is still worthwhile and far superior to MMA? The answer to this is quite simple: as long as world title shots are handed out for free.

For further boxing discussion contact Derek Bonnett on Facebook or at mabfan@comcast.net.

November 7, 2011
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