Notebook: Mayweather toys with Deji in exhibition, gets TKO
Usyk ordered to face Hrgovic next; wild ending to Love-Spark; new foe for Martinez; Quick hits; Show and tell
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After five two-minute rounds of clowning around, throwing half-hearted punches, playing to the crowd and even taking a couple of shots, Hall of Famer Floyd Mayweather turned up the heat and stopped YouTube personality turned boxer Deji Olantunji in the sixth round of an exhibition bout on Sunday at Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Mayweather weighed 154.3 pounds against the 175.25 pounds Deji, but the weight disparity made no difference.
Mayweather landed seemingly whenever he wanted in the glorified sparring session that he surely could have ended whenever he wanted. But because it was an exhibition, he very obviously was not going all out. He rarely targeted Deji’s head with anything serious, landed soft jabs and tapped him repeatedly to the body.
In the fourth round, Mayweather forced Deji to a corner and landed a few shots — though very obviously not at full steam — and took a warning for a low blow from referee Kenny Bayless.
Deji landed at least one decent shot that raised some mild swelling under Mayweather’s left eye.
“I’m glad he landed a good shot,” Mayweather said as he stood with Deji in the ring after the fight. “This is part of fighting. This is part of entertainment. People want to see entertainment and fun and that’s what we both gave them tonight.”
In the sixth round, Mayweather apparently felt as though he had put on a long enough show and stepped it up.
Once again Mayweather forced Deji (1-0, 1 KO), 25, of England, who has boxed between super middleweight and heavyweight between his pro and few amateur bouts, to the ropes and began to land what seemed to be bigger punches than previously in the fight. He landed about 10 unanswered shots and as Deji covered up in a corner, Bayless stopped it with 45 seconds left in the sixth.
“I couldn’t do this without my dancing partner,” Mayweather said. “Deji, you a tough competitor. I’m proud of you. Keep up the great work. Your brother, KSI, he’s a hell of a fighter also. I want him to keep up the great work.”
Deji, the younger brother of fellow social media influencer/boxer KSI, said he was disappointed the fight was halted.
“It was an early stoppage. I wanted to carry on. I feel good, honestly,” Deji said.
The bout was the fifth exhibition Mayweather (50-0, 27 KOs), 45, of Las Vegas, has partaken in since retiring following a 10th-round knockout of UFC star Conor McGregor in 2017 and it came less than two months after he knocked out two-division MMA champion Mikuru Asakura in the second round of a three-round exhibition at 155 pounds on Sept. 24 in Saitama, Japan.
Usyk vs. Hrgovic?
After defeating Anthony Joshua for the second time in August and retaining his three heavyweight title belts, Oleksandr Usyk said in no uncertain terms that the only fight he was interested in next was against lineal and WBC champion Tyson Fury for the undisputed crown.
Fury also said that was the fight he wanted, although with Usyk taking the rest of 2022 off, Fury returns for a stay-busy fight against old pal Dereck Chisora, who he faces for the third time on Dec. 3 with plans to face Usyk in early 2023.
Now that might have to wait if the fight is to be for the undisputed title.
The reason is because Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn said in an interview during his event on DAZN on Saturday night that the IBF has notified the teams of Usyk and mandatory challenger Filip Hrgovic that they should begin negotiating the bout.
Hearn, who co-promotes Hrgovic with Wasserman Boxing, is not even interested in getting into a negotiation with Usyk’s team, preferring instead to go directly to a purse bid.
“We just got the news through that Oleksandr Usyk has been ordered to fight Filip Hrgovic next,” Hearn said during the interview. “He’s the mandatory challenger. We’ve actually requested an immediate purse bid for that fight. That’s going to be next for Oleksandr Usyk.”
Usyk (20-0, 13 KOs), 35, a southpaw from Ukraine and the former undisputed cruiserweight champion, could, of course, ditch the IBF title and seek to face Fury (32-0-1, 23 KOs), 34, of England, next (as long as he defeats Chisora) but that would seem unlikely because Usyk’s long-stated goal is to be the undisputed champion and without all four belts he cannot achieve that status.
Hrgovic (15-0, 12 KOs), 30, of Croatia, became the IBF mandatory challenger via 12-round unanimous decision over China’s Zhang Zhilei in their title elimination bout on Aug. 20 on the Usyk-Joshua II undercard.
It was a wild scene on Saturday night at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, where junior welterweight Steve Spark defeated hometown favorite Montana Love by sixth-round disqualification in the main event of the Matchroom Boxing card on DAZN.
Spark (16-2, 14 KOs), 26, of Australia, dropped the southpaw Love (18-1-1, 9 KOs), 27, with a right hand to punctuate a flurry in the second round and appeared to have a firm hold on the fight going into the sixth round.
That is when an accidental head butt left Love with a bad gash over his left eye, prompting referee David Fields to call a timeout to have the doctor examine the wound. Love said he was having trouble seeing but the fight was allowed to continue with the doctor saying “we’ll watch it for another minute.”
When the fight resumed, Love and Spark engaged briefly before Love tackled him into the ropes. As Fields was intervening to break them apart, Love forced Spark over the top rope WWE style. He tumbled over the ropes and onto the arena floor, fortunately landing on his feet.
Fields immediately disqualified Love at 25 seconds even as Spark quickly climbed up the steps and returned to the ring looking to continue the fight.
“My job is to fight, and this has changed my life,” Spark said. “I’m devastated how it ended. I got the early knockdown and I was fighting with my whole heart. It was growing into a great fight, but we didn’t want it to end this way.”
A frustrated Love blamed Spark.
“He was using dirty roughhouse tactics all night and I pushed him off me,” Love said. “I didn’t lift him up or throw him out of the ring. We wanted him to tire out and catch him later on, and that’s where it was going. I want to do it again. He can’t outbox me or outfight me, let’s do it again.”
Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn railed against Fields’ decision to disqualify Love.
“It was a bad decision,” Hearn said. “Montana was rough but he didn’t intentionally throw him out of the ring, and Steve got back into the ring and wanted to keep fighting. Referees have a tough job but that was a poor decision and one made too quickly.
“It was turning into a great fight. The commission will review. I would love to do it again.”
In the co-feature, junior welterweight Richardson Hitchins (15-0, 7 KOs), 25, of Brooklyn, New York, had his first fight since his recent signing with Matchroom Boxing and took apart Yomar Alamo (20-2-1, 12 KOs), 27, of Puerto Rico, for eight lopsided rounds before Alamo’s corner threw in the towel after the eighth.
“I could have knocked him out earlier but I’m happy with the performance,” Hitchins said. “I started hurting him and adjusting and eventually I got him out of there.”
Martinez gets new opponent
WBC flyweight titlist Julio Cesar Martinez will make his fifth defense against substitute opponent Samuel Carmona, Matchroom Boxing announced.
The fight on Dec. 3 (DAZN) will take place at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona, as the co-feature on the card headlined lineal junior bantamweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada defending against former four-division champion Roman “Chocolatito” in their rubber match that is also for the vacant WBC belt.
Martinez (18-2, 14 KOs), 27, of Mexico, was scheduled to fight interim titlist McWilliams Arroyo in a rematch of their wild third-round no contest last November. However, Arroyo suffered what has been termed a “neck/back” injury and was forced out of the bout last week.
“I’m excited to be getting back in the ring and defending my WBC belt again,” Martinez said. “It’s unfortunate the Arroyo rematch is not happening, but it’s a huge chance for Samuel and he’s young and hungry, so you know he will bring everything on the night. But as we say, with everything except fear, I will rise to this challenge and show that next year we are coming for all the belts.”
Carmona (8-0, 4 KOs), 26, of Spain, was a 2016 Olympic quarterfinalist, although he did not turn pro until 2019.
“I am very happy to fight Martinez,” Carmona said. “I am going to work hard to bring victory to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Spain. You are going to see a great Carmona on Dec. 3.”
Matchroom Boxing also announced three additional undercard bouts.
Mexican flyweight contender Joselito Velazquez (15-0-1, 10 KOs), 29, will face former flyweight world titlist Cristofer Rosales (34-6, 21 KOs), 28, of Nicaragua, in a 10-rounder.
“I know Cristofer is a tough fighter but I’m hungry for success and I’m ready to stand out and put on a great performance,” Velazquez said. “I’m showing up to please the fans so I’m going to give everything I have.”
Said Rosales: “This fight came at a good time. I will go to deliver everything. I am motivated, I come from the ashes, and I will rise like the Phoenix. I am preparing myself to the fullest to show off that day. I'll go looking for the knockout.”
Super middleweight prospect Diego Pacheco (16-0, 13 KOs), 21, of Los Angeles, will defend his regional belt against Timur Kerefov (13-0, 7 KOs), 32, a Detroit-based Russian.
After a successful professional debut on Saturday night in Cleveland, flyweight Beatriz Ferreira (1-0, 0 KOs), 29, who was a 2020 Olympic silver medalist for Brazil, will have her second pro bout against an opponent to be named. On Saturday’s Montana Love-Steve Spark undercard she debuted with a four-round shutout over fellow Brazilian Taynna Cardoso, dropping her twice and winning 40-34 on all three scorecards in the first female fight in Ohio to be boxed over three-minute rounds.
WBC/WBO women’s junior middleweight titlist Natasha Jonas (13-2-1, 8 KOs), 38, of England, added the IBF belt to her collection as she handily outpointed Marie Eve Dicaire (18-2, 1 KO), 36, of Canada, to unify the three titles on Saturday in the Boxxer main event at AO Arena in Manchester, England. Jonas won 100-90, 98-92, 97-93. Also on the card, 2020 Olympic super heavyweight bronze medalist Frazer Clarke (4-0, 3 KOs), 31, of England, went the distance for the first time as a pro but shut out Kamil Sokolowski (11-27-3, 4 KOs), 36, of Poland. Clarke won 60-54 on the scorecard of referee Steve Gray.
British legend Ricky Hatton (45-3, 32 KOs), 44, a former junior welterweight and welterweight champion, who retired in 2012, and Hall of Famer Marco Antonio Barrera (67-7, 44 KOs), 48, of Mexico, a former junior featherweight, featherweight and junior lightweight champion, who retired in 2011, boxed eight two-minute rounds in an exhibition bout using 16-ounce gloves on Saturday at AO Arena in Hatton’s hometown of Manchester, England. It shared the event with Jonas-Dicaire. No decision was rendered as Hatton and Barrera moved around the ring with each other and engaged but were clearly not going all out given it was not an official fight.
Show and tell
One of the things I will always appreciate is the opportunity I had to cover Manny Pacquiao’s legendary career. From the time he arrived in the United States and won the junior featherweight title from Lehlo Ledwaba in 2001 through his retirement following a decision loss to Yordenis Ugas in a welterweight title fight in 2021, I had the great privilege of being ringside for 24 of Pacquiao’s fights. He was a joy to cover. He was likable, humble, a pleasure to be around and made many memorable and exciting fights even if he was never the best interview. Pacquiao would win world titles in a record eight weight classes from flyweight to junior middleweight. It could have been 10 divisions (out of 17 total) had he gone after titles at junior bantamweight and bantamweight, but he skipped them.
I traveled to Arlington, Texas, to cover his fight with Antonio Margarito for the vacant WBC junior middleweight title. A few days before the fight I was one of the few permitted to watch his final training session with trainer Freddie Roach in a giant ballroom set aside for him at the Gaylord Hotel in Grapevine, Texas, which was the fight headquarters. Pacquiao would go on to lay waste to Margarito at AT&T Stadium in a brutally one-sided decision victory to claim a world title in a record-setting eighth division on Nov. 13, 2010 — 12 years ago on Sunday. I consider that fight to be the apex of Pacquiao’s incredible career. Here is a photo of me with Pacquiao and Roach finishing up that blistering final training session as well as a site poster from the fight in my collection.
Hrgovic photo: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing; Love-Spark photo: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing; Jonas photo: Lawrence Lustig/Boxxer
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