A critical look at the past week in boxing
Tommy Fury – Fury deserves credit for his split-decision victory over fellow boxing newbie Jake Paul on Sunday night in Saudi Arabia. The half-brother of heavyweight champ Tyson Fury showed signs of cracking under the pressure leading up to his first high profile event. He admitted as much afterward, saying, “I had the weight of the world on my shoulders tonight.” Yet he made it to the ring and did what he had been saying he’d do, beat his fellow entertainer-turned-professional boxer. He didn’t stop Paul as he predicted but he outboxed him, which impressed two judges enough for them to give him six of the eight rounds. He had a harrowing moment when he went down in the final round but he handled that well, too. He bounced up and took the fight to Paul until the final bell, looking a lot like a genuine boxer in the process. Was Fury’s victory a significant accomplishment? Of course not. It meant a lot to him, though. That’s why he was tearful afterward. And who knows where this might lead? He obviously has some ability and he’s young, only 23 years old. He might accomplish something more meaningful in the future if he sticks with it.
Jake Paul – I wouldn’t say that Paul (6-1, 4 KOs) was exposed by Fury (9-0, 4 KOs). Anyone who knows anything about boxing knew exactly what he is, a diligent, physically strong but crude boxer. Fury isn’t much more advanced than he is but he was a step up from Paul’s previous opponents, aging MMA fighters and former basketball player Nate Robinson. So anyone who was shocked that he lost wasn’t paying attention. Paul did what a lot of fighters do in his post-fight interview, make excuses (illness and an arm injury, in his case) and then say he’s not making excuses. He’s a real fighter in that sense. At the same time he seemed to handle the loss well. He gave Fury credit and promised to bounce back, which could come in the form of a rematch with his rival. Paul undoubtedly learned from the experience and will be better as a result. For most fighters – even unusual ones like Paul – losing is part of the development process. Will the setback affect his popularity? I doubt it Paul is more of a personality than an athlete, which is why he’ll only go so far in the sport.
BIGGEST WINNER II
Subriel Matias – The Puerto Rican’s reaction after stopping Jeremias Ponce after five rounds to win his first major title on Saturday was telling. He wasn’t overly animated or excited in spite of the breakthrough. Instead, he maintained a straight face and had a matter-of-fact attitude. “I came to win,” he said simply. That confidence undoubtedly is a key reason for his success. Matias got off to a slow start against the hard-charging Ponce (30-1, 20 KOs) but remained calm, weathered the storm and then shifted into another gear that led to Ponce’s demise. The 30-year-old from Fajardo proceeded to pound his Argentine opponent until he could fight no more after five rounds, further evidence of Matias’ destructive power. Matias (19-1, 19 KOs) has stopped everyone he has fought, including Petros Ananyan in a rematch of his only loss. He’s now eyeing what would be the toughest test of his career, a meeting with fellow beltholder Regis Prograis. Matias would be an underdog in that fight but it wouldn’t be wise to underestimate him. He has performed too well to be dismissed.
BIGGEST WINNER III
Badou Jack – The best fighter on the Fury-Paul card was Jack, a 39-year-old Swede who has had notable success in three divisions over the past 13-plus years. His 12th-round knockout of Ilunga Makabu to take Makabu’s WBC cruiserweight title was one of the highlights of his career, which also has been marked by several controversial setbacks in title fights. That includes tight draws with James DeGale (168 pounds) and Adonis Stevenson (175), as well as a close split-decision loss against Jean Pascal (175) in 2019. Jack then moved up in weight to make an unlikely run at a 200-pound title, as he was in his late 30s. Well, he didn’t look his age on Sunday. He was a step ahead of the 35-year-old Makabu (29-3, 25 KOs) from the outset. He was quick, athletic and much too good for the now-former champion in the end. And the late knockout was a beautiful touch, a punctuation mark that gave Jack (28-3-3, 17 KOs) a major belt in a second division as he is approaching his 40th birthday and reminded fans of how good he is as an all-around fighter.
Another exhibition bout against an overmatched MMA fighter, another easy “win” for Floyd Mayweather. Floyd was just having fun out there. Congrats to Aaron Chalmers on showing up and getting a bag. #MayweatherChalmerspic.twitter.com/yxPvh9hbpG
— WG (@NvictusManeo) February 25, 2023
Floyd Mayweather – Mayweather is wise not to challenge himself at his age, 46. There’s no point in risking brain cells after his long, glorious career. The goal now is to enjoy life, which he evidently is doing. That said, one has to wonder how he might do if he decided to face a genuine threat in a sanctioned bout six years after he closed out his career against Conor McGregor. It’s difficult to gauge what this version of Mayweather is capable of based on his exhibition against television personality and former MMA fighter Aaron Chalmers on Saturday in London because of Chalmers’ limitations. Mayweather could outbox an amateur like that when he’s 60. That said, he sure looked sharp. His jab and power punches were quick, well-timed and accurate. He still has good reflexes. And moves well for an old guy. In other words, he looked a lot like the old Floyd Mayweather. He also looked reasonably fit for someone who isn’t a full-time athlete. And, of course, his ring acumen is intact. So how would he do against a top 147-pounder? I think he would lose to the top welterweights – Terence Crawford, Errol Spence Jr. and maybe a few others – but I’d bet he could beat the next-level contenders. It’s probably a good thing that we’ll never know.