COMMENTARY | Most hardcore fight fans know that much of what we see in the development of a young fighter is simply matchmaking sleight of hand. An effort is made to mix in easy touches with winnable developmental bouts so that the fighter can build up his reputation while also building his experience and skill.
Sometimes, though, a young fighter's team decides to keep him in a state of arrested development, fighting inferior opposition indefinitely for small money.
Here are five fighters who have the ability to excel, but desperately need to up the level of their opposition:
The last time WBA light heavyweight champ, Shumenov, fought someone worth fighting, it was January of 2010. In that bout, Kazakhstan's shrinking violet got a gift decision against one-time conqueror, Spain's Gabriel Campillo to reacquire the world title belt. Since then, Beibut and his people have sure learned their lesson about facing someone with a fighting chance. Shumenov has only fought four times since the Campillo farce, barely doing enough to not get stripped, against guys guaranteed not to give him too much of a hassle. When active, Shumenov is a solid fighter with an entertaining style. Against the likes of a badly faded William Joppy or hapless Danny Santiago, though? Not so entertaining.
Gary Russell Jr.
The former Olympian has elite-level raw talent and the potential to become a dominant figure in the sport. We'd just really, really appreciate it now if we could actually see him fight in something even remotely resembling a competitive bout. Russell, who will be 25 in June, has beaten more hobos than the Brazilian police force and, predictably, his stock hasn't budged an inch from when he first turned pro. Russell dwells in deep 126-130 lb. waters and is, technically, a promotional free agent (although he has a "working relationship" with Golden Boy). There are plenty of bouts to be made, plenty of tests to be had, but up until now Russell has matched skills with walking punching bags. There's no better time than now to step up.
Cleverly may be aiming for fellow Welshman, Joe Calzaghe's record for most title wins against guys who should never have been ranked. Right now, the 26-year-old is five defenses deep into a pretty damn pathetic WBO light heavyweight title reign. The routine is always the same-Cleverly beats some no-hoper and then, along with promoter Frank Warren, calls out someone like Bernard Hopkins. Then, the next defense gets signed and not only isn't it against Hopkins or someone decent, we find out he's fighting a helpless, hopeless club fighter only one or two fights removed from co-starring gigs at converted bingo parlors. The gangly Cleverly has talent, but such limited opposition is actually making him regress as a fighter.
In any other era, Russia's Povetkin may have been a solid second tier contender not quite good enough to become world champ. In the Klitschko era, Povetkin is a solid second tier contender with absolutely no chance in hell of beating either Klitschko brother. Still, though, how long can you be no. 3 in the world without making a token bid at no. 1 or no. 2? When Povetkin was working with trainer Teddy Atlas, the word was that Atlas was holding back a title shot until Povetkin could be better prepared. Now, Atlas is gone and Povetkin has notched a series of okay wins over journeyman, yet still no grab for the gusto. Word has it that Povetkin is finally on the verge of a title bout with Wladimir Klitschko, but seeing is believing. Let the fight be signed and the ring walks be done before actually counting on Klitschko-Povetkin to happen.
We get that the guy is only 25 and still developing, but then again, maybe it's reasonable to expect the weight of a fighter's resume to correspond to his TV exposure. Andrade has all the raw ability of a star, but none of the in-ring discipline or seasoning. And, given his steady diet of journeymen and no-hopers, it'll take awhile for the Providence, Rhode Island native to truly get to the top. Back when Andrade made his debut, the junior middleweight division was fairly weak. Now, the division is among boxing's deepest. That could explain why the kid's mad dash to stardom has become a slow crawl to a July date in the Ukraine with the weakest of all reigning 154 lb. world champs, WBO titlist, Zaurbek Baysangurov.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
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