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A critical look at the past week in boxing
One thing I learned a long time ago is that the more talented combatant generally has his or her hand raised.
That was what played out on in separate parts of the world this past weekend, as the unusually skillful Devin Haney and Stephen Fulton Jr. outclassed elite opponents to win one-sided decisions in important fights.
Haney gave a career defining performance, giving overmatched Aussie George Kambosos Jr. an embarrassing boxing lesson to win a wide decision in front of more than 40,000 disappointed fans at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne.
The victory gave Haney the undisputed lightweight championship and validated the hype that has surrounded the 23-year-old for years. He’s as good as billed. And he’s just getting started.
Haney (28-0, 15 KOs) might have to fight Kambosos again because of a rematch clause in their contract. If it happens, Haney will win again. Then we can look forward to genuine super fights against the likes of Gervonta Davis, Vasiliy Lomachenko and Ryan Garcia.
Fulton (21-0, 8 KOs) might’ve been the best fighter in action over the weekend, which is saying something given Haney’s performance.
The Philadelphian tangled with a better boxer than Kambosos – Daniel Roman – yet defeated him just as convincingly in defense of his 122-pound titles in Minneapolis, losing only one round on one card.
The only way to give Fulton any kind of trouble is to maul him, as the freakish Brandon Figueroa did last year. It’s difficult to imagine anyone outboxing this special talent.
Fulton’s problem might be finding suitable foils. He’s now targeting Murodjon Akhmadaliev, who holds the other two junior featherweight titles. Then he and his team are going to have to be creative if they want to get him big fights.
He’s just so much better than everyone else near or at his weight, with Figueroa being the only possible exception.
Stephen Fulton Jr. (left) shows off his defensive skills against Daniel Roman. Ryan Hafey / Premier Boxing Champions
Fans who admire pure boxing exhibitions had a fantastic weekend, as Haney and Fulton gave clinics on the sweet science. Those who crave action … well, they might’ve been disappointed.
Haney and Fulton are superb, resourceful fighters but they’re not necessarily crowd pleasers, at least not on the level of boxer-punchers like Davis, Garcia, Naoya Inoue, Jaron Ennis and their powerful ilk.
That’s not criticism of Haney and Fulton. Every fighter has his or her own strengths, which they must emphasize to have success in the ring. That’s what Haney and Fulton do; they use their skill to defuse whatever their opponents attempt to do.
The problem (if that’s what it is) is that fans love knockouts, which Haney and Fulton can’t deliver consistently.
I always think of the late trainer Emanuel Steward when I touch upon this subject. He pushed his fighters to take the risks necessary to stop their opponents because he understood the marketing value of knockouts.
Am I suggesting that Haney and Fulton should abandon their styles and become brawlers? Absolutely not. That would be foolish. I am saying that they might be wise to fight more aggressively, particularly late in fights they’re dominating.
Fulton could’ve shifted into another gear against Roman. Haney could’ve done the same against Kambosos, although he probably was wise to be cautious in this instance because of the massive stakes.
The fans will continue to watch and admire Haney and Fulton if they win decision after decision. They’ll fall in love with the pair if they can take out elite opponents.
Kambosos was embarrassed by Haney in the ring. Then he embarrassed himself at the post-fight news conference.
Let’s be clear: Haney made Kambosos look like an ordinary fighter, controlling the bout with his jab and defensive skills that made the Aussie look utterly lost only one fight after his career-defining upset of Teofimo Lopez.
Judge Zoltan Enyedi (Hungary) and Benoit Roussel (Canada) somehow found four rounds to give Kambosos, which was an insult to Haney. Shame on them. Pawel Kardyni (Poland) gave Kambosos two rounds, one more than I gave him.
Indeed, victories in fights of that magnitude don’t get much more one-sided.
Still, at the post-fight news conference, Kambosos declared that he deserved the victory. Eyes rolled worldwide when he said, “I thought the fight was very close. From what I’ve been told I outlanded him, I outpunched him. You saw the fight. He had a jab but there wasn’t much else. I think he might’ve landed one or two right hands but that’s it.
“There wasn’t really nothing else. My body doesn’t feel like I’ve been through a 12-round war like in the Lopez fight.”
It wasn’t a war because Haney didn’t allow that. Why go to war when you can dominate your opponent in other ways?
And Kambosos evidently wants more. He said he will exercise the rematch clause in their contract, which might be a horrible idea. The now-former champion doesn’t have the ability to beat Haney, meaning the same thing is going to happen.
I don’t blame Kambosos for wanting a second fight. He can’t pass up an opportunity to fight for an undisputed championship (assuming Haney doesn’t lose one of his four belts somehow), for which he’d be paid handsomely.
At the same time, back-to-back losses will make Kambosos seem like the one-hit wonder he appears to be.
Super middleweight contender David Morrell (7-0, 6 KOs) gave another strong, if imperfect performance on the Fulton-Roman card. The Minneapolis-based Cuban, fighting aggressively from the start, quickly broke down Kalvin Henderson (15-2-1, 11 KOs) and stopped the Texan in the fourth round. It was a strong statement from an excellent all-around fighter who has begun to call out the top 168-pounders. At the same time it might not have been wise to seek an early knockout. The strategy could’ve backfired because the one thing the limited Henderson has is power. Morrell has shown that he can take his time and still get knockouts. What’s the point of rushing things? He is still in the process of maturing. … Two Australians had spectacular nights in front of the home-country crowd in Melbourne. First, 43-year-old Lucas Browne (31-3, 27 KOS) put Kiwi Junior Fa (19-2, 10 KOs) away 1 minute, 58 seconds into their scheduled 10-round heavyweight bout to pump life into his career. And then Jason Moloney (24-2, 19 KOs) put Aston Palicte (28-5-1, 23 KOs) down twice and stopped the experienced Filipino in Round 3 of their bantamweight bout to bolster his position as a legitimate contender. Moloney’s twin, Andrew Moloney (24-2, 16 KOs), also delivered. He stopped Alexander Espinoza (21-4-2, 8 KOs) in the second round of a scheduled eight-round junior bantamweight bout.