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Making the Rounds: Zepeda recounts thriller vs. Baranchyk; Wilder splits with Breland

·Combat columnist
·7 min read
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A weekly look at boxing's hottest topics.
A weekly look at boxing's hottest topics.

LAS VEGAS — Jose Zepeda knew exactly what he was getting into when he signed to fight Ivan Baranchyk. Baranchyk is one of the toughest outs in the super lightweight division because of the lethal power in his hands and his nonstop aggression.

Zepeda understood he’d have to figure a way to use Baranchyk’s aggressiveness against him, but he never once felt their bout would turn into something of a modern day Hagler-Hearns.

“I’m known for my boxing skills and being a slick fighter,” Zepeda said. “Someone at Top Rank told me before the fight that I was one of the slickest Mexican fighters he’d seen. I definitely did not expect that kind of a fight. But, wow!”

Zepeda stopped Baranchyk late in the fifth round Saturday of a bout so compelling and so action-packed that it’s not only the runaway leader for 2020 Fight of the Year, but it also has to be a leader for Fight of the Decade.

Each fighter scored four knockdowns in the 14 minutes and 50 seconds the bout lasted at the MGM Grand Conference Center. Zepeda had what seemed to be another knockdown in the second, though it was ruled a slip.

Zepeda, who is now 33-2 with 26 knockouts and clearly among the elite in a deep and talented division, said he adjusted his approach early out of necessity.

Baranchyk came out firing wild left hands. While they weren’t technically the most sound punches a world-class boxer has ever thrown, they were thrown with bad intentions and had plenty of heat on them.

Early in the bout, Baranchyk dropped Zepeda and the fight was on.

“We always go in with a plan and I’m in that set mind of just being smart and boxing, but everything changed when I got dropped the first time,” he said. “After that, it was a different experience getting dropped with a head shot. Everything changed and I just put the game plan aside. I wanted to go at it and it was mostly heart. It was all heart from that point.”

Jose Zepeda celebrates after knocking out Ivan Baranchyk on Oct. 3 at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. (Mikey Williams/Top Rank)
Jose Zepeda celebrates after knocking out Ivan Baranchyk on Oct. 3 at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. (Mikey Williams/Top Rank)

It took a tremendous amount of heart, willpower and courage to stand up to that onslaught, but Zepeda showed even in the midst of the wildest battle, he could rely on his boxing.

Baranchyk’s punches were hard but not straight, and Zepeda consistently was able to counter them.

He was fortunate that his mind remained clear throughout.

“I don’t specifically remember all of the knockdowns, but I was never really hurt,” he said. “When you go down as much as I did, people on the outside sometimes assume you are hurt or in trouble. But they were more flash knockdowns than anything. He was swinging wild and so I just told myself that I had to counter.”

The best sequence of the fight came at the end. Zepeda seemed to be in command entering the final minute of the fifth round, but Baranchyk didn’t surrender and came back with a heavy onslaught. He dropped Zepeda with about 30 seconds left in the fifth and sensed that this was his moment.

When referee Kenny Bayless motioned for the fight to resume, Baranchyk came in for the kill. Zepeda, though, had a clear head and was ready.

“When he knocked me down the last time, I was thinking he was going to come after me thinking I was done,” Zepeda said. “As I was gathering myself, I said, ‘Be ready for the counter and hit him with everything you’ve got.’ That’s exactly what happened.

“As soon as I got up, he came hard after me and threw a really hard jab. I was able to counter with a hook and that was it.”

Zepeda said he could feel that punch throughout his body and knew Baranchyk wasn’t getting up.

He hopes to use that fight to propel himself into a title shot. Both of his losses have asterisks by them in his mind. He dislocated his shoulder in the second round of a loss to Terry Flanagan and had to quit on his stool after that round.

He felt he deserved the decision over unified champion Jose Ramirez when they fought on Feb. 10, 2019, but Ramirez got the majority decision win. He wants to come back by February at the latest, and invoked the name of one of the greats.

“Fighting in January or February would be perfect for me,” he said. “I’ve heard [Floyd] Mayweather say this a lot: This is a lifestyle and you have to treat it like that. You have to be in the gym and working almost the whole year. You can’t just go out and party and eat and gain weight and then go into the gym when you sign a contract. Like Mayweather said, you have to be ready year-round and put the work in every day and that’s what I’m doing to live my dream.”

Wilder moves on from Breland

Former heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder has decided to part ways with Mark Breland, the trainer who thew in the towel during the seventh round of his title bout against Tyson Fury in Las Vegas in February.

In the fight’s aftermath, Wilder said he had instructed his team never to throw in the towel and said he would part ways with Breland. But then he reconsidered and said Breland would remain.

Ultimately, though, Wilder decided to let Breland go. He’ll have head coach Jay Deas, along with former heavyweight contender Malik Scott in his corner.

Breland was a sharp boxing mind, but Wilder is within his rights to make a change if he wasn’t confident in Breland. Clearly, what happened to Wilder in the ring — getting dominated by Fury — wasn’t Breland’s fault, but Breland is no different than coaches in other sports. When the results aren’t there, the coach often pays the price.

The interesting thing to watch is to see if Breland winds up working in Fury’s corner for their third fight, which is now expected to occur in early 2021.

International Boxing Hall of Fame voting begins

Voting for the Class of 2021 for the International Boxing Hall of Fame has begun and inductions will take place in June. It’s going to be a huge ceremony because the Class of 2020 will be inducted, as well. The June ceremony was postponed this year because of the pandemic.

The boxers from the Class of 2020 who will be inducted are Bernard Hopkins, Juan Manuel Marquez, Shane Mosley, Barbara Buttrick, Christy Martin and Lucia Rijker.

That’s a star-filled class, but it’s going to be dwarfed by the Class of 2021.

Voters are allowed to vote for five and the top three are elected, as is anyone who gets over 80 percent of the vote.

There are five slam dunks in the men’s class: Floyd Mayweather, Andre Ward, Wladimir Klitschko, Miguel Cotto and James Toney. Toney’s biggest black mark is he tested positive several times for performance enhancing drugs, and that may hurt him.

Given those five, it’s unlikely that anyone else on the ballot will get in this year, though one has to believe that the likes of Rafael Marquez, Timothy Bradley, Ivan Calderon, Chris John and Antonio Tarver, among others, will eventually make it.

On the women’s side, the two big names are Laila Ali and Ann Wolfe.

The battle of New Zealand

What is being billed as the biggest fight in New Zealand history will be streamed on DAZN on Dec. 11 when former WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker takes on unbeaten Junior Fa in Auckland. Both men were born in Auckland.

It will be a good bout and will be a rubber match of sorts.

Parker and Fa fought four times as amateurs, with each man winning twice.

He said it

“Watching the fights from the ‘80s, I’ve always dreamed of fighting a 15-rounder. I always push my body to the limit in training, so if it goes 15 rounds I am more than ready,” -Former IBF junior middleweight champion Carlos Molina, who announced that his Nov. 6 fight against Juan Carlos Raygosa will be a 15-rounder. Molina’s company, King Carlos Promotions, is promoting the bout.

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