Well the days that boxing fans in America have been waiting for have come and gone, as live fight cards returned to America with Top Rank hosting two fights cards – one on Tuesday and one on Thursday. They took place at the Grand Ballroom of the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas, and to see the fights in that setting took some getting used to but it came out okay.
In this review, we will go over the good and the bad in each card.
The good (June 9th)
While this card featured the WBO featherweight champion Shakur Stevenson in a bout at 130 pounds, the undercard had someone that could make some noise at the heavyweight division. Jared Anderson – nicknamed “The Real Big Baby” – had scored his fourth win as a professional against Johnnie Langston by 3rd round stoppage. In that fight, Anderson showed skills that you don’t see that much from many heavyweights. He used his jab well, switched from orthodox to southpaw, and hurt Langston at various points of the fight with power shots en route to the stoppage. The two time US Amateur national champion displayed signs that he could be someone to watch out for in the next couple years if he is built up the ranks well, but he does have to work on his defense a little bit. He did get caught a few times by Langston, but not enough to stop the pace of Anderson.
In the opening bout, we saw two-time Olympic gold medalist Robiesy Ramirez score a first round knockout victory over Yeuri Andujar with a barrage of left hands that connected while Andujar was in the ropes. It was a fast start by Ramirez as he scored the first knockdown within the first 30 seconds of the fight. After another knockdown was scored, referee Tony Weeks called the bout for Ramirez (3-1, 3 KOs) to get the win. Ever since losing his pro debut, he has finished his bouts by stoppage.
The bad (June 9th)
Well, there were also a few bad moments in the first card in the US since March. While the safety protocols were followed in detail by Top Rank and the Nevada State Athletic Commission, it left for a few things to be desired. In reference to the flow of the fights there was a few time gaps that were not necessary. The telecast started at 7pm eastern time, but the first fight on the card did not start until 20 minutes after that. With that fight being the 1st round KO by Ramirez, it left a lot of empty time between that fight and the next fight on the card. While the telecast may have been reserved for a specific time slot on ESPN, given the circumstances that happened before the day of the card (Mikaela Mayer-Helen Joseph being scratched due to Mayer testing positive for COVID-19) they could have had a “filler fight” to replace the co-feature bout. Before this method of doing fight cards, there are instances when fights are sometimes put on television if a fight ends very early. Even though the fighters that are originally scheduled on the card have a two week stay in the area before the fights happen there should be some fighters on standby so that if a fight is scrapped, something can be put in it’s place.
The other gripe about this card is the main event. While it may have been something to have Stevenson featured in this particular card, they could have found a better opponent for him. Yes, Caraballo was put in as Stevenson’s opponent on two weeks notice, but there had to be some other fighter that would be a better replacement. Originally, Stevenson was slated to face Rafael Rivera for the June 9th main event. However, Rivera could not fight due to visa issues. While Caraballo has been a pro since 2014, all of his fights prior to this one have been in Puerto Rico with guys that have mainly fought in the same area. That is a huge difference than having Rivara as an opponent who has faced Leo Santa Cruz, Joseph Diaz Jr., and Jessie Magdaleno.
Stevenson took six rounds to stop Caraballo who was there to be hit. There was a knockdown in the first round, but there were five more rounds that went by before Stevenson stopped Caraballo…and Stevenson hurt his left hand in the process. Leading into the fight, there was a lot of talk of him either having a fight against current IBF featherweight champion Josh Warrington or moving up in weight to challenge fighters at super featherweight. While he may be talented in some aspects, he has some work to do if he wants to go up against the likes of Warrington, Russell (the WBC featherweight champion), or any of the top guys at super featherweight.
The good (June 11th)
Now this card was done differently than the one on June 9th for a few reasons but two stood out: the first being that it started at 8pm on the east coast instead of 7pm, and the first fight was the co-feature of the card between Adam Lopez and Louie Coria. That fight was a good one as there was a lot of action from start to finish. Lopez ended up winning by majority decision, but he had to work to get that win. Coria was connecting well with his power shots and there were a few times that it looked like Lopez was in trouble. By the end of the fight Lopez had his eyes nearly closed and blood coming out of his mouth…but he came out with the win and gained a minor title in the process. He will be back in contention for a world title shot after losing to Oscar Valdez last year, so look for him in the future to be a possible opponent for one of the titleholders at featherweight.
The bad (June 11th)
This is easy. The main event between Jessie Magdaleno and Yenifel Vicente was not good at all. Not only was the result bad, but everything leading up to that point was as well. For starters, Magdaleno came into this fight as a contender for world titles in the featherweight division. He is currently ranked #1 in the WBC and #4 in the WBO. He was looking to make a statement to show that he is ready to fight for a world title at featherweight after being the WBO super bantamweight champion from 2016 to 2018. That statement was not made on Thursday.
While Magdaleno scored an early knockdown, he did not finish off Vicente within the first few rounds. Then in the 4th round the craziness started. After getting hit with a clear low blow by Vicente, Magdaleno could not protect himself from a right hand that landed before Robert Byrd could step in to halt the bout. Instead of taking charge and ending the fight at that point, Byrd gave Magdaleno five minutes to recover and deducted two points from Vicente. This was already after a point was deducted earlier in the round. In the next five rounds, there was nothing that Magdaleno did to finish off Vicente even with another knockdown scored in the 5th round. The 10th round was halted at the midway point when Vicente landed another low blow forcing Byrd to call the fight and give the bout to Magdaleno by disqualification.
After the bout, Magdaleno said that he is ready to face the best at 126, including the champions. With him being the top contender in the WBC that means that he feels that he is ready to face Gary Russell Jr. who is the longest reigning champion in boxing. The performance that Magdaleno gave on Thursday showed that he would be a sizable underdog against Russell and it would not be a good idea for him to go right into that fight.