Hardcore fight fans endlessly search for optimism in a sport that is far removed from its prime, but has since picked up steam with the emergence of Premier Boxing Champions.
Last Saturday was no exception.
Top to bottom, it was another stacked card littered with seemingly emerging household names who took centerstage at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. The Atlantic Avenue attraction has quickly become a boxing hot-bed.
“This is the best card I’ve ever been able to promote,” said boxing promoter Lou DiBella, who also promoted a card headlined by the fight of the year in Keith Thurman vs. Shawn Porter just last month. “It’s the deepest boxing card I’ve ever been involved with from top to bottom, it’s excellent.”
He was, perhaps, proven right.
By night’s end the Carl Frampton (23-0, 14 KO’s) contingent, in other words the many Irish fans in attendance, had taken over the streets of Brooklyn in unsuppressed jubilation.
It was as if Ireland had won the World Cup on St. Patrick’s Day.
Having dethroned previous undefeated champion Leo Santa Cruz (32-1-1, 18 KO’s) in the main event, Frampton will likely unify his newly earned WBA Super World title with IBF featherweight champ and fellow UK native Lee Selby.
But others featured on the undercard could provide fight fans a level of excitement in the immediate future, as PBC continues to showcase entertaining options for fighters who come away looking more like rising stars than ever before, such as Tony Harrison, Tevin Farmer, Amanda Serrano, and a former world titlist who made his long awaited comeback, the unbeaten Mikey Garcia.
It feels as if Harrison is all the way back to his championship contender status, which was in question after getting knocked out by Willie Nelson (not the singer) during the first ever PBC on ESPN last July, despite Harrison winning the fight with ease.
Before that ninth round TKO defeat, Harrison (24-1, 20 KO’s) recorded 18 of his 21 wins by KO, all of which were in three rounds or less. His only decision victories were two six-rounders and one eighth rounder beforehand, adding to Harrison coming up as a KO artist.
He has since become more of a pure boxer, utilizing patience and a popping jab to set the tone early in fights. In his loss to Nelson, he was visibly fatigued in a bout which saw him reach round nine for the first time.
His Showtime opening bout against Sergey Rabchenko (27-2, 20 KO’s) led to occasional booing from the authentic Brooklyn crowd, but blame Rabchenko for not making a fight of it. As Harrison was banking rounds, Rabchenko and his corner, which includes trainer and former world champion Ricky Hatton, had no answer for Harrison’s, jab, reach, and later on his power, which stopped Rabchenko in round nine.
Rabchenko is a top-ten ranked fighter by three of the four sanctioning bodies, and that’ll surely change after getting exposed on Showtime.
“This is definitely my biggest win ever,” Harrison said. “A focused Tony Harrison can beat anybody at 154 pounds. Now it’s on to Jermall Charlo and Julian Williams,” who will fight for Charlo’s IBF title this fall. “I’m in the catbird seat.”
The single most captivating boxing exhibition came from Tevin Farmer (22-4-1, 5 KO’s), who as promised, decimated A-side opponent Ivan Redkach (19-2-1, 15 KO’s) in a 10-round decision victory.
Farmer appears as one of the most problematic challengers on the 130-pound horizon, and thoroughly dominated Redkach at 135 pounds, proving he could more than hold his own at lightweight.
Now on a 15-fight win streak, Farmer is someone who, because of his style, record, and lack of star power (for now at least), will likely be avoided by some top fighters in the lighter weight classes because of the high-risk, low-reward proposition he brings to the table.
Simultaneously, Farmer is clearly deserving of more, and has not only won, but he’s lost few rounds during his 15-fight win streak, which began in early 2013.
“I don’t know who wants to fight me. I’ve got to be a mandatory, man. It’s up to the WBC or one of these sanctioning bodies,” Farmer said. “If they want a real champion, make me a mandatory or whatever the case may be because I definitely earned it, especially after this win.”
Farmer, who’s apparently a prophet, said all that before the fight itself in an interview with this paper last week.
Farmer may indeed need to be a mandatory, but in order to do so he may need to take out a top 130-pounder or so on a PBC card this fall. Purely speculation, because Farmer is and will be avoided by plenty, but perhaps former titlists like Javier Fortuna or Jhonny Gonzalez would do wonders for Farmer, but who’s to say Fortuna or Gonzalez would outright embrace such a fight? We don’t know.
Despite not being a knockout artist, he won the Brooklyn crowd over with his Pernell Whitaker-like movement, defense and counter punching, and that should get him back on TV.
Speaking of one-sided, before the Showtime Extreme broadcast, WBO female featherweight champion Amanda Serrano (29-1-1, 22 KO’s) displayed the most dominant performance of the evening, a first-round TKO versus overwhelmed challenger Calixta Silgado (14-7-3, 9 KO’s).
From the first combination landed it seemed apparent that Silgado was in for a short night, which is what Serrano aimed to do as she said days before her title defense.
“I’m 28 and one with 21 knockouts, I like to put my opponents away,” she said after a press conference last week. “I like to make the fights easy and fast. This fight there’s extra pressure on me because I need to showcase that women can fight, that we’re here, and that we deserve to be on stages like this.”
With a performance like that, it’s hard to imagine the three-division champion and pound-for-pound fighter not landing a spot on a Showtime or PBC card in the near future.
Further dominance came later on the card from Mikey Garcia (35-0, 29 KO’s), who destroyed Elio Rojas (24-2, 14 KO’s) with a thunderous return after a two-year layoff. Garcia, a former featherweight and super featherweight champ, has already voiced his desire to fight for a lightweight title in the near future, perhaps against WBO champion Terry Flanagan.
Garcia previously held the WBO strap in both aforementioned weight classes, but Flanagan is likely to take on Puerto Rican phenom Felix Verdejo in the fall.
“Two and a half-year layoff sparked a fire in me and motivated me to do the best that I could,” Garcia said after the win. “Elio took advantage of the opportunity, but we trained for a great performance like this and I was thrilled to get the job done. It felt great to be here with a supportive crowd behind me. I’m looking forward to getting back in there and winning another world title.”
He’s said in the days leading up to the fight he’ll be ready for any champion. The other 135-pound champions are WBA titleholder Anthony Crolla, who’ll face former WBC champion Jorge Linares in the fall, and current WBC champion Dejan Zlaticanin, who won the vacant title in June.
The IBF title will be contested in early September between undefeated blue chip prospects Robert Easter Jr. and Richard Commey.
Perhaps Garcia would work to earn a shot at the IBF champion being that the title will be under the PBC banner regardless of what transpires.
The Santa Cruz and Frampton card ultimately provided a lot of excitement and options for the immediate future. We may be witnessing several of these warriors dive head first into the best stretch of their respective careers.