Super Middleweight: 2012, Apr 23-29

After 18 long weeks of a stable top 20, we have practical armageddon this week.  In order of the importance of the fights, here we go:

 

In Schwerin, Germany on Saturday, Dimitri Sartison proved my fears justified.  Still hampered, it would seem, by his surgically-repaired knee, he engaged in a close but generally losing fight with a fringe contender in Balzsay who likely is not quite on a healthy Sartison’s level.  Balzsay capped off the fight impressively with a fine display of power punching that led the referee to quite appropriately stop the fight in the final round.  I honestly can’t say that Sartison’s wheels were his most obvious problem, though.  He lacked head movement almost completely, and his punches were noticeable less sharp than were Balzsay’s.

 

#16 Librado Andrade appeared in what was supposed to be a relaxing stay-busy fight at light heavyweight on the Showtime Extreme undercard on Saturday, but was shockingly and emphatically upset by low-profile one-loss prospect Rowland Bryant.  Bryant was more athletic, had better timing, and hit with more power than the faded contender, and took him out in the third round.  The stoppage may have been premature given Andrade’s proven toughness, but he definitely appeared way outgunned, and it seemed like only a matter of time.

 

Friday in Montreal, #7 Adonis Stevenson picked up a 2nd round TKO over one-loss fringe contending prospect Noe Gonzalez.  The stoppage was definitely quick.  Stevenson had definitely started to consistently land his power shots and had definitely hurt Gonzalez, but the Uruguayan fighter was still showing plenty of awareness with which to defend himself.  Definitely a hometown stoppage.  But on the other hand, Stevenson appears nearly unstoppable when he is on the attack, and so I suspect that we were only seconds away from a legitimate and potentially devastating one.

 

In other action on Saturday, #19 James DeGale stopped Spanish contender-turned-journeyman Cristian Sanavia in the 4th round to successfully defend his European title in Denmark, and #15 Bryan Vera won a solid decision over journeyman Taronze Washington in a stay-busy fight in Fort Worth.

 

Balzsay moves from obscurity up to the #11 spot.  Had it not been for what should have been his clear loss to an unproven Stanislas Kashtanov last year, he would have easily cracked the top 10 with this win, even with the very serious questions about Sartison’s fitness for action lingering.  Sartison, despite these questions, falls only to #15 due to his overall resume.  Last week’s #16, Librado Andrade, falls from the rankings for the first time since he resumed activity at Super Middle 34 weeks ago.  In perhaps most cases, a loss a division north of the one in which a fighter is ranked will in no way affect his ranking, but since Bryant had lost to a bad opponent and never beaten a good one prior to fighting Andrade, and considering that he was in general not on the map, it just wouldn’t make sense to rank the rugged Mexican former contender in any division at this time.  Stevenson’s win, while nice, is not at the level required to dislodge the more proven Arthur Abraham.  And none of the other fights could affect the rankings by any stretch of the imagination.  It feels like Stas Kashtanov should get some love now that the guy he was robbed of beating is highly-ranked, but unfortunately Balzsay’s status at that time didn’t warrant it, and it would be a difficult precedent to set to become that retrospective.  Quillin, Bika, and Lee each move up a spot.  Lee enters the top 10 for the first time.

 

Dan’s Top 20
Champ: Andre Ward (19-153-153)
Last Fight: 12/17/2011- UD12 #2 Carl Froch
Next Fight: Unknown
A little bit of a disappointing batch of initial rhetoric coming out of the Ward camp.  While Bute says he is willing to travel to Oakland to fight Ward, Ward himself seems more interested in Kessler.  Normally I wouldn’t knock a Champ-#3 contender matchup, but we’ve already got that one figured out.  He’s also said he’s willing to fight J.C. Chavez in Mexico.
1) Lucian Bute (19-315-315)
Last Fight: 11/5/2012- UD12 #13 Glen Johnson
Next Fight: 5/26/2012- vs. #2 Carl Froch
Despite Showtime rejecting the fight, Bute will face Froch in Nottingham on May 26.  Epix will likely televise in the US.
2) Carl Froch (19-306-306)
Last Fight: 12/17/2011- L(UD12) vs. #1 Andre Ward
Next Fight: 5/26/2012- vs. #1 Lucian Bute
See Bute’s notes, above.
3) Mikkel Kessler (19-385-385)
Last Fight: 6/4/2011- TKO6 Mehdi Bouadla (UNR)
Next Fight: 5/19/2012- vs. Allan Green (UNR) (at LHW)
I’m still not clear on why Kessler and Stieglitz is off, but Kessler is now set to fight Allan Green at 175 for some reason.  The fight will be in Copenhagen.
4) Robert Stieglitz (19-139-139)
Last Fight: 1/14/2012- UD12 Henry Weber (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Stieglitz has now been canceled on twice in a row, as the Kessler fight was deep-sixed for still-unclear reasons, and now George Groves has withdrawn with an injury.
5) Thomas Oosthuizen (19-47-95)
Last Fight: 3/3/2012- TKO6 Serge Yannick (UNR)
Next Fight: 4/27/2012- vs. Marcus Johnson (UNR)
Prospective opponent Maxim Vlasov was injured in a car accident, and so Oosthuizen will be fighting fringe contender/prospect Marcus Johnson, instead.  April 27, on ShoBox.
6) Arthur Abraham (19-131-131)
Last Fight: 3/31/2012- UD12 Piotr Wilczewski (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Abraham has proven that he’s still above the fringe contender level despite his struggles late in the Super Six.  It might be time for him to start fighting top-10 types again, even if they are carefully chosen.
7) Adonis Stevenson (10-20-20)
Last Fight: 2/18/2012- KO1 #18 Jesus Gonzales
Next Fight: 4/20/2012- vs. Noe Gonzalez (UNR)
Stevenson has worn out every fringe contender he can find, and is now looking to fight Ward or Bute, though he might have an opportunity for a shot at some random vacant title against Anthony Dirrell.
8) Peter Quillin (1-52-52)
Last Fight: 11/5/2011- TKO6 Craig McEwan (UNR) (at MW)
Next Fight: 6/2/2012- vs. Winky Wright (UNR) (at MW?)
After it originally appeared a no-go, Quillin’s proposed fight with inactive former champ Winky Wright is now on for the Tarver-Kayode undercard on Showtime.
9) Sakio Bika (1-19-264)
Last Fight: 12/3/2011- RTD3 Alfredo Contreras (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Avoided removal by the skin of his teeth, but he’s going to start plummeting any month now if he doesn’t beat someone decent.
10) Andy Lee (1-1-59)
Last Fight: 3/10/2012- TKO2 Saul Duran (UNR)
Next Fight: 6/16/2012- vs. MW #? Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. (at MW)
Lee gets the fight he’s been waiting for, against the best opponent of his career in Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr.  The fight will be in El Paso in mid-June.
11) Karoly Balzsay (1-1)
Last Fight: 4/21/2012- TKO12 #8 Dimitri Sartison
Next Fight: Unknown
Took advantage of a diminished version of Sartison, which leaves him knocking on the door of the top 10 despite being outfought by unproven prospect Kashtanov.
12) Anthony Dirrell (19-21)
Last Fight: 12/2/2011- TKO4 Renan St. Juste (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Dirrell will likely get an opportunity to fight for a belt vacated by Andre Ward- essentially for being too good- against Adonis Stevenson.
13) Mouhamed Ali Ndiaye (19-24)
Last Fight: 11/11/2011- TKO12 Andrea Di Luisa (UNR)
Next Fight: 5/26/2012- vs. Unknown Opponent
Ndiaye will be back in action in late May.  No opponent yet.
14) Glen Johnson (19-77)
Last Fight: 11/5/2011- L(UD12) vs. #3 Lucian Bute
Next Fight: Unknown
The Bute fight was the only one of Johnson’s recent career that wasn’t really close.  Bute is certainly a top fighter, but it could be that the Road Warrior is starting to wind down a bit.
15) Dimitri Sartison (1-95)
Last Fight: 4/21/2012- L(TKO12) vs. Karoly Balzsay (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Sartison is taking a step back up to the fringe contender level in April.  If his knee isn’t close to 100% (which it didn’t appear to be against journeyman Kulikauskis), Balzsay is the right level of opponent to capitalize.
16) Bryan Vera (1-64)
Last Fight: 10/1/2011- L(UD10) vs. #15 Andy Lee
Next Fight: 4/21/2012- vs. Taronze Washington (UNR)
Vera will fight no-name journeyman Taronze Washignton on April 21.
17) Aaron Pryor, Jr. (19-51)
Last Fight: 12/10/2011- L(TKO9) vs. Adonis Stevenson (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Well, it’s clear that he can’t play with at least one of the big boys.  Every division needs fringe contenders, though, and that looks like Pryor’s lane for the time being.
18) Jesus Gonzales (19-42)
Last Fight: 2/18/2012- L(KO1) vs. #9 Adonis Stevenson
Next Fight: Unknown
19) James DeGale (19-28)
Last Fight: 4/21/2012- TKO4 Cristian Sanavia (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Easy pickings for a European defense against the faded Sanavia.
20) George Groves (19-19)
Last Fight: 11/5/2011- TKO2 Paul Smith (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Groves is starting to earn himself a reputation as an unreliable opponent.  He withdrew from a scheduled fight back in December with injury.  Then he scheduled a fight for March that he withdrew from in order to fight for Robert Stieglitz’s belt.  But now he has withdrawn with that bout with a new injury.

 

The Week Ahead: #5 Thomas Oosthuizen fights prospect/fringe contender Marcus Johnson on ShoBox from Miami, Oklahoma on Friday.  On Sunday, Stanislas Kashtanov- who easily deserved a win over new #11 Karoly Balzsay last summer- fights journeyman Jorge Rodriguez of Uraguay in Kashtanov’s hometown of Donetsk, Ukraine.
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