Cruiserweight: 2012, Sep 17-23

#1 Yoan Pablo Hernandez can’t have a completely non-controversial fight, it seems.  Both of his decision wins over Steve Cunningham were disputed in some quarters (I agreed completely with the second), and now he gets very clearly outfought by #20 Troy Ross, but still walks away with what appeared from the cards to be a relatively routine decision win.  Now I will qualify that.  Ross straight-up gave away enough rounds (including while Hernandez was obviously still wobbly from a 5th round knockdown) to open the door to a narrow Hernandez victory, especially in Hernandez’ adopted home of Germany.  I think Floridian Michael Pernick’s card of 114-113 Hernandez gave the Cuban every benefit of the doubt, but that it was a respectable score.  The UK’s Mickey Vann (115-112 Hernandez) and especially Belgium’s Benny Decroos (116-112 Hernandez), on the other hand, were obviously determined not to give Ross any round that he didn’t dominate, or else they were intimidated by the venue and the promoter, in which case they don’t deserve to judge on this level.  I had the fight 115-112 Ross.  I think anything between 116-111 Ross and 114-113 Hernandez would be defensible.  I want to call this a robbery because it basically was.  But since I could see Hernandez winning the fight if he got all the toss-up rounds, this is a textbook example of a decision that will receive minimum deference here.  That is to say that it will be treated essentially as a draw, but with the barest of edges granted to the official winner, Hernandez, wherever relevant.


As for the fight itself, it was a wild and unpredictable affair.  There were times when it looked as if someone plucked Max Baer out of the Primo Carnera fight, cloned him, and matched him against himself, with wild swinging and tripping over each other being the rule rather than the exception.  But after the 5th, when Ross badly hurt Hernandez to the extent that it appeared he never totally recovered, Hernandez was a spoiler.  He held, he flopped, he slipped, and he even turned his back more than once.  But the visibly much smaller Ross, still evidently afraid of Hernandez’ power, too often laid back and let Hernandez walk him down, which likely won the Cuban a round or two almost by itself.


Lost a bit in the shuffle, #15 Mateusz Masternak turned in an excellent performance against the aging but still undefeated prospect David Quinonero, who came into the fight at 27-0 with 26 knockouts, including a 5th round knockout of borderline top-50 gatekeeper-type Ali Ismailov.  Quinonero showed nothing to suggest the devastating puncher his record might indicate.  He showed a really good chin and a lot of heart, which ultimately just meant he got a busted-up eye added to his defeat.  Masternak appeared bigger, stronger, faster, rangier, and more skilled.  I think he’s a special fighter.  The thing that most impressed me was that he was able to throw heavy, hurtful punches while going backwards.  Any opponent that hopes to get close enough to hurt Masternak is going to need a dynamic defense and a lot of will.  As Teddy Atlas would say, you have to go through a bad neighborhood to get to him.


In the also ran category, Finnish gatekeeper Juho Haapoja slammed the gate shut, as expected, on middling Italian fringe prospect Francesco Versaci in Finland, as the Italian failed to answer the bell for the 4th round.


Hernandez’ performance against a mere #20 contender obviously hurts his standing.  Ross has proven credible in the past, as it’s at least arguably the case that he should have won against then-#1 Steve Cunningham, as well.  It’s legitimately a reasonable conclusion that he might be the best cruiserweight in the world.  However, he hasn’t conclusively beaten anyone near that level.  Nevertheless, he gets credit for beating Hernandez on my scorecard, at least.  Hernandez has fairly conclusively beaten Cunningham, but a struggle like that he had against Ross shows that his status as the best cruiserweight in the world is at least arguable.  Enter last week’s #2 Denis Lebedev.  Lebedev conclusively beat then-#2 Marco Huck (without getting credit for it), and has torn through a series of fringe contenders (including a #19-ranked Alexander Alekseev) without coming close to losing against anyone but Huck.  His resume is of similar quality to Hernandez’, but without any setbacks of any significance such as you’d find on the Cuban’s ledger.  As a result, Lebedev succeeds him at #1. 


With Steve Cunningham still deserving the spot right behind Lebedev’s former position (arguments for his removal due to moving up in weight aside), it would be impossible for Hernandez to fall too far- particularly since Ross has given a near-prime Cunningham as significant a problem in abbreviated action as he did Hernandez, who therefore settles in at #2.  Ross, having done everything but clearly beat Hernandez, jumps all the way up to claim the #3 spot, forcing Cunningham and everyone else rated #3-19 last week down one place apeice.  Even Masternak is not immune from this with his win, since he still has not fought anyone on the level that Fragomeni and Branco have wins and/or draws against.  Included in the wave of demotion is Danny Green, who exits the top 10 after 3 consecutive months within its confines.  You know it was a significant week of action when not one fighter on the list has the same rank at which he found himself the week before.


Dan’s Top 20
Champ: None
1) Denis Lebedev (1-137-137)
Last Fight: 4/4/2012- KO2 Shawn Cox (UNR)
Next Fight: 10/20/2012- vs. #9 Guillermo Jones
Lebedev will fight very inactive alphabet titleholder and former welterweight Guillermo Jones in Moscow this October.
2) Yoan Pablo Hernandez (1-117-117)
Last Fight: 9/15/2012- W*(UD12) vs. #20 Troy Ross
Next Fight: Unknown
Hernandez officially got the win over Ross, and I’m not quite willing to call it a robbery, but it’s pretty close to one.  I think you’d be pushing the limits of reason to give the fight to Hernandez, and I think that even if you managed to do so in terms of rounds won, you’d have to admit that Ross got the better of the fight overall.  Even Hernandez promoter Sauerland admits that Hernandez didn’t deserve a win, and believes a rematch is warranted.
3) Troy Ross (1-1-33)
Last Fight: 9/15/2012- L*(UD12) vs. #1 Yoan Pablo Hernandez
Next Fight: Unknown
Ross deserved to beat Hernandez.  That’s all I’ve got to say (except the more detailed statement I made above).
4) Steve Cunningham (1-431-431)
Last Fight: 9/8/2012- UD10 Jason Gavern (UNR) (at HW)
Next Fight: Unknown
So far so good for Cunningham at Heavyweight.  He’ll retain his ranking here until the anniversary of his February 4 cruiserweight fight, or until he schedules a heavyweight fight for a date after that.
5) Marco Huck (1-302-302)
Last Fight: 5/5/2012- Draw* (MD12) vs. #7 Ola Afolabi
Next Fight: 11/3/2012- vs. #10 Firat Arslan
Huck will fight Arslan next in early November.
6) Ola Afolabi (1-184-184)
Last Fight: 5/5/2012- Draw* (MD12) vs. #4 Marco Huck
Next Fight: Unknown
7) Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (1-378-378)
Last Fight: 11/30/2011- TKO11 #9 Danny Green
Next Fight: 9/22/2012- vs. #13 Francisco Palacios
It appears- according to Boxrec- that Wlodarczyk has finally consented to an alphabet-mandated rematch with Palacios. The first fight was close (I thought Palacios won), but unfortunately almost unwatchable, as well.
8) Lateef Kayode (1-16-96)
Last Fight: 6/2/2012- Draw (SD12) vs. ‘Roided up #3 Antonio Tarver
Next Fight: Unknown
Kayode originally was angling for a fight with Roy Jones, but now appears to be in discussions to fight Grigory Drozd in Siberia.
9) Guillermo Jones (1-103-103)
Last Fight: 11/5/2011- TKO6 Michael Marrone (UNR)
Next Fight: 10/20/2012- vs. #1 Denis Lebedev
Jones will travel to Moscow to put his alphabet title on the line against the much younger Lebedev.
10) Firat Arslan (1-19-62)
Last Fight: 5/11/2012- Draw* (MD12) vs. #12 Alexander Alekseev (Robbery)
Next Fight: 11/3/2012- vs. #5 Marco Huck
Long-since slated for a November rematch with Alekseev, Arslan was the subject of a surprise announcement that he would instead fight Marco Huck.
11) Danny Green (1-146)
Last Fight: 7/25/2012- TKO5 Danny Santiago (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
12) B.J. Flores (1-117)
Last Fight: 1/28/2012- TKO6 Hugo Pineda (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Flores suffered a hand injury in training for his September 14 date, and is now on the shelf for the moment.
13) Francisco Palacios (1-77)
Last Fight: 11/5/2011- UD8 Joell Godfrey (UNR)
Next Fight: 9/22/2012- vs. #7 Krzysztof Wlodarczyk
See Wlodarczyk’s notes, above.
14) Giacobbe Fragomeni (1-201)
Last Fight: 3/17/2012- Draw (MD12) vs. Silvio Branco (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Fragomeni appears to be showing his age after nearly losing to an even older man in Branco.
15) Silvio Branco (1-27)
Last Fight: 3/17/2012- Draw (MD12) vs. #10 Giacobbe Fragomeni
Next Fight: Unknown
45 year old veteran Silvio Branco got what may have been his final hurrah with a close-fought draw with top 10-ranked Giacobbe Fragomeni.
16) Mateusz Masternak (1-25)
Last Fight: 9/15/2012- TKO8 David Quinonero (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Masternak put on a Masterful performance against a game but apparently limited Quinonero, but that was only the 2nd-best event of his week, as his son was born that same Wednesday.
17) Alexander Alekseev (1-88)
Last Fight: 5/11/2012- Draw*(MD12) vs. #19 Firat Arslan (robbery- should have been L)
Next Fight: 9/28/2012-  vs. Agron Dzila (UNR)
We know that Alekseev will fight journeyman Agron Dzila in September.  We also know he won’t be rematching Arslan in November as previously-expected.  It remains to be seen if that fight will eventually happen after Arslan fights Huck or not.
18) Enad Licina (1-117)
Last Fight: 2/4/2012- L(UD12) vs. #17 Alexander Alexeev
Next Fight: Unknown
19) Dmitro Kucher (1-12)
Last Fight: 8/19/2012- TKO5 Geoffrey Battelo (UNR) (at HW)
Next Fight: 10/27/2012- vs. Unknown Opponent
Kucher will be fighting in Kiev on October 27 for some alphabet regional color-coded belt, but no announced opponent yet.
20) Pawel Glazewski (1-12)
Last Fight: 6/30/2012- L(Robbery) vs. Roy Jones, Jr. (UNR)
Next Fight: 10/13/2012- vs. Sofiane Sebihi (UNR) (at LHW)
Glazewski’s opponent for October is decent Swiss journeyman Sofiane Sebihi, and the fight will be contested at the 175 pound limit.


THE WEEK AHEAD: Three notable fights can be found on two cards on Saturday.  In Wroclaw, Poland, #7 Krzysztof Wlodarczyk takes on #13 Francisco Palacios in a rematch of their close and controversial (and deathly boring) spring 2011 fight.  I scored that fight for Palacios 115-113, while two of the three judges disagreed.  Neither judge had a credible scorecard, incidentally.  Adrio Zannoni in particular scored a fight that was certainly between 115-113 Wlodarczyk and 117-111 Palacios as a 118-112 win for Wlodarczyk.  Regardless of the winner, I hope it’s a fair result this time around.


Meanwhile, in Kempton Park, South Africa, the semifinals of the “Super 8” Cruiserweight tournament plays out, with gatekeepers Zack Mwekassa  and Danie Venter doing battle.  The other fight originally figured to be a battle between the winners of first-round matchups between Israeli prospect/fringe contender Ran Nakash fighting seemingly overmatched fringe prospect Johnny Muller and Congolese gatekeeper Flo Simba fighting South African prospect Thabiso Mchunu.  When Nakash initially came in heavy and then bailed on the tournament entirely, it appeared Muller would fight the Simba-Mchunu winner after passing to the semis with a bye.   But after the Mchunu-Simba fight ended with an unnessesary and premature stoppage win for Mchunu, it appears that the promoter was able to prevail upon Muller to step aside in favor of a shot at an African Light Heavyweight title, allowing Simba and Mchunu to rematch on Saturday for a shot at the finals.

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