Super Middleweight: 2013, Dec 9-15

#15 Ryota Murata was in action for just the second time as a pro on Friday in Tokyo, and didn’t disappoint, stopping Dave Peterson in the final stanza of the 8-rounder.  This is the first time I’ve actually gotten to see him, and since I imagine very few in the western world can say the same, I thought it might be worth giving a scouting report.  I rarely do this, in part because most guys have well-known skill sets by the time they break the top 20, and in part because I’m really not an expert at evaluating technique, style, or potential.  But I’ll take a stab at it anyway.  From what I saw of him, I would say the following about Murata: 


Pro: He is very aggressive.  I’ve been told by someone who ought to know that the Japanese fight culture is at least the equal of Mexico in the value it places on coming forward and attacking the opponent.  If this is not true, you wouldn’t know it from seeing Murata.  Even in his worst moments, taking a backward step wasn’t even remotely on his mind.  He is heavy-handed.  His opponent, Minnesota fringe prospect Dave Peterson, was not looking to go away, but you could tell that Murata’s shots were making a dent.  He is a finisher.  When he hurt Peterson in the 8th round, he stepped up the pressure even more, and used well-selected and frequent punches to put him away.  He cuts off the ring relatively well.  Peterson was actually a respectable boxer in terms of style.  He used lateral movement and punched strategically, but Murata was still able to get to him almost at will.  He is very accurate.  Peterson, while no Pernell Whitaker by any stretch of the imagination, was defensively responsible, with a lot of movement of both head and feet, and yet I would bet money that Murata was landing well over 50% of his shots, both jab and power.


Con: No defense.  Murata is like a statue from the waist up.  He didn’t move his head once in the fight, I don’t think, even to roll with a punch.  His hand defense, to use the kindest possible description, is passive.  The only reason that a punch wouldn’t land on him would be if it was thrown with wild inaccuracy, or if it was aimed at a place that Murata’s gloves or arms were already stationed.  He does not pick off shots at all.  Speaking of his arms and gloves, his hands are also fairly slow.  Granted, what he gives up in speed, he more than gains in accuracy, but just don’t expect him to be putting them together like Roy Jones.  His one-two is just fine if he doesn’t have something coming back to trump it, but against better competition I fear he might not be hard to time with a big counter.


For what it’s worth, Peterson was under 159, while Murata missed 160 by just a half-pound.


In other action in Windhoek, Namibia, local gatekeeper Wilbeforce Shihepo knocked out mid-level Kenyan journeyman Daniel Wanyonyi to capture an alphabet-sponsored African title, and in doing so solidified his tenuous position as a top-50 fighter.


On the Chicago undercard of Wlodarczyk-Fragomeni, undefeated Puerto Rican Jonathan Gonzalez carved up low-level Colombian journeyman Jaison Palomeque in 5 rounds to win by TKO, and frankly appears much more at home in this division than at 154, where he gained a reputation for badly missing weight before comfortably making it in his last fight, only to win a debatable decision over Derek Ennis.


Later that night on the ShoBox card from Shelton, Washington, #19 Badou Jack frankly continued his disturbing trend of apparently fighting down to his competition.  I had him behind by a point after 5 rounds with high-level Mexican journeyman Rogelio Medina, but to Jack’s credit, he was able to call on what looked to be an extra gear at that point, and since it appeared to be taking all of Medina’s effort to hang in there, Jack was able to dispatch his flagging opponent with three knockdowns in a brutal 6th before referee Bobby Howard- far too late- called an end to proceedings.  


#12 Maxim Vlasov won the first three rounds against lower-mid-level journeyman Maxell Taylor, and knocked him out in the fourth.  The fight was not quite at 168.  Taylor weighed in at a hefty 176, while Vlasov at least stayed in the ballpark at 170.  This is worth bringing up mainly because Vlasov last made 168 on November 5, 2012.  He’s been within 2 pounds of it 3 times, but by my rules that still only buys him until May 5, 2014 to fight at 168 in order to maintain his ranking.


#11 Sakio Bika retained his alphabet title with a fairly clear-cut draw against Anthony Dirrell on the Maidana-Broner undercard in Brooklyn.  Bika won rounds 4, 6, 7, 8, and 12 clearly.  Dirrell could say the same for 1, 3, 5, and 9.  He added a knockdown in 5.  Bika also would have won round 11 if it weren’t for a point deduction for a low blow.  I might have made it just a hard warning, to be honest, if I were the ref.  Rounds 2 and 10 were swing rounds, and I gave one to each guy.  113-113 Draw, with 114-112 either way being reasonable.  Judge Glenn Feldman was great at 113-113.  Don Trella was reasonable at 114-112 Bika.  Joseph Pasquale was out of his freaking mind at 116-110 Dirrell.  I mean this guy gave Dirrell all the toss-ups, one kind of close round that Bika clearly won, and one round that was 100% clear cut for Bika.  Even with a good result, there’s bad judging on the menu.


The Bika-Dirrell result is the only thing that might affect the rankings this week.  It’s an odd bit of data, I must say.  Dirrell was in the neighborhood of the low 30s in terms of unofficial rank, having needed a blatant robbery to notch a W against Don Mouton.  Mouton thereby gained, in effect, a win over a top 10 contender with the performance.  Both due to the head-to-head and the fact that Mouton got a win over #10 and Dirrell a draw against #11, Dirrell cannot reasonably surpass Mouton in the rankings, and is therefore frozen out, narrowly, from the top 20.  Very often in the case of a draw, the two fighters end up back-to-back in the rankings, or nearly so.  Not here.  Bika, despite the draw, must be compared to those that seek to surpass him.  Even against #12 Maxim Vlasov, Bika comes out looking like the better candidate for #11.  Vlasov’s best win was a dominant decision over Khoren Gevor, which itself was not all that significantly better than Bika’s stoppage win the same year over the roughly comparable Dyah Davis.  Bika then adds more recent wins over top 50 prospects Sjekloca and Periban, while Vlasov can only answer with an aging 2010 stoppage of Jerson Ravelo.  Vlasov’s loss to Chilemba supports the idea that his potential is that of a borderline top 10 fighter at best.  While Bika’s draw with Dirrell might say something similar (Dirrell once having occupied that lofty station himself), the greater and more recent volume of ratable wins demands that Bika stay right where he is.  On the merits of the fight alone, there would have very surprisingly been no movement in the top 20, but last week’s #18 Glen Johnson was kind enough to clear a space for Dirrell by signing a fight at Cruiserweight for December 18, which is a year and 3 days after his last fight at 168, and thus makes him officially inactive at this weight a couple weeks early.  Dirrell is among the beneficiaries, returning to the rankings at #20.


Dan’s Top 20
Champ: Andre Ward (104-238-238)
Last Fight: 11/16/2013- UD12 #13 Edwin Rodriguez
Next Fight: Unknown
Ward says he would fight Golovkin or Hopkins, but seems to doubt that either of them wants to fight him.  In the meantime, he has maybe another fight to deal with that could do more damage to his career than any he has yet met in the ring- a lawsuit against his promoter.
1) Carl Froch (81-391-391)
Last Fight: 11/23/2013- TKO9 #8 George Groves
Next Fight: Unknown
After a grueling fight that showed Froch returning to his pre-Super 6 ways by pulling one out of the fire late, Froch has a very credible and vehement rematch challenge in his lap, courtesy of George Groves.  Rumor has it that he intends to refuse, and has also resisted suggestions that he move up to 175 to fight Stevenson.  His current focus seems to be on trying to make a Ward rematch.
2) Robert Stieglitz (38-224-224)
Last Fight: 10/19/2013- UD12 Isaac Ekpo (UNR)
Next Fight: 3/1/2014- vs. #4 Arthur Abraham
The Abraham-Stieglitz trilogy bout, originally announced for February 1, is now official for March 1, in Stieglitz’s home base of Magdeburg.
3) Mikkel Kessler (52-470-470)
Last Fight: 5/25/2013- L (UD12) vs. #1 Carl Froch
Next Fight: Unknown
After meeting with Kessler, his promoter says he won’t be fighting anytime soon, and Kessler hinted at possible retirement immediately after the Froch fight.  It’s not looking good for Kessler fans, though the Viking Warrior recently said, rather vaguely, that he still wants a big fight.
4) Arthur Abraham (30-216-216)
Last Fight: 10/26/2013- UD12 Giovanni De Carolis (UNR)
Next Fight: 3/1/2014- vs. #2 Robert Stieglitz
See Stieglitz’s notes, above.
5) Brandon Gonzales (24-24-24)
Last Fight: 11/16/2013- UD10 Jonathan Nelson (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Gonzales says he is planning to fight again in early 2014, but nothing too specific right now.
6) Thomas Oosthuizen (11-132-180)
Last Fight: 11/9/2013- W* (MD12) vs. #13 Ezequiel Maderna
Next Fight: 1/18/2014- vs. LHW #18 Eleider Alvarez (at LHW)
Oosthuizen’s scheduled January fight has been denied title sanctioning by an alphabet organization.  It’s not clear whether that will pose a problem for the fight coming off.
7) Ezequiel Maderna (5-5-50)
Last Fight: 11/9/2013- L* (MD12) vs. #6 Thomas Oosthuizen
Next Fight: Unknown
I doubt he’ll get much love from the alphabets for his effort, but I think you could make a better case for him winning than losing against Oosthuizen, though I had it a draw personally.
8) George Groves (5-52-74)
Last Fight: 11/23/2013- L (TKO9) vs. #1 Carl Froch
Next Fight: Unknown
While I think the result of a TKO loss was an inevitable one, I also don’t fault Groves for the ultimatum he recently issued to Froch: rematch or retire.  Obviously he can’t make Froch do that, but I think he earned the rematch, and I think there’s a lot of money in it for both guys.  He’s having to resort to personal attacks to try and get a reluctant Froch to agree, however.
9) James DeGale (4-27-113)
Last Fight: 11/16/2013- UD12 Dyah Davis (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
DeGale is agitating for a title fight after beating Davis, and thinks Froch and Groves are ducking him.
10) Christopher Rebrasse (4-4-27)
Last Fight: 6/8/2013- Robbery Draw (W) vs. #10 Mouhamed Ali Ndiaye
Next Fight: Unknown
Rebrasse’s unnecessary rematch with Ndiaye appears to have been cancelled. 
11) Sakio Bika (4-349)
Last Fight: 12/7/2013- Draw (SD12) vs. Anthony Dirrell (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Dirrell wants a rematch, and that’s obviously a worthy endeavor given the legitimate draw the first time around.
12) Maxim Vlasov (5-57)
Last Fight: 12/5/2013- KO4 Maxell Taylor (UNR) (at LHW)
Next Fight: Unknown
Vlasov has until May to make 168 to remain in the rankings.
13) Edwin Rodriguez (5-47)
Last Fight: 11/16/2013- L (UD12) vs. Champ Andre Ward
Next Fight: Unknown
According to his trainer Ronnie Shields, they might be looking to fight a top-15 level light heavyweight, and have absolutely no intention to ever try to make 168 again.
 14) Andy Lee (11-30)
Last Fight: 11/23/2013-TKO2 Ferenc Hafner (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Lee seems to be focused on a Macklin clash for the Spring.
15) Ryota Murata (11-16)
Last Fight: 12/6/2013- TKO8 Dave Peterson (UNR)
Next Fight: 2/22/2014- vs. Unknown Opponent
Murata is slated for a February 22 card in Macau.
16) Caleb Truax (11-25)
Last Fight: 9/21/2013- TKO4 Ceresso Fort (UNR) (at MW)
Next Fight: 1/3/2014- vs. Derek Ennis (UNR)
Truax’s January 3 kickoff to 2014 will be on Friday Night Fights against Derek Ennis.
17) Hadillah Mohoumadi (11-41)
Last Fight: 11/30/2013- TKO5 Bartlomiej Grafka (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
 18) Badou Jack (1-21)
Last Fight: 12/6/2013- TKO6 Rogelio Medina (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Jack called out the winner of Bika vs. Dirrell after his win over Medina, but might want to restate, since the fight ended in a draw the following night.
19) Don Mouton (1-11)
Last Fight: 5/13/2013- L* (UD8) vs. #10 Anthony Dirrell
Next Fight: Unknown
Mouton was set to fight Gilberto Ramirez on December 7, but that whole show has evidently been postponed or cancelled.
20) Anthony Dirrell (1-1)
Last Fight: 12/7/2013- Draw (SD12) vs. #11 Sakio Bika
Next Fight: Unknown
His hard-fought draw with Sakio Bika gained Dirrell a measure of redemption for what pretty clearly should have been a loss against Don Mouton, and has him back in the hot prospect category.


The Week Ahead:
Jake Carr vs. Zac Awad; Flemington, Australia; Off TV
Precocious undefeated prospect Carr has only 5 fights under his belt, but he proved himself to be quite advanced by beating veteran gatekeeper Serge Yannick in his last fight.  Awad is something of a veteran, himself, but at 32 his best days might already be behind him.  Since edging out prospect Junior Talipeau in 2011, he has struggled against mediocre opposition.  Nevertheless, I wouldn’t rule him out as a threat, especially if Carr’s performance against Yannick was a bit of a lucky night.  That being said, I don’t think it was.  Carr really did look impressive.


Martin Murray vs. Sergey Khomitsky; London, England; Sky (UK)
This is basically a middleweight fight without as much dehydration.  I’m only mentioning it now as a formality, and probably won’t discuss it in my update for this weight next week at all, except in the highly unlikely event that it has some significance to the rankings (which would pretty much require a huge upset by Khomitsky).


Jermain Taylor vs. J.C. Candelo; San Antonio, Texas; Off TV
Another fight that’s basically intended as a middleweight contest, but since neither fighter is ranked at 160, I’ll probably mention it here if, as expected, one or both fighters don’t make 160.  Candelo is a fully used-up journeyman at this point, and Taylor is a shadow of his former self, teetering  between maybe getting a good enough win to try and scratch out a legitimate role as a fringe contender, and laboring in total obscurity.  A loss here would certainly put him squarely in the latter category.

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