Super Middleweight: 2014, Apr 7-13

On Friday, we saw another fight botched by a referee, and another Main Events fighter got a win that he arguably didn’t deserve thanks to bad officiating.  Undefeated but (as a pro, at least) untested prospect Tureano Johnson of the Bahamas dominated #18 middleweight Curtis Stevens to a shocking degree for 9 rounds.  Needing a stoppage going into the final round, Stevens managed to get it…just not with full legitimacy.  Johnson had Stevens and his vaunted power smothered on the ropes for virtually the entire fight, with a brief hiccup in the 4th, in which Stevens clearly took control to win a round.  Stevens was clearly behind 89-82 going into the final round, and in that round he caught a rapidly tiring Johnson with his right hand low while infighting.  He took a step back and fired a vicious left hook that badly hurt Johnson and sent him reeling back to the ropes with his legs largely gone.  Stevens then jumped on him and let loose with a flurry of short quick punches- none of which landed, as far as I could tell- whereupon referee Gary Rosato jumped in to stop it with 53 seconds remaining.  

 

Here’s the truth.  Johnson was BADLY hurt, and there is an excellent chance (I’d put it at 60% or more, personally) that Stevens was on his way to stopping him without any special help from Rosato.  But being badly hurt doesn’t equal the end of the fight.  If Stevens had landed even one telling blow after putting Johnson in that condition and on the ropes, that would be a different story and at least lend an arguable justification to the stoppage, but if any punches landed at all from that point, they were not clean or damaging.  Johnson still might have summoned the wherewithal to hold and/or smother Stevens’ shots long enough to regain the faculties necessary to finish the fight on his feet, or at the very least might have realized his peril and taken a knee.  If Johnson had taken a knee just one second after Rosato’s stoppage as he should have been given the chance to do, for instance, he would have found himself with no more than 43 seconds left in the fight, and would probably have recovered at least a little from the punch.  It’s not particularly difficult, if you’re being honest, to picture Johnson surviving from that point.  Two or three clinches and/or a second time taking a knee, if necessary, would kill enough clock for that.

 

Now that’s all assuming that Johnson’s faculties were sufficiently gathered up at some point before it was legitimately too late in order to attempt and execute the survival tactics necessary to make it.  That’s by no means certain.  For all we know, Stevens might have followed his flurry immediately with a crisp body-head combination to turn the lights out.  The sad truth is that because Rosato rushed to action, we will simply never know, and will thus never know the rightful winner of the fight.

 

A previous precedent I announced back when Jon Schorle stole a clear victory from Carlos Molina by ridiculously disqualifying him holds that when a fight is abbreviated by a clearly erroneous decision by a referee, the fight will be treated as if it had ended due to an accidental foul, with my scorecard being consulted to determine the winner.  This would be that kind of instance, but I think a distinction is necessary here.  As I said, I think it’s a bit more likely than not that Stevens was about to legitimately stop Johnson.  To go to the cards and award Johnson the win in this case would be no less arbitrary in one direction than Rosato himself was in awarding a perhaps impending, but as-yet unearned, victory to Stevens.  So here’s my amendment to that rule: when the beneficiary of a fight-ending bad call by a ref is behind in the fight but has a clear and significant path to legitimate victory (let’s say greater than a 25% or greater chance as a guideline), the fight will be treated as a no contest, since no satisfactory winner had legitimately be determined with an acceptable degree of confidence.  Here’s how that distinguishes from Kirkland-Molina.  Kirkland had just scored a knockdown in a fight in which he was (or should have been) hopelessly behind.  That may have been enough to give him some hope for a comeback, but he was behind 5 points on my card and thus had no realistic path to victory on the scorecard.  Molina did not appear seriously hurt, and the 10th round was over.  While Kirkland obviously still had a puncher’s chance to win the fight in the last 2 rounds, I think it would be a stretch to say he was more than 25% likely to win that fight by stoppage at the point it was ended.  In addition, Molina had dropped Kirkland earlier in the round and won the thing overall, but Schorle had messed that up, as well.  Molina had demonstrated that in all likelihood, he would have gone on to be the legitimate winner of the fight, and the balance of the action to that late stage had made a victory for him feel abstractly like an appropriate- if imperfect- result.  In the more recent case, the legitimate outcome was hanging entirely in the balance at the moment the fight was stopped, and thus no victory for either fighter could be satisfactory on any level.  Future examples of this type of issue will be treated with one rule or the other based on which scenario it more closely resembles.  That’s more subjective than I like to be, but ultimately I care more for keeping the rankings free from unnecessary pollution from bad officiating and enforcing justice and fairness on the parallel universe I control here than I do about slavishly enforcing the letter of the law that I wrote on an ad hoc basis in the first place.

 

What this means in the final analysis is that we have no real winner here, and no changes- whether here or at 160- will result from this murkier-than-necessary contest.  I do feel that Johnson’s stock has risen a good deal, despite how he looked in the final seconds.

 

Dan’s Top 20
Champ: Andre Ward (121-255-255)
Last Fight: 11/16/2013- UD12 #13 Edwin Rodriguez
Next Fight: Unknown
Ward is being targeted by at least some on Kovalev’s team.
1) Carl Froch (98-408-408)
Last Fight: 11/23/2013- TKO9 #8 George Groves
Next Fight: 5/31/2014- vs. #8 George Groves
There is talk of a record gate when Froch meets Groves in a highly anticipated rematch in a London soccer stadium at the end of May.
2) Arthur Abraham (6-233-233)
Last Fight: 3/1/2014- W (SD12) vs. #2 Robert Stieglitz
Next Fight: 5/3/2014- vs. Nikola Sjekloca (UNR)
Abraham will have a quick turn-around when he defends his newly-won belt against the mostly fraudulent Nikola Sjekloca on May 3 in Berlin.
3) Robert Stieglitz (6-241-241)
Last Fight: 3/1/2014- L (SD12) vs. #4 Arthur Abraham
Next Fight: Unknown
Sauerland prospect Tyron Zeuge has expressed interest in a fight with Stieglitz.
4) Mikkel Kessler (6-487-487)
Last Fight: 5/25/2013- L (UD12) vs. #1 Carl Froch
Next Fight: Unknown
Kessler is reportedly discussing a return with Sauerland, but there is no obvious opponent available for him at present.
5) Brandon Gonzales (41-41-41)
Last Fight: 11/16/2013- UD10 Jonathan Nelson (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown Date- vs. #11 James DeGale
The IBF has ordered an eliminator between Gonzales and DeGale, with the winner becoming the mandatory to the Froch-Groves winner, and DeGale confirmed that he’s agreed to the battle.
6) Thomas Oosthuizen (28-149-197)
Last Fight: 11/9/2013- W* (MD12) vs. #13 Ezequiel Maderna
Next Fight: Unknown
Oosthuizen was yanked from his intended January 18 fight with Eleider Alvarez and released by his promoter after a bicycle accident and reportedly being hopelessly out of shape about 2 weeks before the fight.
7) Ezequiel Maderna (22-22-67)
Last Fight: 11/9/2013- L* (MD12) vs. #6 Thomas Oosthuizen
Next Fight: 4/25/2014- vs. Richard Vidal (UNR)
Maderna apparently will fight low-level journeyman Richard Vidal in La Plata, Argentina on April 25.
8) George Groves (22-69-91)
Last Fight: 11/23/2013- L (TKO9) vs. #1 Carl Froch
Next Fight: 5/31/2014- vs. #1 Carl Froch
See Froch’s notes, above.
9) Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. (6-6-6)
Last Fight: 3/1/2014- UD10 #5 MW Bryan Vera
Next Fight: Unknown
It’s not signed, but it’s looking highly likely that Chavez will fight Golovkin on July 19 right here at 168.
10) Bryan Vera (6-6-6)
Last Fight: 3/1/2014- L (UD10) vs. Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Even in defeat, Vera has regained a ranking at 168 and is- at least temporarily- ranked in 2 divisions.   There are also credible-looking reports to the effect that he broke his left hand early in the fight, for what it’s worth.
11) James DeGale (6-130)
Last Fight: 3/1/2014- TKO11 Gevorg Khatchikian (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown Date- vs. #5 Brandon Gonzales
DeGale has split from his promoter Mick Hennessy.  He’s still rumored to be fighting Brandon Gonzales next, who himself has just gone through a promotional change.
12) Christopher Rebrasse (6-44)
Last Fight: 3/22/2014- TKO4 Mouhamed Ali Ndiaye (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Rebrasse now has two dominant wins over what was a top 10 contender the first time around.  He didn’t need the judges to notice the second time.
13) Sakio Bika (6-366)
Last Fight: 12/7/2013- Draw (SD12) vs. Anthony Dirrell (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
After initially granting Julio Cesar Chavez the spot, the WBC has now made James DeGale the mandatory after it appeared Chavez would likely look at a different opportunity.
14) Maxim Vlasov (6-74)
Last Fight: 3/15/2014- UD8 Derrick Findley (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Vlasov looked very good against Findley, but he’ll need to schedule a fight at Super Middleweight before May 5 and make weight in order to keep his ranking, since he hasn’t made the divisional limit since November 2012.
15) Edwin Rodriguez (6-64)
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.  He’ll be on the shelf for a little while due to bone chip-removal surgery on his elbow in December.
 16) Andy Lee (6-47)
Last Fight: 11/23/2013-TKO2 Ferenc Hafner (UNR)
Next Fight: 4/12/2014- vs. Frank Haroche Horta (UNR) (at JMW)
In a surprising development, Lee will be moving down to 154, and will be taking on Frenchman Frank Haroche Horta at or around that weight this weekend.
17) Gilberto Ramirez (6-10)
Last Fight: 2/1/2014- TKO1 #19 Don Mouton
Next Fight: 4/11/2014- vs. Giovanni Lorenzo (UNR)
Ramirez is back on April 11 in the Friday Night Fights main event against gatekeeper Lorenzo.
18) Ryota Murata (6-33)
Last Fight: 2/22/2014- TKO4 Carlos Nascimento (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Bob Arum plans to have Murata in action at Singapore this year according to Dan Rafael, but I don’t have any further details.
19) Anthony Dirrell (6-18)
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.  He’s called for a rematch (good idea) and a fight with Golovkin (bad idea).
20) Hadillah Mohoumadi (6-58)
Last Fight: 11/30/2013- TKO5 Bartlomiej Grafka (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown

 

The Week Ahead: 
Friday
#17 Gilberto Ramirez vs. Giovanni Lorenzo; Las Vegas, Nevada; ESPN2 (US)
Ramirez is an undefeated 23 year-old Mexican who reached all-new heights by beating the deeply underrated Don Mouton in lightning-fast fashion in his last fight.  You could make the argument that he proved himself more as a middleweight than a 168-pounder in that one, since Mouton entered at under 163 pounds.  This fight will be contested at or near the 168 pound limit, though.  Lorenzo is probably not what he once was, having lost his last 5 significant fights dating back to 2009, and is probably not even a legitimate top 50 fighter anymore.  Furthermore, since he’s only dabbled at 168 himself, I doubt this will do much to cement Ramirez’s status as a serious force at 168 as opposed to 160, at least among any who currently doubt that status.  It will provide the most recognizable name on Ramirez’s resume, though, should he leave with a win.

 

Saturday
Sergey Khomitsky vs. Frank Buglioni; London, England; BoxNation (UK)
Khomitsky was viewed as a rather garden-variety journeyman 5 months ago, and signed for what was supposed to be just a tune-up fight for Martin Murray, who probably deserved to be the middleweight champion at that point after getting borderline robbed against Sergio Martinez.  Perhaps with some help from the lingering effects of a virus that Murray was contending with, Khomitsky went out and at least arguably beat Murray in the 8-round fight.  The ref and sole judge disagreed, and gave Murray every benefit of the doubt to have it for the Englishman by a single round.  That created a bit of a paradox for me.  The fight was contracted a few pounds over the middleweight limit.  Khomitsky’s performance really should have entitled him to at least some consideration for a ranking at 168.  But since the result was ambiguous, I would have had to treat Murray as if he had achieved something like a draw.  But having never done any significant business at 168 before, this would have been the only significant result Murray could claim.  As the official loser, I couldn’t rank Khomitsky ahead of Murray, but I also couldn’t rank Murray at all because all he’d achieved was the equivalent of a draw with a non-top 50 fighter.  As for Buglioni, he’s an undefeated prospect from the London area who usually wins by stoppage, but he’s never fought anyone on Khomitsky’s level as a pro, even if the Murray performance is set aside.  I’m picking Khomitsky here, to he honest.
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