What was meant to be a crowning night for Matchroom Boxing USA turned into a mini nightmare when their flagship performer Anthony Joshua lost his unbeaten record and his hard earned WBA, IBF, WBO, and IBO world heavyweight titles to unheralded Andy Ruiz Jr at New York’s Iconic home of boxing Madison Square Garden.
If you believe in omens then none seem more profound than Bob Arum’s “Eddie Hearn don’t know dick about promoting in America”. Not that anyone agrees with him.
Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing along with sports streaming service DAZN have delivered and will continue to deliver many of the top fights that will happen in 2019 on both sides of the Atlantic. Someone at Matchroom knows more than dick about promoting and not just in America.
Mr Arum will be enjoying his Sunday morning a little more than normal though due to the Joshua loss mainly because his Top Rank Group now has a 5-fight deal in place with Joshua’s fellow countryman Tyson Fury. “The Gypsy King” will be elevated to a higher ranking in the eyes of most fans at the top of the world heavyweight rankings without even throwing a jab.
To make matters even worse for Hearn, Katie Taylor, the Irish lightweight that he had been touting as the best female boxer on the planet finally met her match. Taylor’s fortunate points win over Belgium’s Delfine Persoon for the undisputed female lightweight title was met with condemnation for the poor officiating at ringside. Even Katie looked and sounded like a beaten fighter and all the sympathy went to Persoon who quite frankly got robbed. It will be tough for Taylor’s army of loyal fans to shout too loudly about her being the P4P best female fighter in the world after this travesty.
The first Brit in the MSG ring was Hull’s Tommy Coyle in a feel-good fight against former world 140lb champion Chris Algieri that not many pundits believed he could win, however the hope was that Coyle would be able to raise his game as he had done so many times before and eke out a victory that would maybe take him to a world title chance late in his career. But, boxing very rarely lets a domestic level fighter elevate themselves to the heights that Algieri has been too and he systematically broke down the Hull man until trainer Jamie Moore did the only thing he could with Coyle’s best interests at heart and pulled him out after 7 eventful rounds. Coyle did have his chance in the 2nd round when he caught the 35-year-old Algieri with a big overhand right that forced him to fall into the ropes but once the fog had cleared, the New Yorker used his superior boxing to outclass Coyle for the remainder of the fight.
Croydon’s Joshua Buatsi had a better debut at The Garden when he stopped former world super-middleweight title contender Marco Antonio Periban in the fourth round after a dominant performance that he regarded as less than his best performance, saying after the fight “Harsh to say, but maybe just under a five, I thought I rushed my work, I was too eager. I wanted to take my time and demonstrate my skill, but like I said, man, if I sense any vulnerability, we’ll capitalise. Most importantly, I’d like to thank God. I feel I got a good win in my U.S. debut, the fans welcomed me and I appreciate that.”
This was the 11th win of Buatsi’s fledgling career and should be a stepping stone into the lucrative US market.
Sunderland’s Josh Kelly, another of Hearn’s big British hopes for the future only managed a majority draw against Philidelphia’s Ray Robinson in a welterweight 10 rounder that was meant to take the former Olympian into world class after only 10 pro bouts.
Kelly, while a very talented fighter, seems to be falling into the habit of selling himself short on the night. The ability is there for all to see but he has not yet performed to the maximum of those abilities in a fight. Is there too much pressure on young shoulders or is there another underlying reason?
There are boxers that spar against top level fighters and are clearly superior in the gym and yet when they are put under the ring lights on fight night cannot summon up anywhere near the same level of performance, even against lesser fighters, it is possible that Kelly may be one of those fighters.
Ireland’s Katie Taylor reached her goal when she became the undisputed female lightweight champion of the world against Belgium’s Delfine Persoon, the WBC champion, trouble is, those watching at ringside and around the world on TV felt that the Belgian was on the wrong end of a very badly judged decis
Taylor was involved in a real dog fight for the first time in her professional career and she came through with flying colours, even though the decision ruined what was a great spectacle for the fans. Katie Taylor showed great heart in this fight to go along with the almost imperious displays we have seen from her in previous title winning efforts. But, it was the wrong fighter whose hand was raised at the end, former world champion Carl Frampton was unyielding in his comments, saying “The judges have got it wrong and it is heart-breaking to see Delfine Persoon in tears. I thought she won that fight by miles and that was a disgraceful decision.”
One can only hope that Persoon is offered an immediate rematch because Taylor needs a clear victory over the Belgium Police Officer to even be spoken about as the best female boxer in the world.
The one Matchroom promoted fighter that performed at the best of his abilities was Super-middleweight world champion Callum Smith, scoring a spectacular 3rd round Ko of former world 160lb champion Hassan N’Dan of France. It must have been a boost to Hearn on the night to see the Liverpudlian produce the goods even though it might have scared off a certain Mexican middleweight who had spoken of taking on the imposing 6’ 3” 168lb champion.
Matchroom boxing’s big New York extravaganza made for great entertainment even if for the wrong reasons from Hearn and Joshua’s point of view. We will be talking about it for a long time to come, so, perhaps it can be called a success. Eddie?