The Monday Matchmaker: Andrade, Parker, Yafai & more
Photo: Sarah Stier/Getty Images
As the dust settles on each big fight weekend, The Monday Matchmaker aims to discuss the best options that, in victory or defeat, each boxer has available to them, and predicts their likely next steps...This week Tom Craze on Demetrius Andrade, Joseph Parker, Kal Yafai and Richard Commey among others...
Andrade (28-0, 17 KOs) emerges from the weekend both a victor by unanimous 12-round shutout - with a knockdown for good measure - and yet not entirely a winner. In his routing of Sulecki, the Rhode Island native gave another composed, frustratingly cautious, performance that underlined his class but likely won’t have won him too many new fans.
Quite where the WBC’s rank decision to introduce a ‘Franchise’ title at 160lb leaves the prospect of seeing an undisputed champion remains to be seen (Jermall Charlo, now the full WBC middleweight champion, would, if only by name and semantics alone, rightfully have a dispute) but, nevertheless, Andrade’s is the belt that would otherwise remain the missing piece in the jigsaw.
With three bouts in just over eight months, the inactivity that blighted him for long stretches is now history, but both Andrade and his handlers know that the type of fight that could define his career is now long overdue. An aborted challenge to Billy Joe Saunders last October - cancelled through no fault of Andrade’s - might well have been just that, but now, with the belt in hand, Andrade holds the cards.
His post-fight call-out of Canelo will likely be fruitless, but if the Mexican were to challenge Sergey Kovalev next, the second-biggest name in the division suddenly needs a fight. Andrade would fancy his chances of proving the perfect foil to Gennady Golovkin and it’s a hugely intriguing match-up.
Prior to Saturday night’s whitewash defeat, there were at least two things that could be said to be true of Sulecki (28-2, 11 KOs): the first being that he’s a fairly safe bet to give your man rounds and, second, that he’ll play his part in making it an entertaining contest for as long as it lasts, which could reasonably be assumed to be the scheduled distance.
A combination of a gulf in class, together with a safety-first game plan from Andrade – one that was expertly executed, though not to everybody’s tastes – underlined that the latter only ever applies when the opponent comes to engage. Sulecki, then, comes away with his reputation largely intact, if not a lower ceiling confirmed. Ranked at #2 by the WBO for June – second only to Golovkin - Sulecki could now be targeted for eliminators by those occupying the lower rungs, such as Steven Butler or Patrice Volny, two Canadians held in high regard by the organisation.
Parker (26-2, 20 KOs) appears to be a rejuvenated fighter following his back-to-back defeats at the not-inconsiderable hands of Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte, and a renewed dedication to forcing the pace is paying dividends.
Saturday’s ten-round shellacking of Alex Leapai marks the first time Parker has strung together consecutive stoppage wins since October 2016: two sequences that bookend a remarkable five-bout run of 12-rounders that all went the distance – anomalous for a 6’4” heavyweight with 20 knockouts on his record.
Two get-well wins under his belt – Saturday’s being the first under his new promotional stewardship - should mark the end of Parker dabbling in this kind of class for the foreseeable future. The Auckland man was an unexpected beneficiary of Andy Ruiz Jr’s monumental upset of Joshua on 1st June, with his majority decision nod over the Mexican now looking better than it ever had before.
A fight with Dereck Chisora – should he progress past Artur Szpilka on 20th July – has already been discussed, and though it might not do much for Parker’s profile in the US, could be the kind of action fight that reconfirms his status at world level, or thereabouts. There are a host of heavyweights either signed with, or closely affiliated to, Matchroom available for Parker, and the likes of Michael Hunter would be a viable option should the priority be to keep the New Zealander stateside.
Yafai’s position is, in some ways, similar to that of Andrade’s: now several defences into their title reign, both men possess undoubted talent and the enviable position of being backed by a major promoter, and yet both men lack their true breakthrough fight.
A comprehensive outpointing of the unheralded Norbelto Jimenez does in many senses typify the Birmingham man’s recent activity: in a red-hot weight class, such as 115lb has been over the past few years at the very highest level, wins over Suguru Murunaka, Sho Ishida, David Carmona, Israel Gonzalez, and now Jimenez, hardly represents a murderer’s row. Indeed, considering the likes of Juan Francisco Estrada, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Donnie Nietes, Roman Gonzalez, Kazuto Ioka, and Jerwin Ancajas have been prowling the upper echelons of super-flyweight, it could be reasonably argued that much of Yafai’s time as WBA ruler has, for whatever reason, been spent on the outside looking in.
There does, however, appear to be an urgency to rectify matters. Yafai’s prospects of fighting the best in the category have been bolstered of late by Matchroom’s acquisitions of both Estrada (co-promoted by Zanfer) and Rungvisai. The name of four-weight champion Gonzalez – one of the finest boxers of the past decade or more – has also been floated and, though now well past his outstanding prime, would be by far the best win on Yafai’s record, should he prevail. Unification, though, should be the primary objective and, should a challenge of Estrada not materialise, Ancajas would be the most beatable of the current pack.
A thumping four-knockdown first defence of his IBF lightweight title against Ray Beltran appears to have set up the Ghanaian for a showdown with Teofimo Lopez, should the latter beat Masayoshi Nakatani on 19th July. That’s a fight Lopez will be heavily favoured to win, and the prospect of Commey-Lopez is an excellent one.
A routine decision win for Charlo – albeit in a fight he was strongly fancied to win inside the distance – against Brandon Adams, winner of The Contender, the boxing reality show – will have done little to improve the Texan’s position at the middleweight table.
Upgraded to full WBC champion just days before the fight, for reasons that are wholly unclear, Charlo is now, by name, the direct successor to Alvarez, Golovkin, Cotto, and Martinez before him. It’s an honour that looks prestigious on paper, but Charlo picked up an already-unnecessary interim title last year against Hugo Centeno Jr and, by a stroke of fortune, last week saw the man ahead of him gifted a new belt and seemingly ringfenced from any future mandatory threat.
What the WBC’s hapless manoeuvring doesn’t do, however, is make it more likely that their champion lands one of the big fish at 160lb anytime soon. In a sense, despite his obvious talent, Charlo is at risk of becoming cut adrift at middleweight, with both the two other champions, Canelo and Andrade, as well as Golovkin and Daniel Jacobs, fighting under the DAZN banner. Even the WBA Regular titleholder, Rob Brant, is operating with a rival promoter and broadcaster in Top Rank and ESPN, therefore likely ruling out the notion of any kind of faux-WBC/WBA-unification.
Sadly, owing to the promotional landscape, options appear limited and will remain so barring any significant developments: Charlo might look at a rematch with Mat Korobov, who he beat in December. Korobov was a late stand-in that night and, in reality, gave Charlo more trouble than the wide scores suggested. Other possibilities could include Immanuwel Aleem, Willie Monroe Jr, or Luis Arias – in truth, all a far cry from the kind of opponent that’d be at the top of anyone’s wish list.