The second weekend in June was full of important fights featuring top names from bantamweight to heavy. On Friday night, light middleweight and former Cuban amateur star Erislandy Lara easily out-classed fringe contender Delvin Rodriguez 120-107 on all three cards. The southpaw Lara is one of the best technical fighters in the world and I think he would make for an interesting fight with middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin. I think he’d beat Miguel Cotto. Then again, I thought he deserved the nod against Saul Alvarez last year, and the judges disagreed with me.
In Bristol, England on Saturday, bantamweight Lee Haskins turned in the performance of his life, knocking out Japanese contender Ryosuke Iwasa to capture the IBF interim bantamweight belt. Haskins is a veteran fighter who has had an up-and-down career. To see him finally capture a version of the world title in front of his home crowd was a nice boxing story.
The big two in premium cable programming, HBO and Showtime, went head-to-head on Saturday night. In the small theater at Madison Square Garden on HBO, up-and-coming Puerto Rican lightweight sensation Felix Verdejo looked outstanding against game but over-matched Ivan Najera. After the fight was over, the news came out that Verdejo has fought with a busted hand and will need minor surgery to repair it. That fact made his stellar performance all the more impressive.
Felix Verdejo looks poised to become the next major Puerto Rican star, but one of his primary rivals for that distinction turned in a brilliant performance of his own on Showtime from Alabama. Jose Pedraza captured the vacant IBF super featherweight title by completely acing tough Andrey Klimov.
In the main event at Madison Square Garden, Nicholas Walters fought for the first time since knocking out Nonito Donaire last year. He lost his WBA featherweight title on the scales on Friday when he failed to make weight. In the ring on Saturday, he was nearly the size of a welterweight. He employed some impressive body punching to thoroughly handle tough, undefeated Columbian Miguel Marriaga.
It seems likely that Walters is done as a featherweight. Still, fans have to hope he will fight WBO featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko at some point. There’s not a better potential matchup in the sport for below 140 pounds.
In his homecoming after capturing the WBC heavyweight strap earlier this year, Deontay Wilder knocked out Eric Molina in nine rounds. Wilder dropped Molina in the fourth and twice in the fifth. When Wilder landed the finally shot, Molina went down “faster than a plate of Alabama barbecue” in the colorful wording of Showtime’s Mauro Ranallo.
Still, Wilder had a lot tougher time with Molina than would have been expected. Some of the credit should go to Molina for showing tough intelligence, but Wilder’s bad habit of letting himself get backed straight up is to blame at least as much. His power still makes him the most exciting heavyweight in the United States, but he’s going to need to do more work to truly fulfill the hopes boxing fans have for him.