While the eyes of the boxing world will be on Las Vegas this weekend, when Manny Pacquioa faces Timothy Bradley for a third time, it’s worth taking note of the action going down in Moscow Friday night, when Eduard Troyanovsky defends the IBF light welterweight belt against Cesar Cuenaca.
The IBF 140-pound belt has been a laughing-stock for years now, and this fight will hardly raise it to respectability. In 2010 and 2011, it was held by fighters like Devon Alexander, Zab Judah and Amir Khan. These were among the most talented fighters in the division and the IBF belt really had value.
Khan lost the IBF title to Lamont Peterson in December 2012. It was a terrific fight and while I had Khan winning, even with some dubious point deductions, Peterson was a credible champ after gaining a split decision. But Peterson failed a subsequent drug test and got destroyed by Lucas Matthysse by Round 3 TKO in 2013 in a “non-title” fight.
Peterson was able to retain his alphabet-soup claim to title status after losing to Matthysse, but there was no way to view him as a credible champion after he was blasted by the Argentine gunslinger.
Peterson made a couple of decent defenses of the belt he deserved to have lost and then fought Danny Garcia in a ridiculous catchweight bout, in which none of the three belts they held between them were on the line. The vacant IBF belt was captured by Cuenca last July, when he defeated China’s IK Yang in one of the most absurd title fights in history.
Cuenca was 48-0 after defeating Yang. That certainly sounds impressive and is an accomplishment of sorts. I don’t care who you are fighting, you aren’t winning nearly 50 professional fights without some legitimate talent.
But there’s a difference between having “talent” and being a true, world-class level fighter. Cuenca has a historically low KO ratio, with just two knockouts in his 49 fights. Yang was 100 percent a manufactured contender.
In his first defense of that IBF belt, Cuenca was stopped in six rounds by Troyanovsky. This was last November. Troyanovsky actually has the look of a legitimate fighter at 140 pounds. He’s a Russian with boxer-puncher ability and could legitimize the ridiculous IBF belt, if he faces the right opponents.
Cuenca is not that guy, though. I suppose there was a rematch clause that has forced Troyanovsky into this bout. I can only hope his next step is to face a true contender with at least respectable power.