FRANK WARREN’S SCRAPBOOK – 13.1.16
And then there were two. No, make that three after next Saturday night and four by early of March. And counting.
We’re talking world heavyweight champions here, and the multiplicity of titles across the various governing bodies, WBC, WBO, IBF and WBA, up for grabs with the 2016 fistic calendar barely flicked open suggests not so much a helping of alphabet soup but beef stew – with a couple of dumplings thrown in.
You might say these come in the form of two relative tyros, Charles Martin and Vyacheslav Glazkov, who contest the IBF belt that was whipped from the waist of Tyson Fury almost before he had a chance to buckle it around him.
You need to be a seasoned fight buff to recognise either the 29-year -old American southpaw from Missouri or the 31-year-old Ukrainian. They may be unbeaten in 23 and 22 bouts respectively but the men in the opposite corner largely came from boxing’s Who’s He? rather than Who’s Who.
Yet this unlikely pair share equal billing in Brooklyn with Deontay Wilder’s WBC defence again another virtual nonentity, a Polish émigré named Artur Szpilka.
It is pretty rare, if indeed, it has ever happened, for two versions of the world heavyweight title to be contested on the same night but by the end of the evening there will again be three world champions, the winner of these two fights plus Tyson Fury, who still holds the WBA Super and WBO titles.
However the regular WBA title is yet to be contested when holder Ruslan Chagaev, the German-based Uuzbek, defends against Ricky Hatton-promoted Aussie Lucas Browne in Grozny, Chechnya, on March 3.
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There is also the WBA interim title, which the Cuban Luis Ortiz, aka the Real King Kong, has been ordered to defend against the Russian giant Alexander Ustinov on or before June 19.
This will be a final eliminator to meet the winner of the return between Fury and Wladimir Klitschko, also provisionally scheduled for the spring.
Ortiz and Ustinov seems a really decent scrap. Ustinov’s opportunity comes after the WBA matched Ortiz and Matias Vidondo for the vacant title on October 17 in New York, which the big-hitting Ortiz won by third round stoppage.
We promote Ustinov in association with Russian boxing’s main man Vlad Hrunov and will be negotiating with Ortiz’s people soon.
If agreement isn’t reached then the bout will go to purse bids with a 50-50 split.
Man mountain Ustinov, known as ‘Alexander The Great’, stands at 6ft 7½in and has 24 knockouts from 33 wins, with only one loss, and is the two-time WBA International champion, while unbeaten ko king Ortiz, now fighting out of Miami, has knocked out all but three of his 24 opponents, with 12 upended inside three rounds.
This shapes up as one of the great heavyweight fights of a year which could see close to 20 title fights contested throughout the division.
There’s likely to be some ducking and diving but I’m sure there are some decent matches to emerge from that mix.
Whether Wilder v b Szpilka is one of them we shall see on Sautrday. The Brown Bomber, unbeaten in 35 with 34 ko’s or stoppages, needs to polish off the Pole quickly and impressively to restore his credibility as champion.
Actually, though he was knocking everybody over, not least dear old Audley Harrison, Wilder did not do a lot for me in his pre-title career. But but when he won it from Bermane Stiverne he answered a lot of questions, showing he had skill, stamina and could take a shot.
But in his two subsequent defences he has looked ordinary against ordinary opposition.
He has been calling out Fury but I think he would struggle against him because Tyson would be too smart and elusive, as he was against a puncher like Klitschko.
Wilder also wants to fight Anthony Joshua but might have to join the queue.
Almost every heavyweight of note does, because of the money involved, especially David (‘I’ll be a rave on Dave, the home of witty banter’) Haye.
Whatever he may say about his renewed world title aspirations it’s the Josh dosh he’s after. Rumour is he could do with it.
In boxing it’s not always about titles but about the money.
Whether he can beat Joshua is another matter. Australian Mark di Mori, with only one defeat in 33 bouts – back in 2004 – seems a reasonable and perhaps even slightly risky opponent in the circumstances, and making a successful return to the ring at 35 after three and and a half years is a big ask.
True, Muhammad Ali did it but he was six years younger and Haye is not Ali. Whether he is even the Hayemaker of old remains to be seen. Only Dave knows the answer.
In Frank’s Scrapbook tomorrow: Can Khan can really afford to play the waiting game?