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NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: QUICK (S)HITS

By Paul Magno | April 10, 2023
NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: QUICK (S)HITS

There was lots of stuff happening Saturday night and here are my thoughts on what caught my eye:

– I’d like to know the logic behind scheduling three decently-sized TV boxing shows all on the same day and time. I know this is the age of On Demand (or DVR or replays or whatever), but there’s nothing like watching a fight live and processing all the stuff as it happens. On Saturday, fans had to decide which of the three shows to watch live or they had to flip around to catch snippets of each. Luckily enough, the bout scheduling lined up alright for me as the Keyshawn Davis and Jared Anderson fights on the Top Rank/ESPN show took place before Brandun Lee-Pedro Campa and Sebastian Fundora-Brian Mendoza on the PBC/Showtime card. I ended up having to watch the Shakur Stevenson fight after the fact and I’m still working on watching the Bam Rodriguez DAZN card. I got to see most of what I wanted, but there was way too much effort and planning involved in doing so. Would it be too much to ask for a Friday card or, maybe, the occasional Thursday or Wednesday show?

– I didn’t expect anything other than what Shakur Stevenson delivered at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey against Shuichiro Yoshino. First, because Stevenson is a special talent. Second, because Yoshino was stylistically tailor made for Stevenson.

I’d like to be more excited about Shakur’s just-initiated run at lightweight, but I just don’t see who the hell is going to fight him and give him chances at legacy victories. Unified lightweight champ Devin Haney (win, lose, or draw against Vasiliy Lomachenko) is done at 135 and there’d probably be little chance of him fighting Shakur if he did stay in the division. A small handful of top lightweights (like William Zepeda and Isaac Cruz) passed up on the chance to fight Stevenson, thereby paving the way for the next-highest ranked Yoshino to get the call. Does anyone think that the winner (or even the loser) of Tank Davis-Ryan Garcia is going to want Shakur? Lomachenko will not fight Shakur whether he beats Devin Haney on May 20 or not. So, that pretty much leaves Stevenson with best available options like Georga Kambosos Jr., Mercito Gesta, or Jermaine Ortiz. Maybe. 

Shakur deserves better and I hope he does end up getting the big, legacy-defining fights he deserves. The kid’s got pound-for-pound skill and ability right now. All he needs are names to add to the resume.

– Brian Mendoza KO 7 Sebastian Fundora. How about that for your upset of the evening?

At Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, the 29-year-old Mendoza weathered the early storm and took out the favored Fundora with a sequence of punches that began with a smashing left hook counter. This is Mendoza’s second straight highlight reel underdog KO victory (he stopped former 2-belt super welterweight champ Jeison Rosario back in November) and it earned him Fundora’s interim WBC super welterweight title. It also might have earned him next dibs status for the winner of Jermell Charlo-Tim Tszyu. 

Mendoza is a true boxing Cinderella story. He’s moderately skilled, but nothing really jumps out at you as “special.” He’s just a really hard worker and someone who takes the wisdom of trainer Ismael Salas to heart and who has benefited greatly from sparring work with the likes of Erislandy Lara and Yordenis Ugas. He’s proof positive of what hard work and the fine-tuning of basic skills can do for a fighter who, really, was being passed of as journeyman material as recently as three fights ago. 

– Sebastian Fundora is not “done.” He’ll be back. There are lessons to be learned in this loss and it’s probably for the best that he’ll be learning them at 25 and not 32 or 33.

Obviously, he needs to work on his defense. This has always been his major weakness as a fighter and the one glaring flaw that screamed “this will be my downfall at the higher levels.” And those defensive liabilities become more prominent when he lets an opponent have some space and come forward more, like he did on Saturday.

This was Fundora’s second straight fight trying to work the jab and control the perimeter more. In his last bout, against Carlos Ocampo, his least effective moments came when he tried to be a jab-first guy. In this Mendoza fight, this style fine-tuning proved to be disastrous. 

In theory, Fundora SHOULD be using that 80-inch reach to his advantage. However, he’s clearly not comfortable (or effective) being a long-distance fighter like that and maybe it’s for the best if his people just let him be who he is and ride that “in your face, churning my long arms” style as far as it takes him. It’s kind of reminiscent of when trainers tried to turn the unorthodox “Pocket Rocket” Wayne McCullough and the super-unorthodox “Prince” Naseem Hamed into more orthodox boxers. Neither fighter was as effective ever again. Sometimes, “wrong” is what works for someone.

– I’ve been on the Jared Anderson bandwagon since day one and I’m still riding high on it. Anderson tore through a pretty good George Arias on the Shakur Stevenson undercard and is cementing his place as the top young heavyweight in the business right now. At 23, his skills are still gelling and developing and he’s putting together a fan-friendly ring style that screams “big ticket attraction.” At 6-foot 4 and 240-ish lbs, he’s got the size to compete with the big guys, but he’s also surprisingly quick-fisted and agile for a large man. He’s still young, so there’s no rush to push him along too fast. I just hope his people keep him busy and that he doesn’t get distracted on the path to stardom. Without a doubt, he’s the great American heavyweight hope at the moment.

– What I like about the development of Keyshawn Davis is that he’d getting mean. He put a serious hurting on a very game Anthony Yigit en route to a ninth round TKO in Newark, on the Shakur undercard. Davis will be entering the deep waters of the talented lightweight division soon enough.

– Brandun Lee-Pedro Campa, on the Fundora-Mendoza undercard, was a very entertaining battle and a compelling watch. It was also a bit of a testament to the fact that Lee is, perhaps, not true elite-level material, at least not yet. The 23-year-old prospect struggled at times against the tenacious 31-year-old Mexican. One got the feeling that if Campa were just slightly more skilled, talented, or even perceptive, he would’ve been able to put Lee away at several points in the ten round contest. You have to love Lee’s fire and confidence, but the kid’s got a lot of work to do.

Got something for Magno? Send it here: paulmagno@theboxingtribune.com

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