Wilder-Fury undercard: lessons from the fights before the fight
Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury will go down as a boxing classic.
But while the main event will never be forgotten, the undercard is probably absent from most people’s minds.
Many UK fans probably set their alarm clocks for the bill-topping showdown early on Sunday morning, ignoring the strong line-up of other contests included in their pay-per-view deal.
So, what else went on at the Staples Center in Los Angeles before WBC heavyweight title-holder Wilder and Britain’s former world champion Fury fought their way to a thrilling draw?
If you are not a hardcore boxing fan, then probably nothing was worth staying up all night for.
However, for those who actually acknowledge fighters outside of the heavyweight division, there were plenty of interesting bouts that others will have slept through.
The first came in a class that doesn’t get much attention – minimumweight. The contest between Mark Barriga and Carlos Licona was a fight where both men weighed in at less than 105lbs; that is the average size of a 14-year-old boy in England.
The first thing that registered about this match-up was how small both men seemed in the ring; it looked like they were fighting on a football pitch.
But never mind their size – the quality that both fighters showed was impressive. Barriga, who is listed at 5ft 2in, looked as if he had been trained in the defensive arts by Floyd Mayweather Jr, which is ironic as he is a Filipino compatriot of Manny Pacquiao.
On the subject of ‘Money’, there is a Thai minimumweight fighter named Chayaphon Moonsri who has a better record than Mayweather, with 52 wins and zero losses.
Despite his amazing defence, Barriga couldn’t find a way impress two of the judges as Licona won by split decision. The class and skills both men displayed made it very easy to stay awake.
As the evening built towards the main event, a previous opponent of Mayweather launched a comeback after 17 months out of the ring.
Robert ‘Ghost’ Geurrero, a former IBF world champion at featherweight and junior-lightweight returned with an amazing stoppage of Hungary’s Adam ‘Bad Boy’ Mate.
The 35-year-old ended their welterweight contest by delivering a forceful left hook to Mate’s body in only the second round.
Guerrero showed his quality and was certainly one of the stand-out performers of the night in LA. But how would he fare against the top dogs of the division?
Having already achieved so much in the sport, why he would want to return? It didn’t take long before the question was answered as Guerrero called out Pacquiao, the veteran cash cow of the division.
Joyce lays down a marker
The fight that many British boxing fans were looking forward to seeing was Joe Joyce against Joe Hanks.
Joyce, the 2016 Olympic super-heavyweight silver medallist, was a prodigy of David Haye, but the former world champion has since turned to managing his old foe Dereck Chisora.
So ‘The Juggernaut’ had a point to prove as he made his US debut – and he made it in some style.
A destructive knock-out of America’s Hanks in the first round saw Joyce take his record to 7-0.
However, the Londoner really needs to fast-track his way up through division after turning pro late in his boxing career.
At the age 33, he remains relatively inexperienced, and time is not on his side.
Ortiz vs Father Time
On the topic of Father Time – the one opponent that no boxer can ever hope to beat – Luis ‘King Kong’ Ortiz was also in action on the Wilder-Fury undercard.
The Cuban’s great effort against Wilder earlier this year remain fresh in the memory, but he looked as if his best days were definitely behind him as defeated Travis Kauffmann.
‘Kong’ finally decided to throw a decent combination late in the 10th round to stop the fight
If there was any fight on the bill made for UK night owls to sleep through, it was this one; a certain cure for anyone suffering from insomnia.
It began in extremely one-sided fashion, with Ortiz landing punches freely. The 39-year-old has probably had harder fights against a heavy bag in the gym.
The only thing that stopped him ending this lethargic contest earlier was surely fatigue.
Both fighters tried their best to reserve energy throughout, but ‘Kong’ finally decided to throw a decent combination late in the 10th round to stop the fight.
Hurd vs Wellborn
If your alarm was set too early, you may have caught the end of the Jarrett ‘Swift’ Hurd vs Jason Welborn fight.
This contest was definitely the biggest bout outside of the main event, with British super-welterweight Wellborn taking on Hurd for his IBF, IBO and WBA belts.
Welborn fought like this was the chance of a lifetime and showed great heart and aggression from the off.
The 32-year-old from the West Midlands repeatedly pinned Hurd on the ropes early on, throwing a barrage of punches as he sought to tear the titles out of the American’s grasp.
His best moment came in the fourth when he put together a 19-punch unanswered combination and forced the champion into a clinch.
However, that seemed to act as a wake-up call for Hurd, and less than a minute later, he hit the challenger with a ferocious body shot, sending him to the canvas and gaining the stoppage.
It had looked as if Wellborn could pull off an upset, but Hurd, 28, has now won all of his 23 fights.
A British fighter overturning the odds? That came in the main event as Fury survived that 12th-round knockdown to draw a fight which many thought he had won.