The results of the rather large undercard of Top Rank’s Josh Franco/Andrew Maloney headliner held in Tulsa, OK Saturday, and televised on ESPN:
If you were watching the undercard of ESPN’s Franco/Moloney headliner, you were pretty well bombarded with the news that Nico Ali Walsh is the grandson of the Muhammad Ali.
He wore an Ali t-shirt in the pre-fight coverage, and wore Ali’s trunks from the ‘60s into the ring. Hell, they even showed Walsh putting his hand over the handprint of a plaster cast of the Greatest’s sizable mitt. To be honest, it was all a bit much.
I don’t blame Walsh entirely for this, (I’m sure Top Rank and ESPN had plenty of say), but the whole affair left me with little idea of who Walsh is.
As for the fight, Walsh’s crew smartly matched him up against a tin can named Jordan Weeks, whose 4-1 (with 2 KOs) record might not look that bad, but upon closer examination, you’d find that Weeks was knocked out in his last fight by a guy who entered the ring with an 0-6-1 record.
Walsh did what you are supposed to do with tin cans – you kick them out of your way. Walsh flashed some quick hands and some power, but if we are being honest, we still have no clue who Nico Ali Walsh is.
Los Angeleno Arnold Barboza Jr. (26-0, 10 KOs) kept his undefeated record clean by handily defeating Antonio Moran (26-5-1, 19 KOs) by unanimous decision. It’s not often you see a fight scored 99-91 by two judges and 100-90 by a third, and wonder how in the hell the first two found a single round for Moran, but judging generosity in the sport of boxing forever reigns. Barboza broke Moran’s nose in the second and never looked back. Showcasing superior boxing skills and just enough power to keep Moran honest (as the broken nose would attest), Barboza looked pretty high class against his Mexican opponent. No one would mistake Moran for an A-list fighter, but he is a legit opponent who lost a title bout to Devin Haney in 2019.
While you could understand why the referee might not stop the fight at that point, I did start to wonder how much longer his corner should let the fight go on – Barboza was systematically busting Moran up.
It was an absolutely dominant performance by the 29-year-old Barboza, and one would have to believe it won’t be long before he gets a shot at a major title. While Barboza didn’t knock Moran out, this fight felt every bit like his coming out party.
Billed as a “crossroads fight” on the undercard of twin brother Andrew’s main event, Jason Moloney (21-2, 18 KOs) avoided at least partially spoiling the Moloney family’s evening by winning a unanimous decision over Chicagoan Joshua Greer Jr.
It was a competitive bout between two fighters trying to stay relevant in the bantamweight division after suffering momentum slowing losses (Moloney to WBA/IBF champ Naoya Inoue, Greer to Mike Plania) in 2020. While Greer had his moments (especially in the back half of the fight), it was his Aussie opponent who consistently beat him to the punch, landing more and harder blows over the course of the 10 rounder.
Greer was certainly busy, but Moloney consistently scored the sharper, cleaner punches. Both fighters badly needed a win to avoid falling from the ranks of the contenders and into the “stepping stone” group just below.
Moloney’s solid work tonight keeps him in the conversation, while the road forward for Greer just got much harder.
In the only heavyweight bout of the evening, Trey Lippe Morrison (son of former WBO heavyweight champ, Tommy Morrison), ran his record to 18-0 (17 KOs) by winning a 6-round unanimous decision over Don Haynesworth (16-7-1, 14 KOs), who, it must be said, entered the ring looking more like a gone to seed UPS driver than anything approaching a real athlete.
It was a battle of dad bod versus wide load, with the 229 pound Morrison giving away about 60 pounds to the bloated Haynesworth.
While it may be unkind to make fun of anyone’s girth, it’s hard to take a fighter seriously when they walk into the ring as out of shape as Haynesworth did.
While Morrison’s record may be impressive, his level of competition hasn’t been. As someone once said, “There are levels to this shit,” and I don’t see Morrison ever making his own name for himself. He’s a competent, modestly talented fighter – nothing more.
On a side note: can we please call a moratorium on white dudes braiding their hair? Lucky for Morrison, Haynesworth’s largesse made Morrison’s coiffure just the second most ridiculous thing in the ring.
Coming off a 6th round KO loss to Juan Rene Tellez, former USA Olympian (2016) Carlos Balderas (9-1, 8 KOs) successfully restarted his career with a smashing second round TKO of Fidel Cervantes.
Balderas scored a savage knockdown in the first that nearly sailed Cervantes into the first row. Miraculously, Cervantes got up and somehow survived the round even though his legs looked like they were made of silly string. The second round was more of the same, and even though Cervantes stayed upright, the fight was justly stopped after a flurry of blows left him bloody and staggered.
It was an absolutely spectacular performance by Balderas, in which he showcased electric hand speed and massive power.
Whatever may have happened against Tellez nearly 20 months ago can, at least for the moment, be set aside. Balderas flashed serious skill and power.
In a fight where Balderas needed to make an impression, well, he made one hell of one.
In a “step up in class” fight, lightweight American prospect Andres Cortes (15-0, 8 KOs) scored a dynamic first round KO over one-time featherweight title contender Genesis Servania (34-3, 16 KOs). Servania, who had never been knocked out before, was caught by a straight right hand-left hook combo that sent him to the canvas, through the ropes, and nearly out of the ring.
Referee Jack Riess started a count, making it to the number 5, before realizing he could probably count to a thousand and the Filipino fighter (who has only lost to undefeated opponents in his career) wasn’t likely to rise. It’s hard to make a whole lot from this fight (Servania hadn’t fought in nearly two years), but there is no question that the undefeated Cortes is one to watch.
In the second televised fight of the evening, lightweight Albert Bell easily outboxed his opponent from Ecuador, Julio Cortez (15-3, 11 KOs) in taking a unanimous decision.
Bell has fast hands, and good feet, but as color commentator Timothy Bradley said, “pillows” in his gloves. At 6 feet tall and sporting a wide wingspan, Bell has a lot of size and length for a lightweight, but his lack of pop doesn’t bode well for his progression in the class. As he takes on better opposition, it’s hard to imagine fighters at the top of the division not walking through his “stick and move” style. It also must be said, Bell is not a guy who is likely to make fight fans excited about seeing him in the ring.
Even in a fight where he clearly outclassed his opponent (pitching an 8-round shutout on all three scorecards), Bell just refused to come forward with any regularity. He’s simply too careful and too defensively-minded to draw a great deal of enthusiasm from those who follow the sport.
After a 14-month layoff (due to a torn Achilles), the Puerto Rican-born Albany, NY native, Abraham Nova (20-0, 14 KOs) shook off the ring rust to score a unanimous decision victory over journeyman Richard Pumicpic (22-12-2, 7 KOs), despite getting wobbled in both the first and sixth round by left hooks from Filipino fighter.
Fighting as a junior lightweight, Nova showed some skill (his jab was particularly solid), but his lack of defense and the ease with which he was shook by a boxer who is no heavy hitter, makes me doubt his ability to move up in class and retain that undefeated record.
Then again, according to my wife, Nova “lost” the moment he left his home wearing an incredibly hideous yellow beard.