This weekend wasn't filled with a tremendous amount of boxing but focusing on one card was a good change of pace.
Top Rank hosted their card from the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, NY, headlined by WBO Light Heavyweight Champion Joe Smith Jr (28-3) defending his title against Steve Geffrard (18-3).
Smith Jr. successfully defended his title after an afternoon full of NFL Wild Card games that absorbed most of the attention in the sports world. We saw more of that on Sunday, which brought some eyebrow-raising moments. To capture all of it, I asked the NYFIGHTS team, who won the weekend in both boxing and the NFL?
Starting with the latest addition to the NYF roster, Marquis Johns. “Abraham Nova won the weekend for me both in and out of the ring. He systematically broke down William Encarnacion like Tom Brady did the Philadelphia Eagles in the first half once the bell rang. Outside of the ring, he got a life-like, shadowboxing mascot, blonde beard, and all as a play from the Jake Paul playbook,” Marquis said. ‘“Super” Nova looked good, but his likeness also showed hand movement that would've won a few rounds on the undercard.”
Next, I put it to the sharp boxing mind of Matt Andrzejewski, who won it for you? Matt said, “Abraham Nova won the weekend. Not with his performance in the ring but with his marketing. What a clever idea having a giant mascot of himself escort him to the ring. Great ploy, and that had people talking on social media. But he better be careful what he asks for. Calling out Emanuel Navarrete is the equivalent of running up the score on a Bill Belichick-coached team. It may seem like a good idea at the time, but it will eventually come back to bite you later.”
I see what Matt did there, and although he didn't pick a team or person that won the weekend in the NFL, a Bill Belichick reference always hits the mark.
What about “The Captain” David Phillips? “No one had more at stake than Joe Smith Saturday night. Smith has been chasing a big payday against Beterbiev (and now Canelo) for what seems like an ancient age.”
David continued, “Saturday night, with Callum Johnson taken down with COVID, Smith had to take on a guy who only accepted the fight eight days ago. Advantage Smith, right? But, had Smith lost, or even looked bad in winning, his chances of reaching that promised land paved with greenbacks would have been dealt a serious and perhaps even fatal blow. Smith is not wildly talented; he had no flash, he's just an excellent fighter, but because of his lack of marquee appeal, he has to keep winning. Saturday night, he did just that.”
Heading over to the west coast and checking in with Gayle “G” Falkenthal on the topic, she said, “Abraham Nova's mascot won the weekend. ‘El Super’ walked into Turning Stone Saturday accompanied by a dressed-up doppelganger of himself, down to the blond beard. #NovaMascot kept up shadowboxing through all eight rounds AND the breaks of Nova's fight with William Encarnacion. His hand speed was admirable, given the costume. It's just 17 days into 2022, but this guy is the best thing about the boxing year so far. There are SO many questions. Does the Nova Mascot have a name? Who came up with this idea? Who's in the costume? Will he fight Jake Paul's robot or the San Diego Chicken for mascot supremacy? Is he related to Gritty? Come on, don't lie… you all want to see Nova fight again soon to see the mascot. In a world with so many things competing for our attention, the Nova Mascot is genius.”
You're going to want to tune in…
— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) January 16, 2022
And NYF founder Michael Woods, what about you? “First, lemme talk about the boxing side, because I’m clear in my pick. Joe Smith, zero doubt. You read me, you maybe know I have high regard for that kid, and his team, Star Boxing and the fighting Capobiancos, Phil and Jerry. Joe is the kind of fighter the sport needs more of: he’s uncomplicated. Style isn’t reliant on being elusive, he knows the name of the game isn’t “avoid and occasionally fire.” No drama in that he knows, you know, and foe knows Joe is there to try to knock your head off your shoulders. Yeah, Joe Smith won the weekend with his victory on ESPN. They all need to get it done, make Artur Beterbiev v Joe Smith next. The Covid clusterfuck has gummed us up for two years. Let’s make up for lost ground, promoters and networks, and give the fans a flurry of anticipated fights, among them a light heavyweight unification match between two beasts. Make the fight, and may the best beast win! Ok, Abe, confession time.. I padded my answer to avoid admitting I didn’t watch any of the football, except some of the Patriots game on a JetBlue flight from Florida to NYC. I didn’t even track down who won the football fight, because I’m doing a new thing, with a (sorta) new entity in the space. Can’t say who, there is an announcement to come soon with a boatload of info on the plan. So, if asked for my BUZZ CHECK numbah, I’d go with 9.2…Not a 10 because I have to leave room for exultation uptick when that play unfolds. And I’m sorry bro, I also can’t say Who Won the Weekend on the football side… because I have zero clue!”
Finally, who is my pick from the weekend? Joe Smith Jr. was given the opportunity to shine on his own without a competing telecast, and he did just that. With everyone in the boxing world tuned into the card, Smith Jr. did exactly what he needed to do to impress and make a claim for a unification fight against one of the other champions.
As far as the NFL, Tom Freakin’ Brady continues to drink from the fountain of youth, and his team earned a playoff victory taking them into the next round. This after losing one of their top wide receivers Antonio Brown to the shenanigans from the week prior. He keeps proving that age is nothing but a number.