By Eric Armit

HIGHLIGHTS from the past week of action

In the 5 V 5 clash between Queensberry and Matchroom, it ended up 5-0 to Queensberry as:

Dmitrii Bivol retained his IBO and WBA light-heavyweight titles with a stoppage of Malik Zinad.

Nick Ball won the WBA featherweight title with a split decision over champion Raymond Ford.

Zhilei Zhang stopped Deontay Wilder in five rounds.

Daniel Dubois halted Filip Hrgovic in eight rounds.

Hamzah Sheeraz beats Austin Williams on an eleventh-round stoppage.

Willy Hutchinson outpointed Craig Richards.

Michel Soro and Milan Prat scored inside-the-distance wins in Lyon.

A Polish-themed night in New York saw wins for Maciej Sulecki, Przemyslaw Runowski, Piotr Lacz and Georgian Avtandil Khurtsidze but a loss for 30-0 Kamil Laszczyk.

Who won the week?

Most significant: More than one. Bivol’s win means we will have a Bivol vs. Beterbiev unifier later in the year. Dubois’ win over Hrgovic looks likely to lead to Dubois vs. Anthony Joshua. Willy Hutchinson has been rewarded with an invitation from the WBO to fight Joshua Buatsi for their interim title.

Most entertaining: Ball vs. Ford was the fight of the night in Riyadh and everywhere else.

Fighter of the week: Nick Ball, a world title holder at the second attempt, with an honourable mention to Daniel Dubois for taking whatever Hrgovic threw at him before breaking Hrgovic’s body and spirit.

Punch of the week: The left hook from Argentinian Augustin Marini, which flattened Mariano Gudino, gets my vote, but Michel Soro’s left hook to the body, which finished Oziel Santoyo, was wicked.

Upset of the week: Dominican Yohan Vasquez had lost his last three fights, so his second-round stoppage win over 30-0 Kamil Laszczyk was unexpected.

Prospect watch: Mexican super-bantamweight David Cuellar, 27-0, could be fighting for a title next year.

Fight Card Observations

Rosette: To all involved in Riyadh, money made the show possible, but both Frank Warren and Eddie Hearn put some of their top talent on show and at risk. It was a good night for Frank Warren, as Queensberry picked up a $3 million prize. 

Red Card: To Deontay Wilder, who was pitiful. He turned in a non-combatant performance, making his fight with Zhang the worst on the show.

The term interim title is a misnomer. The proper name for it is temporary title. In the English language, the word interim describes a temporary situation during which the holder of a position (champion) is not able to carry out his duties (defend his title).

But even that is made twisted-speak by the sanctioning bodies because, in most cases, the temporary title continues to be fought for even after the champion is fit and has defended the real title again. 

I was surprised to see Georgian Avtandil Khurtsidze fighting in New York at the weekend. Back in April 2017, Khurtsidze beat Tommy Langford to win the WBO interim (temporary) title and was scheduled to fight Billy Joe Saunders on 8 July 2017 in London for the real title. 

That fell apart when Khurtsidze was arrested in June in New York as part of a federal government roundup of 33 people accused of involvement in a New York-based Georgian crime syndicate allegedly involved in racketeering, robbery and murder-for-hire, among other illicit activities. 

Khurtsidze was found guilty and sentenced to ten years. He was also stabbed in the face while in a detention centre. He has now been released after serving five years of his 10-year sentence. Before beating Langford, he had scored wins over 29-2 Melvin Betancourt and 19-0-1 Antoine Douglas, so he had earned the title shot. At 44, he may never get a title shot and only has himself to blame.

June 1

Bold Bivol blasts plucky Zinad

Dmitry Bivol retained his IBO and WBA titles, flooring Malik Zinad in the first and stopping him in the sixth. Zinad came in as a replacement for the injured Artur Beterbiev, which robbed us of another unifying fight.

That fight will be rescheduled for October unless the IBF/WBC or WBO decides to strip Beterbiev for not facing their No 1. Zinad showed good skills and should be rewarded with good paydays for coming in to face Bivol on short notice.

Zhang sends woeful Wilder towards retirement

Zhilei Zhang stopped a badly faded Deontay Wilder in the fifth. In the final sequence, Zhang connected with a right hand that sent Wilder stumbling across the ring and down on his back. He grabbed the ropes to drag himself to his feet but was unsteady and the referee waved the fight over. 

It was a huge win for Zhang as he rebounded from losing a majority decision against Joseph Parker in March. At 41, he might not have to give up dreams of a title shot as he is No 2 with the WBO, and who knows what title stripping or title inventing might go on. Wider has deteriorated and should retire. He was never a great boxer, but his punch helped him get out of some holes. He has never been the same since the last two Fury fights. Here, he was gun-shy and unable to pull the trigger on a punch that might save him.

Dubois hunts down Hrgovic – AJ next?

Daniel Dubois wore down a bloody and exhausted Filip Hrgovic to win the vacant IBF interim (temporary) title.

In the final round, Dubois could see Hrgovic was ready to be taken and he attacked hard hunting Hrgovic down. Hrgovic was trying to hold and his face was covered in blood. 

Dubois was driving him to the ropes and unloading with hooks. The referee stopped the action and took Hrgovic to the ringside doctor, who advised stopping the fight. 

Hrgovic’s power made him a slight favourite here, but Dubois took some hard shots and always came right back, punching and forcing Hrgovic to fight at a faster pace than he could match. There is talk of a fight with Anthony Joshua later this year at Wembley Stadium. Hrgovic’s loss helped the IBF out of a hole.

Daniel Dubois lands a right on Filip Hrgovic

Sheeraz ensures Williams runs out of Ammo

Hamzah Sheeraz dismantled Austin Williams in a clash of unbeaten prospects. Sheeraz was buzzed early but in the eleventh, he shook Williams with an uppercut and then battered Williams across the ring until the referee came in to save Williams. 

Victories over Dmytro Mytrofanov and Liam Williams have seen Sheeraz rise to No 1 with the WBO and No 2 with the WBC.

Hutchinson vs. Richards

In the opening bout of the Matchroom vs. Queensberry night, Scot Willy Hutchinson won unanimously over Craig Richards. War broke out in the tenth as Richards dragged Hutchinson into a ferocious exchange of punches, during which they both landed savage shots, with Hutchinson looking in serious trouble under Richards’s onslaught. 

Hutchinson won on scores of 119-109, 117-111 and 116-112 to lift the vacant WBC Silver belt and gave Queensberry a good start to the evening. 

Hutchinson celebrates the biggest win of his career after beating Craig Richards

Please see the separate scoring article for a closer look at the Ray Ford vs Nick Ball fight.

MAY 31

Sorrow for Santoyo after body shot finish

Michel Soro finished Oziel Santoya in the second round. This was his first fight since losing a split decision to Magomed Kurbanov in Russia in May last year. Despite that, he looked sharp in the first, scoring well to the head and body. 

In the second round, a rib-bending left hook to the body sent Santoyo to the floor writhing in agony and he was counted out. Soro, 36, needs to be more active if he is to get back in the ratings.

He was inactive in 2020, lost on a stoppage against Israil Madrimov in his lone fight in 2021, fought a technical draw with Madrimov in 2022, and the Kurbanov fight was his only one in 2023, so four fights in five years. Mexican Santoyo had beaten Omar Chavez and former IBF title holder Carlos Molina but was coming off a defeat.

Sulecki sulks past Montgomery after vulnerable display

Maciej Sulecki had to get off the floor to outpoint Rowdy Montgomery. The Pole boxed well behind his jab, scoring with following rights, but was never comfortable under the sometimes wild shots from Montgomery. 

Sulecki was badly shaken by a right hook in the fourth and floored by a body punch in the sixth, only just beating the count. 

Sulecki then steadied himself and boxed his way to victory on scores of 96-93 twice and 95-94.

Devyatov dominates Kumar in Oz

Russian-born Australian Alexander Devyatov won the vacant WBA Oceania title by a wide unanimous decision over India’s Karthik Kumar. He totalled 99-91 twice and 98-92. Before this fight, Devyatov scored twelve in a row by KO/TKO. Kumar was stopped in two rounds by Sam Noakes in a fight for the vacant Commonwealth and WBC International titles in April last year.

Dangerous David Cuellar defeats Velasquez

David Cuellar maintained his 100 per cent record with a convincing points win over experienced Chilean Jose Velasquez. The three judges scored the fight 99-91 to Cuellar.

Hovhannisyan a heavy favourite over podgy Pascual

A farcical fight saw Armenian giant Gurgen Hovhannisyan stop overmatched Mexican Luis Pascual. Hovhannisyan was six inches taller than the obese Pascual and put him down in the second round with Pascual retiring at the end of the round. Pascual has been constantly overmatched but usually goes the distance.

Hovhannisyan is 6’7” tall. Pascual is 6’1 ½” ” tall but Hovhannisyan weighed 274 lbs and Pascual was 293 3/4″lbs. In a fight in 2014, Pascual weighed 174 lbs. That means Pascual was carrying 119 lbs of additional weight.

Crowning victory for ‘Prince’ Bahdi in Canada

Lucas ‘Prince’ Bahdi stopped Jose Rodriguez in seven. Bahdi had controlled the fight before putting Rodriguez down with a right to the head.