May has been a wonderful month of boxing, with some of the sport’s major attractions returning to the squared circle, prompting me to resurrect my Fighter of the Month series. As usual, I highlight the stand-out performances from the fighting action during the previous month.
We kicked off on the Cinco de Mayo weekend with Canelo Alvarez unifying the RING, WBC, WBA (Super) and IBF middleweight titles against Daniel Jacobs and concluded in Maryland with Devin Haney announcing himself to the world with a devastating knockout of Antonio Moran – with plenty of eye-catching action sandwiched in-between.
But who do I feel deserves the award for May 2019? Let’s find out.
Fighter of the Month
With a plethora of fighters to pick from, I was truly spoiled for choice this month. After reviewing the performances, upsets and victories from May, I eventually opted for Julian Williams for the spectacular display that saw him dethrone the number one ranked 154-pounder in the division, Jarrett Hurd.
J-Rock was a considerable underdog at 5-1 heading into this fight, with the WBA (Super) and IBF champion Hurd boasting an impressive 23 fight unbeaten record.
After being knocked out by Jermall Charlo for the IBF crown back in 2016, Williams has put together a run of five successive wins, including a victory over former world titleholder, Ishe Smith – albeit a somewhat-jaded version of the former champion.
Although I hadn’t been blown away by Hurd’s recent performances, I’d made him a slight favourite to retain his titles, expecting him to prove too strong down the stretch
It was a thoroughly entertaining and hard-fought scrap that caught fire early in the second round, when Williams stunned the EagleBank Arena by flooring the champion.
The knockdown would prove to set the tone for the fight as Williams not only out-boxed but also outfought the unbeaten champion. He looked sharper during the exchanges and produced the cleaner work throughout the contest.
Some spectators feared Williams may be robbed of the victory heading into the judges’ scorecard announcement – but was rightfully crowned the new champion. My personal score total read 117-110 for J-Rock.
This victory has blown the light middleweight division wide open, with a handful of fighters all vying to prove themselves king of the division. Those names include the likes of Jermell Charlo, Tony Harrison, Jaime Munguia, Erislandy Lara and Brian Castano – along with Williams and Hurd.
Congratulations to J-Rock on a punch-perfect performance and the hard-earned victory.
Two candidates who narrowly missed out on my Fighter of the Month award and therefore taking the runner up spots are Naoya Inoue and Jamel Herring.
Inoue progressed to the final of the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament by crushing the unbeaten IBF holder Emmanuel Rodriguez inside two rounds. Many expected the Puerto Rican to provide the tournament’s second seed with his sternest test to date.
The pair came out firing in the opening round, with Rodriguez standing his ground and unloading with some heavy right hands. The second round looked to follow suit, but the speed of Inoue dazzled Rodriguez and he was caught with a devastating left hook that sent him sprawling to the canvas.
The WBA champion could smell blood and was relentless in battering the helpless Rodriguez into submission. The win would see him unify the WBA and IBF titles, along with the prestigious RING 118lbs belt.
It was a spectacular finish against an elite opponent, who was expected to pose some problems of his own. He can now look forward to facing former bantamweight king Nonito Donaire for the chance to be crowned the winner of the WBSS and the Muhammad Ali trophy.
Jamel Herring was another potential worthy winner as he defied the odds and defeated WBO super featherweight champion, Masayuki Ito, last weekend in Florida.
Fighting on Memorial Day weekend, the former Marine was once a highly regarded prospect but two defeats – one in 2016 and another the following year – saw the hype train grind to a halt.
This forced him to take stock and evaluate his career. The outcome of his soul-searching would see him move away from the home comforts of Ohio and relocate to Nebraska, working closely alongside pound-for-pound star, Terence Crawford.
Since making those changes, he has put together a winning run of three fights and showed significant improvements as a fighter, culminating in the world championship opportunity against Ito.
Despite being an underdog, the American imposed his own game-plan and unsettled the champion from the outset. Although the champion enjoyed moments of success, Herring utilised his sharp jab and elusive footwork to neutralise the offensive threat of Ito. The champion grew increasingly frustrated, repeatedly missing with the right hand for the entirety of the fight.
Ultimately, Herring proved the superior fighter over the distance and was handed a unanimous decision victory.
A deserved result for one of boxing’s good guys, especially considering most of us had written off the possibility of him reaching the top level of the sport. His promotional outfit Top Rank will look to make a unification fight next between Herring and the WBC champion Miguel Berchelt.
Knockout of the Month
A new segment I am including in my Fighter of the Month series is my Knockout of the Month. In terms of the most devastating one punch KO’s for May, it was a toss-up between Deontay Wilder and Devin Haney.
Wilder demonstrated his immense power once again with a destructive knockout of Dominic Breazeale. The pair went back and forth in the opening round, with each momentarily staggered by the power of the other.
The challenger was landing with success and began growing in confidence, but Wilder used the jab to set up a beautiful right hand that left Breazeale staring at the ceiling.
My other contender saw the 20-year-old Devin Haney on his DAZN debut, school Antonio Morano for seven rounds, before forcing him onto the ropes and connecting with a brutal overhand right. It was a sickening shot that left the Mexican relying on the ropes to keep his helpless frame from collapsing.
You can make a case for either knockout but I am siding with the WBC heavyweight champ on this one. His boxing ability is often criticised but he showed great technique to unlock Breazeale’s defence with the jab and then fire the right straight down the pipe.
We now look forward to another fun-filled month of pugilism in June, beginning with Anthony Joshua defending his heavyweight jewels against the fast-handed Mexican, Andy Ruiz Jr, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Keep your eye out on TopClassBoxing to see who will take home the FOTM award for June. Thanks for reading.