BLH March Mania: Semifinal results, stage one
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
We had one matchup as close as it can be, with most of the favorites moving on to their division’s final round.
The results are in for the first set of semifinal matchups in the Bad Left Hook March Mania fantasy boxing tournament!
In this group, we have the fighters at heavyweight, 175, 160, 147, 135, 126, 118, 112, and 105.
Let’s get to the results!
(1) Tyson Fury def. (5) Dillian Whyte (366-19)
No contest here, as King LINEAL!!!!!!!! moves on to the final with no trouble. Whyte’s a good contender, a good fighter, but I think the general feeling is he’s kind of a “best of the rest” guy, while Fury is a no question elite heavyweight and a brutal style matchup for anybody when he’s on his game.
(2) Anthony Joshua def. (3) Deontay Wilder (237-180)
We’ve had years of debate and arguments about this matchup, all of it fantasy. As recently as seven or eight weeks ago, this probably would have gone the other way, but now that we’ve seen Wilder beaten down bad by Fury, confidence in him is probably at an all-time low among the general public. AJ had his own slip-up less than a year ago, but rebounded in December and is back in the good graces of the masses, some of them as usual taking it too far. “Jolly good, jolly good, master boxer, I fink you have to say he’s number one, don’t you, wif da free belts,” etc.
I don’t think anyone questions Wilder’s power still being extremely dangerous against anybody, but there may be a sense that the book on how to beat him has now been written, and anyone with enough size and length and boxing skill will be able to do it if they avoid making the bad mistake. Now, the list of people with the size, length, and skill to pull off the plan and not get caught remains really short, but Joshua would be on it. Personally I think this is still a 50-50 fight, but also understand that this vote came at a fortunate time for Joshua and a pretty bad time for Wilder, and the result isn’t some huge blowout, anyway.
(1) Artur Beterbiev def. (5) Eleider Alvarez (363-8)
A battle of adopted Canadians, both based in Montreal. Russian Beterbiev cruises into the final here; I think his punishing defeat of Oleksandr Gvozdyk last year turned the remaining skeptics into true believers. Similar results had been seen before, but against nobody any better than Callum Johnson, and Johnson dropped Beterbiev, too. When he did it to Gvozdyk, it was clear just how relentless this guy is. Colombian Alvarez is maybe a little old to be fighting Beterbiev off for 12 rounds and doing enough on offense himself to win this fight anymore.
(2) Dmitry Bivol def. (3) Oleksandr Gvozdyk (256-108)
Gvozdyk gets some support, but Bivol goes through pretty handily on about a 70-30 split in the vote. This is a matchup that might never catch real fire, which suits Bivol even more than it does Gvozdyk. Both are very sound boxers, as noted before, and the belief seems to be that Bivol is just that bit more sound. I think Gvozdyk is the better puncher, but Bivol generally does a good job of staying out of opponents’ wheelhouses; he did get rocked by Joe Smith Jr, but it came late, and he survived it anyway.
(1) Gennadiy Golovkin def. (4) Jermall Charlo (292-79)
Not much support for the younger man here, as Charlo goes down in flames against ol’ GGG. Golovkin is probably more vulnerable in this matchup than the voting split suggests, but it’s not hard to make a strong case that he’d win, either. And he’s the more proven fighter of the two, and the more popular, which certainly also matters any time you put things to an online poll.
(3) Sergiy Derevyanchenko def. (2) Demetrius Andrade (205-180)
Speaking of which, the result here may be every bit as much to do with people liking Derevyanchenko’s style more than they do Andrade’s. But either way, Boo Boo’s Traveling Jazz Parade is out in the semifinal round. A close vote, and it should’ve been close. There’s a lot to like either way here, I think. Derevyanchenko may be 0-2 in his biggest pair of fights, but his biggest pair of fights were against two guys pretty significantly better than anyone Andrade has ever fought. This ain’t Luke Keeler or Artur Akavov, Derevyanchenko is a legitimate top-tier middleweight.
Style-wise, I could certainly see Andrade stinking his way to a decision, and again, what this matchup most screams to me is “controversial decision.”
(1) Errol Spence Jr def. (4) Shawn Porter (329-50)
The idea overall here is to assume everyone comes into a fight physically and mentally good, no injuries, no problems making weight. But you can certainly take into account recent performances and things like that. Spence is an interesting dilemma because it’s impossible to know what effect that car crash is going to have on him when he gets back in the ring. Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. Personally I’m going with the idea that Spence is the Spence we saw last September against Porter.
Anyway, Spence gets the wide win here, which I get. That first fight was competitive — some felt Shawn did enough to get a W, and it was a split decision — but I think there’s a lot of truth in the thought that Porter probably did every bit as good as he can in that fight, and Spence might well be able to do better, particularly having dealt with Porter once. You’d expect Spence in particular to come in looking to control the pace and tempo of this fight, which would probably mean getting into less exchanges. Porter, when he’s fighting well, really is a one-speed fighter; a very good one, but one-speed all the same.
(2) Terence Crawford def. (3) Manny Pacquiao (319-66)
Well, looks like most agree with Bob Arum: Crawford-Pacquiao is not a competitive fight anymore.
Back when Pacquiao was really at peak stardom, there were a lot of Pacquiao-based Filipino boxing fan sites that would link to basically any article about Manny and give you a nice traffic boost. They were absolutely devoted fans. And if your article had a poll in it with Manny Pacquiao as an option, it was gonna go haywire. Back around 2011 or so, you could’ve asked who the better basketball player was, LeBron James or Manny Pacquiao, and there was a solid chance Pacquiao was going to win the poll on here.
But now that Manny is more a, like, normal-sized superstar instead of an active mega phenomenon, we don’t get that so much anymore. Kinda miss it, honestly. Was always a little funny, even if it fucked something up.
I went with Crawford, too, like the vast majority did. It’s not a bad matchup — it’s a debatable No. 1 vs an obvious current No. 3, after all — but I just don’t think Pacquiao would be able to control with Crawford enough to nick this fight, and you have to recall he did just nick that win over Keith Thurman last year. He started hot, but he didn’t dominate as some people seem to recall. Pacquiao is still a terrific fighter at age 41, but Terence Crawford is a terrific fighter in his prime. Manny would no doubt have successes here and win some rounds, at least in my view, but it’s real hard to see him beating Crawford over 12 anymore.
(1) Vasiliy Lomachenko def. (4) Luke Campbell (368-6)
It was very nice of six people who know Luke Campbell in real life to vote for him to beat a man who handled him rather easily last August.
(2) Teofimo Lopez def. (3) Devin Haney (218-163)
This one was an interesting vote on paper, and turned out pretty competitive; I mean a roughly 57-43 split has turned out to be what passes for “competitive” here. Lopez, like Gervonta Davis in Haney’s first round matchup, would be a big step up for Haney. Devin’s fought really weak opposition so far; I’m not upset about this, he’s young and on the way up. But it is what it is. Lopez, on the other hand, is a natural lightweight, which Davis is not. And he’s coming off of a crushing real life win over Richard Commey, while Davis struggled to put away a one-legged old man two weeks later. So the voters have gone with Teofimo, meaning we’ll get Loma-Teofimo a lot earlier than we will in the real world, if we get it at all in the real world.
(1) Josh Warrington def. (4) Kid Galahad (287-64)
I think this split is kinda crazy wide on first blush, but maybe everyone just sees Warrington edging it again, like when Tim Bradley won really wide over Lamont Peterson but didn’t really dominate the fight, he just kept being a little bit better in the rounds. Galahad had an argument in their awful fight last year, but I scored it even and didn’t think anyone really deserved a win, necessarily. Warrington takes his top seed into a tough final matchup with…
(2) Gary Russell Jr def. (3) Shakur Stevenson (191-190)
Well, congratulations to the last person to vote for Gary Russell Jr here, as you were the difference. This literally couldn’t be closer unless it had been dead even. (By the way, there is a plan in place for that, in the unlikely event it happens.)
This is a fascinating matchup at the stages these guys are at. Shakur is a great talent, but still really young and despite having a world title and being a top player in a division that has lost a handful of name fighters recently, he’s got more of a great prospect’s record than a proven titleholder’s record. That said, Russell hasn’t exactly been fighting the cream of the crop in recent years, he’s been inactive for half a decade, fighting once per calendar year, and he showed some vulnerability against Tugstsogt Nyambayar last time out. You can make a case for either guy, but the veteran just edges it on the vote. If this were the NCAA basketball tournament, Stevenson would be, like, a really talented but young team that is going to return its best players next year, gave a top dog a real challenge but came up short, and is going to come into the next season with a lot of promise and hype.
(1) Naoya Inoue def. (5) Guillermo Rigondeaux (317-44)
I thought Rigondeaux might get a bit more support, but community member fehtuh in the comments made this point: “I keep thinking about how shook up he looks on the rare occasion he makes a mistake and gets hit. One mistake against Inoue and he’d be gone.” I think that’s very possible, too.
Rigondeaux would be dangerous here because he’s a cagey, crafty veteran who has real pop in his left hand and an ability to nullify opponents and use the ring. But Inoue isn’t Liborio Solis or Julio Ceja or Giovanni Delgado or Jazza Dickens or Drian Francisco, either. Those are the guys Rigo has beaten in the last five years. While Inoue is also not Vasiliy Lomachenko, and he wouldn’t have a natural size advantage against Rigondeaux, talent-wise he’s much closer to that level than that of the other guys. The Monster advances.
(3) Nonito Donaire def. (2) Nordine Oubaali (218-156)
We’ll have a fantasy rematch of the 2019 Fight of the Year, as old man Nonito gets past his likely next real life opponent, WBC titleholder Nordine Oubaali. I think this is a great fight on paper and will be a great fight if/when we see it happen, and the split here was competitive. Donaire is not getting younger and that effort with Inoue might well have been his last night fighting like that, and Oubaali is no punk at all, he’s strong and skilled. But Donaire gets the nod here, and it’s on to the final.
(1) Kosei Tanaka def. (4) Artem Dalakian (248-28)
A dominant showing for top seed Tanaka, as way more people have seen him fight, and he has unquestionably fought at a higher level than Dalakian, a good fighter but still a relative unknown despite holding a world title. Staying in Ukraine will do that. This is, like the other flyweight semifinal, a fight I’d love to see.
(2) Julio Cesar Martinez def. (3) Moruti Mthalane (241-35)
Personally I think this matchup is way more competitive than the split, but I have to agree with the outcome. Mthalane would, I believe, have the veteran savvy, toughness, and skills to give young Martinez a very tough night, but I also think there’s a good chance that JCM’s relentless onslaught would eventually wear the 37-year-old South African down, and the rising Mexican star might even get him out of there at some point. Now we’ve got a fascinating flyweight final on deck.
(1) Wanheng Menayothin def. (4) Wilfredo Mendez (225-29)
(2) Knockout CP Freshmart def. (3) Jose Argumedo (209-46)
Let’s just do one comment here. Wanheng and Knockout are considered the two clear and obvious best fighters at this weight, have been for a few years now, and the all-Thailand 105-pound final is set, entirely as expected. Mendez and Argumedo are good fighters, but there is a cream of the crop at this weight right now, and these are the guys. It’s now a matchup of unbeaten fighters, neither of whom have the big power despite one being called “Knockout,” ages 34 (Wanheng) and 29 (Knockout). Different times in their careers, but neither showing much real vulnerability in recent fights or anything.