The return of former junior bantamweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, an all-British contest in Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing Fight Camp and the return of boxing on Showtime marked a Saturday full of interesting fights. Sor Rungvisai could be headed to a title fight once again after a unanimous decision victory and Ted Cheeseman revived his career after a three-fight losing streak.
Later in the day, Joe George scored a tremendous KO victory over Marcos Escudero, and Angelo Leo won the vacant WBO junior featherweight world title by dominating late-replacement Tramaine Williams.
Steve Kim and Nick Parkinson look at the key takeaways from the three fight cards.
Leo wins title, becomes player at 122 pounds
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The Sheffield lightweight knocked out Liverpool’s Bennett with a perfect right hand to the temple, nailing his opponent to the canvas.
Smith’s last fight was streamed live on Facebook, but this crushing finish was shown live on DAZN in the U.S. and Sky Sports in the U.K. It was a good opportunity to shine, and Smith took it.
Earlier in the bout, Smith showed his technical ability that saw him win a stack of amateur titles. He was part of the Team GB picked, but decided against going for the Olympics because of a change in weight. By the time the delayed Olympics takes place next year, expect Smith to be fighting for domestic and regional titles on a journey which is heading to the top. — Nick Parkinson
Sor Rungvisai wins, doesn’t shine in return
The weekend in boxing started in the early morning at the Workpoint Studio in Bang Phun, Thailand, where Srisaket Sor Rungvisai overcame a sluggish start to outpoint Amnat Ruenroeng by unanimous decision in a junior featherweight battle.
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It wasn’t a sparkling performance from Sor Rungvisai, the former WBC junior bantamweight titlist. While he repeatedly marched forward and landed punches on Ruenroeng, Sor Rungvisai was consistently struck by clean up shots from Ruenroeng at the end of exchanges. While he came out victorious, it’s easy to wonder if this was just merely ring rust (first fight in 16 months), or a sign that at 33 years of age and 54 fights under his belt, Sor Rungvisai is now on a physical decline. He simply hasn’t looked like the guy that defeated Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez twice just three years ago.
After the fights Sor Rungvisai said he wants another crack at Juan Francisco Estrada, who took the WBC junior bantamweight belt from him in April 2019. He will need a better type of effort if he wants to have a chance of defeating Estrada in the rubber match. — Steve Kim
A new contender at 122 pounds?
Ra’eese Aleem served notice that he’s a real threat to any of the belt-holders at junior featherweight. Aleem showed a complete skillset as he impressively controlled Marcus Bates with his athleticism from the outside and his willingness to be aggressive inside — attacking the body with both hands.
This bout was an WBA eliminator at 122. Currently the WBA “super” champion is Murodjon Akhmadaliev, and Brandon Figueroa is the organization’s “regular” belt-holder. Rey Vargas has the WBC belt and the WBO title was vacant coming into the night as Emanuel Navarrete had moved up to featherweight.
Aleem has good size, above average speed, and can brawl when he has to. At 30, he is a physically mature fighter who is a tough opponent for anyone in the division.
With Aleem, Danny Roman, Carlos Castro, Stephen Fulton, Albert Pagara and Thomas Patrick Ward waiting for an opportunity, there is no shortage of quality contenders in the junior featherweight class. — Steve Kim