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12: 04 PM ET
Dan RafaelESPN Senior Writer
- 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for excellence in boxing journalism
- ESPN.com boxing writer since 2005
- Five years at USA Today
In the end, former featherweight world titlist Oscar Valdez made a successful debut in the junior lightweight division by stopping game Adam Lopez in the seventh round of a highly competitive fight on Saturday night in Las Vegas. But what happened the previous day cannot be ignored.
That is when Andres Gutierrez arrived at the weigh-in and had the audacity to step on the scale at 141 pounds, a massive 11 pounds over the contract weight of 130 pounds for what was to be a title elimination fight with Valdez, who weighed in at 129.8 pounds.
Fighters always know what they weigh going into a fight, and Gutierrez was obviously aware he was nowhere close. With that much of a difference, there would be no chance for him to take a couple of hours to lose the extra weight, which is the norm in these situations. He was so far over weight that Nevada athletic commission rules would not allow for the fight to go ahead even if Valdez (27-0, 21 KOs) was willing.
Keep in mind that Valdez’s career might have been permanently altered by fighting an opponent who missed weight. Scott Quigg was to have challenged Valdez for his featherweight title in March 2018 but was 128.5 at the weigh-in for a 126-pound fight. Valdez decided to go through with the fight even though Quigg refused to agree to a weight check the morning of the bout.
By fight night Quigg was way bigger than Valdez, who suffered a badly broken jaw in a grueling decision win. Valdez was out for 11 months because of the injury, and the weight disparity may very well have contributed to the outcome.
Gutierrez’s miss disrespected Valdez, fans, promoters, the commission and boxing in general. Top Rank chairman Bob Arum had every right to be as angry as he was.
“We’re throwing him out of the hotel,” he said after Gutierrez weighed in. “I’ve seen a guy 2, 3 pounds over weight. That’s still unprofessional. To come in 11 pounds over weight is a f—ing disgrace. A disgrace. I’ve never seen anything like it. He showed up at the last minute. It’s disgraceful. Valdez trained his ass off, and then for a guy to come in 11 pounds overweight is a disgrace.”
What promoter would ever book him after this debacle? Arum says he won’t.
“I won’t ever use him or any of the people who made the fight for him,” Arum said.
Had Gutierrez or his team at least notified Top Rank that there was a problem, company officials would have been upset, but at least they would have had some time to look at options for securing a new opponent instead of basically getting lucky that Lopez (13-2, 6 KOs), who was on the undercard in a featherweight preliminary, was willing to step up and that Valdez, who earned a shot at titlist Miguel Berchelt with the win, was also willing to face him on about 30 hours’ notice.
What makes the Gutierrez situation even more galling is that at the WBC-mandated prefight weight checks he was on target for 130 pounds. The WBC reported that he was 142.7 pounds at the 30-day weight check, 136.8 at the 14-day check and 133 at a seven-day check.
Then he was 141 when it really counted.
It was the second week in a row that notable fights were impacted by fighters missing weight. On the previous week’s Deontay Wilder-Luis Ortiz II heavyweight title card, former bantamweight titlist Luis Nery missed weight (again), coming in a pound over the 118-pound limit. Former titlist Emmanuel Rodriguez refused to fight him when Nery declined to attempt to lose the extra pound, and the fight — a good one on paper — was canceled.
The WBC punished Nery by stripping him of his status as its mandatory world title challenger, and he and Rodriguez lost out on the exposure and paydays. Some have said Rodriguez should have just cut a financial deal and fought, given the small amount of weight, but his side’s view was why give Nery an edge in such a dangerous fight. It’s Nery’s fault the fight was canceled, not Rodriguez’s. Rodriguez followed the rules and refused to be bought off.
Also on that card last week, secondary junior featherweight titlist Brandon Figueroa made the division limit of 122 pounds and fought to a draw with former titlist Julio Ceja, but only because Figueroa was willing to make a deal to have the fight go on when Ceja was 4.5 pounds over weight. He was technically a junior lightweight for a junior featherweight fight. Ceja coughed up a good amount of his purse to Figueroa to go through with the fight, but it’s unfortunate it came to that.
Boxing is a sport in which there has to be honor between combatants. Fighters agree to meet at a certain weight for fairness’ sake, and when one boxer breaches that code it can ruin an event.
Thankfully, it worked out for Valdez and Figueroa, and Lopez should be applauded for his efforts in the loss. Gutierrez, Ceja and Nery should be punished by the commission.
Fighters missing weight has seemingly become more and more commonplace. All promoters should do their best to at least have a decent backup in place in an undercard fight in case a change needs to be made, but the best way to stem the trend is for the commissions to mete out serious penalties. I’d suspend Gutierrez for a year for this mistake.
Braekhus makes history
For years Cecilia Braekhus, the undisputed women’s welterweight world champion, has been widely considered the No.1 female boxer in the world. At 38, she hasn’t shown signs of slowing down, even if her schedule has.
Norway’s Braekhus (36-0, 9 KOs) boxed for the only time in 2019 on Saturday on Matchroom Boxing’s card in Monte Carlo, Monaco, and she made a bit of boxing history. In cruising past former lightweight world titlist and mandatory challenger Victoria Bustos (19-6, 0 KOs), 30, of Argentina, by scores of 99-91, 98-92 and 98-92, Braekhus retained her title for the 25th consecutive time. That is a hallowed number in boxing history, as she tied heavyweight legend Joe Louis’ record for most consecutive defenses in any division, a record Louis established during his historic title run from 1937 to 1949.
Nobody is comparing Braekhus to Louis, but she has been as dominant in her time as he was in his. Braekhus won her first belt in 2009 in her 11th fight, unified all four major belts in 2014 and has made 10 defenses of her undisputed title.
“This is truly an extraordinary honor to be mentioned with the great Joe Louis,” Braekhus told ESPN. “I’m very grateful to my incredible team and the tremendous support of all of my fans worldwide.”
The next step: Braekhus is winding down her career and would like a really big fight before she retires. It likely will come in the form of a showdown next year with Irish star Katie Taylor (15-0, 6 KOs), the undisputed women’s lightweight champion who moved up to junior welterweight and won a title on Nov. 2. Taylor likely would rise in weight again to challenge Braekhus.
“The future is Katie Taylor against Cecilia Braekhus,” Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn said. “Another fight for both in the spring, and then they will fight in the summer. These two are on a collision course, and in 2020 you’ll definitely see that fight.”
Upset of the weekend: Casimero stops Tete
Johnriel Casimero drops Zolani Tete in the third round with a barrage of right hooks. For more boxing, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/.
South Africa’s Zolani Tete (28-4, 21 KOs), a 31-year-old southpaw, was returning from a 13-month layoff caused by a shoulder injury that forced him out of an April unification fight with Nonito Donaire in the World Boxing Super Series semifinals. Still, he was a prohibitive favorite to defeat John Riel Casimero (29-4, 20 KOs), 30, of the Philippines on Saturday in Birmingham, England. But that’s why they fight the fights. Tete outboxed Casimero pretty handily over the first two rounds, but then Casimero cracked Tete with a right hand to the side of the head to drop and hurt him in the third round. Tete never recovered.
Casimero dropped him for a second time in the round with another right and was all over him when referee Steve Gray stopped it at 2 minutes, 14 seconds. The win gave the Manny Pacquiao-promoted Casimero, a former junior flyweight and flyweight titlist, a belt in a third division.
The next step: Casimero and MP Promotions president Sean Gibbons made no secret about who they want next: a unification fight with two-belt titleholder and pound-for-pound star Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16 KOs), 26, of Japan. Inoue is headed to the United States for the first fight of his Top Rank deal in the spring, but after that, why not? It’s an attractive, meaningful fight that doesn’t appear to have any roadblocks.
Fights you might have missed
Saturday at Monte Carlo
Welterweight Alexander Besputin (14-0, 9 KOs) W12 Radzhab Butaev (12-1, 9 KOs), wins a vacant secondary world title, scores: 116-112 (three times).
Manny Pacquiao reigns as the legitimate WBA welterweight titleholder, but Besputin and Russian countryman Butaev met for what is in essence its junior varsity belt, and both showed they are a long way from being ready for prime time in the main event of the “Monte Carlo Showdown.” In a dull affair, Besputin, 28, a southpaw who fights out of Oxnard, California, did just enough to shade most of the rounds against Brooklyn, New York-based Butaev, 28. They fought for a belt, but neither should be in the top 10 of any legitimate welterweight rankings.
Heavyweight Zhilei Zhang (21-0, 16 KOs) W10 Andriy Rudenko (32-5, 20 KOs), scores: 99-91, 98-92, 97-93.
Zhilei, 36, a southpaw from China who claimed a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics, turned pro in 2014 and has moved slowly, but his team appears to finally want him to step up his opposition. Zhilei was supposed to face Sergey Kuzmin, which would have been a solid test, but Kuzmin dropped out with a foot injury. So Rudenko, 36, of Ukraine, also a decent step up, filled in. The 6-foot-6, 278-pound Zhilei, returning from a 14-month layoff, hurt Rudenko with a left hand in the third round and soundly outboxed him. Hopefully, in 2020, Zhilei can face a truly legitimate foe.
Saturday at Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Junior welterweight Subriel Matias (15-0, 15 KOs) KO5 Jonathan Jose Eniz (24-13-1, 9 KOs)
On July 19, Matias stopped Maxim Dadashev in the 11th round of their world title eliminator, and Dadashev died four days later from a brain injury suffered in the bout. Matias, 27, returned to the ring in his hometown for his first fight since the tragedy. He took on journeyman Eniz, 25, of Argentina, and steadily wore him down until unloading a series of unanswered shots, including thudding left hooks to the head, that dropped him to his rear end along the ropes for the full count. Matias, a very heavy-handed puncher who did not appear to hold back against Eniz in the wake of what happened with Dadashev, is in line to face unified titlist Josh Taylor.