A roundup of the past week's notable boxing results from around the world:
Saturday at New York
Deontay Wilder KO9 Artur Szpilka
Retains a heavyweight title
Records: Wilder (36-0, 35 KOs); Szpilka (20-2, 15 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: At 6-foot-7 and 229 pounds, Wilder, 30, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is a big man. He also has a big personality that could go a long way to making him one of boxing's biggest stars eventually. And he also has a big punch -- a really big punch -- that is a fight-changer. It was that big punch, with his vaunted right hand, that absolutely erased Szpilka, 26, a former soccer hooligan who was aiming to become the first Polish heavyweight to win a world title but instead left the ring on a stretcher.
Yes, it's only January and the boxing year is in it infancy, but the next 11½ months will be hard-pressed to produce another such knockout of the year contender, one that happened with heavyweight legends Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis, two of boxing's greatest punchers, sitting ringside.
The fight, headlining Showtime's opening card of the year before a very enthusiastic crowd of 12,668 (mostly Polish fans rooting for Szpilka), was a pretty good one, albeit a bit sloppy. Wilder and Szpilka will never remind anyone of technically sound boxers with natural technique, but they come to fight and even if it's a bit of a mess, they make it fun. Szpilka unquestionably was giving Wilder, who was making his third title defense and fighting for the fourth time in 364 days, problems. But Wilder, with his long reach and quickness, never seemed truly bothered by Szpilka's attack. So the fight was going on along nicely with Wilder seemingly having things under control and headed to a competitive decision victory -- he was ahead 78-74, 78-74 and 77-75 on the scorecards going into the ninth round -- when the big blast happened.
Wilder and the 6-foot-3, 233-pound Szpilka were near the corner when Wilder landed a brutal right hand as clean and flush as possible smack on his chin. Szpilka never saw it coming. His arms flew up in the air and he crashed to the mat. He was out cold and referee Mike Griffin quickly stopped the count at 2 minutes, 24 seconds as medical personnel swarmed Szpilka. He was down for several minutes receiving medical attention before being removed from the ring on a stretcher and taken to the hospital as a precaution. Fortunately, Szpilka's tests came back fine and he will be OK.
What happened after the huge knockout was almost as entertaining as lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury (25-0, 18 KOs), who won the title by scoring a huge upset against long-reigning champion Wladimir Klitschko on Nov. 28, crashed the ring and Wilder's post-fight interview. It was a scene right out of WWE as they trash talked each other, went nose to nose and professed a deep desire to hurt the other man. It was a wild scene and the fight would be massive. But it is not going to happen in the immediate future. England's Fury has a rematch on tap with Klitschko in the late spring or early summer and Wilder is due to make a mandatory defense against worthy Russian contender Alexander Povetkin (who was also ringside) in a fight also likely to happen this spring or early summer. If Wilder and Fury can keep winning, perhaps they will eventually fight. Until then, hopefully their bouts can be as entertaining as their post-fight confrontation.
Charles Martin TKO3 Vyacheslav "Czar" Glazkov
Wins a vacant heavyweight title
Records: Martin (23-0-1, 21 KOs); Glazkov (21-1-1, 13 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: Not even two full weeks after Tyson Fury outpointed Wladimir Klitschko on Nov. 28 to win a cadre of belts, the lineal world championship and end Klitschko's 9½-year world title reign, Fury was stripped of one of the belts. The reason was because Fury had agreed to an immediate rematch against Klitschko in a huge money fight rather than face mandatory challenger Glazkov for a fight few would care about and which would be worth a tiny fraction of the money.
With the title vacant, Glazkov was paired with Martin, a completely untested fighter who was the next leading available contender. And now he has a world title after perhaps the easiest road to a belt in boxing history. He faced nobody to get the shot and then claimed the title by an official technical knockout without landing a knockout punch.
Martin, 29, who is from St. Louis and based in Carson, California, may turn out to be a formidable heavyweight but there is no way to tell after this aborted nothing fight against the 31-year-old Glazkov, a 2008 Olympic bronze medal winner from Ukraine now fighting out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Very little happened through the first two-plus rounds, although Martin was the busier fighter, having landed 26 of 105 punches (25 percent) while Glazkov connected on 19 of 64 blows (30 percent), according to CompuBox punch statistics.
During the third round, Martin, a southpaw, and Glazkov, continually were stepping on each other's feet in a fight for position. At one point, Glazkov slipped to the mat during a foot tangle and appeared to tweak his right knee. When the fight resumed, as Glazkov threw a punch, his knee gave out and he went down without a Martin punch coming close to landing in return. Glazkov beat the count from referee Earl Brown but was in agony and unable to continue in what was a terribly anti-climactic and disappointing end to the fight. Ringside doctor Gerard Verlotta diagnosed Glazkov with a torn ACL in his right knee.
In the first heavyweight title fight in Brooklyn in 115 years -- since May 11, 1900, when James J. Jeffries knocked out James J. Corbett in the 23rd round of their scheduled 25-round fight to retain the world title in Coney Island -- the 6-foot-5, 249½-pound Martin, a pro only since 2012, nabbed himself a vacant belt. But he remains utterly unproven and will have every heavyweight from here to Timbuktu angling for a shot at what will be viewed as a very winnable fight for any solid big man.
Saturday at London
David Haye TKO1 Mark De Mori
Records: Haye (27-2, 25 KOs); De Mori (30-2-2, 26 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: Haye, 35, of England, was the former cruiserweight world champion and a heavyweight titleholder but has rarely fought since 2010. In 2011, he lost his heavyweight belt in a one-sided decision to Wladimir Klitschko in a title unification fight, a loss on which Haye blamed a sore little toe. One year later, in July 2012, Haye returned and knocked out countryman and former world title challenger Dereck Chisora in the fifth round.
Haye scheduled various fights since, including one against Tyson Fury, but continually pulled out and also suffered injuries that kept him sidelined. But after a 3½-year layoff, Haye, who replaced longtime trainer Adam Booth with Shane McGuigan, returned to the ring against De Mori, 33, of Australia, who came in with an attractive record but with little accomplishment, although he had not lost since suffering a first-round knockout in 2004.
Well, history repeated itself as De Mori could not get out of the first round against a bulked-up Haye, who looked in great shape at a career-heavy 227 pounds. Haye took it to De Mori, landed some big shots and eventually creamed him along the ropes with a powerful right hand that badly hurt him. Haye put a few more punches together and De Mori went down and was out as referee Robert Williams waved off the fight at 2 minutes, 11 seconds. Haye did not have time to truly shake off the long layoff, but nonetheless, he looked sharp in his brief return. The heavyweight division is heating up and a healthy and active Haye could make things even more interesting. There potentially are some big fights out there for him, including with Fury as well as Anthony Joshua, the rising British sensation and 2012 Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist.
Saturday at Dallas
Erick De Leon KO1 Fidel Navarette
Records: De Leon (12-0, 6 KOs); Navarette (8-2-2, 4 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: Unbeaten heavyweight hopeful Andy Ruiz Jr. was scheduled to headline the 2016 season debut of "Solo Boxeo Tecate" on UniMas against journeyman Danny Batchelder, but when Ruiz withdrew from the bout because, according to Top Rank, he was not "mentally ready to fight," De Leon-Navarette was elevated to main event status.
De Leon, 23, of Detroit, is a formidable prospect who looked sharp against a lesser opponent in Navarette, 24, of Chicago, who lost his second fight in a row. De Leon, a southpaw, and Navarette both came out quickly and engaged in a rock 'em, sock 'em fight. De Leon was in his first scheduled eight-round fight but hardly needed any of it to get the job done. Late in the first round, as he and Navarette were engaged in toe-to-toe combat, De Leon took a step back and fired a counter right hook that landed squarely on Navarette's chin and dropped him to his knees. Referee Laurence Cole began to count but when it became clear that Navarette was not going to beat the count, he waved off the fight at 2 minutes, 18 seconds.
Matt Korobov W8 Josue Ovando
Scores: 80-71 (three times)
Records: Korobov (25-1, 14 KOs); Ovando (14-9-1, 11 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: In December 2014, Korobov, a 33-year-old southpaw and 2008 Russian Olympian, faced Andy Lee for a vacant middleweight world title and was winning the fight with ease through the fifth round. But in the sixth round Lee knocked Korobov out with a big right hook. Korobov returned to the ring for the first time since that crushing loss and was paired with soft touch Ovando, 26, of Mexico, lost his second fight in a row and for the fourth time in his last five bouts.
Korobov had no issues in this one as rolled to a shutout decision against Ovando on all three scorecards. He was superior to Ovando in every way as he did as he pleased other than getting a knockout. Referee Robert Chapa docked a point from Ovando for excessive holding in the final round, although it was hard to blame Ovando for the holding considering how many left hands he ate during the fight.