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Boxing action this weekend brings fight fans to Newcastle, as two fighters at very different points in their careers challenge for IBO world titles.
In the main event, leading Newcastle fighter Chad ‘Hollywood’ Bennett will battle Pablo Martin Barboza of Argentina for the vacant IBO lightweight title.
Also featured on the card is ‘Mr Frenzy’ Kye Mackenzie, perhaps Australia’s hottest prospect, fighting Filipino Jack Asis for the vacant IBO junior lightweight title, in a mouth-watering local match-up.
While the IBO title isn’t as prestigious as the WBA, WBC, IBF or WBO, due to their ranking system the IBO is far more respectable than many of the other alphabet pretenders.
In the early 2000s boxing greats like Lennox Lewis, Roy Jones Jr and Marco Antonio Barrera held IBO titles. Formed in the early 1990s, it’s ‘lineage’ passed to these fighters and even some of the current holders have a strong claim to being the best in the world, like Gennady Golovkin.
A number of Australians have held the IBO world title, dating back to Lester Ellis, who won the belt in lightweight and junior middleweight.
Daniel Geale and Anthony Mundine fought for Geale’s IBO world middleweight title in their first bout back in 2009, and Danny Green successfully defended his IBO cruiserweight world title in his famous first-round knockout of Roy Jones Jr. Vic Darchinyan also held the IBO world title in two weight divisions during his peak years.
The frequency with which Australians have fought for the IBO title has seen it become a modern version of Les Darcy’s claim to the world middleweight title; the Australian world champion.
That’s no knock on anyone who has won the IBO world title, there are just so many fighters calling themselves world champion in today’s boxing that it’s simply too confusing for the modern fan to get into.
But if the IBO continues helping Australian fighters get recognised overseas and brings them fights against the world’s best, much like what Les Darcy did, then it’s great for Australian boxing.
The card in Newcastle should be excellent. Bennett, who has been Newcastle’s main draw card for over 10 years, will finally get the title fight he has campaigned for during his long career, while Mackenzie will look to catapult himself into the upper echelons of the division.
Bennett has had a long career, turning pro in 1999. He’s been featured in main event slots on Foxtel Friday night fights, but his last TV appearance was a knockout loss to Steven Wills on the Green-Jones Jr undercard. Bennett appeared weight drained in that fight, but bounced back well and has an 11-fight winning streak riding into this fight, including victories on US soil.
Recently he was to be featured on the soon-to-be-doomed first attempt at a Mundine versus Mosley fight, but wasn’t reinstated on the undercard when the fight was rescheduled.
Bennett faces Pablo Martin Barboza, who has been featured on South American television but is relatively unknown outside of his native Argentina. He has won a few minor titles and is the current Argentinian lightweight champion.
The big question about Bennett is whether he can safely make the lightweight limit at age 41, and whether he can hold off his aggressive 30-year-old challenger over 12 rounds. Bennett hasn’t been past distance since 2009 and hasn’t been into the championship rounds since 2005. Barboza on the other hand has been 10 rounds four times, and 12 once since July 2013.
Meanwhile, Mackenzie is looking to continue the job he started last year of cleaning out the domestic junior lightweight division by adding Filipino-based Australian Jack Asis to his impressive list of knockout victims.
Mackenzie won the Australian junior lightweight title in 2013 and defended it against Waylon Law and Matt Garlett last year. An impressive 2014 saw Mackenzie fight eight times, sometimes as high as welterweight, scoring knockout wins in all of his bouts.
Recently described on Fox News as Australia’s Gennady Golovkin, Mackenzie claimed his biggest scalp in November, stopping former WBC title challenger Clive Atwell on the Mundine-Rabchenko undercard in 10 rounds.
Asis is also riding an unbeaten streak, his dating back to February 2011. His record of 32 wins, 18 losses and 5 draws is deceiving, as most of his losses happened early in his career. The former Filipino featherweight champ has twice challenged for the Pan Asian Boxing federation title (the Australasian equivalent of the European or NABF/NABA titles), coming up short by split decision both times. ‘The Assassin’ has also shared the ring with Australians Billy Dib and Willie Kickett.
It’s hard to bet against Mackenzie in this fight. On paper he just looks too strong and while Asis’ experience will be a big factor, Mackenzie just has too much firepower.
The undercard also features a number of local professional fighters, including the return of Kirk Lawton, fighting for the first time since he scored a 2013 stoppage win over Butterbean.