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Ranking the top 5 boxing matches of October

Nathan Cleverly. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)
AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski

Ahead of a star-studded month of November, boxing proved it can deliver a terrific month of fights without huge names filling the bill.

Only one title fight cracked the list, after all, and so did two undercard bouts. Action can erupt no matter who’s in the ring. This list even includes Frankie Gavin and Juergen Braehmer, two seasoned veterans prone to repelling aggressive opponents and fight patrons alike.

Action, admittedly just a euphemism for violence, would seem to be in our nature.

So here they are. These are the top five boxing matches of October:

5. Joe Murray vs. Rashid Kassem 

On Oct. 15, the opening seconds between Joe Murray (19-2, 8 KO) and Rashid Kassem (11-1, 7 KO) were brilliant. The rest of the fight, just very good.

Almost immediately out of the gate, Denmark’s Kaseem stuffed a right hand into his man’s temple. Murray was left stumbling, barely maintaining balance atop wobbly legs. A continued blitz pelted away at Murray before he fired a right hand back into Kassem that sent him to the ropes. Murray cracked him one more time with a right hand of his own that made Kassem’s eyes roll to the back of his head and crash to the ground.

That was all within in the first minute of the first round.

Murray, of Lancashire, sent Kassem’s gumshield flying in Round 2 courtesy of another right hand. The Englishman was on the defensive by the fourth period, however, as Kassem wore him down with a nice body attack.

After a scrappy fifth round, and a lot of wrestling, Murray’s engine began to pull him to the lead. With under a minute to go in Round 6, the Lancashire lad probed out a left and ripped one final right to the jaw of Kassem and plain crucified him to the mat.

There were some lulls in this one, but there’s just nothing in this sport that compares to men hitting the deck like Kassem did here.

4. Nathan Cleverly vs. Juergen Braehmer

Nathan Cleverly (30-3, 16 KO) and Juergen Braehmer (48-3, 35 KO) had a lot of questions to answer on the first day of the month as they squared off for Braehmer’s WBA light heavyweight title. Among them were, How much did the slobberknocker with Andrzej Fonfara last year take out of Cleverly, and could Braehmer strip his “paper champion” reputation?

Braehmer was a six-time defending champion but hasn’t faced stellar competition, opting to only fight in Germany. He typically fences away boring rounds with a fine jab but was forced to counter a hyperaggressive Cleverly who never took his foot off the pedal.

The German delivered brutal counters in the first segment of the fight. Cleverly’s insane output left him plenty of opportunities to do so. But that ferocity also helped turn in a wild Round 5 — one of the best of the year.

Unfortunately, it all came to an end in Round 6 after a hand injury to Braehmer. Cleverly may not have won the belt like he expected to but at least fight fans now have guaranteed excitement to look forward to with him holding the title.

3. Rex Tso vs. Ryuto Maekawa

Top Rank Boxing promotions have long been adamant about catering to the Chinese market. They will continue to find success with more bouts like the 10-round scrap they put on between their man Rex Tso (20-0, 12 KO) and Ryuto Maekawa (11-1, 7 KO) on Oct. 8.

What often plagues the lower weight classes (115 pounds, in this case) is the lack of power. Not only because of less exciting KOs, but also because of the fact that there are less rattling shots and knockdowns to help differentiate one round from another.

Tso vs. Maekawa was a terrific battle. But one where its sustained action can be construed as a single giant blur to the casual spectator.

In any case, the two combatants were at each other’s throats all night. Forehead to forehead, their arms never stopped working. Tso gained an advantage throughout by stuffing tic-tac punches into Maekawa’s high guard and then splitting an uppercut to the chin or wrapping a right hook to the crux his liver.

Maekawa, of course, was there to fight back, especially in Round 9 where a winging hook nearly spun Tso’s head around. The final period was more of the same. The two even closed out the fight with a truly wild exchange, throwing the proverbial boxing book out the window.

In the end, Tso extended his perfect record and continues to climb the super flyweight rankings en route to a title shot. If Top Rank can secure the blemished Zou Shiming a title bid, then they shouldn’t have a problem getting one for this exciting slugger.

2. Macaulay McGowan vs. Jez Smith

Fledging welterweight prospects Macaulay McGowan (10-0, 1 KO) and Jez Smith (7-0, 3 KO) were disappointed to only earn a draw on their records after a blistering eight rounds on Oct. 8, but no one in attendance felt the same.

Smith and McGowan laid into each other like madmen, despite being buried on the undercard of Liam Walsh’s masterclass over Andrey Klimov.

McGowan, of Lancashire, exhibited a more refined attack early on. His two fists never stopped moving and seemed to never aim at the same spot twice. It was all him through a round and a half until Smith ripped a combination into McGowan that ended with a left hook to the chin and a knockdown.

The 21-year-old McGowan poured it on even more in Round 3. He had some kind of fire in his eyee. If only he had the KO punch to match. Smith, less the technical practitioner, fought with everything and every appendage he had, making contact with his shoulders, elbows and thick skull.

There were clinches in this fight, sure, but they were brutal trench warfare.

To McGowan’s credit, he never complained once even after Smith’s multiple warnings for leading with his head. Instead, the kid from Lancashire continued to stuff whirling two-handed combos into Smith, leaving his opponent’s shaggy hair affray.

London’s Smith finally slowed down by the seventh period. But he ate everything McGowan served up to him. He didn’t nearly have as big of a gas tank as McGowan, but his heart is second to none.

The final bell came, and McGowan’s late surge seemed to seal his case. The judges, though, turned in a draw. Hopefully, this only prompts one more go-around between these two.

1. Sam Eggington vs. Frankie Gavin

Sam Eggington (19-3, 11 KO) and Frankie Gavin (23-3, 14 KO) took center stage on Oct. 22 in a month repute with canceled bouts. They did not disappoint.

Gavin’s amateur pedigree was supposed to be Eggington’s foil, and it was through the first two rounds.

Round 3, however, saw the 23-year-old Eggington force his own luck. Stalking his man with determined fists, Eggington caught up to his slick opponent and sat him down with a searing right cross.

Gavin got up to bang in the fourth and fifth rounds. Gavin, Britain’s only-ever amateur world champion, can usually be found employing a reserved style. But Eggington can drag a scrap out of anybody, and in Round 6, the ring went up in flames. It was arguably the round of the year as the two combatants slugged away at each other for its entirety.

Gavin soon learned that’s Eggington’s world. By Round 7, Gavin began to do his best to avoid the pocket with his sizable foe and finally succumbed to a two-handed barrage from the young Englishman in the fateful eighth stanza.

Eggington is now the most prominent welterweight in promoter Eddie Hearn’s stable. Before the fight he caught the eye of one Danny Garcia, and now victorious over Gavin, he has most of the world’s attention.

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