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Yoan Pablo Hernandez, Karo Murat and Sebastian Sylvester: Future Stars or Pretenders?

Karo Murat Sebastian Sylvester Yoan Pablo HernandezBy Erik Schmidt: Last weekend at the Jahnsportforum, Neubrandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany, German boxers Yoan Pablo Hernandez (18-1, 11 KOs), Sebastian Sylvester (30-3, 15 KOs) and Karo Murat (19-0, 12 KOs) were each successful in their matches against typically low quality opposition. However, in winning the fights, Hernandez, Sylvester and Murat showed little improvement on the deep flaws in their game and made it hard for me to see them as potential champions in the future despite their obvious talent.

To start with, top middleweight contender Sebastian Sylvester (30-3, 15 KOs) stopped Italian Gaetano Nespro (14-5, 2 KOs) in the 7th round of a scheduled 12 for the vacant IBF International middleweight title. This was Sylvester’s first fight since being easily defeated by the weak-punching WBA middleweight champion Felix Sturm in a lopsided 12-round decision loss in November 2008. Sylvester fought poorly in that fight, plodding around, throwing mainly jabs, few combinations and looking one dimensional and very predictable in his offensive attacks.

I had hopes that he would have shown some improvement since then and learned from his loss. However, Sylvester looked the same last Saturday against the unranked 29-year-old Nespro, throwing a lot of jabs, and few combinations when he would throw a power shot. After scoring a knockdown at the end of the 1st round with a big right hand, Sylvester seemed to abandon his early efforts at putting his punches together and began to load up with his right hand.

In the meantime, he was hit far too many times by Nespro, a fighter that Sylvester should have been able to outclass without any problems. In rounds two through six, Nespro stayed on the outside where he jabbed infrequently and threw short combinations that landed well through Sylvester’s porous defense. However, Sylvester began looking for a big one big shot to end things starting in the 6th round, and abandoning his jab almost completely.

Finally, in the 7th after Sylvester began throwing jabs once again, he found and opening and landed the right hand he had been looking for and put Nespro down for the count at 2:39 of the round. Referee Mickey Vann stopped the fight immediately as Nespro was too hurt to get up from the knockdown.

The win was hardly a satisfactory one because Sylvester, ranked #6 in the WBA, looked severely limited as a fighter and not nearly good enough to beat someone like Sturm, Arthur Abraham or Kelly Pavlik.

Cruiserweight Yoan Pablo Hernandez (18-1, 11 KOs) looked equally bad in stopping Micky Steed (12-4, 3 KOs) in the 5th round of a scheduled eight-round bout. Hernandez, 24, a former 2004 Olympian from Cuba, won the fight after Steeds hurt his right arm after landing a shot in the 5th. Steeds turned his back on Hernandez after landing the shot.

After a brief stoppage of the action moments later after Steeds was taking shots without punching back due to his injury, the fight was finally stopped because it was clear that he was unable to fight with the injury. Hernandez showed many of the same problems that have plagued him in his recent fights, tiring out early by the 3rd and getting hit far too often.

In this case, Steeds didn’t have the power to dent Hernandez’s normally soft chin. Hernandez, who used to start off fast in his bouts and often score a knockdown or two in the opening rounds, fought slowly against Steed, focusing mainly on his jab and only occasionally opening up with power shots. By the 2nd, despite his low work rate, Hernandez was already looking tired.

Steeds, 25, found it surprisingly easy to land his weak combinations as he was able to hit Hernandez over and over again with his shots. Luckily for Hernandez, Steeds had no power because if he had a little more on his shots, he might have been able to stop Hernandez like Wayne Braithwaite did in March 2008 or put Hernandez down like journeyman Michael Simms did in the 7th round of their bout in October 2008.

In the 4th round, Hernandez began putting more power on his shots, looking for a knockout against Steeds. Hernandez landed some nice body shots as well as some crunching jabs. However, in the 5th, Steeds took the shots without much trouble and continued firing back into the 5th.

In that round, Steeds injured his right arm which led to the fight being stopped a minute later due to his inactivity. If this was a one fight aberration, I could excuse Hernandez and consider it just an off night. But, the problem is that Hernandez has looked poor since losing to Braithwaite and has now struggled in his last four fights both with his stamina and his ability to take a hard shot.

Based on this, it seems as if he doesn’t have much of a future in the cruiserweight division or probably even in boxing. At some point, his German promoters are going to have to consider cutting their losses and letting him go if he doesn’t start to show some improvement.

In super middleweight action, EBU (European) super middleweight champion Karo Murat (19-0, 12 KOs) put in another disappointing performance in taking out Italian Cristian Sanavia (40-5-1, 12 KOs) in the 10th round. Murat, 25, hurt Sanavia with a right hand in the 9th and was scoring well with hard combinations to the head and body late in the round.

After the round ended, Sanavia indicated that he didn’t want to continue and after a little commotion at the start of the 10th, the fight was stopped. Murat, ranked @4 in the WBA, #10 in the WBO and #11 in the WBC super middleweight division, looked very average in grinding out the victory and hardly the stuff of a future champion.

Although he looked good at times when throwing body shots, he was unable to put combinations together for any length of time without tiring out quickly. Indeed, he seemed to be trying to conserve his strength much of the time by limiting his punches to single shots in rounds on though eight. When he would throw a few shots consecutively, the effort seemed to drain Murat’s energy like a battery being discharged.

As such, he seemed content to plod after Sanavia throwing one punch at a time and getting hit quite a lot in return by the limited Italian. Murat had fought a close fight with Sanavia early last year in April, beating him by a close 12-round decision. Though this time Murat looked a little better, he still was hit far too much by the 34-year-old Sanavia, who looked much older than his chronological age.

In the 9th round, with the fight well in control, Murat finally stepped it up and let loose with some combinations for a change and succeeded in hurting Sanavia with a right to the head. After the round ended, Sanavia staggered back to his corner and looked like he was too hurt to continue.

Murat needs a lot of work starting with his poor stamina if he hopes to have a chance at challenging for one of the major titles. Given how he’s looked in his past four fights, I wouldn’t give him a chance of beating any of the super middleweight champions – Carl Froch, Karoly Balzsay, Mikkel Kessler or Lucian Bute.

If Murat has any hopes of ever winning a title, he might want to move down to the middleweight division where he might be able to go a little farther with his powerful body punching. At super middleweight, I don’t see him winning a title in this lifetime based on his limited talent.


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