Konstantin Ponomarev vs Carlos Ocampo fight to decide Spence’s IBF mandatory

Image: Konstantin Ponomarev vs Carlos Ocampo fight to decide Spence’s IBF mandatory

By Allan Fox: Konstantin Ponomarev and Carlos Oscampo will be meeting in an IBF welterweight eliminator fight to decide the challenger to IBF 147 pound champion Errol Spence Jr. (22-0, 19 KOs). This will be a really rough ask for the Ponomarev vs. Ocampo winner to be able to compete against a talent like Spence.

Bob Arum of Top Rank, the promoter for Ponomarev (32-0, 13 KOs), had spoken of having him possibly face Manny Pacquiao after his fight with Jeff Horn. However, Pacquiao’s long term future in boxing is uncertain beyond a likely rematch with the Australian Horn. For that reason, it’s a good move for Top Rank to have Ponomarev fight Ocampo (21-0, 12 KOs) to put him in position for a world title fight against unbeaten Errol Spence Jr. if a match against Pacquiao never materializes.

Top Rank won the purse bid for Ponomarev on Tuesday with a winning bid of $30,150, according to ESPN. Top Rank was the only bidder. The Ponomarev vs. Ocampo fight will be taking place within 3 months in September or October. There’s no word about whether Top Rank will stick the Ponomarev vs. Ocampo fight on ESPN, which is where the promotional company is now having many of their top fighters fighting.

It would make sense to have the Ponomarev-Ocampo fight on ESPN. It probably won’t bring in huge ratings unless the fight is put on an undercard of a more popular fighter like Vasyl Lomachenko, Manny Pacquiao or Terence Crawford. It would be to give Ponomarev some exposure to the casual boxing fans in the U.S. Top Rank has to like Ponomarev’s chances of beating Oscampo for them to make the fight.

There’s no point in Top Rank feeding Ponomarev to someone that would beat him before he fights for a world title.

Ocampo is a Mexican fighter with past wins over Jorge Paez Jr., Johnny Navarrete, Charlie Navarro, Rames Agaton, Alvaro Robles and Daniel Escheveria. Alvarao Robles is a familiar name. He lost to Kell Brook by an 8th round knockout three years ago on March 15, 2014. Other than those fighters, Ocampo has faced largely obscure opposition.

Ponomarev is just 24-years-old. He’s a decent talent with past wins over Brand Solomon, Silverio Ortiz, Ed Paredes, Steve Claggett, Cosme Rivera and Mikael Zewski. The win over Zewski is perhaps the best win of Ponomarev’s pro career. It’s unclear what Top Rank’s thoughts are about the future potential of Ponomarev. He would seem to be in the Jessie Vargas mold. He’s a guy with not a lot of power, but decent boxing skills, who might be able to win a world title at 147 if matched against the right guy. Errol Spence Jr. is obviously the wrong guy for Ponomarev. He would match up better against someone like Jeff Horn if he can get past Pacquiao in their likely rematch.

Spence, 27, is expected to take a fight before he faces the winner of the title eliminator between Ponomarev and Ocampo. Spence has said that he’d like to fight Danny Garcia, but that’s probably not going to happen. Spence will likely take a voluntary defense against one of the top 15 contenders in the International Boxing Federation’s rankings. Spence just recently won the IBF belt off of Kell Brook on May 27 in stopping him in the 11th round in Sheffield, England.

Spence was the mandatory challenger. Brook suffered an eye injury and bowed out in the 11th after taking a knee. Brook hasn’t said anything about wanting to fight a rematch with Spence. There wasn’t a rematch clause in the contract due to Spence being the mandatory challenger. Brook likely wouldn’t bother fighting Spence again anyway due to his problems making weight for the welterweight division.

“It’s an interesting-style fight as it matches a boxer in Ponomarev against a puncher in Ocampo,” said Top Rank president Carl Moretti to ESPN.com. “And certainly the winner will get a shot at a world title and Errol Spence, so there is a lot on the line for both guys.”

Putting Ponomarev or Ocampo in the ring with Spence would be a really bad idea. That won’t end well for either of those guys. Those two would be better off fighting someone like Horn. I’m not sure if either of them could beat Horn, especially if the fight took place in his home country of Australia. They would likely give Horn a lot of problems and make it potentially another controversial fight.

Ocampo and Ponomarev are in a tough situation right now due to their lack of punching power. Neither of them match up against Spence or WBA/WBC welterweight champion Keith “One Time” Thurman. They’re both finesse fighters, and those types don’t do well against big punchers like Thurman and Spence. The 5’10” Ponomarev has enough size, youth and boxing skills to give the 38-year-old Pacquiao a lot of problems if Top Rank chooses to make that fight after the Horn-Pacquiao 2 rematch.

Frankly, I think it would be a waste of the little time left in Pacquiao’s career to fight Ponomarev or Ocampo. Top Rank should be trying to maximize the time that Pacquiao has left in his boxing career by putting him in with the best fighters they can rather than matching him against obscure fighters on ESPN. Pacquiao is still popular enough to fight on HBO PPV if matched against the right guy like Thurman, Spence, Mikey Garcia or Adrien Broner. Putting Pacquiao on ESPN over and over again would seem like a waste of his popularity.