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Controversial Wilder – Fury Draw a Case of Déjà Vu All Over Again

Bernard Fernandez

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The moment ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. revealed the official scoring of Saturday night’s Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury bout – a controversial split draw in Los Angeles that enabled Wilder, the WBC heavyweight champion who to many people’s way of thinking, including mine, appeared to have received an early Christmas present – I had the feeling I had seen it all before.

And I had, 25 years earlier, on Sept. 10, 1993, in San Antonio, Texas. With one or two minor changes, what took place in the Staples Center ring closely mirrored what transpired in the Alamodome when WBC welterweight titlist Pernell Whitaker was obliged to settle for a hotly disputed majority draw against Julio Cesar Chavez in a heist of a fight which Whitaker appeared to have won handily. In this virtual replay a quarter-century later, British challenger Tyson Fury won – uh, make that should have gotten credit for winning – nine of the 12 rounds in the much-anticipated Showtime Pay Per View matchup, the most notable exceptions to the norm being rounds nine and 12, in which Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs) was floored by an increasingly desperate Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs) who had to be aware his only chance at victory hinged on scoring a late, bolt-from-the-blue knockout. My personal scorecard thus gave Fury a 115-111 edge, the same tally arrived at by unofficial Showtime judge Steve Farhood, a vocal a majority of the 17,698 on-site spectators and, most vociferously, Showtime analyst Paulie Malignaggi.

Although Malignaggi, a former IBF super lightweight and WBA welterweight champion, presumably disagreed with the 113-113 scorecard submitted by the swing judge, England’s Phil Edwards, his most withering criticism was directed at Mexican judge Alejandro Rochin, who somehow saw Wilder as a 115-111 winner. Canadian judge Robert Tapper was the realist of the group, with a 114-112 edge to Fury (originally announced as 114-110).

“I don’t care about any replays,” the exasperated Malignaggi replied when fellow analyst Al Bernstein suggested they check the tape for possible moments that might have negated Fury’s steady stockpiling of rounds and thus allowed Wilder to surprisingly retain his title. “They matter nothing. This decision is a joke. Alejandro Rochin should better never work a day in his life again in boxing.”

The guess here is that Rochin and Edwards will continue to be in the rotation for high-visibility WBC title-fight assignments, as was the case with Switzerland’s Franz Marti and England’s Mickey Vann, both of whom figured that crowd favorite Chavez had done enough to merit a 115-115 standoff in a bout in which the beloved Mexican national hero appeared to have been thoroughly schooled by Whitaker. In tandem they overrode the 115-113 card for Whitaker turned in by Texas-based judge Jack Woodruff, which still was too close to my way of thinking.

But for those who might not go along with my premise that Wilder-Fury was a near-exact replication of Whitaker-Chavez, which did not feature any knockdowns, I offer two other bouts that also reminded me of certain aspects of Wilder-Fury: Bernard Hopkins’ 12th-round stoppage of Felix Trinidad in their middleweight unification fight on Sept. 29, 2001, in Madison Square Garden, and future heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko overcoming three knockdowns to register a unanimous, 12-round decision over Samuel Peter on Sept. 24, 2005, in Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall for Peter’s minor NABF title.

Mash those three fights together and the combined result would be, in relation to Wilder-Fury as well as the immortal words of the late, great baseball philosopher Yogi Berra, déjà vu all over again.

Like Chavez, who complained that it was he, not Whitaker, who deserved better than a kiss-your-sister draw because “Sweet Pea” had done “more running that fighting,” Wilder – whose nearly closed window of opportunity momentarily flung wide-open when he drilled Fury in the 12th round with the kind of power shots that had enabled him to win inside the distance 39 previous times – said the two knockdowns he registered should count for more than anything Fury had done in a performance that, on balance, was more impressive than his unanimous-decision dethronement of Wladimir Klitschko three years earlier.

“I think with the two knockdowns, I definitely won the fight,” Wilder said in a post-fight interview with Showtime’s Jim Gray. “You know, we fought our hearts out tonight. We’re both warriors. We both went hand-to-hand, but with those two drops I feel I won the fight.”

That argument was previously trotted out, with no success, by Ivailo Gotzev, Samuel Peter’s manager, who said that his guy’s three knockdowns of Klitschko – two in the fifth round, one in the 10th – trumped the fact that Wlad, with his metronome jab, had dominated virtually every other second of a fight that ended with all three judges favoring him by the same 114-111 margin.

“If a man who scored three knockdowns is declared a loser, to me, that’s no loser,” Gotzev groused. For what it’s worth, there would be a rematch, on Sept. 11, 2010, with Klitschko scoring a 10th-round knockout victory over Peter to retain his IBF and WBO titles in Frankfurt, Germany.

Now let’s flash back to Hopkins-Trinidad, which was presaged by the mind games played by B-Hop – which included his twice disrespecting the Puerto Rican flag at press conferences – and had the effect of so enraging Trinidad that he threw caution to the wind from the opening bell and tried to get the crafty Philadelphian out of there with every loaded-up punch that missed the mark. Hopkins fought superbly and under control until he felt it was time to really let loose, battering his favored opponent to the point that Trinidad’s father-trainer felt he had no choice but to throw in the towel in the 12th round to save his son from further punishment.

Although Wilder had vowed he would pick his spots to go to the heavy artillery against Fury, whose gift is not necessarily in looking good himself but in making the other guy look bad, he seemed to forget whatever strategical refinements laid out for him in camp by trainers Mark Breland and Jay Deas. Swinging wide and wild from the outset, Wilder’s fight plan, whatever it might have been as crafted by Breland and Deas, quickly devolved into pure brawling tactics. It seems a pretty safe bet that Fury’s constant putdowns of him had made the excitable Wilder, well, just a little bit crazy.

“All the build-up for the fight, the hype and everything … I really wanted to get him out of there and give the fans what they wanted to see,” Wilder told Gray. “It was just the simple fact that I was rushing the punches. When I rush my punches like that, they never land. I’m never accurate when I’m trying to force the punches. But the rematch, I guarantee I’m gonna get him.”

And maybe Wilder would, as Klitschko did to Peter in their do-over, if it actually comes to that. But the rematch clause in the contracts signed by Wilder and Fury could only be invoked by Wilder in the case of the loss of his title to Fury, and with the draw that did not happen. Yeah, a rematch with Fury no doubt would do good business, but Wilder and his support crew have to realize – as do Fury and his people – that it would not be a blockbuster on the scale of a fight with WBA/WBO/IBF champ Anthony Joshua.

Although Wilder and Fury both paid obligatory lip service to the notion of an immediate rematch, their thoughts seemed to drift more to a clear-the-decks showdown with Joshua for all the titles, a likely attendance of 90,000 in London’s Wembley Stadium and a super-sized payday beyond anything that even Wilder-Fury II could generate. For his part, Joshua and his promoter, Eddie Hearn, would now seem to have the luxury of picking which of the non-losers, Wilder or Fury, they would most want to share the ring with in what surely would be the most lucrative fight of 2019.

“There’s a third heavyweight out there,” Fury said in referencing the specter of Joshua that hung over the proceedings like a bad moon rising. Then, making clucking sounds, he yelped, “Chicken! Chicken! Joshua, where are ya, AJ?”

Wilder had hoped to use a victory over lineal champion Fury, preferably one ending in another emphatic knockout, as a springboard into the superfight with Joshua he most craves. It now seems reasonable to presume that to safeguard the route to Joshua, Wilder’s team of advisers – that would be promoter Lou DiBella, Premier Boxing Champions honcho Al Haymon and co-trainers Breland and Deas – will think long and hard before consenting to a rematch with Fury, whose difficult-to-solve style did indeed prove to be troublesome to the lean and lanky Alabaman. Despite the public outcry for Whitaker-Chavez II, one fervently shared by Whitaker and his handlers, that fight never happened. Chavez was too valuable a property to be exposed to the kind of risk and potential embarrassment that might have resulted had he again tangled with Whitaker.

Curiously, some of the key figures in Whitaker-Chavez were represented, either live and in person or by extension, at Wilder-Fury. The late Jose Sulaiman was president of the WBC and present in San Antonio that night 25 years ago; at ringside in LA was Sulaiman’s son and successor, Mauricio Sulaiman. And in the house at both widely separated fights was Shelly Finkel, who managed Whitaker then and is an adviser to Wilder now.

There is an old saying: the more things change, the more they remain the same. It’s as true in boxing, and maybe even more so, than in any other area of human existence. The faces and names may be different, but the game remains constant.

Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

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Allen (KO 3) and Chisora (UD 10) Victorious in Heavyweight Action in London

Arne K. Lang

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Heavyweights Allen & Chisora win

A pair of heavyweight battles topped the card at London’s 02 Arena. Both favorites won, but neither bout played out as expected.

Fan favorite David Allen, a 27-year-old Yorkshireman, continued his ascent from the lower depths of the boxing firmament with a one-punch knockout of Australia’s  heavily-tattooed Lucas Browne. Allen caved in Browne with a body punch in the third round that brought a sudden end to a bout that the Aussie appeared to be winning.

Browne, who turned 40 this month, made history when he became the first Australian to win a world heavyweight title (WBA version) when he scored a 10th round stoppage of Ruslan Chagaev in Russia. But, in hindsight, that win was a fluke. A gassed-out Chagaev was widely ahead on the cards when his roof fell in. Browne’s tenure was brief. He was stripped of the belt after testing positive for clenbuterol.

Allen, nicknamed the White Rhino, has now won four straight beginning with an upset of previously undefeated Nick Webb. His reputation is that of a common brawler, a fighter willing to take two punches to land one, but, regardless, he positioned himself for a nice payday or two going forward. Browne lost his second straight after opening his career 28-0.

The maddeningly inconsistent Dereck Chisora, who engaged in two barnburners with Dillian Whyte, snoozed his way to a 10-round unanimous decision over milquetoast Senad Gashi. The 35-year-old Chisora, a Zinbabwe-born Londoner, improved to 30-9 but did nothing to improve his stock. The well-traveled Gashi, born in Kosovo and now residing in Spain, declined to 17-3 while acquiring the patina of a trial horse.

Other Bouts

Welterweight Josh Kelly, a 2016 Olympian, won a lopsided 10-round decision over stubborn Przemysla Runowski. Kelly (9-0, 6 KOs) had Runowski on the canvas in rounds two, nine, and 10, but the previously undefeated Pole (now 17-1, 3 KOs) stayed the course. Kelly appeared to hurt his hand early in the fight. That may knock him off the Joshua-TBA card on June 1 at Madison Square Garden.

Joe Cordina, a Welshman, now holds the British and Commonwealth lightweight titles after scoring a 6th round stoppage of Yorkshireman Andy Townend (22-5). Cordina started slowly but gradually picked up the pace and scored three knockdowns before the referee waived it off. A 2016 Olympian, Cordina (9-0, 7 KOs) was a heavy favorite despite a dearth of pro experience.

Conor Benn the 22-year-old son of Nigel Benn, was extended the distance for the third time in his last four fights but had little difficulty advancing his record to 14-0 (9) at the expense of Josef Zahradnik (10-3) of the Czech Republic. The referee awarded Benn every round in this 8-round welterweight affair.

Middleweight Nikita Ababiy, a hot prospect with a big upside, was extended into the second round for the first time in his young pro career but eliminated Dmitri Faltin after only 26 seconds of round two. A 20-year-old Brooklynite of Russian extraction, nicknamed White Chocolate, Ababiy (4-0) excelled in all manner of combat sports as teenager. In the ring he doesn’t pussyfoot around. He won his pro debut in 28 seconds. Faltin, a 37-year-old Finn, fell to 2-4-1.

John Harding Jr., a 34-year-old middleweight, improved to 7-0-1 with a one-sided 6-round decision over Miroslav Juna (1-2). A protégé of Dillian Whyte, Harding started his pro career late after serving several stints in prison.

Cruiserweight Sam Hyde (14-1-1, 7 KOs) rebounded from his first defeat in fine fashion, blowing out Slovakia’s Josef Jurko (5-2) in the opening round.

Super bantamweight Sam Cox (4-0) won a 4-round decision over Bulgaria’s Georgi Georgiev.

In a woman’s fight, British bantamweight Shannon Courtenay (2-0) outpointed Bulgaria’s Roz Mari Silyanova (1-5-1). The ref gave Courtenay all four rounds.

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BWAA Writing Awards Announced: The Sweet Science Earns Multiple Citations

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BWAA Awards

The Boxing Writers Association of America has announced their annual Bernie Awards which recognize excellence in boxing journalism. Five stories that ran on this web site earned commendations.

TSS editor-in-chief Arne K. Lang copped first place in the category “Boxing Feature Under 1,500 Words.” Springs Toledo and Thomas Hauser earned third place ribbons, Toledo in the category “Best Column” and Hauser in “Boxing Investigative Reporting,” a category in which he has excelled. In addition, TSS New England correspondent Jeffrey Freeman and Sean Nam earned Honorable Mentions, Freeman in “Boxing Feature Under 1,500 Words” and Nam for an investigative reporting piece.

Four TSS correspondents – Toledo, Hauser, Kelsey McCarson, and Nam – were honored for stories that appeared on other web sites.

Springs Toledo, who has had the most abundant haul of BWAA writing awards since 2010 was omnipresent once again, earning five citations overall including a first place finish for “Boxing Feature Over 1,500 Words.” The multi-decorated Thomas Hauser also achieved a first place finish, this in the category “Boxing News Story.” Kelsey McCarson tied for first in “Boxing Column” and Sean Nam came in third in “Boxing Feature Under 1500 Words.”

What follows is the full press release authored by Awards Chairman BERNARD FERNANDEZ. A TSS mainstay, Fernandez is a former five-term president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

PRESS RELEASE: Toledo, Kriegel, Boxing News Top BWAA Writing Contest

Springs Toledo and Mark Kriegel scored highest among individual entrants, while Boxing News/BoxingNewsOnline.com topped the overall sweepstakes in the 18th annual Boxing Writers Association of America writing contest. Those who placed in the contest, which drew a record 147 submissions from a record 49 media representatives who cover the sport, will be recognized at the 94th annual BWAA Awards Ceremony, to be held May 31 at the Copacabana in New York City.

 Toledo, a Boston native and frequent honoree in the BWAA writing contest, led all entrants with 14 points on a scoring system of five points for a first place, three for second, two for third and one for an honorable mention. In the blind judging, in which all bylines and other identifying marks were removed beforehand before being forwarded to a distinguished panel of sports journalists and academics, Toledo took a first in Feature (Over 1,500 words), seconds in Investigative Reporting and a tie for Feature (Under 1,500 Words), a tie for third in Event Coverage and an honorable mention in Column. He spread the wealth around, too, with submissions for Boxing News, thesweetscience.com and City Journal.

 Kriegel, who took first places in both Feature categories in the 2017 contest, was again a major factor in multiple categories, totaling 12 points. He took first place in Investigative Reporting, seconds in Feature (Under 1,500 Words) and Feature (Over 1,500 Words) and an HM in Column, all for ESPN.com.

Other first places went to Arne K. Lang, editor of thesweetscience.com in Feature (Under 1,500 Words); Paul Wheeler of Boxing News in Event Coverage and Kelsey McCarson of NYFights.com (tie) in Column.

Boxing News and BoxingNewsOnline.com, based in the United Kingdom, stormed the BWAA contest like the Beatles coming to America in 1964, totaling 27 points on two firsts, three seconds, a third and five HMs. ESPN.com was next with 16 points, followed by thesweetscience.com and BoxingScene.com with 11 apiece.

 The entire list of placing entrants:

2018 BERNIE WINNERS

BOXING EVENT COVERAGE

First Place

PAUL WHEELER, “Win-Win for Usyk and Bellew,” Boxing News, November 11, 2018

Second Place

MATTHEW AGUILAR, “Vargas, Dulorme Draw is WBC Silver Welterweight,” The Associated Press, October 7, 2018

Third Place (Tie)

LANCE PUGMIRE, “Wilder – Fury Embodied the Greatness of Heavyweight Boxing of Yesteryear,” Los Angeles Times, December 2, 2018,

SPRINGS TOLEDO, “Art and Heroism in a Corrupted Sport,” thesweetscience.com, December 3, 2018

Honorable Mention: Tris Dixon, BoxingScene.com; Lee Groves,CompuBoxTV.com; Gordon Marino, TheDailyBeast.com; Kieran Mulvaney, InsideHBOBoxing.com; Cliff Rold, BoxingScene.com; Don Stradley, Ringside Seat; Chris Walker, BoxingNewsOnline.net.

BOXING COLUMN

First Place (Tie)

THOMAS GERBASI, “Beyond the Ring, The Next Fight,” BoxingScene.com, December 26, 2018

KELSEY McCARSON, “Tyson Fury, Mental Health and Vunerability,” NYFights.com, June 8, 2018

Second Place (Tie)

DON STRADLEY, “Goodbye to All That,” donstradley.blogspot.com, December 29, 2018

ELLIOT WORSELL, “Joe Fournier is the 11th Best Light-Heavyweight in the World – Apparently,” Boxing News, March 29, 2018

Third  Place

GREG BISHOP, “In Search of a Happy Ending to Boxing Career, Manny Pacquiao is Following a Familiar, Sad Trajectory Instead,” Sports Illustrated, January 12, 2018

Honorable Mention: Tris Dixon, Boxingscene.com; Mark Kriegel, ESPN.com; Kieran Mulvaney, Boxing News; Springs Toledo, Boxing News

BOXING NEWS STORY

First Place

THOMAS HAUSER, “Curtis Harper Goes Viral,” The Sporting News, August 29, 2018

Second Place

NORM FRAUENHEIM, “Bob Arum on the Passing of ‘The Boxing Senator’ John McCain: ‘He Was a Great American,’” RingTV.net, August 25, 2018

Third Place (Tie)

DON STRADLEY, “DeMarco is In!,” donstradley.blogspot.com; December 31, 2018

LEE GROVES, “Farewell to a Boxing Lifer, Don Chargin, the Last Gentleman Promoter,” CompuBoxTV.com, September 29, 2018

Honorable Mention: Lance Pugmire, Los Angeles Times; Dan Rafael, ESPN.com.

BOXING FEATURE (Under 1,500 words)

First Place

ARNE K. LANG, “Christmas Day in Germany with Sugar Ray Robinson,” thesweetscience.com, December 24, 2018

Second Place (Tie)

JOHN DENNEN, “Thank God I’m Not a World Champion,” Boxing News, September 16, 20128

MARK KRIEGEL, “The Old Man and the Kid: Alex Saucedo Fighting for a Title and His Mentor’s Legacy,” ESPN.com, November 13, 2018

CLIFF ROLD, “Golovkin, Hopkins, Monzon: The Record at Middleweight,” BoxingScene.com, May 2, 2018

SPRINGS TOLEDO, “The Quiet Man,” Boxing News, October 25, 2018

Third Place

SEAN NAM, “Eleider Alvarez Stuns Sergey Kovalev,” UCNLive.com, August 10, 2018

Honorable Mention: Ron Borges, Boxing Monthly; Thomas Gerbasi, The Ring; David Weinberg, Press of Atlantic City; Jeffrey Freeman, thesweetscience.com; Lance Pugmire, Los Angeles Times

BOXING FEATURE (Over 1,500 words)

First Place

SPRINGS TOLEDO, “The Historian: Mike Tyson and the Ghost of Boxing’s Past,” Boxing News, March 22, 2018

Second Place

MARK KRIEGEL, “The Education of Terence Crawford,” ESPN.com, June 9, 2018

Third Place

TRIS DIXON, “A Warrior’s Brain,” Boxing News, August 2, 2018

Honorable Mention: Matthew Aguilar, El Paso Times; Thomas Gerbasi, Boxing News; Lance Pugmire, Los Angeles Times; Dan Rafael, ESPN.com; Don Stradley, The Ring

BOXING INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

First Place

MARK KRIEGEL, “A Unique Family Dynamic and the Shooting Nobody Wants to Talk About: The Jose Benavidez Jr. Story,” ESPN.com, October 13, 2018

Second Place

SPRINGS TOLEDO, “191 Edgecombe,” City Journal, Summer 2018

Third Place

THOMAS HAUSER, “1,501 Tests, One Reported Positive? What’s Going on with the USADA and Boxing?,” thesweetscience.com, September 7, 2018 and December 7, 2018

Honorable Mention: Ron Borges, Boxing Monthly; Matt Christie, Boxing News; Jack Hirsch, Boxing News; Sean Nam, thesweetscience.com; Adam Pollack,Boxinginsider.com; Lance Pugmire, Los Angeles Times; Joseph Santoliquito, PremierBoxingChampions.com

 News Outlets

  1. Boxing News/BoxingNewsOnline.net (27 points) 
  2. ESPN.com (16)
  3. THESWEETSCIENCE.COM(11); BoxingScene.com (11)
  4. NYFights.com (7)
  5. Los Angeles Times (6)
  6. The Ring/RingTV.com (5)
  7. The Sporting News (5)
  8. The Associated Press (3); CompuBox.com (3); City Journal (3); DonStradley.blogspot.com (3)
  9. Sports Illustrated (2); Boxing Monthly (2); UCNLLive.com (2)
  10. El Paso Times (1); PremierBoxingChampions.com (1); Ringside Seat (1); The Press of Atlantic City (1); Boxinginsider.com (1); The Daily Beast (1); InsideHBOBoxing.com (1); BoxingNews (1)

2018 BERNIES JUDGES:

MICHAEL HIRSLEY, Chicago Tribune (Retired)

FRANZ LIDZ, Sports Illustrated (Retired)

THOMAS MACDONALD, Novelist and Boston College Writing Instructor

JOHN SCHULIAN, Chicago Sun-Times (Retired)

JOHN WHISLER, San Antonio Express News (Retired)

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Erick Ituarte Wins Featherweight Battle in Ontario, CA

David A. Avila

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Ituarte

ONTARIO, CA.-Looking to make waves as a featherweight, Santa Ana’s Erick Ituarte battled Tijuana’s Jose Estrella evenly before pulling away in the last third of the fight to win by decision on Friday.

Ituarte (21-1-1, 3 KOs) lacks the big punch but has the long arms that enabled him to keep distance and out-point the shorter Estrella (20-16-1, 14 KOs) in their 10-round bout at the Doubletree Hotel. Thompson Boxing Promotions staged the fight card that saw about 500 fans at the event.

Estrella used his guts and guile to keep the fight close in the first four rounds of the fight. Back and forth they went trading momentum, Ituarte was effective attacking the body and Estrella was good at connecting with big blows to the head.

It wasn’t until the seventh round that Ituarte began utilizing his reach and mobility to make Estrella chase and run into pot shots. From that moment on Ituarte was in control of the fight. No knockdowns were scored with one judge scoring it 98-92 and two others 100-89 for Ituarte. Each round was very competitive.

Other bouts

Corona’s Luis Lopez (5-0, 3 KOs) powered his way to victory by unanimous decision over Mexico’s Daniel Perales (10-17-2, 5 KOs) after four rounds in a welterweight match. Though Lopez won every round with sharper punches he was never able to hurt the super tough Mexican fighter from Monterrey. He recognized that early and used crisp combinations to win each round though Perales had his moments too. All three judges scored it 40-36 for Lopez.

A heavyweight fight saw local fighter Oscar Torres (5-0, 2 KOs) run his record to five wins with a fourth round stoppage over Houston’s Thomas Hawkins (4-4) after a barrage of punches. The fight was stopped twice in the fourth round and a final barrage of blows prompted referee Tony Crebs to halt the fight at 1:20 of the round. Torres fights out of Rialto, California and is trained by Henry Ramirez.

Lightweights Davonte McCowen (0-0-1) and Chris Crowley (0-0-1) fought to a majority draw after four torrid rounds. Both were making their pro debuts. McCowen started faster and slowed in the last two rounds that allowed Britain’s Crowley to mount a rally in the last two rounds. It was a spirited fight between the two newcomers.

Photo credit: Alonzo Coston

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