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Call Marvel Comics, Claressa Hammers Hammer in Making Like Wonder Woman

Bernard Fernandez



Shields Vs. Hammer

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Her effort was exemplary, but the superlatives that flowed like floodwaters after a dominant Claressa Shields fully unified the women’s middleweight boxing championship with a 10-round unanimous decision over Christina Hammer suggested that the two-time Olympic gold medalist from Flint, Mich., had suddenly risen to a place of singular achievement for a female fighter.

Forget more realistic comparisons to such past women’s pugilistic icons as Lucia Rijker and Laila Ali. To hear her most ardent supporters tell it, Shields has taken on the persona of a comic-book superhero. Think Wonder Woman, or maybe Captain Marvel.

“I think tonight’s fight will go down in the history books as an epic battle with the likes of Ali-Frazier, Leonard-Hearns and De La Hoya-Trinidad,” gushed Dmitriy Salita, president of Salita Promotions, whose enthusiasm ran wild when speaking about the emerging lead pony in his stable. “With this dominating and captivating performance, Claressa Shields is well on her way to being as revered as Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Robinson, Serena Williams, Michael Jordan, Pele and others at the top of their game.”

Also verbally genuflecting at the altar of Claressa was Mark Taffet, the former HBO executive who serves as her manager and one of her most ardent drum-beaters.

“You saw tonight a performance for the ages,” Taffet said at the postfight press conference in Boardwalk Hall. “This is a night for history. It’s her-story. Claressa Shields dreamed it, she willed it and she brought it to the table. She set out to be undisputed and she did it faster (in just her ninth pro bout) than anyone in the history of the sport. And she’s just beginning on her journey.”

Nor was the 23-year-old Shields (9-0, 2 KOs) inclined to aw-shucks her thorough thrashing of Hammer (24-1, 11 KOs) – two judges had her winning by 98-91 margins, the other by 98-92 — as just another day at her roped-off office. She can preen and posture with the cockiest of her male counterparts, and after paying the briefest of lip service to her vanquished German opponent, whom she conceded has a decent jab, she went the full Ali in proclaiming herself at this early stage of her professional career as the female GOAT.

“I thought I finished her in the eighth round. I thought I saw a white towel coming in the ring,” said Shields, who incorrectly believed that Hammer’s corner had surrendered prior to the beginning of the ninth round. “I was, like, `Oh, (crap). We got a knockout! I was so pumped. I thought the fight should have been stopped. She was holding on. She held me excessively. But I just told myself, `Stay cool, stay calm.’

“I wanted to land the perfect punch to get her out of there. (The judges) said 98-92 (and 98-91, twice). Give me 100-90. Give me my credit, man. I beat her ass every round.

“I am the greatest woman of all time!”

But being recognized as the best female fighter ever, a matter of some debate despite Team Shields’ breathless proclamations, could possibly stunt Shields’ long-range plans as much as to advance them. Asked what kind of follow-up bout could possibly match or top her dismissal of the highly regarded Hammer, Shields, who weighed 159.4 pounds for the Showtime-televised main event, said she thought she could pare down to 154 for a clear-the-decks go at Norway’s Cecilia Braekhus (35-0, 9 KOs), the undisputed women’s welterweight champion, or bulk back up to super middleweight for a revenge clash with the United Kingdom’s Savannah Marshall (5-0, 3 KOs), who handed her the only loss of her career, amateur or pro, prior to the 2012 London Olympics.

“I want to fight Cecilia Braekhus at 154,” said Shields, who not only added Hammer’s 160-pound WBO title to the IBF, WBC and WBA belts she already held, but was presented with The Ring magazine’s first women’s championship belt as well. “Bring it on, baby. That’s who I want next. If not her, give me Savannah Marshall. I’ll kill her.”

What about a possible rematch with Hammer, 28, who had held titles in three different weight classes dating back to October 2010?

“She was better than me,” Hammer conceded. “Sometimes s— in boxing happens. But I am a champion and a champion for a long time. I will come back stronger.”

But a do-over with Shields might prove a tough sell to the public after such a one-sided affair that most would presume would result in a repeat of the original. The gap between Hammer and Shields was never more evident than in round eight, when Shields likely would have scored a KO were it not for the two-minute rounds as currently mandated in women’s boxing.

“Can we get three-minute rounds now?” wondered Shields, who on May 31 will receive the second annual Christy Martin Award as 2018’s Female Fighter of the Year from the  Boxing Writers Association of America. “I think I proved (women) can do 10 rounds and two minutes a round, but in order for women to get knockouts, in order for women to get equal pay, we need 12 rounds and three minutes.”

No doubt Shields struck a blow for gender equity, or for the narrowing of the gender inequity gap. But if she thinks she someday can command the kind of multimillion-dollar purses that routinely went or go to Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Canelo Alvarez, that ain’t ever gonna happen. If she fights and pummels Braekhus as she did Hammer, an already shallow talent pool of possible opponents will get even more shallow, as likely victims will want to be compensated far more handsomely than the market is apt to bear. Maybe three-minute rounds will eventually happen, but Shields might soon discover that there is such a thing in boxing as a fighter being too good for his (or her) own good.

The seven-bout card in the Adrian Phillips Ballroom at Boardwalk Hall featured another women’s world title bout, with Argentina’s Brenda Karen Carabajal (16-4-1, 9 KOs) claiming the vacant IBF featherweight belt with a 10-round unanimous decision over Russia’s Elena Gradinar (9-1, 2 KOs).

There were three male heavyweight fights, two of which featured young up-and-comers and the other a grizzled former world champion who could be nearing the end of a long and mostly productive career.

Jermaine Franklin (18-0, 13 KOs), the 25-year-old prospect from Saginaw, Mich., scored a 10-round, unanimous decision over veteran Rydell Booker (25-2, 12 KOs), of Detroit, the 38-year-old ex-con from Detroit who lost 13 years from his promising career after being found guilty of felony possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. Franklin might yet develop into the best young American heavyweight as projected by some, but Booker was no more than semi-impressed, saying, “He needs a lot of work. He stays too centered with his head. But he’s all right. What he has on his side is youth.”

At least Franklin got in some needed work. Swedish southpaw Otto Wallin (20-0, 14 KOs), who was making his U.S. debut, never made it through the first round as he and Nick Kisner (21-4-1, 6 KOs), of Baltimore, inadvertently clashed heads early on in their scheduled 10-rounder. Kisner suffered a cut over his right eye that was deemed serious enough by the ring physician that a no-contest was declared. That had to be a disappointment for Wallin, who came as the fifth-ranked heavyweight in the world by both the IBF and WBA. “To me, (Kisner’s) cut didn’t look that bad,” said Wallin, 28. “It’s a shame because I trained really hard for this fight and was looking to put on a show for fans in America.”

Samuel Peter (37-7, 30 KOs) briefly held the WBC heavyweight title, but that was many pounds and long ago. Now 38, the erstwhile “Nigerian Nightmare,” who resides in Las Vegas, had pared down from 330-plus pounds last September to the 259 he weighed for his scheduled 10-rounder against Mexican journeyman Mario Heredia (16-6-1, 13 KOs). Although Peter did score a second-round knockdown and was seven points up on one judge’s card, Heredia came away with the upset when the other two judges favored him by margins of 77-74 and 76-75. “I just came off a layoff,” said the disappointed Peter. “I need to go home, practice more and see if I can come back again.”

In other bouts, super bantamweight Marcus Bates (9-1-1, 8 KOs), of Washington, D.C. scored the only TKO of the evening when Jesse Angel Hernandez 9-12-3, 7 KOs) did not come out for the fourth round of their scheduled eight-rounder, and Atlantic City middleweight Isiah Seldon (13-2-1, 4 KOs), son of former WBA heavyweight champ Bruce Seldon, overcame a first-round knockdown to post a six-round unanimous decision over Bryan Goldsby (5-10), of Macon, Ga.

Photo credit: Stephanie Trapp / SHOWTIME

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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600 Days and Counting: The Dillian Whyte ‘Conspiracy’

Matt McGrain




As the dust settles on a quite extraordinary month in the heavyweight division, as the plans of Matchroom Promotions and the once pre-eminent Anthony Joshua lie in ruins and as the unlikely figure of Andy Ruiz takes Joshua’s place on a podium only big enough for three with the everyman Tyson Fury and the murderous Deontay Wilder already sequestered there, a little-noted but relevant anniversary slips by almost unnoticed. Dillian Whyte will this week spend his six-hundredth day as the WBC’s number one contender.

For the entirety of that period of time, Deontay Wilder (“an idiot” among other more nefarious things, according to Whyte) has worn the WBC’s trinket. Whyte, during that period, has gone from forcefully calling out the strapholder after increasingly more meaningful heavyweight victories, to shrugging his shoulders.

“I don’t know, it’s frustrating,” the British heavyweight recently told IFL. “[The WBC] are like the FBI. They dig up Tweets where I’ve liked something and say I’ve been disrespectful.  Eddie [Hearn] keeps telling me this week, next week. Let’s see.”

We did see, the same week as the broadcast of this interview, as Deontay Wilder announced he would first rematch Luis Ortiz before rematching Tyson Fury, seemingly freezing Whyte out once more. Assuming a Wilder victory and assuming, then, a Wilder-Fury clash for early 2020, further assuming Wilder manages to improve on the first fight where he was soundly outboxed by Fury, summer of 2020 would seem to be the earliest opportunity for Wilder and Whyte to meet.

By that time, close to 1,000 days will have elapsed between Whyte being named the number one contender to Wilder’s heavyweight belt and the fight actually coming off.  Between now and that time lie so many foibles that the WBC’s recent announcement that Whyte will be the mandatory should he prove victorious over Oscar Rivas next month is so fraught with peril as to be almost meaningless.

“Why does [WBC Chariman] Mauricio Sulaiman let Deontay do this?” Whyte quite reasonably asks. “They should call it the Wilder Boxing Council. They allow him to do whatever he wants. He’s fought two mandatorys in four years. I think I’ll [be made to] wait another two years. I don’t know what’s going on. It’s some kind of conspiracy against me.”

It seems unlikely that Whyte is conspired against in the truest sense of the word, but he could be deemed a problem nobody, least of all Wilder, needs. Eddie Hearn has seemed to some reluctant to throw his full promotional weight behind Whyte in the same way he has Joshua, and the enormous price that Hearn paid to obtain a shot at a strap then belonging to Charles Martin should  not be forgotten. Wilder, of course, is a different and more promotionally powerful animal but the static that failed attempts to broker a fight between Joshua and Wilder has inflicted upon Hearn’s more half-hearted attempts to get Whyte into the same ring should not be underestimated. Hearn has made few friends in the Wilder camp and it seems Whyte has been suffering for it – and for Hearn’s preferential treatment of his prized asset, Joshua.

Still, it must be noted that Whyte’s ascension to the number one spot was hardly resounding. In October of 2017, Whyte was coming off a weird, one-sided victory over Robert Helenius, who took the fight with Whyte on short notice and managed to stagger the Brit in the second round. Whyte did what he had to do in closing out a wide decision on the cards, there is no question of that, but that made him, by TBRB rankings, the worlds #7 heavyweight, behind, among others, Wilder, Joshua, Joseph Parker and Luis Ortiz.  Furthermore, although the WBC express a preference that their #1 contender receive a title-shot, #1 is not the same as mandatory and Whyte certainly held no such status at that time. Even today Whyte is almost universally rated behind Andy Ruiz, Fury, Wilder and Joshua, who defeated him in 2015. So the fact that the WBC have been in no rush to anoint him mandatory in some respect makes sense.

Dillian Whyte has fought for a distressing number of WBC baubles in recent times, including the WBC International Silver title and a second “silver” title with a slightly different name. In the industry this is known as “choosing the path” and Whyte chose the WBC. Money in sanctioning fees exchanges hands whenever these titles are on the line.

Here is the single biggest disaster in boxing’s weed-ridden garden: fight fans are not the customers of the alphabet ranking organizations. Fighters are the customers of the alphabet ranking organizations. When Whyte starts paying for the dubious privilege of fighting for these bangles he becomes a customer of the WBC. The WBC then shows a preference to its customer over its non-customers. This is how Whyte comes to be ranked ahead of Joshua and Fury, men who are not WBC customers, when almost every boxing observer would agree that this is unreasonable.

So the WBC place themselves in a position where a questionable #1 contender is named and then ignored. Ignoring that #1 contender in favor of, for example, Tyson Fury who received a shot at the WBC trinket, is objectively justifiable but organizationally untenable.  In naming a number one contender and supporting a champion who publicly declares his determination to ignore that number one contender, the WBC place themselves in an unsubstantiated position and Whyte in an unjustifiable predicament. The WBC have taken Whyte’s money and elevated him accordingly then failed to follow through on their implied promise.

Finally however, after six-hundred days of waiting, Whyte has been offered the status of mandatory contender should he defeat Oscar Rivas. They also seem to be prepared, as a salve for the wounds they have heaped upon him, to generate, out of thin air, an additional championship belt for him to wave about while he waits for Wilder to finish his own business in his own sweet time, should he prove able to do so. A loss for Wilder against either Ortiz or Fury may leave Whyte high and dry once more. Fury, particularly, has been vocal in declaring himself immune to the machinations of alphabet organisations, refreshing and wonderful news for boxing, but potentially disastrous news for Whyte.

Furthermore, Rivas, unbeaten at 26-0 and dangling the legitimate scalp of Bryant Jennings from his belt, is no gimme. It is perhaps an exaggeration to suggest that in Joseph Parker, Dereck Chisora and now Rivas, Whyte is running a heavyweight murderer’s row, but he is certainly risking it all against the Columbian puncher and may yet find his six-hundred day wait is in vain. As the fight moves more sharply into focus behind the dramatically differing fortunes of Fury and Joshua, it is becoming clear that Whyte has a real task upon his hands and everything to lose.

Eddie Hearn has described the WBC as “fair people who will put this right” but the conduct of the WBC demonstrates they are anything but. Hearn, if truth is told, recognizes this fact, admitting that even the mandatory status is likely to land Whyte “a timing [for a fight with Wilder]” rather than a fight with Wilder and if Joshua-Ruiz tells us anything it tells us that a lot can happen between that timing being declared and the bell for round one. At the very least it seems that Whyte will have at least one more fight to negotiate after Rivas should he prevail in that contest.

Whyte perhaps hasn’t helped himself at times. He declined a second fight with Anthony Joshua, ostensibly due to Hearn’s demands on the price split for a mandatory rematch with Joshua should Whyte have been triumphant. He has been quick to launch tirades against potential money opponents on Twitter, most recently Tyson Fury after his victory over Tom Schwarz. Fury now refuses even to discuss Whyte whom he dismisses out of hand as a potential future opponent.

For all that, his abandonment by the WBC is a disgrace. They have named him the man most capable of dethroning their champion and then have done precisely nothing about making that fight happen. Whyte’s guess that he will be made to wait a further two years may prove to be near the mark; he will almost certainly have to wait another one.

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Literary Notes: Gerry Cooney and More

Thomas Hauser




Gerry Cooney’s life is a cautionary tale that, with a lot of effort on his part, has taken a happy turn.

Beaten physically and emotionally in childhood by an abusive father, Cooney turned to boxing and was one of the hardest punching heavyweights of all time. At age 25, he was on the cover of Time Magazine. On June 11, 1982, he took Larry Holmes into the thirteenth round on a night when Holmes was as good a fighter as he had ever been before or would be again.

If Cooney had beaten Holmes, he would have been the biggest sports superstar in America. But by then, the seeds of self-destruction had been sown. Alcohol and drug abuse were undermining his potential as a fighter and wreaking havoc on his personal life. He’s happy now – a loving husband and father – and has been clean for more than thirty years.

Cooney’s story is told in Gentleman Gerry (Rowman & Littlefield), a book co-authored with John Grady. Before discussing the book, I should make full disclosure. Gerry is a friend. We have lunch together on a regular basis. We sit together at fights. I know him as someone who’s thoughtful, generous, and admirably self-aware with regard to the road he has traveled. That makes reading Gentleman Gerry frustrating because of the manner in which his journey is chronicled.

Famous people often collaborate with a third party to tell their story. But almost always, the story is recounted in the subject’s voice. Gentleman Gerry is told in Grady’s voice. “I” and “me” are used only in places where Grady inserts himself into the narrative. Thus, an intensely personal journey becomes less personal and its emotional impact is dulled. Thoughts that would have been powerful coming directly from Gerry’s mouth are less so when filtered through Grady’s retelling.

Too often, the writing lapses into stilted flowery prose. For example, writing about meeting Gerry for the first time to discuss working together on the book, Grady recounts, “The morning sun gently blanketed the dining establishment’s well-maintained patio, providing a welcomed balance to the cool invigorating breeze that persistently greeted the diners.”

That’s accompanied by unnecessary hyperbole. Jimmy Young is referenced as one of “the greatest talents the [heavyweight] division ever produced.” Sportscaster Len Berman is “legendary” and heavyweight contender Ron Lyle is a “legend.”

Assertions such as the claim that Jack Johnson has been “largely unappreciated by history” lead one to wonder what history Grady has been reading. We’re told that Mike Tyson experienced “a stable nuturing environment” when he lived with Cus D’Amato in Catskill. But we now know that was hardly the case. Grady calls Holmes-Cooney the first “authentic megafight” of the post-Ali era. This shortchanges Ray Leonard’s encounters with Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran. He also tells us that Cooney and Holmes were guaranteed $10 million each for their battle. But Holmes was in the clutches of Don King at the time. His purse was less than one-third of that amount.

We’re never told what it felt like when Gerry was being punched in the face by his father. What could have been a fascinating window into Gerry’s mind – an exchange of blows that resulted when a bullying high school football coach challenged him to a sparring session in the school wrestling room – is reduced to two paragraphs.

There are flashes of good writing. Referencing the euphoria in the moments after Gerry’s 54-second demolition of Ken Norton, Grady writes, “There was no future nor past – just the moment.”

But that night, the good part of Gerry’s career came to an end. He tried cocaine for the first time.

Grady writes at length about the perils of substance abuse in an often clinical style.

Re alcohol: “Given his genetics and the power of his addiction symptoms, Gerry’s addiction was activated upon his first introduction to chemicals. The first drink is a landmark one for an alcoholic. It is a time when experimentation – with the user unaware of the horrific consequences to be paid – unites genetics, social learning behaviors, and the brain-changing processes to manifest the disease of addiction. It is a self-activated illness.”

And cocaine: “As people turn to substances, not only to deal with negative emotions but also to prolong and heighten positive ones, they develop tolerance. This leads to increased use to get the same high which only works for a while. In time, substances are required simply to feel ‘normal’ and, later, to avoid the horrors of physical withdrawal.”

But Grady never tells us how Gerry experienced being high. Don’t just tell me that he was snorting cocaine. Show me!

Gentleman Gerry is most satisfying when Gerry is allowed to speak for himself. “I want to talk about what happened and maybe change some things for today’s fighters, hopefully help some people out along the way,” he’s quoted as saying. “I had a great career, had a lotta fun, a lot of troubles. I look back and it’s tough to think about what could have been. But then I think I’m lucky as hell. There are guys of my generation walking on their heels, not able to enjoy life. If I became champion of the world, who knows, maybe I’d be one of those guys. I’ve had a lot of great times, met a lot of great people. I’m very fortunate. That’s the bottom line. And I’m able to appreciate all of it.”

In sum, Gerry Cooney looks back on his life with understanding. He’s happy and satisfied with where he is today. But there’s a tinge of regret that, with all the assets he had to work with, a good career as a fighter could have been better. That’s how I feel about this book.

*    *    *

Randy Gordon (former chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission who now co-hosts a boxing talk show on SiriusXM with Gerry Cooney) has written a memoir entitled Glove Affair (Rowman & Littlefield).

There’s a detailed account of Don King and WBC president Jose Sulaiman trying to bribe Gordon with a huge stack of hundred-dollar bills in the hope that Gordon would set aside Mike Tyson’s managerial contract with Bill Cayton. Readers will also find an intriguing and extremely unflattering portrait of longtime NYSAC staff member Marvin Kohn.

Then there’s Nat Fleischer, who founded The Ring in 1922 and reigned supreme at the magazine until his death fifty years later.

Gordon holds the legendary Fleischer in high regard. But as boxing historian Craig Hamilton noted recently, “Too often, Fleischer represented his personal opinion as fact. And even when he was just reporting facts, there were too many things he got wrong. Also,” Hamilton added, “as Fleischer advanced through life, he held onto the belief that the fighters he saw and read about when he was young were the best ever. He idolized fighters like Stanley Ketchel and built them up to be more than they were. The magazine was less biased than his books because it had to appeal to contemporary fans. But even there, there were problems.”

In 1969, Gordon, then a student at Long Island University, met Fleischer. “Here are the top ten heavyweights of all time,” Fleischer told him. Then he handed Gordon a list:

  1. Jack Johnson
  2. James J. Jeffries
  3. Bob Fitzsimmons
  4. Jack Dempsey
  5. James J. Corbett
  6. Joe Louis
  7. Sam Langford
  8. Gene Tunney
  9. Max Schmeling
  10. Rocky Marciano

Joe Louis #6? No Muhammad Ali? No Sonny Liston? That’s not a good list.

Thomas Hauser’s email address is His most recent book –  Protect Yourself at All Times — was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism.

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Andrew Cancio Repeats Upset Victory over Puerto Rico’s Alberto Machado





(By special correspondent Tarrah Zeal) INDIO, Ca.-Andrew Cancio showed the boxing world his first win over Alberto Machado was no fluke. Cancio (21-4-2, 16 KO)s retained his WBA super featherweight title belt by a third-round knockout.

“I feel like the fight is going to end the way the first fight ended,” Cancio said in a conference call several weeks prior to Friday’s rematch at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, CA.

Before a sold-out crowd, the fighter from Blythe, Calif. who goes by the name “Chango” repeated his win of four months ago and delivered Machado (21-2, 17 KOs) to a heavier weight division with the loss.

In the opening three minutes of round one, Machado came out stronger and more focused than he did in their first match back in February. There was back and forth action between the two, but overall Machado landed the cleaner and more effective blows. A nice left uppercut upon the chin of Machado ended the first round, but he was able to take it well.

Machado, looking to get his revenge, caused a cut over Cancio’s left eye at the start of the second round. A quick and powerful flurry of punches created an uproar in the crowd as Cancio attacked Machado.

Despite Machado’s efforts to keep his distance, Cancio walked him down to continue fighting on the inside. After Cancio landed multiple body shots, he staggered Machado in the end of the round, giving him trouble in finding his corner after the attack.

In the early seconds of round three, Cancio landed a vicious left hook and a flurry of combinations, pounding away upon Machado’s body in efforts to keep him on the defense. Then a left hook to the body forced Machado to the take a knee and he could not beat the count. The official time was 1:01 of the third frame.

Cancio’s impressive showing was further affirmation that he is here to stay in the super featherweight division. Possibilities for upcoming battles include unification matches with Rene Alvarado, Gervonta Davis and Tevin Farmer.

Machado claimed, “Look I was ready to get up and the referee decided to stop the fight, I wanted to keep going.” But wobbly legs showed us otherwise.

Soto Takes WBO Title from Acosta

In the co-main event, scheduled for 12-rounds, Angel “Tito” Acosta (19-2, 19 KOs) of San Juan, Puerto Rico made his fifth world title defense against Elwin Soto (14-1. 10 KOs) of Mexicali, Mexico.

In a shocker, Mexicali’s Soto scored a 12th round TKO. It was an intense fight up until the last round and ended in controversy over the question of whether the referee had prematurely stopped the fight.

This light flyweight battle began right away with an action-packed opening round. By round three Soto had Acosta in trouble. A big left hand and right cross combo sent Acosta to the floor. When Acosta made it to his feet, Soto showed no mercy but Acosta survived the round.

In round four, a huge right hand from Soto had Acosta hurt and a double left hook had Acosta evading the power and staying out of range of Soto. But with so much at stake, Acosta stayed into the fight and actually took control in the middle rounds, landing multiple combinations to  Soto’s head and body.

Entering the later rounds, Acosta began to outwork his opponent. It was clear Acosta had regained control of the fight heading into the final round.

As the bell for the last round clanged, Acosta opened up bombs on Soto and the Mexican fighter curled up with his hand covering his face. In an attempt to engage back, Soto countered with a powerful left hook to the chin that stunned Acosta and sent him back against the ropes. Soto rushed Acosta and began to throw body combos but not before referee Thomas Taylor stepped in. The fight, an outright war, was waived off after only 23 seconds had elapsed in round 12.

The controversial stoppage infuriated Acosta.  Soto was jubilant. “This victory means a lot and I dedicate this belt to my family,” said the the new WBO light flyweight champion. “To be honest I thought I was going to lose and thank God I landed that punch and won the fight”.

“Sure he hurt me but it wasn’t enough for the stoppage.” said the downtrodden former champion who said he would welcome a rematch (and I’m sure boxing fans wouldn’t be opposed to that).

In the main preliminary, a 10-round super lightweight contest, Milwaukee’s Luis Feliciano (12-0, 8 KOs) of Milwaukee, Wisconsin remained undefeated with a seventh round stoppage of veteran Fernando Carcamo (23-10, 18 KOs) of Sonora, Mexico. Feliciano trains with boxing star trainer Ben Lira.

Feliciano landed a left hook that stunned the southpaw Carcamo in round one, but Carcamo was able to take the punch. Round by round, Feliciano began to pick apart his opponent, landing great combinations and big left hands but Carcamo, who had been stopped five previous times, was determined to show he deserved to be in the ring with Feliciano and continued to move forward. But Feliciano eventually finished him, unloading a series of rights that folded Carcamo to the canvas.

In the DAZN TV opener, Las Vegas, Nevada’s Blair “The Flair” Cobbs — a flamboyant character inside and outside of the ring — took on Houston’s Robert Redmond Jr. (7-2-2, 6 KOs) in a scheduled 8-round welterweight battle.

In round one, Cobbs (11-0-1, 7 KOs) aggressively showboated, throwing wild but powerful punches, forcing Redmond to adjust to his style. Both fighters came out swinging but a left hook to the chin of Redmond stunned him in the first round.

Within 30 seconds of round 2, a right hand to the chin had Redmond on the canvas. Another wild but big right-hand backed Redmond up against the ropes as he tried to figure out the awkward and wild style of Cobbs.

By round three, Redmond’s right eye started to swell. Before the start of round five, the doctor was called in to examine it and let the fight continue.  Fighting with a sense of urgency, Redmond landed a straight right hand to Cobbs chin, but the more experienced fighter used his stamina to finish Redmond off with powerful blows to the body. At the 1:52 mark of round six, at the request of Redmond’s corner, the referee stopped the bout.

Other Bouts

The first bout of the night was a four-round battle in the middleweight division. The fight, an all-action affair between Clay Collard of Cache Valley, Utah (1-1-2) and Emilio Rodriguez (3-1-1, 2 KO) of Van Nuys, California, ended in a draw. One judge had it 40-36 for Rodriguez but the other two had it 38-38.

In a 4-round super bantamweight match, 19-year-old Anthony Garnica (3-1, 2 KOs) of Oakland, CA took on 30-year-old Gilberto Duran from Yakima, WA (3-2, 3 KOs).

A decorated amateur, trained by Manny Robles (who also trains heavyweight champ Manny Robles), Garnica dominated the contest, winning by scores of 40-35 on all three cards.

Also, undefeated Aaron McKenna (8-0, 5 KO) of Monoghan, Ireland, scored a second round stoppage over Daniel Perales (10-18-2) of Monterrey, Mexico.  The official time was 0:42.

“Once I landed the first hard shot, I knew he wouldn’t be able to take more. I stepped it up, and that’s how I got the second-round victory.” said McKenna after his win.

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