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THE WYLIE PICK: Dawson By Decision..But Don't Count Out Hopkins

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HopkinsDawson Hogan20Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson:

in Atlantic City, on HBO
12 rounds, for Hopkins' lineal light heavyweight title

Bernard Hopkins has been here before. As we head into Saturday night's light heavyweight title showdown, the 47 year-old Philadelphia native finds himself in the underdog role yet again. It's not difficult to see why. At 29 years-old, Chad Dawson is eighteen years Bernard's junior – an unbelievable age deficit between two competitors in a world title bout of this magnitude. Not only that, but you can also throw in the fact that Dawson could also be the more skilled fighter. Dawson's athleticism along with his technical skills are what made Floyd Mayweather Jr once declare that Chad Dawson, not Manny Pacquiao, was the best fighter on the planet, pound for pound [during Floyd's exile of course]. At 6 '1'' – although he seems taller – and with a 77-inch reach, Dawson possesses the type of physicalities that would be problematic for any light heavyweight, let alone for a light heavyweight like Hopkins who has almost outlasted the twilight of his career. At his absolute apex, Dawson is able to sync all of his talents together, combining his southpaw stance, speed and length, to keep his opponents on the end of his offense by throwing jabs and combinations without putting himself at risk. Should his jab be breeched, he is more than proficient on inside fighting – his lead hand work to the body along with his defense in close are of the highest order.

During the last fight between Hopkins and Dawson, there appeared to be a pattern emerging, despite the bout lasting a little over the first round. From the opening bell, Dawson was the fighter who looked the more assertive. Bernard was backing up early as Dawson, using long strides, stalked Hopkins around the perimeter of the ring. Even though there were not many punches thrown and landed from either fighter, it was Dawson who appeared to be the busier {Hopkins was 11/29 and Dawson was 7/55 in total punches} and it was Dawson who appeared to have gained the upper hand in ring generalship. I was actually amazed at how much bigger Dawson looked next to Bernard, who at 6-1 and with a 75-inch reach, is actually of a similar size to Dawson.

In the ring, not only does Hopkins pride himself on being the superior technician, but he also takes great pride in being the more positive minded fighter. It has to be said, Bernard looked a little pensive by Dawson's demeanor during the opening stages of their first fight. On the other hand, Hopkins, who is a thinking fighter, may have intended on using those early rounds merely to analyse his opponent.

While I think there may have been a pattern emerging during the very early stages of Hopkins' last fight, there is already a definitive pattern that already exists with regards to Bernard Hopkins career as a whole. Every time Bernard has been the heavy underdog – like he is again with Dawson – he has somehow managed to produce a display for the ages. Heading into his bouts with Felix Trinidad, Antonio Tarver, Kelly Pavlik and Jean Pascal, many thought Hopkins was in well over his head. The final outcome? Some of the finest systematic deconstructions of a fighter you are likely to see – courtesy of Bernard Hopkins. That's the thing with Hopkins, there always seems to be the questionable performance – Talyor, Calzaghe, Jones 2 -before the great performance. Last time out, Hopkins probably put in his most questionable and controversial performance to date – many claim Hopkins was faking it when he was unable to continue because of a shoulder injury – against Dawson. If history were to repeat itself, we can all anticipate something special from The Executioner this Saturday. After all, Hopkins may be 47, but he is still an elite level fighter.

Hopkins' best asset may well be his ability to take his opponent's best asset away from them. Everything starts with defense for Bernard, which he uses to set up his counters and to smother on the inside. Bernard is also a master at laying traps for his opponent. Using his brilliant sense of distance and timing, he drops his lead hand to draw leads from his opponent – he did this repeatedly against Jean Pascal, setting up his counter right hand. His encyclopedic boxing knowledge and supernatural conditioning, along with his solid fundamentals, have lead to him remaining relevant for far longer than anyone could ever have imagined. There is no doubting Bernard's credentials going into this fight. Chad Dawson maybe the betting favourite going in, but Bernard is not here to merely make up the numbers.

Having said all this, I'm not sure that Hopkins will be able to dominate Dawson like he has with some of his more transparent opponents in the past. Let's take a look at the very fighters who Hopkins has prospered against. Felix Trinidad, Kelly Pavlik and Jean Pascal {Pascal may be more layered than Pavlik and Trinidad, but in reality, he can only fight one way} could be all put in the same category – aggressive, one dimensional punchers who are not able to adapt in the ring. If there is an obvious weapon in an opponent that can be exposed, rest assured, Hopkins will find it and neutralize it. {Hard to imagine now, but all of these one dimensional opponents were the heavy betting favourites against Hopkins.}

Contrast this with the type of fighter that Hopkins has somewhat struggled with; Roy Jones, Winky Wright {Hopkins did struggle with Wright's southpaw angles and defense), Jermain Taylor and Joe Calzaghe. The commonality among those fighters? Mobility, speed and volume. Wright and Calzaghe, like Dawson, are also southpaws. Missing in these fighters repetoire? An obvious offensive tool that could be taken away – Dawson fits perfectly into this, the more versatile category of opponent who Bernard Hopkins has not thrived against.

There are exceptions to the rule of course. Antonio Tarver is one of the better boxers Hopkins has faced, and he, like Dawson, is also a southpaw. However, there is a significant difference between the two southpaws. Against Tarver, Hopkins was able to remain on the outside and fall in with straight, sneaky right hand leads from bell to bell. A look at the punchstats in that fight shows that of 133 landed punches for Hopkins, 123 of those were power shots, namely straight right hand leads. Hopkins didn't need a jab against Tarver [ he only landed 7 jabs throughout the entire fight]. By staying on the outside, Hopkins could control the pace and distance of the fight, and because Tarver couldn't land his own jab often enough {only 30 jabs landed throughout the whole fight}. Hopkins could afford to focus his entire offense on single power shots – once he took away Tarver's left power hand by moving away from it, the fight was over. Tarver could not adapt.

Dawson on the other hand, is a converted southpaw – his left hand from the southpaw stance has hurt opponents in the past, but his lead hand work {right} may be even more impressive. This is the dilemma that Hopkins faces. The key to fighting a southpaw is knowing which way to move. Against Tarver, the evasive direction was obvious for Hopkins. The conventional way to move against a southpaw, is to move away from the southpaw's left hand, which means an orthodox fighter should move to their left. But I believe Dawson, who hits harder and has more variety with his lead right hand than Tarver, placed doubt in Hopkins' mind early in their last fight because of this. If Hopkins is moving to his left, then he is walking straight onto Dawson's lead right hand, which will be coming from outside Hopkins' line of vision. One other thing, the Hopkins-Tarver fight was back in 2006, Hopkins had a significant hand and foot speed advantage over Tarver in that fight, which is something he will be conceding against Dawson. We must ask ourselves, can Bernard still fight effectively backing up, using his legs for twelve hard rounds anymore? It takes alot more energy backing up for twelve rounds than it does going forward.

Last time out against Dawson, Hopkins appeared to be employing the exact same strategy that was used in the two Jermain Taylor fights – circling out of range, slowing down the pace of the fight before leaping in with his sneaky right hand lead. The problem here though, is if this shot isn't landing for Hopkins, then he runs the risk of being outworked. This is what happened against Jermain Taylor on two separate occasions. While Hopkins was thinking, feinting, moving and positioning himself, looking to land his right hand, Taylor was jabbing, racking up points and winning the fight.

If we take a look at the moment of the incident in the last fight between Hopkins and Dawson, Hopkins ended up on Dawson's back after a missed right hand lead, which was well scouted and slipped by Dawson. It's hard to imagine Bernard coming in with the same naive tactics that he brought into the last fight. Surely Bernard must realize that there isn't much chance of him winning from the outside, throwing infrequently, in a fight that is likely going the distance, against an opponent who will be pressing the attack behind a persistent jab. If Bernard believes this is the key to defending his light heavyweight crown on Saturday, then Dawson will likely be the one leaving with the gold.

Alternatively, Bernard must try and get inside of the Dawson jab, where he certainly won't be greeted with open arms – Dawson is very good defensively at close quarters. Hopkins has more things going for him at this range against Dawson, then he would from the outside against Dawson – I'm not sure Hopkins can be the busier fighter from the outside, but he can be the busier and better fighter in close. Dawson's workrate and volume must be restricted in order for Bernard to be in with a legitimate chance on the scorecards {can anyone see Bernard stopping Dawson?}. Although it's not what most spectators will wish for, Bernard has to put some sourness into his sweet science. This means the crafty veteran will have to maul, smother and try and rough Dawson up using every trick he knows. Hopkins is very effective at tying an opponent up in close and nailing them with his free hand – illegally so when the official is blindsided. If Dawson retaliates with anger, Hopkins could take advantage as Hopkins is a master of ring psychology, and there have been occasions in the past when Dawson has appeared to be a little disinterested and lethargic – almost as if boredom has set in. Such emotions against Hopkins will surely be made to pay.

Yes, Dawson has tasted defeat before. But in order for Hopkins to utilise the same strategy that Dawson conquerer Jean Pascal used, Hopkins would have to be someone he is not. Jean Pascal had success against Dawson through exploding in with sporadic bursts at great speed and with variation. Pascal was throwing punches in bunches which is something Hopkins hasn't or cannot do. Besides, Dawson was giving the impression that he had Pascal figured out as he was coming on strong late in the fight and seemed to be in with a great chance of scoring a late stoppage.

This really is a tough fight for Bernard to win. Dawson's blend of fast hands, athleticism, solid technical skills, defense and strength seem to be the very attributes that have been Bernard's kryptonite in the past. I am of the belief that Chad Dawson is a pound for pound talent, in his prime, who possesses a style that does not accommodate that of Bernard's. Also worrying for Hopkins, is the fact that during his last two full outings against Jean Pascal, Hopkins, a defensive master, was hit clean and more often than he has ever been hit throughout the rest of his career combined – maybe a significant sign that his advanced years have finally caught up with him?

And yet as I write this, there is still a part of me that thinks Bernard Hopkins may actually pull it off. If he did, then it must surely be regarded as the greatest night of his already legendary hall of fame career – a win here for Hopkins would propel him to brand new heights, in terms of his all time status.

Prediction:

Dawson, via a close, maybe even split decision, in a fight that mirrors the Hopkins-Taylor fights. Hopkins will probably land the cleaner shots, while Dawson will land more often.

It's hard to look beyond a decision win for Dawson. It's not inconceivable to think that he may hold every single physical and stylistic advantage over his older opponent. However, if anyone can pull off the upset, Bernard Hopkins can. He has after all, been here before.

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Three Punch Combo: Jacobs-Derevyanchenko on HBO, Baranchyk-Yigit and More

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This Saturday, Daniel Jacobs (34-2, 29 KO’s) takes on Sergiy Derevyanchenko (12-0, 10 KO’s) for the vacant IBF middleweight title. The fight, which headlines an HBO World Championship Boxing tripleheader, is highly anticipated in boxing circles as on paper it is an evenly matched contest with a wide range of potential outcomes. The fight also bears an eerie resemblance to another middleweight title fight from more than twenty years ago.

On March 16th, 1996, then IBF middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins (28-2-1, 21 KO’s) faced off against the IBF’s number one ranked contender in Joe Lipsey (25-0, 20 KO’s). Opinions were split as to who would come out as the victor. It was televised live in the United States on ABC in the afternoon and served as a precursor for that evening’s big pay-per-view event between Mike Tyson and Frank Bruno.

Hopkins, 31 at the time, had fought much better opposition and those who favored him thought his experience along with his better athleticism would lead him to victory. Lipsey, who was 29, had a burgeoning reputation in the fight game and was known for his relentless pressure style. In addition, he had displayed devastating one punch knockout power in both hands that had many thinking he had a bright future in the sport.

It was the experience and ring savviness of Hopkins versus the untapped raw potential of Lipsey.

As it played out, Hopkins’ skill proved too much for Lipsey. After effectively out-boxing and neutralizing the aggression of Lipsey for three rounds, Hopkins landed a perfectly placed counter right uppercut using Lipsey’s forward momentum against him that instantly ended matters. It was a statement making performance for Hopkins.

Jacobs, 31, is in a similar spot to that of Hopkins when he faced Lipsey. With two losses on his ledger, Jacobs is in need of a statement making victory. One of those losses was to Gennady Golovkin and, of course, Hopkins entered the Lipsey contest with one of his losses to all-time great Roy Jones Jr.

Jacobs holds a significant experience edge in the pro game compared to that of Derevyanchenko. Jacobs is also the more athletic fighter. Similar to that of Hopkins against Lipsey, Jacobs will look to play the role of the boxer-puncher and use his experience along with athleticism to dictate the tempo of the fight.

Derevyanchenko, 32, comes in highly touted. Similar to Joe Lipsey in 1996, he enters with an undefeated record along with a glossy knockout percentage and many in the sport see a fighter with raw untapped potential.

The similarities between Jacobs-Derevyanchenko and Hopkins-Lipsey are striking. Will history repeat itself or will Derevyanchenko be able to rise to the occasion?

Baranchyk-Yigit

The World Boxing Super Series 140-pound tournament resumes this week with a pair of fights in New Orleans. While the fans will be mostly showing up to watch the main event between hometown rising star Regis Prograis (22-0, 19 KO’s) and Terry Flanagan (33-1, 13 KO’s), it is the other WBSS fight, pitting Ivan Baranchyk against Anthony Yigit for the vacant IBF title that piques my interest.

Baranchyk (18-0, 11 KOs) is well known to US fight fans from his multiple appearances on the ShoBox series on Showtime on which he has scored some highlight reel knockouts. He is an aggressive pressure fighter with heavy handed power. He has been showing signs of improved boxing skills of late and is coming off a career best performance in knocking out former world title challenger Petr Petrov.

Yigit (21-0-1, 7 KOs) is a former decorated amateur who participated in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. A southpaw with quick feet and good hand speed, Yigit is an excellent counterpuncher who is adept at using feints to bait his opponents to throw to set up counter opportunities. He is also very slick and uses good head movement, making him not an easy target to hit.

This is a classic matchup of an aggressive pressure fighter against a skilled slick boxer. Baranchyk has the buzz and will be favored, but Yigit’s style and skill could present a major challenge for him. It’s a very compelling fight,.

The Journey of Yuandale Evans

On April 24th, 2010 I hit the road to attend a club show in a suburb of Cleveland. I wanted to get a firsthand look at a local fighter named Yuandale Evans who was headlining the 6-fight card. The venue was a small indoor soccer complex and tickets were only $20. There was no assigned seating and I had no problem finding a ringside seat for the evening’s festivities.

Evans did not disappoint. Fighting in front of the sparse audience, he dispatched an opponent named Reymundo Hernandez in the first round. I liked what I saw from Evans and thought he had a bright future in boxing.

A year later, Evans found himself on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fight Series in a step-up fight against veteran Emmanuel Lucero. This was a coming out party for Evans as he impressively took apart the former world title challenger. There was speed, athleticism and power in his game and many took notice.

Nine months later, Evans found himself in a significant fight. It was another date on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fight Series but this time against a fellow undefeated fighter in Javier Fortuna. Fortuna had been getting a lot of buzz and if Evans could defeat him then he’d find himself on the brink of a world title opportunity.

On March 16th, 1996, then IBF middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins (28-2-1, 21 KO’s) faced off against the IBF’s number one ranked contender in Joe Lipsey (25-0, 20 KO’s). Opinions were split as to who would come out as the victor. It was te

But the Fortuna fight did not go well for Evans. As a matter of fact, it was disastrous.  Fortuna scored a vicious, highlight reel first round knockout of Evans, the kind of knockout loss that a lot of fighters never recover. from.

It appeared for a while that Evans would not get back in the game. Out for three years, he finally returned in 2015 with two wins against less than stellar competition. These wins were needed confidence boosters.

After those bounce back wins, it took another 17 months for Evans to return to the ring. This time it was his first major test since the Fortuna loss in facing Billel Dib. Brought in as the “B” side, Evans was supposed to be a name on the resume for Dib, but he flipped the script, scoring a clear ten round unanimous decision.

The win against Dib, which took place in the 130-pound division, put Evans back on the radar. But it was his next performance that put him into contention. Dropping down to featherweight and again coming in as the underdog, he scored a rousing split decision win against Louis Rosa in November of 2017 in a fiercely fought contest that received Fight of the Year consideration. Evans fought with passion and determination to secure the best win of his career.

Evans, now 20-1 with 14 KO’s, will challenge undefeated 130 pound champion Alberto Machado next week. Evans is once again an underdog and not many are giving him much of a chance. But if Evans fights like he did against Rosa and can stay inside on Machado, applying constant pressure, we could be in for another surprise.

Evans has come a long way since I first saw him fight at a small indoor soccer venue in Ohio and I for one do not discount his chances to lift Machado’s world title belt.

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Andrade Grabs Vacant WBO Middleweight Belt in Boston

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TD GARDEN​​ — It’s a good thing Eddie Hearn didn’t listen to the people who told him not to promote prizefighting in Boston. With all four major American sports in full swing in the city, Matchroom Boxing absolutely rocked the house as an equitable fan attraction in New England.The media was out in full force and so were the fans. At the final fight week press conference, Hearn introduced ESPN’s Dan Rafael before he even barked for his boxers. “You know it’s a big card when Dan Rafael shows up,” he said of the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer award winner for career excellence in journalism. Hearn knows it’s about building hype and that’s what he’s doing.

Sugar Ray Leonard was on the mic for DAZN. Paulie Malignaggi was doing the same for Sky Sports. I saw Micky Ward and Conor McGregor seated at ringside. Mike Tyson conqueror Kevin “The Clones Colossus” McBride was also spotted in the mix throughout the night.

“We did about five thousand in Chicago,” Hearn told me of his first Matchoom USA show October 6 on DAZN. Hearn expected about seven thousand for Boston, hoping for a good walk-up crowd. “I’m pleased with ticket sales. I’m pleased with the venue. If the fans are happy and enjoy a great night at the fights and if they want us back, we’d love to return,” he said.

Hearn’s originally scheduled main event fell apart in September when Billy Joe Saunders controversially failed VADA drug testing for the banned stimulant oxilofrine. “Unfortunately Billy Joe failed a drug test. I don’t think the Massachusetts Commission had any choice in denying him a license,” Hearn told me during the final fight week press conference at Fenway Park.

Saunders was to defend the WBO middleweight title against Providence, Rhode Island’s Demetrius Andrade. Instead, Saunders was stripped of his strap and unknown African champ Walter ​Kautondokwa stepped in to face Andrade for the vacant WBO 160 pound title. “I’m too old to fight nobodies now,” said the 30 year-old Andrade without a trace of irony. In fact, Andrade’s whole pro career has been carefully built on soft touches and vacant ABC championships.

Hearn’s undercard also suffered a hit when popular local junior welterweight Danny “BHOY” O’Connor pulled out of his bout against Tommy Coyle, citing injury. According to Hearn, “​O’Connor was working very hard in camp but I don’t think it was going particularly well.”

The live crowd in attendance at the Garden was loud and enthusiastic. In a full sized entertainment venue that seats close to twenty thousand fans and with promotional aspirations optimistically set at half that number (official attendance was listed at 6,874), your best chance to have seen these fights for yourself was on the emerging and effective streaming app DAZN.

For Brits stuck back home it was on Sky Sports.  For everybody else, I’m here to ringside report.

In the Main Event for the vacant WBO middleweight championship, Providence, Rhode Island’s Demetrius “Boo Boo” Andrade, 30, 160, 26-0 (16) dominated Namibian import Walter Kautondokwa, 33, 17-1 (16). ​A stablemate of former super lightweight champ Julius Indongo, Kautondokwa drew inspiration from his countryman’s international accomplishments in boxing. Indongo parlayed the WBO African title into an eventual unification showdown with Terence Crawford in Nebraska. “He’s definitely not stopping this train,” promised Andrade at the weigh-in.

He was right.

In the first round, ​Kautondokwa slipped to the canvas and Andrade hit him on the chin while he was on all fours. Referee Steve Willis ruled it a knockdown, rather than reacting to the foul. Kautondokwa pushed the action in the second but Andrade scored with the cleaner punches. In the third, Andrade scored a clean knockdown with a flush left hand to the chin. The challenger rose and answered the bell for the fourth down by two extra points. Kautondokwa went down again twice more in the fourth leaving Andrade with a look like, “What more do I have to do?”

As the rounds wore on and on, Andrade found the answer to be elusive, even if Kautondokwa wasn’t terribly so. His best power punches were either missing or being blocked, and Kautondokwa was proving durable. By the championship rounds, it was clear that Andrade wouldn’t be able to stop the train that was Kautondokwa. The energy in the live crowd suffered accordingly. Michael Buffer announced what was already known, that Andrade won a virtual shutout on the cards.  Scores were 120-104(2x) and 119-105.

“I did what I had to do. I could see that he was tough. It was good to get those twelve rounds in because I’ve been inactive,” said Andrade at the post-fight press conference. He also spoke of a fight week injury to his left shoulder that affected his performance and prevented a knockout. To be perfectly honest, it sounded like an excuse for not finishing off a badly hurt fighter.

In her de facto Irish Homecoming, Katie Taylor, 32, Bray, 11-0 (5) successfully defended her WBA/IBF female lightweight titles against the very experienced Cindy Serrano, 36, Brooklyn, 27-6-3 (10), over ten two-minute rounds. Serrano was moving up in weight to challenge Taylor, who’s already made two title defenses this year in London and in Brooklyn. Serrano was never in danger of being hurt or knocked out and Taylor was never in any danger of losing the fight.  Taylor won every round on all three cards 100-90.  “Cindy was just in there to survive,” said a disappointed Taylor.  Some fans jeered the “action” but it didn’t bother Serrano. “Eddie Hearn believes in female fighting. Hopefully he can turn it around and we can get a couple more promoters just like him.”

To make the first defense of his newly won IBF super featherweight championship, Philly southpaw Tevin “American Idol” Farmer, 27-4-1 (6), stopped Belfast KRONK’s James Tennyson, 22-3 (18) in five. During promotion for the title bout, it looked for all to see that Farmer was overlooking Tennyson with his focus squarely on a big money grudge match with Gervonta Davis. ​“I’m not overlooking James but I want to fight Tank Davis. I have to have that fight and it’s got to happen. Let’s leave the streets on the streets and fight in the ring. We’ve talked enough.”

In the ring, Farmer looked at his opponent and punched right through him. In the fourth frame, Farmer dropped Tennyson with a solid left hook to the body. It got no better for the Belfast native. The next round, Arthur Mercante stopped it when Tennyson fell again from body shots. ​In accepting the fight, Farmer’s promoter Lou DiBella didn’t want to deny his fighter the opportunity to appear on such a high profile card so he willingly worked with Hearn to make it happen.  Time of the TKO was @1:44 of the round 5.

In an IBF featherweight elimination bout scheduled for twelve, Evander Holyfield’s Toka Kahn Clary, Providence, R.I., 25-3 (17), dropped a pedestrian UD to Ingle Gym’s Kid Galahad, Sheffield, 25-0 (15). At the press conference in August to announce the match-up, there was bad blood in the air. “Toka is a bum,” a chippy Galahad told me at Boston’s Faneuil Hall. “He didn’t want this fight. He was talking trash so I called him a wanker and it got a little out of hand.”

“I’m gonna beat him,” Galahad promised.

At the final press conference, Galahad was demonstrably more peaceful. During the media face-off with Kahn, he offered his hand to shake but Toka just left it hanging there. “I’ve calmed down,” Kid told me. “Nothing personal, just business.” ​Is Toka a bum?​ “You can’t call him a bum.” ​You did Kid.​ “I might have gone over the top. Any fighter that gets in the ring you gotta have some respect for. Toka is gonna show up and my job is to make sure I do a job on him.”  Job well done, Kid.  Final scores were 118-110 twice and 115-113.

In an entertaining ten round junior welterweight scrap, Tommy “Boom Boom” Coyle, Hull, Yorkshire, U.K., 25-4 (12), outpointed Ryan Kielczweski, Quincy, Mass, 29-4 (11) over the distance. Unanimous scores were 99-90, 98-91 and 96-93. The “Polish Prince” substituted for Danny O’Connor against Coyle, a fighter TSS’s own Ted Sares expected Ryan to have had his hands full with in a knockout loss; describing Coyle as a “load” in the ring. In the seventh round, Kielczweski was felled by a massive right hand to the body and a vicious follow up left hook to the head. He took a long nine count but got up to then stalk a fading Coyle down the stretch.  “This is the most ready I’ve been for any fight,” Kielczweski told me before the bout. “I fought in September. A week later I got a call for this one so it’s like I’m on a ten week training camp.”

Coyle is a pressure fighter and an interesting character. Kielczweski struggled to keep him at bay but landed with several quality power shots of his own, many coming in the last three rounds—after the knockdown. Calling this his “American Dream” come true, Coyle grew up in England loving ROCKY movies and Irish Micky Ward fights. Tonight, he was almost in one.

In a super featherweight comeback bout, former super bantamweight and featherweight champion Scott Quigg, 30, Bury, U.K., 35-2-2 (26) made a successful return against journeyman Mexican Mario Briones, 29-8-2 (21), stopping him in two rounds with an unanswered three punch combination along the ropes. Trained by Freddie Roach, Quigg was defeated last March by WBO featherweight champion Oscar Valdez in a bruising non-title bout. Quigg suffered multiple facial laceration and a broken nose in the unanimous decision loss. “I want a rematch with Valdez and with Carl Frampton because I want to avenge my losses. If I’d be happy not fighting them again, I’d be in the wrong game,” a candid Quigg told me. “The work Freddie’s had me doing and the sparring I’m on, I feel like I’m a ten times better fighter now.”

In a junior middleweight rematch, Murphys Boxing U.S. Marine Mark “Bazooka” DeLuca, Whitman, Mass, 22-1 (13) outgunned Walter “2 Guns” Wright 37, Seattle, Washington 17-5 (8) to defeat the only man to have beaten him as a pro, winning 97-93, and 96-94 twice. From ringside I scored it 6-4 in rounds for DeLuca who scored well early with left hooks. Wright did well in the middle rounds on the inside when DeLuca was tiring but it wasn’t enough. Though his promoter Ken Casey questioned the outcome of the first fight last June in N.H., DeLuca told me it was tight. “But he got me,” he admitted. Wright didn’t understand the manufactured controversy. “I won. To come across the country, fight the local guy, and beat him, I should think I’d get my props for winning. My performance should outweigh politics.” On this night, Wright’s good but not good enough performance earned him an appropriately scored unanimous decision loss.

There was no protest from Wright with the verdict.

UNDERCARD RESULTS:

In the show opener, super lightweight southpaw Sean McComb from Belfast improved to 4-0 (3), outclassing 37 year-old Peruvian Carlos Galindo, 1-6. Galindo’s only win came against Maine’s Brandon Berry last June in N.H. This was McComb’s first appearance outside the U.K. Galindo took a body beating and the fight was stopped in the third after a pair of knockdowns.

Accompanied to the ring by middleweight corker Spike O’Sullivan, Murphys Boxing’s Gorey, Ireland heavyweight Niall Kennedy 221.6, 12-0-1 (7) took a few to give a few against New Jersey’s Brendan Barrett 238, 7-1-2 (5), including a hip-toss and a headlock. The 6’3” Kennedy used his good left jab and strong right cross to earn a unanimous six round decision, dropping the stocky Barrett in the fifth with a brutal right hand. Official scores: 60-53 twice and 58-55.

Kazakh Olympic Gold medalist welterweight prospect Daniyar Yeleussinov improved to 4-0 (2) against Salem, Mass “Mantis” Matt Doherty, 8-6-1 (4). Doherty wore a J.D. Martinez Red Sox jersey to the ring but he was outgunned. The 27 year-old southpaw finished Doherty off with a barrage of unanswered punches in the first round and referee Arthur Mercante waved a halt.

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Rob Brant is the New WBA Middleweight Champion

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LAS VEGAS, Nevada- In a major upset that saw a mega fight disappear, Rob Brant took the WBA middleweight title from Japan’s Ryota Murata with a lot of hustle and a heck of a chin to the surprise of many on Saturday.

Murata (14-2,11KOs) was expected to fight Gennady “GGG” Golovkin if he won, but the dress rehearsal turned into a nightmare as Brant (24-1, 16 KOs) attacked and attacked while out-punching the Japanese fighter nearly two to one in front of a stunned audience of more than 2700 at the Park Theater at the MGM.

“This was one of the best moments of my life, said Brant. “I wasn’t thinking of punch output. I was thinking about winning.”

With many planning their trips to Tokyo for an expected showdown between Murata and Golovkin, the Las Vegas based Brant put a stick into the spokes of their travel plans.

Brant started quickly with combination punching and moving in and out of range during the first three rounds of the middleweight bout. Murata smiled throughout the incoming blows from the upstart Brant.

“It’s easy to smile, but his eyes were swollen and he had blood on his mouthpiece,” said Brant.

It wasn’t until the fourth round that Murata found life while attacking the body.

The body punches opened up the lead right cross for Murata, who began targeting Brant’s head. But the Minnesota native was able to absorb the big blows and kept firing back. Though Brant was landing more shots, Murata’s punches were clearly harder and landed with a thud.

The crowd got into the fight early as cheers of “USA! USA!” were shouted sporadically throughout the fight. It probably had an effect on the judges.

It seemed Murata was landing the more effective blows in the middle rounds, especially when he targeted the body, then switched to the head. But though they were hard punches, Brant moved backward and kept returning fire.

The action was measured, but constant, with no slow rounds after round three. At times it looked like Murata was about to score a knockout but it never came. Brant proved resilient. More than that, he convinced the three judges he was the winner 119-109(2x) and 118-110.

Only the widespread scores were surprising. It seemed like a much closer fight.

Dudashev prevails

Maxim Dudashev (12-0, 10 KOs) tried to blast it out with Mexico’s Antonio DeMarco (33-7-1, 24 KOs), but after taking heavy incoming fire, the undefeated super lightweight changed tactics and out-boxed the former world champion to win by unanimous decision.

Dudashev moved around just enough and used quick short combinations to out-score the long-armed Tijuana fighter after the midway point of the 10-round affair. Though DeMarco was able to score with heavy body shots  and lead lefts to the head, Dudashev managed to fire off combinations that kept winning rounds in the second half of the fight. The judges scored the fight 97-93, 96-94, 98-92 for Dudashev. TheSweetScience.com scored it 96-94 for Dudashev, who keeps the NABF super lightweight title.

“This was a great learning experience for me,” said Dudashev. “DeMarco is a true champion, and he fought with great heart and determination.”

Falcao and other bouts

Brazil’s Esquiva Falcao (22-0, 15 KOs) showcased his various boxing skills against Argentina’s Guido Pitto (25-6-2, 8 KOs) who lost by unanimous decision but forced the undefeated fighter into various situations. In the first four rounds, Falcao fought from the outside with impunity as Pitto was unable to touch the Brazilian. But when the Argentine boxer took the fight inside, he found more success and forced Falcao to utilize his inside boxing skills. The fighting was intense but Falcao was just too strong and slightly quicker in winning every round in the 10 round middleweight fight. Pitto’s best moments came during the fifth round when he forced his way inside. All three judges saw it 100-90 for Falcao.

Ireland’s Michael Conlan (9-0, 6 KOs) battered Nicola Cipolletta (14-7-2) every round with rights to the body and head. The Italian boxer rarely fired back and after several unanswered blows by Cipolletta the referee Russell Mora stopped the featherweight fight @1:55 of round seven. Cipolletta protested the stoppage but never truly engaged Conlan, who must have connected on more than 60 percent of his punches thrown. It was a whitewash for the former Irish Olympian.

Vladimir Nikitin (2-0) won by unanimous decision over Louisiana’s Clay Burns (5-5-2) in a featherweight fight that was much closer than the scores given. Burns started out fast and easily won the first two rounds. Then the battle got much closer as Nikitin’s overhand rights began scoring. Burns switched to southpaw and switched back and forth and that gave Nikitin pause. The last two rounds were very close especially the final round. But all three judges scored it 59-55 for Nikitin, thus only giving Burns one round. It was much closer in reality.

A battle between undefeated Puerto Rican lightweights saw Joseph Adorno (10-0, 9 KOs) drop Kevin Cruz (8-1, 5 KOs) twice in winning by unanimous decision. Though Adorno’s knockout streak was snapped, he engaged in a spirited battle against left-handed Cruz who let loose in the sixth and final round. A counter left hook by Adorno floored Cruz the second time during a furious exchange. Cruz beat the count and tried his best to go for the knockout; Adorno scooted away until the final bell. Scores of 59-53(2x) and 58-54 for Adorno.

Adam Lopez (11-1, 5 KOs) won by knockout over Hector Ambriz (12-8-2) in a featherweight match. The end came @1:29 of the eighth and final round of the fight when Lopez fired a four punch combination that forced referee Tony Weeks to halt the fight though Ambriz was still standing.

Uzbekistan’s Fazliddin Gaibnazarov (6-0, 3 KOs) stopped veteran Wilberth Lopez (23-10, 15 KOs) with a series of body blows @2:13 of round two in a super lightweight contest between lefties.

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