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The Breakdown, Special Edition: Sugar Ray Robinson

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The general feeling among the boxing fraternity is that nobody's ever quite ascended to the same plateau of greatness, or was as virtuosic along the way, as Sugar Ray Robinson. There haven't been but a handful of athletes in any sport, whether it be in football, baseball, you name it, whose ability was deemed so extraordinarily good that comparisons to his/her peers seems like a pointless exercise; the man born Walker Smith jr., the consensus greatest pound for pound boxer to have ever lived, is considered to have been one of those rare exceptions.

And yet, despite much having been written chronicling his life and times, I've found there to be a distinct lack of detail and, I believe, truth when it comes to describing the techniques that Robinson employed between the ropes.

“He could end a fight any time he chose to, with either hand!”

“He was perfection personified, utterly flawless”.

“Defensively, he was masterly”.

In terms of technical analysis on Sugar Ray Robinson, the above is about as in-depth as I've seen on him.

Needless to say, because Sugar Ray Robinson has attained almost God-like status as a fighter over the years, certain realities regarding his in ring tendencies seem to have been replaced by mythology; tap the name Sugar Ray Robinson into your search engine and watch the folklore regarding his style and technique unfold.

There's no debating that Ray Robinson wasn't an exceptional fighter. He most certainly was. Any all-time pound for pound list that has Robinson's name outside of the top three, quite frankly, shouldn't be taken very seriously. Worst case scenario? Sugar Ray Robinson is, with his 175-19-6 {109} record, at the very least, the third greatest fighter who ever lived. What is open for debate, however, is the misconception that when it comes to how he actually operated in the ring as a fighter, Sugar Ray Robinson's genius is often attributed to his God-given talent, which, clearly wasn't the case. I believe it does Ray Robinson a major disservice to put his success in the ring down to nothing else but things he was born into.

And so, rather than simply regurgitate what's already out there regarding Ray Robinson's life story and accomplishments, I'd like for this to be thought of as a kind of case study detailing what it was exactly that made him so formidable as a fighter. Robinson's accolades have been well documented elsewhere so basically, you're not going to find much else apart from Sugar Ray Robinson's fighting style and techniques mentioned here.

For the purpose of this article then, I've broken Robinson's attributes down into two categories; physical and technical. Both Robinson's physical and technical attributes aided one another perfectly, but I feel that it's important to mention them both separately, so that the reader has a clear understanding of just how important each were to Ray's dominance in the ring.

Physical

Height and reach:

One of the biggest misconceptions about Robinson is that he spent most of his career facing “larger” men. As I'm sure most of you reading this will be aware, Ray Robinson, who began his professional career as a lightweight before fighting mostly as a welterweight, eventually went on to compete at middleweight and even once at light heavyweight. I feel the area that is taken for granted the most when discussing Robinson's dominance in the ring as a welterweight is the size advantage he must have enjoyed over almost all of his opponents. At 5'11″ and with a 73″ reach –big for a welterweight, even by today's standards- Ray Robinson must have possessed a size advantage over many of his lightweight and welterweight opponents not too unlike that of Thomas Hearns. What's interesting when you see Ray on film is that he's nearly always the bigger man in the ring even though most of the footage that exists is of him fighting as a middleweight against perceived larger men. Take a look at the size of Ray next to Bobo Olson, Rocky Graziano, Jake Lamotta, Randy Turpin and Gene Fullmer -all middleweights, all of them shorter than Ray. Even when Robinson fought for the light heavyweight crown against Joey Maxim, who at 6'1″ and with a 71″ reach, pretty much shared the same physical dimensions with Robinson.

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You would never think this was a former lightweight fighting a natural light heavyweight by looking at this would you?

It's safe to say that even without any of his other attributes –of which I'll get to in a moment- Robinson's advantages in size and length would have always been tough to overcome for many of his welterweight opponents.

As I've already stated, the footage we have of Ray is mostly of him fighting as a middleweight, so one can only imagine how he would have matched up physically against other welterweights of his time. For a modern visual, I think the physical advantages that Robinson had over his opponents as a welterweight would have been similar to those owned by Nonito Donaire over his flyweight opponents; some of Donaire's victories over stellar opposition at flyweight rank among the most one sided and nonchalant that I've ever seen in a boxing ring. Although Donaire's opponents have been rather negative lately, but you have to concede that he isn't nearly as dominant these days now he's facing men of a similar size.

Remember, apart from his one fight with Jake Lamotta, in which the Bronx Bull held a 16 pound weight advantage, Ray Robinson was undefeated before moving up to middleweight. His record at that time stood at 110-1-2.

The two draws on Robinson's record to Jose Basora and Henry Brimm were also against middleweights.

Incidentally, Robinson knocked out Brimm inside the opening minute of the opening round in the rematch and he had also previously won a decision over Basora.

Size alone is a difficult obstacle to overcome in a boxing ring. Unless an opponent is quick enough and knows how to get inside on a taller opponent, then size will usually come out on top. I'd argue with anyone that it is in fact the Klitsckho brother's advantages in size, not skill and technique that make them nigh on impossible to handle for their generally smaller heavyweight opponents. I believe that because Robinson was always so much bigger than most of his welter/middleweight opponents, some of his success, especially as a welterweight, can be attributed to his sheer size.

Strength:

If you take a look at Robinson's fight with Joey Maxim, you'll see him easily controlling the bigger man during the clinches. Even though Maxim had a 17 pound weight advantage over Robinson, he could never get the better of him on the inside once the distance was closed. During the fight, Robinson showed his strength by tying up Maxim's arms and in controlling his biceps. Eventually, the 104 degree heat got the better of Robinson on that day, but not before he showed that he could not only out slick, but out muscle a natural light heavyweight. Now, if you consider how Robinson was able to manoeuvre someone weighing 173 pounds around, it's no wonder he was able to do the same with many of his welterweight and middleweight opponents. At some time or another during their numerous fights, Robinson always managed to control the likes of Maxim, Fullmer, Basilio, Lamotta and Olson on the inside. Remember, Ray's objective in there was to separate himself from his opponent so that he could get off his rapid fire combinations. Inside fighting may not have been his forte, but similarly to Muhammad Ali, he clearly knew how to tie up and control a fighter at close quarters should they be successful in breeching his optimum fighting distance.

Speed:

Despite what legend will have you believe, Ray Robinson wasn't the owner of the quickest pair of hands ever. Going one step further, I'd state with confidence that from what I've seen on film, Ray Leonard, Meldrick Taylor, Terry Norris, Hector Camacho, Thomas Hearns, Roy Jones jr., Floyd Mayweather jr. and Manny Pacquiao all had/have faster hands. In fact, it's possible that even far bigger men like Muhammad Ali, Floyd Patterson and Mike Tyson may have had faster hands. However, if we're narrowing it down, between the period of 1940-1965, which was Robinson's entire professional career, then there weren't many fighters who competed around at that time period or who fought in or around the same weight division, with the exception of Kid Gavilan and Charley Burley, who could compare to Ray in the hand speed department. Which means, of course, Ray would have always held an advantage in hand speed over almost every opponent he ever faced.

Something else that must be accounted for when watching Ray in full flow is that he always tried to hurt his opponents with nearly every punch he threw. If you compare a combination thrown by Meldrick Taylor with one thrown by Ray Robinson, you'll see apples and oranges in terms of where their intentions lay. Yes, Meldrick's combinations were undoubtedly faster, but Ray's were more explosive with more emphasis placed on hurting a man as opposed to impressing some judge. When watching Ray, I feel he jeopardized some of his speed in favour of more spite and precision. One of the biggest differences between fighters these days and those of yesteryear is that winning a decision seemed to be the last thing on a fighter's mind back then. Nowadays, fighters seem all too happy to take turns in firing away blindly at arms and gloves, racking up points as they go. Back when Ray Robinson plied his trade, creating and exploiting openings was first and foremost on a fighter's agenda. Back then, fighters were far more focused on ending a fight within the distance.

It wasn't only Robinson's hands that were notably faster than many of his opponents. He also enjoyed a significant advantage in foot speed over most of them too. Most of the time, Ray fought off his back foot, behind the jab where his foot speed allowed him to maintain his preferred fighting distance. Again, there are fighters on film who appear to be quicker than Ray was in moving around the ring. In my view, Ray Leonard, Hector Camacho, Orlando Canizales, Roy Jones jr. and Manny Pacquiao were all quicker than Robinson in getting to their positions. However, Robinson was a lot bigger than any of these men in correlation with his often smaller opposition. It's very unusual for a fighter to be so much taller and longer than his opponent while also having faster hands and feet than them as well. Thinking of fighters who've been so much bigger and so much faster than their opponents, only Muhammad Ali and a flyweight Nonito Donaire come to mind. The fact that Ray Robinson held advantages over his opponents in not only size, but in hand and foot speed too, goes a long way towards showing why he was so formidable as a welterweight and even as a middleweight.

Power:

For my money, Robinson's power has been slightly blown out of proportion over time. By that, I mean I'm pretty sure he wasn't capable of ending a fight anytime he chose to like most accounts would have you believe. Yes, Ray Robinson was a powerful puncher, but I don't think he packed the natural wallop that men like Julian Jackson or Thomas Hearns did, who often knocked men unconscious with even glancing blows. Robinson's knockouts came on the back of excellent technique and timing, as opposed to brute force. No, Ray wasn't like George Foreman, who was a murderous puncher even though his punches seemed to lacked true technique. Robinson's technique, particularly in his short hooks and uppercuts, was every bit as good as Joe Louis's from what I've seen of both men. Don't get me wrong here, I'm not suggesting that Robinson couldn't punch, because he clearly could. All I'm saying is that I believe Robinson's knockouts came about more from speed, precision, timing and technique as opposed to “his dynamite fists”. Ray was more like Archie Moore -the leading knockout artist in boxing history- who wasn't a huge puncher either as he relied more on strategy and skill to find openings and take advantage of his opponent's mistakes. Conversely, Ernie Shavers is someone who I'd consider to have had a ridiculous amount of power behind his punches but with little in the way of true punching technique. Ray Robinson was most definitely a thoughtful puncher.

Chin:

I'll keep this short and sweet. Ray Robinson, even though he was dropped numerous times throughout his career, was never stopped in more than 200 fights. Yes, his overwhelming offense may have had plenty to do with that, but as he slowed as he got older, Ray became a lot more hittable and his chin had to serve him well. Along with his size and athleticism, Robinson's punch resistance is probably the only other attribute that wasn't manufactured and could be considered “God-given”.

Now that we've covered Ray Robinson's physical prowess, I think we can agree that by looking at the film that's available, Robinson's advantages in height and length combined with his tremendous hand and foot speed would've been a tough obstacle for any fighter from welterweight to middleweight to overcome. His strength on the inside, on show in the fights against the likes of Jake Lamotta, Joey Maxim and Carmen Basilio, shows that inside fighters wouldn't have been able to have their way with him should they manage to close the distance and on the outside, with his speed, length and punching accuracy, anyone who lacked above average defense or who utilized good head movement would have found themselves walking onto Robinson's combinations for as long as they were able to stand.

Even without his technical expertise, which I'll be going over in a moment, Sugar Ray Robinson was an excellent fighter based on physicality's alone; excellent hand and foot speed, great length, good strength, above average punching power and a world class chin.

Technical

Circling Behind the Jab, Robinson Style:

Ray Robinson's stance was very similar to that of Joe Louis, in that his head was slightly away from the centre line and off to his right, which made him tough to hit with a right hand. However, unlike Joe, who kept his right glove out in front of him in a parrying position to block against the left jab and his left elbow tucked in close so that his jab was coming from chest height, Robinson kept his right glove close to his chin and in a position where he could catch any of his opponent's right or left handed attacks.

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Notice how Robinson's right glove is below his chin, catching Lamotta's jab as they jab at the same time. Lamotta's jab falls short whereas Robinson's finds the target.

You see, whereas Louis preferred to use feints and take small advancing steps in an attempt to lure his opponent into opening up, Robinson was more like Ali in that he preferred to circle clockwise behind his jab and into his often orthodox opponent's power hand, which seems counter intuitive, but it worked well for Ray because of his stance, which was designed to avoid getting hit by an orthodox fighter's power hand.

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Robinson pivots on his front foot and clockwise behind his jab. Again, notice how his right glove remains by his chin and in position to parry as he's turning.

Strategically, there was a resemblance between what Robinson and Ali did with the jab. The biggest difference between the two, though, was that Ali seemed to rely exclusively on a jab, jab, right hand combination aimed at the head as he circled left, whereas Ray was very versatile with not only the punches he threw after the jab, but in the execution of the jab itself. If you look at the Jake Lamotta fight, you'll see Ray repeatedly back up while mixing up his jab to the head and body, sometimes with authority, other times as a set up shot, followed by just about every single punch in the book. On that night, against a crouching pressure fighter in Lamotta, Ray's uppercuts thrown from his waist–the same starting point for his jab- were almost indefensible.

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Notice how Ray's trailing foot is raised as he lands an uppercut. Ray's power was generated from his hips, almost like a golf swing.

On other occasions, like below against Carmen Basilio, you'll notice Ray back peddling diagonally behind his jab and onto Carmen's trailing hand. As Carmen parries the jab and begins to open up, Robinson immediately steps left and to Carmen's right and throws his left hook around Basilio's guard.

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Notice Robinson's foot placement here against Basilio {top} and Fullmer {left} –turning into the punch with his back foot out and almost into a southpaw stance as he throws the left hook.

Ray Robinson's jab was his bread and butter punch which he used to control his opponents or set up just about every other punch he threw. If you go on YouTube and click on any one of Ray Robinson's fights, it doesn't matter which, you'll notice him; ~Circling left with his left shoulder slightly raised, so that as he jabbed, his chin was protected by his shoulder. ~His head away from the centre line and slightly off to the right. ~His front foot planted with his back foot slightly raised. ~His right glove open and by the left side of his chin -this is the signature Ray Robinson stance. No matter how late it got in a fight, Robinson never lost sight of his shape or form and never stopped circling behind his jab. Robinson was very methodical and never strayed away from the most basic and cultivated punch in boxing, which he mastered.

Moving on from circling behind the jab, Robinson's footwork was impeccable. One of the best examples of Robinson's sublime movement can be found in his fight with Bobby Dykes.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OBLfDew8tU&feature=player_detailpage

Throughout this clip, you'll see Ray move in, slide out and circle his target, all the while staying perfectly balanced and in position to punch. One of the most famous sayings regarding Ray Robinson is “he could throw knockout blows going backwards”. Basically, this statement alludes to Ray's footwork being so good that despite him moving away so quickly, his feet never came together which meant he always remained well balanced, allowing him to generate good power off of his back foot.

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Notice as Robinson is moving away, his trailing foot slides back first, followed by his lead foot. This keeps Ray in perfect balance. As Dykes leads with a right hook, Robinson slides back and counters with a well-timed short left hook, sending Dykes into the ropes.

Ray Robinson's multi-dimensional footwork, despite its aesthetics, was economical and purposeful. It allowed him to hurt an opponent in pursuit or in retreat. It was also his first line of defense, of which I'll get to shortly.

The Left Hook/combinations:

As you all know, there's a certain Ray Robinson left hook that is now legendary. But what may surprise you, is that it isn't going to get a mention here. Well, not yet anyway. I think it fits in much better elsewhere in this article.

Robinson's go-to left hook was basically the one he threw in threes and fours. Robinson's ability to double and even triple up on his left hook is what made him so unpredictable on offense. If you look at the Luc Van Dam fight, you'll see Ray circling left while throwing two left hooks to the body followed by a third left hook upstairs.

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All three shots are thrown in quick succession and the final blow comes from a ridiculous angle, outside the line of vision which made it very difficult to detect. Most fighters are trained to expect punches to be thrown in a chain sequence; for example, right, left, right, left. Because Ray doubled and even tripled up on his shots, which was pretty revolutionary for his time, many of his opponents couldn't anticipate what shot was coming next.

My all-time favourite Sugar Ray Robinson moment/knockout illustrates this technique perfectly. In the final sequence of the Rocky Graziano fight, you'll see Sugar Ray Robinson in a nutshell.

First, Robinson is typically circling behind the jab, pivoting clockwise off his lead foot. Then, as Graziano attempts to land a straight left, Robinson slips, circles out and moves away from the ropes. With Graziano's back now up against the ropes, Robinson moves in for the kill. Ray throws a hook and they fall into a clinch. As they break away, Ray lands a short right uppercut, followed by two quick left hooks and finally a right cross which results in Graziano's mouthpiece flying out of the ring along with his senses.

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When you first look at this knockout, you'll probably think it's all about the jolting right hand that ends the fight that's the focal point here. But when you look again, closely, you'll soon realize that it's the two left hooks prior to the right hand that are the real fight ending blows. As Ray catches Rocky twice with the left, you'll see Rocky begin to adjust his guard slightly in anticipation of a third, leaving himself open for a right hand, which Robinson capitalized on. All of this takes place within the blink of an eye and it really is elite level stuff. That's why it's my favourite knockout from possibly the greatest fighter who ever lived.

In my view, Sugar Ray Robinson is right up there with Joe Louis and Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. as the best combination puncher ever seen on film. The accuracy, variety and unpredictable patterns of Robinson's combinations are what made his punches so hard to defend against for his opponents. Again, looking at the Jake Lamotta fight, you'll see Lamotta in a state of confusion every time Ray moves in to attack. Ray's combinations thrown at Lamotta over the course of those thirteen rounds were scintillating. He doubled and tripled up on hooks, uppercuts and straights which were always thrown in alternating patterns and in different rhythms. Robinson's punch variety was of the highest order. What also made Robinson's combinations so effective was that every punch was thrown as a precursor to the next, as the knockout of Rocky Graziano illustrates so vividly. Here's a look at the sequence in real time.

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Ring intelligence:

Now, the reason why Ray Robinson's left hook decapitation of Gene Fullmer wasn't mentioned when I was describing his go-to left hook is because I believe it was lightning in a bottle. This wasn't the typical Ray Robinson left hook that he doubled up or tripled up on in almost every fight. No, this was something else.

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What I find more rewarding than the actual knockout blow in the Fullmer fight was the way Robinson set it up. Hence, I've chosen to detail it under “Ring Intelligence”. Firstly, Gene Fullmer was a known puncher with the right hand. Robinson was aware of this so he set about drawing the right hand out in order to counter it. Backing up, Ray stepped in and landed a right hand to Fullmer's body. Robinson then repeated the action -back stepping, before dropping his level and stepping in with a right hand to the body. Because Fullmer thought Ray was going to repeat this a third time, he set himself to throw a right hand as Ray would be stepping in. Aware of Fullmer's intentions, Robinson faked right but instead twisted back across and connected with a picturesque left hook that knocked -the never before or since- Gene Fullmer out. For my liking, as was the case in the Rocky Graziano knockout, the actual knockout blow is only half the story here. The bigger picture is that of Robinson's ability to set a trap. Robinson's uncanny ability to think not one, but three moves ahead is what earned him what has been labelled the greatest knockout of all time.

Here's the full sequence in real time.

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Defense:

Going against the grain once more, I'd like to detail some of Robinson's defensive traits by describing his two knockouts of Carl “Bobo” Olson. In both knockouts, which are on film, Olson gets himself into an exchange with Robinson. At first, it's easy to think that Robinson's speed in a shootout is what results in Olson being sprawled across the canvas on both occasions. However, I believe what lands Robinson his knockouts -apart from his accuracy- is his ability to remain defensively responsible while punching.

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Robinson lands a left hook. Notice how his head is away from the centre and his left shoulder will cover his chin as he followed through with the hook.

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Robinson comes over with a right hook. Again, his head is away from the centre.

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Look how Robinson has took a step back before landing the knockout blow. Doing this allows him punching room.

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It may have seemed like a wild exchange, but Olson came off second best because of Robinson's ability to roll with his own punches.

Here's another fight with Olson with the same outcome.

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As both men are firing at each other, contrast Robinson's head movement with that of Olson's. Robinson is almost rolling with his own punches as he's letting his hands go. His head never remains stationary as he's punching. Olson, on the other hand, is rooted to the spot. His head remains central and in the line of fire. Even if Robinson's eyes are closed as he's unloading, there's a good chance he's going to connect because Olson's head hasn't moved away from the centre line. Even when Ray Robinson was on the offensive, he always remained defensively responsible.

In terms of defending against his opponents when he wasn't on the offensive, Robinson really shouldn't be considered among the elite. Robinson was tagged often and was sent to the canvas numerous times during his career. Defensive masters like Willie Pep, Pernell Whitaker, Nicolino Locche, Wilfred Benitez, Roberto Duran, James Toney and Floyd Mayweather were/are far more proficient when it comes to making an opponent miss. As his legs began to erode later on in his career, Ray began falling back to the ropes where he would often defend himself by rolling with punches. At his best though, Ray's first line of defense was his footwork, which he used to establish distance between himself and his opponents through lateral and lineal movement. Although he was by far the better technician, Robinson's elusiveness in the ring was more reminiscent to that of Roy Jones and Muhammad Ali, in that they seldom remained in the pocket, looking to slip and counter. When Robinson wasn't attacking, he always utilized plenty of footwork to avoid being hit. It must be said though, because Robinson was always looking for the knockout, he was always going to get hit more often as he left more openings -a fighter is at his most vulnerable in the ring as he's punching. This isn't a knock on Robinson, but despite what some people may have been told, Ray Robinson was not a defensive savant. According to reports, Robinson struggled with the jab of both Tommy Bell and Kid Gavilan and as the film shows, Robinson also struggled with Randy Turpin's jab in their first meeting and was hit regularly by Ralph Jones.

Infighting:

Similarly to Muhammad Ali, I don't think infighting was one of Ray Robinson's best assets. Sure, he was more rounded on the inside than Ali, but it was never his intentions to let the fight take place there. Robinson was at his best at mid/long range, keeping his opponent on the end of the jab before allowing them to walk onto power shots, or shortening up the distance allowing him to land his mid-range hooks. Although he preferred to avoid the inside, Ray was more than proficient once an opponent got inside on him. Like Ali, he knew how to control a fighter by clamping down on the back of their neck or by tying them up and controlling their biceps. Ray wasn't the best as far as inside fighting goes. Fighters like Henry Armstrong, Roberto Duran, Joe Frazier, James Toney and Julio Cesar Chavez Sr were much more formidable at this range, both offensively and defensively. However, because Robinson knew how to prevent a fighter from getting inside on him, and could more than hold his own should anyone manage to smother him, he clearly wasn't the fish out of water that Amir Khan is once an infighter is successful in closing the distance on him.

Right hook to the kidney:

Illegal or not, this was one of Ray Robinson's signature shots. Even though he was once disqualified for using it against German fighter, Gerhard Hecht, it was always a punch that featured in many of his fights. In fact, it can be seen in nearly every Ray Robinson fight that was ever captured on film. Firstly, this punch worked for Ray because of its unpredictability. The conventional punch that is usually thrown immediately after a jab is usually another jab or a right cross. What Ray would sometimes do, was shoot his jab high and then immediately drop low where he then threw wide his right hook. Ray threw his right hook to the side/kidney differently from most. As he stepped in and to the left with it, he turned it over more, ensuring his thumb was almost pointed to the floor and his right arm was arced away from his body, so that his weight was transferred on to his front foot.

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Notice in many of Robinson's fights, like against Lamotta and Turpin above, how once an opponent presented Ray with their back, Robinson thought nothing of corkscrewing his unorthodox right hand around their sides and into their kidney. Again, this was a signature punch of Robinson that he used in nearly all his fights.

Conclusion

For me, there was no magic involved. I believe objective reasons are behind Sugar Ray Robinson's genius in the ring. Strip away all of the myths and legends which surround him and you're left with a consummate boxer-puncher, who, during his prime as a welterweight and even during the twilight of his career as a middleweight, was taller than most, faster than most, hit harder than most, and had a better chin than almost anyone ever. He also learned on the job, facing seasoned pros like Fritzie Zivic, Marto Servo and Henry Armstrong very early in his career, before even being considered for a shot at the welterweight title against Tommy Bell -contrast Robinson's learning curve with Saul Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Unlike them, Robinson was seasoned by the time he became champion.

No, Ray Robinson wasn't a perfect fighter, no fighter ever will be, but he was an extremely well rounded one. Sure, there've been faster, there've been harder hitters, there've been better counterpunchers and defenders who were tougher to find in the ring than Robinson, but I'm not sure that I've ever seen a fighter who could combine everything -offense/defense, speed, power, timing, rhythm, coordination- and put it all together the way Robinson did.

Even as an aging middleweight, Ray Robinson's brilliance was obvious and he remains one of the best fighters ever captured on film…he was past his prime. By using the footage that exists and trying to extrapolate from it, I think it's safe to assume that as a welterweight, Sugar Ray Robinson must have been about as good as it gets.

Writers Note: Thanks for taking the time to read such a long piece, readers. All the fights that have been mentioned here are available on YouTube and are of Ray Robinson mainly fighting as a middleweight.

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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.

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, the kind of knockout loss that many 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, in his first major test since the Fortuna loss, he faced 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 world title holder Alberto Machado next week. Evans is once again an underdog. 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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