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The Boys of November: The Bowe-Holyfield Trilogy

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When most people think of November, they think of Thanksgiving. During the 1990s, the next-to-last month of the calendar year came to mean something else to fight fans, a reason in triplicate to give thanks for a heavyweight trilogy that ranks just below the Holy Trinity that was Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier.

Yes, Riddick Bowe vs. Evander Holyfield was that exhilarating, that special. Oh, there have been other notable ring trilogies since then – Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward comes to mind – but in terms of the elite quality of the participants, and the fierce, unrelenting competitiveness of all three bouts, Bowe-Holyfield was a smorgasbord of pugilistic delights that, as much as anything, is the cornerstone of each champion’s professional legacy.

Remember, then, what was and hope that the heavyweight division someday soon can offer up more of the same superb stuff involving big men possessed of the same level of talent, heart and willingness to lay it all on the line.

*November 13, 1992, the Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas: In a spirited scrap that earned Fight of the Year recognition from The Ring magazine, despite the relatively wide scores (117-110 twice, 115-112 for the winner), Bowe came away with the unanimous decision and Holyfield’s lineal, WBA, WBC and IBF titles.

*November 6, 1993, Caesars Palace, Las Vegas: Whether the unexpected, out-of-the-sky appearance of paraglider James Miller, who came to be known as “Fan Man,” affected the outcome – there was a 20-minute delay in the seventh round to extract and remove Miller, who became ensnarled in the ring ropes – will forever be a matter of conjecture. When the bout resumed, Holyfield took charge down the stretch to eke out a 12-round majority decisions (115-113, 115-114, 114-114) and reclaim the WBA and IBF belts.

*November 4, 1995, Caesars Palace, Las Vegas: No widely recognized world title was on the line, and there was creeping suspicion that neither the 33-year-old Holyfield nor the 29-year-old Bowe was at their peak, but remember, the same was said of Ali and Frazier prior to the third act of their ongoing passion play, the “Thrilla in Manila.” Squaring off for pride and the so-called “People’s Championship” in their rubber match, Bowe – who went into the eighth round trailing, 66-65, on all three official cards – promptly floored Holyfield twice, prompting referee Joe Cortez to step in and award him the technical knockout victory.

It can be argued that Holyfield and Bowe weren’t the two finest heavyweights of the division’s most recent “golden era,” sharing as they did top billing with Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson, but it is beyond dispute that, together, they made magic on three occasions. And maybe that is enough to gain additional consideration when it is time to put together any kind of best-of-the-best pecking order.

“Bowe brings out the best in me, and I think I bring out the best in him,” Holyfield said before their third fight. “We bring out the best in each other.”

With Act III approaching, someone asked Bowe if, were the bout to end in a draw, a fourth matchup might be in the offing.

“Last year I felt a little out of place when November rolled around because I had gotten so accustomed to fighting Evander Holyfield at that time,” Bowe said. “Me and Evander beating up on each other in November has become, you know, sort of habit-forming.

“And as far as a fourth fight between us … man, I don’t even want to think about (what would happen if there were) a draw. As hard as Evander Holyfield fights, if this one is a draw, he can fight the next one by himself.”

Although the more anxiously anticipated pairing no doubt involved Holyfield and Tyson, that megafight was delayed for five years, the result of, first, a thumb injury to Tyson that forced the cancellation of their scheduled bout in November 1991 and then Tyson’s rape conviction that landed him in prison for three-plus years. The post-incarceration Tyson was a pale imitation of his ferocious youth, and in his two meetings with Holyfield, he was knocked out in 11 rounds on Nov. 9, 1996 – another historic date in November — and then was disqualified for chewing off a piece of Evander’s right ear in the infamous “Bite Fight” of June 28, 1997.

With Tyson unavailable, it was almost inevitable that Holyfield and Bowe gravitate toward each other. Then again, a fight between them probably was bound to happen in any case. They had a shared history long before they squared off for anything of consequence, having been frequent sparring partners in the mid-1980s, when Evander was a young pro who hadn’t yet won his first world title and Bowe was a teenage amateur phenomenon.

“I realized at the time that we might wind up fighting someday,” Holyfield said in August 1992, after the contracts for their first bout were signed. “He wasn’t that much younger than me, and he was very gifted. I knew he wasn’t going to sit around and wait for me to get out of boxing before he made his move.

“I don’t think our situation is that unusual. Ali and Larry Holmes sparred when Ali was on top and Larry was coming up. I think maybe they knew they were going to fight for real one day. The guy who’s your sparring partner today might be your opponent tomorrow.”

Truth be told, Holyfield might have made the mistake of still thinking of Bowe – who had something of a reputation, and deservedly so, of a talented slacker who ate too much and trained too little – as that sparring partner of a decade earlier. His failure to push himself to peak efficiency, as he so frequently had and would do so in the future, might have cost him his titles.

“You couldn’t get him to do anything,” Holyfield’s trainer, George Benton, said of “The Real Deal’s” uninspired preparation for the first Bowe bout. “Some days he refused to work at all. Every day he had a different ache or pain.”

For his part, Bowe, who had a penchant for dramatic weight increases between fights, had given Team Holyfield at least a little reason to be confident. He had come in at a then-career-high 245 pounds for his most recent ring appearance, a seventh-round stoppage of Pierre Coetzer. Taking a poke at the soft midsection Bowe displayed that night, Lou Duva, Holyfield’s co-manager, presented the challenger with a pair of fancy, size-42 trunks at an August media gathering in New York. Bowe’s trunks had split down the back against Coetzer, revealing more of himself to an HBO audience then he would have preferred.

“Either your trunks are too small or you butt is too big,” Duva chided Bowe. “With these on, at least you’ll look good when they carry you out of the ring.”

But Bowe came in fit and ready, and when it became apparent that he would be no soft touch for the favored champion, the toughest, most resilient part of Holyfield’s inner self was activated. Bowe jolted Holyfield with a right uppercut early in the 10th round and seemingly was poised to score a knockout, but the exhausted Holyfield, after going down along the ropes, rose and fought back with a fury.

Color analyst Al Bernstein shouted to the pay-per-view audience, “That was one of the greatest rounds in heavyweight history! Ever! Period!” Boxing historian Bert Sugar later would compare that round to Round 15 of the Larry Holmes-Ken Norton war, Round 14 of Ali-Frazier III and Round 1 of Jack Dempsey-Luis Firpo, which featured seven knockdowns by Dempsey and two by Firpo.

Act II, of course, is especially notable not only for more of the kind of action that had marked Act I, but for Fan Man’s drop-in from the night sky and the tumult that set off. There probably always will be debate as to what would have happened had there not been a delay, which some believe benefited Holyfield and others feel was of assistance to Bowe, had had gone into training at around 300 pounds before paring down to an weigh-in weight of 246.

“I felt at that particular point that I had Evander right where I wanted him,” Bowe said. “I had the impression his back was giving him trouble. I felt that if the fight had continued, he would have quit.

“Then, when I saw what happened with my wife (Judy, who was pregnant, fainted and had to be carried out on a stretcher), I considered leaving the ring. I didn’t know what was going on. I was bewildered. But I knew enough to understand that if I left, they would have said I was quitting. So I waited until the fight resumed and tried to pick up where I left off. But by then I had gotten cold. I never did get warm again, and that’s what cost me my title. Holyfield didn’t beat me; Fan Man did.”

Holyfield, not unexpectedly, had a different take on what had transpired.

“Bowe and I fought two different six-round fights tonight,” he said shortly after his majority decision victory was announced. “In the first one, I was just getting ready to go toe-to-toe with him when that guy dropped in. I was in a rhythm, and I felt like I could outgun him. I started to get upset (during the delay), but then I realized it was the same for both of us. With that cleared from my mind, I just went out and got my rhythm back.”

The only certainty is that “Fan Man” – Miller, who would commit suicide, hanging himself from a tree in a remote part of Alaska in 2002 – is the one who came out the worst for wear. Intending to land in the middle of the ring, his chute became tangled in the overhead lights, causing him to land on the top strand of ropes, after which he tumbled awkwardly into a group of startled spectators. It spoke much as to the jinxed nature of Miller’s life that the ringside seats he toppled into were filled by Minister Louis Farrakhan and his Nation of Islam security detail, who were none too pleased to have an unidentified white guy unexpectedly arrive in their midst. The intruder was beaten unconscious by big, burly dudes brandishing walkie-talkies as makeshift clubs.

“It was a heavyweight fight,” a well-bruised Miller said afterward, “and I was the only guy who got knocked out.”

Fast-forward to Act III, which was to have shared the TV and local Las Vegas audience with another high-profile boxing event, Mike Tyson’s bout with Buster Mathis Jr., scheduled to take place on the same night just down the Strip at the MGM Grand. But that bout was postponed a few days earlier because of a fractured thumb on Tyson’s right hand. It eventually took place the following month, on Dec. 16 in Philadelphia, with Tyson winning on a third-round knockout. Not that Holyfield was overly concerned about what a rusted Iron Mike, whose only fight after leaving prison was a first-round disqualification win over the oafish Peter McNeeley on Aug. 19, 1995, was up to.

“At my best, I am the best,” Holyfield said. “Everybody in boxing is supposed to have that `champion’ attitude, which means that you fight the best to prove you’re the best. There was not one day when I was the champion of the world that I didn’t want to prove I was the best. The way I look at it, Bowe and I are the best heavyweights out there.

“Who is Mike Tyson in this day and era? He’s not the same champion he was when he was 20, 21 years old. That’s in the past. If you talk about who the best fighters are today, that’s Bowe and myself. We’re going to get it on. If Tyson wants to fight one of us, fine. But I can’t see why everyone puts so much (emphasis) on someone who has fought only once in four years.”

Muhammad Ali’s biographer, Thomas Hauser, once noted that Ali and Frazier “were fighting for something more important than the heavyweight championship of the world” in the Thrilla in Manila. “They were fighting for the championship of one another.” And so, in a way, were Holyfield and Bowe in the final act of their remarkable rivalry.

Holyfield held the early edge in another humdinger of a battle, knocking Bowe down for the first time in the younger, larger man’s career in the sixth round, and he seemed to be in control when momentum took a sudden turn only seconds into Round 8. An overhand right dropped Holyfield, hard, and he arose at the count of nine on unsteady legs. That drew a long look from referee Joe Cortez, who signaled the fighters to come forward and engage. Making the most of his opportunity to close the show, Bowe delivered a pair of rights to the head that sent Holyfield to his knees and obliged Cortez to wave a halt to the proceedings.

“When he stayed down for that long of a time (after the first knockdown), I knew I would get him,” said Bowe, who went off as a 3-1 favorite. “I knew, if I maintained my composure, I would get him.”

There would be more exclamation-point moments for Holyfield, who would go on to fight for nearly 16 more years and win a version of the heavyweight championship twice more, giving him a record four division titles, the most obvious successes being his pair of conquests of Tyson. Bowe, despite posting a final record of 43-1 with 33 KOs, would not fare as well in his professional dotage. He was badly beaten up in his two bouts with the “Foul Pole,” Andrew Golota, who still found a way to screw things up en route to bookend DQ losses for repeated low blows. Eight years after the second “victory” over Golota, Bowe made a comeback in 2004, winning three bouts against third-tier opponents, the last of which, at 40, was an eight-round unanimous decision over someone named Gene Pukall on Dec. 13, 2008.

The lives of the Boys of November have been marked by disappointment and turmoil outside the ropes. Holyfield, for so long perceived as boxing’s St. George equivalent, a knight in shining armor who dashed around the countryside slaying dragons and righting wrongs, endured three divorces and the embarrassment of foreclosure on his 109-room mansion in Fairburn, Ga. Bowe, a two-time champion, has had an even rockier time of it. He was served 30 days in prison after pleading guilty to a domestic violence charge, which was part of a plea bargain involving the kidnapping of his first wife, Judy (who later divorced him) and the couple’s five children; arrested for assaulting his second wife, Terri, and he washed out of Marine Corps boot camp after only three days of actual training.

As Joe Louis and Mike Tyson demonstrated, as have so many other former champs, fame does not necessarily evaporate like morning dew, but wealth (Holyfield earned an estimated $250 million in purses) can and does. It’s difficult to climb that figurative mountain, but even more difficult to remain at its summit.

No matter what, though, Holyfield and Bowe gave us three electrifying nights for the ages. For that, fight fans should forever be grateful.

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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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Murata vs Brant: Live results from Las Vegas, NV

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Ryota Murata, hailing from Japan, hopes to be successful this Saturday night against the American fighter Robert Brant, with the intentions of then facing Gennady Golovkin as his next opponent.

Our reporter, Marcelino Castillo, is providing live coverage tonight from the Park Theater at Park MGM in Las Vegas.  This fight is promoted by Top Rank Boxing and is scheduled to air live on ESPN+ in the U.S. at 10:30 p.m. EST.

Results:

First bout: David Kaminsky beat Noah La Coste by TKO in two rounds. The fight was stopped @2:20 of the second round.

Second bout: Adam Lopez dominated Héctor Ambriz, winning by technical knockout @1:28 of the eighth round.

Third bout: In a duel between Puerto Ricans, Jose Adorno and Kevin Cruz, Adorno won a unanimous decision. Official scorecards: 59-53(2x), 58-54.

Fourth bout: Vladimir Nikitin dominated this fight, winning by unanimous decision over Clay Burns in six rounds. Official scorecards: 59-55(3x)

Fifth bout: Michael Conlan stopped Nicola Cipolletta by TKO in the seventh round. Referee Russell Mora stopped the action @1:55.

Sixth bout: Dodge “La Pantera” Falcao defeated Guido Nicolas Pitto by unanimous decision in ten rounds. Official scorecards: 100-90(3x)

Seventh bout: Russian prospect Maxim Dadashev dominated former world champion Antonio DeMarco, winning by unanimous decision to retain the NABF Super Lightweight Title. Official scorecards: 97-93, 96-94, 98-92.

Dadashev had a very busy night, gaining experience as a professional fighter after a lengthy amateur career. He got a full nights work against an experienced veteran fighter and former world champion in DeMarco. However, by fights end, DeMarco was overtaken by the speed and combinations of the Russian boxer.

With this win, Dadashev has recorded his second consecutive victory against a former world champion. He won his previous match against Colombian Darleys Pérez.

Unbeaten and ex-Olympian Fazliddin Gaibnazarov finished off Wilberth Lopez by technical knockout @2:13 of the second round.

Main Event: In this evening’s main event for the WBA middleweight championship belt, Rob Brant earned the strap when he dominated the tough, but less than effective Ryota Murata. Official scorecards: 118-110, 119-109(2x)

Also, several thousand miles away at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts, the former 154lb world champion Demetrius “Boo Boo” Andrade (26-0, 16 KOs)  won a dominant, twelve round unanimous decision tonight over Walter Kautondokwa (17-1, 16 KOs).  Kautondokwa suffered four knockdowns as Andrade claimed the vacant WBO middleweight title. Official scorecards: 119-105, 120-104(2x)

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