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Better UK 168er, Froch or Calzaghe?

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With the recent retirement of British super middleweight Carl Froch, one topic that has received much attention is his standing among former British greats in a division that has produced some of the finest ever champions from these shores.

Below I analyse the respective careers of arguably the top two British 168lb legends and give my take on who stands higher in the all-time pantheon.

Joe Calzaghe

Overview:

After bursting on to the world scene with an impressive first title victory, long periods of frustration followed until “The Pride of Wales” finally proved the doubters wrong and cemented his place among the greats of the sport with a superb finish to the longest ever championship reign in the 168lb weight class. While it’s true that there are a number of sub-par and even downright useless opponents littered among Calzaghe’s CV, the Welshman also defeated a range of former champions and world-class fighters in over a decade as WBO champion, as well as establishing himself as the premier fighter in a second weight division.

Style & Ability:

A super-fast southpaw with blurring combinations and a furious work-rate, Calzaghe had a seemingly inexhaustible engine, completing the twelve-round championship distance on thirteen occasions. He also had an excellent set of whiskers, and despite several brief visits to the canvas, never came close to being stopped in 46 contests. Fragile hands plagued his career and probably prevented more knockout victories, but he nevertheless carried serious power, with a number of former foes commenting on the deceptively hurtful effect of his so called “slaps”. Capable of boxing to a disciplined plan at long range and frustrating opponents with his speed and movement, as well as biting down on his gum shield and brawling wildly when it suited him, one of Calzaghe’s main strengths was his uncanny ability to adjust his style mid-fight and outmatch any opponent skill for skill.

Titles & Accolades:

[168lbs] British champion (1995-1996, 1 defence); WBO world champion (October 1997-September 2008, 21 defences); IBF world champion (March 2005-November 2006, 1 defence); WBC & WBA “super” world champion (November 2007, 0 defences); The Ring & lineal champion (March 2006-September 2008, 3 defences); undisputed champion (2007 following unification with Mikkel Kessler); holds the all-time records for the longest reign (10 years, 11 months) and consecutive number of title defences (21, joint with Sven Ottke) in the 168lb division.

[175lbs] The Ring champion (April 2008-February 2009, 1 defence).

2014 Boxing Hall of Fame, first ballot inductee.

Five Significant Opponents:

1. Chris Eubank (vacant WBO title, October 1997). Calzaghe floored Eubank in the first round and then barely let the former champion take a breather, claiming a wide, unanimous victory in an excellent, break out performance.

2. Byron Mitchell (13th defence WBO title, June 2003). In a wild two-round brawl, Calzaghe was floored briefly for the first time in his career before blazing back and putting Mitchell to the canvas within seconds of rising to his feet. The champion then poured on flurries of punches, rocking the former WBA titleholder backwards and causing referee Dave Parris to intervene.

3. Jeff Lacy (18th defence WBO title/IBF unification/The Ring & lineal title, March 2006). Lacy came over to the UK as an undefeated, rival champion being heavily hyped as a monster puncher and a new “Mini Tyson”, but Calzaghe absolutely ruined him – winning every second of every round in one of the finest performances ever seen in a British ring.

4. Mikkel Kessler (21st defence WBO title/3rd defence The Ring & lineal title/WBC/WBA unification, November 2007). In an absorbing battle between undefeated champions, the fight ebbed back and forth for the first four rounds before Calzaghe made the necessary adjustments to befuddle his opponent in a brilliant exhibition of technical boxing, winning comfortably on the cards to finally prove even the most ardent of his detractors wrong.

5. Bernard Hopkins (The Ring light-heavyweight [175lb] championship, April 2008). In a scrappy encounter, Calzaghe was floored by a counter right hand in the first round before clawing his way back to win a close split decision in the American’s backyard, landing more punches on Hopkins than any previous opponent had ever recorded. To put the victory in context, in his next bout Hopkins dominated the much younger, undefeated American puncher Kelly Pavlik in one of his finest ever performances.

Other Notable Victories:

W12 Robin Reid (a close split decision over a former WBC champion); TKO5 Omar Sheika (the boisterous American contender was coming off a quality victory over world-rated Glen Johnson); TKO10 Richie Woodhall (the Olympic bronze medalist and former WBC champion was world class, but stopped late); TKO1 & TKO6 Mario Veit (the undefeated mandatory challenger was blasted out in a round, before stringing together fifteen consecutive victories and forcing a rematch, but Calzaghe travelled to Germany and repeated the result in six); W12 Charles Brewer (an exciting battle ended in a wide unanimous decision over the former IBF champion); W12 Sakio Bika (the awkward African was unlucky to receive a technical draw against WBC champion Markus Beyer prior to facing Calzaghe, and went on to become champion in 2013); W12 Roy Jones Junior (the Welshman humiliated a vastly faded version of the best fighter of his generation at New York’s Madison Square Garden).

Ones That Got Away:

Steve Collins was scheduled to defend against Calzaghe in October 1997 before withdrawing injured at late notice and then retiring from the sport, citing a lack of motivation for the fight. Carl Froch chased a fight with Calzaghe towards the end of his reign, but Calzaghe opted instead to pursue bigger names in America at light-heavyweight. Fights with American greats Roy Jones and Bernard Hopkins were mooted for much of Calzaghe’s 168lb reign, with Hopkins even agreeing terms at one point before backing out of the contest. A fight with long-reigning rival IBF holder Sven Ottke also should have happened, but neither champion was prepared to travel to the other’s backyard. Fights against middleweight Kelly Pavlik and light-heavyweight Antonio Tarver would also have been huge, but failed to materialize.

Carl Froch

Overview:

Perhaps no British fighter in history has ever undertaken a more challenging run of back-to-back, world-class match-ups than Carl Froch: From December 2008-May 2012, The Cobra fought eight consecutive contests of the highest caliber (Pascal-Taylor-Dirrell-Kessler-Abraham-Johnson-Ward-Bute), winning far more than he lost and earning the respect of the entire boxing community as one of the sport’s toughest warriors. On the downside, despite the array of entertaining victories, he never quite managed to reach the summit of his division.

Style & Ability:

A super-strong fighter who loved a tear-up, Froch was also a world amateur bronze medalist who possessed an underrated and at times under-utilized set of boxing skills, with a ‘hands low’, unorthodox style often masking his technical know-how and effective left jab. He was also the owner of an absolute granite jaw and legitimate one-punch knockout power. The Englishman’s warrior spirit and inclination towards a straight shoot-out perhaps proving his shortcoming against more technically adept opposition, he nevertheless demonstrated he was capable of boxing to a disciplined strategy when it suited him.

Titles & Accolades:

[168lbs] English champion (2003, 0 defences), Commonwealth champion (2004-2006, 7 defences) & British champion (2004-2007, 4 defences); 2 x WBC world champion (December 2008-April 2010, 2 defences & November 2010-December 2011, 1 defence); IBF world champion (May 2012-February 2015, 4 defences); WBA “regular” world champion (May 2013-May 2015, 2 defences) [Note: Andre Ward was recognized as the WBA’s “super” world champion during this period]

“Super Six World Boxing Classic” tournament, runner-up (2011).

Five Significant Opponents:

1. Jermain Taylor (1st defence WBC title, April 2009). After being floored in the 3rd round by a right hand and behind on two of the judges’ cards going into the 12th, The Cobra scored a dramatic, Hollywood-style stoppage with just fifteen seconds remaining on the clock.

2. Mikkel Kessler (3rd defence WBC title, April 2011 & 2nd defence IBF title/WBA unification, May 2013). In their first meeting, the teak-tough “Viking Warrior” ended Froch’s first reign as WBC champion, earning a unanimous points verdict in a brutal back-and-forth battle in his native Denmark. After re-establishing himself as a world champion, Froch enticed the Dane to London and returned the favour – this time unanimously outpointing Kessler in yet another closely fought, outstanding war of attrition.

3. Arthur Abraham (vacant WBC title, November 2010). Abraham was considered a dangerous puncher and even went into the battle as a betting favourite, but was completely out-boxed by Froch, scoring a virtual shutout in easily his most disciplined, polished performance.

4. Andre Ward (2nd defence [2nd reign] WBC title/WBA unification, December 2011). The Englishman fought bravely, but Ward’s awkward style, more refined defence and superior technical skills proved a step too far, taking a clear unanimous victory over the twelve-round distance.

5. Lucian Bute (IBF title, May 2012). Bute started as a favourite in the Englishman’s hometown, but Froch battered the shell-shocked, undefeated IBF champion in a one-sided, five round beat down in one of his most impressive wins.

Other Notable Victories:

WRTD5 Robin Reid (the faded former WBC champion couldn’t hold off the rising star); W12 Jean Pascal (the undefeated, world-class Canadian later established himself as a light-heavyweight champion); W12 Andre Dirrell (undefeated, Olympic bronze medalist Dirrell lost a somewhat controversial split decision in Nottingham); W12 Glen Johnson (the faded 42 year-old former light-heavyweight champion fought well in losing a majority decision); TKO9 & KO8 George Groves (Froch’s bitter domestic rival floored and hurt The Cobra in the first round of their first meeting before being controversially stopped later in the fight, but the feud was brutally and conclusively settled in Froch’s final outing).

Ones That Got Away:

Froch pestered Calzaghe to give him his first title shot, but lacking the requisite name-value, couldn’t bait the Welshman into a fight. A rematch with Andre Ward and a rubber match with Mikkel Kessler would both have been interesting, but the Dane retired and Froch seemed to show a lack of interest in a second meeting with his American conqueror. Domestic rival James DeGale earned a mandatory shot at Froch’s IBF title, but – as Collins had done to Calzaghe and then Calzaghe had done to Froch years earlier – the champion cited a lack of motivation in meeting another domestic rival, and relinquished the belt instead. Light-heavyweight champions Sergey Kovalev & Adonis Stevenson would have presented an interesting test had the super middleweight elected to try for a belt in a second weight division, but Froch always said he was comfortable at the 168lb limit. Perhaps the most mouth-watering match-up of all would have been with middleweight monster Gennady Golovkin. The undefeated and much feared Kazakhstan champion called out Froch through the media, but despite early signs a deal might be made, the 38 year-old Englishman decided to retire instead.

The Verdict

Success in boxing is all about levels. And it seems to me that there is often a tendency to conflate respect for the Nottingham hero’s warrior spirit and formidable series of match-ups with the level of his actual success in the ring; whereas with Calzaghe the reverse is true, and many observers tend to let the disappointing periods during his career detract from the magnitude of his final accomplishments. So while there is certainly no argument here that Froch indeed faced a more consistent level of challenging opposition, we should remember that just because a fighter consistently fights the best, that does not automatically make him the best. (If it did, Oscar De La Hoya would probably be the greatest fighter of all time). Ultimately, there is a reason that a younger, more dangerous version of Mikkel Kessler was handily beaten by Calzaghe but the older, more shopworn version was able to defeat Carl Froch; and there is a reason Calzaghe reached the absolute pinnacle of the super middleweight division, while Froch never did. The reason is that he was not quite able to compete successfully at the same level.

Had these two fine champions met in the ring, the evidence suggests that Calzaghe’s greater speed and more refined boxing technique would probably have won the day. That being said, the theoretical victor in a meeting between the pair is not really the main issue here. “Mythical” match-ups are of course fun to debate, but based as they are on pure conjecture, they do not form the primary basis for assessing a fighter’s overall achievements. Looking at what they actually did, rather than what they might have done had they faced off in the ring, the only conclusion to be drawn, I think, is that Calzaghe still comfortably surpasses The Cobra in terms of his overall level of success.

That conclusion should not be construed as denigrating the career of Carl Froch. He is undoubtedly one of the finest champions Britain has ever produced. Ultimately though, it was Calzaghe who scaled the greatest heights: becoming the undisputed, consensus No.1 in his weight class; defeating fellow pound-for-pound entrants and Hall of Fame legends; emerging victorious in his most significant, defining contests; becoming a two-division champion and being regarded as a top three pound-for-pound talent for a sustained period of time, on both sides of the Atlantic. The Cobra’s CV, while outstanding, simply falls a notch below these accomplishments.

Matt can be followed on Twitter @Boxinphilosophy

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Saul Sanchez Wins in Ontario, CA

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ONTARIO, CA- Saul Sanchez remained undefeated after a tumultuous battle against Mexico’s Fernando Saavedra to win by majority decision to the dismay of a small crowd on Friday.

In a battle of bantamweights at the Doubletree Hotel, it was Pacoima’s Sanchez (11-0, 6 KOs) who started quicker but San Luis Potosi’s Saavedra (7-6, 3 KOs) closed the gap in the latter half of the fight in front of a boisterous crowd of maybe 400 fans.

Sanchez nearly floored Saavedra in the first 20 seconds of the fight when a three-punch combination had the Mexican fighter wobbled. It spurred Sanchez to go on the attack, ultimately leading to a toe-to-toe battle.

The quicker hands and feet of Sanchez proved troubling for Saavedra, who needed the Southern Californian to stand still. That seldom happened in the first four rounds.

But though neither boxer seemed to tire, Sanchez began getting trapped against the ropes and allowing Saavedra to connect with powerful blows. The last three rounds were especially close and Sanchez was able to slip more blows than Saavedra. But each never ready to quit.

After eight bantamweight rounds, two judges scored it 77-75 for Sanchez and one had it 76-76 a draw. Sanchez was deemed the winner by majority decision.

Many fans were angry by the decision.

Other bouts

Corona’s Louie Lopez (5-0, 3 KOs) remained undefeated with a solid performance over Bakersfield’s Ray Cervera (0-2), a resilient super welterweight. Lopez was able to use his quick left hooks to score in every round but Cervera had a good chin and was able to counter with rights. No knockdowns were scored in the four round fight and all three judges scored the fight 40-36.

Oscar Torrez (3-0, 1 KO) knocked down Richard Soto (0-1) in the last round to assure a victory by unanimous decision in an entertaining heavyweight fight. Torrez fights out of Rialto, CA and is trained by Henry Ramirez who also trains Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola. The two heavyweights seemed evenly matched for the first two rounds, with Soto having his best round in the second when he continually landed one-two combinations with good effect. But Torrez resumed control of the fight in the third by using the jab, then mixing up his attack. In the fourth round, Torrez unleashed a 10-punch barrage that dropped Soto in the corner. The fighter from Northern California got up and survived the round but was unable to turn things around. Two judges scored it 39-36 and another had it 40-35, all for Torrez.

Anthony Franco (3-1-1) took time to warm up before scoring a knockdown and defeating Kansas fighter Antonio L. Hernandez (1-4) by decision after four rounds in a super welterweight contest. In the third round, Franco slipped under a left by Hernandez who tripped and when he turned was met by a perfect left that knocked down the Kansas boxer. Though he wasn’t hurt, it changed the complexion of a close fight in favor of Franco who lives in Redlands, CA. All three judges scored it for Franco 38-35, 39-36, 38-37.

Tijuana’s Rafael Rivera (26-2-2, 17 KOs) ripped into Guanajuato’s Jose Ramos (11-15-1, 8 KOs) with a savage attack to win by knockout in the first round. A barrage of blows sent Ramos backward dangling over the ropes. Referee Ray Corona ruled it a knockdown and let the fight continue. Rivera resumed the attack and blistered the taller Ramos with blinding punches forcing the fight to be stopped at 1:51 of the first round. It was Rivera’s first fight since losing to Joet Gonzalez by split decision last July in Los Angeles.

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Pacquiao-Broner: A Perfect Fight for Pacquiao and the Good Guy Wins

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Various sites are reporting that eight division titlist Manny Pacquiao 60-7-2 (39) will meet four division title winner Adrien Broner 33-3-1 (24) in December or January with Manny’s WBA regular welterweight title on the line. The fight hasn’t been confirmed yet but here’s how you know it’ll happen, and that is the fight makes dollars and sense for the super-star involved and that’s Manny Pacquiao.

Pacquiao signed with adviser/promoter Al Haymon – with the hope of getting a rematch with Floyd Mayweather in 2019. Haymon is tied to Mayweather and Broner and most of the top welterweights in the sport – including world champions Errol Spence, Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter. Manny lost a unanimous decision to Mayweather in May of 2015 and has longed for a rematch ever since. And ironically, neither Mayweather nor Pacquiao want any parts of taking on a young gun boxer in his prime. Both Terence Crawford, the WBO title holder, and Errol Spence, the IBF titlist, would take apart and embarrass both of them and there’s a sound case to make that both would’ve been okay tangling with Floyd and Manny even during their prime.

However, Mayweather and Pacquiao are businessman first and fighters second at this time and that’s been the case for quite a while. Manny only has interest in facing Mayweather again because he seeks revenge and Floyd will be 42 and coming off a long period of being inactive by the time they face off. As for Mayweather, he’d rather partake in big money fiascos where he can continue to gouge the public in WWE gimmicks against elite MMA fighters like Conor McGregor, his last opponent, or McGregor’s recent conqueror Khabid Nurmagomedov.

The only real boxer Floyd would entertain fighting is Pacquiao, who at this stage is only a moderate threat to Floyd because Mayweather hasn’t been in the gym much and has been preoccupied with spending his money. That and Pacquiao has a style that Floyd knows he can handle and Manny holds a version of the welterweight title. Granted, Floyd would probably make more money facing Nurmagomedov and Pacquiao is more or less his plan B if Manny gets by Broner. The problem with Mayweather facing Nurmagomedov is that Nurmagodev’s MMA fights don’t attract big interest and just maybe after the McGregor farce, both boxing and MMA fans are fed up with Mayweather’s faux fights and rip-offs – and with him then rubbing it in their faces by bragging how much money he made. So perhaps fans have wised up and will only consider paying to see Floyd fight another boxer – therefore Pacquiao becomes relevant to him.

With it no longer a secret that Mayweather and Pacquiao are only interested in robbing the public, enter Adrien Broner. If there’s another fighter who has been rewarded with big fights after posting underwhelming performances every time he has faced an upper-tier fighter, I don’t know of him. Broner is 3-2-1 in his last six bouts, having faced two championship caliber opponents in Shawn Porter and Mikey Garcia. He lost on the judges’ cards by a collective 16 points versus Porter and 14 against Garcia….in other words he didn’t compete and after the first third of those fights you could’ve turned to something else and you wouldn’t have missed a thing…other than Broner scoring a knockdown over a coasting and careless Porter in the 12th round.

Broner, 29, is a highly skilled boxer, and when he fights he shows flashes of what he could’ve been but never was. Adrien’s problem is he has a low boxing IQ and never cared to expand it. He’s let his weight balloon up and he’s lazy. Actually, Broner doesn’t like to fight and does it because he’s pretty good at it and he likes the notoriety it brings him. Other than that, he’s a contented loser and that makes him perfect for an aging Pacquiao.

When they get in the ring Manny can count on Broner fighting no more than 30 seconds per round and posing and loafing for the remaining 2:30. Adrien will talk up a great fight, saying he knows time is running out and he needs a sensational showing, but once again his words won’t translate into deeds…they never do. Pacquiao, knowing that a potential Mayweather rematch hinges on how he looks, will show up prepared and ready for battle. Manny has been around the block a few times and knows nothing will escalate the interest in another fight with Mayweather like a good showing and perhaps him being the first to stop Broner inside the distance.

Hopefully boxing fans won’t be asked to shell out PPV dollars to watch Pacquiao vs. Broner. But it’s boxing, so nothing should come as a surprise. The only given here is that Broner doesn’t hold any advantage over Pacquiao in size or skill, which isn’t normally the case with Manny. Moreover, he’s facing a fighter who will fold and break the first-time things get tough, and if we know one thing about Pacquiao it’s that he doesn’t make it easy for anybody. And I expect him to feed off of Broner’s weak constitution as the fight progresses. In addition to that this is the perfect good guy versus bad guy match up.

The one thing that might add intrigue to Pacquiao-Broner is that Broner is an easy guy to root against and a ton of fans would love to see nice guy Manny Pacquiao beat him up and humiliate him. And if the fight comes to fruition, count on that being how it unfolds. Yes, Pacquiao fights the perfect guy in order to set up a rematch with Mayweather and Broner will exit the ring a loser once again, only with a little more money to flush down the toilet.

Frank Lotierzo can be reached at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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Irish Jason Quigley Keeps NABF Title at Fantasy Springs

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INDIO, Calif.- Jason Quigley returned to fight in Southern California after nearly two years away and found it tough going in defeating Mexico’s veteran Freddie Hernandez by unanimous decision to retain the NABF middleweight title on Thursday.

Nearly every round was contentious.

Quigley (15-0, 11 KOs) had decided to train in England after spending several years in Southern California. Though he beat Hernandez (34-10, 22 KOs) he must have forgot how to fight inside as that’s where the troubles began at Fantasy Springs Casino. The fight was televised on ESPN.

After spending the first several rounds picking apart 39-year-old Hernandez from the outside, when the Mexican fighter crowded Quigley, the Irish fighter found it difficult to maintain his punch advantage.

Hernandez used his crafty inside work to both score and muffle the punches incoming from Quigley. In the sixth and seventh round the Mexican fighter began mounting considerable damage on his foes’ face. Whether it was weariness or some other factor, Hernandez was scoring big with well-placed left hooks and lead rights.

The crowd began shouting “Fred-die, Fred-die” as the veteran landed flush blows. A look of concern crossed Quigley’s face.

Both fighters looked tired by the ninth round, but the older fighter Hernandez somehow seemed fresher especially while fighting on the inside. Then Quigley began separating himself and scoring with pot shots. That seemed to stop the rushes of Hernandez.

In the final round Quigley’s fans began shouting his name and the Irish fighter though weary managed to fire some combinations while on the move. Both fighters were exhausted when the final bell rang.

One judge scored it 99-91, the other two had it 98-92 all for Quigley.

“I feel great, I knew coming in this was a big test for me,” said Quigley.

Yes it was.

Gomez

New York’s Eddie Gomez (22-3, 12 KOs) was supposed to be joined with his dad for the fight against Japan’s Shoki Sakai (22-9-2, 12 KOs) in Indio, but unexpectedly his father passed away this past weekend. The fight still went on.

Gomez won every round against the game Sakai who was trained by Mexico’s famed Nacho Beristain. The welterweight Gomez from the Bronx used his speed and movement to keep away from Sakai’s big blows. After eight rounds all three judges saw it 80-72 for Gomez.

“It was very hard. He (father) was supposed to come out Saturday night. He took a week off of work. He was supposed to fly out and Saturday was the day he had died,” said Gomez after the fight. “I got to bite down. He was in camp with me. He had his input. He would have been proud today. I love you pops.”

Other bouts

Coachella’s Rommell Caballero (4-0, 3 KOs) floored Hugo Padron twice to win by knockout at 1:25 of the first round in a super featherweight match. Caballero, the 19-year-old brother of former super bantamweight champion Randy Caballero, connected with a counter left hook during an initial exchange that sent Pardo to the floor. He got up tentatively and was met with a crisp right through the gloves for a second knockdown. Referee Tom Taylor took a look at Pardo and waved the fight over.

“My first fight on ESPN I just want to thank everybody. All I’m doing is training. I’m getting ready and staying sharp,” said Caballero who was a former sparring partner for Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. “Training with him (Gonzalez) is one of the greatest experiences I ever had.”

After losing most every round Ray Perez (24-10, 8 KOs) made a stand and connected with an overhand left that staggered Chimpa Gonzalez (19-3, 15 KOs) and then the Filipino fired another overhand left through the guard and down went Gonzalez. Though he beat the count, Gonzalez seemed light headed and when the fight resumed Perez connected with more blows and the fight was called at 2:15 of the seventh round. Perez was deemed the winner by knockout.

It was a rematch of a fight that took place last February at the same venue. In that contest Perez won by unanimous decision.

Gonzalez trained with Joel and Antonio Diaz in Indio for this match. And though the lanky lightweight was far ahead on the score cards, he seldom moved his head and paid for it. Before that, he was ahead by attacking the body of Perez who protected his body for the last three rounds. But once Gonzalez slowed Perez revved up his attack and finished Gonzalez.

In a featherweight clash Edgar Ortega survived a first round knockdown against Recky Dulay (11-4, 8 KOs) and rallied to win by unanimous decision after six rounds by scores 57-56, and 58-55 twice.

Southpaw lightweight Angel Ruiz (11-0, 8 KOs) knocked out Dominican Republic’s Jonathan Fortuna (8-3) at 1:40 of the fourth round. Ruiz, 21, fights out of Tijuana, Mexico.

Super featherweight Elnur Abduraimov (2-0) knocked out Giovannie Gonzalez (5-3) at 2:38 of the second round. Abduraimov, 24, is originally from Uzbekistan.

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