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Roman Gonzalez: The New Pound-for-Pound King

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Back when Roman Gonzalez was a twenty-two year old minimumweight with a slate of 25-0 rather than a twenty-eight year old flyweight with a slate of 43-0, I wrote an article speculating as to whether or not Roman Gonzalez would ever assume the dizzy heights of the pound-for-pound #1 slot.

“I think he can,” I wrote in conclusion, “time and talent are on his side.”

Upon the retirement of Floyd Mayweather in the wake of his anaemic victory over the under-qualified Andre Berto, Ring Magazine elevated Gonzalez to the #1 spot; after taking a single week to see if Floyd Mayweather would reverse his decision, TBRB (of which I am a member) followed suit. Mayweather was such a dominant and long-lived #1 that his withdrawal from the p4p list was always going to cause a shuffling of the pound-for-pound pack and the subjective nature of such an exercise means that no new ascendant to the throne was going to be universally agreed upon overnight, but the early votes, certainly, are in: Gonzalez is the best in the world.

The first time I ran the rule over Gonzalez he was a known quantity for all that he was one that flew beneath the radar but he was also a work in progress. In breaking down Gonzalez by category I was handicapped by Roman’s own lack of experience and in many areas I had to pose questions rather than give answers. Today, we know almost all we will know about the Nicaraguan who is at the absolute peak of his powers, has most of his major formative experiences behind him and who has several years in which to express his destructive powers to the fullest of his ability. It’s good to be Roman Gonzalez.

I’m going to revisit the categories I ran him through all those years ago. There will be very different results. Gonzalez is a monster. A machine. A killer. Any and every cliché you feel you would like to apply is valid. He is the antithesis of Floyd Mayweather; a destroyer who does not seek to hit and not be hit, but rather to hit, hit, hit.

He breaks people.

THE EARLY DAYS

“The step up in class went totally unnoticed by Roman Gonzalez.”

What most impressed me about Gonzalez in the first five year instalment of his career between 2005 and 2010 was that he deployed himself independent of the level of his opposition. Against early opponents he was as careful as he would be against world-class opposition; against world-class opposition he was as dominant and confident physically as he was against early opposition. What this meant in practical terms was that a strapholder like Yutaka Niida was dispatched with the same unruffled calm (TKO 4 2008) as a professional loser like Francisco Mezza (RTD 6, KO2, 2006). This was something of an absurdity and for all that it was artificially enhanced by the discipline he showed against the soft opposition he cut his teeth on, it still framed the pertinent question perfectly: how far can he take this?

We know the answer now: all the way to the top. His air of utter dominance may have evaporated in the face of the very best opposition but he is yet to be stretched to the extent of his ability by my eye. An often heard criticism of Floyd Mayweather was that his style and careful selection of opponents meant we never saw him reach his full potential. Gonzalez, too, may not have reached his absolute apex but it is assuredly not a matter of style. Gonzalez is there, right there with his adversary and now he has moved through 105lbs and 108lbs to 112lbs, he enjoys no meaningful advantages in height or reach. As for his selection of opponents, a harsher criticism, perhaps, of Mayweather was that the opposition he bested did not go on to achieve after his having beaten them. If this was true of Mayweather, and I do not say that it is, it is absolutely untrue of Gonzalez.

In 2009, having barely emerged into the world class, he posted his ugliest win over the much fleeter Katsunari Takayama, using aggression and pressure to out-point his much quicker opponent. When Gonzalez exited the division Takayama came again and briefly summited as the world’s best minimumweight before losing out to Francisco Rodriguez Jnr. in the fight of 2014. Rodriguez, too, was a former Gonzalez victim, stopped in seven in a rugged, one-sided encounter from 2013. Gonzalez left in his ruinous wake the men who would fight for the scraps he left behind, primed boxers capable of boxing for titles even after he battered them. His eventual legacy has been enhanced by the opposition he met in his formative years.

STYLE

“If Gonzalez is one day to reach the heights of pound-for-pound #1, he will likely need to hold multiple titles at a higher weight class, so these more careful boxing skills will be crucial.”

Gonzalez is a pressure-boxer with a serious punch (37 stoppages in 43 fights) but that is a little like saying a Beethoven’s Sixth is a piece of classical music. There are shades and variety in his destructive stylings borne, in the main, upon outstanding footwork and balance.

On paper, Gonzalez was run close by the savage Francisco Rosas in October of 2010 although in reality, Gonzalez was a clear winner. Nevertheless, Rosas did become the first man to really ruffle Roman physically, employing rabbit-punches and aggression to force Gonzalez to focus on defence rather than offence for short stretches. Rosas perhaps earned the rematch the two fought around eighteen months later for one of the many straps issued by the perennially confused WBA at 108lbs. This is the fight that best illustrates the Gonzalez default style. He begins slowly behind a high guard, but that guard is not an invitation for the opponent to lead so much as a launching pad for his own punches. He remains loose, edging forwards and laterally with tight, small moves. All is economy; if he moves it is in order that he might bring himself into range where he is at his most destructive or to give the opponent a little too much space for his own punches whereupon he can land his own counters. Half way through the first he slips to the ground and when action resumes Rosas tries to bull into him whereupon Gonzalez eases into a new gear. Not quite planted, his stance primarily supports punches now, and he finds a blistering lead right and a three-punch combination that leads seamlessly into a two-piece.

He broke Rosas around a minute into the second; the combination which dropped him for the first knockdown was eight punches long. The combination for the second knockdown was eleven punches long. Rosas had never been stopped before, and has not been knocked out since.

The pressure is relentless, specialised, but there is little about it that is flashy, he doesn’t storm the barricades like Mike Tyson or invoke perpetual motion like Joe Frazier, nor, even, does he seek to decimate flesh like Marciano. His pressure is of an even more deadly kind because it is not an ending in and of itself. Tyson, Frazier and Marciano were more terrifying than Gonzalez in their pressure but that of Gonzalez is far more precise; it is distilled to the point where it functions purely to bring him into range for unerringly accurate punches. Marciano and Frazier lacked his precision and Tyson lacked his economy. In terms of types of pressure, denoted here by the great heavies, Gonzalez is most like Joe Louis but Louis is often criticised for his footwork. Gonzalez does not have that problem.

TEMPERAMENT AND MENTAL STRENGTH

“Such maturity in such a young fighter is rare.”

It is now mostly forgotten that Juan Francisco Estrada came from almost nowhere to give Gonzalez the sternest test of his career late in 2012. It was barely more than a year since he had dropped a decision to titlist Juan Carlos Sanchez and it had taken him nine rounds to dispatch German Meraz in his previous fight despite the fact that Meraz had twice been stopped in four rounds the year before. Since, Estrada has embraced the traditional path for the best Gonzalez victims, dominating a wide variety of world-class flyweights and even enshrining himself upon the TBRB pound-for-pound list. But, to say the least, on the night Estrada ran Gonzalez so close, it was something of a surprise.

This is important to note because it must have come as something of a surprise to Gonzalez himself. With a KO% of 86, it must come as something of a surprise every time an opponent goes the distance, but the taller, rangier Estrada didn’t just survive, he troubled Gonzalez, winning the first two rounds and showing a brilliance in moving just as Gonzalez begins to motor. Kept from his fluid best early, Gonzalez doesn’t freeze and nor, crucially, does he go looking for that single punch to change the fight but rather he accepts that he is going to have to take punishment and he adapts. In the second he throws a straight right lead to the body and as Estrada starts to move off he comes square and rockets in a southpaw jab up top. He finds new planes of attack to replace those Estrada is taking away with his mobility. Estrada finishes the third with swelling around the left eye and blood trickling from his nose.

Buying his way in with suffering and surges the antithesis of his normal balanced approach, by the fifth Gonzalez had happened upon the strategy that would win him the fight. He solved the bigger, faster, world class Estrada in the ring and he did it without even a single loss of control, without the merest hint of uncertainty. It is the only time in his career that there has been tension when the fight went to the scorecards but the officials uncovered the right winner; I suspect the world-class Estrada will get another shot at Gonzalez at some point in the future.

Early in his career, Gonzalez gave an indication that it might be the case but I think now it is fair to say that strategically, he is as adaptable as a fighter can be. Mentally, he seems something close to unbreakable.

FOOTWORK AND BALANCE

“Gonzalez excels at cutting off the ring and looks every inch the mobile destroyer.”

In essence, there is little to say about Gonzalez’s balance in 2015 that I didn’t say in 2010. He does indeed look every inch the “mobile destroyer” and as I also said at that time “[t]his is the area where Gonzalez has shown the most dramatic improvement.” He has continued to shorten his stance until he looks more like a standard-issue box-puncher and he has learned lessons about occasionally sacrificing his exquisite balance in favour of a sudden charge but this facet of his game was all but perfected by the time of his move in earnest up to 108lbs.

As to his footwork, the ultimate testimony to any fighter’s mobility is his excelling against opponents that move away from him. Traditionally, movers present the biggest difficulty for pressure-fighters – returning to our heavyweight analogy, think of the struggles inflicted upon Marciano and Louis by Jersey Joe Walcott. The exception is when a swarmer has the footwork to catch the runner. Think of Joe Frazier chasing down Muhammad Ali, or Tyson’s early-round attacks. Gonzalez has such speed of pressure. He struggled in 2009, as noted, against the world-class mover Takayama, or at least he struggled to pin him down for a serious lashing while winning a wide decision, but since then he has definitely improved, both in terms of knowing when to take a risk and push and in terms of technical execution. Gonzalez is one step ahead of his man, most of the time, and as a pressure-fighter with world-class mobility, he does his best boxing when an opponent gives ground voluntarily or when he is forced to do so by Gonzalez on the warpath.

This may be the key ingredient in Gonzalez’s success.

TECHNIQUE ON OFFENCE

“Just as Gonzalez shows great variety in terms of style, so he shows great variety in his offence.”

In September of last year, Roman Gonzalez became the lineal world champion at flyweight. He had already established himself as the best fighter in the world at 105lbs and done some damage at 108lbs, but 112lbs was to be the first division where his dominance would translate into history. His opponent was the Japanese Akira Yaegashi. Yaegashi was himself a monster of a flyweight who was on a tear up through the hottest division in the sport but has failed miserably to put his career back together behind the brutal beating that Gonzalez laid upon him. It was probably the pinnacle of Roman’s career so far as offence is concerned and that makes it one of the most brilliant displays of box-punching seen since the heyday of Manny Pacquiao.

The number of leads of which Gonzalez is capable is almost as long as the list of punches that exist in boxing. This tortures opponents who move because they expect to be placed under control by the left jab. Gonzalez has one, a good one, but he sees and knows openings for all the other punches too. Yaegashi, who has fast feet, spent the first forty seconds of their fight alive to the left, only to be drilled with a short right hand to the chest. At the fifty seconds elapsed Gonzalez lands with a jab to the body; after eighty seconds it’s the lead right again; at ninety seconds he leads with a left hook. After one-hundred seconds elapsed he leads with the right uppercut and then tries to stitch a one-two on behind it. With just less than two-minutes elapsed he leads with the left-uppercut and has deployed the set.

For Yaegashi, this is a nightmare. He now has to deal with virtual threats across his entire defensive front. This is the very definition of offence working as defence because there is no quarter from which Yaegashi can assume a lesser threat. Yaegashi is world class, but Gonzalez out-and-out favours the lead right hand against him. This is arguably his most exquisite punch, one that he throws in all forms, as a snipe, as a torque-fuelled knock-out blow, as a range-finder, and he throws it to body, head, chest. Worse, it is a punch without a sell and furthermore it is a punch that he can throw behind a left-handed feint; he can dip his left shoulder as though about to hook and then drive home the right. Still, others would disagree. The Gonzalez left-hook is as short a punch as exists in boxing today, a stack of hurt compacted into a blow that is driven through the knee and the hip. It’s superb technique that has left a dozen opponents and more broken on the canvas.

Gonzalez speaks of landing seven and eight punches in quick succession and he can be seen doing so on film, but his bread and butter are the two-piece combinations that act as the spear of the offence of most great fighters. But his one-twos are about more than the jab-right hand. Against Yaegashi, he graduated quickly to bunches, having successfully feinted him out of position and onto the ropes he throws a straight-right, a left hook, steps inside for a left uppercut, back out, jab, right-hand to the body which brings him inside for the wide left hook. Of these, he missed only the left uppercut and it is only the third round.

This type of fluidity on offence is rare. I’ll go a little further: it’s non-existent. Golovkin may be as dangerous, but he is also less elastic for all that he is more destructive. Kovalev, too, is comparable on offence, but he is more a traditional technician and has not yet proven a gift for adaptation or improvisation. Manny Pacquiao is, I think, now passed this level of brilliance and while Naoya Inoue may catch Roman, he’s not there yet.

There is a reason Roman Gonzalez is the pound-for-pound number one and this is it: he is the best in the world at hitting people.

TECHNIQUE ON DEFENCE

“Gonzalez can take it when he has to.”

Roman’s engine and chin were proven beyond all hope of contradiction against Estrada. He was forced to adopt a risky strategy to get the win which meant he had to take hard punches throughout, but come bell he was still throwing and still marching grimly forwards. It was the last piece of the jigsaw in terms of his raw ability and he is now confirmed.

Technically, Gonzalez still abandons his guard occasionally when he throws right handed, his left hand given to wandering. This makes me wonder if he might not prove especially vulnerable to a southpaw with fast hands and why he is proven vulnerable to anyone brave enough to lead with a right hand to the body (stand up Rocky Fuentes). He also abandons the shifty defensive movement he employs at the beginning of the fight when he goes late, another reason a concrete chin is such a boon.

On the plus side, he shows good head movement early, is generally disciplined where his defensive guard is concerned and has some parrying skills. Just as he is a factor of ten ahead of Floyd Mayweather on offence, he is a factor of ten behind him on defence, but he is only Rocky Marciano when he chooses to be, when it is necessary, and for most of the rest of the time he is reasonably difficult to hit clean.

RING GENERALSHIP

“In essence, Gonzalez’s style solves a lot of generalship problems almost by default.”

What I meant by the above remark is that Gonzalez’s dual ability to box his way in or storm his way in provides him with two distinct opportunities at solving any given opponent. When the first fails, as was the case versus Takayama, the second present a default alternative. Now, he has proven the existence of a Defcom Three against Estrada. More than this, the enormous value of his intrinsic abilities means he rarely finds himself in a fight he actually needs to change – whether he is boxing inside, outside, against a fleeing opponent or one who wants to match him, he always comes out on top of the majority of battles and without exception, of the war.

That being said, he has demonstrated a superb ability to force his opponent into the fight he himself wants to be in. Whether he is drawing the fleet-footed Juan Purisima inside or forcing the savage Francisco Rodriguez to give ground, Gonzalez is, at 43-0, a past-master in what Sam Langford surmised as stopping the other man from doing what he wants to do.

SPEED AND POWER

“He may find himself out-sped in fights, but this is unlikely to be the cause of his downfall.”

Re-reading the above line, I’m struck by its brashness. Being out-sped is as likely to lead to a fighter’s downfall as any other single differential. Gonzalez rewarded my confidence however, proving that he can overcome a speed differential.

Gonzalez has come from 105lbs; he’s fast, and although there are faster fighters at 112lbs and below I think he has closed that gap slightly between this and the last time I wrote about him. Thomas Hauser wrote recently in an article about drug use in professional sport that fighters don’t get older, faster and bigger all at the same time but there is a caveat here. It’s true that a fighter’s handspeed shouldn’t increase but a fighter can absolutely get better at landing the second punch in a combination and if he has the type of coordination Gonzalez does, he can get better at landing the third. As his grasp of his own body-mechanics improves a fighter can indeed give the impression of punching more quickly. I think this is the case with Gonzalez and I think this is why faster fighters cannot overcome him.

His feet, too, are quick rather than lightning fast, but he doesn’t waste a single step. This makes cornering quicker fighters simply a matter of persistence; the flyweights are the fastest and there is no flyweight, light-flyweight or minimumweight who has shared the ring with Gonzalez who hasn’t felt the panic at his back hitting the ring-post.

In terms of power, Gonzalez is not among the very elite but he is on the cusp. He has stopped numerous fighters at 112lbs and above and this is his third weight division. Yes, many of these stoppages are a matter of accumulation but one has only to look at the reaction of the veteran Edgar Sosa to the punches thrown at him by Roman Gonzalez during his two-round debut on HBO this year to understand that Gonzalez, if not quite uncovering dynamite, comes to the ring heavily armed.

THE FUTURE

While Mayweather was anointed pound-for-pound extremely early in his career and broke into the Ring list in just his third year as a professional, the same year he won his first strap, Gonzalez was ranked a lowly #9 by Ring as late as November last year by which time he had held straps in three weight divisions – a rather hasty re-appraisal has been ordered in the light of both his HBO debut and the high regard Gonzalez is held in by the wider boxing world. Whatever the detail, both TBRB and Ring have him at number one now, and number one is assuredly where he belongs.

But what’s next?

In his immediate future is a fighter who has himself flirted with a p4p ranking before the wheels were dramatically stricken off by the aforementioned Juan Francisco Estrada, Brian Viloria, “The Hawaiian Punch”. Assuming Gonzalez is victorious here, he has two basic choices. Firstly, he could step up to super-flyweight for a meeting with Naoya Inoue, tackling the man they fittingly call “The Monster” before he has a chance to season. The second is to remain at flyweight, which still has the bones of one of the best divisions in the sport, and clear it out. This, I believe is within his capabilities and is the path he should chose. The temptation of what would be a legitimate superfight with Inoue – these two men are stars in Japan for all that they are little known in the west – may be too much to resist. Win or lose, such a move would have consequences. I felt in 2005 that super-fly may be a bridge too far for Gonzalez and I stand by that.

Either way, boxing has a new pound-for-pound king and surely one it can be proud of. Gonzalez is not just the antithesis of Floyd Mayweather in terms of style but in terms of personality, also. He is humble, gracious and bereft of the more unfortunate appetites that beset Mayweather – a fighter I admired enormously but a man with considerable shortcomings in his life away from the ring.

Gonzalez is not like that. Obviously, sadly, cross-over appeal is limited for a flyweight but those that know fights and fighters have been consistent in embracing him. Long may it continue.

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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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