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WHAT IF Tyson Fought Holyfield in 1991? …MARKARIAN

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Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson had a contractual agreement to fight for the undisputed heavyweight championship on November 8th 1991. The highly anticipated event never happened because of an apparent Tyson rib injury and then later was delayed when Tyson went to prison, among other reasons.

Tuesday November 8th marked the 20 year anniversary of the planned Tyson/Holyfield fight date at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada.

A caption in the July 22, 1991 edition of Sports Illustrated: Heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield will finally fight Mike Tyson because, after much wheeling and dealing, that’s what both men what.

Mike Tyson, the 25-year-old, No. 1 contender fresh off of four dominating victories since the shocking defeat to Buster Douglas in February 1990, wanted his heavyweight title back. The above SI story said gross for the event projected over $100 million with Holyfield earning a guaranteed $30 million and Tyson $15 million guaranteed.

Tickets for the event ranged from $1200 to $200 dollars at the roughly 15,000 seat arena of Caesars Palace, where many high-profile boxing events were held at the time. Dan Duva, Holyfield’s promoter, and Don King who promoted Tyson, agreed–Tyson vs. Holyfield was to become the richest fight in boxing history.

At the time, before the handshaking and contractual finalities took place, and before the idea of prison for Tyson entered into the equation, two factors blocked Tyson/Holyfield from happening in 1991 – money and George Foreman.

Roughly twelve months before Holyfield and Tyson agreed to terms, George Foreman fought on the undercard of Tyson’s first bout since Douglas defeat against Henry Tillman in June 1990. The Tyson/Foreman twin bill idea meant to build interest for an eventual clash between the two sluggers. After Foreman’s brave losing effort versus Evander Holyfield in April 1991, Don King offered the 42-year-old former champ a $20 million purse to face Iron Mike.

Foreman and his promoter Bob Arum, refused, saying they wanted a rematch with Holyfield.

In July 1991, less than two weeks after Tyson beat Razor Ruddock for the second time, Holyfield/Tyson fight was made to the dismay of Foreman and Bob Arum. Immediately after Holyfield/Tyson signed an agreement for November 1991, Foreman with help from promoter Bob Arum filed a $100 million breach of contract suit against Holyfield.

According to the Baltimore Sun, Bob Arum received a letter from Dan Duva with contract terms for Holyfield vs. Foreman II on July 8th, 1991. Foreman was to earn $12.5 million. Arum learned the following day that Holyfield and Tyson had a contract to fight instead. An enraged Arum said, “They used (Foreman) like a fool.” Holyfield’s team had two offers for Tyson; they could accept the $15 million and fight in November or take $25 million guaranteed to face Holyfield in April, considered step aside money, allowing Holyfield to give Foreman a rematch.

Tyson took the $15 mil. Tyson told Don King, “Forget the money.” He wanted the heavyweight belt again by any means. The undefeated, undisputed champ, 29-year-old Evander Holyfield stood in his way.

Holyfield preferred Tyson over Foreman. Despite beating Douglas who beat Tyson, The Real Deal was not fully recognized as the heavyweight champion in the public eye at the time. Tyson’s loss to Douglas was viewed by many as a fluke. It seemed a matter of time before Iron Mike would be crowned king again. Leading up to the fight Holyfield said, “You can’t hide from the fact that Tyson’s the man. I wanted to fight Tyson because he was champion. Even if he was not champ now, I still want to fight him.”

The New York Times wrote that Tyson vs. Holyfield sold out in 14 days, breaking a Caesars Place record previously held by the 1987 Hagler-Leonard fight which sold out in 16 days. Although excitement was brewing for the heavyweight showdown, Tyson’s legal troubles began to surface.
On August 3, 1991, the New York Times also reported a grand jury investigation involving Mike Tyson about a complaint filed with the Indianapolis Police Department by an 18-year-old woman accusing the ex-champ of sexually assaulting her on July 19th, 1991.

The NY Times article says a representative from the Indianapolis Police Department expected a special grand jury to investigate the Tyson issue within the week.

Despite the potential roadblock of what was the richest fight in boxing history, Seth Abraham, of TVKO-PPV told the NY Times, “We are going forward, (and) awaiting developments.”

On October 20th 1991, The Chicago Tribune stated Tyson pulled out of his bout with Holyfield because of a rib injury. “The announcement came only hours after a request by Tyson to delay his rape trial was denied by Marion County (Ind.) Judge Patricia Gifford,” said the Tribune.

Meanwhile a frustrated Dan Duva told the Tribune that Tyson injured his ribs on October 8th, nearly two weeks before Tyson cancelled. Don King hoped to reschedule the event for January 20th 1992, one week before Tyson would go to trial for rape and eventually get convicted. Nothing came of it.

In the end, Foreman never got his rematch with Holyfield and Tyson had to wait four years to get another fight. But what would have happened if a close to his prime Mike Tyson took on an agile, quick, undefeated heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield? Some find pre-prison era Tyson too ferocious, others say the outcome would have been the same in ’91 as it was in 1996 and 1997 when Holyfield officially beat Mike Tyson twice. Tyson vs. Holyfield November 8th, 1991 is an argument that can never be answered but an argument nonetheless.

Evander Holyfield 26-0 vs. Mike Tyson 41-1
Opinion Poll – Below is a compilation of viewpoints on the fantasy bout from boxing writers, trainers, and fighters. Who would win a fight between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield in November 1991?

Jack Hirsch – President of the Boxing Writers Association of America
What amazes me is that people always bring up Muhammad Ali’s three year layoff as a reason he was beaten by Joe Frazier, yet completely ignore that Tyson was out of the ring for a similar amount of time.  When Ali lost to Frazier he was 29, Tyson was 30 when beaten by Holyfield.

Had they met in 1991 when their first fight was scheduled to take place, it would have been a better Tyson for sure, but I still don’t think it would have been enough. When you get past the charisma and mystique of Tyson, Holyfield was a better fighter and much stronger mentally.  He always had this thing about wanting to prove he was superior to his great rival Tyson.  Mike did not quite have the same passion about proving he was better than Holyfield, in part because he was made out to be invincible and probably bought into it to an extent.

Holyfield on points in a good competitive fight would have been the likely result, had the two squared off in 1991 as originally planned.

Robert Guerrero – Multiple division champ and pound for pound contender
Mike Tyson had already lost to Buster Douglas so his aura of invincibility was tarnished coming into to his fight with Holyfield. As it turned out, Holyfield wasn’t intimidated when they finally fought and he defeated him.  Tyson was never the same after his loss to Douglas so no matter what, I think Holyfield would have beaten him regardless of the circumstances.

Danny Jacobs – Middleweight prospect
Personally I think Iron Mike would have beaten Evander for the simple fact that Mike already took an L. Tyson knew another loss wouldn’t be good.  He would have trained the hardest he had ever trained and would have been 100% focused. I pick Tyson, and not because I am from Brooklyn.

Thomas Hauser – Chairman of BWAA Membership Committee/Award winning author
Tyson was a better fighter before he went to prison than afterward.  But by 1991, he’d already lost to Buster Douglas and was on a downward slide.  Given what happened in the two Tyson-Holyfield fights, it’s hard to pick against Evander.  But I still think that Tyson at his best (circa 1988) was better than Evander at his best.

David Avila – West Coast Bureau Chief of TSS/Founder of Uppercut Magazine
I was very disappointed because I had a debate with a good friend of mine over this fight. For two years I had insisted that Evander Holyfield would be the guy to beat Mike Tyson if they met. We had a bet going on and it had to wait a few more years. I had always felt that Holyfield’s style and toughness was a perfect match for Tyson’s aggression. It was a perfect style match up.?

Terry Norris – Former four-time junior middleweight champion
Tyson would have knocked him out, he was too strong. And Holyfield was a very good fighter but Tyson was the man back in ‘91. Much respect to both those guys. They are two great fighters.?

Brad Cooney – CEO www.8CountNews.com
I think the same thing would have happened to Tyson in 1991 as what happened to him in 1996/97. Tyson met his match against a guy in Holyfield that had boxing skills.

Ryan Maquinana – www.Boxingscene.com
By 1991, despite two good wins over Razor Ruddock, Tyson wasn’t the same complete fighter he was when he was undisputed champ, especially after he took that first loss against Buster Douglas just a year before then. Holyfield was on a roll, stopping Douglas and decisioning Foreman before stopping a determined Bert Cooper who gave him fits early. I think I’d have to favor Holyfield if they met in ’91. But the Tyson who stopped Trevor Berbick was just an awesome machine. I think he’d beat the ’91 Holyfield.”

Lyle Fitzsimmons – www.CBSSports.com
That’s a toughie. I’m not as reverential of Mike as a lot of people. I think he lost to Buster because of the style, not because of corners or marriages or anything else. So I think a heavyweight Evander would have always been a task for him, because Evander was a better all-around fighter. That said, I think it would have been far less decisive in 1991 than it was five years later.

Ryan Songalia – www.RingTV.com
We want to believe that Mike Tyson, prior to prison, would have beaten Evander Holyfield. But the truth had been on the wall for some time. Tyson had become increasingly reckless under his Don King-appointed trainers, and basically became an explosive street fighter. Tyson had shown his defensive holes in the first fight with Frank Bruno, as well as the two fights with Ruddock. I feel that Holyfield just knew enough tricks to keep Tyson off balance and exploit the holes.

Maybe Tyson doesn’t get stopped like in the first fight years later, but I think Holyfield would have gotten him.

Tim Starks – Founder of www.Queensberry-rules.com
You can’t talk about a Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield “what if” in 1991 without rewinding to Tyson-Buster Douglas in 1990. The usual explanation for how Douglas beat Tyson was that the bully had been unmasked, that the balloon of intimidation and invulnerability finally got punctured by an inspired Douglas who had nothing to lose. I think that’s part of the way true. But spending more than one weekend watching the Tyson marathons on ESPN Classic, I always notice how much his technique degenerated from the days of Cus D’Amato to the fateful night in Japan. He had stopped bobbing and weaving so much, lost track of his body attack, and the combination punching that helped make his blend of speed and power so fearsome had all but disappeared.??On the rehab trail, Tyson rediscovered some of his form, and some of his nerve, against Razor Ruddock, where his body punching was painful to behold and he responded with grit to being rocked by Razor. That offers at least the chance that Tyson might have fared better against Holyfield than he eventually did. But we’re also talking about prime, unbeaten heavyweight Holyfield in ’91 — there were not yet any of those draining wars with Riddick Bowe that would later come, no struggles with hepatitis A. I’ll take prime heavyweight Holyfield over diminished Tyson every day. It’s just too bad we have to daydream about it, instead of getting to witness it.

Martin Mulcahey – www.Maxboxing.com

Styles makes fights, but I think timing can play an equally important factor which is why I lean slightly towards Tyson in this time-frame. From late 1990 to late 1991 Tyson fought in three month intervals, which was key to keeping Tyson focused and sharp since his style was dependent on timing. Two good wins over Razor Ruddock and evisceration of Alex Steward showed he was sharp, while at the same time Holyfield was turning in sub-par performances against Bert Cooper and Larry Holmes. This version of Tyson defeats Holyfield, but only after surviving a furious Vander comeback in the championship rounds.

Mario Ortega – www.15Rounds.com
While we will never quite know what would have happened if 1991 versions Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson would have clashed in the ring, it is my belief that “The Real Deal” would have still prevailed, much as he did 1996. With everything that was going on in his life at the time, I don’t think Tyson would have been up mentally for the challenge of a prime Holyfield. I believe Holyfield would have survived the early onslaught and out boxed Tyson down the stretch, perhaps taking a unanimous decision.

Virgil Hunter – Trainer of super middleweight champion Andre Ward
Holyfield always had the style to beat Mike Tyson. He had more boxing skill. Tyson at the time was great but Holyfield would beat him. You could just watch Holyfield’s fight with Dwight Muhammad Qawi to figure that out. Qawi obviously was not as strong as Tyson, but he threw similar combinations. Holyfield was prepared to defeat Tyson in 1991 because he fought Qawi.

Ramon Aranda – Managing Editor of www.3morerounds.com
In my opinion Tyson could have beaten Holyfield in 1991.  Now granted, Tyson had been exposed by Buster Douglas and was not the same fighter he was during his prime years as heavyweight champ.  However, he had a lot to prove and Holyfield, at that particular point in time, was quite receptive to going toe-to-toe with opponents, as we saw in his fights with Riddick Bowe, and Bert Cooper.  That type of strategy would have been his downfall.

The Holyfield we saw against Tyson in 1996 was more conservative with his punches and a better defensive fighter, which was to his benefit against an aggressive Tyson.  In 1991 however, Holyfield would have slugged it out and gotten knocked out.

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In a One-Sided Beatdown, Batyr Jukembayev TKOs Shopworn Ivan Redkach

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In a One-Sided Beatdown, Batyr Jukembayev TKOs Shopworn Ivan Redkach

The noted trainer Brian “BoMac” McIntyre had two fighters on tonight’s ProBox card in Plant City, Florida, and brought along the ace of his stable, Terence Crawford, to provide moral support.

The main event, contested at 140 pounds, had an Eastern European flavor pitting Kazakhstan’s Batyr Jukembayev against LA-based Ukrainian Ivan Redkach. Jukembayev, Crawford’s stablemate, needed no moral support as Redkach fought a survivor’s fight for as long as it lasted. A 33-year-old southpaw, the Kazkh won every second of the fight until the mismatch was halted at the 2:18 mark of round five.

It was the fifth straight win for Jukembayev (23-1, 17 KOs) whose only defeat was inflicted by Subriel Matias, the current holder of the IBF world title at 140. Redkach (24-7-1) was stopped for the fourth time including a fight with Regis Prograis where he succumbed to a phantom low blow. Now 38 years old, he should not be allowed to fight again. His showing tonight bore stark evidence that he is completely shot.

Co-Feature

In the co-feature, a 10-round junior lightweight affair, Jonhatan Cardoso, a 25-year-old Brazilian, advanced to 17-1 (15) with a split decision over LA’s Adam “Bluenose” Lopez. This figured to be a fan-friendly fight and didn’t disappoint. Both fighters threw punches in bunches although Lopez’s workrate declined in the late rounds.

Lopez, now 17-6-1, is better than his record. His first five losses came against opponents who were collectively 109-6 at the time that he fought them. The son of the late Hector Lopez, an Olympic silver medalist for Mexico and a three-time world title challenger, “Bluenose” doesn’t have a signature win, but has a signature moment. He knocked Oscar Valdez down hard in their first of two meetings, a fight he took on 1-day notice when Valdez’s original opponent was scratched after coming in 11 pounds overweight. As a pro he has limitations, but is a high-octane fighter who rarely has a bad fight.

Two of the judges favored Cardoso. Their tallies were 99-91 and 96-94. The dissenter favored Lopez 97-93. The scores were all over the map, but the right guy wn.

Also

In the TV opener, Omaha-bred junior welterweight Charles Harris Jr scored a unanimous 6-round decision over Oceanside, California’s Kyle Erwin. The judges had it 58-56 and 59-55 twice.

A protégé of “BoMac,” Harris Jr., who began his pro career in Mexico at age 16, improved to 9-1 (7). It was the second pro loss for Erwin (7-2) whose lone prior defeat was the result of a cut.

In an unrelated matter, today (May 22) was the day that Ryan Garcia’s B-sample would be opened and analyzed. So we were all led to believe.

Confoundingly, it appears that opening the urine specimen and testing the contents aren’t performed on the same day. Dan Rafael enlightened us. “Will take a few days for results but certainly possible it could stretch into early next week due to weekend and holiday,” Rafael tweeted today on his Fight Freaks Unite platform.

Why wasn’t this made known beforehand so that fight journalists could plan their day accordingly? I place the blame on the New York State Athletic Commission.

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Oleksandr Usyk from a Historical Perspective 

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Oleksandr Usyk flipped the heavyweight division onto its head this past Saturday night in the Kingdom Arena, Riyadh, travelling a long way from home to seal his greatest victory. Usyk, small by modern heavyweight standards, towers over most men at 6’3″ and 220lbs and sporting a reach that lineal champions Ezzard Charles or Joe Walcott would have killed for. Things have changed though, and in the middle rounds of his war with Tyson Fury, Usyk suddenly appeared tiny. Fury, a giant at around 6’8” and over 260lbs seems a heavyweight for this century. Usyk, a journeyman in the most ancient sense of the word, feels like a throwback to a more savage time. His greatest achievements have taken place on foreign soil. The last time he boxed at home was almost a decade ago and given the situation in Ukraine and given Usyk’s 37 years, it is unlikely he will ever box there again.

Usyk took chances in the seventh and especially the eighth to take charge of a fight that seemed to be slipping away from him. In the vertigo inducing ninth, it was he, not Fury who appeared the giant. Usyk draped the Englishman over the ropes like so much fresh meat and tenderised him to within an inch of unconsciousness, the sheer hugeness of Fury perhaps preventing a referee’s intervention on behalf of his opponent, and not for the first time. Against both Deontay Wilder (the first fight) and Otto Wallin, a more squeamish official would have stepped in and stopped the fight, and here, too, there was a case. If Usyk seems a throwback, then Fury has been refereed like one, spared stoppages likely to be inflicted upon his peers, he was allowed once again to continue boxing, as Joe Louis was against Max Schmeling, or Jack Dempsey was against Luis Pirpo. But with Fury buckled at the knees, Usyk seemed the true heavy man in the ring.

In historical terms, Usyk is not a small heavyweight. He would have dwarfed “The Galveston Giant” Jack Johnson in the ring and loomed large over “Big” George Foreman. Usyk has every attribute necessary to make an unpleasant evening for Joe Louis, but it should be noted that while his footwork and speed and technical excellence would be the source of the discomfort, his excess of height and reach are the wildcards. Usyk would seem two to three weight classes bigger than Rocky Marciano, mainly because he is, and the towering Sonny Liston would look up. Circus strongman Jess Willard and the mob-sponsored Primo Carnera would both look down on Usyk – but not by that much. Usyk would stand eye to eye with Muhammad Ali but prime-for-prime he would outweigh him by ten pounds, as he would Larry Holmes. We must skip Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield and reach all the way into the Lennox Lewis era before we find men from history that truly out-size Usyk on a consistent basis.

Size, as Usyk has proven, is far from everything. Big by historical standards, he is small by modern standards. What else is now true in the wake of the seismic fistic events of Saturday night? Firstly, Usyk is unquestionably ranked the #1 heavyweight in the world. Of this, there can be no dispute. Accounting for his two wonderful defeats of another “super” heavyweight, Anthony Joshua, he is 3-0 against the rest of the top five and sitting unassailably at the head of the heavyweight table. More, and I have been surprised to see it disputed in some corners, Usyk is now almost as equally unassailably the pound-for-pound number one. The only fighter breathing the same air as Usyk right now is Naoya Inoue. Inoue has been operating at or near the highest level for longer, but the level of his opposition has not been as rarefied. Comparing the first phase opposition defeated by Naoya to the murderer’s row of cruiserweights that Usyk ran into during the Super Six series can lead to only one conclusion. Although Naoya’s busy, weight-class-bursting style has topped him out for most of the past two to three years, only one of these men has consistently been beating bigger, taller, longer opposition at the highest level, and that is Usyk. It is not a matter of opinion – he is the smallest man in my heavyweight top ten.

01 – Oleksandr Usyk

02 – Anthony Joshua

03 – Joseph Parker

04 – Tyson Fury

05 – Filip Hrgovic

06 – Zhilei Zhang

07 – Agit Kabayel

08 – Daneil Dubois

09 – Martin Bakole

10 – Joe Joyce

Usyk lives among giants now and where there is parity of height (Kabayel) he is the lighter man by 15 pounds. This is not true of Naoya, who despite his weight-hopping, still manages to run into fighters of the same height and of shorter reach. The opposition argument is narrow, but the relative size opposition is not and there is no pound-for-pound credential more significant than that of consistently out-fighting bigger men. Usyk has done so and will continue to do so for as long as he fights. There is simply no smaller man in his class.

Not since the heyday of Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield has a lineal heavyweight champion consistently fought bigger men and not since Mike’s hype-infused prime has a heavyweight menaced the number one pound-for-pound spot. Usyk has not enjoyed anything like the same machine support as Mike did; indeed, he has laboured in the shadow of more prominent men until such time as he thrashed them. He is a true manifestation of pound-for-pound glory in the unlimited class. Where does this leave him in terms of all-time standing?

I am reluctant to rate active fighters for reasons that are obvious enough; Usyk could be pole-axed in three by an irate Fury in a December rematch and all this ink is for naught. But what I am willing to do is play let’s pretend and imagine Usyk as retired and consider his place in heavyweight history now.

Usyk’s raw numbers are low-grade at just 22-0 with 14 knockouts. Worse, most of this was built in the cruiserweight division and not the heavyweight division. Against men weighing in as heavyweights, Uysk is essentially 7-0, and only 3-0 against ranked opposition. On the other hand, one of these victories came against Daniel Dubois, now ranked, and the 3-0 was posted against Tyson Fury, generally held to be the best or second-best heavyweight in the world, and Anthony Joshua, ranked behind only Fury at the time of his first fight with Usyk. So, when he stepped up, he stepped up to tackle the best in the world and has become lineal as a result. It’s a hard ledger to wrestle with, but fortunately we have a career that is comparable in the shape of Gene Tunney.

Tunney, a career light-heavyweight, earned a heavyweight legacy built of essentially one man: Jack Dempsey. Past-prime and inactive, Dempsey was ripped apart by Tunney in their legendary first fight and did better in a losing effort against the genius “Fighting Marine” in a rematch, much like Joshua did against Usyk. Tunney then boxed the limited but game Tom Heeney and retired. The rest of his heavyweight career was spent beating great middleweights like Harry Greb and limited losing-streak gatekeepers like Charley Weinert and Martin Burke. One thing that must be noted is that Tunney is matching men who are smaller than Usyk’s cruiserweight opposition to his heavyweight credit. Men like Mairis Briedis and Murat Gassiev would have been big men in Tunney’s era, but they aren’t counted towards heavyweight legacy for the Ukrainian – either would constitute Tunney’s second-best heavyweight scalp, I think. Tunney’s wider resume does not necessarily include fighters who compare that favourably even to Dereck Chisora or Chaz Witherspoon, the men who make up Usyk’s second layer of opposition.

The point is, Tunney was made a legend for defeating a champion. Both Fury and Joshua were active, physically enormous fighters that Usyk simply unmanned with a type of genius Gene Tunney would have stood to applaud. Tunney appended to his light-heavyweight career the important part of a heavyweight career – the part where you fight and beat the champion, and it has made him a stalwart of heavyweight history. This, Usyk too has achieved, but I have been more impressed with Usyk’s summit than Tunney’s. To be direct: Usyk should rate higher at heavyweight than Tunney.

What that means is that the top twenty at heavyweight is the minimum Usyk can expect from history’s eye should he retire undefeated. In such a case, I would place Usyk in this sort of company:

18 – Ezzard Charles

19 – Oleksandr Usyk

20 – Jersey Joe Walcott

21 – James J Corbett

22 – Peter Jackson

23 – Ken Norton

24 – Max Schmeling

25 – Vitali Klitschko

26 – Riddick Bowe

27 – Gene Tunney

Also illustrative of a point is Tunney’s career pre-heavyweight. Tunney, every bit as brilliant as Usyk in the ring (although notably smaller, and successful against notably smaller opposition), laced up his gloves on close to ninety occasions and his level of competition dwarfs that of Usyk. That is no indictment. All it really means is that Usyk isn’t among the thirty greatest fighters ever to have drawn breath, like Tunney is. He can join an enormous and star-studded cast that includes Mike Tyson, Bernard Hopkins and Carlos Monzon in that. I do think, though, that Oleksandr Usyk’s career, were it to end tomorrow, could be readily compared to that of Evander Holyfield and that means that an unbeaten Usyk, lineal cruiserweight and heavyweight champion of the world, current pound-for-pound king, is within spitting distance of a list that captures the fifty greatest fighters in history.

56 – Ruben Olivares

57 – Wilfredo Gomez

58 – Vicente Saldivar

59 – Oleksandr Usyk

60 – Evander Holyfield

61 – Ted Kid Lewis

62 – Lou Ambers

63 – Rocky Marciano

64 – Abe Attell

65 – Manuel Ortiz

A retired Naoya Inoue would join him in the top seventy, I think, and a retired Bud Crawford the top ninety.

Boxing is dead, haven’t you heard?

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank

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Another Victory for Ukraine as Berinchyk Upsets Navarrete in San Diego

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Whether it was inspiration or perspiration, Ukraine’s Denys Berinchyk motored past Mexico’s Emanuel Navarrete by split decision to become the WBO lightweight world titlist on Saturday.

Just hours after his fellow countryman Oleksandr Usyk became undisputed heavyweight world champion, Berinchyk joined the club.

“This is a great night for all people of Ukraine,” Berinchyk said.

The undefeated Ukrainian Berinchyk (19-0, 9 KOs) gutted out a win over Navarrete (38-2-1, 31 KOs) who was attempting to join Mexico’s four-division world champion club in San Diego. The lanky fighter known as “Vaquero” fell a little short.

Through all 12 rounds neither fighter was able to dominate and neither was able to score a knockdown. Just when it seemed one fighter gathered enough momentum, the other fighter would rally.

A butt caused a slight cut on Navarrete in the 10th round. That seemed to ignite anger from the Mexican fighter and he powered through the Ukrainian fighter the next two rounds.

In the final round Berinchyk bore down and slugged it out with the Mexican fighter as both relied on their weapons of choice. For most of the night Navarrete scored with long-range uppercuts and Berinchyk scored with overhand rights.

After 12 rounds two judges scored it 115-113, 116-112 for Berinchyk and one 116-112 for Navarrete. Ukraine gained its third world titlist in one a week. Berinchyk joins Usyk and Vasyl Lomachenko as world titlists.

“He’s a very tough guy,” said Berinchyk of Navarrete.

Welterweights

A battle between undefeated welterweights saw Brian Norman (26-0, 20 KOs) knock out Giovany Santillan (32-1, 17 KOs) in the 10th round to become the interim WBO titlist.

For nine rounds both welterweights engaged in brutal inside warfare as each tried to beat the sense out of each other.

Norman worked the body early as Santillan targeted the head. Neither fought more than two inches from each other.

The younger Norman, 23, connected with a right cross during an exchange that wobbled Santillan in the eighth round. From that point on the Georgia fighter began setting up for his power shots. Finally, in the 10th round, uppercuts dropped Santillan twice. In the second knockdown Santillan went down hard as referee Ray Corona stopped the fight immediately at 1:33 of the 10th round.

Other Bouts

Heavyweight Richard Torrez (10-0, 10 KOs) knocked out Brandon Moore (14-1) in the fifth round for a regional title.

Lightweight Alan Garcia (10-0) defeated Wilfredo Flores (10-3-1) by decision after eight.

Photo credit: German Villasenor

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