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Enigmatic, Polarizing Broner Should Stop Malignaggi

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I don’t like Adrien Broner, the person. I have no quarrel with brash, loud-mouthed, uber-confident guys who can back it up in the ring (see: I have no ill will towards Floyd Mayweather, Jr.). However, everything about Broner is annoying. His “hair brushing” gimmick? His ill-timed, poorly-delivered jokes and misconceived sense of humor? It’s all a hopeless charade in trying to emulate the aforementioned Mayweather. Broner just doesn’t get “it”.

While Floyd can be rightly criticized for not fighting the best available opponents over the last decade, his in-ring skills and out-of-the ring popularity are unquestionable. He’s the best in the business when considering the combination of fame, recognition, and skill.

While Twitter is not the ultimate measure of a man’s popularity, it’s certainly a good reference point. Floyd has over 4 million followers, but Broner has just 96,000. To be fair, Floyd has been at the top of the sport for a long time, and this is not an apples-apples comparison, but when you hear Broner referred to as “the future of boxing” or “the next big thing”, you would expect a bigger fan following. And as someone who openly doesn’t care for Broner, I am still accounted for as one of the 96,000.

What Adrien Broner does have is the single best weapon in all of boxing: His straight right hand. It’s a God-given missile, and it will carry him to great heights as a prizefighter. Make no mistake, Broner is neither flawless nor unbeatable. When he tries to imitate Floyd’s patented shoulder-roll defense, he gets tagged repeatedly for it. Fortunately for his handlers, he can take a punch just fine. His defensive liabilities will absolutely cost him as he continues stepping up in competition. In the meantime, Broner has the great equalizer in his right hand. It’s his trump card, and it’s his bailout. It’s truly amazing how he can generate such power without cocking back, loading up, etc. It’s like a supercharged jab, shot out like a pistol.

Broner constantly draws comparisons to Floyd Mayweather, Jr., and some of the reasons are obvious. The pre-fight antics, the trash talk, and the lightning-fast hand speed in the ring are clear similarities. The most identifiable similarity in their respective fighting styles is their quick right hands. However, there are some clear differences between the two fighters:

Difference 1: The good news for Broner.

Floyd, for years, has won fights with his straight right alone. While inflicting minimal damage, it lands at will, keeps opponents off balance/out of sync, and racks up points. Earlier in Floyd’s career, he would land explosive combinations and land several meaningful punches while his opponent tried to land one. Now, as an aging fighter, Floyd uses his straight right as both a lead and a counter, and it’s nearly indefensible due to his accuracy, timing, and innate ability to know precisely when to throw it.

This is where the difference in their right hand lies. At 135 lbs, Broner’s straight right is “Nyquil”. It puts people to sleep (well aware that was a tacky reference) with concussive force, and at the very least snaps opponent’s heads back enough to make them think twice about engaging in exchanges. It’s as quick and fast as Floyd’s right hand with a lot more power. And he’s a finisher.

Difference 2: The bad news for Broner.

Adrien Broner doesn’t know how to use his feet (either that, or he is simply lazy/undisciplined). He’s extremely athletic, but he does not really outbox many opponents using his legs/movement. Floyd is the best I’ve ever seen in that regard. He can box circles around people, or lay on the ropes if he’s lazy because he’s that good. He’s never on the ropes because he was forced there. His cerebral approach to boxing makes sure the fight takes place exactly where he wants it to. No matter where the fight goes, Floyd doesn’t take much punishment. Sure, Floyd took shots from Cotto and had his nose bloodied, but he’s 36 and probably losing the world-class reflexes. Broner, who is in his athletic prime on the other hand, gets tagged by some limited offensive fighters since he stands right in front of them. Part of this problem, which can absolutely be corrected, is arrogance. Broner doesn’t think anyone he’s fought can hurt him. So far, he’s been correct. As he moves up in weight, that will undoubtedly change. His defensive complacency will be what separates him from being on top of the sport.

Directly related to lacking proper foot movement, Broner also doesn’t have a good sense of flow between offense and defense like Mayweather. Broner can counter well, but only because his hand speed is typically far superior to his opposition. Conversely, Mayweather lands counters at will because he instinctively transitions between defense and offense fluidly, slipping punches and firing back with his own. Broner simply waits until his opponent is done throwing, and then throws his own punches. It’s the reason Daniel Ponce De Leon was able to stifle Broner’s attack (in spurts) by implementing an awkward, varied fight pace to keep the youngster guessing.

Difference 3: The Moneymaker

While people often watch Floyd fight because they want to see him lose, it’s nothing compared to what Broner makes people feel. I watched his knockout of Gavin Rees with my girlfriend, who admittedly is not a boxing fan. As he made his entrance – er, train wreck—to the ring, she was so disgusted that all she wanted was “for that guy to smash his face in.” While it seems like an irrelevant point to the novice fan, that’s not the case. There’s plenty of outstanding boxers right now, and plenty of entertaining ones. But there’s VERY few that have mass appeal. Floyd, for better or worse, has that mass appeal. Broner is genuinely disliked, and that’s a really big deal.

There’s a reason Gennady Golovkin can’t land a Sergio Martinez fight, but Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. did. It’s the same reason Andre Ward isn’t known by the masses (despite being the best prizefighter on the planet by my estimation). You have to be popular, and you have to appeal to the casual fan/non-fan to sell fights. If a fighter is not marketed well (and in Floyd’s case he largely marketed himself well), they will never reach the pinnacle of the sport. If anything has been made clear over the years, it’s that boxing is a business first and foremost, and if you can’t draw big $$, you can’t draw the exposure/fights needed to become a superstar. I just don’t see Broner doing enough in the ring to overcome his behavior until he matures. Adrien Broner simply cannot carry a network/PPV franchise at this point. What he has working for him is that he’s a pretty exciting fighter to watch (due to his knack for the finish, and suspect defense) and time is on his side.

As far as Broner’s behavior, I know it’s a charade. I do. I also know he’s a kid in a young adult’s body, but that doesn’t excuse his complete lack of class. I hope he has a long, successful career, but I hope he learns some lessons that only can be learned out of the ring.

In the meantime, he’ll be stepping up in weight (two classes to welterweight) to challenge Paulie Malignaggi on Saturday, a move signaling his desire to get involved with the biggest $$ fights in the most competitive division in boxing (and also lay the foundation for a potential “passing of the torch” fight vs. Mayweather in a few years).The biggest question when guys move up in weight is how they’ll deal with bigger power/punchers, but Malignaggi poses no real threat with his power. What Malignaggi brings to the table is heart, determination, slick boxing knowhow, and experience.

(Revisit his loss to Miguel Cotto here where he battled through extreme punishment and adversity to make it a close fight against an elite fighter)

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The only ways for Paulie to win this fight are:

1)Literally box circles around Broner. Broner tends to get a bit flat-footed in the center of the ring, so if Paulie can stick a few quick shots and circle away from the retuning punches from Broner, he could frustrate Broner into getting wild. To do this for 12 rounds, he’ll need to mix it up by circling both right and also left into Broner’s dangerous right hand.

2)Make this a Bernard Hopkins-style fight. Paulie will need to get dirty in this one. He needs to get off first, then hold, headbutt, and just generally muddy this fight up. Fighting on an even playing field puts him at a disadvantage since Broner is faster, younger, and has more pop. Let’s not forget that Ricky Hatton and Amir Khan both outboxed and really dominated Paulie, so he needs to dig into his whole bag of tricks to keep his belt.

3)Land a hard, stiff jab all night long. If Paulie uses his jab as a range-finder, it will be counter-productive and lead to a short night of work for Broner. Conversely, if Paulie can use his jab as an effective punch to keep Broner off balance, he can dictate the pace of the fight and at least partially offset Broner’s power.

4)Land a haymaker and knock the over-confident Broner out. Yeah, you’re right, not going to happen.

At the end of the day, Paulie Malignaggi from 2008 gives Broner fits and probably ekes out a close decision. However, he’s really slowed down the last year or two (I mean, Pablo Cesar Cano gave him a real struggle), and I just don’t see him beating Broner. Broner should win this with a TKO in round 9 when Malignaggi’s corner stops the violence. Make no mistake, I’m rooting hard for Paulie. I just don’t see it ending well for him.

Assuming he’s victorious, what would a win over a slightly faded Malignaggi prove about Broner? Not much. My biggest question on Broner is how he responds to adversity, when he really gets tagged on the chin. Paulie Malignaggi is a very skilled, slick boxer, but he’d never be confused with a chin-checker. Here’s the fights I’m hoping to see in Broner’s immediate future as we see what type of fighter he really is:

Vs. Matthysse- This has absolute fireworks written all over it. I mean a war. Matthyse is one of those guys you can’t just take shots from. Broner is susceptible to eating clean shots, and he wouldn’t get away with that against the Argentine. I would take Matthysse by KO early.

Vs. Brandon Rios- While Rios doesn’t have the power of Matthysse, he has the style to give Broner hell. I would take Broner via a late TKO, but I sure wouldn’t bet on it.

Vs. Canelo- Canelo may just be too large to ever fight Broner, but as two of the brightest young stars in boxing, they may be on a collision course if Golden Boy has anything to say about it. Canelo would overwhelm Broner with power punches, forcing a late stoppage.

Vs. Marquez- This is something of a dream fight for me… I see a grueling battle, with Marquez losing a very close decision. But this would be a wild encounter with multiple knockdowns for both fighters.

Vs. Amir Khan- What Amir Khan lacks in ability to take a punch, he largely makes up for it with some of the best offense in the sport today. He would undoubtedly connect with some serious punches on Broner. However, if Broner can withstand the shots, like Danny Garcia did, he’d likely turn Khan’s lights out like Garcia did, too.

Vs. Robert Guerrero- Before the Mayweather fight, I would have said that Robert bullies him to a UD. After seeing how easily Floyd shut him down with right hands, I see the same outcome against Broner. Wouldn’t be surprised if this was actually the next fight for Broner after he dispatches Malignaggi.

 

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Shakur Stevenson’s Star Turn Gets No Media Coverage in Atlanta

Bernard Fernandez

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Shakur Stevenson’s Star Turn Gets No Media Coverage in Atlanta

For that part of the sports world that takes notice of boxing, Shakur Stevenson announced himself as a superstar-in-the-making – well, maybe – in totally dominating and ultimately dethroning WBO junior lightweight champion Jamel Herring Saturday night in Atlanta’s State Farm Arena. Shakur, the 24-year-old southpaw and 2016 Olympic silver medalist from Newark, N.J., seemingly hit Herring, 35, a combat-toughened but outgunned Marine Corps veteran, with everything but the proverbial kitchen sink en route to a 10th-round stoppage that wowed, among others, former junior welterweight and welterweight titlist and ESPN commentator Timothy Bradley Jr., who had chided Stevenson, a sometimes risk-adverse defensive wizard, as a “boring” fighter in his most recent bout on the Worldwide Leader, a 12-round scorecard shutout of Namibia’s Jeremia Nakathila on June 12 in Las Vegas.

After referee Mark Nelson stepped in to save the bleeding and battered Herring 1 minute, 30 seconds into round 10, Stevenson surprised Bradley by thanking him for providing the motivation he needed to ramp up his offensive output.

“Shakur tonight showed a ton of maturity,” Bradley said of the new-look, presumably more fan-friendly version of Stevenson that was on display. “The fact that he thanked me and said that I motivated him is a beautiful thing. That showed even more maturity, because that’s all that I want from these young fighters. I want them to grow.

“This is what I wanted to see from Shakur Stevenson. But I knew he had it in him, and he showed it tonight.”

Not that Bradley has completely bought into the notion of all that Stevenson could be, citing the lack of the only weapon – one-punch power – in his otherwise well-stuffed trick bag. Maybe that will come should Stevenson (17-0, 9 KOs) continue to enhance his man-strength, and maybe what you see now is all that fight fans can ever expect to get. In baseball terminology, Shakur Stevenson was more or less categorized by Bradley as a high-average singles hitter with enough gap power to accumulate a fair share of doubles that can get opponents out of there on accumulated damage. Who could complain if Stevenson, whose avowed goal is to become a superstar and fixture at or near the top of everyone’s pound-for-pound lists, continues to show flashes of such stylistic predecessors as Pernell Whitaker and Floyd Mayweather Jr.?

On this night and in the fight’s host city, however, Stevenson took a worse media-coverage battering from Eddie Rosario than he had administered to Herring (23-3, 11 KOs) with his fists. Rosario, a trade-deadline acquisition of the Atlanta Braves, slugged a three-run homer to lift his new team to a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series at nearby Truist Park, sending the Braves into their first World Series since 1999. For now, Rosario, who went 14-for-25 with three homers in winning the NLCS Most Valuable Player Award, is the toast of the town and the focus of reams of space in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution sports section. But it wasn’t only Rosario who siphoned attention in the local paper away from Stevenson; the fight might have gotten a few lines in the print editions, but online it was completely ignored by the AJC, Rosario’s hot bat followed in the pecking order by stories about the NBA’s Hawks losing at Cleveland, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets dropping a high-scoring contest at Virginia and a five-star high school defensive end prospect named Mykel Williams verbally committing to the No. 1-ranked Georgia Bulldogs.

While it had to be frustrating to Stevenson and Atlanta’s fight fans for the event to be ignored by AJC, there were other deserving participants on the card who were similarly overlooked by the press in Georgia’s largest city. Not that anyone in the Internet age still pastes newspaper clippings into scrapbooks, but 19-year-old middleweight prospect Xander Zayas might be at a similar embryonic stage of development once occupied by Stevenson a couple of years ago. He deserved at least some recognition in the paper for his fourth-round stoppage of Dan Karpency, as did two other undercard fighters with celebrity familial ties: middleweight Nico Ali Walsh, grandson of the great Muhammad Ali, who scored a third-round TKO of James Westley II, and junior middleweight Evan Holyfield, son of four-time heavyweight champion and Atlanta-area resident Evander Holyfield – can it be nearly 30 years since “The Real Deal” shook off an early knockdown to stop Bert Cooper in seven rounds on Nov. 23, 1991, in Atlanta’s since-demolished Omni Coliseum? — who bombed out Charles Stanfield in two rounds.

But Atlanta is not the only metropolis that devotes fewer newspaper column inches, if any, to the sport that once made Evander Holyfield as important a local sports figure as any Falcon, Brave or Hawk. It will be up to Stevenson to break through, if he can, to a level where his every ring appearance becomes a must-see because boxing’s viability is and has always been largely tied to the popularity of its larger-than-life figures.

“I wanted a fun fight – show my skills, my boxing, my power,” Stevenson said of the modifications he and trainer/grandfather Wali Moses made from the relative dreariness of the wide points nod over Nakathila to the pulse-quickening pummeling of Herring, who apologized to the Marine Corps in general for his defeat, not that any such admission was necessary. Herring seemed to be contemplating retirement, but there has never been any occasion when he failed to conduct himself honorably inside the ropes.

The question now is, will Stevenson continue to hew to demonstrate the aggressiveness he exhibited against Herring? His comments following the Nakathila bout suggest that it might not always be so. His style is evolving, but what works better on one night might not be advisable on another.

“To be honest, I didn’t really like my performance,” Stevenson said after his paint-by-numbers dismissal of Nakathila. “I felt I could’ve performed a lot better. I was being real careful because he has power. He was real scary. I got the best defense in boxing. But I’ll be better in my next fight.”

Former super middleweight and light heavyweight champion Andre Ward, a 2021 inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame who also did commentary for Herring-Stevenson, said Shakur shouldn’t feel pressured to become something he is not in order to meet anyone else’s expectations.

“I think we got to kill some of these misnomers that have been around the sport for far too long, that fighters that go about their craft a certain kind of way, hit and don’t get hit, (means) there’s something not tough about them,” Ward said. “I heard that my whole career. Floyd Mayweather heard that his whole career. Just because a skillful fighter who can think and plays chess when everybody else is playing checkers doesn’t mean he can’t get down and dirty. It only means we’re going to get down and dirty when we have to.

“Fighters who have (high) IQs and skill, keep doing what you’re doing. Some people are going to like it and others won’t. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. If a good fighter has a bad night, he can still win every round. If a guy who takes two to (land) one had a bad night, it’s a pretty ugly night. He’s probably going to get knocked out or take a lot of punishment.

“I wasn’t who they wanted me to be. I just beat all those guys, all the guys they said were going to get me. I just kept winning. And winning covers a lot of problems and issues.”

A lot, for sure, not all. In addition to Whitaker, Mayweather and maybe Ward, there are elements of Stevenson’s makeup that call to mind the technical proficiency of two-time Cuban gold medalist Guillermo Rigondeaux, a former Top Rank fighter. Stevenson has been groomed by Top Rank for a prolonged and successful run at the elite level, but what so far has been a mutually beneficial working relationship could hinge in part to the fighter’s willingness to more regularly perform as he did against Herring than he did against Nakathila and a few other opponents that led to the perception that he was supremely talented, yes, but also a touch boring.

Prior to Rigondeaux’s release by Top Rank, company founder Bob Arum complained that his style leaned more to Masterpiece Theater than Rocky, which made Rigo a poor box-office and television attraction. Arum even said that when he brought the Cuban’s name up to HBO executives, “they throw up.”

There are many ways to win a prizefight, and now Shakur Stevenson has shown that he can win with chamber music or semi-heavy metal playing in the background. How far he advances in his march toward the truly elite status he is convinced is his destiny may be determined by the method he chooses to employ should a much-discussed showdown with Mexican blaster Oscar Valdez (30-0, 23 KOs) take place in 2022. The hard truth is that a lot of fight fans not only like, but require splashes of blood-and-guts mixed in with their favorite sport’s artistic side.

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Fast Results from Atlanta Where Shakur Stevenson Turned in a Masterful Performance

Arne K. Lang

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Former world featherweight title-holder Shakur Stevenson turned in his career-best performance tonight at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta while wresting the WBO 130-pound world title from the shoulders of Jamel Herring via a 10th-round TKO. At age 24, Stevenson was the younger man by 11 years and it was a case of youth being served.

As a pro, Stevenson (17-0, 9 KOs) has lost precious few rounds. The rap against him was that he is content to outclass an opponent, providing few fireworks. In this vein, the assumption was that tonight’s bout would be a tactical (i.e., tame) affair. But while there were no knockdowns and Shakur fought a measured fight, there was more snap in his punches than had been the norm and he finished the bout on a high note.

Early into the fight, Herring’s left eye began to swell. In round nine, Stevenson opened a nasty cut over Herring’s other eye. In round ten, with the cut bleeding profusely, Stevenson revved up his attack, forcing referee Mark Nelson to waive it off. The official time was 1:30.

After the fight, Stevenson called out his WBC counterpart Oscar Valdez. Herring, an ex-Marine and former U.S. Olympic team captain, falls to 23-3.

Other Bouts

Fast-rising 19-year-old middleweight Xander Zayas shellacked intrepid Dan Karpency whose father and chief cornerman pulled him out after four rounds. A future star, born in Puerto Rico, Zayas is now 11-0 (8). One of the three fighting brothers, Karpency (9-4-1) will return to his day job as a registered nurse at a maximum-security prison in Western Pennsylvania. He hadn’t previously been stopped

In the first bout airing on ESPN’s flagship station, middleweight Nico Ali Walsh, the 21-year-old grandson of Muhammad Ali, scored a third-round stoppage of scrappy but out-gunned James Westley II, a 36-year-old from Toledo, Ohio. Walsh (2-0, 2 KOs) knocked Westley down with a straight right hand in the waning seconds of round two and knocked him to his knees with another short right hand early in the next stanza. Westley wasn’t badly hurt, but his corner saw fit to throw in the towel.

Junior middleweight Evan Holyfield, one of 11 children fathered by the great Evander Holyfield, knocked Charles Stanford flat on his back with a harsh left-right combination in round two, advancing his record to 8-0 (6). The official time was 0:30. Stanford, a 35-year-old Cincinnati man with an MMA background, was 6-3 heading in.

Middleweight Troy Isley, a 23-year-old U.S. Olympian from Alexandria, VA, improved to 3-0 (2) with a first-round stoppage of 37-year-old Nicholi Navarro (2-2), a former Army Ranger from Denver. Isley rocked his overmatched opponent several times before putting him on the canvas with a combination, forcing the ref to intervene. The official time was 2:48.

In an upset, Erik Palmer saddled Atlanta’s Roddricus Livsey with his first defeat, winning a split decision. Palmer, from the Karpency family stable, was 12-14-5 heading in, versus 8-0-1 for Livsey. The scores were 58-56 twice and a curious 59-55 for the hometown fighter.

Haven Brady Jr, a 19-year-old featherweight from Albany, Georgia, improved to 4-0 (3) with a 4-round unanimous decision over Corpus Christi’s Roberto Negrete (3-1).  The scores favoring Brady were 40-36 across the board, but Negrete was no slouch.

Chicago welterweight Antoine Cobb made an impressive pro debut with a brutal one-punch knockout of Jerrion Campbell (2-2). It was all over in 58 seconds. Cobb, 25, is a protégé of former light heavyweight champion Montell Griffin.

In the opening bout on the card, 21-year-old Brooklyn lightweight Harley Maderos, a 2021 USA national champion, improved to 2-0 (1) with a 4-round unanimous decision over Deljerro Revello (0-2). Maderos scored a knockdown in the opening frame and won all four rounds on all four cards but wasn’t particularly impressive.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty images.

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Results from Tampa: Harold Calderon Survives Bite to Remain Undefeated

David A. Avila

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Undefeated welterweight Harold Calderon remained unbeaten despite strange tactics by late replacement Luis Florez that forced a premature end of the fight due to a disqualification on Saturday.

Calderon (26-0, 17 KOs) endured a change of opponents, and then outrageous tactics by Colombia’s Florez (25-22) including biting that ended the fight at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Florida.

“That m..f…just bit me,” said Calderon, a southpaw from Miami. “I’m sweet. I’m like sugar.”

For the first three rounds Florez seemed eager to trade blows with Calderon and chided the Florida fighter to attack. But once the lefty welterweight attacked the body, the Colombian fighter suddenly seemed not as eager.

Calderon took the fight inside and battered Florez on the inside. During one attack Florez motioned he was hit behind the head. That’s when the dirty tactics began including a bite on Calderon. After Calderon retaliated with a body shot, Florez took a knee and complained. The referee stopped the fight. It was later revealed that the referee disqualified Florez for biting.

Calderon said he’s anxious to fight any of the top 15 contenders if given an opportunity.

“I need somebody in the top 15,” he said.

Uzbekistan’s Otabek Kholmatov (4-0, 4 KOs) knocked out Colombia’s Juan Medina (12-9, 11 KOs) in the second round of their super bantamweight clash. Kholmatov, a southpaw, scored two knock downs in the first round. The tall Uzbeki fighter blew out Medina with more body blows to end the fight at 1:51 of the second round.

“I’ll be the champ,” Kholmatov said.

A super lightweight match saw Clarence Booth (21-4, 12 KOs) take time to figure out the awkward style of Alejandro Munera (6-4-4) and win by knockout at the seventh round.

Bantamweight contender Rosalinda Rodriguez (13-0, 3 KOs) fought last-minute replacement Elizabeth Tuani (1-4) and won by stoppage at 1:16 of the second round in a fight fought above 126 pounds. There was confusion because Tuani did not look hurt nor in danger of going down when the fight was stopped. Even Rodriguez looked perplexed.

“I was confused,” said Rodriguez. “She was putting up a fight.”

Other Bouts

Jean Guerra Vargas (6-0) survived a knockdown against Rueben Morales (0-2) to win a split decision. It seemed Vargas got lucky with the scoring. Morales was the dominant fighter for the first two rounds and lost gas. He was a last-day replacement.

Poland’s Adrian “Pretty Boy” Pinheiro (4-0, 4 KOs) knocked out Milton Nunez with a focused body attack in the first two rounds and scored two knockdowns with body shots. A couple of body sapping shots floored Nunez at 1:05 of the second round for the knockout in the heavyweight fight.

Bryan Lopez (3-0) knocked down wild swinging William Fauth (0-7) twice before scoring a knockout win at 1:56 of the second round of a super lightweight fight.

Hungarian heavyweight Istvan Bernath (8-0, 6 KOs) knocked out Mexico’s Guillermo Del Rio (3-4-1) with an overhand right at 2:30 of the first round.

A welterweight fight saw Bobby Henry start slowly and then floor Bryant Costello in the second round to turn things around and win by decision after four rounds.

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