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THE FERNANDEZ FILES: Two Ships Passing in the Night

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Nobody knew it then, but separate boxing matches on Feb. 24 and 25, 1989, might have made for a classic representation of the familiar two-ships-passing-in-the-night theme, even if those ships were 2,500 miles apart and one of them was sailing in the Nevada desert.

On Feb. 24 of that year, the seemingly stalled career of Roberto Duran, 37, was revived with his exhilarating, 12-round split decision over WBC middleweight champion Iran Barkley in snowy Atlantic City, N.J., a fight which the “Hands of Stone,” a 3-1 underdog, would later call “the greatest of my life.” And why wouldn’t he? Not only did the Panamanian legend capture his fifth world title in four weight classes when many were suggesting he was a shot fighter, but Barkley was coming off his championship-winning third-round technical knockout of the great Thomas Hearns, who had smoked Duran in two rounds on June 15, 1984. The Ring magazine would later select Barkley-Duran as its Fight of the Year.

One night later, at the Las Vegas Hilton, heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, just 23 years old and just eight months removed from his 91-second destruction of Michael Spinks, did as expected, stopping British challenger Frank Bruno in five rounds. But this was not the same Tyson who blew away Spinks as if he were a rusty trailer in a tornado; the first tiny cracks in Iron Mike’s armor were revealed, cracks that would widen and eventually split wide-open on Feb. 11 of the following year in Tokyo, when Buster Douglas took a wrecking ball to the notion of Tyson’s invincibility with his 10th-round TKO victory as a 42-1 longshot.

Given the fact that Tyson was the Michael Jordan or Babe Ruth of boxing then, most fight writers from around America and the world were in Vegas 26 years ago, their respective news organizations sending backups to A.C., or simply relying on wire-services coverage. As a courtesy to large group of reporters on hand, the Hilton had set up a spacious hospitality tent in a parking lot with the closed-circuit feed of Barkley-Duran available for those who wanted to see it.

As Duran, who had taken off nearly 40 pounds in preparation for one of the several crossroads bouts he would be involved in during his remarkable pugilistic journey, reached back in time to summon some of that old magic, a lot of us in that tent were thinking that maybe, just maybe, we were at the wrong fight site. But nobody could have known or predicted the ramifications of those two February nights in the first year of the George H.W. Bush presidency. Who could have said with any degree of certainty that Duran would fight on for 13 more years? Or that Tyson would come back from his three-year incarceration on a 1992 rape conviction a husk of his former self, still good enough and scary enough to beat fringe-type fighters but exposed against elites like Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis? Could anyone who saw the young, fearsome Tyson crush Spinks have then believed that it would all end with him quitting on his stool against somebody named Kevin McBride?

When the opening bell for Barkley-Duran rang, my overriding sentiment was that I was glad I was in much-warmer Vegas, and had not been obliged to make the 65-mile trip by car from Philadelphia to Atlantic City during the worst snowstorm of the winter. A colleague of mine at the Philadelphia Daily News, Paul Domowitch, whose regular beat was pro football, had drawn the assignment, perhaps grudgingly, to drive through the blizzard to pinch-hit for me at ringside in Boardwalk Hall.

But as the rounds unfolded one by one, it became apparent to those of us at the Hilton that Duran had again found something within himself that for so long had stamped him as a very special fighter. The Duran we were watching on TV in the hospitality tent clearly had rediscovered his passion for boxing, and the exclamation point to his bravura performance came when he connected with three right hands to the jaw in Round 11, flooring a stunned Barkley for the bout’s only knockdown.

For this story, I contacted Erie, Pa.-based promoter Mike Acri, who took a chance on Duran when few believed he had much left to give after 91 bouts and nearly 22 years in the pro ranks. In his most recent outing prior to Barkley, an out-of-shape and seemingly disinterested Duran had struggled to a 10-round split decision over the unintimidating Jeff Lanas.

“People thought he was just in there to get a payday,” Acri recalled. “But I knew better. At breakfast that morning, me and him and all of our guys were sitting there eating and Roberto said, `I feel like fighting tonight.’ Right then and there I thought, `This is going to be my first world champion.’ I had no doubt Roberto would win that night.”

Others had their doubts, and plenty of them. Even though Duran weighed in at a trim 156¼ pounds, 3¾ below the middleweight limit, everyone knew that his best days were at lightweight, a division in which he just might have been the best that ever was. But Duran liked to eat, a lot, when he wasn’t in training, and he had trouble keeping the weight off as he got older. At 5-7½, he looked like a stumpy, black-haired Buddha when he puffed up to the 200-pound range, as he had in the months before he was to square off with Barkley. Acri, however, said that with Duran, appearances could be deceiving.

“In December, we got the contract,” Acri said. “Duran wasn’t that crazy with the weight then, maybe 180 or 190, but a lot of it was water weight that came off easy. The first 10 or 12 pounds came off real quick. And once he started sparring, the weight came off even quicker.

“People would say he’d get up to 220 between fights. Total b.s. Well, maybe later. But he didn’t take diuretics. He didn’t use Ex-Lax or anything like that. He didn’t trust it.”

Once he worked himself into fighting trim, though, Duran was an absolute beast. Retired AP boxing writer Ed Schuyler Jr., who like Duran is an inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, recalled his first glimpse of the human dynamo, on Sept. 13, 1971, in New York’s Madison Square Garden. Duran was 23-0 with 20 KOs at the time and making his U.S. debut, against a credible opponent, Benny Huertas, on the undercard of a show headlined by WBA lightweight champion Ken Buchanan.

“Huertas wasn’t a great fighter, but he was a tough guy who could have gone 10 rounds with 82nd Airborne Division,” Schuyler said. “Duran got him out of there in a flash. You could see he was evident to me that this was someone who was just born to fight. As a lightweight, Duran was the best fighter I’ve ever seen. He’s the best lightweight that ever lived, in my opinion.”

Acri shared Schuyler’s opinion that Duran, when in shape and motivated, deserved to be any best-ever conversation.

“Some people are just meant to become what they became,” Acri told me. “With Roberto, I think God said, `I’m going to make this guy a real badass. I’m going to make him a great fighter.’”

Tyson, for a more abbreviated period, bore the same unmistakable mark of greatness. He had Duran’s finishing instincts, for sure, but also the same tendency to put on a lot of unwanted weight – especially if there were complications in his personal life. And there were more than a few of those during the stretch between Tyson’s demolition of Spinks and the first of his two fights with Bruno. His marriage to actress Robin Givens had broken up, and he had replaced longtime trainer Kevin Rooney with Jay Bright, whose ineptitude in that role was starkly evident when Tyson fell to Douglas.

Believing he had been wrongly terminated, Rooney filed a $10 million breach-of-contract lawsuit against Tyson in the leadup to the Bruno fight, further poisoning the waters.

“I had nothing personal against him,” Tyson had said of Rooney after the legal action that ensured that the two never again would work with each other. “What he did was unprofessional, that’s all. But now the suit makes it personal. As far as I’m concerned, he’ll never have a chance of working with me again. Never.”

Perhaps, had Rooney been his chief second instead of Bright, Tyson wouldn’t have gorged himself up to nearly 260 pounds before he went into training. Like Duran, he did take the excess poundage off – he was a ripped 218 at the weigh-in – but physically and emotionally, hints were being dropped that the guy who destroyed Spinks and so many others was being transformed into a lesser version of himself. But few picked up on the evidence Tyson was providing of his dissolution, if only because what we all were seeing was still far better than whatever the crystal-chinned Bruno brought to the table.

Tyson had always seemed, well, a bit unhinged, which added to his aura of danger, but in retrospect his actions at the weigh-in for Bruno were indicative of a deeper disturbance. For whatever reason, he dropped his shorts and exposed himself to Bruno, an act of public lewdness that was minimized only because three security guards swiftly moved in to form a human shield.

Whether he was or wasn’t at his very best, Tyson, a 7-1 favorite, was still too much for the Jamaican-born Bruno, whose popularity in the United Kingdom was such that nearly 3,000 of his supporters were on hand to be eyewitnesses to what even they had to believe would be a ritualistic execution. Many other Brits watched the fight on closed-circuit in the UK, despite the fact the fight didn’t begin until 5 a.m. local time.

It ended, as it surely had to, as referee Richard Steele stepped in to protect a clearly buzzed Bruno from further damage. But sometimes it takes only a single loose thread to begin a garment’s unraveling. Tokyo and Douglas awaited Tyson a year later.

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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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UNDISPUTED ! – Usyk Defeats Fury ! – Plus Undercard Results from Riyadh

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The most ballyhooed fight of the young century played out today at Riyadh Arena in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where Ukraine’s amazing Oleksandr Usyk became an undisputed world champion in a second weight class with a split decision over WBC and lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury.

This was a memorable fight with twists and turns. Usyk had some good moments early, but the middle rounds belonged to the Gypsy King. Heading into the second half of the bout, the old saying that a good big man will always beat a good little man, appeared to be holding up once again. Fury was having good success working the body as his trainer SugarHill Steward exhorted him to do, and when he went upstairs, he rattled Usyk, notably in round five when a big uppercut appeared to lift the Ukrainian off his feet. But Usyk finished round seven strong, a prelude of what was to come.

Usyk plainly won round eight and in round nine, he came within a whisper of ending it. A flurry of punches sent Fury reeling. He crashed into the ring ropes which dictated a standing-8 count from referee Mark Nelson. If Nelson had waited a few more seconds, he would have likely waved the fight off as Fury was on queer street. But this dramatic turnaround came late in the round and the Gypsy King was saved by the bell.

Among other things, Tyson Fury is known for his amazing powers of recuperation. He not only stayed the course, but appeared to win the final round. But in the end, Oleksandr Usyk, now 22-0 (14) saddled Fury (34-1-1) with his first defeat. Two of the judges favored him (115-112, 114-113) with the dissenter scoring it for Fury 114-113.

A draw wouldn’t have caused much of a stink and now they will do it again. The sequel is tentatively scheduled for October. Both are getting a little long in the tooth – Usyk is 37 and Fury is 35 – so we will be surprised if the rematch lives up to the hype.

Semi-wind-up

The first encounter between Jai Opetaia and Mairis Briedis was a grueling fight. Opetaia, an Australian Olympian at age 16, won the battle (a fair decision) but yet took the worst of it. Early in that bout, he had his jaw fractured in two places and for the next two months was forced to eat out of a straw.

The rematch tonight in Riyadh was a monotonous fight through the first nine rounds. Briedis, now 39 years old and inactive since their first meeting, looked old and rusty. But the fight heated up in round 10 and the championship rounds belonged to the Latvian.

It came too little, too late, however, as Briedis needed a knockout to win. At the conclusion, the judges favored the Aussie by scores of 117-111 and 116-112 twice.

Opetaia, 28, improved to 25-0 (19).  Briedis, who has defeated everyone that he has fought with the exceptions of Opetaia and Oleksandr Usyk (and the Usyk fight was close) falls to 28-3.

The first fight between Opetaia and Briedis was for the IBF cruiserweight title. Tonight’s match is for the vacant IBF cruiserweight title (don’t ask).

Cordina-Cacace

In a major upset, Belfast’s Anthony Cacace, a 12-year pro, captured the IBF 130-pound world title with a seventh-round stoppage of previously undefeated Joe Cordina who went to post a consensus 7/1 favorite. The end came 39 seconds into round seven with Cacace pummeling Cordina against the ropes.

The Irishman was the busier fighter and landed the harder punches, but the bout was not without controversy. In the third frame, Cacace stunned Cordina with a punch that landed after the referee ordered the fighters to break. That put Cordina on the defensive and before the round was over, Cacace put him on the canvas with a wicked uppercut and Cordina, badly hurt, barely survived the round. Cacace (22-1, 8 KOs) had a big sixth round and closed the show in the next stanza.

Cordina, a 2016 Olympian who was undefeated in 17 pro fights heading in, is a close friend and frequent workout partner of Lauren Price who captured the WBC female welterweight title last week. She now stands alone as the only current world champion from Wales.

Kabayel-Sanchez

In a mild upset, Agit Kabayel continued his late career surge with a seventh-round KO of previously undefeated Frank Sanchez. As was the case in his last fight when he upset Arslanbek Makhmudov, Kabayel (25-0, 17 KOs) finished his opponent with body punches. A left-right combination knocked Sanchez to his knees and then, after Sanchez got to his feet, a straight right to the belly sent him down again and he wasn’t able to beat the count.

Sanchez, who was 24-0 heading in, entered the bout with a brace over his right knee that compromised his mobility. Kabayel, the aggressor throughout, was comfortably ahead at the time of the stoppage. The official time was 2:23 of round seven.

Kovalev-Safar

In a dull 10-rounder, unsung Robin Safar, a Swedish-born fighter of Kurdish descent, may have written the finish for the career of Sergey Kovalev. At age 41 in his second fight as a cruiserweight and coming off a two-year layoff, the “Krusher” was a pale imitation of the fighter that won nine straight light heavyweight title fights before losing a controversial decision to Andre Ward in their first encounter.

Safar, who improved to 17-0 (12) punctuated his triumph by knocking down Kovalev (35-5-1) with a big right hand inside the final 10 seconds of the final round. The judges had it 99-90, 97-92, and 95-94.

Two early fights ended in early knockouts.

Moses Itauma, a 19-year-old, six-foot-six southpaw who was raised in London by a Nigerian father and a Slovakian mother, stopped Ilya Mezercev at the 50-second mark of the second round. Mezercev made it to his feet after being decked with a big right hook, but his legs were jelly and the fight was waved off.

Trained by Ben Davison, Itauma (9-0, 7 KOs) has been hailed as the next Anthony Joshua. As an amateur, he was reportedly 24-0. Mezercev, a Germany-based Kazkh, declined to 25-9.

British lightweight Mark “Thunder” Chamberlain (16-0, 12 KOs) looked sensational while blasting out Joshua Oluwaseun Wahab in the opening stanza. Chamberlain had Wahab (23-2) on the deck twice before the bout was waived off at the 2:42 mark.

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