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Book Review: Brian Kenny’s “Ahead of the Curve”

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Book Review – Boxing fans know Brian Kenny from his work on ESPN2 Friday Night Fights, Showtime Championship Boxing, and PBC Boxing on FOX. But his #1 area of sports expertise is baseball.

Kenny is an MLB Network host and anchors some of its most important studio programming: MLB Now and MLB Tonight. He’s also an ardent proponent of sabermetrics: the use of cutting-edge statistical analysis as a key component of decision-making in virtually every aspect of the game.

Ahead of the Curve: Inside the Baseball Revolution (Simon & Schuster) is Kenny’s presentation in support of sabermetrics. “Somewhere along the line,” he writes, “we stopped thinking. In the most basic ways, a purposeful ignorance set in. We have received considerable baseball wisdom from the early days of childhood from our adult role models, our peers, the media, and the baseball industry itself. What is so fascinating is that all this nonsense survived. For nearly a century, no one even bothered to think about it deeply enough to give themselves an incredible competitive advantage. At a certain point – about the time we discovered penicillin – it was time to evolve past these 19th-century relics. Instead, our thinking calcified and then endured decades beyond its point of usefulness.”

Book Review: Brian Kenny’s “Ahead of the Curve”

With that as his starting point, Kenny challenges long held assumptions regarding baseball strategy.

He begins with the sacrifice bunt, studying how a simple scenario has played out over an 18-year study period.

Man on first base, nobody out. Your team needs a run. Sacrifice bunt, right?

That what most managers do. But look at the numbers.

With a man on first base and nobody out, a team can be expected to score .94 runs in that inning. With a man on second base and one out, a team can be expected to score .72 runs.

“So let’s be clear,” Kenny writes. “Even with a successful bunt, you score fewer runs.”

But by bunting successfully, the manager has taken himself out of the line of fire and absolved himself of blame.

“He put the next two batters in the spotlight,” Kenny continues. “There’s a man on second waiting to be driven in. When he doesn’t score, it’s those two hitters that didn’t get it done. Failure is there visually in the hitter slinking off the field, having left a man on base. The manager walks off scot-free, even though he is the one who traded three chances for two.”

Then there’s the matter of third-base coaches, who are reluctant to send a runner home on a fly ball to the outfield that’s caught for the second out of an inning. The current success rate for attempts to score from third base in sacrifice fly situations is 90%. In other words, the coach only instructs the runner to go for it when the odds are overwhelmingly in his favor.

But if the fly ball is the second out of the inning, the runner’s chance of being driven in by the next or a succeeding batter is roughly 30%. Thus, Kenny writes, “Third base coaches send runners only when it’s obvious they will score. Getting a runner thrown out at the plate looks bad for both the third base coach and runner. But taking more risks will lead to more runs even with more runners being thrown out.”

The manner in which today’s managers deploy their pitching staff also mystifies Kenny. He starts by asking, “Why do all major league teams pitch the way they do?” And he arrives at the answer, “Because that’s the way we always have done it.”

But times change. In 1904, pitchers finished 88% of the games they started. In 2014, that number was down to 2%. “The only reason we still have starters,” Kenny writes, “is because, once upon a time, one pitcher was all you used for the whole day.”

Kenny advocates starting games, not just with long-inning pitchers but with short-inning hurlers as well. And he heaps scorn on the way managers use their closers.

“Today’s relief aces,” he writes, “are treated like rare exotic flowers to be taken out only in certain conditions. They work the ninth inning only, preferably with nobody on base, and they top out at seventy innings for the season. Take a step back. You’ve established one pitcher as the best on your staff, batter for batter. You then artificially restrict his innings [and] keep him from the most important parts of the game.”

But isn’t the ninth inning the most important part of the game?

“Any manager who is saving his closer/relief ace/fireman/stud for the ninth inning,” Kenny notes, “is thinking the following: ‘I’m saving him to seal this win when the game is most on the line.’ And this is simply not the case. The game is frequently on the line in the ninth. But the act of saving your best pitcher for a situation that may not come (a one-run lead in the ninth) is not worth the exchange. A 4-1 lead with the bases loaded in the fifth? Run the numbers! You think there will be a bigger threat? The ninth-inning closer model has bolstered the myth that the game is on the line only in that final inning. It certainly is more obviously on the line at that point. But the fact is, most games are decided before then.”

The nerve center for decision-making during a baseball game is the manager who, Kenny declares, typically stands on the top step of the dugout “like Washington crossing the Delaware.” He then notes that 83% of the MLB managers who started the 2015 season had played previously in the major leagues. By contrast, only 19% of NFL head coaches and 50% of NBA head coaches had similar playing experience. That leads Kenny to ask the rhetorical question: “Do you think Major League Baseball requires some different level of understanding of its sport that the NBA and NFL don’t?”

Then comes more sacrilege. Kenny states, “If you told me I would be an NFL head coach tomorrow – taking over on a Monday in the middle of the season – it would be a disaster. Same thing if you gave me an NBA team. Now tell me I’m managing the Cincinnati Reds tomorrow. You know what? I’d be fine. Understand the distinction. I’m not saying I could coach. I couldn’t teach a cutter or even a good curve ball. I couldn’t teach a hitter proper mechanics. But coaching isn’t managing. The Reds would go along for days before you even knew I was there. It’s not that hard.”

He’s probably right. A case study proves his point.

Game 5 of the 2015 World Series. The Kansas City Royals are leading the New York Mets three games to one. Mets ace Matt Harvey has thrown eight scoreless innings, giving his team a 2-to-0 lead. Mets manager Terry Collins tells Harvey he’s done for the night. Harvey pleads to take the mound for the ninth inning. The crowd is chanting his name. Collins relents and sends Harvey to the mound to finish the game.

“So what’s wrong with a manager letting his stud pitcher take the mound for three more outs?” Kenny asks.

Then he answers.

“Here’s what’s wrong: a mountain of evidence that pointed to Harvey fatiguing late in games. Harvey has a fairly clear fatigue point: 100 pitches. To that point in his career, in pitches 1-100, major league hitters hit an anemic .206 against Harvey. After Harvey reached 100 pitches, they hit a robust .373 with a Hall-of-Fame level .440 on-base percentage. Harvey, after eight innings against Kansas City, was at 102 pitches.”

In the ninth inning, Harvey – predictably, to the sabermetrician’s way of thinking – blew up. The Mets lost the game and, with it, the World Series.

“The mainstream media almost universally defended Collins for going with his heart,” Kenny writes. “Nowhere that I can recall did anyone wonder where brains fit into this equation.”

That leads to Kenny’s next target: the media.

“It is a sportswriter’s job.” he states, “to help bring the game to a mass audience, to help the interested reader or listener understand the latest strategic innovations, explain the nuances, and keep them abreast of the ongoing revolution. During the sabermetric revolution, the sportswriting fraternity failed miserably.”

And there are choice words for the self-important writers who are responsible for inducting players into baseball’s Hall of Fame: “How hard is it to figure out that Bob Feller and Mickey Mantle are Hall of Famers? Most of the players voted into the hall by the writers would also have been voted in by a panel of fourth-grade baseball fans. The hard part for the baseball writers is at the border. This is where they continue to fail.”

Kenny extols Babe Ruth as the greatest hitter of all-time. And he sets forth an intriguing theory (first advanced by Bill James) as to what enabled The Bambino to turn baseball upside down: “It happened only because he was a pitcher. No one much cared if he swung from the heels. His hitting was superfluous. The baseball culture therefore didn’t pressure him into conforming. Ruth had the good fortune to break the single-season home run record while still a pitcher. By the time he was ready to convert to an outfielder, it was too late to stop him. He had already shown that swinging for the fences was a worthwhile risk.”

Basic record-keeping also comes under Kenny’s withering eye. He denounces what he calls ”the tyranny of the batting average,” noting, “In batting average, a single is as good as a home run and walks don’t exist. Yet the very first stat cited in most baseball conversations for 120 years was the batting average.”

He savages what he believes is an idiotic overemphasis on a pitcher’s won-lost record, beginning with the question, “Do you care that Mariano Rivera, from 2001 to 2012, had an average [won-lost] record of 4-3?”

Then Kenny adds, “I’m sorry if I’m the one to break this to you, but the same goes for all pitchers.” And he backs up his opinion with data showing that, between 1920 and 2014 (a 94-year data base), pitchers who threw eight innings in a game and gave up two earned runs were credited with a “win” only 33.6% of the time.

Further analyzing his data, Kenny calls Ted Williams the second best hitter of all-time, behind only Babe Ruth. Examining The Splendid Splinter’s 1941 season (.406 batting average, .553 on-base percentage, and .735 slugging percentage), he writes, “Williams’s numbers can barely be fathomed. Our minds aren’t trained to see .553 as an on-base percentage. It’s too high. No one does that past high school.”

Kenny also notes that, while Joe DiMaggio set a major league record that still stands by hitting safely in 56 consecutive games, Williams owns three of the four longest streaks for getting on base in consecutive games, including a streak of 84 consecutive games in 1949. “In baseball,” Kenny writes, “0-for-0 with three walks is likely better than 1-for-5 with a single.”

Sabermetrics can be a daunting subject for those who grew up in a simpler time when batting average, RBIs, HRs, wins, losses, and ERA reigned. Old eyes tend to glaze over when faced with OPS, OPS+, WAR, DRS, and FIP. But Kenny ties snippets of data together in enlightening and entertaining ways and brings statistics to life with a non-stop parade of informative and entertaining anecdotes

There’s a tip of the hat to Bill James, the patron saint of sabermetrics, who Kenny calls one of “the seven most influential figures in the history of baseball” along with the likes of Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, and Marvin Miller. Speaking first and foremost about James, Kenny writes, “The best thing about the sabermetric revolution is that the pioneers of the movement weren’t looking to run teams. They were fans of the game who loved baseball and proved that we can see much more when we take a wider view.”

Kenny also hails Billy Beane (who pioneered sabermetrics with the Oakland Athletics) and Theo Epstein, (who refined the art, first with the Boston Red Sox and now with the Chicago Cubs). The Houston Astros are lauded as today’s team leader in sabermetrics.

 

And yes; in recent years, teams have been learning. By way of example; the defensive shift (realigning the traditional placement of fielders) began in 1946 with an experiment by Cleveland Indians manager Lou Boudreau when Ted Williams was at bat. It wasn’t until the second decade of the 21st century that the shift became more than an oddity. In 2011, MLB teams employed a defensive shift on 2,358 occasions. In 2014, the number rose to more than 13,000.

“If you give it about thirty seconds of thought,” Kenny observes, “you realize why, for about 130 years, professional baseball players stood where they did on the field. That’s where they always stood. With this inability to evolve, it makes you wonder: how do we even survive as a species?”

“Athletes train hard for hours every day,” Kenny writes in closing. “Managers plot and plan, losing sleep. Organizations pour money into resources. Given how hard every player, coach, manager, and executive works, wouldn’t you think they would leap at the chance to gain a tactical edge using information? Each loss is crippling. Things do not have to even out. You need to fight and scrap and give yourself the best chance to win in every half-inning of every game. Burn this into your mind. You cannot give away a game.”

 

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book (Muhammad Ali: a Tribute to the Greatest) was published by Pegasus Books. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism.

Thomas Hauser is the author of 52 books. In 2005, he was honored by the Boxing Writers Association of America, which bestowed the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism upon him. He was the first Internet writer ever to receive that award. In 2019, Hauser was chosen for boxing's highest honor: induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Lennox Lewis has observed, “A hundred years from now, if people want to learn about boxing in this era, they’ll read Thomas Hauser.”

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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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