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Hustle and Muscle Carry Jarrett Hurd Past Erislandy Lara

The judging of boxing matches is not unlike an art aficionado’s impressions of the masterworks hanging in the Louvre. Some official observers go ga-ga over Monet

Bernard Fernandez

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The judging of boxing matches is not unlike an art aficionado’s impressions of the masterworks hanging in the Louvre. Some official observers go ga-ga over Monet, others prefer Picasso. That, perhaps as much as anything, accounts for the sometimes wildly divergent scoring of fights in which the participants’ styles are radically different. Whenever such a contrast occurs, the winner, if the bout goes to the scorecards, more often than not is the guy who gets the other fighter to bend to his will.

Framed in that manner, Jarrett “Swift” Hurd’s 12-round split decision in his 154-pound unification showdown with fellow titlist Erislandy Lara at Las Vegas’ Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, makes perfect sense, and offers at least a hint of controversy for those holding the minority viewpoint. It also becomes an early entrant for consideration as Fight of the Year, a surprisingly (or perhaps not) entertaining affair in which both determined champions reached deep inside themselves to find that little bit extra that often determines who has his hand raised after the final bell.

“Lara is the type of guy that always had trouble with pressure fighters,” said Hurd, the IBF junior middleweight champion who annexed Lara’s WBA super welterweight title by virtue of the 114-113 cards submitted by Glenn Feldman and Dave Moretti, offsetting the 114-113 tabulation for the expatriate Cuban southpaw as assessed by Burt Clements. “I knew that my size and power, if I was able to pressure him the way I did, would be successful.”

The outcome literally hung in the balance until the last 36 seconds, when Hurd, a 27-year-old perpetual motion machine from Accokeek, Md., who bears more than a passing resemblance (the bleached blond hairdo helps) to New York Giants superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., floored Lara with a short left hook that landed flush. Although Lara beat the count, his trip to the canvas turned what otherwise would have been a 10-9 round for Hurd into a 10-8, giving the younger man (Lara turns 35 on April 11) a razor-thin victory instead of having to settle for a majority draw.

The Houston-based Lara and his trainer, Ronnie Shields, vociferously objected to what they perceived as perhaps biased scoring. Their position is that Lara, despite either opting to or being forced into more two-way trading than he normally prefers, had played to his own strengths often enough to get the nod.

“I thought I was winning the fight easily,” said Lara, whose badly swollen right eye certainly gave him the look of someone who had gotten the worst of the mid-to late-round exchanges. “(The knockdown) shouldn’t decide the fight. One punch in a fight doesn’t determine the fight. One hundred percent, I want a rematch.”

Said Shields, floating a conspiracy theory that frequently emanates from the loser’s side: “Every time (Lara) fights in Vegas they screw him. It ain’t right. The man cannot catch a break.”

Punch statistics, a useful but hardly conclusive tool for determining what actually takes place in the ring, offered no real insight as to whose version of the story is more accurate. The busier, harder-hitting Hurd connected on 217 of 824 (26 percent) to 176 of 572 (31 percent) for Lara, but Hurd’s advantage in volume on power shots (186 of 641, 29 percent) negated Lara’s more precise placement (123 of 267, an impressive 46 percent). The gap over the last four rounds – Hurd outlanded Lara, 106-71, with a 96-58 edge in power punches – was even more pronounced.

Despite Lara’s insistence that he is deserving of an immediate rematch, Hurd – who has stamped himself as a fun-to-watch action fighter, if not necessarily a candidate for pound-for-pound consideration – most likely will move on to another unification clash, which is in keeping with Showtime’s master plan to fully unify the division.  WBC super welterweight champ Jermell Charlo (30-0, 15 KOs), who defends his strap against the ever-popular opponent to be named on June 9 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, was at ringside for Hurd-Lara and he said he’s ready, willing and able to hurt Hurd should he get past his upcoming mystery guest.

“I’m down. Let’s go,” Charlo said of his interest in a go at Hurd, whose style is a much closer approximation of his own than was Lara’s. But, he added, “Hurd has to get his defense together because he cannot get hit by me like that. Lara doesn’t move like he used to. If he moves like he used to, he wins the fight.”

A slight favorite going into Saturday night’s (or very early Sunday morning, for those viewers on the East Coast) scrap with the larger but less-experienced Hurd, Lara – a now-naturalized U.S. citizen who successfully defected from Cuba in 2007, after an earlier attempt failed – has been a darling of certain critics and box-office poison with the public at large throughout his long championship reign. Those who appreciate his work have likened him to such patient craftsmen as Swiss watchmakers and doctorate-level mathematicians. His gift is not necessarily looking good himself, but making his opponents look clumsy and inept. Now, having failed to retain his title in his seventh defense of it, his leverage for continuing to be put into high-visibility bouts has been at least somewhat compromised.

“It was a good fight for the fans,” he said of the bout in which he was obliged to stray from the small-arms sniper fire in which he normally excels. “I stood and fought a lot and it was fun. I thought I clearly won the fight. Once again a decision goes against me, but hey, we just got to do a rematch.”

Had Lara been more inclined to engage when he was establishing himself as a world-class boxer, he might not have had to so often showcase his obvious talents in small rooms, such as the Hard Rock’s sold-out but cozy “The Joint,” which sold out Saturday night but for a crowd of just 2,579 spectators. Then again, like another Cuban expatriate southpaw similarly resistant to make adjustments to a style which has long worked for him, Guillermo Rigondeaux, Lara is a leopard that never has found a reason to change its spots, unless forced to do so. Hurd – four inches taller at 6-foot-1 and with a 2½-inch reach advantage – was just the guy to bully Lara out of his comfort zone.

Hurd is a temperamental and stylistic opposite of Lara, and as long as he continues to provide a high thrill quotient while cutting the occasional corner on refined niceties, he will continue to develop a fan base that is cottoning to his let ’er rip mindset. He likely would be the underdog for a meeting with Charlo, but his relentlessness of effort could soon make him must-watch TV. It could also make him susceptible to the wrong side of the quick-strike outcomes that thus far have stamped him as a rising star. But Hurd is the man of the moment, and it feels damn good.

“I’m No. 1 (at 154) now,” he crowed. “I’m in control. I’m going to call the shots.”

Photo credit: Chris Farina / Mayweather Promotions

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Daniel Jacobs Edges Past Gabe Rosado on a Matchroom card in Florida

David A. Avila

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Former world champion Daniel Jacobs needed the last round to win by split decision against upset-minded Gabe Rosado and keep his place in line on Friday for lucrative super middleweight matchups.

But when the ring announcer erroneously announced the winner was from Philadelphia, confusion reigned for a moment until Jacobs was correctly called the winner.

Brooklyn’s Jacobs (37-3, 30 KOs) jumped out ahead against Philly fighter Rosado (25-13-1, 14 KOs) and held on for the win in front of no fans at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. For a second, many thought Rosado had won.

Both were careful during the first three rounds measuring each other’s distance and looking for openings to counter. There were very few.

It was the kind of fight expected by those who know boxing: two veterans with immense experience against top-flight world champions. Mistakes were few.

Jacobs, a former middleweight world champion, had fought Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin in close but losing efforts.

Rosado had battled Golovkin too, six years ago in a bloody affair that ended in a loss. He had also lost to other champions like Peter Quillin and Jermell Charlo. But none were able to knock him out.

Both were aware of each other’s reputation. Bitter words had been exchanged for years and now they finally got their chance to prove their mettle and they did.

Though Jacobs was recognized as a knockout puncher, Rosado’s resilience was just as well known. Both neutralized each other for most of the fight with their feints and jabs to the body. Neither was willing to leave openings for each other.

Jacobs scored big with a left uppercut at the end of the seventh round. While Rosado wowed viewers with a sizzling right cross in the 11th round.

It was 1950s style, boxing with intelligence. Each found it difficult to land combinations, let alone find openings to score knockout blows. Instead, they had to be satisfied with scoring enough to convince three judges the actual winner.

Neither was able to pull out ahead with any conviction.

After 12 rounds one judge saw Rosado the winner 115-113 while two others saw Jacobs the winner 115-113 to give him the win by split decision.

“It felt just a little weird. It felt like a sparring match,” said Jacobs about fighting without fans in the audience. “This wasn’t a valiant effort.”

Rosado was certain he was the true winner.

“I thought I won the fight. I surprised him,” said Rosado who trained with Freddie Roach for this fight. “I’m a veteran, I know how to fight.”

Indeed, he does.

Jacobs now stands poised to fight one of many super middleweight champions in need of a marquee name.

“I live to see another day,” he said honestly.

Other Bouts

Kazakhstan’s Daniyar Yeleussinov (10-0, 6 KOs) proved he was not an easy touch and knocked out former world champion Julius Indongo (23-3, 12 KOs) to march forward in the welterweight division while grabbing the vacant IBF Inter-Continental title.

In a fight featuring southpaw versus southpaw Yeleussinov caught Indongo with a roundhouse left the first time they exchanged and down went the former super lightweight world champion. Indongo beat the count and survived the round.

Indongo wasn’t as lucky in the second round as Yeleussinov again connected with a left and down went the fighter from Namibia again. He would not get up at 1:24 of round two giving the knockout win for Yeleussinov.

A battle between undefeated heavyweights saw Azerbaijan’s Mahammadrasul Majidov (3-0, 3 KOs) use roundhouse rights to stagger the heavier Sahret Delgado (8-1) to win by knockout in the third round. Majidov actually helped Delgado get to his stool after knocking him out on his feet at 47 seconds of the third round.

Emmanuel Tagoe (32-1) defeated Mason Menard (36-5) by majority decision after a 10- round lightweight fight that saw a lot of clinching and leaning.

Nikita “White Chocolate” Ababiy (10-0) out-fought Detroit’s Brandon Maddox (7-4-1) to win by unanimous decision after six rounds in a middleweight clash. Ababiy hurt Maddox with body shots but found Maddox more resilient than expected.

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Pradabsri Upsets Menayothin, Ends the Longest Unbeaten Streak of Modern Times

Arne K. Lang

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During the wee hours in the Americas, a big upset was brewing in Thailand. In Nakhon Sawan, a city roughly 150 miles north of Bangkok, Panya Pradabsri (aka Petchmanee CP Freshmart) out-pointed Wanheng Menayothin (aka Chayaphon Moonsri) in a domestic clash with international significance. Manayothin entered the bout with a 54-0 (18) record and was making the 13th defense of his WBC world minimumweight title.

Pradabsri had been defeated only once in 35 previous starts, but only 11 of his 34 victories had come against fighters with winning records. According to ringside reports, he kept Menayothin at bay with good fundamentals, a stiff jab, and good lateral movement. All three judges had it 115-113. The fight wasn’t without controversy as Menayothin finished stronger and many folks scoring off the live video thought that he had done just enough to retain his title.

How good was/is Menayothin? That’s a question that serious boxing fans will likely debate for decades.

In the summer of 2019, Menayothin signed a co-promotional deal with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions. At time, GBP president Eric Gomez described him as one of the best fighters in the world. “We really want to bring him to the U.S. so people can see how talented he really is,” Gomez told England’s Sky Sports.

Menayothin was expected to make his U.S. debut in April of this year, but the pandemic ruined that plan. Earlier this year, he announced his retirement, but rescinded it after only two days.

Scottish boxing historian Matt McGrain, who has an exclusive arrangement with this web site, had lukewarm opinion of the Thai mighty-mite although he rated him the second-best 105-pound boxer of the decade, trailing only his countryman Thammanoon Niyomtrong (aka Knockout CP Freshmart).

“He is disciplined, strong, brings good pressure and is armed with a very decent range of punches,” said McGrain, “(but his record) is comprised mostly of men any competent fighter would be expected to beat.”

Although only one boxer from Thailand has been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame (Khaosai Galaxy, class of 1999), the Southeast Asia nation has produced some outstanding boxers over the years – Chartchoi Chionoi, Sot Chitalada, Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai to name just a few. The difference between these fighters and Wanheng Menayothin is that they all left the comfort zone of their homeland to score one or more important wins on foreign soil.

Menayothin may yet display his wares in a U.S. ring. But at age 35, an advanced age for small fighters in particular, we won’t get to see him at his best and now that his bubble has been burst, disinviting further comparisons to Mayweather and Marciano, the curiosity factor has been tempered.

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Yoka vs. Hammer Kicks Off the Thanksgiving Weekend Slate on ESPN+

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PRESS RELEASE— Tony Yoka, the dynamic heavyweight punching Parisian, aims to impress in his ESPN platform debut. Yoka, who won a super heavyweight gold medal for France at the 2016 Rio Olympics, will fight veteran Christian Hammer in a 10-rounder Friday at H Arena in Nantes, France.

Yoka-Hammer will stream live and exclusively this Friday, Nov. 27 in the United States on ESPN+ beginning at 2:55 p.m. ET/11:55 a.m. PT.

The ESPN+ stream will also include the return of unbeaten 2016 French Olympic gold medalist Estelle Yoka-Mossely against Pasa Malagic in an eight-round lightweight bout. Yoka and Yoka-Mossely, who have been married since 2018, welcomed their second child in May.

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Earlier this year, Yoka inked a promotional agreement with Top Rank, which will co-promote him with Ringstar France.

“Tony Yoka’s potential is limitless, and he is a grounded young man who is motivated to be a great professional fighter,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “France has never had a world heavyweight champion, and I believe Tony is the one to bring the sport’s biggest honor home.”

The 28-year-old Yoka’s stellar amateur run included a berth at the 2012 London Olympics and gold medals at the 2015 World Championships and 2010 Youth Olympic Games. Before his triumph in Rio, he’d already defeated the likes of former heavyweight world champion Joseph Parker and current undefeated prospects Joe Joyce and Ivan Dychko. At the Rio Olympics, he defeated Croatian standout Filip Hrgović in the semifinals and edged Joyce in the gold medal match.

As a professional, Yoka (8-0, 7 KOs) made his debut in June 2017 with a second-round stoppage over the previously undefeated Travis Clark. Apart from a decision win over Jonathan Rice in his second outing, Yoka has stopped every foe, including durable Englishman David “White Rhino” Allen and former European champion Alexander Dimitrenko. He made his 2020 debut Sept. 25 and stopped former world title challenger Johann Duhaupas in one round.

Hammer (25-6, 15 KOs) has fought many of the leading heavyweight names during his 12-year career, falling short against Tyson Fury, Luis Ortiz and Alexander Povetkin. He’s notched myriad upset victories, including a highlight-reel knockout over David Price and a 2016 split decision over Erkan Teper for the WBO European belt. In March 2019, he went the 10-round distance against Ortiz and has not been stopped since Fury forced him to retire on his stool after eight rounds in their February 2015 clash.

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