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Open Scoring in Boxing: Yes or No? Part Two of a TSS Survey

Ted Sares

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(PART TWO: M-W): We asked 48 noted boxing buffs how they felt about open scoring. Specifically we asked, “Are you in favor of open scoring whereby the scores of the judges would be revealed after each round or at one or more intervals during the fight? If so, why? If not, why not?”

The respondents are listed alphabetically. Part One (A-L) ran yesterday (Tuesday, Oct. 2). Here’s the concluding segment. A hearty thanks to all that took the time to share their thoughts.

ADEYINKA MAKINDEU.K. barrister, writer and contributor to the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Boxing. Open scoring would detract from the drama of what the final decision will be should the fight endure to the allocated distance. So entertainment wise, it is not of particular value. Neither is its value enhanced in so far as the notion that it might improve the quality of judging. After all, the idea surely is not to put pressure on a judge whose scoring appears off base to a section of the crowd, or to substitute judges mid-fight for “getting things wrong.” This is a non-issue. Instead the focus should be on determining the professional competence of judges as well as their integrity.

JOHN McKALE–prominent boxing judge: No, 100% not in favor.  The mind through the eyes of each judge should not be compromised by anything, including what the other judges may be determining.

PAUL MAGNO–author, writer and boxing official in Mexico: I don’t like open scoring. It does absolutely nothing to help the integrity of judging, but it ruins some key elements of intrigue and suspense when it comes to the fight and the announcing of a winner. If boxing is serious about judging reform, then they need to do the only thing that matters– overhaul the entire incestuous system and create more of a separation between the promoters and the selection of officials.

SCOOP MALINOWSKI—boxing writer, author, “Mr. Biofile”: Open scoring is just another system that can be corrupted and surely will be corrupted. I’d rather see former pro boxers and champions in the role as judges, but they can be corrupted too.

LARRY MERCHANT—HBO boxing commentator emeritus; 2009 IBHOF inductee: I’m opposed to open scoring because  I witnessed a couple of such experiments that fell flat. Either the winning fighter, knowing the score, coasted through the late rounds and/or the losing fighter failed to respond, accepting defeat. The drama of uncertainty works best in prize fighting.

ROBERT MLADINICHformer NYPD police detective, author and boxing writer: I am not in favor of open scoring because awaiting a close decision is much of the fun of a good, close fight. Unfortunately the judges often get it wrong, which ruins the entire experience. That does not justify the open scoring. There should just be better judges.

HARRY OTTY—author, historian, part-time boxing coach: Absolutely in favor of ‘open scoring.’ How many close fights may have had a different result if the corner that felt they were ahead knew, without doubt, that they were actually behind with a couple of rounds left in the fight? I have coached amateur boxers for over 30 years and the closed scoring sucks – corruption is also rife. The best period we had was when the computer scoring (a button-push for each punch landed – not an ideal set up) was revealed at the end of each round. If you lost the first of three you at least had the option to alter tactics. Boxers/coaches who can adapt to what is happening as a result of the known score would also be proving their skill/superiority in the ring. TACTICS! From an open and transparent perspective it may have the side effect of making all judges (promoters/governing bodies) more accountable.

MARY ANN LURIE OWEN–boxing photojournalist extraordinaire:  In 12-round title fights, scores should be announced after the 4th and 8th rounds.

JOE PASQUALE – prominent judge and recent NJ Boxing Hall of Fame inductee: As a fan, my thoughts are that this is the one sport that holds the suspense of the outcome until the third judge’s score is read by the ring announcer. Also, I have worked a few of these score progressions announced throughout the fight. The fighter with the big lead going into the later rounds just stopped engaging and coasted the last few rounds, taking the edge off a good fight with the possibility of a stoppage going into that tough 12th round.

DAVID PAYNE—U.K. boxing writer: I’m not in favor. Open scoring impacts intent of fighters and crowd reaction impacts officials.

J. RUSSELL PELTZ—venerable Philadelphia boxing promoter and 2004 IBHOF inductee: Terrible idea. A boxer with a big lead avoids contact down the stretch. Takes away suspense. Better solution is to get better judges.

ADAM POLLACK–author, publisher, and boxing official: There are pros and cons. The pro is it would allow the fighter who was behind to make adjustments and potentially fight harder, because it would make him realize that what he was doing was not as effective in the judges’ minds as he thought it was. On the other hand, it can allow one fighter to coast if he realizes he is well ahead, which can cause fights to become boring, and it eliminates the drama. When neither knows whether or not they are ahead, they fight harder, fearing the unknown. But what boxing really should do is stop using incompetent judges, and bring back the 15-round championship fight. Open scoring simply shows the fighters and the world how terrible the judging is as it is happening. It doesn’t change the fact of bad judging.

BRIAN POWERS–former fighter: Show them so the fighter knows and can turn it up if he’s behind.

JACQUIE RICHARDSON–Executive Director, Retired Boxers Foundation: I fail to see what difference that would make. Good judges will be good judges and bad judges will remain bad judges. The only positive outcome would be if the corners know, and the boxers come out and make adjustments to more convincingly win rounds. Another positive thing would be to see if the judges know what ring generalship is and the real difference between power shots and pity-pats.

CLIFF ROLD—boxing writer; founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board: I’m not in favor of open scoring of any kind/time. I think it changes the approach of fighters and those with leads have an impetus to disengage. That’s bad for the entertainment factor. The second Bell-Mormeck fight at cruiserweight soured me on it. It went from eight rounds of all-out war to a chase scene.

FREDERICK ROMANO–former ESPN researcher and author:  My general feeling is I don’t believe it is necessary. It cuts both ways. Knowing a fight is dead even going into the last round could lead to some supreme efforts. It also might result in over-caution. However, I would like to hear from the fighters themselves as to whether they are in favor of it. Would they find it beneficial from a strategic standpoint? If they do, maybe we need to depart from tradition. I think what might be more important is that we improve the quality of judging. With quality judging the need for open scoring is mitigated. Also, using five judges for championship bouts might be helpful to reduce the potential impact of corruption and would overcome even two poor scorecards, saving some bouts from the wrong result.

DANA ROSENBLATT–former world middleweight champion; inspirational speaker: I am not in favor of open scoring. Although potential corruption is shrouded in part by allowing scoring to be done in a way that no one knows until the fight is over, I am not in favor of it. Instead, how about mandating that judges for all boxing matches are selected exclusively by the state boxing commissions of the states where the matches take place and not the promoters? I think this would make a difference.

LEE SAMUELS–veteran Top Rank publicist: We wouldn’t change it. There is always suspense how a fight is being scored. And in today’s world of Twitter, the top ringside writers tweet how they are scoring – that is good enough for me and for the fans who are watching.

TED SARES–TSS writer: In general, I dislike the concept but I’d be willing to see how allowing the scores to be read at the end of three rounds in ten-round fights and at the end of four in 12-round fights would work out—on a six-month trial basis.

ICEMAN JOHN SCULLY—former boxer, trainer, commentator, he’s done it all: There is no way open scoring should be allowed. It would kill all the potential for great drama in the sport of boxing. If it were implemented, it would backfire catastrophically.

MICHAEL SILVER–author, historian: I think it warrants an experiment for several months and in all fights to see how open scoring affects the fighters, corner men and fans in the arena. Mixed feelings about it but worth a try and then evaluate.

ALLAN SWYER–documentary filmmaker, writer, and producer of the acclaimed El Boxeo:Remember Oscar dancing away rounds because he knew he was far ahead in points? We’ll see far more of that kind of behavior with open scoring. My answer is a resounding NO!

DONALD L. TRELLA–prominent boxing judge: I am not a proponent of open scoring. I think part of the excitement that is generated by boxing is the announcement of the winner at the end of the fight. Everyone is on edge and anxious to hear the scores. There are also many ways a fighter can use open scoring to their advantage and diminish the action. For example, if a fighter is way ahead after seven rounds and has a shutout going, what’s the benefit of mixing it up the rest of the way? The fighter in the lead could just dance and stay out of the fray for the remaining five rounds leading to a very boring bout. Another example might be where a fighter is injured by an accidental foul. After four rounds are completed and he knows he’s ahead, he may say he can’t continue due to the injury and win the fight knowing what the score is after 4 rounds. What if a judge realizes he is wide compared to the other judges, does he start to score rounds differently to bring his or her scoring more in line with the other two judges? Very little upside… lots of down side. I actually could go on and on with a lot of examples.

GARY “DIGITAL” WILLIAMSthe voice of “Boxing on the Beltway”: I am totally against open scoring.  This takes the excitement of wondering what the final judge’s score will be.  Back in April of 1999, there was the Triple Jeopardy card in DC where they tried three types of open scoring — announcing the score after four rounds, after six rounds and after every round.  Mark Johnson’s bout was the one tried after every round.  After the bout, Mark told me that he knew after about eight rounds that he was well ahead on points so he just coasted to the win. Fans did not get a chance to see his true greatness. Open scoring just does not work on any level.

BEAU WILLIFORD–former trainer and the glue of boxing in Cajun Country:  I favor open scoring either way. I think open scoring would provide better boxing matches!

PETER WOOD–former fighter, writer,author: I’m all for the transparency of open scoring, but it wouldn’t work the way we would like. A boxing match’s emotionally-charged environment can be dangerous—and VERY dangerous to a judge who doesn’t score a round like the crowd wants it to be scored. The masses are asses and judges would be too easily influenced and swayed for their own safety

OBSERVATIONS:

Those opposed to Open Scoring overwhelmed those for it by a margin of 40-9. Jim Lampley said he was against it because it kills suspense for fans, places fighters at risk if they fall behind and then take risks not warranted by their abilities, while conversely encouraging a leading fighter to take fewer risks — and risk is at the heart of the sport. Larry Merchant added that he had witnessed a couple of such experiments that fell flat. Either the winning fighter, knowing the score, coasted through the late rounds and/or the losing fighter failed to respond, accepting defeat. The drama of uncertainty works best in prize fighting. J. Russell Peltz, in common with several other respondents, said a better solution is to get better judges. Another frequently-heard comment was pinpointed colorfully by Peter Wood: “A boxing match’s emotionally-charged environment can be dangerous—and VERY dangerous to a judge who doesn’t score a round like the crowd wants it to be scored.” And Steve Farhood summed things up nicely by stating, “..it places undue pressure on the judges and eliminates one of the most dramatic moments in boxing–when the ring announcer reads the final scores in a close fight.”

Some of those in favor, such as Bill Caplan and Mary Ann Owen, favored the WBC plan of open scoring during intervals, rather than after every round. And others thought there would be value in trying it for a trial period.

Ted Sares is one of the oldest active power lifters and is the oldest Strongman competitor in the United States. He recently won the Maine State Championship in his class. He is a member of Ring 4 and its Boxing Hall of Fame.

 Photo: Julio Cesar Chavez and Pernell Whitaker battle to a controversial draw in San Antonio.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 106: Return of LA Boxing, Josh Taylor, Charlos and More

David A. Avila

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 106: Return of LA Boxing, Josh Taylor, Charlos and More

Let’s call this week the Big Build Up.

Back in the 1920s to the 1950s the City of Angels was known as the place where Humphrey Bogart lived and played characters out of Raymond Chandler’s novels. Books like the “Big Sleep” and “Lady in a Lake” were made into movies based in Los Angeles.

Well, here we are back where boxing thrives, people or not.

Los Angeles kicks off the big boxing week starting with a televised fight card that features home grown featherweight Vic Pasillas at the Microsoft Theater in the downtown area. Fox Sports 1 will televise the Premier Boxing Championship card on Wednesday, Sept. 23.

Pasillas (15-0,8 KOs) faces Dominican fighter Ranfis Encarnacion (17-0, 13 KOs) in the co-main event at a fan-less event that begins a crowded week of boxing as we near the end of 2020.

“Coming out on top against Encarnación is going to catapult me into some big fights at featherweight. The division is wide open and I know with hard work I can take it over,” said Pasillas who is originally from Los Angeles. “This is by far the most important fight of my career. I’m coming with everything I got, because I know this is the turning point that will lead to bigger and better fights. I am ready to bring an exciting fight to the fans and get my hand raised in victory.”

Both Pasillas and Encarnacion are undefeated and unknown to most of the boxing world. A win changes everything especially when it’s difficult to even stage a boxing card.

Promoters are anxious to get their fighters in the ring by any means necessary.

On Thursday in Biloxi, Mississippi, super lightweight Michael Williams Jr. meets Thomas Miller in the headline attraction of a boxing card that will be streamed by UFC Fight Pass.

On Friday in southern Mexico, Serhii Bohachuk (17-0, 17 KOs) meets Alejandro Davila (21-1-2, 8 KOs) in Merida, Yucatan. No word if it will be streamed. The super welterweight from Ukraine has a 17-fight knockout streak and has become a main attraction in Hollywood, California for 360 Promotions.

“Serhii has become one of the most talked about rising stars in boxing,” said Tom Loeffler, promoter of 360 Promotions. “Boxing fans are excited to see if he can continue his knockout streak against Alejandro Davila, the toughest opponent he’s faced. He’s been training very hard with Manny Robles for this fight and if victorious, we’re certain there will be bigger opportunities for him in the near future.”

These are all tasty appetizers for the big buffet coming on Saturday.

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Saturday morning, especially if you live in the California area, ESPN+ will showcase the IBF, WBA super lightweight world title fight between champion Josh Taylor (16-0, 12 KOs) and Apinun Khongsong (16-0, 13 KOs) in London. It will be streamed live on Sept. 26, Saturday morning, starting at 11 a.m PST.

This is an important match for Taylor (pictured on the left) who needs a win to nail down a unification clash with Jose Carlos Ramirez the WBC and WBO titlist. If Scotland’s Taylor emerges victorious the super lightweight clash will be one of the top fights of the year.

And if that fight happens to take place, then that winner more than likely meets WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford.

But first things first. Taylor needs to defeat Thailand’s Khongsong on Saturday.

“I didn’t want a warm-up fight, so getting straight back in there against my mandatory challenger is great, as it’s kept me fully focused. I want big fights in my career, so this is an important fight with my belts on the line,” said Taylor.

Charlos Pay-per-view

The Charlos brothers asked for it and they got it.

Long have the brothers from Houston, Texas asked for a pay-per-view fight card and it never seemed possible until now. The Charlos will headline a pay-per-view double-header on Saturday via Showtime.

Beginning at 4 p.m PT/ 7 p.m. ET the Showtime pay-per-view card begins with three top notch bouts:

WBO bantamweight titlist John Riel Casimero (29-4) vs Ghana’s Duke Micah (24-0, 19 KOs).

WBA super bantamweight titlist Brandon Figueroa (20-0-1, 15 KOs) vs Damien Vazquez (15-1-1, 8 KOs).

WBC middleweight titlist Jermall Charlo (30-0, 22 KOs) v Sergiy Derevyanchenko (13-2, 10 KOs).

Charlo was not impressed with Derevyanchenko’s performances against Daniel Jacobs and Gennady Golovkin because both were losses. He expects to dominate.

Derevyanchenko says he’s ready for Charlo.

“Golovkin is a very different fighter than Charlo, but Jacobs is similar stylistically, so that’s something I’ll be used to,” said Derevyanchenko. “This training camp has been very similar to camps for my previous fights though. We just brought in different sparring partners for this one. We’re using fighters who can show us what Charlo will bring to the ring.”

After a 30-minute intermission the second half of the boxing card begins.

Former bantamweight world champion Luis Nery (30-0, 24 KOs) moves up in weight to face Aaron Alameda (25-0, 13 KOs) for the vacant WBC super bantamweight world title. Both fighters are from Mexico.

Former super bantamweight titlists Danny Roman (27-3-1) and Juan Carlos Payano (21-3) meet in a 12-round bout.

In the grand finale WBC super welterweight titlist Jermell Charlo (33-1, 17 KOs) challenges IBF and WBA super welterweight titlist Jeison Rosario (20-1-1, 14 KOs) in a fight for all three belts.

“We lions,” said Charlo.

It’s a very big week for boxing that begins on Wednesday and ends Saturday.

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The Return of Wednesday Boxing Evokes Memories of a Golden Era

Arne K. Lang

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There’s a Wednesday card on the boxing docket this week. The card, which features several undefeated up-and-comers of the sort usually found on Showtime’s developmental series, “ShoBox: The New Generation,” will play out at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles and air on Fox Sports 1.

Not to be out-done, “ShoBox” is returning. The long-running series, which suspended operations in March in obeisance to COVID-19 restrictions, returns on Oct. 7 with a show emanating from Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Casino. The contestants in the main go of the four-fight card, Charles Conwell and Wendy Toussaint, have identical 12-0 records.

It just so happens that Oct. 7 is also a Wednesday. And these upcoming Wednesday shows transported this reporter back to his boyhood when boxing was a fixture on radio and television on Wednesday nights. The Wednesday series sponsored by Pabst Blue Ribbon beer ran from 1950 to 1960, airing the first five years on CBS and then on ABC.

Fights were all over the TV dial during the 1950s, not that there was much competition. The Big Three — NBC, CBS, and ABC — ruled the airwaves with DuMont a very distant fourth and cable television well off into the future. (For a time, the short-lived DuMont network aired boxing shows on Mondays.)

When televisions first came out, they were a big-ticket item. In 1948, RCA’s cheapest model sold for $395. That’s the equivalent of $10,400 today. By 1954, the cost of the least expensive model had declined to $189 and it came in a bigger box, with a 17-inch screen compared with the 13-inch screen that was standard six years earlier.

With the cost of the coveted contraption beyond the means of many wage earners, saloonkeepers cashed in. Boxing fans flocked to the neighborhood tavern to get their boxing fix. The saloonkeeper could write off his television sets on his taxes as a business expense.

Those were the days, and I date myself, when every town had a TV repair shop and the repairman, like the family doctor, made house calls.

The Wednesday Night Fights were a spin-off of the Friday Night Fights on NBC. The matchmaker for both series (through 1958) was the International Boxing Club which was headquartered at Madison Square Garden. The president of the IBC was James D. Norris (who would come to be seen as a puppet for mobster Frankie Carbo, but that’s a story for another day).

James D. Norris inherited a vast fortune from his father, Canadian businessman James E. Norris. The elder Norris was a big wheel in the sport of hockey and had a financial interest in the arenas that housed NHL teams in Chicago, Detroit, and St. Louis. He made these arenas available to his son and the Wednesday fight cards moved around, unlike the Friday fights which were pinned to Madison Square Garden.

Both series would eventually venture out at times into virgin territory, but the Wednesday series was the trailblazer. The first nationally televised boxing show from the West Coast was a Wednesday affair. Jimmy Carter defended his world lightweight title against LA fan favorite Art Aragon, the original Golden Boy, at the Olympic Auditorium on Nov. 14, 1951. Aragon had upset Carter in a non-title fight 11 weeks earlier, but Carter took him to school in the rematch, winning a lopsided decision.

The Friday boxing series, which took the name “Gillette Cavalcade of Sports,” would come to be more fondly remembered, but once the TV became a living room staple, which happened fast, the Wednesday series drew higher ratings. This was predictable as more folks stayed home on Wednesday nights than on Friday nights. And although the Friday series had a larger budget, some of the most important fights of the era were staged on Wednesdays.

One of the highlights of the 1951 season was Ezzard Charles’ world heavyweight title defense against Jersey Joe Walcott at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field. It was Walcott’s fifth crack at the title and he was considered ancient at age 37, but he avenged his two previous losses to Charles with a thunderous one-punch knockout.

Carmen Basilio appeared in The Ring magazine Fight of the Year in five consecutive years (1955-1959). The first two — his second meeting with Tony DeMarco and his second meeting with Johnny Saxton – were televised on a Wednesday.

Although he would be quickly forgotten, the Wednesday series brought Bob Satterfield a cult following because of his unpredictability. He certainly left an impression on octogenarian boxing writer Ted Sares who recently named Satterfield his all-time favorite fighter.

To conjure up a portrait of Satterfield, think Deontay Wilder and then fix Wilder with a glass jaw. Satterfield, whose best weight was about 182 pounds, was a murderous puncher, but during his career he was stopped 13 times.

LA’s Clarence Henry and Pittsburgh’s Bob Baker were ranked #3 in the heavyweight division when they ventured to Chicago to tangle with Satterfield, Henry in 1952 and Baker the following year. Henry knocked out Satterfield in the opening round. Satterfield hit the canvas so hard, said a ringside reporter, the resin dust flew up.

The Satterfield-Baker fight would also end in the opening round. Baker out-weighed Satterfield by 34 pounds, but Satterfield flattened him. Later on, in a non-Wednesday fight, Satterfield knocked out Cleveland “Big Cat” Williams in the third round. Williams, 33-1 heading in, was the larger man by 25 pounds.

One bet on or against Bob Satterfield at one’s own peril.

The Wednesday Night Fights had a nice run before the series was cancelled and supplanted in its time slot by “The Naked City,” a critically acclaimed police drama series. Perhaps the return of boxing on Wednesdays augurs well for another mid-week boxing series, but we won’t hold our breath.

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Erickson Lubin Wins, But Misplaced His Hammer

David A. Avila

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Erickson Lubin misplaced the hammer but found a way to victory over Terrell Gausha by unanimous decision in a slow-developing WBC super welterweight eliminator on Saturday.

Lubin (23-1, 16 KOs), a southpaw slugger, was unable to lower the boom on Gausha (21-2-1, 10 KOs) at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. But he did enough in a tactical battle that only activated into a real fight in the later rounds.

Back and forth the two super welterweights mostly feinted and fired blows at each other’s guard. Few managed to pierce for scoring blows and those that landed were mostly to the body.

“It was a chess match. I respected what he had, he was trying to counter what I had. My trainer was telling me to be cautious and not get hit with anything stupid,” said Lubin, whose trainer is the respected Kevin Cunningham.

Gausha, 33, was the more accurate puncher but fired less than Lubin. Though he seemingly scored more often with counter rights, the scarcity of his blows allowed Lubin to control the pace of the fight.

It wasn’t until the mid-rounds that Gausha stepped into a slightly quicker pace. In the 10th, a short right connected and wobbled Lubin who covered up.

“I knew I had hurt him, but he was able to recover,” said Gausha, 24, who tried to finish off the hurt fighter but was unable to land another scoring blow.

“I’m in shape and I was able to recuperate,” Lubin revealed.

It was still unclear who was winning the fight. In the 12th and final round Lubin stepped up the pace and connected with a crisp right hook that clearly snapped the head of Gausha. But he fought his way out of the dangerous corner.

After 12 rounds all three judges scored it for Lubin 115-113, 116-112, 118-110.

“Gausha is a tough competitor, he’s at the top for a reason,” said Lubin. “I feel I beat one of the top 154s and I’m going to keep doing that.”

Gausha was classy in defeat.

“I take my hat off to Erickson Lubin. He was the better man tonight,” said Gausha.

Lubin now awaits the winner between Jermell Charlo and Jeison Rosario who fight each other next week for the WBC, WBA and IBF super welterweight titles. Showtime will provide the title match on pay-per-view.

Featherweights

Former IBO featherweight titlist Tug Nyambayar (12-1, 9 KOs) floored Cobia Breedy (15-1) twice in the first two rounds but struggled the rest of the way to win by split decision. One judge scored it 115-113 for Breedy and two others for Mongolia’s Nyambayar 114-112 and 114-113.

Nyambayar knocked down Breedy with a counter right cross in the first round and then floored him with four rights and a left hook in the second. After that, Breedy was the busier fighter and no one was able to take control.

“Boxing is boxing. It was a tough fight,” said Nyambayar.

Welterweights

In a solid match Philadelphia’s Jaron Ennis (26-0, 24 KOs) was able to find out exactly where he stands against real competition and stopped the unstoppable Juan Carlos Abreu (23-6-1, 21 KOs) in the sixth round by technical knockout in their welterweight showdown.

More than just a knockout win, Ennis discovered that he can indeed take a punch from an elite level puncher.

Nobody questioned whether Ennis had boxing skills or athleticism and power, but nobody knew if he could take a punch. They discovered it as Abreu was able to connect in the fourth and fifth rounds. The Dominican fighter pulled out his tricks and connected several times with sneaky rights and lefts. Ennis remained standing.

Abreu was looking to trade bombs with Ennis in the fifth and sixth round and paid the price in getting delivered to the canvas with a pretty right counter uppercut. He survived. But in the sixth a slew of punches along the ropes sent him down again. He beat the count again but during a fierce exchange he was floored a final time at 1:06 of the sixth round. It was the first time Abreu had ever been stopped.

“I feel I put on a wonderful show and got the knockout,” said Ennis. “I feel I showed the division I am here.”

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