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Danny Roman Unifies Title, Estrada Wins Rematch and Other Results from L.A.

David A. Avila

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Roman

Southern California’s native son Danny Roman out-slugged Ireland’s TJ Doheny in a brutal back and forth battle to unify the super bantamweight titles by majority decision on Friday. Roman. the WBA title-holder, added the IBF title to his collection.

Making his fourth defense of his WBA title, Roman (27-2-1, 10 KOs)  couldn’t have asked for a tougher foe than Doheny (21-1, 15 KOs) whose ability to take a shot to the head astounded the more than 5,000 fans at the Inglewood Forum.

But it was the body that did him in.

In this year of unification fights going viral, the willingness of the two super bantamweights to add gasoline to this year’s bonfire of boxing found another contribution and it was extremely volatile.

Roman was making his fourth defense of the WBA title he won in Japan two years ago and Doheny was making his second defense since winning in Japan last year. Both wanted to add to their growing legend.

The two 122-pound human bullets were slow to burn in the first round but in round two Roman increased the tempo and caught Doheny with a long left hook right on the chin and down he went. It was a perfect blow but did not hurt the Irish fighter. He quickly got up but it gave Roman a quick lead.

For the past three years those who have seen Roman perform know he builds momentum by attacking the body and slowing sapping the energy from his foes. Doheny, unlike the others, uses movement to avoid body shots.

Doheny mounted a counter-attack in the fourth round and it finally showed the crowd why he held the IBF world title. The southpaw’s left cross arrives as if delivered from a handheld rocket launcher. One caught Roman flush and Doheny followed it up a with a half dozen more rocket left hands. Roman was on his heels and Doheny did not let up. Then a missed punch allowed Roman to reset and mount his own rally but the bell rang ending the frame.

The crowd realized it was not going to be easy for either fighter.

Both fighters erupted in the fifth round and exchanged inside with savage abandon. After some vicious exchanges for three minutes Doheny departed to his corner with a bloodied nose.

Not until the eighth round did Roman finally find his rhythm and began to mow through Doheny’s defense and stream of left hands. First he used multiple left hooks, then switched to multiple rights to offset Doheny’s lefts.

As Doheny began to stop using his legs to avoid body shots Roman began lowering his target and attacked the body with left hooks whenever possible. A hint of pain seemed to cross the Irish fighter’s face when hooks from Roman found their mark.

Finally, in the 11th round a left hook from Roman saw the Irish fighter slump to the mat in pain. Referee Raul Caiz gave the count but the Irish fighter was not close to quitting. The fight continued and Roman seemed in control.

The last round saw both try to take control and end the fight with a convincing round. Each had their moment but it was perhaps the closest round since the third round. After 12 rounds the judges surprisingly had it close at 113-113, 116-110 twice for Roman. The native Californian is now the WBA and IBF super bantamweight champion.

New Super Fly Champion

The WBC super flyweight title changed hands as Mexico’s Juan Francisco “El Gallo” Estrada dethroned Thailand’s powerful Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, otherwise known as Wisaksil Wangek, by unanimous decision after 12 back and forth rounds.

Unlike their first encounter a year ago, Estrada came out smoking with a toe-to-toe barrage of blows in the opening round that caught most of the audience off guard. Their first fight saw Estrada box and move and stay out of Sor Rungvisai’s range. This time it was fire versus fire.

The second round saw the Thai champion connect with the big blows and that ended the toe-to-toe affair quickly. Still, Estrada was not the tentative fighter that fans saw back in February 2018 when Sor Rungvisai won by majority decision in the same arena. Not this time.

Estrada had the confidence knowing that he could exchange blows with the Thai fighter that many consider one of the top 10 pound-for-pound fighters in the world, especially after his demolition of Nicaragua’s Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. The Mexican super flyweight had tasted Sor Rungvisai’s power and it was no longer a mystery. Though not ignorant with his attacks, he still took chances when necessary and it paid off.

Neither fighter was able to knock each other down or cause visible injury but Estrada from the fifth to the eighth round took total control of the fight with his ability to slip and counter on Sor Rungvisai. It seemed that Estrada would breeze through the rest of the fight.

The Thai champion made his counter-attack in the ninth round with powerful single blows that snapped the head back of Estrada when they connected. For the next three rounds he regained control of the fight and the pace. The momentum changed abruptly..

Mexican fans screamed “El Gallo” in unison as Estrada and Sor Rungvisai exchanged big blows. Despite each landing solid blows neither was ever seriously hurt. After 12 rounds the judges scored it 116-112, 115-113 twice for Estrada by unanimous decision and making him the new WBC super flyweight world champion.

“I’m very happy for this win. I worked very hard for this fight,” said Estrada who is a former flyweight world champion as well. “I’ll take a rematch with him but I prefer a unification match.”

Las Vegas’ Vargas Wins

Jessie Vargas (29-2-2), a former welterweight and super lightweight world titlist, knocked out Mexico’s Humberto Soto (69-10-2) in the sixth round of a super welterweight contest.

It was a battle between former world champions and Vargas was coming off back to back draws against Adrien Broner and Thomas Dulorme. This time he was facing Soto who had just defeated Brandon Rios two months ago in Tijuana. It shocked the boxing world.

But lightning didn’t strike twice for Mexico’s Soto who was caught with a lead right cross by Vargas that dropped him in the sixth round. Soto beat the count but was corralled by Vargas who unleashed an eight punch barrage that made referee Tom Taylor end the fight at 1:48 of round six.

“He came in and I caught him with a right hand,” said Vargas who lives in Las Vegas.

Other Bouts

Ronny Rios (30-3) won by knockout over Daniel Olea (13-8-2) at the end of round five in a featherweight contest when Olea did not answer the bell for round six.

Argentina’s Alberto Melian (5-0) knocked down Southern California’s Isaac Zarate (16-5-3) then was knocked down himself in the later rounds. After 10 back and forth super bantamweight frames Melian won by unanimous decision 95-92 twice and 94-93 to retain the NABA super bantamweight title.

Former Olympic silver medalist Shakhram Giyasov (8-0) discovered there’s a big difference from amateurs to pros when he was tagged in the first round by Maryland’s Emanuel Taylor (20-6) and staggered around the ring. For the next nine rounds Giyashov unleashed his flamboyant combinations and won rounds but was always vulnerable to return fire from Taylor. More than a few times Taylor’s left hooks put the Uzbekistan star on wobbly grounds in their super lightweight fight.

After 10 rounds two judges scored it 99-91 for Giyasov and another 97-93 for the Uzbekistani and new owner of the WBA International title.

Super middleweight contender Anthony Sims Jr. had rough waters with St. Louis veteran Vaughn Alexander but he muddled through the listless fight that drew boos from the crowd for inactivity. After 10 rounds the judges scored it 98-92 twice and 96-94 for Sims who trains in Compton, Calif.

South Central L.A.’s Diego Pacheco (3-0) needed only 1:46 to put the drop on Seattle’s Guillermo Maldonado (1-1) and win by knockout in the first round of their middleweight fight. A left hook started the downfall for Maldonado and then a crushing right cross ended the fight. Referee Jerry Cantu did not bother to count. Pacheco brought several hundred fans to the Forum which is located in Inglewood, a city adjacent to South Central L.A. where Pacheco lives.

Former amateur star Austin Williams (1-0) took his first dip into the professional pool and dunked Joel Guevara (3-5-1) once in the first round before referee Ray Corona decided to stop the one-sided battering at 2:06 of the frame. A four punch barrage by the southpaw Williams of Houston floored West Virginia’s Guevara. He beat the count but looked tentative after that in the middleweight match.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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In Defense of Julie Lederman

Ted Sares

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Some years ago, Matt Podgorski (a former boxing official) came up with a formula for evaluating the performance of boxing judges worldwide by determining the percentage of instances his or her scores were consistent with the other two judges working the same fights. He called it the Pod Index. It was a rare effort to quasi-quantify the work of boxing judges. “Boxing and MMA judges are often evaluated based on whether or not they have had a controversial decision. This is a poor way to assign and regard professional judges,” said Podgorski in an interview with former RingTV editor Michael Rosenthal.

Matt’s Disclaimer: “We are not claiming that judges with low Pod Index scores are bad judges. The Pod Index is simply a measurement of round by round variation compared to other judges.”

Julie Lederman placed very high in Podgorski’s study. In fact, only one  veteran judge — Canada’s Benoit Roussel — had a better score.

For more information about the Pod Index, see http://theboxingtribune.com/2014/12/19/the-pod-index-a-step-in-the-right-direction/

Confirmation Bias

Some of this writer’s favorite judges, in addition to Lederman, are Steve Weisfeld, Glen Feldman, Dave Moretti, Glenn Trowbridge, Joe Pasquale, Max DeLuca, Hubert Earle, Benoit Roussel, Burt Clements, Rocky Young, Joel Scobie, Tom Shreck, Don Trella, William Lerch, Pinit Prayadsab, and Raúl Caiz, Jr. All of them have been maligned at one time or another.

Being a judge is a thankless endeavor and attention is mostly received when something controversial happens. Once a judgment is made about a bad job, that judgment influences future perceptions. This is known as “confirmation bias.”

Thus, Julie Lederman’s highly questionable scoring in the Loma-Lopez fight, though it didn’t change the result, will most certainly label her a bad judge, tarnishing her reputation despite all of the fine work she has done in the past. Moreover, it’s now fashionable to “pile on” and castigate her with a nasty Bob Arum leading the charge.

“…what kind of fight was she watching,…these judges are the craziest…I would advise any fighter I would have to ask the commission not to appoint her…” — Arum

This wasn’t the first time that Arum criticized Julie. Back in 2014, Tim Bradley and Diego Gabriel Chaves fought to a draw. Lederman scored the fight 116-112 in favor of Chaves. Arum had this to say: “She should never be allowed to work in Nevada again….Her scorecard for Chaves is an absolute disgrace …[She was appointed] because they let these [expletive] Showtime guys put a fight on the same night that we did it. They don’t have enough judges. They don’t have enough referees. They want to accommodate both parties. Why? Because they’ll do anything the [expletive] MGM asks them to do.”

“It’s easy to criticize boxing judges. But it’s not that easy to have a sound basis for the criticism. One needs to see the fight the judge saw to be in the position to rightly criticize. Critics should temper criticisms in light of the situations boxing judges are in when judging fights. And judges should likewise understand criticisms from the boxing public, however baseless these may seem.”  — Epifanio M. Almeda

Lederman, 52, is in her 24th year as a professional boxing judge. Her assignments have taken her to eight foreign countries and Puerto Rico. And she has been a fixture this year at the MGM Bubble, working 18 fights across seven shows without incident prior to this past Saturday night.

This, of course, does not excuse Julie’s scoring on Saturday (119-109 for Teofimo Lopez), but it needs to be kept in mind that she has been ranked high over the years and does not have in her past work a pattern of poor judging such as seemed to exist, for example, in Texas and which drew the ire of Paulie Malignaggi.

When she first hit the scene, cries of nepotism and politics accompanied her, but those complaints quickly evaporated. Whether she can bounce back from this controversy remains to be seen. This writer hopes she can.

Photo: Julie Lederman and her father are flanked by Henry Hascup, President of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame and Aaron Davis, former President of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board

Ted Sares can be reached on Facebook or at tedsares@roadrunner.com

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

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“—C’mon!” (from the pen of Springs Toledo)

Springs Toledo

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-C'mon

“—C’mon!” said Teofimo Lopez with two seconds left in the 12th round. It was a Brooklyn thing to say on a Brooklyn-type Saturday night, and Lopez timed it well. He’d just crashed two hooks at either side of Vasiliy Lomachenko’s head and ended their saga as it began—with sharp words.

“My son will destroy Lomachenko,” Lopez’s father told EsNews in August 2017. Three months later Lopez was in the gym mimicking his style. “Same side always,” he said as he tapped the bag and dipped to his right. “Nuthin’ different.” “Lomachenko is a diva,” he said last week. “I don’t like him … I’m the type of person, I say something I mean it. If you have a problem with it, come see me.” Lomachenko came to see him all right, and both brought their fathers as if the whole thing was a schoolyard scrap.

Lomachenko’s father is a silent sage. His modern training techniques are part of the “performance revolution” that has transformed every sport, including the sport that’s barely a sport, and not necessarily for the better. Papa Chenko’s futurama theories seem at once scientific and idiosyncratic. Pundits who never heard of Freddie Brown think they’re next-level stuff. There’s Lomachenko holding his breath under water to build lung strength; there he is touching that board with blinking lights to improve hand-eye coordination. When Lomachenko was 9, his father went so far as to enroll him in a Ukrainian folk dance school to expose him to hobak, hutsulka, and the kolomiyka, and you can see it in all the hopping and side-stepping he does around the ring at 32.

Papa Lopez is anything but silent, though he too is a sage—a naysaying sage with street instincts picked up during a few round trips through hell. He takes no one’s word for anything and if he takes a break from a tirade and asks a question, it has about as much tact as a shiv. When Lomachenko is holding his breath in the pool is someone else there too, denting his rib cage with hooks? Those lights blinking on the screen, do they feint? And dancing school? Dancing school? Brooklyn itself rolls its collective eyes.

Papa Lopez laughs without mirth at the consensus opinion, at the so-called experts. But he couldn’t laugh off the indisputable fact that Lomachenko has been knocking off a parade of world-class fighters. So he plopped down in front of YouTube to see for himself what was happening.

And what did he see?

He saw that the so-called Matrix style is a series of tricks; that Lomachenko is pulling fast ones on the gullible in the opposite corner and in press row. He saw opponents cooperating with him as he gauged their strengths and weaknesses in the first round or two and measured the distance between his glove and their chin. He saw them mesmerized by nothing-shots—“pitty pats,” he called them, “patty-cakes,” and wondered if it would have been easier or harder, given the language barrier, if Lomachenko just came out and asked them to throw something so he can find the best route around it to sock them in the chops.

Papa Lopez also saw that Lomachenko is preoccupied with not getting hurt; that he habitually slips, dips, and veers off to his right against the conventional stance. Teofimo, 23, saw the same thing. They both know why he prefers that direction: it’s the safest route.

His offense, which has two prongs and lots of frills, doesn’t contradict his preoccupation. Lomachenko wants to draw out his opponents to counter them. He stands a half-step off the perimeter where they can’t quite reach him and he can’t reach them. Then he baits them. If they take the bait, he hops in with a jab and then hops back out of reach. He’s making calculations, looking for patterns, and once he finds them he exploits them with minimal risk to himself because, like Floyd Mayweather, he already has a pretty good idea of what they’re going to throw. When is he most aggressive? When his opponent is least aggressive—out of position or covering up. He isn’t comfortable with uncalculated risks. Like Floyd, he wants control; and that only happens with an opponent’s cooperation.

Stanley Crouch, the late cultural critic and Brooklynite who was at least as contentious as Papa Lopez, understood the set-up. “What a boxer ideally wants to do is turn the opponent into an assistant in his own ass-whipping,” he said. “That’s really what you want the other guy to do—to assist you in whipping his ass.”

Lomachenko built a reputation on willing assistants.

And defeating him was easier than anyone anticipated. The fighter of the future bowed to all-American unruliness and old-fashioned fundamentals.

Old School’s comeback Saturday night was long, long overdue. Lopez used his strength and length to draw an invisible border with a warning that said “this far and no farther.” Then he enforced it. Instead of letting Lomachenko freely angle around him like he’s some stiff at the prom, he angled with him and threw punches. When Lomachenko slipped and sallied past his invisible border, he adjusted his distance and sent the dogs out. He stopped his momentum. He never let him take control. He never cooperated.

By the 8th round, Lomachenko realized that he had no chance to win unless he let go of his preoccupation with defense. He had to “sell out,” as Andre Ward said, by getting closer and sallying in when it wasn’t safe. Lomachenko won the 8th round—the first of only three that two judges scored his way—but it didn’t matter. His mouth had dropped open as if he was getting ready to admit futurama’s failure. “I heard him huffing and puffing and I knew I had him,” said Lopez.

The 12th round reminds us that Old School remains the gold standard in the sport that’s barely a sport. When Papa Lopez had a nervous moment in the corner and urged caution, Lopez refused. “I’m a fighter, I can’t give him that,” he said, as if to remind us that Old School is more than dust, that it’s a disposition.

Teofimo Lopez now stands in a succession of lightweight kings whose dispositions were the impetus behind achievements that make this succession very possibly the most majestic of them all: Joe Gans. Benny Leonard. Tony Canzoneri. Barney Ross. Henry Armstrong. Ike Williams. Carlos Ortiz. Roberto Duran. Julio Cesar Chavez. Pernell Whitaker.

Floyd Mayweather is in that succession too, but the business model that guided his career was rebuked Saturday night. Lopez pointed to the past, polished it up, and declared its superiority. “We’re bringing back what the Old School was. You fight the best and push on it. I’m not here to pick and choose who I want to fight because I want to defend my title and keep that 0,” he said and shook his head. “No. Nah!”

The lightweight king now beckons chief rivals Devin Haney, Ryan Garcia, and Gervonta Davis to disavow the business model and take up the red flag. He looks north to Josh Taylor and Jose Carlos Ramirez’s battle for the jr. welterweight crown and beckons either of them—or both.

 “—C’mon!”

 

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank

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Kelsey McCarson’s HITS and MISSES: Takeover Edition

Kelsey McCarson

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Kelsey-McCarson's-Hits-and-Misses-Takeover-Edition

Boxing is back!

Okay, boxing had technically been back for a few months now. But didn’t it seem to be more fully back to normal with the weekend’s lightweight unification battle between Teofimo Lopez and Vasiliy Lomachenko on ESPN?

Make that double the case now that another edition of HITS and MISSES follows the latest big weekend in boxing, the first installment since the global pandemic began. 

HIT: Teofimo Lopez’s Undisputed Takeover

It’s one thing to parade something like “Takeover” around as your nickname while promising to be the next great fighter in the sport. It’s quite another to actually pull that takeover off, and do it at the tender age of 23 against a three-division world champion that’s a massive betting favorite. 

But that’s what Lopez did on Saturday night in Las Vegas, and he accomplished it in a way that almost nobody expected. 

Lopez dominated Lomachenko from the start of the fight. He outboxed the clever southpaw savant in a way few people dreamed possible and took home the unanimous decision win. Even among the few who thought the young lion might somehow usurp the old guard, most of that crew thought it would probably be one big punch that sent Loma down for the count.

By the end of the night, Lopez had solidified his status as boxing’s newest superstar. He also became the first undisputed lightweight champion since Pernell Whitaker. 

But even if the whole WBC Franchise fiasco leaves you in a place that questions that specific designation, Lopez used his post-fight celebration time to call the other WBC belt holder Devin Haney about a possible future showdown. 

So, Lopez is the undisputed best thing to happen to boxing in a long time. 

MISS: Vasiliy Lomachenko’s Slow Start

I like to think Lomachenko is still somewhere out there right now feinting and shuffling his feet around like a dancer. Seriously, though, what was Lomachenko doing for most of Saturday night? He certainly wasn’t attempting to win the fight. 

Much was made by the ESPN announcers about how Lomachenko would start slow in fights because he liked to download his opponents’ movements before settling on his attacks. But Lomachenko didn’t seem all that interested in attacking Lopez until somewhere around the eighth-round. By that time, the 32-year-old was way too far down on the scorecards for anything to matter all that much.

Sure, the last third of the fight was fun to watch. Lomachenko did end up having his moments including a strong 11th round, but it would have been a better fight if Lomachenko had started sooner. 

Instead, the fighter ESPN has long argued deserved to be ranked above everyone else regardless of weight class dispassionately saw his titles ripped away from him with relative ease. 

HIT: Edgar Berlanga’s KO Streak

Last year, I noted that Berlanga’s incredible streak was probably a case of matchmaking gone awry and that Berlanga would likely suffer later in his career because he wasn’t getting any rounds under his belt that mattered. 

My reasoning? Even terrifying power punchers like Deontay Wilder and Gennadiy Golovkin didn’t dispatch their early opponents in such decisively one-sided ways. 

Maybe it was just the lack of boxing around due to the global pandemic, but now I’ve flipped on Berlanga’s knockout streak. The 23-year-old scored his 15th first-round stoppage in a row against Lanell Bellows on Saturday’s Top Rank on ESPN card. 

It’s become one of the most interesting and noteworthy streaks in the sport, and this time Berlanga stopped an opponent who had never suffered that fate before in any round, much less the first. 

Berlanga’s 15 KOs in 15 fights is good television. 

MISS: Boxing Judge’s Viral ‘Social Dilemma’

Lewis Ritson was awarded a split-decision victory over former lightweight titleholder Miguel Vazquez on Saturday in England in a junior welterweight bout dubbed by the Sporting News as the “worst decision of 2020.”

According to CompuBox, Ritson’s “constant forward movement and snappier punches” earned him the nod on two of the judges’ scorecards even though Vazquez had out-landed him in all the important punch stat categories (193-141 overall, 80-75 jabs, 113-66 power).

But the biggest controversy was the viral picture of judge Terry O’Connor apparently looking at his phone during the fight that he scored 117-111 for Ritson. 

That didn’t sit well with anyone who believes judges should be watching the fights they’re tasked with scoring.

But in the wake of Netflix’s documentary film “The Social Dilemma,” that shows just how ingenious today’s artificial intelligence is at boosting user engagement so companies can sell advertising time to the unwitting people on the other end who don’t know why they can’t put their phones down. Maybe O’Connor and others should be mandated to place their phones in a place they can’t be accessed during fights. 

That would keep the social media outrage that’s going on right now over the few seconds O’Connor spent looking away from the action and point it more toward what appears to be boxing’s bigger problem: phones or no phones, too many boxing judges don’t know how to score fights. 

HIT: The Wonder of Complementary Programming 

Boxing counterprograms itself so much these days through the different promotional companies and networks out there that it’s nice to enjoy at least one day in recent history where a big fight happened and there weren’t any other big fights attempting to grab our attention. 

Not only did that happen, but ESPN wisely chose not to split programming between it’s MMA and boxing audiences on Saturday. 

ESPN is the home to Top Rank on ESPN boxing as well as the world’s leading MMA promotional company, UFC.

Like Top Rank, the UFC had a massive fight card on its schedule on Saturday, and the boxing/UFC audiences are fractured enough that both cards could have somewhat reasonably ran against each other. 

Instead, the UFC’s Fight Night card in Abu Dhabi ran early in the evening, and it meant UFC fans who might be somewhat interested in the big fight in boxing could be funneled to the main card featuring Lopez vs. Lomachenko. 

That’s great for both sports, the promoters and ESPN, too. Top Rank’s Bob Arum and UFC’s Dana White might hate each other for personal and political reasons, but the rising tide of complementary programming on ESPN will ultimately have all ships rising. 

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank

 

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