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Prograis Wins in Louisiana; Easter and Barthelemy Fight to a Draw in Vegas

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The city of Lafayette, Louisiana, sits approximately halfway between New Orleans and Houston, the former and current home of Hurricane Katrina survivor Regis Prograis. Tonight Prograis made his third straight start in his native state, appearing at Lafayette’s Cajundome, and emerged with his first world title, taking Kiryl Relikh’s WBA 140-pound strap with a sixth round stoppage.

Prograis, who improved to 24-0 with his 20th knockout, was dominant from the start. He knocked Relikh (23-3) to the canvas with a body punch in the opening frame and systematically broke him down until referee Luis Pabon, with the assent of Relikh’s corner, called a halt at the midway point of round six. Relikh was defending the title he won with a 12-round unanimous decision over Eduard Troyanovsky in Yokohama.

Up next for Prograis is the winner of the May 18 bout in Glasgow, Scotland, between Josh Taylor and Ivan Baranchyk. Both are undefeated. If Taylor beats Baranchyk — and Taylor is the favorite — it is expected that the Taylor-Prograis match will play out on Taylor’s tartan turf in Glasgow.

Nonito Donaire appeared to be at the end of the road when he was widely outpointed by Carl Frampton in April of last year, but there’s plenty of juice left in the Filipino Flash who elevated his record to 40-5 (26 KOs) and reinforced his Hall of Fame credentials with a one-punch knockout of Stephon Young to storm into the finals of the WBSS bantamweight tournament where his likely foe will be Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue.

Donaire took out Young (18-2-3) with a left hook in round six, a punch of such ferocity that the referee didn’t bother to count. Young, who is from St. Louis but trains in Miami in the same gym as heavyweight Luis Ortiz, was a late sub for Zolani Tete who was forced to withdraw with a shoulder injury.

A third TV fight between Toledo’s Sonny Fredrickson (20-1, 13 KOs) and Kazakhstan’s Bakhtiyar Eyubov (14-0-1, 12 KOs) was cancelled when Eyubov was unable to make the contracted weight of 140 pounds. According to Dan Rafael, Eyubov came in two pounds over the limit on his first try and three-and-a-half pounds over the limit on his second try after a two hour recess.

Las Vegas

In the main event of a bland card at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, Toledo’s Robert Easter Jr. (21-1-1) and Cuban defector Rances Barthelemy (27-1-1) fought to a 12-round draw. At stake was a vacant WBA 135-pound title which remains vacant. This was a tactical fight, devoid of fireworks. The scores were 115-113, 113-115, and 114-114.

Easter was making his first start since losing his IBF lightweight belt in his fourth defense in a unification fight with Mikey Garcia. Barthelemy, a Las Vegas resident, was a former world title-holder at 130 and 135 pounds. His lone defeat was inflicted by Kiryl Relikh.

In another fight that figured to go the full distance, L.A.-based Ukrainian Viktor Postol  (31-2, 12 KOs) had too much class for feather-fisted Frenchman Mohamed Mimoune (21-3).  The 35-year-old Postol, whose lone defeats were to Terence Crawford and Scotland’s Josh Taylor, won the dull fight by comfortable scores of 99-91, 98-92, and 97-93.

In the first bout of the Showtime tripleheader, Efe Ajagba (10-0, 9 KOs) stopped Germany’s Michael Wallisch (19-2) in the second round. Ajagba knocked Wallisch down with a legitimate punch and then accidentally hit him while he was down. Wallisch was given time to recover, but that merely prolonged the inevitable.

Ajagba, a Nigerian who fights out of Houston, is on the short list of the top young heavyweight prospects, a list that includes Filip Hrgovic and Daniel Dubois. With the win, Ajagba kept pace with Dubois, a Brit who won earlier today in London to improve to 11-0 (10). As a pro, Efe Ajagba has hardly worked up a sweat. He’s answered the bell for only 16 rounds.

Also, in a match slated for 10 rounds, Los Angeles junior middleweight Terrel Williams (18-0) kept his undefeated record intact with a hard-fought split decision over Justin DeLoach (18-4). Two judges favored Williams 96-94 with the dissenter scoring it 96-94 for DeLoach.

Williams, 35, took 25 months off after his tragic bout with Prichard Colon, a match that left Colon with permanent brain damage. This was his third fight back.

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Garcia Promotions’ Event in San Bernardino was a Showcase for Saul Rodriguez

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SAN BERNARDINO-Saul “Neno” Rodriguez, out of action for nearly three years, returned to the prize ring on Saturday in San Bernardino at the Club Event Center in a Garcia Promotions event. San Bernardino is in the Inland Empire which is two counties just east of Los Angeles.

Riverside’s Rodriguez (24-1-1) weighed much more than the designated weight and his match with Mexico’s Juan Meza Angulo was demoted to an exhibition because of the weight disparity. Despite wearing head gear, the popular Riverside fighter was able to stop Angulo (6-1) in his first fight since February 28, 2020.

Though Rodriguez looked slightly over-weight as a super lightweight, it didn’t dampen his sharp punching skills. He immediately caught Meza with a well-timed overhand right. Luckily, Rodriguez didn’t put muscle on it. The fight proceeded.

Because of inactivity, Rodriguez seemed to relish getting back to work. He moved around and tried different combinations. Everything seemed to be working in his favor. But Meza countered a left by Rodriguez with a strong right. It proved the popular Riverside fighter needs work on bringing back his left quickly.

After Meza connected things got serious.

Rodriguez immediately opened the third round at a quicker tempo and seemed intent on changing from a wait-and-see attitude to one of bad intentions. Meza didn’t notice the change and looked to catch Rodriguez with a combo and instead was caught with a monster counter-right. Down went Meza with a thud. The fight was stopped.

Fans, many of them wearing Team Neno t-shirts, were deliriously happy to see Rodriguez back in action.

In the co-main event, San Bernardino’s Leo Ruiz clashed with granite-chinned Cameron Krael.

Ruiz (11-0, 7 KOs) unloaded horrific bombs on Krael (19-25-3) who calmly kept his gloves covering his head and although some managed to connect flush, nothing fazed the Las Vegas fighter.

Round after round Ruiz unloaded on Krael only to quickly realize that attempting a knockout was futile. The reputation of Krael’s chin was correct and no need to break a knuckle trying to score a knockout. Instead, Ruiz went six rounds and won every one to take a win by unanimous decision by scores of 60-54 on all three cards.

Other Bouts

Gabe Muratalla (9-0) knocked out Michael Nielsen (6-3) with a four-punch combination in the third round of a bantamweight fight. Body shots dropped Nielsen in the second round.

Ventura’s Jose Delgado (10-1-4), a southpaw, overcome a sluggish start with body shots to defeat San Bernardino’s Jesus Beltran (6-3-1) by majority decision after four rounds in a lightweight fight.

Riverside’s Victor Pelayo (2-0) defeated Milwaukee’s D’Angelo Hopgood (2-1) by decision after four rounds in a very close super bantamweight match. Both fighters showed solid fundamentals in a fight that could have easily been scored a draw. Pelayo won by decision 39-37 on all cards.

Riverside’s Jose Rodriguez (2-0) stopped Henry Mendez (0-9-2) in the fourth round of a super welterweight bout. Mendez was deducted a point in the second round for incessant holding after numerous warnings.

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Alexis Rocha KOs Brave but Overmatched George Ashie on DAZN.

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Golden Boy Promotions’ potted their first offering of 2023 at the recently opened YouTube Theater, a 6,000-seat venue situated inside the stadium built to house LA’s two NFL franchises. The main event was a scheduled 12-round welterweight match between Alexis Rocha, a southpaw from nearby Santa Ana and George Ashie, a 38-year-old Ghanaian making his U.S. debut. Ashie was a late substitute for Anthony Young who reportedly suffered a nose injury in training. The match and supporting bouts were live-streamed on DAZN.

Ashie, who was fighting above his normal weight class and carried a career-high 146 pounds, was brave but out-gunned. Rocha knocked him down in the third frame with a right hook and hurt him several more times as the fight progressed although Ashie never stopped trying. In round six, an accidental clash of heads left Rocha with a nasty cut on his left eyebrow. He fought with more urgency after this incident and knocked Ashie out cold in the next round. The official time was 2:08 of round seven.

It was the fifth straight win for Rocha who improved his ledger to 22-1 (14 KOs). After the bout, he expressed an interest in fighting Terence Crawford. Ashie fell to 33-6-1 (25).

Other Bouts of Note

Floyd “Austin Kid” Schofield, a precocious 20-year-old lightweight, had Albert Mercado on the canvas in the second round but was unable to put him away despite hurting him multiple times and went 10 rounds for the first time in his young career.

Schofield, the 2022 TSS Prospect of the Year, improved to 13-0 (11), winning 100-89 on all three cards. Mercado, a 35-year-old Connecticut-born Puerto Rican, declined to 17-5-1 but retained his distinction of having never been stopped.

Super middleweight Bektemir Melikuziev, a 2016 Olympic silver medalist for Uzbekistan who lives and trains in Indio, California, overpowered San Diego’s Ulises Sierra who was on the deck twice from body punches before the fight was waived off at the 2:59 mark of round three. It was the fourth straight victory for Melikuziev (11-1, 9 KOs) after suffering a stunning one-punch knockout at the hands of seemingly shopworn Gabriel Rosado with whom he is pursuing a rematch. Sierra was 17-2-2 heading in with eight of his wins coming in Mexico.

In a match framed as a WBO minimumweight title eliminator, Oscar Collazo (6-0, 4 KOs) scored an impressive fifth-round stoppage of Yudel Reyes. Collazo knocked Reyes down twice in the fifth round, the second with a vicious right hand that put Reyes down so hard that the referee didn’t bother to count. The official time was 2:59 of round five.

In theory, Collazo’s next fight will come against the Filipino Melvin Jerusalem who won the title earlier this month with a second-round stoppage of Masataka Taniguchi in Osaka. Reyes, a 26-year-old Mexican making his U.S. debut, declined to 15-2.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Artur Beterbiev TKOs Anthony Yarde in a London Firefight

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The presumption, echoed by ESPN boxing commentator Bernardo Osuna, was that tonight’s bout at Wembley Arena in London between Artur Beterbiev and Anthony Yarde would be explosive and entertaining for as long as it lasted. That proved to be true and when the smoke cleared, Beterbiev, the rugged Montreal-based Russian had retained his three light heavyweight title belts and had added another knockout to his ledger, his nineteenth as a pro in as many opportunities.

Both men landed hard shots during the fight and both were marked up at the finish. Yarde had a cut under his right eye and Beterbiev had a cut on his left eyelid.

A chopping right hand from Beterbiev late in the first minute of the eighth round marked the beginning of the end for Yarde, the muscular 31-year-old Londoner who entered the contest sporting a record of 23-2 with 22 knockouts. The punch sent him reeling backward toward his corner where he landed on his knees. He beat the count, but turned toward his corner rather than referee Steve Gray.

Gray let the bout continue, but Beterbiev pressed his advantage and after a few more unanswered punches Yarde’s trainer Tunde Ajayi stepped up on the ring apron and summoned Gray to stop it. The official time was 2:01 of round eight.

Beterbiev hasn’t lost since losing a decision to amateur nemesis Oleksandr Usyk in the quarter finals of the 2012 London Olympics. At age 38, he shows no signs of slowing down.

In his post-fight interview, the self-effacing Russian said, “I hope some day I will be a good boxer,” and acknowledged that he would welcome a unification fight with fellow Russian Dmitry Bivol, the WBA title-holder.

WBA Title Fight

In a bout that was in theory the co-feature but went off during the earlier portion of the ESPN+ livestream, Artem Dalakian (21-0, 15 KOs) retained his WBA world flyweight title with a unanimous and somewhat controversial 12-round unanimous decision over Costa Rica’s David Jimenez (12-1). The judges had it 116-112 and 115-113 twice.

An Azerbaijan-born Ukrainian, Dalakian was making the sixth defense of the title he won in 2018 with a 12-round decision over Brian Viloria in Los Angeles in his lone previous appearance at a venue in the English-speaking world. His five title defenses were in Kiev. Jimenez was coming off a 12-round majority decision over Ricardo Sandoval in what ranked as one of the bigger upsets of 2021.

A Split for the Itauma Brothers

Promoter Frank Warren’s newest signee, 18-year-old heavyweight Moses Itauma, made a big splash in his pro debut, blasting out Czechoslovakia’s Marcel Bode (2-2) in 23 seconds. Moses and his older brother Karol Itauma are sons of a British citizen of Nigerian ancestry and a Slovakian mother.

In a shocking upset, Ezequiel Osvaldo Maderna, a 36-year-old Argentine who had lost six of his previous eight fights, forged a fifth-round stoppage of well-touted Karol Itauma who was 9-0 (7 KOs) as a pro coming in. Itauma ate numerous straight right hands before a straight right hand knocked him down for the count. The official time was 1:04 of round five. Maderna improved to 29-10 (11).

Also

The Frankham cousins, super welterweight Joshua and super featherweight Charles, improved their ledgers to 7-0 with 6-round shutouts over their respective opponents. The cousins are grandsons of John “Gypsy Johnny” Frankham, a former British light heavyweight champion.

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