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Errol Spence Wins Split Decision and Other Results from L.A.

David A. Avila

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LOS ANGELES-Sometimes long shots pay off but not this time, as heavily favored IBF welterweight titlist Errol Spence Jr. eked out a victory over Shawn Porter to add the WBC welterweight world title to his collection on Saturday.

If this were thoroughbred horse racing the long shot would have paid off, instead it was prizefighting and Spence Jr. used a single left cross to Porter’s chin to separate himself and win the unification battle before a crowd of more than 16,000 fans at Staples Center.

For 12 solid rounds both Spence and Porter displayed how they reached championship status with two distinctly different but successful styles.

Porter jumped on Spence with his special blend of pressure fighting featuring head movement, side steps and barging forward with both fists pumping from all angles against the thin-framed southpaw Texan.

It took Spence several rounds to adapt.

Despite the steady pressure of Porter, the composed Spence relied on his high guard and pivots to evade the rushes of the eager Ohio fighter. Around the third round Spence began finding success with stinging shots to the body, especially with the left uppercut dig. But most of the punches were fired from close range.

Not wanting to show weakness, Porter opened up the fourth round with even more vigor and seldom allowed Spence his footing. In the following round Spence recaptured the lost ground with his own intensified attack. Back and forth each rallied against the other.

During a savage Porter attack in the 11th round, the clever Spence delivered a crisp sidewinder left cross to the shorter fighter’s chin and down went “Showtime” Porter. You could see that the Ohioan knew that could be the difference in the fight when his hand touched the canvas.

Porter acknowledged the knockdown to Spence then urged him to try it again. The round ended with no further examples of power but the confidence seemed to seep out of Porter’s usually confident face. Inside he knew that single left cross could be the difference between winning or losing. It was a three-point swing in scoring because Porter was winning the round until the knockdown.

The final round saw both try to open up, but they were either tired or cautious and it was difficult to pick the winner of the final frame. After 12 rounds one judge scored it 115-112 for Porter while two others scored it 116-111 for Spence who becomes the WBC and IBF welterweight champion.

“I give it to Shawn Porter, he’s a rough and tough fighter,” said Spence after the decision was read. “He always comes to fight. I wanted to show that I could sit there and hang with him.”

Porter was very gracious in defeat.

“He’s a strong kid. He got the split decision, he was victorious,” said Porter. “I think the knockdown was the difference.”

Benavidez Regains Title

David Benavidez (22-0, 19 KOs) regained the WBC super middleweight world title by knockout from titlist Anthony Dirrell (33-2-1, 24 KOs) when Dirrell’s corner asked the referee to stop the pummeling in the second half of the fight.

Until the eighth round the taller and younger Benavidez was in control of the fight but Dirrell refused to quit despite a gash above his right eye suffered during a heated exchange. Benavidez repeatedly battered Dirrell with wicked combinations but the Flint, Mich. fighter kept looking for a knockout blow through the blood and hammering.

The ringside physician inspected Dirrell’s eye on several occasion from the sixth round on but the fight resumed. And when Benavidez connected with heavy blows from there on, Dirrell refused to go down. It was an impressive display of valor.

In the eighth round Benavidez opened up with impunity and had Dirrell trapped in a corner when one the Michigan fighter’s cornermen asked to stop the fight. An inspector waved a towel as Benavidez battered Dirrell and referee Tom Taylor finally noticed and stopped the fight at 1:39 of round eight. Benavidez was declared the new WBC super middleweight world champion.

“It’s probably the hardest fight that I’ve been in; a very tactical fight. It wasn’t easy,” said Benavidez who hugged Dirrell immediately after the fight ended. “Now I’m a two-time world champion. I got a lot of respect for him.”

The respect was acknowledged several times during the fight as Dirrell asked to continue despite the bleeding cut and opportunities offered by the referee and ringside physician.

“I felt him. He fought his ass off and he did what he had to win the title,” said Dirrell. “Of course I could have kept going. I didn’t quit, I kept going. He likes to get in the inside. He’s a true champion.”

Benavidez reclaimed the WBC title he lost last year due to a failed drug test. When he had first won the title he was the youngest ever to win the title at 168 pounds.

Barrios

A battle for the WBA super lightweight world title saw Mario Barrios (25-0, 16 KOs) floor Russia’s Batyr Akhmedov (7-1, 6 KOs) in the fourth round and seem in total control. But after the knockdown, Akhmedov rallied furiously and mounted pressure on the taller fighter from San Antonio to win the later rounds.

Barrios was able to use his quickness and length at first, but once Akhmedov got inside he took control, especially in the second half of the fight. In the final round, with the Russian fighter winning many of the later rounds with pressure, Barrios connected with a well-placed right hand missile that dropped Akhmedov. He beat the count but lost the momentum and the round.

All three judges scored it for Barrios 114-112, 115-111, 116-111 who now holds the WBA world title in a division ripe with many talented fighters.

Josesito Wins

Josesito “Riverside Rocky” Lopez (37-8, 20 KOs) won by knockout over fellow warrior John “The Gladiator” Molina (30-9, 24 KOs) in the eighth round in a fight that surprised some that it passed the first round in a welterweight clash.

Lopez jumped on Molina with a lead right cross and floored Molina early in the first round. When the fight resumed Lopez decked Molina again with a counter right cross and it didn’t look good. But he survived.

If you followed Molina’s career, you know that he’s been floored before early in several fights and rallied to win by knockout. But not this time. Though Molina set several traps, Lopez was wary of them and used a long left jab and side steps to stay out of Molina’s power zone. It proved beneficial.

Molina mounted a rally in the fifth round when he connected with multiple overhand rights. One seemed to stun Lopez but he managed to avoid the follow-up blows from Molina.

In the seventh round, Lopez surprised Molina with a stiff jab and right cross and down went Molina for the first time since the first round. Lopez attacked until the bell ended the round.

“I knew John Molina was not going to quit. He’s a warrior,” said Lopez. “I had to keep on the pressure.”

After a lengthy huddle with the ringside physicians and Molina’s trainers, he was allowed to proceed to the eighth round. Lopez did not waste time and unleashed a furious five-punch combination that snapped Molina’s head back. Referee Ray Corona saw enough and stopped the fight with Molina standing at 39 seconds into the eighth round.

“It was a pleasure being in the ring with John Molina. I’m very thankful for all of these opportunities,” said Lopez.

Ghost

Former multiple-weight world champion Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero (36-6-1, 20 KOs)  looked sharp against an awkward but stealthy foe in Jerry Thomas (14-2-1, 8 KOs) of Kansas and won by unanimous decision after 10 rounds in a welterweight clash.

Thomas had a jitterbug type of defense and though it was tough to gauge, Guerrero has seen every type of style in his near 20-year career and pummeled the body. And when there was any doubt, he pummeled the body again.

Guerrero was in control for almost all 10 rounds but Thomas had his best round in the ninth round when he changed gears from all-defense to all-offense. The braided Thomas landed some flush uppercuts from the left and right and would not allow Guerrero to counter. Still, Guerrero slipped out of the attack and the round came to a conclusion. It was the only round Guerrero did not win.

Two judges scored it 99-91 and another 98-92 for Guerrero who fights out of Gilroy, Calif. the site of the assault by gunfire that took the lives of four at a Garlic Festival in August. Guerrero pledged to give part of his purse to the victim’s families.

Prelims

Michigan’s hard-hitting super welterweight Joey Spencer (9-0, 7 KOs) clobbered Travis Gambardella (5-1-2, 2 KOs) with body shots and double hooks to the head, dropping the Northeasterner three times in two rounds. Then Gambardella buckled down and fought back, connecting with a right that made Spencer pause. It looked like a competitive fight was on the horizon in the third round but when Spencer connected with a left hook to the head, referee Ray Corona stopped the fight. Gambardella argued to keep going but the fight was ruled over at 56 seconds of round three.

“He had been down three times. I think the ref didn’t want another tragic event and stopped the fight,” said Spencer.

Michoacan’s Jose “El Rayo” Valenzuela (5-0, 2 KOs), a southpaw, fired a double left cross to knock out Charles Clark (2-5-1, 1 KO) of Dallas in the first round of a super featherweight bout. After some tentative exchanges, Valenzuela and Clark opened up and the Mexican struck fast with a lead left cross and another one as Clark tumbled to the floor. The referee did not bother to count and ended the fight at 1:06 of the first round.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Fast Results from Brooklyn: No Surprises as Garcia and Hurd Win Lopsidedly

Arne K. Lang

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Tonight, Philadelphia’s Danny Garcia made his eighth appearance at Barclays Center. Garcia’s 2017 fight with Keith Thurman drew 16,533, the attendance high for a boxing show at the arena. A far smaller crowd was in attendance tonight to see Garcia take on Ivan Redkach in a non-title fight slated for 12 rounds.

Redkach, a 33-year-old LA-based Ukrainian, is a southpaw. That’s no coincidence. Garcia hopes to land big-money fights with Errol Spence and/or Manny Pacquiao, both southpaws.

Redkach (23-4-1 coming in) turned his career around in his last fight with a career-best performance, a sixth-round stoppage of former two-division title-holder Devon Alexander, a 15-year pro who hadn’t previously been stopped. But there was a class difference between he and Danny Garcia, a former WBA and WBC 140-pound world title-holder and former WBC 147-pound champion.

Garcia (35-2, 21 KOs) was simply sharper. His workrate slowed late in the fight, allowing the game Redkach to steal a few rounds, but at the final gun he was relatively unmarked whereas Redkach was conspicuously bruised. The scores were 118-110 and 117-111 twice. The crowd booed at intervals, understandable as they were subject to a drab 7-fight card that was even less interesting than it was on paper.

Co-Feature

In the 10-round co-feature, Jarrett Hurd, making his first start since losing his WBA/IBF super welterweight title to Julian Williams last May, went on cruise control from the opening bell and jabbed his way to a lopsided 10-round decision over Francisco Santana. Hurd, who improved to 24-1, finally let loose late in the 10th frame, putting Santana (25-8-1) on the canvas with a succession of left hooks, but by then many in the crowd had probably nodded off.

This was Hurd’s first fight with new trainer Kay Koroma who has drawn raves for his work with America’s elite amateurs. The scores were 97-92 and 99-90 twice. SoCal’s Santana has now lost five of his last eight.

The opening bout on the main TV portion of the card was a 12-round super bantamweight contest between Philadelphia’s Stephen Fulton and fellow unbeaten Arnold Khegai who currently trains in Philadelphia.

Fulton (18-0, 8 KOs) simply had too much class for Khegai (16-1-1), a Ukrainian of Korean heritage. Although Khegai frequently backed Fulton into the ropes, the Philadelphian had an air-tight defense and connected with many more punches. The fight went the full 12 with Fulton prevailing by scores of 116-112 and 117-111 twice.

If the WBO has its way, Fulton will proceed to a fight with Emanuel Navarrete, but don’t hold your breath as Navarrete is promoted by Bob Arum who undoubtedly wants to extract more mileage from him before letting him risk his belt against a crafty fighter like Stephen Fulton.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME

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Sacramento Honors Diego ‘Chico’ Corrales

Arne K. Lang

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Tonight (Saturday, Jan. 25) former two-division world boxing champion Diego “Chico” Corrales will be posthumously inducted into the Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame at the organization’s eighth annual induction ceremony at the Thunder Valley Casino Resort.

Corrales, who grew up in Sacramento, the son of a Columbian father and a Mexican mother, turned pro at age 18 and went on to compile a record of 40-5 (33 KOs). He won his first title in 1999 with a seventh-round stoppage of previously undefeated Robert Garcia. Now recognized as one of boxing’s top trainers, Garcia was making the fourth defense of his IBF 130-pound title.

Five years later, Corrales won the WBO world lightweight title with a 10th-round stoppage of Brazil’s previously undefeated Acelino Freitas. That set up a unification fight with the WBC belt-holder Jose Luis Castillo.

Corrales and Castillo met on May 7, 2005, at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. To say they put on a great fight would be an understatement. The boxing writers in attendance will tell you that this was the greatest fight of all time. It was named Fight of the Decade by The Ring magazine.

The final round, the 10th, was unbelievable. Heading into the round, Corrales was ahead on two of the three scorecards, but his left eye was swollen nearly shut and during the round he was knocked down twice. No one would have faulted referee Tony Weeks for stopping the fight after the second knockdown. But, somehow, Corrales was able to rally, pulling the fight out of the fire with a barrage of punches that had Castillo out on his feet when Weeks waived it off.

Two years to the very day of this iconic fight, Diego “Chico” Corrales died in a motorcycle accident in his adopted hometown of Las Vegas when he rear-ended a car while traveling at a high rate of speed. He was 29 years old.

Corrales was a thrill-seeker. In a 2006 profile, Las Vegas Review-Journal boxing writer Kevin Iole enumerated these among Castillo’s hobbies: jumping out of planes from 14,000 feet, bungee jumping from 400 feet, snowboarding in treacherous terrain and scuba diving amid a school of sharks. “He lived his life the same way he fought,” said his promoter Gary Shaw, “with reckless abandon.”

It might seem odd that it took so long for Corrales to be recognized by the Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame, but there was a period when Corrales’s name was mud in his hometown and perhaps the organization’s founder, Las Vegas sports radio personality T.C. Martin, a Sacramento native, thought it appropriate to let old wounds heal.

In 2001, shortly after suffering his first pro loss at the hands of Floyd Mayweather, Corrales pled guilty to felony domestic violence in the beating of his first wife and would serve 14 months in prison. “The whole family has worn a black eye for it,” Diego’s brother Esteban Corrales told Sacramento Bee reporter Marcos Bretan.

For all his recklessness, the incident didn’t jibe with his persona. In the company of Las Vegas sportswriters, the soft-spoken and well-spoken Corrales came across as polite and humble.

Corrales, one of five inductees in the 2020 class, joins three other boxers already installed in the Sacramento Hall: Pete Ranzany, Loreto Garza, and Tony “Tiger” Lopez.

Ranzany, a welterweight, fought four former or future world champions and was a fixture in Sacramento rings in the late 1970’s. Garza wrested the WBA super lightweight title from Argentina’s Juan Martin Coggi in France and successfully defended the belt here in Sacramento with a one-sided conquest of Vinny Pazienza. Lopez, Sacramento’s most popular fighter ever, made the turnstiles hum at the city’s largest arena where he fought eight of his 14 world title fights beginning with his 1988 humdinger with defending IBF 130-pound champion Rocky Lockridge.

Among the speakers at tonight’s confab will be Kenny Adams. Perhaps best known as the head trainer for the 1988 U.S. Olympic team that won eight medals in Seoul, Adams currently trains Nonito Donaire. He was with Diego Corrales for 24 fights, during which Corrales was 23-1, avenging the lone defeat by Joel Casamayor. Festivities start at 7 pm.

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Boxing Odds and Ends: Ramirez-Postol, Taylor-Serrano and More

Arne K. Lang

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It takes a strong constitution to be a boxing promoter because things always go wrong. The only law that governs boxing is Murphy’s Law.

Carl Frampton’s first fight under the Top Rank banner was slated for Aug. 10 of last year in Philadelphia. With the fight five days away, Frampton suffered a freak injury while sitting in a hotel lobby. A boy playing behind a curtain knocked over a seven-foot pillar which fell on Frampton’s left hand, fracturing it.

This was the second time that a Frampton fight was knocked out by a freak injury. Two years earlier, a homecoming fight in Belfast had to be scrapped when Frampton’s opponent, Andres Gutierrez, slipped in the shower in his hotel on the eve of the battle and suffered severe facial injuries.

The latest bout to fall out because of an odd development is Jose Ramirez’s Feb. 2 WBC/WBO lightweight title defense against Viktor Postol at a Chinese golf resort south of Hong Kong. The event fell victim to the coronavirus, more exactly the fear it has instilled.

The virus, which produces flu-like symptoms that are resistant to conventional antibiotics, apparently originated at an outdoor food market in the city of Wuhan where live animals are sold. The numbers vary with each new story, but according to one account there have been 444 confirmed cases in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital city, and 653 cases worldwide including two in the United States, a man in his 30’s living near Seattle and a Chicago woman in her 60’s.

The fear of a pandemic (an epidemic becomes a pandemic when it spreads across multiple geographic regions of the world) has led to some drastic measures. The Chinese government has reportedly put 12 cities on lockdown, blocking traffic in and out. At many airports, visitors arriving from China are being screened. There are now thermal cameras than can record a person’s body temperature remotely.

Jose Ramirez (pictured with his promoter Bob Arum) was scheduled to leave for China yesterday (Jan. 23) but was intercepted. Viktor Postol is already there and apparently stranded until an outgoing flight can be arranged.

The Ramirez-Postol fight was to air on ESPN. No make-up date has been set.

– – –

British promoter Eddie Hearn says he’s close to finalizing a fight between Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano. Hearn says the fight will take place in the U.S. in April. It figures that Madison Square Garden is the frontrunner.

If the fight comes off on schedule, this will be the biggest women’s fight in history!

That’s because the odds attached to the fight figure to be in the “pick-‘em” range and that guarantees that boxing writers and others in the boxing community will be surveyed to get their picks – about which there figures to be considerable disagreement – and that will greatly enhance the pre-fight buzz.

Taylor, 33, last fought in November in Manchester, England, advancing her record to 15-0 (6 KOs) with a unanimous decision over Christina Linardatou, a fighter from Greece via the Dominican Republic. It was Taylor’s first fight at 140 after previously unifying the lightweight title with a hard-fought decision over Belgium’s Delfine Persoon.

Amanda Serrano, a 31-year-old southpaw, born in Puerto Rico and raised in Brooklyn, has won titles in five weight divisions. She last fought as a featherweight, turning away gritty Heather Hardy, but has competed as high as 140. Boasting a 37-1-1 record, she’s won 23 straight, 18 by stoppage, 10 in the opening round

What sets women boxers apart from their male counterparts is that the women have a significantly lower knockout ratio. Amanda Serrano is the glaring exception.

Despite a less eye-catching record, Taylor has arguably fought the stiffer competition considering her extensive amateur background. As a pro, her victims include Cindy Serrano, Amanda’s older sister by six years. Taylor whitewashed her in a match at Boston Garden, prompting the elder Serrano sister to call it a career.

– – –

The most bizarre (non)story to appear in a boxing web site this week involved former unified heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe. A man representing Bowe, identified as Eli Karabell, was frustrated because Eddie Hearn wasn’t returning his calls. Karabell had offered Hearn the right of first refusal on Bowe’s next fight.

Bowe, now 51 years old, last fought in a boxing ring in 2008 when he returned to the sport after a three-and-half year absence for an 8-round bout in Germany. In 2013, he appeared in a kickboxing fight in Thailand where he was stopped in the second round after being knocked down five times by leg kicks.

“Will there be another chapter to write for Bowe?” concluded the author of this piece.

Egads, let’s hope not.

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