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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 Las Vegas: Shakur Wins a Snoozer; Pedraza Stops Rodriguez

Arne K. Lang

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Shakur Stevenson, the 23-year-old Newark native and 2016 Olympic silver medalist, had the distinction of headlining the first of Top Rank’s two dozen MGM “Bubble” shows, an event that marked the return of boxing to Las Vegas after a 101-day absence. Tonight, he headlined the first true post-pandemic boxing show in Nevada, the first show that allowed full capacity.

Stevenson was matched against Jeremiah Nakathila at the Virgin Hotels (an awkward plural). A 31-year-old policeman, Nakathila hailed from the same town in Namibia that produced Julius Indongo, fodder for Terence Crawford in 2017.

Indongo lasted into the third round vs Crawford; Nakathila went the distance vs Shakur and lost every round on all three scorecards.

In common with virtually all of Stevenson’s former opponents, Nakathila found Shakur almost impossible to hit. But Stevenson respected Nakathila’s big right hand and kept the fight at a distance, pot-shotting the Namibian rather than throwing combinations. He knocked Nakathila down in the final seconds of the fourth round with a right hook that landed high on the head, but Nakathila wasn’t badly hurt.

Stevenson (16-0, 8 KOs) pitched a shutout but yet lost luster in a monotonous fight. This was the U.S. debut for Nakathila (21-2) who had won 10 straight, all inside the distance, since traveling to Ekaterinburg, Russia, and losing a majority decision in a 12-round fight with a local man.

Shakur is expected to fight WBO 130-pound champion Jamel Herring next but also has his eye on Oscar Valdez. A match against Herring wouldn’t get the juices flowing, but Valdez may bring out the best in him.

Co-Feature

Junior welterweight Julian Rodriguez stepped up in class and suffered his first pro defeat at the hands of Puerto Rican veteran Jose “Sniper” Pedraza. Rodriguez’s corner stopped the fight after nine rounds owing to severe swelling over both of Rodriguez’s eyes.

Pedraza switched from southpaw to orthodox effectively while repeatedly peppering his opponent with an effective jab. New Jersey’s Rodriguez entered the contest 21-0. Pedraza, a 2008 Olympian and former 130-pound world title-holder, improved to 29-3 with his 14th knockout.

Other Bouts

In a mild upset, Dallas junior lightweight Manuel Rey Rojas (21-5, 6 KOs) won a unanimous 8-round decision over Toledo’s Tyler McCreary (16-2-1). McCreary, who had a strong amateur background, was making his first appearance since being widely outpointed by Carl Frampton in November of 2019. The judges had it 79-73 and 80-72 twice.

Welterweight John Bauza, in his first outing since joining David McWater’s stable, had a laugher vs. Houston’s Christon Edwards who left his corner without his mouthpiece and likely would have been easy meat without this oversight. Bauza knocked him down three times before the bout was halted at the 0:40 mark of round two. From North Bergen, New Jersey via Puerto Rico, Bauza (15-0, 6 KOs) was purportedly 178-8 as an amateur. Edwards (12-3) entered the contest riding a 6-fight winning streak.

Welterweight Xander Zayas, an 18-year-old rising star from Sunrise, Florida, via San Juan, improved to 9-0 (7) with a third-round stoppage of Larry Fryers (11-4). As a pro, Zayas has answered the bell for only 21 rounds. It was the third straight loss for Fryers, originally from Clones, Ireland, who was making his first start with new trainer Wayne McCullough.

In his final fight before the Tokyo Summer Olympics, middleweight Troy Isley (2-0, 2 KOs) scored a fourth-round stoppage of Philadelphia’s LaQuan Evans (4-2). Evans was losing but didn’t appear hurt when referee Russell Mora waived it off with 34 seconds to go in the fourth and final round.

Photo credit: Miket Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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Marco Antonio Barrera and More at the First SoCal Club Show in More Than a Year

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RINGSIDE REPORT by special correspondent Tarrah Zael — MarvNation Promotions hosted “Return of the Legends” on Friday, June 11, at the Pico Rivera Sports Arena in Whittier, CA. Along with a pro card, there was an exhibition featuring the legendary Mexican warrior Marco Antonio Barrera.

It was the first club show in more than a year in Southern California. Local celebrities eager to watch live boxing were everywhere.

In what seems to be a trend of former boxers entering the ring after their retirement, the “Baby-faced Assassin” Marco Antonio Barrera (67-7, 44 KOs) boxed with retired brawler Jesus Soto Karass (29-13-4, 18 KOs) in a six-round bout with two-minute rounds. It was Barrera’s first fight in a decade. He last fought in 2011 when he TKOed Jose Arias in the second round. This win came not too long after a bloody defeat from the heavy puncher Amir Khan, leaving Barrera fans worried that he may have lost his fire.

Soto Karass’s last fight saw him win a majority decision over undefeated Neeco Macias in a 10-round super welterweight contest in 2018. The win would be his first in five years and last of his professional career. But he was competitive in virtually all of his defeats.

Barrera and Soto Karass battled with big 16-ounce gloves in an exhibition with no judges. The 47-year-old, former three-division world champion Barrera landed multiple hooks upon the former title challenger 38-year-old Soto Karass. The living legend had fun and the two hugged at the finish of what looked like a sparring session.

The exhibition was the main event. When it was over, boxing legends Antonio Margarito and Erik Morales entered the ring for pictures and conversation. Marco Antonio Barrera and Morales had a well-known trilogy and hope to continue their rivalry next month with an exhibition in Dallas.

Pro Bouts

In the co-main event, upcoming Pico Rivera boxing star Angel “El Moreno” Rodriguez (9-0, 6 KO) returned to the ring after a long pause from the 2020 pandemic in a six-round lightweight bout against southpaw Bergman Aguilar (15-8-1, 5 KOs).

In the early rounds, Rodriguez unloaded a flurry of body shots upon Aguilar, a Costa Rica native, causing him to take a knee. There wasn’t much coming back from Aguilar and when Rodriguez connected with a power shot in the second round, Aguilar took a knee again and stayed down for a count of “7.”

In the third round, Rodriguez invited his opponent to come into his range and Aguilar took the bait. Once there, Rodriguez unloaded hard power shots upon the body of Aguilar and down to his knee he went once again. Referee Ray Corona counted to seven and allowed the Costa Rican to continue as he did not look badly hurt. But when it happened yet again, Corona did not fall for his antics and called the fight off. It ended at the 1:40 mark of round three, a KO win for Rodriguez who retained his undefeated record.

Undercard

Two heavy hitting super welterweights fought to a bloody majority draw in the fight before the co-main event. Diego Padilla (1-2-1) of South-Central Los Angeles and Oleg Zumenko (3-1-1) representing the country of Ukraine laid into each other all four rounds.

In the first round, Padilla going forward delivered wide punches and uppercuts while Zumenko chose to study his opponent. But after being dropped by an uppercut, studying by the Ukraine fighter was over. A hard right cross by Zumenko slowed down the Los Angeles fighter and we saw an almost even amount of power shots from both brawlers that continued until the end of the fight. Padilla switched his stance multiple times to offset his opponent but that did not stop the Ukrainian from moving into his line of fire. Judge Ron Stevens scored the bout 40-36, but Max DeLuca and Damian Walton both had it 38-38.

Long Beach native Tyrell “Dirty Left” Washington (3-0, 3 KO) knocked down Nebraska’s Ginno Montoya (0-4) with a three-punch combination in the opening round of a scheduled four-round welterweight bout and referee Raul Caiz Jr. halted it at only 1:19 of the first.

Houston featherweight Adrian Leyva (2-2) won a four-round decision over Pablo “Bam Bam” Meglar (4-1-1, 3 KO) of South-Central Los Angeles. Although Meglar landed some good combinations and showed a lot of heart, the Texan was the sharper, more technical fighter. One judge scored the bout 39-37 and the others had it 40-36 for Leyva.

Other Fights

 Michael Land (1-2-1) of Houston, Texas and South-Central Los Angeles’ Oliver Galicia (3-0-1, 3 KO) fought to a draw in a four-round super featherweight fight. All three judges had it 37-37.

The opening fight of the show, a scheduled 4-round lightweight clash between Mexico native Braulio Avila (3-9, 1 KO) and Honduras resident Cris Reyes (10-0, 9 KO), ended after two rounds. Reyes stayed calm, cool and calculated against the wild-swinging Avila and sent him to the canvas for an 8-count in the second round with a left hook to the chin. Avila didn’t come out for the third.

Celebrity Watch

Besides Erik Morales and Antonio Margarito, others in attendance included Tattoo, Big Boy, LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, Tom Loeffler, Roberto Diaz, and DJ Ray.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Boxing Odds and Ends: Fury-Wilder III Particulars, Kirkland Laing and More

Arne K. Lang

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The third fight between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder will be staged at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on July 24. The pre-fight hoopla kicks off on Tuesday at a press conference in Los Angeles.

The date was no secret. Co-promoter Bob Arum had circled it even before an arbitrator ruled that a unification fight between Fury and Anthony Joshua could not jump the queue. It was Team Fury’s Plan B. But speculation about the venue had centered around two other properties in Las Vegas: Allegiant Stadium and the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

It will be the eighth boxing card in the five-year history of the T-Mobile. The benchmark, attendance-wise, was set on Sept. 16, 2017, when Canelo Alvarez opposed Gennady Golovkin in the first of their two encounters. The event attracted an announced crowd of 22,358 (17,318 paid).

Top Rank promoter Bob Arum notes that the T-Mobile is superior to the MGM Grand in that the operators of rival casinos are more willing to purchase tickets for their best customers. The T-Mobile sits on MGM property behind New York-New York and is half-owned by the MGM (the other half is owned by the Anschutz Entertainment Group which owns arenas around the world including LA’s Staples Center and the O2 Arena in London) but yet is considered neutral territory in that it isn’t attached to a casino. Casino operators have always been skittish about sending their best customers to an event at a rival property for fear they will be wooed away.

There are no plans to hold press conferences in other cities before the final press conference in Las Vegas. London is out because of Covid restrictions and Arum believes that a conference in New York would be superfluous as that would be redundant.

Arum orchestrated the most dappled (and most frenetic) press tour in boxing. Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns, traveling in separate Gulfstream jets, covered 21 cities in 12 days to hype their April 15, 1985 clash at Caesars Palace.

“There was no internet in those days,” says Arum. He did not need to elaborate. Press conferences nowadays are live-streamed and people around the world can tune in. Reporters for traditional newspapers, whose ranks have been thinned, are no longer an indispensable conduit for selling a fight.

Kirkland Laing

The late Harry Mullan, who served 19 years as the editor of British Boxing News, had a grand opinion of Kirkland Laing. “He is the most technically gifted boxer I’ve ever seen, a genius in an odd sort of way,” wrote Mullan of Laing who defeated Roberto Duran and was a three-time British welterweight champion, but would be best remembered for squandering his talent. Born in Jamaica and raised in Nottingham, Laing died on Wednesday, June 9, at age 66.

Laing, who often wore dreadlocks, was quite a character. Lore has it that he once adamantly denied using weed to an interviewer while forgetting that he had a joint tucked behind his ear. He purportedly fought most of his fights while stoned.

Laing brought a 23-3-1 record into his date with Duran on Sept. 4, 1982 at Detroit’s Cobo Hall. The first two losses were incurred in domestic title fights with Colin Jones who stopped him in the ninth round on both occasions.

Laing won a split decision but there was no controversy. The consensus among ringside scribes was that Laing won seven of the 10 rounds. He was too quick for the Panamanian tough guy. The Ring magazine named it the Upset of the Year.

This was Duran’s third loss in his last five fights. Reporters, by and large, wrote him off as finished. Needless to say, that appraisal was premature as Pipino Cuevas, Davey Moore, and Iran Barkley would attest.

A year would elapse before Kirkland Laing entered the ring again. For a long stretch during this lacuna, his whereabouts were unknown. His manager Mickey Duff could not find him.

Laing returned on Sept. 10, 1983 in Atlantic City. In the opposite corner was Fred Hutchings, a fighter from Stockton, California with a 22-1 record. Hutchings blasted him out in the 10th round. The last punch landed with such force, said the correspondent for a New Jersey paper, that Laing “fell over backward, his head crashing to the canvas with a loud thud.” Referee Frank Cappuccino started his count but waived the fight off when he reached “6.”

Laing went on to recapture the British welterweight title, but he never fought in the U.S. again. He left the sport with a record of 43-12-1. He scored 24 knockouts and was stopped eight times.

Within months after his final fight in 1994, Laing and his partner Paula Chen who was carrying his child, were reportedly living on the dole. In December of 2001, he was arrested during a massive sweep of East London crack dens. In 2013, he almost died after he fell or was pushed from a fourth-floor balcony. He was then living in a flat in a council estate (i.e., government subsidized housing) in the London borough of Hackney. At the time of his death, he was said to be residing in a nursing home in Yorkshire.

Kirkland Laing was always eccentric, but some of his aberrant behavior may have been a residue of his bout with Fred Hutchings. He was taken to the hospital with a concussion and remained there for four days. His cause of death has not been disclosed.

Sky

Ever the opportunist, Bob Arum was quick to reach out to the honchos at Sky Sport which was left in the lurch when Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn jumped ship, giving DAZN an exclusive. Great Britain’s premier sports channel, Sky needed a new content provider.

Josh Taylor, the fighting pride of Scotland, recently took Sky to task for failing to pick up his recent fight with Jose Ramirez. That was an egregious oversight on the part of Sky – the network missed out on a whizbang fight that produced a result that will live long in British boxing lore – and Arum allows that Sky executives may have been somewhat embarrassed, making them more receptive to his proposal.

The Sky/Top Rank partnership begins immediately with Saturday’s card in Las Vegas headlined by the match between Shakur Stevenson and Namibia’s obscure Jeremiah Nakathila.

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