Bolton: Super Feather: Zelfa Barrett (17-0) W PTS 10 Eusebio Osejo (28-21-3,1ND). Heavy: Alex Ustinov (34-1) W TKO 1 Raphael Zumbano (39-15-1), Light Heavy: Luke Blackledge (23-3-2) W TKO Olegs Fedotovs (22-31).
Barrett vs. Osejo
Barrett scores two knockdowns on the way to a points win over competitive Osejo. A confident Osejo launched some furious attacks in the first and had obviously come to fight. He even found time for some early showboating. Barrett was boxing cleverly on the back foot, planting home sharp accurate counters and slowly taking charge of the fight. After outboxing the aggressive Osejo for most of the fourth round Barrett landed a couple of flashing combinations and then dumped Osejo on the seat of his pants with a peach of a left hook. Osejo was up quickly and the bell went at the end of the count. Osejo kept trying to force the fight with Barrett finding more and more gaps for his jab and quick counters. Barrett dished out some severe punishment in the eighth in the form of hooks to head and body and in the ninth finished a series of fast punches with a booming right that put Osejo flat on his back on the floor. The gutsy Nicaraguan beat the count and then just stood in front of Barrett trading punch after punch. He was rocked by more rights but made it to the bell and Barrett showed his admiration for Osejo’s fighting spirit by touching gloves at the end of the round. Barrett rocked Osejo a couple more times in the tenth but Osejo deservedly made it to the bell. Referee’s score 99-90. The 23-year-ol Barrett has good skills and had won his previous 7 fights by KO/TKO. He showed his ability and his power here. Osejo did a great job of giving Barrett ten tough rounds. The Spanish-based Nicaraguan is 0-8-1 in his last 9 fights but there is a draw with Kiko Martinez and a split verdict loss to Evgeny Gradovich in there and he gives value for money.
Ustinov vs. Zumbano
Ustinov gets first round win in a travesty of a fight. Zumbano was down in the first 30 seconds although it looked more like a push than a punch. Ustinov then proceeded to batter Zumbano around the ring with the Brazilian occasionally trying to punch back. A series of chopping rights finally convinced the referee he had seen enough and he stopped the fight. Now 25 wins by KO/TKO for the 6’7 ½” (202cm) from Belarus. It is a sign of how bad the WBA are that this 40-year-old lumbering giant is their No 3. He has earned this high position by beating rivals such as Travis Walker, Maurice Harris and Konstantin Airich. It would be funny if it was not so serious. Zumbano is really just a record padder who loses anytime he tries to move up.
Blackledge vs. Fedotovs
Former undefeated Commonwealth champion Blackledge eased his way back into the winning column with a stoppage of Latvian Fedotovs. Blackledge was on top all the way and the Latvian’s corner threw in the towel in the fourth to save their man further punishment. First fight for Blackledge since his loss to Callum Smith for the British title in December. His other losses have been to Erik Skoglund on a very close decision in Denmark and to Rocky Fielding and he will be looking to get a couple of wins under his belt and then go for a title. Fedotovs is now 1-9 in his last 10 fights.
New York, NY, USA: Super Light: Terrence Crawford (31-0) W RTD 10 Felix Diaz (19-2). Light: Ray Beltran (33-7-1,1ND) W KO 2 Jonathan Maicelo (25-3,1ND). Welter: Konstantin Ponomarev (32-0) W PTS 8 Ed Paredes (38-7-1). Light Heavy: Steven Nelson (7-0) W TKO 2 Gilberto Rubio (7-6). Super Light: Fazliddin Gaibnazarov (2-0) W PTS 8 Agustine Mauras (6-3-3). Feather: Shakur Stevenson (2-0) W TKO 1 Carlos Suarez (6-4-2).
Crawford vs. Diaz
Once again Crawford outclasses an opponent as he slowly breaks down Dominican Diaz to force a tenth round retirement
Crawford cruised through the first round. He worked his way around the smaller Diaz stabbing through jabs and easily evading Diaz’s attempts to get close.
Score 10-9 Crawford
Diaz increased his aggression in the second but it made no difference. Crawford continued to slot home his jabs and short left hooks and dodge, turn or tie-up Diaz when he got close.
Score 10-9 Crawford 20-18
Diaz managed to close the gap a little in the third but Crawford was giving another boxing master class. He was not loading up on his punches but was making Diaz pay as he marched in and scoring with short hooks.
Score 10-9 Crawford 30-27
Crawford was noticeably sitting down on his punches more in the fourth. Diaz was still pressing but in his frustration leaving more gaps for counters as he lunged forward,
Score 10-9 Crawford 40-36
Diaz had no choice but to continue to bull forward and every time he threw a punch he was leaving a gap through which Crawford threaded a counter and a left uppercut was the class punch of the fight so far. Diaz finally began to get through with some punches as the round continued and a strong finish saw him make it the closest round so far but Crawford’s accuracy gave him the round.
Score 10-9 Crawford 50-45
Crawford dominated this one. He outboxed the challenger from outside and when he stayed in the pocket was scoring with short hooks and then dodging out again with Diaz swishing air
Score 10-9 Crawford 60-54
There was plenty of action in the seventh. Diaz was just walking forward ignoring Crawford’s punches and scoring with swinging lefts and rights. Crawford turned the tables forcing Diaz to the ropes and scoring with hooks. Crawford let himself down with some taunting as Diaz decided to stay on the ropes and let Crawford come to him as the champion did enough to add that round to his tally.
Score 10-9 Crawford 70-63
Crawford gave out another boxing lesson in the eighth. Diaz did not seem able to decide whether he needed to be going forward or make Crawford come to him but it made no difference. Crawford scored with jabs hooks and uppercuts and looked to have hurt Diaz with a left to the body just before the bell.
Score 10-9 Crawford 80-72
All of the fight seemed to have gone out of Diaz in the ninth. He spent the whole round with his back against the ropes as Crawford teed off with right hooks to the ribs and clubbing lefts with Diaz just looking defend and hardly throwing a punch.
Score 10-9 Crawford 90-81
Diaz’s left eye was nearly closed but he survived a doctor’s inspection at the start of the round. Diaz was mainly focused on survival. He fought in spurts and near the end of the round was staggered by some blazing left uppercuts and right hooks and Diaz corner pulled their man out of the fight.
Score 10-9 Crawford 100-90
Another masterly display by Crawford as he makes the fifth defence of his WBO title and second of his WBC title. It is difficult to see who in this division can match the 29-year-old from Omaha. Jason Pagara is his mandatory WBO challenger and Amir Imam his WBC but neither poses a threat. Namibian Julius Indongo was imperious in outclassing Ricky Burns and Rances Barthelemy is on a good run but Crawford would be favoured to beat them both. Mikey Garcia could come up from lightweight but it will soon be time for Crawford to move up and look for a fight with Manny Pacquiao, Keith Thurman, or the winner between Kell Brook and Errol Spence. Dominican Diaz, a former Olympic gold medal winner, has taken almost eight years to work his way to a title shot. He has a future but is unlikely to get another title shot.
Beltran vs. Maicelo
Beltran wins short and brutal fight as he climbs off the floor to kayo Maicelo. Beltran was walking Maicelo down with the Peruvian on the back foot shooting out jabs. As Maicelo lunged forward he threw a couple of light body punches and his head banged into Beltran’s face and Beltran went over to the floor. Beltran’s was up immediately tapping his head to show it was not a punch but the referee applied the eight count. Beltran had suffered a cut over his left eye in the collision. When the action restarted Beltran continued tracking Maicelo then their heads clashed and the fight was paused due to a cut on the top of Maicelo’s head. They exchanged shots and Maicelo seemed to be rocked just before the bell. Maicelo was coming forward throwing punches in the second and putting Beltran on the back foot. That came to an end when Beltran exploded a left hook on Maicelo’s chin which put the Peruvian down on his back out cold. The referee waived the count. Maicelo was down for quite a while and eventually was taken from the ring on a stretcher but waived to show he was OK. Beltran wins the vacant WBA International title. He drew with Ricky Burns and lost a wide decision to Terrence Crawford in WBO title fights. He did beat Takahiro Ao for the vacant WBO title but failed to make the weight and was then banned for a positive test. Following an impressive win over Mason Menard in December he was rated WBO 2/IBF 3(2)/WBC 4/WBA 12 so another title challenge is almost a certainty. Maicelo, 33, lost to Darleys Perez for the interim WBA title in 2015 but had put himself back in the picture with wins over Brandon Bennett (19-1) and Jose Felix (35-1-1).
Ponomarev vs. Paredes
Ponomarev outworks Paredes for a well deserved unanimous decision Ponomarev made a busy start. Paredes had slight edges in height and reach but Ponomarev was quicker and used his jab to put Paredes on the back foot. Paredes landed a good countering left with Ponomarev showing a small injury over his right eye. Ponomarev kept Paredes on the back foot over the second and third rounds. He was scoring well with his jab and quick combinations. Paredes showed a good jab but was throwing too few punches. Ponomarev dominated the early part of the fourth but then Paredes unleashed a series of hard head punches which had been missing from his armoury to this point. Ponomarev took over again in the fifth and never let Paredes back into the fight. He was outworking Paredes out jabbing him and scoring inside with left hooks and uppercuts. Paredes work rate dropped. He was still able to slot home stiff jabs and momentarily halt Ponomarev with a right in the sixth but Ponomarev just kept coming with Paredes seemingly giving up on any chance of winning and just looking to stay the distance. They both threw some heavy punches in the last. Ponomarev seemed to shake Paredes with a right and he was still coming forward at the bell. Scores 78-74 for Ponomarev from all three judges. The 24-year-old Russian “Talent” who turned pro at 17, has good wins over Cosme Rivera, Steve Claggett, Mikael Zewski and Brad Solomon and is rated IBF5/WBO 6/WBA 8. His mother tried to interest him in football, break dancing, basketball and playing the guitar but he chose boxing. When he was 16 a broken wrist caused him to miss the Russian championships so he turned pro at 17. Paredes was once world rated after a 14-0-1 run but then fell away. He had won his last two fights.
Nelson vs. Rubio
Nelson blows away Rubio inside four minutes. . Nelson almost ended it in the first when he floored Rubio with a blistering combination late in the round. Rubio only just beat the count and the punch had also opened a cut over his right eye. Nelson wasted no time in ending it in the second. He put Rubio down twice with body punches and the referee stopped it with just 36 seconds gone in the round. “So Cold” Nelson, 28, a boyhood pal of Crawford’s, was an Army and US Services champion. He served as a Satellite Communications technician and did a stint in Afghanistan. He went to the Olympic Games in London as an alternate for Marcus Brown but was not needed. He has six wins by KO/TKO. Rubio has lost 4 of his last 5 fights.
Gaibnazarov vs. Mauras
Olympic champion Gaibnazarov blew his first opponent away in 86 seconds so a gutsy Mauras did a good job here of taking the Uzbek prospect the full eight rounds. Southpaw Gaibnazarov is a class act He has oodles of skill and easily outboxed Mauras but never really had him in trouble as he eased his way to winning every round and getting some useful ring time on his record. Scores 80-72 from all three judges. The 25-year-old former World Amateur champion took the gold medal at the 2016 Olympics where he beat Gary Antuanne Russell in the quarter-finals. He looks a can’t miss prospect. Mauras started with a 6-0-3 run in the pros but has now lost his last three on points.
Stevenson vs. Suarez
For Stevenson the situation was the reverse of that of Gaibnazarov. The Olympic silver medallist had to go into the full six rounds for his first pro win but this one took him less than three minutes. He went straight after Suarez scoring with long southpaw lefts. Suarez’s only answer was some head down wild swings. Stevenson continued to hunt the Argentinian down and worked him over on the ropes. A straight right and a left hook staggered Suarez. As Suarez lunged forward a chopping right to the head sent him face down on the canvas. As he tried to get up he fell backwards and the referee stopped the fight. The 19-year-old from Newark is a star in the making. Argentinian Suarez was 1-0-2 in his last three fights but had no chance here.
London, England: Super Feather: Gervonta Davis (18-0) W TKO 3 Liam Walsh (21-1). Feather: Ryan Walsh (22-2-1) W TKO 11 Marco McCullough (17-4). Super Welter: Joe Pigford (13-0) W KO 5 Aarron Morgan (12-1). Light Heavy: Anthony Yarde (11-0) W TKO 4 Chris Hobbs (6-2-1). Heavy: Daniel Dubois (3-0) W KO 1 David Howe (13-5).
Davis vs. Walsh
Walsh had slight advantages in height and reach and after starting in his normal southpaw stance changed to orthodox in the round. Davis stuck with southpaw, was quick with his jab and tried a few hooks and did just enough to take the round
Score 10-9 Davis
Davis started the second round feinting attacks to draw the lead and counter. Walsh was again boxing with an orthodox stance and landed a good straight right. Davis became more aggressive over the late part of the round and Walsh switched back to southpaw but neither fighter did enough to win the round.
Score 10-10 20-19
Davis was standing hands down in the third again looking to draw the lead and counter. He then went on the attack throwing mainly straight lefts. Davis had stepped up the pace and he shook Walsh badly with an overhand left. Walsh tried to clinch but Davis shook him off and Walsh danced across the ring with his hands down. Davis followed him and landed two more lefts then a right followed by a chopping left that sent Walsh to the floor. Walsh knelt watching the referee’s count and got up slowly at eight and his legs did a little wobble. The referee had a look at him then let the action continue. Davis walked in landing two more lefts to the head knocking Walsh sideward’s and the referee stepped in and stopped the fight.
It looked an early stoppage although Walsh’s legs were unsteady after the count and Davis was poised for another knockdown. The referee has to make these instant decisions and it is always better that if he errs at all then it is on the side of safety and although Walsh did have a strong case for being allowed to continue the referee called it as he saw it. The 22-year-old Davis was making the first defence of the IBF title he won with a stoppage of Jose Pedraza in January. It took him three attempts to make the IBF imposed weight check on the day of the fight but he has now scored nine wins in a row by KO/TKO. Walsh, 30, the former undefeated British and Commonwealth champion had the additional disappointment of never getting a chance to really get into the fight and show his undoubted qualities.
Walsh vs. McCullough
Ryan makes it a promising start to the evening for the Walsh family as he retains the British title with a stoppage of McCullough. This was a fast-paced contest from the first bell. Walsh showed plenty of confidence switching guard and throwing fast shots with McCullough having the longer reach just probing with his jab. McCullough had the better of the second round as he made good use of his jab and scored with some heavy straight rights. McCullough again boxed well in the third but Walsh found the target with rights and had McCullough shaken by a pair of rights at the bell. Walsh took the fourth. Late in the round he landed an overhand right and then sent McCullough staggering with a left uppercut and followed that with a hard right. He had McCullough pinned on the ropes but some good upper body movement from McCullough stopped Walsh from landing anything else of substance. McCullough recovered well in the fifth fighting behind his jab and probably doing enough to share the fifth and take the sixth as Walsh change to southpaw in both rounds. In the seventh McCullough was stabbing his jab home with Walsh just not throwing much. That changed late in the round when Walsh shook McCullough with a straight right and had McCullough under pressure to the bell. Walsh had a big eighth as he upped the pace landed some heavy punches and drove McCullough around the ring. McCullough just did not have the power to keep Walsh out. The ninth went to McCullough as he worked hard behind the jab and Walsh did not start letting his punches go until the last 30 seconds. McCullough needed a knockout but it was Walsh who had the power. Late in the tenth he hurt McCullough and drove him to the ropes. Instead of fading McCullough banged back and the exchanged heavy punches with McCullough actually stopping Walsh in his tracks with a right. After another of these ridiculous delays whilst the tape on McCullough’s gloves was reattached Walsh hurt McCullough with a right. And then pinned McCullough on the ropes firing punch after punch until the referee stopped the fight. Walsh, 30, was having his first fight since losing a split decision to Dane Dennis Ceylan for the vacant European title in October. His only other loss was on points against current IBF champion Lee Selby in 2013 and he has the ability to shoot again for the European title or even a world crown. Belfast’s McCullough, 27, had won 5 of his last six fights. He showed excellent skills but just did not have the power to match Walsh
Pigford vs. Morgan
Pigford’s power proves too much for Morgan in a clash of unbeaten fighters. Pigford had height and reach over Morgan and throughout the fight was able to stab home his long lefts. He also found the target with right crosses from distance. Despite the difference in height Morgan was also able to thread jabs through Pigford’s defence. Morgan kept trying to get inside but was having to take punishment to get there. By the fourth Pigford was on top with Morgan having difficulty getting past the jab. They both threw punches after the bell to end the fourth. It is not often you see it but before the start of the fifth the referee indicated to the judges to take a point from both fighters for that after the bell action. Morgan continued to try to work his way inside in the fifth but was caught by a left hook and then a right to the top of the head staggered him. He tottered into the ropes and Pigford followed and landed four rights to the head that put Morgan down heavily and the referee stopped the fight immediately. The 24-year-old from Southampton has won 12 of his 13 fights by KO/TKO and this is his tenth win in a row that way. Morgan had won 8 of his fights by KO/TKO and he was competitive to the end but Pigford was just too big and strong for him.
Yarde vs. Hobbs
Yarde showed his power from the start. He was landing thunderous right crosses and solid left hooks to the body. Hobbs tried to fire back but dropped to his knees after a left hook to the body from Yarde with the bell going as the eight count was completed. Yarde stalked Hobbs throughout the second and shook him with a long right late in the round. Hobbs was mainly on the defensive launching only a few attacks of his own. He tried to survive the third by getting in close and clinching but a left hook to the body dropped him to his knees. He beat the count and went on the retreat but was floored by another body punch at the end of the round. Hobbs was dropped again early in the fourth touching down briefly. He was down twice more and whilst the referee was counting the towel was being waived for the fight to be stopped. The 25-year-old Yarde is impressive. He fights with a casual arrogance but he has the skill, speed and power to back that up. This is his tenth win by KO/TKO. He wins the BBB of C Southern Area title which I am sure will be the first of many titles for him. The only other loss suffered by Hobbs was due to a dislocated shoulder but Yarde was just too powerful for him.
Dubois vs. Howe
Dubois make it three wins by KO/TKO as he destroys the 6-8” (203cm) Howe. After some preliminary sparring Dubois landed a booming right to the jaw that sent Howe down heavily and it was all over in 40 seconds. Dubois, 19, had only a short time as a senior in the amateurs so needs ring time but finding someone to test him is difficult. Howe does not have the best chin, this is his fifth loss by KO/TKO, but that was a devastating right from Dubois.
Oxon Hill, MD, USA: Feather: Gary Russell (28-1) W TKO 7 Oscar Escandon (25-3). Super Middle: Andre Dirrell (26-2) W DISQ 8 Jose Uzcategui (26-2). Super Light: Rances Barthelemy (26-0,1ND) W PTS 12 Kiryl Relikh (21-2). Bantam: Antonio Russell (8-0) W TKO 3 Jovany Fuentes (7-9). Super Light: Gary Antuanne Russell (1-0) W TKO 1 Josh Ross (2-4-4). ).
Russell vs. Escandon
Russell retains his WBC title with stoppage of Escandon but fights a dumb fight and the stoppage looked a little premature with Escandon complaining bitterly that he could have continued
It was apparent from the start that Russell had quicker hands and better footwork. As Escandon plodded forward behind a high guard Russell banged home some jaw-rattling southpaw right uppercuts and left hooks. He kept switching angles and scoring with stinging punches from both hands. Escandon finished the round with a strong attack scoring with some hefty body punchers but Russell was catching him with those right uppercuts all the way.
Score 10-9 Russell
Russell just chose to stand and trade with Escandon in the second allowing the Colombian to work to the body with both hands. Escandon probably couldn’t believe his luck as instead of using his superior skills and speed Russell was standing and brawling and for me Escandon did enough work inside to win the round.
Score 10-9 Escandon 19-19
Escandon rumbled forward again at the start of the third but Russell nailed him with a chopping right to the side of the head which unhinged Escandon’s legs and saw him drop forward putting his gloves on the canvas. He got up and walked towards a corner but his legs wobbled and he looked unsteady as the referee counted out the eight seconds. Russell drove forward landing head punches from both hands and put so much power in one right that when he missed he sprawled down on his knees. Russell bounced punch after punch off Escandon’s head but apart from a left that had him staggering late in the round Escandon just walked through the punishment showing amazing courage and punch resistance to last to the bell. Russell had handed so much punishment that for me it was more than a 10-8 round
Score 10-7 Russell 29-26
Escandon made a remarkable recovery and took the fourth. He never stopped walking forward scoring to the body with both and landing clubbing rights. Russell’s shots were more accurate and harder but he was being denied punching room and out worked.
Score 10-9 Escandon 38-36
Escandon was in Russell’s face for the whole three minutes of the round. Russell was only fighting in short bursts. Escandon just kept forcing Russell back and banging to the body. Russell had been going low with his punches and was given a warning. Over the last 30 seconds Russell cut loose with a series of right uppercuts and hooks but again I saw Escandon taking that one.
Score 10-9 Escandon 47-46
Russell was still choosing to brawl and only fighting in short bursts. Escandon kept up the pressure but in the middle of the round Russell looked to have shaken Escandon with a right and let go a blazing combination of head punches. Escandon took a step back but then rumbled forward again. This time it was Escandon who was warned for a very low punch. Russell also fired home hooks and uppercuts before the bell and just did enough to take the round.
Score 10-9 Russell 57-55
This time Russell was smart. He used his jab to set Escandon up and then exploded with combinations of straight rights, hooks and uppercuts which put Escandon back on his heels. As he rocked forward Russell nailed him with a right to the head and Escandon staggered back badly shaken. He fell into the ropes and looked about to sag to the canvas when the referee jumped in and stopped the fight.
Escandon had shipped more severe punishment in the third than the punches that brought the stoppage in the seventh but made his call. Russell made this much harder than it had to be. When he boxed on the outside and kept moving the gap in skills was clear but he chose for most rounds to stand and brawl with the slower but incredibly tough and strong Escandon. Of course Russell, 28, who was making the third defence of his title, was immediately calling for a return fight with Vasyl Lomachenko the only man to have beaten him but Carl Frampton is rated No 1 by the WBC so he will want his title shot. Escandon, 32, the WBC interim champion, lived up to his “The Warrior” nickname. He soaked up unbelievable punishment but walked through it and his pressure and thudding body punches was enough to shut Russell down in some rounds and at times Russell seemed to have no answer to the Colombian’s pressure.
Dirrell vs. Uzcategui
Dirrell wins the vacant IBF interim title in controversial ending as Uzcategui is disqualified for knocking Dirrell over with a punch after the bell to end the eighth round. With Uzcategui having a kayo percentage of 79% Dirrell had to fight a careful fight and avoid getting involved in too much trading. He was looking to score with quick punches and then move and then repeat the sequence. Uzcategui spent the early rounds stalking Dirrell around the perimeter of the ring. He was looking to score with one big shot at a time and not throwing enough but always looked dangerous and did enough to take the first round. Uzcategui had a big second round as he finally let his punches flow. He was doing a better job of cutting the ring off and looked to have shaken Dirrell with a left. Dirrell dropped to the canvas as Uzcategui advanced so it was a slip rather than a knockdown. Uzcategui continued to apply pressure and had Dirrell trapped on the ropes and landed a punch after the bell for which he was warned. Uzcategui clipped Dirrell with a couple of good rights to the head at the start of the third the first of which saw Dirrell sag at the knees. Dirrell then managed to stay in ring centre and Uzcategui again was holding back looking to land big punches and the pace of the fight dropped. Dirrell had a better of the fourth. He kept his right jab in Uzcategui’s face showed good upper body movement to dodge the Venezuelan’s punches and did enough to take the round as Uzcategui indulged in a little clowning. Uzcategui was just not throwing enough punches but he stepped up the pace in the sixth and seventh. He scored with some long rights early in the eighth. At the end of the round he backed Dirrell into a corner and landed a left to the head, a right and then another big right that landed after the bell and Dirrell dropped face first to the canvas. Initially he knelt up but then went down and rolled onto his back. The ending was similar to the ending of his brother Andre’s fight with Arthur Abraham in 2010 when Andre slipped on water on the canvas and went down with Abraham landing a punch to the back of Andre’s head which led to Abraham’s disqualification and Andre being out of the ring for 21 months. In a disgraceful scene after the fight Dirrell’s trainer and uncle Leon Lawson went over to Uzcategui corner and with Uzcategui not looking his way landed two bare fist punches to the Venezuelan’s head before fleeing the ring and the arena. Dirrell is IBF interim champion but it is no way to win a title. Hopefully there will be a return as the 26-year-old Uzcategui was certainly in with a chance of winning and it is doubtful if he heard the bell or could have stopped the last punch in time.
Barthelemy vs. Relikh
Barthelemy gets unanimous decision over Relikh but the scorecards are no reflection on how close this fight really was. The first two rounds were fairly even but Barthelemy got a break in the third. He hit Relikh with a blatantly low punch and should have been deducted a point but was not. Relikh was given a couple of minutes to recover and seemed energised by the foul and stepped up his pace. Barthelemy showed some great skills in the fourth constantly switching guards and piercing Relikh’s guard with shots from both hands. Relikh gave the perfect response in the fifth as he staggered Barthelemy a couple of times then battered Barthelemy against the ropes. Barthelemy sagged under the pressure and the referee gave the Cuban a count ruling that the ropes had held Barthelemy up. Barthelemy made it to the bell. The sixth was an even round and Barthelemy edged the seventh. Relikh looked to be on his way to winning the eighth scoring with hooks to the body and some choice uppercuts only for Barthelemy uncork a savage body punch which saw Relikh going down on one knee. Gradually from there Barthelemy began to take control of the fight. Relikh fought hard and was competitive all the way looking to have taken a couple of the late rounds but Barthelemy won the rest and emerged the deserved winner. Scores 117-109, 116-110 and 115-111which gave the right result but were all a bit wide. With the IBF super feather and lightweight titles already in his collection Barthelemy was moving up to super light here. With Relikh rated No 1 by the WBA and Barthelemy No 2 he is in line for a shot at their title once it is sorted out whether Namibian Julius Indongo will hold onto both the WBA and IBF titles but either way Barthelemy could be going for his third title before the end of the year. Belarusian fighter Relikh, 27, lost to Ricky Burns for the WBA title in October where again the scores did not reflect the Belarus fighters efforts but having arrived at the top table hopefully he will remain there and get another title shot.
Russell vs. Fuentes
Russell moves to eight wins as he halts over-matched Fuentes. Russell had too much of everything for the Puerto Rican. Russell floored Fuentes in the second and third rounds with the referee stopping the fight after the second knockdown. The 24-year-old younger brother of Gary won a gold and two silver medals in the National Golden Gloves and was National PAL champion He has six wins by KO/TKO. Fuentes is now 2-8 in his last 10 fights.
Russell vs. Ross
Three fights, three wins by KO/TKO for the Russell family. Russell annihilated poor Ross with three knockdowns before the fight was stopped. The 20-year-old youngest of the pro Russells was a quarter-finalist at the 2016 Olympics where he lost to eventual gold medallist Fazliddin Gaibnazarov. Ross was a late choice as opponent and had no chance here.
Tokyo, Japan: Fly: Daigo Higa (13-0) W TKO 6 Juan Hernandez (34-3). Light Fly: Ken Shiro (10-0) W PTS 12 Ganigan Lopez (28-7). Middle: Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam (36-2) W PTS 12 Ryota Murata (12-1).
Higa vs. Hernandez
Higa wins the vacant WBC title with stoppage of Hernandez who lost the title when he failed to make the weight. Higa went after Hernandez from the start but constant movement and changing from orthodox to southpaw by Hernandez left a frustrated Higa chasing shadows. It was a similar story in the second as Hernandez was constantly changing angles and scoring with fast jabs. That changed when a short left hook clipped Hernandez on his forehead and he went down. He was up quickly and cleverly boxed his way to the bell. Hernandez took the third as he again switched guards effortlessly and kept changing angles and generally outboxing Higa. Higa was trying to move in behind a high guard in the fourth but that only works if the guy stands still in front of you. Hernandez was constantly on the move and again did most of the scoring. They bumped heads in the round with Hernandez stepping out of the action but there was no cut. Higa finally caught up with Hernandez on the ropes in the fifth and put the Mexican down with a left hook. Hernandez was up quickly and after the eight count was trying to stay out of trouble but Higa was scoring with some vicious body punches and Hernandez was warned for holding. Hernandez was down at the start of the sixth from a couple of body punches but he also indicated there had been a clash of heads. When the action resumed Higa hunted Hernandez down and a couple more body punches and a right uppercut put Hernandez down again. He lay on his back unmoving but then leapt to his feet. After the count Higa drove Hernandez across the ring and again a combination of body punches and an uppercut saw Hernandez slump to the floor. He looked finished but as before suddenly came upright and signalled he was fine. The fight could have been stopped then but when Higa floored Hernandez with hooks to the body and as the Mexican slumped to the floor the referee waived the fight over. The 21-year-old Higa has won all of his fights by KO/TKO so has to be respected and it will be interesting to see how he progresses. Hernandez, 30, threw his title away. After losing to Kazuto Ioka for the WBC minimum title in 2011 he had scored 16 wins in a row winning the vacant WBC title with a stoppage of Thai Nawaphon in March so only reigned for just over two months.
Shiro vs. Lopez
Shiro wins WBC title in his tenth fight with very close majority decision over unlucky Lopez. The champion took the first round but Shiro showed quick movement and took the second. The third and fourth were close and after that period the scores were 39-38 twice for Shiro and 38-38. Lopez had a good fifth firing in body punches and forcing the fight hard. The sixth and seventh were again so close they could have been scored either way and Shiro the smarter boxer seemed to have the better of the action in the eighth and was in front 77-75 on all three cards. Shiro took the important ninth again scoring with quick jabs and combinations and using clever footwork to dodge the attacks of Lopez but the Mexican came on strong at the end of the round landing with left hooks. Pressure from Lopez slowed Shiro in the eleventh and two tired fighters battled away in the last with Shiro getting home some good body punches. Scores 115-113 twice for Shiro and 114-114. A draw might have been a fairer result but home advantage is always important. Shiro, 25, has rocketed through the ranks winning the Japanese title in his sixth fight and the OPBF title in his eighth and is now a world champion. Whilst at university in 2013 he won a gold medal at the National Sports Festival in Japan and turned pro after graduating. His real name is Masaki Teraji and his father Hirashi was an OPBF champion at light heavy. The Ken Shiro come from Kenshira a legendary figure in magna literature. It took Lopez 33 fights to win a world title and it seems a pity he should lose the title after 14 months and just one successful defence. He deserves a return but if that does not come then at 35 he is on borrowed time.
N’Jikam vs. Murata
N’Jikam wins the secondary WBA title with a very disputed split decision over home fighter Murata
Murata gave away the first round. N’Jikam circled the perimeter of the ring scoring with a few jabs and a couple of hooks with Murata throwing less than five punches and missing with them
Score 10-9 N’Jikam 10-9
Again N’Jikam does most of the scoring. He continues to circle the ring with Murata tracking him. Murata threw more punches than in the first and landed a good left hook to the body but N’Jikam was throwing more and although there was little power in his punches he was landing more.
Score 10-9 N’Jikam 20-18
Again Murata did a little bit more but not enough. N’Jikam was constantly moving changing angles and looping punches around Murata’s guard. Murata was shadowing N’Jikam but not cutting the ring off and standing back too much
Score 10-9 N’Jikam 30-27
Murata had more success early in the fourth as he forced N’Jikam to stand and trade. Murata was throwing only one punch at a time and the Frenchman was still throwing more and landing more but late in the round a straight right from Murata put N’Jikam down. He was up quickly and after the eight count stayed out of trouble to the bell.
Score 10-8 Murata 38-37
Both men had good periods in the fifth. Murata was throwing more and scoring with hard rights but it was still only one punch at a time. N’Jikam stood and traded early in the round and was penetrating Murata’s guard with hard shots from both hands. A punch from Murata sent N’Jikam stumbling back into the ropes and he almost went down. Since it was the ropes that held him up it could have been scored as a knockdown but as it was not N’Jikam had done enough to take the round.
Score 10-9 N’Jikam 48-46
The sixth was a close round. N’Jikam yet again threw more and landed more but Murata’s punches were harder and he shook N’Jikam momentarily in the middle of the round
Score 10-9 Murata 57-56
Typically Murata threw only 15 punches in the seventh round. Luckily for him N’Jikam was taking dancing classes just tripping around the ring-literally as he tumbled over three times once due to a right to the head-and did even less than Murata.
Score 10-9 Murata 66-66
Just as Murata had given away early rounds by throwing very few punches N’Jikam was doing the same by spending too much time exploring the ring perimeter and too little time fighting. Murata managed to land two or three rights but it was turning out to be a disappointing fight with neither fighter throwing or landing enough punches to generate any excitement.
Score 10-9 Murata 75-76
In the ninth Murata was again just following N’Jikam around the ring and not letting his punches go. I counted 21 punches he threw in the round, and that was a higher work rate than he was typically using. He did land a hard straight left and a right with again N’Jikam scoring more but with light punches lacking snap. For me neither did enough to win the round.
Score 10-10 Even 85-86
Murata was more active at the start of the tenth scoring with some clumping rights and a couple of hooks to the body. N’Jikam came on at the end of the round but Murata’s early work gave him the edge.
Score 10-9 Murata 94-96
Murata also took the eleventh as he did the pressing and landed some good body punches with N’Jikam dancing too much and punching too little. He was not looking to trade but overdid the caution.
Score 10-9 Murata 103-106
Again in the twelfth the solid work came from Murata with N’Jikam really just looking to stay out of trouble and he did very little work in the round
Score 10-9 Murata 112-116
Official scores: 116-111 and 115-112 for N’Jikam and 117-110 for Murata.
Whilst I saw Murata the clear winner there were many rounds where he just did not work hard enough and times when the more numerous but much lighter punches from N’Jikam might have swayed the judges towards him. The strong finish from Murata is what won him the fight in my opinion but this was not the disgraceful decision it was being painted. What I found disgusting is the way that WBA President Gilberto Mendoza threw judges Gustavo Padilla from Panama and Hubert Earle from Canada to the dogs or stabbed them in the back or both. Mendoza said he scored the fight 117-110 for Murata and demanded a return fight. He seems to overlook the fact that if these two judges got it so wrong then the blame rests with the WBA who appointed them. As for Mendoza’s scorecard, Padilla has judged 128 fights and Earle 86 – Mendoza has never judged a fight but suddenly he is an expert! The Japanese market is huge for the WBA so there will be a return but let’s not lose sight of the fact that Gennady Golovkin is the real WBA champion. At various times N’Jikam has held the WBA and WBO interim titles and his only losses have been to Peter Quillin and David Lemieux for the full WBO and IBF titles respectively. At 33 time is against the Cameroon-born N’Jikam and he will have to return to Japan again to defend this secondary title. Murata was disappointed and disappointing. He has power but his work rate was far too low and he looked very limited technically. The WBA will see he gets his return and if he can work harder he should win that one.