CHRIS EUBANK JR’S American debut began not with a definitive bang, but a sorry whimper.
To be sure, Eubank did not suffer a historic letdown as his compatriot Anthony Joshua did in his inaugural stateside appearance back in June. In fact, Eubank technically won. But it would be devious to insist that the Sussex native managed to make any kind of a meaningful statement, considering, well, that he had hardly any time to do so. Not that it was his fault.
Before a sparse crowd — so sparse that the publicity flacks handling the card did not bother with the routine practice of announcing the attendance total — at the Barclays Center, Eubank had his hands raised after his opponent, Russian Matvey Korobov, could no longer continue due to a freak accident.
Barely half a minute into the second round, Korobov threw a left hand and immediately motioned at referee Steve Willis for a break, pointing to his left shoulder. A ring doctor was called up to the ring apron, as a group of officials and Korobov’s trainers gathered around the injured fighter.
Eubank, who was in the other corner, asked “What happened?” to referee Willis, whereupon Willis began shaking his head. A few moments later, Willis waved off the fight as the crowd booed. A rightfully bemused Eubank simply shrugged his shoulders.
“I felt like I was about to get my swagger on,” Eubank said. “He just turned around and stopped. I was going to go jump on him. I guess something happened with his shoulder. There’s nothing to take from the fight. I threw like three or four punches. I was just warming up.”
The official time of the stoppage was 2-26 of the second round (set for 12). Ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr cited the cause of stoppage as a “left shoulder injury.” Efforts to follow up with Korobov’s team as to the precise injury were unsuccessful, although Korobov himself seemed to think he tore a muscle.
“I was trying to throw the left hand straight, and I just felt the muscle immediately, like I pulled it,” Korobov said. “It was a lot of pain right away. I couldn’t fight with just one arm, especially being a southpaw.”
The southpaw Korobov may have been MIA for several years but he proved he still had considerable tools when he gave Jermall Charlo (who fought in the main event on Saturday’s card) all he could handle last year.
The only issue with Korobov is that he appeared a tad shopworn, a fact underscored by his patchy performance in his last bout against mediocre Immanuel Aleem. It would seem that the shoulder injury is a sign of his continued physical decline. Eubank, quite uncharitably, preferred to view the injury as a supernatural consequence.
“Karma is a real thing,” Eubank said. “Whatever he’s done, I don’t know, there’s a reason whatever happened happened.”
Right. In any case, the pre-fight concerns were well-founded, as Korobov established his favourite weapon — the lead straight left — in the first round. At one point, the Russian doubled up on the left hand, popping Eubank’s head back. It looked as though Eubank, who was fighting for the first time at middleweight in several years, would be in for a long night.
Even in the ill-fated second round, Korobov started it off with another head-jolting straight left. Unfortunately for Korobov, posterity will record the fight as a technical knockout for Eubank.
“I’m the winner, I’m going to move forward and challenge for these belts,” Eubank said. “This wasn’t my dream. My dream was to come here to America and make a statement. Now that I’ve landed and I settled with the new promotional team, I feel I can get the ball rolling for an active 2020. It’s a shame it had to start like this, but it is what it is.”
In the main event, Houston’s WBC middleweight titleholder Jermall Charlo successfully defended his title for the first time, poleaxing Irish-Aussie Dennis Hogan in the seventh round. Charlo was elevated to the WBC’s top spot after the sanctioning body offered Canelo Alvarez a separate designation, the so-called franchise champion.
Charlo struck Hogan cleanly with a left hook that immediately deposited Hogan to the canvas. The stoppage came at the 2-32 mark of round seven after referee Charlie Fitch noticed Hogan wobbling to his left as he got up.
The result was no surprise, considering the mismatch in size between the two fighters. Hogan, a career super-welterweight, was making his debut at 160, while Charlo had three years to settle into the division since moving up in 2017.
Hogan may have thought that he could outpoint Charlo, as he believed he did in his disputed points loss to former 154-pound titleholder Jaime Munguia earlier in the year, but Charlo proved to be an altogether different equation.
Early on, Hogan had some success outboxing Charlo, catching him with jabs and lead left hooks, as he continually circled to his left. Hogan’s punches evidently had little effect on Charlo, who simply shrugged them off.
In an effort to land his overhand right, Hogan made the mistake of rushing in with his down, making him open for counters. Indeed, in the fourth round, Charlo timed his opponent coming in with a hard counter left uppercut that sent Hogan somersaulting backwards into the ropes.
“The middleweight division is wide open,” Charlo said postfight. “I’m the WBC middleweight champion. I’m going to enjoy this. We’re going to get back to the drawing board. Shoot, I’m gonna fight whoever. But you have to make the right decision at the right time.”
Japanese super-bantamweight contender Ryosuke Iwasa dropped the Philippines’ Marlon Tapales in the third and 11th en route to an 11th-round stoppage in a scheduled 12-rounder.
The two southpaws traded shots all night long, but Iwasa was a bit more accurate with his punches. After several back-and-forth exchanges, Iwasa began wearing down the herky-jerky Tapales late.
In the 11th round, Iwasa landed a bulls-eye straight left that downed Tapales. Although the Filipino was able to rise, he stumbled noticeably when referee Shada Murdaugh motioned him to come forward. Murdaugh waved the fight off at 1-09.
In the third round, a clash of heads caused Tapales to touch the canvas. Referee Murdaugh ruled it a knockdown. A dark bruise began to form on Tapales’ right cheek.
Ironically, Tapales best round was also the one in which he began to fall apart. In the 8th round, Tapales landed a crunching right hook on Iwasa. But Iwasa absorbed the punch well and retaliated with his own combinations. Tapales retreated to the ropes, where Iwasa began teeing off on him for the rest of the round. At the end of the round, Tapales walked back to his corner looking dejected.
The fight was pitched as an IBF interim title bout, so Iwasa should be in line to face the winner of the not-yet-finalized fight for the real title between champion Danny Roman and Murodjon Akhmadaliev.
Super-middleweights Ronald Ellis and Immanuel Aleem went toe-to-toe for 10 rounds before Ellis notched a majority decision. Two judges had it 97-93 and 98-92 in favour of Ellis, while one had it a draw at 95-95.
Australia’s Louisa Hawton overcame a knockdown in the sixth round to barely edge Los Angeles’ Lorraine Villalobos by unanimous decision in a 10-round women’s minimum-weight bout. All three judges scored it 95-94.
The bout was a repeat of their 2018 encounter, although Hawton had a much tougher outing this time around. Villalobos repeatedly landed her left hook counter. The crowd booed the decision.