AT 37 years old, Michael Seals had waited a long time for an opportunity on the big stage. When it finally came, the man from Georgia had his dreams shattered by former WBO light-heavyweight title-holder Eleider Alvarez, who KO’d him at 3-00 of the seventh round of a scheduled 10.
As endings go it was about as conclusive as you can get. As Seals threw a wide right, Alvarez stepped in with one more direct that connected full force. As if the blow itself was not enough, Alvarez’s head also made contact with Seals’ as he was on the way down. Referee Danny Schiavone started to count before it became apparent that Seals was done.
Seals was regarded as the bigger hitter in this one, but that never played out. The Deontay Wilder clone had never been over six rounds before. It showed as he was very tentative and rarely threw a meaningful punch until the seventh, looking to conserve energy. By that time Seals had fallen far behind on points and was bleeding from the nose and mouth.
Alvarez’s long jabs were scoring and he staggered Seals to close out the fifth, but it was a tedious affair with more mauling on the inside than punching. The crowd at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino (Top Rank) voiced their displeasure, but the explosive ending ultimately delivered the fireworks they had come to see. Alvarez, 35, said it ended as planned: “During training camp we kept practising throwing the right hand over and over.”
Seals faces an uncertain future. Not so for the Montreal-based Colombian, who bounced back nicely from having lost his title to Sergey Kovalev a year ago. Another big puncher in Joe Smith Jnr now awaits Alvarez.
In American team sports there is a thing known as the draft. This is where clubs get to pick young players who are turning professional. Doubtless to say if such a thing existed in boxing then Felix Verdejo would have been a very high draft choice, such was the early potential shown by the San Juan boxer.
The final chapter of Verdejo’s career has yet to be written. It’s not inconceivable that he’ll win a world title down the line, but the next Felix Trinidad he won’t be, despite their uncanny resemblance. Verdejo, 26, has only lost once, but hasn’t been the same since being in a horrific motorcycle accident in August 2016. This was his first fight under new trainer Ismael Salas, who is sure to squeeze every ounce of boxing talent out of the Puerto Rican that he has left.
Verdejo was matched safely against a non-puncher in Dallas’ Manuel Rey Rojas, winning a unanimous 10-round decision by scores of 98-92 (Don Ackerman), 99-91 (Don Trella) and 97-93 (Tom Schreck). Charlie Fitch refereed.
Verdejo boxed well, creating space between him and his opponent, jabbing and attacking the head and body. But the explosiveness of his early career is no longer there. Nonetheless, a win is a win, and is something Verdejo can build on.
In an exciting three-round shootout, former IBF super-bantamweight champion Jonathan Guzman stopped Mexico City’s Rodolfo Hernandez at 1-22 of the third round of a scheduled eight.
Hernandez barely survived the opening round, being dropped twice by body blows from the Dominican. However, late in the second a right to the chin floored Santo Domingo’s Guzman, who was in desperate trouble when the bell rang. They both threw heavy blows in the third, but Guzman connected with yet another solar plexus punch that decked Hernandez for the third time. Referee Fitch called a halt to proceedings.
A disappointing ending marred a highly entertaining heavyweight eight between 2004 Olympians Devin Vargas, from Toledo, Ohio, and Victor Bisbal, from Puerto Rico. It was won by Vargas at 1-02 of the final round, when referee Mike Ortega disqualified Bisbal for landing a flagrantly low left. Mr Ortega apparently had seen enough after taking two points away from Bisbal in the fourth round for various infractions.
Vargas had been knocked down in round two, but had taken control and was ahead on all three cards when the fight was terminated.
The Verdict Alvarez starts the year off with a confidence-boosting victory.
Eleider Alvarez (174lbs), 25-1 (13), w rsf 7 Michael Seals (173 1/2lbs), 24-3 (18); Felix Verdejo (137lbs), 26-1 (16), w pts 10 Manuel Rey Rojas (136lbs), 18-4 (5); Jonathan Guzman (122lbs), 24-1 (23), w rsf 3 Rodolfo Hernandez (122lbs), 30-9-1 (28); Christopher Diaz (126 1/2lbs), 25-2 (16), w pts 8 Adeilson Dos Santos (126lbs), 19-8 (15); Abraham Nova (132lbs), 18-0 (14), w rsf 4 Pedro Navarette (133lbs), 30-25-3 (19); Devin Vargas (223lbs), 22-6 (10), w dq 8 Victor Bisbal (272lbs), 23-5 (17); Jared Anderson (235lbs), 3-0 (3), w rsf 1 Andrew Satterfield (239 1/2lbs), 5-4 (3).