By Michael Norby: Former featherweight world champion Robert Guerrero picked up the IBF 130lbs title on Saturday night after he picked up a unanimous decision victory over South Africa’s Malcolm Klassen through 12 rounds at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, USA.
Guerrero 25-1-1 (17) whose fighting heart has been questioned in the past, boxed wonderfully throughout the contest in the face of an aggressive, pressure applying opponent. The southpaw threw 1200 punches over 12 rounds and employed his legs effectively to frustrate his opponent en route to his second career world title.
Klassen 24-5-2 (15) largely unknown outside of his native South Africa, picked up his title in impressive fashion with a seventh round stoppage of Cassius Baloyi last April and came into tonight’s contest highly touted. It was clear from the early going, however, that he had little answer for Guerrero’s skill and punch volume and enjoyed only scattered success when he managed to coral his opponent in the second half of the fight.
Guerrero worked well from the outside from the opening bell – throwing out a snapping jab and connecting with two and three punch combinations as his opponent made his way inside. The American thumped Klassen to the body midway through the round and completely out-worked the champion throughout the three minutes – a straight right hand in the closing stages all that Klassen could muster.
Guerrero continued to control the fight early in the second as he backed up Klassen with stinging right hands but, as the frame progressed, the South African began to come on strong. He kept his hands up, surged forward and caught Guerrero with a couple of tasty right hands in the final minute and began to apply the pressure that was expected from him late in the round.
This was bright beginning from Guerrero, however, and he boxed beautifully in the third. He used his feet tremendously and authored three and four punch sequences to the body and head that Klassen had no real answer for. A clash of heads in the final 30 seconds momentarily bothered Guerrero and prompted the champion to unleash a dozen or so punches to end the round strongly.
Both guys traded heavy body shots in the fourth but it was Guerrero’s busier work rate that was clearly winning the day thus far. Klassen tried to launch an offensive charge a round later and finally managed to out-land the American with clean shots to the head and body and he played with the former champion at the end of the frame with a cheeky grin and dance with his hands by his side.
Guerrero responded well in the middle rounds by reverting to the strategy that had worked for him through the opening four. Klassen applied pressure, but Guerrero moved away from much of what came at him and hurled terrific jabs and combinations back at the South African.
Klassen enjoyed a decent period in the middle of the seventh as Guerrero, perhaps looking for a brief respite, stopped punching for a beat, and the American was cut above the left eye after a clash of heads late in the round.
A bloodied Guerrero fought well through the wound, however, and he continued to out-box the champion in the eighth. Klassen was able to sneak through at times, but, with so much at stake, he just didn’t seem to be doing enough as the contest entered the later rounds.
The fight took a brief turn in the ninth, however, as Guerrero began to tire and stood in harms way for prolonged periods. He traded with Klassen and was on the receiving end of some thumping body shots throughout the round. Guerrero fought back gamely and bit down in the tenth – using his energy reserves to maintain distance and pick off a charging Klassen for much of the three minutes.
Guerrero had thrown 1000 punches to Klassen’s 448 going into the eleventh and surely had a healthy lead as the fight entered the championship rounds. The champion’s hopes of landing a knockout punch were frustrated by Guerrero’s terrific show of boxing. The American pinged leather off Klassen’s body and head as the South African desperately surged forward – successfully negotiating his way through the final two rounds to grasp the South African’s world title.
Scores: 117-111; 116-113; 116-112
In middleweight action, undefeated boxer-puncher Daniel Jacobs claimed a career best victory with a hard earned but well deserved ten round unanimous points victory over veteran Ishe Smith.
Jacobs 18-0 (15) wasted little early on as his opponent plodded forward invitingly in the opening round. He scored with sporadic combinations – more than enough to pocket the opening three minutes due to his foe’s modest output. Smith 21-4 (9) woke up in the second and clattered his man with a series of big left hooks early on and connected with a handful of body shots throughout the round.
Both guys exchanged hard punches in the third and fourth rounds but Jacobs was a little busier and he set up combinations behind his jab whereas Smith was looking to load up with every punch. The veteran continued to find a home with his left hook but the younger fighter was throwing the more effective punches and was clearly out-landing his opponent as the fight entered the middle rounds.
Smith was sporting a cut in the fifth and was being completely out-boxed for a majority of the three minutes but, with only seconds remaining, a huge right hand buckled Jacobs. Smith was a little over-eager in his pursuit of a knockout, however, and he drew the ire of referee Laurence Cole after he thumped Jacobs with three intentional punches after the bell sounded.
Jacobs was tested throughout the next pair of rounds as Smith attempted to capitalize on the success of the previous frame. He answered effectively, however, by zipping out his jab and controlling much of the action in the center of the ring. Indeed, it was only when Smith occasionally managed to force the 22-year-old to the ropes that Jacobs looked in danger.
Smith tightened the contest on the eighth by thumping a sloppy Jacobs with heavy shots upstairs in a closely fought round. Jacobs jumped back into the drivers seat a round later, though, and, after Smith lost a point due to another late shot, the young New Yorker steered his way to victory in the final round as Smith searched unsuccessfully for a knockout blow.
Scores: 96-93; 96-93; 100-89