By Michael Norby: Promising welterweight prospect Antwone Smith cleared a major step up obstacle on Friday night after he out-worked battle worn veteran Richard Gutierrez en route to a ten round unanimous decision victory at The Fontainbleau Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida, USA.
This was a crucial fight for both guys as Smith 16-1-1 (8) looked to further his young career against a recognized opponent whilst Gutierrez 24-3-1 (14) tried to reinvigorate his own by beating a hungry young lion. In the end, after ten completed rounds, it was Smith’s fluid energy; accuracy and dogged determination that saw him fight through a nasty cut to win by a clear margin.
Both guys fought at a bright pace early and took turns at thumping each other to the body and head in the first two rounds at short distance. Gutierrez appeared to be the heavier puncher, though, and he dented the young prospect downstairs throughout the first six minutes. Smith always returned fire, however, and although his connects may not have been as solid, his accuracy more than compensated and made for a hard to score opening pair of rounds.
Smith began to force the veteran to the ropes in the third and he scored well with beautifully engineered combinations for much of the round – his impressive work rate not allowing Gutierrez to respond effectively at any point in the frame. The American continued his momentum in the fourth and, although badly cut above the left eye, he kept his hands moving and easily trumped Gutierrez’ more sporadic attacking with greater volume.
The middle rounds saw Smith press forward with even more dogged determination as he fought through the bloody eye wound to score regularly with both fists. Gutierrez began to counter a little better at the end of the fifth and through the sixth round but he was unable to mount even a mildly effective offensive charge as the contest entered the later rounds.
The Colombian thumped his man to the body with single shots in the seventh and eighth rounds but Smith’s eye-catching sequences to the head and ability to protect his left eye saw the 22-year-old cement pole position late in the fight as Gutierrez desperately tried to turn the fight in his favor.
Smith had never fought past eight rounds prior to this contest but he came on strong in the final two frames this evening. He continued to force the veteran backwards in the eleventh and steadily repelled last ditch attacking by Gutierrez in the final round to secure a well deserved, upset victory.
Scores: 97-93; 96-94; 100-88
Undefeated junior middleweight prospect Erislandy Lara eased by the challenge of tough veteran Edwin Vazquez with a fourth round stoppage victory in a contest scheduled for eight.
Lara 6-0 (4) dominated the contest from the opening bell, using his reach and faster hands to score regularly as Vazquez 22-14-2 (8) tried to close the distance. Even at short range the Cuban enjoyed the upper hand and, after dropping Vazquez midway through the second with a long left hand, Lara finished his man two rounds later with a stunning assault after a short uppercut inflicted damage early in the fourth.
Time of stoppage: 1:13 RD4
Making his professional debut at 122lbs, former Cuban amateur superstar Guillermo Rigondeaux stopped overwhelmed Arkansan Juan Noriega inside three rounds.
Rigondeaux 1-0 (1) speared his opponent from the outset with accurate straight left hands and he forced Noriega 3-3 (3) to the deck early in the first round after landing a clean pair behind his right jab. The southpaw continued to land at will throughout the second round and he staggered the American on numerous occasions with both hands.
Noriega was clearly intimidated and retreated timidly as the excellent Cuban unleashed more powerful lefts in the third. The hapless American had succeeded in landing just two punches throughout the fight thus far and, with little or no hope to turn things around, referee Sam Burgos brought the fight to an end early in the round.
Time of stoppage: 1:09 RD3