By Alex Caveda at ringside in Las Vegas: On the eve of the biggest boxing event of all time, a solid card takestook place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Thursday.
Boxing fans are no strangers to the concept of the mega-event. However, a discerning viewer knows that there is a difference between hype backed up with quality, and just plain hype.
This Saturday night boxing fans will be treated to both a quality match, and a mega-event when Floyd “Money” Mayweather takes on Saul “Canelo” Alvarez for the WBC light rmiddleweight championship. In the decade of the 00s, the sport of boxing saw two events that rivaled Mayweather-Alvarez in terms of hype. However, in both the 2002 Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson, and the 2007 Oscar De La Hoya- Floyd “Money” Mayweather events, fight fans were forced to take a risk when purchasing a ticket or Pay-Per-View.
Why is that you ask? Well, the Lewis-Tyson, and De La Hoya-Mayweather events both had horrendous undercards, with the promotions relying exclusively on the main event, and nothing else (save for maybe a young star blowing out an overmatched victim). Well boxing fans… we can all be happy with the Mayweather-Alvarez promotion.
That is because the entire promotion is star studded, as even the Danny Garcia-Lucas Matthysse undercard bout could easily headline a Pay-Per-View itself, and is for the unified light welterweight title.
Two days before the Mayweather-Alvarez event, boxing fans were treated to a warm-up boxing card at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Hotel. Thursday night’s action did not feature any names that currently have the box office clout of a Mayweather or an Alvarez, but they did feature a better than expected lineup of solid contests between largely evenly matched up-and-comers.
The card was televised by FOX Sports, and featured a “triple main event”, along with plenty of undercard battles. Headlining the action was the rematch between unbeaten welterweight Shawn “Showtime” Porter, and grizzled veteran Julio “The Kidd” Diaz (yes “Kidd” with two Ds is the stylized spelling). Last December Porter, and Diaz had battled to a hard fought draw over 10 rounds. On this evening Porter avenged the draw, the sole blemish on his record to date, with a unanimous decision, but it wasn’t easy.
Heading into Thursday’s showdown people knew what to expect. While Porter is for the most part a newcomer, two recent wins over veteran Alfonso Gomez, and fellow prospect Phil LoGreco, have moved Porter into a position to “make some noise” in the boxing world. On the other hand, Diaz has been in the upper echelons of boxing for over a decade. I will not stretch your attention span by listing the long list of luminaries that Diaz has fought, but the bottom line is that Diaz is the type of “fight anybody” warrior that is good for the sport. Though his career has been up and down, Diaz has picked up several belts along the way, fighting the best in the world. After his draw with Porter in their first fight, Diaz went to England, where he dropped a razor thin decision to the popular former champ Amir Khan in a thriller. Both Diaz, and Porter knew that their rematch was a must-win, and both came out like they knew it. During the early going it looked for awhile like we were heading for a second draw, as they battled it out on close terms. Eventually though, Porter took command, winning clearly this time.
There were good exchanges from the opening bell, with the early going on even terms. Late in round 4 Porter managed to rock Diaz with a solid hook. It was the first time either man had a real advantage, and a harbinger of things to come. The men continued to trade hooks, but by the 6th round Diaz began to have swelling under his eye. This was a big factor because as the eye swelled, Diaz had a harder time seeing Porter’s punches, allowing Porter to greatly increase his accuracy. In round 9 there was a clash of heads the caused referee Russell Mora to have both boxers examined by the doctor, but neither was seriously hurt, and the battle resumed. Throughout the fight Porter forced the action, and that desire paid off down the stretch as Diaz was outworked late. I scored the contest 97-94 in Porter’s favor, and the official scorecards were even wider. While both Patricia Morse-Jarman, and Herb Santos had it 97-93, Richard Ocasio tabbed 98-92, all in Porter’s favor. At 22-0-1-(14) Porter seems ready for the bigtime. After 50 bouts, the 40-9-1-(29) Diaz has now lost two in a row, but he performed well enough even in defeat that it would not be a surprise if the 33 year old veteran surfaced yet again in another main event.
Just before the Porter-Diaz rematch was a solid super-middleweight showdown between unbeaten Badou Jack, and Marco Antonio Periban. As usual there was a belt attached, but more importantly the winner had a ticket to the upper level of the 168lb. weight class. Just a few years ago the division was looking moribund, but as of late it has really come alive. With champion Andre Ward leading the pack, along with Carl Froch, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Robert Steiglitz, and many others, the division is getting downright crowded. Both Jack, and Periban are fine young contenders on the cusp of stardom. The charismatic Jack (born in Stockholm) represented The Gambia in the 2008 Olympics, began his career in Sweden, and has been living in Las Vegas for the past few years. With a string of impressive wins, Jack was ready for his toughest test to date in Periban, a rugged Mexican, whose sole defeat came on a narrow majority decision 3 months ago.
The early rounds were tough to score with Periban much busier, but Jack managing to block most of his punches. Meanwhile, Jack was landing the cleaner blows, amid Periban’s frenzied attack. Through 3 rounds Periban seemed to have a slim lead because of his activity. By round 4 Jack began to time Periban well, particularly with the overhand right. Towards the end of that round Periban suffered a small cut from what appeared to be an accidental clash of heads. Rounds 5, and 6 saw the established pattern of Periban throwing more, but Jack landing the much crisper shots. By this point Jack showed better defense, along with more accuracy, but Periban was much busier in terms of punches thrown. The cut over Periban’s eye worsened, but he just kept swinging. By the end of round 8 Periban was bleeding freely from the nose, and he was rocked in the 9th round. At the end of round 9 Periban appeared to be wilting, but strangely, Jack did little in the final round, allowing Periban to steal it, making the bout close. Too close, it turned out, as the result was a majority draw. While judge Jerry Roth had it 96-94 for Periban, both Al Lefkowitz, and Steve Morrow had it 95-95 even. At ringside I had it 96-94 in Jack’s favor. It appeared as if the general consensus among the audience was that it was a very close fight, but that Jack was somewhat unlucky not to have gotten the nod. While I felt that Jack had done enough to edge it, Periban’s style of “keep those gloves moving” paid off, as he managed a draw. While Jack goes to 15-0-1-(10), Periban is now 20-1-1(13) as a professional. A rematch would seem a natural given that this battle was televised, and that the draw gives an added subplot. Hopefully they will meet in the ring again.
While two of the three featured bouts were exciting distance fights, the third co-feature wound up as something of dud. On paper the battle between Hugo Centeno Jr, and Julian Williams seemed like a solid match. Both were undefeated, and hungry for the big time. Early on there were many missed punches, with neither really committing much. At the start of round 4 Williams pressed the attack, but Centeno was right there to meet him. Just as things were getting interesting, a clash of heads opened a small cut around Centeno’s eyelid. The cut seemed tiny, and bled to the side, where it seemed it would not greatly effect Hugo’s vision. However, on the advice of the ringside doctor, referee Jay Nady stopped the contest at 0:59 of the round because of the cut. Because the contest ended on an accidental foul, with less than half of the rounds completed, it was declared no-contest. The audience booed loudly, and both boxers seemed annoyed at the result. The cut did not seem bad enough to warrant a stoppage, but then again I am not a doctor, and neither were most of those booing the result. The no-contest result gets us nowhere, but the officials decided to “err on the side of caution” this time.
The rest of the card was filled with newcomers. Unbeaten Jermall Charlo moved to 16-0-(12), halting Rogelio De La Torre at 1:50 of the 7th round. Although he won, Charlo did not really impress. Coming in Charlo had 9 straight knockouts, while De La Torre had lost 2 of his previous 3 bouts. Because of this, it was a surprise that early in the match De La Torre had quite a bit of success. Eventually though, Charlo’s better skills took control, and by the end of round 4 he appeared to have De La Torre in some trouble. From this point on Charlo was in command, but De La Torre did not discourage, and kept trying. In round 7 a quick Charlo combination sent De La Torre down. Although De La Torre rose quickly, and seemed ready for more, referee Tony Weeks stopped the contest.
In the only real mismatch of the evening 23 year old prospect Errol Spence Jr. moved to 8-0-(7) by crushing the overmatched 5-4-(1) “Jessie” Jesus Tavara at 2:33 of the opening round. Keeping his guard high while on the attack, Spence was virtually flawless, dropping Tavara with a solid body punch. When Tavara rose, Spence went right back downstairs, then finished things with a combination near the ropes. Just as referee Russell Mora moved in to stop things, Tavara went down for the second time. The easy win was no surprise as Spence was an amateur star, representing the U.S.A. at the 2012 Olympics in London. It appears as if Spence has a bright future.
Another youngster named Diego De La Hoya got off to a fine start in his professional debut. Having just turned 19 last month, the Mexican born De La Hoya is the cousin of the legendary multiple time champion Oscar De La Hoya.
Not surprisingly, Diego is promoted by Oscar’s “Golden Boy” promotional company. Pitted against the much more experienced Puerto Rican Luis Cosme, who had 11 fights, and a winning record, De La Hoya deserves credit for facing a live opponent in his debut rather than a pushover.
Early on both men traded, with De La Hoya working the body, and throwing sweeping hooks. By the middle of round 2 De La Hoya had taken control, and Cosme retreated from exchanging, to just trying to survive. Sensing that Cosme was discouraged, De La Hoya increased the attack, and a huge uppercut in the 3rd round had Cosme in trouble. The follow up attack was intense as De La Hoya pounded away, but to his credit Cosme took the punishment for quite some time before finally going down under De La Hoya’s relentless attack. Referee Robert Byrd didn’t even bother to count, waiving it over at 1:53 of the 3rd round, as De La Hoya let out a war cry in victory.
Another undercard bout saw Ohio’s Robert “E-Bunny” Easter crush Lance Williams in the first round. Rising to the occasion Easter made his Las Vegas debut an impressive outing as he dropped Williams thrice, ending things in 1 round. It should be noted that Easter’s father also boxed back in the 1990s. There were two other quick knockouts on Thursday’s card as Terrell Gausha halted Bruce Runkle, and Dominic Breazeale beat John Hill. All totaled it was a nice show, and a nice appetizer to Saturday’s extravaganza.
September 13, 2013