Saturday, February 2, 2019

This Past Week in Action with Eric Armit


-Keith Thurman retains the WBA welterweight title with victory over Josesito Lopez

-China’s Can Xu wins the secondary WBA featherweight title with upset victory over Jesus Rojas

-Jamie Munguia retains the WBO super welter title with wide unanimous verdict over Takeshi Inoue

-Tugstsogt Nyambayar outpoints Claudio Marrero in WBC featherweight eliminator and also wins the vacant IBO title

-Adam Kownacki steam rollers Gerald Washington in two rounds


January 26

New York, NY, USA: Welter: Keith Thurman (29-0) W PTS 12 Josesito Lopez (36-8,1ND). Feather: Tugstsogt Nyambayar (22-0) W PTS 12 Claudio Marrero (23-3). Heavy: Adam Kownacki (19-0) W TKO 2 Gerald Washington (19-3-1). Middle:  Chordale Booker (14-0) W PTS 8 Juan De Angel (21-9-1). Super Feather: Chris Colbert (10-0) W PTS 8 Josh Hernandez (8-2). Super Bantam: Stephen Fulton (15-0) W TKO 5 Marlon Olea (14-4). Welter: Miguel Cruz (18-1) W TKO 2 Luis Eduardo Florez (24-12,1ND). Super Light: Gary Antuanne Russell (8-0) W TKO 2 Roberto Almazan (7-9).

Thurman vs. Lopez

Thurman makes a long awaited return to the ring and retains his WBA title with unanimous decision as he sheds the rust of almost two years of inactivity against a rugged and Aggressive Lopez

Round 1

After the initial probing with jabs Lopez let fly with a couple of hooks that stirred Thurman into action. He quickly reddened Lopez’s face with jabs and straight rights and ended the round with a sharp uppercut inside.

Score: 10-9 Thurman

Round 2

Thurman kept popping Lopez with jabs in the second and showed some classy defensive work to dodge the challenger’s punches. Thurman was content to let Lopez march forward and was connecting with quick bursts of punches and moving before Lopez could counter. Late in the round Thurman landed a vicious body punch and as Lopez shaped to throw a left hook he was nailed by a left hook from Thurman that sent him down on his hands and knees. He was up at eight and with less than ten seconds remaining in the round he survived to the bell.

Score: 10-8 Thurman                                                                Thurman 20-17

Round 3

Lopez seemed to have recovered and he was coming forward again in this one. He had two problems in that he was not throwing enough punches and had no defense against the stabbing jabs from Thurman. Lopez finally let his punches go but was too wild and Thurman staged a strong finish to the round.

Score: 10-9 Thurman                                                                Thurman 30-26

Round 4

Thurman made an aggressive start to the fourth coming out throwing hooks and uppercuts and initially putting Lopez on the back foot. Thurman kept moving and punching with Lopez a step behind all of the time. That changed as Lopez had his first success in the fight so far when he connected with some heavy shots. Thurman stayed cool and scored with sharp counters.

Score: 10-9 Thurman                                                                Thurman 40-35

Official Scores: Judge Ackerman 39-36 Thurman, Judge Schreck 40-35 Thurman Judge Weisfeld 40-35 Thurman

Round 5

Thurman simply outboxed Lopez. He was on his toes constantly on the move and slotting jabs and uppercuts through the guard of Lopez. Just before the bell they both landed with single heavy punches to the head but it was Thurman’s round.

Score:10-9 Thurman                                                                 Thurman 50-34

Round 6

Lopez pressed hard again in this round. He finally managed to trap Thurman on the ropes and landed some heavy swings but Thurman was quickly on the move scoring with fast combinations up and down and connected with a burst of punches at the bell.

Score: 10-9 Thurman                                                                Thurman 60-53

Round 7

A big round for Lopez. After chasing in vain and eating a diet of jabs and uppercuts he pursued Thurman into a corner and connected with a neck-snapping left to the head. As Thurman tried to get out of the corner he was knocked back by a stiff right. He made it out of the corner but Lopez pursued him around the ring rocking him with hooks. Momentarily it looked as though Thurman had survived the storm but Lopez landed two big shots to the head  and the pursuit was on again. Thurman did recover just before the bell and fired back with shots of his own but it was Lopez round by a big enough margin to make it a 10-8 even with no count

Score 10-8 Lopez                                                                      Thurman 68-63

Round 8

Thurman was on his toes and boxing but there were danger signs as he was caught by a couple of punches from Lopez. Lopez kept padding forward but he was just too slow and Thurman was going for speed and not loading up with his punches but was much more accurate.

Score: 10-9 Thurman                                                                Thurman 78-72

Official Scores: Ackerman 76-74 Thurman, Schreck 77-73 Thurman Weisfeld 77-73 Thurman

Round 9

A closer round. Lopez managed to score with clubbing shots to head and body as he kept chasing Thurman down. Thurman was stopping and blasting away with quick combinations but Lopez just had the edge.

Score: 10-9 Lopez                                                                     Thurman 87-82

Round 10

Brilliant boxing from Thurman. He was constantly on the move sliding jabs and straight rights through the centre of Lopez’s guard. He mixed in left hooks to the body and good upper body movement which saw Lopez too often swishing empty air.

Score: 10-9 Thurman                                                                Thurman 97-91

Round 11

You had to give Lopez credit for his persistence as  stalked Thurman around the ring but he was just too slow to really threaten. Thurman was exploding with bunches of punches and then either skipping away or ducking under the ponderous swing from Lopez.

Score:10-9 Thurman                                                             Thurman 107-100

Round 12

Thurman was really just trying to stay out of trouble in the last. He scored with some jabs but did not stay to trade. Lopez kept marching forward throwing punches and just did enough to edge the round.

Score: 10-9 Lopez                                                                 Thurman 116-110

Official Scores:  Ackerman 113-113 Draw, Schreck 117-109 Thurman Weisfeld 115-111 Thurman

The 30-year-old Thurman retains the (real) WBA welterweight title. He had a couple of rough patches but generally was too quick and too slick for a strong and limited Lopez. He injured his right hand in the fight and this was his first fight after almost two years due to injuries so some allowances have to be made for that. It would be too much to expect that the WBA insist that Thurman and Manny Pacquiao now fight to establish one champion as the WBA once claimed was their aim. Thurman is not the kind of opponent Pacquiao would want at this stage of his career. With IBF champion Errol Spence fighting Mikey Garcia in March, WBO champion Terrence Crawford tackling Amir Khan in April and WBC champion Shawn Porter defending against Yordenis Ugas in March any unification is a way down the line. Alex Besputin is Thurman’s No 1 challenger and although talented Besputin is not yet a high profile boxer so it would be a lot of risk for very little reward and Thurman may look to fit in another voluntary defense. Californian Lopez, 34, made Thurman fight hard but never really looked a likely winner. He has already come out second in title fights against Saul Alvarez for the WBC super welter title and Andre Berto for the interim welterweight title and I can’t see him getting another title shot.

Nyambayar vs. Marrero

Nyambayar outpoints Marrero in a clash of styles that provides plenty of entertainment. Nyambayar made the sharper start. He was using his jab well and although Marrero showed great hand speed  over the opening two rounds Nyambayar was able to move in quickly and score with rights to the body and evade Marrero’s counters. The third was a good round for Nyambayar. Initially Marrero was taking the fight to the Mongolian but Nyambayar landed a peach of a right uppercut that sent Marrero back. Nyambayar then landed a long right. Marrero mocked the punch only for Nyambayar land another hard right and followed that with an uppercut. Marrero did much better in the fourth letting his punches flow. Nyambayar evened things up with a couple of flashing combinations and some stiff jabs. The round could have been scored either way but as I saw it Nyambayar had take the first four rounds. The fifth was Marrero’s round. He was attacking from the outset firing rapid combinations that had Nyambayar backing up and unable to block the shots. Unfortunately Marrero than decided to do some fancy stuff and lost the initiative but took the round. Nyambayar’s jab had been a potent weapon earlier but now it was Marrero’s right jab that was dominating and together with a selection of straight lefts he bossed the sixth round and took the seventh. Nyambayar came back into the fight in the eighth. He had his jab working again and was finding gaps for his straight rights and just did enough to collect the round. At that stage I had Nyambayar in front 77-75 but Marrero took the ninth. He was peppering Nyambayar with straight shots from both hands so quickly that Nyambayar was unable to block them and it looked as though Marrero might take over the fight. The tenth saw a couple of incidents. Nyambayar began well scoring with straight rights to the head but after the referee called break Marrero landed another punch and was deducted a point. Marrero attacked furiously trying to get the point back and as they traded punches a left hook from Nyambayar went low. Marrero retreated hurt. The referee issued Nyambayar with a warning and gave Marrero some recovery time and with Marrero piling forward and Nyambayar  letting his fist fly it was a wild end to the round. The best Marrero could hope for out of the round was a 9-9 so he still had some catching up to do. Marrero marched forward throwing punches in the eleventh but he was just swinging and with no real accuracy. Nyambayar threw less but hardly wasted a punch landing pinpoint jab s and straight rights countering the rushing attacks of Marrero. The cooler boxing of Nyambayar gave him the last round with Marrero lucky not to lose a point for four consecutive punches to the back of the head. Marrero just could not launch an effective attack and Nyambayar was already celebrating as the round and the fight drew to a close.. Scores 116-111, 115-112 and 114-113 all for Nyambayar. The 26-year-old “King Tut” is now in line to challenge Gary Russell for the WBC title. He also won the vacant IBO title. As an amateur he won silver medals at both the World Championships and the 2014 Olympic Games and is said to have ended his amateur time with a 245-34 record. He has wins over Filipino Hermonito Dela Torre (19-0) and interim WBA champion Oscar Escandon but this was only his second fight in thirteen months. Dominican Marrero also a former interim WBA champion lost that title to Jesus Rojas in 2017 but had rebounded with a victory over unbeaten 29-0-2  Jorge Lara.

Kownacki vs. Washington IBF 8(7)

Kownacki gets another inside the distance win as he presses his claim for a seat at the big money table. From the opening bell Pole Kownacki walked forward throwing rights forcing the taller Washington back. Washing tried to stop Kownacki’s attacks with counters but Kownacki walked through Washington’s punches banging out jabs and launching rights. Washington stopped Kownacki’s advance temporarily with some rights but then Kownacki pounded Washington with rights to the head and at the bell Washington was on very unsteady legs. Washington launched a fierce attack at the start of the second but again Kownacki walked through the punches and drove Washington back and down with rights. Washington got to his feet but looked very shaky. He did the walks the referee asked him to do and reluctantly was allowed to continue. Kownacki took Washington the ropes and connected with a couple more rights and the referee stepped in and stopped the fight. The 29-year-old Brooklyn-based Pole makes it 15 wins by KO/TKO.  At 6’3” tall and 258lbs he is fleshy with short arms but seems to have a great chin and is heavy handed. He has wins over Artur Szpilka, Iago Kiladze and Charles Martin and is rated IBF 5(4)/WBC 8. He walked through the punches of the 6’6” Washington but the question is whether he would be able to walk through the punches from Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder. When Washington challenged Wilder for the WBC title in February 2017 two judges had the fight even after four rounds. Wilder finished it in the fifth and Washington retired after eight rounds against Jarrell Miller in July. This is only his second fight in 18 months.

Booker vs. De Angel

Booker marches on with comprehensive points win over experienced Colombian De Angel. The southpaw hope took the first round but was then buzzed by a right in the second. He quickly recovered and fired back. He controlled the fight from there. He  rocked De Angel in the fifth and then landed a crunching body punch in the seventh that had De Angel going down on one knee. The Colombian beat the count and endured to the bell and saw out the last round. Scores 79-72 twice and 80-71 for 27-year-old Booker  who was an Elite level amateur. He took silver at the 2014 US National Championships and then went one better with gold in 2015. That qualified him for the US Olympic Trials. He almost made it getting through the early rounds but losing to LeShawn Rodriguez in what was virtually the semi-final.  De Angel is in the “brought in to lose" category now and has won only one of his last six fights but there has been tough opposition in those fights such as Austin Trout and Immanuwel Aleem.

Colbert vs. Hernandez

“The Golden Child” Colbert continues unbeaten with a unanimous verdict over Hernandez. Colbert was always in control in this one but Hernandez pushed him hard all the way and the result was a high-tempo entertaining eight rounds. Colbert’s superior speed and skills were the winning factors here. He lacked the power to keep Hernandez out but those skills in the form of precise southpaw jabs, clever  movement and sharp countering gave him the edge. He was a clear winner but was given eight testing rounds. Scores 79-73 for Colbert from all three judges. He was US National champion in 2015 where he could have been excused for not being at his best as he and his family were evicted from their home just as the Tournament was starting and staying sheltered accommodation. Hopefully success as a pro will make such problems a thing of the past for the 22-year-old from Brooklyn. Hernandez had scored seven wins by KO/TKO but could not repeat that success against prospect Colbert.

Fulton vs. Olea

Philadelphian Fulton gets his sixth win by KO/TKO as he stops Colombian Olea in five rounds. It we as a breeze for the 24-year-old Fulton. He dripped Olea in the second and again in the fourth. He was piling on the punishment inn the fifth when the referee stopped the fight. A former National Golden Gloves champion and US National Championships silver medal winner this is his sixth win by KO/TKO. Four fights outside of Colombia and four losses for Olea but on the credit side lone of those losses was on points against now WBA super bantamweight champion Daniel Roman.

Cruz vs. Florez

Cruz rebounds from his first pro, loss with second round stoppage of Florez. Cruz Was outpointed by Josesito Lopez in his last fight in April last year dropping a wide unanimous decision made to look even worse by him being deducted two points for low punches. Cruz gets his eleventh win by KO/TKO with this result. Florez’s record recently has been very spotty but sitting there back in 2014 is a first round destruction of current WBC super featherweight champion Miguel Berchelt. The only fight Berchelt has lost!

Russell vs. Almazan

Bombs away as Russell blasts out poor Almazan in two rounds. Russell was hunting Almazan early and landing southpaw right hooks to the body. Almazan dropped to his knees but it did not look to be a knock down more of Almazan leaning forward too far. The referee applied a count. Russell continued to force Almazan around the ring. Almazan managed to  land a couple of counters but the power shots were coming from Russell. In the second Russell trapped Almazan on the ropes and pounded away until Almazan slid down the ropes to the floor and the fight was stopped. Since the father of WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr decided to name all four of his sons Gary it can be hard to track them. Gary Antuanne, 22, was National Golden Gloves champion, as were his three brothers and like Gary Jr he also made it to the Olympics representing the USA in Rio. He has won all of his eight fights by KO/TKO taking less than twelve rounds to dispose of his eight opponents. Brownsville-based Mexican Almazan was way out of his depth here and this is his fifth loss by KO/TKO.

Houston, TX, USA:. Super Welter: Jaime Munguia (32-0) W PTS 12 Takeshi Inoue (13-1-1). Feather: Can Xu (16-2) W PTS 12 Jesus M Rojas (26-3-2,1ND) . Super Bantam: Alberto Melian (4-0) W TKO 10 Edgar Ortega (10-2-2). Super Light: Vergil Ortiz (12-0) W RTD 5 Jesus Valdez (23-5-1).

Munguia vs. Inoue

Munguia retains the WBO title as he takes every round against a game and persistent but crude challenger.

Round 1

Although Munguia is the puncher it was Inoue who came out throwing rights but was warned twice for punches behind the head in the first minute of the fight. Munguia was much taller with a longer reach and began by throwing jabs on the back foot but and as the round progressed he began to let fly with left hooks and straight rights.

Score:10-9 Munguia

Round 2

Munguia was able to box outside and slot home his jab and then move inside with left hooks to the body. Inoue’s tactics were to draw the jab and then lunge forward head down swinging wildly. Munguia was able to smother the attacks and again and with Munguia ducking under the punches Inoue was landing on the back of Munguia’s head

Score: 10-9 Munguia                                                                 Munguia 20-18

Round 3

Inoue did have some success with his rights in this round but Munguia was banging home solid left hooks to the body all the way through the round. He was often leading with his right and finding Inoue an easy target.

Score: 10-9 Munguia                                                                 Munguia 30-27

Round 4

Already this was a one-sided fight. Munguia was scoring with jabs and left hooks with Inoue waiting and waiting and then throwing himself forward punching wildly. Munguia was able to tie him up inside and then again score on the outside. Both fighters were warned about punches behind the head as Munguia responded to the illegal punches from Inoue with some of his own.

Score: 10-9 Munguia                                                                 Munguia 40-36

Official Scores: Judge Alvarez 40-36 Munguia, Judge Martinez 39-37 Munguia, Judge Ramos 40-36

Round 5

Too easy for Munguia. He was able to stand off and score with jabs and left  hooks and then go forward with clubbing rights. Inoue showed no sign of being in any trouble from the punishment but his crude rushes were no threat to Munguia.

Score: 10-9 Munguia                                                                 Munguia 50-45

Round 6

Inoue had a couple of brief spells where he landed with some hooks  but other than that it was all Munguia. He was connecting with sweeping clusters of punches from both hands forcing Inoue back  and focusing on the body trying to get the challenger to drop his high guard. Inoue was again warned for punches to the back of the head.

Score: 10-9 Munguia                                                                 Munguia 60-54

Round 7

Inoue launched a fierce attack at the start of the round but then Munguia opened some space and began to rattle Inoue’s ribs with left hooks. A couple of them had Inoue hurt but he continued to march forward into the punishment.  After being caught by a thudding right just before the bell Inoue landed a hard right of his own but it was another round for Munguia-and Inoue was warned again for punches to the back of the head.

Score: 10-9 Munguia                                                                 Munguia 70-63

Round 8

Inoue had a bit more success in this round as he stayed close and swung his hooks. He landed some snappy ones but Munguia was able to break free and force Inoue back with a series of lefts and rights to the head and outscored Inoue over the remainder of the round-both were warned for punches to the back of the head.

Score: 10-9 Munguia                                                                 Munguia 80-72

Official Scores: Alvarez 80-72 Munguia, Martinez 79-73 Munguia, J Ramos 80-72 Munguia

Round 9

Inoue pressed hard again in this one. Munguia’s output dropped and too often he allowed Inoue to stay inside and brawl. Inoue rarely found the target with his wide swipes and Munguia was able to make space and land his wicked hooks to the body.

Score: 10-9 Munguia                                                                 Munguia 90-81

Round 10

Munguia was tiring and was now just throwing one big punch at a time. Inoue kept marching forward and scored with rights but was taking more than he was giving. Just before the end of the round with Inoue on the attack Munguia connected with a couple of head punches. Inoue’s legs buckled and Munguia drove him back with more head punches that had Inoue reeling  to the bell.

Score: 10-9 Munguia                                                               Munguia 100-90

Round 11

Munguia looked a bit arm weary. He should be as he had hit Inoue enough times. Munguia was still landing big single shots. Inoue was trying hard to work inside but he was hooking too wide and Munguia was able to duck inside the hooks. Munguia again fired a bunch of heavy punches late in the round.

Score: 10-9  Munguia                                                              Munguia 110-99

Round 12

Munguia handed out some serious punishment in the last but somehow Inoue just kept coming. Munguia was bouncing rights and lefts off the head of the Japanese fighter who showed remarkable resilience and determination but took a hammering.

Score: 10-9 Munguia                                                             Munguia 120-108

Official Scores: Alvarez 120-108 Munguia,  Martinez 119-109 Munguia, Ramos 120-108 Munguia

A gift defense for the 22-year-old Mexican who was making the third defense of his title in six months. He had won 26 of his fights by KO/TKO which shows just how well Inoue takes a punch. A former Mexican amateur champion his father fought twice for the Mexican title in a brief career. His mandatory challenger is Dennis Hogan and that will be Munguia’s next fight. This result was totally predictable . Inoue had never faced let alone beaten a rated contender but was No 3 with the WBO. He owed this rating to a victory over an opponent with a 7-3 record which saw him first enter the WBO ratings in November 2017 at No 11. He did not get rated because of a win over a worthwhile opponent but because he won the WBO Asia Pacific title and in their scramble for money the WBO don’t care who you beat just make sure you pay the sanctioning fee. What a disgraceful distortion of a ratings system. Since then he had only one other fight when in April 2018 he outpointed 40-year-old Yuki Nonaka and somehow he had climbed from No 11 to No 3 in the WBO ratings. Inoue is not a member of the same family as Naoya Inoue. Takeshi won a silver medal at the Japanese championships in 2010 and so did not qualify for the 2012 Olympics. He then applied to join the Japanese police but after meeting no success there he turned to pro boxing. He lacked the craft or the experience to be competitive here.

Xu vs. Rojas

Xu wins secondary WBA title with decision over champion Rojas in hard-fought and entertaining contests where the scores do not reflect how close the fight was. At its most basic it came down to the cleaner work at distance from Xu compared to the busy inside attacks from Rojas. A close first round saw Xu already probing with his jab and Rojas looking to go to the body . Xu largely managed to keep the fight an outside fight in  the second with Rojas coming forward and focusing on a body attack. Rojas started the third with some sharp jabs and following rights but Xu ended the round strongly to again make it close. The fourth was Xu's round as he worked his jab well and scored with some useful hooks. After four rounds two judges had Xu in front 40-36 with the other seeing them level at 38-38 so it looked like the close rounds were going to Xu with much of the inside work being done by Rojas overlooked. The champion worked hard inside to take the fifth and they both battled away in the sixth and seventh with Rojas getting into his stride and stepping up his work rate and Xu having more trouble keep him out. Xu took the eighth as he forced the fight hard coming forward and shooting out his jab and connecting with rights. After eight rounds one judge had it 79-73 for Xu, one had it 78-74 and third 78-75  putting Xu in a strong position. Rojas had a good ninth scoring with some eye-catching rights to the head and uppercuts inside but as they traded punches in a fast tenth Xu seemed to edge it with his jabs and straight rights. Xu also had a good eleventh rattling Rojas to set up a furious last round. That featured three minutes of nonstop exchanges with both having their moments in another close round in an exciting battle. Scores 118-110, 117-111 and 116-112 all for Xu. The last score looked to be a better reflection of the twelve rounds and the punch stats showed a very narrow gap between the punches each landed but Xu got the decision and the title. The 24-year-old “Monster” wins China’s third world title and their first with the WBA. Not bad for someone who was just 3-2 in his first 5 fights. He has scored wins over good level opposition in Kris George, Corey McConnell, Jack Asis and Nehomar Cermeno but was very much an outsider here. Great reward for his parents. When Xu showed promise as a boxer they knew he needed to go to a city to get recognition so they sold their home and moved to give him that chance. Now it is literally pay back time. Rojas won the interim WBA title with a kayo of Carlos Marrero in 2017 and was later promoted to secondary champion just before the fight with Joseph Diaz in August 2018. Rojas lost that fight but because Diaz failed to make the weight Rojas remained champion until this fight.

Melian vs. Ortega

Melian scores late stoppage over Ortega to win the vacant WBA-NABA title. The former Elite level amateur dictated throughout this one handing out a steady beating to Mexican Valdez. Although their records made this look like a reasonable match Melian’s vast amateur experience meant Ortega never really had a chance. Melian had won all nine rounds and it looked as though he would have to settle for a points win. However in the last round a booming left hook put Ortega down flat on the floor. Somehow he made it to his feet but Melian drove him to the ropes with two rights. He then brutalised Ortega with head punches until the referee dived in and stopped the fight. The 29-year-old Melian was a leading member of the World Series of Boxing Argentinian Condors team and represented Argentina at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. He won the national title in only his second pro fight. Ortega was 6-0-1 going into this one and fought hard but had lost every round at the time of the finish.

Ortiz vs. Valdez

Up against a southpaw for the first time Ortiz took a little while to sort out his tactics but he was soon getting through with his jabs and straight rights. In the second it was clear that Ortega did not have the power to keep Ortiz out and Ortiz began to boss the action coming in behind his jab and attacking the body. The fight was a little untidy in the third and with Ortiz doing the cleaner work. He was throwing more and landing more. Late in the fourth a right from Ortiz opened a cut over the left eye of Ortega and it bled heavily. Ortiz continued to take the fight to Ortega in the fifth. Half  way through the round the referee asked the doctor to take a look at Ortega’s cut but he was allowed to continue. Ortiz was connecting with hard rights and once again Ortega had to pass doctors inspection of the cut. At the end of the round the cut was ruled too serious for Ortega to continue. The 20-year-old from Dallas already has victories over  former IBF and WBA super featherweight champion Juan Carlos Salgado and experienced Mexican Roberto Ortiz. In the amateurs he was twice USA Junior champion. Second loss by KO/TKO for Valdez.

January 25

Trujillo, Puerto Rico: Super Bantam: Luis Lebron (15-0-1) W KO 8 Josean Figueroa (I2-6-2).

Lebron punches too hard for Figueroa in an all-Puerto Rican clash. Lebron used his edges in height and reach to score at distance and connected with crisp left hooks inside. Figueroa marched forward over the next four rounds cutting down Lebron’s punching room and getting  through with short hooks and uppercuts but was still taking punishment to the body and clubbing head punches from Lebron. Lebron outscored Figueroa over the fifth. Figueroa continued to advance in the sixth but at the end of the round was rocked by a series of punches. After a one-sided seventh with Figueroa’s left eye almost closed Lebron landed a right hook followed by a left and Figueroa  dropped to knees and was counted out. “Popeye” Lebron gets his eighth win by KO/TKO and his ninth win in a row, Fourth loss by KO/TKO for fellow-Puerto Rican Figueroa.

Cape Town, South Africa: Feather: Toto Hlebe (20-7) W PTS 10 Pfariso Neluvhulani (12-13-2).

Former undefeated South African champion bantamweight champion Hlebe takes routine unanimous decision over southpaw Neluvhulani. Fighting in his home area Hlebe was a clear winner and will be looking to fight for international titles next. Neluvhulani was 2-0-1 in his last three fights.

Wat Kedkanudom, Thailand: Super Fly: Kongfah CP-Freshmart (25-1) W PTS 10 Salatiel Amit (11-6-2).Fly: Noknoi (69-5) W PTS 6 Mahmoud Lotfollazadeh (0-3). Fly: Petchmanee (26-1) W TKO 2 Suphakit Khampha (2-7).

Kongfah vs. Amit

Thai Kongfah (real name Jakkrawut Majoogoen) floors and outpoints gutsy Filipino Amit. Kongfah was to have defended the OPBF Silver title but he came in at 116lbs so lost the title on the scales. Kongfah was much the bigger man and had a big edge in reach. He used those advantages and some thudding rights to the head to control the fight. Amit refused to back down so it was a fiercely contested fight. After eight rounds Kongfah was in front 78-74 on two cards and 77-75 on the other. Whatever chance Amit had of turning the fight his ended in the ninth when a right to the side of the head knocked him off balance and he touched the floor with a knee and his right glove. That resulted in a count and a 10-8 round for Kongfah. Final scores were 97-92 for Kongfah from all three judges. This is the eleventh win for Kongfah since being knocked out by future champion Daigo Higa in 2015. He is hoping to challenge Artem Dalakian for the WBA flyweight title this year but after losing his title on then scales here needs to get control of his weight. Amit fought hard all the way but is now 1-4 in his last 5 fights.

Noknoi  vs. Lotfollazadeh

Forget this one. Just really some paid sparring for Noknoi (real name Nare Yianleang) as he takes it easy on Iranian novice and wins all six rounds. Scores 60-54 from the judges. Noknoi,32, the WBC No 7 has lost only one of his last 69 fights but that was  in his only really competitive contest when he was decisioned by Kazuto Ioka for the secondary WBA flyweight title in 2017

Petchmanee vs. Khampha

More waste of ring time as Petchmanee (Panya Pradabsri) stops fellow-Thai Khampa in two rounds. Petchmanee, the WBC No 12 light flyweight, also lost his only really competitive fight when he was defeated on a majority decision by Chaozhong Xiong in China in 2017 for the vacant WBA International title. Four losses in a row for poor Khampha.        

January 26

Karlsruhe, Germany: Super Middle: Vincent Feigenbutz (30-2) W TKO 5 Przemyslaw Opalach (27-3). Super Welter: Ahmad Ali (14-0-1 W PTS 13Denis Krieger (14-8-2). Middle: Araik Marutjan (8-0) W KO 8 Islam Teffahi (21-7-2,1ND).

Feigenbutz vs. Opalach

Feigenbutz too strong for Pole Opalach and wins the vacant Global Boxing Union title with fifth round stoppage. In the first round Opalach was using his longer reach to try to keep Feigenbutz out. He had some success but Feigenbutz was quicker and was able to score with his own jab and some hard rights. Opalach went on the front foot in the second but Feigenbutz was the one scoring with jabs slotting them through the Pole’s defense and connecting with well-timed rights. Feigenbutz again controlled the action in third and landed some hurtful rights to the head that shook Opalach. The Pole tried to come forward but had no answer to Feigenbutz’s jab and was also being caught by sweeping right uppercuts. Opalach was using his jab more in the fourth but was being buzzed with thumping rights and again with uppercuts. Opalach tried to punch with Feigenbutz but lacked power and Feigenbutz was also connecting with body punches from both hands and slowly breaking Opalach down. Opalach scored with a few body punches at the start of the fifth but then Feigenbutz went to work. He was landing rib bending body punches and booming rights to the head. Opalach was soaking up the punishment but after a right staggered him the referee stepped in and stopped the fight. The 23-year-old German has lost only one of his last 29 fights and is No 3 (2) with the IBF. The European Boxing Union (EBU), which goes more by strength of the opposition he has beaten than the number of wins, has him at No 12. A fight with new IBF champion Caleb Plant has to be a possibility. Feigenbutz has shown steady improvement but I am not sure he can lift himself to the next level. Opalach’s record is deceiving. Although a former WBFederation champion his opposition has been modest at best and he does not even make it into the EBU top 25.

Ali vs. Krieger

German Ali wins the vacant Global Boxing Union (GBU) world title with wide unanimous verdict over Moldovan Krieger. Ali swept the first three rounds before Krieger managed to get into the fight over the fourth and fifth. The skilful Ali then outboxed Krieger the rest of the way and a strong finish by Krieger where they traded punches time and again was too little too late. Scores 120-108, 119-109 and 117-111 for Ali. He was born in Germany and is one of eight children of Lebanese parents.  Ali, 30, balances his pro career with his work at Mercedes Benz. He is a former GBU middleweight champion. German-based Krieger is 2-7 in his last 9 fights  with one of his wins an upset victory over 21-0 Robert  Maess.

Marutjan vs. Teffahi

Marutjan finds a finishing punch in the last round after a slow and uninspired performance. The former top amateur had an off night in a fight which featured very little in the way of highlights. Marutjan was doing enough to win the rounds having Teffahi in trouble late in the fourth but otherwise just not sparking. It looked as though the fight would end with a points win for Marutjan but he produced a thunderous right cross in the last that put Teffahi down. He managed to get to his feet but the referee stopped the fight. The Armenian-born Marutjan, 26 and now a German citizen, is a former German amateur champion. He won a silver medal at the European Championships, a bronze at the World Championships and competed at the 2016 Olympics. This is his second win by KO/TKO. Belgian-based Tunisian Teffahi had put together a 10-0-1 run until knocked out by unbeaten Hungarian Balasz Bacskai in December.

Uncasville, CN, USA: Super Light: Cletus Seldin (23-1,1ND) W KO 1 Adam Mate (28-14). 

Seldin blows away Hungarian Mate inside a minute. Seldin came outpunching and immediately forced Hungarian Mate into a corner and connected with shots to head and body. Mate squeezed out of the corner but Seldin followed and put him down on his hands and knees with a right to the head. Mate was up at nine and allowed to continue. Seldin jumped on him and drove him across the ring before landing with a huge right cross that put Mate face down on the canvas with the referee immediately waiving the fight over. The 32-year-old “Hebrew Hammer” was unbeaten in his first 22 fights before losing to Canadian Yves Ulysse in December 2017. He was inactive until returning a win in November. Eleventh loss by KO/TKO for Hungarian Mate who has constantly been overmatched.

Montreal, Canada: Super Light: Mathieu Germain (16-0-1) DREW 10 Steve Claggett (27-5-2). Super Welter: Sadriddin Akhmedov (7-0) W TKO 4 Abraham Juarez (13-2). Heavy: Arslanbek Makhmudov (6-0) W TKO 1 Jason Bergman (27-16-2). Super Middle: Lexson Mathieu (1-0) W TKO 1 Edgar Santoyo (2-2-2)

Germain vs. Claggett

Germain and Claggett fought to a draw in a stirring contest with the tie looking a good reflection of the action. With Claggett No 1 in the Canadian ratings coming from Calgary and Germain No 4 from Montreal there was plenty of needle in the fight. After a frantic first round as they both tried to take control of the fight the pace slowed to something more sensible and Germain built a slight lead. Claggett had a big fifth with Germain seeming to fade but then Germain came back into the fight and had again nosed ahead after nine. Claggett needed a strong finish and he produced one with an exhausted Germain in deep trouble in the last but making it to the bell. Scores 96-94 Germain, 96-94 Claggett and 95-95.  Germain, 29, holds on to his IBF North American title. For Claggett, also 29, of Chinese and Canadian roots, getting a draw in Germain’s back yard will seem almost as good as a win. A return would make for another good fight.

Akhmedov vs. Juarez

Kazak prospect Akhmedov wins his first pro title as he halts Mexican Juarez in four rounds.  Akhmedov stalked Juarez over the first three rounds without finding the punch he needed to end the fight. In the fourth Akhmedov shook Juarez with a left and then nailed him with a right and a left hook to the head that put the Mexican down. Juarez beat the count and circled the ring trying to stay out of trouble but Akhmedov trapped him on the ropes and knocked him down with a right. Juarez was up early but on unsteady legs and the referee stopped the fight. The 20-year-old Montreal-based  Akhmedov has ended all of his seven fights by KO/TKO taking less than fifteen rounds to do so. He wins the vacant WBC Youth title. He is a former two-time Kazak amateur champion who competed in the World Series of Boxing in 2016 and 2017 and he is worth watching. Juarez had won his last nine fights and this is his second loss by KO/TKO.

Makhmudov vs. Bergman

Russian Makhmudov adds another first round finish as he puts Bergman away in just 97 seconds. A right set Bergman up for another right to the side of the head which saw Bergman fall into the ropes hanging half outside of the ring suspended on the third rope. He was up at eight but another series of head punches dropped him to his knees and the referee had seen enough. The 29-year-old 6’ 5” (197cm) Makhmudov now has five first round finishes and his six fights have lasted less than seven rounds. He also competed in the World Series of Boxing and it was his friend, the current IBF light-heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev, who talked him into re-locating to Montreal. “Ironman” Bergman suffers his sixth loss by KO/TKO.

Mathieu vs. Santoyo

Canadian boxing is expecting big things from Mathieu who took just 43 seconds to register his first victory as a pro.  A left rattled Santoyo and as he tried to move forward a right dropped him to his knees. Santoyo was up quickly. Having started as a southpaw the flashy Mathieu switched to southpaw and landed a huge right that spun Santoyo so far around that he ended up with his back to Mathieu. He staggered backwards past Mathieu to the ropes and as Mathieu pounded him with head punches Santoyo collapsed to the floor with the referee pulling Mathieu away and ending the fight. The 19-year-old former Canadian amateur champion certainly showed tremendous potential so a name to note. Mexican novice Santoyo outclassed.

Montevideo, Uruguay: Super Feather: Jose Matias Romero (21-0) W PTS 10 Javier Herrera (16-3). Super Light: Alfredo Blanco (20-7) W PTS 8 Angel Yomar Mateo Arias (22-01). Middle: Amilcar Vidal (7-0) W KO 1 Carlos Capelari (9-1). Feather: Ranfis Javier Encarnacion (15-0) W PTS 8 Sergio Martin Sosa (10-2).

Romero vs. Herrera

Romero gets second win over Herrera and retains both the Argentinian and IBF Latino titles.  Romero took a couple of rounds to get into his stride as the aggressive Herrera pressed hard. From the third the clever boxing and quick movement of Romero had Herrera pursuing in vain.  Romero reportedly injured his right early in the fight so Herrera was never in any danger but no matter how hard he pressed Romero was just too quick and Herrera was leaving himself open to counters. Romero looked to have won comfortably but the scores were close. All three judges saw it 96-94 for Romero. He had climbed off the floor to outpoint Herrera in August to win these two titles and is rated No 10 (8) by the IBF. Herrera is 11-2 in his last 13 fights with both losses to Romero. He is No 7 in the Argentinian ratings.

 Blanco vs. Arias

Minor upset as Argentinian Blanco takes split decision over previously unbeaten Dominican Arias. The Dominican was on his way to victory after six rounds and then it all went wrong for him. He lost a point in the seventh for a low punch and was floored in the eighth which turned the outcome on its head. Scores 75-74 twice for Blanco and 75-74 for Arias. Blanco, No 9 in the Argentinian welterweight lists, had met a much higher class of opposition but really Arias threw this one away. His record is heavily padded with low level opposition.

Vidal vs. Capelari

Local fighter Vidal pulverised Argentinian Capelari to win the vacant WBC Fecombox title. As Capelari came forward and threw a right Vidal took a step back and then staggered him with a right to the head. Vidal then closed the distance landed a wicked left hook to the body that saw Capelari turn away and drop to the canvas in agony and he was counted out. The 22-year-old Uruguayan, a bronze medallist at the South American Youth Championships, has won all of his fights inside the distance so has less than ten rounds behind him as a pro. Both fighters were in their fist fight scheduled for ten rounds.

Encarnacion vs. Sosa

After Blanco’s win over Arias Encarnacion levelled the scores for the Dominican Republic as he outpointed Argentinian Sosa in a close competitive match. There was also a deduction in this one with Sosa losing a point for a low punch in the fifth. Scores 86-84 twice and 87-83 for 24-year-old Encarnacion who wins the vacant WBA Fedelatin title in his first fight outside of the Republic. Sosa, the Argentinian No 9 super bantamweight, was beaten by former top amateur Alberto Melian in his last fight in May-in which he was also penalised for a low punch.

Pont-Sainte-Maxence, France: Light: Yvon Mendy (41-5-1) W TKO 6 Achiko Odikadze (20-11-1). Light: Karim Achour (27-5-3) W PTS 8 Diego Shamatava (5-11-1).

Mendy vs. Odikadze

In front of his home fans Mendy erases his way back into the winning column with stoppage of Georgian Odikadze. It was an easy night for Mendy. He put southpaw Odikadze on the floor in the first with a body punch and then repeated that series with body punches in the fifth and sixth before the fight was stopped. The 33-year-old Frenchman seemed on his way to a world title fight when he outpointed unbeaten Luke Campbell in 2015 but although he scored further wins against good level European opposition it was Campbell who got the title shot but lost a close decision to Jorge Linares. Mendy faced Campbell again last September but lost on points. He is hoping to build towards a title fight this year. Odikadze suffers his eighth loss by KO/TKO. Any control of boxing in Georgia is loose at best and Odikadze, now 19, was allowed to turn pro at 15 and his role is that of travelling loser.

Achour vs. Shamatava

Just a mild run out for Achour as like Mendy he is rebuilding. He had some problems with the awkward style of the smaller Shamatava and was not at his best after eight months of inactivity. Despite that he was levels above the Georgian and won on scores of 79-72, 79-73 and 78-73. In a 12-0-1 run Achour captured the French, European Union, WBC International and WBC Francophone titles. The run came to an end last May when he lost a wide unanimous decision to David Lemieux in Montreal. Like fellow neighbourhood fighter Mendy Achour is in a rebuilding phase. Shamatava is 0-6-1 in his last 7 fights.

Fight of the week (Significance): Keith Thurman’s winning return adds another factor to an already star stacked welterweight division.

Fight of the week (Entertainment): Xu can vs. Jesus Rojas gave plenty of action with honourable mention to Tugstsogt Nyambayar vs. Claudio Marrero

Fighter of the week: Keith Thurman with honourable mention to Can Xu-or is it Xu Can?

Punch of the week: Some good ones. The body punch from Uruguayan hope Amilcar Vidal was special as were the thunderbolts from Araik Marutjan and Alberto Melian. Fight finishers all.

Upset of the week: Can Xu’s win over Jesus Rojas

Prospect watch: Canadian-based Kazak Sadriddin Akhmedov with a 7-0, 7wins by KO/TKO and I will take a gamble on new pro Lexson Mathieu who looks a bit special

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