Hey Sports fans last night I wasn’t in a tavern, social cub or betting parlor, but reporting ringside in a packed house at Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn New York where IBF super middleweight champion James DeGale and WBC Champion Badou Jack engaged in the 168 pound title unification and broke the ice on the first meaningful fight of the New Year. Both combatants easily came in under the 168 pound weight limit yesterday and electrified the audience with a memorable see-saw battle that at night’s end, was ruled a majority draw.
In a boxing sense, there were no real losers as both champs put up a terrific battle and get to go home with the title they entered ring with. Floyd Mayweather, JR. who shared promotions with Dibella Entertainment and Showtime was madder than a wet hornet that Jack didn’t win and called it a robbery calling for action against judges to hopefully bring an end to horrible scoring. He cited both of his own fights against Oscar De la Hoya and Canelo Alvarez as examples of what he aims to use his influence to stop. Only problem with that assessment is that lovable Floyd was way off his mark. While yours truly had thought DeGale had the lead by a slight margin, I was surprised to add my score sheet and found it a draw at 113 – 113.
Both men were making the third defense of their respected titles. Both entered the ring to an ocean of cheers with Jack coming out first in camouflage mini robe while his nemesis wore a tee shirt with childhood moniker emblazed on the back “Chunky,” and sans robe.
Arthur Mercante, JR. was given the ref detail for main event and would have his hands full on many occasions.
Round 1: Both champs meet in ring center with pawing jabs trying to nullify each other’s footwork as DeGale’s southpaw stance was always in perpetual motion as he either pivoted or circled ring using every inch of canvass. Unlike other fighters who might get tagged as “runners,” James has an unusual style of stopping in midflight with guard held high to engage the pocket and unleash combos with both hands. Jack is a classic boxer with excellent balance who won’t commit himself to reckless mayhem. The styles complimented each other nicely for two tall foes with good wing span and reach. At the 2:30 mark James landed a straight left hand that produced a flash knockdown as it landed flush on Badou’s jaw straight on. He rose quickly and was given the eight count. DeGale’s round, 10-8
Round 2: Using the formula that brought him success DeGale continued his ceaseless circular motion of flicking jabs and then unleashing five punch salvos while Jack tried to work behind a stiff jab and firing mostly one/two combos. His best work was accomplished when he let go some stinging right crosses to DeGale’s ribs. DeGale’s round, 10–9
Round 3: James still in high gear and unleashing five punch combos. Badou has now tried to change course of fight by throwing heavier leather in hopes one big shot will change the flow of contest. He misses all telegraphed bombs in his forward pursuit. DeGale’s round, 10-9
Round 4: For the first 2 thirds of round Jack is quicker with a sense of urgency to get back into fight. Most of everything he tries in first minute falls short of its target. While he battled well in middle of round some savvy combos by the IBF champ help sway the round. DeGale’s round, 10-9
Round 5: Great night of fistic violence as a real fight breaks out in ring center. Both champions have been called to duty and both are trying to end matters here and now. I don’t like to ever award an even round, but if ever there was one, this is it. I score it 10- 10…….but could easily understand how a judge could give it to Jack at 10-9. (Mercante takes hell of a left hook from errant punch by Jack at the bell!)
Round 6: The round starts off right where the fifth round ended, ring center in phone booth warfare and the ringside crowd on their feet. Jack is now fighting DeGale’s style and letting his hands go with more complete combos. When forced into the trenches he is getting extra leverage on his body shots, especially the right cross to ribs by taking a half step backwards to allow proper room for trajectory. It’s working and slowing James down. Jack’s round, 10-9
Round 7: Another see/saw battle of wills that I’m sure confused many who were scoring. Once again Degale steals a round in a superbly fought stanza by digging in last thirty seconds and pushing his man back with blazing combinations. DeGale’s round: 10-9
Round 8: Jack goes to body and continues to take some spring and life out of James’s legs. He rocks his foe on several occasions when he remembers to finish body attack with combos unleashed upstairs as well. At the 2:20 mark DeGale has his mouth guard knocked out. Referee Mercante waits for break in action to replace it. Jack’s round, 10-9
Round 9: James somehow regroups and is back on his legs using full ring again. He is winning the round by volume but it isn’t going unnoticed that Bando looks stronger and his punches are landing with more authority if not less frequently. DeGale again loses his mouth guard with 47 seconds remaining. Ref doesn’t bother to stop bout for its implementation. DeGale’s round: 10-9 …but press row is now wondering aloud if he can hold onto lead or is he slowing down enough to be stopped. Incredibly Badou is looking stronger.
Round 10: Once again both champions are going for the win trading big flurries amid heavy leather. The round is being contested in ring center with neither man giving the other room to breathe. At the one minute mark Degale is rocked by a punch. At the bell, Jack catches DeGale with an uppercut as he is defenseless with Mercante holding both his arms separating the fighters. It’s unintentional but caught his attention just the same. Badou’s round, 10-9
Round 11: Ringside Doc has taken a 30 second look at DeGale. The fight resumes at the bell. James legs are clearly not what they were and the wear and tear of the body shots he absorbed as well as all the mileage he added with footwork and he is quickly running of steam and rounds. Bando is throwing the harder, cleaner shots as they are locked in pocket and the carnage of style now favoring the WBC champion who has proven to have the better beard on this night. Jack’s round, 10-9
Round 12: The two engage in a memorable battle royal for both belts. Crowd once again is on their feet. Jack has the forward momentum going for him as he has turned the tide in his favor at closing. Question reverberating in my mind is unless he can stop James here and now could he possibly win a decision. Jack connects with a short right cross followed by a grazing left hook that takes DeGale off his feet and onto the seat of his pants in a neutral corner. He is sporting a small gash under left eye. He beats the count and realizes if he is stopped here it’s all for naught. Amazingly with twenty seconds to final bell he summons his champion heart and unleashes several final volleys that keep Badou from finishing the task at hand and preventing a stoppage. Jack’s round, 10-8
Judge Glen Feldman had DeGale winning by a 114-112 margin. Judges Julie Lederman and Steve Weisfield both scored it 113-113 making it a majority draw. If ever there was a case for wishing we still had fifteen rounder’s to settle an issue this was it.
Why not just rematch? Well this was hard to digest without a tall Café’ Patron on ice but Jack’s promoter cried foul. Seems Floyd Mayweather, JR. thinks his man has now been robbed twice at super middleweight and put the nix on a rematch citing that Badou is now a light heavyweight. Badou claimed he would fight anyone, anywhere but sort of feigned a no grin at once again fighting at super middleweight. He matter of factly ok’d a 175 pound rematch while DeGale who was quite vocal on applauding his co-champion for outstanding skills, chin and comeback was still looking to promote a rematch while both were still bathed in blood, sweat and tears from highly entertaining and memorable match.
Afterwards James was brought to hospital where he was diagnosed with a perforated ear drum. He had one tooth knocked out which he said prevented him from biting down properly on his mouth piece. He required several stiches on his check. Badou sported only a grin and was unmarked at bouts conclusion.
The co – mainevent was a barn burner also that officially ushered in the Gervonta Davis era. Davis who is nick named “Tank” and is touted as a Mayweather, JR. protégé lived up to the billing and high expectations with a systematic beat down of IBF Super featherweight champion Jose the “Sniper” Pedraza. The 5’8 and a half inch belt holder sported a 22-0, 12 KO’s entering the ring with a long lean 70“reach. His pin point attacks, accurate combos and fast hands were reminiscent flashes of Diego Corrales as was his power, timing and movement.
Gervonta who stands 5’6” with a 69” reach was able to score almost at will from opening bell. His record of 16-0, 15 KO’s was quickly coming into focus as a legit resume as his skills were on display from opening bell while he dismantled the champion.
The challenger took the first four rounds rather easily keeping his foe off balance with hand speed that matched the champion’s but with timing that beguiled him. His uppercuts seemed to have radar and rarely missed Pedraza’s chin. Tank mugged inside the ring just enough to showcase his skillset without turning off fans or actually showboating. While you will see an occasional Mayweather, JR. shoulder roll this kid is unique and has a style and flair unto himself. Looking this good against Pedraza was a statement and a declaration in progress.
The fifth round Jose played matador to Gervonta’s bull as they both dared each other to let their hands go and fight mid ring. The champion would take this round by 10-9, but no other.
The sixth saw Davis reclaim control with relative ease and rock the champion on several occasions. His use of angles was nothing short of brilliant as he totally befuddled Pedraza from blind sides.
In the seventh round the champion had both eyes closing into slits and was caught flush with a short right cross. He went down on seat of his pants and was up at count of nine when referee Ricky Gonzalez called a halt to the slaughter.
Afterwards Pedraza gave praise to his conqueror and said apologetically he used the wrong style tonight. He also claimed he took fight on too short of notice having had started training at 155 pounds.
Gervonta who showcased his southpaw blend of angles and power promised to be a new force in boxing. His promoter and mentor Floyd Mayweather, JR. was interviewed in ring after victory and said he was absent from this training camp to allow Davis complete concentration on his first crack at a title. When asked if Davis was indeed the future of boxing, Mayweather’s hair trigger and emphatic response was “Absafuckinlutely!”
In the prelim bout Amanda “the Real Deal” Serrano from Puerto Rico took on Yazmin Rivas in defense of her WBO Jr. Featherweight title. In an exciting nonstop action brawl both combatants came forward trading leather with wide hooks and crosses. If there was a deciding factor throughout that dictated how the close rounds were being scored was Amanda’s stiff occasional jab, tighter footwork as she maintained more snap on her punches. Yazmin who lacks refined skills as a boxer but she is a thoroughbred as a fighter through and through. She refused to be knocked off her feet let alone step backwards and give up ground.
A wonderful argument could be made pro and con for women’s boxing. Serrano was hoping to showcase her skills and get women’s boxing back on the air with a good competitive match. To that extent, she succeeded. I have never been a huge fan of women fighting, but believe everyone has a right to earn a living however they see fit. Witnessing these ladies fight their hearts out at a blistering pace under swollen eyes I couldn’t help but think what hearts they had as well as if the payoff was worth it all. The southpaw champion won all but two rounds on my unofficial scorecard but easily won a unanimous decision with scores of 97-93, 98-92, and 99-91. Serrano upped her record to 31-1-1, 23 KO’s while Rivas who has never been stopped fell to 35-10-1, 10 KO’s.
Both boxers did the sport proud and displayed championship heart and fortitude. One must simply admire what it takes to train and go all out with so little reward on the back end. Bravo ladies! Hope you both rest up and come back to thrill us again soon.
In a fill in bout two young welters fought to a six round decision. Julian Sosa who has a Brooklyn following was being hailed as a new sensation while outscoring Gabriel Solario by scores of 57-57, 59-54, and 58-56. Gabriel is built like a fireplug all chest and no abdomen, yet he could box and match hand speed if not angles with heavily hyped Sosa. While Julian looks to be a boxer to watch he still is of the novice variety for a pro as he advanced to 7-0, with 2 KO’s. Gabriel exists the night with a 2-3-1 ledger. I hope Sosa isn’t rushed too quickly and his management allows him plenty of time to develop all that natural skill.
The night started off with 23 year old middleweight Imnanuwel Aleem stopping heavily favored levegen Kyytrov in six brutal rounds after having dropped and nearly knocking out his foe in the first round. The one sided bout was officially stopped at the 1:20 mark. The 5’9” Aleem takes a step forward in recognition as he was awarded the vacant WBC Silver Middleweight title. No, I haven’t heard of it either but it helps this kid get ranked and perhaps on Gennady Golovkin’s radar. He advances his record to 17-0-1 with 10 KO’s. His 28 year old victim falls to 14-1,12 KO’S.
The new boxing year is just getting underway.
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