Saturday evening got under way in a memorable night of fistic mayhem as both cable giants HBO and Showtime went to war of their own showcasing double headers of giants in the smaller weight classes. Four bouts matched for pure boxing fanatics who were forced to keep remote in hand and channel surf in tandem like a furious exchange between two brawlers.
First up Showtime got on the scoreboard when two time champion Mikey Garcia stepped up to lightweight division to challenge WBC southpaw champ Dejan Zlaticnin. Friday both men weighed in at 134.5 and put their unbeaten records on the line. Dejan who stands 5’4” was conceding a three inch height differential as well as a three inch reach disadvantage to the challenger and from the opening bell Garcia used every bit of both along with terrific balance and timing to quickly wear down the champion. Referee Tony Weeks had very little work cut out for himself as Mikey introduced a power jab followed by straight right hands that continually found their mark as he introduced them from ever changing angles. The frustrated belt holder made the night particularly difficult for himself by walking straight into the pocket and into the line of fire.
If you remember the movie Top Gun starring Tom Cruise, Garcia quickly established himself as the “Iceman” character of Val Kilmer. It was said in the flick that he would engage in a dogfight and never once break from perfect formation wearing on his opponent’s nerves until they made a mistake. Garcia never once dared to be dramatic or fancy but in the final minute of third round found a port of entry to deliver a right uppercut through porous defense of Zlaticinin. As the belt holder wobbled in trying to regain his balance Garcia threw a left hook behind it that caught its mark above the ear, then pivoted to a blind angle on front foot and delivered a powerful right hand shot straight from the shoulder which put the champion down for the count. He remained motionless for more than two minutes while ring docs monitored him. Mikey upped his record to 36-0, 30 KO’s.
I called this victory several days ago here for Ringside Report and predict this kid has more belts to strap on in his future to add to his collection. Post-fight ringside Mikey exclaimed he was worried for his opponent’s prolonged prone time on canvass and happy he was not seriously injured. He then went on a non-braggadocios wish to seek out the other belt holders at lightweight this year before moving north in 2018 to invade the junior welterweight division. Now that he once again sent notice, I believe the world was listening.
Meanwhile on HBO, WBC super featherweight champion Takashi Muira took on a truly formidable challenger in the guise of Miguel “Mikey” Roman who owned a warriors ledger of 56-11, 43 KO’s entering the ring. There was a stark contrast in styles and game plans as the southpaw Japanese champion tried to wear his challenger down with wide power shots in juxtaposition of Roman engaging in phone booth warfare with his elbows tucked to his ribs and throwing short inside body punches.
As the rounds wore on it was beginning to look like the challenger had invested more deliberate work that was both scoring points while wearing the champion down. The pace and action were brutal and rounds 7 through 9 it appeared the champion would need to figure a way make his power shots count and force a stoppage or be in jeopardy of losing title on score cards. At the end of tenth round he did just that by landing a hellacious body shot that dropped his foe for a six count. Before action could continue bell rang giving viewers and fighters alike a minute to ponder if he could capitalize on bout changing punch or would challenger once again gain footing inside the gate and continue to rip the body.
In the 11 round the challenger was dropped a second time at halfway mark of round with an eight punch combo ending with body shot.
With two rounds won by 10/8 margin the scoring was much closer but mute as champion ended matters with short left hook to chin at 2 minute mark of final round raising the 32 year old champion’s record to 30-3-2, 23 KO’s. Muira’s heart and power won out over a very game and worthy contender as predicted but in a classic entertaining brawl.
Back on Showtime’s turf a fan frenzied rematch of super featherweights unfolded as undefeated Carl Frampton defended the WBC Belt he lifted from former three division champion Leo Santa Cruz in their last bout where they threw a combined 1,700 punch output winning a decision where two judges gave him a slight edge while one ruled it a draw.
In that entertaining fight Frampton who stands 5’5” gave away both a few inches in height and reach but effectively got inside the champions stance and landed the harder telling shots to earn the nod.
It was not to be this time around as Santa Cruz had made all the necessary adjustments to negate the defending champion from gaining access to his real estate. He kept his stance just wide enough to continually push off his back foot and step into a heavy jab that kept Frampton at arm’s length where he had room to shoot right hand behind it and follow with combinations. The champion often seemed cautious or bewildered as to the proper plan to land his power shots when too far out of the pocket and often would have to wait out a Cruz volley leaving him to counter punch.
While every round was a thrilling testament to all that is great in boxing you could sense the belt holder was just coming up short on too many exchanges which were turning into rounds.
The challenger won back his title with scores of 114-114, and 115-113 twice. Both boxers were remarkably unmarked at bouts conclusion considering the nonstop action and volume of punches thrown.
Both warriors had predicted it would go to a decision and that a rubber match would be warranted to arrive at a clear and decisive winner. Holding true to the bravado Leo Santa Cruz who was as classy as a jubilant winner as I’ve ever seen, held steadfast to the promise of giving Carl another shot while entertaining fans with yet another can’t miss spectacle. The amusing footnote to this bout was that handicappers and I included could not envision on Frampton doing worse or Cruz doing better. After seeing the newly crowned champion make best use of his physical advantages of height and reach it’s hard to picture a turnabout once again as it clearly appears Cruz now has Frampton’s number.
Closing out the night fireworks display HBO scored with a TKO in fans eyes as champion Francisco Vargas met the challenge of highly respected but untested Miguel Berchelt in another super featherweight match up. It didn’t take me long to get back on winning handicap streak as I was only writer on internet who touted an upset.
Miguel the “Scorpion” Berchelt endeared himself to the boxing fraternity with a non-stop assault of the previously undefeated champion and while competitive bloodied Vargas throughout the bout that saw a clash of titan’s box with power and rarely give an inch.
There were two serious issues of contention going into the bout that made it a two sided blade that could cut either way. Miguel had never gone past six rounds in his previous 30-1, 27 KO’s resume. The flipside of coin was Vargas had engaged in two brutal wars in his last two bouts against Orlando Salido and Takashi Muri that were both barn burners and fight of the year candidates. It was fascinating to see the riddle come to fruition as the challenger never folded up his game and as the rounds wore on it became apparent that a stoppage was only a matter of time. It came in the eleventh round. Punch stats had him landing over fifty five percent of his power shots. While even though he has proven to have the heart and skills to compete with on a champion’s level I wouldn’t match him up quite yet with phenom Vasyl Lomachenko who has the dazzling footwork and timing to beguile the new champion at this point in time. Miguel’s reach and combination punching make for an intriguing matchup further down the road.
The night for all its brutal artistry had no losers except for fans. This head to head combat between cable giants for fan supremacy is about as welcome as Oscar De La Hoya preventing Canelo Alvarez from tangling with Gennady Golovkin and is truly a hindrance if they collide again on boxing calendar in same time slots. What should have been a night to remember has left many fans forced to pick one presentation over the other and then having to wait for rebroadcast to see what they missed on opposing channel.
Usually in the business world robust competition is good for all. Damn shame boxing fans often get the dirty end of stick.
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