By: Sean Crose
HBO’s Boxing After Dark kicked off on Saturday night by running a replay of the Ryan Burnett-Zhanat Zhakiyanov 12 round bantamweight title unifier, which went down earlier in the day at the SSE Arena in Burnett’s home territory of Belfast, Northern Ireland. The first three rounds were, as HBO’s Harold Lederman claimed, hard to judge. The fighting was in close, fairly fast paced and very physical. The fourth round was also hard to call, though one got the feeling that, if Zhakiyanov, 27-1, employed his jab a bit more, he would more effectively rise to the occasion.
Burnett, 17-0, seemed to edge the fourth and fifth. The Ricky Hatton trained Zhakiyanov was performing well, but Burnett looked to have the edge – his footwork a bit more proficient, his punches a bit sharper overall. Rounds 6 through 9 remained close, but Burnett continued to appear to have the advantage – albeit a slight advantage. In the final three rounds, it was obvious that Burnett’s use of distance was a key part of the fight. Zhakiyanov could land and have his moments, but he couldn’t have enough of them. Sure enough, the Irishman’s slightly superior skill set led him to a unanimous decision win and Shakiyanov’s WBA strap to add to his own IBF title belt.
The broadcast then went live to the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, New York, where Rhode Islander Demitrius Andrade, 24-0, faced off against Maryland’s Alantez Fox, 23-0-1 in a 12 round middleweight affair. Alantez had a significant height advantage, but Andrade was coming to impress in his middleweight debut. And, sure enough, Andrade rocked his man immediately after the opening bell. Andrade impressively went to the body as Fox hung on the ropes. Although Fox survived the round, it was a very impressive opening for Andrade. It may have been the opportunity of a lifetime for Alantez, but through the second and third, it was clear that Andrade’s power and ring generalship was, up until that moment, overwhelming.
Andrade continued to dominate the first half of the fight. “He doesn’t want it any more,” his corner said after the 6th – and it may well have been true. In the 7th, Andrade actually went down. It might well have been a slip, but the ref declared it was a knock down. Andrade got right back up and continued to dominate the rest of the round, along with the following three. By the championship rounds, Fox continued to perform, or underperform, as he had throughout the fight. It was an easy unanimous decision win for Andrade, whose power may be an issue if he continues to stay at middleweight.
It was time for the main event. Panama’s 22-1 Jezreel Corrales faced San Juan, Puerto Rico’s 18-0 Alberto Machado in a 12-round super featherweight affair. Corrales was, until Friday’s weigh in, the WBA World Super Featherweight champion. Rather than losing the belt in the ring, he lost it on the scales. Heavy or not, though, Corrales started well, hitting fast and strong throughout the first two rounds. Machado was able to catch his man in the third, but Corrales kept bulling forward. Corrales kept up the pace in the fourth, and, in the fifth, dropped his man outright. Machado got up, be he was clearly being overwhelmed.
“This is simply not up to the standard of the main event on HBO,” Max Kellerman said with refreshing honesty in the 6th. Almost on cue, Machado rocked his man immediately after. He then rocked his man again seconds later. The fight was changing course – and getting quite exciting. Corrales came back and nailed his man in the seventh. Machado, however, suddenly dropped Corrales in the eight. Even more surprising, perhaps, the ref stopped the fight after a rattled Corrales got back to his feet. With a brilliant knockout victory, Machado takes hold of the WBA Super Featherweight title.
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