By: Sean Crose
The Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York hosted the WBA light heavyweight title match between Dmitry Bivol and Joe Smith Jr on Saturday night. First, however, the 17-1 Callum Johnson of Britain fought the 29-2 New Yorker Seanie Monaghan in a ten round light heavyweight affair. Johnson moved forward and took advantage in the first, hitting Monaghan cleanly throughout. Monaghan got bloodied and battered in the second. Then he got knocked down twice. He survived the round, however, then insisted to his corner that he wanted to continue. About thirty seconds into the third, referee Charlie Fitch stepped in and stopped the fight – wisely – for Monaghan was sustaining serious damage.
Photo Credit:Matchroom Boxing Twitter Account
Next up, the 25-0-3 Maurice Hooker defended his WBO super lightweight title against the 21-0-1 Mikkel LesPierre in a scheduled 12 round affair. Hooker, who had great difficulty making weight for the fight, edged the first through ring generalship and some clean shots. The second round was rather exciting, with both men landing well, but, again, Hooker looked to have edged it. LesPierre seemed rather lethargic in the third, essentially letting the champion have his way. The fourth pretty much saw more of the same, with Hooker dominating. LesPierre tried to become more aggressive in the fifth, but ended up getting the worst of it, thanks to Hooker’s power punching.
LesPierre proceeded to up the intensity level of his aggression in the sixth, but was unable to capitalize fully, as Hooker simply appeared to be the more skillful fighter. The seventh and eighth rounds followed the same general pattern as the entire fight had up until that point. Then, in the ninth, Hooker dropped his man with a body shot. LesPierre was able to get up and beat the count, but time was running out on his hopes to win a world title. There had been talk that Hooker’s weight drain would impact his performance, but the tenth and eleventh rounds indicated the Texan was easily holding onto his WBO belt. Hooker cruised through the twelfth, then went on to be awarded a UD win.
It was time for the main event. Smith, 24-2, entered the ring a prohibitive underdog. Still, like the 15-0 Bivol, Smith spent the minutes before the opening bell wearing a look of icy determination. The first round saw Smith employing effective aggression while Bivol was able to land the cleaner shots. Bivol outskilled Smith in the second. Although Smith may have been the tougher of the two fighters, Bivol’s skill set told the tale. Still, Smith wasn’t without his own skill set (no pure brawler, he), which meant Bivol had to be cautious and fight smart, which the Russian did in the third. At the end of the fourth, it appeared as if Smith might have to employ roughhouse tactics in order to start making an impact on his foe.
Smith bulled his way through the fifth, almost taking the round. Bivol, however, actually began moving his man back in the sixth. Bivol’s high level of expertise was clearly above his opponent’s. Furthermore, it appeared as if Bivol was beginning to physically break Smith down in the seventh. The eighth saw Bivol continue to beat his man up while refusing to brawl with the rugged Smith. So frustrated was Smith by the ninth, that he tossed Bivol to the floor. The fight had gotten monotonous by the tenth – but it was at the end of that round that Smith truly rocked his man. Bivol actually began to stagger back to his corner. Riding on momentum, Smith was in full attack mode in the eleventh. Bivol spent the round looking a bit diminished, possibly giving it to Smith. Bivol came back to dominate the final round – even having Smith hurt on the ropes when the final bell sounded.
The defending champion ended up leaving the ring with his belt, courtesy of a unanimous decision nod from the judges.