By Tyson Bruce
At the much anticipated four fight card at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, fans got to witness a little big of everything. The sold out Brooklyn crowd observed two extremely rough and tumble affairs in the Bika-Dirrell and Alexander-Porter fights, and two master class boxing exhibitions in the Lara-Trout and Malignaggi-Judah bouts.
The first bout of the evening between the always formidable alphabet titlist Sakio Bika and the up and coming Anthony Dirrell got the adrenalin of the enthusiastic Brooklyn crowd pumping as they put on a back and forth slugfest that featured a great deal of heavy trading, dramatic ebb and flow, and some flagrant fouling (a trademark of Bika fights) mixed in. After a decent first round by the physically stronger Bika, Dirrell got into the fight in a big way by landing some terrific counter punches against his wild swinging opponent. Bika, who represented a tremendous step up in opposition for Dirrell, looked a little predictable in the early going and was dropped by a vicious right hand by Dirrell in the fifth stanza. Bika, much to his credit, showed tremendous resolve and went out to win the very next round with excellent bodywork and a wild but highly unpredictable attack.
The wild slugfest that had taken place over the first six rounds gave way to more of a demur pace in the second half of the bout. Dirrell has never before been past eight rounds and it showed, as Bika won many of the later rounds simply by letting his hands go more often. However, Bika didn’t do himself any favors as his over aggression saw him get a point deducted for a low blow and very nearly got himself DQ’d. The fight was really so close that it could have gone to either man, with the official score reading 114-112 Bika, 116-110 Dirrell, 113-113 resulting in a draw. This observer had Bika slightly ahead by a 114-113 margin, but it was the kind of result that would be difficult to really complain about.
The next bout of the evening between Erislandy Lara and Austin Trout pitted the two most talented fighters on the card against one another. However, great talent doesn’t always result in a great fight, as this highly skilled chess match put the patience of the bloodthirsty Brooklyn crowd to the test. The one thing that you cannot complain about or deny, however, was the sublime boxing skills of Lara, who was facing arguably the toughest opponent of his career and put on a boxing masterpiece. Trout is traditionally a highly effective counter puncher but against the faster and more technically proficient Lara he was forced to be the aggressor. It was a style nightmare for him, as Lara used his deft footwork, sharp jab, and excellent straight left hand to cause Trout fits. A fight that was essentially devoid of action was broken open when Lara very nearly knocked Trout out in the eleventh round with an excellent counter left hand that left the American sprawled out on the canvas. The scores were pretty much academic in this one, as Lara cruised to a wide 118-109, 117-110, 117-110 points victory.
In a card that was full of what many experts would label as dead even fights, Devon Alexander was a definitive favorite going into his bout with young contender Shawn Porter. It turns of that the experts were wrong, as Porter showed a level of diversity, strength, determination, and hand speed that many didn’t believe he possessed. This, quite simply, was a very brutal and physically grueling affair with Porter wading forward and getting in the grill of the defending titlist. Porter managed to stun the usually sturdy chinned Alexander in rounds three and four and often got the better of direct exchanges because of his surprising speed advantage. The bout featured a great deal of mauling on the inside and accidental (or intentional) head butts, which left cuts over both men’s eyes. Despite losing a few of the middle and late rounds, Porter generally carried the day with his superior determination and strength. The judges had the fight 115-113, 116-112, 116-112, with this observer agreeing with the 115-113 verdict.
The main event of the evening between cross borough rivals saw Paulie Malignaggi of Bensonhurst give a good old fashion boxing lesson to rival Brownsville resident Zab Judah. Going in, many people thought that Zab’s obvious advantage in punching power would separate him from Malignaggi it what was otherwise a virtually even matchup. This couldn’t have been further from the truth as apart from a flash knockdown (largely the product of legs getting tangled together) in the second round, the “Magic Man” put on a virtuoso boxing clinic, landing a beautiful variety of punches that were always captained by a sharp and penetrating jab. Paulie was so dominant that one could argue that this was the most impressive performance of his long career.
With the win, he leaves the door open for one or several more big fights. Judah on the other hand looked every bit of thirty six years of age, as he struggled to pull the proverbial trigger throughout the fight and was relegated to looking for one big left hand from about the forth round on. With his speed and reflexes, the corner stone of his game, clearly on a rapid decline Judah would probably be wise to call it a day. He has had a wonderful career.