By Johnny Walker
In the first bout of an action-packed Showtime card entitled Knockout KIngs II at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas, tonight, Keith “One Time” Thurman (20-0, 18 KOs) took on fellow unbeaten welterweight Diego Chaves (22-0, 18 KOs).
The fight started out at a torrid pace, with Chaves perhaps edging the first two rounds via his use of combinations, while Thurman, true to his nickname, looked for one big shot to end the fight. In the third round, Chaves bloodied and perhaps broke Thurman’s nose, and from that point on Thurman changed his game plan, backing off and boxing more instead of merely winging shots.
The middle rounds were close and tough to score, but the general feeling was that Thurman was slowly getting the better of the action, the slower pace favoring Thurman. Round eight saw Chaves score with some solid body shots, but Thurman took them well. Then in round nine, Thurman dropped Chaves with his own hard left hand to the body, and the writing was on the wall.
Chaves gamely came out for round nine, but he was still badly weakened, and a flurry from Thurman ending with a hard right hand to the head dropped Chaves again, for the last time. Referee Luis Pabon waved off the fight at 0:28 of round nine, giving Chaves his first loss as a professional.
The next fight was a war between Omar Figueroa (24-0-1) and Nihito Arakawa (24-2-1) that was fought in a metaphorical phone booth from beginning to end. Figueroa obviously had an advantage in the power department, but to his great frustration, could not persuade the incredibly tough Arakawa to give up. In the second round, Figueroa caught his opponent with a hard counter shot that staggered Arakawa, who took a knee and thus was charged with a knockdown. Yet Arakawa continued to press the action, standing chest to chest with Figueroa and scoring with some decent shots of his own.
In the third round, Figueroa was cut by an unintentional headbutt, but the flowing blood didn’t seem to hamper him unduly as the fight progressed. Round four was a good one for Arakawa, who scored with a succession of body shots. But round five saw Figueroa again hurt Arakawa with a hard right hand; in the following round, Figueroa gave it his all in trying to finish the fight, scoring with another hard right hand that sent Arakawa flying into the ropes, which held him up, and referee Laurence Cole giving Figueroa credit for another knockdown.
From that point on, as exciting as some of the action was, Arakawa’s toughness but lack of power made this a dangerous spectacle, as Figueroa dealt out some vicious punishment that left his opponent’s left eye badly swollen. The fight could have (and maybe should have) been stopped from the 10th round on, for the health of both fighters, as Arakawa had literally no chance to overpower Figueroa, who was fighting, as we found out later, with injured hands.
Still, both men continued their ragged war until the end, with Figueroa winning big by scores of 118-108 (twice) and 119-107.
In the final televised bout of the night, rising welterweight Jesus Soto Karass (28-8-3) took on slumping Andre Berto. From the start, Soto Karass took control, hurting Berto in the first round with a big overhand right. Berto fought back in round two, as Soto Karass began to lean in too closely, allowing Berto more scoring opportunities, but he corrected that problem in the next round, scoring on Berto with uppercuts and body shots. In round four, Soto Karass trapped Berto on the ropes and hurt him badly — Berto looked a beaten, weary man as the round ended.
Round five saw Soto Karass continuing to annihilate Berto, who was now experiencing problems with his right shoulder. By round seven, Berto was fighting mainly with his left hand, and he actually seemed to adjust to the situation and up his level at this point. The fight then grew to be a closer affair, but Soto Karass was still dealing out far more power shots and overall punishment.
Berto found reason for hope in round eleven, however, when a shot on the belt line that Soto Karass felt was low put him on the floor for a count from referee Jon Schorle. However, rather than back off, Soto Karass came firing back with an offensive blitz for the rest of the round that could have conceivably made it a 10-9 rather than a 10-8 round for Berto.
Even though his corner advised him to box the final round, Soto Karass knew better, and refused to leave this one in the hands of the judges. At 48 seconds into the round, he nailed the game Berto (28-3, 22 KOs) with a perfect short counter left hook that floored Berto and ended the fight, bleary-eyed and unsteady on his feet when he did arise from the mat.
And a good thing for Soto Karass that he made this decision, as the judges somehow had the fight ruled a draw, with judge Michael Mitchell inexplicably scoring it 105-103 for Berto, and another judge, Hubert Minn, scoring it 114-114. Both scores, in light of the dominance shown by Soto Karass against a one-handed fighter for most of the night, seemed utterly ridiculous and contradicted the scores of all the writers seated at ringside.
Thankfully, Soto Karass made sure we wouldn’t have one more outrageous decision for boxing fans to discuss tonight.