Usyk vs. Witherspoon, Bivol vs. Castillo Fight Previews
By: William Holmes
Oleksandr Usyk will return to the ring nearly a year after he was last seen competing. On Saturday night he will be facing last minute replacement Chazz Witherspoon at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Illinois. This will be Usyk’s long anticipated heavyweight debut.
Usyk was originally scheduled to face kickboxing legend Tyron Spong, but a positive test for Clomiphene has derailed that match. Instead, thirty eight year old veteran Chazz Witherspoon will be taking his spot.
Eddie Hearn stated at the final press conference, ““When you get a call like I did on Monday that Tyrone Spong had failed a drug test, you need to move quickly or there is a chance that there is no show at all. We want to say a special thank you to Chazz Witherspoon. He has been undefeated for nearly six years now and we have talked to him about a bunch of different fights of the years. He stepped up here to take a shot at Oleksandr Usyk and we are grateful.”
The co-main event of the evening will be between Dmitry Bivol and Lenin Castillo for Bivol’s WBA Light Heavyweight title.
Other fighters on the undercard include Anthony Sims Jr., Jessica McCaskill, Charles Conwell, Patrick Day, and TJ Doheny.
Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing USA
The following is a preview of the co-main event and main event of the evening.
Dmitry Bivol (16-0) vs. Lenin Castillo (20-2-1); WBA Light Heavyweight Title
Dmitry Bivol has been angling for a big fight, but appears to have trouble getting other light heavyweight champions into the ring with him.
He’s 28 years old, three years younger than his opponent, and still in the midst of his athletic prime. Castillo will have about a two inch height advantage on Bivol. Both boxers have moderate power. Castillo has stopped fifteen of his opponents while Bivol has stopped eleven.
Both boxers also have had successful amateur careers. Castillo competed in the 2008 Summer Olympics while Bivol was a Russian Amateur Champion.
Both boxers have been fairly active. They both fought three times in 2018 and once in 2019. However, Bivol has clearly faced the better opposition.
Bivol has defeated the likes of Joe Smith Jr., Jean Pascal, Isaac Chilemba, Sullivan Barrera, Trent Broadhurst, Cedric Agnew, and Samuel Clarkson. Bivol has won three decisions in a row and never tasted defeat as a professional.
Castillo has defeated the likes of Reinaldo Gonzalez, John Cortez, and Aaron Mitchell. His losses were to Marcus Browne and Joseph Williams.
This is a fight that Bivol should win rather decisively. An impressive stoppage may help raise his profile to help him reach his goal of unifying the light heavyweight titles.
Oleksandr Usyk (16-0) vs. Chazz Witherspoon (38-3); Heavyweight Division
The original planned fight between Usyk and Spong was intriguing in that it put together two combat sport athletes from different genres in a ring together. Usyk was still considered the favorite, but it would have been interesting.
Unfortunately for fight fans, Witherspoon does not appear to bring the same intrigue into this bout as Spong did.
Witherspoon is thirty eight years old, past his prime, and will only have a slight one inch height advantage despite this being Usyk’s first fight in the heavyweight division. Not only is Usyk six years younger than Witherspoon, but he also has the edge in amateur experience. Usyk was a gold medalist in the 2012 Summer Olympics while Witherspoon was a former Golden Gloves Heavyweight Champion, but nearly fifteen years ago.
Both boxers have moderate power, with Witherspoon having twenty nine stoppages on his resume to Usyk’s twelve. However, Usyk has been more active despite this being his first fight in 2019. Usyk fought three times in 2018 and twice in 2017. Witherspoon fought once in 2019, once in 2018 and zero times in 2017.
Witherspoon has wins against Jonathan Haggler, Ty Cobb, and Santander Silgado but nobody really of note. He has losses to Seth Mitchell, Tony Thompson, and Chris Arreola.
Usyk has defeated the likes of Tony Bellew, Murat Gassiev, Mairis Briedis, Marco Huck, Michael Hunter, Thabiso Mchunu, Krzysztof Glowacki, Pedro Rodriguez, and Johnny Muller. He has no defeats as a profressional.
Unfortunately, this appears to be a fight that Usyk should win rather easily. They say every fighter has a puncher’s chance, and that might be the only chance that Witherspoon has on Saturday.
Abraham Nova Stops Castillo in the First
by: Paul Yates
Super-featherweight contender Abraham Nova scored an easy first round knockout over Luis Castillo last night at The Encore Boston Harbor casino. A single, straight right cross to the jaw dropped Castillo to one knee, where he remained shaking his head in pain as the referee tolled the ten count The time was 2:42. The victory represents Nova’s first successful defense of his NABA super-featherweight title and improves his record to 16-0, including 12 KO’s. Castillo, a native of Mexico, falls to 20-4 with 15 KO’s.
From the opening bell, the bout proved to be a mismatch. Although the 6’0″ Castillo enjoyed a significant height and reach advantage, it was immediately clear that he lacked the speed, agility, power, and skill to compete with a fighter in Nova’s class. The difference in physical strength was clear just from observing the pair, as Castillo’s frame appeared skinny — even frail — in comparison to Nova’s heavily heavily muscled back, shoulders, and upper arms. At one point Castillo backed Nova against the ropes and opened fire with both hands, but lacked the power to do any damage to the Puerto Rican born NABA champion. During skirmishing in center ring, Nova had no difficulty finding holes in his lanky opponent’s guard. Sensing Castillo’s vulnerability, Nova maneuvered the Mexican against the ropes and ended matters promptly with a fast, bazooka-like right hand.
Photo Credit: Emily Harney/Fightography
Nova is rated 6th worldwide by the WBO, and matches against world-class opposition will definitely come before the medium term future. So far, Nova has not been tested against high caliber fighters as a professional. In no way did tonight’s bout qualify as a measure of Nova’s potential against top flight opponents. Castillo was simply too far out of his depth to give Nova any kind of test. Therefore, Nova’s devastating performance tells us nothing that we did not already know about him. As for the weights, Nova scaled 129.6 lbs against 130 lbs for Castillo.
On the undercard, two other rising prospects scored impressive knockouts. Middleweight Carlos Gongora looked like a ferocious uncaged tiger as he blasted Alan Zavala into a first round TKO defeat. At welterweight, Brian Ceballo put on a brilliant display of speed, agility, and boxing ability in scoring a fourth round knockout over Luis Eduardo Florez.
Gongora, now 17-0 with 13 KO’s, jumped on Zavala from the opening bell. Spreading his feet wide and bending low at the knees, Gongora packed maximum power into all his left-handed punches. Zavala demonstrated quick foot movement on the retreat in addition to utilizing agile, fluid upper-body movement on defense, but Gongora had no trouble cutting off the ring and blasting the Mexican on the ropes. The end came when Gongora floored Zavala with a crackling left hook to the head. Zavala managed to beat the count, but looked badly hurt as he arose and the referee signaled the end at 2:05 of the round.
Billed as the “South American middleweight champion” upon entering the ring, Gongora is now ready to vastly upgrade the quality of his opposition. His next logical career move would be to face tough, experienced fringe contenders in order to pick up a WBA, WBC, WBO, or IBF regional belt, after which he will be ready to crash the world ratings. The Ecuadorian, who weighed 159.2 lbs., now lives in Boston and is definitely a fighter to watch: he is probably headed for high status in boxing. Zavala, who deserves respect for being a tough, competent clubfighter, weighed 157.6 lbs and his record falls to 15-4 with 13 KO’s.
Ceballo moved his record to 10-0, including 5 KO’s by flooring Florez with a single left hook to the body. The blow, which was preceded by a left-handed feint to the head, took the wind out of Florez, who fell to his arms and knees on the canvas. Florez never stirred as he was counted out by the referee, the ending coming at 2:33 of the fourth. Ceballo exhibited full control of the action throughout the fight, relying on lightning-quick speed of foot to evade his Colombian opponent’s occasional attempts to land power punches.
After an uneventful first round in which Ceballo proved his vastly superior speed and agility, the action picked up in the second. Ceballo, a former amateur standout from Brooklyn, became progressively more aggressive as he chased Florez around the ring. Constantly spearing Florez with blindingly fast left jabs , Ceballo never stopped initiating exchanges as he sought to find openings to throw power punches. Florez showed ring savvy by executing quick, sophisticated defense maneuvers, but he lacked the hand speed and coordination to land any punches against Ceballo. By the third round, Florez’s facial expression signaled fatigue and fading self-confidence. Still, the ending came very suddenly and unexpectedly.
The weights were 149.4 lbs for Ceballo against 152.6 lbs for Florez, whose record falls to 24-14, with 20 KO’s. The win was easy for Ceballo, as Florez is essentially a professional opponent who has served as cannon fodder in the past for big names like Miguel Berchelt, Regis Prograis, and Anthony Peterson. But still, considering the vast disparity in professional exposure (Florez has been fighting for eight years), the victory is a meaningful one for Ceballo at this early stage in his career. Without doubt, Ceballo is moving quickly and he should soon be pitted against tough fringe contenders in matches for regional titles. This writer believes that Ceballo will be rated among the world’s top-15 contenders with in the next one to two years.
In a welterweight bout, Khiry Todd of Lynn improved his record to 9-1 (7 KO’s) by knocking out Alex Duarte at 2:41 of the first round. A sudden right hand to the body forced Duarte to his hands and knees, where he was counted out at 2:41 of the round. Until the ending, Todd demonstrated superior speed and athleticism against his Brazilian opponent, who fought back aggressively but ineffectively. Duarte, now 14-8-1 with 6 KO’s, showed a rigid, slow punching style and consequently the fleet-footed Todd dodged his blows with ease. Todd, who weighed 147.8 lbs, exhibited speedy upper-body movement on the defense in addition to using his left jab effectively while on the attack. Duarte weighed 145.8 lbs.
James Perella, a former amateur star from Mansfield, scored a fourth round TKO over Argentina’s Jose Aubel in a welterweight fight. Most noteworthy about this fight was the vast height disparity between the two boxers: the 5’1″ Aubel appeared to be almost a foot shorter than the tall, lanky Perella. For most of the bout Perella, 147 lbs., easily dominated his muscular opponent, who looked like a weightlifter and fought out of a low, awkward crouch. However, Perella did not show the same level of efficiency that he has demonstrated in past bouts. The southpaw Aubel sometimes pierced Perella’s guard with slow, heavy lefts. Perella also missed with many punches, and despite landing his vaunted left-hook frequently, did not have an easy time putting his over-matched opponent away. Perella managed to knock down Aubel once in the first and again in the third, before pounding Aubel to the canvas again in the fourth. Upon being floored for the third and final time, Aubel complained that he had been hit behind the head, but the referee did not agree and waived the fight off at the 1:29 mark. Perella is now 5-0 with 4 KO’s; he weighed 147 lbs. Aubel, who fought valiantly and made the most of his limited ability, falls to 8-6 (7 KO’s) and weighed 146.4 lbs.
The card was rounded out by three other bouts, each scheduled for four rounds. At cruiserweight, James Perkins and Aaron Trecell Smith fought to a draw. The final scores were 39-37, 38-38, and 38-38. Perkins weighed 185.2 lbs against 186.2 lbs for Smith. Both fighters are from the greater Boston area, and were making their debuts. In a lightweight bout, Jonathan Depina stopped Michigan’s Robbie Thomas at 1:13 of round three. Depina, from Boston, weighed 134 lbs and his record is 1-0 (1 KO). Thomas, who is now 0-2 (no KO’s) weighed 137.2 lbs. In a free-swinging junior-middleweight bout between two debutantes, Brian Urday outpointed Greg Bono. The scorecards read 40-36, 39-37, and 39-37. Urday is from Whitman, and weighed 152 lbs. Bono, a Watertown resident, weighed 153.2
Tonight’s event was promoted by Murphy’s Boxing, and based on this writer’s estimate, drew a crowd of well over 1,000 fans. According to ringside talk, the promoter is rumored to have another event planned for this same venue in November.
PCB on FS1 Preview: Devon Alexander vs. Walter Castillo; Miguel Cruz vs. David Grayton
by B.A. Cass
Tomorrow, Tuesday, Nov 21, Premier Boxing Champions brings us another Toe-to -Toe Tuesday on FS1. The fights will take place at The Coliseum in St. Petersburg, Florida. The TV coverage is set to begin at 8 PM EST.
The main event will be between the evenly matched Devon Alexander and Walter Castillo. The co-main event will be between Miguel Cruz and David Grayton.
Miguel Cruz (16-0) vs. David Grayton (15-1-1); Welterweight
In his most recent fight, the twenty-seven-year-old Cruz dropped his opponent, Alex Martin, multiple times. The first of these knockdowns came by way of a sharp left. Cruz and Martin had fought previously. Cruz won their first fight by split decision. His second victory over Martin was more decisive; he did not KO Martin, but at least won by unanimous decision.
As for Grayton, he last fought seven months ago against Kermit Cintron. Grayton failed to defeat a much older Cintron. It could be argued that Grayton was on his way to winning before the referee called off the fight due to a headbutt in the fifth round. After all, Gray had already dropped Cintron in that round. However, this knockdown came only after only after a severe shot to the back of the head.
Cruz employs an effective power jab and knows how to land powerful hooks to the body. Grayton will have to be fast on his feet if he hopes to avoid the fate of Alex Martin.
Expect at least one major headbutt from the southpaw Grayton, who is seems to employ the “accidental” headbutt almost as often as he employs his jab.
Devon Alexander (26-4) vs. Walter Castillo (26-4-1); Welterweight
When Alexander and Castillo step into the ring to face each other tomorrow night, it will be the first time either man has fought for over a year and a half.
Alexander, the former two-division champion, was once thought of one of the up-and-coming boxers of his generation. His first career loss came when he faced William Bradley Jr., but rebounded from that defeat to score a unanimous decision win over Marcos Maidana. However, he soon lost his IBF title to Shawn Porter. The Porter fight was close, but Alexander has not been able to regain his career momentum. He fought Amir Khan, and though he was undamaged during that fight, Alexander was unable to contend with his opponent’s speed.
Alexander’s last fight was against Aaron Martinez. Going into the fight, he was thought to have a decent shot at winning, but he lost because he fought on Martinez’s terms. Instead of boxing, he decided to brawl with Martinez. Alexander rarely employed the jab and Martinez repeatedly went to the body, tiring out Alexander, before landing well-timed jabs and rights to the face in later rounds.
Castillo is coming off a loss at the hands of Sergey Lipinets. In the third round against Lipinets, Castillo seemed to have Lipinets in trouble. Landing fast combinations, he cornered Lipinets against the ropes. But Lipinets remained unfazed and undamaged. Lipinets, clearly the stronger man, scored a seventh round TKO win.
Castillo is a year younger than Alexander, which gives him, at least in theory, a slight advantage. But he’s moving up seven pounds to fight Alexander, and it remains to be seen if he can be as powerful and effective in a higher weight class.
The odds for this fight, to my mind, are fifty-fifty. Only the winner will have a chance to get their career back on track. They both know that and will fight accordingly.
Follow B.A. Cass on Twitter @WiththePunch
HBO Wrapup: Berchelt Tops Miura in Tough As Nails Bout
HBO Wrapup: Berchelt Tops Miura in Tough As Nails Bout
By: Sean Crose
Joe Smith returned from his conquest of the great Bernard Hopkins on Saturday at the Forum in California to take on skilled former Olympian Sullivan Barrera in a showdown of light heavyweight contenders. It was a quality matchup – perhaps that’s why it was a bit of a surprise to see Barrera hit the mat in the first. The man got up, but Smith once again made people take note of his power. After a relatively uneventful second round, Barrera opened the third round strong and performed effectively throughout.
A Barrera uppercut rocked Smith early in the fourth. The Miami based fighter continued to assert control from there on out. The fifth essentially consisted of more of the same, but the two men exchanged well at the tail end of the sixth. The seventh round clearly alarmed the referee, if few others, for in between the seventh and eighth, Jack Reese asked Smith if he was feeling all right. Smith didn’t impress for the following two rounds.
Then, at the beginning of the tenth, Reese told the two fighters to touch gloves, clearly forgetting that it was a twelve round affair. But wait, he wasn’t mistaken. Reese knew what HBO didn’t, that the promotion had switched from a twelve round bout to a ten rounder without the broadcast team being informed. Needless to say, Barrera wrappedd up the night and earned himself a unanimous decision win.
Next up was the WBA super featherweight title fight between Jezreel Corrales and Robinson Castellanos. It was a close, fairly interesting affair. Corrales was dropped twice in the fourth, but came back and performed well afterwards. Still, Castellanos looked solid when the bout was stopped because of an accidental headbutt in the 10th. Needless to say, Corrales pulled off a majority decision win. A hoped for rematch might possibly be warranted.
It was time for the main event. Miguel Berchelt, the WBC super featherweight champ, stepped into the ring to face Japan’s Takashi Miura in what was clearly an intriguing matchup – at least on paper. It was a close, clinical first round, until Miura was sent to the mat. Looking no worse for wear, the man quickly got to his feet. The second round was also clinical for the most part, but the strength of Berchelt’s punches ultimately told the tale.
Miura started landing clean to the body in the third. Berchelt landed well in the fourth and it began to seem as if Miura would truly have to start working his opponent’s body if he were to keep from eventually being stopped. Sure enough, Berchelt ended the round in strong fashion. Miura fought hard in the fifth, but it wasn’t enough. Same for the sixth. Make no mistake about it, though, the fight wasn’t a foregone conclusion. Miura was there to win and the first half of the bout was an entertaining affair.
In the seventh, it was Berchelt who worked on Miura’s body as he looked to break his man down. The fight was stopped in the eighth for a rabbit punch from Miura. It seemed excessive, but I won’t fault a referee for being extra cautious. In the ninth, Miura whaled away at his opponent’s body in impressive fashion. He continued to do so in the tenth. By the eleventh, both men were tossing crushing shots at each other. It wasn’t a fast paced bout, but it was exciting and extremely rugged.
The twelfth was as grueling as the previous few rounds. Berchelt won a well deserved decision, but hats off to both men. Here’s hoping Miura seriously considers retirement. There’s only so much ring damage one man can take over the course of a career.
ShoBox Results: Baranchyk and Ramos Deliver a Ten Round Thriller, Fernandez and Williams Victorious
ShoBox Results: Baranchyk and Ramos Deliver a Ten Round Thriller, Fernandez and Williams Victorious
By: William Holmes
The Buffalo Run Casino and Resort in Miami, Oklahoma was the host site for tonight’s ShoBox card live on Showtime and featured a main event between Ivan Baranchyk and Abel Ramos.
Jon Fernandez (10-0) and Ernesto Garza (7-1) opened up the telecast with a bout in the super featherweight division.
Fernandez and Garza are both young professionals with a good amateur background that fought like they knew this fight was a good opportunity for exposure for them.
Garza was a southpaw, but was a good head shorter than Fernandez. Fernandez landed his overhand rights early on, and had Garza stunned with a hard right uppercut. He connected with another combination that dropped Garza. Garza was able to beat the count and put up a good fight for the remainder of the round and landed some heavy body blows, but Fernandez was more accurate puncher.
Garza opened up the second round aggressively and attacked to the body, but Fernandez remained calm and connected with clean shots of his own to the head of Garza. Garza appeared to tire as the round progressed and Fernandez was more easily avoiding the rushes of Garza.
Fernandez turned up the pressure in the third round and hammered Garza by the ropes and landed several hard unanswered shots. Garza looked dazed and confused while hanging on the ropes and the referee stopped the fight.
Jon Fernandez wins by TKO at 1:39 of the third round.
The next bout of the night was between Lenin Castillo (15-0-1) and Joe Williams (10-0) in the light heavyweight division.
Castillo was the more decorated amateur boxer as he competed for Puerto Rico in the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Castillo was the taller boxer and his jab was causing Williams problems in the first round. Williams was a little wild early and had to deal with Castillo holding on when he got in close.
Castillo’s jab was on point in the second round and was able to block most of Williams’ punches. Castillo’s range was firmly established by the third round and was landing the cleaner, sharper combinations, though Williams was not making it easy for Castillo.
The action remained consistent in the fourth and fifth rounds, with Castillo being the more effective fighter on the outside and Williams doing some damage on the inside, but Castillo was landing the more noticeable punches.
Castillo was the more active boxer in the sixth round but never had Williams in any real trouble. Williams pressed the action in the seventh round and may have won it due to Castillo constantly tying up and not throwing enough punches.
The fight could have been scored for either boxer going into the final round, and even though Castillo started the fight off strong, Williams ended the fight the busier boxer and who was pressing the pace.
The judges scored the bout 76-76, 78-74, 77-75 for Joseph Mack Williams Jr. by majority decision.
The main event of the night was between Ivan Baranchyk (13-0) and Abel Ramos (17-1-2) in the Super Lightweight Division.
Baranchyk entered with a very elaborate entrance, especially by ShoBox standards.
Baranchyk was aggressive early and throwing wild left hooks and very wide punches. Ramos was connecting with his jab and took a hard right uppercut by Baranchyk well, but it was a close round and could have been scored either way.
Baranchyk was able to briefly trap Ramos by the corner early in the second round and land some hard body shots, but was missing when he threw his wild shots to the head. Ramos’ jabs were landing at a high rate in the second round.
Ramos has control early in the third round and was controlling the action until Baranchyk landed a thudding right hand that sent Ramos down. Ramos was able to beat the count and get back to his feet and score a stunning knockdown with a counter left hand.
Ramos went back to his jab in the fourth round and was connecting with good straight right hands. He had Baranchyk hurt in the fourth, but Baranchyk landed another hard left hook that sent Ramos down to the mat. Ramos got back to his feet and looked fully recovered by the end of the fight.
Ramos had a very strong fifth round and was landing hard shots at will from the outside. It was an action packed round, but a clear round for Ramos.
The sixth round was an incredible round that featured both boxers throwing and landing the hardest punches that they could throw, and somehow, amazingly, neither boxer scored a knockdown.
Ramos, inexplicably, decided to stay in fierce exchanges with Baranchyk in the seventh round even though he did better when boxing from the outside and boxing smartly. Baranchyk’s punches were doing more head snapping damage than the shots of Ramos.
Amazingly, both boxers were still standing and throwing a high volume of power shots in the eighth round. Ramos, however, had some bad swelling around both of his eyes and looked like he was wearing down and slowing down. Ramos took some very heavy shots at the end of the round and his face was badly swollen.
Ramos’ faced looked badly disfigured at the start of the ninth round but he was still throwing a large number of punches and fighting back in extended spurts, but Baranchyk was landing the far more brutal punches.
Baranchyk and Ramos both looked exhausted in the final round and spent most of the final round doing something we didn’t see most of the fight, exchange mainly jabs. Baranchyk was able to buckle the knees of Ramos in the final seconds of the final round, but Ramos was able to survive the fight.
This was an incredibly exciting fight.
The judges scored the bout 97-92, 99-91, and 97-93 for Ivan Baranchyk.
The Top Five Robberies of the Past 25 Years
THE TOP 5 ROBBERIES OF THE LAST 25 YEARS
By: John Freund
Here’s a news flash: Boxing isn’t fair. The best fighter, or the one who fights the best in the ring on a given night, doesn’t always win. In other sports, the scoring is obvious. Everyone knows when a basket is made or when a touchdown is scored. But in boxing, the scoring remains a mystery until after the final bell. And that often leads to controversy. Whether that controversy stems from poor judgment or corruption on the part of the judges, is up for debate. One thing is for certain though, there are plenty of asterisks alongside boxing wins and losses. Following, are five of the most egregious robberies of the last 25 years:
Note – this list factors in the commercial significance of each bout. So fights like Williams-Lara, and Rios-Abril, while clearly miscarriages of justice, are not weighted as highly given their lack of mainstream significance.
#5) De La Hoya vs. Trinidad – Sep 18, 1999
Billed as ‘The Fight of the Millennium,’ the last of the so-called ‘Superfights’ of the 20th Century, it was a battle of unbeaten champions as reigning WBC megastar Oscar De La Hoya squared off against boxing’s other pound-for-pound king, IBF Champion, Felix ‘Tito’ Trinidad. This match would both unify the Welterweight titles, and prove who was the best fighter in the world.
Or so people thought…
“Outclassed is too big a word for what’s happening here, but it’s verging on that.”
When Jim Lampley spoke those words in Round 9, the so-called Superfight had thus far been nothing more than a chess match. And not even a competitive one at that – picture Bobby Fischer versus some hustler in Washington Square Park. Yup, it was that kind of lopsided.
De La Hoya frustrated Trinidad all night with his lateral movement and footwork, never getting caught up in the ropes and keeping his distance from the heavy-hitting Puerto Rican by effectively utilizing his jab. De La Hoya – a fighter known for his jab and vicious left hook – continually stunned Trinidad with right cross after right cross. He seemed to be landing them at will.
I gave De La Hoya 8 of the first 9 rounds. Larry Merchant had it 6 to 2 with 1 even. Howard Lederman had it 6 to 3, which, in my opinion, is exceedingly generous. Regardless of the score, there is little debate about who won the early rounds. It’s rounds 10-12 that this fight is remembered for.
De La Hoya, on the advice of his corner, played defense in the final three rounds – which is a polite way to say that he ran the hell away from Trinidad and didn’t fight for 9 minutes straight.
Now, to be fair, De La Hoya’s entire strategy was to box – stick and move, stick and move – and he employed that strategy beautifully for 9 rounds. He didn’t let Tito cut off the ring, and he picked his opportunities to fight and throw combinations, landing at least 2 or 3 per round. Tito, on the other hand, barely threw a single combination in the first 9 rounds. That’s how effective De La Hoya’s game plan was.
Yes De La Hoya took off the last 3 rounds, and yes he lost all 3 (though the 10th was pretty close). But even still, there is no question who won the fight. As Jim Lampley said, he didn’t outclass Tito, but it was verging on that.
The judges, of course, saw it differently. They handed Tito the win, and that’s how the ‘Golden Boy’ came to record his first ‘L.’ Incidentally, this fight set the record for non-heavyweight PPV buys, with 1.4 million; a mark that would stand for 8 years until De La Hoya-Mayweather broke it.
There would be future controversial decisions in the Golden Boy’s career – one where he was robbed against Mosely, and another where he was gifted against Sturm. Regardless, this fight goes down as one of the biggest boxing robberies of all time, given the hype surrounding it, the status of the two stars inside the ring, and the fact that they never fought again – so we’ll never really know who was the best boxer in the world at the time.
#4) Chavez vs. Whitaker – Sep 10, 1993
Before there was Mayweather-Pacquiao, before De La Hoya-Trinidad, there was Chavez-Whitaker.
Julio Cesar Chavez is a boxing legend, often considered the greatest Mexican boxer of all time, which is saying a lot. Coming into this fight, he had a jaw-dropping record of 87-0. Chavez was that rare combination of boxer and brawler, someone who could bob and weave and play defense on the outside, until he worked his way inside on you and broke your will. He was the best in-fighter in the game, and his chin was legendary; the first time Chavez ever hit the canvas was in his 91st pro fight.
Pernell Whitaker, meanwhile, was the best outside-fighter in the game. A slick southpaw with phenomenal footwork – he would dance, move, duck, hop, and sometimes even leap to places other boxers could only dream of reaching. Whitaker brought a 32-1 record into this fight, with his only loss being to Jose Luis Ramirez in what many consider to be a fight that Whitaker actually won. He was the Floyd Mayweather Jr. of his day, and Chavez-Whitaker was the ultimate ‘Bull vs. Matador’ matchup; it was brute force against blinding speed.
The first half of the fight was dead even. Whitaker established his game plan in Round 3, slipping and dipping, utilizing his speed and elusiveness, and finding just the right moments to throw wicked combinations. Chavez, who was the best in the business at cutting off the ring, was relegated to chasing the man they called ‘Sweet Pea’ around and around, just as Trinidad would chase De La Hoya six years later. Chavez did manage to force the action enough in the first 6 rounds to make it close on the cards, if not even.
But Round 7 was when Whitaker took over. He began to outclass Chavez, sticking and moving, capitalizing on his hand and foot speed. Whitaker even fought Chavez on the inside – and beat him there; something no one thought possible. There were moments when Whitaker double-jabbed Chavez, and somehow brought his right back in time to block a Chavez left hook. Thus was the blinding speed of Pernell Whitaker.
By Round 11 Chavez was exhausted. He was lunging and leaning, his punches lacking their usual sting. They fought the whole round on the inside, and Whitaker dominated without question. It was a masterful show of boxing prowess, and it earned Whitaker the right to be known as the first man to defeat Chavez in the ring.
But the fight was ruled a draw. Conspiracy theories abound, as Don King – Chavez’s promoter – was under federal indictment at the time for a litany of charges, including match-fixing. Dan Duva, Whitaker’s promoter, lodged a formal complaint with the Texas department of licensing and authorities after British judge Mickey Vann admitted to docking Whitaker a point for a low blow in the 6th Round. Referee Joe Cortez warned Whitaker for the blow, but did not instruct the judges to dock a point. To make things even more suspicious, the judges’ scorecards mysteriously disappeared the day after the fight…
If one were so inclined, one might argue that Don King rigged the match to keep Chavez’s revenue-generating, zero-loss streak alive for as long as possible. Of course that would imply that Don King were capable of such devious, underhanded, mafia-style tactics.
Regardless of what actually happened that night, one thing is certain: Sweet Pea won the fight, and was robbed of a victory.
#3) Castillo vs. Mayweather 1 – Apr 20, 2002
I can already hear Mayweather fans cursing my name. Go on, I can take it. Do your worst in the ‘Comments’ section…
If you’re a Mayweather fan, it’s time to eat some humble pie. Your hero was beaten and beaten soundly, and on Hitler’s birthday no less! (No idea why that’s relevant, I just like to point out Hitler’s birthday whenever I see it anywhere…)
Mayweather, at age 25, with a record of 27-0, was years away from the iconoclastic figure nicknamed ‘Money’ for having generated more of it than any other boxer in history. This was ’02, and ‘Pretty Boy Floyd’ was moving up from Jr. Lightweight to Lightweight to face a Mexican bruiser named Jose Luis Castillo. Most experts predicted a Mayweather rout; just another rung on King Floyd’s ladder of greatness.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the coronation – someone forgot to tell Castillo that he was supposed to lose. The fiery Mexican crowded his elusive opponent, pinning Mayweather against the ropes and viciously attacking his rib cage. Remarkably, Mayweather stood and traded with Castillo instead of slipping away eel-like, as he normally does. Perhaps he wanted to prove he could go toe-to-toe with a heavy-handed lightweight. Whatever the reason, as Larry Merchant later said, Mayweather ‘fought the wrong fight.’
His loss was apparent, even to Mayweather, who could be seen hanging his head immediately after the final bell sounded, and staring down at the canvas in the run-up to the decision. This wasn’t the loud and proud Pretty Boy Floyd we’d all come to expect. This was a man who knew he was beaten.
Yet the judges decided otherwise. Two of the judges scored it 115-111, and Anek Hongtongkam (best name ever!) had it 116-111.
I personally had Castillo up 8 rounds to 4. Harold Lederman at ringside had a similar score. I can understand 7-5 Castillo, but anything beyond that is stretching it. And to say that Mayweather not only won this fight, but won it convincingly – as all three judges’ scorecards imply – is an outright travesty. Castillo out-muscled, out-maneuvered, and out-classed boxing’s soon-to-be brightest star.
A lot of people blame the decision on Bob Arum, who promoted both Mayweather and Castillo at the time. It’s clear what Arum’s motivation would have been to fix this fight – Pretty Boy Floyd was on the rise, and having that big goose egg in the ‘Loss’ column helped make him a household name.
And a household name he would become, as Mayweather went on to rack up 49 victories with no official defeats, and generate more money than any boxer in history. Would all that have changed if Castillo had gotten his just desserts? No one will ever know…
It’s impossible to say for certain if the fight was fixed, or if the judges were just in awe of Mayweather and scored him more generously than they should have. But don’t forget, this is boxing, where what goes on outside the ring is just as important – or sometimes even more important – than what goes on inside the ring. Perhaps Castillo himself put it best when he responded to the controversy by saying, “Well, I don’t want to say the wrong thing, but boxing is certainly filled with interests, let’s put it that way.”
#2) Holyfield vs. Valuev – Dec 20, 2008
If you’ve never seen this fight, don’t bother. It’s easily the most boring championship match of all time. I’ll give you a quick rundown of the entire fight right here: Valuev stands in the center of the ring and does nothing, while Holyfield dances around him and does next to nothing. Picture that for 12 rounds.
The reason this is an all-time great robbery is because, at the end of the day, next to nothing is still more than nothing.
Holyfield won this fight 11-1. The only round that is even plausible to give to Valuev is the 12th, yet somehow, in some universe, the judges gave Valuev the win. I guess they decided that lumbering around for 33 out of 36 minutes and throwing 4 or 5 punches a round – never mind any combinations – is enough to retain a title. Yikes.
This is a big deal, considering Holyfield would have made history with this win, notching his fifth world title and becoming the oldest man ever to win the heavyweight crown at age 45 (besting ‘Big’ George Foreman by several months). But alas, it was not to be.
The one cool thing about this fight is that Valuev is a monster. And by that I mean he’s 7 feet tall and weighs over 300 lbs. Holyfield, at 6″3, 210, looks like a hobbit dancing around that Stone Giant thing in Lord of the Rings.
The reason this fight is #2 on the list is because the decision is so egregiously wrong. Other than the 12th, I defy you to find one round that Valuev won. I know this isn’t the most meaningful heavyweight bout of all time, but from now on, when someone mentions the fact that George Foreman is the oldest man ever to win the heavyweight title, you can bring up the asterisk that is Holyfield-Valuev.
#1) Pacquiao vs. Bradley 1 – Jun 9, 2012
You knew it was coming. The grandaddy of all highway robberies. The most shameless star-making event in boxing history. The day that three judges decided Tim Bradley out-fought Manny Pacquaio.
A little context before we delve into this one: The fight took place in 2012, right around the time everyone was clamoring for a Pacquaio-Mayweather Superfight. We all know what happened there. Instead of Pacquaio-Mayweather, we got Pacquaio-Bradley.
Okay, fair enough. Bradley came into this fight undefeated, with impressive wins over Lamont Peterson and Joel Casamayor. He was ranked a top 10 pound-for-pound fighter, so after negotiations with Mayweather and for a Cotto rematch both fell through, why not give a guy a shot?
The fight went as everyone predicted. Manny just had too much speed, too much power, too much technical skill for Bradley to handle. Bradley fought Manny’s fight and PacMan picked him apart, landing his straight left all day long. As Max Kellerman declared in Round 5, Manny ‘Outclassed him.’
The fight itself brought zero surprises. It was the decision afterward that left everyone floored. In the narrowest of margins, the judges gave a mixed decision to Bradley.
It’s tough to find a single person who thinks the decision was justified. By my count, Manny won the fight 10 rounds to 2, and most of those were pretty decisive. The only rounds I gave to Bradley were the 10th and 12th. Now, I can see a 9-3 decision, and can even stomach an 8-4, but giving more than 4 rounds to Bradley…?
The judges unanimously gave Bradley the 7th round, even though Manny doubled him in punches landed! 2 of the 3 judges gave Bradley the 8th, even though Manny outpointed him 15-9 in that round. And there was no question who was throwing the harder leather. Jim Lampley and Emanuel Steward were commenting all night how much more power Manny had, and how Bradley simply couldn’t handle his trifecta of speed, skill, and punching power.
After the fight, Bradley was asked by Max Kellerman in the center of the ring if he thought he won. He said that he would ‘have to go back and watch the tape to see who won the fight.’ The crowd booed. Kellerman then asked Pacquiao if he thought he won the fight. Pac responded, “Absolutely, yes.” And the crowd went wild.
Now, if you’re going to claim that a fight is fixed, you should at least have a theory as to why it would be. There’s a pretty convincing one for this fight, and it starts and ends with Bob Arum.
Bob Arum promoted both fighters. Pacquiao was already a legend, and having had 3 losses, wasn’t protecting a goose egg the way Mayweather was throughout his career. So what’s one more loss going to do to his iconic reputation? Absolutely nothing.
Meanwhile, a win for Bradley makes him an instant star – which is exactly what happened. It also sparked a very lucrative Pacquaio-Bradley trilogy, of which Pacquiao convincingly won the last two fights (and wasn’t robbed by the judges).
And if you want to be uber-consipratorial about the whole thing (and who doesn’t!), you could say that, ‘isn’t it a coincidence that Bradley signed with Top Rank just before this fight, and fought a big match on the Pacquaio-Marquez 3 undercard, thus introducing him to a more mainstream audience?’ And… let’s just go the full nine here… ‘isn’t it strange that Bradley looks a heck of a lot like Floyd Mayweather Jr., whom fans wanted to fight Pacquaio, but the fight never materialized (up to this point)?’ Could Bob Arum be pulling his best Vince McMahon impression, giving us a substitute for Mayweather-Pacquiao – only one in which the drama was artificially manufactured instead of naturally ingrained?
Color me cynical, but I think all of the above is possible.
Whatever the case, things certainly didn’t go as planned for PacMan moving forward. He would fight Marquez for the fourth time later that year, and get famously knocked unconscious, then spend over a year recovering before returning to the ring. Boxing fans often point to the Bradley fight as the beginning of Manny’s downfall, if you can call the last 4 years a ‘downfall.’
Bradley, meanwhile, went on to fight and beat some top contenders, including an aging Juan Manuel Marquez, Jessie Vargas, and Brandon Rios.
Tim Bradley is by all accounts a very warm, likable guy, and it’s worth noting that he is not the one who robbed Pacquiao. It was the judges who robbed Pacquiao.
Or maybe it was Bob Arum…
Regardless, this fight is yet another reminder that boxing can be such a cruel mistress: she can seduce you, and just as quickly stab you in the back.
What are some of your all-time biggest boxing robberies? Leave a comment below…