By: Sean Crose
Matchroom Boxing will be promoting its first major card in Mexico when Brandon Rios fights Humberto Soto in Tijuana’s Municipal Auditorium Fausto Gutierrez Moreno on the 23’d of February. The fight will be aired live on the DAZN streaming service. With a record of 35-4-1, Rios, who has held the WBA World Lightweight title, and who has faced such huge names as Manny Pacquiao and Tim Bradley, is looking to get back into contender status. Soto, 68-9-2, who himself has held the WBC World Lightweight Title (as well as the WBC World Super Featherweight Title), is no doubt looking to reestablish himself, as well.
“Man,” says Rios, “I’m excited to fight in Mexico, I haven’t fought there in ten years. The Mexican fanbase has supported me since day one and everything I give in the ring is for my family and my fans, who have never let me down.” Rios makes it clear that he’ll be well prepared on the 23’d of February. “I’ve been staying busy in the gym,” he says, “so I’m ready to give the fans a great fight. The fights the fans love to see!” Veteran warrior Soto, on the other hand, is under no illusions that he must beat Rios if he hopes to have a successful career at this point.
“I cannot wait,” Soto says, “for February 23’d. I am so excited for this great opportunity in a city that feels like my second home.” Still, the popular Mexican fighter states that: “I know that this fight is a ‘do or die,’ that is why I am very motivated and training really hard. We know that we have a tough opponent in Brandon Rios, a true warrior, but so am I. This will be a war and I will be ready to win!” Soto, who has fought ten times in the past five years, has won all but one of his bouts within that time frame.
“I’m excited,” promoter Eddie Hearn says, “to be in Tijuana on March 23 for our first Mexican show with a real old school shoot-out between Brandon Rios and Humberto Soto. Brandon stole the show in Kansas recently on DAZN against Ramon Alvarez and there should be real fireworks in this one.” Hearn, who is aligned with DAZN, has been gobbling up name fighters of late. With names such as Anthony Joshua, Daniel Jacobs, Demetrius Andrade, and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, the Englishman is helping DAZN in it’s plight to counterbalance boxing broadcasts on Pay Per View and Cable
HBO World Championship Boxing Results: Usyk and Diaz Victorious, Joe Smith Stops Bernard Hopkins and Sends Him Tumbling Outside the Ring
By: William Holmes
The legendary Bernard Hopkins ended his long and illustrious career tonight at the Forum in Inglewood, California.
Three bouts were televised by HBO and five of tonight’s six participants were making their HBO debut.
The opening bout of the night was between Oleksandr Usyk (10-0) and Thabiso Mchunu (17-2) for the WBO Cruiserweight Title.
Both boxers came out in a southpaw stance, but Usyk appeared to be the bigger and longer boxer. However, Usyk had trouble with the short height of Mchunu and stuck to mainly throwing his jab in the opening two rounds. Mchunu showed surprisingly good counter punching and was able to land some lead right hooks and stiff jabs and took an early lead.
At the start of the third round Mchunu landed seventeen punches to Usyk’s sixteen, but Usyk picked up his volume of punches and began to look very comfortable in the ring by the fourth round. His volume and accuracy was increasing.
Usyk landed a good right uppercut in the fifth round and was landing more power shots. He scored a knockdown in the sixth round after landing multiple combinations that forced Mchunu to take a knee. Mchunu was able to survive the round but Usyk domination and volume continued into the seventh and eighth rounds.
Usyk opened up the ninth round by landing some good body shots on Mchunu in the opening minute and it opened up some avenues for Usyk to land some power shots upstairs. Usyk landed another blistering combination and it forced Mchunu to take a knee. Usyk comes right at Mchunu when he gets back to his feet and a fierce exchange occurred with both boxers landing power shots, but it was Mchunu who goes down again and the referee stops the fight.
Oleksandr Usyk wins by TKO at 1:53 of the ninth round.
The next bout of the night was between Joseph Diaz (22-0) and Horacio Garcia (30-1-1) in the featherweight division.
Diaz, a southpaw, landed the first jab of the night and kept a safe distance and found his range early on. Garcia landed a good counter right but was met with a two punch combination from Diaz. Diaz landed more punches than Garcia in the opening frame, but Garcia was able to land some hard punches of his own.
Diaz had a strong second and third rounds and nearly doubled the number of power shots landed. He was landing crisp counter shots on a forward pressing Garcia and looked like an experienced veteran in the ring.
Garcia had a decent fourth round and caught Garcia with some right hand power shots when his back was against the ropes, but Diaz was able to slow Garcia down with hard hooks to the body and closed out the round well with quick combinations.
Diaz stepped on the gas pedal in the fifth round and was able to impress the crowd with his blistering hand speed. Diaz’s dominance continued into the sixth round and he was comfortably ahead on the scorecards.
Diaz simple outclassed Garcia by the seventh round and looked like he had no chance at winning the bout. He was able to land a few combinations on Diaz with his back against the ropes, but Diaz was able to fight out of the corner and quickly swing the momentum back to his favor.
Garcia needed a knockout in the final two rounds to win and he tried to press the action, but that knockout never came.
Diaz wins an impressive decision with scores of 100-90 on all three scorecards.
The main event of the evening was between Bernard Hopkins (55-7-2) and Joe Smith Jr. (22-1) in the light heavyweight division.
Smith missed with a wild right hook early in the first round and Hopkins immediately tied up. Hopkins connected with an early lead right but Smith counters with a right hand to the temple of Hopkins that appears to have momentarily stunned him. Smith was landing some hard shots on Hopkins as the round came to an end, and for the first time in his career Hopkins looked old inside the ring.
Smith pressed forward in the second round and Hopkins tied up when they got close, which led to a clash of heads that opened up a cut on the top of Smith’s head. Hopkins was able to land a sharp counter right hand this round, but Smith was the more active fighter.
The third round was a close round, but Smith was missing more of his punches than in the previous two rounds and Hopkins landed a few counter right hands.
Hopkins had a very good fourth round and even landed some combinations on the a seemingly increasingly frustrated Joe Smith Jr.
Hopkins started off the fifth round strong by tagging Smith with straight right hands as he chased Hopkins around the ring. However, Smith hard a good moment in the fifth round when he dug in some heavy hooks into the body of Hopkins and followed it with a right hook to the chin of Hopkins that elicited a roar from the crowd.
Hopkins missed with a wild left in the opening seconds of the sixth round and Smith landed a left to the body and Hopkins responded with a right uppercut to the chin of Smith. Smith pressed the action in the sixth round and was able to land some good shots.
Hopkins landed some clean counter punches in the seventh round but Smith was able to land some good punches to the body.
Smith had Hopkins backing up in the eighth round and landed a combination, including a stunning right hand, that hurt Hopkins and had him tumbling outside of the ring. Hopkins was helped to his feet by some people outside, but failed to get back into the ring after the count of twenty.
Hopkins was complaining that he was pushed outside of the ring to all who would hear him, but the fight was waived off and ruled in favor of Joe Smith Jr.
The crowd was not happy with the result, but Joe Smith Jr. wins by TKO at 0:53 of the eighth round.