By Cliff Rold
Recently elevated from interim to full WBA Lightweight titlist, 30-year old Cuban Richar Abril (18-3-1, 8 KO) of Miami, Florida, made his first successful defense and first start since a controversial 2012 decision loss to Brandon Rios, earning a unanimous decision over 24-year old Ugandan Sharif Bogere (24-1, 15 KO) of Las Vegas, Nevada, on Saturday night at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Both men came in below the division limit of 135 lbs, Abril at 134 ½ and Bogere at 134. The referee was Russell Mora.
The rangy Abril immediately went to work in the first round on establishing an effective distance for dealing with the aggressive Bogere. An early Abril right caught the eye. A three-punch combination at mid-ring caught the attention of Bogere who resorted to bulling Abril to the floor. Bogere took a warning from Mora, and would again late in the opening round for rabbit punching.
The first was as close to a clean boxing match as one was going to see for a while. The style clash of Abril and Bogere quickly settled into an aesthetic mess over the next four rounds. Abril was warned for holding and hitting in the second and responded by mixing in more lead left hooks. Bogere probably landed the best shot of the third, but Abril landed more. Bogere physically stole the fourth but was outslicked in the fifth.
Or so it might have been going. It was all hard to score and there was more rough stuff, heads colliding, and grappling inside then there was beautiful boxing.
In round six, a ruled accidental headbutt left Abril with a new cut over his right eye to go with a nick over the left but the doctor agreed to let the fight go on. Bogere charged at Abril with authority, perhaps sensing that the cut could send the fight to the cards early and make every round so much more precious. While Bogere’s aggression was easy to see, down the stretch of the sixth it was Abril landing the clean shots that demanded careful attention.
Even as he continued to land the prettier shots to choose from, Abril was dogged by Mora for holding. It finally cost him in round eight, Mora taking a point from Abril. It seemed to be a good thing for the fight. Abril started punching more, landing snappy rights and commanding the remainder of round eight and most of the ninth.
In the tenth, Abril maintained his momentum, sharpshooting against the wild Bogere. Bogere was warned in the round for fouls and ended up on the floor after a particularly awkward lunge. Matters slowed in the eleventh but Abril still looked to be the man in control. With three minutes remaining, Abril has boxed well enough to have a lead but it had been rough enough to make scores hard to predict.
In the twelfth, finally, Bogere lost a point after receiving warnings for head clashes all night. It didn’t make the last frame any prettier, Bogere slipping to the floor at mid-ring after a nasty exchange of punches and body parts inside. With a minute to go, landed blows were all Abril, most of them right hands. The bell sounded and both men looked relieved to have the intense, grinding affair at an end.
Abril would hold his relief longer, scores awarding him the victory at 115-111 and 116-110 twice.
Bogere was disappointed in the outcome and what he acknowledged as a “close” fight. “I thought the fight was much closer than that. I thought I won the fight.” Regarding the rough tactics employed in the fight, Bogere felt Abril was more to blame.
Speaking through a translator, Abril felt the opposite and stated Bogere should have been deducted points for butting earlier. Asked if he felt the fight helped put last year’s loss to Rios behind him, he said he did and, rather than a Rios rematch, said he’d like a crack at unification with WBC Lightweight titlist Adrien Broner.
In the televised opener, 24-year old 2008 U.S. Olympian Gary Russell (22-0, 13 KO), 127, of Capitol Heights, Maryland, continued his creep into relevance in the Featherweight division with a forgettable if efficient ten-round unanimous decision victory over 27-year old Vyacheslav Gusev (20-3, 5 KO), 126 ½, of Prokopyevsk, Russia. Russell got off to a strong start, dropping Gusev in the third, but settled to a steady, workmanlike decision by a trio of shutout scores at 100-89 across the board.
Russell came into the bout rated in the top ten by three of the four most prominent sanctioning bodies: #7 (WBC), #3 (WBA), and #8 (WBO). Gusev was Russell’s first full ten-round affair, his longest previous outings being a pair of eight-round decisions in 2011.
The card was televised in the U.S. on Showtime as part of its “Championship Boxing” series, promoted by Golden Boy Promotions.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]