By Jake Donovan
Later this evening at Morongo Casino Resort & Spa in Cabazon, California, Jermain Taylor returns to the ring for the first time in more than two years when he faces Jessie Nicklow in the main event of a Showtime-televised tripleheader.
Andre Dirrell made his own ring return, fighting for the first time in 21 months as he took out fellow Michigan super middleweight Darryl Cunningham in just two rounds.
The fight never threatened to be competitive, as Dirrell was in control from the opening bell. There were no signs of ring rust from the Super Six dropout, who threw every punch with knockout intentions, which eventually produced the early result.
“Every punch I threw, I knew was going to work,” Dirrell claimed afterward. “That left hand landed and it worked.”
The left hand of which he speaks came midway through the second round, landing flush on Cunningham’s chin and sending the 37-year old to the canvas. Cunningham barely beat the count, but appeared as if his corner had seen enough as they literally threw in the towel.
Referee Jack Reiss, on the other hand, didn’t seem keen on ending the fight at that moment. The third man first ordered Dirrell to get back into a neutral corner, and then asked Cunningham a series of questions to see if the journeyman was fit to continue. Time was then called to confirm whether or not his corner wanted to end the fight, at which point they had a change of heart.
All told, Cunningham was given nearly a minute to recover from the knockdown shot, but proved to just prolong the inevitable as he was downed just seconds later. Once again a count was issued, and once again referee Jack Reiss went inquisition mode. This time, Cunningham’s corner jumped onto the ring apron waving a towel in surrender, thus bringing an end to the fight.
The official time was 2:05 of the second round.
Dirrell was gone from the ring for nearly two years while recovering from neurological issues stemming from the fight-ending sequence in his Super Six Stage Two bout with Abraham in March ’10. The 2004 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist slipped and fell to the canvas, where he was drilled by a shot to the chin from the former middleweight titlist, leaving him concussed and twitching in pain.
More than 21 months later, Dirrell officially returns to the super middleweight fold.
“I’m back,” Dirrell simply stated as he improves to 20-1 (14KO). “I’m glad to be in this squared circle. Darryl Cunningham came to fight, he came to win, but unfortunately he ran into me. I’m just glad to be back.”
Cunningham falls to 24-3 (10KO) with the loss, marking the first time he was stopped in his nine-year career.
In the televised opener, Cuban export Luis Garcia cruised to an eight-round shutout over Alexander Johnson in a battle of unbeaten light heavyweight prospects. Scores were 80-72 across the board for Garcia, who was fighting for the first time in 13 months.
Johnson cited a stomach ailment late in the fight as the reason for his lack of effort, landing just 32 punches over the course of the bout. Garcia controlled the action throughout, but settled for coasting in a fight where the knockout was available anytime he wanted it.
Garcia - who now fights out of Cork, Ireland – advances to 12-0 (9KO). Johnson – who hails from the outskirts of Washington, D.C. – falls to 12-1 (5KO).
In the final bout before the television camera began rolling, unbeaten heavyweight prospect Mike Perez cruised to a 10-round decision over battle-tested Friday Ahunanya. Scores were 100-90 across the board for Perez (15-0, 8KO, a stablemate of Luis Garcia, who appears in the televised opener.
Unbeaten Puerto Rican lightweight Jose Pedraza scored a fifth round knockout over .500 fighter Herbert Quartey. Pedraza scored the bout’s lone knockdown in the fifth round, a sequence that proved to end the fight. Quartey recovered but was in no condition to continue, prompting the stoppage midway through the fifth of their scheduled eight-round bout.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]