by David P. Greisman
Liacouras Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Curtis Stevens was one minute away from losing —and he was one punch away from winning.
Behind on the scorecards, Stevens landed the clean left hook he so desperately needed, snapping Tureano Johnson’s head back and sending Johnson back to the ropes. Stevens followed and sent our a flurry of punches, and referee Gary Rosato jumped in to stop the fight, a decision that many felt might have been premature even though Johnson wasn’t punching back.
Johnson had said he wasn’t intimidated by Stevens, and he’d shown it, bullying his power-punching middleweight foe and standing up to his shots, including a few that had left him seemingly in trouble earlier in the bout.
Johnson bullied Stevens to the ropes from the outset, digging to the body, throwing hooks and short crosses. Stevens switched between covering up and battling back, sending out body shots and hard hooks of his own.
Stevens had built his reputation on coming out quickly and testing his opponent’s chin. This time he would be on the receiving end.
Johnson started the second with similar pace and pressure, while Stevens came out slower, though he still fought decently off the ropes with hooks and uppercuts. Johnson found a home for his own uppercuts in the third, and he continued going to the body as well.
Stevens wisely started the fourth in the center of the ring, but that didn’t last long. They were back on the ropes less than half a minute in. Though Johnson lacked in one-punch power, he still had enough pop that Stevens couldn’t walk through him, and his tenacity and strategy seemed to be getting to Stevens.
Stevens still had his equalizer, though, and in the fourth he landed a big three-punch combo and then a hard left hook that had Johnson hurt. Johnson tried to battle back, only to get hurt again, though he showed heart once more as the round came to a close.
Stevens hurt Johnson again in the fifth with right uppercuts. But a pattern began to set in, with Johnson being more active in the first half of rounds, and then Stevens, perhaps wearing down from the torrid pace and body shots, attempting to summon the energy to pour it on for the second half.
Stevens seemed to be looking more and more for that one big shot. And then, in the eighth, Stevens turned to boxing to get himself relief, for one, but also room from Johnson’s constant smothering.
Going into the 10th and final round, two judges had Johnson ahead 89-82, or eight rounds to one, and the other judge had Johnson ahead 87-84, or six rounds to three.
Stevens must’ve known he needed the knockout, but it didn’t come in the first half of the 10th. And then the left hook landed, and Stevens closed in, looking to close out. The referee, Rosato, was convinced enough that the end needed to come, though Johnson protested the stoppage, which came with 51 seconds remaining in the round. The crowd later provided a mix of cheers and boos when Stevens was announced the winner.
The victory brings Stevens, a 29-year-old from Brooklyn, N.Y., to 27-4 with 20 KOs. It’s his second straight win since getting beaten up by Gennady Golovkin last November. He returned from that with a destruction this past January of Patrick Majewski, who went down three times in less than a minute.
Johnson, a 30-year-old originally from the Bahamas, is now 14-1 with 10 KOs.
- Evincii Dixon knocked Edgardo Torres down once in the first round and again in the second en route to a technical knockout win. The end came 15 seconds into the round. Dixon, 22, of Lancaster, Pa., came in at 141 pounds and is now 4-4-1 with 1 KO. Torres, 27, of Vineland, N.J., came in at 137.3 pounds and is now 2-3 with 2 KOs.
- Light heavyweight Mike Lee returned from more than a year and a half out of the ring, scoring a sixth-round technical knockout over previously unbeaten Peter Lewison. Lee came in at 179.3 pounds for this bout, and Lewison at 180.4.
The Subway spokesman had last fought in September 2012. The layoff had reportedly been due to headaches caused by Invisalign braces. This return also marked his first bout under a new trainer. Lee had previously worked with Ronnie Shields, but now has former heavyweight titleholder Chris Byrd in his corner.
Lee began to find a home for his right hand in the second round, and continued to land the cleaner shots throughout the bout. Lee also had little difficulty moving away from many of Lewison’s punches.
Blood was noticeable from Lewison’s mouth in the fifth round. And in the sixth, Lee landed a good right hand flush on Lewison’s chin, knocking him down. He got up, and Lee came in to close, landing enough that Lewison’s corner stepped up on the ring apron to try to catch referee Steve Smoger’s attention.
The end came 99 seconds into the final round.
Lee, 26, of Chicago, is now 12-0 with 7 KOs. Lewison, who is from the Cayman Islands, is now 6-1 (5 KOs).
- Lee Campbell topped Roberto Acevedo via majority decision in a crude but fun fight between over-the-limit super middleweights that petered out in the seventh and eighth rounds.
Acevedo hurt Campbell in the second round with an uppercut, and then landed a second one soon thereafter in picturesque fashion. Campbell battled back with a couple of good right hands, and continued to land that shot in the third, marking up Acevedo’s left cheek.
The fourth round continued to be all Campbell, but then Acevedo stopped the onslaught with a good uppercut, and then came on with a few more good shots. Campbell still started off the fifth well. Acevedo responded with a couple right uppercuts, and Campbell soon returned the pleasure in kind with a big right uppercut of his own. Both men showed signs of being tired in the final two rounds, particularly Acevedo, who went to the canvas twice in the seventh out of exhaustion.
Campbell, 36, of Laurinburg, N.C., improves to 7-0 (3 KOs). Acevedo, 27, was coming off a big win in January over Ilshat Khusnulgatin, but now falls to 8-2 (5 KOs).
- Light heavyweight prospect Sullivan Barrera won his debut under the Main Events promotional banner, taking a shutout unanimous decision over Larry Pryor.
All three scorecards read 60-53 in his favor. The additional point came form a knockdown in the first round, when Barrera landed a left hook, followed by a right hand and another left hook. As Pryor was on his knee, Barrera landed an additional one-two.
Barrera continued to land the cleaner punches far more often than Pryor, who typically only mustered an occasional combination.
Barrera, a 32-year-old from Cuba now fighting out of Florida, is now 11-0 (6 KOs). Pryor, 32, of Frederick, Md., is now either 7-9 with 4 KOs (according to BoxRec) or 7-8 with 4 KOs (according to the bout sheet handed out to the press at the arena).
- In the show’s opener, former 140-pound title challenger Edner Cherry, now fighting as a lightweight, took an eight-round unanimous decision over Robert Osiobe.
This was Cherry’s first fight since February 2013, when he scored a big sixth-round stoppage over Vicente Escobedo. The 31-year-old Bahamian, who now calls Wauchula, Fla., home, improves to 32-6-2 with 16 KOs.
Osiobe, 36, of Ughelli, Nigeria, falls to 14-9-4 with 6 KOs.
Pick up a copy of David’s new book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon or internationally at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsworldwide . Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]