By Alexey Sukachev
Sleep and awakening. Just two crucial words to describe the very meaning of Kevin Johnson's entire career. For his opponents those two words are crucial too. Once upon a time they were more familiar with a rude awakening, following a slippery, vicious fight, which was quietly moving to its end. That was the case with the Kingpin's latest sound wins - both Down Under against local Samoans Alex Leapai and Solomon Haumono. Tonight for Christian Hammer it has a soft and fresh wake-up after a healthy sleep. WBO #7 Hammer outpointed Johnson unanimously over ten in what was a very forgettable fight.
That was also the last chance for the Kingpin to make a grand awakening, following his recent setbacks and a slow fall into complete mediocrity. After an ultra cautious opening stanza with zero power shots, Johnson tried delivering somewhat in the second stanza. Yet he was too measured, keen on landing jabs only. Meanwhile, Hammer used some punching power to at least remind everybody he was indeed a prizefighter. He began to double his jab in the third. Johnson had some very mild success in the fourth but Hammer turned back the tide in the fifth.
Completely phlegmatic and totally uninterested Johnson, 34, did even less after the midpoint. He mostly landed jabs imitating desire to pin Hammer to the ropes. Yet the Germany-based Romanian easily eroded all signs of danger. He also landed power punches on the occasion, showing who was the boss in the ring. The Kingpin was clearly in agreement with Hammer's point of view, doing even less in closing rounds than at the beginning. After losing the ninth Hammer had a good round ten to punctuate his win.
No scores were announced. BoxingScene had it 97-93 - for Hammer, who is now 15-3, 10 KOs. Johnson, more and more looking as an opponent than a real fighter, goes down to 29-4-1, 14 KOs.
Bosnian cruiserweight Damir Bello improved to 14-0, with 11 KOs, after a workmanlike unanimous decision over extra lanky Lithuanian Imantas Davidaitis (2-4, 2 KOs) in a six-round non-title contest. The reportedly 6'9'' import did what he could to keep Bello at bay and he was able to do that in some moments. However, Bello was more consistent and active, landing more hard, telling blows to Davidaitis.
Former WBA interim champion Steve Herelius (21-5-1, 12 KOs) looked to finish his downward spiral and was doing exactly that against Swiss-based Albanian Nuri Seferi for the first five rounds, but his gentle plans were ruined by both Seferi's dirty tricks and his own emotional rupture, which led to his own disqualification midst into the seventh round of the contest, which BoxingScene had 67-66 in the Frenchman's favor at the time of stoppage.
Seferi, who turns 37 on Monday, looked to be a heavy favorite against badly faded Herelius even despite a lengthy lay-off (he was out of the ring for well over a year). His opponent, also 37, has lost his three last fights, all by way of knockout, the last time - less than two months ago. Seferi (34-6, 20 KOs), however, showed all signs of ring rust early on despite an ambitious start in the first round. Herelius weathered this storm and started to play his game. The French southpaw looked awkward and robotic at times, but his right jab was annoying, his movement was unpredictable and he used rope-a-dope tactics to frustrate Seferi in close quarters. Seferi did his best to find new ways to get inside but his mind wasn't set and he was too passive, just marching forward without significant punches.
The Frenchman looked more and more dominating in each next round, showing his old skills and recalling his best days, which seemed to be long gone. The fifth was his manifesto, when he caught Seferi on his way in with a terrific left hand to wobble the Albanian. That was, however, the last success of Herelius. In the sixth, Seferi landed some heavy shots to get in, where he used his head more than his hands to get to Herelius. The Frenchman was angered and tried to speak to the referee to no good. In the seventh, Seferi continued to work dirty, while the Frenchman showed signs of fatigue. Then in clinch Seferi hit Herelius illegally with his head one more time, opening a deep cut over his right eye. The veteran fighter was examined by the ringside physician but was allowed to go on. He did just that but was too engaged into this encounter. At one time, he continued throwing punches well after the break command, touching referee a couple of times as well. The latter immediately waved the bout off and directed Herelius to his corner, making him a loser in what was his best fight in years.