By Alexey Sukachev
Bamberg, Germany - One recorded knockdown, several unrecorded knockdowns, a couple of candidates for round of the year, heavy punching, sudden turnarounds, and a razor-thin decision as the cherry on the top - all of these aspects were the listed features of the IBF cruiserweight championship fight between reigning titleholder Yoan Pablo Hernandez and his hard-nosed challenger Troy Ross, one of the best European fights in the recent memory.
Hernandez (now 27-1, 13 KOs) was very lucky to get a unanimous decision over twelve rounds, despite goind down heavily in the fifth stanza. Official scores were: 114-113 (from Michael Pernick of the USA), 115-112 (from veteran referee/judge Mickey Vann of the UK) and 116-112 (from Benny Decroos of Belgium) - all for the Cuban expatriate, who made the second successful defense of the title he had won from Steve Cunningham a year ago. BoxingScene saw a completely different fight, which it has scored 115-112 - for Ross.
Unlike many of his previous fights, Apollo-built Hernandez, still fresh and young at 27, chose to rumble with the considerably shorter but tougher opponent from the opening bell. He threw the tactics out of his mind and instigated an all-offense type of fight with the Canada-based Guyanese. Ross, 37, accepted the challenge. For him it was possibly the last chance at glory - two years since his previous championship challenge against Cunningham, eleven years after he started his pro career and more than sixteen year past his close loss to eventual Val Barker's trophy winner Vassiliy Jirov at the Atlanta Olympics - and he didn't plan to let it go away. Both southpaw combatants battled hard in a crowd-pleasing rounds one and two on merely even terms. The third stanza was clearly the round of the year. Hernandez was rocked several time by hard left right hooks of the Guyanese but managed to remain on his feet. He suddenly exploded with a long left hand to wobble Ross at the end of the wild round which saw both of the participants at the limit of their powers.
Round four was methodical, after Ulli Wegner, Hernandez's coach had urged him vehemently to keep the fight at a long distance. It was the typical Cuban amateur style and it helped Yoan Pablo very much. However, the next stanza was a pure catastrophe for the champion. In the middle of the stanza, Ross mounted an attack and landed a monstorus left hand. A couple of punches - and the Cuban was forced to take a knee with referee Dave Fields counting. He made it through but very dazed. Wisely, he chose to fall down a couple of times (which he wasn't even penalized for), while clinching in the close quarters and thus surviving the round. The next couple of rounds were much more measured but Ross was the aggressor, and Hernandez was content to stay outside with just his lazy jab while keeping Ross at bay. A hard left hand for Ross helped him to win the seventh, and he was also better in the sixth.
Hernandez turned very tactical from the eighth till the tenth round. Ross tried to stalk him in the eighth but was asked to box more in the ninth, and he paid a price. Late during the second minute of the round, Hernandez connected with a very hard left hook in a heated exchange. Ross wobbled badly but managed to keep himself upright. The rest of the stanza was all in favor of the Cuban, but Ross wasn't there for an easy defeat. The tenth, however, was also in Yoan's favour. Sensing the fight was going the wrong way, Ross used all of his remaining resources and produced a continuous attack, which should have got him the eleventh round. In the twelfth and final round, he rocked Hernandez a couple of more times and finished the bout strong but it wasn't enough to secure a decision. Still, he has nothing to be ashamed of.
In a major upset, IBF #3 rated middleweight Dominik Britsch, 24, suffered his first ever defeat of the hands of 30-year old Spanish veteran Roberto Santos (18-6-2, 10 KOs) in a heated rematch of their February draw. Earlier this year Santos brought a fight to the German prospect and nearly defeated him, but wasn't awarded with an honestly earned decision. This time his win was too convincing to be prevented by the judges - Santos stopped Britsch in the eighth round.
The first half of the bout was fought in a dull and tactical manner. Britsch moved out of the harm's way, relying much on his jab. Santos played an aggressor but didn't possess a punch to put the German in deep waters. The first two rounds were in favor of the local boy who kep moving and sticking. However, during the course of the next couple of rounds Santos mounted a slight comeback and forced Britsch into retreat with his sustained pressure. Britsch has never been in trouble, but he lost both stanzas. He turned back the tide in rounds five and six, when Santos looked a bit fatigued, and his punch output decreased.
The seventh round was even but at the end Santos suddenly turned berserk again and rocked his foe with several heavy blows. He then connected with a painful left hook to the liver, which had Britsch down on a delayed basis. Thanks to an early bell, the German was saved but only for a minute break between the rounds. As soon as round eight got under way, the Spaniard immediately jumped on his opponent and winged and swinged badly wobbed Britsch until referee Daniel Van der Viele saw enough and rightfully stopped the contest at 0:45 (with Britsch's left eye being cut). Santos is now a new EBU-EU middleweight titleholder and expected to appear in the IBF ranks. Interestingly, just two fights ago he lost lopsidedly to 6-2-1 opponent in his native Spain. Britsch is now 26-1-1, 9 KOs, and has still much to learn about the pugilism.
Highly regarded Polish cruiserweight hopeful Mateusz Masternak (28-0, 21 KOs) brilliantly passed his toughest (on paper) test of his career with a hard-fought but very well-earned TKO 7 over tough-as-nails and previously undefeated Spanish hitter David Quinonero Nogueira (27-1, 26 KOs). Masternak, 25, is probably the best kept secret (outside of the States) in the cruiserweight division and in the sport as a whole. He is ranked #3 by the IBF, #7 by the WBA, #8 by the IBF and #13 by the WBC but fights almost exclusively in Germany and Poland. Masternak is a physically strong boxer-puncher, who combines a crisp punch and a brilliant technique into a dangerous mixture, lethal to his opponents.
Usually an aggressor, Masternak chose to counter his opponent while moving out of the attack range of Quinonero. The Spaniard, a hard nut himself, looks like a tank with A-size guns, but at 36 he was considerably slower than the Pole and he also lacked defensive skills, which resulted in the painful price he paid in the fight. However, he was very determined to give Masternak all kind of troubles and immediately jumped into close quarters right after the opening bell. The Pole was ready, putting the Spaniard at the end of his lengthy jab. He constantly shifted from side to side, used angles and was elusive but also didn't forget to punch, and man does he punch hard! Quinonero displayed an unbelievably solid chin and took all of Masternak's punches.
In the opening stanzas, the Spaniard's aggressiveness regularly put the Pole out of his comfort zone but Masternak was much sharper and light on his feet. In round four, a gash started to develop below Quinonero's left eye. Also in the fourth, Masternak engaged and took the control of the fight by landing several very hard blows in succession. The Spaniard took all of them and invited Masternak to punch him more. The pattern was repeated in the fifth, when Quinonero ate numerous clean hits - both to the head and to the right side of his body. At times Masternak was all over him but Quinonero never stopped trying to land one big equalizer. He failed though.
Also, referee Josef Temml started to regularly visit the Spaniard's corner after the fifth in order to check Quinonero's condition. Action resumed and lasted for two more rounds, which were vastly one-sided. Masternak punished his opponent at will, and Quinonero never had a chance to land his killer punch. After the seventh round, Temml went to the Spaniard's corner and, on an advice of the corner, halted the bout for a very brave but overmatched Spanish veteranwho has nothing to be ashamed of. Masternak further proved his credibility and showed he was ready for a shot at title.
A huge and shameful scandal marred the second fight of the night between heavyweight prospect Edmund Gerber and British veteran Michael Sprott. Sprott, 37, who lost his previous three fights to quality opponents (Tye Fields, Alexander Dimitrenko and Kubrat Pulev), started the bout furiously, landing hard on Gerber with initial first punches of the fight. The native of Kazakhstan, ranked #7 by the IBF, withstood this pressure and began to counter Sprott with his own hard jab, but he was too passive and he lacked consistency to keep Sprott at bay.
The Brit continued to outwork the 24-year old resident of Schwerin in the next two rounds, connecting with his jab and also trying to land hard overhand right bombs; the last effort being unsuccessful thanks to the tight block of the German. However, Gerber, despite some mild success with his right hand, simply didn't do enough to win either of these rounds.
Round four started bad for the German as well. Sprott, using his front left hand, cut the nose of Gerber and marked his face with redness. The round was clearly going Sprott's way, when during the last seconds of the stanza, Gerber managed to penetrate his guard with a very hard right hand that sent the Briton down on the floor.
Sprott got up at the count of four, wobbled to the corner but seemed "okay" to continue at the count of eight and signalized Gerhard Sigl, the third man in the ring, that he was ready to go by raising his hands. However, the referee chose to act the other way and waved the bout off to the anxious disagreement of Sprott.
Sprott insulted Sigl verbally and then pushed him hard, sending the referee on the canvas. A number of people rushed the ring and prevented further carnage. Sprott's behavior was unacceptabe, which is certainly true. However, it's also clear that the fight was going his way at the time of stoppage (2:51 of the fourth stanza with less than ten seconds remaining in the round), and that the referee gave him no chance to prove his credibility. The stoppage came way too early.
Gerber moves to 21-0, with 14 KOs, but has much left to prove after his mediocre performances in the fights against Sprott and Maurice Harris. Sprott falls down to 36-19, 17 KOs. BoxingScene had it 28-29 - for the British fighter at the time of stoppage.
In the opener of a packed event at Stechert Arena in Bamberg, Germany, which is staged by the Sauerland Event, rising Austrian middleweight Marcos Nader earned a workmanlike decision over tough Frenchman Damien Bertu, 30, over ten rounds of boxing and improved his record to 16-0, 2 KOs.
Nader was peppering his opponent with a crisp left jab from the opening stanza. First, the Frenchman was able to counter his 22-year old rival but, as the fight progressed, light-hitting Nader increased his punch output and began to dominate Bertu with sheer activity and precision. At the end of the second round the Austrian rocked Bertu with a hard right counter. He repeated this trick several times in the midst of the bout and almost closed the show in the last stanza but the Frenchman survived without going down. He had his chances too but it wasn't enough to put the possible outcome of the fight in danger. Final scores were: 99-91 (twice) and 98-92 - for Nader. Bertu falls down to 25-7-1, 7 KOs.