By Jake Donovan
They promised post-Independence Day fireworks, and junior welterweights Kendall Holt and Ricardo Torres delivered and then some.
The two combined for three knockdowns in just over a minute of action, with Holt eventually emerging victorious with an explosive off-the-canvas first-round knockout in Las Vegas.
The bout served as the main event of a special Saturday night edition of Showtime's ShoBox: The New Generation series.
Both fighters came out swinging in what instantly became the frontrunner for 2008's Round of the Year. It appeared as if Holt's shaky chin would do him in; a right hand by Torres had the New Jersey native on the canvas thirteen seconds into the fight.
"I was OK," Holt said of the first knockdown. "I got momentarily distracted from a punch I didn't see coming."
Referee Jay Nady would issue what would be the first of three counts. Holt recovered but found himself on the canvas seconds later, though insisting it was a knockdown that shouldn't have been.
"I was slipping, I wouldn't call that a knockdown. I was off-balance and throwing punches, trying to keep him at bay."
Regardless of what he thought, the fact was that just over thirty seconds into the fight, Holt was a punch or two away from losing to Torres for the second time in as many fights.
That final punch would never come, at least not from the Colombian.
"I don't back down," insists Holt. "I lay backs down."
Torres' back would never quite touch the canvas, but the message of the statement still rings true. It didn't appear it would go that way, as Holt went into retreat mode while seeking any opening to get his foe to back up off him.
One would present itself, as Holt landed a left hook to the body. Torres doubled over, at which point their heads collided. Torres rocked backwards to the ropes, where he would remain for the remainder of the brief encounter. Holt went into harbor shark mode, sniffing blood and going in for the kill.
A corker of a right hand knocked out Torres – emphasis on out, as he lay frighteningly still, seated on the bottom rope as Nady counted him out.
"When I saw him not move at the 3-count, I knew he wasn't getting up," said Holt, who moves to 24-2 (13KO) in picking up his first major alphabet title.
The official time was 1:01 of the first round, with just about every second it going as expected for Team Holt.
"I knew from the first round that he'd come after me," insisted the Paterson (NJ) native. "He had good success at coming strong and we had good practice at him coming strong."
Surprisingly, the only thing he didn't expect was the sudden ending.
"I didn't sense… I was just trying to win the round, or at least prevent it from becoming 10-7."
He did a hell of a lot more than that – he evened up the score in emphatic and far less controversial fashion.
The bout was a rematch to their highly controversial first fight last September in Torres' hometown of Baranquilla, Colombia. An unruly crowd and inept referee hindered Holt's chances of returning home with a title belt. Holt was up on two of the three scorecards before getting dropped in the 11th round, after which he was forced to contend with Torres' punches and flying debris from the crowd before being stopped while under siege along the ropes.
Saturday night's win more than makes up for that debacle.
"(Colombia) seems like a long time ago, I'm just done with it."
Meanwhile, he's just beginning for bigger and better things in the junior welterweight division.
Torres falls to 32-2 (28KO) with the loss. Both losses have come inside the distance, as he was stopped in seven rounds by Miguel Cotto in what was one of the best fights of 2005. The Colombian figures to make his way to several year-end categories in 2008 – Knockout and Round of the Year among them – though once again on the wrong end of the outcome.
Lamont Peterson easily emerged victorious in the televised co-feature with a dominating ninth-round stoppage over durable Rogelio Castaneda Jr.
It was as if the Peterson brothers pulled role reversals in their Top Rank debuts nine days apart. Younger brother Anthony, more often referred to as the bigger puncher of the two, turned in a workmanlike performance in a dominant-yet-monotonous affair against Fernando Trejo last week on Versus.
On Saturday night in Las Vegas, it was the normally silky smooth Lamont fighting more aggressive at this level than at any point in his young career, making his presence felt in each and every round.
Castaneda's corner believed that Peterson would eventually wilt, urging their charge to take the fight to the undefeated junior welterweight. It wasn't until the fourth round did they finally catch on that Lamont the boxer wasn't the one that showed up for this fight. Castaneda found himself rocked on a couple of occasions, and fighting off of the ropes more often than he expected or preferred, as Peterson had his left hook dialed in, both upstairs and to the body.
Round five was an equally brutal frame for Castaneda. By rounds end, Peterson's trainer Barry Hunter insisted to his charge that so long as the same pressure was applied, the Mexican would be slower and slower to get off his stool with each passing round. So naturally, action slowed to a crawl in the sixth round, though another frame easily won by Peterson.
The body attack returned in round seven, which opened up opportunities for Peterson to land upstairs. Castaneda showed there was no quit in him, fighting back as hard as he could, and just enough to keep referee Russell Mora from intervening. As the fight reached a point where it appeared it was going the distance, Peterson began to box more on his toes, still dialing in with his left hook, but not with as much conviction.
A stoppage appeared to be well within reach early in the eighth, as Peterson rocked Castaneda with uppercuts and hooks. Once again, Castaneda showed just enough grit to convince Peterson not to clean out the kitchen, but it was a different story in the ninth. A straight right hand floored Castaneda early in the round. Peterson stayed on the attack until his opponent's corner approached the ring apron, pleading with referee Russell Mora to stop the fight.
The official time was 2:50 of round nine.
Peterson advances to 25-0 (12KO) with what was easily the most complete performance of his young career. Often criticized for his lack of pop early in his career, Peterson has now registered stoppages in four of his past five fights. This one couldn't have come at a better time, with younger brother Anthony still forced to hear about his failing to deliver an explosive performance a week prior.
Castaneda is failing to deliver winning performances these days. The Mexican is now 1-4 in his last five fights, in falling to 24-14-3 (8KO). It's only his second stoppage loss since 1999, though both have come within the past twelve months.
The show was presented by Top Rank, Inc.
Jake Donovan is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Tennessee Boxing Advisory Board. Contact Jake at JakeNDaBox@gmail.com