by Cliff Rold
Ending the night drenched in crimson flowing freely from his foe, 24-year old Malawian Light Heavyweight Isaac Chilemba (18-1-1, 9 KO) of Johannesburg, South Africa, picked up a hard fought and often two-ways foul unanimous decision over 31-year old veteran Colombian Edison Miranda (35-7, 30 KO) of Carolina, Puerto Rico on Friday night at the Texas Station Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Both men weighed in for the ten-round bout below the division limit of 175 lbs., Chilemba at 174 and Miranda at 174 ½. The referee was Robert Byrd.
In the first two rounds, the experience of Miranda showed as he pressed the younger man and kept Chilemba off balance. Towards the end of the second, referee Robert Byrd dished out a couple of warnings for rough stuff on the inside and rabbit punching. Neither man was landing their best stuff outside the clinches.
Both men improved offensively in the third, Miranda landing some lefts hooks and forcing exchanges from Chilemba. The Malawian responded by planting and countering off the ropes and mixing in some hooks downstairs. The close quarters combat opened a cut over the left eye of Miranda from an accidental headbutt. After a quick review by the ringside physician, Miranda jumped back into the fray and attempted heavy lumber with the left as Chilemba worked off the ropes.
Blood flowed richly from the eye of Miranda from the outset of the fourth, staining the left side of Chilemba. The warnings of Byrd continued into the fifth, each man guilty of ample rabbit punching. Byrd’s stern admonishments reached a head as both men were deducted point simultaneously in the middle of the fifth, an unusual but fair way to address the issue. When landing legally, Chilemba had success with the right to the head while Miranda’s best work was to the body.
Chilemba landed the best punch of the night to then in round seven, a right hand rocking Miranda and forcing the Colombian to hold on. The blow burst the cut of Miranda open worse and Chilemba landed more rights as the round wore on. A brief break was called in the final minute so the doctor could take another look. He signaled Miranda okay to continue but the pressure of the veteran was waning.
Chilemba’s scored clean and more often in the eighth and the fight began to look as if it had settled towards an eventual victor after a narrowly decided first six rounds. Sensing the chance for victory slipping away, Miranda leapt forward with a left hook to start the ninth and upped the intensity of his attack. He was improved but it was still Chilemba, specked with Miranda’s blood from face to the back of his head, landing the cleaner stuff.
The tenth round was three more minutes of what the fight had been all night with lots of rough work inside and a healthy shedding of Miranda blood. In the final thirty seconds, Chilemba sealed the deal with an assault that trapped Miranda in the corner for a moment. Miranda worked off but could not land the bomb he needed. Both men, having given excellent effort, raised their hands at the final bell.
Only Chilemba’s hands would remain aloft after the scores were announced with scores turned in at 97-91 and 96-92 twice. Chilemba makes it four straight wins since a draw with undefeated Thomas Oosthuizen in 2010. Miranda loses his fourth fight in his last seven.
Heavyweight action swung the card before the main event.
Undefeated 30-year old Russian Magomed Abdusalamov (13-0, 13 KO), 227, of Oxnard, California, remained that way. It didn’t take long either. Fellow undefeated 31-year old Pedro Rodriguez (8-1, 6 KO), 243, of Miami, Florida, came in gutty and offered little resistance aside from some early offensive bursts in the first round. The southpaw Abdusalamov forced Rodriguez to the ropes with body hooks and teed off to the head before ending matters with a closing right hand at 1:04 of round number two. The referee was Russell Mora.
A contest of undefeated Jr. Lightweights kicked off the televised card.
At the end of eight rounds, only one “0” remained. At 5’11, 25-year old Cuban Rances Barthelemy (15-0, 11 KO), 130, of Miami, Florida, used his four-inch height advantage over 21-year old Hylon Williams Jr. (15-1, 3 KO), 130, of Las Vegas, Nevada, to control distance and rack up points en route to an eight round unanimous decision win.
The bout was contested at a fast pace, both youngsters showing exceptional hand speed. Williams battled back from some rough spots near the ropes but was outgunned by the reach and heavier hands of Barthelemy. Score came in at 79-73 twice and a shutout 80-72. No knockdowns were scored and, despite the lopsided scores, both fighters showed quality in terms of going forward. It would be no surprise to find both in contention at Jr. Lightweight in the years to come.
The referee was Robert Byrd.
The card was televised in the U.S. on ESPN2 as part of its “Friday Night Fights” series, promoted by Warriors Boxing.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]