by David P. Greisman
Paul Spadafora’s far-fetched hopes of returning to prominence suffered a stinging setback on Saturday, with the former lightweight world titleholder dropping a majority decision to Johan Perez.
The scores were a 114-114 draw and the deciding cards of 115-113 and 117-111 for Perez.
The fight began with both men fighting cautiously, each seeking to find openings, while examining what his opponent was doing. Perez began to open up with more shots in the second round, but he had difficulty hitting Spadafora, who was blocking, moving, and ducking well, at least for the moment.
Spadafora wasn’t doing much offensively, though, and that allowed Perez to close the distance. Spadafora began to come forward at times, giving himself more opportunities, but allowing the same for Perez. By the end of the fourth, Perez had opened a cut over Spadafora’s left eye, to go along with the bruising under his right.
Perez’s defense also was serving him well. And at 30, his reflexes proved less rusty than those of the often-inactive 38-year-old Spadafora.
And so as Perez began to kick his output into a higher gear, Spadafora got hit much more than he had during his best years. Spadafora stood in and battled back with some success, though in general he was less active and less effective.
It was Spadafora’s first pro loss, and a significant one, at that.
This bout was being contested for the World Boxing Association’s interim title at 140 pounds — a trinket, given that the WBA already has a “regular” world titleholder in the junior welterweight division (Khabib Allakhverdiev) and a “super” world titleholder as well (the consensus No. 1 guy, Danny Garcia).
Despite that, the belt could’ve led to bigger things for Spadafora — who has needed them for about a decade.
Spadafora was once a skilled up-and-coming boxer. He captured a belt at 135 pounds in August 1999, and then defended it with seven victories, followed by a draw in an absolute war with Leonard Dorin in May 2003.
Spadafora left the lightweight division behind and fought twice in 2004, defeating Ruben Galvan and Francisco Campos. But then he went to prison for the non-fatal shooting of his girlfriend, just one of multiple legal problems that would plague him over the years.
His comeback came in fits and starts. He returned in November 2006, after 28 months away, stopping Frankie Zepeda. He fought again less than four months later, in March 2007, taking a split decision over Oisin Fagan. That would be it for the year.
Spadafora next fought in April 2008, outpointing Shad Howard. That would be his only appearance for that year as well. He came back 14 months later, stopping Ivan Bustos in June 2009, then outpointed Jermaine White in September 2009.
The next year, 2010 brought a pair of stoppages over Ivan Fiorletta and Alain Hernandez, but then Spadafora didn’t fight at all in 2011. Last year, he won decisions over Humberto Toledo (his first fight in 21 months), and Solomon Egberime, then won a decision over Robert Frankel this past April.
That brought Spadafora’s record to 48-0-1 with 19 knockouts, and it somehow earned him this title shot, trinket or not, against Perez.
Perez’s only pro loss had been a technical decision loss in a bout for this very same belt in July 2012 against Pablo Cano. That fight ended after an accidental head butt sent the fight to the scorecards, and Cano won by majority decision.
Now Perez has improved to 18-1-1 with 12 knockouts. Spadafora, meanwhile, will need to decide whether he wants to keep fighting — and, if so, what he is fighting for.
- Wilkens “The Hispanic Hurricane” Santiago and Eric Draper fought to a six-round split draw. The scores were 58-56 for Santiago, 58-56 for Draper, and the even 57-57 card.
“I thought I had the fight won,” Santiago said afterward, “but I respect the judges.”
Santiago, who came in at 153 pounds, is now 9-0-1 with 1 KO. Draper, who was 156 pounds, is now 8-6-1 (3 KOs).
- “Big Chief” Morgan Fitch was fortunate to escape with a draw against Darnell Boone, the super middleweight measuring stick who has fought seemingly everyone, holds a knockout victory over Adonis Stevenson and once floored Andre Ward years and years ago.
Boone also sent Fitch to the canvas — twice. The first knockdown came off an uppercut at the end of the third round. Fitch rose at the count of eight, and the bell rang to end the round.
He wasn’t much steadier at the start of the fourth, and Boone took advantage of that early with a clubbing right hand that sent Fitch back down. Fitch got up again, and Boone attacked with heavy uppercuts and overhand rights, many of these missing wildly. Fitch survived the onslaught, got his legs back and began to land shots of his own.
Boone’s activity dropped, and that — plus possible hometown officiating — may be what cost him. Fitch was the aggressor for the remainder of the fight, though not overly effective. Boone ducked plenty, and while he did little, he did land on occasion.
The scores were the even 56-56 card, 58-55 for Boone and 57-56 for Fitch.
Boone is now 19-21-4 with 8 knockouts. He hasn’t won since August 2011, with his past four losses including defeats against Dyah Ali Davis, Sergey Kovalev, and the aforementioned Stevenson in a rematch.
Fitch is now 11-0-1 with 5 KOs.
- Dustin “The Clean Coal Assassin” Echard won a majority decision over Thomas “The Hillbilly” Hanshaw in a bout between two guys several pounds over the light heavyweight limit. Yes, these are actually their nicknames.
The scores were a 38-38 draw overruled by a pair of 39-37 cards for Echard.
The second half of the bout was the most entertaining part, with both guys trading combinations from, well, within arm’s length of each other. Echard may have gotten the better of the third, and so Hanshaw came out aggressively in the fourth, landing numerous one-two combinations. Echard was able to land some clean right hands of his own.
Echard, who weighed 181 pounds, remains undefeated at 8-0 with 6 K0s. Hanshaw, who came in at 182 pounds, is now 2-2 with 2 KOs.
- Undefeated 125-pounder Antonio Nieves made quick work of his opponent, 129-pound last-minute replacement Brian Raglin, scoring two knockdowns in half a round en route to the knockout win.
The first knockdown came off a right hand to the body followed by a left hook to the head. Raglin rose quickly, though he didn’t remain standing for much longer. Another body shot put him down, and that was it.
The end came 1 minute and 28 seconds into the round.
Nieves, of Ohio, is now 5-0 with 2 KOs. Raglin, of Indiana, remains winless at 0-4.
- In the show’s opener, “Iron” Mike Snider — a Toughman competitor taking part in just his third sanctioned pro boxing bout — scored a unanimous decision over the more experienced designated opponent James Denson.
All three judges saw the bout 39-37.
Snider, who came in at 175 pounds, went to Denson’s ample 179-pound body in the opening round. Denson stopped throwing punches for an extended period, backing himself up into a corner, covering up and just allowing Snider to attack.
Denson decided to send out some shots out in the second round, and Snider walked directly into the path of an overhand right that clubbed and wobbled him. Denson landed a few more punches in the stanza, then returned to inactivity for the remainder of the fight.
Snider is now 2-0-1 with 1 KO. Denson is now 5-16 with 2 KOs and has now lost nine fights in a row, and 13 of his last 14.
Pick up a copy of David’s new book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon or on Amazon U.K. at http://amzn.to/11mYGZI. Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]