By Francisco Salazar
It may not have been "special," but Kell Brook did enough to win a world title belt.
Brook had to deal with a lot of predictions stating Shawn Porter would retain his title by decision or knockout, traveled halfway across the world, and grinder out a win.
Brook won a hard-fought 12 round majority decision over Porter before an announced crowd of 7,025 at the Stubhub Center in Carson, Calif. With the victory, Brook won the IBF welterweight title.
Brook was taking a significant step up in opposition against Porter. Brook won the opportunity to fight Porter by winning an elimination bout in October, stopping Vyacheslav Senchenko in the fourth round. In his last bout on March 15, Brook stopped Alvaro Robles in the eighth round.
Porter was making the second defense of his title he won against Devon Alexander in December. He made a successful first defense of his title in his last bout on April 19, stopping Paul Malignaggi in the fourth round.
It was rough and tumble affair between the two fighters. Porter was on the attack from the opening bell. He was at his best getting on the inside of the taller Brook's guard. Brook did not look comfortable with Porter on the inside, forcing him to hold.
Because of the action on the inside, Brook suffered a cut over his left eye in the third round. At times, it looked as though Brook was having difficulties seeing with blood seeping into his eye.
"The cut over the eye did not bother me," said Brook after the fight.
Brook began to work behind a jab in the fifth round. He was able to keep Porter at bay, as Porter did everything he could to take the fight on the inside.
"I thought I was effective in my attack, but he was ready," said Porter, sporting a cut over his right eye after the fight.
That cut was caused in the sixth round, more than likely from an accidental head-butt. The cut seemed to take energy and any rhythm out of Porter, as he was not as aggressive and assertive in his attack.
As the bout progressed, Brook seemed to be effective catching Porter coming in. He was able to land counter left hooks to the head of Porter and even sneak in a few right hands. Porter did not do himself any favors as seemed to smother his punches. Even on the inside, he was unable to sit down on his punches and his punches did not seem to have any impact.
As the bout headed into the championship rounds, Brook had the momentum. He looked as though he landed the more telling blows, remained composed, and had more energy.
One judge scored the bout 114-114, while the other two judges scored the bout in favor of Brook 117-111 and 116-112.
"Since I was nine years old, I trained like a champion," said Brook, who is promoted by Eddie Hearn. "I took the fight to him in his own backyard. Porter is a true warrior. I'm ready to fight all of the top fighters. I think the British public needs to see this fight with Khan, but he can get in line.
Porter will continue to press on, even seeking a rematch with Brook.
"I'm going back to the drawing board and continue training," said Porter after the fight. "I'm not giving any excuses. I do want a rematch and if I have to go find him, I will. He was holding for more than half the rounds. I don't agree with the decision.
Brook, from Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, goes to 33-0, 22 KOs. Porter, from Cleveland, Ohio, drops to 24-1-1, 15 KOs.
Dirrell wins title in rematch
This was a rematch of the December split decision draw in Brooklyn, N.Y. Bika remained as the titleholder.
The rematch was less to be desired, as both fighters did little to emulate the action that took place at the Barclays Center that night. The fight was sloppy, as both fighters tried to connect with wide hooks and crosses that tried to find their mark.
Dirrell did land the more telling blows and it would have been in his best interest to use his height and reach advantage to keep Bika on the outside. That did not happen, which resulted in more clenches and falls to the canvas, more so for Dirrell.
The crowd grew restless, most booing the action or paying attention to Marcos Maidana make his way through the crowd or a fight that broke out in the crowd.
Bika was deducted a point from referee Jack Reiss in the eighth round for landing a punch below Dirrell's belt line.
Sensing he was down on the scorecards, Bika took initiative and tried to press the fight. He did catch Dirrell with counter right hands to the head, but it was too little, too late as Dirrell received the nod on the judges' scorecards.
All three judges scored the bout in favor of Dirrell with scores of 114-113, 116-111, and 117-110.
Dirrell, from Flint, Mich., goes to 27-0-1, 22 KOs. The Cameroonian-born Bika, from Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, falls to 32-6-3, 21 KOs.
Figueroa stops Estrada in nine
From the opening bell, both fighters came out swinging at one another. Figueroa would switch back and forth from conventional to southpaw, ripping shots to the body. Not to be outdone, Estrada hung in there, scoring with right hands to the head of Figueroa.
Blood began coming out of Estrada's nose in the second round, but it did not look to affect him as he stood his ground and engaged with Figueroa.
The pace settled in the fourth round. Figueroa continued to switch back and forth from conventional to a southpaw stance and working behind a jab, beating Estrada to the punch during most of the exchanges.
Midway through the fight, Estrada took the fight on the inside, where he had good success in landing to the body and landing the occasional uppercut to Figueroa's head.
The action picked up in the eighth round as both fighters traded combinations in the second half of the round, bringing the crowd to their feet. During an exchange, Figueroa suffered a cut over his left eye, likely from an accidental clash of heads.
The ringside physician took a long look at the cut after the round, but allowed the fight to continue. About 30 seconds into the ninth round, Figueroa dropped Estrada with a counter right hand to the head. Estrada got up and tried to fight back, but looked out on his feet as he was up against the ropes. Referee Raul Caiz, Sr. stepped in and stopped the bout at 1:00.
I was more concerned about the judges and doctors up to that point (after the eighth round)," said Figueroa after the fight. I didn't think I performed that great. (Regarding the knockout), I knew he was going to be open for that punch. I thought I was going to knock him out earlier."
Asked about what would be his next move, Figueroa said, "My body can't handle making 135 pounds anymore. I want to go up to 140 pounds."
Figueroa, from Weslaco, Tex, improves to 24-0-1, 18 KOs. Estrada, from Mexico City, DF, Mexico, falls to 32-3-1, 24 KOs.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. He also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, RingTV, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing