Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas - Two fighters with incredible will and determination met in a thrilling co-feature. Twenty-five year old Keith "One Time" Thurman made an emphatic statement with a brutal knockout of rugged, tested Mexican veteran Jesus "El Renuente" Soto Karass.
Soto Karass opened the scoring in the first seconds of the bout when he stunned Thurman with a big right hand. But Thurman kept his feet, barely, and nearly floored Soto Karass to end the first round.
A furious pace was set. Thurman gradually stole the momentum and broke seemed ultimately to break the will of the Mexican challenger. Thurman showed impressive lateral movement and superb timing as he landed precise and powerful combinations in retreat.
Thurman sent Soto Karass down in the fifth and finished him in the ninth. The final blows were a lethal combination left hook and perfect left uppercut that landed flush to end the contest at 2:21 of round 9.
With the explosive technical knockout, the 25-year-old Thurman of Clearwater, Fla., is sure to climb the ranks of the deep welterweight division, arguably the most talented division in boxing the world over.
"Thurman can transition from a defensive position to explode with powerful shots," said Malignaggi. "That's not an easy thing to do."
Hall of Fame analyst Al Bernstein added this of Thurman, "Showing lateral movement while landing combinations and power punches. That's a tremendous set of skills to have. He has every offensive weapon you could want."
A jubilant Thurman: "San Antonio, baby. Thank you. There's a lot of tough guys out there but One Time represents the KO every time. They can take it for a few rounds, but they can't take it for 12 rounds.
Undefeated Leo "El Terremoto" Santa Cruz, making the first defense of his Super Bantamweight World title, won a close and hard-fought unanimous decision over Puerto Rico's Cesar Seda.
Working behind a piston-like jab and a multitude of power punches, Santa Cruz won the bout on the strength of his trademark volume punching. He sent Seda down in the fifth round, a flash knockdown, but nonetheless it was only the second time Seda had been down in his career.
Seda kept the bout close, fighting well while backing up from the perpetual charge of Santa Cruz. At times, Seda got good work done on the ropes. But in the end, as has been the case with all of Santa Cruz's prior challengers, his work-rate proved to be too much. SHOStats recorded Santa Cruz landing 297 total punches of 829 thrown; 197 of 454 power punches; and 100 of 375 jabs.
Scores were 116-111, 115-112, 117-110 as Santa Cruz improves to 26-0-1, 15 KO's. A two-division world champion has now fought eight times in the less than two years, including six world championship fights.
"He was a tough guy," said Santa Cruz, a Mexican now living and fighting out of Los Angeles. "I am sorry to San Antonio that I couldn't do what I wanted to do. I wanted to give a better fight. Next time I'll try to do better."
[Regarding when he might return to the ring] Santa Cruz said, "I feel good. The sooner, the better for me. I want to stay at 122. Maybe spend next year at 122 and we'll see after that. I thank San Antonio for their support. This is a lovely city. I have wanted to come to fight here for a long time and I am glad we did."
Of Seda, Hall of Fame analyst Al Bernstein said near the end of the bout, "Seda may be better off in the 118-pound division because he has shown some tremendous talent in this fight. He's just in there against a bigger and stronger man in Santa Cruz."
"I thought I won the fight," said Seda, now 25-2, 17 KO's. "The knockdown was not a knockdown. We had our legs tangled. This decision was a robbery."
WBA Light Heavyweight Super Champion Beibut Shumenov defended his title with a three-round route of Tomas Kovacs in the opening bout on SHOWTIME. Shumenov imposed his will, using his jab to set up a strong right hand and an impressive check-left-hook. He knocked down Kovacs in rounds one and two before finishing him with a combination at 2:55 of the third.
Hailing from Kazakhstan and fighting out of Las Vegas, Shumenov (14-1, 9 KO's) looked to Bernard Hopkins, who was in the ring after the bout, for a chance to face the future Hall of Famer.
"My main goal is to unify the titles," said Shumenov after the fight. "I know Bernard (Hopkins) wants to fight me. I'd be honored. He's a truly legendary champion. I would be honored.... I am ready."
Hopkins joined the SHOWTIME interview and added, "I hope he doesn't fight that well when we fight. That right hand was coming straight down the pike. He warmed up a bit and executed very well. It will be an honor, for me, to take his belt."