By Cliff Rold
It might not all be in the genes, but they can’t hurt.
Following a loss and draw in his last two contests, the son of 1976 U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist Howard Davis, 29-year old Super Middleweight Dyah Davis (19-2-1, 9 KO) of Coconut Creek, Florida, showed growth and picked up his finest win to date with a unanimous decision over ten rounds against formerly undefeated 25-year old Marcus Johnson (20-1, 15 KO) of Houston, Texas.
Both men came in above the Super Middleweight limit of 168 lbs., Davis at 169 ¼ and Johnson at 170.
Davis came out spry at the opening bell, bouncing on the balls of his feet and snapping the left jab into the face of a patient, stalking Johnson. A Johnson left jab near the corner made room for a right to land for Johnson. Davis bounced forward with a left hook. In the final minute, Davis landed a nice right hand at mid-ring but took a harsh left hook and right hand as he got too close to the ropes.
Davis continued to have success with the right hand in round two, eating a few left hands early but upping his jab output to mitigate the Johnson attack. Johnson’s best work came when Davis was near the ropes, a truth in the first, second, and then third rounds but Davis spent less time there in each frame. By the end of three, Davis was even mixing in a left hook off the strands followed with a flashy flurry.
An aggressive Johnson increased pressure on Davis in the fourth, mixing in some thudding lefts to the body. Davis flagged a bit in the fifth as Johnson continued to press and appeared to take control of the contest.
Davis must have sensed the same because he started the sixth at higher ebb than either of the previous two rounds. His hands down, he took a glancing left for his trouble but also rediscovered the jab that had declined as Johnson’s pressure increased. The fatigue of combat flattened his feet in the seventh but Davis did fine in the middle of the ring, his jab and right continuing to trouble Johnson. Johnson still seemed slightly ahead but the chess match was anyone’s game with three rounds to go.
With Johnson’s left eye swelling badly, Davis built on his solid seventh with an even better eighth, controlling Johnson with his jab. His confidence soared in the ninth. A short right near the belt line dropped Johnson in the first minute and referee Mark Calo-Oy ruled a knockdown. Johnson made no complaint and replays showed a clean blow to the solar plexus. Johnson took the count and rising at eight. Davis earned a quick warning for a low blow and responded by landing a left hook to the face. Johnson fired back but was eating far more leather than he could dish out.
With one round to go, what had been anyone’s game now looked like Davis’s to lose. Johnson did his best to make that happen, a left and right getting Davis’s attention before a minute was gone. Johnson stayed on top of Davis, who mostly played it safe even while landing a couple nice right hands, and made a three-minute statement to keep his unbeaten mark.
It turned out that statement was nowhere near enough. What looked like a close fight until the knockdown was anything but with two judges giving Davis the nod at 98-91 and the other at a more competitive 96-93. No matter the tally, the right man won.
Johnson, who entered the contest rated #2 by the WBC and #9 by the WBA at Super Middleweight, takes a step back. If he can show the sort of improvement Davis has recently, he’ll be just fine.
Johnson’s “0” was the last of a trio turned to “1” by night’s end.
In the middle portion of a televised tripleheader, 30-year old Puerto Rican Jr. Welterweight Gabriel Bracero (15-0, 1 KO), 140, of Brooklyn, New York, was the physically stronger man and used that asset to his advantage, pushing forward and landing heavy hooks against the more stylish and equally undefeated 26-year old Danny O’Connor (14-1, 3 KO), 137 ¾, of Framingham, Massachusetts. Bracero scored a sweep on two cards over eight rounds at 80-72 and lost a single frame on the other at 79-73. The referee was Rafael Ramos.
The televised opener was an oddity, the rare occasion where fans could see a fighter deducted a point for excessive holding and still end up seeing a hell of a scrap. 23-year old Welterweight Vincent Arroyo (11-1, 7 KO) overcame a massive height deficit with good old-fashioned accurate power punching. In the third, deducted a point for holding, Arroyo exploded with a left to drop 23-year old Willie Nelson (16-1-1, 10 KO), 145 ¾, of Cleveland, Ohio. Nelson responded by boxing well in spots but would surrender to the call of the floor twice more, Arroyo scoring knockdowns in the sixth and seventh. Eyebrow raising, Arroyo settled only for a majority decision win as one official had the contest a draw at 74-74. That judge was wisely overruled at scores of 75-73 twice. The referee was Rafael Ramos.
The card was televised on Showtime as part of its “ShoBox” series, promoted by Lou DiBella.
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]