By Thomas Gerbasi
BROOKLYN – After suffering a brutal fourth round knockout Saturday night at the hands of WBA / WBC junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia, Erik Morales may have wished that the New York State Athletic Commission pulled him from their Saturday rematch at Barclays Center after he tested positive for the banned substance Clenbuterol.
But the show went on, and it was a stellar performance for “Swift,” who defended his titles with a finality that led Morales to say that he had fought in the United States for the last time, likely leaving the door open for a final fight in his native Mexico.
It took around two minutes for the rivals to warm up, but in the final 60 seconds of the first round, both Morales and Garcia decided to test chins, and both passed. Whether that would remain to be the case was to be determined. But Morales, as fearless as ever, stood right in front of Garcia, starting and finishing the second round strong. In the middle, Garcia got off a series of hard shots as he pinned Morales to the ropes.
Garcia got his jab working in the third round, and that was the best course of action for the champion considering that it almost lulled Morales to sleep. When Garcia would throw a hook or cross through, “El Terrible” made sure that he didn’t let that slide, and in response he fired off power shots of his own. Garcia was tagging Morales more often though, and by the end of the round he had rocked him bad enough that the future Hall of Famer stumbled to the wrong corner at the bell.
Moving forward calmly but in a determined fashion, Garcia smelled blood and he was about to get it in the fourth round with a vicious left hook that spun Morales around and to the canvas. The Mexican great landed on the bottom rope and almost out of the ring, and his father Jose immediately rushed into the ring, prompting a stoppage from referee Benji Esteves at the 1:23 mark.
With the win, Garcia improves to 25-0 with 16 KOs; the 36-year-old Morales falls to 52-9 with 36 KOs. The two initially met in March, with Garcia winning via 12 round decision.
Paulie Malignaggi’s WBA welterweight title wasn’t on the line in his co-main event bout against Pablo Cesar Cano due to Cano coming in overweight, but the Mexican battler fought like it was, and when it was over, the Brooklyn crowd cheered for the underdog, who dropped Malignaggi in the 11th round but still wound up on the short end of an unpopular split decision.
Scores were 114-113 twice, and 109-118 for Brooklyn native Malignaggi, who improves to 32-4 with 7 KOs; Cano, who weighed in at 147.8 pounds, falls to 26-2-1 with 20 KOs.
Malignaggi controlled the first round behind his jab, with the slower Cano unable to get any significant offense going outside of a hard right hand in the final 30 seconds.
Cano got busier in the second, landing some hard shots along with several low blows that drew a warning from referee Steve Smoger. Malignaggi had the last word though, sending Cano back to his corner with a cut over his left eye.
The third round contained several good exchanges (and another low blow warning for Cano), and the pattern emerging was of Cano landing flush single shots and Malignaggi delivering a higher volume of punches. Which fighter would break first though?
As the fourth round commenced, Malignaggi’s head movement was non-existent, and Cano took advantage with long, straight shots to the head. But with the crowd chanting his name, Malignaggi got back to sticking his jab and using his lateral movement to keep the Mexico native guessing.
The cut began to visibly bother Cano in the fifth, as he pawed at it a number of times, and there was no question that Malignaggi was going to be targeting it as the fight progressed.
The sixth round was fought well on both ends, Cano landing with hard right hands and Malignaggi drilling his foe with jabs, but there was nothing getting through that seemed to bother the Mexican battler too much as he marched forward.
Malignaggi had a solid eighth round as Cano slowed down slightly until a late round surge. Cano’s cut wasn’t getting any better either, but his corner was keeping him in the fight, and he got back to sharpshooting the Brooklyn native in round nine.
Frustrating Cano for much of the tenth round, Malignaggi had a good run until a left hook late in the frame landed flush, waking the Tlanepantla native up and drawing a roar from his section of supporters.
After a strong 11th round, Malignaggi got dropped by a right hand in the final 30 seconds, and while he rose quickly, his legs were shaky as Cano moved in for the finish, only to be interrupted by the bell.
45 seconds into the final round, Cano landed flush with the right again, but this time Malignaggi was able to take it well. Cano wasn’t about to stop throwing it though, and as the clocked ticked down, chants of “Mexico, Mexico” filled the arena, capping off a wild 12 rounder.
It took New York City’s Peter Quillin six knockdowns to finally vanquish Hassan N’Dam and take the WBO middleweight title in their 12 round war, and even then, the Frenchman never stopped swinging. But in the end, the cleaner and harder shots were landed by “Kid Chocolate,” who took the unanimous decision via three identical scores of 115-107.
The evenly matched middleweights got right after it to begin their fight, with Quillin landing the harder shots, but N’Dam getting off enough return fire of his own to keep the challenger honest. The champion was the wider puncher, which gave him some issues with counterattacks in the second as he continued to burn off nervous energy, but a big right hand rattled Quillin late, giving the Frenchman even more confidence.
Opening the third with a quick series of shots, N’Dam kept pressing, and this brief flurry seemed to wake Quillin up, leading to some compelling exchanges that seemed to set the stage for some even more heated action.
Early in the fourth, that action came, as Quillin sent N’Dam sprawling into the ropes with a hard left hook. In response, N’Dam fired back with both hands, but Quillin kept his cool, drilling the champion with a left hook that put him on the seat of his pants with less than a minute gone. N’Dam rose and went right back at Quillin, only to have his porous defense leave him open for another left hook-induced knockdown. N’Dam wobbled up, with two more trips to the mat ruled slips, but he was able to make it out of the round.
Seemingly unbothered by what happened in the previous frame, N’Dam got right back to business in the fifth, even tagging Quillin with a left hook of his own before “Kid Chocolate” sent a thudding shot right at his head moments later. But there would be no fireworks like there was in the fourth, leading one to wonder whether Quillin had punched himself out or if he was just reloading.
N’Dam was having a good sixth round before getting dropped again by Quillin in a wild exchange late, and it happened yet again just before the bell, as the challenger’s more accurate shots were short-circuiting N’Dam and putting him further behind on the scorecards at the midway point.
Quillin took a bit of a breather in the seventh, letting N’Dam unload shots on him while he had his back to the ropes, and a more controlled version of the champion fought well in the eighth as well, making this an even more interesting bout heading down the stretch.
N’Dam opened the ninth with a hard overhand right, and while Quillin took it well, it was a harbinger of things to come, as the champion unloaded several hard shots on the Grand Rapids, Michigan native, making it evident that he was not about to give up his title without a fight.
Getting back down to business in the tenth, Quillin ripped off a series of hard left hooks over the course of the round, only to see N’Dam finish with a flourish in one of the best rounds of the fight.
The pace took a dip to begin round 11, but in the second half of the round, N’Dam went on the attack in spurts, adding some much needed points heading into the final stanza. And while fatigue was a factor for both men in the last round, it was N’Dam continuing to recklessly empty his tank. That recklessness cost him in the final 30 seconds though, as he was sent to the canvas by Quillin two more times, sealing the deal for the crowd favorite in emphatic fashion.
With the win, Quillin improves to 28-0 with 20 KOs; N’Dam, previously unknown in the United States but unknown no longer, falls to 27-1 with 17 KOs.
Renowned trainer George Benton famously said “Win today, look good next time.” Devon Alexander did just that in taking Randall Bailey’s IBF welterweight title, moving to 24-1 (13 KOs) as a pro with a clear-cut, but horrific to watch, 12 round unanimous decision win.
Scores were 115-111, 116-110, and 117-109 in a bout so devoid of action that Bailey’s 45 landed punches set a record for the fewest in a 12 round fight since CompuBox began tracking such numbers 27 years ago. Alexander was no ball of fire either, landing just 120 shots over 12 rounds.
There was little action in the early going, prompting the appearance of some boo birds, but in this feeling out process, Bailey (43-8, 37 KOs) kept a slow but steady pressure on Alexander throughout the opening three minutes, staying close enough to do damage if he decided to let his hands go.
In the second minute of round two, he did just that. Well, at least one hand – his concussive right – and he jarred Alexander briefly, but was unable to follow up.
St. Louis’ Alexander began to find his rhythm in the third round as Bailey fought a Randall Bailey fight: walking and stalking and looking to land a right hand but nothing else. In the fourth, things got worse, as the two either pawed at each other or clinched, refusing to get into any consistent exchanges.
A clinch saved Alexander from some serious trouble in the fifth, as he tied up just as Bailey unleashed the right, but he wasn’t as lucky with a minute remaining, as he ate two to the face. “The Great” took each shot well though, and he tried to get even immediately before the combatants got tangled up again.
With a minute left in the sixth, referee Arthur Mercante Jr. took a point from both fighters for holding, hopefully to send a message to both. It was seemingly to no avail, as Bailey responded by pushing Alexander, drawing a warning, and Alexander got a punch off during the break. At least they were showing variety in their fouling, if not their fighting.
Round seven was no better, though each at least attempted to be busier, and in the eighth, Alexander finally began to show off the skills that won him a world title at 140 pounds.
By midway through the ninth, Bailey began stealing glimpses at the clock while Alexander picked and pecked at him enough to take the rounds and begin pulling away. All that was left was seeing if Alexander could avoid a home run swing from the 38-year-old Floridian, and he did just that, coasting to the final bell while picking up another title.
Now for that next time…
Dmitriy Salita got a tough scrap out of Missouri’s Brandon Hoskins before closing strong down the stretch to take a six round unanimous decision in junior middleweight action.
Scores were 60-54 and 59-55 twice.
The fight was sloppy at the start, which served to work well for the aggressive Hoskins, who refused to let Salita get on track consistently in the first two rounds. Both settled down a bit in the third, each cracking the other with the occasional hard shot that drew a reaction from the crowd, but neither man was able to pull ahead in the first half of the fight.
Salita’s experience showed in the second half though, and while he wasn’t spectacular, he was doing decent work, even having his best round of the fight in the fifth, as he tagged Hoskins repeatedly late in the frame and bloodied his face.
With the win, Salita improves to 35-1-1 with 18 KOs; Hoskins falls to 16-3-1 with 8 KOs.
Daniel Jacobs screamed those words to the crowd as he stood atop the ropes in a neutral corner even before his first bout since March of 2011 was waved off by referee Eddie Cotton, but “The Golden Child” knew the second he landed a thudding left-right on Missouri’s Josh Luteran in the opening round that the fight was over.
And it was, capping off the first step in a remarkable comeback story that saw Jacobs return to the ring after a bout with cancer. The victory, which came 73 seconds into the fight, was the former world middleweight title challenger’s first since defeating Robert Kliewer 19 months ago.
“No moment is ever greater than right now,” said Jacobs.
With the win, the Brooklyn native improves to 23-1 with 20 KOs; Luteran, dubbed the “Existential Outlaw,” falls to 13-2 with 9 KOs.
Hot junior middleweight prospect Eddie Gomez made quick work of Phoenix’ Saul Benitez, moving to 11-0 (8 KOs) thanks to a blistering left hand in the second round that ended matters at the 1:23 mark. The overmatched Benitez falls to 2-3 with the defeat.
Former welterweight champion Luis Collazo looked sharp in his eight round unanimous decision win over Steve Upsher Chambers, handing the Philadelphia product his first loss since 2004 via scores of 80-72, 79-73, and 77-75.
In a solid first round, junior middles Collazo (32-5, 16 KOs) and Chambers (24-2-1, 6 KOs) fought in spurts, but when they did open up, there was some compelling action mostly led by the Brooklyn native, who drew the first significant local fan support of the night.
Apparently unbothered by Chambers’ power, Collazo went on the attack in round two, doing nice work to the body and head as his opponent simply held his gloves up and hoped for the best. The Philadelphian did eventually fire back, but his shots did little to deter Collazo, who was revealing some of his best offensive work in years.
Taking his foot off the gas in rounds three through five, Collazo still dominated with defense, movement, and sharp counters, but by the sixth, it was clear that while Chambers was still game, his serious attempts at winning the fight were dwindling by the minute. Collazo tried to potshot his way to the stoppage win, but after cracking his foe with flush shots and seeing him remain standing, the fight turned into a coast to the finish line capped off by a brief spurt of activity from the fan favorite that produced “Louie, Louie” chants from the crowd before the final bell sounded.
In the first fight to be held in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, local junior middleweight favorite Boyd Melson suffered an upset of sorts, as fellow Brooklynite Jason Thompson held him to a six round draw.
Scores were 56-56 in a bout in which the two traded knockdowns.
Thompson did good work in the first round, shaking off a hard straight left that rocked him to deliver a shot that dropped Melson for an eight count late in the opening frame. The pace dipped a bit in the second, but not enough for Thompson to get in a couple stiff right hands that likely carried the round for him.
In the third, Melson got on the board with a knockdown of his own, but even though Thompson rose on rubbery legs, “The Rainmaker” was unable to take him out. Melson settled into a groove in rounds four and five, but Thompson went for it in the final round, catching his favored foe several times in an effort to even his pro record. It didn’t happen, but in moving to 5-6-2 (4 KOs), it was a moral victory at least. Melson’s slate moves to 9-1-1 with 3 KOs.