By Alexey Sukachev
MORE LIVE RESULTS TO COME.............
Monaco - WBO/IBF #1 ranked bantamweight Randy Caballero (22-0, 13 KOs) of Indio, California, is the new IBF 118lb champion following a spirited effort against ex-champion Stuey Hall (16-4-2, 7 KOs) in a fight, that was much closer than lopsided scores (118-110 and 116-111 x 2) has suggested.
After a cautious first, Hall attempted to methodically break Caballero apart. He wasn't very successful in doing that, and moreover was dropped by a short right hand of the American in the second round, which was a flash knockdown. Quickly up IBF #3 Hall continued to stalk the Californian, who answered in short spurts and also controlled the distance with his jab.
Middle rounds turned into a war of attrition. Both fighters rumbled willingly in close quarters, and uppercut was the most used weapon. It looked like Hall was doing better with his sheer intensity, although Caballero landed at a higher percentage. At the end, all three judges chose precision over activity by awarding the decision to Caballero.
IBF bantamweight title linage was a mess ever since Leo Santa Cruz decided to move up to the super bantamweight division early in 2013. Since then the red belt has been captured four times in less than a year and a half by four different fighters. Firstly it was contested in a 2013 FOTY candidate between Jamie McDonnell (a winner) and Julio Ceja. McDonnell, facing promotional problems, had to give up the title in late 2013, and Hall was one to grab a vacant belt with another memorable war against Vusi Malinga. He defended it once via technical draw before being dethroned by super flyweight newcomer Paul Butler this June. Then Butler chose to vacate and to go back down in weight, allowing Caballero and Hall to contest it.
In a battle of unbeatens, WBO #3 and WBC #11 light heavyweight Eleider Alvarez (16-0, 9 KOs) of Colombia by way of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, scored one of the sweetest of his wins with the seventh-round stoppage of brave but inferior South African Ryno Liebenberg to acquire his opponent's WBC Silver title.
Alvarez, 30 and rated #8 by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, took the first round to do some research on his opponent. The second round was also for the Siuth African, who was pressurizing the Colombian. Alvarez started to find weaknesses in the Lion's defense - specifically for his right uppercut - in the third. Rounds four and five were fought in measured tempo, but Alvarez landed cleaner and crisper punches and delivered more heat. Scores were 39-37 (twice - for Alvarez) and 38-38 - under the rules of open scoring by the WBC - after the fourth.
In a catastrophic sixth stanza, Liebenberg, 29, was first cut after an accidental headbutt, then deducted a point by the referee under the regulations of the WBC. After the fight was resumed, he was dropped down by a terrific right uppercut by Alvarez but somehow managed to survive with a nasty cut over his left eye. It didn't last for long after. Liebenberg was once again tagged in a heated exchange, and his terrible cut re-opened. Referee Frank Garza stopped the bout immediately after an advice of a ringside physician.
Official time of stoppage was 1:54 of the seventh. WBC #4, IBF #8 and WBO #15 Liebenberg is down to 16-1, with 11 KOs.
In a battle of undefeated light heavyweights Eleider Alvarez (16-0) continued his climb with a seventh round stoppage of Ryno Liebenberg (16-1) to capture the WBC silver championship. Liebenberg was down in the sixth and had nasty cuts on his face.
It wasn't easy but unified WBA and IBO strawweight champion Hekkie "The Hex" Budler (27-1, 9 KOs) successfully retained both of his belts in a scrappy fight with rugged ex-WBC master Xiong Zhao Zhong (24-6-1, 14 KOs) of China - by a close unanimous decision.
Dwarfed at 5'0'' even under standards of the sport's lightest weight class, Chinese Xiong once again proved to be a giant in terms of willingness, toughness and mental grit. After an even first round, he has stepped up the gas and started to deliver heat in the second round. He stepped also onto the foot of Budler, forcing a fall. That wasn't ruled a knockdown by young and promising female referee Romina Arroyo but when Zhong landed a counter left hook to the chin of Budler, and down he went, nothing prevent Ms. Arroyo to issue a knockdown.
To his credit, Budler, 26, got up and started to fight back with zeal. The third was his round as he firstly recovered from pressure of Xiong, 32, then began to land punches of his own. His taller frame and long arms allowed him to connect with solid punches without getting a major response. At the end of the round, he managed to pay Zhong back with a solid overhand right, which put the Chinese fighter down.
Rounds four-to-six were quite even, but Budler was looking more consistent against a rugged puncher in WBO #4 and WBA #11 Zhong. The Chinese remained competitive but couldn't pull a trigger on his opponent. Budler's domination got more evident in the second half of the fight, as he began to land at will, specifically with his right hand. Zhong tried to counter at the earliest consequence but missed much. The South African, meanwhile, had a big round twelve.
At the end, all three judges had it unanimously for Hekkie Budler: 118-108, 114-112, and 114-112. BoxingScene had it 116-110 - for the South African, who has further strengthened his claim of the best strawweight in the world. He is ranked #2 by the TBRB though. Zhong was ranked #10 in the same weight class.
The old upset master Sergey Khomitskiy (29-11-3, 12 KOs) of Belarus repeated his familiar trick again, holding another young gun to a draw. This time the victim was a 23-year Brit Nick Blackwell (15-3-1, 6 KOs), who has previously pushed both Max Bursak and Billy Joe Saunders to the very limit.
Khomitskiy, 40, was better in the first three rounds, using his experience to trouble a younger fighter. Blackwell fired back with vengeance in the other three rounds, using his speed to land cleaner and better punches. Blackwell hurt and almost stopped the Belarussian in the closing seconds of the sixth but Khomitskiy managed to survive the onslaught. Scores were: 57-57, 57-57, and 58-56 (Blackwell).
Referee was Daniel Van de Viele.