By Jake Donovan
Dusty Hernandez-Harrison's D.C. homecoming nearly proved disastrous, as many believed the unbeaten welterweight fortunate to have escaped with a split decision draw versus Mike Dallas Jr.
Scores were 96-92 Dallas Jr., 95-94 Hernandez-Harrison and 94-94 in their 10-round battle Friday evening at DC Armory in Washington, D.C. BoxingScene.com scored the contest 96-92 Dallas Jr., who scored a clean knockdown in round five but was victimized by poor officiating on both sides of the ropes.
Hernandez-Harrison had every reason to feel good heading into his first fight at home in D.C. in 18 months. The unbeaten prospect is in year two of a financially stable promotional deal with Roc Nation Sports, a relationship that led to his being sponsored by major brands Fila and Geico.
Of course, endorsed athletes ultimately need to deliver in their main area of expertise. For several rounds into their BET-televised headliner, that proved difficult for the local favorite, who turns 22 later this month. Dallas Jr. forced an aggressive pace from the opening bell, forcing hisrelatively modest-hitting opponent out of his comfort zone.
It wasn't until round four where Hernandez-Harrison was able to establish a sustained rhythm, mixing boxing and slugging while momentarily turning the tide. The good fortunes didn't last long as he attempted to trade blows with Dallas Jr. in round five. Both boxers scored with right hand shots, but Dallas Jr.'s shot proved more severe, as Hernandez-Harrison did his best to remain upright before stumbling to the canvas in a delayed reaction knockdown.
The second half of the fight provided the first hints of potential controversy coming of the night's end. Hernandez-Harrison managed to get away with rabbit punching and low blows, none worse than two non-consecutive stray shots below the belt that forced Dallas Jr. to a knee in round eight. The referee showed no sympathy towards the visiting boxer, ruling the sequence a knockdown, thus dramatically tightenting things up on the scorecards.
To his credit, Hernandez-Harrison bit down at a point where he needed to leave it all in the ring if he had any shot at avoiding his first career loss. It made for some thrilling two way action down the stretch, particularly in the 10th and final round when both boxers unloaded with power shots in not looking to leave anything to chance.
It turned out to be just enough for Hernandez-Harrison (29-0-1, 16KOs) to turn a loss into a draw, though one that is being criticized as stemming from hometown favoritism.
During his post-fight interview, the welterweight was fine with part two taking place in his opponent's hometown.
"We can go to (Bakersfield, Calif.) right now if he want," Hernandez-Harrison stated after the fight. "I thought I pulled it out late, that I did enough down the stretch. But we can do this again, no problem,"
The sentiment didn't seem to be shared on the dejected visitor, who was more intent with taking on hostile locals constantly heckling him after the fight.
"Man, I won this fight," a dejected Dallas Jr. (21-3-2, 10KOs) stated afterward. "I got hit with a low blow, they call it a knockdown. That was low. I won this fight."
Opening the telecast, Orlandito del Valle picked up his fourth straight win, though was forced to sweat out a scare on the scorecards in taking an eight-round decision over Thomas Snow in their super bantamweight battle.
Scores were 76-74 across the board in favor of del Valle, whose knockdowns in rounds two and three provided the margin of victory.
del Valle seemed to be on his way to an early night, hurting Snow in each of the first several rounds. Right hand shots led to both knockdowns on the night, with Snow hitting the deck hard in round two but managing to beat the count.
The southpaw from the greater D.C. area was down and hurt again in round three, this time courtesy of a right hand, left hook combination. del Valle was unable to close the show, which nearly proved disastrous for the resurgent Puerto Rican boxer. Snow rallied hard in the second half of the contest, but ultimately ran out of rounds.
del Valle advances to 22-2 (16KOs); Snow falls to 18-3 (12KOs), snapping a two-fight win streak.
Darmani Rock saw his pro debut gain airtime in the form of a swing bout, making the most of the opportunity in scoring a 1st round knockout of Carlos "The D.C. Diamond Cutter" Black.
The pair of heavyweights let their hands go from the opening bell, but Black (1-4) was overmatched and outgunned. Rock (1-0, 1KO) scored to the body before bringing the attack upstairs, with a right hand shot followed by a left hook producing the bout's lone knockdown.
Black did his best to beat the count but was far too steady for referee Michelle Myers' liking, stopping the contest at 1:54 of round one.
Sam "The Vanilla Gorilla" Crossed was forced to go to the scorecards for the second straight time in his young career, claiming a four-round majority decision over Damion Reed.
A knotted tally of 38-38 was overruled by scores of 39-37 and 40-36 in favor of Crossed (3-0, 1KO), who has already developed into a sizable draw in the D/M/V (DC/Maryland/Virginia) area. The local celebrity - who was prominently featured in a Super Bowl commercial with former heavyweight king Mike Tyson - reportedly responsible for $10,000 worth of ticket sales for this particular event.
His matchup with Reid (2-14-1,1KO) was a bit of a disappointment in the way of a showcase appearance. To his credit. Crossed himself seemed displeased with his overall effort by night's end, although he moves on with the hope of looking better in his next ring appearance - which will undoubtedly come soon and on a local show where his fan base and cult following continues to grow.
Abner Cotto and Samuel Amoako engaged in the first fight of the night to extend beyond the opening round. They wound up going the full six-round distance, with Cotto (20-3, 9KOs) - a second cousin to co-promoter and former four-division champ Miguel Cotto - taking a unanimous decision win by scores of 60-54 (twice) and 58-56.
Amoako (21-11, 15KOs) accepted the assignment on short notice and to his credit was more active than had been the case in any of his previous six starts since returning to the ring last November. The Ghana-bred, Silver Springs, Maryland-based journeyman did his best to make a fight of it, but was ultimately outgunned by the comebacking lightweight.
Zhilel Zhang (9-0, 6KOs) picked up his third consecutive knockout victory - all coming in 2016 - with a 1st round stoppage of Kansas City's John Orr (1-8, 0KOs. The 6'6" southpaw from China - who now trains out of Las Vegas - flattened his portly opponent with a right hand shot, bringing an abrupt ending to a relatively competitive and entertaining shootout at 2:26 of round one.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Follow his shiny new Twitter account: @JakeNDaBox_v2