By Jake Donovan
Yunier Dorticos is now a two-time cruiserweight titlist and a first-time World Boxing Super Series tournament finalist on his second try.
The aptly nicknamed ‘KO Doctor’ advanced with a devastating one-punch 10th round knockout of Andrew Tabiti in their cruiserweight semifinals Saturday evening in Riga, Latvia.
A perfectly placed right hand shot put Tabiti (17-1, 13KOs) down and out, with the fight stopped on the spot at 2:33 of round 10. With the win, Dorticos picked up the vacant International Boxing Federation (IBF) cruiserweight title, which was only made available hours before the opening bell.
Action was slow out the gate, the styles matchup playing according to the scouting report only in the worst-case scenario. Dorticos (24-1, 22KOs) was steadily on the hunt but picking his shots against a retreating Tabiti who wasn’t at all interesting in allowing a boxing match to evolve into a fight.
The closest to a gasp-worthy moment in the first six minutes came in round two, when Tabiti—circling around the ring—tripped over a promotional structure along the ring apron exterior. Both boxers picked up the pace in round three, with Dorticos closing the gap and Tabiti staying still long enough to score with occasional combinations upstairs.
Fans began to grow restless as the bout remained stuck in one gear through four rounds, although Tabiti was putting in effective work to the body. Dorticos picked up the pace in round five, opening the frame with a left hook and sending the American on the retreat. Clumsy action led to frequent clinching, drawing the ire of referee Eddie Claudio, whom urged both boxers to “mix it up, be professional.”
Dorticos heeded the advice, working his jab more frequently and looking to follow with left hooks. Meanwhile, Tabiti stuck with his fight-long formula—successful when he remembered to let his hands go but otherwise more interested in making his opponent miss than making him pay.
The first threat of the fight ending inside the distance came in round six, when a clash of heads left Dorticos with a cut inside his right eyelid. The gusher prompted a visit from the ringside physician and a brief discussion with the referee in determining whether the Miami-based Cuban was fit to continue.
Tabiti failed to capitalize on his wounded foe, instead losing a point for excessive holding. He turned the tide in round seven, only after getting clipped with a low blow for which Dorticos drew a stern warning. The unbeaten American rallied over the back half of the round, scoring with right hands and body shots.
Momentum didn’t spill over, with Tabiti returning to creating space between the two in the ring while Dorticos pulled further away on the scorecards. Heading into round ten, Tabiti’s corner urged him to let his hands go and come forward.
Once he tried, the fight was over. Dorticos saw his opening midway through round ten, uncorking a right hand which put Tabiti flat on his back. Claudio waved off the contest without issuing a count, urging ringside physicians to immediately tend to the fallen boxer.
“We came for the knockout,” Dorticos stated afterward. “Not to take anything away from Tabiti, he came prepared but I returned to the tournament to win the whole thing.”
Tabiti reached the semifinals the hard way, hitting the road and outlasting Ruslan Fayfer in a tedious 12-round boxing match last October in Russia. The Las Vegas native surged late to earn a split decision victory. He leaves Latvia with his first career defeat, along with the thoughts and concern from observers hoping his health is quickly restored.
Dorticos is 3-1 now in his two-year WBSS history. He advanced to last season’s semifinals round with a savage 2nd round knockout of Dmitry Kudryashov in Sept. 2017 before suffering his lone career loss, a 12th round stoppage to then-unbeaten Murat Gassiev in their unification bout last February.
He reached this point following a thrilling 12-round victory over Poland’s Mateusz Masternak last October in Orlando, Fla., roughly three hours from his Miami hometown. Now, 16 months after his first title reign ended comes his next run near the cruiserweight division—and a chance to claim top honors.
Next up for the Cuban knockout artist will be the winner of Saturday’s main event between local hero Mairis Briedis and Poland’s Krzysztof Glowacki. It matters less to him who wins as it does that he has the chance at all to become World cruiserweight king.
“I’m just so happy, this one is for everyone in the 305,” stated an overjoyed Dorticos. “I think I earned my applause here, Latvia! I gave you all another big knockout.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox