Efetobor Apochi has yet to hear the final bell and never came close to that point in his latest fight.
The unbeaten knockout artist punched his way to title contention following a 3rd round knockout of Deon Nicholson in their WBA cruiserweight title eliminator Saturday evening at Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall in Los Angeles. Apochi scored two knockdowns, the latter producing the stoppage at 1:12 of round three.
A knockout win was expected in a pairing of unbeaten cruiserweights, with Tuscaloosa’s Nicholson (14-1, 13KOs) only going the distance once in his young career. Nicholson’s list of knockout victims, however, suggested that he carried the burden of proof in this step up in class.
Apochi sent him crashing to reality. The Houston-based Nigerian—who trains with Ronnie Shields—set an aggressive pace early in the bout, with Nicholson doing his best to go punch for punch with the 33-year-old. Momentum quickly swung in favor of Apochi who had Nicholson hurt on several occasions in the first round.
“I knew I had him hurt after the opening round,” Apochi told Fox Sports’ Heidi Androl. “I told my trainer, Ronnie Shields. He told me, ‘Finish him! Finish him!’”
The renowned trainer would get his wish. Nicholson was once again stunned in round two, falling to the canvas after getting clipped although the sequence was waved off as a slip by referee Jerry Cantu. Apochi corrected that problem moments later, sending Nicholson crashing to the canvas late in the round.
Round three began with the sense that it was a matter of time before the fight would come to a vicious halt. A final right hand by Apochi crashed home on Nicholson’s chin, producing the second knockdown. Nicholson beat the count but was deemed unfit to continue.
Apochi improves to 11-0 (11KOs) with the win, doing so by landing 93-of-198 total punches (47%), including 53-of-90 power shots (59%) according to Compubux. He also becomes the mandatory challenger to France’s Arsen Goulaimirian (26-0, 18KOs), who holds the WBA “Super” Cruiserweight champion. Belgium’s Ryad Merhy (29-1, 24KOs) holds the WBA “World” version of the title, with neither boxer having to win a single fight to claim those belts as both came through upgrades.
Regardless of which one is lined up for Apochi, the expectation is to claim a cruiserweight strap when all is said and done.
“Where is the title,” questioned Apochi. “That’s what we’re talking about. Bring on the strap.”
With the bout ending early, Chavez Barrientes (5-0, 4KOs) was able to make his way to the telecast. The 18-year old junior featherweight prospect was even quicker with his latest victory, stopping Luis Valdez (7-8-1) after one round.
The bout was stopped in between rounds after Valdez complained of his equilibrium being thrown off after getting hit in the left ear. Referee Sharon Sands consulted with the corner and the ringside physician before stopping the contest, officially at 3:00 of round one.
Both bouts served as part of an intended Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on FS1 show, though airing on the Fox Sports App and Fox Deportes due to a baseball game running beyond its allotted time slot.
Both bouts served on the undercard of an intended Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on FS1 show, though airing on the Fox Sports App and Fox Deportes due to a baseball game running beyond its allotted time slot. The telecast precedes the latest edition of PBC on Fox, headlined by a junior middleweight bout between Tony Harrison (28-3, 21KOs) and Bryant Perrella (17-3, 14KOs).
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox