Mykal Fox showed the value of always being ready for any occasion.
Unfortunately, it only resulted in history repeating itself.
The consummate gym rate from Upper Marlboro, Maryland did his past to make the most of a last-minute opportunity, outboxing two-time Venezuelan Olympian and unbeaten welterweight Gabriel Maestre. Judges John Mariano (115-112), Gloria Martinez Rizzo (117-110) and David Singh (114-113) clearly disagreed, as they were unanimous in favor of Maestre in a WBA “interim” welterweight title fight Saturday evening live on Fox from The Armory in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The bout was met with a delay due to an issue with the tape over Maestre’s gloves, raised by Fox’s father and head trainer Troy Fox who accurately pointed out that the tape was riding too high. Referee Mark Nelson made a point to specify that the tactic was not done to “skin” the gloves, but rather they did not meet fight night standards.
The matter was resolved, only for Maestre to have to contend with other problems. The two-time Olympian was due to represent Venezuela in his third competition, only to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics earlier this summer in favor of continuing his pro career. With it, the 34-year-old made his U.S. debut after having spent all three of his previous fights in his adopted home country of Colombia.
Well before the taping issue before the opening bell, Maestre already had to contend with a late-minute replacement in the 6’4” Fox. The switch came less than two weeks ago when originally scheduled Cody Crowley tested positive for Covid. Fox had not fought since a disputed points loss to Lucas Santamaria last August but truly rose to the occasion on this night.
Maestre fought with aggression to offset the massive height and reach difference. The 5’10 ½” welterweight took the fight to Fox, connecting with left hooks and straight right hands though also getting caught with long jabs and left hands from Fox in an entertaining opening round.
Fox provided a dramatic moment early in round two. A compact left hand sent Maestre to the canvas for the first time in his young career, causing a major shift in momentum. Maestre—who turned pro in December 2019 and with a combined seven rounds of action in three knockout wins—recovered but had to endure an increased rate of activity offered by Fox in sealing the 10-8 round.
Maestre closed the gap in rounds three and four, though not necessarily taking the lead once on the inside. Fox was often first to the punch, whether with his jab or with lead left hands while often constant lateral movement. Maestre was effective to the body, jabbing downward and following with straight right hands.
The bell sounding to begin round five marked the deepest Maestre has been to this point as a pro. He began to take the lead, with Fox boxing from the outside and his offensive output beginning to decrease. Maestre enjoyed his best punch output in round six, connecting with 14 shots including left hooks to the body.
Fox returned to his jab and lead left hand in round seven, catching Maestre coming in while continuing to use every inch of the ring. Maestre was coming up short on his punches, even trying to fight out of a southpaw stance in order to change up his luck but unable to pin down his mobile foe.
Maestre managed to change that dynamic in round eight, making it a shorter distance fight. The well-schooled Fox showed his ring smarts, allowing Maestre to come inside where he landed a right uppercut. Fox forced Maestre back where he was able to connect with a jab and long left hand.
Fox opened round nine with a lead left hand and right uppercut, snapping back the head of Maestre. The stick continued to be the weapon of choice for Fox throughout round ten, as Maestre was just unable to mount an attack beyond singular moments.
Maestre sensed that something dramatic was needed in order to retain his interim version of the welterweight title, throwing a fight-high 64 punches in round eleven. Fox’s stellar defense resulted in a lot of missing as was the case in the twelfth and final round. Maestre continued to come forward, only be met by a purposeful jab on nearly every occasion.
Fox suffered the worst blow once the scores were announced, being forced to accept his second straight questionable loss as he falls to 22-3 (5KOs).
Maestre escapes with his unbeaten record intact at 4-0 (3KOs) and now with a title (of sorts) in tow, though with more questions than answers following his performance. His greater activity—landing 131 of 524 shots (25%), including 119 of 365 power punches (33%), compared to 157 of 712 total punches (22%) and 109 of 329 power punches (33%) for Fox—was perhaps the tipping point, though still a bitter pill to swallow for those who watched a different fight than what was represented in the final scores.
Maestre-Fox served as the chief support of a televised tripleheader headlined by a welterweight bout between Eimantas Stanionis (13-0, 9KOs)—a 2016 Olympian for Lithuania—and former WBC welterweight titlist Luis Collazo (39-8, 20KOs).
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox