By Cliff Rold
Swedish-born 32-year old WBC super middleweight titlist Badou Jack (20-1-2, 12 KO) of Las Vegas, Nevada, appeared to be denied an earned victory on Saturday night at the Armory in Washington, DC, in front of an announced crowd of 4,135, leaving with a draw against 36-year old Romanian former IBF 168 lb. titlist Lucian Bute (32-3-1, 25 KO) of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The fight was well contested on both sides but Jack seemed to land the harder shots for most of the night. The draw at least preserves plans for a fall unification bout with IBF titlist James DeGale.
Both men weighed in just under the limit at 167 ½. The referee was Jose Guadalupe Garcia.
Both men boxed assertively but selectively in the first, probing with the jabs and looking for openings. Late in the round, both men found them, Jack with a good shot through the guard and Bute with a nice uppercut. The second round was a lot of the same; both men looking ready to fight but no real fight breaking out.
Bute, his right eye swelling slightly underneath, stepped into the action a bit more in the third and landed some good rights and lefts. Jack answered back but the better work went to the former titlist. Jack landed two stiff rights to the body in the fourth only to be caught across the top with a slinging left from Bute. Back and forth they went, jockeying for position and looking for a big shot, picking away in close.
In the fifth, a Jack left hook rocked Bute who held on to clear his head and prevent another similar bomb. In the sixth they sat at close quarters in a tough round to score. Bute punched more but Jack landed harder and cleaner to the head and body. The same was true in round seven but Jack moved his hands less and Bute never seemed to stop working.
The challenger landed a stiff shot early in the eighth but Jack responded, busting some hard head shots home. Over the next three rounds, it was a lot of the same as Bute showed plenty of effort but couldn’t land hard enough, often enough, to change the fight. Jack was just a little sharper, a little smarter, a little better.
With two rounds to go, a sizable traveling faction for Bute tried to will their man to a rally. Bute responded with his best round of the fight, landing some stiff uppercuts and straight shots only for Jack to battle back in the last minute with some heavy leather of his own.
Bleeding from the mouth, a fatigued Jack punched enough to keep a surging Bute honest, clinching in spots to keep the Montreal favorite contained. After the bell sounded, Jack hugged Bute around the waist and both men went to their corners to hear the scores.
One judge saw the fight fairly at 117-111 for Jack. Two others, perhaps persuaded by the Bute contingent, came in at a surprising 114-114 for the draw. BoxingScene scored the bout 116-112 for Jack.
Jack didn’t waste words on his feeling about the decision. “Bullshit. It is what it is. Ask Bute as well, he knows what time it is,” Jack said. “His punches weren’t hurting me. I feel I won the fight. Maybe I lost the last round. He’s a great guy and a great champion, but I know I won the fight.”
The draw didn’t change his future plans. “Of course I want DeGale. I’m ready in September, ready in August. I’m ready whenever.”
Bute was, as always, gracious after the fight. “It was a close fight. Believe me, it was very close fight. My last fight with DeGale was very close, tonight was a very close fight. I showed everyone I’m still at the top.”
DeGale weighed on on the result as well. “It was a close fight, but Jack won it. Let’s do it. Let’s unify…and see who the best is.”
There will be those who saw DeGale earlier in the evening that wonder if he proved Saturday that he is one half of the equation to determine the best in class.
ON THE UNDERCARD
In what was expected to be a bit of a tune-up, 30-year old IBF super middleweight titlist James DeGale (23-1, 14 KO) of London, England, got maybe the most physically challenging fight of his career and walked away with a debatable unanimous decision over 27-year old Rogelio Medina (36-7, 30 KO) of Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. The fight was a heavy handed affair throughout where the victor was handed boos at the finish from fans in the arena.
DeGale weighed in at 167 ½ while Medina came in at 167 ¾. The referee was Malik Waleed.
DeGale initiated the action, jabbing from the southpaw stance and then sliding orthodox. Medina wisely aimed for the chest and body landing some heavy shots to the ribs while DeGale mostly head hunted. Medina’s body blows increased in the second as he walked DeGale into the ropes. The body shots opened up chances to land upstairs, though there were less chances when he aimed to the head alone. DeGale battled back with some nice flurries in the closing moments of round two.
Clubbing away and pressing the fight, Medina stayed all over DeGale as round three got underway. A DeGale shot upstairs stopped him in his tracks and DeGale pounced with a selection of hard shots. DeGale couldn’t maintain the momentum of the moment and Medina resumed control late in the round as DeGale went to the corner with a reddening left eye.
Both men had moments in the fourth, DeGale having some luck at single pot shots but the heavier blows continued to come from Medina. DeGale drew boos from the crowd late in round four when he took to moving without punching back.
The next two rounds featured quality violence. DeGale had a fantastic fifth, keeping the fight at his range and battering Medina. The Mexican challenger surged back for the first two minutes of the sixth, getting to DeGale’s ribs and busting him with stiff rights only for DeGale to open up with a blistering salvo that may have stolen the round.
They kept trading rounds as the fight wore on, most of them difficult to score. When Medina concentrated to the body, he had success. When he didn’t, DeGale had the fight in his wheelhouse and picked away at the less refined challenger. Both men were in a fight and the fans were getting their money’s worth.
With the fight seemingly up for grabs, Medina stayed with what worked for him. Landing to the body, he flat outworked a DeGale too comfortable with landing one at a time and taunting. With the crowd loudly chanting “Porky,” the nickname of Medina, the twelfth unfolded with both men letting their hands go. Both men landed some clean head shots down the stretch, DeGale landing last in a close round.
The crowd, which became a pro-Medina crowd by the end, booed loudly as scores came in at a reasonable 115-113, 116-112, and a ridiculous 117-111 for DeGale. BoxingScene scored the bout 115-113 for Medina from ringside.
Medina came in riding a four-fight win streak that included a knockout of then-undefeated J’Leon Love in August 2014. DeGale makes the second successful defense of the title he won in 2015. Both men had plenty to say after the fight.
DeGale credited his own skill set. “The boxing skills are too good. If I’m being honest, he’s a very strong fighter, but skills pay the bills. I watched this guy years ago and this guy didn’t have the engine like that. He’s gotten better and stronger in the last year and a half.”
With credit given to the challenger, DeGale looked to the future tipping his cap to where his rooting interests lay in the main even. “I want Badou jack. I want a fresh name on my record.”
Medina felt he’d won the fight and wasn’t shy about it. “He said he was going to stop me. He was running all around and he didn’t stop me like he said he would.” Medina also felt some of the tactics of DeGale were foul, apparently leading to him spitting on DeGale, something not visible at ringside. “He was head-butting me and I was getting a little frustrated and that’s why I spit on him.”
Medina justifiably looked at the outcome as a bit of unfinished business. “He’s the only one who thinks he won. The fans think I won. I definitely want the rematch.”
ON THE UNDERCARD
25-year old middleweight Christopher Pearson (14-1, 10 KO), 159, of Trotwood, Ohio, won a ten-round unanimous decision over Ghanaian-born 36-year old Joshua Okine (28-7-1, 17 KO), 158 ¾, of Silver Spring, Maryland. It was never a scintillating affair, but the occasional big counter shot spoke to the sort of night the victor was having. In a battle of jabs and ring position, it was Pearson who maintained just enough edge to keep a night long streak of matching scores going at 98-92 thrice over. The referee was Billy Johnson.
27-year old Ugandan former lightweight title challenger Sharif Bogere (28-1, 19 KO), 135 ½, of Las Vegas, Nevada, won a lopsided ten-round unanimous decision over 31-year old Ghanaian Samuel Amoako (21-10, 15 KO), 136, of Silver Spring, Maryland. Working behind a steady jab, and picking spots for occasional combinations, Bogere grinded out a win over a game but outmatched Amoako. Amoako never consistently moved his hands and the fight never felt like much more than a workout for Bogere. Bogere earned scores of 100-90 across the board. The referee was Kenny Chevalier.
In light heavyweight action, 27-year old Ecuadorian Carlos Gongora (7-0, 4 KO), 173, of Brooklyn, New York, quickly dispatched of professional opponent Zac Kelley (5-15, 5 KO), 170 ¼, of Lawton, Oklahoma. Gongora landed seemingly at will with both the left and right, scoring two official knockdowns. The first knockdown saw Kelley nearly fall out of the ring. After the second trip to the deck, referee Billy Johnson mercy stopped the bout at 1:50 of the first.
The fight between Latondria Jones and Kamika Slade wasn't over before it began, but it was definitely over shortly afterward — just 18 seconds after the opening bell rang. Jones hurt Slade with a right hand and followed forward as Slade turned her head and moved away. Jones landed a few more rights before referee Kenny Chevalier stepped in. Jones, a 29-year-old junior middleweight from Las Vegas, is now 3-0 with 2 KOs. Slade lost in her pro debut.
Local lightweight Keegan Grove (1-0), 133, of Washington, DC, got his professional career off to a positive start with a workmanlike four-round decision over 33-year old Anthony Napunyi (14-19, 7 KO), 128 ½, of Canal Point, Florida. The loss was Napunyi’s 15th in a row, coming in at unanimous scores of 40-36. The referee was David Braslow.
The opening bout of the evening ended in one of the rarest of fashions.
In the junior middleweight division, a pair of undefeated fledgling pros stayed undefeated as all three judges came in identically at 38-38, a unanimous draw. Moshea Allen (4-0-1, 2 KO), 153 ¾, of Richmond, Virginia, and Martez Jackson (2-0-2, 1 KO), 153, of Macon, Georgia, both delivered a spirited effort and landed some good shots. Neither landed enough to make a case over the other.
The super middleweight headliners were televised in the US on Showtime as part of its “Championship Boxing” series, promoted by Mayweather Promotions.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]