By Keith Idec
Egidijus Kavaliauskas couldn’t knock out Juan Carlos Abreu on Saturday night.
The welterweight contender nicknamed “Mean Machine” managed to win a unanimous decision, though, and might’ve moved closer to a shot at WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford. Lithuania’s Kavaliauskas was scored the winner of their 10-round, 147-pound bout by all three judges at at Save Mart Center in Fresno, California.
Two judges – Ralph McKnight and Michael Tate – scored seven of the 10 rounds for Kavaliauskas (97-93). The third judge, Eric Cheek, credited Kavaliauskas with winning six of the 10 rounds (96-94).
The 30-year-old Kavaliauskas (20-0, 16 KOs) boxed beyond the eighth round for the first time in his five-year pro career. The 31-year-old Abreu (21-4-1, 19 KOs, 1 NC), of the Dominican Republic, still hasn’t been knocked out as a professional fighter.
Now that Kavaliauskas got through this fight, promoter Bob Arum will consider him as an opponent for the highly regarded Crawford (33-0, 24 KOs). Crawford is expected to make the first defense of his 147-pound championship October 13 in his native Omaha, Nebraska.
ESPN elevated Kavaliauskas-Abreu to its main event Saturday night because the planned headliner, Jose Ramirez versus Danny O’Connor, was canceled Friday. O’Connor couldn’t even attempt to weigh in for his 12-round fight for Ramirez’s WBC super lightweight title and was hospitalized for dehydration and other issues.
Kavaliauskas and Abreu hugged before the 10th round started. Once they separated, the tall, tough Abreu motioned toward Kavaliauskas as if to encourage him to slug it out in those final three minutes.
Each fighter landed power punches in the 10th round, yet neither could hurt the other.
Kavaliauskas and Abreu each connected with right hands as part of an exchange late in the ninth round.
Kavaliauskas’ jab was effective early in the eighth round. Kavaliauskas connected with two overhand rights in the final 30 seconds of the eighth round, though neither punch hurt Abreu.
An overanxious Abreu landed a right hand to Kavaliauskas’ chin after the bell sounded to end the eighth round.
Kavaliauskas thought he buzzed Abreu with a right hand around the two-minute mark of the seventh round. Abreu came firing back, though, and waved him forward when Kavaliauskas tried to open up on him.
Kavaliauskas backed up Abreu by landing a straight right when there were about 10 seconds to go in the sixth round. By the fifth round, Kavaliauskas had a cut around his right eye, caused by an accidental clash of heads in the first round, and a cut near his left eye, caused by an Abreu right hand.
Abreu missed with a wild right hand early in the fourth round. Kavaliauskas let his hands go as Abreu backed into the ropes 1:10 into the fourth.
Kavaliauskas stalked Abreu during much of the fourth round, yet had difficulty cutting off the ring and landing anything clean. By the end of the fourth, Abreu was landing right hands and backed Kavaliauskas into the ropes.
Kavaliauskas caught Abreu with a counter right hand 50 seconds into the third round, but Abreu took that punch well.
Kavaliauskas and Abreu wrestled for position early in the second round. Abreu backed up Kavaliauskas by landing a left-right combination with around 45 seconds remaining in the second round.
A clash of heads while Kavaliauskas and Abreu were tied up opened a cut near the corner of Kavaliauskas’ right eye with just under a minute to go in the first round.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.