By Cliff Rold
23-year old South Korean Lightweight Ji-Hoon Kim (21-5, 18 KO) lost every second of the fight on Friday night at the Laredo Energy Arena in Laredo, Texas until the one second which counted, a right hand blast setting up a stoppage win with one second left in the opening round to secure victory over 26-year Panamanian Ameth Diaz (27-10, 19 KO).
Whether that one second should have been enough to draw an end to the contest was open to debate.
Kim came into the fight spot on the division limit at 135 lbs., Diaz lighter at 132 ½.
The Korean came out right away with lefts and rights, Diaz ducking beneath them and popping up to land a slashing right hand. Diaz continued to nail Kim with rights as the round progressed, Kim finding shoulders and oxygen more often than his opponent’s head. Steady, relaxed, Diaz stood straight up and wide eyed, waiting for Kim to come forward and ducking before promptly looking to counter.
It was working until it wasn’t.
Timing Diaz as he ducked to his right, Kim came over the top and blasted Diaz behind the left ear with a perfect right hand smash. Diaz pitched forward on his face, another right just grazing him as he fell. Though hurt, Diaz didn’t stay on the canvas long, rising by the time referee Robert Gonzalez reached the count of five and taking a deep breath to steady himself. At eight, Gonzalez motioned for Diaz to step forward. Diaz did so immediately, nodding his okay to continue when asked. It was hard knockdown but appeared a reasonable recovery. Gonzalez disagreed at 2:59 of the first round, Diaz shaking his head in protest as his night was called to an end.
Diaz still looked disgusted, arguing with Gonzalez near his corner even as the official verdict was announced. His feelings of angst in a seventh career stoppage loss were offset by the obvious joy in the Kim corner who, given recent results, would have every reason to believe he could have finished matters eventually anyways. Rated #8 at Lightweight by the IBF, it was Kim’s thirteenth consecutive win, the last eleven inside the route.
Diaz entered the bout off two straight wins and rated #4 by the IBF. The IBF belt at 135 lbs. is currently vacant.
A journeyman who always wore the mantle of “professional” well, 35-year old Emanuel Augustus (38-32-6, 20 KO), 143 ¾, of Chicago, Illinois, may finally have seen time run out on an earnest and often entertaining career in the televised opener, the pressure and power of 26-year old Russian Jr. Welterweight Ruslan Provodnikov (16-0, 11 KO) resulting in three knockdowns on the night and a stoppage defeat in nine rounds.
The first four rounds saw both men provide highlights, Provodnikov landing the cleaner blows while getting some higher education from the tricky style of Augustus. Shoulder rolls, feints and sneaky rights got Augustus off to a spry start.
The tide turned sharply from there. Augustus endured a hellish storm in the final minute round five, dropped by the pressuring Provodnikov with a bombing right hand, dropped to his back near the ring ropes. Augustus rose and nodded his okay to continue, covering up as Provodnikov came forward and even nailing the Russian with a counter right to send the younger man off balance. Provodnikov quickly collected himself and steamed ahead, battering at Augustus near the ropes into the closing bell of the frame.
Augustus was never really in the fight again though he bravely managed moments of clean punching. It took until round nine for Augustus to hit the deck again and it was a sad sight, Provodnikov dropping the exhausted veteran as much with the hands of time as the leathered and heavy hands developed in the cold of the Russian frontier. Referee Rafael Ramos called a halt to the action after the second of two knockdowns in the round at 1:50 of the ninth.
Provodnikov moves forward, building on his current #9 rating by the WBO at 140 lbs. Augustus, should he choose not to continue after his second consecutive stoppage loss after over eight years without one, can look back on a unique place in his time. Superstar Floyd Mayweather still refers to him as his toughest opponent and he battled Mickey Ward into a Fight of the Year before Ward and Arturo Gatti did their thing among numerous other highlights.
Win or lose, there aren’t enough Emanuel Augustus’s in the game.
Other Televised Action
Jr. Welterweights: Jose Martinez (6-0, 4 KO) MD4 Orlando Gomez (1-2)
Jr. Lightweights: Ramsey Luna (1-0) UD4 Rene Luna (0-1)
The broadcast was carried in the U.S. on basic cable outlet ESPN2 as part of its “Friday Night Fights” series, promoted by Banner Promotions.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]