The Week That Was (July 22-29, 2013)

By Teron Briggs on July 30, 2013
The Week That Was (July 22-29, 2013)
Andre Berto came into San Antonio, Texas in desperate need of a victory. (Naoki Fukuda)

“At the end of the day I show that warrior spirit every time,” Andre Berto told longtime Showtime reporter Jim Grey as he stood solemnly in the ring…

AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas, USA

Soto Karass stops a game Berto in a 12-round barnburner

“At the of end the day I show that warrior spirit every time,” Andre Berto (28-3, 22 KOs) told longtime Showtime reporter Jim Grey as he stood solemnly in the ring, visibly in a world of pain, after suffering the most difficult setback in his career. Longtime welterweight contender Jesus Soto Karass (28-8-3, 18 KOs) stopped Berto in the 12th round of a scintillating main event in the Golden Boy promoted Knockout Kings II.

A loser of two of his last three fights, both to former world champions, Robert Guerrero and Victor Ortiz, Berto came into this bout in desperate need of a victory. Throw in a recent failed drug test that saw Berto test positive for the steroid Nandrolone and the fighter who was once 27-0 and a world titleholder was fighting for his livelihood. 

Soto Karass, who donned pink colored trunks in honor of breast cancer research, got off to a blazing start as he took the fight to the former champion. Soto Karass had both a height and reach advantage over the smallish welterweight Berto and he capitalized on those advantages. Looping shots repeatedly clipped Berto on the chin as he tried to avoid the bigger man’s punches. In the third round, Berto landed some crisp uppercuts as Soto Karass gave away his height advantage by fighting on the inside. A shift in the fight occurred in the fourth round when Berto appeared to possibly pull his right shoulder out of the socket.

For the rest of the fight Berto was essentially reduced to fighting with only his left hand as the shoulder injury clearly bothered him. The two fought most of the rounds cheek to cheek, ripping vicious shots to each other’s head and body. By the ninth round both warriors were battered and bloodied but undeterred. Despite suffering an untold amount of punishment in the fight, in the 11th round Berto experienced his best moment as a digging left hook to the body dropped his opponent. Soto Karass would take the decision out of the judge’s hands when a laser like short left hook knocked Berto off his feet. Referee Jon Schorle waved off the fight after reaching the count of four when Berto stumbled forward while attempting to stand up.

It was Berto’s first fight with former trainer of the year Virgil Hunter, who he hoped would help him get him back on the right path. His time as an Aside main event fighter has come to an end. “In that 12th round my corner said to box, but I said no,” Soto Karass said afterwards. “I want to finish Berto.” The 8,000 plus fans at the AT&T Center and the millions watching at home applaud him. In such a deep division, Soto Karass will probably need another high profile victory before he gets a title shot.

Figueroa emerges victorious in Fight of Year candidate

Insert any adjective you want to describe this hellacious fight and it probably wouldn’t do justice to the 12 rounds of non-stop action that occurred. Twenty-three-year-old Texas lightweight prospect Omar Figueroa (22-0, 18 KOs) remained undefeated as he scored a 12-round unanimous decision over Nihito Arakawa (24-3-1, 16 KOs).

From the first second of round one to the last second of round 12 these two men fought like their lives depended on it. Neither fighter was willing to give an inch as Figueroa, the bigger puncher, landed some excruciating shots that twice forced the Japanese fighter to take an eight-count.

Figueroa sported light blue, orange and pink trunks that looked like a box of Crayola exploded on them. By the end of fight, both men were covered in the other’s blood. If Arakawa had more power this might’ve been a different fight. Compubox numbers can be misleading but they accurately told the story of this brawl. Figueroa landed an astounding 450 power shots, out of 794 attempts, and Arakawa threw close to 1200 punches though he was only able to connect on 27% of them. At the end of the fight Arakawa’s face resembled the caricature of Martin Lawrence when he wore a grotesque mask after what was supposed to be a beating received at the hands of Tommy Hearns in an episode of television show Martin.

Arakawa probably had his best round of the fight in the 11th when he repeatedly peppered Figueroa with combinations. At the end of the 12th, with the crowd standing and showering the men with admiration and respect, they embraced before the cards were read.

Arakawa needs to take as much time off as possible after suffering the kind of beating he did Saturday night. Omar Figueroa sure did entertain boxing fans but there’s no way his brain trust, which includes the powerful Al Haymon, could be enthralled with that performance. If Figueroa is going to have a long career in this sport he’s going to have to fight less recklessly.

Thurman impresses in 10th round knockout over Chaves

Keith Thurman (23-0, 19 KOs) violently captured the interim WBA welterweight belt when he knocked out titleholder Diego Chaves (22-1, 18 KOs) in the 10th round of their fight. In addition to the title, Thurman also earned the “Knockout of the Night” prize from Golden Boy, which resulted in an additional $10,000 payday for the Florida based fighter.

Each man represented the best respective opponent either had faced. Thurman, who raced out to 18 knockouts in his first 19 fights, displayed both his power punching and boxing skills in this contest. He had some of his best moments in the fight when the two boxed in the center of the ring and Thurman’s jab was able to control the action. Thurman, fighting with a bloody nose, floored Chaves in the ninth with a nice body shot. Then, less than 30 seconds into the 10th round he landed a number of hard shots to Chaves’ head that folded him up onto the mat.

It was a valiant effort by Chaves who could use some minor tweaking on his technique but could prove to be a sturdy challenger in the deep division. Thurman increased his profile with another good performance as he quickly rises up the ranks of the division and angles himself for a marquee fight.

Cotai Arena, Venetian Resort, Macao, Macao S.A.R. China

Former Olympic superstar Shiming records second pro victory

It’s not often, if ever, that a six-round fight would headline a HBO boxing card but welcome to the world of Chinese boxing sensation Zou Shiming (2-0). Shiming, the former two-time gold medalist, was paid an astonishing half a million dollars to face the 19-year-old untested Jesus Ortega (3-2, 2 KOs) at the Venetian Resort in Macao.

Shiming’s trainer Freddie Roach wasn’t happy with his star but not for a reason you might think, saying after the fight, “I saw him eat a candy bar and I was a bit upset.” In the dressing room prior to his fight, Shiming created the biggest sports’ food controversy since Mark Sanchez ate a hot dog on the sideline, when he passed up a pre-fight bowl of rice in favor a candy bar. Roach believed the candy bar affected his blood sugar level and made him tired at the end of six rounds.

As for the fight itself, Shiming dominated the unknown kid before an adoring audience but failed to stop him. At 32, Shiming, a longtime amateur is allegedly on the fast track to a world title shot so apparently beating up on the Jesus Ortegas of the world will get him one step closer to that. It’s too early to call Shiming’s power into question, it’s still only his second professional fight, but as much as he hit Ortega if he were a puncher he should’ve scored a knockout. Shiming’s promoter, Bob Arum of Top Rank, already has him scheduled to return in Macao in November.

Gradovich outclasses Munoz to retain his IBF featherweight title

Evgeny Gradovich (17-0, 8 KOs) retained his IBF belt with a tough 12-round unanimous decision over the hard-nosed Argentinean Mauricio Javier Munoz (26-4, 12 KOs). The judges scored the fight 120-108 and 119-109 twice. Don’t let the lopsided scores fool you; Munoz gave a much better effort than they would indicate.

Gradovich is a Russian native now fighting out of Oxnard, California under the tutelage of two-time Trainer of the Year Robert Garcia. Gradovich failed to utilize his jab as much as he should’ve but he was still able to back down Munoz with hard right and left hands. In the middle of the fight, both guys discarded defense and started throwing punishing power shots. Gradovich clearly possessed the superior technique but Munoz was able to connect with occasional shots to keep his opponent honest. By the latter half of the fight Gradovich, who isn’t a big puncher, was tagging Munoz at will and had caused serious swelling around the Argentinian’s eye. It would’ve been nice to see Munoz’s corner throw in the towel to save their man from taking unnecessary abuse as it was clear by the 10th round he would need a miracle knockout to win.

With his IBF strap and a television friendly style Gradovich should be able to get a high profile fight with a fellow titleholder or star, not under the rival Golden Boy Banner.

Estrada defeats Melindo to retain flyweight titles

Mexico native and the man considered to be the best flyweight in the world Juan Francisco Estrada (25-2, 18 KOs) retained his WBO and WBA belts when he scored a wide decision victory over Milan Melindo (29-1, 12 KOs). The final scores read 118-109 twice and 117-109. The Filipino Melindo has nothing to be ashamed of as he gave a much better effort than the scorecards would indicate.

The two exchanged blistering combinations all night as each man attempted to punish the other. Despite only weighing 111 pounds Estrada’s punches had quite a bit of mustard on them. Melindo’s strong left hand allowed him to be competitive in the fight as he did an effective job of countering Estrada’s aggression throughout. Melindo was cut in the eighth round as the pace of the fight gradually reached a crescendo in the championship rounds. A right hand dropped the challenger to the seat of his pants and seemingly punctuated the victory for the champion in the 11th round. Estrada was unable to finish Melindo before the bell in the 12th, but certainly not from a lack of effort.

Melindo suffered the first lost of his career to a world-class fighter and champion. At 25 years old he shouldn’t have any issues coming back. There are some tough fighters in the division, but regardless of who steps in the ring with Estrada next they will rightfully be considered the underdog.

Thunder Valley Casino Resort, Lincoln, California, USA

Burgos and Amidu battle to a draw in the desert

With the temperature well above 100 degrees at the outdoor Thunder Valley Casino you know the fans were treated to a terrific fight when they stood on their feet and give the fighters a raucous ovation to start the final round. Juan Carlos Burgos (30-1, 20 KOs) and Yakubu Amidu (20-4, 18 KOs) engaged in a spirited 12-round slugfest in the main event of ESPN2 Friday Night Fights that was so evenly fought the judges couldn’t pick a winner. The final scores were 116-112 Burgos, 116-112 Amidu, and 114-114 even.

Burgos entered the fight on the heels of a disputed draw with Rocky Martinez in January of this year that saw him come up short in his second attempt to win a world title. He lost a somewhat controversial decision to Hozumi Hasegawa in the champion’s home country, Japan, in 2010.

Burgos came out fighting like a man who didn’t want the judges to factor into this outcome. He looked very sharp in the early rounds as he fired off intelligent and accurate combinations. Amidu would come on as the fight progressed as he increased his volume of punching. The fighter from Ghana, now based out of Los Angeles, was able to get great leverage on his brutal left hook. By the end of the fight, the two were battling at frantic pace with each guy both dishing and receiving. It appeared that Amidu might have scored a knockdown when Burgos sat on the second to bottom rope in the ninth round after eating a few punches but he referee didn’t call it.

I thought Burgos had done enough to win but it’s hard to argue with the decision. Both junior lightweights should be able to recover from the decision as they both put on an excellent fight.

Palenque de la Feria, Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico

Rubio records 50th career knockout

Former two-time world title challenger Marco Antonio Rubio (58-6-1, 50 KOs) knocked out former contender Dionisio Miranda (22-9, 19 KO’s) in the second round of their 12-round affair.

With the victory, Rubio recorded his 50th knockout in 65 career fights. Rubio has had noted issues when he’s faced top competition but anything less and he’s shown that his power is second to none. Miranda was dropped three times before the bout was halted.

Somehow, the WBC has mandated that Rubio face his former conqueror Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., if the latter can beat Brian Vera on September 7th, to see who will become the WBC Interim 160-pound champion. The rightful WBC middleweight champion, Sergio Martinez, is sidelined with an injury so the organization is seeking an opportunity to collect some bogus sanctioning fees by having someone become an interim titleholder.

Follow Teron Briggs on Twitter @TeronBriggs

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2013-07-26 Juan Carlos Burgos vs Yakubu Amidu

2013-07-27 Marco Antonio Rubio vs Dionisio Miranda

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