LAS VEGAS-A seven-year itch was cured by Layla McCarter who beat Japan’s improved Fujin Raika and kept both lightweight world titles by unanimous decision on Friday by using her whole bag of tricks.
“She’s a lot better now,” said McCarter of Raika.
McCarter won the rematch of a fight that took place in 2002 before a crowd of more than 1,200 at the Southpoint Casino and Hotel with jabs, angles and pinpoint punching that had Raika (18-6-1) bleeding but not quitting. McCarter kept her GBU and WBA lightweight titles and more importantly fought in her 50th pro fight. Less than a dozen female fighters have ever accomplished that feat.
“I thought I was a little rusty,” said McCarter (32-13-5) who had not fought since August 2008 when she beat Spain’s Loly Munoz by decision. “Once the fought went inside the rust just seemed to go away.”
McCarter set the pace in the first round with jabs and right hands to the body and head. Raika landed a pinpoint one-two but did little else but stalk McCarter who was moving side-to-side and giving angles.
In the second round Raika’s head seemed to be doing more damage than her punches. But some follow-up left hooks scored for the Japanese fighter. McCarter used her jab but seemed aware of Raika’s head that kept bobbing in.
McCarter re-established her jab in the third round, but at the end of the stanza, McCarter let loose with some punishing shots while Raika tried to keep up. It was McCarter’s best round early in the fight.
The Japanese fighter increased the pressure in the fourth round though she took punishment coming in. A perfect one-two by Raika seemed to upset McCarter who retaliated with about six punches at full force with many landing.
The fifth round was Raika’s best round as she found a home for her left hand. Though McCarter was able to counter periodically, that left hand by Raika landed several times with force. McCarter unleashed a barrage at the end of the round but was it wasn’t enough to win the round.
The champion regained control in the sixth round by fighting when she wanted and forcing Raika to wait. A right uppercut and left hook by McCarter were her best punches in the round.
A clash of heads in the seventh round opened a cut on Raika’s right eye. When the fight resumed a right uppercut and right hand rocked Raika before the bell rung. It was the first time Raika seemed hurt.
McCarter seems to slip into overdrive as she pounded Raika with uppercuts and lefts and rights to the body. A left hook to the liver seemed to stun the Japanese fighter for a moment.
The Japanese fighter turned things around in the ninth round but paid for it with some brutal shots. Raika stuck her head in the middle and pounded at McCarter’s head and body. Blood seeped from Raika’s nose but she returned to her corner with confidence.
In the final round Raika found more energy as she chased McCarter and pounded whatever was available. McCarter continued finding openings but an accidental head butt stopped the fight momentarily. Raika seemed anguished but referee Tony Weeks told her she was not cut. The fight resumed and both slugged it out in a corner. Though Raika landed some punches she took some uppercuts and right hands for her effort. Both continued slugging a few seconds after the final bell, and then hugged.
All three judges scored it 100-90 for McCarter.
“I just stuck with the jab,” said McCarter, who is considered one of the best female fighters in the world pound for pound. “I wanted to knock her out but she was coming in aggressive. I didn’t want to do anything stupid. I knew I was ahead.”
McCarter said she plans to return to the ring in September.
In the semi main event Brazil’s Carlos Nascimento (24-1, 20 KOs) came in with a gaudy record and was almost ambushed by rugged veteran Juan Pablo Montes De Oca in a 10 round junior middleweight fight. Both battered each other almost every round and in the end it was the Brazilian who was given the win by unanimous decision 97-92 twice and 96-93. Montes De Oca was crushed by the decision.
“I thought I won the fight,” said Montes De Oca (9-17-2, 6 KOs) who served as Floyd Mayweather Jr’s sparring partner. “I hurt him at least four times.”
Usually Montes De Oca comes in brawling and dispenses with tactics. But in this fight he used angles, timing and slipped and countered with some sizzling uppercuts. The Brazilian had no answer on several occasions.
“I took all his punches. He never hurt me,” said Montes De Oca. “I jabbed and fought him on the inside and outside.”
Nascimento was the aggressor in the second half of the fight but was confused by Montes De Oca’s tactics. Many times he was caught coming in but the judges liked the aggression and not the counterpunching.
“I feel sorry for the judges,” said Montes De Oca.
Once a top welterweight contender Brazilian transplant Antonio Mesquita (35-1, 27 KOs) returned to the ring after a 19-month layoff to face Mexico City’s Hugo Correa (9-4). During the press conference the fiery Brazilian promised a knockout within 45 seconds. It took exactly 2:10 of the first round to send Correa to dreamland with a right hand from hell that forced referee Russell Mora to immediately stop the fight.
Mesquita’s last pro fight was in a one-sided loss to Lamont Peterson in January 2008. In this fight he wasted no time in looking for the knockout. Within the first 40 seconds while both tangled up inside, as the referee ordered a break Mesquita landed a right over Mora’s arm to knock down Correa. Mora counted to eight and brushed the gloves off, then deducted a point from Mesquita for the flagrant blow. It didn’t matter, during the next 30 seconds an exchange in the neutral corner created an opening for Mesquita’s big right hand to end the fight.
A junior featherweight bout between Las Vegas fighter Omar Valencia (1-3-1) and L.A.’s Jose Pacheco (2-6-5) was a four round slugfest that seesawed. The judges scored it a majority decision for Valencia 38-38, 39-37 twice.
In a junior bantamweight bout Rodrigo Romero won his pro debut against David Springer (1-1-3) in a close four round bout. The judges scored it 39-37 for Springer and 39-37 twice for Romero.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV