The world is full of surprises. It’s pretty much a given that if you believe you know something – really know it – the outcome will invariably wind up different than you expect.
That was the case at the Hollywood Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, FL Friday night. Warriors Boxing in association with Cedric Kushner staged a six-bout card, which on paper was laughable. Each fight was a bigger mismatch than the next, with the exception of the Shannon Briggs-Ray Mercer main event, which would have been interesting eight years ago.
Hurricane Katrina struck South Florida the night before, catching many off-guard. The storm was more ferocious and took a different path than was expected. Callers to Warriors and the Hard Rock were unable to get through. There was no way the show could go on.
Sure enough, the doors to the beautiful Hard Rock Live theater opened promptly at 6:30. While I was glad to be at the event and talk shop with the writers, boxers, industry insiders and fans that regularly attend, I assumed the favorites would win and do so in a rout. Warriors rarely matches their boxers in tough bouts. At least not on purpose. It would most likely be an early night.
The opening bout was a joke as expected. Lance “Mount” Whitaker, 30-3-1 (25) destroyed Louis Monaco, 14-31-4 (7) in three. Whitaker outweighed the game Monaco by sixty pounds. It looked like a heavyweight vs. a middleweight. The boxer formerly known as Goofi crashed right hands into Monaco’s face for the better part of six and a half minutes. Although he was not in distress, referee Tommy Kimmons did Monaco a favor by stopping the bout thirty seconds into the third.
Power punching light heavy Edison Miranda, 23-0 (20) put on sixteen pounds since his last fight in June and pitched a shutout over 6 against tough Hilario Guzman, 6-18-3 (1). Miranda, who came to the U.S. from Colombia, was 20-0 (20) when he arrived in this country. Since then he’s been extended the distance three times. Miranda hammered Guzman’s body all night long. Guzman to his credit never stopped trying, but didn’t have enough to overpower Miranda.
Fan favorite Juan Urango, 16-0-1 (13), defended some regional belt and won another with a spectacular knockout over Andre Eason, 15-4. Urango who is built and fights like a 140 pound Mike Tyson, has very heavy hands and is content to let the action unfold rather than jump all over his opponents.
Eason took several big shots in the early rounds but always came back, fighting a sound tactical bout. Towards the end of round three, both fired straight right hands. Urango’s got there first and Eason fell to the canvas.
Eason went down again in the fourth from a left hook. Realizing that he was trailing badly on the scorecards, Eason woke up and took the fight to Urango. By the middle of the seventh, although Urango was landing the heavier blows, momentum shifted in favor of Eason, who was busier and more accurate. Eason was very effective digging rights to the body and the going upstairs to the head. As the two were in close near the corner, a devastating right uppercut caught Eason flush and he crashed to the floor. Eason appeared out of it but managed to wobble to his feet. Referee Brian Garry wisely stopped the contest at 2:59 of the seventh.
The next contest was expected to be uncompetitive and it was. Ranked contender Jameel “Big Time” McCline upped his record to 32-5-3 (20) with a three round annihilation of inept 38-year-old, Steve Pannell 34-9 (28). Pannell, who tried to turn the fight into a wrestling match, tasted the canvas in each of the first two rounds. A left hook set up a right hand that ended matters at 2:36 of the third.
Afterwards McCline told TheSweetScience.com. “I did what I was supposed to do. I stopped the kid I was supposed to stop.” When asked if he would take any more confidence building fights, McCline responded, “No. I’m a top 10 fighter and I only want top 10 fighters now.”
So far the evening had gone pretty much according to plan. The O’Neil Bell-Sebastian Rothman IBF cruiserweight title fight looked like it would follow the same path. Only Rothman didn’t get the memo.
Not much was known about Rothman, who somehow “earned” his shot at the IBF trinket with a February win over 15-8-3 Anton Nel, despite losing his two previous fights. Luckily for me, I read TheSweetScience.com's Deon Potgieter’s excellent profile on Rothman the other day, so I had an inkling of what to expect. In the first round, however, it was all Bell and the Rothman that Potgieter described appeared to have missed the plane in Johannesburg.
Rothman came on strong in the second, boxing well from the outside. The Israeli born South African caught the defending champion with a big right hand in the third and also scored with a quadruple jab. Rothman was enjoying tremendous success against Bell, who couldn’t seem to get off. It appeared as if every time Rothman threw a jab, good things happened. Press row started buzzing about a possible huge upset. “Has there ever been an Israeli born champion? Who was the last Jewish world champion (we assumed he was Jewish),” we inquired. Meanwhile, Bell was doing his best impression of Andrew Golota and went below the belt more often than Jenna Jameson. Referee Tommy Kimmons repeatedly warned the champ.
At the end of the fourth round, Rothman dropped the champion. However, Kimmons incorrectly ruled that it occurred after the round ended. Bell rose on wobbly legs and was led back to his corner.
In the sixth, Bell became more aggressive and took the first round on the scorecards since the opening frame. After Kimmons ignored several more low blows he was finally forced to take a point away from Bell in the seventh. Meanwhile, the champ changed his strategy. Rather than allowing Rothman to set him up with the jab, Bell smothered him. Rothman was willing to slug it out, which was a mistake against the stronger opponent. By the ninth it looked like Rothman was letting Bell back into the fight. Later in the round, Bell lost another point for going south of the Mason-Dixon Line. He was dangerously close to losing his title by disqualification. By this time, the formerly pro-Bell crowd was chanting “Blue, blue” (the color of Rothman’s trunks). Every time he scored, the building erupted, hoping to see the scrappy underdog pull off the upset.
After ten rounds the fight was back to even. Bell had taken charge once again. An overhand right drove Rothman into the ropes. The South African bounced off and straight into a tremendous right hand. Rothman crumpled in a heap face first. The referee didn’t bother counting to ten as the fallen fighter needed immediate medical attention. After about ten long minutes, he finally rose to a tremendous ovation from the crowd.
Bell, who seemed annoyed by the switch in the crowd’s allegiance, said he knew that Rothman would eventually cave under his pressure. When asked if there would be a rematch, he snapped, “Do you think he needs one when he wakes up?”
At the time of the KO, two judges had it 94-94, while a third scored it 95-93 Bell. The Sweet Science also saw it 94-94.
While many expected a walkover, Bell deserves credit for changing tactics and figuring out a tough opponent. He retained his IBF cruiserweight belt and upped his record to 25-1-1 (23). Rothman slips to 18-4-2 (12).
The main event between Shannon Briggs and Ray Mercer was a snooze fest. Both fighters were content to snap jabs all night long, with an occasional burst of energy from Briggs. Mercer looked every day of his 44 years. Briggs spent more time clowning and trying to convince the crowd and Mercer’s corner than every punch that Mercer landed was ineffective. In the seventh, Mercer lost his balance and went into the ropes. Briggs wrapped his left arm around Mercer and pummeled him with three right hands. Mercer went down and was counted out at the 0:41 mark of the seventh. In the post fight interview, Briggs claimed that Mercer had his back to Briggs. But replays clearly showed Briggs was holding Mercer while he punched with the right hand.
So the heavyweights failed to give off much heat which came as no surprise. But everyone left buzzing about the sensational cruiserweight fight. Let’s hope if there is a rematch, Bell and Rothman are able to meet new and higher expectations.
• Lots of local boxing celebs at ringside. One not so local fighter who was very conspicuous in his presence (and got lots of attention from the fans) was Mitch “Blood” Green. It was hard to miss him considering he was wearing a blue sweatsuit with the words “Mitch Blood Green” on the back.
• Former IBF cruiser champ James Warring refereed the McCline-Pannell and Miranda-Guzman bouts. It would have been nice to have seen him work the Bell-Rothman fight as that would have meant he was refereeing a title bout for the belt he once held.
• I’ve always preferred Michael Buffer to Jimmy Lennon Jr. But after watching Lennon up close, I have to admit he’s a very close second.