In many ways, junior middleweight Yuri Foreman performed like a maestro conducting a symphony on Thursday night. Only, instead of using a baton, he kept time by tapping away at Saul Roman's head.
Foreman, (25-0, 8 KO), kept his contender status intact with a unanimous decision over Mexico's Roman, who fell to 24-5.
Foreman, who brought into the ring a reputation for being excessively clinical, managed to keep the fight reasonably violent with sharp potshots from the outside, where his handspeed advantage was most evident.
The Brooklyn transplant by way of Belarus sent a message to Saul Roman early that it would be a technical mismatch. Roman was befuddled from the start by Foreman's lateral movement and sharp, sporadic offense. Foreman was effective when he threw, but did not implement an attack consistent enough to ever really hurt Roman, a fighter who had been stopped in all of his previous losses.
The middle rounds brought more of the same, as Roman was unable to cut off the ring and thus forced to fight ineffectively from range. Feeling the urgency of being down on points and cut over both eyes, Roman would offer the occasional charge, but never experienced the same type of success he had in his career best win over Kassim Ouma. Foreman, meanwhile, remained very content to move and potshot from the outside as Roman grew increasingly frustrated. By the time it was all over, even the hometown fans were growing a little restless with the lack of exchanges.
With the win, Foreman keeps himself in contention in a junior middleweight division which seems wide open at the moment. With upsets abound (Bunema over Karmazin, Phillips over Spinks, Bundrage over Ouma) and aging fighters at the top of the division (Vernon Forrest, Verno Phillips), Foreman could be in the right place at the right time.
Foreman weight 153 ¾ pounds for the bout, while Roman came in at 153.
In the co-feature, Joshua Clottey scored a fifth round TKO over Jose Luis Cruz in one of the most puzzling stoppages in recent memory.
After a slow start, which saw an aggressive Cruz smother the usually busy Clottey, the Ghanaian turned Brooklynite found his niche countering the ponderous Cruz from the outside. Fighting through a cut high on his forehead, the result of an accidental butt, the limited Cruz offered what he could with slow, telegraphed punches focused mainly on Clottey's midsection.
By the third round, Clottey's left hook had found a home on the side of Cruz's melon, but Clottey still found his offense slightly smothered by the brave, but outgunned, Mexican. As the fight progressed through to the fifth, it was clear that Clottey was beginning to outclass Cruz, landing more regularly and with greater effect. The usually durable Cruz, who went the distance with Shane Mosley in 2005 and who had never been stopped in his previous three losses, appeared more bothered by Clottey's punches than previously seen.
It was during one of Clottey's more effective combinations, during which Cruz took a momentary break from throwing punches, when referee Ricky Gonzalez questionably jumped in to call a halt to the action at the 2:48 mark.
Cruz clearly was not in any danger and almost seemed too confused to protest. Clottey, unaffected by the strange call, celebrated the victory, which moved him to 34-2, with his twenty-first stoppage. Cruz, meanwhile, fell to 36-4-2.
For Clottey, who weighed in a few pounds north of welterweight at 152 pounds, the win was a workman-like effort, but not the type of statement that would make him a more marketable name in boxing's glamor division. After the fight, Clottey named Cotto as his preferred opponent, but with more lucrative fights available to the Puerto Rican star, it seems unlikely that Joshua Clottey's name will be at the top of his list.
In other action, junior lightweight prospect Argenis Mendez improved to 10-0, scoring his seventh knockout over Chicago native Oscar De La Cruz. A former Olympian representing the Dominican Republic, Mendez seemed a bit uncomfortable in the first round when faced with the bulling De La Cruz (5-5, 2 KO). The 21-year old Mendez lacked the head movement to avoid all of De La Cruz's punches, but landed enough effective counters to seize control of the fight.
By the middle of the second round, Mendez's solid fundamentals blunted De La Cruz's ambition. A winging right hand by Mendez late in the second wobbled De La Cruz.
From the third round on, Mendez started to find the mark with greater regularity, though he seemed unable to finish his opponent. Just when it seemed like Mendez was cruising to an easy decision, he momentarily stunned De La Cruz and finished him off with a barrage of quick blows before referee Steve Willis jumped in at 1:18 of the fifth round.
Mendez, who could pass as Zab Judah's little brother, looks like a promising prospect, but needs to polish his game and learn how to move his head before attempting to prove his mettle. At only 21, however, he certainly has youth on his side.