Yuri Foreman was vying to become the first Israeli to win a world title belt, and he did so Saturday. But the belt perhaps wasn't the one that was strapped around his waist after he boxed reigning WBA 154 pound champion Daniel Santos' ears off and snagged a unanimous decision at the MGM Grand before Pacman's magnificent display. You see, Santos (32-4-1) put on 19 pounds in between the weigh-in and his fight with Foreman, as he was 154 on Friday and 173 on Saturday. So should we refer to Foreman (28-0, with 8 KOs) as the WBC light heavyweight/junior middleweight titlist? Incidentally, Foreman was 154 Friday and then 161 come fight night, and proved to anyone who needed to be convinced that coming in so much over your stated weight class isn't always the edge it's perceived to be. The judges scored it 116-110, 117-109 and 117-109 for Foreman, who had Santos down twice and has to be lauded for fighting a smart bout rounds one thru twelve. No, it wasn't a thriller as neither man took the weapon out of the holster all that much. But for somebody with next to no power, the savvy pugilist Foreman did exactly what he needed to do to get Santos' crown.
Foreman went 146-512, and Santos 105-433. The takeaways: you have to be happy for Foreman, who shows that you don't have to be a super slugger to get the job done; and presumably Israelis will be hoisting beverages in the kid's honor tonight. Santos should've taken a warmup bout, and seemingly should either hire a better strength and conditioning coach, or get more serious about his craft, or just up and move to middleweight, or maybe all three.
He had to be happy that the lefty Santos hadn't fought in a year and a half. In round two, Foreman sent Santos to the mat, after almost going down himself off a left counter behind his head. It was from a right behind the head, off a clinch. Not sure whether ref Jay Nady had called for a break or not. Santos indicated that he thought the blow wasn't of the legal variety. Foreman fought his usual ultra deliberate style. He bounced on his toes, maintained a cautious distance, feinted to keep Santos off rhythm, and threw some rights every now and again. Not often enough, it must be said, for my liking, or the crowd's. They grew restless repeatedly at the lack of trigger-pulling from both men. “Barnburner,” Jim Lampley said sarcastically after citing sad CompuBox numbers, which showed both men firing far less than the 154-pound average. A right, and a right behind that, stunned Santos with 20 seconds to go in the fourth.
Foreman showed more finishing instinct in the fifth, as he smelled a title custody change. But he didn't stray from his strategy, keeping up his movement and mastery of distance. Santos was flat in the sixth, no real surprise since word was that he missed a meeting with HBO staff because he was trying to shed pounds before the weigh-in Friday. His left eye was a bit puffy by this point. He did land a sharp one-two in the seventh on Foreman. Right after, Santos went down but Nady said that was from a head butt. A minute later they banged heads again and Foreman was cut over his left eye. This round was Santos'. He woke up somewhat, finally. In the eighth, heads kept colliding. It was hard to determine if any fighter was more at fault. In the ninth, Foreman's movement was more hurried, as Santos' pressure was upped. In the 10th, if one had to cite one thing that Foreman could've been doing to make his job easier, it would've been body work. It was not a factor for either man. Still, Foreman looked to be in control, fully aware that he was the superior pugilist on this evening. In the 11th, Foreman ramped it up. Santos was still searching for a walkoff homer, so he had to be careful. The doc looked at the cut over Santos' right eye and let him continue. To end the round, Foreman literally ran to his corner to escape Santos. In the 12th, Foreman moved often but still looked to hit with hard smacks. Santos hadn't capitulated, but he went to the mat off a left, which might've been a rabbit punch. He gestured at Foreman, telling him to stand and trade but Yuri was too wise to fall for that macho move.
Welters Alfonso Gomez (20-4) and Jesus Soto Karass (24-3) kicked off the PPV broadcast. The Contender alum has been stitching his prospects back together after Miguel Cotto tore him up in 2008, though Gomez was under the weather big time leading up to that loss. Soto Karass was unbeaten since a three-fight slide in 2004-2006, though his diet has featured a steady stream of journeymen types along the way.
Gomez' movement was sharp, and allowed him to get angles on SK. He backed up but was nevertheless effective, as SK steamed forward, but his accuracy lacked. Gomez' placement gave SK fits. SK was without longtime trainer Javier Capetillo, who was suspended for a year for having a hand in loading Antonio Margarito's gloves before he was due to clash with Shane Mosley. A head clash caused a cut on Gomez' left eye with 1:20 left in the third. The ref took a point from SK shortly after the but, for what I'm not sure. Another point was taken for a low blow in the fourth. SK lacked a spark; maybe he was bummed that the arena was half-filled and lacked a buzz? He looked to ram home the right in the fifth, perhaps emboldened by Gomez' constant pawing at the cut. The jab was catching Gomez more than before as well. Viewers saw Cotto sitting in the stands, wearing headphones, and watching this bout, a truly surprising and rare site for any professional hitter, bigtime or otherwise. The fight ended in the sixth, when the ref took Gomez to the doc, who said the cut looked bad, and recommended a haltage. The was 2:41, for the record. The cards read 58-54, 57-55, 57-55, for Gomez, who it must be said kept pawing at the cut, sending a subtle message that a stop was called for. All of us have seen worse cuts, without a stoppage, though it must be acknowledged that we don't know the true severity, since we didn't finish med school…
Mexico's Julio Cesar Chavez Jr upped his record to 41-0, as he bettered Troy Rowland (25-3) of Michigan. Junior won by scores of 99-91, 98-92, 97-93, but his stock slides with the win, with so many people seeing his lack of talent. Man, if JCC Jr was a real destroyer, he'd definitely be called the Baby Faced Assassin. His soft face, smooth skin and lack of scar tissue definitely do not scream BOXER. Do his skills? Sure, he's a capable hitter. But he suffers severely in comparison to his pop. Still, with the wise counsel of promoter Bob Arum and his ace matchmakers, the kid will make enough dough to retire on, and at least get a chance to pull a Hail Mary career definer. Let's toss out the bottom line here—Junior and John Duddy would be a neck and neck tussle.
SPEEDBAG FeRoz, did you catch the HBO crew saying that no Cotto rep watched Margarito get his hands wrapped before the Cotto-Margarito clash? The mystery endures.
—Viewers saw Manny wrapping his own hands in his dressing room. Not sure if he was just finishing the job, or did the whole deal himself.
—Freddie Roach watched Cotto get his hands wrapped, and the tension between he and trainer Joe Santiago was thick. They exchanged words after the weigh in.
Stay tuned for Ron Borges' ringside report, and followup reportage from ringsider David Avila…