In a battle of undefeated Junior Featherweight prospects, Antonio Nieves (12-0, 6 KOs) and Stephon Young (13-0-1, 5 KOs) fought to a split draw on the undercard of the Andre Ward/Paul Smith main event in Oakland tonight. One judge found the fight for Nieves 77-75, the second for Young 78-74, and the final card came in at 76-76. Final punch stats for the fight found Nieves landing 143 of 499 and Young just 64 of 329. Young was wobbled by Nieves in the first and the favor was returned to him in the third. Despite the punch stat difference, the fight did feel more even than the numbers suggested.
Round One: Nieves starts as the aggressor. His hands look pretty quick. Throwing combos downstairs and up. Young looks naturally bigger. Nieves is more active than the southpaw, Young. Nieves lands a hard straight right which wobbles Young near the end of the round. Young holds on. He was genuinely stung.
Round Two: Young looks recovered to begin the round. Lands a pair of straight rights on Nieves’ chin. Another straight right and a left hook lands for Young. Nieves seems to have the quicker hands, but Young bounces back nicely after getting buzzed in the first. Close round. Round Three: Nieves way busier overall. 35 of 124 on the punch stats to begin the round vs. Young’s 11 of 63. Pace slows some but then Young lands a hard straight right which hurts Nieves. Nieves backing up, but not holding. Nieves gets his legs back fairly quickly, but this should be Young’s round.
Round Four: Neither fighter going inside much. Young working the jab, but most are landing on the gloves. Young is looking to load up where Nieves is letting his hands go more. Both guys are trading but nothing substantial lands. Not an easy round to score. If the judges want to reward activity then Nieves may get the benefit of the doubt.
Round Five: Nieves almost always throws multiple punches where Young is content to take one shot at a time. Nieves lands a nice left to the body which lowers Young’s arms. A fine left hook around Young’s glove lands, but he takes it well. It’s hard not to want to reward Nieves for his volume.
Round Six: Young still not matching Nieves’ activity. There isn’t a lot separating the two fighters, so unless the judges find Young is landing much harder blows—which there is no evidence of—then Young would do well to pick it up. Nieves is willing to work the body. Young isn’t being hurt by these shots, but he is being outworked.
Round Seven: Young is more aggressive this round. Maybe his corner got in his ear. He is moving forward more now. Nieves backing up more than at any other time in the fight. Nieves throwing some combos, but Young is matching him more closely. Nieves is busier in the last half of the round. Another round that could go either way.
Round Eight: Steph Curry’s appearance at ringside creates more excitement than the fight. Chants of “MVP!” fill the arena. Both fighters are letting their hands go more, but neither is fighting desperate. They have closed the distance and are fighting at closer quarters. Nieves gets cut over the left eye. Young is pressing the action while Nieves is backing up. Young is having his best round since hurting Nieves in the third. Of the eight rounds, only this one and the first and the third look easy to score.
While I would have favored the freer hands of Nieves over the pot-shotting of Young, the decision was a reasonable one. Neither fighter offered much in the way of separation from the other. Both fighters flashed some power and quick hands, but there were no signs of either progressing to elite status anytime soon.
Photo courtesy of Antonio Nieves Facebook