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A Big Upset  – Local boxing fans had plenty to keep them busy this Saturday night when two separate boxing shows took place at the same time.  That’s right, the same evening that the Cosmopolitan casino on the strip staged a professional boxing card, the “D” casino in downtown Las Vegas also staged a pro card.  Such is the overflow presented to Las Vegas boxing fans.

The Cosmopolitan show saw victories scored by the fast rising Charlo brothers and Cuban Erislandy Lara, but this writer was ringside at the “Knockout Night At The D” card.  Boxing at The D is becoming a regular occurrence, with another show scheduled for next month, and more scheduled after the summer heat decreases a bit in September.  The card at “The D” didn’t feature as many big names as the Cosmopolitan show, but the fights were arguably more enjoyable due to some competitive matchmaking.  The evening began with some prospects in search of more exposure, and ended with an upset in the main event.

The first match on the card featured newcomer Jeremy Nichols, dubbed “J-Flash,” squaring off with Julio Santos of Puerto Rico.  The 4 round welterweight contest went the distance with the undefeated Nichols moving to 4-0 (2) via unanimous decision.  However, Santos gave Nichols more trouble than one might expect.  None would question that Nichols won as he was the aggressor, but he was vulnerable to Santos’ counters.  All three judges scored the fight 39-37. Jay Nady was the referee.

Second on the card was a highlight reel knockout from Texas prospect Tony “Phenom” Lopez, who proved a bigger puncher than expected.  Moving up to 11-1 (4), Lopez blasted out previously undefeated (11-0-1) Jerren Cochran at 0:22 of the 2nd round.  It can be said that Lopez’ knockout was so emphatic that he knocked out both his opponent, and the referee!  The knockout would prove fateful for referee Kenny Bayless, but more on that in a moment.

The 5’11 Lopez, tall for a junior featherweight, was not content to use his height for a cautious win.  Instead Lopez started aggressively, forcing Cochran to back off with his first combination.  Midway through the round Cochran was knocked to a sitting position from a textbook one-two combination down the middle.  With about 20 seconds to go in the round Lopez decked Cochran again with a punch that sent Cochran face down to the canvas.  This time Cochran struggled up, but there were only about 10 seconds left in the round.  The end of the round simply prolonged the inevitable ending.

As soon as the second round started Lopez backed Cochran into the corner then let loose with a combination that again sent Cochran face first to the canvas.  This time Cochran was out cold, his vacant eyes blinking rapidly as the count started.  As it was obvious that he would not beat the count, referee Bayless didn’t even finish counting. After a few minutes Cochran was assisted up but as Bayless attempted to lift him up Cochran was still so out of it that he tumbled back down, crashing onto Bayless, which resulted in Bayless dislocating his elbow.  This freak injury forced Bayless to miss the rest of the card, and put Jay Nady in a strange position.  Since Nevada’s other referees were at the Cosmopolitan show, Nady was forced to work the rest of the “D” card all alone.

Before bout number three could begin a fight erupted in the stands between some members of the audience.  Security was right on top of things, quickly ejecting the streetfighters from the arena.  The big surprise was that when they were separated the people brawling were two middle aged women!  After this came a break of 20 minutes or so as fans waited for the first live televised bout on CBS Sports Net.

When the next contest began heavily hyped 17 year old Devin Haney looked every bit a future champion as he pummeled capable Jairo Vargas of Mexico into defeat in a lightweight battle. Haney, who progressed to 6-0 (4), showed incredible maturity for his age. What made things more impressive was that the 4-1 (3) Vargas, who entered the contest also undefeated, came to fight; he was just totally outclassed.

The end came at the 1:34 mark of the 4th round right after Vargas had been knocked down for the first time.  Referee Jay Nady didn’t even bother to count.  In truth Vargas looked clear eyed, and probably could have continued, but he was so vastly outclassed that even his supporters did not complain of the stoppage.  Haney, who wants to box once a month for the rest of this year, showed a great arsenal of punches.  The left jab, overhand right, and hooks to the body all stood out.  One can never tell where a teenage prospect will go but Haney appears to have as bright a future as any boxing manager would want.  To make matters better Haney also delivered outside of the ring when it came to selling tickets, as many locals came out specifically to see him in action.  Haney is trained by Floyd Mayweather Sr.

Originally there was to be six bouts, but a late cancellation reduced that number to five.  Fight four saw a real slugfest as 154lb. Tejano John Vera out-brawled Arizona’s 153lb. Joey Ruelas in a real brawl that ended all too soon.

At the start Vera’s jab was accurate, but Ruelas seemed to get stronger midway through the 2nd round.  A hard combination buckled Vera’s knees, forced him to hold, and showed him that he was in a real fight.  Ruelas did the better work, particularly when he backed Vera near the ropes.  However, Ruelas was also warned twice for hitting low.  It appeared as if Ruelas was in control until the start of round 6 when Vera suddenly blasted out with combinations.  Ruelas was wobbled but did not go down, and kept punching back.  Suddenly referee Jay Nady waved the bout over at 1:17 of the round with Ruelas still up.  The moment the stoppage took place the cheering turned to solid boos.

While Nady may have been prudent in “erring on the side of caution” the stoppage sure looked early from my vantage-point.  True Ruelas was wobbly, but he was fighting back, and in such a see-saw fight, with no knockdowns yet, it would have been nice to have seen if Ruelas could have rebounded again.  Nady now had to deal with the challenges of working four of the five bouts, but also being booed before the main event began. Vera rose to 14-0 (9) while Ruelas sank to 10-2-1 (4).  Afterwards Ruelas was not available for comment which was too bad since it would have been intriguing to hear what he had to say about the seemingly quick stoppage.

In the main event 30-year-old Andrew “Hurricane” Hernandez scored the night’s only big surprise as he out-boxed world ranked Arif Magomedov of Russia for an impressive 10 round decision. Both men scaled 160 pounds.

Magomedov entered the ring at 17-0 (10), rated in the top 5 by the WBC, WBA, and WBO, as high as #2 in the WBC ratings. All Magomedov needed to do was keep busy with a win or two against credible opponents and a title shot seemed to be his, but that all changed.  Meanwhile, Hernandez entered the ring trying to shake of the ghosts of what happened to him last August.

In his home state of Arizona Hernandez was boxing well against Louis Rose when he suddenly tired and was stopped in the 8th round.  That bout created a frustrating reputation for Hernandez.  Sure Hernandez could box, his critics reasoned, but they also assumed off of that showing that he did not have the stamina to get through a hard fight.  Going into Saturday night’s showdown with Magomedov, Hernandez insisted to all who would listen that he was in the best shape of his life, and he backed up those claims once the bell sounded.

The contest started relatively tame with Hernandez gaining the lead with some beautiful jabbing. Midway through round 3 Hernandez increased the pressure, cutting Magomedov over his eye, and drawing blood from Magomedov’s nose.  This round was a major step forward for Hernandez but he also finished the round in far more pain than anyone at ringside would have guessed.  Although Magamedov had been punished by Hernandez’ fists, Hernandez had been punished by misfortune, as he twisted his ankle while going for the finish.  Hernandez was not about to let the biggest chance of his young career escape, so he ignored the pain, hid the injury, and kept on out-boxing his man.

Round 4 was slow to start as doctors checked the cut. Magomedov’s corner was eventually able to contain the bleeding, but they could do nothing to stop Hernandez from scoring time and again.  Hernandez also worked the body well, but just when he seemed in the clear, old questions about his stamina were raised.  Around the 8th round Hernandez seemed to visibly tire, and was breathing out of his mouth.  Yet again Hernandez dug deep, and boxed his way out of danger until he got his second wind.  In the 10th and final round Hernandez went for a big finish rather than just coast on a points lead.  With about a minute to go Hernandez caught Magomedov coming in, knocking the Russian to the canvas.  When Magomedov got up Hernandez blasted him from all angles, sending him reeling into the ropes.  This time referee Nady was not quick for a stoppage, but although Magomedov lasted the distance, he was soundly defeated.  This writer’s unofficial scorecard was 97-92 for Hernandez.  The judges had him winning by an even wider margin: 98-91and 100-89 (twice).

Afterwards Hernandez had a brief chat with reporters before he had to be taken to the hospital due to his ankle injury.  When asked about his big finish Hernandez said he knew “it’s time to close the show…I amped it up in that last round.”  Hernandez wanted to stay longer but doctor’s orders were that he have his ankle treated right away.

As strange as it may sound Hernandez was probably the happiest patient at the local hospital last night.  While the ankle injury was certainly no fun, Hernandez, who rose to 12-4-1 (3), could smile in the fact that in one evening he had changed his career.  He had gone from a little known local boxer, with obvious skills but a cloud of doubt about his stamina, to a bona-fide contender.

Afterwards I spoke to a member of Hernandez’ team who had tears of joy in her eyes.  She showed me her smartphone which revealed plenty of congratulations to Hernandez on his Facebook page.  Sure Hernandez had surprised many, but more importantly he had made his local supporters, family, and friends very proud by delivering in his big chance.  That is plenty of reason why Hernandez probably reclined in his hospital bed with a big smile, and plenty of reason to be optimistic about his future.

So a contender was upset, a contender was born, prospects continued their rise, and the spectators had a wild evening.  It was all another “Knockout Night At The D.”

By Alex Caveda, guest columnist


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