There were no men’s world title fights on the next-to-last weekend of October, at least none sanctioned by any of the major sanctioning bodies, but there were plenty of interesting matches with major implications heading down the line. The appetizers were served up in U.S. rings on Friday and the Saturday docket commenced “down under” where one of Australia’s most popular athletes moved one step closer to a title fight in the well-stacked welterweight division.
In Lincoln, Rhode Island, welterweight Khiary Gray Pitts (14-1-1, 11 KOs) rebounded from the first loss of his career — a shocking second round knockout at the hands of Ian Green in a nationally televised bout — with a seventh round stoppage of capable Chris Chatman. It was a good action fight that ended suddenly when Pitts, with his back to the ropes, caught Chatman with a left-right combination. Chatman slumped to his knees after beating the count, forcing the referee to wave it off. In an undercard bout of note, Providence junior welterweight Anthony Marsella Jr. (2-0) needed only 45 seconds to dismiss Bardraiel Smith. A decorated amateur on the New England circuit, Marsella has trained in Las Vegas at the Mayweather Gym.
At Ontario, California, 36-year-old San Francisco schoolteacher LaRon Mitchell went 10 rounds for the first time in his career and moved up another rung on the heavyweight ladder with a unanimous decision over Scott Alexander. It’s a fair guess that Mitchell (15-0, 13 KOs) is on the radar screen of rising heavyweight Trey Lippe Morrison.
In Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, local fan favorite Jeff Horn (pictured) improved to 15-0-1 with a ninth round stoppage of Germany’s Rico Mueller. Horn had little difficulty with Mueller (20-2-1) who entered the fight riding an 11-fight winning streak. The bout aired in Australia on the FOX network and in Europe on SKY.
The victory bumped Horn to the #2 slot in the IBF welterweight ratings. A 2012 Olympian, Horn fights with a titanium plate lodged in his throat, the result of a collapsed larynx suffered in a freak training injury. A former middle school PE teacher, Horn, the cousin of Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk, is potentially Australia’s most renowned boxer since Jeff Fenech. After the bout, Horn called out Errol Spence Jr.
In undercard bouts of note, Queensland super middleweight Rohan Murdock improved to 19-1 with a lopsided 10-round decision over Argentina’s previously undefeated (23-0) Damian Bonelli. The 38-year-old Bonelli works as a boxing judge in his native country and, based on his showing against Murdock, is better suited to that role if he stays involved in boxing. Also, Queensland super bantamweight Shannon O’Connor, a 33-year-old mother of two, retained her minor WBC strap with a 10-round decision over Hungary’s Edina Kiss.
In England, local products Sam Eggington and Frankie Gavin locked horns in the headline attraction of Eddie Hearn’s 13-bout card at Birmingham’s Barclaycard Arena.
The Battle of Birmingham was a lusty affair that saw Eggington win via TKO 8. Rounds three and six were hugely entertaining. In round three, Eggington floored Gavin with a short right hook and in round six Gavin received a standing eight count. But in both rounds, the spunky Gavin had the best of it aside from these troubling moments.
Eggington improved to 19-3 (11). The bout was billed for the vacant WBC International welterweight title, but the title was on the line only for the victorious Eggington as Gavin (23-3) failed to make weight. Making weight has been a constant problem for Gavin dating back to his amateur days.
There was a major upset on the undercard when Birmingham-born middleweight Craig Cunningham saddled Anthony Ogogo with his first professional loss. The bout was stopped after the eighth round with Ogogo complaining of blurred vision. To that point, Cunningham was clearly superior.
Cunningham, a southpaw, had lost only once in 17 starts, but with only four stoppages to his credit he wasn’t considered a major threat to Ogogo who was 11-0 as a pro after winning a bronze medal in the 2012 Olympics. Ogogo, who appeared on England’s version of “Dancing with the Stars,” has a modelling career and potentially an acting career to fall back upon when he loses his appetite for boxing.
In another bout of note, Birmingham’s Khalid Yafai, a 2008 Olympian, tuned up for his showdown with reigning WBA 115-pound titlist Luis Concepcion with a third round stoppage of overmatched Johnson Tellez. Yafai will bring a 20-0 (14) record into his bout with his Panamanian opponent. The bout is slated for Dec. 10 in Manchester underneath Anthony Joshua vs. TBA.
In Kempton Park, South Africa, on the outskirts of Johannesburg, once-beaten South African cruiserweight Kevin Lerena scored a 10-round majority decision over previously undefeated Micki Nielsen of Denmark. The match, marred by excessive holding, was refereed by the venerable Stanley Christodoulou who was the third man in the ring for Pryor-Arguello I, among many other memorable bouts.
Christodoulou scored the bout even, but both judges favored Lerena who improved to 16-1. Nielsen, a slight favorite in the betting markets, was 22-0 heading in.
Two other local fighters emerged victorious with unanimous decisions in 12-round bouts on the undercard. Former 105-pound world title-holder Hekkie Budler (30-2) outpointed fellow South African Siyabongo Siyo. Welterweight Chris Van Heerden outpointed Namibia’s Sacky Shikukutu. This was a homecoming for Van Heerden whose six previous bouts were in the United States or Canada.
In Mexico City, 18-year-old phenom Eduardo Hernandez advanced to 21-0-3 with a smashing second round knockout of former WBC 122-pound champion Victor Terrazas. This was the 15th straight win for the teenage knockout artist who has now stopped 14 opponents within the first two rounds. Terrazas was making his second start after a 35-month layoff.
The co-feature was a 10-round flyweight contest between former world titlists Esmeralda Moreno and Melissa McMorrow. The 35-year-old McMorrow, who fights out of San Francisco, was once regarded as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the distaff ranks but she was outclassed by the harder punching Moreno (34-9-1) who won every round on two of the scorecards.
In Tijuana, undefeated Tijuana bantamweight Luis Nery (21-0, 15 KOs) stepped up in class and brought home the bacon, needing only 221 seconds to dispose of Filipino invader Richie Mepranum. This was a huge win for Nery who is promoted by Mexican uber-promoter Fernando Beltran. Mepranum was 31-5-1 coming in with three of those losses in world title fights.
At the Bell Centre in Montreal, former IBF middleweight champion David Lemieux (36-3, 32 KOs) pounded out a 10-round decision over Christian Fabian Rios who dipped to 21-8-3. Lemieux won every round on two of the scorecards and nine rounds on the other.
“David Lemieux has once again demonstrated himself to be a dynamic and resilient fighter,” said his promoter Oscar de la Hoya, blowing smoke. In truth, Lemieux, despite winning comfortably, did nothing to enhance his reputation as his Argentine opponent, although rugged, was regarded as nothing more than a sacrificial lamb. It’s no secret that De La Hoya is interested in matching Lemieux against his cash cow Canelo Alvarez.
On the undercard, globetrotting Filipino junior welterweight Ricky Sismundo (31-9-3) scored a mild upset with a 10-round unanimous decision over Congolese-Canadian Ghislain Maduma (18-3). Sismundo scored the bout’s lone knockdown, decking Maduma with a chopping right hand in the ninth frame.