The foremost attraction on the third weekend of March was housed at New York’s fabled Madison Square Garden where 19,939 turned out for a 7-bout card topped by two world title fights featuring two of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world. An upset in the co-feature was the capstone to a weekend full of upsets and the grand finale came close to yielding yet another surprise.
The 115-pound world title fight between Nicaragua’s Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and Thailand’s Wisaksil Wangek (aka Srisaket Sor Rungvisai) was a savage sockfest in which both gladiators combined to throw more than 2000 punches. During much of the bout, the right side of Gonzalez’s face was saturated in blood, a gory image that may have influenced the way the judges saw the fight. The challenger, Wangek (pictured in the yellow trunks), copped a majority decision.
Several ringside correspondents, including ESPN’s Dan Rafael and Joe Cortez of ESPN Deportes, thought Gonzalez was a clear-cut winner. The punch stats supported their scorecards. Gonzalez was credited with landing 441 of 1,013 punches compared with 284 of 940 for Wangek.
The upset muddled the water in the super flyweight division which lately has churned out a steady stream of scintillating title fights. Hardcore fans were delighted at the prospect of a rematch between Gonzalez and Carlos Cuadras with the winner fighting Japan’s Naoya Inoue but now it appears those matches won’t materialize anytime soon. Moreover, a fast rematch between Gonzalez and Wangek appears unlikely as this was the sort of debilitating fight that commands a lengthy time-out for both competitors.
Gonzalez-Wangek was the overture to the middleweight title unification fight between Gennady “GGG” Golovkin and Daniel Jacobs. GGG floored Jacobs in the fourth stanza and it looked for all the world that he was destined to record his 24th straight knockout, but Jacobs mounted a spirited rally and made it interesting. In the final tally, Golovkin prevailed by margins of 3 points on two cards and 1 point on the other, but more than a few people thought the decision should have gone the other way.
There were no upsets in the smaller auditorium inside Madison Square Garden where 5,102 turned out to witness the pro debut of Belfast junior featherweight Michael Conlan, a two-time Olympian. Bryan Armen Graham, a writer for The Irish Times, captured the scene: “Conlan’s first paying fight in the main event of a Top Rank card took place amid the atmosphere and trappings of a major bout: complete with prestige ring announcer Michael Buffer, Irish dancers performing in the ring before his entrance and a buzzing, well lubricated St. Patrick’s Day crowd that packed the room to the corners.”
Escorted into the ring by Conor McGregor, Conlan made short work of sacrificial lamb Tim Ibarra, dismissing him in the third round. The other bouts on the card followed the same predictable tint. Top Rank honcho Bob Arum intends to showcase Conlan again in May in Boston.
Friday’s Top Rank show was anomalous on a weekend where upsets were the norm. On the domestic front, the first upset of the weekend occurred on Friday in Reading, Pennsylvania.
Amir Mansour had a lot working against him when he entered the ring to fight Travis Kauffman in their heavyweight go at Reading’s Santander Arena. Kauffman was fighting in his hometown on a show promoted by his father. That figured to carry weight with the judges if the fight went the full 12. Moreover, the 44-year-old Mansour, who has spent most of his adult life in prison, was meeting a foe who was 13 years younger and riding a 14-fight unbeaten streak.
In a good action fight with a lusty final round, Mansour (23-2-1) beat the odds, emerging with a majority decision. It was a bitter setback for Kauffman (31-2) who spent 10 weeks in Houston preparing for this bout under Naazim Richardson, the former trainer of Bernard Hopkins, Shane Mosely, and others.
The semi-windup featured another local product in 37-year-old Kermit Cintron, the former IBF world welterweight champion. Matched against David Grayton, who was 15-1 going in, Cintron showed his age but escaped with a draw when the fight went to the scorecards after being stopped late in the fifth round after he suffered a bad cut over his right eye from an accidental head butt. A bit earlier in the round, Grayton floored Cintron with an overhand left.
In another bout of note, former IBF world cruiserweight champion Steve Cunningham soldiered on, winning a 6-round decision over Mexican trial horse Felipe Romero.
At the Melbourne Pavilion in Victoria, Australia, David Brophy scored a big upset with a seventh round stoppage of Melbourne’s previously undefeated Zac Dunn. At stake was Dunn’s Commonwealth 154-pound title.
Scotland’s Brophy, now 19-1-1, had won only two of his previous fights inside the distance, whereas Dunn, who came in ranked #5 by three of the four major sanctioning bodies, had stopped 18 of his 23 opponents. But Brophy proved to be the harder puncher. He sent Dunn to the canvas with a body punch in the seventh frame and then followed it up with a vicious assault that prompted Dunn’s corner to throw in the towel.
In Leipzig, Sachsen, Germany, in a battle of big men, 37-year-old Mariusz Wach, a 6’7” Pole, intruded himself back into the heavyweight picture with a 12-round unanimous decision over Erkan Teper. Wach improved to 32-2. His lone defeats came at the hands of Wladimir Klitschko and Alexander Povetkin.
This was the second straight defeat for Teper (16-2) whose career has been mottled by PED issues. In his previous outing, Teper was upset by Christian Hammer, losing a split decision.
In Malmo, Sweden, Adrian Granat, a six-foot-seven heavyweight fighting in his hometown, entered the ring a heavy favorite over Alexander Dimitrenko in what was touted as the most important heavyweight fight in Sweden since Ingemar Johansson met Eddie Machen in Gothenburg in 1958.
Undefeated in 14 fights with 13 KOs, Granat was moving up in class, but there was little interest in Dimitrenko who had a fine record (39-3) but had performed so ineptly against Joseph Parker in his last meaningful fight that there were questions about whether he was really trying.
Last month as he was heading off to commence serious training in Spain, Granat said “Already now I know that there are extremely few heavyweights out there who have a chance against me….If Dimitrenko gives me just the smallest opening he will get knocked out quickly. That’s how I operate.”
Surprise! Dimitrenko burst Granat’s bubble, knocking him out in the very first round. A counter right hand sent the Swede crashing to the canvas. He made it to his feet, but was woozy and when Dimitrenko knocked him down again with a flurry of punches the referee stopped it.
It was that kind of weekend.
Photo credit: Ed Mulholland / HBO Boxing
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