WBO world heavyweight champion Joseph Parker (23-0) successfully defended his belt on Saturday at the Vodofone Events Centre in the Manukau district of New Zealand with a 12-round unanimous decision over late sub and former sparring partner Razvan Cojanu. Parker won by scores of 119-108 and 117-110 twice.
Parker hoped to make statement. Although he won comfortably, he failed miserably. His punches never hurt the lumbering six-foot-seven Cojanu (16-3), who tipped the scales at 276 pounds, 30 pounds more than the defending titlist. The bout was “ugly and frustrating” in the words of New Zealand Herald reporter Patrick McHenry who might have added the word monotonous.
Veteran trainer Kevin Barry defended Parker’s lackluster effort by saying that Cojanu had a better skill set than Parker’s original opponent, Hughie Fury, a late scratch with a reputed lower back injury. After the fight, Parker said “now it’s time to go overseas.” The reference was apparently to England where Tony Bellew or Dillian Whyte or one of the Furys await, although a match with Anthony Joshua isn’t out of the question as Joshua’s brain trust would have little fear of Joseph Parker. Bob Arum, who has developed a relationship with Parker’s promoter, Duco Events, will undoubtedly push for a rematch between the Kiwi and Andy Ruiz.
In an undercard bout of note, middleweight Tim Tsyzu looked sensational in advancing to 4-0 with a second round stoppage of Ivanu Siau. The 22-year-old Tsyzu, who is slated to fight again in three weeks, is the son of former WBA/WBC/IBF 140-pound champion Kostya Tsyzu. The elder Tsyzu was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2011.
Golden Boy Promotions served up an 8-fight appetizer in the MGM Grand Garden Arena, the prelude to the Canelo-Chavez Jr. showdown across the street at the new T-Mobile Arena. In the main go, a 10-round lightweight contest, Mexico’s Robinson Castellanos (22-11) celebrated Cinco de Mayo with a big upset of Miami-based Cuban defector Yoriorkis Gamboa who retired on his stool after the seventh round, complaining of dizziness. The 35-year-old Gamboa, a former world champion in two weight divisions, declined to 26-2. His previous loss was in Omaha at the hands of Terence Crawford.
Gamboa, who had better muscle definition, gave the appearance of being the stronger man but it was Castellanos who landed the harder punches. He knocked Gamboa to the canvas with a right hook in the waning seconds of round three and scored another knockdown with a windmill overhand right in the next stanza. During the round, a large welt appeared high on the right cheekbone of Gamboa. The Cuban seemingly fought his way back into the fight – the next three rounds were close – but then called it quits, an unexpected turnabout, albeit a well-deserved and well-received win for the Mexican.
In the co-feature, a 10-round featherweight contest, Puerto Rico’ Jesus Rojas (25-1-2) stopped Southern California’s Abraham Lopez in the eighth round, saddling Lopez (22-1-1) with his first pro defeat. Rojas set the tone in the opening round, stalking Lopez who spent most of the fight circling backward, occasionally engaging Rojas in robust exchanges that excited the crowd.
Rojas put Lopez on the deck with a three-punch combo in round four. In the eighth round he decked him again, knocking him off his pins with a chopping right hand after pinning him on the ropes. When Lopez arose, Rojas pressed his advantage. He pinned Lopez against the ropes in a neutral corner and was wailing away when the referee interceded.
At the Reno/Sparks Convention Center in Northern Nevada, Jose Carlos Ramirez (20-0, 15 KOs), a 2012 Olympian, kept his unbeaten record intact at the expense of Youngstown, Ohio’s Jake Giuriceo (20-6-1). Ramirez, fighting with Freddie Roach in his corner, was credited with a second round stoppage when the bout was halted because of a nasty cut over Giuriceo’s left eye.
In an undercard bout of note, lightweight Gabriel Flores Jr., who turned 17 on Monday, turned in a sharp performance in his pro debut, stopping sacrificial lamb Devon Jones in the second round. Flores’ promoter Bob Arum anticipates that Flores will bubble into a big ticket-seller in his hometown of Stockton, California, mirroring what Arum accomplished with Jose Carlos Ramirez in Fresno and Terence Crawford in Omaha.
Folks in Stockton will have to wait awhile to see young Flores in the flesh. The minimum age for a professional boxer in California is 18.
Former IBF featherweight champion Evgeny Gradovich, seeking new worlds to conquer in a lower weight class (super bantamweight), improved to 23-2-1 with a lackluster 12-round majority decision over Columbia’s Hugo Berrio (23-7-1).
Gradovich is 4-1 in his last five starts, with two pairs of unimpressive wins sandwiched around a brutal knockout suffered at the hands of Oscar Valdez. The 30-year-old “El Ruso Mexicano” was previously based in Oxnard, California, where his stablemates included Vasyl Lomachenko.
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