WEEKEND BOXING RECAPS — Folks in Belfast went gaga over native son Carl Frampton who was 5-0 in world title fights before getting nudged off his perch by Leo Santa Cruz this past January. Now Frampton’s popularity has been diluted as sports fans in Northern Ireland’s largest city have a new hero to root for in local lad Ryan Burnett who wrested the IBF bantamweight title from Lee Haskins on Saturday night at Belfast’s SSE Odyssey Arena.
Undeterred by a bad cut over his right eye that resulted from a clash of heads in the second round, Burnett simply outclassed Haskins, a 33-year-old Englishman from Bristol. He floored the defending champion in the sixth frame with a right hand and did it again in Round 11. The scores were 119-107, 119-107, and a dyslexic 118-108 that shocked and amazed everyone in attendance.
It turned out that judge Clark Sammartino confused the two fighters and scored rounds for Haskins that he thought he was scoring for Burnett. As it now stands, Burnett won the title via a split decision, a verdict the IBF will likely change to read “unanimous.” Regardless, Sammartino will never work a fight in the U.K. again. That’s the word from Robert W. Smith, the General Secretary of the British Boxing Board of Control who was incensed by the mix-up.
A retired Rhode Island oral surgeon turned financial planner, Sammartino judged his first pro fight in 1984 and has been fixture on the New England boxing scene for parts of four decades. It is sad to see him despoil a long and solid body of work by an “off night” in Belfast.
He turns 80 this year and one surmises that he will pack it in. In a 2012 interview with reporter Julie Flaherty, Sammartino said that he was contemplating retirement because traveling all over the world was taking its toll. In the world of professional boxing, it appears that boxers aren’t the only ones prone to hang on a bit too long.
Ryan Burnett’s triumph was no upset. He was a 2/1 favorite in man-to-man betting. Haskins had a 34-3 record going in and was riding an 8-fight winning streak, but he was on hostile turf and wasn’t a big puncher. Burnett, who advanced to 17-0, isn’t accustomed to losing. He was purportedly 96-4 as an amateur before his amateur career was aborted by a back injury that put him on the shelf for 12 months.
In the chief undercard bout, Mike Perez returned to the ring as a cruiserweight after an absence of almost 25 months and needed only 29 seconds to dismiss Slovakian slug Viktor Biscak. Perez (22-2-1) weighed in at 198 pounds, 42 ½ pounds less than he carried in his previous bout when he was knocked out in the opening round by Alexander Povetkin.
Perez defected from Cuba in 2008, settling in Cork, Ireland, which remains his home. The maladroit Biscak entered the contest with a 10-0 record forged against a motley assortment of opponents who were collectively 21-89-5 at the time that he fought them.
Also, another Belfast fighter, lightweight Paul Hyland Jr, delighted the crowd with a first round stoppage of Adam Dingsdale. Hyland (16-0, 6 KOs) stormed out of his corner and overwhelmed his adversary who declined to 16-4-1.
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The weekend began on Friday at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, NY, and concluded on Sunday evening with an entertaining PBC show in Lancaster, CA.
The Verona event, held in conjunction with the IBHOF Hall of Fame Weekend festivities in nearby Canastota, was billed as a special edition of the long-running SHOWTIME series, “ShoBox:The New Generation.” Commentators Barry Tompkins and Steve Farhood, both of whom were selected to the 2017 IBHOF class, shared the microphone with fellow Hall of Famers Al Bernstein and Jimmy Lennon, Jr.
In the main go, junior welterweight Regis Prograis (20-0, 17 KOs) scored a smashing second round knockout of previously undefeated Joel Diaz Jr. After the bout, Prograis called out Terence Crawford and Adrien Broner. The Houston-based Prograis would be favored over Broner if the bout were held tomorrow.
On the undercard, two undefeated Spaniards from the city of Balboa stopped their respective opponents in the second round. It was the U.S. debut for welterweight Kerman Lejarraga who improved to 22-0 (18) at the expense of Puerto Rico’s Jose Antonio Abreu. In his third U.S. appearance, Jon Fernandez, a 21-year-old lightweight, advanced to 13-0 (11) at the expense of Southern California’s Juan Reyes.
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At the Winnebago Indian Casino on the outskirts of Sioux City, Iowa, featherweight Jose Haro, a 30-year-old father of five, made a big splash in his first TV engagement and first 10-round fight, dominating favored Daniel “Twitch” Franco en route to an eighth round stoppage. Haro had Franco on the canvas twice in the eighth round, the second knockdown the result of a clean punch to the jaw that landed with such force that the referee didn’t bother to count.
Haro hails from West Jordan, Utah, a town that old-timers will recognize as the spawning ground of former middleweight champion Gene Fullmer. The bout had a disturbing postscript when it was revealed the next day that Franco had been placed in a medically induced coma at the Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City as doctors prepared him for surgery to alleviate bleeding on his brain. As of Monday morning, a “Go Fund Me” account had raised more than $13,000 to assist in covering Franco’s medical expenses.
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The Lancaster show featured former WBA world lightweight champion Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios who was returning to the ring as a welterweight after a brief retirement. In a spirited contest, Rios wore down and eventually stopped his Mexican foe, Aaron Herrera, who collapsed from a body punch in the seventh round. Rios (34-3-1) delivered a vintage performance, eating a lot of leather as he crowded Herrera, pressing the action. A willing mixer with a herky-jerky style, Herrera declined to 32-7-1.
In other bouts, San Antonio junior welterweight Mario Barrios improved to 19-0 with a seventh round stoppage of the much shorter Jose Luis Rodriguez, 19-year-old Mexican welterweight Jose Miguel Borrego, a hot prospect, advanced to 13-0 (12) with a fourth round stoppage of local product Kevin Watts, and lightweight Roberto Marroquin improved to 26-4-1 with a fourth round stoppage of Columbian journeyman Jonathan Perez.
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