Ringside at the Hard Rock: DeGale, Hurd, and Williams Triumphant

The nightclub at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas provided the setting for Saturday’s SHOWTIME tripleheader. In a rarity, all three televised matches were highly competitive, befitting the odds. James DeGale, a consensus 13/5 favorite, ranked as the biggest favorite on the board and as favorites in boxing go, that’s on the small side.

What a turnaround!

When DeGale and Truax met at the Copper Box Arena last December, DeGale was such a big favorite that U.K. bookmakers didn’t bother to put a line on the fight. Odds of 100/1 were quoted for the convenience of the newspapers.

Truax out-pointed DeGale and snatched away his IBF 168-pound title in the 2017 Upset of the Year. DeGale had surgery on his right shoulder six months earlier and came to the conclusion that he had erred in returning to the ring so soon. If he did not win the rematch, and win it impressively, he told reporters, he would retire.

Well, it turns out that he won it, but not impressively. All three scorecards favored the Englishman (117-111, 114-113 twice). The tallies would have been wider if DeGale hadn’t had a point deducted in round 10 for “shoving” (a mystifying call) but few neutral observers in the arena would have beefed if the contest had been scored a draw.

To DeGale’s credit, he fought most of the fight with a bad cut in the corner of his right eye, the result of an accidental head butt in round three that struck the referee as a legitimate punch. He pawed at it through the remainder of the fight.

Truax, a classic mauler, seldom took a backward step. However, his aggression wasn’t effective aggression. Gracious in defeat, he acknowledged that he had trouble with his punch placement.

In avenging his second pro defeat, DeGale improved his ledger to 24-2-1. A match with George Groves is on his bucket list.  DeGale lost a narrow decision to Groves early in his career. Caleb Truax, an honest but limited workman, fell to  29-4-2.

DeGale vs. Truax was the prelude to a humdinger of a main event between  WBA 154-pound champion Erislandy Lara and IBF 154-pound champion Jarrett Hurd. Indeed, the main go put an exclamation point on what was a very entertaining card.

Had the fight been a few seconds shorter, it would have theoretically ended in a draw. But Hurd knocked Lara on the seat of his pants in the waning seconds with a short left hook and pulled out a split decision. Two judges had it 114-113 and the other favored Lara by the same score.

Hurd (22-0)  had a four-inch height advantage, looked conspicuously bigger, and was the younger man by 7-plus years.  And Lara (25-3-2), who ended the contest with his right eye nearly closed shut, hushed his critics who have charged that he’s an unwilling mixer who puts people to sleep as he is outclassing his adversaries. Hurd made him exchange and Lara landed many sharp blows while absorbing a great deal of punishment.

In the first televised bout, a 12-round junior middleweight contest, Julian “J Rock” Williams (25-1-1, 1 ND) gutted out a 12-round majority decision over Nathaniel Gallimore (20-2-1). Williams came on strong in the late rounds. His best round was round 11 when he pounded Gallimore against the ropes. Gallimore returned to his corner on unsteady legs, but only one of the three judges saw fit to score it a 10-8 round.  It was the third straight win for Philadelphia’s “J Rock” since being knocked out in five rounds by Jermall Charlo.

Sergio Mora and Alfredo Angulo are longtime friends but didn’t act like it in their 8-round super middleweight contest. There was surprisingly little science from the aging warriors who entertained the crowd in a classic slugfest. When the smoke cleared, Mora (29-5-2) emerged victorious by  split decision. Angulo, two years younger at age 35, declines to 24-7.

In a spirited 8-round welterweight match, LA’s Emanuel Medina (14-0) stepped up in class and kept his undefeated record intact with an 8-round unanimous decision over Mexico’s Saul Corral. Medina won every round on two of the scorecards but Corral (28-11) had his moments and the fight was hardly the runaway that the scorecards suggested.

Photo credit: Marcelino Castillo

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