Yordenis Ugás beats Manny Pacquiao by unanimous decision

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Yordenis Ugás beat Manny Pacquiao by unanimous decision on Saturday night, putting on an impressive technical performance on 11 days’ notice and retaining his WBA welterweight title.

Ugás (27-4) seized his opportunity as the late injury replacement for Errol Spence Jr., frustrating Pacquiao (67-8-2) throughout what might be the final fight of the 42-year-old Filipino senator’s career.

The 35-year-old Ugás threw far fewer punches than Pacquiao, but his blows were more precise and more effective. Pacquiao struggled to get inside on Ugás’ effective jab, while Ugás landed his right hand to increasing effect in the later rounds.

Two judges scored it 116-112 for Ugás, and a third had it 115-113. The Associated Press also scored it 116-112 for Ugás.

After an unimpressive performance in his return from the longest layoff of his quarter-century in professional boxing, Pacquiao said he hasn’t decided whether he will fight again. He also wouldn’t confirm whether he will enter the Philippines’ presidential race, as is widely expected. He intends to make an announcement next month.

The victory was the culmination of a lengthy journey for Ugás, who defected from Cuba two years after winning a bronze medal in the Beijing Olympics. Ugás quit boxing for two years midway through the last decade, but recovered his career and capitalized on this unexpected shot against one of the greatest fighters of this era, earning his 12th victory in 13 fights.

“He’s a great competitor, but I came in here to show I am the champion of the WBA,” Ugás said through a translator. “A lot of respect for him, but I won this fight.”

Ugás got this opportunity only last week when Spence was forced to drop out after discovering he had a torn retina during a pre-fight physical. Ugás had been booked on the undercard, but he seized the opportunity for the spotlight and payday that had been just out of reach since he left Cuba on a small boat bound for Mexico 11 years ago.

T-Mobile Arena appeared to be essentially sold out despite the late opponent change, and the crowd of 17,438 was vocally behind its Filipino hero. Even after a lengthy layoff in the last stages of his career, Pacquiao remains a surefire draw and a bankable star in a sport lacking both at its highest levels.

Ugás had a clear game plan despite the short notice, working hard in the early rounds with an effective jab and body shots. Pacquiao was more aggressive and occasionally got the crowd to its feet with combinations, but he didn’t immediately find a consistent way to get inside the jab.

Ugás’ confidence grew in the middle rounds, and he responded to some action at the seventh-round bell with a defiant shimmy-shake of his shoulders in Pacquiao’s direction. Pacquiao threw roughly twice as many punches as Ugás for long stretches, but they landed about the same number as Ugás showed off his defense and precision against Pacquiao’s activity.

Pacquiao caught Ugás with a combination in the 10th round and knocked him back as the crowd rose in excitement, but Ugás recovered and rallied with big shots.

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Vasiliy Lomachenko batters Masayoshi Nakatani, scores 9th-round TKO in return

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Vasiliy Lomachenko is back, and in vintage form.

The former three-weight world champion was successful in his return to the ring, stopping Japanese veteran Masayoshi Nakatani in the ninth round Saturday night.

With Nakatani’s left eye closed after eight devastating rounds, Lomachenko (15-2, 11 KOs) used a flurry of battering lefts in front of an announced sellout crowd of 2,072 inside Virgin Hotel’s The Theater, to finish off his much taller opponent in a statement return in his first bout since an upset loss to Teofimo Lopez in October.

“I’ve accomplished my goals and I’m back on track,” Lomachenko said through an interpreter.

Lomachenko landed 59% of his power punches, as he dominated from the opening bell, peppering Nakatani with a steady stream of hard, straight lefts. Lomachenko was only hit by 12% of Nakatani’s power punches.

Lomachenko’s biggest round prior to the ninth was a destructive sixth, during which he landed a number of punches that caused Nakatani’s head to snap backward several times, eventually bloodying the Osaka-native’s eye, nose and mouth.

Lomachenko also knocked down Nakatani in the fifth, using a three-punch combo near the end of the round.

In his last fight, Nakatani was knocked down twice by Felix Verdejo before responding with a ninth-round KO win. This time, Nakatani never stood a chance as he was outclassed by the former pound-for-pound Ukranian great in every round.

It marked the first time Nakatani (19-2) was stopped in a fight, with his only other loss coming by way of decision, at the hands of Lopez in 2019.

“I realized (I was in control) after the third and fourth rounds because I was punching him with straight lefts and punching him with precision,” Lomachenko said. “I’m very happy because of the strategies that had been chosen, and also all the work, all the preparations, the trainings that had been done, all worked just fine and well, so I’m very happy. The result was as we planned.”

With the win, Lomachenko is hoping to land a rematch against Lopez, who was set for his first title defense in Miami on June 19 until he tested positive for COVID-19. His mandatory bout against George Kambosos, and the entire undercard, has been rescheduled for Aug. 14 in Miami, but could be moved to Sept. 11 in Las Vegas.

Lopez’s father, Teofimo Sr., who was in attendance, told ESPN during an interview after the fight his son’s camp is willing to grant the rematch, but with the caveat it must happen immediately after the Kambosos bout.

“After this performance I think the public wants to see this fight,” Lopez Sr. said. “I think I can convince my son to fight him again. After Kambosos it can be made. It’s gonna be the biggest fight in the world. We can make it happen in December. We can make it happen in Madison Square Garden.”

Lomachenko’s loss to Lopez cost the 33-year-old his WBA and WBO lightweight titles and left the former unified champ on the outside looking in on a division that inherited a youth movement of undefeated fighters, including Lopez (16-0), Devin Haney (26-0), Ryan Garcia (21-0) and Gervonta Davis (25-0), who also fought Saturday, defeating Mario Barrios with an 11th-round TKO in Atlanta.

A Lopez rematch could take place later this year or in early 2022, with Top Rank chairman Bob Arum ready to pull the trigger.

“In case there was any doubt, Lomachenko proved he is still one of the very best fighters in the world,” Arum said. “He is healthy and ready to fight any of the lightweights. As the promoter of these two great lightweights, my job and duty is to bring them together for the fight everyone wants to see. I’m fielding offers now from different places in the world.”

In the 10-round middleweight co-feature, 2016 Olympian Janibek Alimkhanuly (10-0, 6 KOs) continued his ascension up the ladder of contenders with an impressive TKO destruction of former world champion Rob Brant (26-3, 18 KOs). The fight was stopped after the eighth round, when Brant’s cornermen requested referee Michael Ortega.

While Alimkhanuly landed 46% of his power punches (65 of 142, including 20 to the body), Brant struggled the entire fight to find confidence to challenge inside, vividly cautious of Alimkhanuly’s counter punches.

“Ever since I turned pro, I wanted a big fight like this,” Alimkhanuly said. “Whenever a title shot comes, I’ll be ready.”

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Gervonta Davis scores 11th-round TKO over Mario Barrios for 3rd world title

ATLANTA — Gervonta Davis stopped Mario Barrios in the 11th round Saturday night to claim the WBA super lightweight title, his third world championship.

Davis (25-0) moved up in weight and won by knockout for the 24th time as a professional. The Baltimore native also holds the WBA lightweight and super featherweight belts.

There was little action through the first half of the fight in front of a sellout crowd of 16,570 at State Farm Arena as Barrios (26-1) and Davis alternated as the aggressor, with the 5-foot-10 Barrios slightly more active.

According to CompuBox, Davis landed just 11 punches over the first four rounds before finding the mark on 85 in the final six-plus rounds.

The 5-5½ Davis made himself hard to hit, with both hands frequently held high.

Barrios threw many more punches (394-296), but Davis connected more frequently (96-93) and effectively, landing 45.1% of his body punches compared to 29.1% for Barrios.

“I’m the type of fighter that wants to catch you with clean shots,” Davis said. “I don’t just want to throw any type of shot. The shots I was throwing were missing, but eventually I caught up with him.”

Davis dropped Barrios twice in the eighth round, first with a right hook about a minute in, and again soon after the restart with a left hook. Blood began coming from a cut under Barrios’ left eye and left ear.

Even with Davis’ domination of that round, judges had scored the fight even through eight.

Barrios rallied in the ninth, twice pinning Davis in corners. While Barrios threw multiple combinations, few of his punches broke through to make solid contact, and the energy expended tired the San Antonio native.

As Davis sat on his stool before the 10th round, his promoter, Floyd Mayweather, yelled to him from outside the ring.

“Floyd came to me and was honest and said I was down. I knew I was down,” Davis said. “So he said show me that you’re great. … I can’t compare myself to all the greats just yet. You know this man set the tone. I’m just following in his footsteps.”

Action slowed in the 10th round when Davis repeatedly ducked to avoid Barrios’ more wild swings and appeared to further slow his opponent with a left uppercut late.

The last punch came when Davis landed a left hook squarely in the middle of Barrios’ face with about 1:10 remaining in the 11th. The fight was soon stopped as Barrios staggered without falling.

“He was the better man tonight, but I’ll definitely be back,” Barrios said after losing his WBA super lightweight title. “Tank’s explosive. He caught me slipping and it’s boxing. At the end of the day, one punch can change the fight. That’s exactly what I felt happened.”

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Josh Taylor’s left hand allows him to lift all four belts after he wins a decision over Jose Ramirez

  • Josh Taylor celebrates while holding his belts after defeating Jose Ramirez by unanimous decision in a junior welterweight title boxing bout Saturday, May 22, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Jose Ramirez hits Josh Taylor during a junior welterweight title boxing bout Saturday, May 22, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Jose Ramirez hits Josh Taylor during a junior welterweight title boxing bout Saturday, May 22, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Josh Taylor hits Jose Ramirez during a junior welterweight title boxing bout Saturday, May 22, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Josh Taylor celebrates while holding his belts after defeating Jose Ramirez by unanimous decision in a junior welterweight title boxing bout Saturday, May 22, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Josh Taylor hits Jose Ramirez, left, during a junior welterweight title boxing bout Saturday, May 22, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Josh Taylor knocks down Jose Ramirez during a junior welterweight title boxing bout Saturday, May 22, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Josh Taylor celebrates after defeating Jose Ramirez by unanimous decision in a junior welterweight title bout Saturday, May 22, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Josh Taylor celebrates after defeating Jose Ramirez by unanimous decision in a junior welterweight title boxing bout Saturday, May 22, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Josh Taylor celebrates after defeating Jose Ramirez by unanimous decision in a junior welterweight title bout Saturday, May 22, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Josh Taylor holds his belts after defeating Jose Ramirez by unanimous decision in a junior welterweight title boxing bout Saturday, May 22, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Jose Ramirez enters the arena before a junior welterweight title boxing bout against Josh Taylor, Saturday, May 22, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Josh Taylor celebrates after defeating Jose Ramirez by unanimous decision in a junior welterweight title boxing bout Saturday, May 22, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

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LAS VEGAS — They put a historically juicy fight in a hotel theatre Saturday night, in front of 750 fans. It was like playing the World Series on Bad News Bears Field.

The music came on and Jose Ramirez and Josh Taylor entered the ring briskly. No frills, no smoke.

As it turned out, no mirrors either.

Taylor was the better of the two undefeated super-lightweights at the Virgin Hotel. He took Ramirez’s two championship belts and added them to his own pair, and he proudly held all four of those heavy accessories at fight’s end.

His unanimous decision was based on two belts, too. One was a left hand on Ramirez’s cheek that floored him in the sixth round. The next, in the seventh round, was a crisp, merciless uppercut on Ramirez’s chin while both fighters were coming out of a clinch.

Those 10-8 rounds provided the margin of victory on all three judges’ cards. Tim Cheatham, Steve Weisfeld and Dave Moretti all gave it to the Scotsman, 114-112. The only reason it was close was Ramirez’ bottomless heart, which propelled him to the end while Taylor was in four-corners mode. He recedes to 26-1 but is hardly diminished as a champion, and maybe he can start belt-hunting again when Taylor, as expected, moves up to the rich soil of the 147-pound division.

“I don’t know what’s next for me,” Taylor said. “But all I do know is that there’s a new warrior king, and he’s from Scotland.”

Such an event belonged in a sold-out Staples Center or T-Mobile Arena, but the rec-room atmosphere didn’t bother either fighter. Taylor, a left-hander, began the night with effective right jabs, but Ramirez turned up the offense in the third round, with right leads and uppercuts.

At that point Taylor and trainer Ben Davison showed their virtuosity. Taylor began nailing Ramirez with left-hand leads. He also held, muscled and leaned upon Ramirez at every chance, and all the strong-arming probably led to what happened next.

After Taylor had a good fifth round, he came out in the sixth and reacted to Ramirez’s wayward right with a hard left hook on the cheekbone. Ramirez got up without a problem and battled to the bell, but it was still a two-point round for Taylor.

The more decisive shot happened in the seventh, when Taylor and Ramirez clenched. As referee Kenny Bayless was moving them apart, Taylor suddenly lashed Ramirez in the chin, and this time Ramirez had major difficulty gathering himself. Had it happened earlier in the round, Taylor might have closed the show.

“He (Bayless) said he was going to break us,” Ramirez said, “and I broke, and Josh threw the uppercut. You saw it. I just have to handle those situations a little differently next time. Maybe be a little dirty.

Ramirez played it to the end, rocking Taylor in the 10th round with right leads, and Taylor courted disaster by running out the clock. Weisfeld and Moretti gave Ramirez three of the final four rounds, and Cheatham gave him all four.

“I wasn’t running, I was trying to keep boxing him,” Taylor said. “He showed he’s a great champion.”

The peaceful coexistence between Taylor and Ramirez was strained on Friday, when Taylor and some of Ramirez’s Fresno-based fans began woofing after the weigh-in. On Saturday, Taylor ended almost every round by raising his fist on the way back to the corner, and he got into Ramirez’s face after the bell rang to end Round 8.

After the decision, the two hugged in the middle of the ring and talked for several minutes.

What really stood up was the illusion of the tale of the tape, the fact that two 140-pounders aren’t necessarily equal. Both men weighed in at 139.6 pounds and Ramirez actually had a reach advantage. Both are 5-foot-10. But Taylor seemed bigger, broader, stronger, with better levers. He physically controlled Ramirez just as he walked down Regis Prograis, in a split-decision win that set up this unification.

Given the fact that Taylor will get no smaller, it’s doubtful that a rematch can really fly. There will be more intrigue in watching Taylor go after welterweight Terence Crawford, who, like Taylor, is promoted by Bob Arum’s Top Rank.

Ramirez, for his part, has entertained the idea of fighting unified lightweight champ Teofimo Lopez.

Crawford has been stranded by the news that Errol Spence, the IBF welterweight champ and the theoretical opponent in the Next Last Great Fight (cq), has instead decided to meet 42-year-old Manny Pacquiao in July. Pacquiao hasn’t been in the ring since 2019 and isn’t likely to walk upright out of the one that matches him with Spence.

Boxing fans all want resolution but they prefer to find it at the end of a stirring rematch or two. Josh Taylor’s verdict was undisputed. Now all he needs is a bigger jury box.

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Juan Francisco Estrada hangs on to edge Roman Gonzalez in a super-flyweight classic

It took nine years and four months for Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez to find each other in a boxing ring.

It might take at least that long to digest the scope of what happened when they got there Saturday night in Dallas.

Estrada, of Mexico, walked out with his own WBC super-flyweight (115 pounds) belt and Gonzalez’s WBA strap as well, taking a split decision and reversing the outcome of their 2012 match in the L.A. Sports Arena.

But the two champions certainly didn’t separate themselves, and boxing fans will demand a tiebreaker at some point. That third fight will have to be an all-timer to match what happened here.

In 36 minutes of action, the Nicaraguan  fired 1,317 punches and Estrada 1,262, and almost all were thrown menacingly. Gonzalez’ accuracy was a tad better, 30 percent to 26, but Estrada probably won the fight because of an aggressive start and his ability to weather Gonzalez’ hard push in the final rounds.

Amazingly, the 12th round was the busiest. Gonzalez let go of 158 of his punches and Estrada 150.

Jesse Reyes gave Gonzalez a 115-113 edge, the same margin that David Sutherland gave Estrada. The outlier card belonged to Carlos Sucre, who judged that Estrada won 117-111. That meant Sucre thought Estrada won nine rounds and Gonzalez three, which put him in the distinct minority.

There was nothing close to a knockdown, although Estrada’s body shots seemed to immobilize Gonzalez for a time in the sixth round. Neither were there any major cuts or any sense of a pattern or momentum. Estrada would take the offensive for a minute or so and then Gonzalez would return with his unique collection of short, straight right hands and uppercuts. Holding and running were not in the cards. After all, it doesn’t take much fortitude to dance all night.

“He is a great fighter,” Estrada said of Gonzalez. “I thought I did enough to win, but he deserves a trilogy.”

However, Estrada has a mandatory date with Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, the former champion whom Estrada beat in 2019. Until Saturday, Rungisvai was the only man to defeat Gonzalez, and did so twice.

“I’ll take care of that but I want another fight with Chocolatito,” Estrada said.

Asked about snapping the tie, Gonzalez said he thought he had won both fights. “I had a great performance tonight,” he said. “But the decision is what God wanted it to be.’

Estrada goes to 42-3 and Gonzalez settles to 50-3, with 41 knockouts.

Estrada had said all along that he was too weak to finish off the 2012 battle with Gonzalez, since that was at 108 pounds. “I felt much better at the end of this one,” Estrada said. “This is my weight.”

Each man got $1 million, which is a big-buck evening for a super-flyweight. In the end, they seemed underpaid.

Asked about strategy, Estrada smiled and said, “If he threw two or three punches, i had to throw two or three back, as well.”

Add it all up, and the sum of their work might be Fight Of The Year. It’s what happens when two of the best in the business decide they won’t wait until the middle of the night to spring forward.

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Canelo Alvarez, nearing his peak, brings down another mountain

The bigger Canelo Alvarez’s opponents are, the harder they fall, although Callum Smith might have found it easier..

Smith walked into the ring in San Antonio Saturday night and peered down at Canelo, as if he were walking a little brother to school. Smith was at least six inches taller, and his wingspan was seven and a half inches longer.

All it meant was that there was more of Smith to hit, and Canelo spent most of 12 rounds compressing every rib and trimming every limb. Smith finished the fight, a decision that smoothed his ego but will make the rest of his body rebel on Sunday morning.

I’M BACK! 👑
✅ WBC Super Middleweight Champion
✅ WBA Super Middleweight Champion
✅ Ring Magazine Super Middleweight Champion#CaneloSmith #TheP4PKingIsBack@CANELOTEAM pic.twitter.com/dQjrwXWcQZ

— Canelo Alvarez (@Canelo) December 20, 2020

The decision was simple, as is the identity of the best boxer in the world. Canelo won the fight 11-1 on two cards, 9-3 on the other. He thus won the WBA and WBC super-middleweight championships, at 168 pounds, and has now won title fights in four divisions. He has a vast array of opponents and no real challengers.

“I don’t run from anybody,” Canelo said. “I just showed I fought against the best. Now we go for more.”

Smith was the most credentialed 168-pounder in the world. The Liverpudlian (cq) came into this fight 27-0 and was known as a hyperactive jabber and a willing trade of power shots. It was the fourth time in Canelo’s past eight fights that he has met an unbeaten opponent.

After measuring the giant and adjusting his slingshot, Canelo went Braveheart beginning in Round 3. You could have given Smith Round 6 because he finally found ways of answering, but the night got uglier as it went on.

Canelo dominated Callum Smith 🔥#CaneloSmith

(via @DAZNBoxing)pic.twitter.com/wxQFwCj6pH

— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 20, 2020

Smith couldn’t orchestrate the night by using his jab, because it was having little effect, and he was a sitting giraffe for Canelo’s hurtful body shots and uppercuts, with either hand. Smith did get to the finish line, but his nose was bloodied and his face swollen, and he was holding his arm awkwardly, as rumors flew that he had detached a bicep somewhere along the way.

Canelo goes to 54-1-1 and said he wanted to gather the other two belts at 1168. That would set up matches with Caleb Plant and Billy Joe Saunders, both of whom are unbeaten.

If you’re talking physical equality, the best 168-pound showdown could be with David Benavidez, but Benavidez has surrendered a super-middle belt twice, for PED use and also for missing weight.

There are also possibilities at light-heavyweight, where Canelo beat Sergey Kovalev in the fall of 2019. He would find Artur Beterbiev there, and maybe Gilberto Ramirez. Neither of them has lost.

The real danger could be at middleweight (160), where Jermall Charlo could possibly stun-gun him with his right hand. However, Canelo no longer has to starve himself to get credible fights. “I don’t want to fight with a scale,” he said.

What no one should want to see, at least no one with an ounce with mercy in the soul, is the third summit meeting between Canelo and 38-year-old Gennady Golovkin.

It was too hard to get them in the ring in the first place, and then they wound up with a draw in a fight Golovkin probably won, before Canelo took a majority decision in the rematch.

Along the way Golovkin mocked Canelo’s positive drug test and Canelo simmered over the assumption that he needed Golovkin more than vice versa. When Golovkin joined Canelo in signing a contract with DAZN, the streaming service, a third act seemed inevitable.

Since then Golovkin has atrophied. He was breathtakingly fortunate to get past Sergey Derevyanchenko in October of 2019.  He didn’t fight again until Friday night, when he floored Kamil Szeremeta four times in seven rounds and got the TKO in between rounds. Szeremeta was immobile and relatively skill-challenged, but he rose from the canvas four times, indicating Golovkin has lost his intimidating fastball.

Both Canelo and Golovkin are helplessly indignant whenever they’re asked about the rivalry, but Golovkin would be putting his reputation and molecular composition in jeopardy. Canelo is incalculably better, and certainly scarier, than he was in the first GGG fight.

Smith, remarkably, was able to speak with perspective about the storm that had consumed him.

“He was the better man tonight,” Smith said. “He’s just smart. He holds his ground, and then he sets little traps. Before you know it, he has closed the ground on you.

“His jab was very good for a shorter guy, and his defense was very good. He’s hard to hit clean. I’ve reached the top of the mountain and then I got knocked off it tonight. I’m devastated, but he’s a great fighter.”

Nine years ago Alvarez won his first real belt, at 154 pounds over Matthew Hatton at the Honda Center. Along the way he has beaten Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto, Amir Khan, Erislandy Lara and Daniel Jacobs, in addition to Golovkin, Kovalev and Smith. It’s true that most of those champions were on the back nine of their careers, but Canelo still hadn’t gotten his merit badge when he took his only loss, a majority decision to the shrewd Floyd Mayweather in 2013, before Canelo fully knew himself.

The critics who thought Canelo was too strategic are speaking in whispers now, rendered audible by historians who look for his rightful place. Fortunately for the serious boxing fan, Canelo does, too.

 

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Davis introduces Santa Cruz to tank warfare with a devastating, 1-punch knockout

Exit velocity came to boxing Saturday night in a glorious and grotesque way.

No one actually measured the speed of Gervonta Davis’ left uppercut as Leo Santa Cruz lowered his head and took its full force right on the jaw.

Santa Cruz’s fall to the canvas, in his own corner, was nearly as immediate.

Rafael Ramos, the referee, rushed over and saw no need to count. Davis, known as “Tank,” moved to 24-0 with 23 knockouts, none starker than this one, with 20 seconds left in Round 6, that gave him Santa Cruz’’s WBA super-featherweight title and preserved his own WBA lightweight belt.

“I thought, ‘Damn, is he OK?’’’ Davis said later, which is what the well-spaced crowd of 11,000 in San Antonio’s Alamodome must have thought, too.

Santa Cruz was on his back for an uncomfortably long time. His head bounced off the bottom turnbuckle, and while he lay there, his dad Jose reached over and put his hand on Leo’s arm.

Eventually Santa Cruz was raised to sit on his stool, where he flashed his familiar smile, and walked out of the Dome with no assistance. It was the first time he ever has been knocked out. The 32-year-old is now 37-2-1 after his wish to fight Davis was fulfilled. This is not a loss he will be eager to avenge.

Santa Cruz was enjoying a solid 6th round. He was rocking Davis with left-right combinations and seemed to be absorbing the vicious left hooks and uppercuts that the left-hander from Baltimore features.

Backed into the corner, Santa Cruz threw a right hand that missed, and then another. Davis had the uppercut fully loaded, and it landed like a murderous drone.

“He wasn’t trying to get up,” Davis said. “He was out. We fighters go in there with killer instinct. But in the end we have families to go back to.

“Leo was right there for that shot. In the first few rounds I was a little anxious. Floyd keeps telling me that it’s a 12-round fight, to calm down. I’m learning.”

Floyd is Floyd Mayweather, who promotes Davis and has adapted him as the next version of himself.

It was a respectful promotion from the beginning, although Davis teased Santa Cruz by wearing a sombrero during his ringwalk.

Davis singled out Santa Cruz’s dad, calling him “a real champion.” Jose has always been Leo’s trainer, through years of fighting bone cancer and going through chemotherapy. This year Jose came down with COVID-19 and was on a ventilator at City of Hope. His heart stopped twice during the ordeal, and he has been in a wheelchair, but he walked into the ring Saturday night.

All three judges scored the fight 48-47 for Davis at the time of the knockout.

“It was an amazing performance,” Mayweather said. “I used to be that same kid, sitting right there. I’ve put him in the same position I was in. He will fight when he wants to fight, and who he wants to fight, and he’ll keep proving he’s the best.”

Given 12 rounds this might have been a Fight of the Year contender. There was no feeling-out process in the first round, and Santa Cruz, with a 2-inch reach and height advantage, was not holding back.

But Davis connected on 55 percent of his power shots, and he nicely turned some of Santa Cruz’s most malicious shots into grazing blows.

Davis was happy that he’d spent 15 weeks in Las Vegas training at Mayweather’s facility and said he would be back there again “in a week and a half or so.”

“I began by throwing the jab and I saw he was trying to counter me,” Davis said. “I saw that and adjusted. I threw and then got out of the way. Then I started throwing his left a little wider and that worked, too.

“I would hit his gloves at times but it would still knock him back. I could tell I was breaking him down. His body was telling him he couldn’t do it but his mind was telling him to keep going. That’s what a great warrior does.”

“We had been working on the last shot,” said trainer Calvin Ford. “And he closed the show with it.”

Davis, who had to get below 130 pounds to make this fight, said he will continue boxing at both 130 and 135 in order to hold both belts. A multitude of quality fights are there for him, but lightweight Ryan Garcia has been the loudest petitioner.

At the very least Davis should be included in the mythical Top 10 pound-for-pound list. A super-fight could loom with Teofimo Lopez, the unified lightweight champ, although it would take some delicate negotiation. Davis fights under the Premier Boxing Champions banner, and Lopez fights for Top Rank.

“You keep lining them up, we’ll keep knocking them down,” Davis said. “I’m not ducking or dodging.”

He looked for a more ominous metaphor.

“I don’t have to call anybody out,” he said. “There ain’t no safety on this Glock.”

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Whicker: Better late than never for Canelo, who is running out of rivals after this win over Kovalev

LAS VEGAS — Imagine the Clippers and Lakers playing in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final.

Then imagine them staring at the locker room walls for an hour while the networks show the finals of the Big3 tournament.

This is why boxing staggers the imagination, why you wonder if the accumulated CTE has invaded the brains of the promoters and the TV executives.

Rarely has boxing had a more consistent, appealing and courageous champion than Canelo Alvarez.

So because the people who ran the pay-per-view telecast were scared of competing with the UFC pay-per-view in New York, the bell did not ring for Canelo and Sergey Kovalev until 10:15 PST on Saturday night.

By the time Canelo rang Kovalev’s bell in the 11th round, it was already Daylight Savings Time in New York.

Later, Golden Boy Promotions chief Oscar De La Hoya bragged that Canelo had stuck it to all the skeptics, although he was a 5-to-1 favorite. Perhaps De La Hoya thinks Canelo’s reputation will spread by word-of-snore.

While you were sleeping, and while boxing was tacitly admitting that it can’t compete with MMA, Canelo and Kovalev gave the less-than-full crowd of 14,490 nearly 11 rounds of intrigue.

For one thing, the resident light-heavyweight nearly stole the fight through reticence and stealth. Kovalev spent the whole fight tentatively jabbing, mostly at Canelo’s gloves, and keeping his once-fearsome right hand in its holster. “I wanted to be safe,” he said, noting Canelo’s forceful counter-punch.

Canelo rarely tried to take over the dance. He had his share of body shots, but basically he went headhunting with little impact. He spent most of the eighth round going backwards, and his fans began whistling anxiously.

“I had to persevere,” he said. “I was going for the big punches, and it worked.”

The alarm went off at the beginning of the 10th round, just as it had in 2017 when Canelo somehow pulled out a draw in his first match with Gennady Golovkin.

In the 11th he figured he’d kept everyone up late enough.

Two minutes in, he rocked Kovalev with a left hand near the ropes. A few seconds later he put a hard left together with a big right hand to the top of the head. Kovalev’s legs were scrambled, and it’s likely he would have fallen with no further encouragement. But his sense of balance allowed him to get pulverized by another hard right. Kovalev was so far gone that there was no need to count.

At knockout time, judges Julie Lederman and Dave Moretti had Canelo leading 96-94. Don Trella had it 95-95.

“He’s a great champion,” said Kovalev, 36, who was taken to a hospital but whose pain will be soothed by a $12 million check. “He made history tonight. Now I want to fight some unification fights.”

Well, Canelo now has Kovalev’s WBO light heavyweight belt.

“He was the Krusher,” said Badou Jack, another former light-heavy champ, on Saturday night. “Now he’s just Kovalev.”

So where does Canelo go?

He said that going back down to 160 pounds “would be difficult” and he repeated his distaste for giving Golovkin a third fight, even though DAZN signed Golovkin with that third fight in mind. Ironically it seems easy money for Canelo. Golovkin barely survived Sergiy Derevyanchenko and no longer brings fear as his tag-team partner.

At this point Canelo does not need glamor opponents. His money is already banked through his DAZN contract and his presence is enough.

A 168-pound matchup with David Benavidez, the  23-year-old WBC champ, might be interesting.Canelo would use the same strategy Floyd Mayweather used in picking Canelo back in 2014: Get Benavidez early, while you still can.

If Canelo wants to go international, he would fill any London stadium against either Callum Smith or Billy Joe Saunders, who defends his super-middleweight title in Staples Center on Saturday.

Besides, America would still be awake for that one.

Canelo has everything but a rival. He is 29 years old with 53 victories, and the sport hasn’t laid a glove on him. He wins fights in multiple ways, he avoids career-shortening wars, and yet he always brings the possibility of one-punch punctuation. He is now 16-1-1 against champs or former champs. He may not always win rounds, but he never runs into trouble.

Beyond that, he has outlasted the critics who demanded, for so long, that he lead with his face. It’s a cliche about Mexican fighters that Juan Manuel Marquez defied over the years. A brain is a nice thing to protect. More boxers should follow Canelo and use theirs.

Then again, you can’t learn from what you can’t see.

Read more about Whicker: Better late than never for Canelo, who is running out of rivals after this win over Kovalev This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

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Whicker: Spence finally pries himself apart from Porter, now holds two welterweight belts

  • Errol Spence Jr. goes 12 round with Shawn Porter Saturday, Los Angeles, Sept 28,2019. Errol Spence took the win by split decision for the world champion unification title. (photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • Errol Spence Jr. goes 12 round with Shawn Porter Saturday, Los Angeles, Sept 28,2019. Errol Spence took the win by split decision for the world champion unification title. (photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

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  • Errol Spence Jr. goes 12 round with Shawn Porter Saturday, Los Angeles, Sept 28,2019. Errol Spence took the win by split decision for the world champion unification title. (photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • Errol Spence Jr. goes 12 round with Shawn Porter Saturday, Los Angeles, Sept 28,2019. Errol Spence took the win by split decision for the world champion unification title. (photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • Errol Spence Jr. goes 12 round with Shawn Porter Saturday, Los Angeles, Sept 28,2019. Errol Spence took the win by split decision for the world champion unification title. (photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • Errol Spence Jr. goes 12 round with Shawn Porter Saturday, Los Angeles, Sept 28,2019. Errol Spence took the win by split decision for the world champion unification title. (photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • Errol Spence Jr. goes 12 round with Shawn Porter Saturday, Los Angeles, Sept 28,2019. Errol Spence took the win by split decision for the world champion unification title. (photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • Errol Spence Jr., right, goes 12 round with Shawn Porter Saturday, Los Angeles, Sept 28,2019. Errol Spence took the win by split decision for the world champion unification title. (photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • Errol Spence Jr. goes 12 round with Shawn Porter Saturday, Los Angeles, Sept 28,2019. Errol Spence took the win by split decision for the world champion unification title. (photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • Errol Spence Jr. goes 12 round with Shawn Porter Saturday, Los Angeles, Sept 28,2019. Errol Spence took the win by split decision for the world champion unification title. (photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • Errol Spence Jr. goes 12 round with Shawn Porter Saturday, Los Angeles, Sept 28,2019. Errol Spence took the win by split decision for the world champion unification title. (photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • Errol Spence Jr. goes 12 round with Shawn Porter Saturday, Los Angeles, Sept 28,2019. Errol Spence took the win by split decision for the world champion unification title. (photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • Errol Spence Jr. hit and stuns Shawn Porter in the 11th round Saturday, Los Angeles, Sept 28,2019. Errol Spence took the win by split decision for the world champion unification title. (photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • Errol Spence Jr. hit and stuns Shawn Porter in the 11th round Saturday, Los Angeles, Sept 28,2019. Errol Spence took the win by split decision for the world champion unification title. (photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • Errol Spence Jr. fights Shawn Porter Saturday, Los Angeles, Sept 28,2019. Errol Spence Jr.
    fight till going. (photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • Errol Spence Jr. fights Shawn Porter Saturday, Los Angeles, Sept 28,2019. Errol Spence Jr.
    fight till going. (photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

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LOS ANGELES — Yes, Errol Spence Jr. and Shawn Porter should do this again, but only after some recovery time.

Not for Spence and Porter. Us.

Porter, the wishbone fullback of a welterweight, wanted to take the undefeated Spence to where it’s tangled and dark.

Spence, the elegant lefthander, wanted to find a place where his superior height and reach would mean something.

Both succeeded, but there was only one winner, and it was Spence in a split decision, on three oddly-lopsided scorecards.

As a crowd of 16,702 gasped and shuddered and thundered, the two of them did boxing proud, although Sunday morning will come down hard on both.

It was the type of close-quarters combat that belonged in World War I trenches. At times the fighters resembled 294 pounds of Velcro. Porter would lunge and feint and deliver blows anywhere he could. He would spin Spence around, by the waist, and then Spence would wrap up Porter’s arms, and referee Jack Reiss must have felt like a traffic cop at the Lincoln Tunnel. The boxers didn’t have to be officiated as much as disentangled.

Porter was dominant in Rounds 4 and 7 and also dictated the terms in Round 9 and 10. Remember, Spence usually doesn’t lose rounds, much less fights.

The 11th round was proceeding under the same pattern, more or less. Then Porter, trying to line up a body shot, forgot to jab first and also forgot to move his head. Spence slammed a quick left against Porter’s cheekbone, and Porter closed his eyes and winced. His head also twisted this way and that, just like a bobblehead.

As he got up, Porter seemed to know just how much that cost him. He had a look of resignation that disappeared in the 12th, when he tried to get a knockdown of his own.

“I didn’t want to go back to my corner with my head down,” he said.

But when the decision came down, Porter just nodded grimly.

The scores were strange, like two different drivers recounting the details of their fender-bender.

Larry Hazzard Jr. thought Porter won, 115-112, but Steve Weisfeld and Ray Danesco both favored Spence, 116-111. That’s not to say they didn’t think the fight was close. Most of the rounds were open to argument. There were several different themes going on, which, of course, is what makes a fight such a conversation piece.

Those who thought Spence won based it on economy. He connected on 44.4 percent of the power shots, according to CompuBox, even though he threw 137 fewer than Porter. He landded only one jab the whole night, which seemed odd, and he landed 29.7 percent of his overall punches, compared to Porter’s 23.1.

The synopsis was this: Spence threw 745 punches in 12 rounds, Porter 744.

“I’m not going to complain about the decision, I never do,” Porter said. “My dad might (trainer Kenny) but not me. I thought we did about 99 percent of what we wanted to do, and it went about 99 percent of the way I thought would go. I think we gave him a harder time than he might have thought.”

Spence came into the room and sat to Porter’s left.

“Hey, maybe I had a few more skills than you might have thought, huh?” Porter asked him, grinning.

Spence smiled, too.

“Yeah, you did,” he said. “But I think you were more tougher than you were skilled.”

Porter said the strategy was to box Spence from the outside at first, then slip inside whenever the opportunity presented. Spence said he was concentrating on the body shots, several of which landed south of the equator.

“I thought I wore him down with a few of those,” he said. “But, like I said, he’s a tough guy, he’s always in shape. I think he got his second wind there for a while.”

Third and fourth, too.

After the fight, ex-champ Danny Garcia came into the ring and talked about how he wanted Spence, but he has already lost to Porter and Keith Thurman and is believed to be negotiating with Manny Pacquiao.

“The tables are turned now,” Spence said. “I remember calling Danny out for years and now he wants to fight me. That’s funny.”

Certainly Spence’s ultra-fight with Terence Crawford is the one that looms. But Porter becomes a hotter topic, too.

And the rematch is no joke. Despite everything they put each other through, Spence and Porter had enough energy to argue about who’s the bigger pay-per-view attraction and who has the biggest celebrity following.

“I got Martin Lawrence and Bobby Brown in my locker room,” Porter said. “What about you?”

“The only reason you got on pay-per-view,” Spence replied.

That’s the anatomy of a boxing rivalry: Two guys who can’t be separated, even if they wanted to be.

Read more about Whicker: Spence finally pries himself apart from Porter, now holds two welterweight belts This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

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Gervonta Davis stops Nunez in 2nd to retain WBA title

  • Referee Harvey Dock, center, jumps between Gervonta Davis, left, and Ricardo Nunez to end their super featherweight boxing championship bout in favor of Davis in the second round, Saturday, July 27, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Floyd Mayweather, left, talks to Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, center, and his wife, Renee Bisciotti, prior to a super featherweight boxing championship bout between Ricardo Nunez and Gervonta Davis, Saturday, July 27, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

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  • Floyd Mayweather looks on from the ring prior to a super featherweight boxing championship bout between Ricardo Nunez and Gervonta Davis, Saturday, July 27, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Gervonta Davis gestures as he takes the ring prior to facing Ricardo Nunez for their super featherweight boxing championship bout, Saturday, July 27, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Gervonta Davis, left, pounds on Ricardo Nunez, right, during the second round of their super featherweight boxing championship bout, Saturday, July 27, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Gervonta Davis, left, throws a punch at Ricardo Nunez during the second round of their super featherweight boxing championship bout, Saturday, July 27, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Floyd Mayweather, front right, talks to Gervonta Davis prior to Davis’ super featherweight boxing championship bout against Ricardo Nunez, Saturday, July 27, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

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BALTIMORE (AP) — Gervonta Davis stopped Ricardo Nunez midway through the second round to retain the WBA super featherweight title Saturday night in his first fight in his hometown in six years.

Davis (22-0, 21 knockouts) seemed to invite Nunez (21-3) forward early in the second, then landed a left hook that sent the Panamanian backpedaling to the ropes, and the sellout crowd of 14,686 at Royal Farms Arena to its feet.

Davis closed in and, moments later, referee Harvey Dock stopped the bout with 1:27 remaining in the round.

The 130-pounder was a heavy favorite in his sixth consecutive title victory between the WBA and IBF championships.

Assuming a victory over Nunez, a mandatory challenger, Davis had already been linked to bigger fights against fellow belt-holders Garry Russel Jr. and Tevin Farmer. Afterward, Davis said he wanted Farmer next to unify the WBA and IBF 130-pound titles.

In the first title bout in Baltimore of any kind since 1970, Davis entered the ring in black and orange robe and trunks, evoking the Baltimore Orioles on an evening that was a homecoming for more than just the 24-year-old southpaw.

Soon-to-be Hall of Fame Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed was ringside, as was Baltimore-born former light-middleweight champion Vincent Pettway.

On the undercard, Yuriorkis Gamboa (30-2, 18 KOs) stopped Roman Martinez with a minute remaining in the second round. Gamboa felled Martinez with a left hook earlier in the round, before sending him to the canvas again with a quick right hand.

Lightweight Ladarius Miller (20-1) outpointed Jezzrel Corrales (23-3) over 10 rounds after referee Brent Bovell docked Corrales a point for holding during the final minute of the fight. Miller had winning scores of 96-93, 95-94, 93-96 from the judges.

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